David is in love

It’s not that he’s fallen out of love with me (I hope), more that he’s fallen head over heals in love with coastal Maine. And it is indescribably beautiful here. Except for one day, when it poured down all day, we’ve been blessed with fantastic October weather. A sky that reaches, well, to the sky I guess… as blue as anything, a few wisps of cloud, and the rivers, lakes, bays and the sea in a million shades of green and blue. And then there’s the foliage. Actually, Bill Bryson describes it marvellously in A Walk in the Woods:

(…) when the world is full of autumn muskiness and crisp, tangy perfection and the air so clear that you feel as if you could reach out and ping it with a finger. Even the colors were crisp: vivid blue sky, deep green fields, leaves in every sharp shade that nature can bestow. It is a truly astounding sight when every tree in a forest becomes individual; where formerly had sprawled a seamless cloak of green there now stood a million bright colors.

On David’s birthday (28th) he got to set the pace for the day. We started with breakfast and presents. He got two long sleeved smartwool microweave t-shirts that he wanted badly after having bought one a couple of days ago. David is very particular with fabrics – he’ll only wear certain kinds and they have to fit him in a certain way. Dane is exactly the same, it’s funny, but makes it hell to shop with them. He also got some Red Sox paraphernalia, a reading light and a book about autumn in New England. And for dinner David had lobster – his favourite food. It’s still the lobster season here, so we saw the little lobster boats going out by the hundreds and in every bay you can see the little buoys telling of the lobster trap beyond and you can see the traps stacked in front of every other house out on the peninsulas. While writing this, we were at a place called Land’s End in an area called the Harpswells – it’s on the very tip of one of a hundred peninsulas in this part of Maine. From here, all you can see are the tips of other peninsulas and the Atlantic – glittering in the sun.

You’ve guessed it already; David and Dane were fishing while I sat inside the RV on the sunny side writing this. Even if I’ve got my life’s first classy outdoor wear, I still find it too cold to just stand about. I’d much rather go for a brisk walk.

Me on the Internet – only place at Maine campground where it was accessible. And Dane in front of lobster traps.

A note about Halloween

We went to a Halloween party at the local YMCA. It was very well done. The entertainment was excellent, the games fun and for everyone, the costumes funny and many of them very inventive. And the parents were all very nice and the children generally very well behaved. There was a haunted house so scary that Dane wouldn’t even go through it together with me. Actually, it was pretty scary! Very well done. Dane looked great in his wizard outfit with a magic wand and pointy hat. But the thing that he wanted the most was to meet other children and play with them. And we had no luck with that, unfortunately. So it wasn’t the success we’d hoped for.

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In a library, finally

I wonder what they mean by that, “The Way Life Should Be”? Must be something with reddened leaves, fresh-cheeked youth, noisy snowmobiles and lobsters for dinner???

I’ve spent a good part of today in Freeport Community Library and it has been lovely. Outside it’s sunny but cool, and Dane and David are fishing. In here it’s quiet, comfy and… eh… bookish! Haven’t read a single page though, been busy on the computer.

Freeport probably wouldn’t exist if it hadn’t been for the extraordinarily well run and well stocked out-door department store L.L. Bean. We spent the best part of yesterday in there and got some good autumnal clothing for the three of us. David is now a record-holder in the number of fleeces owned by one person (who’s not a mountaineer).

I bet that stockholders in L. L. Bean have a lot to say in the town – it’s got the fiercest anti-sign-pollution policy I’ve come across over here. Look at this McDonalds:

It looks so nice you’d almost consider going in there to eat! And the whole town looks like that. Real neat, as the Americans put it.

We think we’ve solved the Halloween problem I mentioned yesterday. We went for gas at a little gas station out in the woods. In there everybody were talking about baseball, baseball, baseball and then a little bit about Halloween. It turns out there are several public arrangements, so we’ll go for some of that and hope that the usual American friendliness will extend to our little Dane. Will tell you how it goes.

And so, don’t you want to know if the Red Sox won the game last night? I bet you don’t give a toss. But they did. They wiped out the Colorado Rockies 13 – 1. We’re already readying ourselves for the next game tonight. Can they do it again?

(picture of master pitcher Josh Beckett borrowed from the Boston Globe)

More commented pictures (not of baseball stars) here.

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Halloween help!

