Sunday, January 21, 2001 - Oberursel,
The first leg of this year's journey went very well. The flight from Baltimore to Detroit was a bit choppy, but nothing that I couldn't handle. I met my daughter at the Detroit airport and we visited over lunch and talked a lot about the web page for my trip. My daughter has more expertise than I with web page construction and it is to her that I send my web page updates from Internet Cafes. She checks my spelling, makes the material ready for the web site, adds graphics, and does whatever other hocus-pocus is necessary to maintain the site.
The second leg of the journey, the eight-hour flight from Detroit to Frankfurt, Germany, also went amazingly well. Thanks to the anti-anxiety drug, Xanax, prescribed by my physician to fight the white-knuckle flying syndrome that makes my trips a real challenge, I slept 6 or 7 hours of the trip. I also came through the flight with very little jet-lag, to which I am also susceptible. I ate nothing on the flight, drank only water, and slept the drug-induced sleep of Xanax. This regimen, plus attempting to nudge my body closer to European time in the last few days at home, seems to have been just the right mix for me.
I arrived pretty fresh and ready to tackle the directions that my son emailed to me to navigate the German train system from the airport to his home outside Frankfurt. He would have met me, but he was in Switzerland for the week on business and his wife was busy at my 7:30 a.m. arrival time with my two grandchildren.
You would think that the child of parents with German lineage on both sides and who resides in a community where a form of German (Pennsylvania Deutsch) is still spoken could operate pretty well in Germany. You would be wrong! My language studies include two years of Latin, two years of French, 25 years of informal Spanish, and nary a day of German. I know “Gesundheit” and that is about it. I do not know an “eingang” from an “ausfahrt”. I was very successful in communicating whenever anyone sneezed on the train, but I had to follow closely the directions sent by my son. I made the trip without a wrong turn, changing trains in Frankfurt, to the beautiful little town of Oberursel where he and his wife reside. Needless to say, I am proud of this accomplishment. The grandchildren were not impressed with my achievement, but were delighted to have "Poppa" at their house for fun and games.
I will spend a few days visiting the kids, then on Sunday make my way by train to Amsterdam to visit Holland for the first time. I will keep you posted on my impressions of the city and country on my next update.
Tuesday, January 23, 2001 - Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Whomever it was that said, "God has a great sense of humor," has this thing about weather figured out perfectly. My winter adventures are partially undertaken to avoid the snow and cold that I have grown to dislike. Of course, this year I was forced to face both snow and cold in Pennsylvania before I left. Upon arrival in Frankfurt, I was treated to their coldest weather of the year and on the day of my departure for Amsterdam, I awakened to find 4 or 5 inches of snow in Oberursel.
As I rode the train north and along the west bank of the Rhine River, the amount of accumulated snow seemed to diminish somewhat. The train traveled along the river, busy even on Sunday with heavy commercial barge traffic, for about three hours, passing through the German cities of Bonn, Dusseldorf, Cologne, and Duisburg. The views of the river and the occasional castles perched high above were sometimes breathtaking, although the air was moist with fog in many places which limited the view. I changed trains in Duisburg to board the connecting train to Amsterdam. The amount of snow seemed to increase on the flat lands of Holland as we approached the coast.
I was met in Amsterdam with a light drizzle, but walked out of the beautiful central train station, down one of the main streets which looked on one side a little like the boardwalks along our beaches in the U.S. Every commercial establishment possible was located along that side of the street, facing a canal with boats advertising canal tours of the city. A pretty frenetic place, with trolleys, bicycles, cars, and heavy pedestrian traffic, even in the drizzle. I walked a couple of blocks down the street and turned right onto a tiny, side street in search of a small, inexpensive hotel, located away from the main thoroughfare. As usual, good fortune smiled on me and I walked right up to The Tulip Inn, which fit the bill perfectly and provided a place to lay my head and my bag for a few days. I rested a short time in my room, then decided to find an Internet Cafe to report my arrival to my family.
After a walk of about a mile on a very crowded, traffic-free, shopping street I reached the cafe to which I was directed and found what must be the world's largest internet cafe. There are more than 700 computer terminals in the cafe I will be using for the next three days. New, flat- screened Samsung monitors face customers with HP keyboards displaying keys marked like they are at home, no small feature in a foreign land. Cost for internet access is around a dollar for 40 minutes, which I consider a bargain. After completing my communications I return in some cold and blowing, light snow to my room for a little more rest before foraging for my evening meal.
God's great sense of humor greeted me as I departed the hotel lobby with snow that had accumulated to an inch or two. So far this year's trip has had the perfect weather, all bad. My friends reading this in Florida will be doing so with a smile on their faces. I ate a light, Dutch meal of ground beef patty, served with a sunny-side egg on top, accompanied by sauteed onions and French fries in a cafe near the hotel. I plan to use tomorrow to tour the city and enjoy talking to the bartender about the city and about my plans for the rest of the winter.
Can the weather get any worse? Day two was brightened only by the very nice breakfast that was included at the hotel. The day was downright ugly, with mist and fog that quickly covered my glasses as I walked toward the city tour office. The way the weather has been, there was no need to wait for a better day, so I bought a ticket that included a one hour canal tour by boat and a later, two and a half-hour bus tour of the city. The weather got worse as the day went along. The canal trip was fine, despite the mist, and I enjoyed some beautiful views of the city, with its unique architecture, many bikes, and lovely canals complete with many houseboats. The afternoon bus trip was not as good, since it got so foggy that visibility was reduced to about 500 feet and I had seen most of the sites on the earlier canal tour. I like to take tours in new cities to learn about the city from the guide and to see places to which I should return after completing the tour. The tours of Amsterdam did provide that despite the weather.
OK, now comes the part that too many of my friends are anticipating. Between tours, I decided to take a stroll through the famous red-light district of the city. I figured that noon would be a pretty safe time to make that trip, not knowing how safe this area might be. I strolled the street which was very sparsely populated at lunch time as I had expected. I marveled at the number of sex shops, selling every kind of paraphernalia known to man (and the Marquis de Sade). It is amazing how liberating anonymity can be! At home, I would never have even peeked in these places. As a matter of fact, I'm not even sure we have these places at home. Our Victorian background is obviously not shared by these folks. Here, where not a soul knows me, I took the liberty of looking in a few of the shop windows. At one, I followed two middle aged couples onto the stoop where the windows on both sides displayed all sorts of gadgets too complex (and too graphic) to describe here. I was attracted to this shop by the uproarious laughter of the couples as they talked in German about the objects on display.
