Friday, September 28, 2012

Florida Diving Trip(2012) -- Day 5

Double Crested Cormorant
We have started to fall into a really good rhythm here. What with the not throwing up added to lots of sun and diving, it is starting to feel very much like a vacation. Or at the very least, some place that I don't loathe existing in :)
We did morning dives again, which means no coffee as we have to be at Quiescence by 8am.
We were on French Reef today. The two locations we did were called Hard Bottom Cave and Hourglass Cave. As you might expect, each of these locations offered some nooks and crannies to weave through. Neither contained any seriously challenging elements, but both were substantially deeper dives than yesterday.

Speaking of which, here are some numbers from yesterday at Northern Dry Rocks.
Dive 1 -- Minnow Cave 59 minutes at 4m average and 6.1m max
Dive 2 -- Dry Rock(Not sure of this name and I think Brad is sick of me asking...) 58 minutes, averaging 4.9m and 7.3m max.

Today's Dives: Weather Hot and Sunny. Light Winds.
Dive 1 -- Hard Bottom was a 60min dive and averaged 8.2m and took us down as deep as 12.2m. Saw a spotted eel, several lobster.

Dive 2 -- Hourglass was 54min and averaged 7.6m and bottomed out at 11.6m. Saw a Goliath Grouper and a Reef Shark(likely Caribbean). This reef had lots of vertical change and was quite textured. It was fun to swoop around through canyons and gullies.

I must admit that Brad and I are not the best underwater navigators, with each of us drifting off course on numerous occasions. It's not a dangerous scenario, but does involve some extra swimming.

For listening to all that, I think you deserve a picture of this fellow that we saw eating some sort of weed in the park we strolled through this afternoon.
You can have coffee with me tomorrow, Handsome.
Sorry, I can't not take these pictures... I had to climb in the water to get the rocks right, so you'd better appreciate it!

Additional pictures from this trip may be found here.

#mikflorida2012

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Florida Diving Trip(2012) -- Day 4

American White Ibis
As you know, I like to have coffee in the morning. If you know Brad, you will also know that although he loves coffee (possibly even more than me) he does not love morning. What I'm saying is that I've had to make due with another of my weird animal coffee buddies.

Meet the American White Ibis. They seem to be quite curious, and though they are a little skittish, they don't seem to mind posing for pictures.

If you were checking Google+ early this morning, you probably noticed that I was feeling pretty positive about my chances for diving in Key Largo today.
I'm really not sure how I managed to be so upbeat after yesterday's gore-fest on the boat. But, I shall not keep you in suspense. I held my breakfast down today! Let the trumpets trumpet and the banners... ban.

Brad and I did two dives after lunch totalling about 1hr 55min. The number of fish was really quite spectacular.

I found this lovely fish in Florida identification image. I'm pretty tired so I'm just going to guess that I saw them all :)

Joking aside, without an expert diver along to talk about these things afterward, there are such a variety that I really have little idea what I've seen. Just like trying to learn Spanish for a trip to Spain, I suppose one should try to learn to speak some fish if I am going to discuss diving.

Wreck of a Cement Ship -- Can't remember what it is called...
The first dive was along Horseshoe Reef (brief desc.) from 1-7 metres in depth. I saw half a dozen barracuda and an eagle ray. The second dive was at a place called Minnow Cave. Can you guess what we saw a lot of there? Brad's video is currently under construction, but I found several links that really get the idea across. Here is Minnow Cave. If I had a $2000 underwater video camera and a cute female diver to record, this is what my video would look like. FYI, I did not see an octopus on my dive. Score one more for the internet. The first 3-4 minutes is pretty much what we were able to see. If you watch the rest of the video, beware 7:25-30. Pretty awesome "moobs" if you are into that type of thing (you know who I'm talking to, daughter).

Now, if you will forgive me, I am totally exhausted and would like to sleep after Brad and I decide where we would like to try and go tomorrow. Until then...

Additional pictures from this trip may be found here.

#mikflorida2012


Florida Diving Trip(2012) -- Day 3

7:30am

Got up and headed for the dive shop. My G+ crew will recognize this optimistic video clip.
Headache and stuffiness better but not gone. I decided to give snorkelling rather (than scuba) a try. This was a good plan for a number of reasons. The first reason was that I did still find it difficult to clear my ears, particularly on ascent. It's not a very big deal snorkelling because you don't go to the same depths and therefore there is much less equalization pressure on your ear drum and sinus cavities.
Leaving the Keys

The other reason that I'm glad that I snorkelled instead is that I was violently sick to my stomach 25 minutes after getting in the water. If you are down at 30 or 40 feet at the time, this can become tricky. You probably remember that I had this same problem early on in Honduras. There is one small difference. I took anti-nausea medication in advance this time. It just didn't work. I don't know if it is because I am immune to this particular antiemetic (dimenhydrinate) or if the added pressure in my ears has something to do with it. In any event I am frustrated. I am really trying to take advantage of my opportunity for fun here, but it's a bit of a struggle.

Brad had 2 more great dives partnered with a nice woman who was a very experienced diver. It sounds like the highlight was getting to see a very playful Nurse Shark.

3pm

Moving along. I was mostly over my grouchy period after a couple of hours. I soothed my woozy head with some Starbucks and several games of Chez Goth(board game geek). Having run alongside a goth crowd in university, I found it to be a fun and nostalgic way to beat brad in a best of 3 ;)

When we got back to our resort lodgings we prepared a delectable feast on one of the many grills near the water.
The highlight... Grilled Sweet Peppers

7:30pm

Naturally... while watching the sun set.

Additional pictures from this trip may be found here.


#mikflorida2012

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Florida Diving Trip(2012) -- Day 2

Tuesday -- 7am

Still congested. Brad and I agreed that I shouldn't dive today. Extra sleep for me.

8:30am
I've managed to get up, shower, and have coffee and a scone. All without hilarious incident.
The view out the front door is... okay
The view 50 metres out back is somewhat more inspiring
Morning Coffee Companion
Proof of manly shopping expedition

2pm

Brad back from Diving. He reports that the diving was excellent and that there were a lot more fish on his first dive than we saw at the most fishy dive in Honduras. I'm excited to see if his stories live up to the tale. Brad can be given to such exaggeration.

We went and found a local grocery store and stocked up on fresh produce and some bread. Tomorrow we will be barbecuing.

4pm

Drove into Miami (an hour 1-way). We checked out a couple of stores that sell board/card games and found one to play when we are stopped places for coffee or to sponge free wifi.

Additional pictures from this trip may be found here.

#mikflorida2012

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Florida Diving Trip(2012) -- Day 1

I have been sick for a couple of days leading into this trip. It's a sinus cold, which is not conducive to diving. A ruptured aorta while in shark infested waters is about equivalent ;)

Monday -- 4am

Wendy was kind enough to help me fumble my way to the airport. Being sick, short on sleep, short on coffee, and panicked about forgetting something vital (like boots when mountain climbing for instance), Wendy seemed torn between kissing me goodbye and reporting me as a terrorist to airport security.

Here is a breakdown of my first 10 minutes at the airport: Pass through security. Forget 1.5 day old iPhone5 in an airport security bin. Purchase coffee. Wandered upstairs to wait at departure gate. Walk back down for coffee that I forgot on the condiment counter. Return to my gate. Answer cell call from wife.

Karma-Free Sunrise
Wendy: Are you awake yet?
Me: I left my new phone in a bin. A kind security agent found me as I was buying coffee and returned it to me.
Wendy: That's a "no," then?
Me: I'm waiting upstairs.
Wendy: I thought you would be downstairs.
Me: There aren't any gates downstairs.
Wendy: Um...
Me: I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree about--
Wendy: <click>

At this point, I check the departures board for the 3rd time and promptly, sheepishly, slink downstairs to the correct gate. I'm going to almost totally omit the part where I try to board the plane without a boarding pass. They don't get as mad as you'd expect :)

Did I mention that I was sick AND tired? Anyway, blogging is better than an apology because it's permanent and more people can hear it. <crickets...>

Fortunately, the plane did not crash (no thanks to me) and I was treated to a beautiful sunrise over the wing. Other than plugged ears and a good ebook, the rest of the flight was unremarkable.

2:30pm--Miami Time

Brad met me in the Miami airport and we began our drive down to Key Largo. Using my new phone, and a hacked together sun-visor mount, I have made you this very short stop motion video, of a surprisingly boring stretch of Miami. Enjoy and please shop Best Buy!

Our Room in Key Largo
#mikflorida2012



Wednesday, September 12, 2012

September Update

Obligatory Back to School Photo
Of course the biggest change this month is that Wendy and the girls all went back to school. Phew! I love them--you know I do, but I'm still happy when everyone gets back into the rhythm of school. I get a little more time to myself in the morning and things feel a little less rushed... for me. Everyone else, on the other hand is in quite a tizzy.

Wendy is walking downtown every morning to the SPSD division office and trying to destroy the demons of chaos that threaten our children's educational existence. She has a host of new responsibilities this year and it has been a bit of a wild ride for her to try and get it together. She needs new challenges like the rest of us, so I figure it's all to the good. We hosted a pot-luck dinner party for her colleagues last night to try and help the team gel right at the start of the year.

Father walking stalking children to school...
Leora is trying to get the hang of her first year of high school at Walter Murray. After a summer of sleeping in, getting up early every weekday is not coming easily. She has three mornings of choir and two mornings of archery club. She has decided this isn't enough and yesterday, after three punishing rounds of try-outs, she has made the junior volleyball team. She tells me that will entail "most" days after school. She was mad that we wouldn't let her continue with her gymnastics class :(

Anwyn has switched schools as well. She managed to get herself enrolled into Greystone's ACTAL program. After two years of boredom in her last class, she is coming home every day excited about her classmates and her learning. She misses her friends from Ecole Victoria, but is so challenged in her new environment that she hasn't really noticed it yet.

