Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Really Old Blog Crap-December 2007: Road Trip - I've never done a travelogue before. Are you excited?

If you read my posting from last week you already know about the ongoing saga of my purchase of the Casio Camera from Best Buy on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. That particular problem between another greedy corporate outift and myself has yet to reach a satisfying conclusion and I'm sure I will be writing about that more in the very near future. Let's just say that the two SD 2GB Memory Discs which were shipped out last week via a slow boat from China have yet to arrive. But I've decided to put all that aside so I could do as I said I would and tell you how the camera performs.

The biggest problem that I had all week long was being unable to find the time to go through the manual and check out some of the many functions that this particular camera is supposed to have. I didn't want to be entirely lost inside the dark room when it came time to start snapshotting my way to becoming the next Ansel Adams. But by Saturday, I hadn't read the first page although I did have time to put the battery and a memory card in so that I could take a couple of pictures of my girlfriend Jane Jetson's Ford Escape. Speaking of Ford, I'm not happy with them either but that's another post for another day.

As you can see, the first picture looks kind of funky but I think that was caused by the dead grass on the lawn. It sort of gave everything a woefully yellowish tinge. As you can see, the lawns around here look kind of crappy at this time of year unless you have some fancy grass like the neighbors in the new subdivision just across the way. At any rate, I took my time with the second picture and as you can see it turned out much better. I learn quickly.

Jane Jetson and I had already planned for a road trip this past Saturday and I figured that it would be as good a time as any to see what the camera could do. The original destination was to be Disneyland. Unfortunately that was postponed because the couple we were going with couldn't make it. So instead we opted for a day at the beach and whatever else we thought we could find to least legally.

As it turned out, there is more to do along the California Coast during this time of year than what you thought there would be, but you had best plan ahead because just about anything and everything worthwhile requires that you buy tickets in advance or plan your day way ahead of. Because of our other last minute cancellation, we were unable to do this of course so we would have to wing it.

After checking around on the internet we did find out there was going to be a Holiday Boat Parade on Morro Bay. No, that's not a typo. I did mean ON Morrow Bay. It was a parade of boats all lighted up for the Christmas Holidays.

You could either go there and watch it from the beach or from any place else around the bay. You could also ride on one of them and be served a nice meal or appetizers while you cruise up and down the coastline sipping a martini. I had already surmised that if we were to go and observe this annual yuletide phenomenon, we would undoubtedly be sitting on the shore looking out instead of stuffing ourselves on the boat while waving inward to the crowds along the shoreline. Jane called one of the boat companies offering a package anyway, but of course learned quickly that they were all booked up. Not only that, Jane made it abundantly clear to me that if she wasn't warm and cozy and snuggled inside one of those boats, she didn't particularly want to go. As for myself, it didn't matter where I was. I just wanted to take some dang pictures with my new toy.

We headed down to Pismo Beach at about 10 a.m. or so on Saturday morning. Jane was in a talkative mood so again I read exactly zero pages in the camera's manual. I was also unable to take any pictures from the car because Jane's car windows were covered with dust, dirt, mud, squished bugs and possibly a few other unrecognizable souvenirs that a vehicle picks up when traveling speedily down the long stretches of road that run in between the miles and miles of farm land sprawled out over what would otherwise be nothing but desert. The wonders of irrigation never cease to amaze me.

By the time we arrived it was about 12:30. It didn't feel cold at first although the weather forecast had been for about 52 degrees give or take one or two degrees. We decided to eat lunch at the first restaurant closest to the pier. We had ate there before on other trips several years ago and had enjoyed the food. I of course, stopped to take a picture of the restaurant. Maybe I didn't need the stupid 300 page manual after all.

Inside this restaurant they had a painting of mermaids on one of the walls so I snapped a quick picture of it. Upon seeing the results of my effort Jane quickly informed me that you could barely see the mermaids. So I leaned back at a different angle and took another one which Jane said turned out a little bit better although I should just stand up and take it if I wanted a really good one. I frowned. I didn't want to stand up and take a picture of the wall and make everybody think I was some sort of nutty tourist.

