pecunium: (Loch Icon)
7,800 miles, and 9 weeks, leaves a lot of fleeting impressions in the mind, so I'm going to jot them down.

Helmets: I love them. Yes, there are a few things about them which chafe (literally, my forehead was getting raw by the time I got home, mostly from the way the wind moved the helmet when I was looking to the side/rear), but I can't imagine not using one.

1: It's my windshield. Above about 30mph, and the wind is annoying. Above 80mph, and it's blinding.

1a: Bugs. I cleaned the fairing yesterday, and my jacket today. There were a lot of dead bugs. I got to watch a lot of bugs die. Some of them most dramatically (I think I killed a dragonfly in Nebraska. There were a lot of them about, and something large hit the visor; a bit outboard of my left eye). Since some of the larger flying insects can do 20-40 mph (like dragonflies) and are hard, the thought of an impact velocity of 100-140 mph is a bit frightening.

But I saw lots of people not wearing them. Some croggled me. The guy in Flagstaff: Calif. plates, and his helmet (full face) on the sissy-bar. The guy in Salt Lake, with the armored jacket, heavy pants and bare head. Dude! I'd worry a lot more about cracking your skull like a hard-boiled egg to be peeled than I would about the road rash.

Sunsets... Lake Huron in the late evening. The Bonneville Salt Flat in the steel-blue gloaming, gorgeous (and the better for a dark visor).

The UP, and upper Wisconsin, desnse trees, and water everywhere. Little pockets of early autumn, with a single set of bright red, or orange, leaves, in the sea of green the road tunnels through.

Bikers: By and large (New Hampshire excepted) they were all friendly. I cannot being to estimate how many I dropped a hand to. When I was stopped, they came to chat, even guys who weren't riding a bike at the moment. Yeah, I have some issues with Harleys (I think them sort of ugly, and the sort of "statement" they make is problematic. GoldWings are too "cushy, for my taste too), but that's mostly aesthetic. I never had one give me grief. The only folks I pulled over for were pushing a Harley, and if I could I'd've helped (neither of us had a gas tank, so there wasn't any way for me to help them out. I hope the five miles to Fernly weren't too hard; because there was a lot of uphill; if one is pushing a few hundred pounds of motorcycle).

Bikes: Get much east of the 109° 02′ W and BMWs become thin on the ground, but the groups of bikes tend to be more heterogenous.

I put about 1,000 miles of 2-up riding. I also did enough rough road (about 20 miles) to feel fairly confident.

Toll-plazas are evil. The ground is slick, and the stop/go aspect of them makes it a bit treacherous. The worst spot is right at the point of payment.

Cops tend to ignore bikes. Not completely, but the trick of estimating speed for a bike is harder, and (by reports) it's harder to get one in the radar gun. I do know I thought I could have gotten about three tickets in speed traps, and didn't.

Passing sucks. This is mostly about 2-lane roads (i.e. opposing traffic), though fools who don't pay attention to what's coming up behind them on roads with passing lanes abound. In that case it's more a nuisance than a hazard.

Photography is doable, but I wasn't rigged for it. Next time I will be.

Friends: It was a great trip for meeting friends (some of whom were not yet possessed of voices/bodies to go with faces/personalities). I was blessed with wonderful hospitality along the way, and the chance to stop at homely places and relax, with other people, was priceless. All in all, the visiting (both the planned stops, and the offered ones) justified the whole thing.

New York is amazing. I can see why those who grew up there hold it so dearly; and all I saw, to speak of, was mid-town Manhattan. I shall have to go back, and explore it with more vigor. There was some really good food there, and some confused food, but the stereotype of the rude New Yorker makes no sense to me. I was, everywhere I wandered (uptown, downtown, midtown, and over to Brooklyn), treated with openness and friendly manner. Conversations on streetcorners, discussions on bridges, answers from cops (about traffic issues). It's expensive, but expansive.

Next time I will plan/announce better, and try to arrange to see more people.

