Monday 30 June 2003
Pix of the Day: From C to Shining C on a Bicycle
CREDITS: © Jim Langley- Bicycle Aficionado/www.jimlangley.net
MAPS: C2C (Coast to Coast in the UK) TransAMC (Trans-America in the USA)
After writing about the Katy Trail two days ago, I began investigating some other long distance bicycle routes. I was familiar with the C2C (Coast to Coast) route based on AW Wainwright's walk in northern England. In the UK I was also familiar with Sustrans (Sustainable Transport - Routes for People), but even their admirable listed 10,000 miles of cycle routes pales into comparison against the vast length of cycle routes across America. In 1884 Thomas Stevens, an Englishman naturally, was the first person to cross America by bicycle. On arrival at the finish in Boston, he then continued round the world on his Standard Columbia bicycle, built by the Pope Manufacturing Company.
Today's thumbnail picture link will take you to a delightful picture entitled Day at the Beach, taken on 12 August 1888 at the Del Monte Hotel Beach Resort in Carmel, California, showing the members of the Sacramento Bicycle Club posing with their ladies. When you have finished looking at the picture click it to go to an article that includes a clip from the 30 August 1884 edition of Harper's Weekly, with an image of Stevens and his bicycle.
However awesomely engaging it might be, the recently completed RAAM (Race Across America) is for athletic super heros, and I was looking for something a bit more accessible to mere mortals. In 1976 the Adventure Cycling Association (known as BikeCentennial in those days) formulated the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail (TransAMC) from Oregon to Virginia, and they now list a national network covering more than 30,500 miles. The original TransAMC is 4,247.5 miles in length (in my experience the first 4,247 will be the hardest), and requires twelve maps.
There are alternatives for the TransAMC in addition to the original northerly route: the one passing closest to where I live is the ADT (American Discovery Trail), which traverses the middle of the country; the most southerly route I found on the web was that taken by Tim Cooke, an expatriate Scot who the following year did the E2E (End to End) south to north from Land's End John O'Groats in the UK. Readers whose imagination was fired by the Katy Trail item may like to look at the Lewis & Clark Bicycle Trail web page.
Sunday 29 June 2003
Pix of the Day: Why I Never Became a Soldier
CREDITS: © Andrew Leaney/www.leaney.org MAP: Great Mell Fell
Unlike many sports enthusiasts, one of the goals of most fell walkers is to find the easiest way to do things. This probably makes it the most gentle of all the adventure sports. However, a stroll to an airy summit for luncheon is one of the most rewarding experiences available with a minimal risk to life, limb, or composure. If you look at the map link, you will see that Andrew Leaney used skill and cunning to approach the summit of Great Mell Fell from the south west, where the contour lines are widest spaced, and thus the slope more gentle. There is no shame in this strategy: quite the contrary, it is the art in the sport. Even inexperienced map readers will be able to deduce the corollary from the technical information given: tightly spaced contour lines mean a steep slope. It was the north east slope of Great Mell Fell that was the reason behind my decision that I was not cut out for military service.
When I was a young boy in the latter half of the last century, an imprecise date but sufficient to give you the general idea without any embarrassment to the writer, my family would take motor excursions into this area. My own entry into the fell walking sport was to climb nearby Carrock Fell when I was eight or nine years old. For this wonderful adventure my father, possibly because of some devious hidden agenda, chose the route up the convex southern slopes. This involves a steep initial ascent, followed by the deception that convex slopes play, with a constantly and interminably receding horizon. If you think "Are we there yet?" is wearying on a motor journey, imagine how it must have been that day. However, the experience did not put me off fell walking, and in later life it became something that gave me great joy. I was always unsure in which direction my father's devious hidden agenda was meant to work, if indeed it was a deliberate ploy.
There was one bit of information he gave me that influenced my future life. As we motored past Great Mell Fell's steep north eastern slope he told me that soldiers trained by running to the summit. The additional information that they also ran wearing full battle dress and carrying all their equipment was totally superfluous. I never afterwards considered becoming a soldier.
Andrew's picture reminds me very much of high summer in the English Lake District. That lush green bracken has a wonderfully fragrant smell of earth and roots, and retains moisture so that walking among it on a hot day is reminiscent of a journey through a tropical jungle environment. I have to say that the more common experience is walking among the dripping wet bracken on a cold rainy day when trousers and boots become icily soaked through in seconds.
Saturday 28 June 2003
Pix of the Day: Lewis & Clark via Tandem Bicycle
MAP: Clayton, MO. Click copyright links or thumbnails to visit image source pages.
CREDITS (left to right):
© MO State Parks/2002 Katy Ride © Chuck Robert/SW Missouri Rail Site
© J.&P. Mayberry/www.Great-Trails.com © MO State Parks/Katy Photo Galleries
Earlier today I received an email from a reader in Clayton, Missouri, a place that is unfamiliar to me. Old habits and training become ingrained, so first I found a map, which allowed me to check out the geography. Then I did some searching for the town's history and current development. At this point I must warn you that if you start behaving like this everyone under thirty years of age will think you are a BOF, along with about half of the people over thirty. If you fall into either category skip to the next paragraph: those still reading will be interested to learn that Clayton lies approximately equidistant between the towns of St. Louis on the Mississippi River and St. Charles on the Missouri River. The confluence of these two mighty continental drainage systems lies just a few miles north east, and when what is now known as the United States of America was beginning to form, this is where the frontier lay.
