Sunday, December 30, 2007
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
An early Monday morning in December and the carpark was surprisingly busy – but of course you still have to pay and display! – typical UK. Completely unfriendly and unapproachable park wardens too who basically gave us the impression that if we had to ask about conditions and recommendations then we shouldn’t be doing it! A somewhat different outlook to the US where we feel that it’s the irresponsible ones that don’t ask!
Anyway. We hiked up the Miners track to the peak and returned via the Pyg track. A total of 8 miles and an elevation gain of 2500ft. Most of the trail was quite maintained and built up with stones – almost like paving and it was so wet, and in places mini waterfalls had developed, pouring down them. But actually it was so icy so we were skating around a bit and scrambling around the mountain-side trying to avoid the ice which slowed the progress somewhat! At the peak it was amazingly windy – we were clinging hold of the trig point for fear of getting blown off!! All in all we were so lucky with the weather – most of the hike we had views of the peak with some crazy clouds whizzing by every so often. Great views from the top right down to the coast in one direction, and in the other clouds way below us really giving us the feel of being on top of the world! It was very cold, especially when we stopped for more than a moment so retreated to the nearest tea rooms for warm soup and hot chocolate! (The mulled wine came later!!!)
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Had a wonderful time just strolling the city. Must admit had some TERRIBLE weather - we got so completely soaked through a couple of times but of course there's plenty of cafes and bars to retreat to and warm through with a nice glass of hot chocolate. Our contribution to culture was a visit to the Anne Frank House which was great in a sombering kind of way - can't believe she was only 15 when she died. They hid in the house on the side of the canal for just under 2 years before someone grassed them up. Anne herself died in a concentration camp just one week before it was liberated by the British Army.
Leo & Annette did introduce us to Indonesian food. Can't believe I haven't had this before. NEED to have it again soon! Rijsttafel is an indonesian buffet which we all ordered. I counted 15 mini dishes laid out on our table and I'm sure I didn't get to sample them all (if only the American culture of 'doggy bags' was somewhat more accepted here!!)
And in no particular order here are some of my favourite photos of this lovely, colourful city;
Friday, November 30, 2007
So with the mild weather we even managed to get the top down in our 'old' SLK!! My folks kindly put us back on the insurance for us to drive while we're here (actually less of the 'us' - they wouldn't insure me due to 'age unacceptable' - go figure! Still being chauffeur-driven isn't so bad! This is the view from 'up the hill' looking down on Kingston St Mary - the village I grew up in, and where my Mum & Dad still are. Looks far more 'romantic' here in B&W than it ever was when I was here!
And - FINALLY we found some autumn!! After missing it all in the States there are some remnants here. And plenty of leaves!! (Picture taken 28 Nov in Kingston)
Monday, November 12, 2007
The trip is on hold now for 5 months. This is not the end. We have return tickets booked for mid-April!!
'Old Baldy' - seen in Hill Country, TX - Yes YOU Backhouse!!!
Whilst in Austin we also caught up with Marty and Tom - a couple we'd met when visiting the Four Corners Monument (in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah - take your pick!!). Finally after all our plan changes this year we visited their home and had dinner with them - also in Austin, TX! Great to see you both!
Friday, November 09, 2007
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
The track day organised by Buell, (my bike is a Buell) and 'Private Track Time' a company that hires race tracks for private use, and when I'd seen it advertised a couple of months ago I conveniently 'steered' us to be in this area at just the right time...
The track was open from 9 am to 5 pm and each hour was split into three groups of twenty minutes for novice, intermediate and advanced riders so throughout the day everyone had seven twenty minute sessions. (Which is actually more than enough for most people!) There are expert coaches throughout the day to either follow and critique or lead to show you the right lines for this particular track; they are free and well worth it as it would take half the day to learn the track without their local knowledge.
