Of course the hand wringers and bed wetters will exaggerate these concepts to make them appear ridiculous ….. any idea can be diminished by that kind of self-serving intellectual dishonesty …. but these notions have always resonated with me.
I also believe I’m one of the luckiest people I know … and I’m incredibly grateful for that. I saw this article many years ago and I still think about it from time to time. There’s clearly a huge overlap between these two ideas. Someone could write a really good book on this subject of “being lucky”.
We spent 2 weeks in Turkey from May 3 – 16. The first week was all spent seeing Istanbul. We had done some research and knew some of what we wanted to see and Pat was able to book our hotel right in the middle of the Sirkeci District where we could walk to all the major attractions in about 15 minutes. And on two of the days we had booked Istanbul tours through Mediterra and these helped us cover a lot of ground.
The second week was a tour, with Mediterra Tours, of some of the main sites of across west and southwest Turkey including the capital city Ankara, the Cappadocia region, Pamukkale, Hieropolis and Ephesus with lots of other sights along the way.
I’m trying to review our trip in two parts, the first covering our week in Istanbul by subject. So I’ll try to relate our experiences on Eating, Culture, Street Life, The Grand Bazaar, etc.
Then I’ll cover our second week, the Mediterra Turkish countryside tour by date.
The Metadata – Overall Observations
Turkey is safe, safe,safe. Safe as Ottawa. I don’t think the Turkish Tourism folks understand they have a real problem. Hyperbolic media reporting has created a personal safety fear that I believe is curtailing North American tourist traffic to Turkey. Our 24 hour news is constantly showing us pictures of North Africa and the Middle East in flames ….. and guess where Turkey is located on the world map? The world is a big place and there are many great travel choices … and a surprising number of our friends urged us not to go to Turkey right now! But happily, we found that Turkey was perfectly safe, without exception, wherever we went.
The Turkish people are great! They are friendly, hard working and naturally seem to be open to interaction with tourists/strangers. I was greatly impressed by the innate qualities of the Turks we dealt with. Pat and I think the 1923 revolution that formed Turkey out of the ashes of the Ottoman Empire had a great effect in forming the persona of the Turkish people. They’ve been taught a pride in their country from childhood; that their grandparents had to fight for their freedom (close in history – bad times a very recent memory) and they don’t take what they’ve got for granted .
Turkey is a fully developed country. We were shocked at the modern Turkey we experienced versus our expectations. The roads and infrastructure are just as good, maybe better, than what we have here in Canada. Everyone has a mobile device, WIFI coverage seems ubiquitous and the whole place seems orderly and well run. We booked a tour on the last week because we were uncertain we could drive ourselves around as we’ve done everywhere else in Europe. Ha! … the Turkish roads and signage were excellent; better than what I’ve driven through in many areas of Ireland and France. I’d avoid the cities where the traffic is a pure mob scene … I’ve driven in Paris at rush hour and can do it … but why stress yourself? But we definitely could have rented a car and driven ourselves with Brunhilda (our GPS) piloting the way. No regrets though; the Mediterra tour got us to many more places than we could have done by ourselves in the same timeframe.
Lifestyles are changing dramatically in Turkey. I talked to all sorts of Turkish folks including our various tour guides, waiters, hotel clerks, convenience store owners and people sitting beside me on park benches. Some of the points they all seemed to agree on:
Turkey will not be joining the EU any time soon. They said that although their elites and political leaders continued to promote it, the ordinary Turk thinks it will be very bad financially for them. They saw the EU as a sinking ship and why would they want to join that?
Young people are leaving the rural landscape in droves for work in the cities. There are lots of jobs in the cities. They may not be high paying jobs but they are attached to the modern urban lifestyle that young people want. One comment from a restaurant manager was interesting; he said that the young Turk wants an office job these days. They are not as happy to work in the Service industry like he does … they want office jobs and careers.
The Islamic/Eastern view of the world is much different than our Western view. When discussing Turkey’s potential membership in the EU one of our guides brought up the Crusades as an example of the way the Christian/Western societies have brutalized and subjugated the Muslim world throughout history. The cultural and belief gaps between ourselves in the Western World and the Restof World are vast and will not be bridged soon. Everything that exposes us to them, and vice versa, will advance the understanding and acceptance that will close the gap … but I can’t see this situation changing soon. Will it take 100 years to make real progress?
Turkey is a stunningly beautiful country. We hot-air ballooned above the hills of Cappadoccia, rode across endless fertile plains on the way to Konya and saw snow capped mountains rise as we neared Pamukkale. Everywhere we were surrounded by a handsome countryside that was green and clean. The only problem was too many fantastic picture opportunities!
The antiquities are amazing. You’re walking through 10,000 years of history every day as you tour Turkey. We had done some research (Wikkipedia, Lonely Planet, etc.) and that really paid off. I’d printed and brought quite a bit of the material and we reviewed it before we got to each site of the day so we were able to understand and appreciate much more with the context provided by the advance reading.
More thoughts as they are formed…….
