“One individual cannot possibly make a difference, alone. It is individual efforts, collectively, that makes a noticeable difference—all the difference in the world!” — Dr. Jane Goodall
Photo by Greyson Howard.
“One individual cannot possibly make a difference, alone. It is individual efforts, collectively, that makes a noticeable difference—all the difference in the world!” — Dr. Jane Goodall
Photo by Greyson Howard.
Hi all! I am currently in the process of moving Tahoe Fabulous to a self hosted site. I’ve had an issue moving my archive over, but I will hopefully have that problem solved soon. (Anyone have any advice?)
Apologies, and I hope you’re out having a ton of fun adventures!
It’s now nearly mid-April and we’re deep into Spring Shoulder Season! I thought I’d continue my series of posts on fun things to do in Tahoe during the shoulder season. While the Tahoe area hosts a number of “real” triathlons in the summer months, organized races are scarce during the spring. To fill this gap, I like to put together what I call a “Tahoe Triathlon”.
There is no official rulebook for the Tahoe Triathlon, but participants must complete three recreational activities all in one day. Since it’s the shoulder season, none of these activities will be top notch (ie probably no powder turns and the trails will have some mud and snow), but quality isn’t the emphasis here. You can pick whatever outdoor activities you want and vary them as necessary due to conditions. (bonus points for combining winter and spring sports, especially if you manage the same outfit for all legs!)
Here’s my dream itinerary for a Snowboard/Mountain Bike/Swim Tahoe Triathlon in Truckee: Start off the day with some turns at Sugar Bowl Ski Resort. Be sure to get there early before it warms up too much and don’t forget your sunscreen!
I hope you brought some trail snacks, because we’re heading straight to Emigrant Trail, a little north of Truckee off of Highway 89. Emigrant Trail isn’t my favorite Truckee mountain bike trail, but it is one of the first ones to melt out – so it’s perfect for a spring Tahoe Triathlon.
After a 10-15 mile (depending on how we’re feeling) out and back, we re-group and drive to our final leg – the “swim” in Donner Lake. While it may have been swimming season for weeks in other parts of California, spring in Tahoe still means very cold lakes. Therefore, the swim will most likely be more like a polar bear plunge.
Since West End Beach hasn’t officially opened for the season, you can park there for free. After your icy dip, I recommend heading straight for a hot tub. If you don’t have access to a nearby hot tub, you can warm up over beers at Mellow Fellow.
If that itinerary doesn’t sound like fun, there are dozens of other Tahoe Triathlon activities you can try: stand up paddle boarding, XC skiing, bouldering, trail running, outdoor yoga, slack lining, hiking…the list goes on and on.
What activities would you put in your “Tahoe Triathlon”?
I am kind of an obsessive list maker when it comes to traveling. What? I just like to be organized. Since this was my first trip to Indonesia, first ever SCUBA dive trip, and first international vacation in a long time, I was seriously stumped on how to pack. I did a lot of googling phrases like “scuba trip packing list” “what to pack for Indonesia” “how many pairs of underwear for 15 days”. While I didn’t find a one stop shop for a packing list, I cobbled together my own packing list using a few different resources (including this “how many underwear to pack” chart).
Here’s a screenshot of my obsessively categorized and color coded packing list:
For reference, our trip was basically 5 days of travel time (2 there, 3 back) and 10 days SCUBA diving at the resort. We really didn’t do any other traveling or activities other than SCUBA/snorkel/swim. So if you’re going to be doing any hiking, temple visiting, climbing, etc., you’ll want to reference some other lists as well. I packed a lot of things I already owned and had for a long time. For items that were specifically awesome, I’ll link to them.
On the plane, I wore lightweight leggings, the grey Krochet Kids t-shirt, compression socks, sweat shirt, and running shoes. I looked a little sloppy, but in the airport I ditched the sweatshirt and running shoes, put on the Sanuks and the straw hat and felt like I looked presentable. In my carryon, I packed a dress, extra underwear, running shorts and my favorite swimsuit. I figured I could get by on that for awhile if my luggage got lost.
Note: I rented a BCD and regulator from Papua Explorers Resort. The resort also provided weights and a reef hook to the guests.
There’s my list! While (nearly) everything I brought got used, there were a few standout products that I have to call out specifically.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!
