News about me, and my thoughts, jokes, and stuff.

Sean's Blog

A Bear in Connecticut

In mid-July I went for a ride down to Connecticut, riding on the Farmington Canal Heritage trail.  I’d done the ride twice before, and mostly saw the same sights I photographed the first time.  Hence, I didn’t take many pictures this time.  Like the last time I did it, I rode all the way from our house in Holyoke to Westfield, where the trail begins, and then followed it all the way to Farmington.

I ate lunch there (at this place again), and then headed back.  Overall the ride had been pretty uneventful, but when I was passing back north through the town of Simsbury, a cyclist ahead of me came to a stop, and then I noticed something on the trail quite a ways ahead.  At first I thought it was a large dog, but then realized it was something else:

   

It was a black bear.  As you can see, it was holding up bike traffic in both directions.  I moved forward slowly, and the bear started to move away (that far cyclist backed off to give it room).  After a bit of this, the bear turned off and headed into the woods, and I was able to continue toward home.

When I had just gotten back into the Holyoke city limit, I was climbing a hill, and found a snake lying on the side of the road.  It did not move at all as I took pictures of it, so I suspect it was dead, though there was no obvious trauma to it (and it was far enough to the side of the road that I’m not sure a car would have run over it).

   

I got home without incident, completing what was then my longest riding day of the year (88 miles, just a bit longer than the day I rode up to NH).

Posted by seaking on 09-20-2017 at 11:09 pm
Posted in Biking, Wildlife with 0 Comments

Forest in the City

The first weekend in June this year, I went on my first 50-mile ride of the year.  Much of the route was roads I’d ridden on before.  I rode from Holyoke east into Chicopee, then south through Ludlow and a bit of Springfield into Wilbraham.  I then went southwest to East Longmeadow, rode the Redstone Trail again, and then made my way due west into the town of Longmeadow.

I had not biked through Longmeadow this way before, but my objective was to head to a part of Springfield that I hadn’t previously visited.  Heading north into Springfield, I rode into Forest Park.  I’ve known about this large park in the city for years, but only finally got around to visiting.

I didn’t ride through all of the park – mostly the western section.  There I found a large pond:

   

The pond, as you might expect, attracts waterfowl:

   

Apparently that one goose prefers the company of ducks to that of its own species.  Birds, like humans, have different orientations, it would seem.

I passed by the old carriage house that is now used as an event space, and walked up a little hill to view the fancy mausoleum of the Barney family.

   

It’s fenced in, so the general public can’t climb all over it (or to keep people from defacing it, I suppose).

I exited the north side of the park and went to have a burrito for lunch.  I then, as a couple times in the past, rode up Springfield’s riverside bikeway, though that path currently has a discontinuity.  The portion of it that traveled on a bridge over railroad tracks is closed and under construction – part of the larger reconstruction being done on Interstate 91.  So I had to ride on downtown streets for a ways, then go back to the path.

After reaching the northern end of the bikeway, I headed through Chicopee and back to home.

Next: a weekend bike trip to another state.

Posted by seaking on 09-16-2017 at 11:09 pm
Posted in Biking, Wildlife with 0 Comments

Post-Easter Eggs

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:

fincheggs

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:

robineggs2014

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.

Posted by seaking on 11-23-2014 at 11:11 pm
Posted in Wildlife with 0 Comments

Still Life with Bird

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).

juvie-dove

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.

 

Posted by seaking on 11-22-2014 at 10:11 pm
Posted in Wildlife with 0 Comments

Government, Religion, and Science

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:

parliament1

I took pictures of it from the other side, as well, standing on Westminster Bridge:

parliament2

parliament3

Here’s the view upriver, alongside Parliament:

thameswstbrg

And here is the London Eye, on the downriver side of the bridge:

londoneyeday

There are various statues in this area.  Of course, in England you would expect to find a statue of Abraham Lincoln:

lincolnstat

There seem to be a few leaders from other countries there, actually, such as Mandela:

mandelastat

And there is the obligatory statue of Mr. Churchill:

churchillstat

This memorial has an interesting way of depicting its subject (click to enlarge):

womenww2

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:

westabbey4

westabbey5

westabbey3

westabbey2

westabbey1

This column was near the abbey:

abbeycolumn

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:

amphotel

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:

