Road trip. Graduation. Amsterdam. Canada. Wedding. Road trip. Whew!
  • Day139

    Home Again

    September 22, 2018 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 15 °C

    We have arrived home again after nearly five months of travel. It has been an interesting time. We've been in some widely divergent settings and met an interesting mileau of personalities. Our first stop on coming back to the coast was at Nancy' mother's retirement place in Pacific Grove. She was pleased that she was our first stop, but less than pleased by the souvenir we'd brought her from Holland. (see photo)

    Nancy and I spent our last night on the road back in the El Mono motel in Lee Vining. Fun that we began our life of travel there over two years ago. Earlier that day we parked just outside of Yosemite National Park and pulled everything out of the camper, cleaned it top to bottom, and put it all back. I'm sure we got the stink-eye from more than a few people driving as they drove by.

    It feels good to be back home. We arrived home to a coffee table full of gifts from our Home Exchange partners. Birgitt left us a painting of our yard that really captures the feeling of the home. Really nice. We won't hesitate to set up an exchange again. It has been a great experience.

    So. One trip comes to a close and in two weeks another begins. Augie and I fly to Ho Chi Minh City on the 10th of October. We'll spend a few days there getting used to the time change, visiting a college friend of his, and picking up our motorbikes. A description of our route can be found here:

    Can't wait!
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  • Day132


    September 15, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 22 °C

    Nancy, Augie and I spent a few days in Denver with Nancy's dad and his partner Elaine. Elaine prepared several great meals and as usual the company and conversation was intriguing. At one point Elaine covered Ed with a sheet. (see photo) We weren't sure if this was an attempt to change the topic of discussion or just a regular household ritual, but it was pretty funny regardless.

    Ed and Elaine took us to the movies while we were visiting. We went to Spike Lee's latest film 'Black Klansman'. It had its glitchy moments, but was a powerful indictment of race relations in this Country both past and present. At the same time I've been reading an article 'Democracy in Disrepair' by Peter Grier that posits the idea that there has never been a successful multi ethnic democracy. Democracy works best in situations where a single ethnic group is in power. Places like Denmark or Sweden or even Switzerland are able to pull it off because they are vastly populated by Danes, Swedes, and Swiss. Places like the US pull it off because they have disenfranchised their minority populations for as long as they have been in existence. The challenge left to the US is to demonstrate that a vibrant multiethnic democracy can exist and thrive. Grier states that at this point this may be the greatest gift the US can give to a world struggling with changing demographics.

    Nancy and I then drove on west to Kanab Utah to join our friends Don, Mary and their dog Luna for some caravan camping. After meeting up we chose to drive north from Kanab along the Johnson Canyon road to dirt track n500. We've been camping here for the past three nights, taking day hikes to ridges and slot canyons along the way. A fire has been burning nearby, so it has been a little smokey at times.Today we walked through Kodachrome State Park. I'll let the photos tell the story...
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  • Day125

    La Crosse Wisconsin Wedding

    September 8, 2018 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 14 °C

    Today we were honored to attend the wedding of our niece Zoe Ault Brinker to Jason Niemuth. The venue looked out from the banks of the fast flowing Mississippi. The weather was perfect. The couple looked radiant in their devotion to one another and the bride's dress 'was to die for.' That's pretty much been my response when folks started talking politics at the wedding. "Wasn't Zoe's dress just to die for." So far it has worked well for changing the subject.

    Nancy and I have been in LaCrosse since picking Augie up in Madison Wisconsin earlier in the week. Sophie flew in a few days ago. Madison was pretty cool. Lots of lakes in the city itself and a great bicycling infrastructure. La Crosse is a special town in its own right. It is located in the Driftless region of western Wisconsin/eastern Minnesota. The Driftless gets its name from tge fact that the glacial 'drift' bypassed the area leaving lots of pre ice age topography intact. Very pretty area. Worth a visit.

