Archive for March, 2008

Shakedown Cruise around Lake Ontario

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

From wikipedia:

Shakedown cruise is a nautical term in which the performance of a ship is tested. Shakedown cruises are also used to familiarize the ship’s crew with operation of the craft.

In our case, our shakedown cruise is an opportunity to test out all our gear and processes to ensure that it all works out. It will also give us a sense of how far we travel over a longer span of time. We will be riding for 2-3 weeks in June, which at the time will be our longest self-supported cycling tour.

The route we are currently thinking of is relatively familiar to us, as we have driven most of it (although that was on major highways which we will not be using). The route has us leaving from Ottawa and circumnavigating Lake Ontario. The Canadian portion of the trip has a trail, the Waterfront Trail, which certainly makes the riding easier. It will be interesting to see how different our times are between minor roads and trails.

We met some people from the First Unitarian Church of Rochester at a conference last month, so we’re planning to stop in Rochester to see them. With luck, we’ll time it right so we’re there on a Sunday.

There’s a new edition of ‘Round Lake Ontario: A Bicyclist’s Tour Guide, coming out, which we could get, although I saw an interesting third-hand comment against it in a crazy-guy journal post.  I think experimenting without a guidebook will force us to ask more questions and interact with more people, which is part of what this trip is about for me.  (Yes, I am that stereotypical male who hates asking for directions).

Freighter Update

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

This update is coming a little late. We have successfully reserved a spot on a freighter from Naples Italy to Port Kelang (Kuala Lumpur), Malaysia on or about February 1st, 2009. The itinerary currently takes us through La Spezia Italy and Barcelona Spain. We are hoping that we end up in Barcelona at a time when we can make a brief visit. The freighters stop in ports for between 6 and 24 hours, and the stop could be at any time of day, so there are no guarantees that we’ll get to Barcelona at a time when we could do any sight seeing.

I say reserved rather than bought a ticket because there are a couple more hoops we need to jump through yet. We need to purchase insurance and send along our policy numbers to the booking company. We are waiting for the fine print of a policy to arrive in the mail, so that we can decide where to buy the insurance. We’ll be getting a policy for our entire trip (emergency medical), so that complicates the decision a little.

The booking company is also saying that we need to get a doctors note not more than 30 days before the trip, and that they cannot issue the ticket without the note. This means we need to see a doctor while in Turkey or Greece to get the forms completed. Our agent was going to see if this was really necessary given our ages. A lot of freighter travelers are in their 70’s, which makes the medical form important; however, we are hoping that the freighter company will wave that requirement for us.

We will be staying in the owners cabin on the Hanjin Athens. The freighter companies have a neat utility that lets you check where in the world the ship is at any given time.

We have not yet booked anything to get us from North America over to Europe. We are waiting to hear about whether the Canada Senator renews its charter, expected in May. If it does, we’ll need to see if the timing works to take it from Montreal to Gioia Tauro, Italy. If the Canada Senator does not renew, then we will need to take one of the ships from Savannah Georgia to Italy (there are three or four listed). Savannah is a little further south than we wanted, so we would need to take a train from Boston to Savannah, as it would take too long to ride that distance.

Learning the Language

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

For me, one of the big challenges about this trip is the different languages in all the places we’re planning to go. Neither Becky nor I have great had much success learning foreign languages, so I suspect we’ll be getting by in English.

I do want to learn at least a few words in the major languages we’ll encounter, and I have been gathering up a list of resources. The list of languages is pretty long, but at least we have some long freighter voyages to study. I’m planning to start with Turkish and Arabic, and then move on to Mandarin. We’ll be spending a bunch of time in countries where other languages are spoken, so I hope some of this early study will help loosen up the corners of my mind dedicated to language.

  • Our local library has a variety of Berlitz CDs and phrase books which should be helpful. So far we have a couple in Arabic and Mandarin. I’ve copied the CDs to my iPod for easier rewinding when I miss something.
  • I also found some recommendations on ask.metafilter for free podcasts from Open Culture, including a series on Jordanian Arabic from the Peace Corps.
  • According to another ask.metafilter post, getting comfortable with the alphabet is critical for Arabic, and likely for Chinese as well. I think that will be my biggest challenge.
  • Folks on ask.metafilter also recommended a Mandarin podcast subscription called ChinesePod and Clavis Sinic, a method for learning the script.
  • For Turkish, I’ve requested a Teach Yourself Turkish course, which doesn’t have great reviews on Amazon, but we’ll see how it works for me. If I’m struggling, I may get Conversational Turkish instead.
  • There are also various versions of the U.S. Foreign Service Institute language lessons available online. Since these are government-produced, they’re in the public domain, so some kind souls on the Internet are digitizing them and making them available for free. This looks like a good option for Cambodian, Lao (text only), Vietnamese and Thai.  There are various other paid versions of the FSI lesson plan as well.

There are lots of other options out there, but this is more than enough for me to get started with.

What would you do if …

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

you woke up to this?

instead of this?

We did as any good Canadian would, we strapped on our skis and skied to church this morning. Our neighbours who were brave (or foolish) enough to be out shovelling were quite amused.

Scott skiing around abandoned car in the middle of the road.

It’s a good thing we didn’t try driving – there was a car abandoned in the middle of our street.

Becky sinking knee deep while skiing near Lincoln Fields

Once we made it off of our street, things got a little better. The main roads are all plowed. We didn’t ski all the way to church (that would have been a challenge). We managed to catch a city bus for about 1/2 the distance. We skied about 5 km, including a stretch near Lincoln Fields bus station where we frequently sank to our knees (yes, even on skis!)

After church, we were able to get a ride to the top of the street. We skied back home and then began the daunting task of cleaning out the driveway.

In the last 2-days, we have received 51 cm of snow. For some extra excitement, we also had some snow lightening (very spooky). Last night’s snow (over 30 cm) came with high winds, which meant that anything that was previously shoveled was now packed with snow drifts. It is a good thing it is a weekend, and for the most part, people can stay close to home and enjoy the sunny weather.

Another snowy day

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

This winter has been a little bit crazy for snow in Ottawa. Every time I look out the window, I am reminded of my childhood in Northern BC!

To make our lives that much more difficult, this year we decided not to pay for snow removal. Last year, we paid the yearly fee and the snow plow only had to come by twice. This year, we are questioning our wisdom in not renewing the service!

To give you a sense of just how much snow we have, see below:

[local /wp-content/uploads/2008/03/snow2008_0004.wmv]

For those that can’t view the video, here is a static action shot:

Scott shovelling

Our Values

Saturday, March 1st, 2008

One of our goals on our journey is for us to “live our values”. That statement begs the question “what are our values?” Our values have been influenced by our involvement with the First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa, the Canadian Unitarian Council, and Unitarian Universalism in general.

The values which we plan to live during our journey are:

  • Living simply.
  • Treading lightly on the Earth.
  • Nurturing meaningful interactions with people.
  • Developing an appreciative understanding of cultures.