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Mt Madonna County Park

This past weekend, Kelly and I used the holiday weekend as an opportunity to put some miles on the Airstream and escape to Mt Madonna Count Park.  Located about two hours south of HMB and nestled in the midst of a forest of Redwoods, the park seemed like a must visit spot.

Knowing the holiday weekend would likely draw big crowds, we decided to arrive Thursday afternoon in hopes of enjoying some quiet … a bit of calm prior to the storm’s arrival.

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Our sweet corner spot #104

When booking the reservation, I tried to pick a spot that looked to be the most private.  Often, campground reservation systems can be misleading, making it difficult to know what type of site to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised upon arrival.  Our spot was very private, which coupled with my not so welcoming placement of the truck, did a fantastic job of completing the “please do not disturb” vibe we were looking to passive-aggressively establish.

A 3,688 acre county park, Mt Madonna is dominated by the giant redwood trees typical of the Santa Cruz Mountain range.  On an otherwise hot and sunny Labor day weekend, the tree canopy provided nearly 100% shade coverage which kept temperatures cool and the outside lounge time quotient high.

Internet connectivity was a bust, but I did ok with limited over the air TV reception … the onset of college football being an added bonus.

Big trees at the campsite

Big trees at the campsite

TV time

TV time

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Lilly on the move

The park contains miles and miles of shaded, rolling terrain – perfect for long dog walks.  The trails are well maintained and provided loads of exploration opportunities.

Kelly also tried to find time for catching-up on yoga, but Lilly had other ideas.

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During one of our walks, we visited the ruins of the summer home of Henry Miller, one of the largest cattle barons in California history.  Born in Germany, Miller immigrated to New York in 1846 (during his 20’s) with only $6.  By 1858 Miller had migrated to San Francisco and built a thriving butcher business.  Shortly thereafter, Miller and his business partner shifted emphasis from meat products to cattle raising, and soon became the largest cattle rancher in California and one of the largest landowners in the United States – owning 1.4 million acres and controlling nearly 22,000 square miles of cattle and farm land in California, Nevada, and Oregon.  At the time of his death, Miller was worth an estimated $40 Million.

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Remains of the ballroom

Wandering the remains, I had a sense of familiarity – something about this place felt odd.  I was convinced that Kelly and I had been to this park before, but I couldn’t remember a details.   Initially, Kelly thought I would cuckoo but I insisted that we’d been here previously.  Once back at the camper I checked my email archives and confirmed what I had suspected … we’d been there in April 2012 in our previous camper, only three sites down (#101).

I’m still not sure how it was we didn’t immediately recall the previous visit.  But memories of this visit (and the accompanying documentation) should last for a while.  Mt Madonna is a great park close to HMB and I’m sure we’ll be back.

Hamburg – Day 2

Like yesterday, today I rented a bike and spent the afternoon exploring the city.  Six hours and almost 150 photos later, here I sit back at the hotel enjoying a late dinner.

I’ll back to work tomorrow, thus concluding my time in a wanderlust frame of mind.  Sadly, it is doubtful I will have another opportunity to ride again during my stay.  Regardless of what happens, I’m feeling pretty good knowing that I’ve secured nearly 11 hours of riding this weekend, canvasing many diverse neighborhoods.

In case you’re wondering … the bike rental set me back 12€ ($16 USD) for 24hrs of ride time, which seems like steal to me.

A sampling of today’s pictures below.

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Back In Hamburg

Friday night I caught a red-eye flight from India to Germany, for another round of work related meetings with my international teams.  Following a “quick” eight hour flight into Frankfurt, the 50 minute connecting flight into Hamburg seemed like a breeze.

I’ve been to Hamburg a few times before – most recently in January of last year.  I’ve really come to enjoy this city and was especially excited to be here in the summer, when residents really take advantage of the perfect weather and long days.

I arrived to my hotel around 11am, dropped my bags at the concierge (my room was not yet ready) and immediately began wandering.  As my hotel is very close to St. Michaelis cathedral, I decided to stop for a visit, something I’ve never done before.  Similar to many European cathedrals, this structure is quite impressive – ornate, full of history, etc.

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However, what really sparked my interest in visiting was the opportunity to ascend the clock/bell tower.  The tower is 132 meters tall (433ft), with an outdoor observation deck located 106 meters (347ft) above the river Elbe.  With a diameter of 8 meters (26 ft), the tower clock is the largest in Germany.  For content, the big hand measures 5 meters (16ft) in length and the small hand 3.6 metes (11ft) … each hand weighing 130 kg (286 lbs).  Also, the tower features six chime bells and two clock bells and I can attest firsthand the chimes/ringing is deafening from the inside the tower.