    Nancy and I were able to get in a few bike rides in the area. We took a ride up to Trempeleau Wisconsin along an old railroad bed trail today. If Trempeleau sounds French it is due to the Trappeurs making their way along the Mississippi bringing in pelts for the beaver hat craze back in Europe in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Pre Louisiana purchase. Napoleon was trying to fund his armies and needed the cash, so he sold the rights to the center of the continent. Lots of French names still dot the area.

    Augie surprised me yesterday with an interesting invitation. He's off to southeast Asia next month. He asked me to join him in Vietnam for an epic motorcycle ride from Saigon to Hanoi. Not something I could take a pass on. We chose the Ho Chi Minh trail as a route. Here's a link to a blog detailing the route:

    Tomorrow we're off toward Denver to visit Nancy's dad, Ed Wood, before heading into the Utah desert for s few weeks. We'll be back in Santa Cruz by late September.
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  • Day123


    September 6, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 11 °C

    This motorcycle was parked at my mother's retirement village when we arrived.

    AmeriKKKa. Terrorizing people of color with a simple flag.

    This is who we are.

    Trump won every white economic and educational demographic.

    Good thing they're building that wall. It will keep the Americans in...
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  • Day119

    Visiting the Duluth Woods

    September 2, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    We spent a pleasant few days with Nancy's brother and family in Duluth. John, Kim, Peter, and Ben Wood are doing well. Kim is starting her next leg in an Occupational Therapy program. John is continuing his work training the next generation of physicians. Ben and Peter are going on 14 and about to return to Middle School. They're both doing well. Exciting times in the family. I've forgotten about the summer to fall transition in a family. It's been a few years. Everyone reported that they're ready to get back to the regular routine after a bit of time off.

    Saturday we took a long bike ride circling along Hawk Ridge and back along the lake Superior to Duluth. John and Kim just bought a great tandem e bike that is probably the most versatile piece of riding equipment I've ever seen. It can be adapted to fit everyone in the family and can be fitted with panniers for touring or justs plain grocery shopping. It will do 100km on a charge on Eco mode, but with the hill they climb to their house I think they'll be using Turbo mode a fair bit. Sunday morning Nancy and I were able to take it on a loop as well. Fun vehicle.

    We took a couple of breaks on our Saturday ride. Ben took to the water to swim. He took turns diving from a sunken piling in the harbor at Duluth. We, of course, stopped for beer and fries on the way home.

    The only downside was the creepy bronze statue of a neighborhood cat. (see photo)

    Tonight we take our hosts out to dinner before heading off to LaCrosse, Wisconsin and our niece's wedding.
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  • Day115

    Back to the USofA

    August 29, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 17 °C

    We made it to Schiphol in plenty of time to visit one of the airport lounges that we've grown habituated to.
    Unfortunately they were booked so we hit Starbucks for an hour before they opened up again. A couple of flat whites and all was in good order. Boarding was a full hour and a half before the scheduled departure. What? Turns out we were on one of the new double decker planes. Boarding and deplaning is compounded with separate loading bays attached to each floor. Other than that the nine hour flight to O'Hare was effortless.

    We arrived in Chicago the night before Nancy's birthday. I'd put in some effort to find a hotel that offered a shuttle service with a van big enough to carry both bike boxes and spendy enough that Nance would feel like she was waking up somewhere special. As we turned into the parking lot of the 'Four Points by Sheraton' I realized I'd been hoodwinked. Good reviews and marketing images couldn't hide the fact that I'd picked another hotel that was past prime, at the end of its shelf life, and had seen its expiration date some years before. Bummer. We spent the evening putting our bikes back together in a small airport hotel room and stumbling around in the haze of jetlag.

    Next morning we caught a Lyft to our camper, it started right up, and we drive north to the Door Peninsula in eastern Wisconsin. Along the way we passed the towns of Belgium and Brussels. The churches and a few of the homes bore a striking similarity to those found in Flanders. The main difference was that there were actually plenty of parishioners attending in the States. Probably 100 cars in the rural church parking lot.

