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Visiting San Francisco
mikehooker
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Jul 17, 2014
Posts: 917
From: Austin
Posted: 2016-10-22 8:44 pm   Permalink

Thanks again everyone for all the wonderful suggestions. I'm about a week out from my trip and something just dawned on me. I could probably find lots of rums in Cali that aren't available in Texas that I could bring home. One that immediately comes to mind is the new Plantation OFTD which Mr. Cate had a hand in developing and is presumably available now in the Bay Area. So with that in mind, what are the better liquor stores I should be visiting?

 
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JenTiki
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Jun 16, 2006
Posts: 2345
From: Home of the best rum collection in NC
Posted: 2016-10-24 07:28 am   Permalink

Bitters + Bottles in South San Francisco likely carries it. You might also try Cask Spirits downtown, K&L near downtown SF, and Ledger's in Berkeley. Call ahead to ask if they have it to save some time. I've heard Bitters + Bottles has a very good rum selection, so you might want to go there anyway if you have a car.

 
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mikehooker
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Jul 17, 2014
Posts: 917
From: Austin
Posted: 2016-10-31 12:23 pm   Permalink

We set sail for SF tomorrow! So excited. I belive the one thing we never touched on is what drinks I absolutely can't miss. Assuming the list below is my bar itinerary, what are the one or two mandatory cocktails from each that I'd be a fool to return home without trying? I assuming the rum barrel at SC is pretty special since that's the one recipe Martin wouldn't reveal in the book.

-Smuggler's Cover
-Pagan Idol
-Trader Vic's
-Forbidden Island
-Tonga Room
-Whitechappel


And thanks Jen for the tips above.

[ This Message was edited by: mikehooker 2016-10-31 12:24 ]


 
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JenTiki
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Jun 16, 2006
Posts: 2345
From: Home of the best rum collection in NC
Posted: 2016-11-01 09:14 am   Permalink

Quote:

On 2016-10-31 12:23, mikehooker wrote:
We set sail for SF tomorrow! So excited. I belive the one thing we never touched on is what drinks I absolutely can't miss. Assuming the list below is my bar itinerary, what are the one or two mandatory cocktails from each that I'd be a fool to return home without trying? I assuming the rum barrel at SC is pretty special since that's the one recipe Martin wouldn't reveal in the book.

-Smuggler's Cover
-Pagan Idol
-Trader Vic's
-Forbidden Island
-Tonga Room
-Whitechappel


And thanks Jen for the tips above.

[ This Message was edited by: mikehooker 2016-10-31 12:24 ]


Smuggler's Cove - my favorites are the Pampanito, Port Royal, Kona Cocktail, and Puka Punch. However, I haven't had some of the ones that were recently added to the menu since I moved away. Really, there have only been 2-3 drinks I've had there that just weren't my cup of tea, so you're highly likely to get a winner no matter what you choose.
Trader Vic's - Have the 1944 Mai Tai, just for history's sake. Also have the Navy Grog because it's amazing.
Tonga Room - Last time I was there they still had a Martin Cate drink on the menu. It's the Smuggler's Gold Punch, or something like that. That's your safest bet if it's still on the menu.
Whitechapel - Narc Angel should be your first choice.


 
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mikehooker
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Jul 17, 2014
Posts: 917
From: Austin
Posted: 2016-11-10 3:56 pm   Permalink

Wow what a trip! Will sum it up in multiple posts and lengthy descriptions as time permits, to the best of my recollection of course...

DAY 1

We arrived on a Tuesday, went directly to our hotel (The Phoenix), changed clothes, walked to Smuggler's Cove. Got there about 15 min before opening and there were a few others waiting already. Got a seat at the bar. The others who were there were in the rum club with one of them nearing the 500 mark. Impressive feat.

I started with the Pampanito and it was excellent. Wife had the rum barrel which she enjoyed. It was very unlike the Mai Kai's version which we're very accustomed to. This one had much less potency and a strong pineapple flavor.




Round two I had the Three Dots and honestly didn't care too much for it. Wasn't terrible or anything but the allspice dominated and masked the other flavors. Still drank it fairly quickly. Wife had the Jamaican Milk Punch and loved it. She considered ordering a second one but wanted to explore the menu further.




