world’s largest natatorium

billiards-related stuffs
for those of you who are sticklers

scoot along lil doggies
is a blog by an NYC billiards enthusiast. He recently went on an epic scooter trip he called “Snookersearch”. By epic I mean down the east coast (Maryland, Washington, D.C., etc), across part of the south (North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, etc), and back.

By scooter I mean — scooter. As in this adorable mode of transport:

It’s a great read and there are LOTS of photographs for you impatient types. If you click on the tag Snookersearch, the posts will turn up in reverse chronological order, so you’ll want to get to the first post (there are 14 total) when you begin reading.


omg what happened 2 ur blog?!
It got a makeover. It’s best when viewed with a widescreen monitor, but whatever you have will have to do. This new layout is a more efficient use of space and it also allows me to use larger photographs.



Are you still here?


We all know I’m somewhat geekified and completely nerdified, so if you’re up for some (possibly) educational reading that is not related to billiards — keep scrolling down.



“Sit in reverie, and watch the changing color of the
waves that break upon the idle seashore of the mind.”
–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

In spite of my great love for being stuck in a pool room doing drills on the brightest of days, I have been known to spend some time outdoors. The seashore is always my preference for these out-of-door times. I grew up within sight of the ocean, have lived as close as a few hundred feet away and have lived as far as a few miles away.

I recently went back home to visit the parental units and my brother. And the Point Reyes Lighthouse.

After some extremely scenic driving, we arrived at the parking lot for the lighthouse. There was a bit of a hike left to get to the actual rock the lighthouse perched on. Here’s a view about halfway to the rock. You can see the beaches way down below.

Winds up here can reach 133 mph. One cute anecdote tells of how one lighthouse keeper tried to grow vegetables. He lost his carrots when strong winds from a storm literally blew them away.

After a little while, we crested the high point and we could look down upon the lighthouse. The terrain is incredibly steep and rocky. Normally, the weather is very foggy out here, hence the need for a lighthouse in the olden days. (You can click on some of the following images for larger versions.)

A long flight of stairs (equivalent to 30 stories, according to a park notice) leads down to the lighthouse. In the photograph on the left (not my photograph — yoinked from Wikipedia) those little “boxes” off to the side of the stairs are landings for resting. On the right is the lighthouse and you can see the glimmer of the lens behind the windows.

Here is a photograph of the lighthouse from 1871. It was first lit the year before in 1870. On the right is a close-up of the lens, which is a first-order Fresnel lens.

First-order Fresnel lenses (there were six standard “orders” or sizes) were the largest standard lenses for lighthouses at the time. According to Wikipedia, “The largest (first order) lens has a focal length of 920 mm (36 in) and an optical area 2590 mm (8.5 ft) high. The complete assembly is about 3.7 m (12 ft) tall and 1.8 m (6 ft) wide.”

Fresnel lenses are composed of many prisms that surround a single light source. The lens is very efficient at amplifying light — only 17% of total light is lost, the rest is focused out to sea.


Tiny dude or big-ass lens?

The Fresnel Lens: The French Jewels
The lens in the Point Reyes Lighthouse is a “first order” Fresnel (fray-nel) lens, the largest size of Fresnel lens. Augustin Jean Fresnel of France revolutionized optics theories with his new lens design in 1823.Before Fresnel developed this lens, lighthouses used mirrors to reflect light out to sea. The most effective lighthouses could only be seen eight to twelve miles away. After his invention, the brightest lighthouses could be seen all the way to the horizon, about twenty-four miles.The Fresnel lens intensifies the light by bending (or refracting) and magnifying the source light through crystal prisms into concentrated beams. The Point Reyes lens is divided into twenty-four vertical panels, which direct the light into twenty-four individual beams. A counterweight and gears similar to those in a grandfather clock rotate the 6000-pound lens at a constant speed, one revolution every two minutes. This rotation makes the beams sweep over the ocean surface like the spokes of a wagon wheel, and creates the Point Reyes signature pattern of one flash every five seconds.

–From “Lighthouse History at Point Reyes”


While driving to the lighthouse, we had seen a park sign for an oyster farm. On the way back, we took the tiny one-lane white road the sign indicated. The farm was Drake’s Bay Oyster Farm, the only oyster farm (there are a few up here) operating on park land. They’d been around for over a hundred years.

The farm had picnic tables for those visitors who wanted to camp out for a whole day to eat oysters by the dozen. We hadn’t thought of doing that (rats!). I poked around the farm grounds and figured out why the road that led to the farm was white — it was paved with oyster shells. In addition to the shells used to pave the roads (which made great environmentally-conscious paving materials, by the way), there were still piles of shells left around the farm.

By “piles” I meant “small hills”.

