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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.
























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.



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)




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.


City Hall


Looking southeast, Alster Lake in the foreground


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.








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 …


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.





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



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.



Avoiding Groundhog Day

A year ago Kelly and I completed our longest tow day ever – 11 hours on the road only to go nowhere.  I’ve detailed events of that fiasco previously, but suffice it to say, I do not advise towing a fully provisioned trailer along a very crowded HW1 on the 4th of July, especially without a campground reservation securely in hand.

Determined not to make that same mistake this year, Kelly and I finalized holiday weekend reservations at Pinnacles National Park well in advance.  This would be our second visit to America’s newest national park and our plan was to spend a few relaxing days hiking the trails we didn’t complete during our visit last fall.

Knowing the weather would likely be hot, our plan was to be on the trail by 7am each morning in order to be back at the trailer a few hours later, before temperatures rose to triple digits.  Just as planned, the following morning we arrived to the trailhead around 8:30am.

Bathroom at the trailhead

Bathroom at the trailhead

I’d categorize the first trail as ‘ok’.  The trail took us through rolling sections of tree cover and skirted some cool ravine areas before arriving to sketchy  stairs carved into a rock face leading to a giant reservoir … which as far as I could tell, was inhabited mostly by snakes, frogs, and turtles.  But mostly, the trail lacked in ‘wow’ factor.  Perhaps I’m starting to become spoiled with the abundance of ‘wow’ scenery in California, but for me, this hike – while certainly pleasant, wasn’t the best I’ve seen, nor the best the park has to offer.


Headed over there somewhere


Kelly pauses for a look


climbing up towards the reservoir


Reservoir low on water – another victim of the severe drought conditions


Lots of snakes relaxing under the warm sun


Pinnacle rock formations

Day 2 started off a bit better – that is to say we arrived to the trailhead by 8am, but still sufficiently late for our 7am target (hey, it’s vacation, cut us some slack please).  Anyway, our plan was to complete one of the larger loops which would take us to what one park ranger referred to as the “money shot” section of the park.  Having seen the western side of the park during our last visit, I concur with the spirit of his comment – the area is stunningly beautiful, but I would prefer that ranges refrain from describing anything as being a money shot when conversing with me.

The weather seemed to be warmer than the day prior, and with no cloud-cover in sight, we knew to expect high temperatures for much of this unshaded hike.  However, before we would face any of the high heat, we first had to navigate through one of the park’s three caves.  Technically, these are not caves per se, rather  hundreds … perhaps thousands of boulders which have toppled onto themselves, creating a cave-like effect.  The result is a section of trail that is completely dark, damp, and very cool (temperature-wise).  Oh, and a lot of fun.

The park literature and signage approaching all of the park’s caves strongly advise the usage of a headlight(s).  Myself, I cannot imagine attempting to navigate the caves without lighting, but I’m sure some dumb-ass has tried.


Approaching the cave

Just inside the cave, looking back towards the entrance

Just inside the cave, looking back towards the entrance

The picture below was taken using a flash, but trust me, it’s absolutely dark in these caves.  Note the guide arrow (pointing to the right) above Kelly’s left hand.  Also, check out the size of the boulders – they are  huge!

Kelly, cautiously making her way forward

Kelly, cautiously making her way forward

Dave descending into the 2nd set of caves

Dave descending into the 2nd set of caves

Once through the cave section, the trail winds through a series of giant boulders and other rock faces before opening onto an expansive meadow.  We then connected to a trail that winds atop some of the higher points (2500-ish feet) of the park, affording fantastic views.  Total hike was about 8.5 miles.  July isn’t the best time to visit – it’s crazy hot, dry, and much of the plant life is burnt to a crisp.  With better planning on our part, I would expect springtime to be glorious … wild flowers blooming everywhere.


BIG rocks wedged everywhere


Transitioning from caves to meadows




More pinnacles as we hike towards the highpoint of the trail



Not long after we returned to the trailer, the air conditioning failed.  Quickly, the inside temperatures of the Airstream soared to a sweltering state, but we managed to make the best of the situation … including Kelly’s usage of an ice pack to cool her aching head.



Turns out that the failed AC was caused by a tripped GFCI bathroom breaker … probably due to heavy load.  Foolishly, I failed to consider this simple fact as part of my troubleshooting, so we had no choice but to sweat it out with many others for hours until the temps broke.  Fortunately, I did notice GFCI after work today (Monday), which was easily reset with the push a button.

So it turns out the misery you see in the photo above could have easily been avoided had I noticed tripped outlet.  Sorry Kelly.



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