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February 28, 2015

Road trip day 7--Aquarium

Jellyfish

Jellyfish

   Visited the National Aquarium in Baltimore this afternoon.  I always enjoy a good aquarium, but didn't enjoy the massive crowd.  It was a slow process to see the displays, but the aquarium had an interesting layout.  I visit the Shed Aquarium in Chicago every few years and it was nice to see an other layout on about the same scale.  After the aquarium I did a little photography in some of the part of Baltimore that are undergoing restoration.  I was told it looks like a post-apolitical movie set, and tend to agree.
   In the evening I drove to Newark, Delaware where I had found a skating rink.  Must be an mid-Atlantic coast thing, but I was yelled at for skating backward.  I have skated dozens of rinks, coast to coast, and only here in Delaware and once many years ago in Philadelphia have I been told not to skate backward.  Once neutered, skating lost much of it's appeal.  We went in circles, and unable to dance I just didn't care to continue.  In addition it was us that couldn't skate backward—the floor guards did whatever the hell they wanted.  I hate double standards, and whatever aspirations I had quickly vanished.    I think any rink that has rules like this must publish this fact on their website so real skaters know not to bother stopping by.
   No rest areas in Delware that I could see.  Found that you can't search for them with google, which is a shame.  I did find a truck stop in New Jersey, and along the way I found a welcome center/rest area.  So I decided to bed down there for the night.
Over the rivers and through the mountains

Over the rivers and through the mountains

   The car is packed and we departed around 8:00 am.  A stop at the grocery store fills our cooler with food for travel.  Our phone acts as a GPS and I downloaded several off-line maps for areas I thought might have spotty service.  An inverter powers my laptop, camera battery charger, and a couple USB chargers.  It's a backward system to go from 12 VDC to 120 VAC and then 5 VDC, but functional.  A second power port feeds by portable media device so I can listen to my book while driving.
   This first day has about 12.5 hours of driving scheduled and is calculated to get me to a rest area just shy of North Carolina.  My first destination is a ski resort where if all goes well I will be taught by my old friend Shane how to snowboard.  For this part of the drive I finish off two books: Newton and the Counterfeiter, and Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!.  Right on time I stop at a rest area Tennessee just a few miles from the border.  The temperature is around 40° F (4° C) which is significantly higher than when I left Wisconsin at 1° F (-17° C).  After using the facilities at the rest area to brush my teeth and remove my contacts, I slide into the sleeping bag in my trunk through the opening from a folded down seat.  Once in the trunk, a covered the opening with my coat so Eve looks as if there is no one inside, put in my ear plugs, bury myself under blankets, and sleep comfortably.  I do enjoy sleeping in my trunk.

February 23, 2015

Road trip day 2--Introduction to Snowboarding

Shane

Shane

   Woke up around 7:30 am, ate some breakfast and departed for the ski resort.  Arrived at almost exactly 9:00 am and I was trying to figure out a place to park when I got a call from Shane wondering where I was.  It has been at about 15 years since I had seen Shane in person, although we chat from time to time online.  After he had some breakfast it was time to start my lessons.  First we suited up and I was assigned all the equipment I would need: boots, helmet, and snowboard.  In addition I had two pairs of socks with the second layer being wool, thermal pants, a moisture wicking undershirt, a few layers of outer shirts, a balaclava, scarf, hat, coat, and gloves.  I declined snow pants the first day as I've never really worn them.
   Once outside Shane taught me the basics of the snowboard.  How to keep the board from moving while strapping yourself to it; how to move it with one foot connected, one foot disconnected; the fundamentals of steering, balance, and stance; ext, ext.  Then it was to the top of the bunny hill where I would see what it felt like to actual move with this device.  I discovered I felt pretty comfortable with the motions needed to control the snowboard.  I have 20 years of roller skating experience, and I have enjoyed playing with caster boards.  I'm not sure how much these two facts helped, but I found moving the snowboard came pretty natural.  Shane did say I was being a little aggressive trying to move the back end of the board around, which I attribute to my familiarity with caster boards.  But the basics were obtained quickly: heal turns, and toe turns.  I found doing a heal turn so the board was perpendicular to the direction of travel led to a quick stop and would turn into my fallback when I felt I didn't have total control.
   After a couple runs on the bunny hill Shane recommend I try the main hill.  I found I felt comfortable doing heal turns, but not so much with toe turns.  The first stop on the main hill had a fairly narrow path before reaching a larger area.  The first few runs I found I could "feather" this area, rocking back and forth using heal turns to navigate this section slowly.  Shane pointed out it was actually easier to do techniques in when going faster rather than slower, and I found this to be the case. Whenever I felt a little out of control, I could turn the board to the side and slow to a stop rather quickly. With this safeguard I was able to focus on toe operations.
   When I started getting the feel of toe turns, Shane wanted me to step it up and go to the top of the hill. There the angles were higher and thus the speeds higher. I feathered much of my first run, but started to feel more confident with continued runs. Although I still dumped at speed on each run, it was becoming less frequent.  Shane took a break for awhile and I continued my work. During this time I made a couple of runs of the main hill without dumping. Each time I worked on S-turns as a way to manage my speed. Near the end of the day I was very sore but did a few more runs with Shane. This time I kept my speeds down and focused on technique.
   In the evening, Shane and I went to dinner and then back to Shane's house.  I was sore, but slept quite well. 
   Pictured is Shane at dinner.  He looks about the same as when I met him over 20 years ago.

February 24, 2015

Road trip day 3--More Snowboarding

Ready to Go

Ready to Go

   Woke at 8:30 am and slowly got out of my trunk bed, a little sore but ready to go.  It had snowed during the night and light flurries were falling when I awoke.  The ground had accumulated about 4 inches.  Shane's road is gravel and was unplowed.  I allowed him to drive my car to try and get back to the main road.  We got stuck on one big hill.  Shane was able to get a neighbor to pull us the rest of the way.  A plow came by about this time and had the main road clear.  That made the rest of the drive back to the highway nice and clear.
   We had breakfast at the Awful Waffle (a.k.a the Waffle House) and then went back for more snowboarding.  This day I continued to work on technique, and in particular my toe turns.  The hardest part for me is the transition from a heal turn into a toe turn, but is the key to the steeper hills.  Shane had me go down an other hill at the top more challenging than the one yesterday.  I did poorly my first run, but continued to improve with each additional run.  On the main hill I wasn't falling much at all.  Only a couple of times did I mess up and dump, but most of the time I could make the main run without incident doing long S-turns.  The tall hill I never finished flawlessly, but the mistakes were often due to my inability to work around other people.  I would dump rather than risk getting too close.  I finished the day with a good run of the tall hill, and a very fast flawless run of the main hill.
   Shane and I went to dinner again and chatted to about 8:00 pm.  I got on the road and started toward Raleigh, NC.