Birthday Tesla Factory Tour

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The only picture I could take!

So, I had been planning a surprise for SMS’ birthday for months!  Now that I own a Model 3, I am eligible for a factory tour every year with 3 of my closest friends.  SMS kept saying how it would have been so cool to have a factory tour with the Tesla pick-up so I decided that it was better late than never!

I made the reservation about seven weeks ago.  The site advises about a month’s advance notice but I really wanted the birthday date!  I also invited our friend from Park Place and Mark’s second cousin.  It was a nice group and we were all very excited!

It starts in the customer service center where each of us was given a badge and a NDA to sign via iPad.  I didn’t really read it so I don’t know what I can say on my blog with five readers (+1 now that’s shown up on Elon Musk’s Google news alert?!?!?!?!).  After an introduction, all tour group members pile into a red mobile of golf-cart like seats linked together.

What was most interesting to me was how “vertically oriented” the Tesla production process is.  Rather than have low inventory with a constant inflow of parts from other sites, almost all the car parts are made on site.  This is amazing since storage is expensive and the plant is located in a very expensive area.  It makes more sense though, when the backstory of NUMMI is known and that Elon Musk bought the place at a firesale price.  It’s a huge complex and a lot of production equipment was included in the sale, including the biggest metal stamper in North America, which sets of the seismic detectors in Berkeley when it’s in use!

So, yes, there is plenty of room for storage and many parts are made on site.  Then we went past the S and X production lines.  It was very interesting and I’m glad we went.  There are definitely some differences compared to our Porsche factory tour in how the line is structured and timed.  It was cool to have a basis for comparison.

Afterwards, we had a birthday dinner at the house with Barnaby and Mark’s rock climbing friends and their partners.  I ordered food from Oren’s hummus and then we had a Japanese-style cake from Satura cakes in Los Altos.  It was awesome.  Great food, easy set-up, and great company!

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The next day, we went to Chromatic coffee.  We also walked around the Stanford mall later in the day which has the most beautiful flowers outside of Neiman Marcus (this makes sense to me).

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Lots of birds at Shoreline

On Friday, I went on a 20 mile run to try and build up for my upcoming marathon.  It was a beautiful day on Shoreline and I got sunburned since my sunscreen couldn’t hang for 3 hours.  Plus, I did skip my arms thinking it was still early but that was an unwise decision!  That evening, we went to Los Altos for a drink and then we saw a community orchestra that labeled itself “Terrible” and they’re not too far from the truth.  I think the main problem was that they picked very popular classical pieces so the difference between them and the radio versions from some of the best orchestras in the world was rather stark.  Afterwards, we met up with friends for dinner at a Thai restaurant.

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The Terrible (that’s the “T” in TACO!) Orchestra

Saturday was a mellow day.  We went climbing, which was so much fun.  It had been a little while for me and I really enjoyed myself.  For dinner, we went to Sushi Tomi.  It was so delicious.

So yes, that’s SMS’ birthday weekend in a nutshell.  It was great and so much fun!

Central Coast California- Party and Wine Tasting

The weekend after an East Coast family trip, SMS and I made our way from Silicon Valley to the Central Coast.  First stop?  Great-Uncle Al’s 90th birthday party in Arroyo Grande!

Before we went to the party, we stopped at our favorite taco place in nearby Pismo Beach, Papi’s Grill.  We ordered a few tacos and they were delicious.  The potato taco is always a hit and a few of the meat ones were also very tasty.  Then we checked into the SeaCrest OceanFront Hotel and went to the beach for a bit.

Uncle Al is SMS’ grandfather’s younger brother.  The brothers are both very active and live life to the fullest.  Although there was no formal toast, Uncle Al got up at one point to tell us “terrible news:” “I just went to DMV and they renewed my license…for five more years!”  It was very funny.  Although as I type it, it sounds worrisome- I promise, it was light-hearted!

It was fun to see family members, including SMS’ aunt and uncle whom we don’t see as often.  We had tri-tip for dinner, which was pretty delicious.  Afterwards, we went back to the hotel and watched the sunset.  It was a pretty great day.

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World Cup viewing

The next day, SMS and I went to a local bar to watch the World Cup final.  I am an unabashed follower of sports when it comes to championship games.  The road to the championship?  Not so much but when it’s time for the finals, I’m usually there.  It was a good game and both teams played with gusto. I was rooting for Croatia as the underdog but France winning was also ok.

