Thursday, August 31, 2017

How to Drive In Iceland

Tips for driving in Iceland. Signs, road hazards and how to safely

see Iceland by car, SUV or camper. I'm travelling with my daughter who
shoots landscape photographs. the weight of her camera packs is like a bowling ball collection. I'm catching pictures and enjoying the waterfalls with cell phone and old Nikormat.

Methods to travel to choose from:
Bike rentals with tent. Too dangerous for us on the narrow roads.
Hitch hiking is too risky for me but many young people wore backpacks and had their thumbs out.
Bus tours. Cringe. Ugh, reminds me of cattle call with no freedom. The majority of tourists choose the bus tours. It's easy. The itinerary is planned. See the things everyone else sees.
The Blue Lagoon was nice but it is low on my favorite places in Iceland. Reminds of Disneyland. 

After research we decided to rent a car. A vehicle that also serves as a 4 X 4 camper
was an excellent choice to be able to travel to everything and be on our own schedule.
You only need a valid driver's license for your home state and a bit of courage to drive
as a tourist in Iceland.

We rented a camping two seat car from Ku Ku camper. They were fabulous!
The vehicle was a new Subaru with a futon back that folds down to sleep two persons.
The car was beautiful. No problems for driving Iceland. They 
supply a basic cooking kit with two pans, plastic plates, dawn washing soap
and pieces that fit neatly in the area where back seat passenger leg room area. You drive.
Renting a car in Iceland is not cheap; but hotels are double the price of comparable 
in the United States. We were free to travel the Ring Road (1), and visit gravel roads into the less seen waterfalls of the island. Having a car that we slept in allowed for unlimited schedule. We stayed in a couple hotels- Hotel Berg (excellent six stars) At  the glacier at Jökulsárlón temperatures overnight were below zero.Our bodies were chilled from hiking so we stopped in to Hotel Smyrlabjorg (expensive three stars). Also stayed at Foss Hotel (expensive one star) Skuggi Hotel (moderate 4 stars).  

Here is my list of tips for driving round Iceland. 
My daughter navigated in advance and printed our plans on paper. We took turns driving. She used WAZE for GPS and it works well. MAKE SURE YOU RENT A portable WIFI that plugs in battery to your vehicle. The Subaru has five or six "ports" or lighters to plug in phones and the WIFI. Bring your home vehicle lighter plug in and extra cords in case you lose them. Hotels and restaurants have European plug ins which are not universal to American technology. I bought two extra batteries and memory cards for a digital camera. Daughter brought 80 rolls of film, four cameras and nine batteries. Don't want be caught with a dead camera.

Roads are well marked with simple signs but Iceland does not repeat the signs. Look at the pictures on the sign and understand in advance what it directs. It is not necessary to be able to read the language. The pictures tell you what to do. 
The weather changes in minutes. Winds pick up fast. Keep to the posted speed limit. Allow those in a hurry to pass.
Icelandic police uses cameras and mails you a ticket. We never saw a police officer in twelve days but the crime rates are amazing low in this country. 
If the sign shows falling rocks. Look to the left and that mountain slide may deliver so be careful. If the sign shows man on horseback, you will see Icelandic horse riders crossing the road. The horses reside on most farms. They are not always fenced. When you see the sheep sign it means the sheep are roaming and crossing the road at will.

driving signs Iceland this one says YOU are on camera for violations
Signs with image of a camera do not mean this is a good place to take a photograph. This sign is also offered with front facing camera picture.
Translation: you are on speed trap camera ahead.
We found WAZE (now owned by Google Maps) useful in reporting speed camera traps

Places of interest to take a photo are a blue sign that looks like a snowflake or flower. Stop at these. Find parking and take your pictures.

