Well folks, its hard to believe we're back in the sunshine and dry warmth of the desert southwest. Methinks we've been in a bit of post travel fog now as we realize it's been nearly 3 weeks since flying into Phoenix on 6 November. That morning we'd walked to the central train station in Amsterdam amidst clouds, mist but hints of blue skies and sunshine. Tom had managed to fall head over heels walking backwards off a curb taking the last of pictures in "really neat light" of downtown Amsterdam. He managed to rip out the pants and bloodied up the knee pretty badly, but, we had to get to the airport. Actually it was a pretty easy trip of about 1/2 hour with our 4 bags stacked in front. We arrived at the airport, loaded our bags on one of the free luggage carts and found the airport first aid office. After a quick look, the nurse cleaned out the cut, placed a bandage on it and wished us a good fllight. That's it, no name, record or payment!
The flight was wonderfully uneventful and the scenery as we flew out over the Netherlands impressive: the variegated fields of crops and flowers right up to the edge of the towns and cities, as we climbed through the clouds. Upon arrival in Philadelphia 9 hours later we were greeted by the new American welcomers, shaved-headed police ordering us to stay in a single file as we deplaned through the jetway, making room for the drug dog and handler to "greet" the new arrivals. We were run through customs where we reunited with our checked luggage and passed before the customs agents who asked what we had to declare and decided whether or not to believe us or check our luggage. We must have looked suitably respectable, or not nervous and were waved on through, only to have to again remove shoes and items from pockets, take laptop out of case etc and go through airport screening all over. Not once was anybody able to say to the many international travelers from Europe, "Welcome" or anything of the sort. We saw an elderly Dutch couple with a mentally challenged daughter trying to negotiate the security screening again, and to understand why we were again going through this after having undergone security in Amsterdam and not been out of a secure area since. We looked at each other incredulously, we smiled and asked if they needed any help, and they returned the smile, thanked us and said they were ok. It was quite an embarassing spectacle, and largely poorly executed. We heard some Americans commenting that although it was uncomfortable but at "least we feel safe". We spoke with a woman from England who simply smiled and offered that "you Americans are still new at this and are doing it rather awkwardly, like adolescents". She went on to note that the Americans appeared afraid of everything, bordering on hysteria, while in Britain they had adjusted to life with threats of terrorism, and life just went on. Due diligence and care, yes, but the fear and anxiety she saw was way out of proportion. It certainly was a day of contrasts from each side of the Atlantic. We arrived in Phoenix a little later than scheduled but our wonderful friends, Al and Donna, were there to greet us and wisk us back to their house for much needed sleep. They had been to Europe years earlier so we stayed up a bit to share stories, but soon the most comfortable sleep in many weeks was ours.
The next afternoon we returned to our motorhome and little truck, parked in our friends, Mike and Lori's, side yard. It was wonderful to be "home" again. But before we could move back in we needed to clean and sweep 2 months of Scottsdale, desert dust off all surfaces. It was also a time to look at all the "stuff" we had brought back along with that which we found waiting for us, and we knew then, what would be our focus this winter season... lightening up the load again by getting rid of the stuff we just don't use or need. But, that will have to wait. We needed to restock our food pantry with first a stop at Trader Joe's in Scottsdale, and later that next week at New Frontiers Natural Foods in Prescott. Our bulk foods restored and the organics, wine and other staples loaded up it was time to head to Prescott AZ. We enjoyed the many visits with friends and checking in on a few of our favorite restaurants, but we had work to do...so here we are, in Ft. Mohave, along the Colorado River. Nancy is busy going through the files for her annual "paper purge", Tom is going through boxes in the "basement" and "attic", along with readying traditional Christmas-gift calendars, notecards etc. We'll be here another week before heading out across the Mojave Desert, with hopefully a few stops along the way, to Tom's sister Mary's, his mother's (to help her move to new apartment) and Christmas in the Redlands/Yucaipa area of southern California.