Daily Archives: November 21, 2011

Rock climbing gyms of San Francisco


To climb outside, or not to climb at all. That was the question that used to haunt rock climbers across the globe, but thankfully it has been solved. Solved, thanks in no small part to indoor rock gyms. San Francisco is full of them I learned, and luckily for me my Cousin was able to help me out by taking me to two of her favorite gyms in the city; Twisters and Mission Cliffs.

We headed to Twisters on Wednesday, enacting a rather impressively complex dance of cars and bikes in order to get everyone to the gym on time. Emma had to meet a friend and pick up some shelving units using his truck. Remy needed to be there at a certain time so he could meet a friend. I had to meet Remy at his place, and needed to bring Emma’s bike with me so that she could get into work the next day. Someone needed to pick up dinner for us all. And to top it off, the Ox couldn’t go in the same car as the fox, unless the police officer was with them. Props if you got that last part.

No matter the odds though, you cannot keep a climber for their climb once their minds are set, and we somehow were able to get everyone where they needed to be, every bike and every shelf. And once that was all settled, we ate some food and rocked the bouldering problems at Twisters. Its an interesting gym, in the fact that its pretty small and simple. While that could be a downside for some gyms, here it fit perfectly… there weren’t too many people, and the climbs themselves were amazingly set; giving rise to interesting problems and unique moves. The “terrain” varied a bit too, although there were really only one or two climbs per section of the gym. There was a nice cave, a real tricky slab, some light overhangs and stems, and one short wall with a few strenuous traverses. My favorite part was the high-ball section though, with a pad nearly four feet thick underneath, just waiting to be jumped down to from the top of the boulder.

We spent the rest of the night in the gym, hanging out and chatting, bouldering and snacking. I’m sure that there was an official “closing time”, but the upside of a small attendance combined with being friends with the folks running it meant that there wasn’t an actual closing time. Through some creepy telepathic consensus we picked 11:00 to be our “chalk down” time though, and almost as soon as that hour hand hit the eleven people started leaving. At that point I was nearly useless on the rock anyways, so I helped Remy move Emma’s new shelving unit into his car and we started the long ride home. THAT was the real downside of Twisters… its pretty far away from San Francisco proper, and the ride home took us just about 45min. But once we were back at Remy’s place we reaped the reward of a tough workout – most excellent sleep.

Mission Cliffs, unlike Twisters, is right in the city itself. Friday night saw me walk down to the gym from Emma’s place, after realizing that the buss would only save me 10min or so. It was a three mile walk, give or take, but in my mind this was just another excuse for me to explore the city and get to know the feel of the neighborhoods. The only downside to the walk was that the rain hadn’t decided to hold off anymore; my rain jacket did a very good job of keeping me and my gear dry but I’m sure I cut a rather ridiculous sight walking down the street, in the rain, with my raincoat bulging around me from the satchel stuffed inside.

I actually made the walk a good bit quicker than I expected (upside to rain – you can push yourself harder since you effectively have a water-cooling system keeping you from overheating), and after helping a random lost guy out with directions I went inside. After the usual paperwork and “have you climbed before? Have you climbed here before?” I took a bit of time to explore the gym before meeting Emma and Remy and Co in the bouldering area. Just… wow. This gym was HUGE.

Mission Cliffs wasn’t as large, square footage wise, as Metro Rock back in Boston. But I am of the opinion that it more than made up for that size difference in a height difference; Mission Cliffs has a good 20 feet or so more vertical climbing than anywhere I’ve seen, and their roped climbing terrain is rather epic on its own. Needless to say, I am coming back once I have my harness and rope and a belayer 🙂

Ignoring the roped portion I bouldered with Emma and Remy and a few of their friends for the night, trying to keep up with the guys. Remy’s good (So is Eric, but he’s annoyingly TALL, so its hard to learn from him), and I had a lot of fun watching how he tackled certain problems that I couldn’t do. Seriously, I need to just buckle down while I’m in New Zealand and get good again… this “I’m not as strong as I used to be” thing I have going on is unacceptable. Honestly, its just frustrating because I can see the moves I need to make, can visualize myself going through it, and can’t actually get my body to follow through with the moves. Growl. But the upside – its just training and working out, and those are things I can work on.