Clayton was founded when St. Louis withdrew from the county bearing its name to become an administrative area in its own right in 1876. It became necessary for the original St. Louis County to find a new location for its own administrative buildings. One hundred acres of land was donated by a local settler, the only proviso being that the area around the new courthouse was to be named after him: thus Ralph Clayton from Virginia hoped that his name would pass into local history, which was assured when the City of Clayton was formally incorporated in 1913. Martin Franklin Hanley who donated four acres of land to the project is less well memorialized. Clayton has experienced something of a building boom in recent years with the development of the Forsyth Centre [sic], Clayton on the Park, and the Plaza in Clayton.
In contrast to the grandiose big ticket developments in downtown Clayton, nearby there is a Rails to Trails (R2T) development called the Katy Trail. Although the official trail terminus is in St. Charles, I have it on good authority from the photo album of the Johnson County Bicycle Club from Shawnee Mission, Kansas, that the physical trail ends in Clayton. Mostly it has been my experience in life that persons on bicycles are trustworthy and reliable.
The name Katy was the fond nickname for the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT) Railroad. Closure of the railroad, which followed the Missouri River then continued west where the river swings north, made the land available for R2T purposes under Federal legislation. After gifts from Edward D. 'Ted' Jones Jr. and the railroad company, the State Parks authority was able to begin a change of use to establish the longest R2T in the USA, 225 miles of trail dedicated to foot and cycle travellers, all the way from St. Charles in the east to Clinton in the west of the state.
The 2003 Katy Trail Ride finished yesterday, and you may read ride reports at that link, and see the photo album, or find out more from the Katy Trail State Park web site. There is also an interactive town by town web guide, and Charles Hansen has an interesting personal account of the trail. Much of the trail follows the Missouri River corridor, the route for the great exploration undertaken by Lewis & Clark and the Corps of Discovery, which left civilization behind at St. Charles as they headed into uncharted territory. The 2002 Katy Trail Ride was themed around the Lewis & Clark connection, which produced the humorous logotype in the first link picture.
Friday 27 June 2003
Pix of the Day: Whales That Rock Your Gypsy Soul
CREDITS: © Iain Kerr/www.OceanAlliance.org
If whales are creatures that rock your gypsy soul (with acknowledgement to Van Morrison), then there are two associated web sites that you may enjoy. The first is the Ocean Alliance site, where you may see a full size version of that thumbnail of a Southern Right whale 'sailing'. The picture was taken by Iain Kerr, and shows the whale exhibiting a behavior that is thought to be play: they raise their flukes into the wind, travel along, and often return to the starting point to repeat the exercise. I view many pictures researching for the daily weblog entry, but this one really took my breath away. It is one of two images available as downloadable themes to grace your computer desktop.
Mostly I try to feature full size pictures for your enjoyment, but obtaining permission from copyright holders is becoming an unsustainable demand on my time. Not only that, many pictures can never be featured because reproduction permission will never be given. As a compromise to address these two issues I have decided to use thumbnails, which are considered 'fair use' in current interpretations of copyright law. Whenever this method of presentation is used, you will only need to click the thumbnail (usually a link in the text will also be given), and a window will open for the original image on its home site. Let me know if I am asking too much of you.
As I have grown older I have come to the realization that life is just one damned thing after another, structured as an ever faster swirling vortex of compromises. In 1966 cyclist Miguel Indurain failed in his attempt to win the Tour de France six times in succession. nevertheless he finished the race when most people expected him to withdraw after the race reached his home town of Pamplona. British commentator Phil Liggett declared that Indurain became a true winner, because he knew how to lose with honor and dignity. The Brits have learned to think like this in response to a long series of sporting failures. Where is that stiff upper lip, old chap? These days it sits above a loose, flabby chin, but I am trying to do something about that.
To give the photographer of today's featured picture his full title, he is Captain Iain Kerr, Chief Executive Officer of the Ocean Alliance, who with Dr. Roger Payne codirects the Voyage of the Odyssey, a five year scientific study of the health world's oceans. The Odyssey web site is hosted by PBS television, and won a 2003 Scientific American web award. The TV commentary is by actor Patrick Stewart, Captain Jean Luc Picard in the long running series 'Star Trek: The Next Generation'.
Thursday 26 June 2003
Pix of the Day: Volkswagens & Warrnambool Whales
CREDITS: © Bruce Henderson/www.WarrnamboolCAM.com
When I first owned a Volkswagen Beetle I discovered that it came with free membership of a family of other Beetle drivers. In the UK owners waved at each other, and I became aware of the 'Volkswagen Syndrome'. The effect may be observed for almost any make of vehicle, computer, camera, or even surgical procedure: get one and suddenly there seems to be twice as many around as ever before. Certain marques, like the Beetle, the Nikon F3 camera, or any Macintosh computer, will have a higher camaraderie factor, but the syndrome's numerical factor is a constant worthy of scientific investigation. Thus it is with Warrnambool. We have visited Warrnambool on earlier occasions, but suddenly many of my Google searches in the last few days have had 'Warrnambool' in the returns.