Interspersed with the sex shops were shops that sold the legalized drugs that seem to interest so many of the young people who visit here. Coffee shops where young people were apparently smoking the stuff also completed the picture. The windows displayed signs of all of the drugs that were available inside. One advertised Ecstasy cigarettes and I didn't even know that they smoked the stuff. As doors of coffee shops opened, I walked through clouds of marijuana that emanated from within. I would hate to take a drug test right now. I will probably need a few days for my body to flush the second-hand smoke away.
OK, guys, back to the red light information: there were narrow, tall windows holding stools where the ladies would sit when looking for business. Few were occupied at that time of day, although several had scantily-clad ladies atop the stools. They seemed to want to meet me, because they gestured me inside; it must have been the way my blue coat reflected the color of my eyes. My overwhelming reaction was to feel sorry for the women who had to resort to this for survival. My Victorian influence had me feeling better once I left this area of the city. On the way back, I spent more time looking in the window of one cheese shop than I had looking at the shops and the windows of the entire red-light district. Unfortunately, it must be a sign of age.
In the evening I dined at a nice, Dutch restaurant on filet of sole hodgepodge. Yep, that was what they called it. It turned out to be four pieces of filet of lightly-breaded sole, leaning beautifully on a bright red mixture of mashed potatoes and pureed red beet. Delicious and very Dutch I was told.
Today is my last day in this marvelous city and it turned out to be warmer and partially sunny. Perhaps I have done my penance where weather is concerned. I spent this morning at the national art museum, The Rijks Museum, and saw some wonderful works by the Dutch masters. Included were many works by Rembrandt, a few by Van Gogh (there is a separate Van Gogh museum left for another trip), and many others. My favorite work was one by Anton Mauve, called The Vegetable Garden. I probably liked it because it was a summertime scene with no snow. I also liked the portraits of Rembrandt and the still lifes of Jean Van de Velde.
Enough of this culture, tomorrow morning I return by train to Frankfurt. My wife will arrive on Friday morning and we will spend a few days babysitting the grandchildren while their parents travel to the Canary Islands on holiday. I promise not to be so wordy on future updates. If I remember correctly from last year, the further into the trip I got, the less verbose I became. Catch you later.
25, 2001 - Amsterdam,
Before I forget to share it with you, I must comment a little about traveling by train in Europe. I had forgotten just how relaxing and comfortable train travel is here. There are several advantages to travel within Europe by train. First, the thing never leaves the ground, so phobics (like me) smile during the entire ride. Secondly, the trains are on time, unlike any public transportation in the U.S. Next, the trains are in wonderful condition and offer seats with real leg room, overhead compartments where the luggage actually fits, spotless rest rooms, and a dining car when the hunger pangs strike. Finally, you leave the driving to them and you arrive at a central downtown location. The only shortcoming is that they are not cheap, but the Eurail pass program saves a great deal of money when you are making a week or 10 day trip by train. Be sure to buy the Eurail pass from your U.S. travel agent before you leave, because it is much cheaper when purchased off of the continent. Unfortunately, I was only going on the one trip to Amsterdam and although I traveled second class, which is very first class, the price was more than I would have liked, around $140.
Now comes a little bad news. Perhaps I shouldn't have permitted Leonardo to hear my voice. Apparently the wagging of his tailpipe caused him to lose his balance and he toppled over onto the pavement, causing some pretty severe damage. It might also have been the gusty winds that we experienced on Saturday, but I suspect it was the wagging because I know that he was overjoyed to see me. The damages include a broken windshield, one broken brake handle, a cracked, front handlebar covering which holds the starter button, and a dead battery from the leaking of acid while he lay on the ground.
This morning, I pushed Leonardo to the local Aprilia dealer, located only three blocks from my son's house (I told you that God looks after fools). Even three blocks down hill was a real effort. He seems to have gained weight since I last saw him. The mechanic spoke not one word of English and “Gezundheit” somehow seemed inappropriate. However, I think that we managed to communicate pretty well with a series of gestures, grunts, and sounds. I guess that I will find out for sure when the repairs are completed. The diagnosis is that he will need a new battery and windscreen, but that the rest can be jury-rigged to make the trip.
The mechanic seemed to indicate that he can have him ready for next Monday's departure, so perhaps no time will be lost. A few more episodes like that and it would have been cheaper to train to Portugal as well.
It has been a few days since I updated the page because of some very important baby-sitting duties. You know, like diaper-changing, filling "sippy-cups" with milk and juice, and reading the same books and watching the same Disney films over and over again. I am animated out! My wife and I welcomed our son and his wife back from Tenerife (in the Canary Islands) on Thursday evening. Both grandparents and children were delighted to have them back.
Yesterday, my wife and I spent the day touring and shopping in downtown Frankfurt, which is a far more interesting city than I expected. Many sycamore-lined, traffic-free, shopping streets which would no doubt be beautiful in good, summer weather. Yesterday, however, we were not blessed with those climatic conditions. The day started cold, but we left for the day together looking for adventure, despite the weather. We enjoyed lunch together in an extremely funky restaurant in the City University area of the city. While dining on ostrich and piranha soup (I told you it was funky), we noticed through the gross, artificial flowers on the windows that it had started to snow. We spent the rest of the day, battling the elements and shopping for a few small gifts.
We toured the Römerplatz area which suffered severe damage during heavy Allied bombing of the city, but really were limited by the weather in our sightseeing efforts. The snow got heavier and started to accumulate as we rested our sore feet in a coffee shop overlooking a smaller platz (square) and gazed out at the many people, frantically scurrying to accomplish their daily, work day duties. We got the last table in the coffee shop and as each table emptied, patrons rushed to fill the spot, everyone trying to warm themselves from the unpleasant conditions outside.
After the throbbing in my feet subsided, we started walking toward the area in which we were told there were many good restaurants and which had become the place to be seen in after-work Frankfurt. With driving snow blowing in our faces, we crossed the Main River on one of its many bridges, intent on accomplishing the last goal of the day, a good restaurant for our last night together. We walked for several miles and found far fewer restaurants than we were led to believe existed in the area and finally settled on a place mostly to escape the weather. We had gotten quite wet from battling the elements. We were helped off with our wet coats and shown to a small table for two, next to a window looking into the small spotless kitchen.
We shared a very good bottle of a Cotes de Rhone wine and were entertained by the young, handsome, pony-tailed chef who kept as many as seven or eight pots and pans going simultaneously. We watched our dishes being prepared and enjoyed attempting to figure out just which pans were holding our meals. Joan had a beautiful salad and tagliatelle with a light curry sauce. I went for the lobster bisque and a roasted, saddle of lamb. The food was delicious. We walked only one more block to a U-bahn (local train) station and made our way home without incident, but with many laughs. The wine had made us a little silly. The closer that we got to Oberursel, the more snow had accumulated. The walk from the train station in the beautiful white stuff made a picturesque ending to a full day in Frankfurt.
