We Bought a Drone!

In the first two blogs we explored some very important topics concerning why you might buy a drone, why would you ever want to get a drone sUAV license, and potential problems you might encounter if you take your drone to Mexico.
Well here we are a week or so later and we have actually purchased our first drone!! As of this writing, it is on a FEDEX truck somewhere in Illinois heading to Tulsa.

So how did we go about deciding which drone to buy?




It is very tempting to make your first drone purchase a very, very inexpensive one - let’s say less than
$150 or so. I went down this path for a while and read the reviews and watched all the videos. The
consensus seemed to be that you were getting what you paid for, and many reviewers had the sad
experience of losing control of their drone on either the first or second flight, and then crashing and burning, with the obvious result that they were both pissed off and felt that they had wasted their money. So how did this happen?

I think a lot of it goes into the technology of the drone itself. My research indicated that the better
manufacturers of drones built into their machines the software and firmware that would do brilliant
things like returning to its home base (where the flight originated) when it sensed that its battery power was running low. They also had obstacle avoidance technology built in, which would keep someone like me from planting my first drone into an oak tree somewhere. This type of technology simply is not often (at least as of this writing) built into the cheaper drones, with the end result that a lot of them fell out of the sky due to lack of power or else they crashed into a tree whenever a strong wind came along.




I therefore decided to lean forward a bit and pay for some better technology while not, at the same
time, breaking the bank.

There are several really good drone manufacturers out there, among them are DJI, Yuneec, Parrot and
UDI. This is only a partial listing, and if you are reading this you can certainly do your own research and see what you think of the choices for yourself.

My priorities in making this purchase included:
  • Advanced technology –  To keep me from doing something stupid (if that’s possible!)
  • Cost – Although I could have sprung for a $2000 aircraft, I really did not want to do that until I felt capable of safely flying one.
  • Size – I wanted my first drone to be compact so that I could easily transport it if need be in a backpack or carry on. I was also concerned about how some drones reacted in windier conditions, and I thought that a compact design would be best for a novice like myself.
  • Camera – Our drone is basically going to be used for aerial photography, and although I eventually want a drone with a great camera, I mainly wanted my first drone to be a “practice” bird that would allow me to learn and improve on the craft.
So what drone did we buy?

We bought a red DJI Spark!!

http://amzn.to/2x3eubE

This is a very small drone from DJI and will literally fit into the palm of your hand. Yet, it has built-in all of the signature technology that allows for safe flying, such as was mentioned earlier. You can read about all its features here.



We bought the so-called “fly more” package, which includes a controller and some other extras that
we figured would make our new drone much more user-friendly and basically just more fun to fly.



This drone has recently been reduced in price, so it is a really good buy right now. And fortunately, I received a 10% off coupon through the mail, so we truly lucked out on this purchase.

So as we await our drone’s arrival, I will return to studying for the sUAV test, which I intend on taking in the very near future!!



In the meantime, stay tuned for our unboxing and initial flight blog and video!!


Moving is hard: Getting healthy to move to Mexico

We know moving to Mexico is going to be hard.

We have to get our house ready to sell, then sell it.  We have to get rid of a lot of our belongings. We have to pack up the stuff we eventually plan to take down and store it while we rent in Merida and travel Mexico to make sure where we really want to live, then buy a house down there. And then we have to drive to Merida with our dog and live in an AirB&B while we find a house to rent.

But when we leave here for Mexico, that's when the fun part begins. Now is the grind. Working, saving money, fixing our house, and getting healthy so we can do all the fun stuff!


We have some wonderful bikes that we bought six years ago. 


They are Electra Townies, great bikes for tooling around town and staying safe.
  • They are extra safe and made to ride around town.
  • They have an upright seating position that lets you see the world better and plant your feet flat on the ground whenever you want. Just perfect for us old-timers.
We took them to Australia, but never rode them there because where we lived had extreme hills!   I had to be very careful even walking down that drive!! And the roads around our house weren't any better. Many had 45° inclines.



We can’t wait to bring them to the flat Yucatan with us.  In the meantime….we are using them to get healthy for the move!!  Recently, we decided to get them in shape so we could get in shape.

Now we have them fixed up and we just need to make it a habit to get out on them at least three times a week. The weather will be getting cooler. We may have already seen our last 90s day this year.

We had a great ride yesterday and we live in a wonderful neighborhood with many great destinations in riding distance from our house.

