So I already wrote about my first attempt to do “Active Track” with my drone at Bristol Mountain Nearly lost my drone today. My second attempt got abandoned because after I launched the drone and was trying to set up the video when a gust of wind took it and drove it into the bushes. The third time I think I forgot to start the video recording. The fourth time, I bought a screen shade / screen protector so I could see the screen better, but I forgot about the big video start/stop button on the top of the controller, so it stopped recording as soon as I tucked it into my jacket, and started recording again when I took it out at the end.
But this time, it all came together. I decided not to tuck the controller into my jacket, and just let it pendulum around in front of me. That was mostly a factor on the big climb at the turn-around on the Hale-Bopp train. But I checked that it was still recording a couple of times, and it seemed to be recording fine.
Ok, there’s one weird thing – at one point it gets very close to a small branch, I can’t tell if it touched it or not, but the video got strange and wobbly. About 3 minutes later, it gets close to another branch. This time, it really doesn’t look like it touches, but the wobbliness clears up. I wonder if the gimbal is a bit frozen and it’s just bouncing around. I’ll have to look to see if there’s anything on the logs.
Oh, and a second weird thing – on the second loop around, the drone hits that very same branch and crashes. Maybe it was harder to see because the snow got knocked off the first time, but I don’t know. When I tried to relaunch it, it first wouldn’t climb, and then when I tried to land it, it suddenly took off upwards and hit a branch way above me and crashed again. I figured there must be some snow in one of the motors or something so I put it away..
It’s way too warm to ski, I’m way too sore to bike, so I went out and droned. One of the things I was curious about was range – I see people complaining that although DJI says you can fly the drone up to 10 kilometers away from the controller (but only 2 kilometers from the controller in the EU) but they only get a kilometer. I wanted to see how far away I could fly the drone and still see it, or how far away before I got a loss of signal and an automatic return to home.
So I searched for a place with a very good long line of sight. I settled on the Great Embankment Park (GEP) on the canal. I was thinking of Durand-Eastman Park, but the wind was blowing out towards the water, and I didn’t want to get into a situation where my drone was heading out towards Canada without a signal.
GEP is a good place to play with a drone because it’s got several sports fields, and then that long stretch of canal. And being Monday, not too many cyclists and walkers on the path, and being February and the canal is still mostly empty and frozen, nobody to worry about there either. Not the most interesting video, but good for practice.
I discovered many things during today’s flight.
First was that it didn’t matter if it was below the horizon (in the canal cut), above the horizon but below the tree line, or above the tree line either up-sun or down-sun, I would lose sight of the thing well before 400 meters. (I did some blind flying where I couldn’t technically see the drone, although I knew exactly where it was and could see through its camera on my controller – that’s technically illegal, but no harm no foul.)
Second was that I completely misunderstood how to activate “Spotlight” mode. There are three special modes that appear at the bottom of the screen after you draw a square on the screen of the controller with your finger. Those are “Active Track”, “Spotlight” and “POI”. I wrote about Active Track in my last blog post, and POI isn’t all that interesting to me because it just circles around the thing you’ve drawn around. Spotlight keeps the camera pointing at the selected point no matter how you fly around it, even if the selected object is moving. But the thing is that when you select the box, and the menu pops up, if you want Active Track or POI you have to select them, and I thought that’s what you’re supposed to do with Spotlight, but when I did that the menu would just go away. It turns out that Spotlight is selected by default and I wasn’t supposed to select it. Oh well, hopefully I’ll remember that for next time.
Third was that a very useful drone move is diagonal flight, where you point the drone and thus its camera off at say a 45 degree angle to the left, and then try to balance the forward and right movement of the right joystick to create straight line motion. I practiced it a lot today but I’m going to need more work on it.
Went for a bit of a fun practice with my drone (have I mentioned I have a drone? Probably not, I’m a bit sporadic with the blog these days – it’s a DJI Mini 3 Pro, lovely little drone) since it’s been a few weeks, and I was wandering all over this park, trying out the active track on a steep and closed in trail (where it did excellently, by the way). I was walking along and i got the RTH (Return To Home) warning. I was miles away from the Home Point, so I cancelled that, but now I didn’t have a Land icon on the screen – or at least I can’t see it, but it’s on the screen recording so I don’t know . I was on a paved path, so it would have been a perfect place to land if I’d had the opportunity. I decided to do a hand catch. I’ve done a bunch of them before, but like I said it’s been a few weeks since I last flew. Somehow I got my thumb sticking up too much and I got two nice little slices in it, and now I’ve got blood stains all over my drone.
