Black Beauty

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Ferry to the Isle

Today was all about getting over to the Isle. We got up at the usual time, went down to breakfast and had another great meal. I had another English Big breakfast with their bacon. Yummy!
After breakfast, I killed time, waiting until noon to leave for the dock.
Deep Well Drilling Rig In Bay of Ireland
All of the single riders plus Rob and Gretchen were scheduled for the later trip. Gary and Linda, plus all of the two-up riders sailed a couple of hours earlier. Rob was not able to get us all on one ferry. Ferries for the island for the waves are fully booked more than a year in advance. So, it's not like walking up to the counter and buying a ticket.
First Class Accommodations on Ferry
I can't imagine doing all of the logistics for a trip like this. It has to be quite an ordeal to put together. I know it was more than Gary and I could handle ourselves.. So, that's why we are on this tour.
The ferry dock is about 5 miles south of the hotel. At noon, we gathered and rode to the dock. Hundreds and hundreds of bikes, plus hundreds cars were waiting for the ferry. Loading was simple. Ferry deck hands tied down the bikes. Up we went to the top deck, the 7th, where the "Premium" lounge is located. Nice comfortable seats and wait-staff to serve food and drinks. First class;this is my first experience with First Class service and I like it! Bob and Gretchen have really put together a group reat tour.
Aboard the ferry, it was quiet and comfortable except for the temperature. Sitting still and writing, my hair is wet from sweat. The ferry ride was very good.

Today's weather is great. Blue skies with wispy clouds on the horizon. Now that we're inside, the weather is great. Works that way sometimes.

The ride over to the island took longer than I expected. Almost 6 hours by the time we got off the ferry. Disembarking went smoothly. We were finally on the famed Isle of Man!

We rode into town and up close to the course. Then walked up the hill to watch a bit of qualifying. Damn, they go fast. Much more so than you can imagine.
Practice in Douglas
The bikes were no more than 20 feet away, going well over 100 mph right where we were standing. I tried to take a few pics, but it was hard to actually film them due to their speeds.

After a while, we left for the hotel. Then a good dinner and now the blog. Tomorrow will be an awesome day...

Over Hill and Dale

Wednesday's ride was wonderful. We went into the Yorkshire Dales National Park and rode all day on tiny paved roads that run from place to place in the dales. Many of the roads were literally one lane wide, with no room for another vehicle except another motorcycle.
Beautiful Old Tree Along the Way
And the roads ran with the land, up and down with lots of whoop de dos and curves. They were a hoot! The only drawbacks were that you had to be ready to deal with oncoming traffic and find a slightly wider spot in the road to let the other vehicle go by. And sheep. Much of the route was open-range pasture
Where's the Sheep!!!
, so we had to slow to a walking pace whenever we spotted sheep near or on the road. No close calls, but you had to be alert.

We had some roads of normal width, but there were many miles of one lane or one and a half lanes. They literally looked like a driveway to a house a long away from the road.

Stone fences... What can I say... Thousands of them. Most of the small roads were lined on both sides for miles and miles. And looking across the hillsides, they criss cross forming black lines off to the horizon. Just beautiful! Throw in a lot of sheep, some cattle, and an occasional horse, it was prettier than a postcard. You've got to see it in person to understand how it looks.
Beautiful or What???

Weather was generally ok. Some fog, light rain on and off, some wind, and chilly. Not bad, but not great. I guess it's typical England.

It was a good day on the road.

Will sign off for this post.

Oh, BTW, I received an email from the phone insurance company telling me that I have received my replacement phone! Only problem is--I don't know where I received it. Clayton? London? Isle of Man? When I phoned them to finish filing the claim, just as I was trying to tell them where to ship it, the borrowed phone ran out of time and shut down. I couldn't call back, so I sent an email to give them the information, but I have no way to know if they got it or followed my instructions. I had done that earlier, giving them the London hotel information. And there is no tracking information available, so I don't know where it is..

