Fall Foliage and the FJR

This past weekend I took my first overnight trip on the FJR, back up to New Hampshire and the White Mountains. I’ve been wanting to take it on a longish trip, and leaf peeping seemed just the thing. Saturday, I followed the same basic route I’d done with the rental FJR, and Sunday, with more time available than I had last year, I took a trip on the Conway Scenic Railway, and did a little more puttering on the way back.

I left the house on Saturday, with a little light mist. When I came out of the O’Neill Tunnel, it was actively raining, but happily, I was wearing my overpants, which can handle a little light rain. By the time I reached the state border, I was in the sunshine.

In New Hampshire, Route 3 and Interstate 93 entwine around each other like a vine on a string; I-93 is the highway; a straight shot north, except for the Franconia Notch area. Route 3 is a local road; you do run into some intersections in towns, but it’s scenic, and there are long stretches with not much traffic, and you can do a fairly decent speed unless you wind up behind a slowpoke. I much prefer it. The two roads do intersect often, and you can easily switch between the two.

At the point where I transferred to Route 3 on Saturday, there was a sign directing me to a bridge. It turned out to be an old covered bridge, so of course, I had to ride over it, ride back, then stop and take some pictures.

Inside the covered bridge

Inside the covered bridge

(Aside: Covered bridges are covered to protect their members from rot. I’ve often wondered if it would be cost-effective in the long run to add a cheap, easy to replace roof to overpasses).

I headed north to Route 112 and the Kancamancus Highway, where I got a shock. It was bumper to bumper, stop and go all the way to the first overlook. This is the FJR’s one Achilles heel: it does not handle slow speed traffic well, or at least, I don’t handle it well at slow speeds. It’s fine while moving, but once the speed drops below a couple of miles per hour, it’s top-heavy and has a real tendency to tip or turn.

After the outlook, traffic at least moved descending the Kancamancus on the way to Conway. By this point it was near sunset, so I stopped for dinner at a family restaurant. I was leaving just as a fireworks show started nearby, so I stayed until the end before heading out along Route 302 to find someplace to stay for the night. I wanted to stay somewhere between Conway and Bartlett.

I hadn’t factored in the time of year. There were No Vacancy signs all over the place. Even the dumpy little motel I’d stayed at before was full. I remembered passing a motel in North Conway that was showing a Vacancy sign, so I hurried to get back before they filled up. I got my room for the night.

The next morning, I had to figure out what to do. I’d originally planned to take 302 out to Sugar Hill, then have breakfast at Polly’s Pancake Parlor, but here I was, close to Conway, and I’d seen the Conway Scenic Railway signs. I decided to go for the train trip. I had breakfast locally, then got a ticket for the 11:30 Valley Ride. This is a 55 minute, 11 mile jaunt through the woods.

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The trip was fun, but not quite as scenic as one would hope; you spend a lot of time going through the woods, with trees close on both sides.

After the train returned, I headed west along Route 302, through Crawford Notch, past Mount Washington, to Route 3, and the slow ride home. This part of the ride is made for motorcycling — not much traffic, and scenic, curvy roads.

View from Crawford Notch

View from Crawford Notch

While I was riding through, I could see the Notch Train in the distance, running up along the side of the mountain. It made me a little sorry I hadn’t taken it, but not much; I’d rather take the bike than the train through there.

By the time I was headed south on Route 3, it was mid afternoon, so I stopped at the Indian Head Resort for lunch. It’s old-time 1950’s type tacky, but the view while I was eating was nice.

By the time I finished lunch, it was 3:30, and time to head home. For the most part, I took Route 3 back – it was getting close to sunset, and the light and the foliage were superb. I did skirt Laconia, as I’ve found there are a lot of intersections there. Finally, as I approached Concord and dusk fell, I switched back to I-93 for the rest of the ride home.

