Finnish pinball league, game 5/6 - Kouvola, Finland - Hopeakuula Arcade - 28/09/2019

Ah, the Finnish league. Thanks to my work schedule, I had already missed two of the league games and it didn't exactly look like I was going to be up there in top-3 to receive a league trophy. To be honest, I was rather reluctant to even attend and only signed up the last minute, thinking long hours of repairs and preparations for this tournament probably got most of what I had to give. I went into this tournament with the attitude of probably going to get my ass kicked in the qualification, but at least we'd hopefully host a good tournament at our arcade with as few malfunctions as possible. Maybe someone would even enjoy their time!

Doctor Who getting a last minute flipper rebuild as I wasn't happy with it.
As always, the Finnish league has a qualification format of "player vs player, winner gets a point" where 4 best players in their group advances to playoffs. 16 players per group, 3 groups.

Playoffs are player vs player, best 2 out of 3, except for the final which is best 3 out of 5.


I was in qualification group A, which meant I had to start playing at the ungodly hour of 12:00. I'm not exactly a morning person, so I just had to dope up with coffee and energy drinks, then start flipping.

The playoffs were kind of a blur, but couple of games stand out. I played Revenge from Mars against TJM and played a rather "meh" game, but it was still good enough if we're not playing for high scores. TJM however caught me on his last ball and easily beat me there. I've been keeping his career on eye for a long time now, he's probably the most active person when it comes to attending all kinds of pinball (or gaming in general) related events in Finland and he's been really upping his game these past few years with consistent playing.

Group A, me playing against TTS

It's been years since I've played Gilligan's Island in a tournament, yet we graced the league players with mine this year and played it against AMP. We've been debating a lot about what to do in it, especially when the ingredients for the 50M shot are relatively easy to get. But I'd never risk it in a tournament game unless my opponent had already gotten the 50M jackpot, I just repeat the doubled Jungle run mode as long as I can. And it worked here just fine.

During the qualification I made a note I hadn't lost that many games, I assumed I'd be somewhere near the qualification cut line, but after I had finished my last game I went to see the score board and I had won 10 out of 13 and being the group A's winner. The next three players all tied with 8 wins.

Out of the local players, VPS qualified 3rd in group A, IDO won group B and RIK was group B's 2nd.

Group B playoffs, RON vs MAR in the foreground on Gilligan's Island


I really started feeling the long wait way before the playoffs started. I always prefer to play in the last group as if I'm still in the game, I can keep my rage on and not just wait out for hours, then OD on coffee again.

Playoffs, round 2

MRA had finished 4th in the group C, then crushed AKI 2-0 in the first round of the playoffs. Now we were to go against each other in round 2. Whoever wins here goes to the semifinals.

We started with Bally's old punisher, Star Trek. Funny thing about that, I actually have Star Trek because I fell in love with it during one of MRA's tournaments at his arcade.

Naturally Star Trek hated me and I couldn't get much done, losing my first game. Next up was Mousin' around, which fortunately was a bit more forgiving and I even got to play couple of seconds of multiball there, winning it.

Our last game was Stern's Playboy. MRA had a pretty strong first ball, at around 10M. He complained some oddity about the left flipper, but we couldn't repeat it between the balls, so the game was ruled to be continued. The left flipper failed at around 20 seconds into my first ball and we couldn't immediately find a reason for the failure, as the flipper was mechanically intact, powered and the flipper button was working as well. It was now ruled as a major malfunction and a new game was drawn: Stellar Wars.

Stellar didn't have a beef with me and I racked insane bonuses on each ball, easily winning it. I can understand MRA's disappointment in the end result, he had started with a good ball on a deciding game and we had to discard that.

Just as a curious detail, I debugged the Playboy later on. It had a very interesting transistor failure, where the game played just fine for hours, until the transistor driving left flipper coil got too hot and stopped working at random. It started working again once it cooled a bit. The problem was completely eliminated by just replacing it.

Playoffs, semifinals

RIK had placed 2nd in group B and as such got to tie-break against two other qualification group #2's for the option to go directly into the semifinals. He played against TJM and MAX on Stellar Wars and won. This meant the playoffs would be between arcade administration members.

Soviet Kouvola showdown - RIK vs APZ on Doctor Who

I was pretty drained from the round 2 and even more so from the very long wait between the qualifications and playoffs. I somehow managed to wrestle a victory from Doctor Who, lost on Contact and we had a final showdown on Judge Dredd, that ultimately went to me. Looks like I had found my way into the final.


