Thursday, May 11, 2006

I finally got the pictures off the BMW site. Unfortunately they kind of made these wierd collages out of them instead of just putting up the picture by itself. I guess it's not all bad though.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Just thought I'd mention it as I just noticed myself, the blog doesn't keep all the entries on the main page so to see the older entries from the beginning of my trip you have to go to the archive on the bottom of the right hand navigation bar. I'll be working on cleaning up my pictures and choosing the better ones this week.

Monday, May 08, 2006

I thought it would be cool for a last post before getting home to post from 34000 ft. Give Connexion by Boeing a try.
Well, it's been a great trip and I've had a ton of fun. The grand prix was amazing. The only way I can describe it is as a spectacle. The sheer numbers of fans, the camping areas, It really was cool. I ended up sitting by a couple guys from the UK on one side, A guy a couple years younger than me from Canada who was backpacking through europe and there were 3 guys behind me from Seattle. Havn't been around that many english speakers since I left the states.
The only bad thing that's happened on the trip really, happened today. I forgot my MP3 player in the seat pocket of the short flight from Munich to Copenhagen. I remembered before I boarded the second plane but when they went back to look for it they couldn't find it so they told me to call the police's lost and found to see if it got sent there. I'll have to try to call them once I get home. There wasn't anything irreplaceable on it as I have copies of everything on my home computer but it still sucks. I guess these things happen though and I can still hope that the police have it and I can get it sent to me or someting.
I took a couple pictures out the window so I'll postone of those but I'm going to wait to post the others till I get home. I put it up full size (Edit: just noticed blogger resizes pics if they're too big). Greenland's pretty white huh?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

I'm posting Thursday Friday and Saturday together as I just got internet access.
Not too much to mention today. I missed the Mini Challenge race at the start of the day because there was quite a bit of traffic. It's been getting worse and worse each day so I'm definitely going to have to make an effort to show up early Sunday for the race. I bet it'll be a mad house.
The third F1 practice wasn't much different than the other two except it was a bit more busy. Porsche Supercup Qualifying was next followed by F1 Qualifying. It's amazing how much faster the F1 cars go. You can't get a good feel for it until you watch both go around the same track back to back.
The GP2 cars had their first race after the F1 Qualifying. It was a pretty exciting race and there was a pretty decent amount of passing which made it even better.
The drive home was equally slow as the drive to the track and people seemed especially impatient.
I may or may not get a chance to post again before I get back to the states so I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did my vacation. After I get a chance to go through my pictures a bit more I'll put some up and I'll also try and host the videos somewhere so you can watch those also.

