Road Trips

"I Wish I Could Go Travelling Again".  Stacey Kent, Breakfast on the Morning Tram (2007)

The daily rummage through my map box has, perhaps inevitably, triggered nostalgia for past road trips.

Two of my favourite road trips were in North America - only six months apart.  Firstly joining up a series of National Parks in and around the Rockies in the US in September 2006, then driving between Vancouver and Athabasca in northern Alberta in Canada in April 2007.  

The first trip was entirely vacation, and the second (mostly, -ish) a work trip.   

The US trip was very vaguely planned - hotels were booked a day in advance and the standard dinner conversation theme was 'where do we go tomorrow?'.  The Canadian trip was booked in advance (couldn't be late for the various work meetings in Vancouver, Edmonton and Athabasca) with quite a lot of guess work about how long the driving was going to take each day, given that April is still snow season in that part of Canada.  My one real concession to the weather was renting a 4x4 truck rather than a standard 2-wheel drive compact we had for the US trip.

The US trip started (and finished) at Denver airport, and meandered through Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, the Dakotas and Nebraska, and featured time in Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Glacier and Badlands National Parks plus Devils Tower and Scotts Bluff National Monuments - and at Mount Rushmore.  And to ensure a taste of genuine Americana, the list of hotels included Comfort Inns, Quality Inns, Days Inns, Best Westerns plus a variety of Motel 6s and Super 8s. And once we got back to Denver Airport (not in the original car - it gave up the ghost somewhere in rural Montana) we'd clocked up just under 3000 miles.

Yellowstone National Park

Grand Teton National Park

Glacier National Park (the US one) 

Mount Rushmore

Devils Tower / Bear Lodge Butte

The Canadian trip started with a few days in a waterside hotel in Vancouver (conference venue) - just round the waterfront from Stanley Park and in a room with an awesome view across the Coal Harbour marina.  By virtue of good planning the next meeting was in Edmonton three days later which gave me plenty of time to drive the 1300 km, stopping off in Revelstoke and Lake Louise en route (passing through Mt Revelstoke, Glacier, Yoho and Banff National Parks).  After Edmonton a short (by Canadian standards) drive north to Athabasca.  Next confirmed stop after that was to drop off the rental truck back at Vancouver Airport - but the opportunity to spend a couple of days around the Jasper National Park wasn't one to be passed up (although I did manage to resist the temptation to head up the 'scenic route to Alaska', maybe next time).  By the time I dropped the truck off at the airport I'd clocked up just over 2000 miles.

Glacier National Park (Canadian one)

Lake Louise

Off-Road / Columbia Icefield

Moose Lake (British Colombia)

At this point, I'd settle for the opportunity to do the road trip from Oxford to Aberdeen, but one day long road trips like this will seem possible again...


So how do you counter wanderlust in a LockDown in the middle of a pandemic?

Do you reflect on places you've been to in the past?  Or do you plan speculatively for trips you might be able to do at some point in the future?

Do you browse through the old photographs of places you seen? Or unfold the old maps to revisit the paths you've walked, the trains you've ridden and the roads you've driven?  Or browse the old guide books that you've bought both for trips you've taken and for trips that were planned and didn't (for various reasons) ever happen?

Over the last 11 months, I've tried all the above strategies. 

The latest ploy is digging my way through the 'old maps' box - this is where all maps (with the exception of Ordnance Survey maps) wind up.  This is a mix of 'proper' maps comparable to the OS maps, and usually associated with places we've gone on walking trips, road maps (of various scales) and 'scenic' maps which have been acquired when I've not been able to find real maps.  Some of the maps are associated with trips from the 1980s and 1990s - other are so new that they were bought for trips last year that ultimately got Corona'ed.

Recently, I've spent time 'wandering' around the Achensee, along the banks of the Charles River in Boston and through the French Pyrennes.  I've toured Denmark, wandered the Old Town in Edinburgh and been back to The Faroe Islands, and rounded off the week by heading back to Grindelwald in the Swiss Alps.

And does this work in fending off symptoms of wanderlust (you know, itchy feet and a deep desire to spend more money at Stanfords in London or to plan trips on  No, of course, it bloody doesn't.  Makes it much worse, but it does at least help the time pass.

Monthly Report, January 2021

It would have been good to have started the year (as I have done in past years) by spending time in the snow in the Cairngorms, then heading to Shetland for a spot of Viking spotting (Up Helly Aa season) and wave watching.

However, although there is plenty of snow in the mountains and both snow and waves on Shetland at the moment, the Vikings have been stood down for another year and I'm trapped in Oxford.  

Reporting Days: 31

Location: Oxford

Miles walked: 95 (really not good enough)

Mile driven: 250

Gardens Tended: 2 (I'm counting filling the bird feeders as gardening)

Puffins Seen: None - but lots of sparrows, starlings, magpies and red kites

Photographs Taken:  Dozens (mostly trees)

Christ Church lagoons

Lye Valley

Misty in Bury Knowle Park

Blue skies in the University Parks

First Snowdrops

Snow in Bury Knowle Park

Happy Birthday / Sumburgh Head

I think it's important that birthdays get marked.