While we’ve been enjoying Miracle March, spring shoulder season is fast approaching. And, in my opinion, there’s no better time for a beer tour than spring! Maybe it’s because I’m from the Northwest, but it always seemed to me that the Tahoe area could support more breweries than we had. It took awhile, but better late than never – the brewery scene in Tahoe is finally expanding. Between the new breweries and the arrival of shoulder season, it’s the perfect time to embark on a ‘Round the Lake Beer Tour.
Obviously, you’ll want a designated driver for this endeavor! My route starts in Truckee and heads west, but it can easily be adjusted for whatever starting point you want.
Need some coffee? You can stop by Tunnel Creek Cafe where they have great coffee and Deschutes beer on draft.
Congratulations! You’ve finished the ‘Round the Lake Beer Tour. Reward yourself with dinner at one of Truckee’s many great restaurants.
I just spent an amazing two weeks SCUBA diving in Raja Ampat, Indonesia. Raja Ampat is a grouping of islands in the West Papua province, off the west coast of New Guinea. It’s gorgeous, full of incredible marine biodiversity and REMOTE. It is a long way from California to Papua Explorers Resort, on Gam Island. This is basically the only way to get from the US West Coast to Raja Ampat, so I thought it might be useful for anyone interested in traveling to that region. (Which, spoiler alert, it is totally worth the travel time!)
Greyson’s parents did all the planning for this amazing trip; I basically just had to show up with my luggage, ready to dive. I knew going into this trip that the journey would be long, but I really just did not have a sense of how far away Raja Ampat was! Our route would include 5 flights, 6 airports, 2 massage chairs, 1 hotel, 1 boat ride, 24 hours of time in the air, and 48+ hours of travel time.
Greyson and I left Truckee, heading for Point Reyes, where his parents live. Once there, we made last minute packing adjustments, checked our passports for the 500th time, packed up the car, and left for the San Francisco Airport.
Leg 1: San Francisco, California > Taipei, Taiwan
We arrived at San Francisco International Airport ~6 hours before our flight. While we teased Greyson’s mom about our super early arrival, it was for a good reason. We were hoping to be first in line and request emergency exit seats. It turns out, we showed up two hours before the check in counter even opened, but, hey, we were definitely first in line. Turning up so early ended up being the right decision, as the restaurants in the SFO international terminal closed at around 7 (weird) so we had to scramble to eat. Our early bird-ness paid off, and we all got the emergency exit row for our 13 hour SFO > Taiwan leg. The flight left at around midnight, so I took a sleeping pill and managed to sleep on an off for close to 8 hours. When I woke up, they fed us breakfast, Greyson and I watched Skyfall and part of Spectre, and we landed. It was so much easier than I was expecting!
Taipei, Taiwan > Changi Airport Singapore
This trip was my first ever trip to Asia, so touching down at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport was my first visit to a new continent! We went quickly through the line for arrivals and were directed towards our gate. We arrived at the Taipei airport super early morning local time, but early afternoon by our internal clocks. I needed caffeine! We walked around until we found a coffee shop about to open, then sat on the floor outside until it did. The caramel latte I ordered gave me the caffeine jolt that I needed, and we set off to do some airport exploring during our 5 hour layover. One of the coolest things about this airport is that all of the gate waiting areas have different themes, like Orchids, Taiwanese Culture, Green Relaxation, and Hello Kitty. There’s a ton of Hello Kitty stuff at this airport – including a Hello Kitty themed nursing room called “Baby Kitty”, and we got to fly to Singapore on a Hello Kitty theme jet! We spent most of our time hanging out in the free massage chairs in the Green Relaxation Area. (Go to the nearby bookstore for the free massage tokens)
Changi Airport Singapore > Jakarta, Indonesia
I had a window seat for this leg and spent most of the descent craning my neck for the best views of Singapore. Flying over the harbor was gorgeous! It was cool to see all of the empty container ships contrasting against the tropical turquoise water. We got off the plane and headed towards baggage claim, since we would be switching airlines and needed to re-check our baggage through to Indonesia. The flight attendants had brought customs declaration forms around the cabin during our flight, but since we were just passing through Singapore, I didn’t think we needed to fill them out. Turns out I was wrong! You definitely need to fill out your customs form when arriving at Changi – learn from my mistake. It’s always nerve wracking going through customs, and we all made a couple of mistakes filling out the form. The customs officials were very efficient and helpful with our rookie mistakes though. The customs agent will look at your form and scan your passport, then stamp and tear off a section of the form. You’ll need this small piece of paper when you head to departures. Don’t lose it!