After the game, we checked out of the hotel and headed for Paso Robles.  We had decided to take a couple days off and go wine-tasting with SMS’ parents.  Since we were early for check-in, we headed out to do what we do best- drink wine!  Our first stop was at Eos winery, where Rip had a complimentary tasting due to reciprocity from another wine club he belongs to.  Our pourer was really nice but the wines were…ok.  We enjoyed talking to her and she gave us a tip that was AWESOME (more later) so it wasn’t a bust but we definitely didn’t buy any of the wines.

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Heart Hill, Niner Winery

Rip wanted to try Niner winery so off we went for a tasting and possibly lunch.  There, by total chance, we ran into his sister and brother-in-law.  We enjoyed a tasting and decided to eat lunch at the on-site restaurant.  It was really good and the outdoor seating even better.  It was a really nice lunch setting and it was very enjoyable.

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Lunch table at Niner

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Although we had gotten the message that our hotel rooms were ready, we decided to keep going with wine tastings (yay!).  Since Justin is an old favorite and a little out of the way from the places we were planning on for the next day, we headed there.  We split wine tastings there and I bought a few bottles.  We ambitiously thought we’d drink them while we ate S’mores later at the Hotel Cheval but that ended up not happening.  So SMS and I still have them.  Darn.

We headed back to town to check in and then go to dinner.  We went to Thomas Hill Organics, which has excellent food and a beautiful indoor/outdoor covered patio.  Afterwards, we went to Hotel Cheval’s famed evening S’mores which ended up driving me crazy.  Let me say, SMS thinks I shouldn’t write about this because it does make me look slightly insane.  He is probably right but I press on, regardless.

So, first, you cannot make your own S’more.  There is a s’more concierge/waiter who takes your S’more order and then makes them for you.   He is taking orders from many people who would like s’mores and yet, he can only make two at a time.  Not the best system in the world but this is not the part where I lost my mind.  What was driving me crazy was his insane level of inefficiency and resulting level of stress.  It’s like the scene in August: Osage County when Abigail Breslin’s character states she doesn’t eat meat because she’s ingesting an animal’s fear.  Well, I was eating a person’s stress while eating a s’more, which is antithetical to the s’more experience.  Also, why could he not move his s’more ingredient wagon next to the fireplace where he was actually making the s’mores rather than running back and forth.  Wwhhhhhhyyyy?!?!? Argh, just let me make my own s’more!  Except I couldn’t.  And the whole experience made me weirdly grouchy because I am crazy.  The end.

So, if you’re still with me rather than reporting my fragile mental status to concerned authorities, we had another day of wine tasting the next day!  After a delicious breakfast, which featured a buffet and, thankfully, not a breakfast s’more waiter, we headed out to Villa San Juliette, which had been recommended the previous day at Eos.

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Villa San Juliette
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Happy couple at Villa San Juliette

It was amazing!  The wines were really good- I ended up becoming a member!  Also, the tasting was $10 and a lot of wines were served.  SMS ordered a pizza because his hunger levels were reaching imminent crisis levels and it looked delicious.  We spoke to the chef for a bit and he really knew his stuff.  I sort of wanted to eat there because everything he described sounded amazing, but we had already made plans for Daou which is another great experience.  But before I move on to Daou, if you are in Paso Robles, I give Villa San Juliette my highest recommendation!

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Daou lunch crowd!
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Daou vineyards

Rip has been a member of Daou for a long time and loves their wines.  It also sits on top of the largest hill around for miles so the view is spectacular.  There is an outside sitting area that is covered so, although it is quite hot, it’s comfortable in the shade as there’s often a gentle breeze as well.  We had a great tasting there and lunch.

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Our lunch was rather late so we decided to head back into town for happy hour rather than try and squeeze in another winery.  We got some so-so ice cream but later, went out for a really nice dinner at La Cosecha.  I ordered the seafood stew that was delicious but I wasn’t quite hungry enough for.  Still, I ate all the good stuff and tried not to waste any food!  Afterwards, SMS and I headed to an outdoor spa at River Oaks Hot Spring & Spa.  He made the reservation and it was really a good idea!  Afterwards, we still had room for a s’more so we hung out by the fire again.  This time, I was more chill.  Not uncoincidentally, there was a different s’more guy.

The next day, it was time to go.  We ate breakfast and then packed up the car.  It was a great mini-vacation and a fun way to celebrate family.