We'd been there only an hour or so at this point and frankly weren't really feeling "welcome." I was excited to have a seat at the bar as I always enjoy watching bartenders in action and talking with them but he barely paid us any mind. Granted the other patrons were obviously regulars who have spent exorbitant amounts of money there but it's not like we looked like typical tourists or had just come for a drink after work. We were dressed in our aloha best. After traveling so far to be there and making it a point for this to be our first destination, it felt disappointingly clique-ish, which was silly considering how few people were actually there that night. Just to get some water was a task and felt like we were inconveniencing him. We decided to have just one more round and cut out when finally the bartender (I believe his name was Steve) started opening up to us and asked where we were from.

So we settled in for more. I ordered an Undead Gentleman. I think this one was in the Zombie Horde book and likely in Exotic Cocktails as well but I've yet to try it at home. It was tasty and went quick. Wife had the Naked Ape. Don't recall her take on it.




Since the vibe had become a little more inviting and neither of us felt particularly tipsy considering how much we'd consumed in a relatively short amount of time we figured we might as well continue on to round four. My wife went with the Center of the Galaxy and I had the Formidable Dragon with the new Plantation OFTD. The bartender told me that's the only drink they're using it in so far but once Martin's back from the book tour they'll work it into more.




It's very unusual for my wife to have four drinks in one night and I know when she's near her limit and she didn't seem to be even close to there yet which is curious. We kept saying to each other how we don't feel as drunk as we should. Not that that's the goal, but growing up in Ft Lauderdale and going to the Mai Kai where a rum barrel has four ounces of rum in it, four drinks typically puts us in quite a state. I don't know how much booze was going into the drinks we had at the Cove but they just didn't seem that strong. Martin has definitely mastered the art of making yummy cocktails that aren't so powerful you need to stop yourself after two or three. For him, he sells more drinks. For us, we get to try more things in one sitting without getting plastered. I'm OK with it.

Didn't think there'd be time again on this trip to return so figured what the heck, try one more. The Kona Cocktail...




Overall reflections of the Cove: Music and decor were spot on but our visit was somewhat disappointing. I had set the bar extremely high here. I absolutely adore Martin's book and expected the drinks and service to blow me away. Besides the unbalanced Three Dots, everything we drank was good to great and the space was really cool. If we had been treated more hospitably it would have been a 5 star experience, but unfortunately that kinda service lingers with me and is my lasting impression of Smuggler's Cove.




But our night was not over...


White Chapel was on the same block as our hotel so we decided if the bar wasn't too busy we'd pop in for a night cap. Luckily we were able to get the last two stools at the bar and Carly took SUCH good care of us. She complimented our attire and was super sweet, playful and fun. And extremely helpful in regards to their overwhelmingly large menu. We told her the flavors we like, and she helped us decide what drinks might suit us. We ended up staying for 3 drinks each and I didn't want to leave even then. The vibe there is incredible. I love the airy, vintage subway feel of the space and the attentive staff, attention to detail, and quality of the cocktails really impressed me. I don't recall the names of all the drinks we had as I wasn't taking pictures of the menu like I did at Cove but I remember enjoying a Ginfushion and my wife a Ramos Fizz with a very impressive head. EDIT: Found my receipt and the other drinks we consumed were Classy Lassy, Blushing Monarch, a "Tiki" gin & tonic and a Last Word.





Oh, and the Bitterballen were to freakin' die for. We had two orders and contemplated a third.




Day 2

Left early for a side trip to Yosemite. Saw some big ass trees.

Day 3

Went hiking.




More to come...


[ This Message was edited by: mikehooker 2016-11-13 08:32 ]


 
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Or Got Rum?
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 29, 2009
Posts: 516
From: Wisconsin
Posted: 2016-11-11 08:30 am   Permalink

Well written and great photos...looking forward to more. Thanks for bringing us along.

 
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mikehooker
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Jul 17, 2014
Posts: 917
From: Austin
Posted: 2016-11-11 3:35 pm   Permalink

DAY 4

More hiking at Yosemite to see Vernal Falls, explore the Happy Isles area and check out the cemetery.