Stay tuned......

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Yikes, Bikes!

This is another twofer post--last night it was too late when I got back to the room. This is being written on my brother Jeff's birthday, May 28. Jeff, this one's for you.

Yesterday we got the thing we've been wanting for a long time--the bikes
Bikes at Beginning of Ride
. We got up, had breakfast, and then a short lesson on the use of our gpss. All of the pertinent information had been preloaded into each device. But the operating system for these older, but better units needed to be taught. Since these units are the precursor to the Street pilots, it all came back to me pretty quickly.

Then out to the bikes. My scooter had 2 km on the odometer, so it was virtually new. And it had no operator's manual, and neither Al or Rob knew much at all about it, so it was fun learning. How to start it (hint--gotta hold the brake). Trying to decide which brake lever worked the front brake (including whether either was linked to the other wheel). Which position of the light switch controlled which light (3 lights on the front). Where is the gas gage (still unresolved after 2 days of riding). Where/how do you check the oil and add oil when needed (still unresolved). Lots of questions and only a very few answers...
Alderly Edge Hotel

The scoot is a hoot to ride!! It feels light, I can reach the ground easily. No clutch. No gears. Just twist the throttle and hang on. It flies! Even though it's called a scooter, it's really a motorcycle with a continuous velocity transmission and slightly smaller wheels. ABS brakes. Adjustable windshield. Heated grips and seats. Great storage room under the seat.

Handles great. Brakes are superb, and it is both quick and fast. It will keep up with the big bikes up to about 60 mph. Lots of fun.

The weather was good (temp about 60), but the wind was howling and the wind was cold. Just a little cool in the wind.
Pee Break on Side of Road

We rode as a group, mostly. The ride was fantastic. The scenery was stunning. Green hills and pastures, directed at odd angles with the stone fences running as far as you could see. Some cattle in pastures, but huge numbers of sheep grazing on the green grass. You really can't appreciate the scenery unless you saw it yourself.

I let Rob and Gretchen ride the scooter so he could see what it was like. He liked it, too. I rode his 1200 GS. Lots of power and good handling.

Finally it was time to go back to the hotel. We stopped for gas close to the hotel, and mine took the least amount of fuel. That's great because gas is close to $8 a gallon!

Last night we had a group dinner
Dinner at Hotel
(a 5 course meal) that was ok but not great. Then a group meeting in which the first "oh shit" award was presented to my roommate, Rob, for going down on his bike in a service station parking lot. Not hurt at all, but the bike had some cosmetic damage. All of this took a long time; hence no blog.

This morning broke wit cloudy, drippy skies. Yes, real rain! We had breakfast, talked about the routes, and headed out. I rode with Gary and Linda, and another couple (Terry and Donna).
Sweets Break in Tea House
O'er Hill and Dale on Wet Day
It was a good ride, but the cold, incessant rain made it hard to see and left the grip for tires a bit iffy. So we rode pretty slow and safe, but could not see the scenery well. I stayed dry except for one lower arm and my gloves. I did much better than most of the riders in staying dry.

The ride ended in Harrogate at the Crown Hotel. Very nice! Gretchen has done a great job of picking hotels. We had beer at a pub across the street and then a very good dinner buffet.

After dinner, another short group meeting, where my roommate received another award. This one was for losing the ONLY key to his bike. Several bikes, including his and mine, have only one key. So, if it is truly lost, the tour is over for that rider unless he wants to ride in the van. After dinner and a massive search of our room and then the bike, Al found the key wedged somehow beside the seat and the frame. Whew--close call.

So, that's enough for tonight.

I think I'm going to continue with this blog and later either post pics in the blog when I get home or post them on the Web. Stay tuned for my decision.

Tomorrow we ride to the west coast to ride the ferry to the Isle of Man on Thursday.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

London to Manchester

I'll start with yesterday's adventures and then go to today's trip. Today is Sunday, May 26.

