Saturday, February 19, 2011
This year I will be going on thousands more holidays than I normally would. In fact, I will be using my holidays from work (my vacation days) to almost exclusively travel around the United States and the rest of the world. This means that the blog will have umpteen different pots about holidays and, unlike the last few years, it will be on a wide ranging numbers of places and style of trips.
The first planned is a trip to New York City, the return for myself, but the first time with Connie. The next is a long and drawn out road trip that I've tentatively titled The West American Road Trip. Driving from San Francisco back to Houston over a three week or so period visiting places such as LA, Vegas, Pheonix, Oklahoma and North Texas before coming into Houston. My co blogger Jonathan is on this trip so we will likely chronicle this independantly.
However, that's not it by no means. Connie and I plan to head to the West, drive North, and drive East, with trips to Arizona, or LA, New Orleans, Orlando and Dallas all planned tentatively, as well as the envivitable return home from the states in September and a plan to maybe go to Paris, France, later on in the year... not to mention the other plan that has her mother flying from Canada to Scotland for the first time...
So, the year is going to be busy and I am hoping to wear out almost everything that I can think of. The North East is not really on the Agenda yet, seeing as Connie's base is pretty close to Toronto and that will give us the scope to drive to Detroit, Chicago, Boston, Up-state New York and Ottawa in future years, and further afield. Also, I have had a sudden urge to want to go to Vancouver, and British Columbia... Namely, because of photos like this:
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
When extreme weather hits anywhere, the shit hits the fan. No where can be prepared for the normal weather and at the same time be economically prepared for the disastrous weather that can happen. In the industry we call it an 100-year event, or one that ‘is likely to happen once in 100 years’. This is a method of ‘ALARP’ or, As Low As Reasonably Practicable – or, lower the risks and mitigate the consequences of such an event to a point where anything more would be unfeasible. It’s quite widely understood.
So during the winter I was affected by heavy snow fall in the UK and as such my flight home was cancelled and I had to jump on a train. It cost me a fair bit, but this should be reimbursed by my company and their travel insurance policy. I was, at the time, annoyed not at the actual weather or the closure of the airport, but annoyed at the lack of organisation and mitigation – surely there is some contingency for when the whole airport is closed at once? At any rate, Terminal 5 was destroyed by something that could conceivably happen every year, and several times. Something needs to be looked at.
Recently, in Houston, there has been a cold snap. The temperature has dropped last week into the negatives meaning that there would be a hard freeze. The temperature was around -4 at the lowest, so it wasn’t ridiculously cold and in my area there was no snow, or even much ice really, but they still shut almost every school in the surrounding area and people were told not to come into work. I was shocked as there wasn’t even that much frost on the ground – admittedly my car took 45 minutes to defrost having no de-icer or a scraper. The reason was plainly obvious the moment I took to the road.
Houston doesn’t do salting of the road. The just don’t and mix that with a strange propensity to use concrete instead of tarmac we suddenly have sheets of solid ice almost everywhere on all section of highway and roadway. Pretty dangerous? Not really. If you know how to drive on ice, or around ice, then you can control the car in a way that makes it safe to drive on slippery surfaces. Low gear, in snow, or on ice, sometimes works, but the car that I drive is so big a heavy I expected it to seal to the road like nothing else. Also, the sheer number of pickups around and 4x4 SUVs you’d expect everyone to understand how to drive! Or, at least have been taught!
Nope. My colleague Joe saw a 4x4 pick up drive the wrong way on a highway just because of ice and I almost was wiped out by a SUV due to sudden aversion to ice on the road. Most annoyingly though was the fact that the whole shut at 6pm due to ice when there wasn’t any. It had burned off during the day.
It was a stunning realisation that the drivers here are shockingly lacking ina general skill what you need to drive on ice roads and that I might take that for granted by the fact it happens daily in the UK, and that we are more prepared for it.
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Wednesday, February 09, 2011
The second change was that I was bring my new lady friend to Christmas for the first time. Having her mingling with the family at dinner and afterward at my Uncles house was the first time she had met the rest of my clan, and it was a stark difference to last years Christmas day trip to a local club and getting CRUNK. The day was positively perfect, and ended on a high with a meet of minds of my older friends from way back when, some of which I hadn't seen in years. It was a good change, and one I really enjoyed.
But that was only part of it. The other part, the really different part, was that we traveled across the world to Canada and met with my Connie's family for a week and a half, doing the festivities that we would've done if we had been in Canada for Christmas. I had met all the Canadian side of the family when I attended Connie's sister Randi's wedding in September, but I hadn't spent any real length of time with some of them due to fact that a wedding was taking place. More importantly, Connie hadn't met her newly born Niece, Claire, and missed her nephew Kaleb greatly. So it was a great change of pace.
In the week and a bit I was there I got to go Ice Fishing, played Kinect, ate steaks, drove a Lancer 4x4 in blizzard conditions, felt -24'C for the first time in my life, met Connie's best friend's husband for the first time, skated on ice for the first time in years and generally had the most fun in a long time over both the UK trip back home and the Canada trip back to my other home in waiting.
This is going to become a regular addition to my life, for the moment, and most likely for the foreseeable future. The only way I can see making it fair is if we rotate the holidays which means I might be facing my first Christmas outside the UK in my life next year.
The adventure continues.
Tuesday, February 08, 2011
So when I entered the Cowboy boots shop at the weekend with a mission to leave with a pair (or two) I felt so uncomfortable at first. The overwhelming size of the place was quite beyond my imagination - more shirts, tassles, belts, stetsons, boots and leather chaps than I could've conjured even on the highest grade hallucinogen. It was like a kid in a sweet shop*, but a kid that has never seen sweets before and has only been told of their significance through movies from a generation ago. The cowboy died a long time ago, or at least the classic style of a cowboy and the Old West, but there are still cowboys around. It felt liek the kind of place that even with my fear of feeling like a fucking idiot walking about places that I don't know about and don't feel like I belong, the place was so foreign that it felt okay to be wide eyed, mouth agape, muttering "Fucking Hell" as I wandered amongst the experts and the mountains of western paraphernalia.
The members of the store that helped us with our considerably pricey purchase where all wearing blue stone washed Levi or Lee jeans, shirts with the top few buttons undone and a wide brimmed stetson had on. There was a station where they measured your head and steam-formed the hats into the correct shape.
The one thing that I will mention about the boots that I ended up purchasing was that for all their expense and the joy I got from trying loads on, I have never tried a pair of more comfy feeling boots in my life, and I've wore a lot of boots; hiking and work boots being well worn members of the boot family. These are shin high leather Ariat boots, golden leather and a classical pattern to them. They add 3'' to my height finally pushing me well and truly through the 6 foot barrier for the first time. The feel like they will last my life time.
With my recent trip into the Old West via Red Dead Redemption I feel like I was destined to get a pair of these. Now, all I need for the future is a stetson, spurs, and a southern drawl, just in time for my March trip...
*When I first wrote this post, I had written Candy Shop. I changed it after signing Flower of Scotland and standing in front of my two flags on the wall in my office, the Saltire and the Lion Rampant.