Iceland sign gives route number left City name center and kilometers distance to drive on the right
Sign above shows on the left the number of the road and on the right how many kilometers to the location

This road sign is helpful it indicates there isn't a town for a while. If you vehicle is on half fuel, time to fill up to the top. Better to be safe. Iceland does not have Triple A and few or no tow trucks in rural areas. Tourists generally don't stop or have a gas can to assist.
Iceland driving sign for reindeer in the road
Above sign indicates reindeer crossing. A variety of animal signs are used in Iceland. The road signs are serious warnings. There are no second chance warning signs. Icelandic drivers must be self sufficient. Also there are sheep crossing signs- the sheep do run alongside the shoulder and dart out into the pavement. If you hit a farm animal you are responsible to pay for the animal. Car insurance usually doesn't cover the big damage. Hitting a live animal is traumatic to passengers and the living being. Icelandic horse riding or loose horses also will be indicated with appropriate animal images. Domestic animals and farm animals may spook when you drive near them. For heaven's sake don't steal the signs. 
Common Iceland drive sign for one car bridge

One lane bridge   Einbreid bru
Yes, one lane bridges are VERY common in Iceland! Car closest to the bridge has the right of way. Okay how do you figure that out? When in doubt give the right of way. Backing up on a one way bridge can end in car in river with dead passengers. Use your brights to blink. 

Always drive with lights on- day or night it is the law

Above is Dangerous curve to the left. This sign also flips to the right

Blind hill =  BlindhaedThe road is coming to a hill and it will be difficult to see oncoming traffic. self explanatory sign with image of 

Do not pass - solid white line just like homeRoads are narrow. If you rented a two wheel drive economy car don't dream you can get up enough speed into the wind.
When passing use your blinkers -right indicator light

Road closedThese signs are for your protection, DO NOT ignore. Don't die.

Pull off/passing space
Spaces when the road is tight or perhaps it’s a one lane tunnel (those exist in Iceland!), there will be a blue sign with a white “M” that means a pull off ahead. generally these are poorly marked. Do not stop in the middle of the road to take a photograph. Find a farm gravel outlet and park off the flow of traffic. 

Flat tire from off roading? Damage to wheels and tires by flat or under inflated tires is pricey and you will be waiting a day for someone to help. Flat tires are not covered by insurance.

Hold your door. Do not open all the way!! Doors are damaged when opened in extremely windy conditions. In a storm, expect winds at 50m/s (112 mph). Yes,this force can knock you to the ground.

Losing traction on gravel roads is common where the asphalt road suddenly turns to rocky dirt road and the driver has not reduced speed to compensate for this. I live four miles from a paved road. For me driving on gravel has regular cautions- ridges in the road shake your spine and the car to ultimate stress. You don't want to break down. Go 15 miles an hour or slower if the car trembles. Of course your car won't be in miles per hour, go 24 kph or less. Allow others to pass. When another car is coming in opposite direction, move over, slow down, even stop if dusty. There is no shoulder. Often the shoulder is water, a slope or a life threatening caution.

Yellow circle with red = Don't tread, right Do not try it. The signs are not emphatic. Many places in Iceland are dangerous and unlike the U. S. no emphasis 

Iceland has many Roud-abouts. Enter with caution. Pay attention to the other drivers and yield. 
sites to see as a tourist in Iceland here

Okay that's enough. I will post more about the trip soon. Was I too cautionary to frighten you off? I recommend driving in summer months.


Iceland Poem

Iceland Poem

far from home
no internet - no TV
 radio in foreign tongue
gulls rest on the highway
unaware tourists drive SUV
melting environmental ballet
 Joyful children's voices sung
buried under flowery loam

Iceland Poem

click on Above Iceland video

Caroline Gerardo copyright © August 31 2017  poem, images and video 
Iceland Trip

driving directions and those pretty snowflake signs read here for Iceland travel information

Friday, August 18, 2017

Eclipse Wind Poem

world whir
fly in dreams
 eclipse wind drums
takes over left and right
out of skull ear ring mission bells
play the video to sing along the songs  
I'll face Neo Nazis and ISIS with cannons
while you're having al fresco picnic girlfriends
and keep turning lies switched and blink stage light
Life is brief yo yo flicks cold ground when sun disappears
Stop racist wrongs. Rides crash if daily maintenance ignores.

Eclipse Wind Poem

Video above of mission bells to play with the poem 

video above of Day of Dead fair

Caroline Gerardo copyright  © poem and images August 18 2017
Lights spinning

Spinning ride

Monday, August 7, 2017

Bad Surgery Center

Gators lurk in American Healthcare.
Doctors, drug companies and insurance get big bite out of you.

Doctors who attend years of schooling expect a three figure lifestyle. Physicians
don't all make huge salaries to payback those student loans.

Surgeons find a way to run surgi-centers that they own or own in partnerships
a means to make a half million dollars a year. C.E.O's make more than this. They don't
go to school for twenty two years and save lives.