I was following up an interest in Fletcher Christian, a countryman of mine to the extent of him being one of my 'homeboys', and a hero (or villain depending on your viewpoint) of the Mutiny on the Bounty. I was interested in Fletcher and the 'Southern Right' whales, so named because they were regarded by early whalers as the 'right' whales to hunt because they swam slowly and close to the shore. They also floated when harpooned and yielded large quantities of oil and whalebone. Sadly they were also known as 'the smiling whale' because of their appearance and gentle nature.
It transpires that Warrnambool is the place favored by the Southern Rights to nurture their young. The whales have yet to arrive this year, and these people are on the look out in the hope that their arrival is imminent. The whales are now protected, as far as that is treated seriously by some of the signatories, and in Australian waters their needs are carefully managed. When the whales do arrive I hope to be able to bring you a feature picture of the event.
Wednesday 25 June 2003
Pix of the Day: The Men From I.V.A.N.
CREDITS: © www.IVAN.ru
If you fancy a virtual tour of Moscow then visit the men from I.V.A.N. the acronym for Internet Video Audio News. There is a good selection of views of the city, plus a wide ranging archive back to 1999. I chose this picture because…shoot, no reason is needed if you ever admired an Henri Cartier-Bresson image. Today's project is to compare and contrast 'On the Banks of Marne' with the featured picture, and is it worth $5,000.000?
Tuesday 24 June 2003
Pix of the Day: Do you mean people like me?
CREDITS: © Tony Richards/www.LakelandCAM.co.uk MAP: Rydal
I know this is pushing my luck to claim so late in the day that this is Tuesday's item, but needs must when the devil drives hardest. Today's featured picture is a somewhat unusual view of Rydal Mount, the last home, and place of death, of the poet William Wordsworth (1770-1850). Wordsworth's life was firmly in the era of horse transport, but he lived to see the development of railways. It is said that the railway into the heart of the Lake District was stopped short of its planned terminus partly because of his objections: he thought it would attract the wrong sort of people.
Don't you just know that whenever someone talks about the "wrong sort of people" that they are referring to you and me? Many years ago, one hot summer evening, I asked for a beer in the Sharrow Bay Hotel, one of Lakeland's snootiest establishments (though to be fair one of its best), and the waiter used that same excuse as a reason why the hotel did not serve beer. The ridiculous pretension of a non temperance hotel refusing to serve ale actually amused me, but adopting my best 'hard as nails and twice as dangerous' menace I demanded aggressively, "Do you mean people like me?" I have to say that I cannot recommend this tactic: I spent most of the remainder of my visit reassuring that big girl's blouse that I wasn't really vexed, nor had I really taken offence, nor was I going to get physical.
I feel sure that had such an incident befallen Wordsworth, at least in his later years, he would have been inspired to compose a rambling threnody on the shortcomings of the provision for travellers, a genre for which there are several tartly worded examples in the journals kept about his own travels.
Monday 23 June 2003
Pix of the Day: Of Mice, Men, and Sweet Puddings
CREDITS: © Martyn Button/CalvertonCAM MAP: Bakewell
Usually the daily feature picture is a 'big' picture that is intended to give visitors an overview or summary of places or events. Martyn Button took the CalvertonCAM on a vacation from the English county of Nottinghamshire into the neighboring county of Derbyshire and the town of Bakewell. The town is famous for its Bakewell Pudding, which was accidentally invented at the Rutland Arms Hotel. The original recipe is said to be secret, but having eaten many a delightful Bakewell Tart as they are often called, I am sure that you will find Helen Watson's recipe to your satisfaction. Bakewell is known as the Capital of the Peak District (excellent photo galleries linked to the maps on this site) because of its location in that delightful area. To see views of the town, including the Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop, and to enjoy a virtual walk down Bradford Dale at nearby Youlgrave, and of course continuing yesterday's theme to see more Morris Men strutting their stuff in a quite different style, visit Martyn's web page. The picture that caught my eye on this occasion was a 'small' picture of a tiny drama playing itself out as Martyn captured this excellent picture of a valiant mouse attempting to feed on an apple several times its own size.
Sunday 22 June 2003
Pix of the Day: Please Do Not Ask Me to Explain
CREDITS: © David Packman & Frank Riddle/www.HampshireCAM.co.uk
If you have to know, then go to the archives for May 2003 at HampshireCAM. It is comforting to know that the old country is still in safe hands as long as people like these preserve the vital institutions and traditions of the nation. Those pitiable souls terminally afflicted with curiosity may visit the OBJ Border Morris web site, where there is a delightfully comprehensive photo scrapbook of pictures, including some taken at the same location as today's feature picture in Winchester. I have always wondered at the short sightedness of TV travelogues that are always 'us' looking at 'them': imagine the potential market for 'them' looking at 'us'.