    Next day we woke and took a 30 mile bike ride up the coast of the peninsula. Things are pretty pleasant here and these Wisconsinites are Minnesota friendly. This afternoon a cafe owner spent a good twenty minutes listing the places we shouldn't go to have dinner. Once back at the campground I swung by the Park Store to grab a post ride beer. The lady behind the counter said that beer could only be purchased in sixes or twelves. The customer behind me in the line listened to the conversation and said, 'Here, take one of mine.' Pretty nice.

    Spent the last two nights in a camground in Copper Harbor of Michigan's Upper Peninsula recommended by Nancy's brother John. There were lots of mountain bike trails to choose from. We rode north toward the end of the peninsula but were stopped a bit short when the road turned into a muddy bog. Tonight we're ensconced in Copper Falls State Park with plans for a pancake breakfast at the Park concession and another ride in the am.

    This part of America is pretty rough. Far northern towns are sparse. Calumet Michigan was particularly harsh. Many of the wooden buildings are rotting and in bad need of paint or a complete teardown. The old stone buildings are visibly crumbling away. It is a ghost town that hasn't yet come to terms with its fate. These towns are similar to those one finds in northern New York on the edges of the Adirondacks or in Maine away from the coast. It's not hard to imagine people feeling pretty left behind in these towns and willing to do anything in the voting booth to retaliate in some way. Voting for a lowlife reality TV show star might be the ticket to relieve both the boredom and bitterness. Their preachers tell them that God works in mysterious ways through sinners as well as saints. I guess they feel part of a winning team even while the populist coach is pushing them to play while injured, selling off their uniforms, and firing their team physician.

    This being rural America the churches run the gamut with odd messages and interesting spiritual displays. I think I'll start a collection of photos depicting American Christianity's more mind bending messages. See photos...

    Perhaps another bike ride tomorrow will alleviate some of the angst of being back in the USofA.
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  • Day108

    Saying Hellos and Goodbyes

    August 22, 2018 in the Netherlands ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    Well, the time has come. Our visas are about to run out and we're down to our last week in Holland. We've already packed up our bicycles for the flight and said some final goodbyes. Sjoerd and Marta came by bringing fixings for an Indonesian dinner. Nancy and Marta worked to prepare the meal while Sjoerd, Augie, and I sampled Belgian ales. No sexism there...

    We then set off to see if we could catch a glimpse of the classical music concert on the Prinsengracht. It is quite an event with VIP seating and an occasional appearance by the royal couple. We made it to the perimeter of a great crowd where we could hear the music but not see the performers. We tried from all angles with no improvement and finally decided to head back to Tuinstraat to watch on television. It was quite a spectacle. Very young performers presenting some very difficult pieces with a lot of flair. The music ended with a song Aan de Amsterdamse Grachten about being on the canals of Amsterdam being the best place to be. Lots of singing along. Later in the evening, after we'd said our goodbyes and I was walking back from the train station, several boats glided by with passengers still singing the lyrics. It evokes something similar in the city's natives as 'I left my heart in San Francisco' does for Northern Californians. Here's a rendition: Not to be confused with this tune:

    We also spent a day with our host's friends Johan and Annemieke. Johan rode his bike to pick us up and shepherd us back to his home in Zuid Amsterdam near the Beatrix Park. Annemieke put out a nice lunch and we headed out for a bicycle tour of the eastern part of the city. Johan was involved in development during his career so he and Annemieke pointed out quite a few new buildings as we went along. We swung by some new developments and admired a newly designed home by one of their friends who is an architect. The place comes with a boat slip for plying the canals. We also visited the newly renovated hotel Arena based in a building that had served as a church sanitorium and later a disco and hostel. The photographer, Jan Stel, exhibited work depicting the decay of abandoned industrial sites.
    Further north we hit the red bridges. Two pedestrian bridges between parallel shipping piers. See the photos below. We ended the afternoon by meeting up with Augie at the Brewery Ijs set up in an old mill. Good beer and good people.