The Changi Aiport Singapore is always topping the lists of best airports in the world. Now that I’ve spent quite a bit of time there, I can definitely vouch for that. On our way to Indonesia, we hung out at the airport for about 12 hours, but there was so much to do and see that the time went by pretty quickly. I visited the butterfly garden, checked out the high end shops, searched for the massage area (closed for construction, boooo.), charged my phone, and and stretched my legs after the 13 hour flight. Greyson’s family gently teased me the whole trip for my obsessive phone charging, but they appreciated the fact that I always knew where the outlets were! I use my phone as a Kindle, so it was basically my only entertainment for the whole trip, so I was a little obsessive about charging it!
Before this trip, I had only been in airports in the US, Canada, Europe and Costa Rica. One thing I learned from this experience is that, at many of the gates in the Singapore and Indonesian airports, you go through another metal detector/baggage scan and the gate area doesn’t have food/water/bathrooms/any amenities. We went through this security earlier than we needed to quite a few times, and got stuck with no bathrooms or water. For the gates that did have bathrooms, the bathrooms were usually quite nicer in the main terminal.
Jakarta, Indonesia > Makassar, Indonesia
Our flights to and within Indonesia were all relatively short (~2 hours) and went through the middle of the night (ugggh). After we arrived in Raja Ampat, I told Greyson that I literally could not remember anything about the Jakarta Airport. I knew we went there, but it was totally a blank spot in my mind. When we got there on the way back, I vaguely recognized it. We had a pretty tight connection on our way back, so between that and the exhaustion induced memory loss, I don’t really have any suggestions on what to do at the Jakarta Airport. Sorry!
Makassar, Indonesia > Sorong, Indonesia
Makassar, Indonesia is on the island of Sulawesi, which is known for it’s coffee production. So what is the first thing we did upon arriving at the Makassar Airport? We went to Starbucks. In my defense, it was the only thing open, and I bought nice Sulawesi coffee from the airport gift shop on my way back! The Makassar Airport has a gorgeous tiled ceiling, really clean bathrooms, and several different gift shops if you need some last minute souvenirs. I bought coffee and some batik on my way back home. Makassar Airport has free wifi that was better than the wifi I pay for at my house!
Sorong Indonesia > Raja Ampat
The city of Sorong is a fast expanding hub for Indonesia’s oil and gas industry and the gateway to Raja Ampat. We spent all of our time in Indonesia at Papua Explorers Resort. I’ll do a full post just on my amazing experience there, but they were great for arranging the travel logistics for our final leg. The boat to and from the resort only travels on Sunday and Wednesday, and we arrived on Saturday (48 hours of travel and we lost a day when crossing the International Date Line), so we had to spend a night in Sorong. Two drivers from the resort were waiting for us outside of baggage claim at the Sorong Airport. They loaded up all of our baggage, dropped us off at our hotel (Swiss BelHotel Sorong), and let us know when they’d be picking us up in the morning.
Swiss Belhotel is a Western-style hotel with a pool, nice in room bathrooms and a good restaurant. If you’re looking for a place to stay in Sorong, I’d recommend it. We were exhausted, and, honestly, there didn’t seem to be any “must dos” in Sorong. We basically showered, napped, ate dinner at the hotel restaurant, tried to stay awake, and fell asleep around 6 pm. I woke up ridiculously early and couldn’t fall back asleep, so I just browsed the internet (Swiss BelHotel has free wifi) until breakfast. Breakfast was a HUGE buffet spread of Indonesian and western breakfast favorites. I wish fried rice and noodle dishes were a popular breakfast item in the US. After breakfast and some re-arranging of our luggage, we jumped in the resort’s hired cars and headed for the marina.
