Archive for November, 2008

Mega-ride around the Florida keys

Yesterday I went on my longest ride to date – from Naples all the way along the Florida keys and back. That’s a whopping 540 miles.

Florida Keys

One of the best parts was the journey east through the Everglades – the road cuts straight through alligator infested swamps – I was also fairly alarmed to see the “Puma crossing” signs! The trip home later was more nerve wracking – firstly it was dark so COLD, but also because riding past Miami meant navigating the insanely bad Miami drivers (was quite aware that if I did survive being knocked off, something from the swamps would probably finish me off. No harm done though we all survived unscathed).

This was my first trip to the keys – and I wasn’t sure what to expect. The keys area series of small islands off the south of Florida linked by road bridges.  They are right in between the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico so as you travel along the road  you have  a different ocean on either side. The only thing is, from the road you can pretty much only see the road, the front doors of the resort hotels and the Tshirt and flipflop shops.

In between the islands you get tantalising views of the sea on each side – that turquoise colour with swirling lighter and darker colours. The most impressive view was from the 7 mile bridge.

7 mile bridge

There are two things you need to know about the 7 mile bridge. 1) it’s a bridge…

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Florida Thanksgiving


I’m in Florida for Thanksgiving (my first one – so far from what I can gather it is like Christmas only with no presents and rather a lot of American Football…). This is also the first time I’ve been to Florida. I’ll head south to check out the Keys tomorrow but at the moment I’m near Naples  (SW FL). So far it has been pretty similar to what I was expecting – ie God’s waiting room with a rather pleasant climate. Everywhere looks like a Saga outing and there are monster pharmacies on every corner, presumably to dispense the vast quantities of drugs required to keep the ancient population alive. You can’t come to somewhere calledNaples and not have great Italian food so the experience has been very positive so far.

It isn’t all grannies in purple velour tracksuits however, the Everglades are beautiful. We took an air boat ride that took us beasting around through beautiful mangroves teaming with wildlife  – lots of birds and many, many aligators.  Here’s a taster;



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English as a foreign language

I know many of the British and Americans are struggling to grasp the grammar of their own language/s however some of this Is Not Difficult.

Irritating me today:

  • Best not add any accents if you don’t understand where they should go – eg Croqué monsieur, résumé.
  • The plural of medium – media. See that wasn’t so difficult was it?*
  • NB  anything with a foreign language, particularly latin, base is frought with difficulty. Why doesn’t anyone know what NB stands for?
  • Don’t start me on “he gave it to Anne and I” (urgh) or greengrocers’ apostrophes. Yuk.

Grrrrrrr young people today, what do they learn in school?, grumble grumble

 * It has been brought to my attention that if you are talking about spiritualist types (or indeed multiple eg Tshirts in size medium) then using ‘mediums’ as a plural is OK. That’s not what I meant 😉

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Small is beautiful?

What better way to relax after 24 hours of travel than another trip? So on my return from Singapore I went to visit Washington (only about 2.5 hours away). We visited the most excellent Air and Space Museum then had a drive around the sights.

The biggest surprises from the visit:-

– the Whitehouse is tiny. Really much smaller than you’d think. It made me think of that Monty Python scene where they are all saying “Camelot”, “Camelot” with voices full of awe and wonder, then one voice pipes up and says “it’s only a model….”

– people went to the moon in shoeboxes using technology that I would hesitate to use  to take me to the shops and back. Wow

–  Orville and Wilbur Wright ran a bicycle business before turning their hands to planes. Their mother gave them their interest in engineering.

– You can make beer with kelp. Really. I found this out here.

whitehouse2.jpg The Whitehouse. Actual size.

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Privatised hypochondria

I’m feeling geriatric. Not just because everyone in my trapeze classes is younger, bendier, fitter and just plain old better than me (although that doesn’t help) but because I just had a flu jab. I thought I might as well as they were on offer but I’ve always seen them as something for the old and infirm. I’m trying to convince myself it was Ok as a)I might not have the same resistance to the germs they have over here and b) as the jobs are covered under insurance here  there isn’t an actual outlay.

That rationalisation got me thinking about healthcare here. I now have a theory that the US style of privatised heathcare positively encourages  hypochondria. In the UK when you shuffle off to the local quack and say that you have a headache and are feeling a bit miserable – he’ll send you home with suggestions to take an aspirin and have a bit of a word with yourself. Over here they have to check _everything_ so you don’t sue their arses for missing something, however unlikely. So you present with a headache, and before you know it you’ve had MRIs and CAT scans and investigations from all the shiny machines that go ping*. From your point of view, once you’ve paid what is effectively your insurance excess then you might as well have all they can offer you. That just doesn’t seem quite right.