This morning we awoke to find four inches of snow and it continued to fall until six inches had accumulated. What a great location I selected for a winter get-a-way! Although Frankfurt did not get quite as much snow as Oberursel, my wife's plane was delayed for an hour and a half. She should be on her way by now and I am beginning to think about packing for my departure tomorrow.
I fully expect Leonardo to be ready to roll tomorrow. I visited the shop on Thursday and work was in progress. There is only one fly-in-the-ointment: Leonardo has not yet been registered in Germany. That means that he has no license plate, which may cause a slight problem en route. Hopefully, all the red-tape has been eliminated and the new license plate will be delivered on Monday morning. If that does not take place, my departure could be delayed for a day.
The weather is supposed to warm tomorrow and may approach 50 degrees with a light rain. I don't want to pass up the 50 degree window, so I am hoping to at least ride through Weisbaden to Koblenz, before crossing the Rhine. Then, it will be through the Ardennes and Malmedy, scene of the massacre of captured Allied prisoners during WWII.
I won't press for distance on the first day, but would like to get to the flat areas along the coast of western Belgium in a day or two. Unfortunately, the Internet yielded the information that there are ski resorts in eastern Belgium, so I don't know just what kind of terrain Leonardo and I face. The pictures on the Malmedy site showed an awful lot of snow. I know this: we will not ride in snowy or icy conditions! If it gets at all slippery, we will stop until it gets unslippery, even if it takes a day or two. I am also hoping that the Rain-X that I brought along will help with the rain on the windscreen and the helmet visor. Not having wipers, it can be difficult to see in the rain. I am eager to get started and will update you whenever possible. Come on sunshine!!!
Monday, February 5,
2001 - Oberursel,
Tuesday, February 6,
2001 - Charleroi,
7, 2001 - Amiens,
8, 2001 - Caen, France
I know that I haven't updated the page in a while, but do I have stories to tell you about the intervening times when there was no internet access!! I guess that I should start where I left you, in Caen on the Normandy coast. When I awoke the morning after I updated the web page last time, it was pouring, so I decided that riding Leonardo around the WWII sites was foolish. Not wanting to waste any time, I decided to take a commercial tour of the sites, but no bus tours are available in the winter. I managed to arrange a private tour with a guide/taxi driver, which cost a little more than I wanted, but I was glad that I had not tried it myself. Normandy is flooded right now with every stream, river and low area full to the brim. The driver had to take a number of alternate routes because of flooded roadways and I simply wouldn't have found some of the sites.
It was awfully impressive to stand at Omaha Beach and see what our troops had to overcome. Utah Beach was four and one half miles away and not as difficult to secure as Omaha, where a 90% casualty rate occurred. The Canadians and the British landed at the beaches next to Omaha, which were also not as heavily fortified. I also visited the cliffs scaled by the Rangers, where they had to destroy a large gun and fight unaided for three days. Most of the 225 rangers died in the fight, but accomplished their mission. Bunkers from bombs and rounds fired from the ships are still very visible at the site, as are German dormitory bunkers. I visited other sites where Nazi guns and bunkers are still intact.
Finally, I visited the U.S. Military Cemetery, where 10,000 U.S. troops are buried. 15,000 other dead were shipped home at the request of the families. I was extremely moved at the cemetery and even now, as I write this, the tears well up at the sacrifices made for us at this place. I wrote, "Thank you and may God bless you" in the log book at the visitor's center and said a prayer in the chapel at the cemetery. I am privileged to have visited here!
Although the rain had abated, I decided to spend the night and leave Caen early the next morning and it was a great decision. My old enemy appeared in the afternoon and evening and I fought valiantly all night. I never really did anything to Montezuma personally, but he has gotten more than his share of revenge on me through the years. I am very sensitive to changes of water, even when traveling in the states, so I am very careful on the road. Not careful enough, it appears. A bottle of mineral water that I bought for lunch had a funny cap on it, which I thought was a new company design, but which now I believe was placed on it after it was refilled from the tap. Two hours later, Montezuma appeared at my door. After previous battles in Central America, I know that a 48-72 hour fast is the only thing that will cure it, so I began my own crash weight loss program right then and there.
I was able to leave at sunrise the next day and the fasting served me well as I spent a long, long day on the road, covering a record 510 km when I finally found a hotel in St. Jean d'Angely, south of the Brittany peninsula and a short days ride from Bordeaux. The day had been extremely cold, especially when I visited the beautiful Abbey of Mont St. Michel. You have probably seen pictures of this place, where at high tide the rocky island has only a small road connecting it to the mainland and where the monks have built a beautiful cathedral. It was very dark and dreary when I got there, so I don't know if my pictures will look very good. There appeared to be a service going on as many locals were walking the road to the place and many cars were parked in the parking lot. I had a policeman take my picture and I hopped on the scooter and left the very cold, damp place. It was gorgeous, but Leonardo and I needed warmth! We pointed our noses south and rode until dark. When I finally got to St. Jean d'Angely, I secured a room, crawled into bed and slept 12 hours. It was a tough day, but we were about 300 miles further south!
When I awoke the next morning, still fasting, and now with a bruised derriere from the previous day's overexertion, the weather had warmed considerably. So now, the rain and cold had been replaced by a thick blanket of fog. This was a problem, because I had to keep a paper towel in my left hand and wipe my helmet visor every 1,000 feet or so. Leonardo and I moved slowly through the Sunday morning mist, barely able to navigate the thick stuff and appreciated the lack of traffic on the back country roads. By 11:30 and after having ridden no more than 50 km. in a couple of hours, the sun began to burn off the fog with its warming rays. What a great day for a ride it had turned out to be!!
Then it happened; Leonardo's drive belt went! It happened all at once, a loud noise, the motor raced, but we coasted to a stop. I was able to push the scooter to a parking area along the side of the road, only 50 yards away and close to an intersection where there were about five houses clustered. I flagged down a passing cyclist, who turned out to be 16 years old, and he helped me ask the neighbors if I could store the scooter until I could get a mechanic to pick it up. Fortunately, a delightful, older (I think they were a little older than I) couple permitted me to put Leonardo in their garage. I climbed on the young man's cycle with my bags on my back and my lap and away we went to the nearest town only about 3 km. away. His little cycle strained, but around the traffic circles he slowed not a bit and scared the daylights out of me as he leaned precariously into the turns. I was glad to jump off the cycle at the truck stop where he dropped me.
