A quick tour

The train ride was easy and uneventful. They served a breakfast snack right after we boarded in Cologne, and a lunch snack just after Brussels. Since we were in the Premium class, we were able to fill out a form and pre-request a taxi for €7 extra. It was nice because the taxi line stretched from outside all the way into the middle of the station.

We took the quick taxi to the new hotel, Hotel Paris Bastille Boutet. It’s near the Bastille Plaza, and in fact we drove right through it on the way to the hotel. I planned to take a quick nap and then go out, but I realized I would just skip everything if I didn’t go out right that second. I consulted Google Maps for the best way to get about, and I decided on going to the Louvre since it was a straight shot without multiple line changes. I turned left out of the hotel and walked about 10 minutes to the Reuilly – Diderot Metro stop. The ticket machines were easy to switch to English and accepted credit cards, though I had to use my pin. I barely have to use it since it still hasn’t taken off in the US, but luckily I remembered it. Tickets anywhere in Zone 1, which covers most of Paris, were €1.90 each way.

The train arrived quickly, and there wasn’t a large crowd since it was about 1pm on a Friday. I got to the Louvre 7 stops later and walked up onto one of the side entrances. Although lots of people were taking pictures here, it wasn’t the view I had in mind when I thought about the Louvre. I made my way around to the front and took a picture with the pyramid in the background:

I didn’t realize how huge the Louvre is, or that it had been a place previously. I guess I need to do a little more studying before going to new cities so that I know what I’m seeing. I didn’t feel the need to join the throngs and see the Mona Lisa today, but maybe next time if I spend longer there. I hear there are also other pieces of art in the Louvre as well 🙂

After looking around the square a bit, I walked along the Seine parallel to the Tuileries Gardens, which are also pretty huge. It’s cool to imagine what it looked like in the old days when the Louvre Palace was one of the only big buildings around. I knew the Eiffel Tower was a pretty far walk, but I figured I could get close enough for an identifiable shot today. This was all mainly a recon trip to make sure I didn’t waste time figuring out transportation next time when I have enough time and am awake enough to actually see things. Anyway, here’s La Tour Eiffel in the distance:

I walked on the Seine as far as the Place du Concorde, which looks so much like the copy in Vegas that Google Lens thinks that’s where I was. I took some shots, enjoyed the scenery, and walked back to the Metro. 7 stops later I was back on Rue Reuilly for the short walk back to the hotel. I was pretty beat by the time I got back, and I slept a good 7 hours until 11pm or later.

I stayed up until breakfast the next morning and met the captain down there. The breakfast was pretty good, with eggs, bacon and sausage as well as some fruits, meats and cheeses. All-in-all it was small for a €22 breakfast, but not bad when you don’t feel like going out early in the morning. The captain and I had an enjoyable time talking about airplanes and guns, although we both managed to spill the lid off the orange juice, much to the hotel waiter’s chagrin. I think it was clogged with pulp and made you turn it over more than usual, causing the weight of the liquid inside to pop the top off and spill OJ all over. Anyway I’ll know better for next time if I decide to eat here again.

He went to Paris…

Our second stay in Guangzhou was shorter than the first. I had time to take a nap, go to breakfast, take another nap, then hang around in the room until the late wakeup call. The captain chose to do a long, long, short, short rest cycle for the trip to Cologne, meaning we had about 3.5 hours on, 3.5 off, 2 on then 2 off before getting back in the seat for the landing. At the last company we used to split all the flights right in half, but current fatigue studies suggest breaking the rest periods up can be more beneficial than only one long rest. I slept pretty well during our first rest, and then while we were up front for the short period we got to see a lot of China. The weather was beautiful, and it was easy to see the many towns, military bases (we think) and other odd buildings that just seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. On the second rest I just read the whole time, and then we got back in the seats for the landing. The approach was one we don’t often have to fly, meaning the normal level of micromanagement was knocked up a notch. I didn’t mind it as much because it was something unusual for me. The landing turned out to be a lot less eventful than it seemed like it would be after all the talking preceding it. We got to the hotel and I set an alarm to wake up at 4:45 to meet at 5:30.

I rolled over in the dark and checked my phone to see how much time was left. My phone was dead, which I really didn’t see coming. As long as I leave it in airplane mode, I can usually make a very long distance flight and still have plenty of use in the room before charging it. My watch hadn’t died, and was surprised to see it was 5:21pm! I managed to get downstairs in 9 minutes and meet the captain. He wanted a drink first, so we went to the hotel bar, where we met another crew who was planning to head out to eat. We joined them for a good meal. I had Schnitzel “Berne,” which was ham and a cheesy sauce on the schnitzel. It was excellent! We followed with a quick Guiness at one of the two Irish Pubs in the Heumarkt Square, and then the other crew headed off to bed. The captain and I walked to the train station to scope it out. We decided it was an easy enough walk, but with our luggage we preferred to take a taxi.

