09.23.2011

Mil-what?
Milpitas is probably an unlikely stop for most travellers with it being over shadowed by San Jose in the south or Oakland in the north for stops on the way to San Francisco but when there’s a place called the “Great Mall” we couldn’t resist taking an overnight detour.

Milpitas

We took the 120 out of Yosemite to the 205 then the 680 which pretty much dropped us right at our hotel, The Marriot TownePlace Suites, which we strategically planned due to it being directly across the road from the Mall.

The day started off with a free continental style breakfast which for me included a portioned cup of the now extinct in AU, Corn Pops. Memories of eating them for dinner at uni came flooding back and it was a sign it was going to be a good day (:

Getting to the centre within the first hour of opening on a weekend day is definitely the way to go. No problems with getting a covered park right near an entrance and it’s a casual stroll for a good hour or two before the crowds start rolling in. It opens from 10am Mon-Sat. so you even get a nice little sleep in.

So to the shopping… with over 200 stores I guess it can lay claim to the “Great”ness but where to start? Since there were so many stores I’m going to refer back to the mall directory to help me remember them all and list them alphabetically.

The Nike factory store is a good place to start, big variety and I must say we bought more here than at Citadel. Cortez’s = $35USD, girls Airmax 90 = $30USD, Omar Salazar SB’s = $35USD *yoink* plus an array of apparel and tee’s at throw away multi-buy prices.

Reebok also has an outlet store and then there are the usual mall suspects, Champs, Converse, Finish Line, Journeys, Shiekh Shoes, Sports Authority and Vans. Footlocker gets a special mention as this one seemed to be one of their few clearance stores. Normal fair up front but at the back it was pile after pile of mismatched boxes, pairs and markdown on top of markdown stickers. For the most part there was a reason why most were reduced but there were some diamonds in that rough, biggest problem was finding how much they were. This thankfully paid off when a pair of Punkrose Retro Hi-Tops purchased, basically the bastard child of Chuck Taylor and Vans. Going by the reduced tickets and percent off markings, the guesstimation came to about $20 down from $100. Not bad at all right? Not even close, the sales guy stumbled back wide eyed before calling his colleagues over. While we were thinking…”Oh great we’re gonna have to put these back”, he turns the register readout around to show… $2.17 inc tax. What??? He even got the manager to check and sure enough that was the price! Free lunch then (: This further enforces my claim that the internet is not the best place for bargains 😉

$2.17 inc tax!

After that, seeing items on sale just wasn’t the same, after all, its no $2.17! But we continued no less. Sanrio and Toys R Us were the only major places for toys though there were a couple places with a limit selection of anime and game related merch. Sears has an appliance outlet store if you’re chasing down some cheap Aldi-esque appliances.

What mall stop for us would be complete without a Wetzel’s Pretzels stop? Yep, just so happens there is one here too 😉 and it has stolen the torch for best pretzel’s ever. The fresh pretzel bites were a cut and a half (no pun intended!) above all the other stores we’ve tried, deeeelicious.

All pretzelled and bargained up we waddle out to the car and hit the road once more for our final USA stop, San Francisco!

Milpitas 2011 – Great Mall
Yosemite 2011 part #1 – LA to Oakhurst via Bakersfield
Yosemite 2011 part #2 – Yosemite National Park
San Francisco 2011 part #1 – Arrival
San Francisco 2011 part #2 – Shopping – Haight, Downtown SF
San Francisco 2011 part #3 – Chinatown
San Francisco 2011 part #4 – Japantown
San Francisco 2011 part #5 – Alcatraz
San Francisco 2011 part #6 – Fisherman’s wharf, Golden Gate Bridge

Complete Yosemite 2011 photo gallery here
Complete San Francisco 2011 photo gallery here

Oh noez! Feline Down!!

Nope, not a kitteh after too many cheezburgerz, they’re actually the next band from our Time Off Magazine‘s Live local band shoots. Read about them in this week’s issue #1545.