Buell were there with a fleet of their new pre-production model which won't be available in the showrooms until next year; anyone with a license could sign up for a test ride so we all got the chance to put it through its paces on the track; this is a very rare experience and quite a privilege; it's not uncommon to not be able to test ride a bike before buying anyway so getting to test one you're not buying, on a race track really is something.
We parked the RV in the pits area so with Helen on hand to rehydrate me and clean my visor in between sessions I even had my own 'brolly-dolly'... And of course she got to watch all the action in close up full colour live timing; bored? surely not!
The whole day cost $100 and included lunch, a T shirt, knee sliders, (if you don't know you won't understand!) and the much appreciated marshals and medical cover - which thankfully wasn't needed! Of course the bikes get a much harder time than normal so my new tyres have several hundreds miles of worth of wear on them, but the day was an absolute bargain for a day of playing GP racers!
One of the others I'd met at the track was a guy from Florida called Norm who had a house within the track grounds, (and yes I am envious!) who invited Helen and I to have dinner with him, a friend, Brad also riding and their respective wives, Maggie and Cinda So a fab day was finished to perfection with a great evening enjoying cold beer and Maggie's wonderful cooking in thier lovely house overlooking, (literally) the track.
Friday, October 19, 2007
From there we crossed into Arkansas and our 38th state. And with a city name of 'Hot Springs' how could we resist?! It's also a National Park (And we like those!). This is actually a city park and the national park is there to preserve and protect the hot springs which flow around/through the town centre. In the late 1800's it became a popular spot for people to visit the therapeutic healing hot waters and by the turn of the century it was quite the place to come to 'take the waters'. Theres a whole row of grand old bath houses which the NPS are currently restoring. The visitor centre is in one of them - the Fordyce Bathhouse and you can tour around inside and see how it was in it's heyday - the changing rooms, bath hall, massage rooms, vapour rooms and even a funky old fashioned gym full of equipment! 3 doors down is the Buckstaff Baths and these are the only functioning baths. For $50 we had the 'full monty' bath - about 2 hours in total. Men & women bathe on separate floors. You take the elevator to your floor and get met by a locker room attendant, you takes your clothes and wraps you in a linen sheet toga-styel. You start with a 20 minute whirlpool bath. Your own private bath attendant scrubs you down with a loofah mitt then you sit back and relax. From there you have a 'sitz' bath - which is a small sit-in tub with extremely hot water which is good for lower back pains. Next is a vapour cabinet (weird thing - I had a head-out thing which felt very strange, Chris was in a more conventional steam room), then I laid on a bed and had hot packs positioned wherever I wanted them and sweated out for 20 minutes or so. Finally it was into the needle shower for a rinse off before settling down to a swedish massage. Pretty good stuff! Hot Springs town is quite small and surrounded by hills - we got in a couple of hikes before we felt we'd earnt the bath treatment! (we're aiming to complete 350 miles of hiking before we head home to the UK in 3.5 weeks time)
Now we've just crossed the state line into Texas. We're heading for Dallas where Chris has a track day on the bike next Tuesday.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
What I had in mind was a 550 plus mile round trip to spend all day at the 'Barber Vintage Motorcycle Museum' in Birmingham Alabama. I'd seen the museum raved about in a bike magazine a year or so ago and regretted not knowing it was there when we passed through Birmingham near the start of this trip, so when I realised we were 'so close' it seemed criminal to miss out again!
The museum is an open plan, five story monolith and holds the largest private collection of bikes in the world with 750 on display at any time and another 350 in the basement either awaiting restoration or space upstairs - they try and rotate through the models every month or so. (Best go back next month then!!!) The guy who owns them is the boss/owner of a large ice cream company and has been collecting for 20 years which is quite some feat considering what he's managed to get hold of.
There was also plenty of nostalgia for me seeing so many of the bikes I'd grown up drooling over, (including some I'd owned myself over the years) in 'as new' condition; many in fact were actually unused and as old as they were, had zero miles on the clock! I know I couldn't be that disciplined; if I had my own private collection of 1,100 bikes, garaged within the grounds of one of America's best race tracks, (that I also owned) I don't care what the bike's history is, there's no way it would find a place in the museum until I'd taken it for a few laps myself first!
