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

Sean's Blog

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 1 Comment

Town Narrow Web

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.

hadleyctrweb

 

They formed a nice frame for building a home.     🙂

 

Posted by seaking on 11-04-2014 at 10:11 pm
Posted in Wildlife with 0 Comments

Tunnel and Dam

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):

clinton-tunnel-west

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.

tunnelwall

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:

tunnelice1

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:

beyondtunnel

And looking back through the tunnel:

clinton-tunnel-east

In the leaves next to one of the rock walls, a snake was lurking:

snakehead

It emerged more as it checked out the people:

snakeall

After seeing the tunnel, I walked over to the dam on the nearby river.  The Wachusett Dam creates the Wachusett Reservoir:

wachreservoir

Here is the top of the dam, which is closed to visitors:

wachdam1

Off to the right (north) is the Nashua River:

wachdam2

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:

wachdam3

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:

wachdam5

wachdam4

And the stairs back up to the top and road:

wachdam6

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.

 

Posted by seaking on 11-02-2014 at 10:11 pm
Posted in Biking, Wildlife with 0 Comments

Central Trail

Readers will recall that, last year, to celebrate my 40th birthday, I biked to Boston and back.  On the way out there, as well as on the way back, I rode on a small section of what will eventually be the Massachusetts Central Rail Trail, running the length of the state.  The section I was on runs from Holden to West Boylston, just north of the city of Worcester.  What I wasn’t aware of at the time, but realized earlier this year, is that there is another, longer section of trail that I had passed somewhat close to.  That section runs through the towns of Barre and Rutland (further to the west than the West Boylston section).  I decided earlier this month to ride out there and ride this section of trail.

I began the same way as my Boston trip had, heading east through Amherst and Belchertown, then into downtown Ware. I took a slight detour on the way, going through the southern end of the Quabbin Reservoir reservation, riding across Winsor Dam:

winsdamalong

Here’s the view north of the water:

quabbinsun

And looking south I could see rather a large number of geese below the dam:

lotsogeese

Back on the main road (route 9), I passed a swampy area, and as often happens there, I saw a heron:

heronnearquab

Once in Ware, I then headed north into Gilbertville, and went farther north than I had last year, in order to head east on a more direct route to the bike path.

The route I took was not very hilly for a while, but eventually did require a bunch of climbing of me, and then went downhill for a long stretch right to the beginning of the trail in Barre.

What I had not realized was that this section of trail (about 5 or 6 miles total) was not paved.  It’s mainly finely crushed stone/gravel, with a few sections that are almost dirt trail.  Here’s what the surface mostly looks like:

wachpath1

It is a very pretty area that the trail passes through.  Here are some of the water areas:

wachwater1

wachwater3

wachwater2

The trail even does a bit of climbing and falling.  There are a couple of tunnels under roads:

wachtunnel1

wachtunnel2

and a bit that heads between 2 rock walls:

wachpath3

I took longish rest when I got to the end in Rutland.  At this end (and only this end) of the section is a MCRT sign:

rutlandmcrt

Here’s the path seen from that end, just before I started back:

wachpath2

Riding back was a bit quicker to get to the western end of the path, and I then went just north and picked up highway 122 so that I could have a more hill-free ride home.  I did make fairly good time getting back, completing the whole trip (85 miles) in less than 8 hours.

 

Posted by seaking on 09-28-2013 at 10:09 pm
Posted in Biking, Wildlife with 1 Comment

Descent into Orangeness

In early August I went for a ride to the North.  Specifically, I was headed for Northfield, which I had ridden through 2 years ago on my way to Brattleboro, VT.  I took pretty much the same route up there, going through the UMass campus into North Amherst, then heading through Leverett and Montague.  At the north edge of Montague I went over the same little walking bridge as in 2011, which crosses the Millers River in a very pretty spot.

In fact, as an aside, I got contacted last December by a staff member of the Northfield Mountain reservation asking if they could use one of the pictures I had posted from that bridge.  They were putting together a Google map guide to various scenic recreation spots in the area, and thought my picture illustrated the bikeway well.  That guide can be seen by clicking here, and if you scroll down the sidebar and click on “Franklin County Bike Path – Northfield Connector”, you’ll see my picture, and a photo credit that links to my 2011 blog post.  Pretty neat.

I continued along the Connecticut River, until the road moved me back to highway 63, and then headed up into Northfield Center.  I stopped for lunch there (at an okay bar/bistro), and then headed east into new territory for me.  I was headed into the town of Warwick, MA, from which I would then head south.

