Farewell The Hurricane

Aparently The Hurricane was sold recently, and it’s either shutting down, or being remade, or something. I can’t really find any news about it. All I have so far is a few pictures Courtney sent me of a going away party thing where they put a “RIP Hurricane” sign out front and one of the regulars had his name scratched into a bar stool.

I hope they don’t turn it into a club, or something lame. I have lots of good memories from that place… and a few bad ones. The Hurricane is the first bar I ever went to in Westport, and where I saw Jono’s band play the one time I saw them play. Not to mention the endless number of nights I spent there in the last year swilling down PBR or Stella and hanging out with Ricardo.

I wonder what happens to Ricardo?

The Hurricane was absolutely my favorite bar in the city and I’m pretty sad to see it go.

Wow, it’s even worse than I thought. Courtney sent me these links:
http://www.patchchord.com/article/137/my-story-of-the-hurricane
http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/entertainment/columnists/hearne_christopher_jr/14425461.htm

A more upscale clientele? A VIP room downstairs? Limo service to Blonde? Jesus Christ… I’m going to throw up.

And a few more…
http://www.pitch.com/Issues/2006-05-04/music/wayward.html

Luck, thy name is Jeff

In an awesome fit of luck I found a nearly pristine front bumper for my car at the dealership and the parts guy sold it to me for $90! If I had to buy it new (which I was getting ready to do) it would have been $400 for the part and another $380 for paint! WOOT! My car is finally whole again! So happy!

I also bought and installed a smaller front sprocket for my bike. Now I’ve got more torque and a little less top end speed. With my added torque I was finally able to do my first wheelie. Sort of. I don’t know if a half inch of clearance counts, but it definitely felt like a wheelie. Now it’s just a matter of practice 🙂

I pretty much did nothing but work on cars and bikes this weekend. My hands are black with grease but it was sure fun. I learned how to take serious parts of my bike apart and put them back together. Hopefully. I haven’t died yet.

Volley, balls.

I joined my company’s beach volleyball team a few weeks back but with my trip to Europe I missed the first two games. Last night was the first one where I was back so I headed out to The Beach and tried to remember how to play.

I did remember how to play, and I did okay but there was an Incident.

I was having a good time, and was pretty enthusiastic and doing quite a few dives and such. Some of them were good, and I made a few good saves. On one I went for a straight out dive, bumped the ball with my fists and got it up over the net but when I landed I landed straight out like superman and my balls slapped the packed sand.

It doesn’t do to cry on the volleyball court, but let me tell you… I wanted to. One little tear might have slipped out into the sand.

It was a lot of fun though, and I wished we had played longer. We played three games, and lost them all, but we got better quickly. The first game we got owned, but the second and third were pretty competitive.

It’s a mixed team deal, so we have three guys and three girls. The problem is that there’s a rule where if a guy hits the ball a girl has to hit it too before it goes over the net. That keeps you from having a few girls stand in the corner while three burly guys actually play. Unfortunately I had trouble remembering the damn rule and fucked up a few times. One of the guys would put up a great set and I would slap it over the net and then everyone would look at me like “What an idiot. He did it again.”

The Beach seems like a pretty fun place. It started to get pretty crowded as we wrapped up our games, and lots of people were swilling down pitchers. My whole team left so I didn’t stick around, but it seemed like a place that might be lots of fun.

London: Friday

Today I got up nice and early, had a quick breakfast and checked my email and then headed off to find my way to Stonehenge.

I knew that I could find a train from Waterloo Station to Salisbury, which is 9 miles form Stonehenge but after that I didn’t really know what was up. The trains leave from Waterloo every 20 minutes, so that didn’t take very long and it was only a 2 hour ride there.

Once I got there it was pretty clear there wouldn’t be problems getting to Stonehenge. Lots of busses, bus tours and tourist information. I got a cheap bus fare and had about 45 minutes to blow before I headed out. I was kind of hungry so I wandered down to a pub on the corner to see what I could scrape up.

