Sunday, May 31, 2009

Washington Park Birthday Bash

Washington Park had a big celebration today, marking its 40th anniversary. There were lots of special activities for all ages, all day.As is always the case with Bonarian celebrations, there was lots of tasty food available too. I resisted the urge to indulge. Didn't want to undo the benefits of all my cycling yesterday.
Tutti Fruity was performing in the newly repaired pavilion while I was there. You can't see them in the picture, but there were loads of people hanging out and enjoying the show.

The weather was perfect for outdoor activities. Clear, sunny, and enough wind to keep everyone cool. Happy Birthday Washington Park!

Saturday Bike Ride

I spent way too much time pumping up my rear tire in Washington Park last week, and the tire casing had developed a bulge in one spot, creating a lumpy ride. So I treated the old steed to a new tire and tube for this week's foray into the wilds of Washington. I was in the park at 8am, opened the gate for one of the rangers, and was pedaling back out at 9:30. Slagbaai is usually pretty quiet when I roll by at about 8:45.

Some friends were also in the park yesterday and had some great cheeseburgers at the Slagbaai Beach restaurant. We'll have to check that out soon. Maybe an early morning Brandaris climb, followed by a snorkel and burger at Slagbaai.
Take a good look at that nice tread. These tires roll fast but wear quickly, so these knobs won't look like that for long.
This will probably be my last Washington Park bike trip until November or so. The sunlight is getting more intense as we enter June, so I'll want to start and and my rides earlier than I can when I do the park. It is a three hour ride, 45 minutes from home to the park, entering at 8am. Then an hour and a half through the park, and 45 minutes back home to Hato, finishing at 10:15.
You can see this ride on mapmyrun by following this link. Remember to select the satelite map to see Bonaire as more than a white blob.
If I ride outside the park, I can start around 6am and finish a three hour ride by 9am, which is much better from the UV exposure standpoint.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

In the Bag

One of the bright spots of life for the dogs is licking out the empty dog food bag. New bags of dog food appear all too frequently at the Swanson abode these days. The dogs usually crawl right inside the bag and look quite cute with their hindquarters sticking out. This time Sandra had the bright idea of cutting the bag open to make it easier for them to get at the good stuff.
They were sharing quite well, but I think that one of them has now staked her claim as king of the hill. (bag)

New Cement Thing

Back in the day, here on Bonaire, before there were cement trucks, we had to mix cement ourselves and move it in wheelbarrows. Most of the structures on Bonaire were probably built that way.
Pre-mixed cement, delivered by truck, has been available for a number of years now, which sure helped when TWR had to pour giant anchors for the new towers and satellite dishes. Two and three story structures have been cropping up all over, and it was not unusual to see a crane hoisting cement, batch by batch, to the upper floors.
Today I noticed this continuous feed cement lift and pump device here on Bonaire. I suspect this will be a huge impovement for the contractors, right up with being able to order ready mixed cement as opposed to do-it-yourself.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Getting Here from There (N America)

I just collected some airline information for a friend who is planning to visit us this summer from Minnesota. One Web site was trying to route him from N. America to Bonaire by way of Amsterdam, and another had him going through Quito! That would be a good way to rack up those frequent flier miles, but there are a couple of better ways to get here from there. I thought I'd post what I learned just in case anyone else needs a jump start in getting those online travel sites to work.

First a disclaimer. This is entirely unofficial information that I gleaned off the Internet and I assume no responsibility for its accuracy. It is only to steer you in roughly the right direction when you do your own research and trip planning. Some of these flights only fly during certain months of the year, or don't fly during certain months of the year.

OK - You can find direct flights to Bonaire if you connect through Atlanta, Newark, Houston, or Miami - but only on certain days.

Here are links to recent Bonaire Insider summary pages about the various flight options for getting here, and an overview of the seasonal schedule variations.

There is a new direct flight from Miami to Bonaire on Saturdays on Insel Air.
(by the way, Insel Air also flies to Curacao and you can connect to Bonaire from there)

This is a summary of the direct flights from Delta and Continental.

Below are some details as I got them on the Delta and Continental airlines Web pages.

The weekly DELTA direct flight from Atlanta is a Saturday flight. ATL to BON leaves ATL at 9:45 am. adn gets to Bonaire in the early afternoon. The return flight leaves Bonaire at 2:58 pm. and arrives in Atlanta at 7:31 pm.