We went into the city to see a little more, try to find Linda's hat, and tour Stonehenge. In fact, we were successful in doing all three, and a little more.

With the previous day's rain, we discovered late in the day that Linda had lost her hat. They thought it was left in the restaurant where we had dinner, so we rode the tube to the Black and Blue Steakhouse near the London Eye.
Linda's Hat Repository

Luckily, the door was unlocked even though they were not open yet. The lady who came to tell us that they were not open, when we told her why we were there, looked in their Lost and Found place and pulled Linda's hat right out. What luck! So, we were successful in our first quest.

We decided to go to the BMW dealership to see what it was like
No Caption Needed!
. So, back to the tube for a short ride to the appropriate station. A 10 minute walk or so later, we found it. I was hoping to find a tee shirt with the local dealership, but no luck. I did find a hat that I liked, so I now have a new BMW hat.

From there, we made our way to the Stonehenge tour departure place. We were early, so we went into a grocery store to pick up some snacks and kill time. I found some great candy bars called Yorkies. Mostly chocolate. Some raisins, and some small malt balls. Very yummy! If I can find more, I'll bring some home to share.

At the appointed time, we went back to the tour office. The young lady at the tour office walked us to the pickup place. We waited. And waited. And waited, and no bus. She started calling the bus driver, who told her that he was in an argument with a passenger and was trying to get him off the bus. The driver told her he'd be at our pickup in 10 minutes. So, every 5 minutes she called the driver, who finally got the passenger off the bus. We were picked up about 30 minutes late.
Stonehenge on a Beautiful Day

The ride to Stonehenge was ok, except it was hot in the bus. It was 100 percent full, so it was crowded, too. I actually slept about half the way there.
More Stonehenge

Stonehenge was great, except we were hurried. The stones are pretty big, and it's difficult to see how they were put into place. The arrangement of stones seems to be done in such a way to keep up with time, both in hours and seasons. The rocks are bluestone rocks, su
Even More Stonehenge
pposedly very hard and strong. It was well worth the time and effort to go.

Getting back to the hotel was uneventful.

Today was mostly about getting from London to Manchester. This trip was a real train ride, covering almost 200 miles. Everything worked out well, but we had to keep moving and had no wasted time between various trains or tunes.

As we got off the final train, we spotted a guy who had a helmet with his gear. After a few seconds, we discovered that he was a part of our tour, and was Rod, my roommate for the rest of the tour! How weird...
And he was a true gentleman, helping us old guys lug the heavy duffel bags up the flights of stairs to the top.

We walked up the (steep) hill to our hotel and checked in. The hotel is very nice--pretty plush and very nice.

We had a group meeting and dinner, with each person introducing themselves. We have a varied group of people, with 4 of us from North Carolina. Pretty neat..
Part of Tour Group
More Tour Group

Tomorrow, we go riding!

Ok, here's some news of interest. I
think I have figured out what's going on with pics. I think I am out of space in my blogger account. So, I've decided to create a new account and post in it. When I do, I'll post the new address here for any followers to go to. I apologize for the inconvenience, but I think I've just used all my allocated space. (Note:  This was not the problem.  I still don't know what the problem is, but a real computer does work!)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Cold and Wet London

Today was another good day, except it was very messy and COLD.  I didn't get enough sleep last night (only 4 hours), so I'm pretty tired tonight.  I was pumped up with adrenaline from the walk home from the train station, so I took a long time to go to sleep.  And this morning, I woke up an hour earlier than I had planned, so it just wasn't enough rest for an old man like me!

We got up, drank some instant coffee (provided by the hotel), got ready and were out of the hotel before 9:30am.  We walked to the train station, bought tickets, and got on the train to London.  Once in London, we walked a short distance to a place that sold tour bus tickets.
Gary and Linda Waiting for Right Bus
 It seems that there are 3 major tour bus companies in London, and we stopped at a store thinking we were buying one type, and learned about 2 miles of walking later that we had bought tickets to the Grey Line bus.  Trouble was, there were about 10 other busses for each Grey Line bus.  So, we had to wait for a bus each time we got of and tried to get on another one.