So we are building muscles and endurance and hopefully losing some weight. I know the bike is great my my leg because it's exercising it without putting weight on it.  I don't like feeling old, and can't wait to get into shape!

Here's a video we made of getting our bikes into condition and doing a little biking around Tulsa.  Good to watch on a rainy day like today when I can't get out there....



Now, what next?  Organizing files!  Digital and paper. I have to decide on an online storage solution and get my file cabinet organized. Yes, the stuff will have to go back into boxes, but at least it will be ORGANIZED in those boxes.  And I am going through all old external hard drives and organizing all that stuff onto one 2T drive and then putting it online.  HELP!

But I must make myself get up off my butt and ride that bicycle just a little bit each day!




Why Get a Drone License for the U.S. and Mexico?

In my first blog about drones, I explored some reasons why I want to own a drone and do some photography, for either fun or profit. There are many commercial opportunities as well if you want to go down that path. Drones are in use now in many of the recent natural disaster zones as discussed in https://www.faa.gov/news/updates/?newsId=88770.

In this blog, I want to explore some reasons why I think it is a good idea to get some training under your belt and to prepare and sit for a sUAV (Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) or drone license.

Undoubtedly the most important reason to get an sUAV license is SAFETY!



Can anyone deny the fact that driver training is a good thing before anyone gets into the driver’s seat of a car? We expect drivers we encounter at the next intersection to not only know the rules of the road, but to also obey them. The same thing applies to piloting an airplane, an 18-wheeler or captaining a cruise ship.

But do you need a license for a drone? Some drones are lightweight toys and are therefore somewhat harmless. Larger drones, however, especially those that weigh over roughly half a pound, can often be flown at very high speeds (greater than 70 MPH) and are quite capable of injuring people or property. 


As you study for your license, you will discover that much of the educational material is centered around what you cannot do (legally) with a sUAV, just as when you took driver training, you learned that you must obey traffic signs, not speed and all that other good stuff.

The next most important reason to get an sUAV license is KNOWLEDGE.

A few years back we bought our first boat, an old wooden day cruiser, and although it wasn’t necessary, I went through some extensive online courses and obtained a boater’s license, which was both informative and lowered my insurance rates. Going through the training materials was a lot of fun, and I learned a great deal about boating safety on the open waters of both inland lakes and the oceans. 


Recently, I have been going through some online training and studying materials that are free from the FAA, and these materials are again both fun and informative. There is absolutely no question that you will be a better drone pilot with newly acquired knowledge and information under your belt.

The next reason to get an sUAV license is that it’s FUN TO DO!
If you are anything like me, you have often dreamed of becoming a certified private pilot. Flying has always been a thrill for me, even when it’s just a short airline hop from one boring airport to another. 

Much of the training for becoming a drone pilot is the same as is required for attaining a private license. It includes topics about weather, radio communications, airport operations and chart reading. This is all important information because in flying a drone you are occupying a small piece of the National Air Space (NAS), and it is your responsibility not to endanger either the public or yourself, just the same as it is when you are driving a vehicle on an interstate highway or flying a larger aircraft.

Resources:
There are many online resources available, and if you have read this blog there’s a very good chance you know about some of these already. I strongly recommend going straight to the primary source for everything, which is https://www.faa.gov/uas/. Basically, you can learn everything you need to know from the information on this web site. However, you must dig it out, which can be somewhat daunting and a bit time-consuming.

To get yourself started and oriented to the problem, I personally recommend enrolling in this online course:

https://www.udemy.com/user/tim-trott-2/

You can read about Tim Trott on that website or at https://www.thedroneprofessor.com. Tim provides many of the downloads you will need within the course, which makes like easier. The current cost is $50, and this fee is good for a lifetime of reviews going forward.

Another great resource is http://knowbeforeyoufly.org. This website is jam-packed with tons of information about drones.


Studying for a drone (or sUAV) licensing test will likely require between 10 and 20 hours of clock time plus a fee of $150 to sit for the exam at an approved FAA examination center. A passing score is 70% or better, which is quite achievable. None of the material is difficult, but you need to know a lot of information (read that as having memorized) if you are going to be successful. 

A license is good for 24 months, after which you must renew, which will require retesting. If you currently have a certified private license, you can likely get an endorsement for a sUAV without taking the test.

Mexico:

So, what does getting a drone license have to do with moving to Mexico?