*Of course I haven’t actually gone to a quack here except to get a signature that says I’m fit to drive (total joke because I reckon the recently deceased could pass their test in Pennsylvania). That said I did just get an injection which I’m not entirely sure I need. Is that how it starts?

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Chrome sweet chrome

 So here’s the bike. It is a Harley Davidson Deuce. Shiny huh? Actually it rides really nicely – very comfortable and it sounds awesome 😉

The Bike

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Niagara= Vegas on sea

The Big Bike Tour route wasn’t quite a straight line East. The plan was to head up to Niagara (I’ve always wanted to go) then back down through Northern Pennsylvania. As it happens, Niagara was the most disappointing part of the whole trip. I blame the TV for only showing ultra wide angle views shot from below.

Not only are the falls a bit smaller than you think (ask me at the right time and I’d be happy to try the riding them in a barrel) but you never see the town of Niagara right next door (I think I was thinking of Victoria falls in the middle of rugged countryside). Not only is it a but more built up than you’d expect but the town of Niagara is a bit like Las Vegas only without the subtlety and style. Plan A was to spend several hours there but 45 mins pretty much covered it. The best bit is watching all the visitors dressed in bright green plastic jumpsuits swarming around the boats and viewpoints like radioactive ants.

One of the moments I remember most clearly from that part of the trip (2.5 days in total) was following the signs that said “Bridge to Canada” and wondering if I wasn’t slightly crazy (no comments required on that debate, thank you).

Bridge to Canada

The worst bit was discovering that a large chunk of the roads in Northern Pennsylvania had been recently recovered. If you have never ridden a motorbike on gravel then you want to keep things that way.

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Chicago to Doylestown

 I’m feeling bad – I’ve been holding out on you and just haven’t been sharing. A couple of months ago I bought a bike. A big shiny Harley from the Chrome Ranger himself (actually I’ve coveted this bike for some time). So what do you do when you buy something? – you take it home of course…

The tiny complicating factor was that I bought it in Chicago. So riding it back took a few days.  The route planned was roughly due East with a small detour to take in Niagara Falls. This was an amazing trip.

Chicgo to Doylestown - route

It was a long way – 996 miles to be precise (definitely would have ridden round the block a few times to make up the extra 4 miles if I’d known). Wow.

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Load of old tat

I’ve had a tattoo for over 18 years now – a fact which makes me feel positively ancient. In all that time I have never once regretted having it. Until this week.

Before I had it done I had only seen the fuzzy, badly drawn, sailor style tats. Then I saw the beautiful tattoos a friend of mine had covering both arms. I was fascinated by the  intricate and brightly covered carp swimming around John-boy’s forearms. It was actual art. On his body. I had to have one.

Once the decision was made, it took me ages to choose the right place to get mine done – I researched not only the cleanliness of various tattoo parlours but also the artistic style of the artists. I bottled out several times before I finally did it.

I was thrilled by the art but I also liked the people’s reactions to the large dragon on my shoulder – there was still a shock factor. When I spent the following summer in Italy I recall being asked many times if I’d been to prison (the answer eventually became “yes – for assault and battery on an Italian chap who wouldn’t take no for an answer….”).

Since then tattoos have become so much more mainstream – you  can get them done everywhere. Even Selfridges offers them now (although it eacapes me why you’d have one done there – I mean it isn’t very rock and roll getting tattooed in Selfridges). As a result of the increased demand (and I think the lack of limits on who can set themselves up as a tattoist, the quality of artwork is going downhill. There are some amazing artists out there whose medium is tattoo ink but the vast majority can barely manage colour by numbers. I’ve seen some shocking examples.

The part that has bothered me this week is that it feels like EVERYONE has them. I was at a class in town (OK so it was a trapeze class so possibly not an accurate cross section of the population) and every single girl had one. Some were the tramp stamp sort, some just some words on the inside of the forearm but it feels like everyone other than trainee nuns has some sort of drawing on their skin.

I blame Victoria Beckham.  She’s done for tattoos what chavs did for Burberry. No longer exclusive but common. Urgh.

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Words and phrases irritating me this week

Gotten – that’s not a real word – learn to speak properly
Paradigm – meeting bingo anyone?
Impact or dialogue used as verbs. Urgh
Y’all and all y’all – enough said
“It is what it is” – used as often as “at the end of the day” in England. Sets my teeth on edge

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