Saturday, May 15, 2010


I was up a little after 7 this morning, and was downstairs for breakfast at 8 when they started serving it.† The breakfast was great.† I chose to have a couple of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, toast, orange juice, and tea.† It was tasty and filled my tank to get me through the morning.† Of course, it had too many carbs, too much fat, too many calories, and not enough protein for my needs, but otherwise it was great.


The weather was wonderful, sunny with some white clouds in the sky, with the promise of warmer weather, all the way up into the upper 50ís maybe.† I headed out to the Elan Valley, which is just outside of Rhayader, where I was staying.† I got there a half hour before the visitor centre opened at 10:00, and I walked along the river and enjoyed the morning.† When the visitor centre opened, I picked up the bird leaflet I had read about, and a map of the estate I was on.† It is located in a valley, with three or more dams, with lakes behind them, and woodlands in various places.† I took pictures, very pretty indeed.


There was one main species of bird I thought I had a good chance to see, Pied Flycatcher, and several others I didnít expect to see but could hope for.† At first, I saw very few birds, but enjoyed driving around and seeing the scenery.† The roads were surprisingly wide, I was glad to find, and there wasnít much traffic.† Lots of people walking and biking on trails, but not much traffic on the roads.


Finally at one stop, I did see a pair of Pied Flycatchers.† It is a common bird in that environment, but I was inordinately pleased to have seen it and identified it (very easy to identify, too), especially since I had done it without any help and without using the call of the bird.† It was old-fashioned BB style birding today, looking for birds, not listening to them, since I am so helpless with calls.† I saw Pied Flycatcher a couple more places, too, thus showing how common it was there.


It was also my own style of birding in that I would drive to a place, then get out of the car and look around for birds for a while, as opposed to hiking for miles, listening and looking for birds.† When I bird in California, I am almost always within 100 yards of my car, and usually much closer than that.† The UK style of birding seems to involve walking (while listening).† Their style is no doubt more effective, and also better for you, since you are getting more exercise, but Iím not used to it.† I donít like lugging my scope or my birding bag when I walk, and yet, it is nice to have them handy when they are needed, thus I like to remain near the car.† Donít get me wrong; Iím not being critical of their style; as I said, it is no doubt more effective and healthier.† I am just observing the differences in my own style that I am used to.† Today I birded BB style, and I only saw one new species, although I did see some other good birds, like Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, and Grey Wagtail.† I finally got some pictures of Robin, too, which I had been wanting to get.† I hope they are in focus.


So, I drove around the Elan Valley Estate and birded and took pictures for about two hours.† It was a lovely day and a beautiful place to be.† At about 1, went on back to the visitor centre and had some lunch in the cafť there.† I had a ham and salad baguette (about an ounce of ham and a tiny bit of cucumber and tomato, but the bread was pretty good), a Cornish pasty (very little protein there), a caramel slice (like I used to get in Australia, for those of you who followed my Ramblings there), and a mug of coffee.† All of that was only about US $9.00, which I thought was pretty reasonable for over here.† It is virtually impossible to get as much protein as I need in a restaurant here, which is one of the reasons I have been buying chicken breast, ham, and half-fat cheese over here.† Not enough protein, too much fat, and too many carbs in any restaurant meal.† I sure miss having a kitchen.


So, I finally hit the road for my next Travelodge at about 1:30.†† Google Maps had said it would take about 2.5 hours, but I didnít believe it.† It was a typical complicated route over here.† I was on the A470 for a long time, but then the A487, the A4085, the B4410, the A498, the A4086, and finally the A4244.† It seemed like more than that, though.† Google Maps completely let me down.† I soon realized that they wanted to route me on some really tiny roads that might have been shortcuts in terms of miles, but would have been much longer in time, and much harder to drive (narrower and more curvy).† I abandoned the Google route and worked it out as I went along with my Road Atlas.† As it was, I made a poor choice of my own, and took a couple of roads that turned out to be much too small, much too crowded (on a sunny Saturday), and had stone walls that scared me constantly.† I now realize what route I should have taken, but who knew?


The A498 was much narrower than I expected, and it was really crowded with cars, motorcycles, bicyclists, and eventually, walkers.† Same with the A4086.† There were dozens of people with daypacks at one point, with dozens of cars clogging every parking place and filling the roads.† In some of the narrowest places, with stone walls on both sides, there were pedestrians, as well as cyclists.† One couple was even walking their dog.† I met three buses (or, if you prefer, busses) on that stretch, and each time I just stopped dead, pulled over as far to the left as I dared, and let them go past, while cringing.† It was the most stressful half hour of driving I have ever had, I think.† At one bridge, I had to back up, to let the guy in front of me pull out around a parked car, because a truck coming the other way had stopped because he couldnít get past me or the car behind me.† Iím glad the truck driver stopped anyway.


In the end, it was only about a three hour drive, but I felt as if it had been nine or ten hours.† Most of it was fine, actually, although it did seem to go on and on.† It was that one half-hour stretch near the end that did me in.† I got to my Travelodge about 4:45, checked in, logged onto the internet, and started in on a couple of beers.† This time my Travelodge isnít at a truck stop, only a Services area for cars only.† There is a Burger King and a Little Chef here, so I wonít starve, although I certainly wonít eat healthily, either.† Here comes my familiar lament again Ė I sure like it when I have a kitchen.


Today is my first day with not a drop of rain (there were supposed to be showers in the morning).† The sun is still shining out there, and it is 7:15 PM, so I think it is going to last the whole day.† The temperatures were the warmest I have seen yet, all the way up into the upper 50ís F.† The forecast for tomorrow keeps changing, which is typical, it appears.† Right now it says drizzles at 4 AM tomorrow, sunny intervals at 7 AM, heavy rain at 10 AM, and sunny at 1 PM and 4 PM.† Seems bizarre to me, but I will just have to wait and see what we get, I guess.† I figure I will fit in a visit to South Stack, on Anglesey Island, at some point tomorrow, in between or after the drizzles and the heavy rain.† How can there be sunny intervals at 7 AM, heavy rain at 10 AM, and then be sunny all afternoon?† We will see.† It seems highly unlikely that they can predict it that accurately.† Iíll just play it by ear and go with the flow.


I see on the news that the cabin attendants for British Airways, who have been engaged in a long running labor dispute, have announced a series of five day strikes, over the next month or so.† Five days of strike, then one day back at work, etc.† One of the five day strikes is scheduled to start on June 5.† Hmmm.† Five days starting June 5.† To me, that would mean June 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9.† Five days.† Back to work on the 10th.† Interestingly, my flight home is on June 10th.† Hmmm.† This could get interesting.† I imagine that the best I can hope for is that the flight is chock-a-block full, with people from the previous five days, but it could be worse than that, Iím sure.† They fly the same plane back and forth between Seattle and London, and it would have to be in the right place at the right time, along with the crew, for my flight to actually go.† I see that the volcano is threatening to stop flights again this weekend, too.† There is no point in worrying about it, what will be will be.† Iíll get home eventually, I imagine.


Well, my two beers are almost finished, and it is 7:30.† I guess I will sip a little Famous Grouse (Scotch), then figure out what to feed my face for dinner.† A double Whopper?† That would get me my protein, but with way too much fat.† I would have some fries, too, no doubt, for even more fat.† Or, the Little Chef has a Steak and Ale Pie that sounds good.† That comes with fries, too.† Again, too much fat, too many carbs, and not enough protein.† The usual story.† I think the Little Chef offers a Rib-Eye steak, too, and maybe that would be my best bet, with a jacket potato and maybe even some veggies of some description.† A plethora of choices, none of which is nearly as good for me as what I would have if I had a kitchen.


Maybe Iíll see if I can process my pictures from today.† I am interested to see if any of the Robin pictures came out.† Iíll also get this up onto the website.


What a life!


PS.† If you have been paying close attention, you might remember my story of a few days ago about needing an extension cord in my Travelodge, for my CPAP machine, because there wasnít an outlet near the head of the bed.† I ended up driving around for 45 minutes and spending about 10 bucks for two short extension cords, at Staples.† At the time, I was berating myself for not packing an extension cord, as I had encountered this problem before.† Well, guess what?† In rummaging around in my pack just now, looking for the cable to download my pictures from my camera, what should I come up with?† An extension cord, of course!† I had packed one after all, but it was in a pocket of my pack I hadnít looked in the other day.† What a riot!† Life is a funny old thing sometimes. Now I have a surplus of ďmains extension leadsĒ.


PPS.† I just had a second thought and I looked at the cord, and it is only rated for 125 volts.† They use 220 volts over here, though.† It is almost certainly ok, but I am very cautious about such things, and Iím afraid of electricity anyway.† I guess I will use my British ones and just carry this one home, unless I get really stuck somewhere.