Saturday, February 29, 2020

The Big Island (with cards! plus a visit to Babe's banyan tree)

Just got back from a nice vacation in Hawaii.

In previous trips, we'd been to Waikiki, Maui, and Kauai, respectively, so the last big Hawaiian destination was The Big Island. It might've been our best trip yet. Lots of fun.

We originally booked it months ago, and it ended up being awkward timing by the time it finally rolled around. We're still heartbroken about the unexpected passing of our beloved pup Annie not too long ago. And we've both got more crap than usual going on at work right now. And it looks like we'll soon have to move from the house we've been renting for the past several years, prompting us to look into buying our first home (and all the stress that comes with that situation). Plus the whole Coronavirus scare going on makes it a weird time to travel. But despite those factors dampening our excitement to trek out across the Pacific, once there it didn't take long for the good vibes to take over.

I'll hit some highlights in this post, largely for me, because this blog sort of works as a journal/diary for me, and I sometimes consult it to remind myself of the when/where/what's of life events. But I hope you like it too! If you're not interested, you can scroll down a bit for some cards.

The Big Island has two main areas, the Kona side (which is the more touristy part) and the Hilo side (which is the part with more locals). We spent the first half of our week in Hilo. The hotel wasn't perfect (for one thing, no wifi, but thankfully we were able to get online if we hung out by the balcony. Another lame thing was one morning at 5:30, the fire alarm was pulled by some dipshit kids staying at the hotel so I didn't get much sleep that night), but we had a great top-floor view of Hilo Bay.

We stopped in a Walmart to buy some important supplies for the week (snacks, booze, sunblock). I never go to Walmart. Last time I was in a Walmart was last time we went to Hawaii, lol. And while I've made the choice to avoid buying 2020 baseball cards, you know what they say-- "On vacation-- it doesn't count!" and so I splurged on one of these hanger boxes of 2020 Topps Series 1. (Had our trip been a few days later, I likely would have went with Heritage, but alas it wasn't on shelves yet at the time.) I'll post the highlights of this box break later in the post after I get all the non-cards stuff out of the way.

Our main adventure in Hilo was hiking around Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Gorgeous scenery, which seemed to vary from rainforest to desert, as well as spectacular mountain views of the volcanic crater area.

After hiking around at a few different spots, we grabbed lunch at a restaurant in a hotel in the park. This "guava flow" was super tasty and my prawns were very good too. Then we went home pooped after a big day. Had some local Hawaiian food for dinner and watched Mr. Right starring Anna Kendrick and Sam Rockwell-- not the rom-com we were expecting, but an ok movie.

The next day we took it easy, with a little picnic at the beach and played in the bay a little. We lucked into catching a glimpse of a sea turtle swimming around the area (sorry, no photo). We had dinner at this nearby restaurant pictured above, which was just ok but it sure looked pretty cool reflecting off the bay.

On our last day in Hilo, we made sure to check out the banyan trees in the area, especially "The Babe Ruth Banyan Tree" which my wife saw something about online and was just a short walk up the road from our hotel. Here's a wallet card photo (Tony at the bottom of the pole) of the sign. These signs get swapped out every few years, I believe, as some other pics I've seen online have a slightly different looking sign.

The story behind Banyan Drive is in 1933, they thought it'd be cool to have notable people plant banyan tree saplings along the peninsula, dedicating each tree to who planted it. Babe Ruth happened to be passing through on a barnstorming tour not long after the idea got traction, and they got The Babe to plant one. While some of the trees have been taken down by bad storms, Babe's banyan has stood strong over the passing decades. Big baseball fan I am, had to get a pic with it.. coincidentally wearing my Topps shirt that day.

As one guy explained these fascinating trees...
Banyan trees appear as if they’ve been imported directly the planet Dagobah. They begin as a tree with a single trunk, but as they mature, the branches drop long tendrils which twist downward until they find the ground and take root, eventually thickening to the point where it becomes difficult to identify the original trunk. Mature trees have hundreds of separate trunks encompassing hundreds of square feet.
After that, it was time to pack up and head to the other side of the big island to Kona, but first we made a detour to go chasing waterfalls.

We checked out 3 different waterfall spots, each more impressive than the last. Lots of amazing views highlighted by water splashing downward. Got a nice wallet card photo here at Akaka Falls State Park.

We made an unexpected stop on the way out at a roadside goat dairy touting Free Baby Goat Therapy. Glad we did, as it turned out to be a top highlight of the entire trip. It was basically a pen with a dozen baby goats (plus a big Turkey), and you just hang out and pet them (free) and feed them ($1 for a cup of goat chow).

The goats could sometimes be a little aggressive in pursuit of the food, but overall they were silly and cute. My wife and I have been suffering from cuddle deficiencies since Annie passed away, so we really appreciated petting the fuzzy little buddies.