And the ride there and back was pretty good too; six hours across the rolling countryside of Tennessee and Alabama in late summer is as good as any way to spend the day. Despite being mid October, the weather is as warm as an English summer day; cool and fresh in the morning, balmy and hot in the afternoon.
As for the romance... well we did have the novelty of cable TV to keep us occupied at night!
Ooops, I nearly forgot 'old Jack'; we took a detour to stop in at the Jack Daniels distillery for a tour on our way south to Alabama. Last time we were in Tennessee it was just a brief visit to Memphis to see the home of "The King" (you know, him with the blue suede shoes) and Lynchberg would have been too far out of our way. With hindsight I'm glad we didn't make the trip as Jack Daniels is the only brewery/distillery tour I've eve been on where you don't get a sample!
Believe it or not Moore County, (Lynchburg and therefore the JD distillery is in Moore) is still a dry county left over from the days of prohibition! Old Jack himself bought the rights to the iron free natural spring back before prohibition but was stopped from making whisky for some 30 years; prohibition itself had ended but Moore County stayed dry. Eventually it was agreed that the distillery could open again as it was good for local labour and the economy, and it operated for many years without ever being able to sell it's product locally. Much later, and I already forget the date, a local law was passed to allow the distillery to sell whiskey in its own shop (but still only special edition bottles, not regular retail stuff) although the whole of Moore County is still dry!
The whiskey starts at 140 proof before it gets filtered through 10 ft of charcoal whereby it drops to a mere 90 proof; our very funny and quite mad guide, (either mad or overcome with fumes from all the tours he does) insisted on rattling the (locked down) lids of the filtration drums to let the aroma out - and what a smell it was! As the lone foreigners in the group the guide took an instant (moon?)shine to us and thought it was wonderful we'd come all this way for a distillery tour where we couldn't even get to sample the end result.
Jack Daniels is the largest producer of whiskey in the world and perhaps unsurprisingly the UK is the largest importer; perhaps this was why the guide felt a certain affinity to us! They still make it the same way they did in the beginning from the same underground spring and to assure quality they are the only whiskey producer to make their own wooden barrels and use each one only once - if you buy a barrel which is 240 bottles, you get to keep the barrel and each bottle comes with its personalised embossed medallion. All a pretty good detour for 2 hours spent on a freebie tour with no sampling!!
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Friday, September 28, 2007
Until today; today we had to get out. Took the motorbike out to a neighbouring town of Sugarcreek where they were having their annual Swiss Fesitval. A kid's parade and lots of people wearing swiss national dress (I assume it was anyway..) Sampled some local Ohio wines. Bought some local Ohio wines (you know how it is!) and sampled (and bought) some real (Ohio?!) Swiss cheese. Ate Deep Fried Swiss cheese-on-a-stick (markedly better than it sounds) and Bratwurst and drank more Ohio wines...
Then strolled around the local town of Berlin. This is just such an Amish part of the country. Lots and lots of buggys out on the road and many Amish people who are quite distinctive in their dress. Check out this photo - love it...the equivalent of the Amish Supermarkt on a Saturday afternoon - total gridlock in the supermarket carpark (and you say you have problems parking in Tesco in Bishops Cleeve Pat?! - you ain't seen nothing!!).
And finally - this is Donkey tied up at the 'horse rail' next to an Amish buggy - he's fitting right in don't you think?!?!
Sunday, September 23, 2007
So Cedar Point was incredible - America's Roller Coast it was. If you ever had time to glance at the view from the top of one of these rides it was quite picturesque - a slice of land jutting out into Lake Erie and surrounded on 3 sides by water. We saw a beautiful sunsest through the old wooden slats of the Mean Streak roller coaster and a glimpse of a big ship sailing past, silhouetted against a red sun. Just great!