And it started to rain, real rain.  Imagine standing in the pouring rain, 43 degrees, with strong winds, while waiting for a bus and trying to stay dry and warm.  Can't do all of that; cold set in pretty quickly.  We were all wearing waterproof jackets and hats, but pants were nylon or cotton and getting wet and cold.  Finally, our bus came along and we got on.

It was a double decker, with part of the upstairs under a roof and part open to the sky.  We managed to get seats under the cover, but it was COLD.  After a while, we went downstairs to get out of the cold, even though the view was not so great with the traffic and rain.
Busy Streets and Tall Busses

London is a beautiful city.  I've never seen so many beautiful buildings of such varied architecture.  Imagine it, and it's there.  From very modern glassed front buildings to structures that were hundreds of yea
rs old and had intricate design in the construction.  Just beautiful.  Unfortunately, with the rain on the bus windows, taking pictures was not so great, so I didn't take a lot of pictures.  And if I had tried to photograph each neat building, I would have taken thousands of pictures.
Pretty Architecture

There are also hundreds if not thousands of statues scattered around London.  Animals, people, soldiers, everything you can imagine.  Many are located on or around buildings, but some are scattered in many parks in the City.  So much beauty.

Lots of Statues
And there was traffic like I've never experienced before, anywhere.  The roads are not straight with 90 degree intersections.  There are countless traffic circles and intersections in a "Y" configuration.  And every configuration and angle made, I'm sure.  Combine that with literally thousands of busses (lots of city busses, but plenty of tour busses), motorcycles and scooters, bicycles, cars, trucks, and pedestrians. We absolutely made the right decision to not have our own vehicle in London.  The bus drivers are extremely skilled at wheeling those big busses all over the streets, going places where I was convinced we couldn't go.  Sometimes I literally closed my eyes and gripped the seat because I knew we'd hit another vehicle.  But we didn't!  Now i see why the subways are so well used.  If they weren't, it would be mayhem in the streets of London.

We rode most of the day and got off a few times for bathroom stops and meals.  I had two very good meals; one of roast beef and vegetables, and another one consisting of a pulled chicken Caesar salad.  Both were delicious!  Virtually every meal I've had since the plane landed has been wonderful.  Much better than my earlier Europe trip to the Alps region.

Our tour bus tickets included a free walking tour (which we didn't discuss due to the rain) and a river ride for free.
Typical Tourist Boat Ride on Thames River
 So, we went down to the river and boarded a large catamaran boat.  The best part of the ride was the warmth inside the boat.  It was nice to be warm again.  We got off the boat (it was a one-way trip), found the tube and had dinner.  After dinner, we walked back to the tube, got on it and worked our way back to the hotel.

As we walked back to the hotel, the rain started again (it had briefly stopped), making most of the day wet.  And did I say COLD?

No pics again today due to the computer issues.  Phone still dead, but I did hear back from the insurance company, acknowledging my email to them, and telling me that I had to call them to finish the claim.  If it were only that easy.....  When I saw that I have to call Monday thru Friday (only), I knew to forget about it until sometime later, if at all.  I just don't need the frustration, since I don't handle it so well.

Tomorrow, we're off to Stonehenge.  It should be great.  Supposed to be 61 degrees and some sunshine.

Until tomorrow.....

