Archive for October, 2009|Monthly archive page

The Burton Store tour

I’m a Burton window shopping whore. Really. But I’ve bought a total of three things from the stores, a beanie, socks, and a pair of AK pants on discount.

Here’s a photo tour of the Burton Stores I’ve visited so far.

We’ll start in Innsbruck, Austria, where there’s a public bus stop called “Burton Store”. It’s located about two miles from the town center, along busy Haller Strasse, in the office annex part of the European HQ.

IBK, Innsbruck

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Drool! I want to buy everything.

Then it’s across the pond to New York. The store is tiny and cramped, but it’s in one of those nifty Soho cast iron buildings.

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Burton Store, Soho

And over to the City of Big Shoulders, with the very Chicago touch of having a Mies chair next to the board rack. This one’s in the heart of the Michigan Avenue shopping district, and I’d say probably the nicest of the stores I’ve visited.

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Chicago

To the West Coast, isn’t Melrose Avenue synonymous with snowboarding?

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Los Angeles

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And over to the Land of the Rising Sun, with the Tokyo store in trendy Harajuku. This one’s a bit disappointing, quite small, probably the least aesthetically pleasing of the stores I’ve been to.

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Harajuku, Tokyo

Finally, to the heart of Japan, with the Osaka store in frenetic Shinsaibashi. Much nicer than Tokyo’s, spacious and stylish.

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Osaka, Shinsaibashi

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I’m still missing the Vermont flagship store, so that’s still on my list. I like how all of them are different, always full of style, but quite individually decorated. I’d say that the Chicago store gets the nod for best design, the furniture inside is very Chicago, while the entranceway is like a mountain lodge, with plenty of wood. Admittedly, though, the Rockies are pretty far from Chicago.

 

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California 2009, Part 2

I headed east, and uphill, to the Sierras, which in my opinion, are at its best after Labor Day, as the weather stays stable, the crowds disappear, and the colors start to change on the trees.

The first part of the journey was a slog up the I-80 to Truckee, semi-scenic, and well, the weather didn’t quite cooperate, with rain showers most of the way. I don’t like driving the 80, so the highlight was perhaps the hamburger and pie at Ikeda’s in Auburn. I did turn off before Donner Pass and took the old route past Donner Lake, then south into good old South Lake Tahoe via Emerald Bay. This is a funny, but endearing town, mostly sprawl along the 50, full of cheap motels, average dining, and it’s hard to even get to the lake shore. But I lived there for a few months one winter.

Ikeda's, now and forever.

Ikeda's, now and forever.

I met my friends Anthony and Karen for coffee the next morning, under clear skies, and caught up on things. Hadn’t seen them in a couple years, but it left me pining for the calm relaxed pace of life in Tahoe, with all the outdoor stuff nearby.

Donner Summit, the old U.S. 40

Donner Summit, the old U.S. 40

Lake Tahoe from Kingsbury Grade

Lake Tahoe from Kingsbury Grade

I made my slow way to Mammoth Lakes, via the Walker River Canyon, Bridgeport, and Mono Lake. Mono Lake is one bizarre but beautiful body of water, with the shores covered in this alkali chalk-like substance, a strong sulfur smell, and millions of flies swarming at the shore. It’s extraordinary!

Mono County Courthouse, Bridgeport

Mono County Courthouse, Bridgeport

Mono Lake

Mono Lake

The shore of Mono Lake, a white crust and spongy mud

The shore of Mono Lake, a white crust and spongy mud

So most of this part of the trip was about hiking, and unlike last year, which was a rainout, I got in plenty of awesome scenery and lots of walking. Here we go:

McLeod Lake, around Mammoth- the trail is short and sweet, just over half a mile each way, so a nice little walk to start my morning. I just about froze camping the night before, and somehow the Thermarest doesn’t make for a comfortable night sleeping. The start of the trail at Horseshoe Lake is perhaps the most interesting section, with elevated CO2 levels leading to an area of grayish, dead trees. Despite having a beach, it’s not advisable to be low to the ground, where the CO2 concentration is nearly 90 %. It’s a reminder of the volcanic origins of the area, in fact Mammoth Lakes sits in the middle of the ancient Long Valley Caldera.