I am still pretty happy with this bike. At speed, it’s like riding a magic carpet, smooth and responsive and with plenty of power. I feel more comfortable passing for some reason on this bike than I did on the other two. I was mostly in the lower part of the engine’s RPM range except for one moment passing when I reached an absurd speed in second gear. It made me wonder what it can do at red line in top gear.

I do need to get better at stop and go with this thing. It tends to catch me by surprise when it loses gyroscopic balance and it starts to yaw. Part of it might be top-heaviness, part of it may be my short legs.

I was definitely feeling a little saddle-sore by Sunday evening. Not too bad, and nowhere as bad as the Katana, but I was feeling it. I may look into Yamaha’s comfort seat, a gel filled replacement saddle.

Finally, I was definitely missing my Nikon on this trip. It’s still out of commission, and I was limited to iPhone photography. The iPhone camera is really good, but its lens is fixed, and semi wide-angle. It also tends to pick up fingerprints.I tend to “see” narrowly photographically, and miss my zoom lens. I also miss having a raw file to work with and manipulate. At this point, I’ve exhausted all the do it yourself options I’ve read about; it sounds like the camera definitely needs repair. I may just decide to replace it instead.

 

Last Days in London

I packed a lot into my last days in London. I had a nice one on one with the CEO Friday, and after work, took advantage of the National Gallery’s extended hours to pay a visit after work. I spent about 90 minutes wandering the galleries, looking at the paintings. I found the lighting in this one to be remarkable:

Painting with dramatic lighting

The painting depicts an experiment demonstrating the effect of a vacuum on a bird.

I wandered through the museum for about an hour and a half, and then found my attention flagging; I was tired, and my eyes were tired, and having trouble focusing. So I left a little early, taking a walk through Trafalgar Square, and down to the Embankment for supper and then the ride back to the apartment.

Saturday morning, I decided that since I knew how to get there, I would go to see Agatha Christie’s play The Mousetrap. I’ve read about the play, and its twist ending, and decided to go for it. I’d planned to see the British Museum on Saturday, so I opted for the evening performance.

I then got directions from Siri for the British Museum, and it directed me to the bus; the first time in the two weeks I’d been there. The directions were good, and it was great just riding around the city above ground.

Unfortunately, for me, the British Museum was just not my cup of tea. I was glad to see the Rosetta Stone, and the exhibit of the Sutton Hoo burial dig was interesting, but I find looking at artifacts in isolation to be pretty dry. It was much more interesting at the Tower of London, seeing things in context. It could also be that after two weeks I was just museumed out. For whatever reason, I decided to cut my visit short after a couple of hours.

It was now shortly around 1, and I decided to try the London Eye again. I got over there around 1:30, and was able to get a ticket for 2:30. So I whiled away the time with a hot dog and ice cream, and got in the line to get aboard.

The Eye is a essentially a Ferris wheel, with a couple of important differences. First, and most important to me, is that it moves much slower than a normal Ferris wheel. You only get one rotation of the wheel, but it takes about 20 minutes to make that rotation. Second, rather than an open pair of seats hanging from the wheel, it has an array of glass capsule bound by rings to the wheel. The rings go around the circumference of each capsule, and the capsule slowly rotates as the wheel moves, so it always faces out and always stands straight up.

The view was worth the wait. You can see the curve of the Thames downstream, and the wheel is actually taller than the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, so at the top of the wheel, you’re actually looking down on them.

I then had a bit of a dilemma – I hadn’t expected to finish this soon, so I’d bought my ticket for 7:30 rather than 4, and I had some time to kill. I ended up deciding to visit Green Park and Buckingham Palace.

From there, I walked down to Piccadilly Circus; once I found my bearings, I had dinner , and then set off for the theater.

The Mousetrap has been running continuously for 65 years. It’s classic Agatha Christie — all the action takes place either off stage, or on the one set, of the drawing room of guest house. Christie carefully points out how little is known about each character by the other characters, and how suspicious each one is. It ends with a twist which the audience is asked not to give away.

