Friday, November 30, 2012

The Heritage Center and Thanksgiving

Last Wednesday, I got a huge treat.  My work group went to see the GM Heritage Center.  We had to make reservations since the Heritage Center paces their guests throughout the day and year.  Since they have this policy, between our group and a few other visitors, we had ~150 cars for only about 15 people.  Excellent!  One of the standouts, the Cadillac Sixteen, was a concept car featured on an episode of Top Gear (Series 2, Episode 10 for those of you who want to go look it up), but the Heritage Center also had the  1931 Cadillac V16 that it pays homage to.
The 2003 Cadillac Sixteen - giant and pretty amazing - my arms, spread, are around 6 feet
The 1931 version - V16, the lower large headlights turn when you turn the steering wheel!
The Heritage Center basically manages GM’s history – besides a fleet of ~450 cars (only a selection are shown at one time), they also have more of a standard library of old advertisements, manuals, photos, etc.  We spent basically the entire time in the warehouse/garage space where all the cars were though, looking at everything from 1900s to 2000s as well as quite a number of concept cars that never made it to production.  After seeing a video earlier in the internship of a 1959 car crashing head on into a 2009 car, I will never have an antique for my daily driver.  Those cars were definitely cool, but much more suited for art than commuting.
An experimental 1987 Oldsmobile, yes, Oldsmobile, that could go over 290 MPH in a straight line and came in a twin turbo version with 1000 HP 
A 1938  Buick Concept estimated to be worth $20M, not only because it's rare just because it wasn't scrapped for WWII, but also because it had an automatic transmission - 3 years before it was available in vehicles for sale
Unfortunately, this is blurry, but the 1969 512 Gasoline Experimental is pretty much the opposite of the Cadillac Sixteen - seems like a good alternative to a golf cart
There were more cool cars, but I wasn't sure when to stop :-)

For Thanksgiving, I flew back to Massachusetts and so I saw my family for the second time in less than a month.  It was nice.  I slept in, ate well and gave and received a large number of hugs!  In addition to spending time with my immediate and extended family, I was invited to an east coast party/reception for one of my high school friends who got married in August in Seattle.  Hooray!

Flew back to Michigan on Sunday, came to work and gave my final presentation on Monday even though I have three weeks left.  Interns and co-ops always present at the staff meeting of someone one level above their boss and so it worked out that Monday was when the Executive Director’s staff meeting was.  There was little guarantee of good attendance at the December one, so we figured I’d just do it now.  One step closer to the next phase of things.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Iceland Highlights - Part 2

Day 3
Sunday was another day filled with planned tours.  We hopped on another bus and headed to see the rift valley between the North American and Eurasian techtonic plates.
This is looking down into the valley - at first we thought this impressive split in the rocks was the divide,  and maybe it was long ago, but this was cooled, solid, split rock - the valley is the whole lower area
From the rift valley, we drove to the Geysir area (that's how they spell it in Iceland; however, geyser is one of the few English words that comes from Icelandic).  The main spout in this area goes higher than Old Faithful of Yellowstone and does so, on average, every 7 minutes.  However, geysers can turn on and off due to earthquakes and other land movement, so this one only started erupting recently in the mid 2000s.  Before that it had been dormant for decades.

A non-erupting but steaming thermal pool in the foreground with the biggest geyser in the background
After seeing Geysir, we drove to a giant dual water fall called Gullfoss - the lower falls is around 20 meters high and the upper one is around 10.  What's amazing is that everything that is down wind of the walls, since it's cold, gets coated with ice from the mist.  So all the white on the land isn't snow, but more of a super heavy frost.
Note the people on the left-hand side for scale - this was a very pretty set of waterfalls and yet other than a parking lot and a coffee and gift shop, there was literally nothing around this area
Finally, from Gullfoss, we drove to where the road became impassable for the bus, impassable in Icelandic, not kidding is pronounced "O fart" [photo evidence below]
Click on the photo to zoom in - the road was gravel from here on out
Our bus stopped here and we waited for another mode of transportation to take us to our next destination

The off-road truck/bus un-heated giant thing! (Complete with Iceland flags)
This vehicle drove us on the impassable road for a while, where we stopped, put on snow suits and then drove again, further, up onto a glacier.  We were going snowmobiling!