Later on I was flying in this grove of trees, weaving in and out and I lightly tapped a tree and crashed. I examined the drone, and nothing seemed wrong with it, but every time I tried to start it, the props would run for a second and shut down, and give me a warning about a motor being jammed. One of the motors was definitely harder to turn so I gave it a good shaking out and blew it out. It started up and took off, but it was really slow to move. I landed it and took off again, and it was fine.
This week I remember two recent dreams. I usually only seem to remember one, and that’s good so I can have something to talk about with my therapist.
In the first one, I’m on a bike ride when I meet up with a Global Cycling Network (GCN) group ride. (GCN is a cycling focused YouTube channel based out of the UK, and most of the presenters are former pros, although usually not World Tour pros) We get to a stop, probably a cafe and I take off my rear wheel for some reason. I’m having trouble getting it back on, so Sy Richardson, one of the GCN presenters, offers to help. Immediately he’s doing one strange adjustments to my rear wheel that I’ve never seen before. But he can’t get it to go back on either. And then he starts working on the entire drive train. By the time he’s finished, the entire drive train is on the wrong side of the bike, and the chain is really rusty and far too long for my bike. I realize that what he’s done is take the entire drive train off the XtraCycle long frame cargo bike I’m parked in front of and transferred it to my bike, which is why the chain is too long.
I don’t think I figured out how it got transposed to the wrong side of the bike.
The second dream was a few days later. In this one, a few people I don’t know in real life but were friends in the dream were in one of the royal palaces. For some reason my car and most of my possessions where spread out on a steep slope, or possibly a stair way. One of my friends was an artist, and she was making these weird little sculptures that tucked into one corner of every door frame. I was going around behind her putting ridiculously high price tags on all of them. At some point the Queen (yes, just like it’s hard to remember to write 2023 after a year of writing 2022, it’s hard to dream about the King after a lifetime of living under a Queen) comes out and scolds me about the high price tags, and tells me to take them down because she’s already negotiated a price with my friend. I recall putting something in or taking something out of the mess that was my car and assorted possessions, but I don’t recall which.
I hope somebody has better luck interpreting these dreams than I do, because I’m at a loss. I am pretty sure both of these dreams were longer, but I don’t recall any more. One thing I’ve noticed lately is that all my dreams seem to have one famous person who has been in my consciousness that day. One recent dream it was Wout Van Aert after I’d watched a cyclocross race the day before. Another one had Vladimir Putin in it but of course the Russia/Ukraine War is in the news (and my Quora feed) every day. And there is a GCN video on YouTube every day. Not sure where the Queen came from, though.
We went on another Viking River Cruise this year, the one advertised as the “Danube Waltz”. We loved the first one we did on the Rhine 5 years ago, and so we’ve been really looking forward to this one. Obviously COVID put a bit of a damper on this, but Viking’s COVID protocols looked very strong – daily testing, modified ventilation system on the ships, hand sanitizer stations everywhere, mask rules, etc. As well as the standard Danube Waltz, we signed up for the 4 day “Pre Extension” in Munich and Salzburg.
I should start with a disclaimer: after the last cruise turned into a complete muddle in my mind and being unable to remember which day we saw which city, I vowed to keep proper notes and remember things. Spoiler alert: I didn’t. One of the couples we hung around with on the trip worked as a team with her taking many photos with an SLR, and him making notes just about every time she took photos. We weren’t that couple. I was doing most of my photography/video with a GoPro and unlike the phone it doesn’t tell you where the photo was taken and it’s not even 100% consistent about having the right date stamp on the file. So expect some vagueness about what happened when.