Get it FREE from all the usual street press outlets or read it online @ Time Off magazine – Brisbane

09.19.2011

Those nostalgia revival boys were back again to deliver a full fledged production of lighting, sound and top notch tunes from the cream of DJ’s from the 90s rave era.

Nothing but smiles and hands in the air, just the way dance music should be!

Well done guys, another great night!

Candee Flip @ Barsoma photos here

Yosemite National Park

Generally in a day you could cover the valley floor and one or two of the shorter mountain/waterfall hikes, however, ideally a two day stay on site would be best to cover a fair portion of the popular areas as well as chances for sunrise and sunset photos and revisiting areas at different times of the day. In saying that, if you’re on a tight schedule, a “summary” tour of the park is doable in about half a day.

Yosemite National Park - one of the many lookout spots on the way in

Firstly, the place is vast, not just in a physical sense but in a commercial way to accommodate the masses of tourists, for the most part its all 2 lane, one way bitumen roads with plenty of spots to pull over. On the way up and over the mountain range its single 2 way roads but still plenty of lookout spots. Travelling in late May, early June will still see plenty of thick snow at the top of the mountain areas. Temperatures were high single figures (Celsius) in these areas but were quite warm on the valley floor, around low 20s. So while you’re active you can easily get away with shorts and t-shirt for most of the day, though temps drop off fast once the sun slips behind the mountains.

On the valley floor, you can actually drive to most of the major sights. This is definitely the quickest way, but of course everyone has the same idea and you will get caught up with those inconsiderate types holding up traffic, triple parked trying to get photos from their car. Even if you choose not to park somewhere, unfortunately there’s no escaping them because of the one way ring road layout of the park. There is a shuttle that loops this ring road but for a relaxing experience and access to extra areas minus some of the strenuous hiking or traffic headaches you can’t go past hiring a bicycle.

The bicycles are hired from the Yosemite village, which is the central point for visitors. Take your pick of mountain bike, cruiser, tandems or even ones with trailers for around $10 hour or $28 for the day. Helmets are included for the safety conscious. Yosemite Lodge is also the major hub for tourist information, eateries and a grocery/souvenir store. The store prices are all reasonable and service was friendly and quick. There’s even free ice water (:

Yosemite National Park - Mirror Lake

For the most part, the ride is quite easy with very little variation in inclines so no prior triathlon experience is required. The steepest part you’ll encounter will be the path up to Mirror Lake but its only a short run before bicycle access is restricted. There are racks at this point but no locks or chains are provided, just make sure you remember which bike is yours! We marked ours with a napkin and rubber band around one of the hand grips (:

The rest of the walk up to Mirror Lake is quite steep. This is where you thank yourself from packing that extra bottle of water 😉 From Mirror Lake you get the classic view of Half Dome and some nice white water river action so make sure you have the camera and tripod ready.

Yosemite National Park

The bike path crosses over the river a few times so plenty of scenic moments can be had. If you have the extra time, head on over to Yosemite Falls, if not you can still see it from the path.

Yosemite Falls

Travel tip: If you’re travelling in the off season, road closures are always imminent around the park and access will be limited so check the forecasts and updates on the Yosemite park site.

Yosemite National Park

After a quick frolick in the snow at a rest area along side a biker gang, we were heading down the mountain and out to the bay area. Next stop… Milpitas!

Yosemite National Park

Milpitas 2011 – Great Mall
Yosemite 2011 part #1 – LA to Oakhurst via Bakersfield
Yosemite 2011 part #2 – Yosemite National Park
San Francisco 2011 part #1 – Arrival
San Francisco 2011 part #2 – Shopping – Haight, Downtown SF
San Francisco 2011 part #3 – Chinatown
San Francisco 2011 part #4 – Japantown
San Francisco 2011 part #5 – Alcatraz
San Francisco 2011 part #6 – Fisherman’s wharf, Golden Gate Bridge

Complete Yosemite 2011 photo gallery here
Complete San Francisco 2011 photo gallery here

This week’s Time Off Magazine‘s Live local band shoot takes us to the crafty (mainly in the form of substitute band members) world of Ed Guglielmino. Read his ponderings in this week’s issue #1544.