Borders: The way to smuggle, is on a motorcycle. No where was I given more than a cursory glance. I crossed three borders by myself (into/out of Canada, into Calif), and two with a passenger. My passenger was of a different nationality than myself. No one cared. Entering the US, all the cars had their trunks opened, and coolers too. My luggage (topcase, duffle and two hardcase saddlebags) ignored. Same in Calif., where I was waved through.

I'd do it‡ again, but without the deadlines (going out I had two deadlines, coming back I had one, sort of. I wanted to be back not later than next Saturday). I think I'd like to do some of it with people (a support vehicle, and some other bikes. The one so I don't have to have all my gear on the bike, and the other for company), and some of it as noodling to here and there (maybe a side trip, with a rendezvous planned some days away).

It was, in some ways, a bit of retreat. I spent a lot of time in my head. I didn't think about much, there was a lot of, "no-mind", and lot of singing to myself. There was also the slow scrolling of the horizon, the birds, the pronghorn, the possibility of elk, moose, bear, and deer. There was the calculus of movement, the peering into corners for hazards.

There was peace, and fleeting moments of anxiety. There were friends to relax with, and passing acquaintance to remind one of the shared identity of the nation.

It was so very worth it.

‡I had to leave Memphis out of that list, because Google Maps will only allow 25 points.
pecunium: (camo at halloween)
(this was written while I was in Germany. Because I wanted to add photos, I didn't make it public. Because I did add photos [and rather a lot of them; [personal profile] athenais there are a couple of stained glass pieces for you] I am putting in cuts. If you just want to read, then you can. If you want to see the pictures, you know what to do. The comments to the photos are independent of the narrative)

It’s been what it always is; mostly they could do the whole thing without me. The corollary is that every so often, they really need me. I earn my pay for the ten minutes every couple of days when my presence is essential.

Saturday was a social evening. I was checking some e-mail when Joe came in (on his way to the night shift of overwatch. Should something go wrong which needs a linguist, he’ the poor schlub on the spot), to tell me that Merrill had been drafted to go bowling and wanted some backup. I like bowling, so I changed into mufti and hied myself off to the lanes.

Where I wasn’t needed at all. It seems everyone was there. I did take advantage of the apparent relaxation of the rules on drinking to get some local dark. It was tasty. As for the bowling... I wasn’t at my best. I was barely at “acceptable” Three games, not one of them was I able to get so much as 120. I did manage to break 100 in all three, and (amazingly) I won all three (relative to the people with whom I was playing). The last was the reason I say amazingly. In the 5th frame I was down 30 points. I was unable to pick up a trivial spare because a pit had fallen forward of the sweep, and was blocking the 10-pin.

Trying to deal with it in the top of the 6th, I guttered, and then bounced the ball off of it to pick up a 10-pin spare.

I was down 20 points in the 8th, but a pair of strikes and a 7 pin final throw put me not only over 100, but over my competitors as well. Back in the day it wouldn’t have been close. There was a time my average was about 145, and 120 would have been the score for my last game of the evening; because my arm was getting tired. Saturday I was robbed of a few strikes (I was using a light ball, both because I am out of practice/bowling shape and because my joints aren’t what they were when I was 20, so flinging 14 .lbs; accurately, isn’t as easy as it once was), but I missed some easy pick-ups (single pins, from my failed strikes). A couple of those and I’d have been more where I want/expect my game to be.

The next morning we all headed off to Nürnberg; there to enjoy our day off. As days off go, this wasn’t the best planned. Germany isn’t really open on a Sunday. The Christkindel’s Markt was open, and cafés, and most museums but shops; not really. No matter, this was our best chance to play tourist all planned to avail themselves.

Photos )

Joe skipped sleep (if he wanted to sleep he had to forego the city) and we piled onto busses. Got to the town and we told to be back to the busses twelve hours later. Weather was nice (temps in the forties), and scattered breaks in the clouds threatening to turn into actual sunlight; which hopes were, eventually, dashed.

Before that, however we did get to see one of the more charming aspects of the town. On any number of walls were to be found sundials, so that one might know the hours, in the absence of clocks and watches.

