Monday, September 22, 2014

Arrival in Franschhoek

Here is the itinerary for our Africa trip.

We left Johannesburg with our driver at 8:00 am for our 10:00 am flight to Cape Town. Thinking that the company would know how early was necessary we accepted that time as normal. Turned out that we were too late to get seats on the plane. Since we did not have assigned seats yet, we needed to take care of that earlier and since it was a full flight, we were bumped to the next one an hour later. That was fine, but then we hit another glitch when picking up our rental car. Budget wanted a printed voucher and we only had an itinerary. Our agent had said that everything was electronic and that would be fine, but it seems that Budget did not get the memo about going paperless. Fortunately, we had an off-hours number for our agent locally and were able to get a voucher emailed so we could get the car. Otherwise, we would have been paying again for the car and having to get reimbursement – a hassle at best.
The view from our veranda.
Additionally, Linda’s new credit card wouldn’t work for Budget even though it has an electronic chip to enable its use all over the world. Her new card is not embossed, the number is simply printed on card and Budget has to use the imprint to get the credit card number onto the contract. I was shocked because Visa and MasterCard both have said that using a swipe machine is no longer acceptable. Those manual machines put the entire number on paper making the number much easier to steal. One would think that a major world company like Budget would have a computer system that did not require the number on a sheet of paper. So even though they had a record of the reservation and we had a valid credit card, they could not process the rental normally. Because the rental was in Linda’s name they needed her card. Fortunately, the agent was a problem solver who worked to make certain we got the car we needed. He used my card for the rental because it still has the embossing and them made explanatory notes all over the rental agreement and in the computer. He also made certain that I do not count as an additional driver raising the rental fee. Then, before assigning us a car, he asked to see how much luggage we have and gave us a VW Jetta because it has the largest trunk and was large enough to take all of our luggage – barely. We have slimmed down our packing considerably, but four people for seven and ten weeks still need a lot of stuff. I have one small backpack just for camera, lenses, binoculars and computer. So, even though it took three times as long as it should have, we left with all of our luggage in the trunk where it belongs and no worries about payments.

Franschhoek is nearly surrounded by these mountains.
We are staying in a lovely home in Franschhoek in a gated community, La Petite Provence. Franschhoek was settled by French Hugonots fleeing the religious discrimination they were facing in France. Streams gurgle past the rear of the house and across the street in the front. A large field and several small vineyards dot the complex making it a lovely place to walk in the morning or evening. A patio in the back offers a great venue for coffee and bird watching to start the day while those slower to get started shower and ....

One of the streams running through the property
The only trouble we had upon arriving was getting me to listen carefully enough to Linda as she explained how to turn off the alarm system. We have a fob with three buttons. The red one opens the garage after you remove the padlock; the green one is for an emergency, and the blue one turns the alarm on and off. To my amazement, since my listening skills have deteriorated, there is no delay before the alarm begins screaming that you have improperly entered the property. Linda quickly explained – again – that I had to push the blue button and the screaming stopped. No more than a minute later the security team was there to make sure everything was ok. That was comforting even as it was a bit embarrassing. It was even more embarrassing to have the same thing happen the next day because we weren’t sure if the system was on or off. The other challenge has been dealing with the fact that every door has a different skeleton key for its lock. That is seven different keys. Fortunately they are well-labeled.

Helmeted Guineahens have the run of the place.
The other negative is that there is NO internet service at the house, but we have found a nice solution to that problem. Once we were settled in, we drove the short distance to town to do a bit of grocery shopping and find a nice place for a casual meal. We settled on “The Stall” – less than a mile from our house. The food was outstanding. I had a burger with gouda, grilled onions and cranberry, a surprisingly good mix. Linda had a regular cheeseburger. Jim had some excellent fried Patagonian calamari. Marcia had a penne pasta with chicken in a white pesto sauce. They also have what look like fantastic wood fired pizzas. Most importantly, we had a great time talking with the owner drinking some of the excellent local wine at about $5 per bottle. Really. The wine here is very good and really inexpensive. Since they also have free wireless, we have decided that we will drop in for coffee in the morning or wine in the evening to catch up on all those must-do things that computers have imposed on our lives. Lisa, the owner, said that they officially open at noon, but since the pizza oven requires 90 minutes to warm up, the rest of their menu is available and since they make everything fresh, we can get just about anything we want. The owners live at Le Petite Provence where we are staying, so we will probably be seeing them here well.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Apartheid Museum

The Apartheid Museum's Genesis

The Apartheid Museum opened in Johannesburg in 2001 and is acknowledged as the pre-eminent museum in the world dealing with 20th century South Africa, at the heart of which is the apartheid story.