Two of my family members experienced when greed fans the flames of surgeons hearts.
This story is about scam surgery centers.

My son's wisdom teeth needed removal.
The summer after his junior year of high school his teeth ached and chewing gave him headaches. Dentist gave a Doctor recommendation.
I no longer go to that dentist because of what happened next. He's in on it.
We met with the surgeon in a high tech office. He reviewed the x-rays and staff
consulted with dental insurance which covers about five percent of the procedure.

An appointment was made for a month later. In the package of instructions was information about no eating or liquids in advance, and a map for the surgi-center.

Appointment day we park at a different address, unaware the appointment is at a surgi center
where roving surgeons book procedures. Our Doctor didn't live in the area,
some mornings he travels a hundred miles to do ten procedures.
He made it appear he was local in the first meeting (books a city with 20 appointments then returns to perform 10 -15 surgeries in a day). This surgi center is owned by his group of Doctors.
Days after the surgery my son became seriously ill with high fever and lethargic. We called four times to get a call back. Doctor prescribed a second run of antibiotics. That night I helped my seventeen year old son who played Lacrosse and led an active and scholarly life to the emergency room. Diagnosis was: MRSA a virulent  bacterial infection that often doesn't respond to antibiotics.

After two days of total isolation the hospital sent him home with an IV cart and instructions for me
to sterilize everything and bleach his sheets and pillows daily. It took a year for my son to get his health back.  MRSA compromised his immune system,  now two years later the infection still flares up in his sinus. A frightening view of the muddy water into the cheap shortcuts of modern medicine.

My Mom just had bunion surgery. She's 85 and could barely walk with crippled toes. A surgeon came highly recommended by her Doctor. Mother is secretive about her care. She insists on being her own advocate. She went to the first office meeting alone. They pressured her into an appointment ten days after. I drove her to the surgical center. This is in Mission Viejo  (Orange County California). She thought the surgery was going to be at the hospital, but it's in a condo commercial office complex. The doctors who do surgeries here own the facility in a Corporate name.
"Mom are you sure you want to do this here?"
"Its fine, and I need to be able to walk better."
"But this place is a wreck," I whisper.
She pretends she can't hear me.
Grey carpet frayed, entry doors banged up, and prep and recovery rooms are dirty. The intake staff (not nurses just employees who move the cattle along) hustle men and women in and out. I'm allowed inside this center. There's a circle of fifteen beds with draw string curtains in between. The patients are nameless. Clothing goes in a plastic trash bag. Dignity not important. IV fed into your arm in seconds. Ports from used IV's are on the floor.

I've been to a hospital in Mumbai/Bombay in 1989 that was cleaner and state of the art compared to this mess.  I'm rushed out so the Doctors can roll them in for all the different surgeries of the eight o'clock shift. Then rolled back to the same bed to wake up and smell the coffee. It's muddy.

They hurry my Mom along to get her in the wheelchair to load her into my car. After the surgery she is unable to reach the doctor by telephone. One of the intake gals screens his calls, then refers the call if she deems it serious (she's not licensed nurse of any kind) to the nurse. Finally they tell her to call her own doctor who has her rush in for blood work... This medicine is broken.

A lot of people yell about the cost of Obamacare. Healthcare is hugely expensive. My son's wisdom teeth removal and subsequent care cost out of pocket $ 42,108. and I have great group healthcare. My mom has a supplement to her Medicare and so far her costs are not near what mine was but by the time we pay monthly premiums it's shocking. I worry that when my daughter turns 26 she won't have a job that offers decent low cost healthcare. I wonder what will happen to the generations who can't afford thousands in premiums or the cost of s life saving drug. I don't support free medicine for all, but the two hundred and ten dollar bedpan (which we couldn't keep because when you have MRSA everything a patient touches is treated as dangerous biological alligator) is an insane cost of a plastic bowl.

Doctors circumvent hospitals to increase their income. Neither of these surgi centers takes the promise of Obamacare to pay. IF you have Medi-CAL they only take cash up front.

The AMA (American Medical Association) bans any rating system of doctors. No entity seems responsible to inspect these surgi centers. I now know the huge amounts of blood and body fluids that are flung in a surgery. The crew who mops up is doing a shitty job.

 Below photos of Ogallala swamp with hundreds of gators.