Archive for the ‘Gear & Toys’ Category

GPS Tracking – Final Day on South Georgia

February 26th, 2010 at 3:08 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

We overnighted in Rosita Harbor and around 5:30am made for Right Whale Bay. Unfortunately the bay was not protected enough for us to be able to get off the ship without serious complications due to swells, and we headed for Elsehul instead.

It was a gorgeous, sunny day, and we took lots of photos of macaroni penguins and other birds. Also got to hear glacial ice crackling as it melted.

We left Elsehul during lunch, and stopped for a bit at Trinity Island, the second to last bit of land considered to be South Georgia.

We’re now on our way to the town of Stanley in the Falkland Islands. Should be arriving very late on Sunday, or early on Monday morning. Two days at sea should mean lots of photo editing time, and thus a bunch of blog posts, providing the seas don’t get too rough (scant chance of that though).

And providing my computer works. My Alienware M17x notebook stopped being able to read from one of the two memory slots on the motherboard at noon today, so I’m running at half RAM (and noticeably slower).

I should also mention that my GPS batteries died leaving Right Whale Harbour (unbeknown to me), so the cross country track on the GPS map below is incorrect. The ship did not cross the mountains, but instead followed the coast to get to Elsehul. In case you were wondering. GPS batteries have been replaced, but from this point forward the track will probably be pretty darned boring – a nearly straight line for 900 or so miles. Next update on Monday for GPS.


GPS Tracking – Bogota, Colombia to Santiago, Chile

February 7th, 2010 at 11:39 am (AST) by Jake Richter

Our Avianca flight from Bogota to Santiago was a bit bumpy right after take off, but otherwise smooth. We all caught some sleep during the four and a half hour trip. Interesting to discover was that Bogota is in Eastern Standard Time (GMT-5), while Santiago is in Atlantic Daylight time (GMT-4 less an hour for summer daylight savings since it’s summer time here in the southern hemisphere now). Bonaire and Aruba are both in Atlantic Standard Time year round.

We were met by our guide Pablo and our driver Patricio and taken to our hotel where we caught an early breakfast and then slept until noon local time. This afternoon Pablo is taking us on a three hour private tour of Santiago.



How to Plan for a Visit to the Antarctic

January 11th, 2010 at 12:23 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

Some of you may be aware that the next expedition for The Traveling Richters is to the southern-most climes of planet Earth. We won’t quite make it to the South Pole, but we’ll be spending a couple of weeks in February in the vicinity of the Antarctic Circle, a week of which we’ll actually be making landings on various parts of the Antarctic Peninsula.

People have been asking us why we’re going there. Simple answer is that we are helping outfit a school for underprivileged penguins and to see the polar bears. Oh, so you say there are no polar bears in the Antarctic? Perhaps that’s because the penguins ate them?

Seriously, though, the Antarctic has been a dream of ours for decades, and with global climate change charging onward without a reversal in sight, we figured we had better pay our respects now before things change too much. Furthermore, even if global climate change does not materially affect the Antarctic in the next 30 years, we’d rather go now when we’re hearty and hale instead of when joint pains and older age potentially inhibit our full exploration and enjoyment of this natural wonder.

We booked our trip with Lindblad Expeditions last summer, to travel with them on their vessel, the National Geographic Explorer. Lindblad started a brilliant partnership with NatGeo several years ago, and the naming of their vessels is part of the deal, as is the inclusion of National Geographic’s experts as docents, photographers, and guides on these journeys.

Of course, being that we live in a tropical climate (the Caribbean island of Bonaire), one of the most interesting challenges has been to gather all the gear we think we will need to stay warm and relatively dry on our Antarctic journey. Lindblad has a list of recommended things to pack (PDF) for the expedition. It doesn’t look like much, but it’s taken us several months to get everything we need down to Bonaire, ensuring it all fits. One complication has been that Bas is a growing 12 year old boy and we’ve had to try and guess how much bigger he might be by mid-February, including how big his feet will be. Just one unexpected growth spurt could leave him buck naked in Antarctica (or wearing my clothes, which would be over-large on him). But we think (or hope) we have it under control.

The other issue we’ve been facing is that several of our flights have restrictions on luggage and carry-ons. Considering we’re planning on taking several computers, several DSLR cameras, a video camera or two, and who knows what else in terms of technological equipment, we’re having a heck of a time trying to figure out how to get it all on a plane with us. We’ll definitely be donning photographer’s vests on the smaller planes, and hoping that we can carry some of the bits and pieces we need that way.

In the next few weeks as we start actually packing, I will post photos here of what all is coming with us, for your amusement. And another project I’m working on is some web-based software which will allow me to upload data from my Garmin Oregon 550 GPS so that our fans can track our path on a daily basis. That of course will be contingent on two things: 1) That GPS satellites are functional that far south; and 2) that we will have a passable Internet connection that far south (there’s on-board satellite Internet on the ship).

In the meantime, we’re reading up on Chile, Easter Island, and the Antarctic, and watching the few documentaries we could find at


A Rant on Flying and Electronic Devices

October 10th, 2009 at 5:13 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

One of my current frustrations with modern air travel on commercial aircraft is the blanket requirement that all electronic devices be turned off during take-off and landing. I have no issue with the idea that those are the most dangerous times during a flight and that the crew wants to make sure passengers are not needlessly distracted by their iPods, PDAs, and computers.

However, the argument posited for why electronic devices need to be turned off is that they may interfere with a plane’s navigational system. Bullpucky. If that were the case, it wouldn’t be possible to offer in-flight WiFi service. Non-commercial aircraft don’t have the electronic device requirement either. For example, Divi Divi, our wonderful local charter airline service between Bonaire and Curacao (which has schedule flight times, but doesn’t operate as a commercial airline), has no restrictions on using cell phones during take off, landing, and flight. For that matter, I understand that private jets don’t either.