Traveling in a temporal void
We took off on May 3 at about 3 pm from Montreal – flew to Toronto – took off on Turkish Airways at 10:45 pm, then landed at 3:15 pm (local time – they are 7 hours ahead of Toronto) on May 4 in Constantinople ….. got to our hotel about 5 pm and sat down to a nice meal at a street side table at 8 pm.
And the flight here was remarkably easy.
It was a 9 hour flight…….but to me it seemed only about 2 hours.
Credit goes to my brother David who has been doing a fair amount of world travel recently. He told me “I can turn a coach seating flight into first class for only $1.20”. He had gotten hold of some powerful sleeping pills left over from someone’s long ago prescription; he takes one as soon as the flight begins and says 6 to 8 hours just disappears ….. you wouldn’t know if your were in coach or first class.
It works! Someone in the family had some old pills called Oxazepam. I googled them and they are supposedly for “anxiety” but I was told they were originally prescribed as sleeping pills and would totally knock you out.
I was planning for a full coma experience so I put in ear plugs and wore a sleeping mask then took the pill soon after take off, we were barely over Kingston.
It was like falling down a well ……. that tiny pill creates a 6 to 8 hour temporal void in your life. When I recovered consciousness we were over Germany with only about 2 hours of flight time left.
Evidently there was a full dinner meal served, with all the attendant noise and hostesses bustling up and down the aisle beside me shortly after take off but I was perfectly senseless through all of it. There was no debilitating whoosiness or gross after effects. Amazing ….. I’ll definitely be using this trick again for future long distance flights.
Traveling on May 3 – Leaving Ottawa and Arriving in Istanbul
I wonder if someone is going to write a book titled “The Unconscious Tourist” or perhaps “The Full Coma Traveler? They might spell out all the tricks and tips for the best drug shortened journey experience.
Usually our goals for Day 1 are just to navigate the airports and transfers successfully. There’s always some built up pre-flight anxiety/uncertainty and so you’re happy when you can just work through the travel agenda according to your expectations.
We flew out of Montreal at about 3 pm so it was easy to have Brunhilda guide us to the PET Airport. Pat and I have always agreed that the road signage in Quebec is awful. Just so frustrating. And there is one spot on the trip to PET Airport where you have to depend on Brunhilda. As you loop back over the main highway there is no signage at all to distinguish the route to the airport vs entry to a service road. Quebec’s road signage is so bad.
There’s always a discount coupon online for Park and Fly and Pat found it and printed it so we’d save $50 on 2 weeks of parking. I could have had Valet P&F for the same price but no way; I do not trust I’d get my car delivered to me in a timely manner when I return at midnight and am tired and want to go right now. And I might feel I need to tip the valet? I’d much rather park it myself and count on the always circling minibuses to get me to and fro efficiently. Worked great.
We traveled on points and Turkish Airlines did a fine job. They also didn’t charge us the rip off taxes that Air Canada does.
“Excuse me pretty lady …. I need your money”. That was the opening line of one of the vendors. When you go into the bazaar you have to be ready to deal with the vendors who see everyone as a walking wallet that they can entice in whatever way works. With the right attitude its no big deal and can actually be a bit of fun.
I have no sense at all if its a good idea to buy things there or not. I had no idea what things were really worth and could have been fooled with knock offs or poor quality. So that along with the fact that we didn’t have any sort of “want list” constrained our buying. But Pat knows more and likes fabrics; she saw some pestemal towels and pillow cases with eastern designs she liked and bought them.
Its a surprise to find there are hills and valleys inside the building. I guess these just reflect the landscape the bazaar was built on starting in 1455.
Its like a mini Las Vegas inside and it must use a huge amount of electric power.
The place is really clean and neatly kept…….but its hard to find a garbage can?
Most of the vendors spoke reasonable English so it was easy to get around and enjoy yourself.
And here’s a couple of movies I uploaded to YouTube, GrandBazaar1 and GrandBazaar2 . They’re about 2 minutes each:
Dining in Istanbul
There are thousands of restaurants in Istanbul, many of them are squirreled away on little side streets that are closed to auto traffic and the tables are right out under the open sky. Very nice. We had looked over the restaurant recommendations on TripAdvisor and as we walked around town we frequently would stop to review the menu outside restaurants. Any approach keys the restaurant manager into action trying everything he can to get you to sit down and eat right away. The omnipresent phrase was “if you don’t like the food then you don’t pay”. Hmmm, I wonder how that would turn out?
Every menu we saw had pictures of the dishes accompanying the descriptions. Smart for tourists. Unfortunately all the menus were virtually the same … there was very little variety … you had to eat Turkish whether you wanted to or not. We remarked to ourselves that there is probably a great opportunity for some restaurants offering different cuisines like Italian, Indian or Asian. I would have loved a big Indian curry feast.
Never drink the tap water. We got this same advice from every hotel manager we talked to. The water might be potable … or maybe not; who wants to take that chance when bottled water is available everywhere? The hygiene standards we saw in every place with food looked really good. We were never nervous about eating the food there.
The food is much less spicy than I expected and hoped for. With all the piles of spices you see in every market I was thinking we get some wonderfully spiced meals … some new taste sensations. In fact the food was pretty bland … good and wholesome … we just didn’t experience anything with zip or unique flavors.
