Snowy Wales

What an unusual and interesting few days we have had.

Sharon and I had originally been invited to Steven and Rosie’s for Christmas: just the four of us with a turkey and lots of trimmings. However, this arrangement had to be altered early in December so we decided to come down and spend time with them a week earlier as Sharon would finish work at lunchtime on Wednesday, in plenty of time for us to set off.

Readers of my Saturday Walks blog will know that we stopped off at Karen and Dave’s en route and that we eventually arrived here at Ty Llwyd on Thursday 16th December. Our plan was to return home Sunday 19th or Monday 20th at the latest. This became impossible because of the weather.

Our problem wasn’t the snow that fell heavily on Wales over Thursday night and Friday, but the lane outside the house, which was like an ice-rink. Everyone around Ty Llwyd has 4WD cars and trucks and as a result we were able to get out on Saturday with Steven in his Subaru, but our Ford Focus didn’t have a chance on that surface.

Since Saturday, the road had worsened as tractors, Utes and trailers have driven up and down the lane, moving sheep and feed up around. As it is 1.5 miles to a main road, in either direction and as the top road wasn’t all that clear itself on Saturday, it was with some trepidation that we set off home on Tuesday morning. As suspected, the Focus went about 10 yards and ground to a halt so we had to continue with Stephen towing us up the hill with Rosie’s 4WD Frontera. Half way was as much as it managed before falling foul of the ice. Luckily, a farmer had seen our plight and offered to tow us with his tractor, which was a hairy but successful trip.

So eventually, we got off and on our way home. As we left Aberystwyth and begun to climb into the mountains a light snow started, which made the final drop down towards Newtown fairly hairy too. Nevertheless, from the Red Kite Café, through Llangurig and up as far as Welshpool we saw some of the most beautiful scenery we’ve ever seen. At first the mountains were just brilliantly white, but as the tree line became visible, especially on the lower roads, a combination of hoar frost and snow had made the view even more spectacular. Thank you Wales.

Once home, we found pipes blocked and a topsy turvy central heating system. But we’re on with all that! Isn’t it surprising what a few days of sub-zero temperatures can change?

iPad goes to Chicago

So, day one of my working holiday in the USA. Wherever possible, I am using the iPad as a means on being productive whilst on the move. The first thing I’ve done is but ‘documents to go’ on James Clay’s recommendation and I’m writing this piece, today, on that. I’ve opened a new document and simply started. In landscape mode, the text is big enough and the keyboard is HUGE – certainly big enough for two fingered typing at a speed my brain can keep up with. I’m using documents to goIto draft this, instead of the WordPress App because the App simply isn’t good enough. I could (I know) email this to WordPress, but then the post isn’t formatted in a way I like, so it’s better that I create the text here and then open up the online version when I can and post from there. We’ll see.

We set off last night (Tuesday!) about 5.30pm as we had to drop my brother Andrew and his partner Debbie at the airport for the first leg of their return to Australia. They’d been with us for a month and will finish off their holiday with a few days in Dubai. We then went to the airport Travelodge, where Sharon had secured us a deal that offered a night’s sleep and a meal for two for less than £50. The meal was no better than could be expected but we were let down on the draft beer front! They had none – a myriad of bottled beers but no draft; so we shared a reasonable bottle of Chillean CabSav. Despite it’s proximity to the airport and to the M56 our night was undisturbed by noise.

We’re now in Dusseldorf, waiting for our connection to Chicago – so if there’s WiFi there, I may well post this en route. As it happens, I’ve got a little more to mention now we’re in the air – the food is tremendous! Well done Lufthansa.

I’m writing this in portrait mode now, mainly because I’m working off the seat-back tray and need a little angle. The keyboards is still an ok size, but I’m not working as quickly in this cramped environment. Still, it’s much better than trying with a full size laptop.

Well, the above was written on the iPad but because the WordPress App is functionally useless, I’ve had to finish off on the MacBook Pro – and that’s been a real trial of patience. We’re in Chicago at the moment, we’ve been on the road since 5.30am and it’s almost midnight (18.5 hours?) and our next flight is in about 2 hours (1.75 hour flight!!). Because, even cutting and pasting my notes into the Safari iPad version of Wrodpress didn’t work, I’ve now connected Documents to Go with my Dropbox and Google Docs and have copied the notes to iPad Evernote App. So – I can access the words I wrote on the iPad in any of a number of online places. So – far – so good. If this appears online, we’ll all know that this has worked? Too tired to write more – goodnight.

Texting [still away]

It’s always interesting to observe the customs of others, especially when your own customs are informed or affected by the observation. Likewise, it is said that travel broadens the mind. That is certainly true in most cases although I have to say by no means all. But that’s a discussion for another day.

Like smoking and mobile phones at home, many States have banned smoking in public places and the use of cell phones whilst driving. But they are not universal bans. I quote heavily from the Wednesday July 29th edition of USA Today (page 8A). All rights to those quotes go to the original author. I’m not discussing smoking here.

Apparently ‘Cellphones are as much part of American’s lives as cars these days’ with the number of subscribers,‘270 million’, outnumbering that of registered cars. For all sorts of reasons [see  ‘Smart Mobs’ 2001 – Howard Rheingold] Americans were late adopters of the cell phone, but are now making up for it. During the two weeks we’ve been here we’ve seen all manner and ages of people using all types of cell phones to call (often, like the quiet coach gob-merchant – to SHOUT), to receive calls and to text.

However, there is still no blanket (Federal) ban on texting whilst driving. On our trip from Newark NJ airport into Manhattan, we saw one guy texting on two phones – while we drove slowly through the Lincoln Tunnel. Slowly I grant, but in his case – dangerously. To and from San Francisco airport both shuttle drivers answered calls, briefly, but nevertheless answered. We saw many such car-phone discussions in both Seattle and San Francisco.

But there seems to be a growing debate over here about such usage and David Teater (senior director for transportation initiatives at the National safety Council) asks ‘How many more lives need to be lost before we enact and aggressively enforce laws…?’. Over here the debate isn’t just whether to use hands-free devices or not – it’s whether to allow the phone to be used at all. I wonder how vociferous that debate will become at home?

Truck drivers are apparently 23 times more likely to have a collision when texting than when not texting (which beggars the question: how many times are they likely to have a collision anyway?). The discussion about a blanket ban on talking on the phone is being debated state by state and 21 States (and DC) ban any use by ‘novice drivers’. Five States have bans similar to the UK, where only hands free devices can be used. But we’ve been in two of these and like the UK, have constantly seen the law broken.

Now, I’m as guilty as the next person for using my phone whilst driving, but always hands-free. And, I no longer text or tie my shoelaces while the car is mobile!! It would be hard to argue though that talking on the phone is any more dangerous than talking to passengers. On a recent bus ride a sign above the driver said something like: You may ask the driver for directions but do not engage in conversation as it is dangerous. What’s the difference?

Do other in-car distractions vie for banning too? Noisy children? Chatty aunts/wives/husbands/uncles? I don’t know – what do you think?

Still on holiday: See