4th of July and West Orange, NJ

SMS and I visited family over the extended 4th of July weekend.  For the 4th itself, we went to the Shook family annual party.  It was a little more mellow this year compared to others (no swinging fireballs!), but it was a lot of fun.  The company was great and we had an awesome view of multiple firework shows.  I also got to run around the beach with my nephew Luca, which was a lot of fun.  He’s a spirited kid!  He also moves quite fast so no pictures from me although Mark caught him in action.

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Super cute!

That weekend, we headed up to New Jersey to see my grandfather and Dusty.  It was a quick trip since we arrived on Saturday and left Sunday.  We went out to a local restaurant since SMS and I hadn’t thought to bring nice clothes for a dinner at Navesink.  Doh!  Never fear, the local restaurant was really good and it was nice to hang out with Grandpa, Dusty, and my aunt Maria.

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Edison’s West Orange Factory

The next day, we went to the Thomas Edison National Historic Part in West Orange, NJ.  It’s at the site of his larger, industrial sized laboratory and factory.  We saw his chemical lab, production line, office with his huge roll-top desk, and the Black Maria.  The Black Maria is a tarpaper-covered video making studio on a lazy Susan to maximize light.  I’ve linked to a PBS short that talks about the Black Maria.  The current studio is actually a replica since the original burned down.  It was really neat to see someone’s idea constructed, from paper concept to large physical structure.  The scope of industrial engineering is something I’m in awe of- it’s hard for me to think on that scale.  But it is absolutely amazing to behold.

We stopped for lunch at MishMish cafe where we both ordered the Israeli brunch, which consisted of two fried eggs, halloumi, labne, sour pickles, tomatoes, cucumber, and pita.  I asked for sliced veggies instead, which also paired nicely.  It was really delicious.

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Is it wrong to think of my TESLA at Edison’s house?  The battery charger!

Afterwards, we quickly stopped at the Glenmont Estate, labelled “Glenmont Garage” on Google.  It’s the estate Edison gave to his second wife (he was a widower) as a wedding gift.  Niiiiiiccceeeee!  We didn’t have a lot of time but we peaked into an open window in the garage.  There, I saw Edison’s DC electric car charger- from  1904!  He charged neighbor’s cars and Alma Edison actually drove a 1914 Detroit Electric Model 47.  We walked behind the house and saw the gravesite of Thomas and Alma Edison before leaving for the airport.  Hmmm, typing that seems a little morbid pre-flight, but we didn’t have time to go inside!

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Back of the house

Scandinavian Summer, Day 7: Stockholm

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Embrace the ridiculous!

It was our last full day together so what better way to have couple-bonding time than borrowing a tandem bike from the hotel?  Well, actually, there are probably lots of better ideas since it can be a stressful experience but SMS and I did pretty well!  There were a few initial wobbles but then we were set.  SMS took the lead seat since he is a much more avid cyclist than I am and I just peddled along in the back.

We headed over to the Vasa museum, which was listed as a “must-do” by many sources.  The Vasa is a Swedish warship that sank very, very quickly in 1628 on its inaugural voyage.  It only made it ~1300 m before it heeled and water came rushing in.  Apparently, the center of gravity was much too high and it was very unstable.  This was actually known before the launch but there were time pressures (from the King!) to get the ship battle-ready.  There was an investigation which sort of fizzled out once the council realized the king would partially be at fault for approving the original plans so Henrik Hybertsson, the main ship designer died in 1627, seems to have been blamed and any other culpability assignments were avoided.

The Vasa is very impressive.  We took an English tour and then wandered around.  The museum has a lot of supporting exhibits.  The most interesting one to me was the movie about the ship and the excavation, complete with footage from 1961.  All in all, it was a very cool museum but if you have a really short time in Stockholm and you can’t get to it, I would say it’s ok.  There are so many amazing sights in the city so see what strikes your fancy, rather than being bossed into seeing something because everyone says you should! 🙂

After the Vasa, SMS was hungry.  When this occurs, it can be a quickly escalating emergency.  I talked him into checking out a restaurant a mile away, which we biked in tandem towards, a happy couple!  Forget the suspicious glare from SMS who has, unfortunately, been caught in a situation where I assure him that there will only be a small wait and the opposite occurs.

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A wonderful find!

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But in this case, it was an excellent idea!  I had used Yelp and found excellent reviews for Oaxen Slip , a self-described Nordic bistro.  We were seated on the covered patio and ordered several small plates.  It was all so good.  We also ordered a cocktail made from their housemade rhubarb lemonade and aqua de cedro.  It was amazing.  Our dishes included Norrøna herring with brown butter, warm potato salad, chopped egg, beetroots & hazelnuts and other dishes no longer on the menu but included a mozzarella dish with scattered bread crumbs, a reuben-like sandwich (good but not my favorite), and a delicious salad.