Dead trees, Horseshoe Lake

Dead trees, Horseshoe Lake

Pine Lake- I drove south towards Bishop, and turned west on the Pine Creek Canyon Road. This starts in Round Valley, a pretty area of orchards and rangeland, then goes up the very narrow Pine Creek Canyon before reaching a dead end at the pack station and the tungsten mine. Then it was a 4.5 mile hike that climbed steeply out of the canyon, and towards the lake. This is pretty scenic throughout, with nifty striated granite features on the walls of the canyon, and looking eastward, a spectacular view of the canyon and the White Mountains. A nice huffer and puffer to get me back in shape and used to the altitude.

Convict Lake and Mt. Morrison

Convict Lake and Mt. Morrison

Pine Creek Canyon and the White Mountains

Pine Creek Canyon and the White Mountains

Tyee Lakes- Hiked this the next day, the trailhead was a short drive up the 168 from Bishop. I was looking for solitude, I definitely got it, since I didn’t run into anybody on the trail. I’d say that it was not as scenic as Pine Lake, but the last lake was in a pretty gorgeous setting, with a small beach to chill out at. And there was some color change in the canyon, with some trees already yellow. 3.8 miles to the last lake.

Tyee Lakes basin

Tyee Lakes basin

Grüezi aus Zurich, California

Grüezi aus Zurich, California

Kearsarge Pass and Lakes- I camped just uphill from Independence, got the most spectacular star display, and got an early start on this hike. Also, the temperatures were warm, making it a refreshing and comfortable 60 F at the top of the pass. It’s long, 5.8 miles to the pass, and another mile downhill to the lakes. The trail is very well-graded, but the scenery is outstanding all the way, especially as you finally approach the narrow pass. As I was already pretty tired, the steep hike back up to the pass from the lakes was brutal, and the last two miles felt too long, as you see the parking lot, the cars, and the road and somehow never quite get there! At the end of the day, it was a well-deserved dinner at the improbably located, very French Still Life Cafe in Independence, and a real bed in a motel.

Early to bed, early to rise, camping near Independence

Early to bed, early to rise, camping near Independence

Big Pothole Lake and Onion Valley from Kearsarge Pass

Big Pothole Lake and Onion Valley from Kearsarge Pass

Entering Kings Canyon National Park, Bullfrog Lake

Entering Kings Canyon National Park, Bullfrog Lake

Kearsarge Lakes, pinnacles, and the Great Western Divide

Kearsarge Lakes, pinnacles, and the Great Western Divide

And that was it, 3 days of hiking in a row, 33 miles, around 8000 vertical feet, and fabulous scenery. I think it’s the minimalism of the high Sierra that’s so captivating, just granite, lakes, and deep blue skies. But as a final note, I also visited Manzanar War Relocation Center, now Manzanar National Historic Site, which commemorates one of America’s less magnificent historical episodes. Indeed, beautiful places have their ugly sides.

It was time to head back to L.A., but I always have a hard time pulling myself away from such a nice part of the world. But a few meetings and some work-related stuff brought me back there earlier than I would have wanted to.

Manzanar and Mt. Williamson

Manzanar and Mt. Williamson

Cemetery, Manzanar

Cemetery, Manzanar

I’ve been up most of the side roads off of the 395 leading towards the Sierra crest, and have been up many of the passes. But as always, there’s plenty more to explore, and I shall be back!

California 2009, Part 1

So I landed in L.A. at the ungodly hour of midnight, after a long layover in Portland, then a 90 minute stop in San Francisco, and I have to say that LAX is downright awful. Half an hour to get my bags, and then another trek out to the rental car lots. I reserved a car, they didn’t have any left, so I got this:

20+ capacity, more than enough room for my luggage

20+ capacity, more than enough room for my luggage

And then exchanged it the next day for this (the one on the left):

VW Beetle, thanks Alamo.

VW Beetle, thanks Alamo.

The plan was to spend a couple days in L.A. recovering, then to make the long drive up to the Bay Area, east to the 395 and the Sierras, and back down to L.A.

Somehow I never felt that I ever get to really explore L.A. The city is so sprawling, and so huge, and so diverse. I love the city, and it is going to take a lifetime or several to really get to know it. The city for me is about the possibilities of life, this wacky juxtaposition of cultures, cuisines, and ways of life that you never imagine. In Europe, the cities are old, beautiful, but with few exceptions, have stopped reinventing themselves. In L.A. the city changes every day, every hour, as only a city perpetually on the edge of natural and man-made disasters can be.

So much for recovering- I met a friend in Manhattan Beach for coffee, drove to Koreatown for lunch, and walked it off by exploring the very swank, spacious Windsor Square neighborhood on foot. I drove through Hancock Park, and drooled over the 2010 snowboard stuff at the Burton Store on Melrose. Then it was back to the South Bay to watch the sun set over the Hermosa Beach Pier, followed by Peruvian food for dinner- the world in one day.

lunch.

lunch.

Windsor Square, with a skyline of palm trees

Windsor Square, with a skyline of palm trees

Sunset from the Hermosa pier

Sunset from the Hermosa pier

dinner.

dinner.

The next day it was a tour of the vast L.A. basin, south central L.A., Watts, Compton, and stopping in East L.A. for fish tacos.

Foggy morning in Manhattan Beach

Foggy morning in Manhattan Beach

Fish tacos in East L.A.

Fish tacos in East L.A.

Watts Towers

Watts Towers

The original McDonalds, Downey

The original McDonalds, Downey

Up to San Francisco, and to avoid driving all the way on the very dull, crappy I-5, I cut over to Coalinga and followed the San Andreas Fault the rest of the way up to the Bay Area. Good choice, it was scenic, despite being a parched landscape. But it’s classic California, rolling hills, giant oaks dotting the landscape, and golden (read: brown) brush that’s ready to go up in flames.

Along Highway 198, Monterey County line

Along Highway 198, Monterey County line

San Francisco is the antithesis to L.A., I like it in its own way, as the great metropolitan village with to-die-for views from nearly everywhere. But I’m not a fan of the fog belt and the endless blocks of concrete in the western part of the city. Still, the diversity and beauty make it a great place to visit, although I’d choose to live in L.A. I normally hit up the tourist sites when I’m in town, eat my requisite burrito, walk around Chinatown and North Beach, hang out in the Mission, and wind my way up and down the hills.

San Francisco's concrete jungle, the gloomy Sunset

San Francisco's concrete jungle, the gloomy Sunset

Downtown from Russian Hill, a bit nicer part of town.

Downtown from Russian Hill, a bit nicer part of town.

Chinatown, San Francisco

Chinatown, San Francisco

I met a friend for lunch, and she mentioned that opening night at the San Francisco Opera was that evening, so I headed for the box office and picked up a standing room ticket for the hefty price of $15. This plus dinner in the Tenderloin came out to a grand total of $27, so it was a bit of luxury on a budget. The opening night performance was Verdi’s Il Trovatore, with a rather silly plot mixed in with some very familiar music like the Anvil Chorus. The singing was pretty good though, with Dmitri Hvorotovsky in the lead role, a somewhat weaker tenor, and two excellent sopranos in the female leads. All in all, it was a good way to end my stay in the Bay Area.

S.F. Opera opening night

S.F. Opera opening night

So, coming up, part 2, my Sierra adventure.

Oktoberfest 2009

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Couldn’t resist!

Now it’s less fun going on your own, and I arrived a bit too late both Friday and Saturday, so I did not manage to get a seat indoors, but satisfied myself with beers outside, on two very nice fall days in Munich. Friday was a bit of a hazy memory, pretty much I stepped off the train, checked into the hotel, and started drinking, had too much, sobered up a bit at dinner, and finished the evening with a tequila sunrise. The train ride, incidentally, started at 9 AM and people were already sloshed on the train. I still can’t quite get over the thought of drinking alcohol before noon. But then again, midnight is before noon, right?

Serious exercise, she was probably hauling 20 kilos of beer.

Serious exercise, she was probably hauling 20 kilos of beer.

Saturday was incredibly crowded, being a public holiday (Tag der deutschen Einheit), so the tents were filled to capacity and I couldn’t get in. Add to that a football match between F.C. Koeln and Bayern Munich, so you had football fans from both sides at a beer festival. And where else could you be getting drunk sitting next to a Bavarian, an American, a Finn, and an Italian all at the same table?

Despite the warm weather and being packed to the brim on Saturday, attendance this year was down from last year. Undoubtedly the economic crisis, and the threats made against Oktoberfest had something to do with it.

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The Augustiner 'tent', capacity 9000+

The Augustiner 'tent', capacity 9000+

Lederhosen, nice.

Lederhosen, nice.

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Pavement pizzas in the making

Pavement pizzas in the making