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:

diffengine1

(more Babbage stuff later)

A lighthouse lens:

lighthouselens

Planes and cars:

britbiplane

planeandcars

There were a few computer exhibits near the end, including an Apple I:

apple1comp

The NeXT machine that was used as the first world wide web server:

nextwebserv

and a Cray supercomputer:

craysection

On an upper floor was a hall of math and computing, and it included a larger difference engine model:

diffengine2

diffengine3

diffengine4

As well as a model of the analytic engine:

analyticengine

with punch cards for programming it:

enginecards

In another display case was a portrait of Babbage, some of his notes…and his brain:

babbagebrain

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:

stjamesbirds

There were black swans:

blackswan1

and gray swans:

grayswans

And coots, which have neat feet:

coot1

I don’t know what these red birds are (and did not get a good picture of them):

redbirds

I thought this bicyclist was topiary at first:

bikeplant

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:

londeyenight

As well as this walking bridge (the Golden Jubilee bridge):

jubileebridge

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.

 

Posted by seaking on 11-18-2014 at 12:11 am
Posted in Science, Travel, Wildlife with 0 Comments

River Tour

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:

thamesfolly

I walked down near the river and saw a bunch of geese feasting on bread someone had thrown there:

thamesgeese1

thamesgeese2

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:

magpie1

magpie2

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:

boathouses1

Here’s the view downriver from the same spot:

thamespath1

I followed the path upriver, back toward the tour place.  On the way, I saw several houseboats that were moored by the side:

thameshouseboats

Some of which had a lot of plants on them:

houseboatplants

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:

thamespark

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:

thamesbldg1

We passed the boathouses I had seen from the shore, and a few more.  These are the oldest ones, apparently:

boathouses2

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:
thameslock1

thameslock2

As the water filled it, there was a duck floating there with us:

thamesduck

And here is the lock open for us to continue upriver:

thameslock3

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:

thamesphotog

Some other views on the sides of the river:

thamestrees

thameswoodbridge

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:

portmeadow1

Also horses grazing and drinking:

thameshorses

That swan kept dunking its head when I wanted to take its picture.

I did get a closeup of this heron, though:

thamesheron

Here’s a building I thought was neat looking as we were headed back downriver:

thamesbldg2

An obelisk along the bank:

thamesobelisk

I think this is a train bridge:

thamestrainbridge

After the tour ended, I walked back toward the train station, happening to pass Oxford Castle on the way:

oxfcastle1

oxfcastle2

And this is a canal that flows through the city:

oxfcanal

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.

Posted by seaking on 11-15-2014 at 11:11 pm
Posted in Travel, Wildlife with 0 Comments

Grassroots Prayer?

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:

lawnmantis1

lawnmantis2

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.

Posted by seaking on 11-14-2014 at 07:11 pm
Posted in Wildlife with 1 Comment

Plane, Train, Buses, and Bike

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):

mediangeese

I also encountered this little bird at the waterfront:

reykstarling

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:

althingbldg1

althingbldg2

It’s labeled on this side section:

althingbldg4

As are the spaces on the street in front of it:

althingbldg3

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:

reykfountain

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:

reyksculpt4

reyksculpt2

reyksculpt3

reyksculpt7

Not sure what to make of these folks:

reyksculpt5

reyksculpt6

or these polar bears:

reykbears

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:

hallgrimfar

It is Hallgrímskirkja, the largest church in Iceland, and of unusual architecture:

hallgrimcloser

hallgrimfront

There is a statue out front of Leif Ericsson out front:

ericsson

This inscription is above the door:

hallgrimwords

The side view:

hallgrimside

I did not go inside, but I did encounter another friendly cat outside the church before I moved on:

reykcat1

reykcat2

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:

ukwindmills

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.