Walking in Steps

Yesterday (May 23) we spent the time in London mostly in London Tower. It was fairly interesting, but after a few hours of looking at old buildings, churches, royal jewelry and such, I saw enough. I bet we climbed up a thousand steps (and then back down) inside the area. The Beefeaters who did some commentary were interesting to see. They look just like the pictures you've seen. They actually live inside the compound!
Beefeater in London Tower

When we had seen everything, we walked a short way to London Tower Bridge. It crosses the Thames River and is pretty interesting to walk across. We didn't do a tour there, just walked across, taking pics as we walked.
London Tower

Then we walked maybe a mile down that street, just taking in the local culture. It's busy there, reminding me of many large cities, with lots of variety in types of stores and people. Lots of bicycles and motorcycles in the streets, with frequent lane-splitting and darting around in the heavy, fast moving traffic. They drive and ride pretty aggressively over here in this London Town.

Me and London Tower Bridge
We walked back a different way and stumbled on Simon Tanner's, an authentic English Pub. Finally found one! Danny, the bartender, was friendly, Scotch, and a motorcyclist. So we talked motorcycles and racing for a long time while we each drank two beers. My first one wasn't particularly tasty, and it was warm. Did I say authentic! The second was good and cold.
Danny at Our First Pub

After about an hour and a half, we bid Danny goodbye and started walking back into central London. We crossed the Thames on the famed London Bridge this time. We probably walked 2 miles on this excursion.

Next it was time to eat before making our way back to the hotel. So, we found a barbecue place called Bodeans Barbecue and had a very good dinner. The bourbon wings wear great and the barbecue was very good. Not quite like Stameys, but very good.

Interesting Art in London Tower
Next was getting home on the train system. We figured out the tube route (subway) and did it, but the train part was not simple. After wandering around a while, we walked back the way we came in earlier in the day and found some signage with Hayes and Harrington station at platform 11. In truth, it was actually platform 10. We scrambled over to the other platform and got on our train. Whew, it was an ordeal! But it got us back to our station.

Then the 9/10th mile back to the hotel. We got back at 12:30am and collapsed, too weary... But it was a very good day.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Across the Big Pond

This post is coming to you from Harlington, UKm a suburb of London.  I'm writing this on the morning of the first full day in the UK, May 23, 2013.  I woke up a little early and decided to get up and try to post on the blog, so here I am.

The trip from Raleigh to London went just fine.  Flights were on-time, security was easy, and all of the fears I had conjured up were wasted mental energy.  Usually they are.  The flights were relatively smooth, with no bad weather in our way. The flight across the ocean was long, but not too bad.  It turned out that the airplane was not configured the way it was depicted online.  I did have an aisle seat, but there were seats beside me.  My neighbour was okay, not infringing on my space or bothering me at all.  I managed a rare feat; I slept a couple of hours.  Landings were smooth with no hassle.  Overall the flights were a positive experience.

When we landed, we found our way through security (about a 45 minute waiting period due to long lines), but that worked okay with no hassles.  At baggage claim, our bags had already been pulled off the conveyor and were sitting for us to pick up.  What service!  Life is good.  The whole process from home to London was without any real hassles.  We got cash from an ATM machine in the airport.

We decided to take a bus from the airport to the hotel.  While the hotel was not far from the airport, it was much more than we could have walked.  So, we went to our bus stop and waited about 30 minutes for the bus to arrive.

When it arrived, we jumped on-board and rode the 15 minutes or so to the hotel.  The bus let us off at the front door of the Comfort Inn Heathrow, our home for the next 4 nights.

Check-in at the hotel was without a hitch, so we had our room early in the day (about 9:30am).  When we got to the room, I was blown away with the room arrangement.  The bedroom had a queen bed and two single beds!  Behind a door was another bedroom with a single bed and TV!!  So, I had my own private bedroom, giving Gary and Linda some degree of privacy.  The arrangement was perfect, IMO.
My Room in London

After doing a little unpacking, we were hungry and went out in search of that mythical establishment, the English Pub.  One of my "to dos" for the trip was to have a traditional meal and a warm beer in a real pub.  Somehow that was important to me...

