On the way down from Palomar, I got the odd notion to scout the Rincon casino. I wondered if it might be a good staging area for a Palomar mission. It's certainly close enough to the base of the mountain. First off, the casino seems to have plenty of parking and a nice touch here is that it can be in a parking garage which can afford some shade (though obviously you don't want to drive in there with bikes on the roof). Inside the casinos, I checked out the bus situation. The casino runs a fleet of buses designed to round up those people who've had to sell their cars to pay gambling debts. I found out that one can travel from San Diego to Los Angeles (about a dozen specific destinations) pretty much for free. All you have to do is spend 5 hours at the casino. Basically you take the morning bus from San Diego and then take the afternoon bus to LA. Next day, reverse the process. Losing money at the casino is not actually a requirement. If I could get a road bike on that bus, it'd be a great way to get out to Palomar, but I don't think that'd go over well. Walking through the casino, I noticed that they have easily accessible bathrooms and even free coffee and soda. Both points might make it worth a quick stop if biking by. The amazing thing about this place is that while I'm hardly the best looking guy in the world, at this casino I am. It was really weird. There were some reasonably attractive employees, but as far as guests, wow. I guess the difference is that I was thinking thoughts about how the place could help me assault Palomar Mountain in some kind of athletically flamboyant way, not where could I get more rent money after I'd gambled it away. I was also shocked, with actual dropped jaw staring, to see some miscreants inside a public building in California *smoking a cigarette*! Turns out it's legal! Astonishing!
Back at base camp, I wanted to play with a new toy I bought, a Vargo Titanium Triad Stove. This is basically like the end of a soda can with some holes poked in it. In fact, less well-employed people get by fine with exactly that. But mine is *titanium*. Yes, titanium! Just by being able to incant the word "titanium" while referring to my gear, my load is lightened. How much you ask? Well this stove is a mere 25g! Ha! Only 25g! That's amazing! That means my ability to boil water in the wilderness weighs almost nothing! Uh. Except for the 41g of alcohol it burned. Ok, ok, 425g of H2O, pot=196g, lid=74g, cup=65g, pot handle=53g, lighter=17g, and the tea bag was 3g. And I used 8g of aluminum foil to make a wind screen, which is not bad since this doubles as a "tin foil hat". But still, thank goodness for *titanium*!
As far as operation of the thing goes, it's a bit like I spent years as a lion tamer and now I am working with housecats. My MSR Whisperlite stove is a monster compared to this thing. Unlike the MSR, but just like housecats, pretty much any problem with this stove can be cured by smacking it with a towel. The alcohol stove is quiet and mild, and now that I've used it, I'd say it's chances of bursting into a huge fireball are pretty slim. Can't say that about the MSR which bursts into a big fireball every time you start it. To get the alcohol stove to light, I finally just resorted to dumping fuel (thanks to MvW for that by the way) all over it including a nice puddle on the concrete and just lighting the whole thing. It would be a very satisfying experience for a pyromaniac. Eventually it warms up and operates in a stove-like fashion. For comparison, the Whisperlite operates in a cutting torch-like fashion. It managed to boil water as promised and it seems to work as I'd expect. It's also much cleaner than the MSR with no detectable soot. I was also able to pick up the stove within 10 seconds of it going out and it's completely cool in about a minute. Definitely a nice addition to the line up. And it's *titanium*! It's so awesome because it's titanium! Real titanium! You can hand it to your friends and say, "See how light this is?! That's because it's titanium!"