Get it FREE from all the usual street press outlets or read it online @ Time Off magazine – Brisbane

On the road again...


After nearly a week of LA driving, I was quite looking forwarded to hitting the open road with minimal traffic and doing the speed limit for more than just sporadic bursts. For the most part this wasn’t the case, thanks to convoy after convoy of semi trailers but having multiple wide lanes made it bearable.

We headed up the #5 through plenty of vast open plains and rolling hills to Bakersfield. Apart from the scenery there wasn’t much else, even the gas stations were slim so make sure you have plenty in your tank before heading off.

Valley Plaza Mall - Image courtesy of Bakersfield.com

Bakersfield was on the pit stop list for two reasons, the first being the Valley Plaza Mall off highway 99. The locals may not think much of it but it’s a great one stop mall with a lot of your favourite stores with small city prices and sales.

Three Footlockers, two Journeys and a Champs get the ball rolling for sneakers while there’s Mainland Skate for skate and surf gear. Purely by coincidence there is also a Wetzel’s Pretzels 😉

The major retailers are what you would expect, Target, Forever 21, JC Penny, Macy’s and Sears.

The second reason for our stop is of course it being Nu-metal band Korn‘s home town and the renaming of a small street for them. There was surprisingly little info online about this but that didn’t deter us from driving around in circles. Be warned though, creeping slowly through back alleys and circling empty carparks and service entrances WILL lead you to being tailed by police. Thankfully we weren’t driving a white Bronco, things could’ve ended quite differently otherwise. So we came to the conclusion that it just wasn’t there anymore. Further research however shows the town may have backed out on the renaming altogether or maybe some kids just taxed it. Either way, best not to waste your time.

I could probably go ahead and add a third item to the list and that would be the hot rod meet up at a small shopping center that we passed on the way in.

After Bakersfield the only other major stop is Fresno. With time slipping away from us we decided to “stay on” instead of “get off” (yes it’s a Speed reference :p ). From the freeway it all looks pretty same-y as you pass the small towns peppered through out the darkness with fields of carparks surrounding strip malls, all under the glow of fluorescent lighting makes for some eerie moments in the dead of night.

The lanes will lessen and the traffic will thin and you will finally arrive at the little mountain town of Oakhurst. Roughly about 4-5 hour drive but with stops and traffic you’re looking at closer to 7-8.

Travel tip: If you pull in to a town/city for a pit stop it is best to fill up as there are no gas (petrol) stations accessible/visible from the freeway.

Oakhurst - Yosemite NP in the distance

We stayed at the Best Western review here for a few hours sleep before heading up and over the mountain range of Yosemite national park.

Staying at Oakhurst may save you a few dollars and some time off the initial drive but it does mean it’s a little longer to get to the park the following day. However if you play your cards right, its not that bad. It’s a given that the warmer months are when the park is at its busiest, so choosing an off season date will avoid some traffic and crowds, but generally you’ll want to leave yourself about 2hours to get there from Oakhurst, just to be safe. The distance isn’t that much but once you get to the mountain roads it will be slow moving thanks to inconsiderate drivers/sight-seers that don’t pull over to let traffic pass. Restrictive speed limits don’t help much either.

Travel tip: The entrance is still about 30-45min from the valley floor. When you arrive, make sure you have cash for the park entrance fee which is $20 per vechicle. Motorcycles, bicycles or if you’re travelling on foot its $10

Next up is the Yosemite national park, darn tootin!

Milpitas 2011 – Great Mall
Yosemite 2011 part #1 – LA to Oakhurst via Bakersfield
Yosemite 2011 part #2 – Yosemite National Park
San Francisco 2011 part #1 – Arrival
San Francisco 2011 part #2 – Shopping – Haight, Downtown SF
San Francisco 2011 part #3 – Chinatown
San Francisco 2011 part #4 – Japantown
San Francisco 2011 part #5 – Alcatraz
San Francisco 2011 part #6 – Fisherman’s wharf, Golden Gate Bridge

Complete Yosemite 2011 photo gallery here
Complete San Francisco 2011 photo gallery here

Its time to don your clover buttonhole garnish and wig o’ weeds for this weeks Time Off Magazine‘s Live local band feature artist Massai.