The front desk clerk told us there was a pub about 5 walking minutes from the hotel.  So, we set out in the 55 degree morning in search of the pub.  About 5 minutes into the walk, we saw a place that sorta looked like it might possibly be a pub, but because it did not appear to be open, and because it was clearly an Indian place, we kept walking.  About an hour later, after stopping in a topless place, trying to get food (they sold none), a guy there told us about a cafe just a short walk down beside a canal.  So, we followed his directions and found the elusive cafe right where he said it would be.

But, alas, it was not a pub!  No beer.  But the menu had some pub-food, we were hungry, so we stayed and ate.  Linda and I had Shepherd's Pie, which was very good, and Gary had the fish and Chips.  All of the meals had peas, lots of peas, which we subsequently have decided is a staple food here.  The food was quite good and very reasonably priced, especially for the quanties.  Lunch was good, even though it was not the pub experience we were looking for.

We discovered that we were in a nondescript area in the suburb, with lots of attached housing, and a mix of kept and unkept dwellings.  It was not threatening, but it was, for the most part, not very picturesque.
Ugly Housing Near London Hotel

After lunch, we set off to find the rail station.  After a bit of walking around, we found it and figured out how to make it work Sunday morning when we travel to Manchester.  Should be okay.

Then we walked back to the hotel, pretty bushed from a couple hours of walking and exploring.

So, we took a nap.  I think I was asleep in about 30 seconds and had a very restful two hour nap.  It was much needed and, after I woke up, was exactly what I needed.  They had one too, and I believe it helped them a lot.

When we got up, we started trying to decide what we'd do over the next few days while in London.  We wanted to go to Stonehenge, about 85 miles away.  We wanted to see the usual London things, Big Ben, London Tower, Buckingham Palace, etc, but were not sure how to do it.  After some discussion, we decided we wanted an afternoon tour to Stonehenge whenever it could be arranged, and that we'd get one of the double-decker busses to move us around to the various venues in London.

Easier said than done, when you're trying to do it on the cheap.  We found that the computers in the lobby are not free (two pounds per half hour), that trying to make the arrangements online via phone is impossible, and that throwing one's phone on the first day of a 3 week trip in a foreign country is not a good idea.

After a lot of work on Gary's part, he found that there was no way to get the Stonehenge reservation via  Internet over the phone.  The very last step included printing a copy of the reservation to use when checking in to the tour.  No way to print a receipt with a phone.  Also found that phone call did not work.  So, he finally got the hotel manager to make the reservation and print the receipt for the trip.

|I did not help in any of that because my phone was acting weird.  No signal at all (even though earlier it worked just fine).  It had some weird stuff on the screen that I had never seen before.  No data, nada.  |It was no use to me at all.  After a few aborted tries, I finally was able to get Verizon global services on the phone.  The lady I was talking to told me that I'd have to talk to her over a land line so we could troubleshoot my phone.  So, I decided to give her our room number and have her to call me there.

As I walked to the room, all was well.  Just as I got into the room and started to give her the phone number, the call was dropped!!  Damn!  So, I tried calling her back.  Nada.  Tried again.  Nada again.  In utter frustration, I threw the thing!!  I had to vent; I was feeling bad that I couldn't help Gary with the arrangements, frustrated that the phone would not work, and frustrated at dropping the call at the most inopportune time. So I threw it.

When I picked it up, I could immediately see thousands of cracks in the screen.  In the end, the phone seems to work, but the screen is non-responsive, so it is broken for good.  My bad!

There is no Verizon outside the good ole USA, so going to a store is not an option.  I have insureance, so I used Gary's phone to call Verizon to start the process to get a replacement.  Lady I talked to was nice, and helpful, and then transferred me to the insurance company, which was an automated system.  That did not work, because the system did not like the fact that the number I was calling from did not match up with the number for my phone.  So, it disconnected me.

I had a website to use, so I decided to spend the 2 pounds to use the computer in the lobby.  I don't understand why, but in the end, it was free, so I'm using that computer as I write this.