In 1995 the South African government set up a process for the granting of casino licenses, establishing an agency to do this called the Gambling Board. The bid documents stipulated that bidders should demonstrate how they would attract tourism and thereby grow the economy and stimulate job creation. A consortium, called Akani Egoli (Gold Reef City), put in a bid that included the commitment to building a museum. Their bid was successful, the Gold Reef City Casino was built and Gold Reef City spent approximately 80 million rand ($8 million) to build the museum. The upshot of this is that the museum is next to a casino complex and an amusement park. Make of that what you will.


The first thing visitors see as they approach the museum is a Nelson Mandela quote, “To be free is not merely to cast off ones’ chains but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”  and seven pillars representing the values at the heart of the new South African Constitution: democracy, equality, reconciliation, diversity, responsibility, respect and freedom.

The seven pillars
Then, to simulate the racial classification system under apartheid, visitors are selected to be either white or black and forced to enter a gate marked for that classification. One wonders why they did not set up four gates instead of ignoring the coloured and Asian classifications. The difference is that the pass cards you see as you walk down the aisle are either white or black. The most amazing thing about the issuing of the cards is how unscientific it was. The boards assigning classifications had no training. Moreover, people were reclassified every year. 

An actual identity card. Everyone had to carry them.
Still outside, visitors pass stand-ups of people representing the diversity of people who worked in the mines around Johannesburg beginning in 1886. Each of these people is a descendent of someone who worked the mines. Inside each person has a small display explaining the ancestor’s role in the mines and the pictured individual’s role is today. The rocks on the right are to represent the miners' work.

Another interesting display outside is the reproductions of rock art. Notice in these pictures the modern elements representing the trekkers. Not all the rock art is ancient or pre-historic. 


A temporary exhibit on Nelson Mandela is near the entrance. We passed on examining it because we had seen it two years ago and wanted more time to spend on the main exhibit. A new exhibit highlights the life of Ahmed Mohammed Kathranda. Born in 1929 of Indian parents, Kathy, as he was known, was one of the seven imprisoned with Nelson Mandela and sent to Robben Island in 1962. He quit school at age 17 to work against the “Ghetto Act” which gave Indians limited representation and defined the areas where Indians could live, trade, and own land. This would lead to the first of his many incarcerations. His leadership in the Indian Congresses and other multi-racial organizations led to his connections with the African National Congress (ANC) and Nelson Mandela and his long imprisonment on Robben Island. Since the end of apartheid he has served four years in the South African Parliament and continues to be a leader in the fight to maintain a peaceful and progressive South Africa.

One of the real fears was that any mixing of races would degrade the white race. 
Pictures and some artifacts show the history of the development and dismantlement of apartheid ending with a display for the constitution. The symbols of South Africa’s new nationhood in the form of the flag and the national anthem are displayed here. The core values of the constitution are repeated on the walls of this space. In the center is a glass structure which contains a pile of stones. Visitors are invited to take a stone from the right and place it on a growing pile of stones on the left as a commitment to fighting against racism and discrimination wherever they may encounter it. This is the reason for the Apartheid Museum.

As we walked through the museum, we could not help but notice the parallels between the anti-apartheid movement and the civil rights movement in the USA. Both were heavily influenced by the non-violence preached so successfully by Mahatma Gandhi. Both were faced with an oppressive and violent government determined to prevent any changes in the status quo. And both were finally led to success in large part because the young were no longer willing to wait for something that seemingly would never really happen. Both stories are inspiring and bring hope for the future even as we understand that none of this is finished. We do not yet live in a post-racial world. I do hope that our children will see that day.

Outside again

Upon leaving the museum, we walk through gardens designed to offer a place for reflection. We are also asked to pick a Mandela quote that we like from a choice of five and place a colored stick to show our choice. The result is a rainbow of color that is part of the new South Africa’s legacy to the world.