This pub was like something out of a movie. Everyone in there knew each other and they were all asking about each other’s mums and kids. When someone new walked in the door they were all like “Allo John!” or whatever. Weird.

I had a pint of cask cider, which was tasty, a plate of chips and some talk with the bartender. She asked me if I was going to Stonehenge and I said “How did you guess? Wrong accent?”. She said that everyone that comes into the pub asking what food they can get quickly is going to Stonehenge. Heh!

So I took the bus ride over, and Salisbury is very pretty. Stonehenge is actually in, or very near, Amesbury which is also very pretty.

The entrance to Stonehenge is very touristy, but that’s across the street and a tunnel. Once you actually get on the grounds it’s very nice. No tourist crap, but lots of people. Only problem is you can’t really get near it. There is a rope fence a good 25 yards away from it you can’t go inside. Aparently during the Solstice, next week, they let you in so you can commune with the moon goddess or whatever.

Stonehenge is… well, just like the lady at the bar said, it’s just like the pictures. It doesn’t move about. It was awesome to see it in person though.

On the trip back I fell asleep on the train and almost ended up heading back towards Salisbury. Someone was nice enough to wake me up right before the damn train left again. That sucked.

So that’s it for my tour of Europe! It’s about 5:30pm right now. I am going to find some dinner, and a few beers. Maybe do some laundry so I have something cleanish to wear tomorrow and then pack and hit the sack. I have to be up pretty early tomorrow to find my way to the airport.

So, thanks for reading and thanks for the comments! And don’t forget to check out the last batch of pictures from London yesterday and Stonehenge today!

London: Thursday

I’m wrapping up my second full day in London. I’m a little sad to report that I think I am burned out on sightseeing. I really didn’t do too much today. I had a little bit of time to blow before I could check into my new hotel so I decided to walk up to Lord’s Cricket Ground. I don’t know anything about Cricket or anything, but that place features quite a bit in the Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and I just kinda wanted to see it. Unfortunately you couldn’t really get it and see anything. It’s a stadium type place. So, I took a picture of the sign and walked back 🙂

After I got checked into my hotel I spent some time trying to find Internet access with no luck. Eventually I went down and asked and found they didn’t have any. So, I went searching for an Internet cafe. I found one just down the street that is pretty nice and that’s where I am now. (Again)

For the sights, today, I decided to head back to London Tower and Tower Bridge because they both looked pretty interesting. This is where the burn out started. I saw the London Tower, and took a few pics but I didn’t really want to go wander around inside. I took the Tower Bridge tour cause I wanted to see the “engine room” but it was all faked up and mocked up cause instead of a giant steam plant and hydraulics now they use electric motors that are probably the size of my thumb. Granted, I have a sausage thumb.

And… that was pretty much it. I went back to my hotel and watched a little TV and now I’m here typing this. Tomorrow I’m going to attempt to take the train and bus to see Stonehenge, which I’ve always wanted to see. That will probably take the bulk of the day as it’s at least 2 hours of travel in each direction. Then it’s Saturday and I’ll be coming home!

This trip has been a lot of fun, and I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve seen a ton. I’ve been to five countries: The Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany and England and explored 7 cities: Amsterdam, Breda, Brussels, Paris, Berlin, Dresden and London and I’m worn the fuck out. I’m looking forward to seeing my friends, and riding my bike and planning my next trip 🙂

I’m glad I did it this way, even though it was kind of rushed and messy. I know where I’d like to go back and spend more time, and I have a much better idea of what is out there. Kelly used to tease me cause I was so clueless on geography. Well I’m not now. I know a good part of Europe pretty well and I can tell you how to get around it cheaply. That’s good stuff to know.

I definitely want to go back to Amsterdam with friends. I’d like to see much more of Germany, but with someone who speaks German and I very much want to be there on a motorcycle. I want to come back to England for a much longer visit and be mobile. London is great, but I want to see the countryside and castles and such. I’m going to need a driver though, cause the driving on the left still freaks me out.

So, that’s it for today, I think. I forgot my camera back at the hotel so I’ll post today’s pictures tomorrow, or later if I come back down here.