It was here that I learned that there was only one hotel in the little town and that it was closed on Sunday. Still 25 km. from Bordeaux, with no transportation, and not wanting to get too far from Leonardo, I was stuck for options. Nearing the end of my fast, I entered the restaurant area of the truck stop to find the place teeming with truck drivers. Most of the assembled are British "lorry" drivers, consuming great amounts of beer. From them I learn that France has a law that prohibits trucks, except refrigerated ones, from being on the highways from 10 p.m. Saturday until 10 p.m. Sunday. I talked with truckers from Holland, Portugal, Czechoslovakia, Spain, as well as England for 10 hours at the bar, sipping cokes, and managed to convince one British lorry driver to let me sleep in the other bunk in his cab for the night. The convincing wasn't complete until midnight when the entire truck stop closed and I was prepared to sleep outside. By that time the young trucker was heading back to his cab to sleep after consuming too much beer and felt sorry for the old man with the heavy bags in the motorcycle suit. What a godsend he was!!
Their's is an awful life, away from home four months, sleeping in the cold cabs, and returning only for three or four days before heading back out on the road. Most of the time they shower only every three or four days and also cook in their cabs where they have hot plates and refrigerators. It is no wonder that they go on all day drinking bouts.
When I awoke in the morning and brushed my teeth at the truck stop, I found my way back on foot, carrying the heavy bags on my shoulders, to the cycle shop we had passed the day before on the way to the truck stop. Of course, it didn't open until 2:00 p.m., so I waited. The mechanic was wonderful. He went with me in his truck, after calling the couple on the phone, brought Leonardo back to the shop and worked on it until 5:30, installing a new belt, new brake pads, a new wheel bearing, and filling the radiator and the rear tire which were both low. Another $200 shot, but I was back on the road.
I made it the 25 km. to Bordeaux for the night, but Leonardo was not running well when we arrived. I found a puddle of clear oil under him when I returned from the restaurant last night, so this morning I must find another mechanic. Florida is beginning to sound better all the time, even though the weather here has warmed and flowers are starting to bloom. Leonardo's saga continues... Will update you when possible, hopefully from Spain if Leonardo will go.
Wednesday, February 14, 2001 - San Sebastien, Spain
Estamos en Espana!! (WE ARE IN SPAIN!) First, I must begin with a public apology to Leonardo. It seems that I called his character into question when I wondered about his willingness to ride to San Sebastien. He is very sensitive and was hurt by the allegation. He has been a good friend (amazing how desperate one gets when traveling alone) and a loyal steed and I did not mean to malign him.
After getting a cafe owner to check the yellow pages for an Aprilia mechanic in Bordeaux, I babied the sputtering Leonardo two km. to the large dealership, expecting his transmission or engine to freeze any second from the loss of precious oil that had pooled beneath him in front of the hotel. It turned out that the previous mechanic had overfilled the radiator and what appeared to be oil turned out to be coolant that looked like oil in the poor lighting and through the paranoia that viewed it. The real problem with Leonardo's sputtering was the mis-sized belt that was borrowed from a new Piaggio scooter by the first mechanic, when he didn't have one that fit the Aprilia's specs. He also didn't have the bushings (or whatever those little, white, round things are that fit underneath the wheel upon which the belt turns) that were worn flat on one side, but which he had to reinstall. The Bordeaux dealership had a full supply of Aprilia parts and a showroom full of every new model made by the company, from the largest cycle to the smallest scooter. They replaced the belt and bushings with factory parts, took it for a short test ride, as had the first mechanic, and they pronounced Leonardo fit for the trip to Portugal (and back again if I wished, they said!).
They explained the coolant theory and with my fluent French, of course I understood it all. Right! Amazing what a few gestures and a few words can do. The first mechanic had sincerely tried to make things work for me and felt that he had gotten me ready for Portugal. He was proud to see me depart and had posed for a picture with his two, young assistants. Unfortunately, he was wrong and his work with the belt had only gotten me to Bordeaux, 18 miles away. The wheel bearing and the brake pads that he installed are fine, however.
Even though we had only gotten to the big Aprilia dealership at 11:30, Leonardo and I were on the road to San Sebastien by 2:15, despite the mechanics' long lunch break from 12:00 to 2:00. The mechanics told me that they had to eat, then extolled French food. I love it the way everyone in France (or so it seems), in every walk of life, loves food.
Leonardo was running like a young buck again, as well as he had the day that I bought him last year in Bologna. Even under the heavily overcast skies, it felt like the sun was shining on me and that the weight of the world was off of my shoulders. We arrived in San Sebastien around 6:00 p.m., got a room in a beautiful, small hostel near the beach, and spent the evening strolling with the locals and enjoying the tapas and the vino tinto (red wine). Life is good! Now, instead of worrying about me, it is time to be envious. This is one of my favorite cities in the world and I am really looking forward to spending a day or two here.
15, 2001 - San
The truckers were right about the route to travel. After climbing some pretty high mountains, we reached the central plateau of Spain. The ride was not without incident, however. Only about 15 km. outside of San Sebastien on a four lane road full of 18 wheelers, I suddenly noticed that I could not feel my suitcase which is bungeed on the rear half of my seat. I reached back and there was nothing; my suitcase was gone! I looked in the rear view mirror and saw four huge trucks following closely behind. They must have run over the bag, I thought, as I pulled quickly to the narrow berm of the road. But, no, the bag was dangling on the side of Leonardo and could be re-strapped to the seat. I put down the side kick-stand and Leonardo leaned toward me as I swung my legs off of him. Unfortunately, the combination of extra weight on the side and the angle of the roadway made Leonardo roll forward off of the kick-stand and he toppled toward me onto the ground. I was able to take most of the weight of the fall myself, but for an instant, Leonardo was down! The adrenalin really surged and I righted him immediately. The only damage was a slight deepening of the gouge he had received when he toppled in Germany and the loss of maybe a tablespoon of motor oil. We got off pretty luck in the incident, but it reminded me just how alert one must be every moment. It only takes a moment for a real calamity to occur.
Back to the road, the ride up the mountains was pretty spectacular. The topography reminded me of the American west with rugged mountain passes and some gorgeous views. Sometimes, the highway cut through canyons where the cliffs on both sides of the road were hundreds of feet high. I stopped to take quite a few pictures. That reminds me, yesterday I mailed home two rolls of film from the early part of the trip. My wife should get them soon and, like last year, she will scan them onto the website after they are developed. They will be interesting for me to see as well.