Hit the road before 1 to arrive at Trader Vic's Emeryville for our 5 o'clock reservation with a window seat to watch the sunset. I've never been to a Trader Vic's and was super stoked on this night. The decor did not disappoint. Fabulous, towering tikis everywhere, tapa covered walls, tiki lamps on the tables, and hanging fish floats galore. Even some Hinky Dinks stuff.








I started with the '44 Mai Tai cuz I just had to have one at a Vic's. It was less than stellar, as I expected. Pretty sure they used the Mai Tai mix in this in lieu of fresh ingredients. My wife had the Moku Nani. She said it tasted like fruit punch. It was served in a port light glass.




I then tried a Navy Grog since Vic's version is an all time favorite to make at home and a friend of mine who has been to the Atlanta location numerous times said it was his favorite drink there. Sadly this one disappointed. The rock candy stick was nice though.




My wife had the Passion Punch next. It came in a bowl big enough for two and had a gardenia in it. She liked it better than the previous but said it was like a peach slushy, not unlike a Wallaby Darned at Outback.




For food we started with the cheese bings which were basically just mozzarella sticks. For our meals we wanted to get something from the Chinese ovens so my wife had the 5 spice half duck and I had the pork chop. Neither was spectacular but they weren't bad by any means. I had brussel sprouts for the first time in my life and enjoyed them.




We skipped dessert, despite how awesome the suffering bastard menu looked.




I had a Samoan Fogg Cutter before we left and it was the best drink of the night. Dropped 100 bucks on ceramics and glass ware. Overall it was a very expensive outing but was glad for the experience. I didn't have high hopes for the drinks going in and didn't feel cheated in the slightest when we left.


Onward we go to Forbidden Island!

Was worried about parking and it being too busy since it was a Friday night but we got a spot a couple blocks away and two seats at the bar. The bartender was super nice and right off the bat was giving us coasters, swizzles and back scratchers to take home. My wife began with a Planet of the Apes which was basically a banana milkshake and delicious. I for the life of me can't remember the first drink I had and photo evidence became much scarcer by this time of night. EDIT: Found my receipt, it was a Navy Grog and I remember now it was much better than the one at Trader Vic's.

Upon finishing that, I happened to notice two bottles of old yellow label Lemon Hart on the back bar.




I asked if they still use the LH in anything and she said they just did for a special Halloween zombie with the 151. "I'll have that!" I declared. It was hands down the best zombie I've ever had. She told me of one of the "secret" ingredients and of course I can't recall what it was.




This being my fifth strong drink of the night I started feeling pretty tipsy, unlike my experience at Smuggler's Cove. My wife decided to stop drinking after her first one there (third of the night) since we were actually driving tonight and had to cross the bay safely.

I was enjoying it there. The atmosphere was that of a neighborhood dive bar. They had some cool tiki stuff but you're not totally submersed in it. There was a TV playing cool clips of tiki bars and other fun stuff. I decided I was going to have one more drink and use their Lemon Hart 80. They let me get a sip of it neat and then put it in a Three Dots and a Dash. I think I enjoyed this one a lot but by the time I was done I was full on drunk like I haven't been in a long time. I mean really drunk. And it was getting really crowded so my wife was happy to head out.




Cue: bed.


More to come...

[ This Message was edited by: mikehooker 2016-11-13 08:48 ]


 
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Heath
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Dec 31, 2005
Posts: 675
From: Suburban San Diego (The Drawer)
Posted: 2016-11-11 8:29 pm   Permalink

I really appreciate all the time, photos and effort you have put into this, and what you and the missus have put your livers through in the name of research, but this so far is my favorite part of your vacation...

Quote:

On 2016-11-10 15:56, mikehooker wrote:

Day 2

Left early for a side trip to Yosemite. Saw some big ass trees.


[ This Message was edited by: mikehooker 2016-11-10 16:05 ]



Thank you!


