Iceland Without Tourists

The last time we were in Iceland we took a tour that few people have done. We drove the “Ring Road” on our own in a camper staying in camp grounds each evening.

Even with other tourist in the county once you get past 1 hour outside of Reykjavík they would turn around and go back to Reykjavík at the end of the day. So just after Skogafoss waterfall we were mostly on our own. It was a fun and unique vacation we got to share together.

We wanted to get to the Western fjords but needed another full week to get through there. We decided to make a third trip and to do that by itself. We have yet to make it there a third time.

If you want to race to the end of the video to where they only talk about what it’s like to be in Iceland without tourists you can go here. I’ve been here and I can imagine exactly what it is like. It must be glorious.

If you want to see my notes on the last time we where there you can find them here. It’s hard to believe it was 2 years ago. It’s been a weird couple of years.

Iceland is a breathtaking place to be. If you can get there I highly recommend it.

Well, hello there!

I would ask what you’ve been up to but I think I already know.

It’s been a while since I’ve published anything even though I’ve had plenty of time to do that. Things have been busy in the last couple of months in spite of the travel bans and lockdowns. I’ve spent most of my time around my farm doing all kinds of maintenance to vehicles, taking care of our bees, working from home, keeping up with the grounds, etc.

Lately the only thing different for me is I don’t travel for work. All our work is now restricted to online or over the phone. It might seem like a big change but really it’s not. I’m doing the same thing just doing it from home 100% of the time. It’s given me time to do extra stuff since I’m not spending any of my time on the road.

San Diego Coronado Beach at Sunset

Just prior to the lockdown I made many trips for work. One to the Denver area, one to San Francisco and another to San Diego. After return home from San Diego is when things got locked down. It was nice when I was there. The weather was perfect.

I shared dinner with a friend on the night the photo above was taken. People were out and about but in hushed tones. It was inevitable what was about to happen. Soon after I would be on a plane back home where I’ll remain for what looks like is going to be 4-5 months.

Ducati Multistrada 1200S

One of the machines I’ve been able to maintain is my Multistrada. It’s had a number of issues that I needed to repair which is now complete. But it’s fixed now and taking me to places that I like to go. Social distancing, of course. And just not this place:

Shenandoah National Park – Hogback Overlook

Because that place is CLOSED!

So many places around here are closed. All my favorite parks, some of the roads, all of the restaurants and the like. I’ve still managed to get some fun riding in even though I am not stopping anywhere along the way. That being said, I don’t have a ton of photos to share of my recent exploits into nature.

To keep people from gathering I’m also seeing various organizations blocking parking and otherwise making it very hard to really do anything including getting out for a walk or hike. This won’t last forever. One way or the other those barriers will be moved. There are simply not enough of “them” to keep “us” out. There are still other nice vistas around.

Kennedy Peak Trailhead – Luray, Virginia

Now that it’s warm I’ve been working more with the bees. I have 12 hives which have decided to split up on their own 5 times already this year. Of the 5 swarms I’ve managed to capture 4 of them. I’ve purchased two more hive boxes so if they swarm again I am hoping I can capture more of the bees. This should be a good year for honey production.

Of course, as much as I can I get out and fly my model aircraft of one type or another.

That’s always fun.

Then it’s spending time with the family I have close, eat, sleep and exercise beyond that.

The latest word on quarantine is that it’ll last through June. While other states (GA, TN) are opening up our states are much more conservative and likely will not. The virus is still taking its toll on people in the state so until that starts to go down I think this will continue.

Take care!

Oh, and wash your hands.

Shenandoah

I’m lucky to live so close to the Shenandoah Valley. From my house to the middle of Skyline Drive at Shenandoah National Park may be 45 minutes of driving.

Mostly I’m out there on the weekend when I have time to waste driving around Virginia without worrying about work. When I do get there the views and quiet of the mountain is quite therapeutic. Most everyone slows down and just enjoys being out there.

Looking north towards Front Royal, Virginia.

Every part of the day in every different season will produce a different feel of the mountain. Some days I get to go out during the week when there are very few people there. In the winter it can be lightly traveled where it feels like you are the only one there.

Low Gap

This old tree has been standing at Little Devils Stairs as long as I have lived in Virginia. This rest stop will be much different without the tree there once it finally gives in to gravity.

Little Devils Stairs

The sunsets can be quite a site to behold as well. Never disappointing even if it doesn’t show up from behind the clouds like you were expecting.

Looking west towards Luray, Virginia from Hogback overlook
Looking west towards Luray, Virginia from Hogback overlook on a previous trip

It turns out I’m never the only person there at a sunset like this. It’s a busy time on the mountain as people take selfies and then go about their way. If you can wait 10 minutes after sunset you will be left on the mountain alone again.

