Sunday, June 28, 2009

Flight Delays

My daughter and I left North Bend at 10:00am on Monday, June 22 for the airport. The first leg of our flight (Seattle to Washington Dulles) didn't leave until 1:14pm, but we had to check her in for the flight, and because we were flying overseas we needed to get there a couple of hours early, so we decided to get there with plenty of time just in case there were delays at ticketing or security. As it turned out, check in was very fast, the security line was short, so we boarded the plane with expectations of an on-time departure.

Once we had settled in, the pilot got on the intercom to tell us that there was a "mechanical problem" with the aircraft. We found out that the "mechanical problem" was with the first class lavatory. Since this is also the toilet the pilots use, it was also a security issue to not have this toilet working.

We were first told that there would be a half hour delay. That turned into just under 2 hours. Our connection (as well as the connections for many others) was short - ours was about 45 minutes, so it looked like we would miss the connecting flight to London. We were also told that if we missed that connection, we couldn't even take the next day's flight, as this was all booked. This was pretty frustrating, but what could we do? We would have to figure that out when we arrived in Washington DC. The attendants said they would keep everyone updated on the status of the connecting flights.

As it turned out, everyone who had a connecting flight would not be able to make their connections, which was very frustrating - I was sitting next to a dentist from Brazil, and she not only had a connection in D.C., but also a connection in Sao Paolo, so her plans were altered significantly. Ours was a very, very slight maybe. Apparently the incoming flight that would take us to London was delayed in South America, and was anticipated to be an hour late. Since they have to clean the plane and change crews, we had a remote chance of making our flight. We were told our connecting gate information - more bad news, as we would have to run from one concourse to the next to make our connection.

As we were descending into D.C., one of the flight attendants gave us the good news that they decided to move our arrival gate to the gate right across from our connecting gate, and that the plane would wait for us (plus 8 others who needed to make that connecting flight). So, what was originally looking like a pretty hopeless situation turned out fine, and we made our connecting flight to London.

The flight to London was nice (I had enough miles to purchase business class tickets for the London flight), so we enjoyed a nice dinner, and even slept a little bit. My daughter loved being in business class.

We arrived in London just before noon on Tuesday, checked in to our hotel, and decided to get on a tour bus immediately, so we wouldn't be tempted to take a nap and lose a chance at getting in sync with London time. The bus tour is pretty expensive (about $45 per person), but it's for 24 hours, you can hop off/hop back on at any stop during that period, plus it includes a Thames River tour, so overall it's a pretty good way to see a lot of London.

Since I am posting from London, adding pictures long-distance seems to be a problem, so I will try to post them separately.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

London Calling

My daughter and I are traveling to London this week and the next. Since I travel for business I accumulate miles, so the airfare is basically free (with the small exception of the $150 per ticket award fare "service charge"). We've selected a hotel in Paddington, very close to the train/tube station. She's got her passport - she is very proud to have this symbol of an international traveler. Travelers checks? - check! We're ready to go!

I've been to London a few times, but mostly on business with the exception of my very first trip which was for my wife's and my honeymoon. During the next 10 days I will spend one day in the city for business, but the rest of the trip my daughter and I will be tourists, enjoying one of the great cities of this world!

More posts and pictures to come...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

Sonora Louise Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington is most frequently credited with originating the idea for a Father's Day observance. She became inspired to commemorate fathers after hearing a Mother's Day sermon at her church. Her own mother had died when she was very young, and her father, William Smart, a Civil War veteran, took on the role of both parents to his daughter and five sons. Realizing the difficulties he had, and appreciation for his constant devotion to his family sparked Mrs. Dodd's desire to honor all fathers. At her urging the Spokane Ministerial Association sponsored the first Father's Day Celebration. This first celebration was held in Spokane on the third Sunday of June - the month of her father's birth - in 1910.

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson and his family personally observed the day. And in 1924, President Calvin Coolidge recommended that states, if they wished, should hold their own Father’s Day observances. Eventually, in 1972-sixty-two years after it was proposed-Father’s Day was permanently established by President Richard Nixon.

So, to all of the Dad's out there - a very happy Father's Day! Enjoy the flowers from our garden, and the motorcycles from the web!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Product Review - ShamWow!