The CONTINENTAL weekly direct flight from Newark, NJ leaves EWR at 11:55 pm SATURDAY night and arrives on BON at 4:29am on SUNDAY morning. The return flight leaves Bonaire at 6am Sunday morning and arrives in Newark at 10:41 Sunday am.
This flight may have the lowest fares... round trip this coming weekend is $398. (plus taxes)

The 2 CONTINENTAL flights from Houston are also redeye flights.
First flight leaves IAH on FRIDAY night at 11:30 pm and arrive on BON at 05:03 Saturday. The return flight from BON is at 07:30 on Sat. and arrives IAH at 11:20 Saturday.

The second flight leaves IAH on SATURDAY night at 23:30 and arrives on BON at 05:06 on Sunday. The return leaves BON at 07:30 on Sun. and arrives IAH at 11:13 on Sunday.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Race Loop Hike

Three of us walked around our potential new mtn. bike race loop yesterday afternoon. I carried some giant clippers and chopped back the occasional evil thorn branch that was reaching out to grab at us. I didn't check the time exactly, but I'd estimate that it took us about 2hrs and 15 minutes to hike around the loop. We made many short stops for chopping branches, taking pictures, and simply reveling in the beauty of this lesser known part of Bonaire. You can see exactly where we walked if you follow the mapmyrun link in my previous post about the new race loop. Pictured here are my hiking buddies, Christian and Katrin, who are here from Switzerland, on their honeymoon.
We remember Katrin from when she was a kid, growing up here on Bonaire with TWR team members Hanspeter and Vreni Wirth, and brothers Matthias and Lukas.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

New Bonaire Race Loop

This chart shows altitude in meters and distance in Kilometers for one lap of a new Bonaire mtn. biking loop.
We have put together a few trails, some dirt roads and a short section of (uphill) paved road into what, assuming the various permissions can be obtained, just might be the next great Bonaire mtn. bike race course.
Some day (in the hopefully distant future) a house will be built across one part of it, so we better enjoy it while we can. There are already houses sitting on three of the dirt trails that I used to ride on back in the day. (The roads in Washington Park will become more and more precious as Bonaire becomes more and more developed.)

Anyway this loop is mostly comprised of double track and single track trails that are rough surfaced. It is a bumpy ride. Each 7.3km (4.6 mi) lap has about 164 meters (538 feet) of climbing. I did two laps early this morning, at a recreational pace. It was a lot of fun, and pretty adventurous for Bonaire.

You can see the race trail on mapmyrun if you follow this link. You'll have to change the map from "street view" to "satellite view" to see the cool scalable Google Earth type imagery. You can also change the distance units between km and mi.

Another Summer - Another Mars Frenzy

It's that time of the year again. Every summer, since 2003, we've had emails surging around the Internet waxing eloquent about how Mars is going to be super close to the earth and super big in the sky etc. etc.

Well, sorry to say, it's not true. Sky and Telescope has a good article on this annual phenomenon. Space dot com has a writeup on it as well.

Here is a web cam - telescope image I took of Mars back in 2003, when it was indeed closer to the Earth than usual. But to the naked eye, Mars was still just a bright red dot in the sky.
This morning, Mars, Venus, and the Moon made a nice little triangle in the pre-dawn sky. Unfortunately, I forgot to go out and look. It was probably too cloudy anyway, but we'll never know for sure...

So if you receive the annual Mars email, and you probably will, resist the urge to enthusiastically forward it to all your friends. :) Instead, forward this blog to all your friends. LOL

Monday, May 18, 2009

Licks and Legs

I had suntan lotion on the old bod this past Saturday for my ride in Washington park. I guess it made my skin a little sticky, because you can see distinct patches or road dust on the fronts of my shins, as opposed to the sides and backs of my shins. The dogs love to sniff and lick all exposed body parts after a bike ride. They can tell when I've ridden somewhere out of the ordinary too. The dust probably has a different smell on different parts of the island.
This is what my bike tires look like first thing in the morning. The True Goo must seep out of the many punctures during the night. It still seals the punctures though, because the tires hold air quite nicely. I saw the same phenomenon with Slime tire sealant as well.

Tick, Tick, Tick

The dogs have been getting eaten alive by ticks lately, so we sprayed the yard this past weekend. We spray the walls of the house too, because the ticks used to congregate up there when we sprayed the ground and floors.
We call this part of the car port the wind tunnel, because the trade winds usually blow through here with great vigor. So we'll call this shot, "light at the end of the tunnel."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Dean's Ramblings

For a fresh look at Bonaire, I recommend Dean Trexel's blog. Dean recently accepted an early retirement package after working 15 years on the as an engineer doing CAD for the automotive industry in Michigan. If you are interested in automobile interiors, Dean's your man. :)

Dean's vacationing here on Bonaire for six weeks, but he is typically spending most of his daylight hours as a volunteer helper with us at Trans World Radio.