Now, I expected that the road, which goes near Northfield Mountain itself, would climb a ways, and then descend into Warwick.  That’s not quite what happens.  The road climbs, and climbs, and climbs some more.  It turns out that Warwick is at a good bit higher elevation than Northfield.  So I kept expecting the climb to end, but then the road would continue going up.  Finally it went downward a little, but then I had a last little climb to come out on highway 78, which would take me south.

Now, this was where I really started to go downhill.  There was a lot of descending on 78, and some downhill sections were nice and straight, which meant I felt safe letting gravity speed me up a lot.  I have a bike computer that I got last Xmas that has a speedometer and odometer – at one point heading down route 78 my speedometer actually read 40MPH! (which is kind of a scary speed on a bicycle – even on a straight road with  no traffic around)

Before leaving Warwick, I stopped by the side of the road where there was a nice pond:

warwickpond

As I was taking that picture, something came out of the rushes to my right.  It was a heron, which had flown up just a bit to a fallen tree:

warwickheron1

warwickheron2

It wasn’t there long.  I got a couple of pictures of it and then it took off across the pond.

Heading south again, I soon entered the town of Orange – one of the larger towns in Franklin County.  I only passed through one corner of it (didn’t really get close to downtown), but my descent ended there.  I arrived at route 2A and headed just a tad west, then was able to go south across a little bridge over the Millers.

This is looking back at 2A from that bridge (and having just passed under that railroad trestle in the photo):

2Atrestle

Here’s the view upriver (east) from the bridge:

smbridgemillers1

Not visible, but just off the right side of the photo was a house whose lawn sloped right down to the river.  I thought it would be really cool to live right by the water like that, but then wondered if their house is high enough to avoid flooding in the spring.  Who knows?

Here is the view downriver:

smbridgemillers2

From there I continued south into the town of Wendell.  I had to start climbing again there (I had forgotten that Wendell is on quite a hill).  Once I got to the top it was not far to Wendell Center.  There is a lovely general store there which I stopped at to get more liquid, and then I headed south and west (and downhill) through Shutesbury and into Leverett.  In Leverett I picked up route 63 again and headed back home the way I’d come.

The total time of that trip was a little over 8 hours, and I went 79 miles.

Posted by seaking on 09-28-2013 at 09:09 pm
Posted in Biking, Wildlife with 0 Comments

Whales of a Time

The second half of my birthday in Boston involved a lot of aquatic life.  After having lunch I headed to the waterfront, and the New England Aquarium.  I had bought a combo ticket in advance for the aquarium itself and a trip on their whale watch boat.

The aquarium had a new exhibit (though the whole place was new to me, as I’d never been there before) – a touch tank.  That is, you could stand by the side of a big, shallow tank, reach in and touch rays and small sharks.  There were a couple kinds of each swimming around in the tank.

If you can’t tell from the photo, the background is painted on the wall.

Here are some of the rays:

Those are cownose rays, which I got to touch a couple of (you’re only supposed to touch them on the middle of their backs – otherwise you might freak them out).  I also touched a bonnethead shark and an epaulette shark (for them it was more like petting a cat).  All of these animals are about a foot or so long, I should add.  It was pretty neat – the rays felt pretty slimy, whereas the sharks were rougher.

Moving into the main part of the aquarium, there is a large central tank that takes up multiple floors, and on each level there are smaller tanks around the periphery.  Below the ground floor are various kinds of penguins:

They have a lot of rocks to sit on, surrounded by water for swimming.

Before heading up the various levels, I took a detour to the seal and sea lion area:

 

I then made my way past various tanks on my way upward.  Some highlights included the sea dragon tank:

At first I thought this next one was a piece of seaweed floating around.  That would be its camoflage:

It was hard to get a good picture, unfortunately.

When I got to the top level, I was able to look out over the surface of the large ocean tank.  They have a big, fake coral reef in the middle which goes up to the surface.  I saw (but failed to take a picture of) a moray eel swim upward and (mostly) hide itself among the convolutions of the reef, then sit there with its mouth opening and closing, as morays are wont to do.

There was an aquarium employee at the top talking about the big tank and some of the animals in it.  In particular, it was mentioned that their large green sea turtle (named Myrtle) is about 80 years old.