I'll admit it. I'm a sucker for infomercials. I remember the original Popeil Pocket Fisherman. I thought I couldn't live without the Snackmaster. I bought ForeverSharp knives one day during a demonstration at Safeway after the pitchman cut a aluminum can with one, and then sliced a tomato. I have the Bullet Magic Blender. As you can see, I have some experience with infomercial products.

Well, one day while shopping at the grocery store, I saw hanging from one of the shelves a two pack of ShamWow! towels. You know the commercial, with a guy by the name of Vince exhorting the cameraman to keep up with him as he extols the virtues of the towel. You find out that this is not just any towel, but a product of German engineering - "you know, the Germans always make good stuff" says Vince. The towel can be used wet or dry, it can prevent mold and mildew in your carpets, and it's for the home, the car, the boat, the RV.

At the grocery store, the price was $7.99 for two small ShamWow! towels. Not as good as the $19.99 special on the infomercial, but I thought, what can I lose?

I tried out one of the towels when I washed my motorcycle today. Apparently, these towels can hold 20 times their weight in liquid, so I used the towel to dry off the bike. It did seem to pick up a lot of water. I wrung it out just like Vince does in the commercial, and amazingly there was a lot of water that came off the towel. The problem, however, was that while the towel picked up a lot of water, it could never really dry the bike - the water just got pushed around the surface. I would need another towel to really dry the bike off.

Did I say Wow! after I tried a ShamWow! towel? Not really - it did OK, but I wouldn't say it was much better than a good cloth towel. In any event, I finished up washing her, and she looks very nice!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Bike To Work Day

The traditional Bike To Work Day this year is on Monday, June 15, but the weather here may be iffy on that day, so I decided to commute by bike today.

I got up early with the idea of leaving home around 6:30am, hoping that traffic on the freeway would be light. I work in downtown Seattle, which is about 40 miles west of North Bend, and since Seattle has Lake Washington separating the city from the eastern suburbs, I have to travel on I-90 for about 30 of those 40 miles. I have taken the GV250 on the freeway before, and she has performed quite well considering her 250cc engine. She can get up fairly easily to 110-120kph (since she's Korean, her speedometer and odometer are metric), which is about 68-75mph. From North Bend to Issaquah (traveling about 18 miles west) the speed limit is 70mph, so I am able to keep up somewhat with traffic (most go about 80mph when the State Patrol aren't watching).

In the picture above, I'm loading up my saddlebags with my business wear and my laptop. There's a problem - my laptop doesn't fit in my bags - I wish I had a backpack, but there's none to be found, so I have to bring my briefcase and carry that over my shoulder. Everything else fits in the bags just fine.

Since I am going on the freeway, I want to be super visible, so I don my lime-green vest over my leather jacket:

The ride on the freeway starts out OK. I've been staying in the right lane, but since the carpool/motorcycle lane that starts in Issaquah is the left-most lane I make my move across three lanes. I'm successful at that and now I am in the HOV lane - even at this time, traffic is getting pretty congested in the other lanes, so it's good to take advantage of my HOV status.

However, as I start to pick up speed, my motorcycle starts to act peculiar. The engine start to sputter, and the rpms fluctuate - it's as if the engine is starving for fuel. The bike is bucking, so I pull off the freeway to try to figure out what is going on. Things seem OK, so I accelerate back onto the freeway only to have the same issue happen again. I'm a bit low on gas, so I think that maybe that's the issue. I get off the freeway and fill up. I get back on the freeway and things seem fine, but then the bucking starts again. Now I'm on the floating bridge going across Lake Washington, and I'm not quite sure what to do. I keep the speed/rpms down, the problem goes away, and I end up in downtown Seattle.

Stop and go traffic in downtown Seattle is not really fun on a motorcycle, in my opinion. I go about a block only to have to shift down and wait at the light. This procedure is repeated for a number of blocks. Also, even the smaller hills in Seattle that I hardly notice in a car become a challenge to take off from on a motorcycle. I have to feather the clutch so I don't fall back, and apply just enough throttle to move forward without jerking. It's now that I long for the "twist and go" operation of my scooter! However, it's a necessary learning experience for me, and I improve with each block.

I arrive in the parking garage at my office. When I park here with my car, it's $16 for all day parking. With my motorcycle, it's $6 - a good savings. The garage has several dedicated spots for two-wheeled transportation. I park her and use one of the shower facilities that we have to change into my business clothes.