Our place in Kona was a little nicer. We didn't even have to drive around the area since there was so much stuff going on within walking distance. That was perfect since the drive across the island, while beautiful for the most part (and we stopped for a terrific lunch and local donut-type treats called Malasadas on the way), was tiring and we didn't want to drive anymore if we could help it.

I always like to take a wallet card photo in the water when I find myself at a body of water, and here's Tony having a splish-splash.

We saw some parasailers out over the ocean and made a note that that'd be something fun to try. Later, we grabbed lunch at a bar with a view of the ocean and then played some cornhole on the way back to the hotel. That evening we went swimming in the pool and hot tub, luckily getting both to ourselves for that half-hour or so.

Our last full day in Hawaii happened to be my wife's birthday, and we did it up big with our first ever adventure parasailing. It was a lot of fun and I would definitely do it again. I didn't want to risk dropping my camera (phone) while up there, but this pic is of another pair in our group taking their turn.

We had planned to grab lunch after parasailing, but neither of us was all that hungry yet, so we walked along the bustling beach and decided to rent a kayak. Again, it was a first for both of us* and was a ton of fun. (*My wife is an experienced paddler [dragonboating and outriggering], but never kayaking.) We had heard rumors of dolphins being spotted in the area, though we didn't run into any, but still had a lovely little outing on the sea.

After we returned to shore, we grabbed lunch at a closeby brewhouse that featured a guy strumming some Hawaiian songs. The server was scattered but we were in no rush and the food and beer were good. Then I grabbed a box of macadamia toffee chocolates to bring home for my co-workers and we headed back to the room to recharge the batteries for a bit.

That evening, we headed out for drinks (my wife was on a quest for a Lava Flow, having neglected to score the sweet cocktail up to that point).

We found a hopping spot overlooking the ocean that had a live band playing 60s favorites (highlight for me was "Knocking On Heaven's Door").. I looked it up later and the band was Lucky Tongue. We got some chips and guac to go along with our tropical drinks (each having a Lava Flow among our consumed beverages). I had a couple glasses of wine in the room earlier, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I hurled in the bathroom (gotta be careful with those sugary alcoholic drinks!), but it wasn't too bad and I quickly rallied but was done drinking for the trip.

Our travel day back home was made more stressful thanks to our security cameras back home letting us know that the mail had just been delivered. Apparently the last day of the mail hold is also the first day of the mail hold no longer applying.. both happening on the same day! Doesn't make much sense to me! Thankfully, the mail was safely waiting for us when we finally arrived back on our doorstep.

That was a rundown of our vacation on The Big Island (which by the way is actually named Hawaii... so like Hawaii, Hawaii. Or Hawai'i if you want to get technical.)

Now onto the cards!

While of course you always hope to pull nice cards.. on the other hand, while on vacation I had no penny sleeves or top loaders with me. If I lucked into a "sick mojo hit" I would be stressed out over getting it back home in mint condition. (And of course I'm not going to wait until I home to open the box.. I want that sweet vacation pack rip action!)

Some solid base cards. I don't have strong feelings about the 2020 Topps design. Could be better, could be worse. Looks like a rejected Bowman design.

Plenty of Padres in my hanger box (plus Ian Kinsler, not pictured). Tommy Pham is a guy I recently added to my list of guys I collect in the wake of him joining San Diego over the offseason. He seems like a cool dude. (Feel free to help me kick off that PC by sending over any available Tommy Pham cards you got.)

Pulled a pair of parallels, with a rainbow foil Randy Arozarena RC and a vintage stock Jason Kipnis #'d 67/99. Where's that one Indians collector on the cardsphere run off to? I've been building up a lot of Cleveland cards to send out.

These Turkey Red cards are a little anticlimactic without the neat texture of their predecessors, but I was stoked to pull the Soto, plus Yelich is a guy I collect.

More inserts, with all 4 here being keepers for me.

So, nothing jaw-dropping, but on the plus side, I didn't have to worry too much about the cards bumping around on the loooog flight back home (5.5 hours on the plane-- brutal)
Still, a fun break that bared several cards I can use in my collection.

A great thing about being gone for a week is the big mailday waiting for you when you finally arrive back home. This is a glorious stack of cards from eBay and collector buddies. Looking forward to the "xmas morning"-like experience opening all this stuff very soon, but that'll have to wait for a future post.


Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Drunk on Cardboard

I know I said I wasn't going to be posting much for the next few weeks. And you guys are probably thinking, "How can we miss you if you don't go away?" But it would be rude of me not to acknowledge incoming mail from the cardsphere.

First up is a contest win (?) from Johnny's Trading Spot. I don't know exactly what happened, but he posted asking me and AJ to pick between blue and green, then a week or so later I received a PWE from him.