The tea is warm apple cider; served in the tall, thin shot glasses with a cube of sugar on the side. And they drink a lot of it.
They served beer and wine at every tourist restaurant. One bit of disappointment was the price gouging applied to their wine lists. I would have been happy to try some of the vaunted Turkish wines but the restaurant pricing was ridiculous. I wonder if they know how much more business and profits they’d make if they backed down the price curve some ways to increase demand. Pat and I agreed that if we were the restaurateur we’d try some pricing experiments to find the best volume/profit zone. I can buy the Turkish wines here in Ontario for a small fraction of what they wanted at the table. Their pricing is hurting their business.
Here’s the pics related to dining in Istanbul with comments:
And here’s two movies. Note – knowing that most folks in today’s hyper-connected world have some degree of ADHD syndrome I keep all my videos to less than 150 seconds.
The Street Life
There are 15 million people in Istanbul; 20% of the entire Turkish population of 77 million. And they all seemed to be on the streets around the Grand Bazaar when we were there. The locals shop the streets around the Bazaar more than inside where I guess prices are higher? Its great to walk along and see the life of the city, feel the pulse, and hear the calls to prayer wailing from several mosques simultaneously. You know you’re in a strange new place.
The Turkish people are generally more fit than North Americans. Perhaps they haven’t yet been convinced to adopt our edible poison dietary habits of eating mostly carbs and sugar. I asked many cultural questions … both a waiter and hotel clerk both told me they go the gym regularly so exercise and fitness may be valued.
Their streets are relatively clean for a city with extremely high foot traffic. Men with homemade brooms – tied bundles of twigs – were out sweeping the streets and gutters in the core areas of town early every day. We also saw recycling garbage men sorting the material out of the street cans into recycling piles of paper, plastic and metal. They had these HUGE bag like things – 2 meters or more on all 3 sides – attached to their dolly. They would sort out their target material, paper for example, and pack it into their bag and leave the rest … and then leap up onto the dolly handles to get the leverage to tip the weight forward and start pulling the dolly to the next can. I suspect jobs and work structures are heavily influenced by the availability of cheap labor in Turkey. This garbage recycling system only works with cheap labor. And we saw men carrying loads – acting as human mules – rather than using a truck. We never saw our hotels using disposable plates or utensils – its cheaper to hire labor to wash up.
Turkey seems to be undergoing a massive modernization program everywhere. There is construction underway everywhere. Its not noisy or intrusive … you just notice the hoarding walls and the scaffolding that’s up around many buildings as you walk the streets. They are doing a good job of renovating and saving their meaningful old structures in town. New buildings seem to be built to fit in. There are no sky scrapers or tall structures out of place with the architecture of the old city. I suspect they want to achieve what Paris has, that is, a living, working museum of a city. Good for them! It will really pay off in tourist draw.
As everywhere, there are beggars on the streets. I asked our hotel manager about it and he grew really agitated as he told me his opinion. “There are 2 million Syrians now living in Turkey and they are all just lazy!” he said. He said there are lots of jobs available – maybe not high paying – but lots of jobs, and these folks would rather beg on the street. He urged me not to give them any money. I have no idea what the truth is … but I listened to his opinion. Pat noticed they use their children as bait and its crazy but they have their 4 – 6 year old kids wandering around in dense traffic begging at car windows. It just looks so dangerous?
We saw dogs roaming around and thought they might be feral at first? But closer inspection shows they all have ear tags … so someone must own them. Their life spans must be limited; we saw them wandering across roads in front of high speed traffic. Our bus driver managed to dodge them all but I’m sure he didn’t want the hassle of a canine carcass wedged into the front bumper and all that blood flying up all over the windshield … it upsets the tourists and is hard to clean after it dries.
You have to be aware of your situation on the streets. The sidewalks can be narrow and the traffic passes right beside you. The trams are quite unnerving at first. They pass just inches from you at the edge of the sidewalk. You cannot afford to step off the sidewalk anywhere without first scanning for traffic danger. Complicating the situation is the way cars are parked – everywhere and anywhere and layers deep. You have wind your way through the gangs of parked cars then judge the traffic and boldly step out to cross … hoping the local drivers will let you live (even though they can see you’re an Infidel). It was fine but takes a bit to get the rhythm.
From the start of construction in 537 until 1453, it served as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral and seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. After Constantinople fell on May 29, 1453 it was converted to a mosque by Sultan Mehmed II. It was opened as a museum on February 1, 1935.
Famous for its massive dome and considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture it changed the history of architecture. It remained the world’s largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years, until Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520.
This huge, incredibly beautiful structure was lost in time. Locals actually “forgot” that it existed. Rediscoverd in the 1500’s by a visiting Frenchman this has become one of the top tourist attractions in Istanbul. And when you visit – you’ll know why. No pics can really capture the immensity … but here’s mine with commentary.