I look up the forum for my motorcycle to find some solution to the "engine starvation" issue I had during the commute into town. It appears that others have had the same issue, and the solution seems to be "Seafoam." If you don't know about this product, it's an engine additive that many swear by. It does a great job of cleaning the varnish and junk that sometimes forms on carburetors, and is a really good fuel stabilizer, helping to remove moisture from your fuel lines. I plan on getting a can after work before I make the ride across the Lake Washington floating bridge and I-90.

After work, I ride to a NAPA Auto Parts store south of Safeco Field. There's so much road construction in Seattle. There is a lot of dug up asphalt, and steel plates over the roads. I heed the road signs that say "Motorcycles Use Extreme Caution."

I arrive at the auto parts store, pick up a can of Seafoam and an energy drink - the cashier reminds me that one is for my bike, one is for me, and to not switch them. The bike downs the Seafoam, I down the energy drink, and I head back into downtown to get in the carpool lane across the bridge.

The bike is working great, with none of the problems experienced this morning. I'm about to get into the tunnel just before the bridge, when the overhead road signs say there's an accident in the tunnel. There are two tunnels; one for the mainline traffic and one for the carpool lane. Usually the accidents are in the former, due to the higher level of traffic - but not this time, the accident is in the carpool lane. I am in the middle of the tunnel at a standstill - the traffic moves a few feet, then stops. I am essentially walking my bike through the tunnel. Pretty soon the traffic clears, and we're off. Once past the bridge, the traffic starts to bunch up again, so I get off the carpool lane, and take some surface streets as I proceed east.

I get back on the freeway in Issaquah, and really push the bike to see if there's a repeat of this morning's problems, and happily, there is none. I make it home with no further incident.

Upon returning home, I assess the ride. Did I enjoy it? Parts of the ride were nice, and I am glad I did this for the experience, but overall, I have to be honest and say I didn't enjoy it. Riding on the freeway is simply not an enjoyable experience - there's too much wind buffeting, and while the GV250 can operate at freeway speeds, she is revving at 8000-9000 rpms at that speed so the ride is pretty buzzy. With me on the bike, she is more comfortable at 60mph then at 70. Maybe if I had a larger cc bike (or lost weight) I would feel differently. Downtown traffic was not very fun either - I would much rather be on a scooter, without having to shift up and down from stoplight to stoplight. Actually, I would much rather be cruising on some nice country road in my area, rather than dealing with downtown traffic.

Having said all of the above, it was great to actually experience commuting to work. And, who knows, I might try it again.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Exotic Car Drive By

I'm at a regular stop on my ride in the valley, enjoying a cup of coffee, when we're startled by several police cars speeding up the road, sirens blaring and motioning for the traffic on the opposite side of the street to make way. Are they going to an accident investigation? Is there a foreign delegation coming through Fall City?

No to either - what they are doing is clearing the way for a line of exotic cars. They're rolling through town at about the same clip as the police officers. At the coffee shop, we suspect they are going to a car show, exactly where we do not know.

There is a collection of Lotuses, Ferrari's, Porsche's, Corvettes, Audi's, and the odd Hummer thrown into the mix. I am not a photographer, and had difficulty getting the cars into my lens. But it was a great sight!

They should have let me know about this - I would have brought my car - a Bugatti Veyron (I wish).

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Avoiding CATastrophe

Time to clean the cat box, and it can't wait till tomorrow, since the cats WILL find a place to do their thing if the cat box is not to their liking. So, a trip to town is necessary. That's what makes a scooter so great - you just hop on and go. My Elite's 75+mpg makes a lot more sense than my Element's 25mpg. Plus, the pass-through makes a great grocery holder. Bad situation averted!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

It's only rock 'n roll but I like it

The art of chainsaw carving is alive and well in the Snoqualmie Valley, and I encounter some of these creations as I ride. You will see a lot of carved bears, used as welcome signs to residences, or carvings of eagles or salmon, but this one is a bit unusual - a chicken rocker. This carving stands about 6' on it's base.

Next to chicken rocker, a bear holds the mailbox:

Chainsaw carving is quite popular here, with one local insurance company, PEMCO, featuring the "Roadside Chainsaw Woodcarver" in their great ad campaign "We're A Lot Like You. A Little Different." These ads feature a number of stereotypical Northwest people in a caricature sort of way. Check it out here: