Sunday, January 23, 2011

It's a bit chilly. For real.

I took a short ride today, about 55-60 miles, in order to tag some spots for a phototag game being running on

This is a good way to confirm which gear is good, and what needs to be upgraded. It has been quite chilly here lately, today was a bit warmer than the last week has been and when I left the house after lunch it was 35 degrees or so and sunny. When I got home it was probably 38-39, but the sun had also been obscured. I quickly realized that my new gloves are not as warm as I would like them to be. I think I'll pair them up with a liner, if I can fit both. I was actually fairly comfortable apart from that.

I was also testing a new-to-me application for the droid called TrekBuddy. It seems to function as a fully functional stand alone GPS. I'm severely lacking on my GPS knowledge, but having been looking at getting a Garmin mapping GPS, either a 60 or 72 series model. This software, coupled with Mobile Atlas Creator and GPSVisualizer seems to be able to perform all of the functions that the GPS will. Not a direct replacement, but it should allow me to determine if I really need/want a standalone GPS without forking over $200 + mounts + software for a GPS. I simply turned on a track and produced the following map from the .gpx file once I ran it through GPSVisualizer:


So, I made my way around through the Woodlawn area and to Cumberland City in order to grab the tag that 2Fast4u got last week:


I crossed the river on the ferry, snagged the photo and then headed back toward home. Along the way, I got the following picture:


I didn't even know that there was an iron furnace in Montgomery county. I found this link while googling around for more information, this was at

This location gives the finder a view of the ruins of the Palmyra Furnace. Iron furnaces, such as this one which was the first recorded such furnace in Montgomery County, and the second in the Highland Rim Iron Belt, were crucial to the early economy of Tennessee. This one was built around 1799, and operated until several years after the War of Northern Aggression (which is called the Civil War up north).

The furnace was around 40 feet tall, and was built like a pyramidal tower with the interior fashioned to withstand extremely high temperatures. The hearth was made of sandstone and the exterior usually made of huge limestone rocks which would absorb some of the pressure and support the interior. An opening was left at the top, called the "bosh," for adding proper amounts of limestone, ore and charcoal which produced the pig iron when heated to high temperatures. There was an opening at the base for the bellows, usually powered by running water and the reason why most of these furnaces were located near rivers or fast running streams. Another opening at the base was called the tap hole, where molten iron ran onto the casting floor for molding. The iron came out in large chunks called called "sows" and smaller chunks called "pigs" because it looked like a mother sow feeding her pigs. Impurities, called "slag" were run off into a pit, where they cooled and hardened. Remains of these slag pits can still be found in many areas where these type of furnaces flourished.

By 1832, the iron produced in TN was equal to that produced in Sweden, the world leader at the time. In 1840, Tennessee ranked third in iron production in the nation. By the beginning of the War of Northern Aggression, the Tennessee furnaces had turned towards producing war goods, and as such were a prime target for destruction by the invading Northern Troops. The Palmyra Furnace was spared total destruction, and managed to limp on for a few years producing iron for local use, until the cost of production made it unfeasable to continue in operation.

Jumped back on the bike and headed home, my hands were getting cold.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Last day in London.....

And it's not even a full day. We jumped up, took showers and took off, leaving a few bags at the hotel for the day. We had until about 4:00pm to get to the airport, so we wanted to use today as best we could. We had initially thought of going to Portobello Road for the market and to see Notting Hill, but didn't realize that it was all pretty much closed on Sunday. Instead of going there, we jumped to our second destination of the day, and it worked out for the best.

We were visiting the Globe Theatre today. We arrived just after the exhibit opened and paid our admission. About 15 minutes after we arrived, the tour started. We were shown the theatre and had a wonderful presentation by a woman that had been involved in the theatre since the beginning. The Globe Theatre is actually a reproduction of the original, and it was reopened in 1997. The theatre was designed to be as similar to the original theatre as possible, but has some safety features that the first didn't have. I was really happy we took the tour. After the tour, we went back to the exhibit and finished wandering the halls there, checking out the clothing, reproduction techniques, phamplet and play printing press, and various stashes of props from previous productions. I like the theatre, but can get bored with it quickly, but this was not one of those days. I really had fun.


We took a few pictures of the Millennium Bridge (from Harry Potter), and set off for lunch.


We did a little more gift shopping and then decided to walk to Big Ben. The walk caught us off guard, it was a bit further than I realized, but I knew where we were going. Finally, after 30 minutes or so, we arrived at the location of The Eye of London and were the Cologne German Christmas Market had been set up. Karen and I snapped some daylight pictures of Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament. They both still looked so cool!


We wrapped up our day eating Indian in the first place that we had eaten when we arrived, a fitting and delicious end to an awesome trip.

The trip home = not the greatest experience, but it could have been much worse. We made it, and on time. 'Nuf said.

More pictures from today:
and from the whole trip (sub-albums are on the right side of the screen, down a little):

Saturday, January 1, 2011

It's a New Year!

Today we headed back to London. We left Stirling after a quick breakfast at the hotel, and returned the car at the airport. It was a quick and easy return process, and then we headed to the bus terminal at the airport. As we got there, our bus pulled up, excellent timing. We jumped on the bus (£2.70 for both of us on the 30 minutes ride!) and settled in for the ride to the train station in Central Edinburgh. Upon arrival, we made out way to the station to get our tickets and await the train.

Edinburgh has an amazingly large Hogmanay celebration, the video of it on the new last night and this morning was extremely impressive. I had originally planned to go to that celebration, but getting around town would have more difficult with the car and the cost of hotels was prohibitive (£400 a night, two night minimum sort of deals). The result of last nights party was evident everywhere. The streets were awash in cleanup crews and crews dismantling temporary fences. The bus and train stations were packed with revelers passed out in any corner that they could find. I had to step between sleeping bodies to make it to the ticket machine. These people apparently now how to party!

We were eventually allowed onto our train. Karen immediately settled in for the 4 hour plus trip, donning her headphones and passing out within 20 minutes of departure. I'm currently wrapping up my blogs, enjoying the countryside and the intermittent points that the train follows extremely close to the coast. It's a great train and a beautiful route thus far. Maybe snoozing time for me soon enough though!

(okay, back from my snooze) We got off of the train at King's Cross Station and starting looking for Platform 9 and 3/4s, from Harry Potter. The entire station is undergoing a face lift, so I was afraid it might not be accessible, but it was, sort of. The cart is there, but it's been moved to a different spot, and it was bolted to a wall with fake brick graphics on it, instead of the really cool bricked in archway that it's normally at. The "wall" is surrounded by whitewall, so the pictures I took turned out like crap. Partially my fault, but still a bummer. Oh well, an excuse to go back?


We jumped back onto the underground and made our way to our hotel, Caring Hotel. Karen's cousin Ilaria had clued us into this place before we came over, and I booked it sort of last minute. It's about the most affordable place in London at £70 a night. I think it would be classified as a mini or maybe even micro hotel, but it was cool. Very basic, a double bed, a stand up shower, sink and wardrobe in a space about twice as big as our old small walk in closet. It had a TV though, so we were good.

We checked in, took showers, and relaxed for a while before heading out. We ended up back over on Queensway Road with a ton of options. We initially went to a pub that looked pretty good, but for some reason the kitchen was closed at 5:30 in the evening. I never did get a good feeling for normal eating times the entire time we were in Britain. Most breakfast places didn't open until 10:00am, lunch places would not have a full menu at 1:00pm, yet we could often find dinner from 5-7:30, or 7-11pm. I don't know what was going on here.

So, we walked around a while and found a Moroccan restaurant called Mogador. It was a bit chilly inside, but I found it very welcoming and comfortable. We had a starter of humous and pita, really good. The humous was mild and smooth (the way I like it, not too bitter, not too sweet) and the bread was wonderfully thin. Perfect! I had a vegetable tagine, and Karen had Cous-Cous Royal that was also served in a tagine ( The vegetable selection in my dish was not what I would have choose for a big roasting like this (too many carrots and I don't like olives) but the flavor was really well balanced and the meal as a whole was very warming on a chilly rainy night. I had the most perfect buttery rice to go with my food, and it worked as a great sponge for the wonderful juices left in the tangine. Karen's dish had beef or lamb sausages, lamb meat, chicken, and whole bones in it. She really enjoyed in, and I think she liked the vegetables in her dish as well. I actually got her to eat some of the bone marrow and she said it wasn't bad. Everything she had smelled really good. I've got to be the weirdest vegetarian ever. I'm really becoming more and more steadfast in my diet as time goes on, but at the same time, I'm at a point in my life were I would actually eat the weird stuff. Oh well!

My wrapped up our meal, and hit the road again. This road has a ton of restaurants and shops. We finished our gift shopping, grabbed Karen a coffee and just milled around with the crowds for a bit before heading back to the hotel. We thought about taking in a movie at the local cinema, but nothing looked good and they all started really early. We stayed in, watched the second episode of "Come Fly With Me" (AWESOME show) and watched some TV before crashing out early.

Tomorrow we are going to hit the South Bank again before flying out.