Saturday 21 June 2003
Pix of the Day: Haunting Question of Statuaries
CREDITS: © Ray Theron/Ray's CAM
I think I have mentioned before my affliction of becoming obsessed by imponderable questions. When I saw today's featured picture such a question clouded my horizon for the remainder of the day: which non iconic person had the most statues raised in their honor? I use the term non iconic to exclude Buddha, Jesus, and any other figure where the representation is determined mostly by tradition or the artists imagination. Three candidates spring to mind: this lady, Her Britannic Majesty Queen Victoria (1819-1901); Josef Stalin (1879-53), leader of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; and Mao Zedong (1893-1976), leader of the People's Republic of China. A recent attempt by Saddam Husayn (1937-unknown), leader of the Republic of Iraq, failed to run the course. Unfortunately if anyone offers my an answer to this question I will be even more haunted. I will lie awake at nights wondering, "How do they know that? Even if they counted, how do they know they haven't missed some?"
The statue featured here was photographed by Ray Theron when he walked in the complex of gardens south of the River Yarra in Melbourne, Australia. Ray's walk took him through Queen Victoria Gardens, the King's Domain, the Shrine of Remembrance and he even had a glimpse of a corner of the Royal Botanical Gardens. Ray also has another web site called Ray's World, where you may enjoy places as diverse as Japan, the Azores, and South Africa. There are also paintings and poems by Ray, who married Maggie on 22 March 2003, so my congratulations to them both, with best wishes for their future together.
Friday 20 June 2003
Pix of the Day: Stretched Limos and Giant Dishes
CREDITS: © Peter Turner/www.MaccCam.co.uk MAP: Jodrell Bank
The 1950s in the United Kingdom seemed very drab, characterized by post war austerity and the feeling that the nation that had produced the world's first Industrial Revolution was now something of a second class citizen in world affairs. There were some bright spots among the gloom, and not everybody's life was equally bleak, because I remember Lady Docker's gold plated Daimler motor car being discussed at length by people for whom ostentation and conspicuous consumption did not seem like an ideal model for economic recovery.
The 1951 Festival of Britain cheered people up a bit. Futuristic locations were built south of the River Thames in London, as though to remind the rest of the country that the traditional government neglect of the northern industrial base was still in place. Trying to show that British industry was alive and kicking despite years of under investment by the owners seems absurd with hindsight. A few years later British workers would gain a reputation for low productivity and confrontational industrial relations, notwithstanding the fact that 'relations' implies at least two parties. Social aspirations at all levels tended towards leisured gentrification, and the education system was producing fewer engineers and industrial designers per capita than any other leading industrialized European country.
The 1953 Coronation, and the British conquest of Mt. Everest by a local Nepali and a New Zealand former bee keeper, seemed to offer reassurance that indeed there was something to be proud of, even if it was just pomp, circumstance, and minority sports. At the end of ten years of decline following these attempts to revive national pride, after what had been heralded as the dawn of a 'Second Elizabethan Age', John Mander wrote a book asking, 'Great Britain or Little England'?
However, even people with a view as jaundiced as my own were excited by the work of Sir Bernard Lovell (1913-), and the building of what was at the time the world's largest steerable radio telescope at Jodrell Bank in Cheshire, England. Looking back, it is difficult to believe that in 1957 everyone in the country who read a newspaper or listened to a wireless news broadcast had heard of the place, and what was being achieved there by Lovell's team. When Peter Turner went there to take today's featured picture for the MaccCam web site he had an Encounter of the Absurd Kind. It is hard to imagine a more bizarre contrast with the world of 1957. I blame television, shorter working hours, holidays abroad, and the Nanny State.
Thursday 19 June 2003
Pix of the Day: Wet Pink Rose Hummed Out of Tune
CREDITS: © Tony Richards/www.LakelandCAM.co.uk
Surfing the various CAMera sites on my regular list is my trivial round and common task, but does indeed often furnish me with hues of the rich unfolding morn, which on the UK sites I regularly visit seem to getting greener, lusher, and wetter with every passing day of my voluntary and contented expatriation. I subscribe to the view that our internal mental landscape is a constantly running B movie, but lately I have begun to notice that my own accompanying sound track seems to be made up from half remembered clips from the English Hymnal hummed slightly out of tune.
Wednesday 18 June 2003
Pix of the Day: High Speed Kiwi Chase Safe End
Click thumbnails to enlarge picture selection.
This photo sequence (click the thumbnails to popup the picture selection and follow the story) taken at the end of a police chase through the streets of Auckland, NZ, was captured by Alexander Todorenko for the March 2003 edition of his 'New Zealand Daily' web site. Following the safe ending of a police pursuit of a suspect vehicle, the first picture explains why the chase ended; the second picture is the truck driver being interviewed; and Alexander titled the last picture 'Oops…'
Alexander's site has lots of interesting pictures of daily life in New Zealand, not to mention pictures of his girlfriends, but what caught my eye was a photo diary series. Chris Morris arrived in Afghanistan from New Zealand at the beginning of June 2003, and so far Alexander has featured three chapters of photo reportage, accompanied by text from Chris's diary. Forget CNN, here's the real stuff!
Tuesday 17 June 2003
Pix of the Day: Beach Landings by Boat or Plane
CREDITS: © Andrew Leaney/www.Leaney.org
This is the view approaching Barra, the most southerly of the significant Outer Hebrides islands, which lie off Scotland's northwest coast. Andrew Leaney took the picture from the Twin Otter in which he flew from Glasgow Airport, eventually landing on the beach runway when they arrived on Barra! When I went to the islands I sailed from Oban, landing on South Uist, which is the nearest island neighbor to Barra. You have my word as a gentleman that what follows is true.
