Another post involving pictures from this past spring – this time from early May. Around that time, a few bird nests got built on and around our front porch.
There were some finches who initially were determined to build a nest inside a light fixture on the porch, but every time they tried to bring twigs and stuff inside, the materials would just fall out the bottom. We ended up hanging a small basket from the light, and eventually they successfully built a nest in the basket.
Here are the eggs that were laid, which were a pale green color:
Eventually we saw 3 baby birds that had hatched and who eventually left the nest.
In a couple of bushes by the porch, robins nested and laid eggs. Here is one of the robin nests:
Some of the ones in this nest were successfully hatched and raised, though I don’t recall how many. Unfortunately, the other nest, which was in the holly bush, ended up being abandoned with a few eggs in it.
In this case the still life was the bird. Back in the late spring, I looked out on the deck one day and saw a mourning dove just hanging out. It was, in fact, a juvenile dove (you can tell it’s not a full adult because it’s all gray, and not the slightly brown color of adult doves).
It just sat there while I took its picture through the glass door, and for quite a while afterward. Nothing better to do, I guess.
Second day in London: I took the bus to Westminster, getting off right near the houses of Parliament. I first walked around looking for breakfast, and ended up getting pastries (including a pecan roll) in a sandwich shop. Then I took pictures of some oft-photographed stuff.
Like this place:
I took pictures of it from the other side, as well, standing on Westminster Bridge:
Here’s the view upriver, alongside Parliament:
And here is the London Eye, on the downriver side of the bridge:
There are various statues in this area. Of course, in England you would expect to find a statue of Abraham Lincoln:
There seem to be a few leaders from other countries there, actually, such as Mandela:
And there is the obligatory statue of Mr. Churchill:
This memorial has an interesting way of depicting its subject (click to enlarge):
I also wandered by Westminster Abbey, and thought about going in, but it would have cost £20, so I contented myself with taking pictures of the exterior:
This column was near the abbey:
After walking around there, I took the underground a few stops west, and then walked to the Museum of Science.
On the way there, I spotted this sign:
which I thought was an odd name for a hotel.
I spent most of the afternoon at the Science Museum, as there was plenty to see. It included several early steam engines. This is an early locomotive:
This began a long hall that followed the development of technology over the past 2 centuries. Also in the beginning of that hall was a piece of Charles Babbage’s difference engine:
(more Babbage stuff later)
A lighthouse lens:
Planes and cars:
There were a few computer exhibits near the end, including an Apple I:
The NeXT machine that was used as the first world wide web server:
and a Cray supercomputer:
On an upper floor was a hall of math and computing, and it included a larger difference engine model:
As well as a model of the analytic engine:
with punch cards for programming it:
In another display case was a portrait of Babbage, some of his notes…and his brain:
When I had finished at the museum, I got dinner at a nearby Mediterranean place (lamb with couscous, and an orange-almond cake for dessert), and then rode the subway back to Westminster. I walked north to look around St. James Park, since it was still light out. This park has a small lake in it, and has many, many waterfowl, some of which were imported to it by the royal family.
Here are a number of the denizens:
There were black swans:
and gray swans:
And coots, which have neat feet:
I don’t know what these red birds are (and did not get a good picture of them):
I thought this bicyclist was topiary at first:
but it’s actually some kind of vine on a frame.
As it got dark, I saw a fox bound across the path I was walking on, so I followed it for a bit, but could not get a good photo.
I made my way back to the Thames, and took a night picture of the London Eye:
As well as this walking bridge (the Golden Jubilee bridge):
I’d had enough walking for the day at that point, so I hopped on a bus and headed to the airbnb apartment and bed.
On my second day in England, I returned to Oxford and took a boat tour of the Thames River (the waterway also known in that city as the Isis).