Beats and Boardgames


So I planned on meeting my friend Erin on Thursday night for a group meetup called “Beats and Boardgames” over at a place called Langton Labs down near the Mission district. The last time I had been to San Francisco with my buddy Mike we had hit B & B and it had been a really good time, so I was really looking forward to heading over again. Unfortunately Erin had to bail out at the last minute, so I resigned myself to heading over alone. Not necessarily a bad thing, but not as fun as having an ally waiting for me, you know?

Fate intervened at the last minute though, and talking with my friend in New Zealand led me to discovering that one of his San Francisco friends was planning on going to B & B as well. Perfection. So after eating at Off the Grid with Emma and her friend I stopped in at a supermarket to buy a six-pack to bring as a donation and then headed over. (Ed note: Pro-tip to any travelers. Bring a six-pack everywhere. Seriously… it may burn a little bit of extra money, but I personally believe that nothing’s better than a few beers to put you in a good position with the host and help make a new friend or two. Hell, even if you don’t drink bring ’em along as a gift.) Once I arrived I found the guy I was meeting (Jacob), donated my beers to the bar, and jumped into a game of Apples to Apples.

Apples to Apples is a fun game, don’t get me wrong. But I can only take so much of it before it gets boring, and so Jacob and I excused ourselves from the ever-widening circle and headed for newer board game pastures. Seriously… when we left Apples to Apples there we 13 people playing. Clearly a few too many in the opinion of this engineer. Anyways, we looked around at the games already going and the games available, and started a hearty debate as to what to play – Ninja Burger, Zombie-death-mall-thing, or a simple game of connect-four. We actually ended up doing none of the above, and climbed upstairs to join an already-going group playing November Games.

Last time I had been at Beats and Boardgames we had played a few rounds of November Games (see rules below for details), so scarily enough people remembered me from, literally to the week, a year ago. The reason for this was that everyone used a “glyph” to represent themselves. Last year I had been feeling rather un-creative so I had stolen a symbol from an old comic strip that I loved, and so from that point on (in the eyes of November Games) I had become “Fanged smiley face”. Cool.

We only ended up playing one round before Jacob headed out to meet up with some other friends of his. For his defense each round lasts nearly 45min, give or take, so I definitely couldn’t blame him, seeing as it was creeping up on midnight at that point. I stayed for nearly another entire round before finally throwing in the hat and heading home.

I headed out from Langton around 12:15 or so, just in time to catch the last bus heading back to Emma’s place that night. The ride was clean and simple, I have to give San Francisco props for having a very clean and simple bus system… although I’ll admit that it seems amazingly complex at first glance. Take a little while to get used to it though, and its actually a very nice little set up that they have. Anyways, get home I did, and I had my sleeping bag out almost immediately, and was sawing logs like a champ barely an instant later.


Rules of November Games –


Materials needed:

For every four people you have one “Frisbee” rotating around (round down; 8 people = 2 Frisbees. 11 people = 2 Frisbees)

Each Frisbee is just that… a Frisbee. But with five 6-sided dice inside.



