Thursday, July 23, 2009

Motorcycles in Scotland

Well, I did indeed look into hiring a bike in Scotland, but it would have been about $1000 for 2 people to rent for 1 day. Since I'm loathe to sell any organs before my actual death to raise that kind of money, and since we still can't remember to look for cars on the opposite sides of the street, never mind ride on them, perhaps it is for the best. (I have no desire to hasten the state in which it would be acceptable to sell my organs.) Though I am painfully reminded at every turn how much I would really like to ride my bike here.

Rather like Steve Carrell's character in '40 Year Old Virgin', haunted by sexual imagery at every turn and stalked by the large 'Eruption' advertisements, bikes are everywhere here. Yesterday, on a bus ride to Lock Ness and Glen Coe, there were swarms of two-wheeled travelers in their leathers at every tourist stop. I got to play 'Which Bike Do They Ride' game...all day.

Today, waiting for the bus to go to Cramond Island, two motorcycle officers passed a la 'CHiPs' in the same can't-miss-me-with-your-eyes-closed design that the police cars here in Scotland sport.

Once on the bus, the bikes were at every intersection. Taunting me from across the intersection, pulling up to my window seat at every stop light or, the nerve, leading the way back to Edinburgh, giving me a haughty exhaust pipe-view a good bit of the way. Rarely were they cruiser style, though there was one Harley Davidson spotted, a couple Hondas and a Suzuki. And we got to see the blatant "L" tags that learners here are required to display.

It's been interesting to note the differences here - more than the style of bike ridden is that no matter the style, protective gear is almost universally worn head to toe. Perhaps it's that most all of the riders I've seen off their bikes sans helmet have been 40+, but whether on the handful of cruisers, or the hundreds of cafe bikes and scooters, helmet, jacket, pants, gloves and boots are prominent. Perhaps this makes me stand out less in my Joe Rocket pants, sitting on the edge of Loch Ness eating my sandwich, not having jumped off my bike for a quick tourist stop and a stretch, but rather to keep warm during the colder-than-I-packed-for July in Scotland.

And not even a peek at the monster to distract me.

Maybe if it were this cold at home in the summer riders would have on full gear.

Somehow I doubt it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Where in the World Is...

Ok, "Where in the World is Max Kondike?" is not nearly so rhythmically pleasing as "...Carmen Sandiego", but I'm sure that would incur some lawsuit or something, so it's really for the best. The question is: Do you want to find me? In order to alleviate some stress from family and friends as I run around on my bike to places unknown, I have gotten a tracker...of sorts. After much online research, done as much as a break from trying to hack my previous Blog password/ID as to find a way to let people know where I am, I found a reasonable solution.

With a very basic pre-pay cell phone and a downloaded free online application, I have a tracker that will serve fairly well to let people see where I am while I'm out and about. Now, some angst has unexpectedly come about as a result of using this newfangled device: in addition to showing me as a dot on a map, it displays my speed and altitude.

I didn't realize how many people would react to how high I was. Hailing from the low-lying East Coast, friends and family have been surprised at the heights to which I sometimes travel. I can only say that 1: according to the forums on the site, the accuracy of the altitude reading is lacking and therefore unreliable, and 2: I do not wrecklessly traverse inclined roadways, but do, prudently, I believe, navigate these steep roads and follow, within reason, other vehicles who have for whatever reason chosen to exceed sea level roads to explore higher elevations. So, given this admission that I do occasionally ride in higher elevations, but that it is not with wonton disregard for available oxygen, I hope that unnecessary consternation has been averted.

This is probably also applies to the 'speed' display.

So, with the understanding that I am not wrecklessly ascending unknown roads, feel free to check in on me when you know I'm out there. (mobile version)

You'll see me as 'Guido's Mom'. Guido is another of my fantastic animals forever immortalized in the great void of cyberspace...unless it gets changed, in which case those url's should be showing me under whatever animal name I've renamed my device as. Unless you see me at an elevation that makes you uncomfortable, in which case, I'm sure there's been a mix-up in the code and the altitude is more incorrect than usual.

Ok, here be the things you should know to avoid confusion:

1: I only have this 'on' when I'm traveling, getting ready to travel, or have forgotten to turn it off after returning from travel. I also may turn it off before I arrive at my precise destination to avoid any stalker behavior enabled by this Big Brother technology. If I am not at the exact location of the Roach Motel I said I'd be checking into, do not panic.

2: I may, to suit a whim which I may or may not share with you, change how often my position is sent to the application. I can send it as often as every 5 seconds or change it to transmit only on second Tuesdays on which a Full Moon will occur. This means that you may see my dots closer together or further apart on any given day. Do not panic.

3: The dots that show my movement get connected by a pale straight line. Given the frequency of the transmission of my dots, these lines may appear to run all astray of what appear to be paved roads. I promise you that I do not make a habit of taking shortcuts across the grass of highway interchange ramps, it is just a function of a simplified connect-the-dots setting. Do not panic.

4. This tracker is really a pre-paid cell phone. If I lose cell phone coverage, the cell phone will not transmit it's position. I haven't quite figured out the minutia of how everything works, but the phone will apparently continue to store 'x' number of positions and upload those once coverage is re-established. So, if you are frantically refreshing the map page anxious to see the me/dot move as proof of life, it may just be that I'm out of range. The route should display once I've rejoined civilization. Do not panic.

5. The cell phone/tracker runs on a battery. Just like your cell phone does. I have to recharge it periodically. Just like you do. I may forget. Or my charger is packed at the bottom of the bag I just bungied to death on the back of the bike. Or, I think it's in the power outlet and is charging, but the fuse blew or the plug came loose. Just like...well, just like last time the fuse blew and the battery died and no one understood why I was in Buffalo for 4 hours. If the battery dies there is no reporting of positions, no saving of positions for later reporting. You won't know where I am or why it's not showing you where I am. I swear I'm not trying to give you a heart attack. Do not panic.

Ok, well those are the lessons I've learned so far. I'm sure there will be others and I will be sure to pass those along. Really, this is supposed to be fun! "Holy Cow! She's riding thru Death Valley! Let's click on 'satellite view' and see what she's seeing. (Look how HIGH she is!)" Not, "The dot's not moving. Why isn't the dot moving? Did it move?" "MOVE, DAMMIT, MOVE!"

Alright, I'm well aware that that is a gross exaggeration, but I know that some of you are concerned for my well-being, for which I am blessed and eternally grateful, and I really want you to feel secure knowing where I am and enjoy the ride with me.

30 days to the big trip! Smiles, Joanne