First, my research indicates that the Mexican authorities, as you might have expected, are somewhat suspicious of drones entering their country. You can likely expect to pay a VAT (value-added tax) of 6% when you take your drone through customs, so make sure you have your receipt from your drone purchase with you. At some future day, you may also be asked if you have a license to fly a drone just to get your UAV into the country. We don’t think that has happened yet, but it could. Be prepared!

Second, since the drone laws in Mexico are reportedly highly inconsistent, you could be asked by the local officials where you are flying to produce your drone license, especially if you have a drone over 2kg.
Here is what we know currently, which can be found here:
  • All drone flights must be operated in daylight only. 
  • There are no laws on operating drones weighing under 2kg other than they cannot be used at night. 
  • A permit is required for operation of drones weighing between 2kg and 25kg. 
  • A permit and pilot license are required for operation of drones weighing over 25kg. 
  • You must maintain visual contact with your drone and avoid flying over large crowds or near airports.
These rules, are essentially parallel to the known knowledge base required to pass the FAA sUAV exam, so they reinforce the argument to get your drone license while it is still relatively easy and before you go to Mexico.

As a side note, I am researching information on the permits mentioned above, but all the information is in Spanish, so we will update this blog as soon as possible.

Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas: A trip worth taking

We had a great trip driving over to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, in Bentonville Arkansas.

This museum was founded in 2011 by Alice Walton and the Walton Family Foundation as a nonprofit charitable organization and is free to the public. It does have paid options and I took one of those each time I have visited and enjoyed both of them. 





They sponsor some impressive artists. We just missed a Chihuly exhibit this time. Last time I saw Salvador Dali and Picasso paintings. I mean, I was standing two feet from them! In the foothills of the Ozark mountains in Arkansas.

It’s a little more than a two hour drive over there. Not bad on a pretty day. We had lunch in Bentonville, toured the museum and were home for supper.  They also have a restaurant on premises, but it's only open at certain times, so check their website. 

We drove over on a weekday, and found plenty of parking. When we exited the elevators that took us down to ground level, a giant spider welcomed us!


We toured the galleries of the early American art, then visited the Frank Lloyd Wright house on the premises. We weren't allowed to take photographs or video tape there, but we are glad we went. The rooms are very small. I could barely walk through the hallway without my shoulders touching on each side. The living room is fantastic, though. The glass wall to the woods and the flooring that continues outside makes the room look like it's as much outside as inside.

After the tour, we continued to the more modern art galleries. We especially wanted to see the the Georgia O'Keeffe painting, because, when we visited her museum in Santa Fe, we were told that the purchase of that one painting by Crystal Bridges funded the entire O'Keeffe museum. 


This oversized 3D sculpture of the artist, complete with his own hair, fascinated Dan. It was pretty spooky.

One of the cool things about Crystal Bridges is that it is built with glass walkways between the galleries, a way to kind of cleanse the palate before your senses are overwhelmed again.

We enjoyed  a lot of the modern art but questioned some of it, like the giant silver pile of poo, titled, "Eat Meat." You can see it in the video.



This museum is definitely worth a visit if you are nearby. And Bentonville is a fun American small town to visit, with some great restaurants.



Our video below features a lot of the artwork displayed there, and our reactions to it.  Be sure to subscribe to this blog and/or our YouTube channel for stories of more of our roadtrips.









The Best Ceviche We Found in the Yucatan: La Playa in Chelem

When we visited the Yucatan, we decided to visit a hangout we'd often heard mentioned on the expat forums, but when we finally located it, we discovered that new management was taking over and the building was being remodeled. Alas. We'd missed our chance.

The new manager, however, recommended La Playa in Chelem to us, so we took off in search of this restaurant we'd never heard of.  We found it. It was down a drive lined with old picturesque boats and palm trees. 


The outside was not what we expected, just because we aren't yet used to the real Mexico. But we decided to try it. It was probably originally a motel, and we peered into the empty rooms as we walked past the fishing boat in front of the main building.

Two young Mexican men walked out to greet us and led us into the restaurant.  We were the only customers on that weekday mid afternoon.


We could see through to a table perched right by the ocean and asked to be seated there.  Where the restaurant is located, directly east of the Progreso Pier, has a real beach erosion problem and the waves lapped right up to the bottom of the the covered concrete patio where our table was situated. We wonder how long it will be until it is actually eroded away. That will be sad.