London: Wednesday

I’ve made a real mess of my front page, but it’s hard to keep things in order when your life is utterly chaotic. This living on the road deal has been interesting, and surprising, and all manner of new things, but it makes for keeping things in order difficult!

And that’s all my complaining for the day, because it’s time to talk about London.

London is wonderful. I love it here and I want to stay.

People are nice, the city is full of beauty and history, the weather is very agreeable (so far) and they speak my language. There’s a ton of things to do, and I’ve not even really scratched the surface. Just the posters pasted in the Underground of all the live shows coming up are enough to make me want to burn my passport and move in.

Enough gushing.

The first thing I did was head to The Undeground and figure out where I was going to go. I noticed a tourist booth so I went there and booked a new hotel for my last two days. 2 stars, right down the street from Paddington Station and GB 50 a night. Not bad.

I started by picking a random place on the map and going there. Hyde Park sounded cool, and Speakers Corner sounded interesting, so I headed that way on the Underground (hereafter, The U) and got there easily. When I arrived I wandered around in cirlces for a bit and noticed a sign that said Buckingham Palace. That sounded pretty good so I started walking and before long I was watching the royal guards prancing around like idiots. Idiots with submachine guns, but idiots none the less. I’m sorry, but they really look quite silly. I took a video for you but it’s huge… actually, this net access is fast. Lemme see if I can send it up.

Please wait.

Hermm… 15 minutes to upload. Okay, we’ll give it a try. I need to recompress the video cause it’s 70MB but this’ll do for now.

Anyway, I saw the guards and their silly dance, and I wandered around Buckingham Palace, which was cool. Eventually I made it back to where I had started and noticed a red open top bus for touring standing there and thought I’d check it out. For GB 20 I could take a hop on hop off 2 hour+ tour and get a free boat ride out of the deal. Sounded better than walking. I hopped on the bus and it turned out to be really fun. The tour guide was very funny, and had a ton of really good information. I saw a lot of the major sights in London, such as Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, The London Eye, Tower Bridge, London Bridge, The London Tower, Buckingham Palace (again), The Marble Arch and a million other things.

One of the things that was really interesting was how much daily, but famous, life goes on. The guide was constantly doing things like pointing out “There’s where Chris Martin and Gwenneth Paltrow live, in house 47, and there’s where Madonna lives” and so on. I saw the hotel where Jimmy Hendrix died, and where Michael Jackson stays in London and a ton of other interesting things. Very cool tour. It was “The Original Tour” if you are ever in the area and looking for one.

Towards the end of the tour you had the option to buy a GB 3 pass to eat a meal in one of three restaurants instead of paying the normal fare. They pointed out The Sherlock Holmes Pub where you could have fish and chips and I decided to hop off and check it out. It sounded like a complete tourist trap, but hell, I was hungry.

The pub was a tourist trap. It was full of Japanese tourists. Let me tell you about Japanese tourists. All the stereotypes are true. In every city I’ve been in they just crack me up. They don’t even seem to look at what they are seeing, they just want to take pictures of each other in front of it. They scamper around snapping pictures at like 20 per second.

Anway, I went up the bar and noticed immediately like 10 beer pumps. A beer pump is what you use to get beer out of a cask in the celler, instead of a tap and faucet that takes beer out of a keg driven by CO2. I love cask beer and immediately ordered some, and it was great. Warm, flat and full of taste. Very nice for my first beer in London. I asked the bartender if I could get my official fish and chips at the bar and he hooked me up. I chatted with him for quite a while about beer, and eventually asked if the pub was made purely for eating tourists money. He said they do get a lot of tourists because of the bus tour but that they have quite a few locals, especially during the week. I felt a little better about the whole thing.

I had one more pint and headed out. I wanted to go down to the river and see some things there so I headed that way. I crossed a footbridge over the Thames and decided to ride The London Eye.

A note on The Thames. It’s filthy. If you stand on the bridge and watch it flow past it is just full of trash. The trash just keeping coming and coming. I’ve got to think that The Thames is what Terry Pratchett modeled his description of The Ankh after.

