Whitney Portal


I decided to head out this weekend on the motorcycle and escape the heat here in Bakersfield. In hindsight maybe heading into the desert wasn’t the best choice for this but overall it worked out very well. Early morning riding past Tehachapi was nice and cool and it wasn’t till I neared Mojave that the smoke from nearby forest fires clouded the air.

I continued North up through Red rock Canyon and soon I was riding in clean cool air again though as the sun beat down it was getting noticeably warmer. By midday it was becoming hot so I was glad to take a ride up Whitney Portal road. This very steep road soon had me up at cooler climes and I was able to relax near a stream for awhile. I had intended to pop into the portal shop for a bite to eat but there was a considerable crowd up by the trail head/ parking area so I decided to make my way down back towards 395 instead. Progressing along the interstate it wasn’t long before I realized  a. it was pretty darn hot out and b. the air quality was significantly worsening as more smoke flowed out of the forest fires.  The smoggy skies did make for an impressive sunset as I passed back through Red Rock Canyon so I stopped for a few pictures and as I headed towards Mojave a gusty wind started blowing which while it made riding a little uncomfortable did cool things off.

450 miles later I was home, a very enjoyable outing.

See the rest of the pictures HERE

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Demon Babies in the land of the North, Helsinki


Demon Baby

Demon Baby

Last year when purchasing airline tickets to attend the International congress of speleology in Brno I found the cheapest fare was with Finaire this involved a lengthy layover in Helsinki on the way home, but why not? It was an opportunity to visit another country and city before heading home.
It turned out to be a pricey option as a single day of site seeing cost me almost as much as a week in Budapest but it was still worth it.

Two out of three giraffes approved of this message

2 out of three giraffes approved of this message

Where else would I find such a wonderful collection  of art, history  and bicycles?  There were loads of bikes. Not sure what they do with them all in the winter, maybe they put skis on them ?

Anyway with so many friendly people and good food, Helsinki was a great place to visit.

Bicycles

Bicycles

Lady in red

Lady in red

More bikes!

More bikes!

 

 

Guess some things are universal

Guess some things are universal

 

 

So that's where Elvis went?

So that’s where Elvis went?

 

Leave your worries

Leave your worries

Praha


In Prague I arrived at the bus depot and was happy to find that student Agency which was the bus recommended by our organizer for getting to Brno, was at the same bus terminal so I was able to purchase my ticket to Brno. I had booked a room at the Dizzy Daisy hostel and their web page gave good directions for taking the subway from the bus station so off I went. The subway was very impressive, two sets of escalators each taking me down several stories. After dropping my bags at the hostel I set out to see the sights of Prague. Just down the street was the famed ‘dancing building’ and then I was down along the river. Here the river drops several feet so there’s an impressive set of locks to allow the boats and barges to get past.  I spent awhile watching the boats go through then made my way down the river to the bridge leading towards the castle. Here much like in Buda was the old part of town with cobbled streets, the castle, cathedral etc. I had a great time touring them all and even payed extra to climb to the top of the town tower and admire the view. The parade of people pouring across the Charles bridge was impressive to watch from on high.  Back near the hostel I stopped for dinner at a Vietnamese  restaurant. The waitress asked me what I was doing in Europe and when I showed her some pictures of caves to explain about the International Congress of Speleology I was going to attend, she very enthusiastically told me I needed to go to Vietnam next as they have lots of caves. I whole heartedly agreed as I know not only do they have lots of caves but some incredibly big ones at that.

Dancing building, Prague

Dancing building, Prague

View by the St. Charles bridge, Prague

View by the St. Charles bridge, Prague

Musicians, Prague

Musicians, Prague

Cathedral, Prague

Cathedral, Prague

Cathedral

Cathedral

Mmmm , nice cold beer after looking at all those dusty buildings.

Mmmm , nice cold beer after looking at all those dusty buildings.

Dungeon, Prague

Dungeon, Prague

The next day I chose to spend a leisurely day hanging out in the neighborhood around the hostel. I found a nearby resteraunt that had a wonderful breadand  cheese  platter. After a bite to eat I wondered around looking at the buildings and shops. I wasn’t sure what to make of the guy riding an upsidedown horsestatue in a shopping mall that I stumbled upoun. All to soon it was time to get some sleep before heading out to catch the bus to Brno.

Budapest


Well I’m way behind on posting now, my excuse is that schools keeping me pretty busy, so not a lot of time to edit photos and I like to get that done before I write about them but anyway I’m getting caught up so I should have several posts here soon. To start with I’m going back before the ICS to my first stop in Europe- Budapest.
Arriving in Budapest I was surprised to find out how warm the weather was. Still it was cooler then the 110 degree weather I left behind in Bakersfield so I wouldn’t let that stop me from seeing the sights. I had booked a room on the Botel Fortunal. That’s not a typo, the hotel Fortuna is a boat moored on the Pest side of the river near the south end of Margarit Island. Check in time wasn’t till 2 and I arrived before noon but they put my bags in their luggage room and I headed out to find an atm and some lunch.

'Botel

‘Botel” Fortuna

 

Margarit bridge at night

Margarit bridge at night

It was only a couple blocks walk to the main road that crosses the Margarit bridge and it was here I found an atm and plenty of places to grab something to eat. After lunch I took a walk along the river to the Parliament building which was undergoing construction to add underground parking before returning to the boat to find my room and take a shower, I was pleased to find that even though I had booked through hostel international at a cheap rate I had a room to my self and breakfast was included. I spent the next few days seeing the sights of Budapest including taking a river cruise along the Danube, riding one of the many “hop on hop off'” tour buses up to the castle district where I wandered around the old buildings taking pictures, watched the palace guards change and rode the funicular train. I had so much fun hoping on and off I almost lost my hat and water bottle but got lucky as I realized my error before the bus pulled away.The view from the Budapest terrace cafe by the palace was amazing. Traveling along the Buda side of the city I was aware of all the wonderful karst, the exposed limestone along the river was where the monks had built a church and was the location of the famed Gellert baths when hot springs came up through the limestone. I was tempted to try and book an excursion to see some of the hundreds of caves that made up the system that ran under this part of the city but I was only here for a few days and there was lots of caving to do very soon.