Thursday night had a few events. I showed up a bit late for the pit lane walk and the bus tours of the GP track but I got to watch a bunch of people take rides in "taxi's" around the GP track. They had nice cars from each F1 team's company and they were driven by the GP drivers, no Ferrari though. BMW had the Ring-Taxi's, Mercedes brought SLK 65's (I think, I'm up on my Mercedes models) Audi brought RS6's, Honda had 2 Race preped S2000's and Toyota brought a WRC Celica. I think there were about 14 cars total. I think I could have gotten a ride but I found out too late that there was a line. I thought they had some kind of lottery to pick people to go. Oh well.
Friday went well also. Parking was a bit of a pain but after I asked a couple of the parking attendents and found a lot that was open it was only a matter of a little walk to the track. I sat through part of the GP2 practice and all of the first F1 practice.
I was amazed how loud the cars were. I brought earplugs but I thought I wouldn't need them. When I could hear the GP2 cars from where I parked, a 10 min walk from the track I realized I'd need them. The F1 cars were even louder.
After the F1 practice I went to the BMW Sauber F1 Theme Park. If any of you get a chance to go it's VERY worth it. As you arrive they require either a ticket for the race or a BMW key (I think) for entrance. After you got inside they had "Umbrella Girls" putting necklace, with a card on it, on people and handing them earplugs.
If you havn't seen the pictures of the park it's shaped like an oval with a dogbone shaped track in the middle. The entire park is about 100 yards long so the track isn't that big. There are "garages" all around the outside facing the middle with exhibits in each. The first was an exhibition of F1 technology. They had a set of wheels you could pick up to see how light they were compared to a normal set of high performance car wheels. Same diameter, the F1 wheels were about 2 inches wider and the whole wheel weighted about a third as much. THey had quite a few different parts out of the car. The next booth had some huge helmets set up with seats for 3 inside and a short video to watch. The next was a quiz station with about 3 computers set up that had F1 trivia.
The next part was very cool. They had one of the F1 cars and a couple "Umbrella Girls" posing with the car and with people next to the car. The cool part was that before you entered they put a small, bout an inch in diameter, multi-colored circle sticker on your card on the necklace. The camera that the photographer here, and one walking around the park had were both wireless and sent their pictures back to a main server. A piece of optical recognition software looked at the pictures and used the circle sticker to match the sticker to a number on your card so you can go to the BMW-Sauber website and download your pictures. The roaming photographer was taking pictures of people all over while they were taking part in the exhibits and such. The next garage had 3 of the BMW race cars, Formula BMW, M3 GTR, and race spec Z4 Coupe. A cafe and interview area were next but I didn't stop at either, nothing interesting going on.
The last two garages had a pitstop challenge where 4 groups of 2 people would race each other changing a tire and two F1 car mockups set up as simulators. There wasn't any motion though, just surround sound, steering wheel, pedals and a big plasma screen.
While I was there they had two different driving exhibitions. The first was a Formula BMW driver who came out and did a few donuts in a Formula BMW car and then later Martin Brundil (sp?) drove on of the F1 cars and did the same stuff. It looked like he hadn't driven the track before though because he was a bit tentative, though I can't really blame him. Each end of the track was about 3-3.5 cars lengths wide and I wouldn't want to put an F1 car worth that much into the armco, especially with all those people around.
As of writing this I don't have the pictures downloaded from BMW yet but I'll see what I can do. I really hope they turned out well.
Afterwards I caught the second half of the Formula 1 second practice session. I sat in the Mercedes Stands for GP2 qualifying which was next. Nice view from the expensive seats. I went down to my seat in stand number 8 for the Porsche Supercup practice, and I do mean down. You really don't get a sense of the elevation change when you watch on TV. I think it'll be a great seat for the race Sunday. Before I left the track I wandered through some of the team booths again and got a bit to eat.
Sorry this message was so long but it was a busy day and there was a lot to write about. I probably even forgot something but I'll probably remember later. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Met up with Greg Tuesday night and we met three of his friends for dinner at a nice Thai restaraunt. I got a brief tour of Hamburg as we walked back from the restaraunt to where my car was parked by his work. Got a few suggestions for places to see and things to do for today as well.
As I was up rather late in the night I got started in the morning equally late. Everyone else had already left so after getting ready I headed down to the waterfront to take a boat tour of the harbor. It seemed like a good suggestion as so much of hamburg revolves around shipping and trade. I took quite a few pictures from the boat but unfortunately the glass added reflections to many of them and others had window sills or other obstructions in the way of getting a better picture so only very few turned out decent. The rest give you an idea what I was looking at, but are all in all pretty bad pictures. The tour was both in english and in german although the speakers were a bit quiet for all the ambient noise. Still though, I think I got most the main points. Got to see one of the Wallenius Wilhelm ships in dry-dock which was pretty impressive. There was also a huge container ship in dry-dock next to it getting some repairs done. We passed several old sailing ships and got to go through one of the many flood locks in the harbor.
After the boat tour I walked up to St. Michaels church to take a quick look and a couple pictures. I've seen quite a few churches this trip though and decided I didn't really need to go inside. The Koln Dom was enough for one leg of my trip.
I took a quick subway ride to the Rathaus(city hall) to look around a bit there as well. It's a nice looking building but nothing spectacular. It was worth a look though.
For most of the rest of the day I ended up wandering around Hamburg, looking at a few shops and doing a bit of people watching. I found a nice little place to get some food and took it to the square in front of the Rathaus to eat. There was street performer there singing Opera and was pretty decent for a street performer. I kind of ran out of things to do near the end of the day so I spent a bit more time lounging around but I can't say it was all bad. I'll have to wait till everyone gets home so I can see what's planned for tonight.
By the way, it's amazing how much construction is going on around his appartment. I count 12 cranes within a 1 block radius of their apartment.
I'm heading back to Bonn tomorrow to check back into the hotel and hopefully check out the BMW F1 exhibit at the track. I'll have to check the F1 site again to be sure the exhibit will be open Thursday.
Here are the pictures from Tuesday that I promised. Mostly of the Koln Dom, that and a cool fountain in front of the Dom. More pictures and journal to come. I also added the picture of the odometer as I passed break-in.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Didn´t do too much today, spent most of the day driving to Hamburg. I did make a quick stop in Koln though to see the Dom and get something for lunch. The car is past break-in now too so I don´t feel so bad using the cruise control. The trip would have gone faster if not for the massive amounts of traffic between Koln and Hamburg. It seemed like every 5 miles or so there´d be another construction zone. I´ll add pictures later.
Spent the entire day Monaday at the Nurburgring. I took 4 more laps which were awesome, with a good amount of people and car watching in between. After the laps I did a bit more scouting for the race weekend and spent some time watching other cars along the course. This time I took pictures, lots. Took a couple movies also and was plesently surprised how well this camera does movies, for being a photo camera and being so compact.
I dunno if it's a coincidence or not but in my 1.5 days at the ring there were 3 accidents and all three were motorcycles. I don't know how bad they were but I'd have to imagine the weather had something to do with it. It made me glad to have a car around me.
My laps went better today than my first lap yesterday, but I guess that's to be expected. My first two laps were completely dry which was a nice change from yesterday but while the track was closed after the second accident of the day it started to drizzle a bit. Even though I don't have much experience with high performance tires the Bridgestones the car came with sure seem to handle the wet well.
I think I pushed it a bit hard on the first lap and wasn't very smooth. There were a couple corners that I completely missed and had to slow way down. The next three laps I tried to smooth it out a bit and even though I don't know how fast my laps were they sure felt faster. I was still getting passed quite a bit by faster cars and several smaller lower HP cars too. I guess it's good to know that the car can do a lot more but the driver definitely needs some work. I was most impressed by the drivers with small cars that probably had half the HP of mine and were absolutely flying. I'm going to be signing up for the first BMWCCA driving school that I can.
It was really amazing how many nice cars showed up today. I find it hard to believe that I just happened to come on such a good weekend. The Zakspeed Viper was taking people for rides, there were 3 Porche GT3's and a GT3 RS, Two other Porches were full on race preped so I'm not sure what they had under the hood, a Lamborghini Gallardo, a Ferrari 430, 2 Ferrari 360's, the team spec Subaru WRX was back, a TVR Tuscan, An M6 and M5, a couple Lotus Exiges, a Z8 and 2 M3 CSL's. Those are just the cars worth mentioning. It's not like the others were bad. As I mentioned at the start I spent some time along the track watching other people drive around. It was interesting watching everyone's lines and especially interesting watching the variety of cars. Everything from huge tour busses, big vans, the nice cars I mentioned earlier, and some tiny little cars. At one point in the day 6 full tour busses of mostly elderly people got in line and took their lap on the ring. Must have been pretty interesting for a bus. I don't envy the cars and bikes behind them that had to pass them during their laps though.
Overall it was a pretty awesome day. Got to break in the car the right way, on the ring. It was soooo hard to stay under 4k rpm. A few of my downshifts sent it to 5k or so but I'm not too worried about that.
Tomorrow I'll be heading up to Hamburg to meet up with Greg, the cousin I mentioned in previous messages. It'll be nice to have someone to show me around instead of having to plan out everything myself. I'll update again tomorrow.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Rothenburg and the Ring