I had to check out of the apartment by 11 AM this morning,  but the flight didn’t leave until 4:50 PM. Even allowing for transit time, and checking in and security, that still left some time left to burn. So, once I got to Victoria Station, I carefully made a note of my surroundings, and went for a walk through the local neighborhood. I stopped in the tiny little Grosvenor Park, and then walked down Buckingham Palace Road until about 12:30 and turned around. On the way back, I saw this older house in the middle of newer urban construction. It seemed emblematic of London, somehow.

Old House

Then it was time to head for Gatwick, and home.

Tower of London and Kensington

I weighed what I wanted to do today carefully; I only have one more off day before I return. I considered the British Museum, but decided instead to see the Tower of London and Kensington Garden.

I really enjoyed the tour of the London Tower.  William the Conqueror built the original section, the White Tower, about 950 years ago, and it’s been added onto bit by bit over the centuries. There are still a lot of places where you can see the original Norman construction, but there are also a lot of places where it’s changed.

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Off Folly Cove

I went diving with my friends Jack and Jane yesterday. When we left the dock, the fog was starting to burn off, but there was still a high overcast. Jack chose to anchor between Lanes Cove and Folly Cove, predicting correctly that we would be sheltered on the northern side of Cape Ann. The water was a smooth as glass.

Perhaps a better simile would be as smooth as a bowl of soup. Whether it was the overcast above, or simply an abundance of plankton below, the visibility was pretty crummy, at only about five feet or so.

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Painted Turtles

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I took the kayak for a 7.48 mile round trip from Dover to Natick and back today. I started off by Bridge Street in Dover — fortunately grabbing the last parking spot — and took the boat downriver to just short of the Natick Dam. Along the way, in several spots, I saw painted turtles basking on logs and boulders in the river. Usually, they would slip into the water as soon as I got close-ish, but these little guys stayed put just long enough for me to get their picture:

Painted Turtles on log

Painted Turtles on log

Quabbin via Motorcycle

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Around the start of the last century, water shortages in Greater Boston caused the state government to look to Western Massachusetts for supplies of clean drinking water. The Wachusett Reservoir was completed around 1908, and in the Twenties, the people of the Swift River valley lost their battle against eastern Massachusetts, and construction of the Quabbin Reservoir begun. The towns of Enfield, Greenwich, Prescott and Dana were disincorporated, their citizens evicted from their homes, and all structures in the way of the future reservoir razed. Construction took place during the thirties, and the reservoir filled during the forties, becoming the largest inland body of water within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Today, it supplies most of eastern Massachusetts with water. To protect the water, the area around it is a reservation. Yesterday, I took the motorcycle out for a ride around there. The roads around the reservoir are great for motorcycling — curvy, and not too crowded.

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Rereading the Declaration

There are holiday traditions that are shared by everyone, and the there are private, personal traditions. For the Fourth of July, public traditions include watching fireworks (I saw the Orleans show on Sunday), bonfires, and cookouts with the family. My personal tradition is rereading the Declaration of Independence on July 4th.

I’m not sure how long I’ve been doing it; several years at least. I wonder how many Americans have read it in its entirety even once; I wonder how many would even recognize quotes from it. A lot of people confuse it with the Constitution, which is our fundamental law. The Declaration isn’t law; instead, it’s a clear statement of the founding philosophy of the American system: that power derives from the consent of the governed.

It’s really too bad. Both documents are pretty readable; Jefferson, the primary author of the Declaration, in particular had a talent for the feeling and rhythm of words. Probably the best example of this is the most familiar:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Thinking about the text of the Declaration, there is an interesting duality in the way Jefferson thinks about government. He begins by saying “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,” but continues on to say, “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.” Many items of his bill of particulars deal with George III’s failure to attend to laws needed by the colonies:

  • He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
  • He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
  • He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
  • He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
  • He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness of his invasions on the rights of the people.
  • He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
  • He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

If you haven’t read it yet, I heartily recommend you do so. Wikipedia has a nicely annotated version if you would like some context.

In Congress, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.