The ride to the marina wasn’t too bad, just lots and lots of people on scooters wearing unbuckled helmet. We arrived at the marina without incident and the resort’s porters quickly loaded up the boat for our two hour journey to Papua Explorers Resort. I have never gotten seasick, so I wasn’t too worried about the journey. I felt fine the whole way (though the boat smelled strongly of fish), but Greyson wasn’t too happy. We were closed in a fairly airless cabin, as the boat was low to the water and lots of water was splashing in the front. The ride was pretty calm, but it felt much longer than two hours, and we were all sick of the fish smell by the end. As we slowed down to navigate through the shallow reefs, we made our way onto the small open deck to watch the small islands go by. We finally caught a glimpse of the resort, and saw that the staff had all come out onto the dock to sing a welcome song. It was a great way to end our long journey, and my time at the resort only got better from there!
Whoa, that was a long one! Thanks for sticking through the whole thing, and I hope it was useful for those planning a trip to Indonesia. I have a few more ideas for Indonesia posts, but would be happy to answer any questions anyone has about our trip, SCUBA diving in Indonesia, Raja Ampat, etc. Just let me know in the comments or via email.
P.S. Check out my Instagram for more Indonesia photos!
One of the coolest things I get to do for work every year is putting on the Wild & Scenic Film Festival – South Lake Tahoe. WSFF combines award winning environmental and adventure films with the energy of local activism. Each year we choose powerful environmental and adventure films so that attendees are inspired to take further action regarding issues that impact our environment, ourselves and our world.
The Film Festival is the biggest fundraiser for my program, the Sierra Nevada AmeriCorps Partnership. SNAP places twenty-eight AmeriCorps members at different conservation agencies and organizations throughout the Sierra Nevada to conduct watershed restoration and monitoring, watershed education, and volunteer recruitment and support. Members serve for 11 months with different conservation organizations and agencies across the Sierra to complete watershed restoration and monitoring, watershed education, and volunteer recruitment and support.
Since 2007, SNAP Members have
Obviously, I think SNAP is an awesome program! In addition to supporting SNAP, the Film Festival is a super fun event. We have a silent auction with prizes like whitewater rafting trips, wine tasting, hotel stays, etc., an activism area where guests can learn about local environmental issues, a backstage VIP area, beer and wine, and a filmmaker Q&A.
Most importantly, the films we show are amazing. Our goal for WSFF is “adventure with a message”. We show cool people doing awesome things in beautiful locations, but the underlying message is about the importance of protecting the places we play and beyond.
This year, our first feature film is Martin’s Boat by renowned filmmaker Pete McBride.
“Preeminent conservationist David Brower called him his conscience: in the 1950’s when the Bureau of Reclamation proposed two dams in the Grand Canyon—one at Marble Canyon and the other at Bridge Canyon—the late Martin Litton made sure the Sierra Club didn’t acquiesce. Martin believed the best way for people to understand how important it was to preserve the Grand Canyon was to have them experience this secret world from the river, but not in just any boat. Martin pioneered whitewater dories on the Colorado River in the 1960’s and started a proud tradition of naming the boats after wild places that had been lost or compromised by the hand of man. Now, some 50 years later, America’s open-air cathedral faces continued threats from development and mining and it’s up to all of us to ensure the crown jewel of our National Park system is protected now and for future generations. Martin’s Boat is a film that honors the legacy of Martin Litton and follows the newest boat in the Grand Canyon Dories fleet, the Marble Canyon, on its maiden voyage down the legendary Colorado River through the grandest canyon on Earth.”
Our other feature film is Mile for Mile, made by Patagonia and filmmaker James Q. Martin.
“Ultrarunners Krissy Moehl, Jeff Browning and Luke Nelson ran 106 miles through the newly opened Patagonia Park in Chile, to celebrate and highlight Conservacion Patagonica’s efforts to rewild and protect this vast landscape. Patagonia Park, in the Aysén Region of Chile is now open to the public. The park sweeps from the northern ice cap, down to the Baker River and out to the arid borderlands of Argentina. The park’s glaciated peaks, grasslands, beech forests, lakes, rivers and wetlands still boast all of their original species—and the rivers still run free. Patagonia, Inc. has been involved in this project from day one—helping with the first land purchases, sending volunteers down to rip up hundreds of miles of fencing and restore open grasslands, and fighting mega-dam projects on the nearby Baker and Pascua Rivers.”
In addition to these two amazing features, we’ll be showing 10 other short films ranging in length from 1 – 12 minutes focusing on climbing, paddling, skiing, hiking, and more, from Yosemite to the Grand Canyon to Antarctica.