They’re in this week’s issue #1543.

Get it FREE from all the usual street press outlets or read it online @ Time Off magazine – Brisbane

Its been a sad few months since 3D World Magazine has closed its doors but with the imminent release of their new venture Three, we thought we’d take a trip down memory lane and collate all our photos from the “Social Club” local feature shoots for your viewing pleasure.

We met some characters, made some new friends and hooked up some old mates through no-shows, schedule changes, last minute jobs and equipments failures but above all, we had a bunch of laughs! Much love to the 3D gang and all the artists, hope you enjoy the photos as much as we did shooting them (:

A note to the artists – Full res versions from your respective shoots (along with outtakes) are available for purchase, drop us a line and we can send you some proofs.

Don’t let this week’s Time Off Magazine‘s Live local band feature artist fool you with his name. Seemingly a cross between Zed from Police Academy and the Tasmanian Devil Screamin Stevie is in fact a softy at heart and a mentor to the next generation of super heroes 😉

Read about him and his adventures in this week’s issue #1542.

Get it FREE from all the usual street press outlets or read it online @ Time Off magazine – Brisbane

Off to bowls then...

Before we hit the open road to Yosemite National Park, some tips on car hire and getting about LA/California in your box with the steering wheel on the wrong side 😉

“No one walks in LA” is a sentiment you’ve probably heard on many TV shows and movies, its not until you get there and venture passed the tourist spots do you realise how spread out it is and how much a necessity it is to have your own transportation. Our first time in LA we stayed in Santa Monica and only really explored the Hollywood area, so bussing between the two areas was manageable as there’s quite a few services that do that route, but like most cities, finding the right bus and the stops to catch them from can be difficult and time consuming. Fine if you’re only there for a few days but staying any longer its best that you hire a car, not just for convenience but you will also get to see a lot more of the place and have your own personal porter.

LA's notorious freeways

First stop, car rental. There are plenty of places to hire cars from at the airport, but of course the best deals come from pre-booking it online or via your travel agent. We hired through Dollar Rental purely on their cheap prices and even cheaper price found via our travel agent, but be warned, all is not what it seems. Details of hidden charges in my separate review over at Yelp.com (a good source for business reviews in the USA).
We ended up with a less than favourable Ford Focus thanks to space limitations of the other cars available (no other car had a boot big enough to conceal 2 suitcases) but it did the job albeit in its own poor ergonomic and uncomfortable way.

So you got your motor running and are about to get out on the highway, but first some quick tips:

KEEP RIGHT. Start the mantra before you even get in the car each day. It might sound a little silly but anything that can break your years of previous experience will help because once you’re in the thick of it, your first instinct will be to go to the left side of the road, especially when turning left.

Turning right on a red light – Yes, its legal. Basically the red light becomes a give way sign (confirmed with the local boys in blue) This is a little strange to see at first but after breezing down the right hand lane and not having to wait for some of the long light changes you’ll soon wonder how you lived without it and why its not done here!

Turning left at the lights – This is always a little nerve racking, mainly because turning lanes from both directions line up with each other and because the intersections are so big you need to drive to the center to be able to make it across if you don’t have an arrow light. Of course the person travelling in the opposite direction is doing the same except they’re driving a block of flats, so you essentially have more chance of seeing the dark side of the moon than what could be barrelling down in the other lane. Just edge forward and when you see your chance, floor it. If the lights turn red, don’t sweat it, they’re surprisingly patient when it comes to people being stuck in the intersection.