As some of you readers know, we’re travelling through the US in an RV for three months. Right now we’re in New England (right now, southern Maine), planning to see as much of it as we can, before it gets too cold. Then we’ll make a U-turn and go south again, this time a little bit inland.

In a week’s time it’s Halloween and no child in America cannot know this. Every front yard, every house, every shop is full of orange. From lovely hand-carved pumpkins and nice autumnal decorations to awful plastic stuff and Halloween-packaged candy. We’d like 6-year-old Dane to experience Halloween in America – it’s a tradition that’s only now reaching Denmark, where Dane grew up. But how can we do that? We don’t know anybody here with children except the family in Texas and Louisiana, and they are too far away (we’ll be back there for Thanksgiving).

What can we do? Are there communities with arrangements throughout the day, so that Dane could get to know some children, before the actual Trick or Treating? I hesitate to buy him a costume, worrying that he’ll sit at some campground all dressed up, surrounded by retired people in big campers and being too timid to go trick or treating among them, all alone (or with Mom hovering in the background).

American readers, please come forward with suggestions!

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I went to Harvard

I wish.

I’m a great spokeswoman for not regretting. If I didn’t already have another motto, it would be “je ne regrette rien”. Regret is futile, a complete waste of time. Only thing you can use it for is saying, like: “Oh, that turned out to be a really stupid idea. What can I do to get out of this jam and/or what can I learn from it, so I use better judgement next time ‘round.”

So – I don’t really regret anything. Except not finishing university, when I was young. Sure, it would have changed the course of my life completely, and a lot of funny, interesting and wonderful people wouldn’t have crossed my path. But still…

And trotting around Cambridge and the Harvard campus for the better part of a day certainly made me think of that every other minute. I wonder if these young people, carelessly sitting around studying in the park, on their computers in chic cafés, jogging with their I-pods or going out with their friends realize just how privileged they are? Not only are they going to university, and for most of them, Daddy is paying, they are also going to one of the most prestigious universities in the entire world, and their futures look more than promising! Oh well, it would be a pity, I guess, if they had to drag a guilty conscience around with them for being so privileged. The rest of us are ourselves trying to not have a guilty conscience over not starving in Africa, aren’t we?

Anyway, we had gorgeous weather and fantastic circumstances to experience Cambridge and Harvard. There was a regatta going on, so the entire town was crowded with an additional bunch of privileged, beautiful youngsters – they came from all over America with their sleek rowing boats on top of their expensive cars. Everybody were out, strolling along Charles River, taking it all in. We spent an hour or so (could have been much, much more) in the Co-op bookstore cum café. I wondered if I could be happy working in a place like that? Talking to all those brilliant young people every day, helping them find just the right book for whatever purpose? I don’t know. I get bored so awfully easy…

That same evening we sent Emil back home. He had a (too) long and tiring journey because of a cancelled flight from Germany to Copenhagen, but got home safely. We’re looking forward to seeing him again, next time together with sweet Ida, at Christmas in San Francisco.

Also, on that same evening, the Red Sox won the decisive game in the seven game stint against the Cleveland Indians. Our friend Matt grinned, when we told him this: Dane was sleeping outside the RV in his new tent. We were inside, watching the game. A while into the game, it looked like the Red Sox were running out of luck, they were only one point ahead, and the Indians were doing well. I noticed Dane’s Red Sox shirt on the chair and jokingly said to David, that it was probably because Dane wasn’t wearing his shirt, which he’d worn for the two previous games. David took the shirt and went out to the tent and put it on top of our sleeping mascot. And from that moment on, the Red Sox were just unstoppable. And so, why did Matt grin? He grinned because when he heard that, he knew we were hooked. It’s a sure sign, he chuckled, that you’re hooked, when you become superstitious!
There’s something about baseball that I haven’t seen in any other sport. It’s such an interesting combination of skill, talent, technique, cunning and tactics! Some players are like most other professional sportsmen, young, trim, skilled. But a good deal of them could definitely lose a few pounds without becoming skinny exactly, and some of them are close to our age. Try it! We’re trying it again tonight, when Red Sox play the first game in the World Series. Matt and Jackie got tickets – we’ll be looking for them throughout the match and hoping they won’t be hit by a home run.

Good luck, Red Sox!