The crossing from the mainland was accomplished despite giant waves, and eventually we sailed into the shelter of the Lochboisdale inlet. A small island protects the harbor entrance, and I noticed that there were obvious signs of some recent incident causing damage to the shoreline. I asked a crew member what had happened, and he told me that the ferry had run aground the previous week.
Assuming such a lapse warranted an immediate hanging from the yardarm, keel hauling, or at very least setting adrift in an open boat I said, "I'm glad I am not sailing with the captain who was in charge of the bridge that day." In that slow, sly way of those parts the crew member replied, "Weel, he's on the bridge today, but he's probably being more careful." Seems whichever mode of transport one chooses to get to the Hebrides the terminus may be on a beach.
Monday 16 June 2003
Pix of the Day: Papal Retreat in the Alban Hills
CREDITS: © Paolo Borgognone/www.Rome-CAM.com
At the end of an extremely hot week, Paolo Borgognone and the Rome-CAM visited the Alban Hills on the southern outskirts of Rome, specifically the ancient village of Castelgandolfo. The village is located 20 kilometers from Rome, and pictured here is the main square with the Pontifical Palace built by Carlo Maderno, which serves as the summer residence of the Pope. The day Paolo visited the Pope was not in residence, but the village was full of marathon runners suffering in the 40°C (104°F) heat. Pay a visit to Rome-CAM for more history, and a photo tour of the village.
Although I hate web log one upmanship, Paolo's mention of marathon runners in the heat reminded me of a web site I had visited earlier in the day. At the Greenland Ranch, California, located 178ft below sea level in Death Valley, the record for the highest temperature ever officially observed in the United States was recorded on 10 July 1913 at 134°F (57°C). Mt. Whitney, the highest landmark in the 48 conterminous states at 14,494ft above sea level rises less than 100 miles to the west. Death Valley has the hottest summers in the Western Hemisphere, and is the only known place in the USA where overnight temperatures sometimes remain above 100°F (38°C).
This is the location chosen to run the Badwater Ultra Marathon: 135 miles from Badwater (elevation 280ft below sea level) to Whitney Portals on Mt. Whitney (elevation 8,360ft above sea level.) Al Arnold in 1977 was the first man ever to complete this run. The race is by invitation only: I hope I will not be receiving one anytime soon, despite my efforts on The Dreadmill.
Sunday 15 June 2003
Pix of the Day: Poppy & Corn Marigold Colorfest
CREDITS: © Charles Winpenny/www.CornwallCAM.co.uk MAP: Porth Joke
I am unable to improve on Charles Winpenny's captions: "A truly magnificent sight - a field of Poppies and Corn marigolds at West Pentire"; "The field is on the National Trust land above Porth Joke and is managed specially to preserve the show of wild flowers in the meadow". Wow! Go to Charles' site for more views of this outstanding show of blooms, and other pictures from around the area. The content of the home page will change tomorrow, but check the page sidebar where the feature will be archived for an additional three more days.
…and now, another colorfest from somewhere completely different!
CREDITS: © Robert F. Riberia/www.UtahRedRocks.com
Regular readers may remember the kind gift of an illustrated book about wild desert flowers, which Ruth gave me for my birthday earlier in the year. Regrettably events precluded any field use of the book this spring, when the desert here bloomed because of unusually heavy rains. Unusually heavy rainfall here is still only measured in tenths of an inch, unless of course it's a deluge and flood caused by thunderstorm cloudbursts! Well, you don't have to be lucky enough to have such generous friends, nor do I need to miss the flowers this year. Instead we can all just surf over to Robert Riberia's web page where he features a blaze of these exotic denizens of the desert. Although I knew that deserts are not deserted, I was unprepared for just how much life and color there is in such seemingly empty and hostile environments. Looking at Robert's page you might be forgiven for thinking he had been to Wisley, Chelsea, or even Giverny, rather than the deserts around Moab, Utah. While you are visiting Robert's web site check out the spectacular panorama of Steamboat Rock in the eastern Colorado part of the Dinosaur National Monument, which straddles the state line with Utah.
Saturday 14 June 2003
Pix of the Day: Police Cars With Discreet Bells
CREDITS: © Bruce Henderson/www.WarrnamboolCAM.com
In less turbulent times police cars had bells rather than wailing sirens. A few discreet tring a lings were sufficient to alert other road users to the urgent passage of the forces of law and order. The chaps who travelled in a Wolseley always had smartly uniformed drivers, neat raincoats like door to door bible salesmen, but sported neatly clipped grey moustaches and trilby hats. I remember a TV series called 'The Flying Squad' where cars like the one featured were standard issue to that famous UK police unit. I even remember them being used by the local force in the town where I was raised, though I think mainly to chauffeur the senior officers. A later TV series in which the cops were much less gentlemanly, and the cars had sirens, was titled much more tongue trippingly as 'The Sweeney', after the Cockney rhyming slang 'Sweeney Todd'. To find this elegant British car on the web site for the town of Warrnambool in Australia only adds to the delight. American visitors need not feel left out of this reliving of Commonwealth history: the Victoria police later switched to Studebaker Lark and Nash Rambler models.