 
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mikehooker
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Jul 17, 2014
Posts: 917
From: Austin
Posted: 2016-11-12 2:20 pm   Permalink

DAY 5

Time to check out the big city. We started off at a vintage shop in the Mission district called Stuff that was enormous and had many pretty things. Wife found a somewhat rare promotional Pyrex bowl to add to her collection.


(For those in the know, or those who want to know, the "Balloon" pattern was only manufactured in 1958 as part of a chip and dip set. We now have the chip. Need the dip.)


Shot over to Haight St and stopped at the first food place we saw: The Lodge. $42 later we had breakfast in us.

Realized we were close to Painted Ladies so went over there and admired the old digs. Then made our way to Amoeba. Found some Arthur Lyman, Jerry Byrd and Billy Mure LP's I needed. Went over to the coast, popped into Cliff House, stared at waves and examined the remains of Sutro Baths. Went in a beach cave.




Then drove up to Sonoma to have dinner and stay with friends up there. People have surprisingly bad driving manners up that way.


DAY 6

The plan was to hit Muir Woods on the way back but dear god there were lots of people there. We drove two miles past the parking lots looking for a street spot before giving up hope. Made our way to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and stopped to look at a bridge.




Popped into the Marine Mammal Center to say hi to some rescued seals. Considered adopting one but then remembered we recently spent $42 on breakfast.

Then went up to Point Bonita to scope out the old lighthouse and get another view of the bridge. We had to go through a cave. And apparently I really like cave photos. What of it?




I believe at this point we went back to the Phoenix to check in for the third time. For what it's worth, that hotel is awesome. The front desk staff was the most courteous I've ever encountered. Orlando greeted us by name with a huge smile and open arms every time we came through the lobby. And we didn't find the tenderloin to be scary at all. Lots of people warned us how bad it was but there's a lot more aggressive homeless in downtown Austin. Only two people approached us for money (one in a very friendly way) and another person just said to us with a huge smile and great sincerity as we were walking by "You all have a wonderful night!" It was charming. Sure there was fecal matter of unknown origin all over the place, and people sleeping in front of businesses that had closed for the night and there was an alarming amount of emergency vehicles abound but it didn't seem dangerous or any worse than any other grossly populated city I've been to.

We rested a bit then Lyfted to Tonga Room. We got there just after 6 and got a table by the water. Our waiter addressed me as Mr. Hooker and demonstrated that old school hospitality that is so lacking in this age. He thanked us constantly and took amazing care of us. According to their Instagram, they launched a new drink menu the week before so I was excited to see if they were any good as I'd heard the drinks there left a bit to be desired. I began with the Planter's Punch which was served in a tiki mug and had falernum, allspice and grenadine in it. It was sweet, spicy and delicious. Wife had a Tonga Kong which had nice flavors and was really nicely balanced.




For starters, we ordered the pupu platter with chicken wings, crab rangoon, spring rolls and pork rib. It was all very good.

Prices were pretty hefty there so we decided to order one more drink, the Rainmaker bowl for two. It wasn't as good as either of our previous drinks but was certainly passable as a nice tiki drink. No complaints at all with the drinks here.




For our entrees we both went with pork, my wife had the smoked Kalua pork and I had the red curry pork loin. We both enjoyed our meals and the service there. Decided we couldn't pass up trying their Mai Tai creme bruele and so glad we got it. Heavenly.



After our meal we walked around and scoped out the decor. They had some nice pieces but the walls and ceilings are definitely more scarce than say the Mai Kai, Trader Vic's or some of the modern day revival bars. But overall I give this place a solid A.






The rain seemed to go off every 20-30 minutes. Not sure if it's automated or goes off whenever someone orders the Rainmaker bowl.




This guy was in the actual hotel near the bathrooms




We got out of there at a quarter to 8 so didn't have to pay the cover or be tormented by the house band.

We were kind of far from the hotel but needed to walk off the giant meal we had so we headed in the direction of Tiki Bob. Boy that poor green bastard sure made my day.




Someone seriously needs to go in the middle of the night and paint him back to normal. I doubt the crepery that's presently there would even care. Does anyone know if they are even the ones who painted him green? I imagine it happened a couple tenants ago and the current owners may not even know the history of him. Original colors might even draw more attention to their business. As it is, most people probably don't even realize there's a face on the pillar and just walk by unfazed.