So, the whole “electronic device” restriction seems to be nothing more than a convenient lie to achieve an alternate goal, namely keeping passengers undistracted. However, at the same time, passengers are welcome to read whatever they want during these critical times. Unless, of course, the reading source is an eBook, such as a Sony Reader or an Amazon Kindle. Nevermind that these devices don’t consume any power except when you’re “turning” pages due to the way eInk/ePaper functions. And while you can actually shut off a Sony Reader, a Kindle is always on (unless it’s run out of juice) (although you can shut off the wireless capability pretty easily).

Flight attendants have recently started adding the phrase “anything that has an on/off switch” as a criteria, presumably because people were trying to figure out how to temporarily shut off their watches and pace makers. And, I will point out that in all of my thousands of flights, I’ve never seen a flight attendant ask someone to shut off a camera (an electronic device) when they were taking pictures during take-off or landing.

That said, all I would really like to see changed in the current policy is airlines not lying to their customers about the reason for not using electronic devices, as well as not discriminating between permitted media formats for people reading standalone text. If my seatmate can read a paperback book, magazine, or newspaper, I should be able to read my Kindle or Sony Reader.

Or if the airline is truly serious about wanting passengers’ undivided attention, they should ban reading, talking, sleeping, and all other distracting actions during take-off and landing. Of course that would make things like the 45-minute wait on the runway for a departure slot I just experienced earlier today in Atlanta a true ordeal.


To Ronda and Beyond on our ‘Tapas Tour’

April 25th, 2008 at 5:38 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

After enjoying our repast of Iberian ham and cheese from the supermarket as our breakfast we said goodbye to Peter and Nice, and posed for a Bonaire Reporter ‘shot’ (holding up a copy of the bi-monthly Bonaire Reporter newspaper in an exotic locale) to send back home to Bonaire. The Lensvelts were great hosts and we regret only having been able to spend two nights at their place. However, as Peter so eloquently put it, we are on a ‘Tapas Tour’ – one where we taste a little bit of each place to see where we might like to revisit in the future. I see it as a sort of self-designed ‘tasting menu’ myself.

We headed out through Alozaina in The Beast, along twisty turning narrow roads high above deadly precipices (no joke), surviving the trip along route A-366 with nary a scratch but a lot more adrenaline in our systems. The scenery was gorgeous – changing from hilly and verdant to mountainous and stark and then back again. The most curious thing we saw along the way was a flock of vultures on the ground in a field – probably about 30 of them, hopping about (they don’t walk, they hop). Alas we were not quick enough with the camera.

We also learned – actually, we confirmed – that our GPS has a sense of humor. We have it set for fastest driving time mode, and somehow it has determined, incorrectly, that this means the most direct route should be chosen. Yesterday we found ourselves in a maze of narrow streets in La Linie near Gibraltar that The Beast barely made it through, and today the GPS took us up a thousand year old footpath the back way into Ronda. We managed to avoid damaging any tourists or The Beast along the way, but it was a very close thing.

Amusingly, we later saw several other GPS users coming up the same way. Someone at Garmin sure has a strange sense of humor.

Ronda was beautiful, with an ancient bridge rising hundreds of feet above a water filled gorge still in active use today (we drove over it in The Beast and walked over it a couple of times too).

After locating a parking facility – and let me tell you, parking in old cities and villages, especially with something as large as The Beast, is miserable – we made our way to the Bull Fighting Arena (see photo above), which serves as a museum when there’s not a bull fight going on. The kids were not wild about the idea at first, but I think they gradually came to understand the cultural, and dare I say artistic, roots that make up Spanish bull fighting. They are understandably still perturbed by the thought of killing a bull for entertainment, but also understand it’s not nearly as simplistic as it seems. In a way, it’s a performance and show, where almost always the bull dies, but not before making a stand of his own (and yes, a matador has actually been killed by the bull in Ronda, but it was a long tim ago – and matadors do get hurt too, although the odds are weighed pretty heavily against the bull, of course).

We then had lunch (the kids had a mixel grill with beef, ironically) at a posh restaurant outside the Arena, and went on to spend several more hours exploring Ronda’s history and quaint streets.

By 7pm we were on our way to Seville, dropped our rental car off at the train station – Good riddance to The Beast!, and took a taxi to our hotel.

Our plan for tomorrow is unclear for the most part. We are booked to see an authentic Flamenco show in the evening (with Tapas), and may go visit the Alcazar – a Moorish castle across the street from our hotel. But most importantly, we are going to try and sleep in!


Internet Challenges in French Polynesia

October 25th, 2007 at 12:06 am (AST) by Jake Richter

For those of you wondering about our sudden silence, it’s not because we had any problems getting from Los Angeles to Tahiti, but more that technical challenges of sorts have arisen here in French Polynesia.

While WiFi Internet access was available in our hotel (the Le Meridien), it was rather slow, and quite expensive. A full day of access was a mere US$78. We punted, assuming that we’d get a better deal on the Pacific Princess cruise ship, which promoted having WiFi access in key spots on board.

However, while the WiFi access is there, the cost is a wee bit greater than even at our hotel – a mere 50 US cents per minute. If I left my notebook connected to the Internet all day, we figure that would be a connection charge of US$720 a day. Ouch!!!

Anyhow, while we’re still in port, it appears there’s a WiFi service for yachties – Iaoranet – which offers an hour for 6 Euro (about US$8.77) and seems to work fine from our stateroom. I’m presently using that service, however slow it is, to get things up to date here tonight.

And yes – we have been busy, so hopefully we can get all the photos uploaded before we leave port at 4am this morning for Moorea.