The website was working just fine until I got to the "ship to" address.  It had options for two countries, USA and Canada.  Not UK.  So, that stopped me at that point.  However, it did send me an email confirming that I had started a claim.  So, I replied to that message, hoping someone would actually see my plea.  Later I got an email saying they would respond today.

So, we'll see.  If I were betting, I'd bet that I'll be phone-less for the next 3 weeks.  It's okay; it's my fault, so I'll just have to suffer through the withdrawal.  I have good friends to help me when the shakes begin, and I believe they will give me appropriate counseling when needed.

I can't post pics from this computer, so I have no pics yet.  I should be able to do it later, and if I can, they'll be here if you come back to look later.

So, this is a recoup of my first day in Jolly ole England.  Except for my temper, it was a good day.  And the real adventures start today.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Trip's Eve

Well, this is my last post prior to jumping on the big plane and flying over the big water.  It doesn't seem that it is ALREADY be time to leave for a trip of a lifetime.  But it is.  And I'm both satisfied with being prepared to leave and worried about leaving.

I'll start with the worried part--I have a fear of forgetting something very important.  What, I don't know (obviously, or I'd do it!).  It could be something I needed to do or something I should have packed.  I'm less worried about the packing part--they sell stuff wherever you go, so as long as I have enough money, I can buy it when I need it.  But if it was something I should have done, that's much more problematic once I leave.

I think this fear has roots in something that happened to me when I was a freshman in college.  At the end of the second semester, at exam time, they used to post on a piece of paper the date, time, and location for each course's final exam.  The student had to find the sheet of paper that contained each course they had taken and make a note of date, time, and location for the exam.  I did that, just as I had done at the end of the first semester.

When I showed up for my English exam, I found a vacant room.  Not a soul was there!  When I went back to look at the exam posting sheet, I had written down the wrong date for the exam.  It was given the day before!  Having an anxiety report, I went to find and found the professor to explain what had happened.  I was a fairly good student in English, so I had a B average--I wasn't trying to somehow flake out on the exam.  I just made a mistake when writing down the date.

When I explained what had happened to the professor, she said "Well, you just flunked.  You made zero on the exam and that pulled you down to an F for the course".  DAMN!  I knew I was in trouble, but had no idea that I was in that kind of trouble.  I sure didn't want to repeat a course that I was doing okay in.

So, I went to see the Dean of Students to see if he could somehow intervene.  I explained to him what had happened and asked for his help.  I remember Dean Kirk saying that he'd look into it and see what he could do.

Later that afternoon, I received a phone call from Dean Kirk, saying that the professor had agreed to give me the exam the next day.  I was soooo relieved to have a second chance!  I thanked him profusely and took the exam the next day.  I made a B in the course and didn't have to repeat it.

But every since then, when something important is happening where a specific time is involved, I relive that horrible moment when I realized I had missed the exam.  And I have a recurring nightmare related to that event fairly often.  That's why I worry about forgetting something that needs to be done.

I prepared a list and have amended it frequently to help me remember what to take.  It's now all on one sheet of paper, but it has two FULL columns of stuff.  Nearly all of it is in the bags (I'm actually writing this post over the weekend prior to leaving on Tuesday), and only a few items remain to be packed.

The new rolling duffel bag is about 80% full and about 3 pounds under the 50 pound limit.  And my carry-on bag is now going to be a backpack rather than a suitcase.  I decided that it would be nice to be able to carry stuff with me on the bike (extra gloves, water, camera, binoculars, etc) and wherever I go and that my backpack would be much easier to manage than trying to stuff it all in my pockets.  I have a little concern about it being okay (size-wise) to carry on the plane, so I may ride to the airport over the weekend and make sure it's okay.  Yes, I'm anal...   Hopefully my packing is nearly all done.