In a couple of weeks we will revisit this story when we tour Robben Island. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Martin Luther King Memorial

Atlanta's skyline from the MLK MARTA station
We had nearly a full day in Atlanta so decided to revisit the MLK Memorial Park. To get there we took MARTA, the light rail Atlanta built for the 1996 Olympics. It’s a great system, very easy to use and a quick ride with only one transfer. MARTA consists of two north-south lines and two east-west lines that intersect in one spot. Both north-south lines begin at the airport making it very convenient for travelers. More and more cities are building these systems making getting to and from the airport much easier than it used to be – and cheaper than the taxi alternative.
Some find MARTA very comfortable
We walked about five blocks from the MARTA station to the memorial. The visitor center is small enough to go through in less than an hour including the 28 minute movie. They do a good job of highlighting his career and the elements of his philosophy without overdramatizing or getting maudlin over his death. One small section designed for kids discusses ways to get involved. The display area is divided into small ‘rooms’ to highlight different points in the movement. Quotes and pictures line the walls along with a television running his speeches or statements by those who were with him.
Martin's funeral procession
Part of an outside mural - really a timeline of Martin's life
The only display that doesn't work for me is the walk. Several generic people are displayed walking up a street with a hard-to-read sign at the end discussing how we each need to make our walk. I think most people appreciate the art, but it is hard to get the point.  
The Walk
The memorial is located on Auburn Street where MLK grew up and was one of the richest black neighborhoods in the South. After riots in 1906, the area was taken over by blacks who developed it with a thriving business district. MLK grew up surrounded by successful African-Americans so he saw a world that could be even as he also saw the segregation around him. Like other such districts like Beale Street in Memphis, today, the district is much less than it was with only a couple of business left. It is still a neighborhood and perhaps it will grow again with the building of a trolley line that will connect the area with downtown.

The King house
An upper middle class neighborhood
Shotgun duplexes - Called shotgun because the hallway ran the length of the house so you could fire a gun through the front door and out the back without hitting anything. Each duplex had four rooms. 

In the area, we also walked by the house MLK grew up in and the fire station where he spend some of his time as a child. Even though the fire department was segregated until the1960s, the firemen welcomed the neighborhood children who, as boys would be, were excited by the trucks and the work.
What boy wouldn't have fun hanging out here?
A memorial pond highlights the graves of Martin and Coretta, an eternal flame, and a Peace rose developed in her name.

Our last stop was to visit Ebenezer Baptist Church where Martin followed his father and grandfather into the ministry. Now just a memorial, it has been restored to its condition when Martin was minister there. The congregation has grown and built a new sanctuary across the street.

Tomorrow we will be in Johannesburg and tour the Apartheid Museum so this was a fitting beginning to our sojourn in South Africa.  Although apartheid was abhorrent, Americans cannot chastise the South Africans when you consider our history of the treatment of African Americans. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Days 6 and 7 - Quinault to Raymond to Ilwaco

Here is the itinerary for our Africa trip.

Quinault to Raymond

Good wines support local causes. Every bottle has a specific charity.
Since today would be about 100 miles, I made sure to leave early on the road by 6:30. For the first time, the fog lifted before noon and we were in the sun at about 7:30. The ride itself today was uneventful. I did have a couple of people follow me for a while thanking me for being a windbreak. It isn’t often that I get that opportunity as I tend to be significantly bigger than most of the other riders. We did follow the coastline more today and I saw more birds along one beach than I have seen on spring bird trips. I met some birdwatchers there, but they had not seen anything special, just enjoying the sun and birds.

Gulls, gulls, and more gulls
We did have about 15 miles of strong headwind as we rode from Aberdeen to Westport, but once we hit the ocean and turned south and east towards Tokeland and Raymond, the wind became to be a big supporter. I arrived in Raymond at 96 miles so I rode around town a bit and a little further down the coast to end at just over 100 miles – my first century.

One of about 20 Raymond sculptures
Raymond is doing pretty well for a small coastal town dependent on the sea and the forests. There is quite a bit downtown and the Pitchwood Alehouse with live music and good food.. Our camp is right next to their small live theater that does five productions a year – one being a children’s show. Their goal is to keep theater alive in Raymond and the volunteers I met certainly seem up to the challenge. The town is well-decorated with sculptures representing the various aspects of the city and they have built a nice bike trail that heads towards Ilwaco and Long Beach.
Mural from railroad days