Yes! I'm pulling away from the pack for the title of #1 Luis Torrens collector! This 2013 Panini Elite Extra Edition - Status Emerald #'d 04/25 gives me an "insurance run" over the collector with the 2nd most Torrenses.

Nice.. Glow Stars are always appreciated regardless if I already have them. The same cannot be said for Gavin Floyd cards, but I'm John's designated Gavin depository, like it or not. LOL. And I'm not sure if those Celebrity Predictions cards were intended for a particular avenue of my collection (if so, help me out, John.. I'm at a loss) or were just some randomness to spice up the envelope.

Regardless.. Thank you, John!

-  -  --o

Next up is friend of the blog Larry P. coming through with a hefty stack of 1992 Leaf Black Gold for my setbuild. Love these! This lot takes me from about a quarter complete way up to nearly scratching at the halfway point now. Thanks, Larry!

-   -   - -  --o

Last one for today is a terrific surprise package from Brian over at Highly Subjective and Completely Arbitrary. I included him in my small holiday mailblast back in December, sending over a few decent Twins cards I had accumulated for him over the prior months. He hit me back with a vengeance.

Speaking of the holidays... These ornament cards are fun, and it's always nice to add a new Gwynn to the PC.

1964 Topps needs! I've been slacking on this setbuild the past year or two, so it's very appreciated when a trade buddy can help breath life into the quest with a few needs. Highlighted by the Batting Leaders card featuring Yaz and Kaline, this lot brings me to 73.68% complete, with 155 cards remaining.

Wow, a trio of early Gavin Cecchini autos! The former Mets first-rounder is currently in camp with the Diamondbacks on a minor league deal. I hope he's able to regain his form and make it up to Chase Field this season.

The festive Trout is nice, and I'm pretty sure that's my first certified auto of Chase Headley. Pretty cool.

A couple impressive José Ramírez cards! Hoping he bounces back to have an all-star 2020.

Ok, it's now last call. Let's close things out with a strong Beer...

Boom!! Christmas Card autograph of a current top prospect! That's what I'm talking about!

The Astros chose to draft Beer in the 1st round (28th overall) in 2018. Next thing you know, Seth hops over to the Diamondbacks org last summer, part of the package bringing Zack Greinke to Houston. The 23-year old chugged his way to a robust .897 OPS in the minors so far in his professional career and is ranked as Arizona's #4 prospect at the moment. I'll drink to that!

This is my first Bowman Next AFL card. I'm not sure how these things were distributed, but I assume it's an "online exclusive" type of deal (Looks reminiscent of Topps Now). As you can see, it's encased.. and no, I don't plan to crack open this Beer anytime soon. (I might need to PC this guy for the beer puns alone!)

Awesome stuff. Big thanks, Brian! I'll have to hit you back with a few more cards soon to try balancing the scales.

Friday, February 14, 2020

ignorable filler post: 1991 Cardboard Dreams #5: Madonna and Jose Canseco

This is a real card that was on the market in 1991. Crazy! Not a mainstream release, but still!

Those sketches are pretty terrible/awesome!

I already kinda talked about this card last year. But..

Speaking of sketches, I found out there's a FB group specifically for MST3K trading cards and I'm pretty excited about it. Maybe I'll be able to trade for the remaining glow-in-the-dark inserts I need.

Check out this dual auto I got! This is the MST3K equivalent of a dual auto of Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig.

And this is the Babe Ruth!

  (Mike Nelson is Hank Aaron in this scenario, but he didn't sign for this product because he's kinda uncool when it comes to stuff like that, sadly.)

I made an attempt at improving on the 2020 Topps design (right). Not perfect (hint of '94 Topps?) but I prefer it my way.

Check out under Trout in the original (left) version.. is that..? could it be..?

 Amy Poehler!

Ha, maybe?

I got that (not trimmed) Mike Schmidt auto back thanks to the seller being cool!

Wii Sports Resort - Island Flyover is one of my favorite video games. Especially when you're eating frozen grapes, if you know what I mean! Anybody else like it?

I only have one spot left to find after stumbling upon one the other day, but honestly I kinda hope I never find the last one because then the mystery will be gone and playing the game might lose some of the magic.

Some of my toys.

I hear ya, bud! #thankstopps

Bunny alert! Also, we've had a squirrel trying to get into our attic. I tried dousing the area in a jalapeno-vinegar soup which will hopefully get him to scram.

I got a Tom(my) Lasorda autograph! Not a refractor, but still cool.

Madonna and Jose? No! It's us from the big work party last month. It was a masquerade theme. I got a lot of different fake mustaches and swapped them out thru the night.

I'm "going thru some shit" and probably won't be posting much for the next few weeks. But don't worry, it's not relationship shit or health shit or money shit (a.k.a. the heavy shit), but shit none the less.

Have a great holiday weekend, everybody!