Actually, all we wanted was a beer, mostly, and that was about all we could afford because we hadn't located an ATM in Progreso yet and they didn't take credit cards. I scrabbled through my purse for all the pesos I could find and we ordered two Solas and a ceviche to share.

Chef Carlos strolled out to talk to us as we enjoyed the best ceviche we experienced on our entire trip. And we sampled quite a lot. We love ceviche. He told us how he came to start the restaurant and that he climbs down from the patio onto the crumbled concrete by the waves every morning to buy fresh fish from the fishing boats. 

We were told by a friend later that many Mexicans refuse to eat fish in the afternoon because by that time, it isn't fresh enough for their standards.  That's one reason that I'd love to live by the sea. I would love to exist on mostly fish. What fun to buy it from the fishermen and have it that fresh!

We ordered a couple more Solas as we finished every last bite of Chef Carlos' ceviche. The wind was brisk. A bird trying to make headway, fighting against the wind put on quite a show for us.


We left La Playa planning to return, although we weren't able to do so on this trip. We will be back, however. We were very impressed.

We found this tiny restaurant by the sea by accident, but discovered before we left that it is a big favorite for the local expats, both those that live at the beach and many who live in Merida.

We can see why. I can't wait to visit again.




+52 969 935 4285



The location of Hemingway's Idaho House in Ketchum is a big secret, but we know where it is!

On our road trip throughout the western U.S., we stopped by Ketchum, Idaho because that's where Papa Hemingway lived the last years of his life and where he died and is buried. We weren't sure what we'd find, but what we did find was that Ketchum is essentially Sun Valley. It's full of "beautiful people," and those people don't really appreciate fans of Hemingway crowding up their ski resort. In fact, no one will tell you where his house is located.

IT'S A BIG SECRET!!

The house sits behind a luxury housing addition out on the road to the slopes and the residents do not want tourists driving through to see the house. The access road is on private property. During Ernest and his widow Mary's lifetimes, the owners allowed them access, but they've revoked it for the public. They want the foundation and the library who administer the house to move it. But the location is so important to understanding Hemingway's life at this time. It faces the Big Wood River and the back, where Hemingway wrote, looks out on a mountain. THAT's WHAT WE NEED TO SEE!!!

Anyway, so there we were in Ketchum, Idaho. We'd driven a long way to see this.  It's a long way from anywhere!


We visited his grave site. We walked down through town in a light rain.  You know, it's named Sun Valley because it hardly ever rains there, but we hit it on a rainy day.



When you arrive at the Ketchum Cemetery,  look out, slightly to your left and back a little way. His grave, and Mary's and Jack's are all under two pine trees. We were not the only ones who visited that day, and mementos had been left on his grave, including a book of his stories in Russian.



After visiting the grave, we wanted to see his house, at least the outside. We knew we couldn't tour it. First, we walked up the hill to the Ketchum Library, but they would not tell us where it was. 



I think that they couldn't. They probably would have liked to do so. They did direct us to his memorial, so we drove out there.  The story goes that some of his friends erected this memorial to him here, since the house is not available. It's in a beautiful area. He probably enjoyed fishing and hunting near here.


We thought maybe his house was in the area, so we walked down the path toward the water. There's a golf course down there, and several houses on the hill beyond.


The walk down the hill was interesting. We heard a guns firing in the distance and saw a BIG animal bone in the grass. Must have been an elk leg or something. And we could see grass pushed down in one area where a large animal had been lying.



The trail at the bottom was obviously used for running. We met one woman and asked her if Hemingway's house was near and she said, no, she thought it was out toward the slopes. I think she mentioned Canyon Run. AHA!!  So we started searching Google and Google maps.  With all the clues we'd gathered, we figured out where the house is.


We drove out as close to the house as we could get, through a housing addition. We drove through twice and recorded it the second time. That time, we were also tailed by the police.  We didn't feel very welcome. 

In fact, we felt pretty pissed off at the Beautiful People's attitude toward Hemingway. So we are sharing what we discovered with you. The following video shows where the house is on maps and with a video of us driving there. 

So if you want to get as close to you can to the house, we've given you what you need to do to find it.  We also point out our evidence that it is, indeed his house up there.  



So until it's opened for the public, that's as close as we can get. We've been to his house in Key West. Next is his home in CUBA!!


How some of my stock Halloween images were used in 2018

I sell stock photography. Since I am a relative newcomer to the trade, I am constantly trying to learn more about who purchases my images an...