Tuesday, June 01, 2010


Well, according to my original plan, I would be scheduled to fly home tomorrow.† Thanks to the volcano, though, things got delayed and I still have another 8 nights here, after tonight.† Another way to look at it is, if I were still scheduled to fly home tomorrow, I would be in bad shape, as the British Airways cabin crew union is on strike right now.† I think that BA is operating some flights, and putting passengers on other airlines, but at least for now, they are not planning to be striking on June 10, when I am scheduled to fly home.† So, maybe it is just as well that the volcano delayed me, assuming my June 10 flight comes off as planned.


I woke up to rain this morning, as forecasted, and it continued all morning and into the middle of the afternoon.† I had the last of my ham in a nice ham and cheese sandwich, along with some yogurt, and I hit the road about 10.† The driving was fairly easy, all motorway, although the spray made the visibility poor at times.† We had a couple of slowdowns, but nothing major.† I paid the 5 pounds (about 7 bucks) to take the M6 Toll road around Birmingham, as the signs were warning of slowdowns, which I gather is normal.† It was a very nice 20 mile break from the heavy traffic, as the toll road had much lighter traffic.


This car I have now is a diesel version of the same gasoline model I had before.† It is a small Mercedes and has been comfortable.† The gasoline model got about 30 miles to the US gallon, and this diesel one gets about 40 mpg.† They had an odd policy at Edinburgh airport; I can bring the car back with as little fuel in it as I want, and they charge me for three-fourths of a tank, regardless.† I have heard of paying for a full tank and bringing it back empty if you want to, but never this three-quarters thing.† So, at this point, I need to get some fuel, and I have to decide how much to get, so I can take it back as empty as possible.† On the other hand, I most certainly donít want to run out of fuel, and I donít know this carís fuel gauge or how big the tank is.† An interesting game.† I figure I can always put more in, so I will try adding about one-third of a tank when I do buy some fuel tomorrow, and Iíll see how it goes.† With fuel costing about 7 bucks a gallon, I donít want to take it back with too many gallons in it.


As I approached my destination, which is on the outskirts of Oxford, where I was transferred from my Travelodge that is closed because of a fire at the Service Area to the one here Ė as I approached it, the rain let up, and I decided to check out a possible birding site that one of my books has a section on.† It was only a few miles out of my way, and almost to my destination, just north of Oxford.† It is called Otmoor, and there are several places to access it from, although there is no organized visitor center or hides or anything, just tracks and paths across the moor.


It involved some very narrow rural roads, but I am getting good at driving on those, so that didnít bother me.† Neither of the two places for access was marked or easy to find, though, and I got completely turned around at one point, thinking I was going south, and when it turned out I was going north, it was very disorienting for a while, until I could reset my internal compass.† I still donít know how I got so turned around.† I usually have a very good sense of direction, although I have noticed that I get confused in Australia sometimes, and I think it is because the sun is in the north, rather than in the south like it ďshouldĒ be.†


Anyway, I walked out to the edge of the so-called moor, which looked like fields to me, in two places.† I saw a few birds, but nothing very exciting.† I did see a Red Kite overhead, though, and I enjoyed that.† It is the only one I have seen other than at the feeding place in Wales.† I also saw and identified a Whitethroat, which I was proud of, and a couple of other species.† At one point, as I approached the river, a bird flew away from me rapidly, down the river, and I thought it looked blue.† I tried to convince myself it had been a Kingfisher, but I ended up deciding that it probably wasnít.† I just didnít get a good enough look to count it, at any rate.† My book says that Kingfisher breed at this place, though, so I had it in my mind.


The main point of stopping there this afternoon was to scope it out for tomorrow morning, as I will have lots of extra time tomorrow.† If this had been more promising habitat, I would have returned there in the morning for a couple of hours, but at this point, I probably wonít.† I need to consult my books and decide what to do with my extra time tomorrow, though.† The weather is supposed to turn dry now for at least several days.


After walking around a bit at each place, I headed for my Travelodge.† I may have missed something, but I wasnít able to get back onto the A34 where I had gotten off, and I wandered around the countryside north of Oxford for a while, before I finally found my way to the motel.† It is at a Service Area, so I figured I could get my dinner here, but it turns out that they are remodeling the service area, and it is closed at this time.† There is a kind of fancy looking Holiday Inn next door, and at the front desk, they told me they have a ďbar/restaurantĒ there, so I guess I will wander over there later and see what I can find to eat.††† Maybe I will put on a decent shirt, instead of the denim shirt I wear all the time, and maybe I will even put on some more respectable trousers.† I have been wearing this pair of jeans since I got here, virtually every day.† You know, the ones I sewed up the crotch on, the other night.† Maybe Iíll wash them when I get to my bungalow tomorrow; there is supposed to be a washing machine there.


I wonít put this up to the website yet; Iíll wait so I can report on my dinner adventure, then post it later.


OK, I had my dinner.† I ended up just going over to the fancy Holiday Inn in my denims.† After all, Iím an American, what do I know?† It turned out that they served food in the bar as well as in the restaurant.† I had forgotten to bring my reading glasses, so I couldnít read the whole restaurant menu, but I decided to eat in the bar.† I established, by asking, that the protocol was to order at the bar, so I ordered lasagna and a pint of bitter.† I paid, then took a seat at a table, and the bartender brought me my beer in a few minutes.† It took 22 minutes to get my dinner, and I thought that was acceptable.† The lasagna was good, and I enjoyed the salad and garlic bread that came with it.† It cost me about 23 bucks, which is more than it would be worth to me if I had a choice, but since I had no other convenient choice, it was fine.† It did serve to reinforce my previous decisions to graze in my room, though.† Iíll be glad to get back to having a kitchen from now on.† There is a Waitrose in Maidenhead, and I hope to load up on prepared meals for my stay in my bungalow there.


As I was finishing my dinner, a tour bus pulled in to the Holiday Inn, and a busload of Asians, Japanese at a guess, piled out.† The driver unloaded luggage while the passengers sat and stood around the lobby, while their leader got them checked in.† I imagined that they had visited various stately homes, castles, and palaces today, and tomorrow would be more of the same.† It takes all kinds to make a world, and I found it interesting to compare my experience of Britain with theirs.† I donít know what they paid for their lodging tonight, but the standard rate for that hotel is about US $220 a night, and I paid about 40 bucks for my room at the Travelodge tonight.† There isnít anything at all that the Holiday Inn could offer me for tonight that I donít have here.† It is a funny old world.


So, that is my report for today.