Anyway, I went over to The Eye and rode that. Nice ride. Quiet, and nice view. The curved glass makes it hard to take good photos but I did get a really awesome surrealist photo of The Houses of Parliament which I am proud of.

After The Eye I went over to The Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Big Ben. I didn’t really feel up to touring them so I just snapped some pics and walked past heading towards Trafalgar Square.

Trafalgar Square is pretty interesting. Lots of people relaxing, making out, chasing pidgeons. The pidgeons are great. They are so used to people that you basically have to push them out of the way. I saw a kid actually pick one up off the ground and walk about with it for a minute. He’s probably dead of disease now. Aparently it’s okay to feed them, which is why there are so many, but if you feed them in the main part of the square you’ll get fined. They want to get rid of them and have aparently hired a guy with a hawk to chase them off now and then.

After that I had had enough sightseeing for the day and headed back to my room. I had intended to maybe go back out later that night and find a pub but I laid down for a bit and was out like a light. I slept until about 9am this morning and woke up feeling much refreshed. I checked out of Shithole Hostle and walked over to my new hotel. I couldn’t check in until 11:30am so I did a little more sightseeing while I waited… but that’s tomorrow’s story.

Pictures from London are up. There’s a few good ones in there. Honestly, I’m a bit sick of sightseeing, but I feel like I owe it to myself. I kind of want to just hang out until I go home.

My new hotel has absolutely no Internet access so I’ve finally been forced to use an Internet cafe. It’s pretty nice. I have a little cubby in the basement and they are playing a really good downtempo mix. Unfortunately it’s only open till 10pm so I’ll be logging off early the next two nights.

Talk to you tonight.

Oh, here’s the movie of the guards. It’s huge, but it’s pretty cool.

Dresden: Tuesday; Retrospective

Tuesday morning I got up 4am, sat around and whined for a few minutes and then packed up all my shit and headed for the train station. I had a ticket for 5:12am to Dresden. I stopped at Zoo Station to drop off my backpack in a locker, cause I knew there were some there but wasn’t sure if there were any at Hbf and then I headed to Hbf for my train.

My train trip to Dresden was broken into two trains. The first was a standard S-Bahn (all these terms will be defined when I finish the Berlin post, sorry) and the second was a passenger train, which was a new one for me.

The passenger train turned out to be like what you see in Harry Potter. Each car has 10 or so compartments with a door that closes and each holds 6 people. The train was fairly empty so I was able to snatch my own compartment. I noticed that there was a window that would go down, so I pulled it down and that’s when the trouble set in.

The train started moving and I was sititng with my arms on the window and my face in the wind enjoying the cool morning air. After about 5 or 10 minutes by eyes started to itch and my nose started running. Just alergies, which I have all the time, so no big deal. A few minutes later I was writhing around on the seat in pain. This was a whole new type of alergies. My face swelled up, and I got little red raised spots in a few places. My throat swelled and I was having trouble breathing and my eyes were bright red and felt like they were coated with sandpaper. I thought I was going to die on the train to Dresden.

I went down to the bathroom and spent about 10 minutes flushing my face, eyes and nose with water and it started to slack off some. For the rest of the trip I was still miserable but it got better and better as we went along. I even laid down and got 30 minutes of sleep, or so.

I arrived in Dresden around 8am and started looking for a map. English was basically non-existant, even in the station, where I’ve usually had decent luck. I found a map at the newspaper store and set out.

Dresden is a very small city, at least compared to where I’ve been in the last few weeks. I walked pretty quickly through the old town (Altstadt) and into the new town (Nuestadt) and saw some pretty amazing stuff. I didn’t consult the map very much cause it was cool out and I was just enjoying the walk. The old and new towns are seperated by a river, with three main bridges. I had crossed the main bridge out of town and decided to walk down along the river’s edge to get to the next one and head back.

I ended up walking along the river for a long, long way. I’m not sure how long but I passed the bridge by far and started getting into a less city like area. Started to get worn out so I found a bench and just chilled out for a half hour or so before starting to walk back. Everything was still very quiet and it was very nice to be away from the insanity of a big city for a change.