When he's not slaving away at the transmitter site, he's exploring Bonaire and recoding it for friends, loved ones, and others in his blog, Dean's Ramblings.

I'm enjoying the pictures, fresh perspective, and wry humor.

Death Hill

A few of us refer to the cement surfaced hill between Rincon and the radio towers by the sinister name, "death hill." According to the data I got on my GPS yesterday evening, it is about a quarter mile (386 meters) long and has an average gradient of 13.2%.

This hill is situated in such a way that the cooling Bonaire winds are completely blocked. So when one pedals up in the hot Bonaire sun, at 10:15 am or so, on the way home from a nice long ride around Washington Park, one really does feel about ready to expire from the heat.

I always carry one water bottle designated for spraying in my helmet to cool me off when I'm climbing. The other water bottle, usually filled with flat Coke, and the Camelbak are for drinking.

When you crest this hill, the trade winds blast you fill in the face. Goose bumps and chills are pretty common.

Donkey Trail #1 Group Ride

Here is a distance and elevation chart, in metric units, from our group bike ride Tuesday evening. The distance was about 24.53 km or about 15.24 miles. The ride officially started ended at Bonaire Wellness in downtown Kralendijk, but I forgot to turn on the GPS until I was right in front of WEB in Hato, and that is about where I turned it off too. So the real ride was a little longer than these numbers indicate.

We had 12 people riding and we collectively had 5 (maybe 6) flat tires. I lost track. We started at 5pm and got back after dark, because of all the time spent flat fixing. (it is pretty dark by 7pm here these days) Maybe we should all try to have our flats at the same time and place, so we only need to stop once. Ha - Ha Most of us have clip on lights that we bring along and use when the ride goes long, like last night.

We all use Slime in our tubes and some people have plastic tire liners too, but the Bonaire thorns do us in anyway. A couple of the kids' flats were pinch flats from impacts on rocks. I saw one of the high speed rock hits and I was sure it was going to pitch the kid right off of the bike. But kids are amazing at staying upright somehow.

I've been riding with True Goo in my tubes for about a month now and it seems to be working at least as well as Slime, maybe better. I have a quart bottle of Slime sitting on top of my file cabinet at the office that I'll want to use up, but so far I suspect that I'll probably switch to True Goo eventually.

Here is a link to the ride that you can open up in mapmyride dot com. See my previous posts for instructions on how to use map my ride. I listed a more or less turn by turn description of the route in mapmyride. And, of course, you can download the route into your Garmin GPS to follow, if you ever find yourself on Bonaire and want to tempt fate and your flat tire fixing skills. :)

New TWR Asia Web Site

Trans World Radio - Asia has just officially launched a newly developed muli-faceted Web site. It has numerous feature articles, country by country ministry profiles, program schedules, a few audio feeds, and lots more.

BBBJ Update

Cousin Bud Gillan reports that the "Smithsonian Institute and International Year of Science ( BBBJ naming contest is in full swing.
The first 2 weeks of June there will be a Bonaire and BBBJ sub-exhibit in the new Ocean Hall at the Museum of Natural History."

Some scientific type BBBJ images have been posted on a new Flickr album as well.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Washington Park Bike Ride

I had a fun bike ride in Washington Park this morning. They are fixing up the roads in preparation for the 40th anniversary celebrations later this month, so one can really zoom along on a mtn. bike. The chart show the elevation in meters and the distance in kilometers.

You can see the route overlayed on a Google Earth image of Bonaire by clicking on this link to Mapmyrun dot com. You have to select the satellite image option, at the top middle of the image, to see the satellite image (duh!) and you can switch between miles and kilometers in the box at the top right of the image. You can also display elevation information, but the chart in this blog is more detailed, especially if you click on it to make it big.

I took the long route in and the short route out. The trip came to 18.2 miles or 29.46 km. My total time was 1:29:30, which equals my personal best. I had to stop for two minutes at Playa Funchi to pump up my front tire and I stopped about 20 seconds on the way up Yuwa Pass to put my chain back on the front chain ring (grrrr) so my actual riding time constitutes a new personal record sort of.
My max. speed was 28 mph and the min. speed was really really slow, making an average speed of 12.4 mph. If I were in a race situation, I could probably go faster, but not very much. I'm going to try to talk Miguel and/or the guys who rode in the elite class at the recent race to ride this loop some morning, while the roads are in good shape, so I can find out just how quickly one can actually do it.