We’ll be hosting the 11th Annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival – South Lake Tahoe this Thursday, March 31st in the MontBleu Resort Casino Spa Showroom. If you are in the area, I highly encourage you to attend this event! You can buy tickets ahead of time online here or in person at the Patagonia store in Heavenly Village. We’ll be selling tickets at the door, but there’s a discount if you buy ahead of time. Doors open at 6 pm; films start at 7 pm. Tickets are only $12 for Sierra Nevada Alliance Members.
Thanks for reading my schpiel about my favorite fundraiser for my favorite organization!
I’m still working on my Indonesia recaps, so how about a little flashback? Back in February, Greyson and I traveled to Bellingham to bike, visit friends, and, of course, drink lots of beer. The brewery scene has exploded since I moved away from Bellingham, and I was excited to try the new-to-me Aslan Brewing Co.
“In the pursuit of the perfect beer, we’ve brewed A LOT of different styles. On our pilot system in a little back alley warehouse, we brewed over 130 original batches. From that, we narrowed it down to our favorites, which we refer to as our Flagship lineup. We offer these Flagship styles year round, while our Seasonal styles are rotating to compliment the ever changing tastes & sensations of the current season. At the end of this page you’ll find our brew graveyard. These are styles we’ve brewed in the past that we more than likely won’t brew again. But, who knows? We may very well resurrect one from the dead!”
Aslan Brewing Co. has a beautiful space near downtown Bellingham with indoor and outdoor seating. It was really crowded the Saturday afternoon we visited, but because seating is family style (aka you share long tabels with other groups), we were seated fairly quickly. We weren’t planning on staying long, so we just ordered a couple of beers and chips with queso (they have a full lunch and dinner menu).
I got the Midnight Couloir IPA and Greyson got the Ginger Rye IPA. (Descriptions from Aslan Brewing Co. unless obvious).
Midnight Couloir IPA (4/5)
A special style of IPA brewed to help raise awareness for our friends at the Northwest Avalanche Center (NWAC). Midnight Couloir is a very dark IPA with a robust bitterness and a dry finish. The confluence of rich malt with bitter, piney Northwest hops creates a very complex IPA perfectly paired with the colder months of the year.
Ginger Rye Ale (4.5/5)
This beer falls into the “specialty” category, but it’s based off an American Pale Ale and inspired by a delicious cocktail called the “Moscow Moose”. The ginger is present, yet subtle as is the rye. The wild card is the use of limes, which shine through on the finish. This is an adventurous beer and a staple of our brewery. (Note: I don’t usually like super flavored or “weird” beers, but this ginger rye was delicious! I don’t know if I’d want much more than the 10 oz pour Greyson ordered, but I liked it so much more than I was expecting to.)
After we finished those two beers, we decided that we weren’t done with Aslan Brewing Co. quite yet, so we decided to order a sampler. After much debate, we settled on:
*Dawn Patrol Pacific Ale* (5/5)
This beer is mild yet complex in its delivery. The hop presence is noticed by subtle flavors of pineapples that meld beautifully with the slightly spicy and minty character derived from the use of Rye malt. A somewhat recently pioneered style, this Pacific Ale is delivered unfiltered to accentuate its fresh farm to glass, unprocessed, organic qualities. (My favorite beer at Aslan Brewing Co!)
Blueprint Session IPA (5/5)
Named for one of our favorite Baker shred-zones, the Safety Line Session IPA keeps your unquenchable desire for hops satisfied while keeping your mind sharp. Even though the alcohol content has been reduced, the hop content has not. Expect great Northwest hop flavor that is not overwhelmingly bitter, but complex with an array of alpha acids that will surely ignite your senses.
Mosaic IPA (4.75/5)
When we got our hands on a contract for Mosaic hops we knew exactly what to do with them – make an insane IPA. We used Summit hops for bittering, then overdosed the beer with flavor, whirlpool, and dry hop additions of the freshest Mosaic hops that Yakima had to offer. The result is an intense IPA that will leave your taste buds wondering which way is up. Pungent earthy overtones with undertones of white grape fruit and spice.