Leonardo and I made 310 kms. yesterday and spent the night in the little city of Palencia. After a few tapas, it was off to sleep, because the six hours of riding is a long day in the saddle. The road is great, mostly four lanes (called autovias here) and the travel is much like on our interstates. There is a difference at the gas stations, though. Yesterday, after filling up, I grabbed a bite to eat in the adjacent restaurant. I don't know of a single stop in the U.S. where I could have purchased the wonderful, octopus in butter sauce that I quickly devoured.
Today, we have stopped in Salamanca to check the email and to get a little lunch. We made it here after a two hour, very chilly ride. This plateau is significantly cooler than it was on the coast. At times this morning it looked like the west and at other times it looked as flat as Kansas. Here is the good news: we have ridden in two days of solid sunshine. This has been a good route and the only thing that I have missed by not riding along the coast was the stop I had planned in Oporto, Portugal. So, what with all the time in the world on our hands, Leonardo and I are going to detour north for a little bit and go to Oporto. It is the city where all the wonderful Port wine is made and I might just sample a little. We will head north to Zamora, Spain, and probably spend the night there, before heading west into Portugal. It should take us a day and a half to reach Oporto from Zamora and I will try to update before I consume any of the Port. Adios.
Monday, February 19, 2001 - Cascais, Portugal
I know that I haven't updated the page for a while and I apologize for that. Like I said in earlier comments, sometimes I will be able to find Internet Cafes and sometimes I won't. Actually, I found a Cafe outside Oporto, but my web page provider was pulling maintenance on the page when I was in the Cafe and I was unable to process the data, including my email.
After Salamanca, where I think that I updated last, I headed through Zamora and to a little village that I remember as Alcacedes, but I don't have my notes with me. I was still on the great central plateau of Spain, but only 25 kms from the Portuguese border, when I stopped for the night. In the tiny village there were only two small hostels and I selected the Argentine Hostel, named thusly because it turns out the owner had lived there for 25 years. She spoke no English, but we had what seemed like a nice visit after I checked in and cleaned off the day's grime. During the ride from Salamanca I saw some large nest holders placed along the road to encourage the nesting of birds. At the second grouping of the beautifully painted, metal holders, there was a painted silhouette of a large, black and white stork, which obviously were being encouraged to nest here. In the morning, when I opened the shades of the tiny room that I had rented for the night there was a huge nest only 100 yards from my room where two of the beautiful black and white storks were returning to their natural nest. I was thrilled to see the huge birds and later saw two on the ground in a field near the road.
That night for dinner, my Argentinean friend cooked me a delicious steak with fries for dinner. We had a conversation about vaca loca (mad cow disease) and she claims there is none in her area, although it has been found in other cities in Spain. Actually, mad cow disease has been the topic of news stories in every country I have visited. I have reported the steps to which the Belgians are going to protect their food supply, much to the chagrin of their farmers. The Germans are very concerned, as well. In France, although there were news stories on TV, the French were eating beef everywhere. It is almost as if they are saying, "no disease is going to change our lifestyle," because they simply choose to ignore it. What the heck, I ate a little French beef, too.
Oh, yes, about not keeping too much money when you cross the border. I misjudged a little before exiting Spain. I had stopped in Zamora to use a MAC machine, figuring that I might not be able to use my credit card in any of the little villages between there and the border. I was right about that, but I didn't get quite enough to cover the hotel bill with the meal and the wine. I was a couple of hundred pesetas short and the lady and her husband were willing to forget the rest, however, I dug deep into my hidden wallet and gave them a couple of American dollars, which are good everywhere. They were delighted.
That reminds me that I also had a problem entering Spain which I forgot to report. I only had a few francs left when I entered Spain and the road led immediately to a toll booth leading to San Sebastien. The young lady in the booth would not take francs and I had no pesetas. She would take dollars, however, and I told her that I would pull through the gate and dig for the dollars. Her response was, "No, you get the dollars here," so we held up the line of cars until I got to the money. They must have had some cyclists run through without paying. With Leonardo, I wasn't running anywhere, but she didn't trust me.
I left Alcacedes early the next morning with frost on the windows of the cars parked at the hostel, trying to make a run at reaching Oporto that day with an early start. I thought the mountains at the start of the central plateau were high, but as I descended through the mountains in eastern Portugal, I was really impressed. While the entry to the plateau near San Sebastien reminded me of the western U.S., the descent was very reminiscent of the Great Smokies. Beautiful scenery abounded and I stopped several times to take pictures. The early start made for a chilly ride, but for the longest time, especially after I entered Portugal, there were no other cars on the road. I stopped for lunch in Portugal and realized how little Portuguese I had remembered. I had trouble even ordering lunch in this strange new world and it would take a few days to adjust.
I reached Oporto in the late afternoon, but Leonardo's temperature needle had started getting too close to the red zone for me and I spent most of the time in town looking for a hotel and/or a mechanic. I got frustrated on the tiny, cobblestoned streets of the town and decided to head out of Oporto and look for a hotel on the southern side of town, since that is the direction that I would be heading next. I pulled into a Holiday Inn, but they initially wanted $85 a night, finally giving me the weekend rate of $65. Despite my state of exhaustion, I decided to decline their offer, since I thought that price to be ridiculous. I had paid $13 the night before and only paid $12 in Lisbon last year. About 30 kms outside of Oporto I found a beautiful hotel for $36 with breakfast included. I spent two nights and used the entire next day to tour Oporto. What an interesting and beautiful place! I had lunch along the Douro River and took some great pictures. If they are as beautiful as I think they will be, you won't want to miss them in a week or so. I will be sending two more rolls of film tomorrow. The cellars (called caves) where the Port wine is stored were not open on Sunday, but Leonardo and I had a great time riding among the huge buildings that housed them. Some of the cobblestoned streets on which we rode were just barely wide enough to let Leonardo through. Early in the day we had wandered onto a market where they were selling just about everything, especially animals of many different kinds. There were birds, including some pretty exotic parrots, cute puppies, chickens, tropical fish, etc. Strolling through the jam-packed market was an interesting and colorful experience. Having Leonardo to ride through the city made my tour there much better than anything I could have gotten on foot or with a commercial tour.