Week before last, I noted that I had a little sore spot on my gum beside one of my molars.  So, knowing that finding dental care in the UK might be difficult and time-consuming, I went to my dentist to see if I had a problem.  After 4 x-rays, he told me that it might be any of 3 different problems.  It could be a root canal that needed to be re-done (original about 20 years ago).  It could be a broken tooth where the roots split off.  Or it could be a gum infection, needing a visit to a periodontist.

He prescribed some heavy-duty antibiotic to knock down the infection and suggested that I see an endodontist first, to eliminate or prove the need to have the root canal done again. . I do that the day before leaving for London.  I'm not going to let him do anything that might cause it to flare up, but maybe he can tell if it's a root canal issue.  I took the original 7 days of antibiotic and it has knocked down the infection to the point that it's no longer sore.  I got two refills to take with me on the trip so if it flares up, I can take more antibiotic and stop the infection.  It's always something.....

I'm not taking a computer on this trip.  Instead, I'm taking my Xoom tablet.  It's smaller and a little tougher than the computer.  I can do almost anything on it that I can do with a computer, but there is one function that doesn't work smoothly.  It does not have an easy way to transfer pictures that were taken with my camera into the tablet.  I can make it work, but it's a cumbersome process.  I bought some connection stuff to make it easier, but don't think it will work.  Just a small aggravation...

One thing I haven't resolved is how much cash to take with me.  I've inquired and found that they do not accept US Dollars.  And it's a hassle to exchange dollars for Sterling Pounds (they don't do the Euro, either).  So, I'll take a little USD so I'll have some cash around the airports and use my ATM card to get cash at the machines in the UK.  I'll just pay the convenience fee and conversion fees and live with it.  I'll use my credit cards as much as possible.

My wonderful neighbors, Carl and Mae, are taking me to the airport.  I hate the check-in and security procedures, so not having the hassle of parking a car is a great help.  Thank you, Carl and Mae.  I always appreciate so much all you do for me.  I'll never be able to repay my neighbors for all they have done for me over the years, checking my mail, checking my house, and taking care of whatever needs attention while I'm away on my trips.  It's a huge benefit to have neighbors like them; I am truly blessed.

I did a test-pack of my bags today (Saturday).  After putting everything I need to take, the duffel bag weighs 46 pounds, 4 pounds shy of the limit.  The backpack weighs only 16 pounds, far shy of the 40 pound limit.  So, I am well underweight on the backpack, but it's pretty stuffed, with some big, but light things in it.  I should be okay checking the duffel bag and carrying the backpack.  My helmet ended up in the duffel bag, stuffed with riding gloves and stuff.

Well, it's truly trip's eve tonight.  I've packed, re-packed, and moved things until I'm done with the packing phase.  If it's not in a bag by now, it ain't going!  I'm sure they'll have whatever I might need over there.

My trip to the endodontist this morning went fine.  I didn't like the news he gave me, but as a friend says "It is what it is".  He took more x-rays as well as examined the pics taken by my regular dentist.  He decided to probe beside the tooth and the gum to see what he'd find.   After all of this (including numbing the side of my mouth, he decided that the root canal was probably okay.  But, he believes that one root of the tooth is split from the bottom towards the crown.  The x-rays found areas of bone loss beside the root and jawbone, which are usually indicative of bacterial pockets that cause the bone to recess away from the infection.  Ugh....  Bottom line, he recommended the tooth be removed and replaced with an implant.  Damn!!

So, when I return from the trip, I'll need to line up an appointment to have it yanked out and then do whatever they do to install an implant.  Sounds awful, but I don't have much of a choice.  He said I probably will not have any problems with it on the trip, but if I do, to take another round of antibiotic to knock the infection down again.

I guess it's time to publish this post; I've rambled enough.  Tomorrow at around 2pm, my neighbors will drop me off at the airport.  I'll go through security and then fly to Charlotte, where I'll meet up with Gary and Linda.  Two hours later, at 7pm, we'll leave for London.  Assuming all goes well, we'll land at 8am on Wednesday morning.  Hope I can sleep on the plane...

Bon voyage!