I'm sure it will be significantly shorter than 1:29:30. (I'd guess 1:10 - 1:12 but we'll have to try it to see) My ultimate goal would be to follow them in a pickup and video them. Cousin Bud Gillan and I made a video of the park loop roads last year, but I think one with bikes in it would be cool.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Bud's Bonaire Banded Box Jellyfish

Sandra's cousin, Bud Gillan, is a science educator who has been a frequent and enthusiastic visitor to Bonaire since 1966. Over the years, he has become a serious student of jellyfish, as well as something of an expert on how to treat jellyfish stings.

For the last few years, Bud has been spearheading an effort to identify and officially recognise a new jellyfish found right here on Bonaire. Quite a few people in the diving and scientific communities here on Bonaire have been helping Bud with this project.

Now we're going to get a chance to participate in the naming of this special creature. Here is the latest from Bud, slightly edited by me.

There is a lot happening with the BBBJ - Bonaire Banded Box Jelly. We finished the genetic sequencing and descriptive/research. The science document is now in peer review and will be published in ZooTaxa (the official zoology journal). Also I am relinquishing the naming rights to the Smithsonian folks for the purpose of having it be part of the 2009 Year of Science, who is having a "New Species of Box Jelly Naming Contest" this June. So the public will have a chance to name the new species and learn about the process of real scientific investigation.

You can learn more about the BBBJ online here and here. You can suggest a name for the BBBJ during the first two weeks of June, and then vote for your choice of the actual official name later in the month.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

April 3 Bike Race

I had a number of responsibilities at the International Bible Church this past Sunday, so I wasn't able to ride in the Bonaire Wellness Mtn. Bike Race. I could have raced and still made it to the 9am service, but I had to be there at 8 to set up etc.

I have lots more bike race pictures in a Picasa album here.

In the above photo, Miguel, of Bonaire Wellness Connexions, has some last minute advise for the riders. The four riders in the elite class are paying attention, but click on the thumbnail and check out the riders behind them in the sport, masters, and beginners classes. They appear to be having a great time but aren't exactly focused on the race. That's ok 'cause the pain got their attention soon enough once the race got under way.
There were a few steep and loose uphill sections that regularly gave me trouble during our practice sessions. DJ and Erik, pictured here, zoomed right through them with no problems.

By the second lap, Erik was the only one who could match DJ's blistering pace... until he was knocked out by three succesive flat tires on the third lap.
Sandra was helping hand out water to the riders on this smooth but still somewhat slow uphill section of the course.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Rincon Day

April 30 is Queens Day, a holiday in the worldwide kingdom of the Netherlands. Here on Bonaire, it is also known as Rincon Day. So Sandra and I joined the throngs of people packing the streets of Rincon. We greeted long lost friends, ate yummy local foods, and checked out the folkloric costumes and cultural displays. I still had my camera on manual focus following my recent "moon, stars and the Pleiades" photo expedition, so my pictures randomly came out pretty fuzzy. Bob Lassiter kindly lent me a disk with tons of great photos that he shot that day.
You probably would like to see those tasty Creole foods and folkloric costumes that I was referring to, and Bob L. dutifully photographed them. But what caught my eye was two members of Bonaire's new four member bicycle police squad. Way to go!
April 30 is also the day for the annual "run from Kralendijk to Rincon" race. I enjoy cycling to Rincon early in the morning and waving to the runners and walkers as I pedal back towards home. They have my deepest respect, because I get tired enough on a bike and don't even want to think about doing the trip on foot. This picture caught my eye because the runner is sporting the innovative arm coolers that I forgot to buy the last time we were in the States. They are kind of pricey, but when I think about how much we spent on my four skin cancer surgeries last fall, it is more a question of "when" and not "if" I will soon be sporting these on my long Saturday am bike rides here.

Sandra and I cleverly disguised ourselves as tourists for our Rincon day adventure. Here we are pictured with genuine tourist and TWR volunteer, Dean (middle).

Second Chance Lens Deal

FLASH! If you reacted a little too slowly to my Feb. 2008 post about the used Canon 1200mm f/5.6 lens that was for sale at B&H Photo, and someone else beat you to it, have I got news for you.
They have another one of these mega ultra rare behemoths in stock.

There is a nice writeup as well as a video of them photographing very important things, like New York store window signs, from across the Hudson River in New Jersey.

The closest focusing distance of this lens is about 46 feet, so you might have to ask those birds you are imaging to please Back Up a Little. That's assuming that you didn't scare them all away as you and a friend strained to hoist the lens onto a suitable heavy duty tripod.

My lens lusts run more along 200mm f/2.8 lines. But watching the video about this lens is fun, much like watching "Top Gear" wring out some exotic car that I'll never ever drive. On the other hand, I might actually see that exotic car when I visit our son in Franklin Lakes, NJ, or cousin Bud in Boca Raton, FL. :)