Sunday, November 25, 2007

Back in the US...

A regular scene in the Netherlands where bicycle lanes are separated from auto traffic.

Greetings from along the Colorado River, Ft. Mojave/BullheadCity, AZ

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 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.

We'll continue to post to the blog from time to time updates on our life and travels. We always appreciate your feedback and updates from your life as well, so please don't be bashful. And, if you've had enough, you can just delete us. It's just that easy! Be well and keep in touch. Hope the Thanksgiving holiday was an enjoyable one...Happy trails from way out west...tom and nancy

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Netherlands and time to go...

tom ready to ride Bike trails and lights

Wind turbines along roadside
Ms.Nancy does the internet at home.

Well folks, it's hard to believe that we're only a few kilometers away and a couple of days until we board US Airways for Phoenix. It certainly has been a wonderful gift to travel as we have. Our last major road days took us from along the Rhine in Bingen on to Koln (Cologne) Germany and then to here near the North Sea at Delft. Our itinerary was decided primarily because of availability of campgrounds, as most are closed this time of year. The weather is damp and much warmer than we'd expected, positively balmy in the high 50's with a bit of blue above the clouds/fog. Our current campground is in a nature park 200 yards from a major freeway at the edge of the city of Delft, near the Hague, and home of the painter Vermeer and the famous blue Delft ceramics. It is also only the second campground in our entire trip that has unlimited & free WiFi internet connection available in our camping spot! Nancy has been busy catching up on the news and like, while Tom took advantage of the bicycle rentals, the flat terrain and the incredibly extensive biking roadways in the area. He spent the day riding in the mist all over town, discovering solar PV installations, wind turbines, a nature center, the old central Markt Plaza with cafes and lots of souvenir shops with Delft pottery, windmills and wooden shoes. All around are canals, small cars, people biking and walking. In front of our campground, cows are grazing in lush green grass with no fencing within site of high rise apartments and the freeway...the land is reclaimed and surrounded by small canals so no fences are needed. One common theme throughout our European travels has been how close agriculture is to daily life here. Cities and towns are clearly defined, bordered by agricultural fields right up to the edge. Houses and lots are smaller here, apartments more plentiful, afterall, land is at a premium and populations large. There is an intense pride in the quality of the food and it's nearness to the consumers. Daily markets are common throughout Europe, not just the Netherlands or France. The custom of small, close together homes may date back to medieval Europe and the era of walled cities. But its implications for living, food production and consumer patterns (how much stuff can you stuff into a small living space...and no off site storage units) is profound.

Nancy says it's time to go...we're traveling to Amsterdam today to return the van and enjoy the last of our European adventure. A museum, a meal and a cafe or 2 await. Nancy says we need to return to the Red Light district as well, to see if her favorite zaftig brunette is still pulling in more customers than the slim blonde next door...(I suspect the interest may have something to do with zaftig vs. slim) Unsure whether we'll have an internet connection before departure so I'll send this along now. Hopefully our next communication will be from the Phoenix area, land of sunshine and warmth. It's goodby to the cool, damp and cloudy for awhile, but it's still amazing that we're at 52N latitude and it's this mild at this time of year. Maybe the Europeans have reason to worry if part of the changing global climate includes cessation or modification of the Gulf Stream. They appear to take renewable alternatives in energy, efficiency and carbon reduction more seriously here, perhaps because they are more likely to suffer adversely from the projected changes. All in all, it's been a wonderful opportunity to observe and learn, enjoy and wonder at the predominant cultural influence this place has and has had on the US, ourselves and the world.

Happy trails from the Netherlands...ciao for now, tom and nancy