I’m sitting in a Boeing 767-300 in seat 39E, on the way to Atlanta. That’s just the connection, of course, though I suppose there must be people who actually fly to Atlanta. My connection is to Greenville-Spartanburg, South Carolina. If you’re a car buff you’ll recognize that Spartanburg is where BMW has its American factory, and that’s where I’m going. I custom-ordered a Z4 3.0i roadster, and opted for Performance Center delivery. That’s a no-cost option that reallocates the freight and dealer delivery charges to cover the cost of uniting the buyer with a new vehicle right at the factory. It includes a hotel stay, several meals, a factory tour, a museum tour, and a short driving clinic on the Performance Center course in a car similar to the one purchased. It’s not clear to me whether these costs are really comparable to the cost of shipping a car from South Carolina to San Diego, but it seems like it ought to be fun.
The flight is full, but I had no trouble finding stowage for my 40-pound carry-on bag full of camera gear, with a medium-big tripod strapped to the outside. The bag is specialized for photo equipment, with padded sectional dividers inside and the wheels/handle mechanism mounted outside the box where they can’t bash against the delicate equipment inside. I prefer to use this bag when I fly with significant camera gear, because it’s rugged enough to stow as checked baggage if absolutely necessary. On smaller puddle-jumper planes, I sometimes have to gate-check anything bigger than a laptop.
This is the first trip with this particular tripod. It’s a Bogen/Manfrotto 4-section carbon fiber model. I’ve used it locally, of course. It is an amazing combination of light weight and rigidity, thanks to the carbon fiber technology. It needs to be quite rigid to be useful with my Canon EOS 1Ds. Most tripods that can support that much camera are heavy enough to be a burden. This one isn’t. By the time I’ve strapped on the heavy camera and a bag with a couple of additional lenses, I hardly notice the additional weight of the CF tripod. That doesn’t mean it isn’t still bulky and inconvenient, but with a shoulder strap it’s quite feasible to walk some distance with it. This trip will include some hiking, so we’ll see how far I can go before the tripod gets jettisoned. I was really pleased with the results from my last field outing with the tripod, so I plan to carry it as much as I can stand.
The guy in seat 39F has a brand-new Nikon D70 digital SLR out and is playing with it as he studies the quick-start guide and owner’s manual. He’s obviously having a blast. There’s nothing like having a complex new toy to master.
I actually have a new camera with me, too. A tiny little Canon S500 digital Elph, the latest 5-megapixel compact. It replaces an S110, an older 2-megapixel model in the same form factor. The S500 does have a few features the S110 didn’t, but the controls and menus are still quite similar. I haven’t finished going through the owner’s manual yet, but everything is so familiar I don’t really need to. Besides, for me the S500 is going to serve as the casual back-up camera, not the main camera, so I probably won’t be trying to do anything very fancy with it.
No, the new toy factor for this trip will be the Z4. The car has been on order for over a month, so I’ve had plenty of time to study the online owner’s manual and haunt the Internet forums devoted to it. Thanks (?) to the forums I am aware of dozens of things that can go wrong with the Z4. With any luck, none of them will apply to mine.
Another first for this trip: I am equipped for 1xRTT data services via my cellphone. Coverage permitting, this will enable me to stay in touch with the Net without wasting every evening screwing around with hotel phone systems and local dialup numbers. With all the email systems I supervise for AMSAT, I can’t afford to be away from the net for more than a day or so at a time, or the backlog will become overwhelming. So, I signed up for the unlimited data plan. Besides email, I should be able to post updates like this one throughout the trip. That’s easy when I have hours to kill in the airplane. We’ll see what happens when I’m on the road. Until then.