After a week of poor weather and almost non-stop rain, today started dry so this morning we walked into town. There were old cars on display near various Coventry University including near the Cathedral. The range of cars included Alvis (which were built in the city on a site which is now a shopping centre). There several other old cars and sports cars and also what looked like a Japanese TV camera crew filming the collection.
A new junction has recently been installed in the city centre, based on similar ones pioneered in The Netherlands. The traffic lights have been removed from the junction between Jordon Well, Cox Street and Whitfriars Street and the junction has been coloured red:
Today was the first time I have been into the city centre since the junction was finished. Apparently the theory is that vehicles and pedestrians all have the same priority as each other and all vehicles need to slow down and navigate the junction with care. Similar schemes have been tried in Europe and they seem to work.
I'm in Chicago for a week, attending a conference. We got here on tuesday but our luggage didn't arrive until last night thanks to our 1st plane being late and the airline not having enough time to transfer the luggage over to the 2nd plane. Unfortunately my laptop charger was in the luggage so I had to restrict computer use because I didn't want the battery to run down and leave me unable to do any work.
I'll upload some photos eventually but I'll just waffle on slightly at random for a few minutes first.
There seem to be a lot of 'news' style programmes on in the mornings and I found myself watching a lot of 'Good Morning America' on ABC but I had to give up because they were spending so much time talking about the upcoming Royal Wedding. I'm sure I've seen more about it here than back home.
I really can't watch Fox News. It seems to be aimed at 10 year olds, or at least aimed at people who like inane comments and slightly stupid sounding presenters.
Why did CNN give Pierce Morgan the Larry King job? Surely they could have found someone better, or at least less annoying.
About half the adverts seem to be for pharmaceuticals of various types. A lot of these have a spoken warning at the end which seem to imply that one of the side effects might be death. I know they have to be careful and try to cover all eventualities but that would put me off wanting to take some. Also I mocked an advert for a product aimed at people who couldn't produce enough tears and so needed something to lubricate their eyes. I really wouldn't have thought there was a huge need for such a product and couldn't understand why it was being advertised so much. That was until I spent 2 days in an over-air-conditioned conference centre which seems to be sucking all moisture from my body. Now I understand. If most offices are as bad as that then there is definitely a need for the product, but surely a simpler solution would be just to turn the air conditioning down a little. Where I am right now, there is a bridge between the conference centre and the hotel and there is often a howling gale blowing though, probably caused by an imbalance in the air conditioning in the two buildings.
OK, I spent longer prattling about medicines and air conditioning than I really intended. One thing which has impressed me about Chicago is the public transport. The buses and trains are cheap at $2.25 for a journey or $23 for a pass which is valid for an entire week. This even includes a trip from the airport to the city centre. The buses also have a loudspeaker which gives the name of the next stop or road junction, which makes it really easy to find out where you are and when you need to get off. This is so much better than the buses in Coventry, which are expensive and not part of a properly 'integrated transport' system and half of the drivers don't seem to know their route very well so if you try to ask them if they go past a particular place they can't or won't answer you. The 'Travel West Midlands' company which runs most of the Coventry bus service can't even be arsed putting prices on its website so as an infrequent bus user it's a pain finding out the prices because all the buses are 'exact change only'. The Chicago buses are also exact change, but since all journeys are the same price and that price is well publicised, it's a much friendlier system.
Beer is quite expensive here with pints being between $5-8 depending on bar and type of beer, but a lot of bars seem to stock a good range of 'proper' beers and not just industrial factory-made tasteless lagers. I've been impressed with the beer selection in most of the places I've been to so far.
Food in bars is reasonably priced and of course the portions are enormous. We've not been disappointed by either size of quality. Food in shops is quite expensive, with fruit often costing $1 a piece and snack bars are at least that much too. I was terribly disappointed with the american Tropicana juice. Back home, Tropicana is a premium brand and is nearly all 'freshly squeezed' or at least not from concentrate. All the juices I've seen so far here have been made from concentrate and have other flavours added, usually listed as something like 'Naturally occurring flavours not from Orange' or something similar. The flavour is nowhere near as good as the UK Tropicana.
It must be the start of winter now. The weather has been getting a lot colder, we've had to have the central heating coming on earlier, and there has been a lot more frost in the mornings. Yesterday there was a very thick layer of frost on the car windscreen. It took two sprays and scrapes using the de-icer spray, and the ice was so stubborn it broke the windscreen scraper.
It was a very slow drive home last night, possibly not weather related though. There was a burnt out car on the side of the road which must only just have been extinguished because it was still steaming.