  • Roll the dice, and award yourself points based on the below values.
  • You can re-roll as many dice as you like, up to four, and continue re-rolling as long as you get at least one scoring dice out of all the dice you roll.
  • As soon as you don’t get a scoring dice, your turn with that Frisbee is over.
  • You may also choose to “Hold” at any point and willingly stop rolling, keeping however many points you have at that time.
  • If you get no scoring dice on your first roll, then you have rolled a “Brick”, and don’t get any points. You also must hold onto a Brick (yes, a real brick) and “feel its weight” until someone else rolls a Brick. That means you MUST hold it, no putting it down on a chair or table!
  • If all five dice show scoring values, then you MUST re-roll all five (keeping the points they previously had given you)
  • “Warps” – Every 1000 pts you earn, you get a “warp”. Whats that mean? That you got a warp!
  • Winning – First person to get over 5000 pts wins. This person gets two “winners warps”.
    • HOWEVER, after someone breaks the 5000 pt barrier everyone else gets one chance to beat them. If the original winner gets their score beaten, they are SHAMED! And, the one who beat them gets five extra “winners warps”.
  • “Perfect” and “Wimp” – if you miss a “Warp” by 50 pts (ex: land at 2950 pts) you get a “Wimp” point. This means… that you got a wimp point. However, a “Perfect” is when you get 4950 pts, since that is the best you can get without exceeding the 5000 limit.
  • MOST IMPORTANT PART!!! All scores are kept, recorded, and archived online. Thus, your glyph is for life, and you’re score will grow as you play more games. Thus, only sanctioned November Games events count as real games, and if their not recorded, then it… never happened… wooooooooooo mysteeeeerrrriiiiooouuuuss….


Scoring Values:

  • 1’s = 100 pts
  • 5’s = 50 pts
  • straight (1-5 or 2-6) = 1500 pts
  • three-of-a-kind = 100*face value (ex: 3 2’s = 200 pts, 3 5’s = 500pts)
    • Exception – 1’s… 3 1’s = 1000 pts
    • Addendum – four or five of a kind. In actuality, only three are actually the correct number. The others are… IMPOSTERS!
    • Exception to the addendum – five 1’s = win. Instantly. You just win. That’s it. Congrats!
  • Note on the above – a straight or three-of-a-kind must be rolled all in one roll. Nothing else counts

Off the Grid in San Francisco


Emma and I met up with Abby, her old roommate, early in the evening on the 17th. It had been one of those lazy days where no one was really sure what we wanted to do, and we didn’t really have too much energy to go adventuring thanks to the incessant rain that had been beating down on the city since the mid morning. We had a mission though, one that we weren’t going to give up on – a meeting of some of the cities best food trucks called “Off the Grid”.

Emma had told me about this gathering of awesome, and since I spent most of my lunches at Boston food trucks when I worked back in Cambridge I felt an almost-obligation to check it out. You know… compare cities, see how they do it out West. Well… they do it pretty well, if Off the Grid is any indication. There were 10 or 12 different trucks, running the gamut of all types of food. We had out Mexican, we had our vegan (eww), and we even had our cupcake truck. But most importantly, we had our BBQ truck. And, as though challenging the BBQ truck, we had our BACON truck. Thats right… an entire truck dedicated to serving bacon in all of its myriad forms. From “The Burger” being a simple hamburger to “Grilled Cheese, but with Bacon” and even “A salad, but with Bacon”. I was most impressed with “The Bouquet”, for which the description simply read “Bacon, Bacon, Bacon, Bacon, Bacon”. Though I have to admit, the “Chocolate-coated dessert Bacon” scared me. A lot.

As should be expected, I went with a good old-fashioned bacon-burger with fries. The Burger was amazing, and I have to admit that the fries were spectacular… easily better than most burgers on their own, but fitting perfectly with the fancy of this burger. It was a strange thing, I’ll admit, having an actual gourmet burger served to me out of a food truck, but you’ll never hear me arguing about anything besides the price… I definitely paid for the awesomeness that I was consuming. Meh. Totally worth it though.

Baseline? If you’re ever in San Francisco on a Thursday night make sure to check out Off the Grid. Clearly worth it. And lets be honest… even though what I ordered was really expensive for a food truck ($16 total, burger + fries + on-tap root beer, vs $5 for two enchilladas + beans, rice & chips in Boston), it was easily cheaper than getting it at a restaurant. And honestly? It was better than most burgers I’ve gotten at restaurants.