You can see the stairs that lead to an upstairs area where you can also dine if for some reason you digest your food better twenty more feet above sea level than what we were. You can also opt for the semi-outdoor patio area which some people did. With it being in the low 50's and the wind blowing a ton, Jane and I turned out to be the more sane ones after all by opting to eat in the indoor comfort of the Pierside Restaurant. I can't imagine why they gave it a name like that though. Can you?

As for the food, I haven't ever tried being a food critic but I'll give it my best shot. Here goes. The clam chowder was fine, as were the clam strips appetizer. I decided to try something called a crab meat melt. I really didn't know what to expect. The best way to describe it is to think of tuna salad, substitute crab taste for the tuna, slap it on some sourdough bread with some pepperjack cheese and grill it. It tasted just fine I guess. My curiosity about it was satisfied but I kind of wish I had ordered something else. Jane had fish and chips and she said the fish was very good. But Jane likes everything.
We exited the restaurant put on on our jackets as we headed toward the pier. Parked on the Pier was a police car with no occupant inside. I thought the driver might be out getting donuts but there were no donut shops nearby.
The squad car had a nice little surf decal on the side of the vehicle. I kind of like that. It makes one think that the Pismo Police Department has a little more class than your average run of the mill police station.

The last time we were at Pismo there were all kinds of gulls littering the place and crapping from one end of the pier to the other. I even made a funny video of it that I'll post here one of these days as soon as I get at least six people begging to see the bird video. These days, there are a bunch of signs painted on the pier proclaiming that we had better not be feeding the birds if we know what's good for us. I guess the city of Pismo got tired of paying someone to scrape up the gull poopy.

But the thing about signs is that birds can't read. Either that or this Pelican failed to get the memo from the chief of police and was hanging around waiting for a few crumbs or maybe for some kid who didn't know any better to discard today's twinkie. While Mr. Pelican was hanging out, he did pose for a picture though.

As we walked further down the pier I stopped for a few more pictures of the ocean and shoreline. So far it was going pretty good with the camera. The only complaint I had was a small one and it was that the on and off button was a bit touchy. Sometimes it was as if I would double clutch and the lens would start outward and quickly collapse inward again as if it were a middle age man doing his best to fight off impotence. But it was only a minor flaw.

I was even able to quickly find out how to use the zoom. This camera only has a 3X optical zoom whereas my JVC digital video camera that was made expressly for the purpose of taking videos has a 10x optical zoom. But in this price range for this type of camera, I saw none with an optical zoom that went any higher than the Casio I had bought.

Besides the don't feed the bird signs there are all kinds of signs warning who ever was fishing that overhead casting was not aloud. When we got to the end of the pier we found out where the policeman from the empty police car was. He was with another officer that had driven all the way to the end of the pier in an identical squad car. I guess the pier is only sturdy enough to hold one car at a time which is why the other one was left at the other end. Neither officer was eating a donut.

They were busy writing some guy and possibly some of his buddies a citation. I don't know if it was for overhead casting or because he fed some wayward gull. Maybe he had tried to capture my Pelican friend for their next barbecue. I know I wasn't about to ask although I was tempted to take a picture of the whole thing. I decided that would not be a wise course of action as I wasn't really wanting to piss off some Pismo cop and be testing my camera from the inside of the Pismo Heartbreak Hotel.