Merging/exiting on the freeway – Sooner or later you will have to get on a freeway. They spaghetti above the city and connect every major area and can be a breeze at the right times.. just be prepared for peak hour. Getting on and off is something else, what you have is a “no man’s land” area of 2, 3 or 4 lanes, unmarked. A lot of on-ramps join to almost immediate off-ramps, good if you’ve taken the wrong turn, bad because there’s on-ers and off-ers trying to share the same space.
This is usually where things get ugly, instead of letting someone exit, an entering car will try to over take the exitee instead of merging behind it and taking its place in a lane. Entering vehicles will also use the smallest of openings to join the freeway, usually as immediate as they can resulting in cutting someone off, rather than using the merging lane to speed match and find an appropriate spot to merge. A tip around this is to watch your right side mirror, if you see someone burning up the merging lane, just as they’re parrellel with the car behind you, speed up just a little bit. This closes the gap in front of you and widens the one behind. They pretty much always take the bait 😉

Parking – Street parking is rare and expensive so use it for “get in get out” stops only, make sure you have plenty of quarters too otherwise you’ll be racking up the fees on your credit card. The other option is parking garages and lots. Unlike Australia this is a very cheap alternative, usually in the range of $3-6 a day, most with no “enter before” or time restrictions. One of the best sites I found for this is http://losangeles.bestparking.com/index.php#1 which displays locations and costs. Some even display real time vacancies. Don’t fret if you haven’t pre-planned where to park, almost all parking lots have a guy in a hi-vis vest with a flag waving you into their lot. Try not to get these guy confused with actual road workers!

GPS – This is a given, though some might prefer a paper map to forgo the cost of hiring one. While the GPS is almost useless in the downtown area thanks to the skyscrapers, it will more than likely save you many times when making direction changes or finding locations on the fly. Depending on who you hire you’re your car through, it can be around $5-15 a day so if you’re driving for a week or more, an option is to buy a cheap one locally from places like Best Buy (There’s one in the Westfield next to the airport). Alternatively you can rent maps for other countries at a discounted price (usage time limited) via your local GPS manufacturer. Or you may be lucky enough to buy an AU one with a promo deal for a free international country map rental like I did 😉

Paper maps – I know… ewww! Thing is they’re not going to lose their signal or try to tell you to go somewhere you don’t want to go or take you in a 2 block loop instead of doing a U-turn. They will also be a godsend when it comes to getting around road works or randomly closed streets instead of continually redirecting you to the same dead end! Also handy when you’re on foot. Google maps is also your friend for detailing specific areas.

Doin' 80 on the freeway, po-lice catch me if you can..

In general LA drivers, while quite bad (possibly due to the complacency and laziness of all those automatics :p) are rather tamed, cars meander all over the road with many near misses but it seems the most they get is a horn toot and a “now would you look at this sonofabich”, possibly due to the less dense laid back lifestyle, possibly a catastrophic coronary brewing under the surface. In saying that, like any where, even if you’re doing 80mph in the left lane there will always be someone tailgating you or trying to over take you, usually in a Prius. Maybe its their cloud of smug giving them little man syndrome? :p Just keep your calm and let them go, you’ll more than likely overtake them at the next back up of traffic or hill 😉

Get used to this view of never ending brake lights

With that in mind, we say farewell to tinsel town and make our way up to Yosemite!

Los Angeles 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Melrose Trading Post
Los Angeles 2011 part #2 – West Hollywood shopping, Mulholland Drive
Los Angeles 2011 part #3 – Downtown shopping – Fashion District
Los Angeles 2011 part #4 – Downtown shopping – Japantown
Los Angeles 2011 part #5 – Steel Panther @ The House of Blues 17/5/11
Los Angeles 2011 part #6 – Hollywood sign, Farmer’s Market
Los Angeles 2011 part #7 – Peterson Automotive Museum
Los Angeles 2011 part #8 – Greater LA area shopping
Los Angeles 2011 part #9 – Hollywood sight seeing with Orbic Air
Los Angeles 2011 part #10 – Driving in Los Angeles/California

Complete Los Angeles 2011 photo gallery here

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