We also saw the Prince van Orangiën, a luxury yacht converted to a small hotel.  It looked very cute and got me thinking for my time in Stockholm after the conference…

After lunch, we cycled back to the hotel to turn in our tandem bike.  Then we walked over to the Fotografiska, the photography museum that had also received rave reviews.  It may have been better to take public transport since, by the end of the day, we had done  a lot of walking but it was still cool to see the city.  The museum itself was ok.  The exhibits were all modern photography and only highlighted the photos, with no technical details or camera equipment displayed.  There is a good snack bar with a great view but overall, I found it to be overhyped for my particular level of interest in modern photos.

After the museum, we walked towards Sodermalm, which I heard was a very cool part of the city.  We didn’t find the cool part on this walk.  I did find it when I returned to Stockholm but this walk was a bit of a bust.  Plus, we were walked out.  So, we hopped on the subway and headed to the Central train station.  We walked to the Smaka for some more food.  We finally got our Swedish meatballs (yay!) and then we sat down to listen to some live music.  I took a few classy crowd pictures (see below).

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Looks like the guy in the glasses caught me taking the photo!

We headed back to the hotel and up to the 9th floor.  This time, it was late enough that the rooftop, which is reserved for spa users during the day, was open!  We relaxed in hammock-like chairs and just chilled out for about 40 minutes.  It was delightful and the views were amazing.  I felt very lucky.  It was a nice way to mellow out after a busy day and enjoy each other’s company on our last day in Sweden together.

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So happy!

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Scandinavian Summer, Day 6: Gothenburg to Stockholm

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Trädgårdsföreningen

Although I loved Gothenburg, we woke up and it was time to move on.  This trip, I booked two nights in each of the cities plus one night in Hven.  I would have been happy staying on the West Coast of Sweden but I had FOMO if I shortened our time in Stockholm.  I admit, there were several travel blog posts from the time Volvo was promoting its European Delivery that made a trip up the coast to the islands very tempting but ultimately, I resisted that particular temptation.

After another A+ waffle breakfast, we walked over to the Trädgårdsföreningen to see the gardens more closely than we had been allowed to during the GARDENfest.  The flowers were absolutely beautiful and I took a lot of pictures.  It was a quiet morning with beautiful light and it was really a delightful time.

Afterwards, I decided we needed snacks for the train and we accidentally came across the downtown Saluhallen, which was awesome because I had actually meant to visit there at some point during the trip but then forgot.  There were multiple stands with the most fantastic looking food.  We bought some nuts, bread, cheese and the world’s tastiest crackers.   The cheese tray also included two macarons for dessert.  Yay!  The merchants were really nice and it was a great stop.  I’m always a little superstitious about buying nice food for the train since I have a childhood memory of when Mom and Dad splurged on a really nice grocery haul for an overnight train to Norway and the bag was left in the train station.  TBH, I think it may have been partially my fault since I was usually entrusted with stuff as the oldest kid but regardless, in the fluster (cluster?) of getting six people with luggage on the overnight train, the food was left behind.

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This may look unattractive in its half-eaten state but it was DELICIOUS!

This time, however, the food came with us.  The train took us through the green countryside and forest across the country to Stockholm.  We walked from the central train station to our hotel, Downtown Camper.  It took about 5 minutes and it was very convenient.  The hotel was great but much bigger than I expected, with big tour groups as part of their main clientele.  It was fine but based on the website, I thought it was going to be much smaller and boutique-y.  No matter, it was still great.

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Happy at the bar

We walked towards the Kungsträdgården where the Smaka food festival was going on.  We checked it out and decided to come back later when we were hungrier.  We headed back to the hotel and had a drink in the 9th floor bar that had an exceptional view of the city.  After our happy hour, we went back to the Smaka and had a few small dishes, including reindeer!

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People feasting at Smaka!
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Reindeer Games
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The most handsome Swede!

We walked towards the Gamla Stan (old town) and walked towards the Riddarholmen Church, which has a beautiful wrought iron spire.  It’s the burial ground of all the Swedish monarchs with the exception of that Catholic convert who went to Rome, Queen Christina.  She will show up again in my Uppsalla recap!  Back to the church, I wonder what it’s like to be a young royal heir and know exactly where you will be in several decades?

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Riddarholmen

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Then, it was back to the hotel and to bed, gearing up for tomorrow’s full day in Stockholm!