Ah, yes, Leonardo. I stopped in an Esso station and as I expected there was no mechanic working on Sunday. There was a carwash, however, and the young man prewashing the cars gave me a hand in taking off Leonardo's hood (it requires the removal of four screws, two of which are recessed in the grill). We managed to find some coolant which was appropriate for scooters, filled him, and he ran cool the rest of the day. Fortunately, I purchased a cheap, multi-headed screwdriver and kept the rest of the coolant because, Leonardo appears to be incontinent. He can't hold his water at night. Maybe it is just a prostate problem. Sure enough, as I returned from my walk to dinner I noticed the pool beneath Leonardo again. Before leaving for Cascais, I filled Leonardo once more and he made the 200 mile trip as cool as a cucumber. But, as we speak, he is dripping in front of the hotel once more. Fortunately, we have reached one of the lengthy stops of this journey. We are in the beautiful city of Cascais, almost at the end of Portugal's nose, where we are going to spend 7 - 10 days to decompress. I will also be changing Leonardo's oil, have a mechanic look at his cooling system, and finally, rest my derriere. If anything interesting happens, I will keep you informed.
2001 - Lisbon, Portugal
Sunday, March 4,
2001 - Albufeira, Portugal
By the time that I had packed Leonardo, checked my email, and filled the gas tank, it had again started to drizzle lightly in Albufeira. This is the eighth or ninth consecutive day of rain at this beach resort. The people from England and Canada (there are many) who are only here for a week are not very happy. I guessed again, as I had in Cascais, this time that the storm would not have as great an effect further inland, so I headed east, despite the drizzle. I was right this time and almost as soon as I crossed the beautiful, new bridge connecting Spain with Portugal, the skies brightened and eventually the sun made its appearance. All streams that I crossed were swollen out of their banks from the heavy rainfall and I had time to think of the 70 or so Portuguese who had lost their lives the previous evening in the bridge collapse near Oporto. All eyes in the Internet Cafe in Albufeira, where I checked my email, were on TV reports of the accident. I had crossed other high bridges over the Douro in Oporto only days earlier.
I arrived in Sevilla after a very pleasant ride. The temperature was much warmer and I had to quickly shed one layer of riding clothing upon arrival. Since I had arrived early (around 3:00 p.m.), I took my time in finding a room in a hostel. I finally found what I was looking for, although it was on the third floor, and I plan to stay in place for a week or so. I spent two days in beautiful, sunny weather with temperatures above 70 degrees. It is a pleasure to eat lunch outside in a short-sleeved shirt and to enjoy the Spanish cuisine again. Since almost all businesses close from 1-3 p.m., huge throngs of people are enjoying their lunch breaks and it I enjoy eating lunch while watching so many people walk past. There are many foreign (mostly American) students at the University here studying Spanish. This internet center, with about 30 computers, is full of American students, checking their emails, talking over Internet telephone hook-ups, and talking to one another in my native language. It is a beehive of activity.
OK, now the problems! First, I know that I won't get much sympathy, but it is raining again. The last arm of the giant storm is passing over Sevilla and it looks like I am facing a full day of rain. I enjoyed it today after a couple of days of sunshine, however. I got up, walked between the raindrops to a cafe for breakfast of freshly squeezed orange juice (the city is full of trees heavily laden with oranges), cafe con leche, and a ham sandwich. The sandwich was listed under the traditional breakfasts on the menu, but most people eat a simple, toasted, sliced roll for breakfast (called a tostada). Next stop was a store in which I saw umbrellas for sale, because I was getting soaked as I strolled on the narrow streets among all of the Sevillianas coming to work. I bought an inexpensive, collapsible umbrella for $5.00 which has an outside chance of lasting as long as the all day rain - top quality, it ain't, and probably made with prison labor in China. But, so far, it has served the purpose and I enjoyed watching the city come alive with people coming to work in the rain. There are many umbrellas and raincoats and some interesting rain suits and plastic bags on people who ride cycles, scooters, and bicycles to work. Leonardo has plenty of company here, literally thousands of scooters buzz around on the streets and there is parking everywhere for them. Sometimes, hundreds of them are parked in one place, which I will photograph, just as soon as the sun shines again.
Now the big problem: it appears to be much more difficult than I thought to get Leonardo shipped back to Frankfurt. At the train station, my first stop, they told me that I could only ship him to Barcelona from Sevilla. I tried three different railroad offices, but always got the same answer. Next, I used the telephones to call trucking companies that advertised International shipping on their yellow page ads. So far, none of them will take Leonardo home. Finally, I headed to the air cargo companies at the airport located five or six miles outside of town (it is great having Leonardo with whom to join the madhouse, two-wheeled buzzing around town. The answer there was about the same - no, unless you bring him back crated and empty of battery and gasoline. I was starting to feel pretty depressed about the situation when, over tapas and wine, I described my plight (in Spanish, of course) to the bartender. He said, "OK, take it on the train to Barcelona and get another train from there." I don't know why that thought never entered my mind, but it sounds good to me. When the rains stop, Leonardo and I will head back out to the train station to inquire further.
In the meantime, it is back to the telephone for more conversations with trucking companies. I also have considered BMW motorcycle dealers, because they got their cycles here from Germany somehow. Maybe, Leonardo and I can hitch a ride back with them. It is just another one of those challenges that arise while out on the road in strange places. In a day or two, I will update you further about the transportation dilemma. Understand that it is the only thing that I have to do, so I should be able to get it accomplished. Don't lose any sleep worrying about me! Hasta luego.
This year's winter holiday seems to have a life of its own! Every time that I think that the worst is over and I can now relax, a new challenge is thrown my way. German cold, French fog and rain, broken drive belts, coolant leaks, Portuguese downpours, what could happen next, right?
As I planned the trip (just a general plan and an insufficient one, according to my wife), I envisioned Sevilla as my final stop with the last job being to ship Leonardo off to Frankfurt. Then, I would relax in the sun and warmth of Sevilla for a few days before taking a relaxing flight or train ride to Germany to say goodbye to my grandchildren. Who would have thought it impossible to get Leonardo shipped to Germany? I certainly didn't!
Here is the latest in a continuing saga about getting Leonardo out of Spain: I rode him in a light rain this morning to the train station and loaded him on an auto carrier that will take us to Barcelona in the morning. It has been a real ordeal to get to this point. First, I must have called 20 trucking companies, visited 4 air cargo companies, and been to the train station 5 times. Despite the assistance of people who live here, gift shop owners, internet cafe employees, etc. (who have trouble believing this, too), the only way to get Leonardo to Germany seems to be by train to Barcelona, then ride him across the border to France, and see if their trains will transport us north. If that is not possible, we will start riding in that direction without the cycle suit which I sent to Germany from Portugal. But, I should be okay if I dress in a few layers.
