Travel posts

Sometime in the next couple of days I’m going to publish a bunch of back dated posts about travel I’ve done recently (or in some cases not so recently). A lot of these posts are taken straight from emails I sent to family and friends at the time I did the actual travel, I decided to post them here as email is where keystrokes go to die.

This is a bit of a departure from what has been the norm on this blog so far, and for those following via RSS I’ve introduced categories and separate feeds for the Software/Tech category and the Travel category in addition to the existing feed containing all posts. If you’d rather not hear about travel posts, please update your subscription :)

Technically, the only interesting part of this is handling the images I wanted to include in the posts. I’ve included a few images in the past, but never in a large quantity.

I use Google Photos/Drive for all my photos, and originally tried hotlinking the photos from there. If this was supported it would have been the best solution, as I wouldn’t have to duplicate the photos and it would be easy to include them (though some of them are quite large). Unfortunately (though unsurprisingly) Google Photos/Drive doesn’t support hotlinking, and any direct links to images expire after a while.

The next option was using the Google Drive ‘embed’ functionality, which involves inserting some HTML into the post which will load an IFrame. This worked, but:

  • it looked a little clunky on desktop and didn’t scale well on mobile
  • a Google IFrame means Google tracking cookies
  • performance was poor - loading all the images on one of the travel posts using this method resulted in a whole load of extra requests:

I ended up committing them into the Git repository that backs this static site, but that does mean the repo size is going to grow a lot more than it should. As it’s just me working on this repo though, I can always use git filter-branch as a last resort if I do want to move the images elsewhere. To avoid bloating the repo too much and to keep loading times low I did fairly aggressively reduce the file size with ImageMagick:

mogrify -sampling-factor 4:2:0 \
  -strip \
  -quality 85 \
  -interlace JPEG \
  -colorspace sRGB \
  -resize 50% \
  -auto-orient
  *

The final change was adding lazy loading using Lozad.js. Thankfully I include almost all the images on my site using a custom Jekyll include so I just had to include the library and change one file to get lazy loading across the board.

Brown County State Park & Nashville, IN

Last week was my final week staffed in Cincinnati, so I finally got my act together, booked an Airbnb and drove across to Brown County State Park in Indiana. I’ve been meaning to go there for a while, as according to MTB Project and Singletracks the state park and surrounding areas have some of the best trails in Indiana.

I wasn’t disappointed - the state park is amazing. Miles of well maintained trails (gravel, downhill flow, technical sections/rock gardens) coupled with amazing views made the trip worthwhile.

Washington DC

I’m at the airport about to head back to Cinci after a couple of days in the US capital.

It was a good trip, though I almost missed my flight thanks to leaving a bag at security and only realising when boarding had already started. The 1 km run to security and back while wearing boots and wondering if I was going to make it got my heart rate up!

The moment I left the airport in DC a motorcade stopped all the traffic which I guess is a fairly regular occurrence here.

On Friday night I walked about 8 km from my hotel past the Marine Corps memorial, around Arlington national cemetery (you’ve probably seen this in movies ­ rows and rows of white tombstones), across into DC, to the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument, north to the White House, past the treasury and to a local pub for a nightcap. It’s crazy how close all these attractions are. While I was outside the White House a guy next to me said to his mate, not too quietly, “I think I see Donald standing at the window in his underwear, crying” at which point I burst out laughing.

The big green area between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington monument is called the National Mall extends even further east to the US capitol building. Its surrounded by museums, monuments, memorials and other federal buildings.

On Saturday I caught the Metro and started at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum which someone from work recommended, it was filled with really cool stuff. There was also a fighter jet simulator there which would roll upside down and everything, it was pretty great! It was a short run but I think I’d have made myself sick if it was too much longer.

The national art gallery was on the other side of national mall, so I went there next. There was lots of … art. I appreciated a few things but I can only handle so many portraits of stuffy old white dudes. The oldest painting I saw was from 1247, and there were loads of pretty old sculptures. There was a painting by da Vinci and more recent names I know like Andy Warhol.

From there it was a short walk to the United States Capitol, which is the most impressive building around. I was able to go inside the rotunda, but the full tours were all booked out.

The Library of Congress is reachable from the Capitol via a tunnel, so I went there next - another super impressive building. Jefferson was apparently a big reader and his collection of books was there, they weren’t all dated but some were super old.

Another Metro ride home and a run closed out Saturday. Managed 9km at just over 12 km/h (with a few stops for stretching and photos) despite the temperature sitting at around 30°C. Theodore Roosevelt Island was really nice.

New York City

I spent the last weekend in New York City, doing the tourist thing. I went with very few plans and met up with another guy from work who has spent a year in NYC. Despite a several hour delay and change of airline & airport on the flight there, it was a successful trip!

Saturday played out as a busy day! In order:

  • Run in Central Park
  • Grand Central Station
  • The High Line - a park that’s been built on decommissioned overhead train tacks
  • Oculus - a $4 billion transit station
  • 9/11 Memorial - pretty sobering to think there were two massive buildings full of people where the monuments now stand
  • One World Observatory, 102 floors up
  • Stone Street - a street in the historic district with lots of old bars, it was absolutely packed though because of Cinco de Mayo
  • Times Square
  • Dinner at Ipanema
  • A Housewarming in Brooklyn, where we ended the day

Sunday was a quieter day. We spent most of our time in Dumbo (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), an area in Brooklyn with pretty great views of the city. We went to Grimaldi’s pizza, which is one of the old, amazing pizza places in NYC. A walk across the Brooklyn Bridge closed out the weekend:

Miami, Florida Keys & Shark Valley in the Everglades

I spent last weekend in Miami! South Beach/South Pointe Pier was the first stop, and the weather played along nicely.

The nearby Art Deco Historic District had some classic Miami colours:

I spent Friday evening wandering around Wynwood. The urban art there is amazing, the below is just a tiny sample.

On Saturday I drove the Overseas Highway from my hotel to Key West.

The drive down was beautiful, though it’s a little bizarre being on some of the really long bridges.

I had to take the obligatory selfie at the Southernmost Point of the Continental US in Key West.

There was loads more to do in Key West, but I didn’t have loads of time given I was doing the drive back to Miami the same day - I definitely have to visit again!

On Sunday I went to Shark Valley in the Everglades where I hired a bike and rode a 24 km loop. There were so many alligators!

The tower at the half way point of the loop provided a good view, and was my last stop for the day before heading to MIA and back to CVG.