I walked down to the tour place a bit early and bought my ticket, and then walked around until the departure time. Here’s the river, seen from Folly Bridge, right near the tour boat launch:
I walked down near the river and saw a bunch of geese feasting on bread someone had thrown there:
I walked south from there, away from the river, and in front of a house I saw some birds I did not recognize. I found out later that these are magpies:
I noticed a path that went off the road alongside some athletic fields, and saw that the sign indicated that it was a public path that went through to the river. So I walked through there and came out on the Thames Path. Looking up river there were several University boathouses:
Here’s the view downriver from the same spot:
I followed the path upriver, back toward the tour place. On the way, I saw several houseboats that were moored by the side:
Some of which had a lot of plants on them:
Apparently there are a lot of river sections where the public can moor for a few days at a time.
Here’s a view of a park across the river:
I got back to the boat launch and soon was able to get on board the small boat. There were about 8 other passengers, and fortunately there was a canopy over most of the boat, as it was quite sunny.
First the boat headed downriver. Here’s a building near Folly Bridge:
We passed the boathouses I had seen from the shore, and a few more. These are the oldest ones, apparently:
We turned around at Iffley Lock and then headed upriver for the major portion of the tour.
This included going through a lock, where the boat pilot got out and operated the controls to close the doors and fill the lock.
Here we are heading into the lock:
As the water filled it, there was a duck floating there with us:
And here is the lock open for us to continue upriver:
At one point, a person on the shore was taking our picture. I tried to get a photo of him while he was doing so, but I wasn’t quick enough:
Some other views on the sides of the river:
The north end of the tour was at Port Meadow, which is common land in Oxford (and also a floodplain). There were a whole lot of birds there:
Also horses grazing and drinking:
That swan kept dunking its head when I wanted to take its picture.
I did get a closeup of this heron, though:
Here’s a building I thought was neat looking as we were headed back downriver:
An obelisk along the bank:
I think this is a train bridge:
After the tour ended, I walked back toward the train station, happening to pass Oxford Castle on the way:
And this is a canal that flows through the city:
I took the train back to Didcot, where I collected my luggage from my friend’s place, and then boarded another train to head to London, where I would spend the next 5 days.
Another quick post. A month or so back, I was out mowing the leaves (and a bit of grass), and I saw something moving quickly out of the way of the mower. It was about the same color as the grass.
On closer inspection, it was a large praying mantis:
When I say “large,” I mean it was about 3 to 4 inches long. Some might be grossed out by this, but I am a fan of mantises (manti?).
Next post: back to the England trip.
On my last morning in Iceland I got up somewhat early so I could return my rented bike (Óli Stef). I headed for the Reykjavik waterfront along the city’s bike paths, and partway there, I noticed geese in the median strip of the road (click photo to embiggen):
I also encountered this little bird at the waterfront:
I believe it’s a starling. In this photo it’s poking into a seawall, presumably trying to get some food.
After dropping the bike off, I walked back toward my lodging, taking in some more of the city on my way, as I did not have to hurry.
A couple of days earlier, I had visited the home of the original Althing, the gathering of the country’s leaders to make law. The Althing still exists, but it meets in a building in Reykjavik – this building, to be exact:
It’s labeled on this side section:
As are the spaces on the street in front of it:
That third letter is the letter thorn, by the way, which has a soft ‘th’ sound. I’ve been transliterating it to ‘th’ in Althing and Thingvellir, among other words.
I thought this fountain was neat looking:
And yes, that is a hot dog stand in the background – it’s supposedly quite popular.
I came across some interesting sculptures on my way east through the city:
Not sure what to make of these folks:
or these polar bears:
I saw similar stuffed bears in chains in front of other stores. It’s some kind of thing…
At the far end of the street was one sight I wanted to make sure to go by:
It is Hallgrímskirkja, the largest church in Iceland, and of unusual architecture:
There is a statue out front of Leif Ericsson out front:
This inscription is above the door:
The side view:
I did not go inside, but I did encounter another friendly cat outside the church before I moved on:
I got back to the apartment and packed up my stuff, then took a city bus to the bus station. There I had some lunch (more lamb) and waited for the bus to the airport.
It had been dry that morning, and for a couple of days before, but it started raining by the time I got to the airport, just as it had been raining when I arrived in the country.