It’s these times I enjoy most alone in this sacred place.

Cygnus Launch

On Saturday November 2, 2019 NASA launched an Antares Rocket as a resupply mission to the International Space Station from the Wallops flight facility in Wallops, Virginia. Wallops is about 160 miles from my home.

Wallops is fun because I can see the rockets as they start to enter orbit once they get pretty high in the sky (like 80,000 – 100,000 feet). In the evenings it is very easy to spot them but hard to photo. This is my first attempt to see if I can see them during the day.

Friday night I did the research on when the launch was going to be performed. They had a 5 minute launch window to complete the launch. I really wanted to drive to Wallops for the launch but knew I would not have the time due to my work schedule. I’ll save that trip for another time. My mission this time was to see if I could actually see the rocket from my home and do my best to photo the rocket on the horizon.

The morning was very clear and cold but hazy. The sun was very bright making the haze even worth. I didnt think I’d be able to get a decent photo of the rocket. During the event I am listening to an Internet stream from NASA giving me details of the launch in progress. So I had a decent idea of when I might see the rocket.

I decided to use my drone to photo my “process” before and during the launch. It would also serve as a queue on where to sync up the video after the event. I start the video about 2 minutes before launch. Here is that video:

Looking through a 600 mm lens is like looking through a very powerful telescope which makes it quite hard to find your subject “randomly” when you are holding it in your hand looking through a tiny view finder window. You really have to focus. And then focusing on such a faint subject so far away takes a little skill. Even so I was quite surprised that I could seen the rocket so clearly once I locked on the image through the long lens. It wouldn’t last long. Maybe 30 seconds.

The photo I took looked pretty good. Until I got it on the computer I didnt realize that it was in perfect focus and you could see the engine firing through the smoke of the contrail.

Cygnus NG-12

It turns out that I have to wait until the rocket is just about done with its first stage burn at an altitude of about 100,000 feet before it comes into view. For future launches this is helpful to know. And now that I’ve seen many of these launches I know exactly where to look on the horizon.

It was fun to participate in the event even if it was from afar. We’ll get out there soon during one of the launches in the future. Hopefully to get photos that are a little closer.

Very Large Grouper (Fish)

In the 1990’s we went on a vacation to Australia. During that trip we spent a few days offshore at the Great Barrier Reef. Most notable was at a place called Lizard Island. If you’ve not been to Lizard Island I highly recommend it. It’s pricey and very far away but you’ll never be quite the same when you get back.

But I digress …

During that trip we did a lot of snorkeling. The reef is so beautiful that you do not need to scuba to see the wildlife. On each one of our snorkel trips we encountered large schools of grouper fish that I estimated to be 1.5 to 2 times larger than my body. While they didn’t seem aggressive I mentioned back then it would likely not be a good idea to swim out where they were.

I would come back from this wonderful vacation and tell my friends stories of these large grouper that were twice my size and shape swimming in the Great Barrier Reef. They all looked at me like I was crazy. I don’t think anyone believed me. To this day, I think people thought I was making this shit up.

Yesterday I read this story about some sharks that were feeding on a dead swordfish at the bottom of the ocean off South Carolina during a diving expedition headed up by NOAA. They featured this video of the sharks feeding on the swordfish. Watch to the end … wait for it …

Go to this link if your browser does not support HTML5 video.

That grouper ate an entire shark!

Do you believe me now? This is the fish I saw.

If you happen to be snorkeling and see a giant grouper I’d treat it like the wild animal it is.

You can say I told you so. No bullshit.

Dive 07: “Shark Rock”

Photos and video were produced by NOAA.
Date: June 28, 2019
Location: Lat: 31.59517078°, Lon: -79.10225958°
Dive Depth Range: 446 – 454 meters (1,463 – 1,490 feet)

For the full web site story by NOAA go here

This is the location of the grouper. Don’t swim here! 🙂

July 4 2019 in the Shenandoah

At some point in this day I got in a bad mood. I wanted to go for a motorcycle ride and was frustrated that I didn’t do it. I let chores and other things keep me from getting out early.

Until we ran into this.

It would soon rain

It happened on the way back home after lunch. As we drove into and out of light rain showers well before all this happened I chatted with my partner that the summer rains are nice since mostly you ride into them and then quickly out of them. Our riding suits are “waterproof” for short duration rains. This was not one of those. Soon it would really come down in buckets.

As we move towards home this cloud got closer and closer.

