Sunday, 26 August 2012

On Seattle area attractions, day one

Wednesday morning I went to Paine Field to to the Boeing Future of Flight tour. It is a big deal and involves probably more security than is strictly necessary. No "electronic devices" are allowed. This really means no cameras, mobile phones, laptops, etc. Digital watches are allowed provided you don't succeed in taking pictures with them. This also means that there is lots of locker space available which is much appreciated by the bicycle tourist.

Our guide had a snappy line of patter though much of it may have been scripted. The main building is the largest building by volume in the world and looks it. Among the factoids, there are about a dozen coffee shops in it, all run by Tully as they have an exclusive deal with Boeing. The guide added that this probably makes Paine field the largest area in Seattle without a Starbucks! The building also has 9 cafeterias each with it's own name in large, expensive, lit up signs. One of them was called the Dreamliner Diner, as it was on the 787 Dreamliner production line. That really surprised me as I think of the 787 as a very new product (which it is) and therefore the sign on the cafeteria was very new.

The building houses the production lines for all 4 of Boeing's widebodies (747, 767, 777 and 787), so it has to be big. In fact, it is so big that it has problems with rain clouds forming inside the building. (This is not something the guide mentioned.) The scale of production is incredible. There are "nerds" in cubicles out on the production floor. These cubicles have to be moved every so often in order to get out of the way of jetliners as they near completion, or at least near enough that they can be taken outdoors: there are an assortment of production glitches meaning that there are something like 40 787's waiting outside for various parts, including engines in some cases.

Afterwards, I toured a gallery section where one could learn about older aircraft and sit in the cockpit of a Boeing 727 and fiddle with the controls. You could also pose near full scale reproductions of the latest turbo fan engines, which are fricking huge. These babies are close to producing 100,000 lbs of thrust which is loosely equivalent to 100,000 horsepower.
 In the gift shop, there was a large model of a Lockheed S-3 Viking which Boeing had apparently proposed to change into an odd-looking rhomboidal wing. That is from the wing goes back from the tip, to the tail.

I subcame to temptation and bought a Buff in Boeing colours. I resisted the urge to get a Dreamliner-themed cycling jersey.

Working my way counter clockwise around the field, I stopped at the Historic Flight Center. It is a relatively low-key affair and features a dozen or so aircraft, mostly of World War II vintage, in flying, or close to flying order. The highlight was being allowed to visit the inside of a North American B-25 Mitchell. I was initially reluctant to through the nose section of the light bomber, as the tunnel was narrower than I was happy with. But, encouraged by the guide, I slid my way into the nose section. It wasn't easy for my 6 foot plus frame to do it on the ground. God help someone trying to do it in the air in an emergency.

A littler further around the field was Paul Allen's Flying Heritage Collection. The docent at the Historic Flight Center was a little dismissive of Paul Allen's baby as some of the restorations weren't as accurate or authentic as the ones at his organisation. I am not in agreement with him as some aspects of the aircraft could be improved with little compromise. The technology of seat cushions has improved dramatically for example. As well, most WWII aircraft weren't designed with longevity in mind. There are various small tweaks that could be made to improve it along with safety.

Consequently, I also went to the Flying Heritage Collection where I saw some aircraft that while "Heritage", aren't likely to go flying anytime soon.

As in ever.

These were a Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet (a rocket-powered fighter) and a Fieseler Fi 103R Reichenberg (a manned version of the V-1 flying bomb). I teased one of workers at the Collection by asking him if they ever took the Komet up for a spin? One of the design compromises of the Komet was that in order to remove the need for an ignition source, its two (corrosive) fuels would combust on contact with one another. When this happened in the combustion chamber, there wasn't a problem. However, any leaks in the system could mean the plane could blow up. This was relatively common on landing. Hence, my question was facile sarcasm. Airplane geek humour.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

On Vancouver airport

Sovereignists, if they bother to notice must loath Vancouver Airport. Announcements are dutifully in English and French. Electronic signs, however, are at times displayed in at least six languages. English, French, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Thai, and that is in the domestic section. So far today, I far seen jetliners in the colours of China Eastern, Philippines, Lufthansa, KLM not to mention British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. On previous visits, I have seen jets from Air New Zealand, Japan Airlines and Korean Air. French is secondary.

As I waited for my flight to board, there was an announcement asking for volunteers to "donate" their seat as the flight was overbooked. Upon inquiry, I found out the deal was I would get a $200 voucher for flights and $10 voucher for food. The flight was about two hours later. I volunteered.

When I got to the new gate, I was informed that they were upgrading me to Executive Class! I moved up from seat 33D (the absolute back of the plane) to 4F. This marks the 2nd time I have flown in a class other than coach. The other time was Montreal to Vancouver (coincidentally enough) in December, 1984. That flight was also on Air Canada. If I recall correctly, it was Business class out of the three classes then offered.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

On getting to Caitlin's folks' house near Seattle...