Friday 13 June 2003
Pix of the Day: Annular Eclipse in the Far North
CREDITS: © Martin Bowker/Mad About Mountains MAP: Durness
Ann Bowker's web site has a special feature on the 31 May 2003 annular eclipse seen from Durness, which is the most north westerly village in Scotland. This picture is a time lapse composite assembled by Ann's son Martin. There is something mystical about far flung corners of countries, and this one has more resonances than most, so under an eerie eclipse it must have been an awe inspiring experience. For such a small place in terms of its population, so remote from the mainstream of the country, Durness is well served by the web. There is a web site dedicated to Durness village, which includes a section on the eclipse of 2003, and the Undiscovered Scotland web site has an excellent feature on the village. Astronomy author Sheridan Williams has a page dedicated to the 2003 eclipse, part of his Solar Eclipse web site covering eclipse events worldwide.
Thursday 12 June 2003
Pix of the Day: Enjoy Or Tomorrow It's Puppies
This weblog tries to avoid featuring pictures of sunsets, pets, and babies. We also like to think that we know when to break the rules. This is Taylee, for whom everything is awesome, wonderful, joyful, and giggly fun. Join in or tomorrow it's the puppies, and don't think I'm scared to use them!
Wednesday 11 June 2003
Pix of the Day: Easy Does It On Main St. America
When I trained as a driving assessor in the UK truck industry my mentor warned me, "Carry off their women, steal everything they own, burn their houses, but for heavens' sake don't criticize their driving!" I wish I had remembered that before, rather than after, I wrote yesterday's somewhat ironic and tongue in cheek piece. What can I say to make amends, my countrymen? I love it here, and today's feature shows, and also tells after a fashion, some of the reasons why.
This is where we went for breakfast on Sunday morning. We parked across the street, then trekked across the vast expanse of traffic free blacktop to the other side. The temperature was in the mid 80s °F (30°C), but it's dry heat, and there was a gentle breeze. This is Main Street (really, that's the name of the street) America at its best. A black Police model Harley pulled up outside. Everybody was relaxed and taking things e-a-s-y. The coffee was good and plentiful. Even the biscuits with sausage gravy were savoury rather than the sweet scones with white sauce found elsewhere. The toast was wholemeal (just called 'wheat' here, so I don't know what the other kind might be made from), and unsweetened. One of the servers brought a frisbee out into the garden where we were sitting, and offered it for the children's play. So what if this ambience produces its own specific, relaxed style of driving?
Tuesday 10 June 2003
Pix of the Day: Generosity Leads to Profligacy
Although today's item features yet another vehicle, it is really more about drivers' behavior than their machinery. The urban western United States, certainly the part where I now live, was largely developed in the era of the aeroplane and the motor vehicle. It is a land of wide open spaces, and that feeling of spaciousness seems to have been taken up by the road builders. I am still amazed, after living here for over two years, by the 50-60 feet wide roads that service quiet residential areas. I recently read what at the time I thought was a highly improbable statistic, claiming one tenth of the land area of the USA is paved. Along these vast acreages of blacktop shiny giant SUVs, driven by improbably small people, move with somnambulant care, all the while giving exaggeratedly wide berth to anything in their path.
When I first came here my wife was concerned that the speed of the traffic might frighten me! What frightens me is the apparent general lack of ability to hold the center of marked lanes without drifting across the lines, and the lack of spatial awareness that causes large numbers of drivers to proceed up the middle of the widest roads, which in the suburbs often have no center line.
Reversing into kerb side spaces along streets is almost unknown. Drivers expect angled parking if space is relatively limited, and otherwise they drive in forwards several feet from the kerb to occupy three vehicle lengths. Such allocations of space extend to off road parking areas, where slots in car parks are equally over generous. There is no requirement here to slide carefully from the vehicle: the designated spaces are wide enough to fling the doors wide, and even bring the shopping trolley alongside the vehicle for unloading without straying into the neighboring slot. This illusion of unlimited resources induces profligate behavior and lowers skill levels.
Monday 9 June 2003
Pix of the Day: Any Color As Long As It's Black
Risking over dosing you on machinery pictures, here is one of a replica Model T Ford. The saying, "Available in any color, provided it's black", is often attributed to Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company. If that attribution is accurate then Henry must be turning in his grave over this bright red honoring of his achievements. He may rest at peace, however, because there are those of us who remember and admire the frugal move of ordering components to be delivered in wooden cases whose parts might be recycled as floor boards for the Model T.
Recommended web site CREDITS: © www.NationalGeographic.com
One of the sites I regularly visit is the National Geographic Photo of the Day. The link in the item heading will always take you to the current feature, which always has a panel giving details and a tool to enlarge the image. Past features may be accessed with back and forward buttons.
Unfortunately for copyright reasons I am unable to bring you anything larger than a thumbnail, but if you click either on the image taken by photographer James L. Stanfield, or here, the expressions on those camels' faces are a treat. Recently I read a paparazzo's advice on how to get good pictures of the stars: wait where they are scheduled to appear, for hours or even days if necessary, then if they do turn up, wait some more for the right moment. I think you will understand the connection if you look at the current feature taken by photographer Chris Johns.