It was very foggy this morning but luckily the windscreen wasn't frozen over again.
While I was driving home tonight, it was raining heavily. We live near the top of a hill so there was a lot of rainwater flowing down the road. The drainage grids seemed to be at full capacity and there were a lot of deep puddles on the road.
The water from up the hill was flowing down within the drains at such a rate that I saw a fountain of water coming up in the middle of the road, in a similar fashion to an artesian well. The fountain was only about 3-4 inches high but it was an unusual sight. It was far too wet to stop and take a photo.
I drove down Charter Avenue today, between the A45 and Cannon Park. The last time I drove along it the road surface was pretty bad, with quite a lot of potholes. Today the potholes had spread along most of the road. The freezing weather earlier in the month seems to have taken its toll on the road surface. A lot of roads have suffered but this one seems worse than most.
It started snowing yesterday and by the time we left work there about an inch or so had fallen. The main roads on the way home weren't too bad but our road was very slippery. We live on the side of a hill so I had to drive up very carefully. Even so, I could feel the car wanting to slide sideways.
The road was no better this morning. All the pavements were very icy. I walked into town to take some photos of the city centre in the snow.
Click on the thumbnail to view the image
I probably can't blame Friday the 13th but tonights drive home was probably the slowest ever. There had been a crash which closed the M6, causing most of the traffic to divert along local roads. Roads which were normally free-flowing were backed up for miles. It took us a couple of hours to drive the 5 miles home.
Today is proving to be a numerically challenged day. The Daily Mail has problems with years and now this:
There are speed cameras along the A46 in the roadworks near the junction with the M40. The speed limit has been lowered to 40mph and signs light up to warn speeding motorists of the new limit. I was driving at 38mph, according to the speedometer in the car. This didn't stop the sign from flashing at me telling me to slow to 40mph.
There appear to be some strange place names in Shropshire. I noticed these while checking the route to Ironbridge.
To the driver of the pale blue Vauxhall Vectra, who was driving behind me on my journey to work this morning. You were so close to my car I wondered whether you wanted me to open the boot so you could climb inside. I thought you were impatient or in a hurry but when we got to a empty straight bit of road, you failed to overtake. I then realised you weren't in a hurry but were just a dickhead with poor road manners and no concept of road safety.
Our regular drive to Swanns near Allesley, to buy quail food, normally only takes a few minutes. It took rather longer today thanks to some surprise road closures, caused by some kind of road race. We normally drive up Washbrook Lane but it was closed. We turned around and drove the length of Browns Lane and tried a different way but encountered more closed roads.
We weren't the only people caught up in this. We drove about half a mile down one road before we met the road closed barriers. It would have been nice if they had put a sign up further down the road to stop everyone from wasting time and petrol. At least the people manning the barriers helped us find a detour to get to our destination.
One of the people we encountered on our travels lived in the area but didn't know anything about the race or which roads were closed. He was driving around trying to find his way home. The road closures should probably have been better publicised. I realise that closing country lanes doesn't cause as much disruption as closing part of the ring road for the Lady Godiva Half Marathon but it was still an inconvenience to a number of people.
We had a very frustrating drive to work this morning. We left the house a few minutes earlier than normal and got caught up in the school run. There were dozens of cars shuffling about, reversing, doing u-turns and generally impeding traffic and blocking the road. When there was a gap, a lot of the mums in their tiny cars seemed unwilling to try drive through, despite the gap being big enough for a much bigger car.
The worst thing about this is that there are several primary schools in the area and I'm sure most of the kids will live within half a mile, so they could easily be walked to school. Especially on a sunny day like today, when kids should be encouraged to be outside, and not shuttled back and forth in cars.
I might not be the best driver in the world but I try to avoid inconveniencing other people, unlike the person who insisted on doing a u-turn in a very restricted area, holding up the traffic for a minute or so.
Count to ten. Deep breath. Rant over. Calm Down.
This evening I looked at a few locations, including our current address (the google car went down our road after we left for work but before the bins were emptied) and our old house (the spiky bush next to the front door has been dug up since we left).
The images have been stitched together from multiple photos, which has led to some strange 'artifacts' such as a man buried in the pavement near the Cathedral:
Our car has an on-board fuel consumption monitor which can report fuel usage in real-time. We were driving along the motorway today, doing around 70mph down a slight hill. I lifted my foot off the accelerator to let the car coast down the hill. The fuel economy briefly peaked at 999mpg. If only it could be that efficient all the time.