Pat carried our Pacsafe safety bag and I carried the Deuter RaceX backpack. We were trying to travel as lightly as possible and this combo worked great for us. Pat likes to have our valuables protected and the Pacsafe bag does that. The strap and body of the bag are slash resistant and it takes a very deliberate effort to get into … impossible to pick pocket. The RaceX pack is only 1 lb 5 oz and just holds 12 liters … we’re forced to carry no more than what we really need. And I figured out how to attach carabiners onto the pack in a way that lets them clip onto the cap retainer strap of the water bottles so they’re safely leashed to the pack and won’t be lost … or maybe those smart designers planned it that way.
The tripod is a ZipShot and was great to have. Small, short when folded, weighs nothing and unfolds its tent pole legs in 2 seconds. I also figured out its perfect as a selfie stick … I was very pleased with the pic perspective it give you as an SS. Just enough remove for my lens that the whole scene behind Pat and I is now available with us just nicely positioned in front, but not blocking.
I bought a pair of convertible pants at the Price Club for $20 and they were great! The many cargo pockets were velcroed and provided some security for my pocket items like my camera. Better yet – one of the pockets was zippered and that’s where I always kept my wallet. I would be wearing proper long pants for visits to the mosques and later, when it got warm, I zipped the legs off and I was in shorts – brilliant technology!
The Turkish Bath and Massage
We’ve always heard that the Turkish Bath and massage is supposed to be sort of special so we went to get the works. The pics with the story about it are here:
We decided to try using the tram to get to the Galata Tower which was a kilometer or so away across the Golden Horn. So we talked to the hotel desk and they told us how to use the system. We bought our passes OK and got on fine – then we sort of got a bit lost because we didn’t really understand the transfer system – but its a simple system and we figured it out soon enough.
We’re at 170 feet here and the views of the city are fantastic. Worth the climb up the hill to the Tower and then the climb up the stairs. .. but really, If we’re so lazy we can’t climb some hills and stairs to see the sights then we’re really done for.
This mosque was arguably a better tourist experience than the much larger and more famous “Blue Mosque”. A much smaller mosque, it is beautifully decorated with the same sort of blue tiles but everything seems more accessible. The walls, arched support columns and ceiling domes are all close enough that you can more easily see and appreciate the architecture and the artistry of the finishes.
I asked our guide “Why is the Blue Mosque blue? Why are all the mosques we’re seeing in Turkey predominately decorated with blue?” He said that before Islam was introduced the Turks worshiped a Sky God, and blue, the color of the sky, was the color of their divinity. When they were converted to Islam they retained their preference for blue as a remnant of their original belief in the Sky God. I looked it up and maybe its true? Wikkipedia says: The chief deity was Tengri, a sky god, worshipped by the upper classes of early Turkic society until Manichaeism was introduced as the official religion of the Uyghur Empire in 763. … Its a good story anyway …
The Asian concept of a palace was a complex of many separate buildings. The Topkapi Palace, the various Ottoman sultan’s palace for 400 years (about 1450 to 1850), consists of four main courtyards and many smaller buildings. At its peak, the palace was home to as many as 4,000 people and covered a large area with a long shoreline. It contained mosques, a hospital, bakeries, and a mint.
There’s a great Wikkipedia write up … but here’s my pics and comments:
This is the end of the Istanbul section. Countryside travel with Mediterra Tours is next.
May 10 – Flight to Ankara, capital city of Turkey and visit to the Anatolian Museum
The Anatolian Museum in Ankara has an overwhelming amount of materials. Some are from the late Neolithic period which they calibrate as 5,000 to 10,000 BC. And the stuff seems so advanced in terms of its beauty and artistic expression. Makes you think we haven’t advanced much in that area … their artists were as good as ours today.
Following the defeat of Germany in WW1 the Ottoman Empire was in the process of being carved up by the winners as a war prize. Kemal, as a very successful military leader, stood forward and led the Turkish National Movement in their War of Independence. Having established a provisional government in Ankara, he defeated the forces sent by the Allies. His military campaigns led to total victory in the Turkish War of Independence.
In the 15 years starting from the birth of Turkey in 1923 until his death in 1938 Mustafa Kemal Atatürk embarked upon a program of political, economic, and cultural reforms, seeking to transform the former Ottoman Empire into a modern and secular nation-state. Under his leadership, thousands of new schools were built, primary education was made free and compulsory, and women were given equal civil and political rights. He dragged Turkey into the modern world.
There are no other 20th century leaders I can think of that did so much to create and lead a nation into the modern era. Here’s my pics and comments:
We had originally said no to this when planning our trip in 2014 before Pat’s knife accident. The price was $250 each and at the time that just seemed too much. But this year the price was 150 Euros each and we said yes … and we’re glad we did.
What a great experience! Very hard to capture with still pics alone so I’ve got pics and two movies; the first movie shows the balloon team getting ready for flight in the predawn darkness and the second shows us flying over Cappadocia.
Devrent valley, also known as Imagination valley or the Pink valley, is famous for its red colour lunar landscape with the best-formed and most thickly clustered different rock formations. The valley looks like a lunar landscape and has never been inhabited. You go there to see the rock formations … its a bit like the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
The site is called Monks Valley. The name was derived from some cones carved in tufta stones which stand apart. Currently, there is a vineyard and a number of Tufta cones standing right next to the road.
This place was the cradle of the early Christian church. Without the protection that the caves offered to Christians who were escaping the persecution of the pagans it is uncertain if Christianity would have survived.
The sultans of the 12th century wanted encourage traders to stay in their domain as they traveled back and forth along the Silk Road from Persia to Istanbul … so they built overnight accommodations for them. The traders could stay, free of charge, for up to three days. These caravanserai were built 9 hours walk apart so that the traders would be able to make their Silk Road journey knowing they had safe accommodations each night.
This fortified structure was built in 1229 along the portion of the trade route leading from Konya to Aksaray and continuing into Persia. After it was partially destroyed by a fire, it was restored and extended in 1278. This monumental caravanserai is the largest in Turkey. It is one of the best examples of Anatolian Seljuk architecture. My pics and a movie I think you’ll appreciate:
May 12 – Mevlana Museum – Home of the Whirling Dervishes
The Mevleni order is a muslim sect that was founded in the early 1200’s by Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, a Persian Sufimystic also known as Mevlâna or Rumi. They are also known as the Whirling Dervishes due to their famous practice of whirling as a form of dhikr (remembrance of God). Dervish is a common term for an initiate of the Sufi path; the whirling is part of the formal Sama ceremony.
The purpose of the whirling dance action is described as: turning towards the truth, the follower grows through love, deserts his ego, finds the truth, and arrives at the “Perfect”. He then returns from this spiritual journey as a man who has reached maturity and a greater perfection, able to love and to be of service to the whole of creation.
I was interested to note that the tenets of the Mevleni order seem more open, forgiving, inclusive and accepting of other religions than the more conservative muslim sects we hear more about. My pics and commentary:
May 13 – Pamukkale – means Cotton Castle in Turkish
The city contains hot springs and travertines, terraces of carbonate minerals left by the flowing water. The ancient Greco-Roman and Byzantine city of Hierapolis was built on top of the white “castle” of the mineral flow. The white crust covers a huge area that can be seen from 20 Km away. This area has drawn people to bathe in its pools for thousands of years.
Its ruins are adjacent to modern Pamukkale in Turkey and currently comprise an archaeological museum designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hierapolis was founded as a thermal spa early in the 2nd century BC and became a healing centre where doctors used the thermal springs as a treatment for their patients.
Aphrodisias was a small ancient Greek city in western Anatolia, Turkey. It is located near the modern village of Geyre. Aphrodisias was named after Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, who had here her unique cult image, the Aphrodite of Aphrodisias.
The location of quarries that produced highly desirable stone were extremely important in the ancient world. Because white and blue grey Carian marble was extensively quarried from adjacent slopes in the Hellenistic and Roman periods Aphrodisias became an important place and many sculptures moved there to be close to their raw material. Some became famous in the Roman world.
Ephesus was an ancient Greek city on the coast of Ionia. It was built in the 10th century BC by Attic and Ionian Greek colonists. During the Classical Greek era it was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League. The city flourished after it came under the control of the Roman Republic in 129 BC. According to estimates Ephesus had a population of 33,600 to 56,000 people in the Roman period, making it the third largest city of Roman Asia Minor.The city was famed for the Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BC), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Ephesus was one of the seven churches of Asia that are cited in the Book of Revelation. The Gospel of John may have been written here. The city was the site of several 5th century Christian Councils. It is also the site of a large gladiators’ graveyard.
What most tourist recognize is the Library of Celsus, seen here behind Pat and I. Its an ancient Roman structure built in honour of the Roman Senator Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus and completed in 135 AD. The library was built to store 12,000 scrolls and to serve as a mausoleum for Celsus, who is buried in a crypt beneath the library.
The interior of the library was destroyed, supposedly by an earthquake in 262 A.D. and the façade by another earthquake in the tenth or eleventh century A.D. It lay in ruins for centuries, until the façade was re-erected by archaeologists between 1970 and 1978.
The House of the Virgin Mary is a Catholic and Muslim shrine located on Mt. Koressos in the vicinity of Ephesus.The house was discovered in the 19th century by following the descriptions in the reported visions of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich , a Roman Catholic nun and visionary. The Catholic Church has never pronounced in favour or against the authenticity of the house, but there has been a steady flow of pilgrimage since its discovery.
We wanted to refresh the room and brighten the color.
It was time to redo the living room.
Its a big room (34 x 14) so it took me about 10 days to get it done. A pro would work much faster but I think my workmanship might be better (really)? More importantly, work has its own dignity; there’s frustration points but overall, I do enjoy working with my hands.
Pat wanted to brighten the room and she’s happy with the results….thank goodness. The original color was Benjamin Moore Natural Wicker and she went with Steamed Milk this time. She also used a brighter woodwork color called Snowfall White.
The house was built in 1953 and the walls are plaster so there was special treatment needed for the some of the repairs but I got it all sorted out; the results are quite satisfactory.
The room was added to the house in 1986 and now desperately needed a makeover. The woodwork paint was flaking and the walls had cracks….all normal, I guess, after 30 years of house movement from winter-summer thermal flexing and the earthquakes we get here in Ottawa from time to time.