Batch 15 IPA (3.75/5)
This hoppy creation is everything a Northwest IPA should be. It showcases the amazing resinous and piney characteristics of Simcoe, the crisp citrus of Citra, and the bitterness of Summit hops. Pouring a beautiful opaque orange, this beer is juicy, unfiltered, and delicious!
Northwest Red Ale (3.5/5)
To get a full flavored dark beer that drinks like a Pale Ale, we paired Crystal 120, Roasted Barley and Black malt with Simcoe, Centennial, Citra, and Summit hops. Notes of cherries, strawberries, and citrus dominate the palate, yet are balanced. The result is a dark beer that is surprisingly crisp, full of flavor, and easy to drink.
While we both really liked Aslan Brewing Co., Greyson didn’t love it quite as much as I did. (But I think that’s mostly because I learned to drink beer on Northwest IPAs and they will always remain my favorite). Aslan Brewing Co’s beers reminded me a lot of the beer at Silver Moon Brewing in Bend (my second favorite Bend brewery), while Greyson was more impressed by Knee Deep Brewing in Auburn.
If you’re visiting Bellingham and like beer, make time to visit this brewery. Aslan Brewing Company is a great place to spend an afternoon (rainy or sunny) in Bellingham. The brewery has a beautiful space, good food and excellent beer.
Hi all, I’m back! If you were following along on my Instagram or Snapchat (username: lynnbaumgartner), you know that I just spent the last couple of weeks SCUBA diving and relaxing in Raja Ampat, Indonesia (aka tropical paradise).
Here are just a few pictures of some of the fun that I got up to while I was gone:
I don’t have an underwater or waterproof camera, so I actually took very few pictures of this adventure. I’m waiting on pictures from Greyson and his family, and then I’ll write up some more detailed posts.
Have you ever been SCUBA diving? Ever traveled to Indonesia?
On Donner Summit, there are some old train tunnels that the train used to run through. The train has since been re-routed and the tracks have been pulled out, making it an interesting destination for a snowshoe (winter) or hike (summer). The tunnels are technically on railroad property, but I didn’t see any “no trespassing” signs, and my friends have visited dozens of times over the years. Just be warned! They’re pretty easy to get to – we parked at the pull out a few hundred yards below the Donner Summit Scenic View Area (on your left when you’re heading up hill). Even in the winter, there was parking for at least 10 cars, but it is a popular sledding area and can get full.
Most of our group had snowshoes and poles – it gets icy in the tunnel so you’ll want something with grip. Greyson just wore hiking boots and carried poles and made it pretty well, but I wouldn’t recommend this to people not used to hiking on ice. It was warm for February when we headed up; it was in the 50’s and sunny, but the tunnels are at least 20 degrees colder inside. I appreciated by soft shell and gloves on the return trip. We all brought headlamps and flashlights, but didn’t need to use them. There’s enough light in the tunnel to see fairly well during the day.
It’s pretty straight forward once you’ve gotten out of the car – put on your snowshoes and head up towards the very obvious train tunnels. It’s a pretty steep climb, but the only hard part of the whole hike.
Since there’s not a lot of scenery inside of the tunnels, the natural ice sculptures and human made graffiti are the attractions.
I was really surprised by how much light made it into the tunnels! There are some sections with windows cut into the concrete, and sunlight travels far from the openings. I was expecting the whole inside to be concrete, and loved that many of the tunnel walls were simply exposed granite that the tunnel had been cut through.
Along the way, there are several spots where you can pop out of the tunnels and enjoy the view.
The entrance back into the tunnels looks more foreboding than it actually is. After less than a mile of hiking (which is slow going on all the ice), you’ll get to the end of the accessible tunnels. We hiked around on the snow some, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air, before heading back towards the cars.
We hiked back the same way we came, through the tunnels, but we did see other groups snowshoeing along the outside. I imagine it would depend on snow levels if there is enough room on the outside to do that. Of our group of five, Greyson was the only person who had been to the train tunnels before, and we all had a great time. To be honest, Greyson had suggested doing this snowshoe or hike a couple of times before, but I didn’t really have much interest. In my head, it was just going to be a cold, slippery walk in the dark where I couldn’t see anything. It definitely was not on my Tahoe bucket list. I’m happy to report that I was totally wrong! While not exactly strenuous, action packed or filled with “best of” views, this hike is totally unique and worth doing!