My old friend OMO had placed 3rd in the group C qualification and had to fight his way from the bottom, going against my dad on round 1, another Kouvola region player IDO on round 2 and sending TTV into the bronze game in semis.

We started off with Stellar Wars, with me as player 2. My First ball was really horrible and I had to fight to keep the second ball in the game long enough to at least catch OMO. OMO had a rather rough last ball, but still left me about 15k to catch on my last ball. I was after getting 2x bonus and by the time I finally got it, the game was there, no need to continue my last ball.

The next game was another pick from my classics bank: Bally's Star Trek - the old punisher.

For the first 2 balls neither of us got that much done, I was at 20k, OMO at 67k, but knowing you can get 3x 20k indefinitely from the maxed out bonus shot, anything could happen at this point. I managed to hang onto my last ball long enough to collect the bonus couple of times and finish the BALLY-letters twice, bring my score up to 139k after the bonus count. OMO started his ball strong, but tilted from right outlane save at 73k, which also meant this game went to yours truly.

Next it was time to bring out the big guns. As in Williams' Big Guns. I see we're staying on our classics line.

OMO started his first ball by locking two balls, then immediately tilting the game when trying to save it from the right outlane when the ball save gate was still open, with 176k on the display. I played a rather tired multiball, ending with 734k. OMO's 2nd ball had rough luck and it only got him past 220k, mine wasn't much better. OMO's 3rd ball lasted literally just couple of seconds and that was it. League game 5/6 went to yours truly.

Watch a stream of the final here

The outcome

I won my qualification group of 13 players.

I won the tournament.

Having scored 8 league points from the season's 1st game, 7 from the 3rd and now 15 from this, it means there's at least 5 people who can technically still win the league. It's going to be an interesting last tournament of the season.

Chicago Pinball Expo - Chicago, IL, USA - Westin Hotel - 17-19/10/2019

With my upcoming 40th birthday trip being planned, I wasn't sure if second trip to the USA was doable this year, but with some careful financial planning I managed to squeeze it in back to back with the EPC'19 in Denmark.

I've been meaning to come check out the expo for some time now, I was especially interested in the Stern factory tour and many rare pins in the show. As an icing on the cake one of my favorite pinball series, Elvira, would be getting a sequel which was to be released in the expo and no other than Cassandra herself would be there too!

All three Elvira games. I SO need this at my place!

Me and my buddy Olli-Mikko flew out directly to Chicago, but started this tour with a short sight seeing trip to Milwaukee, Wisconsin before returning to Chicago. The expo itself was inside of a conference hotel and while the room prices were a bit rip off-ish, I really appreciated the fact that I could just put on my playing gear and walk from my room directly into the expo hall.

The welcome dinner party, with some Spanish pins in the background!

In addition to having 100s of pins free to play, the expo naturally also had tournaments. The main tournament had a lineup of the very latest Sterns, including the brand new Elvira's house of horrors. The classics tournament had EMs and a selection of early SS games.

Both tournaments were based on your 6 best scores on games of your own choosing, main tournament included 12 entries total and no buy-ins, the classics again had unlimited buy-ins.

When we first arrived, we were wandering around, watching as the show was being set up and found ourselves in a room with a buffet and a plenty of people. A waiter asked if we were one of the pinball people and we naturally said yeah. They promptly gave us a table and told us to dig into the food. Everything looked so good, so we didn't mind the offer. It wasn't until a bit later when we noticed how everyone there had t-shirts of all kinds of arcades, distributors and so forth and we realized that by "pinball people" they probably meant organizers of the event and not us two random Finnish guys. But whatever, free food!


I started off with the main tournament. This was a bit tough spot for me, as I'm not that well versed with the latest changes to the Stern's newest games and the only game I really knew well, Star Trek, had a line so long it wasn't funny any more. So I played Beatles, Black Knight Premium, Elvira, Dead pool, Munsters and as a wild card Star Wars home edition.

I tried the new Elvira couple of times in the free play lounge and came to the conclusion I'd probably just try starting the multiballs and see where it goes. Short plunging, then making the mansion lock was relatively easy shot and after a rather poor first try, I got 54M on it, which was apparently good enough to score some points.

I had a rather decent start on Dead pool, I drained my last ball with Mechsuit multiball lit, which was a bummer but with 268M I guess people had done worse on it.

The Munsters was hard for me, I had never played the variant with the miniplayfield before and I couldn't do anything with those miniatyre flippers and tiny ball. 