...I was much relieved as I had underestimated the amount of time the aircraft museums around Paine field would take and the distance between them and the house was. I arrived later than expected, but fortunately I was able to phone ahead and warn them. I am quite relieved to be here. More later as I am also tired.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

On going against the flow

There were a few gaps in my preparations for this trip. One of these was not finding an bike path app for Seattle. This has made finding my way around that much trickier. To compound the issue, I am coming into Seattle against the "expected" flow. From the layout and content of the tourism information centres, the ISO 2001 tourist is going from Seattle rather than vice-versa. Maps of bike routes and the like aren't easy to come by.

There was one element going in my direction. Rather unexpectedly, there is no charge to take a bike on the ferry from Kingston to Edmonds. I spoke with some more local cyclists who said the company charges cyclists going the other direction. I would have expected the reverse in order to lure tourists into the Olympic Peninsula from Seattle much like P.E.I. does.

Another error in preparation was overestimating the distance between Sequim and Edmonds. As a result, I got there at around 3 in the afternoon. Instead of staying in Edmonds, I decided to push closer to Everett and the Boeing Tour in order. This got me on the comparatively dreary State Route 99 (endless "strip") with no real idea where I would spend the night. The traffic was more draining than I was conscious of. I did find a crazy overstocked bike shop which provided me with a bike map. As I neared my revised goal and not seeing any motels with vacancies, I "borrowed" wi-fi from a MacDonald's to locate a motel. (My iPhone has U.S. voice roaming but no data plan.) I rang up the Motel 6 to see if they had a room available. They did but reserving a room took a bit too much data and I got a bit ratty with the clerk when he tried to inform me of the cancellation policy.

Anyway, I am now housed and fed.

The landscape East of Sequim was majestic and beautiful. Also a mite damper, judging by the vegetation. I passed near the John Wayne Marina. It is so named as he donated the land it was built on.

I crossed the Hood Canal (actually a channel) by a long and slightly nerve-racking bridge. It wasn't too bad and did feature generous bike shoulders but it was long enough to make me feel uneasy. Consequently, I was glad to see the end of it.

Shortly thereafter, I stopped for lunch in the picture postcard town village of Port Gamble. (Think an uptight and commercial version of Georgeville.) Lunch was a mildly unholy combination of New England clam chowder and bleu cheese fries.

The waitress was interested in how far I had come today. As she was new to the area, she didn't know how far Sequim was. I had to check my odometer to see how far and then make a rough conversion from kms (62) to miles (40). She was impressed even though I said it wasn't that much.

The restaurant had been a general store but was now mostly gift shop and restaurant. A fellow cyclist in MEC bike shorts and a white beard asked me if they had chocolate milk as they didn't in have any in the drinks cooler. I shrugged and suggested with humour that if he was truly desperate for his "recovery drink", he should have some mocha almond fudge ice cream which I knew they had as we were in front of their ice cream counter! I was amused when he accepted my proposal!

At the motel office, an older African American janitor was distinctly impressed with my laden bike. He said he wanted to cross the country by bike. I might have given him pointers, except that I was tired and he seemed a mite simple. He was also unduly impressed at me having ridden from Vancouver to here. (It has been only been three easy days of riding broken by two days off.)  I did tell him about biking from Calgary to Winnipeg earlier this summer. Unfortunately, there was a cultural translation problem as neither city was in his American mental geography and I couldn't think of the appropriate equivalent cities in the U.S. northern tier.

Monday, 20 August 2012

On John's wedding and American soil

John and Caitlin's wedding was a distinct success. Jonathon S. summed up their respective qualities very nicely by describing John as someone who would walk over broken glass for a friend and Caitlin as someone who would remember to wear shoes! In the dancing portion of the reception, Thomas (Louise's significant other) was reluctant to dance with her until I informed him with tongue in cheek that he was either dancing with my cousin or his excuse would be he had a broken kneecap! ;-)

The next day was spent schmoozing with John's new in-laws in the morning. This resulted in my getting an offer of a bed in Seattle from Caitlin's father. This is particularly appreciated as my plan always was to bike to and visit Seattle after the wedding. I even had my Amtrak ticket reserved for both myself and Leonardo.

I spent the afternoon and evening with my parents, Alice, Anna, Stephen, Edward, Margaret and Margaret's parents who were in Victoria through some happy coincidence. Edward just had a birthday (his third) and I had organized Alice and Margo into getting him a bike. Carolin (Margo's sister-in-law) described to me just how touched Edward was to get the bike.

This morning I bid adieu to Margo, Chris and Carolin before zooming South to catch the Coho ferry to Port Angeles. There were a number of people waiting to board who were carrying life jackets. I knew they had been in Victoria for dragon boat races. However, I decided it would be much more fun to tease them about how they didn't trust the ferry! They took the joke with a smile.