Lightening started crashing down all around us and it was very hard to see out the window. The casual ride got pretty cosy and I was thankful that I was not on my motorcycle this day.

We watch this cloud roll in very quickly. It enveloped the mountain. The temperature dropped. Then the torrent came.

The ridges as seen from Hogback Mountain

To capture the picture above I use a 600mm lens. The mountains are very far away. You can tell the pressure is dropping as the fog starts to hug the mountains. This was the precursor to the big rain cloud above.

It was nice to get out in this weather. Glad I had my cameras even though it was frustrating gather it all.

I stayed in a bad mood. Sometimes I don’t get that. Maybe it was the weather.

Scenes from Annapolis, Maryland.

Last week we went to Annapolis to visit with some YouTubers I follow at the Annapolis harbor. They are sail enthusiast. I enjoy watching their adventures on terra firma.

I brought my camera with me in case there was something I wanted to capture that I couldn’t with my cell phone. I’m still learning how to shoot things other than landscapes.

We didn’t take any pictures of the event we attended that evening but ended up working our way into downtown Annapolis where the pride festival was in full swing.

I’m not sure if the amount of people down there was “normal” for a Friday but there were sure a lot of people there. I was quite surprised to drive into town, go to our restaurant and park right up front and center. Looking back, I think it was just the luck of the draw that evening.

It was nice to meet friends I only know over the Internet doing what they love and meeting others who are doing the same. And nice to get back home to enjoy a long weekend goofing around here.

It’s a long way to drive but we should do this more often.

Solstice 2019

Has it really been since Easter since I’ve posted?

Today is the summer solstice marking the first day of summer. Around here the air is more humid and warm. It’s not like this very long so the next few months are enjoyable compared to the very cold of winter. We soak up as much of the warmth as we can.

The last week was supposed to be stormy and wet. It turned out not to rain much at all. I worked to get all the grass cut so I didn’t have to worry about soggy ground. I have a lot of grass to cut each week so getting that done when I can is important. Turns out I had plenty of time and got to take the week off anyway.

It does get stormy around here. Although this was the week before it was supposed to get crazy. This storm brought crazy rain and wind. It was also the last time it really rained around here.

Since the weather is nice I hope to get out on my motorcycle some. It should be a good weekend to ride.

Normally this time of year, in particular today, I would be preparing for the Radio Field Day. This is the first year in, I think it’s been …, 10 years since I have not been involved in a very big way. It feels really weird that I would not be involved to the extent that I have been in the past.

Not only am I not involved but the club I belong to called the entire event off for 2019. It’s a weird time of inflection for our small club. Feels a little splintered. Probably a growth thing. It’s just weird to go from full throttle to a complete stop in the span of a year.

Back to the fun stuff.

My Ducati Multistrada 1200S at one of my favorite locations near home.
The riding around my home is some of the best in the USA.
Quiet time in the forrest.

My motorcycle takes me to cool places. Places I would never go in my car; down roads that are worth driving but much too far out of the way when I’m trying to get from point A to point B. It’s also a time I don’t have to think about anything else other than enjoying my environment and making observations.

Work has been busy which is most of the reason I have not been able to focus on my blog, photography, etc. Hopefully that changes soon.

The solstice is a time marker for me. A half way point in the year. A time to look forward and maximize the summer months to get things done in preparation for winter when things get cold again. Maybe go fishing, camping and otherwise chilling out. Its typically a quieter time around here.

I hope you have a good day!

We spent quality time together.

I’ve been getting ready for a long motorcycle ride for a few months now. On the last trip I took an electronic fuel sensing unit started to fail on my Ducati. It’s not a huge problem except that you don’t know how much fuel is in the tank and it constantly throws errors on the computer that are hard to ignore.

I took it to the local dealer over the winter in hopes they could repair it easily. There was a discussion that it was a defective part and that Ducati would make it good. The end result of that discussion was that for $700 they would change it for me.

Nope.

I purchased the part for $100 and started taking the skin off this bike. I was going to fix it myself.

It took 2 weeks to get the part. Apparently they put in on a boat from Italy after I bought it. Then by horse to Omaha Nebraska. It did get here.

By the time it arrived I had my bike apart, all the fuel out of the tank and ready to put the new part inside this tank. These gasoline tanks are not the ones you may remember. They are formed plastic built to wrap around the frame of he motorcycle. The tank alone is $1200.

Taking the skin off was not an easy process. Someone at Ducati decided it would never have to come off. Apparently they didn’t talk to the electricians who make shitty sensors. Long story short, I had to do some destruction to get the cleats out of the plastic and reconstruction to put them back in the plastic. That took a couple of days.

I got the part, cut the plastic connectors off both the part and wiring harness, soldered the new part directly to the wires, shrink-wrapped it all up and all was better with the computer.

In two more days I’d have it all back together. Well, except for two screws. Which, for the life of me, I could not figure out where they went. I’ll have to take a closer look the next time I take this apart. I predict this sending unit will last a few years if it was made by the same electricians that made the other shitty sensor.

Yesterday I took it out for a 200 mile ride. It ran perfectly. No errors from the computer. And nothing fell off the bike. That I could see, anyway. That’s a win!

2014 Ducati Multistrada 1200S – 150 horsepower, 417 pounds.

When I put it all back together I made sure the bolts would not seize up inside their fittings. And didn’t use the “Ty Stiller school of torque” technique for tightening them back. That technique is interesting. No bolt being too tight until it’s actually broken off and you have to drill it out. I use a gentler method. Nothing wrong with Ty’s methods if you don’t mind drilling things out all the time. Or just throwing it away.

So we got to spend quality time together before the big ride. I still have some work to do but should have it done in a couple of weeks. That’s a week or two before I have to launch. This is new to me. In recent times I’ve only had time to do things at the last minute. This is a nice change in my life.

All I had was my iPhone to take photos. This is the best I could get out of it.

Still decidedly winter looking in the mountains.

I drove my favorite 4 hour loop with an hour stop for lunch. The loop looks approximately like this on google maps:

No trip to Luray, Virginia is complete without a stop to Uncle Bucks for some southern style comfort food. I recommended it. Lots of people were out and about in this town.

It was a necessarily long day. I wanted to make sure everything is working properly. I’ve got to bleed my back brakes because they are pretty mushy. This is also a known problem with a Ducati design. My Honda has a physical linkage to the back break. The Ducati has hydraulics. The hydraulic lines sit right on top of the catalyst which essentially cooks the oil breaking it down over time. This week I’ll bleed them all out and make them new again.

The newer bikes take a lot more maintenance than the older ones. But they sure are fun to ride! And I was not alone. This weekend set up a perfect day of riding so everyone with a motorcycle, their friends and families were all all out riding today.

I rode alone. But wasn’t alone.

Christmas Eve 2018

It’s Christmas Eve already. Everyone is inside for the day awaiting Santa’s arrival. I hope he can find us here!

We’ve spent the better part of the last 3 days in torrential rain on interstate highways in the Pickle. This day there was barely a cloud in the sky. It’s hard to get contrasty photos when there is harsh sunshine but I sent the drone up anyway to take a few photos and video.

Sunset Canyon at Sunset

Speaking of driving, we had the most interesting experience when we met, completely randomly, some of our family while driving down Interstate 70 just east of Wichita, Kansas. I got a call on my cell phone from Karen who had just passed us. Of course, it’s hard to miss the big green machine we have named “The Pickle”:

The Pickle with family

So we took that selfie with the drone. The odds of this happening again are so slim. The odds of this happening at all is probably more slim. Hey, the Pickle has a new paint job on the roof which has repaired all of the water leaking we had with this machine when we bought it.

The Pickle is outfitted with enough seating for 5 people comfortably and a full sized bed for two people to sleep comfortably. It’s really nice to be able to get up and move around when you travel 1,700 miles like this. Of course, inside I also have all of the electricity we need to run our laptops, charge batteries, phones and the like.

It’s been a labor of love getting this machine back road ready. When I bought it the machine was a bit of a mess. Slowly I’ve repaired all of the bigger problems we’ve had with it. There is still more to do. I look forward to taking it on motorcycle trips when the weather turns warm again.

We searched pretty hard for accommodations for our travel here. How Gloria managed to get this close is pretty amazing. We are just a stone’s throw from being together which has worked out very well for us.

Our AirBNB

We attended the local Unity Church for their version of the Christmas message tonight. It was an interesting mix of various rituals. Tomorrow we will attend a NatGeo exhibition of “Living with Wolves” at the Boulder Museum.

We’ve spent most of our time in Boulder on Pearl Street where most of the restaurants are located. There is one in particular we enjoy named Wonder Press. Wonder is a 100% organic, cold-pressed juice and nut milk shop located in Boulder, Colorado. They also serve up tasty snacks like avocado toast with radishes. Yum.

The weather here has been clear and cold but from what I am reading that is going to change the day after Christmas where they are predicting a winter storm to race across the US dropping a wide swath of snow. This could change the way we travel home. The Pickle is not 4×4 so we have to be careful to avoid large quantities of snow. I did pick up some chains before we left on this trip but still hope we don’t have to use them.

Merry Christmas, everyone!