 

Posted by seaking on 11-11-2014 at 11:11 pm
Posted in Arts/Media, Biking, Cats, Travel, Wildlife with 0 Comments

Not-So-Plain Plain

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):

heradss1

And here is Óli Stef up close:

olistef1

olistef2

And here is the peak across the road, without its summit obscured by clouds:

laugmount2

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:

laugmount3

This is a view looking downhill at the town:

laugdownhill

While I was paused at this point, there was a pretty stream off to the side of the road:

rt365water1

rt365water2

As I rode along 365, I took pics of mountains that I hadn’t stopped for when I came through earlier in the week:

rt365mount1

rt365mount2

rt365mount3

I also saw some more sheep, including a variegated one:

icesheep3

When I came within view of Thingfallavatn, I could see what looked like a geyser on the other side of the water:

thingfallspout

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:

hallviksign

The lake, complete with a fisherman off to the left:

thingfallclose1

thingfallclose2

I walked along the water a bit, and observed some interesting seaweed, which was very brightly colored:

thingalgae1

It was also very stringy:

thingalgae2

The plant life on the ground was mostly low-growing stuff, and not all of it green:

thingflora1

thingflora2

Continuing along toward the center of the park, I soon came to the odder parts of the landscape.  Namely, various geologic fissures:

thingfissure1

thingfissure2

thingfissure3

thingfissure4

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:

thingwall1

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:

thingvellir1

thingvellir2

There was a path in front of the rock wall, which went slightly downhill to the north:

thingwall2

And uphill to the south:

thingwall3

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:

thingvellir3

thingvellir4

thingvellir5

I could also see Óli Stef from up there:

olistef3

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:

thingwall4

More of the wall:

thingwall5

thingwall6

Here, marked by the flagpole, is the Law Rock, where the Law Speaker would recite the country’s laws:

lawrock1

Looking down at the plain from here:

thingvellir6

Further along the wall, I came to water flowing down from above:

thingwater1

Looking down from a bridge over the stream:

thingwater2

And here the water flows onto the plain:

thingwater3

I headed down onto the plain after that.  Here’s a view looking south:

thingvellir7

And looking back up to the Law Rock:

lawrock2

I wandered through the little collection of buildings on the plain, including a small church.  There is a graveyard there:

thinggraves

And behind the buildings is this mysterious tree:

thingconetree

A wider fissure:

thingfissure5

And here there is a diver getting ready to swim along the tectonic divide:

thingdiver

I headed back to the bike at this point, and noticed the lava rocks found around the picnic area:

lavarock1

lavarock2

On my way away from the plain, I saw some geese – a type that I don’t generally see in the US:

thinggeese1

thinggeese2

Riding eastward, I stopped to check out a couple of hiking trails in the park.  The first one took me through some tundra:

thingland1

There was a cable running across the ground, for some reason:

thingland2

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:

thingalgae5

thingalgae3

thingalgae4

The other trail I hiked took me through a stand of evergreen trees:

thingtrail1

And then up a hill which has a neat gully cutting across it:

thingtrail2

thingtrail3

thingtrail4

There was another pleasant view from up there (looking west):

thingtrail5

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:

thingexitmount

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:

iceorangecat1

iceorangecat2

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:

troutdinner

It was quite delicious, and a nice end to the day.

Next: back to the city

Posted by seaking on 11-09-2014 at 11:11 pm
Posted in Biking, Cats, Hiking, Surreal, Travel, Wildlife with 0 Comments

Rain, Repairs, and Rocks

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):

duckisland

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:

eastofreyk

neofreyk

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:

sveinnsign

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:

sveinnhorses

with an impressive ridge behind:

sveinnridge

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:

stekkgazebo

There was a little pond right near the gazebo:
stekkpond

There were also some fairly hidden ducks there (at least, it took me a while to spot them):

hiddenducks

The park seemed to be in honor of someone or something, according to this sign:

stekkjarflot

and it included this interesting sculpture that uses a big piece of lava rock:

stekksculpt1

stekksculpt2

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:

rt36mount1

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:

thingcairns1

thingcairns2

Beyond the field is the park’s lake, Thingfallavatn:

thingcairns3

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:

thingrainbow

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:

rt36mount2

thingfallavatn2

thingfallavatn1

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.

Posted by seaking on 11-07-2014 at 11:11 pm
Posted in Biking, Food, Travel, Wildlife with 2 Comments

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