This is particularly true for 'round' birthdays - those that end in a "0".

So, it must, it would seem to me, to be very particularly true of birthdays that end in "00".

Today (15th January 2021) is one of those birthdays - Happy 200th Birthday (Lightday?) to the Sumburgh Head lighthouse which was first lit on Monday 15th January 1821.

I first visited Sumburgh Head in January 2007, when it was a mere 186 years old - and over the last fourteen years I've visited many, many times.  

I've visited in every month of the year, sometimes hoping for whales or puffins, sometimes to get a fix of the history associated with the Head or the lighthouse itself, sometimes to watch passing boats and sometimes to watch the waves either out on the the east side or rolling into West Voe - and sometimes just in search of coffee. 

Here are a few of my favourite pictures (one from each month of the year) of the Sumburgh Head lighthouse - from my first visit in January 2007 through to my most recent visit just a few weeks ago.

January 2007

February 2005

March 2011

April 2018

May 2019

June 2011

July 2020

August 2014

September 2012

October 2010

November 2019

December 2020

And once again - many Happy Returns of the Day - and may your light always shine brightly - and thank you for all the fish.

12 Days Wild

It is always good to have something to encourage you across the doorstep when the weather is a bit dubious and there is the lure of another round of drinks to be drunk or cake that needs to be eaten, so I was pleased that the Wildlife Trusts were encouraging us all out to search for some hint of wildness each day over the Christmas holidays.  And given the Covid lockdowns (or nearly lockdowns, at least) keeping in touch with nature seems more important than ever.

Here are pictures from my 12 Days of Wild Christmas 2020 - all taken locally! Or maybe it was 13 Days.

25th December

26th December

27th December

28th December

29th December

30th December

31st December

1st January

2nd January

3rd January

4th January

5th January

6th January

2020 Performance Review

Apologies - page formatting on the phone view is messed up, am trying to disentangle it.

Well, OK - in time honoured tradition - annual performance review.  

So, who saw that coming?

Anyway, let's start with the positives. 

I did hit my goal of 366 pictures of the day (and 12 pictures of the month).  I did take an implausibly large number of photographs (mostly down to being shutter happy while on Shetland). I did manage four blocks of time on Shetland and of the four Alpine holidays booked one did actually happened.

I've probably eaten better this year than in recent years - and I'm attributing this to having more time to cook and the splendid veg boxes we've had from UE Coffee Roasters early in the year and from Riverford more recently.

I did finish my camera refresh, and finally trade-in my bag of Nikon kit for Sony kit. I'm counting the trade-in as a win, since I usually hang on to old cameras until they are covered in dust and have absolutely no value. 

I did finally hang up my IT and Ed Tech hats and retire (for now, at least)

And, the numbers!

Pictures of the Day

365 in 2018 / 365 in 2019 / 366 in 2020.  Lets assume I'm going to be aiming at 365 for 2021.  My picture of the day archive now (or at least as of 31st December 2020) stands at 5852 days.

Pictures of the Month

12 in 2018 / 12 in 2019 / 12 in 2020.  See below for evidence from 2020. Aim is for another 12 in 2021.

Photos taken   

Took about 25000 photographs in 2018, 24000 in 2019, climbing to almost 39000 in 2020.  I'm putting the increased 'productivity' down to new cameras and my wild enthusiasm for being in the mountains in February, and at the coast in July, October and December.

Desk Days

Have definitely spent less time at the desk (any desk) this year - but the working from home 'opportunity' really did confuse my counting - am going to abandon this metric going forward.   I'm also going to abandon the phrase going forward going forward.

Distance Walked

In 2018 I walked just under 2000 miles, dropping to 1700 miles in 2019.  Aspiration was to get to 2000 miles this year, but circumstances.    I did get to just over 1500 miles, but I'm aiming to get closer to 2000 in 2021.

Blood Donations

Failed badly here - having given blood very regularly over the last few years, I've got out of the habit - so I need to report a very poor return here. Sorry.  I will get back to this at some point


In 2019 I only managed 39 nights spread over 10 stays on Shetland.  Despite COVID, I did clock up 51 nights on Shetland and three of the four stays involved Northlink, so my flight-footprint has been much lighter than in previous years - I've not been on a plane since the first of March.  Am hoping and intending to spend more time on Shetland this year, but current travel restrictions might yet get in the way.

Blog Posts

And finally, in 2018 I posted 28 blog entries, in 2019 this climbed to 29 and in 2020 this jumped to 66 (mostly as I rambled onto about ordnance survey maps during the first lockdown).

Pictures of the Month 2020

January - Scat Ness, Shetland

February - Austria

March - Bury Knowle Park, Oxford

April - in the garden, Oxford

May - Lye Valley, Oxford

June - Lye Valley, Oxford

July - Sumburgh Head, Shetland

August - Shotover, Oxford

September - in the garden, Oxford

October - Quendale Bay, Shetland

November - Lye Valley, Oxford

December - Quendale Bay, Shetland