Getting my bags checked required waiting a while in line, because the luggage conveyer belt at the check-in counter had broken down. Eventually some carts were brought to move the luggage through, and I was able to head for the gate.
On the flight to London, I watched an Icelandic documentary called Electric Reykjavik, about the electronic music scene there.
The plane flew southward over the British Isles, and I was able to glimpse some thin white things in Scotland or Northern England. I took as best a picture as I could with my phone:
They’re right in the center of the image. I was able to figure out pretty quickly what they were, because I could see blades turning. Apparently, windmills are visible from tens of thousands of feet in the air.
I arrived fine in Heathrow airport, and took a bus from there to Reading train station. From there it was a short train ride to Didcot, where I was staying with a friend for a couple of nights. The next day, she’d be showing me around Oxford.
On my third day in Iceland, I had a quick breakfast of yogurt and granola, or rather, of yogurt drink and granola. It turned out that the stuff I thought was yogurt, Skyr, is more like a thin smoothie. It still worked fine, as I even like having granola with plain milk.
Outside, before getting on the bike, I took a picture of Héradsskolínn itself (click any picture to see it bigger):
And here is Óli Stef up close:
And here is the peak across the road, without its summit obscured by clouds:
I started riding west, back up Route 365. When I say ‘up’, I mean that there is a long hill that I had to climb as I headed out of Laugarvatn. Here’s a view of that same peak from a ways up the hill to the west:
This is a view looking downhill at the town:
While I was paused at this point, there was a pretty stream off to the side of the road:
As I rode along 365, I took pics of mountains that I hadn’t stopped for when I came through earlier in the week:
I also saw some more sheep, including a variegated one:
When I came within view of Thingfallavatn, I could see what looked like a geyser on the other side of the water:
Soon I got to Route 36, and headed north into the Thingvellir park. A little ways after getting into the park, I turned off on a side road that goes west along the north side of the lake. There I was able to get close to the lake, as at this parking area:
The lake, complete with a fisherman off to the left:
I walked along the water a bit, and observed some interesting seaweed, which was very brightly colored:
It was also very stringy:
The plant life on the ground was mostly low-growing stuff, and not all of it green:
Continuing along toward the center of the park, I soon came to the odder parts of the landscape. Namely, various geologic fissures:
Iceland, and the national park in particular, sits on the divide between the North American and European tectonic plates, which are moving apart very slightly each year. It’s this action that causes much of the ground breakage there.
Around these fissures, I also saw my first view of this long rock wall:
That wall borders the parliament plain (the Althing Vellir) itself. This is where the world’s first parliament met, established in the 10th century by the Viking settlers of Iceland.
When I got to the plain, I locked up the bike in a picnic area, and headed up some steps toward the rock wall. Here are some views of the plain from most of the way up:
There was a path in front of the rock wall, which went slightly downhill to the north:
And uphill to the south:
I followed the line of people uphill, and came to the top of the wall, with a viewing platform, and a good view of the lake and plain:
I could also see Óli Stef from up there:
At the top, there was also a parking area and visitors’ center. I went in and watched a few videos on the history and geology of the place. Apparently, the land in the plain is slowly sinking, which is why water flows over so much of the places that people once camped for the annual assembly.
Here is the view back down the path along the wall, just before I headed down that way:
More of the wall:
Here, marked by the flagpole, is the Law Rock, where the Law Speaker would recite the country’s laws:
Looking down at the plain from here:
Further along the wall, I came to water flowing down from above:
Looking down from a bridge over the stream:
And here the water flows onto the plain:
I headed down onto the plain after that. Here’s a view looking south:
And looking back up to the Law Rock:
I wandered through the little collection of buildings on the plain, including a small church. There is a graveyard there:
And behind the buildings is this mysterious tree:
A wider fissure:
And here there is a diver getting ready to swim along the tectonic divide:
I headed back to the bike at this point, and noticed the lava rocks found around the picnic area:
On my way away from the plain, I saw some geese – a type that I don’t generally see in the US:
Riding eastward, I stopped to check out a couple of hiking trails in the park. The first one took me through some tundra:
There was a cable running across the ground, for some reason:
I came to a waterway which had more of the neon seaweed, as well as a much stranger growth of stuff on and in the water:
The other trail I hiked took me through a stand of evergreen trees:
And then up a hill which has a neat gully cutting across it:
There was another pleasant view from up there (looking west):
Once I hiked back down from there, I rode out of the park, back toward Laugarvatn. At the park exit, I stopped and took this picture to the north:
I had a rain-free day this time, but still wanted a shower when I got back to the hostel.