 Raymond to Ilwaco

The last ride would be another short one of about 50 miles so I was in no hurry to get started. I took so much time I was one of the last to leave camp and therefore one of the last to arrive in Ilwaco. The fog lifted almost immediately providing some lovely views over the water. We followed the new bicycle trail to South Bend. South Bend is the county seat of Pacific County by virtue of the fact that they stole it from Oysterville on the Long Beach Peninsula. I tried to get more information, but the online sites ignore this interesting bit of history. The first 20 miles were almost perfectly flat followed by another 20 miles of rollers, most of which only slowed us down a bit. The whole length followed the coast of Willapa Bay providing some beautiful riding.
This fog lifted quickly after providing a nice morning view

After navigating through town we arrived at Cape Disappointment State Park and more rollers before reaching Waikiki Beach and the end of the ride. Some of the riders did a ceremonial dip in the Ocean before loading up for the ride home. Lines became the order of the day as over 200 of the riders rode the buses back to Seattle. Bicycles are loaded in one truck and bags into another. Of course, the first part of getting a bag into the truck would be finding it amongst the 500 or so lying on the blacktop.

Find your bag

Stand in line
After lunch and goodbyes to new friends, Linda picked me up and we left for the Shelburne Inn where we would have dinner and spend the night. Reputed to be one of the best restaurants anywhere, we were somewhat disappointed, but we did have a nice drive around the Peninsula and a short walk through the wildlife refuge at the north end of the peninsula. Next year the ride will begin here and end in Walla Walla where I’m sure we will find some time for wine tasting.



Monday, September 15, 2014

RAW Days 4 and 5 - Port Angeles to Forks to Quinault

Here is our itinerary for the Africa trip.

Port Angeles to Forks

70 miles today along some rather dangerous roads we had to share with logging trucks, but a beautiful stretch of road. No Olympic Discovery Trail today although we did ride on the double decker bridge built for the trail. It’s just that we were on the Highway above the trail section. Hopefully, by the time they do this section again on RAW, the trail will be finished. Most of the first 30 miles was foggy this morning. The morning fog seems to be lasting the entire morning here. We did hit a clear spot on the above-mentioned bridge over the Elwah River. Several gave up their jackets thinking we were done with the fog. Most of them regretted that move as we quickly found the fog again.
Checking out the Discovery Trail below

Elwah River flowing free
Our first rest stop was in Joyce at the Blackberry Café. Enough riders stopped for something blackberry to eat to make the restaurant standing-room only. One of the riders did get into an interesting conversation with some loggers. She explained her fear of them driving so close to the riders. They were upset that we were even there interfering with their expectation to be able to drive as fast as they felt safe. No changing of minds, but at least some understanding. It does show the importance of a ride like this making the locals feel like the bicycles are making a positive impact and not just getting in the way. I heard later that the police were called about one driver who went out of his way to be dangerous. Hopefully, next time this ride comes through here, the Olympic Discovery Trail will be complete and this problem will be eliminated.
Lunch was at Pillar Point, one of the few places along 112 where we actually approach the Strait of Juan de Fuca. From there we rode 10 easy miles before starting our last big climb of the week over the coast range to Highway 101. I had hoped to take a short detour to visit Snider Ranger Station where we had lived when I was four, but we were already past that turnoff when we hit 101 so that will have to wait for another time.

Forks Timber Museum
We spent the night in Forks where we were entertained by the Quileute Ocean Canoe Dancers who had just returned by canoe from Bella Coola in British Columbia. I took an easy ride through town to see all the “Twilight” references. What I did not see was a tavern much to my surprise.

Forks to Quinault

Today we rode 65 miles on Highway 101. Washington’s coast road  does not spend much time actually on the coast. We were close to the ocean for only about five miles. We stopped for lunch at Beach 4 – yes, we use numbers to name the beaches here. The spectacular stop is at Kalaloch Lodge, a short rock cliff overlooking a creek and sandy beach. A small hotel and restaurant are joined by about 20 cabins. Linda and I often drive up here from Ocean Shores for a pleasant lunch watching the eagles and gulls cavorting on the beach and in the air.
Typical morning fog lasts until noon

Ruby Beach where it was still foggy
We camped at Quinault High School in Amanda Park. This time I chose to not visit my former home on Lake Quinault. Another 20 miles wasn’t necessary since we would be riding 100 miles the next day.


RAW Days 2 and 3 - Coupeville to Port Angeles

Here is the itinerary for our Africa trip.