While there is a lift available, the line was crazy long and I also wanted to see the bells up close along with the historic interior of the tower itself.  Accordingly, I took the stairs and about 10 minutes later I exited at the top, onto a very crowed observation deck.  (the green tube is the very small elevator)

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Yeah, the tower views are pretty impressive.

I spent about 20 minutes casually gazing outwards onto the city.  Of course the views were great, but as I had plans to rent a bike and explore the city by land, I took advantage of the birds-eye views to chart a rough plan for the afternoon atop two wheels.

Like most European cities, Hamburg is extremely bike friendly which made the process of exploring easier than it would have been in a typical US city.   Via smart phone, I did a quick search for the nearest bike rental station, quickly created an account, and within minutes I was off.

My bike for the day

My bike for the day

I generally made my way towards and around the northern neighborhoods of the city centre.  Knowing the town hall was about 15 minutes away,  I began riding, enjoying the leisurely mode of transport.

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City Hall

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Looking southeast, Alster Lake in the foreground

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One of Alster Lake’s many sailing clubs

Alster Lake is a surprisingly large body of water given it’s proximate to the city centre.  On a gorgeous day like yesterday (Saturday), the waterfront was packed.  (For those who can relate … a comparison would be the Grant Park lakefront in Chicago on a warm sunny day)

So many people were out walking, biking, jogging, picnicking, chatting over coffee at cafes, etc.  Like me, everyone seemed to be enjoying  a lovely summer day.

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As I am not particular familiar with the city, I had no destination really – I just rode around … for hours.  Eventually, I checked Google maps to reorient myself.  Not surprisingly, I’d covered quite a distance.  Knowing I had dinner plans with a former colleague and his wife, I began the journey back to the hotel.

I’m definitely planning to ride more tomorrow (Sunday).

 

 

Taj Mahal

A few days ago I arrived to New Delhi, India for a work trip and a quickly settled into the following routine:  leave the hotel, arrive to work, attend a lot of meetings, join my colleagues for dinner at a local restaurant, return to hotel.  Repeat.

Sadly, this cycle has not afforded me much opportunity to explore the area.  However, today that cycle was interrupted.  With help from a colleague I managed to clear my schedule allowing sufficient time for a day-trip to visit the world-famous Taj Mahal.  About a 4-hour drive from my office, the ‘Taj’ (as the locals refer to it) is not close, but considering I was already half-way around the world, a few hours more in the car seemed reasonable, especially considering the prize.

For the equivalent of roughly $40 USD, my co-worker secured a driver for the day and we were off at 6:30am in order to avoid Delhi’s crippling rush hour traffic.  Even at this hour, the roads were bustling.

My employer's office park location.

My employer’s office park location.

Leaving the office park

Leaving the office park

En route, we made two stops – one to pay the toll as we left Delhi, entering the state of Noida …

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Apartment housing near the toll stop

Snacks for sale

Snacks for sale

… another so my co-worker could grab a smoke at a driver convenience station – the equivalent of an interstate rest stops in the US.

A transport truck

A transport truck

Bathroom to the left

Bathroom to the left

Upon reaching the Taj Mahal grounds, we quickly secured tickets and entered the outer sections of the gardens.

Stopping for a quick picture before entering

Stopping for a quick picture before entering

Being one of the seven wonders of the world, I knew the structures and surrounding gardens would be impressive (which they were), but for me, the wow factor was amplified as I tried to wrap my head around the twenty-two year construction process.  The Taj Mahal is all about symmetry – everything in main tomb building is perfectly symmetrical on all sides.  It’s amazing the workers successfully erected his wonderful palace with such precision without aids of modern-day tools and other electronic resources.

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Following the visit, we left the grounds and wandered the streets of Agra – the city adjacent to the Taj Mahal.  More rural than urban, Agra is a place that reminds first-world westerners (like me), India is still a developing nation.  The conditions which people live are often deplorable  – lacking basic infrastructure (water and reliable electric, and sewer) I regularly take for granted.  More, numerous wild animals roam everywhere, and the resulting stink can be overwhelming at times.

Apartments above steer-level shops

Apartments above steer-level shops

Rickshaws everyehere

Rickshaws everywhere

One of many stray dogs wandering the streets

One of many stray dogs wandering the streets

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Overall, today proved to be a wonderful experience and also a strong reminder of how fortunate I am to be living a life as comfortably as I do.

 

 

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