That's me, on a snowmobile on a glacier in Iceland, wearing five layers on my torso and four pairs of pants - woohoo!
The view down the glacier - most of the light is from our headlights (it was pretty dark), but in the center you can see a sliver of sky below the cloud cover, lit up by the setting sun.
Even though we had already been touring around a lot, we had a nice dinner planned, but since we were running late, we didn't have a chance to go back to the hotel first.  Instead, we went straight to The Pearl restaurant on the top of a hill in Reykjavik, and had a buffet dinner where we tried a few new foods - moose, reindeer and whale (no puffin, though it is eaten in Iceland, it just wasn't on the menu).

Inside The Pearl under it's glass dome ceiling - the restaurant also rotates 
The outside of The Pearl during the day
Day 4
On day 4, since we didn't get back from dinner the night before until almost midnight, and because it was raining when we woke up, my sister and I slept in, then walked around our hotel checking out more of the neighborhood by daylight and doing some final souvenir and gift shopping.

Rainy day view from our room
After that we drove to the airport and waited for our five hour flight back to Boston.

Vik must mean village or something, because it was the ending of many of the town names
The awesome thing was, since there was a five hour difference between the locations of take off and touchdown, we arrived in the US remarkably soon after we left Reykjavik.  All in all, it was great to visit Iceland.  If I were to go back a second time, I'd see more of the north of the country (most of our tours went south) and try going in the summer when there would be lots more daylight.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Iceland Highlights - Part 1

Ok, even though it took me weeks now to put them up (partially because there were so many to choose from), here are some highlights from 64° N...

Day 1
Land in Iceland at 6:30 in the morning their time, grab something that looks like breakfast while marveling at other products in the food kiosk store thing at the airport.

Got to have the Cool American flavor
Leave right from the airport on a bus for an all-day tour.  On this tour we saw...
A waterfall we were able to walk behind - Skogafoss
Waves crashing on the black sand beach that could have come all the way from Antarctica (that's the only thing south of where we were in Iceland)
Crazy basalt formations off-shore - the legend is that those are trolls that were frozen by still being out at dawn
An amazing lagoon filled with icebergs - I think this may have been my favorite thing we did (no, I did not alter the coloring on this photo)
The iceberg lagoon was quite far from our hotel, so, including stopping on our way back for a nice dinner, we did not get to our hotel until around midnight.

Day 2
The weather was very windy and rather cold (we were told 14°F after the windchill was taken into account), so many of the tours (this was going to be a choose your own adventure day) were cancelled.  However, we were able to switch our days' plans around and still able to do some neat things.

We visited the Blue Lagoon
My sister and the rest of the group and I relaxed in the Blue Lagoon (the temperature in it varied from warm pool to toasty hot tub), but the air temp was still really cold!  You wanted to have as much of your body be under the water as possible
We took another bus tour, this time around Reykjavik, and took this photo of Bjork's house (no joke)
Finally, this was one of the few meals where we were on our own, so we tried a fish & chips place not too far from the hotel - YUM
After dinner we wandered around a little, but since it was still cold and windy and we had had a long Day 1, we headed back to the hotel pretty quickly to use the marvels of Google Talk to call the US for free and to go to bed.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

November = Travel

Hi!  I'm finally back in Michigan after being away for over two weeks.  I left on Friday 10/26 and returned to Michigan this morning.  In that intervening time I...

Participated in LGO recruiting week
Managed to not lose power during Hurricane Sandy
Played in the LGO '13 v LGO '14 IM Hockey Game
Spent time with friends from undergrad and with my family (in addition to LGOs!)
Waited for second round interviews
Apartment hunted for next semester (might have something!)
Went with my sister and a bunch of Sloanies to Iceland for the Veteran's Day long weekend

Cool, huh?

This weekend I'll be driving to Pennsylvania and in a week I will be flying back to MA for Thanksgiving.  Yup, November is shaping up to be traveling month.

I'm still processing the photos from Iceland, but I will be sure to pick some highlights and post them soon.  Keep checking back!
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