Over time I’ve learned to do most everything so now I’m comfortable with all the plastering, painting, electrical and plumbing that most house reno work entails. And I’ve built up a good set of tools. Pat got me a set of Dremel tools for Christmas 2 years ago and they are fantastic. The oscillating tool cuts and sands providing results that you just can’t get any other way; it is so handy for tight corners.
During 35 years of work in technology I usually found my mind was fully occupied but my hands were still. Now, as I enjoy my last 10,000 days doing what I want to do, I find my hands are busy and my mind is free.
Physical work provides proof of accomplishment that is different from what you experience in business. You walk into a room you’ve renovated and see the result of your efforts……and if well done, you feel the pride of workmanship each time you see it. You can look at business results on a screen or piece of paper and feel the pride …… BUT ….. in business, and sales in particular, achievements often seem fleeting … ephemeral. In the business world the urgency of the present forgets the past very quickly.
Time to change from winter treads to summer skins.
I have the tools, the time and I enjoy working on machines.
Each wheel is the same process:
Safety First: Put on the parking brake and insert some sort of wheel chocks – I use pieces of 2 x 4’s – on a wheel that is fully grounded. I move the chocks as needed.
Then while the car is still fully resting on the floor – break the tension on each lug nut of the wheel you’re working on by loosening it 1/2 turn with the 4 way lug wrench. Those lug wrenches provided with the car are horrible….they don’t provide the direct connection on the lug nut with the orthogonal angle of torque force needed. I keep a folding 4 way lug wrench in my cars…….they’re only $10 or so and can save you when you need it.
Jack up that corner of the car with the floor jack and insert the safety jack….I’ve heard the horror stories of cars falling off the lifting jack and I try my best to remember safety first. Note: its very important that your jacking point under the car is correct. Most cars are uni-body construction and you can find yourself just folding metal if you choose the wrong spot. Or the car could fall down. Check the Owner’s Manual to be sure.
Loosen and remove all the lug nuts (pile within reach neatly….you’ll need them again soon) leaving the top nut to the last. It holds the wheel on so it doesn’t fall off unexpectedly. Remove the top nut and lift the winter wheel off. Oofff. They are a bit heavy.
Inspect the brakes pads and rotors for wear. Remove the rubber cover on the bleed valve nipple and check there is no brake fluid leakage. Replace rubber cover.
Ensure you have the right summer wheel for replacement. If you look carefully in the pic you can see I tie a plastic piece marking the wheel….in this case RF (Right Front) onto the wheel so I know what corner each comes off of and goes back onto. I’ve tried to use a grease marker on the tire but they can get rubbed off in handling so I tie on a marked piece of plastic to be sure.
Wheel rotation is a whole subject in itself. I rotate front to back according to the tire wear as I see it. At some point you may need to rebalance the wheels and that’s a garage job for sure.
Lift the summer wheel onto the lug stems and jam your foot gently on the bottom of the wheel while also pushing gently on the top of the wheel with one hand to hold it in place. That leaves one hand free to grab a nut and spin it onto the upper most lug stem; that holds the wheel in place.
Spin on the rest of the lug nuts and tighten lightly, using a cross pattern, don’t just go round the lugs. REMOVE THE SAFETY JACK BEFORE LOWERING THE FLOOR JACK. Experience speaking.
When the wheel is on the floor do the final tightening, using a cross pattern, with a torque wrench. Duke gave me a beautiful 1/2 inch torque wrench for a past birthday present and I use it regularly. My web research shows the lug nuts should be torqued to about 88 foot pounds. Garages often use air guns that are set way too high and if you have a flat on the road you may not be able to break the lug nuts free. Or the extraordinary tension may break the lug stem off. I’ve seen it.
Do all four corners. Then I drive the car around for a couple of miles weaving and braking hard to stress the lug nut connections. Then I park in the driveway and re-torque all the nuts to make sure.
Pat’s Mazda 3 is a 2005 and just this winter it has started to rust horribly. Looks like I have some body work to do. Lesson: if you live in Ottawa get your car rust proofed as soon as you get it and renew the rust proofing from time to time.
Overall….only takes about 90 minutes, some of which is carrying the wheels to and from their storage spot; its straight forward work. Yes, I could have a garage do it for $50 or so …. but I can do it myself and I like the concepts of thrift and self sufficiency.
It’s clearly for fun because the economics make no sense at all.
We went online and reviewed a lot of info there…..very helpful……and I talked to Bob for a while as he has friends that have done this for years.
On April 3, I put up 6 pails at about 3 pm and by 6 pm we had 10 quarts or so of raw sap……enough to try a first boil. She strained it through cheesecloth to get rid of the bark bits and put it on the stove. The first boil is the extra, extra virgin maple syrup……and it is actually very good. I can taste the terroir of the property!
I don’t think the sap had really started to run here yet when we started on April 3rd…..not many (any?) days above 0 C until we got home. So I think we caught the beginning of the run here in Rockcliffe…..we’ll see.
It was a beautiful day here on April 4, 12 C and sunny, so there were a lot of folks out walking and sightseeing. What’s interesting is that people driving by were stopping …… and even backing up ……. to see the pails on the trees. Perhaps we can set up the “Northern Secret Sugar Shack” tourism business. We can repackage the Quebec syrup from the Ottawa Market (watered down of course) and sell it out the front door in tiny little fancy bottles with artistic labels claiming that it is an “eco” product from our 4 trees.
Today its April 12 and its supposed to be really warm…16 C in the afternoon. Its just before noon and I checked the spyles and the trees are all starting to run fairly well. Even the big one out back which has been in a colder nano-climate looks like it is getting going today for the first time. It is well over 100 years old and pretty huge is so I’m expecting a lot from it when it starts to run.
Our single day record so far has been 30 quarts of sap……maybe we’ll set a new record today? It looks like we’re finally warming up now as the forecast calls for consistently above 0 C temps at night and 12 C to 15 C during the days. I suspect the sap run will not last too long in this heat…..and that’s fine we don’t want to do this for too long……..it just for fun.
And I don’t want to go spending a stupid amount on propane……let’s not get crazy about this. Looks like a standard tank will do a boil down on 4 full (30 quart) country cooker pots. I have enough for 1 more 30 quart pot and then I will need to refill my 2 tanks. What else do I need at The Costco?
As Brunhillda informed us we were nearing our condo location we had decided to load up on groceries to start our week. The USA seems to me to be over retailed to begin with and in tourist locations like this it is so easy to find any store you want it took less than a minute to see a grocery store and pull in to shop.
It was a moment of self discovery…… the checkout girl asked “do you have your Winn Dixie card?” and I felt a flush of pride as Pat said “Yes!”. We’ve discovered that we’re Winn Dixie shoppers. We’re not interested in those modern, new fangled stores like Publix or Rouse….we’re more comfortable with the faded glory type of atmosphere you find in the Winn Dixie or the Piggly Wiggly. Yes, this is senior living; we’re now in full circling the drain mode. Or, as Tynan said, ‘you guys are on a glide path – its just how high you can stay for how long’. Fine ……. so long as we still have access to the cockpit.
Food is about the same cost here. Booze is much cheaper! I’m finding Keystone beer is available most everywhere here and I’m blaming Bob for getting me hooked on the brand.
The condo is fine; typical 2nd floor shoebox arrangement. I like the second floor so you can use the stairs – so much better to be able to avoid the elevator hassles. Its the first floor in reality because everything here is built with an open first floor to avoid damage from the frequent storm surge flooding. The beach sand is the finest talcum powder white. We’ve had a bunch of 80 F days so plenty of time for lounging at the beach or more often on our veranda which faces South but has enough shade spots to work all day.
We brought our bikes…….really worth the small effort as you discover so much more about your location. Another reason to drive an SUV; the bikes go inside easily and are out of the weather and more theft controlled still leaving lots of room for any amount of luggage. I find bikes create an important part of that ‘free range’ senior living experience. Lots of trails around here that are amazingly well set up and maintained. The paths have to be paved or made with compacted crush…you can’t bike on the sand soil here, it is way too soft. The locals have preserved a section of the original “bush” and it is interesting. It ranges from open wiregrass Savannah to glades of live oaks with full Spanish moss coverage.
Good jogging area. Flat can be a bit boring but the wind off the ocean can really create a different sort of challenge. I like the idea of being at sea level where the oxygen level is the highest possible. As a senior jogger I need maximum oxygen! And you should see Pat fly on her bike…..I clocked her at > 30 KPH yesterday on a biking path…..while she laughed gaily at her appalling speeding in a posted 10 MPH limit area.
Don and Pat
The 2nd email:
There is an older community in Gulf Shores called Gulf Highlands. Beautiful. We biked through the area and stopped and talked to a lady who was cleaning up her lawn. She’s retiring to live there full time later this year. Her description of life there was really attractive. Its just a minute from the beach but the area is so quiet and serene. A semi tropical climate and you can see from the pic with Pat on her bike that the trees and landscaping is wonderful. I asked her about the heat in the summer and she commented that she liked the heat and if you slowed down a bit it was fine.
A bunch of houses have access to canals that allow you to have a boat with access to the ocean. Evidently the fishing is fantastic…..more on that.
We continued to the local Gulf State Park and went out on the pier there. Wow. It is a HUGE structure and the view from there is brilliant. There is a huge fishing community that works off the pier regularly. I talked to couple of guys and they told me about the Sheephead and Pompano that they were angling for. I saw several men cleaning their catches. These are big fish.
One of the guys told me that earlier this week a woman who was only 100 lbs hooked a big Kingfish and fought it for a long while before landing it …. it was a 25 pounder over 3 feet long.
Another guy was from Kitchener and comes down every year to stay for several months. He had his grandson with him and they looked like they were having a great time.
Most of the hard core fisherman had these carts you can see in the pic with a complete set up of tackle and bait and all the stuff they need. They pull the cart back to their car/truck in the parking lot and it makes the whole thing easy-peasy.
The bird looks like some kind of Egret. It was on the dock and was hanging out near the fish cleaning station where I guess folks would toss it some of the fish cleanings from time to time.
The water was 68F . I had thought about swimming in the ocean earlier in the week and it is just TOO COLD for an old man. I have been planning to try some kite boarding this summer and that cold water spurred me on the buy a full wetsuit which I’ll pick up on Ogdensburg on the way home tomorrow to take advantage of the $800 of tax free import for being out of Canada for more than a week. I also went to a Cabela’s and found a set of neoprene waders (like your duck hunting waders Steven) that I’ll use for the salmon fishing in April in Bowmanville. They were in their Clearout section upstairs and were a good deal.
The driving home experience has been no big drama. We’re taking 3 days…….no hurry. Once in a while we got off the super highways and ducked into some of the small towns on the original trail. Interesting but we didn’t spend enough time to see too much. Some big old houses that indicated past wealth but it appears, for the most part, that those days are past. People are trying to keep them up but they are slowly fading………and some are looking really bad. Now nothing but poor rooming houses.
I talked to another traveler heading to Canada in the parking lot last night and he says they made the mistake of trying to go through Atlanta…..which we had decided to deliberately avoid, going by way of Birmingham instead … and I’m glad we did. He hit a 4 hr traffic jam due to construction. Brutal.
We should be back tomorrow by 5 pm?
And the final email:
Started to see snow in the forest in Pennsylvania. I’m sure the altitude had an affect; its colder up there.
In NY state just north of Binghamton we started to see clusters of deer feeding in the grasslands verging the highway. And lots of deer bodies beside the road obviously hit by cars and trucks. There were a lot of bodies. I can’t imagine the amount of car damage that must have been wrought.
As we came around one corner we saw a cop just putting his shotgun back into the trunk of his car and the dead deer he had just “put down” was over on the edge of the fast lane where we were driving.
There were so many deer feeding beside the highway…..it just looked very abnormal. Perhaps the cold winter and late spring has driven them to the highway verge because that’s where they can get at the grass most easily? Whatever the reason it was creating a dangerous driving situation……..I’m sure the ones that were hit had just bolted onto the road……the drivers would have very little time to react and on those mountain roads there are no safe shoulders, just huge rock walls and steep drop offs, so it would be crazy to try to make any move to dodge. You could only hold the wheel steady and try not to get knocked off the road after the impact. Anyway, it looked like dangerous.
Update: Cary tells me it was a Great Blue Heron.
The beach pic is just meant to be artsy.
I did a calibration of the trip data from Gulf Shores back to Northern Secret and included it for your amusement. My mileage is not as good as I hoped…..but the gas only cost $167 US for the whole 1,500 mile return trip. 23 hours driving……OK. But for a few hours more we could have been on Marco Island or there abouts? We loved touring the Mississippi Delta on this trip….many more are planned ….. just calibrating for future possibilities.
Driving out of Nawlins with Brunhillda leading the way was pretty easy. The highways around the city can be really busy. On the way into town I told Pat that the routes we were on felt a lot like the 401 at rush hour, only with 4 lanes each way instead of 8 or more.
The speed limit on most of the highways we’ve been using is 70 MPH and traffic in the left lane seems to run between 75 and 80. Nothing crazy but you certainly have to get along with the flow or you’ll get run over.
Gas prices here are such a pleasure for SUV owners. Best I’ve seen is $2.07; best I’ve filled at was $2.09. Usual range is $2.15 to $2.30 or so. At $2.20 with an FX of 1.2 that is 70 cents CDN per liter. Sure, I only get 22 MPG on the highway……but when I’m filling the tank for ~ $60 CDN I sort of don’t care so much any more.
As we drove to the Swamp Tour, which was on the way to our condo here in Gulf Shores, we heard a fairly large “bang” on the windshield and yup……the big ugly truck carrying the dumpster container in front of us had thrown a rock and put a crack in the windshield. Its a Loonie sized circle that fortunately it is well to the left of the driver’s prime view at about 9 on the clock. I called a glass chip repair service here in Gulf Shores and they came to our condo and filled it with resin in the parking lot in about 15 minutes for $50. I’m pleased with the result. It barely shows now and does not bother the driver at all. Its a 10 year old vehicle and I don’t want to put more money into it……but it’s in great shape….everything works properly, even the AC.
Pat wanted to get us to the 11:30 boat and Brunhillda was showing our ETA as 11:28……..so I stepped on it and we picked up a couple of minutes on the ETA and pulled into the parking lot with about 4 minutes to spare……hopped onto the boat and away we went.
There were houses along the river. Some are working fishermen’s homes. The pic of one shows a girl dangling her feet to the water……is that safe in a gator area like this? I don’t know…..but there she was; perhaps a sort of Darwinian filter on risk taking?
We saw one smallish gator….the surprise was the feral hogs. The tour guide said they first saw 3 two years ago and now they count 27. We saw a ton of piglets ….. so they do breed fast. He says they’ll bring in a hunter and shoot some to control the population at some point……..but right now I suspect they’re a good tourist attraction for their swamp trips.
It was a 2 hour cruise and well worth $18 each. A great way to enjoy beautiful day.