Coupeville to Port Angeles

Near the ferry landing. The cabins are for rent.
Today we rode from Coupeville to Port Angeles. Because the ride included a ferry trip, we had a very early start. I got things as ready as I could so I could get my clothes bag on the truck at 4:45 am on the way to breakfast and then have time to strike the tent and be on the road by 6:00 for the flat four miles to the ferry landing. We awoke to a heavy fog which made me glad I had made the decision to bring everything other than my bike inside the tent. Everything was so damp, we could just as easily had a rainstorm overnight things we so wet.

Everyone made it to the ferry on time including Governor Inslee who joined us for the day. Inslee made an official declaration about the ride and named the director as the person of the day. No one knew he was coming until he called the night before to say he would take the place of an aide who was unable to ride for the day. An avid cyclist, Inslee was one of the early finishers for the day.
Discovery Bay
The highlight of the ride was the amount of time we got to ride on the Olympic Discovery Trail. This multi-use trail will eventually extend 126 miles from Port Townsend to the Pacific Ocean at LaPush. By skirting the north side of Lake Crescent it will avoid what is not a difficult choice between a narrow section of Highway 101 or a long ride on Highway 112 where riders must compete with logging trucks who are none too happy about sharing the road. For now we have about 40 miles available and can see what a great job they have done to create this trail. We traveled through heavily wooded sections and spent time right along the coast enjoying the views of the water. For today, the few miles we actually we enjoyed lightly traveled roads usually with wide shoulders. The only difficult part of the ride was the last few miles into Port Angeles as we faced a good headwind once we left the forest.

One of the beautiful Madrona trees seen along the coast from BC to California

The bark peels naturally leaving this great beauty

One unfinished section of the trail. Fortunately, only about 100 feet of gravel.

Today was a good bird day with a bald eagle in the trees above the ferry landing, marbled murrelets as we rode the ferry and a pair of kingfishers flashing in front of me along Discovery Bay. Of course, we also saw a number of gulls along the coast line. The S’Kallam tribe drum band played a welcome song and a blanket song for our evening entertainment as they passed the blanket raising money for a Hawaii trip to a PowWow in Hawaii honoring one of their elders. Several pre-school age children soloed during the performance.
S'Klallam Dancers
Following the performance, the tribal chair talked about effort to remove the two dams on the Elwah River. So far, this is the largest dam removal project in the US. They will finish the removal of the second dam this year opening the rivers to salmon for the first time in nearly 100 years. The Elwah was once famous for the 100 pound chinook salmon that were regularly caught. While about 1/3 of the sediment is yet to make its way down the river, they are already seeing salmon return to some of the tributaries and birds returning to the recreated sandbars at the mouth of the river.

Port Angeles Rest Day

Today is the rest day which means there are optional rides for those who want to further punish their bodies. Ride alternatives include the 12 mile climb up Hurricane Ridge and an easier 40-mile loop. Other options included taking the Black Ball Ferry to Victoria or just hanging out in Port Angeles. The local bicycle club arranged for us to get a free beer at one of the local breweries where it set up a bike corral to protect the bikes while we wandered around downtown.
Free beer and bicycle parking at the Barhop.

Port Angeles waterfront art
 I thought I would try the 40-mile loop but after about 12 miles, I decided I would just head back to town to find a bookstore and lunch before heading back to camp. Since I had already finished two of the three books I brought on the ride and was nearly done with the third, I knew I would need a couple more. Fortunately, PA has two nice bookstores downtown where I was able to find a couple of books already on my reading list. I had a great burger and beer at the Next Door Gastropub where I met a couple from Dallas, Texas who were on their way to Vancouver, Washington so I was able to give them some advice about things to do and see in my home town.
After a shower back at camp, I hopped on the bus to take a tour of the Arthur D. Feiro Marine Life Center. Fiero was a high school biology teacher who pretty much single-handedly brought the center to life and played a major role in the creation and development of Peninsula Community College.  The center is a research facility with several live tanks filled with local sea life. Our guide had been a metal engineer in Minnesota before deciding on a second career as a marine biologist. Somehow he made it to PA where he earned at AA degree and Peninsula Community College and now spends most of his time volunteering at the Marine Center. Among other things he told us about how the octopus injects a paralyzing element into its crab captives. The paralyzer softens the crab meat so that the octopus can suck it out of the crab without crushing the shell. After the tour, I headed over to the Bar Hop for my free beer before the bus ride back to camp and dinner.