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Not enough online time

In case you’re worrying about us (as if!!!), we’re fine. The campsite we’ve been in the past week while Emil has been here, had Internet, but only when you were at their office. Not a place you really wanted to spend a lot of time!

I’ve uploaded pictures with comments though, so check them out in the meantime.

What I can tell you now (in a café in Portsmouth, New Hampshire) is this:

Emil is home safely after a trip with rerouting and delays.

Red Sox won the last three games and are now in the World Series. Ain’t that great?

We’re having problems finding open campgrounds in New England and even more problems finding open campgrounds that have Wi-Fi. When we run out of campsites, we’ll make a big U-turn and head south again.

Today we’re headed for Maine, to this place.

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Baseball

Yesterday was about baseball. Our host Matt is a devoted fan of local team The Boston Red Sox and has been since he – like all good American litterary heroes – as a little boy was taken to the stadium on hot Saturdays by his father. Matt took us on a tour of the old (1912) stadium Fenway Park in the middle of Boston, and it was great fun to get an insight in this sport, which you invariably come across if you ever watch an American film, read an American book or browse an American newspaper.

The weather was lovely and the female guide far above average as American guides go, she clearly wasn’t paid on a words-per-minute basis. We browsed around the Red Sox merchandise shop, approximately the size of a middlesized supermarket back home. There really is no end to the fan gear you can purchase there. And there’s something in the air that really makes you want to buy the stuff, heavily overpriced as it is. We resisted the urge, having already received Red Sox-stuff as presents from Matt and Jackie and having bought a few caps and a t-shirt earlier in the day at Wal-Mart at a far lower price.

The air was heavy with anxious anticipation, because later that evening The Boston Red Sox were playing a very important game in Cleveland, Ohio, determining their fate in the series. They’d apparently done pretty badly in the previous games, so spirits were a bit low. But lo and behold if they didn’t win! For David, Dane, Emil and me it was our lives’ first baseball game and it was fun to watch it in the RV, eating crisps and drinking beer. Dane fell asleep after a while and a little later also Emil. I couldn’t fall asleep, since my seat was so bl…. uncomfortable, and I could surf a little and read a little during all the commercials (which really is what kills you) and David almost managed to sit through it, only dozing off during commercials. As David put it, half of the commentary was double dutch to us, but the general idea of the game dawned on us. And we had to admire the Red Sox pitcher who saved the game. He was SO cool! Watching him chew his gum, spit, look completely stonefaced and then throw the ball with astonishing speed and curve, so the Cleveland Indians practicallly never hit it, was absolutely worth the sore bum I had afterwards.

If any Americans with baseball knowledge read this: What is it with the spitting? They all do it – all the time. The coach more so than any of the others. What on earth is it good for?

Today it’s really warm, but raining. The boys have gone fishing again, I’ve been reading Vanity Fair, a luxury I’m warming to considerably. Compared with your average monthly fashion magazine, it certainly takes a long time to read! OK, the print is very small and clearly not intended for middle-aged women with bi-focals. And the language is not exactly easy. But, wow, it’s rewarding once you find the peace and quiet to read it. I read a hair-rising story about the involvement of a Halliburton subsidiary in the Iraq war. It was so well researched, and so disquieting! The American tax payers certainly have reasons to worry! It really doesn’t matter if you’re for the war or against it. Nobody can be in favour of private companies overcharging the American government by a routine 500-1000% for services rendered? If you have the patience to read 8 pages online, start here.

There’s also an article by Christopher Hitchens of whom I’m not usually a fan. But this one is good and strangely touching. The Shakespeare quote towards the end certainly provoked a few tears. The article is about how Hitchens finds himself partly responsible for the death of a young man in Iraq and how he deals with this emotion. Pretty good.