    Tomorrow Augie heads out on a tour of Spain for a couple weeks and we finish packing for our flight the day after. Tomorrow evening we have plans for one more round of beer with Gerbrand, Johan, and Annemieke.
    Our next post will be from the great state of Wisconsin where the cheese curds are plentiful and knowing the words to Johnny Verbeck is required. Video here:
    Lyrics here:
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  • Day107

    Augie's 22nd Birthday

    August 21, 2018 in the Netherlands ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    Augie's 22nd Birthday. We rose a bit early and made our way to Café Winkle around the corner for appletart and cappuccinos. Nancy headed off for her last haircut at the local hairdresser while Augie set off to the hardware for a piece of coupling to fix the toilet flush mechanism.
    (Some birthday!)

    We then boarded the train for Haarlem to visit the Dolhuys Museum. The Dolhuys translates something close to 'crazy house'. It is in an old asylum and is set up to depict and challenge our present and historical assumptions of normalcy in society. Something mirroring my efforts in professional life. The exhibit was clearly done. The use of individual stories was powerful. It is worth a visit of one is seeking a bit of challenge in one's thinking in this regard. There is also an exhibition of Outsider Art in the building. The museum of Dr. Guislan in Gent was both more extensive and profound should one wish a more impacting challenge.
    A link to the museum site is here:
    A link to the my photos from the visit is here:
    A link to Guislan is here:
    (Some birthday!)

    We then boarded the train to Leiden; a pretty university city near the coast to the north of den Haag. Nancy remarked that the city has a pleasant feeling of civility and a history that she appreciates. The Pilgrims set out from this town to board the Mayflower and begin the British effort toward the eradication of the native people of the Americas. The Spanish effort had been underway for almost a century before this tardy undertaking.
    (Some birthday!)

    Leiden is also somewhat unique in this part of the Netherlands as it sports a hill. We took some nice photos at the top. Granted it was a human compiled effort to defend the city, but a hill nonetheless. Besides, what room do I have to complain about fortifications as we hail from a country whose national sport seems to be war.
    (Some birthday!)

    We found Leiden to be so pleasant that we decided to forgo our plans to head on to den Haag for burgers at Ich Bin Ein Burger and track down a birthday dinner locally. We looked on the internet (free wifi throughout the town btw) and found just the place. We even stopped by to make sure that they served something other than burgers. Unfortunately they didn't open for an hour or so and we set off to explore more of the city. We walked the canals for some time before looking down on an idyllic looking floating restaurant on the banks of the Rhine. There was our mistake. We checked and burgers were on the menu. We ordered and were presented with two hamburgers that Augie described as having come from 'a public school cafeteria kitchen'. Augie later shared his observation that idyllic tourist oriented places don't usually have very good food. I later observed that if someone puts a similar plate of food in front of me in the future, I'm just going to get up and leave.
    (Some birthday)

    Actually all (most of) of this grousing is just part of preparing ourselves for a return to the States. I keep having to remind myself that there are places in the States that are similarly civilized and have a degree of social fabric still intact. We actually had a very nice time and Augie had a really nice birthday. At least as nice as the one spent watching 12 Years a Slave and listening to his mom and grandmother engage in a long discussion about where to spread Granny's ashes.
    (Now that was really some birthday!)

    This was a birthday spent sharing time, laughter, and experiences while traveling together with people we love. This is what really made it some birthday!
    (see photos)

    Happy Birthday, Bub!
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  • Day101

    Flemish Weekend Invasion!

    August 15, 2018 in the Netherlands ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    Manu and Katelijn arrived on Friday midday and we set off in their auto to the Singer museum in Laren. Augie joined us for the day. We didn't quite make it without a stop in Blaricum at the deHoop ice cream shop. The exhibit of Impressionist garden paintings was still running at the Singer. Manu and Katelijn were pleased with the connection to the colony of artists along the river Leie near their home in Wannegem-Lede. Afterwards we once again stopped for Poffertrjes in the park at Laren. Katelijn tried her hand at the griddle and a link to the video can be found here: Our friends in Bilthoven, Sjoerd and Martha deserve credit for our itinerary. On the way home we found a place to park their car at Amsterdam Zuid Park and Ride. 1€ per day on the weekends. We rode the metro to the center and emerged from the station in a downpour. Uber got us back to Tuinstraat.