I headed back towards town, and eventually made it to the bridge I was going to cross. I noticed that there was a tram running and I spent about 15 minutes figuring out where it went and how to buy a ticket. I wanted to get back to the station to get some food, and then set out into the old town again. That’s where many of the monuments and buildings stood that were destroyed in the war.

You can get a complete history of Dresden from Wikipedia, but basically it was a very busy industrial city with a ton of beautiful baroque architecture and in 1945 the Allies firebombed it to the ground. Since then much has been rebuilt or repaired, and usually in the same style. It was hard for me to tell what was old and what was new, but it was all beautiful.

I got back to the station, had a snack, and set back out. I had passed through old town quickly earlier and wanted to spent more time exploring. Check out the pictures for all the details. It’s a beautiful city, and there’s a lot to see. I’d like to spend more time there to see the museums but I only had about 6 hours total before I had to head back to Berlin.

I was getting to where I was pretty worn out, so I found a bench in the shade and took a long nap. I needed it. I was running on 2 hours of sleep and several days of hard core walking around giant cities. The nap refreshed me and I wandered around the sights for an hour or so before I had to head back for my train.

My two high speed trains back to Berlin was uneventful, and relaxing. Once I got back to Berlin I ran over to Zoo, got my bag, and then found a train to the airport, which took forever. There were 17 stops and we waited a few minutes at each one for some reason. Long train.

The airport was wayyy outside of Berlin. It’s not their main one, and I think it only served the cheap airlines. My flight was delayed by about an hour and a half but aside from that everything went fine. I met a really nice Polish girl named Dominika in the terminal and we chatted while waiting for the plane. She’s studying at Oxford to be an architecht and wanted to hear all about my travels in Europe. We had a nice talk, and ended up sitting together on the plane. She was very embarassed about her English but I assured her it was a sound for sore ears. Was nice to have someone to talk to during the long wait, and the flight.

Eventually I was in London! People were speaking English! I could read everything! Man, it was so nice. Unfortunately, with the plane being delayed, I was a little screwed on transportation. The Underground stops running at midnight and it was 1am before I got out of the airport. I got a train from the airport into central London and then was going to plan to catch a bus. Happily, there was a cab driver looking for fares in the station so I blew some money and had him take me right to the hostel.

So, Dresden was very nice, even though I had just a whirlwind tour. I think it would have helped a lot if I had someone who knew German with me. I really couldn’t communicate at all there but at least I feel like I was able to see some of the sights in the short time I had. It was a nice side trip, and better than spending another day boiling in Berlin 🙂

I’ve posted pictures from Dresden on Flickr that you should really check out. It’s an incredible city to see.

London: Wednesday

I’ve arrived in London and all’s well. My flight ended up being an hour and a half delayed but aside from that it was pretty good. EasyJet is cheap, and weird, but they got me here so I applaud them.

Things weren’t so easy once I got into London. It was about 1am already when we landed and I had no idea how to get to where I needed to go. I bummed some directions off a guy working in a little airport store but he told me I was screwed because the subway (Tube, Underground) stops running at midnight.

I took the train from the Luton airport into London central and landed at King’s Cross station. I had no map or anything but the guy at the train station told me that I could get a bus to Paddington Station, which is where I needed to go. As I came out of the station there was a guy offering taxi service so I threw in the towel and went with him. Turned out to be a good choice. He got me right here and he was very cool. We chatted about traveling Europe and he told me he hated Paris, so we talked for a while about that. Seems like everyone hates Paris.

I landed at my hostel (Wake Up! London) and man it’s a shit hole. It had a bed though, so that’s all I needed. Now I am trying to figure out what to do with myself today. I need food, to do laundry and to get maps and information. And I need rest. My legs and feet are killing me Walking around Berlin all day Monday (report coming soon) and Dresden Tuesday (also wik) just did me in. I need to bust out a protractor and figure out how many miles I walked. I’m guessing it’s gotta be marathon level.