The train station was interesting. I talked to two people in the information office next to the ticket windows and two more in the customer service office. None of them spoke a word of English. Two different people at the information windows told me that it was impossible to ship him by train to Barcelona. Next, I went to customer service, where they told me that Barcelona was the only place that I could ship him. They said that the only way to get him to Madrid by train was to go to Malaga, then board another train for Madrid, with no guarantee that I could get him on a train to Paris. With all of the problems that I had communicating in the train station here, I wasn't going to go anywhere in Spain that I would have to change trains and go through that process all over again.
After talking to train employees, I waited another day, hoping a trucking firm would be found, to no avail. So, I went back to the train station to inquire about the cost to ship him to Barcelona and to purchase the ticket. They had not been forthcoming with the cost information earlier. Of course, the new, non-English speaking, information person said that I couldn't ship him on the train and around and around we went once more. After telling him that the servicio de cliente (customer service) people told me that I could ship him, he finally agreed that it was possible, but only after rifling through many pages of the tariff book in front of him.
OK, now I have to get back in line, take a number, and wait about 40 minutes to get my turn at a ticket window. At the window, of course, I am told by the agent that tomorrow is full and I would have to wait for Saturday to go to Barcelona. Leonardo can be loaded, they told me, on Friday morning between 8:45 and 10:45, or between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m. Friday evening. Since yesterday's train was full, and knowing the lack of efficiency here, I was not going to wait until 6:00 to find out that the one worker took off sick this afternoon. I braved the light rain that was falling in the morning and rode Leonardo onto the lower level of the auto carrier, which was only a little higher than Leonardo's windscreen. I was hunched way over to get him on board and followed orders to stay sitting to provide weight to hold him in place while the lone worker strapped him down. I learned from the worker that the auto carrier was full of cars today, but that Leonardo will be the only vehicle on board tomorrow. I will be spending my last night in Sevilla tonight, then, if I can get to the station by 8:05 a.m., we'll be off for Barcelona. I will arrive in Barcelona at 8:50 p.m., have to figure out how to get Leonardo off of the train, then find a hotel for the night. Sounds like it could be a little strenuous tomorrow, but after I find a room, I can venture out for dinner in Barcelona, which will be a treat.
On Sunday morning, I will head for Perpignon, the closest French city to the Spanish border. Hopefully, there will be train employees working on Sunday who can book Leonardo and me on a train to Strasbourg, near the German border. The problem will be communicating my needs in French. I know that there will be no English spoken in the Perpignon station and my mastery of French is light years short of conversational. If I get a "no scooters on French trains" response, Leonardo and I will start heading north to Montpelier, then Lyons, and finally Strasbourg, before crossing into Germany. I still think that I can make my March 19th departure date, if I do some serious riding, which should be really great on the old derriere. Can't say there haven't been some challenges to overcome on this year's holiday, but, like I always say, it will make a great story, if I survive! I'll update where possible along the way. Hasta luego.
Tuesday, March 13,
2001 - Strasbourg,
A word of caution!! Do not advertise that you think that the Lord is looking out for you. You may find out the He/She has a sense of humor and you could get challenges that you cannot handle. I knew that it sounded too easy when I updated from Strasbourg. "Just jump on the scooter and take a short four or five hour ride home to the kids," or something to that effect. Yeah, right!
Leonardo was parked too close to the hotel wall to facilitate loading on Tuesday morning as the sun shone brightly. I jumped on, started him, even turned him around to face down the one-way street, before turning him off to start loading. It takes 10-15 minutes to load the suitcase and strap it down with bungee chords and a bungee cargo net, but I did it quickly since it has become a routine procedure. Then, I jumped on, pulled on the helmet and the gloves, flipped down the visor, and confidently turned the ignition switch, but Leonardo would not start. I waited 15 minutes, then 30, and finally an hour, thinking that somehow he was flooded, but nothing worked. It took more than three hours to locate an Aprilia dealer who would come and pick him up to diagnose and correct the problem. At 4:30, Leonardo was ready to ride after having his spark plug and air filter replaced. The plug had a heavy carbon deposit and neither the plug nor the filter were Aprilia parts and didn't meet specs. I guess the small shop in Cascais did the best that they could with a Honda plug and filter.
I decided to head north and ride until dark, since it was still sunny, although it had turned cold and very windy. The forecast for the next day was for more rain and I figured that if I could cut the trip in half, I would have to ride a shorter time on Wednesday in the rain. The first part of the ride went very well and I had partially recovered from the frustration of Leonardo's mechanical problems. I passed through several small towns, skirted Karlsruhe, and felt relieved that the two-lane road was so lightly traveled. I decided that I could make Mannheim for the night, even if I had to ride a short time after dark, which I had not done on the trip to this point.
Suddenly, the road signs that had been so good got confusing and we ended up on an AUTOBAHN going in the wrong direction. We rode the berm, dodging considerable road debris, and marveling at the speed of the cars rocketing past in the two lanes next to us. The first exit to turn around must have been 10 miles distant, but I decided to go back on the AUTOBAHN to where I had made the mistake. That's when the sign appeared on the AUTOBAHN saying that Mannheim and Frankfurt were straight ahead. I figured that we had ridden the AUTOBAHN for 20 miles, we could ride it for 30 or 45 more minutes to shorten our trip. I'm not certain which came first, nightfall or the first rain drops which would become a torrent. I had ridden in rain before, but only in the daytime. After dark, the lights from the oncoming cars was refracted and reflected by the drops on my visor and I was almost riding blind. I could no longer see the road debris and often I couldn't see the white line that was separating me from the suicidal German commuters in the lanes next to me.
It seemed like the next exit would never get there, as I slowed to a crawl and slowly got drenched to the skin. Eventually, the exit appeared and I turned onto a two- lane road that was even more difficult. The oncoming cars were closer and I'm sure that I was followed by frustrated drivers as I limped toward the hotel sign up ahead. After three passes failed to yield an entrance for the hotel, I took the matters into my own hands, and performed a few creative, though illegal maneuvers to get to the hotel entrance. Try riding through a hole in a McDonald's fence, down three steps and along the sidewalk to reach the front door. The clerk in the hotel was wonderful, but the place was full. Seeing the desperation in my eyes, the clerk called another hotel and obtained a room for me. "It is only three kilometers away," he said, to which I replied, "you don't understand, I can't see to go next door." He assured me that I didn't have to go back on the big (two-lane) highway again and that the hotel was in the little village at the end of the adjacent street.
Somehow, I got to the hotel, soaked and desperate for housing and sustenance. Of course, the clerk could read that in my eyes and suddenly the only room available was a double, which was surprising with only five or six cars in the parking lot. I did not argue; it did not matter if the room had been $1,000 night, I had no choice. I took the room ($80) and a long shower and counted my blessings. We had survived the ordeal and would live to ride another day, our last.