Sunday 8 June 2003
Pix of the Day: Expensive But Desirable Boy Toys
CREDITS: © Kent Larson/www.CanyonlandFlyers.com
On the same day we went to see the Wright Brothers Flyer, featured yesterday, there were several other aircraft on display. One of them was this nifty little machine. A man was standing close by so I asked, "Is this yours?" by way of engaging him in conversation. "No", he replied but handed me a business card from Canyonland Flyers in the name of Kent Larson. If this isn't Kent's machine, then the real owner is up against some very wily business competitors.
The card also bore this interesting statement, "With motor off, descend to earth slower than a parachute!" The card also proclaimed, "First Light Aircraft to Fly Around the World", with a graphic of the same type of Aerotrike Cobra you see in the picture. Kent certainly believes in not wasting space on his cards, because there was a list of 7 benefits and features of the Trike, complete with some specifications: the maximum speed of the craft is 80mph; the minimum speed is 26mph; the range is 300 miles; landing distance is 200 feet; and take off distance is 180 feet. I am now torn between yesterday's Harley and today's Trike!
Canyonland Flyers also have a web site. Not, I discovered gratefully, one of those three web pages for $99 dollars, but something as feature rich and informative as Kent's business card. Joy of joys! There is even a photo gallery, featuring many shots of the local landscape taken from the air. Imagine being able to track the full 200 miles of the Hurricane fault, the longest exposed fault escarpment on earth. Humorist Dorothy Parker summarized the Big Kid phenomenon succinctly when she said, "The difference between men and boys is the price of their toys."
Saturday 7 June 2003
Pix of the Day: Pigs With Wings Really Can Fly
Click thumbnails to enlarge picture selection.
As promised yesterday, here is the proof of the old saying that if pigs had wings they would fly. That biplane is a replica of the Wright Brothers Flyer built by USU (Utah State University) students to commemorate the first centenary of the first heavier than air controlled powered flight at Kitty Hawk in the Kill Devil Hills of North Carolina, USA, on 17 December 1903.
The plane was shipped by road to St. George, UT, where pilot Wayne Larsen was only able to make a single flight on Saturday 31 May 2003 because of the cross winds blowing at the city's mesa top municipal airport. Those interested may follow these links: the Salt Lake Tribune report on the machine's first official flight; the USU report with links to video clips (RealOne Player required); the Official USU Wright Flyer web site; the US Centennial of Flight Commission web site; and the Wright Brothers Aeroplane Company and Museum of Pioneer Aviation web site.
The connection to flying pigs? Well, in 1920 the Harley-Davidson motorcycle company (now corporately known by the anaemic title of H-D Michigan, Inc.) had a successful racing team whose mascot was a pig, which was carried on a victory lap after each race won by the team. Soon the machines themselves became known by association as 'hogs'. H-D are also currently celebrating their first centenary. The replica Wright Brothers Flyer uses a hog engine, the same one used in the motorcycle that was on display nearby… complete with a price tag for $25,000.00! Some day I would love to own and ride a Harley, perhaps even a 2003 model, but as they say out there in the real world, "If pigs had wings they would fly".
Friday 6 June 2003
Pix of the Day: Starving on the Roof of the Land
CREDITS: © Dave Newton/www.Daves-Lakeland-Mountains.co.uk
MAP:Scafell & Bowfell area.
This is the highest land in England, the Scafell Massif consisting of Scafell Pike on the right and the slightly lower Scafell on the left. From childhood I knew the height of Scafell Pike as 3210 feet, but resurveys have lowered this and with the metrication of the published maps (the Ordnance Survey were using the metric system to collect data as far back as the 1920s) the official height is now a much less impressive 977 metres. You may see the original picture at full size with the peaks annotated on Dave Newton's web site, where it is the featured picture of the month.
The last time I was on the summit of Bowfell, from where the picture was taken, my buddy Robert almost gave me my head in my hands. We decided to have luncheon, at that point I discovered that I had left the luncheonbox at home. Worse I had left the flask of tea: on one the hottest days of the year we were on some of the highest and driest land in the district without food or drink. Worse, all round us other summiteers were relishing their luncheons. It is to Robert's credit that he never mentioned the incident afterwards: knowing him as I do, though, I worry that he may be saving it for some occasion where it will cause the maximum damage.
This is the last of the half dozen pictures I most enjoyed during my blogging absence. I hope that Saturday's picture will demonstrate that in America, where anything is possible, pigs really can fly.
Thursday 5 June 2003
Pix of the Day: Golden Sunshine & Golden Eagles
CREDITS: © Andrew Leaney/www.Leaney.org MAP: Haweswater
After yesterday's soul baring confession, I need to tell you that this scene looks exactly as I remember it the last time I visited. My buddy Robert and I needed a break from the long knife politics in the place of our employment. Such circumstances always end in a blood letting: this was no exception and the bad guys won. We lit out one beautifully sunny day, and went to this place. We walked up the ridge of Rough Crag on the opposite side of the lake from where Andrew Leaney walked along Harter Fell, Branstree, and Selside Pike. On Kidsty Pike the larks sang for us as we lounged on the grass in a warm wind, something rarely experienced at altitude in that country. We were lounging to scan the skies for Golden Eagles, a bird that nests around where we were walking. I had seen Golden Eagles flying high in Scotland, but I had to wait until I came to live in Utah to meet one eye to eye in the presence of Bud and his guardian Martin Tyner of the Southwest Wildlife Foundation.