I left The Beatles with 3.3M and played Black Knight's premium variant as my last game. Oh man was the upper playfield useless. This is one of the games where I strongly prefer the pro version. I got  105M on it, which to me was pretty embarrassingly low score, but it still netted me my 3rd best game in the whole qualification.

The outcome was 53rd position in the main, which was enough to qualify.

The classics lineup
The classics was a lot worse show for me. In many cases I drew the short straw and had things like tilting the game from plunging, annoying flipper issues and so forth. I played 18 games total and decided it wasn't worth my money to play more.


My 53rd place netted me couple of byes and I started off from the round 3.

I got to pick the games here, my opponent their position. My first pick was the new Elvira, where I got two unbelievable house balls and I couldn't catch my opponent's good lead on my 3rd ball. My second game was on Dead pool and it was just as bad.

That's it once again. A face plant in the playoffs and to the losers' side I go from the first opponent.

My games on the losers' side started off with Munsters, that I won mostly because the opponent had even crappier luck than I did. Next up was Black Knight, where I couldn't find the upper playfield lock shot and got totally annihilated.

The very last game was probably the only good game I had that day. I played pretty good Mech suit multiball and was at 320M with the opponent at 140M at the start of his last ball. But by playing a multiball after another he finally caught me and that was it, Chicago pinball expo tournament was over for me. At least I played one good game there, even if I lost that one.

The outcome

I qualified in the main tournament as 53rd and got eliminated from the first round, also losing the first match on the losers' side, ultimately being 68th out of 156 players.

I was 62nd in the classic tournament out of 132 players.

About the expo and the Stern tour

The expo had spread over several halls, all full of pinball machines old and new. Almost everything, save the tournament games were set for free play and there was a roomful of just the latest Stern games. I also got to play Jersey Jack's Willy Wonka and American Pinball's Oktoberfest. Many extremely rare games were also for the visitors to play, including the Krull I had always wanted to try. Krull's speciality is a second playfield under the normal one, but unlike with many modern games, the lower playfield is full sized and you view it through a lens that makes it smaller.

Whee! A real school bus!

The Stern factory tour was one thing that sold me on making the whole trip and it naturally was a high point of our time in Chicago area. We got a ride there on school busses, never been on the US style ones before. Stern's factory was about half an hour from our hotel, which was probably enough in a bus meant for kid sized passengers.

The kid-sized seats were fun for the first 10 minutes. Not so much after that.
I really hadn't thought about how a pinball factory would look like, but it was pretty much how I would have guessed it. The playfields were assembled in a huge line, where the half-finished playfields moved on rails from one workstation to another. The worker would install some parts to it and then move it forwards.

A picture I was totally not allowed to take!
We also saw how the wiring harnesses and major components were built there on location. I had expected that all of that would be somehow automated nowdays, but we got to watch as the ladies there weaved one wire after another into a complex wiring harness, tested it and then started working on another one. Plastic parts came from China according to the warehouse manager, playfields were nowdays manufactured locally. The cabinets came from somewhere else as fully assembled units, they just applied the decals on them at the factory. We stopped to marvel for a second how fast they could do the decaling, for something that takes several hours for me to do, these guys finished a cabinet in just minutes.

One really funny thing I immediately noticed was the language used in the factory. Some of you who may have followed my past adventures, may remember that I started studying Spanish in January. Now came the first time where I could actually hear a lot of it. Even all the signs in the work benches were in Spanish. 

At the time of our visit Elvira's House of horrors, Black Knight and Jurassic Park were in production. In addition to meeting Gary Stern himself, I also met George Gomez for the first time in real life. I could have easily spend the whole day at the factory, but after the tour it was time to move on and return to the expo.

I've never been to ComicCons or other events with celebrities so I had no clue what the protocol is supposed to be. At first I was so stoked about the opportunity to meet Cassandra, but with almost two hour line and $80 fee convinced me to just enjoy all the new Sterns in the free play area. Still, managed to sneak one picture of her!

It's Cassandra and the Elvira HOH pinball team!
The expo had a lot of interesting seminars. I went to check out Making of Jurassic park and Elvira. Cassandra turned up in the latter too to answer questions about the game. 

Final thoughts

With a lot of rare games off my to-do -list, having visited the Stern factory and seeing the Chicago Expo alone were more than enough to justify this trip. As an added bonus we went to explore the neighboring states of Illinois: Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan. In Indiana we visited Gary, Michael Jackson's home town. The place was in rather rough shape nowdays and after an encounter with a very aggressive panhandler, we continued up north towards Michigan. There I drove us to Grand Rapids where we went to check out a local brewery restaurant.