The last day was sunny and clear and we quickly passed through Heidelberg and Darmstadt, before the signs became confusing again. This time we were just lost and circled a 10 kilometer area for 30 or 45 minutes before deciding that the only way north toward Frankfurt was to take the AUTOBAHN for a short distance again. But, it happened again, one of those signs appeared that announced the place we were heading, OBERURSEL straight ahead. We were on the AUTOBAHN that I had taken to the Frankfurt airport previously. We stayed on the road, although we stayed on the berm, quickly darting across entrances and exits to avoid the fast-moving automobile traffic. And then, there it was, the OBERURSEL exit. We were home! We pulled up the sidewalk to the front door, blew Leonardo's horn and were warmly greeted by the family. The trip has ended.
I will spend the next few days resting from the anxiety of the last few days, repacking the bags for the flight home on Monday, March 19, and enjoying the grandchildren.
I will update the page one more time from home, because I would like to share some of the lessons that I have learned. I also need to begin discussing the plans for next year. Here's an inside scoop: Leonardo does not fit into those plans. Thanks for riding with me!
Thursday, March 29, 2001 - Pennsylvania
Boy, it feels good to write Lancaster on the trip update. I’m home!! And, after a week of recovering from the terrible cough and sinus infection passed on to me by my loving grandchildren, I am finally able to deliver the update that I promised. I learned a few things on this year’s trip that I thought I should pass along. There may not be anything profound about the lessons learned, but by sharing them I may take them to heart, so that I travel smarter on future journeys. Here goes:
1. It doesn’t matter where you live, it is always great to get home.
2. For any extended vacation, pack lightly; then unpack, put exactly half of the clothes back in the closet and pack again. I spent three months with four pairs of socks and three pairs of underwear, so it can be done.
3. Think security constantly. After your suitcase, camera, passport, or cash are stolen is a little too late. Always keep your passport and most cash in a pouch under your outer garments. Only keep a day’s worth of cash in your outer garments. Keep a photocopy of your passport in your suitcase. Consider a door alarm for hotel room doors (sometimes the thieves are hotel employees with keys).
4. Use ATM machines for local currency. They give the best rates and are everywhere. Get cash immediately upon arrival in a new country. You need money immediately for tips, taxis, bus fare, drinks, etc.
5. Use pocket-sized books like Berlitz’ language guides in countries where English is not the native language. A few words can make all the difference with the local folks.
6. If you want to stay in 4 or 5 star American hotels, just stay home and go to a Hilton here; it will be cheaper and almost identical. To really experience a country, sleep and eat where the locals do, basically in smaller hotels and hostels.
7. Meals will be different than at home. Quit complaining that they don’t cook like your mother and enjoy the difference. If you never tried anything new, you’d still be drinking your mother’s milk.
8. Take clothes that serve different functions, i.e. make your light jacket also serve as your raincoat. Make certain that each shirt can be worn with both of your pairs of pants. Dark pants hide travel dirt and colored chinos can be used to dress up or down. Only one sweater or sweatshirt is needed on any trip up to three months. Remember, nobody knows you there, plus Europeans always wear clothes more than one day.
9. Maybe the most important tip: take your most comfortable walking shoes, although not white sneakers. You will do plenty of walking and even black or brown sneakers can be used with any outfit. One or two pairs of shoes are the absolute limit for the suitcase. Again, whom do you know there?
10. Why no white sneakers or jeans? To avoid the most prevalent crimes it is important to look as little like a tourist as possible. In white sneakers and jeans, you will stand out like a sore thumb. Incidentally, theft is the only crime to worry about in Europe since there are no pistols, except in police hands. You will feel safer there than in any large U.S. city.
11. There are advantages to traveling alone. You will reach out to people of the other culture about which you are trying to learn. The disadvantage, of course, is that there is no one with whom to share the great experiences and meals. Now you know why I write the web page and talk to Leonardo.
12. If you plan to ride a scooter. Get at least a 150 cc that can stand the pounding. Too big a cycle will permit you to go so fast that you won’t see enough. Stay on the local roads and off of the AUTOBAHNS (Autostradas, Autovias, Autopistas, etc.) whenever possible. There is much more to see.
13. If on a scooter and the sun is shining, RIDE! A corollary: when it is raining, DON’T!
I hope that I’m not lecturing here. I just thought that I should share a few of the things that I have learned about traveling over the last few years. Ignore as many as you want. It would be great if you also shared your travel experiences with others. For some who love to travel and are no longer able because of poor health or finances, the opportunity to travel vicariously is the only way they are able to experience these wonderful places. Take a friend along, even if it is only through postcards or email!
Next year's plans. I have had some time to think about next year's trip and, if I stay healthy, I know that, come January, I will be in search of warmer environs than my hometown offers. The operative words for next year will be warm and sunny! This year's trip was full of challenges, but that didn't bother me. It made me reach out to other people; what bothered me was the weather. It was too cold, rainy, and dismal to repeat next year. This will mean, of course, that I will not be spending the winter in Europe, despite the fact that my son and grandchildren live there. No matter how much I love them and want to spend time with them, I am going to be warm next winter. Perhaps, they will come to visit me and enjoy the sunshine.
From the many crazy notions that have entered my brain since I returned Leonardo to my son, a few ideas have emerged as potentially enjoyable diversions that just might be possible next year. All seem to include the notion of driving to Florida (it's warm there, right?) on two lane roads with stops in Charleston and Savannah for some urban prowling and to sample the local cuisine. From there, the plans involve driving to Miami, but then the options are numerous and have not yet congealed. A number of cities have entered the picture as places of winter refuge that could be easily reached from Miami. They include: Key West; San Juan, Puerto Rico; San Jose, Costa Rica; Oaxaca, Mexico; Montevideo, Uruguay, and Buenos Aires, Argentina. The tentative plans always seem to involve returning to Miami, where I have left the car, to drive to Clearwater to experience some of the Phillies spring training sessions.
Please notice that none of the experiences mentioned have included Leonardo. I have given my son instructions to sell the scooter just as soon as he finishes using him for a little recreation of his own. My derriere is delighted with that decision. Next year's transportation will be by auto, bus, or train and may involve sharing transportation with other travelers. I have been looking at internet sites that put you in contact with others to share transportation and costs for travel in more than 70 countries. Perhaps, something will work out there. I have enjoyed the travel this year and hope that you enjoyed traveling with me. I look forward to having you share next year's trip as well. If you have any ideas for my future travel, I would be glad to entertain them. Don't hesitate to contact me. Until next year.............
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