From Port Angeles, I rode without incident to a little past the Robin Hill Farm State Park where I noticed my back tire was flat. This is the third or fourth flat that tire has had. My suspicion is that there is something amiss with the tire.

Unlike the last time I was down this way, the weather was bright and sunny. Consequently, there was much more traffic on the Olympic Discovery Trail.

I am now pleasantly drunk in my motel room Sequim.


Margo has informed me (see comment below) that Alice had come to the bike-for-Edward idea independently of moi. Great minds thinking alike I guess, not to mention I think I got things mixed up. Anyway, Margo and Chris did do the ground work.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

On renewed problems getting Leonardo through security.

As I am traveling on Air Canada on my jaunt to John's wedding, I had assumed that getting Leonardo through security would be simpler than my last trip with WestJet (please see a previous entry, link to follow when I get to a proper computer.) More fool, I.

When I went to the Air Canada baggage drop-off (regular sized), I was told that something wasn't working at the oversized drop-off and I would have to go to the "WestJet" oversized drop-off point. As the box didn't fit in that place's scanner, I had a repeat performance of last time's experience of taking Leonardo under escort to the bigger Air Canada scanner and then back to the WestJet drop-off point!

Hmm, I hope this doesn't affect my chances of meeting Leonardo in Vancouver! The evidence suggests a full flight. Thankfully, I remembered to put Margo's address on the box.

Monday, 13 August 2012

On biking in the rain

Margo has been quoted in and out of context as saying that "sometimes the best option is to just get wet". When applied to biking, my take on this dictum is that the "sometimes" is when you know how and when you will get dry and warm.  For example, if you are only a few minutes from home, it probably isn't worth the effort of stopping to don your rain gear. On the other hand, if you are just setting out on a long of biking, it is probably wisest to deck yourself out.

The type of rain encountered also matters: a light rain in warm weather probably doesn't necessitate full rain gear whereas a downpour in November calls for everything you can lay your hands on! The presence or absence of wind also matters greatly as being wet will amplify the cooling effects of the wind.

This is the background for some of this summer's commutes to work. The weather has been quite hot and humid making rain gear unpleasant to wear on my daily commute. Consequently, I have been biking in the rain with minimal rain gear on several occasions. The most extreme was one day when I stuck my head out the window to see that there were some sprinkles, but no major rain in sight.  Consequently, I pulled on a quick dry t-shirt and stuffed a cotton one in my bag and set off to work in shorts, knowing that I had long pants at work. After about 10 minutes, the rain began to change from sprinkles to a serious downpour by slow steps. It kept looking like it would ease up, only for the rain to increase in strength! By the time it was a total downpour, I was thoroughly wet, but as I was only 5 minutes from work, I didn't stop to pull on my rain gear!

I got into work looking like a drowned rat. However, I could change out of my wet clothes into dry ones once I got to work. I had mentioned that I had a cotton t-shirt in my bag. Well, I also had respectable shoes, long pants and long-sleeved shirt in my filling cabinet. The shoes are there all the time, and I often leave long clothes overnight during the summer. In addition, for over a decade I have kept a pair of socks in my filling cabinet for just an event. Thus, I was quickly able to get into dry clothes.

At the other extreme was yesterday. When I left work, there was about the lightest rain I have every experienced: tiny, fine drops. It was an utterly warm rain. I gave no thought to rain gear and pedaled home through the damp air.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

On loads on Prairie roads

There is a considerable amount of truck traffic on Prairie roads, particularly the Trans-Canada highway. This is hardly unexpected. I must also add that Prairie truckers are generally very considerate towards cyclists and very often pull over into the far lane when passing, even though there is a lovely wide shoulder as the following picture demonstrates.

I extend a big "thank you" to all the truckers on the Prairies who are so courteous.

One thing that I found curious (and by curious, I mean "fascinating" rather than "wrong") were the diverse natures and size of some of the over-sized loads being hauled along. One of the more interesting was a light aircraft with its wings removed which went by somewhere in Saskatchewan before I could photograph it. Other loads included a large-ish house...
...and some very large tanks.
The latter cause me to wonder "Why on Earth didn't they move that thing by train?" My next thought was "Don't be stupid, Bikemoose: something that size is are too big be moved by train on account of the loading gauge!" (A loading gauge is the maximum size a train can be before hitting things beside or over the track.)

The man who rented me a motel room in Treherne, Manitoba, told me that he was only helping a friend by being the clerk for the motel. His "real" job was driving a pilot truck. Pilot trucks are the pickup trucks that often precede or follow over-sized loads to give warning of the behemoth to come. I suspect they also keep a look out for any bits of the route that are too small for the load so as to give the truck hauling it time to stop.