I really loved the scenery around Lake Michican, we stopped at multiple sightseeing spots to just marvel the views. 

On my way back home I took different way back home than Olli-Mikko, who flew a direct route from Chicago to Helsinki on an Airbus A330. I again took a detour to London so I could check off Boeing 747 from my large planes list, before they all disappear in this era of mid-sized long haul planes.

Queen of the skies off my to-do list!

We'll see where I'll find myself the next year, but I probably can't afford two trips to the US. I'll still probably take part in the major European tournaments, especially the EPC.

Until the next time!

It Never Drains In Southern California - Banning, CA, USA - Museum of Pinball - 11-13/01/2019

My last year's trip to INDISC was my debut to the tournament and also the longest ever tournament trip I've ever done. Escaping the freezing cold and endless snow of Finland was a welcome break last year and when the opportunity to make the trip again raised, I didn't need to think twice. This time we however decided to skip the stop at a sketchy hotel in NY and flew straight to Los Angeles instead. I was a bit hesitant about flying Delta with their recent development in having their passengers assaulted by security officers when the airline themselves overbooked the flight. We typically always fly Finnair and their alliance, but the ticket prices had risen into obscene figures, so we had to get creative and book a KLM-Delta combo there and Air France-Finnair back.

As always, these longer trips also serve as a mini-vacation for me, so in addition to just playing, we reserved a lot of time to just roam around, check out the barcades, go to an NBA match and hopefully hit a movie studio as well.

As much as I love flying, I'm really bummed that I just can't get any sleep on the plane. With 2.5 + 11.5 hour in the air, I was hoping to work on some FreeCAD tutorials I had taken with me, but the person in in front of me decided to tilt their seat all the way back, leaving me just watching the movies instead.

I'm super envious about Marble's ability to just fall asleep the second he hits the plane seat.

That however paled in comparison of what expected us when we finally reached Los Angeles. Thanks to the US government shutdown they had only a handful of immigration and customs workers there, with literally hundreds of people per line. We thought we'd cut some waiting time by using the ESTA terminals, which first seemed to work, but then we got just directed back at the end of the line. I was almost dozing off at that point, with 20+ hours of being awake. When it was finally my time to be interviewed by the immigration officer, I probably came off as being high or something. Fortunately he wasn't too interested in his job and after two questions and a stamp in my passport we were ready to head for Banning.

Our ride for this trip.
This time we got ourself a convertible Ford Mustang, but it was way too cold and rainy to drive around with the roof down. I was pretty much out cold the second we arrived at Banning and I could finally fall face first into the bed.


The tournament was entry based, with 6 games per entry for the main tournament, 4 games per entry for the classics tournament and high stakes tournament. Main entries were $20 a piece, classics $15 and high stakes $50. They also had combo packages available, I took one with one high stakes, two main and two classic entries. I probably wouldn't have otherwise bothered with the whole high stakes tournament, the whole concept felt a bit (or a lot) rip-offish since it probably didn't even get that many players to be really valuable WPPR point wise. Friday and Saturday had their own, separate classic tournaments, which was a new thing for this year.

The tournament area

The main bank was really awesome. It had couple of new machines, some classic WPCs and the mandatory Gottlieb System 3 surprise. The whole lineup was:

  • Safecracker
  • Cheetah
  • Mousin' Around
  • Iron Man
  • Warlok
  • Excalibur
  • Iron Maiden
  • Bally Harley Davidson
  • Cue Ball Wizard
  • Jersey Jack's Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Monster Bash
  • Banzai Run (was never powered on)
  • Stargazer
  • Baywatch

Now, the trick here was to find 6 games where I could pull at least a tolerable game with maybe one or two real good ones in there. Popular modern games like Iron Maiden and Monster Bash were out of the equation right from the start. Safe Cracker was really interesting find, I don't think I've ever seen it in a major tournament line-up before.

I gave the Friday classics tournament a try but couldn't go jack with them. I next tried my luck with the high stakes tournament. I started out with Argosy, which was about to turn into a complete house party, except for one lucky ball, which netted me 470k. Next Godzilla. I know the game, but couldn't do much with it. To add to the insult, it had a pity multiball lit for the last ball and I couldn't even get that going. 25M. Barracora was a bit hit'n'miss game for me usually, today was a "miss" day. I couldn't get the drop targets down in order and had to walk away with 150k. At this point I had already pretty much given up, so I played Paragon as a last game. It was surprisingly well playing game and I got my best game of this entry on it, 174k.

It came very clear to me that at $50 a pop, I wasn't interested in dropping more money into this tournament. After checking out the free play area for new additions, we decided to call it a night. The jetlag was getting to me bad and I didn't waste any more entries.

We returned the next day for more serious try.

Yours truly, feat. Danni

Looking at the game list, I needed to find games that I could do well enough, but weren't super popular. Some strong contenders were Safe Cracker, Bally's Harley Davidson, Cue Ball Wizard and Baywatch.

On my first entry I included Jersey Jack's Pirates of the Caribbean just to get some game time on it. For a first timer it was an awfully confusing and complex game. I also tried Mousin' Around, on which I got my all time personal worst - 396k. I also played Baywatch, which played reasonably well but didn't go into my following entries.

Stern's latest: The Beatles
Between the entries I gave the set high score games couple of tries. They had Primus, The Beatles and a reaction tester modded Tron. This was my very first time playing the Beatles. Much to my surprise it wasn't all bad. Kind of odd combination to see a modern platform like Stern's Spike 2 being used for a classic one level playfield, but it was relatively fun game, although no way worth the diamond edition's price. I set the GC of 4.1M on it, which was up there for almost to the end.

The reaction tester Tron
The reaction tester Tron was a really cool oddball concept. It had three buttons each side with one of the buttons lit. If you pressed the lit button, it behaved as a normal flipper button. If you pressed a button that wasn't lit, it disabled that flipper for a second. The lit button changed after each press, making you constantly look at the buttons while trying to follow the ball. Pretty fun thing.

Primus, which was just another Whoa! Nellie retheme.
Primus was just a rethemed Whoa! Nellie and save the soundtrack and graphics, it was nothing special.

After a some tries, I finally had an entry that had some potential: Safe cracker, Warlok, Cue Ball Wizard and Harley Davidson all had decent games in them. With four good games, I needed one more strong game and looking at what was available I took the one remaining game that I knew well: Monster Bash. Boy was that a disappointment! I had very rough start, but I was setting the game up for two monsters during Frankie boy's multiball. I wasted two balls on that, but on my last ball I started the modes, show up the ramp and ... it didn't sink in. It stopped right at the spot where it would have started to roll in and then came back and went straight down the middle. Sigh.

Even with a completely failed Monster Bash my score was above the cut line for some time. Naturally it wasn't enough but it gave me with some confidence for the upcoming entries.

The streaming studio, in the middle of the tournament area

Unfortunately rest of the day didn't yield any better scores, with Safe Cracker being one of the most random games. I was still jetlagged as hell and made a point to have at least two days to recover the next time I'd fly to the other side of the world.

I gave the Saturday classics tournament a try but nothing came out of that. When the time finally ran out, I was out of the main tournament but just like last year, qualified for the B playoffs. I wonder if I could out-do my last year's 9-16th position.

B Playoffs, round 1

The playoffs were four player games with 3-2-1-0 point system. Each round would eliminate two players until four players were left for the final.

We started off with Mousin' Around. I played it for laughs during the qualification to learn just how much it was bastardized. It was. A lot. Our group was pretty even at first, until one player managed to nail a 2M jackpot on their last ball. I gave up with the multiball and looped the left orbit instead to pull some headspace. As a played 4 I was trying to catch the 5.9M best score, but drained at 1.9M. The rest were 1M and 800k, so 2nd position for this game.

Next up was Star Gazer. I know the game but hadn't played this one during the qualification. I got my ass completely handed to me and thanks to two different players winning the previous games, I was now in back against the wall position to win the next game.

The next game was Cue Ball Wizard, which had fortunately worked pretty well for me during the qualification. It wasn't until the last ball that I got the multiball going, but it was easily enough to win this game.

One in our group had enough points for a clear victory, but I was tied for the second place so we had to do a tie breaker, with me picking the game. I put on my troll face and picked Baywatch, even if I hadn't played it here this weekend. I was hoping it was random enough game for my opponent not to know it well and my gamble paid off from the get go when I got the hoped "oh no" face from him. I didn't do anything spectacular with the game, but my 350M was enough against his 180M, although he did get his game on during the last ball.

Winning this tiebreak meant I had outdone my last year's positions 9-16 place and was now on my way towards the B finals!

B playoffs, round 2

Star Gazer returned to haunt me as the first game and I outdid myself with a 38k score when everyone else had closer to 1M. The spinner shot just didn't want to sink in.

Next up was Gottlieb's Excalibur. I couldn't get much done on the two first balls, but on the last ball I managed to pull a one ball wonder and score the jackpot. I won the game easily with 3M score which meant I wasn't necessarily out from this round either, but I'd need one decent game after this.

Our last game was Warlok. I was somewhat confident with this one as it had worked well for me in the qualification, but this time it wasn't that easy. I ended up with 100k points, which was enough for 3rd place, which again meant I was out.

Last year this would have been a shared 5-8 place, but by some magic I ranked first in that slot. 

The outcome

I qualified in main tournament for B playoffs.

I did not qualify from either of the classics tournaments or the high stakes tournament.

I was 5th in B group, which translated into 36th position in the final results out of 236 players.

This was the second time in my life when I walk away with an envelope.

600€ for the plane tickets, 700€ for the hotels, 350€ for the car and fuel, then food, boozing etc. Totally worth it!

Final thoughts

This was the first time I got to play Total Nuclear Annihilation as much as I wanted. Museum of Pinball had all the new pins, most notably Thunderbirds and latest Spooky's pins. The Thunderbirds was a truckload of diarrhea, which prompted me to give TNA another go. After a frustrating start I started to get a hang of it. It works so good with my chaotic playing style, especially during the multiball.

Honestly, I tried to have something good to say about this thing. My favorite moment however was draining the last ball.
Even when I was a bit hesitant about the tournament's format last year, I quickly fell in love with the idea of hunting for the winning combo of qualification games and being able to retry as much as I liked within the qualification time frame. I'm also happy I can still hang in there even in the big boys' tournaments and that the last year's moderate success wasn't just a fluke.

The Golden Cue was Sega's last pin, which was in late stage of development cycle when Sega gave up on pinball. Stern later reused it as their 2nd pin, Sharkey's Shootout. If you've played Sharkey, you'll probably recognize the layout.
This time the Sharkey's Shootout prototype, Golden cue was in good playing order so I gave it couple of serious rounds. 5 minutes into my first ball I had the feeling someone was observing me. The game was extremely easy to play and I may have played a single have for over 15 minutes. When I finally finished, I noticed an older gentleman watching me. As I was about to walk away, he approached and said, "that was really impressive playing!". He introduced himself and asked where I was from and so forth, then introduced me to his wife, his son who was about my age and his grandson. This was rather "what's going on?!" moment for a socially shy Finn but I played along as they kept wondering just how far away I had travelled there.

After the Museum of pinball closed its doors, we headed back to Los Angeles to continue our incursion into the city's barcade scene. So many cool places, we checked out Bar 82, Button Mash and Ayce Gogi. I wish my home town had some decent bars with so many pins, back in the days I often went for a pint or ten and play pinball all night long, nowdays my arcade is the only public place to play pinball around here.

Ayce Gogi's pinball room. Pretty typical LA area Barcade setup
Everyone seemed to have Total Nuclear Annihilation, so I could finally put on some serious game time on it on location as well. It is now the top of my "no brain and all action" pins. I also played Munsters now that it had production software, but I'm still not sold on it.

We also dedicated one day to visit the Universal Studios with the New Zealand's wonder, Miss Peck. I finally got checking out a movie studio off my bucket list!

We also went to see Lakers vs. Bulls NBA game and saw their Finnish player, Lauri Markkanen playing.

My first NBA match, Bulls vs. Lakers. Lauri was awesome!
We took one day to just drive around and investigate the forest fire area from just week before we arrived. We drove for a long time seeing nothing but burn down forest and homes. It was raining heavily, which probably in a part helped out stamping out the remaining fires and gave the new growth a jump start. Still, it was an unnerving sight to see all those things burned down.

Me and Marble dedicated one day to go check out the LA city center. No plans, just roam around on foot and public transportation. This was my first time there and I was expecting something like New York. Instead of the super busy, noisy and a bit in-your-face mega city, Los Angeles was clean, relatively orderly and clean. We hit the downtown area in the middle of a demonstration by teachers, but even then it was civil. 

One of the most memorable random moments on this trip involves a conversation, or at least an attempt at that at a Mexican food truck. I wanted to sample almost everything they had, but the woman running the till spoke very little English. In the end I couldn't get the message across and just ordered a couple of burritos. Things like this leave me feeling stupid and I don't like feeling stupid. I kept wondering the whole way back home just how hard can it be learning Spanish? The next week after arriving home I took it as my next self-betterment project to learn at least conversational level Spanish by the time I return to the US.

I don't know when I get to make my next long distance tourney trip. There will be some local tournaments and we'll hit Borås in March.

Until then.