We had a little kick off party last week. Anwyn had been reading a novel which spent many paragraphs detailing fancy table settings and decided that she wanted us to have a 7 course meal! Wendy and Leo did the cooking, Anwyn served and I photographed. Perfect division of labour.
Baked Brie 
French Onion Soup
Caesar Salad
Ravioli
Creme Brulee (with coffee)
Cheese/Fruit/Nut Plate

The thing at the bottom (that looks like an ear) is a slice of fresh fig :)

The meal was great. I just hope the next book Anwyn reads goes deep into manufacturing consumer electronics.

"Hey, Dad, I thought maybe tonight we could build a new iPhone."
"If you insist, Honey, but I want your homework done first!"

Monday, September 03, 2012

City Walk 2012 -- Check!

It's a whole new game. The score is tied at 3 victories a piece.

I left the house at 4:40am--10 minutes behind schedule. I have often had company for this section of the journey, but this year I was on my own.

The first new thing for this trip is the new Tim Horton's in Stonebridge. I availed myself of a little pick-me-up and headed East. The morning was cold and calm. The moon looked over my shoulder as I headed out parallel to the railroad tracks. All the rain we've had this summer meant healthy plant growth and the cool morning was heavy with dew. My shoes were shortly soaked through and I found it necessary to pause every couple of hours to strip off my shoes and dry them in the sun.

A major change from previous years is that I didn't take a "real" camera. I had only my trusty iPhone3GS. I was feeling unsure about my ability to complete the trek this year and I was concerned about the extra weight a camera would add. That and Environment Canada predicting rain throughout the day meant that my Pentax stayed safely at home. Today, looking through all the great pictures from past years and observing the lack of 24hr precipitation, I'm regretting that choice.

To help minimize said regret... here is on of my favorite pictures from 2007.
Djaii does his best to stop to the "trash compactor" on the detention level
My favourite routing decision of this year was the addition of the wet river crossing. Wendy convinced me to give it a try and offered to swim it with me. With a 3/4 wet suit and life jacket, there was really nothing that could go wrong. On the contrary, I couldn't believe how much I enjoyed it. Next time I will definitely make the swimming leg last longer.

Me and 2 crucial members of this year's support crew
The swimming thing brings me to an important point. I could not have done the swim if I had stuck to my original concept of what the city walk was. Initially, I envisioned it as a very solitary walk. Not that other people couldn't come, but that it was each persons job to make it on their own power; your only support was to be the company of the others. As such, you would have to carry everything that you might need for the entire day--although we always allowed purchase of drinks and food (i.e. foraging). As it turns out, while there is something appealing about this 'purist' model, it certainly isn't the most fun.

Wendy drove out to see me 5 times yesterday, essentially spending her entire day supporting my outing. Each time she offered me coffee, soda, dry clothes and other niceties. She and the girls brought me a picnic lunch. I had 8 different people walk/swim with me. I had verbal or text exchanges with perhaps 15. At times, when I wasn't sulking or wishing it would all be over, it was positively festive. Over the last several years Wendy has helped me revisualize my city walk as a celebration in which others can participate in many ways--only one of which is walking. Okay, that's getting a bit inclusive and positively mushy. I'll just leave it there.

To assist me in feeling more manly again, I'll provide you with a photo of the huge and awesome caterpillar that I avoided stomping shortly after noon. It was very solid feeling and reared its head in positively Dune-like fashion.

Huge spike on tail (1.5cm), sadly not shown in this photo :(
My time to completion yesterday was 17h 24min. I hobbled into the house at 10:04pm--within 4min of my estimate.

Below is the map containing data points from all three of my successful walks. The part we care about at this point is the blue line. You can see where it diverges from the previous aqua and orange lines which gives you an indication of where neighbourhoods have expanded.

View Mik's City Quest in a larger map

Lots of you followed my google+ posts yesterday, which I have to say was really nice. I felt like I had company all day long. On a marathon undertaking like this, it can be pretty important.

A few more stats:
  • Total time17h 24min
  • 66km (as plotted on the Google Map of my 3 completions) 
  • Accompanied for 34km (I think that's a record when I've finished Nope, looks like David did 34.8km in 2006 and James did 36km in 2008)
  • saved 7km or 1-1/12hrs by swimming. 
  • So without swimming the total would have been about 72km--about 2 more than in 2008.
  • 1.5L of water, 700ml coffee, 650ml diet soda consumed
I thought the more desperately bored of you might enjoy browsing an album containing City Walk photos from 2006-2008 and 2012