So that’s it for now. I’ve got to find some breakfast, and some information. The weather in London is stormy, cold, rainy, overcast and utterly perfect. I hope it stays like this till I leave. I never want to see the sun again. My arms, head and face are so tan… and the rest of me is pasty white. Weak.

Berlin: Monday; Retrospective

This entry isn’t finished yet, and I don’t know if I will. I let too much time pass between exporing Berlin and writing this and it just sounds boring. Berlin was a nice place, but not all that exciting.

As I’m walking around during my days I usually end up coming up wiht a first line for the day’s post. Something catchy. Something will draw the reader in and make them want to cuddle up to the post. I assure you that on Monday in Berlin I had a great one and you would be immediately enthralled. Unfortunately it’s Wednesday now and I’ve had like no sleep or food in three days so you are going to have to deal with this rather limp paragraph.

I woke up leisurely and cleaned up for my first day in Berlin. I didn’t really have a plan but the place seemed so inviting I wasn’t really worried about it. From the walk the night before I knew there was a Dunkin Donuts right down the street and I intended to raid it. I had a nice breakfast outside, and was feeling pretty good so I started walking. The only thing I really knew I wanted to do in Berlin was see the wall but I knew there was a lot more to do, so I finally decided to take an official tour.

Right outside the Dunkin Donuts there were tour busses lined up but they were all empty so I went and walked. There are a couple big train stations in Berlin. The Hbf (Hauptbahnhauf) which is the new, swanky central station that just opened, ZOO which the Zoological Gardens station and others which don’t much come into this story. Hbf is where I arrived the night before from Paris and ZOO was the closest station to where I was sleeping.

I walked over to ZOO to kick around a bit and saw a red tour bus parked on the corner that had some people in it. EU 20 later I had a seat on top and we started rolling.

The tour was really kind of boring, but we did circle pretty much the entire city and it gave me a chance to get my bearings. I saw some places I definitely wanted to go back to so once the tour ended I rode back to Hbf and started walking. The main things I wanted to see were the remains of the Berlin wall, the museum area, the book burning monument, which they said was supposed to light up at night and a really nice looking park on the west side.

Right across from the Hbf is the river and a nice river front park area. Walked past all that and heading west towards the residential section and the big park I had seen from the tour bus. The park is huge, and very nice. Right in the middle of the city. There were tons of people out sunbathing (usually nude) but not many people walking so I just walked and walked. It was a nice respite after the business of Paris and I stopped a few times just to chill out. Boring eh? It gets better.

The walk to the park, and then eventually back to my hotel was really pretty long, although not much happened. I was kind of beat and, of course, sweating my ass off so I went back to my hotel and showered and chilled out a bit. I kind of wanted to let the sun go down some more before heading east to the wall and other points. I’m telling you, I hate the sun.

Once I had cooled off a bit I decided to check out the subway. Thus far I had been riding only on the main trains in Berlin. There are a few different types of trains there. The Regional Express trains, which are fast but only stop at a few distant places and don’t very often, the S-Bahn which is the above ground “city” trains, and the U-Bahn which is the subway. I had mostly been using the S-Bahn but I love subways so I decided to head to east Berlin via the U-Bahn.

By the way, I don’t know if they take offense or not, but they don’t call it east and west Berlin anymore. Generally if they make the distinction they say “Former east Berlin”

I made my first stop the wall, and the monument area that is around it. They have put up a sort of park with information about what went on called the Topography of Terror. The remains of the wall itself are only 50 meters long. That’s all that’s left of it. That portion is surrounded by a fence that keeps you about 2 meters from the wall. People still want to take a piece home with them and if they didn’t protect it it would be completly gone instantly

The wall was interesting to see, because I remember when it came down and all the excitement associated with it, but it didn’t really mean a lot to me. I wasn’t there and it didn’t affect me, it’s just something I had heard and read about. That said, it’s still a somber place. I think more impressive than the remains of the wall is the line in the road that you can follow that shows where it used to be. In many places you can see a double brick line right through the middle of the road that is where the wall once stood. That goes further in representing the division of Berlin to me than seeing the wall itself.