A dozen Drake’s Bay oysters (size small). They charged $1.00 per lemon and $6.00 for two tablespoons of mignonette sauce (bastards!) so we made do with just the cocktail sauce (free) which was excellent.

The oysters were extremely fresh (of course) and briny with a distinct, but not unpleasant, mineral taste. We plan to return for an all-day oyster party some day in the future.

Drake’s Bay Oyster Farm
17171 Sir Francis Drake Blvd
Inverness, CA 94937
(415) 669-1149
8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. everyday


After oystering, we drove around the area on Highway 1 whilst admiring the coast and the redwoods and the mountains until it was time for dinner.

My brother had made dinner reservations. He is a foodie (as is my entire family) so the choice was bound to be good.

On the left is his pork chop and on the right is my mom’s seared tuna.

Of course I had steak…

If ever you’re driving around Sonoma County with no particular place to go, I recommend visiting this restaurant.

Zin Restaurant & Wine Bar
344 Center Street
Healdsburg, CA 95448
(707) 473-0946


Not content with one day’s worth of hiking around the coast, my brother and I went for another hike the next day. We went to Mussel Rock in Pacifica, where the structure below has intrigued me for years. I’ve only ever seen it from a distance away, but we found a trail that led down the rocky cliffs to the shore. Up close, I still can’t figure out what it is or was.

We were glad we tromped all that way down the cliffs to see the mystery poles on Mussel Rock because we found another mysterious thing in the rocks! A tunnel…

That’s definitely a man-made tunnel and we couldn’t figure out what it was for. My brother speculated that it was part of the Ocean Shore Railway which had been started in the 1900s but never finished. He also thought it may have been some sort of access for local maintenance to monitor storm drains. This tunnel was not something you could see from above the cliffs, even if you were off to the side. The cliffs around this area are extremely steep.

But not so steep that nature can’t find a way to live there. 🙂 It’s only humans and our silly houses that wash off the cliff during winter storms (actually happened in this area).

After our nifty little hike, it was off to home for traditional Chinese fare which included stewed bacon, chicken hearts, and fava beans. It’s too bad we didn’t have a “nice chianti” to go with it all.

A little after-dinner research turned up the story behind the tunnel in the cliff.

Long before the Devil’s Slide bypass was conceived, an Irish immigrant sought to shorten his commute by blasting an ill-conceived tunnel along Daly City’s rugged coast. The man behind the tunnel was Richard Tobin, a San Francisco attorney and cofounder of the Hibernia Savings and Loan Society.

Richard Tobin was a prominent San Franciscan who arrived there on June 4, 1849 with his father and brother. He studied law and went into practice in 1852. He helped establish Hibernia Bank in 1859. Tobin kept two residences, one in San Francisco and another on the coast in the area of present day Rockaway Beach in Pacifica. He preferred to travel by buggy rather than horseback. In the 1870s, the route along the coast was blocked by an outcropping near Mussel Rock. Rather than forge a path around the obstacle, Tobin decided to blast a tunnel through it. He commissioned his grand tunnel in 1874 at a cost of $5,000. The tunnel completed in January of 1875 was ten feet high, ten feet wide, and nearly 180 feet long.

Unfortunately for Tobin, the Pacific Ocean didn’t cooperate with his scheme. Severe winter storms of 1875 rendered the tunnel impassable after just three family journeys. The erstwhile lawyer and banker abandoned his project leaving generations to ponder the tunnel’s origins. Even in-the-know locals assumed the tunnel was part of the failed Ocean Shore Railway.

A remnant of Tobin’s Folly, as the tunnel became known, remains today. Most of the fabled passageway is believed to have been destroyed during the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. The remaining section is in a remote area enshrouded in fog and pounded by the surf. The law firm established by Richard Tobin in 1852 is still in business (Tobin & Tobin in San Francisco). Although history will remember Tobin as a San Francisco banker and lawyer, Daly City will always remember him as the man who gave us the tunnel to nowhere.

—From the Fog Cutter, Vol. 8, No. 3, Fall 2008

That $5,000 back in 1874 is almost $100,000 in today’s money. Not bad for a personal tunnel blasted through solid rock.

I’m sure some of you have noticed — that tunnel is totally accessible when the waves aren’t out for human sacrifice. Am I going to try and take a peek in there? You betcha. That will be documented in a future post.

We couldn’t find any information about the weird posts and fence on Mussel Rock, unfortunately, so that will remain a mystery for the time being.


4 Replies to “world’s largest natatorium”

  1. the tunnel in the cliff…that’s south of SF, right? Been a while since I’ve been out that way. Spent a bit of time in the Monterey area. Might end up back there still…still TBD.

  2. very nice new theme. my eyes are strangely relaxed after reading. may list blog as therapeutic, but possible warning signs for the contents. 😛

    1. I like this theme because it’s more organized and I can use bigger photographs. 🙂

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