Parliment building at night, Budapest.

Parliment building at night, Budapest.

Back at the boat I had a wonderful dinner and enjoyed watching the sunset as boats cruised by. I chatted with a couple from Germany and explained to them about the Congress of speleology that I was planning to attend. We had fun talking to our waiter who switched easily from Czech to English, German, french and even Italian for the family sitting across from us whos ‘Bambinos’ eyes lit up when he confirmed they did in fact have gellato.

Karst hillside

Karst hillside

Flowers on Margarit island,

Flowers on Margarit island

Skateboarder, Budapest

Skateboarder, Budapest ,yes somethings are all over the world 🙂

 

Giant ferris wheel, Budapest

Giant ferris wheel, Budapest

 

 

Hero's square

Hero’s square

view from the top of the funicular

view from the top of the funicular

 

My original plan was to have five days to see the sights of Budapest but I received an email from the congress organizers that the train station in Brno would not be available due to a bridge being under construction and trains would arrive elsewhere and there would be a bus to take people into town. Since I hadn’t purchased a train ticket yet I decided to take a look online at alternative ways to get to Brno. I found a bus leaving a couple of days before I had originally planned to leave that would take me over night to Prague which would give me a couple of days to see Prague before taking a bus to Brno. I decided this seemed like a good option and booked a bus ticket online. I booked with a company called Orangeways. the address for their station turned out to be the site where a new stadium was being built but there was a large bus depot across the street so the cab let me off there and I went inside to find out where to catch my bus. Turned out it was across the street so I headed downstairs into subway and found a sign pointing to the correct spot which was just a bus stop sign on the street. As I had some time to kill till my bus left I went back into the subway and had a beer at a small underground pub. Before long it was time to catch my bus and head to Prague. I had booked an overnight trip figuring I could sleep on the bus, alas that was not to be. Every couple of hours or so the driver flipped on all the lights and announced it was time for a rest stop. Oh well.

Next stop Prague…

Mural at a hostel

Mural at a hostel

 

Grand Canyon


Snow and Elk, are we in Alaska?

Snow and Elk, are we in Alaska?

I awoke early and glanced up at the windows of the bus, strangely every thing was completely white. It took me a moment to realise that I was looking at snow. I levered myself up on my elbows and stared out the window, the trees,  road and everything around us were covered in a blanket of snow which continued to fall as we drove into the Grand Canyon National park.

We parked outside the permit office to wait for it to open so Russ and Mat who had decided to camp in the canyon could get a permit. I walked over to a nearby lodge to get a cup od coffee while we waited. By the time I came back. They were getting the permit and we drove over to the campground to find our camp site. Several of us headed out to the visitors center. We then went to catch the shuttle to view the canyon from the rim. We decided to ride out to Hermits rest, see the view and then walk back along the rim trail.

Grand Canyon - Clouds starting to clear.

Grand Canyon - Clouds starting to clear.

We arrived out at hermits rest amidst a complete white out! So much for the view. The weather was pretty chilly so we headed into the little gift shop for some hot drinks to warm up. Luck was on our side as by the time we finished our drinks there was a patch of clear sky opening up. Soon we were able to see almost completely across the canyon. The clouds and snow only making it appear even more beautiful and majestic. We began hiking along the rim trail and continued enjoying the view for quite a while before another snow storm came blowing in causing us to run for the shelter of the shuttle bus. We spent the remainder of the day enjoying the luxury of hot showers and laundry facilities at the campground before have another wonderful dinner alongside the bus. After dinner Phillip and I set out at a brisk pace and just managed to reach the rim in time to watch the sunset.

Grand Canyon sunset

Grand Canyon sunset

That night we all opted to sleep in the bus since the snow everywhere was a pretty good sign we were in for a cold night. Will, Beth and Holly prepped themselves to get up extra early as they had decided to hike all the way to the bottom of the canyon and back the next day. They departed sometime around 4am at which time I rolled over in my nice warm sleeping bag and went back to sleep. After a nice breakfast we decided to also tackle the Angel bright trail going down into the canyon. We wouldn’t be trying to go beyond Indian Garden though.

The most dangerous animal in the canyon

The most dangerous animal in the canyon

The trail was icy so the going was slow but we enjoyed fantastic views and it wasn’t long till we stopped by the ranger station for lunch. On the way back up we were passed by Matt and Russell who had camped at the bottom, followed shortly after by Will, Beth and Holly who had hiked to the bottom and back again. After another wonderful dinner -who knew you could fix lasagna over a camp stove with a couple of cast iron skillets? Several of us hiked back to the rim to watch the sunset again then stopped by the ranger talk on endangered species in the grand canyon.  Here we learned that the most dangerous animal in the Grand Canyon is – The squirrel, carrying rabies and possibly plague you sure don’t want to get bit by one of these.

We returned to find that the drivers had planned to drive us to warmer climes that night but the bus had other ideas, due to the cold the diesel engines didn’t want to start-up, so we spent another night at the grand canyon till the generator could be started up in the morning and with its help the bus was started. We were on our way out of the grand canyon. Hated to leave but we were definitely looking forward to warmer weather.

Grand Canyon sunset

Grand Canyon sunset