Started Saturday with a drive from Reutte up to Rothenburg. I spent most of the trip following the Romantic Road but decided to take a few highways too. The drive was alright, but then again, it proably would have been more interesting if I would have stopped more times to take in some of the sights. I went straight through to Rothenburg though. It worked out well because I arrived with enough time to do a town walk, see a couple of the sights, and eat dinner before the 8pm Nightwatchman's tour. I'd really recommend the Nightwatchman's tour if you visit Rothenburg. It was very entertaining and had some interesting facts as well. There were a few shops open afterwards but not much so I ended up back at my room after just a bit of window shopping.
My room was a small single above a grocery called Pension Elke. It was a comfortable room for a single night, it came with breakfast and it was definitely the right price.
Sunday morning, after a small breakfast I checked out and took all my bags to my car so I wouldn't have to carry them around. On my way to the Medieval Crime and Punishment Museum I took the long way along the wall to get a nice view of the town as a whole. There were some great exhibits and the collection was very extensive. Unfortunately they wouldn't allow pictures in any of the museums. They even didn't want people to take pictures in the Kathe Wohlfahrt store, go figure.
I took a quick tour of St. Jakob's church. I'm not sure but the organ looked new which kind of surprised me. Fortunately I could get pictures in the church, even though not many of the outside since they were undergoing a renovation.
After lunch I got on the road heading to Bonn, where I'm staying for a couple nights so I can take a few laps at the Nurburgring, watch some nice cars go fast, and scout out where I need to be for the Grand Prix. The drive there was pretty uneventful except that there were some nice open stretches of autobahn that I could really open up the car. I took it over 4k rpm once just for kicks. I can't wait till after break-in. Cruising at 100-120mph is pretty awesome though. The car feels fantastic.
I got to the ring early enough that I could take a lap but as soon as I bought a ticket they closed the track for an accident. It did give me a chance to look at the cars around. There was a Porsche GT3 RS, Ferrari 360 Modena, about 4 Caterhams, what looked like a team spec Subaru WRX STI. Fortunately about 15min later it re-opened so I headed out for my first lap on the ring. Anyone who says any of the video games are even close to the real thing is crazy. The blind corners and the change in elevation were nothing like any game or video i've seen. It's just so different in person. I didn't drive near the limit really and left the DSC on even though it didn't ever activate. I got passed by a few cars, including an M3 that was flying, and passed one myself. I went pretty fast but definitely took it easy as I have no desire to crash a brand new car. It sprinkled rain once or twice during my lap but the road never really got wet.
Not 20min after my lap finished though and it started to rain and then snow!! SNOW, at the end of April!! Between the time I arrived and the time I left the temperature had dropped about 10-12 degrees F and was at 35 degrees when I drove off according to the car. Before I got to Bonn the temperature was back up to 45 degrees. Hopefully the weather is better tomorrow so I can get a few more laps in and stop by a couple of the corners to take some pictures. Too bad no one's around to get a picture of me driving. I hope to get ahold of my cousin who lives in Hamburg which may require a trip up there. It'll be a 5hr drive though, which will be my longest yet. I have a little over 800 miles on the car though so that would get her past break in. Guess we'll have to see what happens.