Back from the USA

I would say its good to be back but the rain is falling at about 45 degrees from vertical!   You can get used to sun and heat all too quickly.

The other half and I have recently returned from a 2 week road trip to the USA.   We covered 3500 miles, took in 10 states and ate a lot of not very healthy food.   I’ll admit that I have a bit of a love for root beer and I drank a LOT!   Sonic frozen limeade is also good when it is really hot.

We flew in to LA on an Airbus A380.   I have to say it was quite nice.   I always fly premium economy as I need the leg room and the seats were nice and wide and almost had sensible leg room.   The A380 is also noticeably quieter than a 747 or 777 which is nice.   My only comments are it is VERY hard to get in and out of the seat when the person in front is fully reclined, the LCD monitor thing gets alarmingly hot and the toilets are still bloody tiny!

Driving from LA to Las Vegas takes you up into the hills past San Bernadino and and the Cajon Pass, where we stopped for lunch at the Del Taco inside the Circle K.   From there you pass through the Mojave Desert.   It was dark outside and the car still indicated an exterior temperature of 110degF/43degC!   There are signs telling you to turn your aircon off to stop your car overheating.

The first major stop was Utah.   I love really love Utah.   The mean elevation is 6100 feet and you can get a good distance from civilisation.   I’ve spent most of my life within 200 feet of sea level and it is hard to find truly dark skies where I live.   If you are visiting Zion National Park I highly recommend staying at the Cliffrose Lodge in Springdale, visiting the Zion Pizza and Noodle company (I like the Cholesterol Hiker) and  popping into Crystals and Creatures.   I left my camera in the hotel… DOH!   So here are some pictures from my previous visit.


The view from the top of Angels Landing:

I made my first visit to Arches National Park and stayed in the Moab nearby.   Hint: Don’t go to the Moab camera shop unless you are desperate!   $15 for a lens cap….   OUCH!   Moab is much busier as it is on a major road.   Still some interesting shops.   Arches is brilliant and I do want to hike it more.

Arches has almost 1000 natural rock arches.   Some small, some large.

Delicate Arch is the most famous.

Very dramatic scenery!

15% humidity doesn’t feel too bad but bloody heck you need to drink a lot!   We didn’t carry quite enough water for the hike.   Oops!

Next stop was 2 states away along i70.   The west side of Colorado is very spectacular.   A lot greener than Utah.

The car was starting to struggle and I was trying to work out why it wouldn’t go into top gear.   And then we passed a sign saying ‘11500 feet’.   Ahh…

The rest of Colorado and pretty much all of Kansas was flat and dull.   But we did go to a baseball game in Kansas City.

Next stop was central Missouri where we stopped off to watch the solar eclipse.   This is my second total eclipse of the sun but my first one on dry land.   I saw the 1999 eclipse from a friends boat in the English channel.   Not good for photography.

I used the solar film from Baader along with a 3D printed holder that I’d designed.   We’d gone out with my trusty Panasonic G3 (now mostly used by my other half) and G6 bodies.   Both are Micro Four Thirds mirrorless cameras.   For their size I like them.   Far from the best quality but my entire setup has cost me less than half the list price of the camera I’d really like.   For the eclipse I’d picked up a 500mm ‘Super Albinar’ lens from Ebay for the mighty sum of £20+p&p.   I classed it as disposable.   Along with this on a tripod I was shooting handheld with a 45-200mm Panasonic lens.

It was a bit hazy to start.

Getting clearer!   You can see some sun spots too.   Not bad for a £20 lens!

Almost gone!

Not long to go now!


I didn’t get a really good picture of Bailey’s beads.

There were some nice features around the edge though.

And the corona

The 360 degree sunrise was very cool

And after 2 mins 38 seconds it was all over

I had some big problems focusing.   Micro 4/3rd cameras are not the best for manual focusing and I was relying on the autofocus while shooting handheld.   This failed pretty spectacularly.   Thankfully the 500mm Ebay special was entirely manual!   I’m sure I could have taken better pictures with manual exposure settings but I was too busy watching what was going on around me as it is just so cool watching everything go dark and the cicadas start chirping.   I’m happy with my pictures.   I did see some very nice shots taken with a camera and lens which cost about 4x the entire cost of our holiday, including the flights!

Random driving shot!

Wonky mail boxes in Arkansas.

The trees got in the way.

Too green for Arches National Park.   This is a natural stone bridge in Arkansas.   It does not look very safe.

I did do some shopping while over there.   Some ratchet spanners and welding gloves from Harbor Freight.   It does make me a bit sad to see the prices of some tools.   The chainsaw I bought earlier this year was under half the price in the USA.   I also picked up some nice Keen Sandals and lots of size 13 socks.   I do not understand why the UK thinks feet stop at size 11.

We were very lucky and flew out from Dallas the day before Hurricane Harvey made land.   We did get caught in a heck of a rain storm in Louisiana on the way to Dallas.   Not sure if this was normal rain for that time of year or part of the coming storm.   The rain did make the humidity utterly horrible.   92% is nasty.   Even at 20degF or more cooler than Utah it was just nasty to be outside.   I fully agree with this diagram:

I’ll go live in the mystery belt.   Its nice!