Again, London

I’m visiting London for work again this week and the next. I left Boston Sunday night at 10 and arrived here Monday morning about 9:30. The flight was uneventful and uncrowded; the person sitting next to me shifted seats, giving us both more room. I am still unable to really sleep while flying; I found myself starting to drift off, then I would awake again with a jerk. This time, my luggage arrived with me, and I was able to get to the office without too much trouble.

I was pretty tired by the end of the day on Monday, as I hadn’t really slept since Sunday morning. I got to the apartment just before 5, talked to the rental agent, then went out in search of food and groceries. I explored the area a little, noted the Tube station close by, and St. Pauls in the distance, then picked up some breakfast food and some stuff for dinner.

The rental apartment is quite nice. It has a sitting room, small kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. The home owner is clearly interested in art; there are framed posters on all the walls, including the hallway. It does front on a busy street, though, so it is a little noisy.

Compared to home, sunset is very late here, because London is that much further north. I noticed last week sunset was still well before 8 at home; here, it’s around 8:45. (I imagine the days are shorter here in the winter). Since it was still light after supper, I went out for a little walk. I found I was just one block from where I stayed last fall, so the restaurants I found then are still handy. Finally, my tired legs could take no more, and I headed back to the apartment and into bed.

Last night, I decided to take a look at Trafalgar Square and Westminster after work. When I’d visited after work last fall, it was after nightfall; last night it was late afternoon. So I took the Tube to Embankment, walked up to Trafalgar Square, then up to Westminster, where you could barely see Big Ben due to all the scaffolding, over the Thames, and walked along the South Bank taking pictures, and ended up having a hamburger there. Afterwards, I came back here and edited the pictures.

Today’s been an uneventful day – I forgot to reset the alarm, so I was late getting up, and barely made a 9 AM video conference with one of the developers in Porto. I kept getting distracted from what I was supposed to be working on, but did scope out a major piece of work that we’ll be doing later, and helped out some. After having a nice BBQ chicken, I came back here, did some cleaning up, did some code review, and worked on this post. Hopefully, it will be done soon, and I can get to bed.

Nor’easter on the Cape

Massachusetts has been battered for the past few days by a massive nor’easter; as I was working Friday, the rain was coming down nearly horizontally, and slashing against the windows. The wind has been fierce, and because of the nearly full moon, the tides have been especially high.

When my dentist appointment was cancelled yesterday — they had no power — I decided to head for the Cape to see how it was faring.

Our first stop was Fort Hill in Eastham, overlooking Nauset Marsh. On the road up to the outlook, we passed a massive fallen tree:

Fallen tree near Fort Hill
Fallen tree near Fort Hill

Once we arrived at the parking lot, I could barely open the car door, the wind was so strong. Normally, the view from Fort Hill is of the grassy marsh, with the dunes of Nauset Spit in the distance. Not today. The whole marsh was flooded, and looking across, I could see foamy waves crashing right over the spit.

View From Fort Hill
View From Fort Hill

From Fort Hill, we decided to head for Coast Guard Beach, but the road was blocked. There must have been downed trees or downed wires laying across the road, so we headed for Nauset Light Beach instead.

The wind and waves at Nauset were unreal. It was hard opening the car doors, and my clothes were quickly covered with a fine layer of blown sand. From the edge of the parking lot, we could see the waves battering the shore.

Waves at Nauset
Waves at Nauset
A Seagull soaring over the waves
A seagull soaring over the waves

After spending some time at Nauset, we decided to make another try for Coast Guard. The connecting road between the two beaches was open, so we headed over that way.

From Coast Guard, it was easier to get to the water’s edge. I walked down to the edge of the water, where the waves had already eroded the end of the path, and took some more pictures:

Edge of the water at Coast Guard Beach
Edge of the water at Coast Guard Beach

I then decided to head to the back of the spit, to take a picture of the bike path bridge over the flooded marsh. Unfortunately, the marsh was flooding right over the top of the path, so I wasn’t able to get the shot I wanted:

Flooded Bike Path
Flooded Bike Path

From there we decided to head over to the bay side, but ran into a problem: many of the roads were blocked, due to downed trees or wires. It was hard to get away from the ocean side, and when we finally did, the roads to First Encounter and Cole Road Beaches were blocked. I wish I’d thought to bring the bicycle with me to get around the road blocks, but it hadn’t occurred to me. We finally found out way to the end of Kingsbury Beach Road on the Bay Side.

Here, the waves weren’t nearly as violent, but the water level was high; right up to the end of the road. There was no beach to be seen. Waves were crashing up against the sea wall of the house by the end of the road, the storm fencing, and the stairs down to the beach:

Snow fencing along the bay
Snow fencing along the bay
Waves against the stairs
Waves against the stairs. The beach is totally flooded.

Our final stop was my Uncle Tom’s place – we had a leftover Christmas present that needed to be dropped off, so we headed back down along Herringbrook Road towards his place. Along the way, I stopped by the side of the road – what was normally a large expanse of grassy marsh, even at high tide, was now a lagoon.

Flooded Marsh
Flooded Marsh

When we got to Tom’s house, he was cutting up a fallen tree; a number of trees had fallen on the property. He’d also lost power, and a skylight. As bad as the wind was at the moment, it had been worse the day before; while covering over the skylight, he’d had to hold the ladder in place with his tractor.

We’ve been personally, pretty lucky with this storm — just some downed branches in the back yard, and the lights flickered a little on Friday, and apparently the power went down for a little time while we went out yesterday, but that’s been it. We’ve been pretty lucky compared to our neighbors in Quincy, and Scituate, and the Cape.

 

Bonaire 2018 Pictures: Friday

Friday was the last day of diving. You need to allow a day for your body to get rid of the excess nitrogen you absorb, so we had to be out of the water by three. We did a pair of boat dives in the morning, to Country Garden at the northern end of the island, then Sampler, off of Klein Bonaire. Continue reading

Bonaire 2018 Pictures: Wednesday

With no boat dives scheduled, we ended up shore diving on Wednesday. We ended up improvising our destination when we got to Salt Pier and found a freighter occupying it; instead we went to Aquarius to the north, and Pink Beach to the south. I think I was starting to get choosier about what I was shooting; I see I have fewer pictures today. Continue reading

Bonaire 2018 Pictures: Sunday

We had our first dives of the trip on Sunday, after a brief re-orientation from Augusto, the head of Dive Operations at the resort. I did one dive in the morning, then took care of business, including renewing my driver’s license online, picking up some groceries, and renting a truck, and two in the afternoon: one early, with my roommate Mike, and one later with Ralph and Joe Quinnan as well. Continue reading

Last Day

Today was the last day of diving. My flight leaves tomorrow at 3:30, so I wanted to be out of the water by 3.

Most of us had not yet taken all of our boat dives, so Paul was able to reserve a boat for two tanks this morning. The first site was Country Garden, to the north of the resort. Country Garden has a number of large coral outcroppings. Under one of them, the guide pointed out a very large sea lobster that put most of our New England lobsters to shame.

Continue reading

Karpata, Knife, and Oil Slick Leap

Fourteen years ago, near the end of my first trip here, we visited Karpata, a shore dive on the northern end of the island. You go down a number of concrete steps to the shoreline, and there’s an abandoned building up above. I remember liking the dive, and have been wanting to do it ever since, but for one reason or another, never have.

Today, I finally made it happen. We had an open morning, so after checking to see if anyone else was interested, I headed up there by myself. We were scheduled for boat dives at one, so I made sure to leave early enough to get up there, do a dive, and get back  by 11:30.

Continue reading

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.