As I headed down the spiral walkway along this tank, I got a good view of Myrtle, just after she’d come to rest:

 

When I finished going through the place, I headed outside to line up for the whale watch.  It was an early evening boat trip, starting at 6:00.  Here’s the aquarium as seen from the boat:

And looking back at the building once we got underway:

I had figured that the boat ride would be chilly compared with the city, especially as it was so late in the day.  So I had worn jeans instead of shorts for the day, and brought a long-sleeved shirt in my backpack.  I’d been hot at points earlier, but dressing warmly was well worth it once the boat got going (with its attendant wind).

Here’s a view of the harbor once we were a ways out:

The boat headed about 30 miles east from the harbor to get to whale feeding areas.  We remained in Massachusetts Bay the whole time, and at our farthest point out we could see the tip of Cape Cod just to the east.

The boat slowed down once whales were spotted, and a crew member called out whale appearances at various angles around the boat.  There were a number of appearances I couldn’t get on camera, as I wasn’t quick enough, or the whale was too far away, or other passengers were in the way.  But I got a few good shots:

We saw 2 species: humpback and minke.

After about 45 minutes in the whale area, the boat headed back, and soon the sun was setting ahead of us:

It was dark by the time we returned to the dock.  From there I hopped on the blue line train and headed back up to Revere, then took the bus to near my hotel (and walked the last few blocks).

Next: the ride home.

Posted by seaking on 07-24-2012 at 11:07 pm
Posted in Science, Travel, Wildlife with 1 Comment

Pride of Ducks?

On my birthday bike trip, I spent my birthday itself in Boston and its suburbs.  I decided to give myself a break from the bike seat for the day, so I got around on foot and by public transit.  After breakfasting at my hotel, I walked a few blocks through a residential neighborhood to pick up a bus to the Revere Beach train station, where I bought a day pass that’s good on all buses and trains.  It was a bargain at $9 (though the price went up to $11 on July 1).

I rode the blue, green, and red lines to get out to Cambridge, and went to a fun secondhand clothing store, The Garment District.  Specifically, their by-the-pound section (formerly known as dollar-a-pound).  For those that haven’t had the experience, they have a large floor area covered with clothing that you go through, and then you pay $1.50 per pound for whatever items you want.  The only thing I found that I wanted was an additional moisture-wicking shirt for biking (bringing my total of such shirts to 2).

I then took the train out further to Harvard Square, and hit a few stores, including a very good comic shop, Million Year Picnic.

I headed back into Boston after that, and walked around the Public Garden.  The best aspect of the Public Garden is the many ducks that make their home by the large pond there (ducks that inspired a famous book).

The pond:

Ducks and ducklings:

I like how you can see the beads of water on this one’s feathers:

The ducks will come right up close to people in hopes of being fed (and several people were tossing the birds food).  There were some birds who were kept separated in this fenced-off area, though:

Here the swans are building their nest:

 

After hanging out with the park’s waterfowl for a while, I exited to the south onto Boylston St., where a crowd was gathered along both sides of the street.  This was in anticipation of the Boston LGBT pride parade, which was scheduled to come by soon (I took my place in the crowd around 12:30).  When I got there, there was a nearby church playing, for some reason, ‘Danny Boy’ on its carillon.  When that ended, I was surprised and intrigued by the next piece of music that played – it was ‘Happy Birthday’.  I wonder how they knew…

Before too long, the parade came through.  This was the first time since the mid-90’s that I had been to a big city pride parade, and it was neat to see.

It started out with the mayor riding in a car, along with other dignitaries, such as the Pride King and Queen:

There were pink flamingo balloons:

There was, of course, a lot of rainbow-colored stuff, including this…interesting hat:

A gigantic rainbow flag is de rigueur:

There were a bunch of men in purple priestly vestments:

Cool balloon sculptures:

and The Price is Right!

It also wouldn’t be a pride parade without some leather men:

And their flag looked bigger than the large rainbow one:

This might have been the largest headdress I saw:

But this was a more impressive outfit:

Star o’ teal wig:

There were a number of politicians marching in the parade with groups of supporters.  They were mostly city councilors or candidates for state legislative districts in the area.  Toward the end of the parade, though, I did see my favorite U.S. Senate candidate:

After the end of the parade passed by, I went back through the Public Garden toward Boston Common.  I caught the last parts of the parade again as they came up Arlington St., and got a good view of this vehicle:

 

I went off in search of lunch, and found a Turkish place east of the common where I got a very filling falafel, hummus, and tabbouli sandwich.

Next time: the latter half of the day.

Posted by seaking on 07-20-2012 at 11:07 pm
Posted in Politics, Travel, Wildlife with 1 Comment

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