By the time we got back to the hotel, I was ready to call it a night, though the captain stayed at the hotel bar to listen to the musician they had there. I passed out almost right away and woke up about 3 in the morning. I wasn’t able to go back to sleep, so I just kept reading. I’ve been running through the Jack Reacher novels, which are thin on substance but easy reads. They’re great work books because I can put them away for weeks and easily pick them back up again the next time I’m on a plane, or wide awake at 3 am.

We met this morning around 8 and took a taxi to the train station. It turned out to be less than 8 euros which is not a bad deal. We scouted out the gate’s location and then decided to find the lounge in case we have more time the next time we do this. It turned out to be outside the train station in a little store front that barely advertised the name of the train company. It was a small lounge, good for getting out of the crowds but not much else. Having found our target, we hoofed it back to the train station, where we had to wait less than 5 minutes before it arrived.

Since we traded in a plane ticket, we were able to buy premium class tickets on the train. That includes wifi throughout the 3.5 hour journey, which is the reason I’m writing this now. Between writing and eating the small airline-style breakfast, I’ve managed to kill one hour of the trip. Hopefully the weather in Paris will allow me to see some of the famous sights since I’ve never been there before.

On the way! (maybe)

Well I made it to the gate this morning. So far it looks like I have a good shot of getting to Atlanta at least. It was more emotional than we expected after two previous attempts, but we’re both doing fine now. Saw old friend GH in the terminal and that helped take my mind off saying goodbye to E and the boys. I’m ready to get this adventure started.

All Quiet on the Western Front

Let me tell you something, you want to hear a pin drop in an airport? Just yell out "Breach!" near the metal detectors and see what happens. I had just gone through security when that happened, and in about 10 seconds the place was so quiet you could hear the scared heartbeats of the people around you.

After a few seconds of silence, a TSA employee walked out and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Atlanta Hartsfield Airport. You have just participated in a security drill. Have a great day."

Unfortunately, the TSA had just unnecessarily confiscated my tiny vials of Refresh Tears® because the employees at the X-ray machine weren’t familiar with TSA’s rules, so I couldn’t go on to have a great day. I did have a pretty good one, though. The worst thing that happened after security was that my laptop battery went from 94% and 2 hours, 42 minutes to 3% and 0 hours, 5 minutes in just over an hour, which means I got to see only 2/3 of The Usual Suspects. I spent the rest of the flight listening to my jukebox while I alternately snoozed and worked on the crossword puzzle.

Even with the notorious Winter headwinds, we got in to ABQ 45 minutes early. It took about an hour to get my bags and the rental car, and then another hour to get to the base (which is connected to the airport but of course you have to go around the outside to get to the gate) and get checked in to billeting. I was dreading having to lug my laptop to the lobby every day for the internet, but it turns out I can just barely get a connection in my room. Yay!

I was really in the mood for Anthony’s Pizza at the BX, but I walked in at 1557 and all the restaurants were shutting down. I saw the schedule which listed a 1700 closing time on Sundays but then someone pointed out a new sign that they had all decided to close at 1600 today. It was just my luck that the base has a McDonald’s right across from the BX. I’m starting to get a cold and really didn’t want to drive around town looking for food, so I got a burger and headed back to the room to finish TUS and chat with e before she fell asleep on me.

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here

I took a little 200 mile ride out to Little River Canyon National Preserve near Ft. Payne, AL today. I have been wanting to go there ever since I overflew it about 2 months ago on a Herk low-level route and the Nav told me it looked like a great place for a motorcycle ride. I initially planned to go yesterday but held off due to a lot of t-storms in the area.

The ride over was not bad at all: it wasn’t too hot, and I got there in about 1.5 hours instead of the 2-2.5 I was expecting. The falls aren’t exactly spectacular when it hasn’t rained a lot lately, but the canyon still looks cool and you can also walk right up to the edge of the falls. e and I hope to take The Boy back there for a picnic someday.

The curvy road near the canyon was fun to ride, and I stopped at several of the overlooks (see map below). One thing I didn’t like is that all of the overlooks are loose gravel, making it a little slippery for my bike. When I got to the junction of AL 176 and county road 275, I had a choice to make. There are big signs saying that the 11-mile ride is steep, curvy, and generally not for trailers, RVs or big trucks. It didn’t mention anything about motorcycles, though, so I figured I’d check it out to see how it was. It turned out to be every bit as steep and curvy as promised; I doubt I averaged more than 15 mph the whole time. The road wasn’t gravelly but it wasn’t exactly paved well either. Then about 7-8 miles into the 11-mile drive, the paved road continued straight as CR 43 while the road I wanted (275) made an abrupt left turn. I started going left until I saw that I was looking down a very steep hill–I’m talking Lombard Street here–that was loose gravel. I could just see myself getting to the bottom and not being able to stop or turn as I flew over the edge. I stopped, or rather I tried to stop, and with the brake pressed and both heels on the ground I kept sliding downhill. I was a little nervous for a second, but then I was able to slowly turn sideways and power the bike back on to the blacktop. I stopped for a second to catch my breath then continued on CR 43.