The first day was flying out of Rochester to Dulles to Munich. There’d been a huge muddle with our flights – the Viking website “My Viking Journey” continually showed the flight itinerary as “unavailable due to changes from the airline” for months and months at a time. Finally about 90 days before the departure I phoned Viking and they “finalized” the travel arrangements, only to change them again a week or so later. Once that happened, I started going to the United site to buy upgrades with our miles, but all they had was a thing where you could pay some dollars and some miles (I think it was over $500 each) and go on the wait list for the upgrades, and if the upgrades never arrived they’d supposedly refund the money and miles. (Spoiler alert: They haven’t). And then with a week to go before the flight they still hadn’t given us the upgrades we’d paid for and were waitlisted for, I noticed Economy Plus seats were available on the long leg. I decided flying across the Atlantic in economy is intolerable, so I spent another $250 each to get us Economy Plus. I still have no idea why they didn’t give them to us via this stupid wait list thing.
Our return trip was Budapest to Munich to Chicago to Rochester, and the first two legs were on Lufthansa. So I went to Lufthansa’s web site and bought business class upgrades on the first two legs. It was just a direct payment for upgrade, none of this “we’ll take your money and maybe refund it if you don’t get the upgrade” business. I’ve tried to purge how much that upgrade cost from my mind, because it wasn’t cheap.
I was a little worried because there was basically only an hour to change planes in Dulles. And even more worried when I got an email a day before departure saying there are forecasted thunderstorms on the eastern seaboard and to expect delays. And of course it happened exactly as I expected – our flight out of Rochester was delayed by over 90 minutes, and the departure of our second leg was not marked as delayed.
I got on the phone to United, and after explaining over and over what was happening to the rep with the almost indecipherable Indian accent, she said it was taken care of, we were booked on a Lufthansa flight leaving Dulles at 10:20 pm. So then I called Lufthansa to see if we could get any sort of upgrade on that flight, and they said they couldn’t because the United rep had double booked us on both the Lufthansa flight, and the United flight that they were code sharing with. So we were essentially double booked on the flight and it was screwing up their ability to assign us seats. I looked at the United App and as well as being double booked, we were still booked on the United flight we were going to miss. I called up United to get them to screw up, and once again got a person with an Indian accent. This one was slightly more understandable, but she acted like she’d never heard of the concept of missing a flight because your previous leg was delayed before. Surely this must be the main thing they do all day? Anyway, after slowly and with many, many, many repeats, I got her to understand that no, I did not want her to cancel our flights from Rochester to Dulles, I did want her to cancel the flight that was leaving Dulles before we got in, I did want her to cancel our United booking on the Lufthansa flight and NOT cancel the Lufthansa flight. It was still screwed up on both the United App and the Lufthansa App (which I had downloaded by this point because I wasn’t trusting anybody a rep told me).
When we got to Dulles, the flight we had been supposed to leave on was still on the departure boards showing something like “BLOCKED”, which makes me wonder if we could have made it, but when we got to the Lufthansa desk we found we were booked on the 10:20 flight, and we were way in the back in a middle section in economy. No upgrades were available because they were very full. So basically I had 8 hours of extreme discomfort to start the trip. Thank god for my special seat pillow. I actually think I napped a bit.
We arrived in Munich at our hotel about 24 hours after we’d left home. I’d probably had 2 hours sleep during that time, and I don’t think Vicki had any. I’m not sure if we ever got properly acclimatized to European time after that start, but because my normal sleep schedule is so fucked up by my pain it’s hard to tell.
The hotel was gorgeous, although it was very modern and in the two nights we had there I don’t think we completely figured out the weird light switches and weird shower. I don’t recall if we had time for a nap, but we did meet our Viking tour guide and the other couples on the “pre-extension”. We also nipped out for a bit of a walk around, and found an ATM to get out some Euros. We also had dinner in one of the hotel restaurants. It wasn’t a particularly beautiful part of Munich and it was a bit drizzly so it wasn’t a great intro, but we were here in Europe. So far, so good.
A brief note on COVID precautions at this point. We did a PCR test a few days before we left. I seem to recall the Lufthansa gate agent needed to see our vaccination certificates but not our test results, but the German customs wanted both, or maybe it was the other way around. We had to wear masks on the the flights, and in the Munich airport and in the bus ride to the hotel. I think some of the hotel staff weren’t wearing them, but we did except when we were in our own room, walking outside or sitting eating. Viking gave us a spit tube each to do a test the first morning after we arrived. I’ll talk about the protocols and precautions on subsequent days as I talk about those subsequent days.