By now we were only a mile or so from the hotel so we decided to just continue walking rather than hitching a ride. When we got back it was still early. My wife wanted to call it a night but I was craving a return to White Chapel. I told her I'd go for one... just like we planned the first time...

So I go by my lonesome, again figuring if it's packed I'll just call it a night and head back to the hotel. I walk in and it's nearly empty. I think there were only six people in the entire place so I grabbed a seat at the bar and the bartender, who I wish I remembered his name, was super friendly. I ordered a Saturn as Jentiki and I had discussed this being a favorite drink of ours in another thread and I wanted to taste it the Cate way. It was yummy, pretty much the same as when I make it at home.




The bartender and I chatted a lot since he didn't have many people to take care of. He said it was unusually slow for a Sunday and he even cut one bartender. Of course he got slammed a few minutes later but only for a short while. He was simultaneously making five drinks while carrying on a conversation about his favorite hiking spots and working with lightning speed. I gotta say, I was damn impressed. We were talking about tiki and how I was much more smitten with the gin bar than Smuggler's Cove when he started pushing the Modern Prometheus on me.




It was basically the gin cousin of a Zombie with I believe the equivalent of 4 ounces of booze. I wasn't planning to have a second drink, no less the most powerful one on the menu. But he said no one ever orders it and he really wanted to make one so he'd buy my first drink if I have one. OK, fine, twist my arm.




Holy crap that's a powerful but well balanced drink. I was feeling pretty tipsy maybe a quarter of the way through it so I took it reeeeaaaal slow from there with a chug of water between every sip.

Again, I wanted to stay for more but knew better of it. Had to get some rest cuz there was one more action packed day and our last tiki stop ahead of us before we were to hop a plane back home.

Tomorrow, the dramatic conclusion of our Bay Area tiki tour...


 
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mikehooker
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Jul 17, 2014
Posts: 917
From: Austin
Posted: 2016-11-13 2:41 pm   Permalink

DAY 7


Early rise. We caught a Lyft to the wharf, watched the sea lions act silly, grabbed a bite from one of the street vendors (chowder bread bowl and fish and chips), then went to the Musée Mécanique coin operated arcade which was a highlight of the trip for me. That place is seriously awesome and I wish we had more time to spend there but we had to catch the ferry to Alcatraz.




I really didn't know much about the island other than it was a former federal prison. We spent a few hours there doing a Ranger led program and an audio tour. Was great to learn that it was a military prison in the late 1800s and how there was an Indian takeover after the penitentiary closed due financial burden.




I was also surprised by the beauty of the gardens and the landscaping. Glad it's in the hands of the National Park Service. We had a great time out there and even thought the touristy wharf area was fun. Atleast early on. By the time we got back over there it was getting much busier and there were awful street musicians so we quickly made our way over to Ghiradelli for ice cream then went back to the hotel. Got changed for our last night out starting with dinner at X&Y in Chinatown (as recommended by the concierge). It was real good and most importantly, just a few blocks from Pagan Idol.




I think it was after 8 by the time we got there so I was super worried since multiple people said you have to be there when they open cuz it gets so crowded. Well luck was on our side as the after work crowd had just dispersed and there were plenty of stools available at the front bar. I began with the Sparkle N Froth served in their very large signature tiki mug which I also purchased. Wife liked the sound of the Rum Monkey which is a bowl drink and the bartender was gracious enough to make a single serving for her complete with garnish. Both drinks were excellent with the Monkey being similar to the Planet of the Apes from Forbidden Island but more boozy and interesting.




Round two I had the Planters Punch and wife got the Pineapple Express with Stiggins, egg white and a pineapple stenciled on top with bitters. Again, we both very much enjoyed our drinks.