I met this individual in the hostel parking lot when I arrived back:
It was very friendly, and must belong to someone, as it was wearing a collar (but no tag).
After cleaning up, I had dinner in the hostel cafe, this time getting an item not written on the menu. It was local trout, baked with a cheese sauce, and with fried potatoes and salad on the side:
It was quite delicious, and a nice end to the day.
Next: back to the city
September 2 was my first full day in Iceland, and as detailed in my last post, it began with picking up a rented bicycle. Once I rode back to the apartment I’d stayed overnight in, I packed up my things, including trying to compensate for the broken zippers on my luggage. I loaded the panniers on the bike’s rack, and used a piece of stretchy netting with hooks (which I got years ago for holding things on a bike rack) to hold shut the side pocket. I then covered the top bag with a plastic trash bag and wrapped the borrowed bungee cord around it. This held it closed nice and tightly. I made a few holes for the buckles that would clip it on top of the panniers, and attached it. I then put over the whole array the rain fly that came with the bike luggage set. That would keep things dry and have the added benefit of holding the bags together.
I got going on the bike around 11:00am. I headed east, following a bike/walking path that paralleled the main road out of the city (Route 49). On the way, I encountered a river with an island of ducks (click on any image to see the high-res version):
There had been a bit of drizzle off and on during the morning, but just after I took this picture, it began to rain in earnest. The rain did not last very long, though, mostly letting up by the time I got near the outskirts of the city and Route 1, AKA the Ring Road. Here I’m looking out at Route 1 from up a hill, the bike path having gotten away from 49:
I managed to make my way downhill to a road whose sidewalk went under Route 1, and then bent north, which was the way I wanted to head on 1. The sidewalk went away from any roads for a bit, and I followed it in what I thought was the correct direction, but I eventually noticed I could see the city ahead of me. I had gotten partly turned around and was heading northwest, into a residential neighborhood, and sort of back toward downtown. I made my way toward high ground to see if I could find my way back to 1, and it started raining some more as I did so. I did eventually make my way out of the subdivision, and saw a way down to 1. I headed there and got on the proper bike path, which went north right next to 1.
After a short while, I came to this sign at a cross road:
Not sure what to make of the graffito on it (it’s reversed from the usual swastika orientation).
In that field were a bunch of horses:
with an impressive ridge behind:
The rain had subsided for a little while, and then started anew. I had to get off the bike path briefly and ride on 1, and just as I saw where I could get back on the path, I suddenly had trouble steering, and discovered that the rear tire had gone flat. I got off the road, and looked around for a good place to change the tube. Fortunately, I was next to a small park, and I spotted a gazebo.
I had planned for such an emergency, bringing a spare tube, tools, and pump. With the gazebo, I was able to get out of the rain, which made the repair work much more pleasant. It also stopped raining again while I was working.
This is the gazebo, and Óli Stef with a fresh new tube in place:
There was a little pond right near the gazebo:
There were also some fairly hidden ducks there (at least, it took me a while to spot them):
The park seemed to be in honor of someone or something, according to this sign:
and it included this interesting sculpture that uses a big piece of lava rock:
I got back on the path and rode on to the intersection of 1 with Route 36. The bike path headed off to the east, running along 36, which happened to be the way I wanted to go which was good. It was also raining heavily at that point, which was not so good. I had a rain poncho, but it only does so much good – especially annoying is the rain pelting one’s face in such circumstances. Soon after starting to follow 36, I passed a cyclist going the other direction – the first other bike I’d seen since leaving Reykjavik.
