I’m still under the weather, it’s recovery day
|Miles Driven Today
|Total Trip Mileage
|Countries visited Today
|Countries visited on trip
|US, Canada, UK, The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Finland, Estonia, Russia, Kazakhstan
We’re staying at the Kazzhol hotel in Astana, and it is a thoroughly modern hotel, with some features which are rare, even in US hotels. For example, all of the lights in the hallway are motion sensitive, and the key-locks on the doors are not only proximity sensitive with your room key, but they also play a little bit of music while the system unlocks your door. What a lovely way to be greeted by my hotel door…
Today’s breakfast buffet was pretty good, but not quite awesome. They had an omelette chef, and the “sausages” weren’t simply hot dogs. Today, the sausages were mini hot dogs, which were slightly browned outside, and also made of a slightly denser meat, which made them a little bit more like a sausage. So, we take our gains any way that we can, right?
I have to say that it feels great to see all of the comments and positive things that you’ve all had to say about the Blog, and about the posts each day. So, please keep them coming. I do my best to respond to every post, but it can sometimes be difficult, as the concept of net neutrality does not exist in this part of the world, and reliable internet is just a thing that you read about. Oh, and given the unreliable internet, it’s safe to say that you don’t read about reliable internet, on the Internet.
A few comments about Russia
In the US, given all of the political wrangling that goes on between the US and Russia, through the current administration, its very easy to develop a point of view about Russia and about the Russian People. It is undeniably true that at each hotel, they take our passports, copy them, looking at every page, and return them to us after an hour, or maybe even 24 hours. They also clearly divert web traffic to other websites of their choosing, and they also filter and restrict access to website, services, and Web APIs. That said, all of this is largely the work of the Russian government.
The people of Russia, are wonderful. I can’t count the number of times, of different ways that we’ve been extended help, and kindness. These people offer warm smiles, handshakes, high-fives, and are generally in awe that an American is in their country. Phil also lives in the US, but he is a Canadian citizen, so I’m the only American. I can tell you that when I show them my South Carolina license plate, and say “USA”, they just look at me with shock, and offer a smile. Usually, at the point in the conversation we jointly say “Crazy, right?”.
So, it seems that both of us understand that what I’m doing is crazy, on the one hand, but it’s also real, adventurous, and risky. They appreciate it, and they offer kindness and they welcome me in return.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not moving to Russia any time soon, but these people are wonderful people, who want the same things that we want, and especially want to show me and us that they are good global citizens. Hats off to the people of Russia.
Another productive day, but
Well, I needed to sleep late and get extra time in the sack, which I did. but I also needed to solve a few other issues that have cropped up. First, I needed to purchase a USB to USB cable, so that I can charge the drone batteries in the van, while they are driving. Next, I needed to get a new pin in the band of my medical information bracelet, and I needed to find and install a 256 GB memory card into the Innov camera, having lost the last one somewhere into the deepest, darkest regions of the bike.
So, I connected the phone via WiFi to the hotel, talked to the front desk, and at 11:00 AM, I left the hotel, looking to walk the 2 miles to the mall, taking in the sights along the way. The phone started acting up, so I shut down the navigation app, and rebooted the phone. When it came up, I was no longer able to connect to the Internet, using cellular data. I noticed that the account somehow needed to be validated, perhaps because of the SIM card change. So, I gave up on getting to the mall, as there is no way to do it without a navigation system. You can’t even call a reasonably priced cab without the phone, so I turned around, and headed back to the hotel. I stopped at a cafe which had WiFi, but was unable to fix the problem. So, I continued back towards the hotel. And then I thought, the hotel is near a very busy road, I’ll bet there is someplace to buy the stuff I need.
So, I started down the main drag, looking at signs, trying to determine, by looking at the words and pictures, if they might be a computer store, or a cell phone store. As it turns out, none of them were. But, after 30 minutes of walking, I came upon a big building, which had almost no markings, but somehow, it looked promising. I walked up the steps, and entered and was shocked to see small retail shops for just about anything you might need or want. So, I found a cell phone store, and bought all most of the cables I need, then I noticed that there was a Beeline cellular store 50 feet away. Beeline is the provider that issued me the new SIM card, so I strolled in, and within 5 minutes, I was talking with the young guy in the store.
Within 5 minutes, he had converted my phone to use the Russian Language, entered a number of qualified domain names for some of the cellular configuration fields, and we eventually got it working with YouTube. I tried to use Firefox on the phone, but no go. That’s when I mentioned the VPN, and he said, no, VPN is not allowed. So, it looks like Beeline is blocking VPN access. I killed the app, and everything started to work. I tried a few tests, but the phone was still in Russian, so another quick reconfiguration, and I was back in business. And so, with cables in hand, and a working cell phone, I headed back to the hotel.
Given that we’re approaching Kyrgyzstan, the place that I imagined I’d first be able to fly the drone, I need to get ready, and do my best to recall all of the skills needed to pilot this thing.
So, at about 6:00, I decided to do a drone test in the parking lot. I set out the landing pad, launched the drone, and began filming the bikes. About 1 or two minutes into the flight, the drone controller announced to me that it had reset the home point. I didn’t think much of this when it happened, as it had happened to me many times when I flew the drone at home. But, this time would prove to be different.
As it turns out, it reset the home point to a point which was outside the boundaries of the parking lot, over the lot next door. If the drone landed there, I’d need to climb fences, and deal with all of that, so I wanted to avoid that problem at all costs.
So, after my test was complete, I pressed the Return-To-Home button, and the drone began to return home. But, as it turns out, it thought that its home was not where I was standing, but 40 yards away, in another vacant lot. So, when I noticed that this was the problem, I tried to override the drone, and fly it back to me. But, this thing is very smart, and when you say “Go Home” this little thing takes your request seriously. So, for the next 15 minutes, I fought with the drone, trying to get it to land using a manual override, while it would get within 8 feet of the ground, and then launch itself up in the air again, trying to get home. This went on for 15 minutes.
I had asked Mike and Phil for help, so they grabbed the landing pad, and stood under the drone, waiting for it to fall out of the sky, hoping to catch it when the batteries ran dead. Eventually it landed, with a sort of gentle crash. But, it’s unharmed, and I’ll do another test soon.
For next time, I’ve discovered why it reset the home point, and I can easily fix it so that doesn’t happen again. In the meantime, we dodged a bullet, and lived to fly another day.
Mike and I headed to Gaucho, an Argentinian restaurant that specializes in steaks and such. The meal was pretty good, and we finished up with a glass of Amaretto. All in all, a very civilized meal indeed.
What will tomorrow bring?
Tomorrow’s ride is expected to be mostly straight, across the grasslands of Kazakhstan, which will put us within about 650 miles of Almaty, a major destination and rest stop for us.