    The next morning Mo and Nazi arrived from Gent. Mo and I found a place to park their car to the west. Parking is somewhat expensive and difficult in Amsterdam. We used the site 'free-parking-amsterdam' to locate the only block-long street with no enforcement within several miles of the Center. The middle of the day was spent at the Noordermarkt. Pea soup and bratwurst. In the afternoon Augie and I set off to collect the rental boat from Manuel on Admiralgraact. The boat trip was a great success. Nancy, Nazi, and Katelijn put together a picnic complete with bubbly. Once home Manu and Katelijn set off back to their friend's apartment in den Haag.

    Sunday morning Augie left us for Berlin and the four of us left on a tour of the villages to the north. Hoorn, Edam, Volendam, Marken, and Monnickendam. Hoorn was inundated with a carnival. Rides, food stalls, and Hawkers took up the streets for a square kilometer. All the way from the main bus stop to the main square. We had a quick walk and some fish and chips before boarding the bus to Edam. A new exhibit opening was taking place in the Grotekerk. The works by Johan Sticky stuck out. The walk along the seawall and ferry trip to Marken were pleasant and windless.

    The next morning Nancy and I left Mo and Nazi to their own devices and took a bicycle ride through the polders to the south of the city. The afternoon was spent visiting the Albert Cuyp market and strolling toward home through the Museumplein and Vondelpark. As we passed by the US consulate, we couldn't help grabbing a photo of our Iranian friend in front of the entrance. A military guard came out of the building to observe us. We're both hoping for regime change in our respective countries sooner rather than later. Dinner was Ethiopian food at Lalibela. See photo below.

    All in all it was a great visit with very good friends.

    Here is a link to our shared Google Photos album.
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  • Day90

    Utrecht for the Weekend

    August 4, 2018 in the Netherlands ⋅ ☀️ 25 °C

    Nancy and I pedaled to Utrecht for the weekend. Nice 60 mile round trip. We passed lettuce and cactus nurseries along the way. Plenty of empty dry canals as well. The drought is really taking its toll. The path along the river Vecht to the north of the city is just gorgeous. Castles, mansions, quaint farmhouses and windmills the whole way. The green along the river lasts until the final two or three kilometers before the center of the city. Lovely ride.

    Utrecht is a very pleasant small city to the southeast of Amsterdam. Canals run through the center. The city doesn't share many of the edgy characteristics of Amsterdam, but we did run across a few oddities. The railroad building has a UFO stuck to its side. No one could tell us the reason for this. We also ran across the gestolen steen (stolen boulder) which is chained to the corner of a building. Wikipedia states that "This boulder appears to be mentioned for the first time under this heading in a charter from 1520. [1] De Gesloten Steen is credited with acting as a chimpanzee." [1] I'm still unsure of what this is referring to. Dutch humor perhaps.

    A primary reason for our trip involved a story that Grace had shared about having a penpal in Utrecht when she was a teenager. She remembered the street name 'Johan DeWittstraat' and the number seven. We found the street, just a block long, with a mere 10 address numbers. It was pretty strange standing in front the home, looking up at the windows, and imagining a 16 year old lad sitting in there writing letters to Grace Stuckey of Alliance, Ohio back in 1946/47.

    Saturday afternoon we wandered the city with Augie. We loosely followed an architectural tour that we'd sourced online. Lots of buildings dating back to the 1200s. We ended our tour at tge Dom Cathedral where we took in an organ concert.

    Nancy and I enjoyed two delicious dinners over the weekend. Both were right by the canal. The first sharing a pizza loaded with gorgonzola and accompanied by a hearty shot of Jack Daniels and the second with friends Sjoerd, Marta, and Rene followed by ice cream. Augie joined us too.

    Life is pretty good these days...
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