One of the drawbacks of the internet age is that almost nobody carries around atlases or maps anymore. I fully intended to bring one but forgot. So here I was at the junction of 275 and 43, knowing that I could go back the way I came but not wanting to because I was getting close to the needing gas point. In the end I decided to ride along CR 43. In less than 10 minutes I met up with AL 176 again. I saw that I had nearly 30 miles until I really needed to stop for gas, and I was fairly confident that I could go back through the Little River Canyon and to the gas station on the other side with no problems. This time through I didn’t stop at a single overlook, instead really enjoying the curves and the occasional glimpses of the canyon. Now that I’d survived the poorly-paved CR 275, AL 176 seemed like nothing, even when it curved sharply. I wound my way back through the park and was at the gas station 15 miles before I really needed one.

After buying my gas I noticed that the sky to the east was looking pretty ominous. In fact, I was sure it was raining somewhere out there, but I wasn’t sure if it was on my route. I stood there at the station for about 10 minutes trying to decide if I wanted to put on my rain suit or not. In the end I chose to wait until I was sure I was going into the rain. That turned out to be a good decision because 3 miles later I made a left turn that took me away from the storm. In hindsight, if I had been able to negotiate CR 275 as planned, I would have come home on a different road that was more southerly and would have probably passed right through the storm.

The ride home was fairly uneventful except that my keister really started getting sore and, oh yeah, I almost got killed in Rome. Rome, GA, that is. I was bypassing the town on Loop 1 in the 55 zone when the truck in front of me came to an abrupt stop at a light that had just turned yellow when he was practically through it. I’d been watching the truck next to me because it was trying to ease into my lane to avoid someone turning right. I looked up to see the stopped pickup, squeezed hard on the brakes and realized I wasn’t going to be able to stop. Without really thinking about it, I swerved left into the empty left turn lane then applied the gas just in time to run the red light. I hope it wasn’t one of the lights equipped with a camera, but even so it was better than smacking into the truck. I got home just a few minutes ago, 199.3 miles and 5 hours after I started. I’m going to spend the rest of the day in the air conditioning and then get to bed early so I can wake up early to fly tomorrow.

The things you see in traffic

I had horrible traffic on the drive in this morning, which gave me time to watch the drivers in front of me. For a few miles I was behind what appeared to be a guy based on the very short or nonexesitent hair. As we moved along it appeared he was washing his face, perhaps cleaning off the crumbs from his breakfast. Then it looked like he was possibly putting on makeup, and then I was sure as he started to apply mascara. As I looked I realized he had on long, dangly earrings too. Was I following a bald woman or a transvestite without his wig? The world may never know.

ez ridin

Well, it only took 3 visits to the dealer located over an hour away, but today I finally picked up my new bike from Lawrenceville Honda. Naturally there were some last-minute complications that made it take over 3 hours to pick it up, but we finally left the dealership around 3 pm.
Since I don’t have a lot of experience, I didn’t want to start out with an hour drive on Interstates 85, 285, and 75 to get home. Instead we took GA-120 all the way to Marietta and then US 41 home. With all of the stoplights and extra distance, we finished the trip in just over 2 hours. That gave me plenty of practice starting, stopping, changing lanes, etc–everything I needed to practice before taking it to work.
Thanks to the ride home I’ve already got almost 75 miles on my brand new Honda Shadow Aero 750, and I can say without a doubt that I love it! Now let’s get riding!

Bye bye Blackbird…

Or Black Jeep, as the case may be. After 10 years of getting me up the hills, across the country, and back and forth to work, I let the old girl go this morning.
We decided several months ago that one of my cars had to go, and since I’m definitely not ready to lose my M3 I reluctantly decided to sell the Jeep. I put it in the paper 3 weeks ago, but it was still in my driveway this morning despite many phone calls and a few promising visits.
I finally decided to take e’s advice from 3 weeks ago: I took the Jeep over to Carmax and had it appraised. I honestly didn’t think they’d be interested in a 10-year-old Jeep, even one with only 50,000 miles on it, but they offered more than I expected to get in a private sale. I ran home for the title and let them have my baby. I am sad to see it go, but our house just isn’t big enough for 3 cars. I’m sure one day MJ will look at pictures and say he wishes I still had the Jeep, but hopefully he’ll be happy that I still have….
…a motorcycle! You may recall that I took a motorcycle safety course back in June. I’ve been holding off on getting a bike because getting e’s new car was more of a priority and I wanted to have the Jeep gone before buying another vehicle. While Carmax was preparing the check, we drove down to WOW Motorcycles to check out their stuff. I didn’t come away with a bike–yet–but I think I’m close. In the meantime I just ordered a Shoei X-11 Helmet and I bought a Fieldsheer jacket and some gloves today at WOW. Now I need to see if I can get someone who knows bikes to go looking with me.

The big 5-0

50,000 miles, that is. Today on the way to Sam’s my Jeep hit that milestone. Not bad for a car I bought in May 1995. That’s about 413 miles a month for the last 10 years. I didn’t have a digital camera back in 1995, if you can even imagine that, but here’s what the old girl looks like today: