Mon, 31 Aug 2009

Right - Left - Right

Just got back from the UK. I visited Bletchley Park. You'd expect such a museum to be good. It wasn't, it was absolutely fantastic. There was a live demonstration of an Enigma machine and I got to see a "Tunny" machine and of course Colossus!.

The guide was full of stories about people like Tommy Flowers, Harry Hinsley and John Tiltman. I was particularly impressed by the way William Tutte managed to work out the structure of the Lorenz cipher worked and how to attack it based on nothing more than cipher text and the encoding key. He didn't see a real Lorenz machine until the war was over.

The museum doesn't receive any government funding so it depends on gifts and the tickets visitors buy. You should go visit it.

The Cambridge museum of technology didn't disappoint either. It's housed in an old Victorian sewage pumping station. They have two huge steam engines to power the pumps as well as two gas engines and a number of smaller steam engines to run a generator, pull carts up the hill, ...

Best of all: these steam engines still run. I got to watch them work. This museum is also run by volunteers.

posted at: 23:40 | path: /travel | [ 0 comments ]

Sun, 12 Jul 2009


I'll be going to Froscon in august.
For some reason the program is hidden on the wiki and not linked on the main page.

If anyone want to come along: I've got three empty spots in my car. I intend to leave early on the 22nd (there's a six o'clock in the morning now?) and return the next day.

While I'm discussing plans: I'm tempted to make a quick trip to the UK the following week. The Museum of Technology in Cambridge is starting its steam engines. While I'm in the neighbourhood I'd also visit another museum that's been on my list for a long time: Bletchley Park.

Anyone interested?

posted at: 22:27 | path: /travel | [ 0 comments ]

Sat, 20 Jun 2009

Alps: Day 6 (15-06-2009): Munchen - Home

Started: 08:00
Arrival: 20:15
Distance: ~800km
Weather: Way too wet.

The weather report predicted rain for the next two days, so instead of being cold, wet and miserable for two days I decided to drive home in one go and just be cold, wet and miserable for one day.
Those predictions certainly came through: I was cold, wet, miserable and wet. Did I mention I got wet?
Riding in the rain isn't much fun, the shower when I got home was.

posted at: 15:44 | path: /travel | [ 1 comments ]

Alps: Day 5 (14-06-2009): Munchen

Started: 10:00
Arrival: 10:10
Distance ~4 km
Weather: Way too hot.

Visited the Deutsches Museum today. Very nice, probably nicer than the Science Museum in London.

There was a even glass blowing demonstration. Someone made a letter 'P' neon sign. Neat.

posted at: 15:38 | path: /travel | [ 0 comments ]

Alps: Day 4 (13-06-2009): Chur - Munchen

Started: 08:30
Arrival: 18:30
Distance ~400 km
Weather: Too hot.

I left Chur a bit earlier than usual as I had a lot of distance to cover.

The plan was to ride through Davos and the Stelvio pass. Yes, the one you've seen on Top Gear. Unfortunately the GPS got a little confused around Davos and started to send me in circles. I passed through the same 5km tunnel 4 times.

Finally I gave up on the GPS and just followed the signs to the Fuella pass. This didn't quite lead me to Stelvio but it did turn out to be a shorter route to Austria (and then to Munchen).
It turns out I was really, really close to the Stelvio pass too. That should teach me to plan these trips a little better.

Riding though Austria was fairly uneventful though also quite beautiful.
Crossing the border into Germany there was again no customs station. There was a sign even though it wasn't really needed. The Austrian part of that road had no crash barrier, as soon as it became a German road there was a solid, concrete crash barrier. Sort of tells you everything doesn't it?

I'm in Munchen for two days. The plan is to visit the Deutsches museum. According to John Graham-Cumming and his Geek Atlas it's one of the largest and best science museums in the world. Even if it isn't it's bound to be worth a visit.

posted at: 15:29 | path: /travel | [ 0 comments ]

Alps: Day 3 (12-06-2009): Sion - Chur

Started: 09:00
Arrival: 18:00
Distance ~400 km
Weather: Too hot.

Leaving Sion the SatNav sent me through the valley for about 50 km. I was getting worried it would do that through most of Switserland denying me those lonely, twisty mountain roads.

I was wrong. Very wrong.

The route took me from Sion to Chur but I rode through (a bit of) Italy as well. There were border stations this time. It even took me all of 15 seconds to cross the border. The customs guy was talking to someone in a car in front of me. Nobody seems to care who enters or leaves the coutry.

I got a bit of a scare just before lunch when I hit a roch the size of two or three fists with both wheels. The bike remained perfectly stable though, so other than scare me half to death there was no damage.

I was stopped by the Swiss police in the afternoon. I don't know why, probably a routine check. When I pulled over one of the two walked to the back of my bike, noticed the Belgian license plate and waved me on. I guess they either trust Belgians or don't want to deal with our problems.

Arriving in Chur I tried to check in to the Ibis hotel. Tried to, as it was completely full. As was the next hotel I tried. The people at that hotel were kind enough to point me to a few others though and I soon found a room in Hotel Franziskaner.
The restaurant where I had dinner had Erdinger Weissbier so I was happy.

posted at: 15:06 | path: /travel | [ 0 comments ]

Fri, 19 Jun 2009

Alps: Day 2 (11-06-2009): La Bresse - Sion

Started: 10:00
Arrival: 19:30
Distance ~400 km
Weather: Excellent.

I woke up at 07:30 and planned to leave for Sion as soon as possible. The weather stopped me though.
As soon as I opened the curtains I saw rain. Fortunately it cleared up after an hour or so. Waiting a little to start the day longer kept me nice and dry.

Riding towards Switserland I passed through some more nice roads, hills and lots and lots of trees.

There was a little excitement just before lunch just before Morteau, near the Swiss border, as I was running out of fuel and couldn't find a filling station. Finally I did find one with, according to the computer, about 5km left in the tank. Great you'd think, and it would have been if the stupid pump had accepted any of my credit cards. Fortunately there was a manned register which was supposed to open in 15 minutes. I just took out my book and waited.
When the motorcylces thirst had been quenched I found a place to eat for myself.

Shortly afterwards I rode into Switserland, only I didn't notice at first. There was no customs station, and if there was a sign I didn't see it. I figured out I was in Switserland because all the license plates were Swiss.

In the afternoon I passed Lake Geneva (or Lac Leman as the Swiss call it).

posted at: 21:21 | path: /travel | [ 0 comments ]

Wed, 17 Jun 2009

Alps: Day 1 (10-06-2009): Belgium - La Bresse

Started: 09:00
Arrival: 18:30
Distance ~520 km
Weather: Occasional showers, light drizzle to cloudy with hint of sunshine.

Despite the weather forecast I started my trip to the Alps. After about 100km I had to seek shelter from the downpour. About half an hour it had cleared up enough to continue.
A poor start and as a result I stayed on the highway a little longer than usual which lead me to discover a new bit of road (I usually follow more or less the same route to La Bresse) between Arlon and Luxembourg. Quite pretty, lots of trees.

Did lunch in the centre of Luxembourg and continued on the highway to Nancy.
After that I occasionally spotted a bit of clear sky which made the ride a whole lot more pleasant. As usually the last stretch was exhausting but worthwhile. The road between Gerardmer and La Bresse is an absolute joy. After checking in to the hotel I took the 'Route Forestiere des Dix-Sept Kilometres' to Gerardmer. It's a magnificent route right through the woods (and ski slopes). There wasn't any more snow this time.

Now to plan tomorrows drive. I should encounter the first Alp after noon.

posted at: 13:54 | path: /travel | [ 0 comments ]