After another couple of miles, the path ended and I had to ride on the edge of the road. 36 isn’t a very wide road, but there also is not a ton of traffic, so it was generally not an issue for cars to go around me. As had been the pattern so far, the rain let up after a while, but this time a bit of sun peeked through. Here’s an example of what the view is like along much of 36:
For a while after taking this picture, I had dry riding. Before I knew it, I had reached the border of Thingvellir National Park. There will be more on the park itself in a later post, as I was only riding through the park that day, and would be coming back to visit more thoroughly later in the week.
When I got to the park border, I found this field of rock cairns:
Beyond the field is the park’s lake, Thingfallavatn:
The road went a bit north at this point, then turned east again (so as to go around the lake). In the middle of the park I stopped at the snack bar/gift shop and got something to eat. It was a lamb and bean salad sandwich. That is to say, the sandwich had a slice of lamb lunchmeat, and the bean salad was basically mashed white bean of some kind, with bits of green bean in it. It wasn’t bad, and I was certainly hungry, even though I’d eaten some snack food that I brought along.
Some more rain started falling while I was at the snack bar, but the sun was out toward the west, so there was a rainbow in the eastern sky:
I headed on through new rain, as the road headed south a ways. The rain stopped again shortly before the road exited the park, and I had dry riding the rest of the way to my destination. Here are some more views from around the eastern park border, including looking back at the lake:
I soon turned east again, getting onto Route 365. This took me another several miles to the town (and smaller lake) of Laugarvatn, where I would be staying the next few nights.
This past summer I attended a Hadley Select Board meeting. As the meeting had high attendance, I could not park around Town Hall, but had to park a ways away and walk back across the road to get to the meeting. Later in the evening, when I had left the meeting and was waiting for a walk signal to cross again, I noticed something about some nearby signposts.
They formed a nice frame for building a home. 🙂
On April 12 of this year, I went to the town of Clinton, MA for a “Golden Spike” event where updates were provided on the Massachusetts Central Rail Trail (MCRT). Presentations were given on each section of the trail, what had been done so far in terms of planning or construction, and what would be done in the near future. Slides that were shown for each section can be viewed here.
There is still only a small percentage of the eventual statewide trail finished, but good progress seems to be happening. The event also featured a keynote speech from the state’s commissioner of conservation and recreation, and some awards given to people who have been important in the development of the trail.
After the event, a tour was given of a former railway tunnel in Clinton that will become part of the trail in the future. I couldn’t resist trekking through a dark and dank tunnel, so I went along on the tour. This is the end of the tunnel near a major road (click on the pictures to view larger versions):
There are no longer tracks running through the tunnel – its floor is dirt and gravel. One very interesting feature is that, while there are concrete walls near the ends, much of the sides and ceiling of the tunnel are just rough-hewn rock.
Even though it was a fairly warm day in mid-April, and there had been plenty of warm Spring days already, the interior of the tunnel was quite cool. There were even large chunks of ice still to be found inside:
While the ground was merely damp through most of the length, there were large puddles at the far end, and some deeper water in the pathway beyond. Here is the view out the other end:
And looking back through the tunnel:
In the leaves next to one of the rock walls, a snake was lurking:
It emerged more as it checked out the people:
After seeing the tunnel, I walked over to the dam on the nearby river. The Wachusett Dam creates the Wachusett Reservoir:
Here is the top of the dam, which is closed to visitors:
Off to the right (north) is the Nashua River:
As well as a long stairway down to the bottom.
At the bottom, where the water emerges from the dam, there is a sort of fountain, which might be the way the water comes out from the reservoir:
Also in that picture, there is a row of white dots crossing the river in the distance. Those are the remains of pilings for the train bridge that used to connect with the tunnel.
Here is the dam seen from near its base:
And the stairs back up to the top and road:
I counted the steps as I climbed back up: there are 194 of them.
Even though there is not a whole lot of trail running from Northampton to Boston, there are more sections complete than I knew about when I rode to Boston in 2012. If I should do such a ride again, I can spend more of the distance off roads. I certainly look forward to riding some of the other trail sections whenever I have a chance.
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