Photos )

The market was a pleasant madhouse. Joe and I grabbed a kinderpunsch glühwien and warmed our insides. Then we headed into the throng and, almost immediately bought a brötchen. I had mine with butter and emmentaler (I didn’t feel like salami, and am not so fond of camembert). Thus braced, we strolled the booths, looked at the wares, smelled the food and listened to the people. It was reminiscent of Dickens’ Fair, mostly because of the smells.

The air was awash with the smell of wursten roasting, glühwien mulling, and someone; somewhere, roasting nuts in cinnamon and sugar.

We worked our way out the far side, up to the museum of handicrafts (we decided not to go in), and up the street, to a cafe. I wanted coffee, and got some hot chocolate. It wasn’t as good as the chocolate in Ecuador, but was more than worth a few moments indoors, with the strangest streudel I’ve ever had.

Mostly because it wasn’t anything I would have described as streudel. It was filled with a pleasant mix of lebkuchen spices, but the wrapping of this filling was more a dense, slightly sweet roll. Coffee wouldn’t have gone with it very well. The whipped cream was very good.

One of the things one notices, when strolling about, is the large amount (at least in the older city) of carvings on the buildings. Arms, knights and other relicts of the past are everywhere. Above it all, is the castle. Nürnberg, to Nürnburg

Photos )
We’d signed up for a walking tour, but missed the start, so I bought a couple of tickets into the castle museums. It was worth it. A nice selection of things found around the grounds, coins, tools, old swords (some dating back to the earliest days of the castle [ca. 1300] and decayed to a blackened lacework of corroded iron. One still had a couple of letters, inlaid in silver, from an inscription on the blade) and other pointy toys. As the things got closer to the present, they were in better shape, until; by the 16th century they were pristine.

We saw a relief of Gustav Adolph (who fought part of the 30 Years War here).

From the tower we could see all the town, the peaked roofs of apartment buildings, the domed projections of renaissance dormers and more modern garrets; the scaffolding which shrouded the church towers, and all the modern impedimetia which blocked the “pure” view of the city (cranes, radio towers, etc.).

Photos )
So we wandered some more. Back to the market, around the shuttered shops (the sex shop was closed, the brothel was open), and into the festival in the Rathaus. It was vaguely medieval. I got some thaler (which were very pretty, but more than I wanted to spend on a coin as souvenir, rather I did as was done at glüwein stands all over town, and kept the cup I bought my biertrinken in (the way it works is, you pay a deposit to get the cup of drink, if you wanted to reclaim the deposit, you returned the cup. If you didn’t, they would give you a new cup. I now have three of them. Each different to the other, and each about 200ml). The biertrinken was a mulled dunkles, mixed with dried orange slices, clove; some cinnamon and (I think) a hint of nutmeg. Being long stewed I don’t think it was a violation of the no-drinking rule (which was idiosyncratic to the Utah Delegation). After about 150ml it was also a bit much. I finished and when I asked for the cup to be rinsed, so I might take it away, they looked as me as if I were simple; and gave me a new one.

Photos )
As the sun was fading we saw a small marketplace (enclosed, just inside the 16th century city walls, and wandered about the tin shops, haberdashers, lebkuchen sellers and into a wienstube A meal of kraut, nürnbergers (a type of wurst, much like a breakfast sausage in size, and spicing) and braunbröte, with a glass of dunkles (it was amusing, everyone assumed that the non-Mormons would be drinking their way across the city. I decicided this was an off-day, and allowed myself one beer. I don’t know what Col. Summit would have done had he seen me drinking. I suspect I’d have gotten a stern talking too; and he’d have been disappointed, but his concern was to keep people from being stupid, and I wasn’t, to quote him, “puking on a clean floor”).

On the way out the gate of the market, I bought 200g of chestnuts. I realised, as we walked the dead ground in front of the old curtain wall, part of why I like chestnuts, and why Maia doesn’t, they remind me of lobster. The texture is, somewhat, like them, one has to break into them (harder with gloves on) and they are richly flavored.

As we trailed our way through the shuttered shops (and the market was closing up) we saw a final piece of history under glass... a wakizashi which was (IMO) a lot overpriced.

Photos )
Then we worked our way back to the rally point.

Back to the bus; back to the barracks, and back to the war.

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