On the way back down the pier I decided to test the video aspect of the Casio by taking some shots of a young couple doing something called boogie boarding. (Okay, that particular video is gone and I don’t feel like traipsing through all my shit to find it.  But this video at Morrow Bay of some girls messing with a jelly fish will do as a substitute.  It was taken with the same camera.  What were they doing with that jelly fish?  Hell, I don’t know.  Didn’t think to ask since I’d have had to climb down the rocks to ask which wasn’t in the best interest of my health) I was quite pleased with the way it looked on the computer. It's just that it records in the .mov quicktime format and I don't like that. I uploaded the .mov file to youtube which converts it into an .flv file. After that it looked worse. I uploaded it to Veoh and it was somewhat better but neither came close to showing the image as it appeared in the original format. Finally, using my Roxio Creator 8, I converted the file to .wmv at 1400 kbps. and uploaded it to youtube once again in that format. It wasn't any better so I thought about not posting it since it actually looks good out of the camera and on my LCD Flat screen. I didn't want to give the wrong impression about the camera but I've decided to upload it. I just wish you could see the picture of the girl in the wet suit better because she was really hot. Okay, so now you know what my real interest in boogie boarding is.

I will say that it was simple enough to take the video. All I had to do was press the video button and I was in business. Casio says you can upload the video directly from your camera and perhaps if you do that it looks better on Youtube. Or I could try the higher video setting than the one I was using.

After taking enough shots from the pier, we decided to browse the souvenir shops. There are a multitude of those lining the streets near the beach area. Most of them sell the same kind of crummy looking crap and post cards though so if you want a souvenir it's simply a matter of finding them at the right price. The further you get away from the beach the cheaper things seem to be.

The first place we stopped in was this mini-mini-teensy-weensy mall. There were about six shops in there and an ice cream stand. We browsed around in the shops for a while. In one shop I took a picture of a pirate statue.

There had also been a pirate statue in the Pierside Restaurant by the cash register and by the time we finished perusing many of the local shops we had seen several more. So I guess Pirates are a big thing in Pismo. Either that or maybe they were just promoting this weeks release of POTC:At World's end.

And what the heck is it with Betty Boop? She's nothing more than a slutty cartoon character who goes running around half naked showing everything she's got. Her language skills barely go beyond uttering "Poop-poop-a-doopy" incessantly as if she had invented the stuff. Yet you can't hardly walk into a souvenir shop anywhere without running into the ho. And since Jane's best friend collects Betty Boop crap, she had to check out the merchandise to see if there was something her friend would want.

And do you remember what I told you about the further you get away from the water the cheaper things are? That was true in this shop. We found some things in here that cost about twenty dollars more in another shop. So if you know me, and you know you're getting a Christmas present from me, you can look around this picture and guess at what cheap assed present you're getting.

Finally we decided to head elsewhere. We had seen some posters on the shop doors about a Christmas Play being performed at a theater in Oceano which is about three miles from Pismo. We decided to try and get tickets but we weren't holding our breath. It wasn't hard to locate the town or the theater box office and believe it or not they did have a couple of tickets available for the 8:30 performance. There was one small catch. The tickets were for single seats at different locations in the theater. Well, bah humbug to that and your stinking play too which was probably a big crapfest anyway. If you are curious as to what you missed and we missed, you can visit the web site of the Great American Melodrama.

So that brought us back to what we were going to do next. I still wanted to head over to Morro Bay for the boat parade but I could tell by even mentioning it that Jane would go if I pushed for it but she wouldn't be happy about it. So she.....I mean we decided to head for a little town called Cambria. We had read a blurb on their web site that stated:

Forget the shopping malls and mail order catalogs this year. Come to Cambria for your Holiday shopping and find unique gifts for everyone on your list. Give yourself a break and do your Holiday shopping at a relaxed pace. Enjoy the festive ambiance as the village of Cambria celebrates the season with fabulous decorations and brilliant holiday lights.

So we headed up the coast road to find Cambria. As we did, the sun began to set over the ocean. I wanted to stop and take some pictures but by the time we reached a place we could park, it was all over with. I'm not sure that Jane would have stopped anyway. She's kind of the "seen one sunset you've seen them all" types.

We finally located Cambria, although we did have to stop for directions because some road work detoured us out of our way. And it's not exactly an easy place to get to. And yes it is one of those old fashioned types of town that looks like it hasn't changed too much in about fifty years. It's one of those little scenic towns where you go into a bunch of old fashioned shops, soak up the atmosphere, and then pay about three times what anything is worth. Remember the movie Baby Boom? Remember when Diane Keaton is in the shop trying to unload her gourmet baby food when a bunch of yuppies or whatever they were see it and began to rave how great it would be for gifts? Yeah, those are the kind of shoppers you'll find in Cambria.

Some of the stores were decorated up with some lights, but it was nothing special so don't expect much from these pictures. I had some difficulty finding the right setting to take night pictures, and figuring out how turn on the flash. But somehow I finally managed to get it. Still, I should have found somewhere that I could set the white balance manually because that's the only way to get really good pictures at night.

I also had trouble turning the zoom off but again this can be attributed to my lack of still not having read the manual and basically having to fumble around in the dark at the same time.

One of the first shops we went into was a candy store. We browsed for a few minutes and thats when I found the Fizzies! By golly, I bet I hadn't seen Fizzies in more than thirty years. What? You don't know what Fizzies are? Fizzies were a hot item when I was a kid. Basically, they were soda pop in a tablet. You simply drop one into a glass of water, it fizzes around like alka seltzer and then you have instant soda pop! I bought a box of the root beer ones. The price was $3.00 for eight action tablets which comes out to roughly 75 cents for twelve ounces of soda (each tablet makes six ounces) so if you look at it that way the price wasn't all that bad.

There were other candies that you don't find at your unfriendly neighborhood convenience store these days such as Chuckles, Candy Necklaces, straws filled with candy powder, and candy buttons on paper. It was an old fart's candy paradise. Besides the Fizzies, we ended up spending about forty bucks altogether on some other fine chocolates such as chocolate and peanut covered pretzel sticks, some cow tails that I haven't been able to find since moving out here to California's version of bum Egypt, three of the large candy necklaces to give to the kids of Jane's best friend in the hopes that they'll choke on them....just kidding of course, a big bag of gum balls, and some kind of candy concoction imported from somewhere in Canada. (Note the yellowish tinge in some of the candy store pictures was caused by the store lighting.)


After the candy store we went into an antiques store with a gazillion pieces of junk. There was an old Hard bound Hardy Boys book that I wanted to buy for $6.99 but didn't. I now regret not doing so. I opted instead for an old VHS that has what looks to be some public domain cartoons I can upload and bore you with.
The woman cashier who was probably the owner had this look on her face that said, "You spend an hour in the damn place and all you buy is this $3.99 worthless piece of junk!" What can I say? An antiques aficionado I am not.

By that time it was time to eat again so we could then hit the dusty trail for the two hour drive back home. Most of the restaurants had their menus and the prices on a bulletin type board on the outside. I guess they wanted all the riff raff to know for sure if they could afford it or not. We opted for an Italian place called Lombardi's where the prices seemed reasonable and the atmosphere relaxed and inviting. I guess you're looking for another food review.

For an appetizer, we just had garlic cheese bread and there was nothing extraordinary about that but it did taste good. I forget exactly what it was that Jane had but it came with some kind of cream sauce. Now Jane tired to substitute the cream sauce with something else, but the waitress talked her into keeping the cream sauce. Jane didn't regret it either because she said it was really really good. I had spaghetitini with meatballs and sausage and it too was very very good. And the portions were more than generous and the price was more than reasonable. So if you go to Cambria, forget the fancy high priced places and head over to Lombardi's Pasta Familia as it is officially known as.

That's about it for this road trip as we headed home right after dinner. I hope you have enjoyed our little bus tour. Come again soon.

So how would I rate the Casio which is why we went on this trip in the first place. So far I am quite happy with the performance. I wanted a camera that was small and lightweight that I could take anywhere. It certainly is that. I wanted it to take decent snapshots and although I was satisfied I'll let you be the final judge of that. Given a little time with the camera and manual I'm sure the quality will improve. I wanted it to be able to take decent video, and although the video looked like crap when converted to an flv file by youtube, I'm satisfied with it on my computI can't say that I am happy at all with Best Buy though. They suck even more now than they did last week. I'll write about that later in the week.

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