If it were up to me we would have stayed there til we drank the entirety of the menu but we had to be up early to cross the bay bridge, return our rental car and catch our flight in Oakland so we were gonna call it a night when the patron next to us ordered a Banana Life, a snifter full of rum, freshly blended banana, multiple sweeteners and topped with plantains that my wife had been eyeing on the menu. The bartender said it was his favorite and the guy who ordered it said it was delicious so we decided to go ahead and get one to share. It did not disappoint. At this point we hadn't even left our stools so we got up to look around and the bartender, JP, came out to give us the grand tour of the back room which has two bars. There were some really fantastic and large carved tikis along with some less than stellar generic ones. But the big boys were quite impressive.






The walls all around, and even in the bathrooms, were covered in tapa print, bamboo and matting. The ceilings were black with shimmering stars, there were thatched huts for patrons who want privacy. Really impressed with the decor and layout.






This is the prize of the owners collection.




They also have a big volcano scene that erupts. Oh, and the plant life and foliage was quite nice. Music selection was great as well. As far as revival tiki bars go, this one was my favorite. The menu isn't as vast as Smuggler's Cove, but the drinks we had were all tasty and strong, the service and ambiance were top notch and it gives you more of an escapist feeling than any of the others.


In conclusion, I think each place we visited had it's own merits and was worth checking out. Overall White Chapel won my heart. Yes, the gin bar we almost didn't go to was my absolutely favorite. I think Pagan Idol is next best for having the total tiki package and it's a toss up for me between Smuggler's Cove and Forbidden Island. Because of the prices, Tonga and Vic's would only be reserved for very special occasions.

It was an action packed trip with the perfect balance of touristy indulgence, nature and night life. We had a blast and I enjoyed revisiting it all in this thread. Thanks for coming along!



[ This Message was edited by: mikehooker 2016-11-13 14:50 ]


 
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Hamo
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 22, 2016
Posts: 288
From: Colorado (via Iowa)
Posted: 2016-11-13 4:59 pm   Permalink

Glad to see you enjoyed the Musee Mecanique, and jealous of all the tiki places you experienced. Also glad to hear that the Tonga Room has a new drink menu; I wasn't too impressed with the Mai Tai I ordered. I'd walked past Pagan Idol, and now having read about your trip, I'm kinda sorry I didn't blow my diet to check that out, too. Thanks, Mike!

 
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LoriLovesTiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 03, 2011
Posts: 1294
From: NJ
Posted: 2016-11-13 6:38 pm   Permalink

Thanks for your recap Mike! My husband and I visited SF a few years back before heading to my brother's wedding in Big Sur. Thanks to Hurricane Sandy on the East coast our trip was one day shorter than the brief one we had planned but we still got to see Alcatraz (amazing!) and Forbidden Island and Trader Vics. Your report brought back some really fond memories and I cannot wait to get back one day! It's a long trip from NJ so it's gonna be a while but posts like this let me live vicariously through others. Mahalo!
_________________
:-)
Lori


 
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JenTiki
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Jun 16, 2006
Posts: 2345
From: Home of the best rum collection in NC
Posted: 2016-11-14 07:44 am   Permalink

I'm glad you tried some of my recommendations. Sounds like it was a good trip.

You know, I lived in the Bay Area for 45 years, and never once went to Alcatraz. Go figure.


 
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mikehooker
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Jul 17, 2014
Posts: 917
From: Austin
Posted: 2016-11-16 10:56 am   Permalink

Quote:

On 2016-11-11 20:29, Heath wrote:
I really appreciate all the time, photos and effort you have put into this, and what you and the missus have put your livers through in the name of research, but this so far is my favorite part of your vacation...

Quote:

On 2016-11-10 15:56, mikehooker wrote:

Day 2

Left early for a side trip to Yosemite. Saw some big ass trees.


[ This Message was edited by: mikehooker 2016-11-10 16:05 ]



Thank you!




My wife sent me this pic of me showing off my measly wing span beneath what's left of the Dead Giant in the Tuolumne Grove...






And here are some of the goodies I took home from the trip that I forgot to post earlier...





 
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nui 'umi 'umi
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Feb 21, 2011
Posts: 2466
From: La Mirada Atoll
Posted: 2016-11-26 9:43 pm   Permalink

Mike, thank you so much for sharing your trip with us. I am glad that you enjoyed it.
Cheers


 
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