Wednesday 4 June 2003
Pix of the Day: All This Time I Was Lying To You
CREDITS: © Tony Sainsbury/www.EyeOnTheLakes.com MAP: Dow Crag [L] [S]
Looking back over the pictures of English Lakeland that have been featured on this weblog, I realize that all this time I was lying to you: mostly the district is cloudy, cold, and wet. Forget all those sunny expanses of shining water and sun dappled hillsides. To make amends here is a brooding but Byronically interesting Dow Crag above Goat's Water (that link for an 18 May 2003 walk will expire in a couple or three weeks, a casualty of limited server space). Tony Sainsbury's CAMera site is especially interesting for lovers of fell walking in the Lakes because he chooses to ascend the hills by some less usual routes, and seems to have the knack of doing so under… er… interesting atmospheric conditions.
Tuesday 3 June 2003
Pix of the Day: Beauty, Battles, and Dog Walking
CREDITS: © Ann Bowker/Mad About Mountains MAP: Crummock Water
This is Crummock Water in the English Lake District, taken looking north northwest towards Loweswater from the crags of Rannerdale Knotts. Further south in this same valley is another lake called Buttermere. The hills occupying the righthand half of the horizon form a delightful group where I formerly walked my dogs across Low Fell, Darling Fell, Fellbarrow, and the mossy wetness of the tartly named Sourfoot Fell. Ann Bowker's CAMera site records her walk among the bluebells of Rannerdale, a place throbbing with good vibrations for the receptive.
Author and former owner of the Bridge Hotel, Nicholas Size, who is said to be the only man ever to be buried in the Buttermere valley, wrote 'The Secret Valley' in 1930, in which Rannerdale was identified as the site of the last stand of the English against the Norman conquerors led by William Rufus. Another well known local inn is the Fish Hotel, one time home of the ill fated Mary Robinson, known as the 'Beauty of Buttermere'. Ale houses hereabouts seem to be rich sources for legends.
Monday 2 June 2003
Pix of the Day: Every Plant Shall Have Its Day
CREDITS: © Charles Winpenny/www.CornwallCAM.co.uk. Click thumbnail to enlarge.
Have you ever noticed that the subtle changes in the weather patterns from year to year create conditions that are ideal for one particular plant species? I remember a summer that was the Year of the Ox Eye Daisy, and another that was the Year of the Hawthorn Blossom. Especially rewarding were the years when Burnetts or Elderflowers thrived to benefit wine making, or Crab Apples or Brambles for making preserves.
This year seems to have favored Thrift, at least in Cornwall, England, where Charles Winpenny roves for his daily CAMera web site updates. Less beguiling are the changes in bird populations from year to year as their winter food supplies are affected by winter weather. All part of life's rich tapestry and the pulse of nature's seasons, I suppose. A correspondent has suggested I pin up one of the weblog pictures in front of The Dreadmill as a hiking goal: I will wave when I get to the lighthouse, to let you know that everything is OK, puff, pant, gasp!
Sunday 1 June 2003
Pix of the Day: Classic View With Added Blossom
CREDITS: © Tony Richards/www.LakelandCAM.co.uk. Click thumbnail to enlarge.
The shapely slopes of Great Gable seen across the shores of Wastwater are a classic English Lake District view, here with the added delight of rhododendron blossom. In this valley, which boasts the smallest church, highest mountain, deepest lake, and biggest liar in all England, the sport of rock climbing had some of its earliest beginnings. Appropriately 29th May was the 50th anniversary of the conquest of Mount Everest by a British team consisting of New Zealander Edmund Hillary, and Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. I have long felt that this was a fitting slap for jingoistic British aspirations in the wake of the perfidious replacement of Eric Shipton as team leader for political reasons.
During the time that both Tenzing and Hillary were alive neither man would say who first stepped onto the summit because both said it was a team effort. Hillary's autobiography, published after Tenzing's death in 1986, claimed that the author, not his Sherpa guide and teammate, first set foot on the summit. Oddly, only Tenzing was pictured on the summit, Hillary decling to be photographed. How to alienate admirers with over eager self promotion, something that I feel Shipton would never have done, especially to the memory of someone who had saved his life. There was at least one wonderful piece of PR management, however: the expedition news scribe, James Morris (later to become writer Jan Morris) was instrumental in ensuring that the news of the victory was released in London on Coronation Day.
Hillary was made an honorary citizen of Nepal in recognition of five decades of service to the Sherpa community, and chose to attend a tea party in Nepal rather than celebrate with the Queen in London. I would have little difficulty making the same choice if King Gyanendra and Queen Komal care to invite me over for tiffin.
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Jules Laforgue (1860-1887)
"Ah! que la vie est quotidienne."
Oh, what a day-to-day business life is.
'Complainte sur certains ennuis' (1885)