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New England autumn (or fall as they call it here)

Now we’re embedded in this weird camp ground with Emil safely here. Our trip to the airport was eventless, the one back a real bummer. Arriving at the tollbooth on the way out from the airport the stonefaced asian guy at the booth said: I can’t let you through the tunnel, it would be against the law, park over there, while I call the state police. We tried to ask him – real polite – what the problem was, since we’d just come the other way without any hindrance an hour or so earlier. But he just repeated himself and waved us to the side. A puzzling couple of minutes later, a state trouper arrived, lights flashing. He explained to us, in a voice loud enough to’ve been heard in Norway, that vehicles carrying propane (which all campers use for stove, heating etc.) cannot drive through tunnels. That made perfect sence of course, why in the world couldn’t the attendant have told us that? His voice booming (it turned out he was practically deaf), the elderly trooper told us that he’d spare us the 500$ fine and stop the traffic in the opposite direction and let us go back the way we came. He explained the alternative route to us – it was a little like Einstein explaning the theory of relativity – and led us on our way. We drove, hearts beating, and drove and drove and drove. We constantly seemed to be going in the wrong direction and we never seemed to hit the Interstate, which should eventually have taken us back onto the right track. When we’d driven for an incredible lenght of time (this was after 10 pm), we decided to put the GPS back on, reckoning that we’d have distanced ourselves from the perilous tunnels by now. Well, guess what, we hadn’t! The GPS led us right back into another tunnel, and we didn’t even realise it before it was too late! With hearts in throats and in eerie silence we drove through the seemingly endless tunnel. In the middle of the tunnel, a state trouper was parked, lights flashing. But, luckily, he was engaged in other business, and we made it through the tunnel without blowing it up and without being fined.

You cannot believe how happy we are that our nice New England friends Matt and Jackie have had the grace to lend us their daughter’s (she’s away at university) lovely Saab car for the rest of our stay here. It is a pleasure beyond description to be driving a car – and a car with turbo at that – instead of the slowresponding and extremely noisy RV.

On our first day with Emil we went shopping for fishing equipment in Wal-Mart, which had Emil stunned (see his blog) and then we went fishing. Or rather, the three of them were fishing, while I was theoretically reading my book in a chair. In reality I spent 3/4 of the time untangling Dane’s fishing line from a variety of trees, shrubs and tall grass. They caught a few small fish, but nothing to write home about. In the evening, Matt and Jackie had invited us to dinner at their beautiful house. I can’t explain to you why I haven’t yet taken a photograph of their beautiful New England home, but I will. While I’m at it (confessing) I also forgot to take a picture of the two of them together. Luckily I’ll get a chance or two more. They were increcibly hospitable and had presents for us (!!!), among them a New England water pitcher called the gurgling Cod, which is described  as a Boston icon. It is real cute and I’m looking forward to dinner parties in the future, when my guests will innocently start pouring water from the lovely pitcher and then, when they set it back on the table, hear the gentle gurgling noise, which will be my cue to tell about our visit to the lovely New England.

The boys got each a cap with the Boston Red Sox logo and Emil and Dane also a bat and a baseball each. Can you imagine hosts like that?

Furthermore, the dinner was wonderful and the conversation easy. I talked too much, but as those of you who know me already know, I frequently do.

The next day we went for a day of seeing the local sights together with Matt. We saw Thoreau’s hut and Walden pond, which he immortalized in his book. I’ve had it lying around on my night stand for almost a year, impressively, but honestly, I never got around to reading it, and when I packed it, it was as pristine as when I bought it. Maybe when we get back?

 

Emil and Dane at Walden Pond. A replica of Thoreau’s hut at Walden.

Next we went to the site of the opening battle of the American revolutionary war. From a European perspective there wasn’t a whole lot to see there, but the story about the Minutemen was interesting. Also, the scenery was gorgeous, the weather perfect. And – we’d just had a really nice lunch…

 

 

We’re on the Concord bridge – or a replica, rather. 

On our way home, we were going into the local Whole Foods store, when David accidently banged the lid of the trunk into my forehead. It hurt like hell, to tell you the truth, and it even bled. But poor David, he was out of his mind for having hurt me and kept going over it in his mind, whether he should have seen it coming, etc. etc. But it gave me a good excuse for staying home in the camper today, while the boys have gone fishing. I’ve done the washing, tidied up, vacuumed and written this. And read my book. So I’m perfectly content and don’t even have a headache.

Matt got the best out in all of us, check the happy couple out here and notice David’s cap – he’s turning all-American and almost ready to join the local militia ;-)

More pictures with silly and/or informative comments here.

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Guess where we are!

Yes, you guessed it! Or you didn’t? Then it’s just because you’re too young (like us, ha ha) or too old. We’re in Woodstock, N.Y. A place that seems to have revived itself as a center for spiritualism, a refuge for old hippies (I’ve NEVER seen so many in one place, not even at Roskilde Festival) and a center for hip photo galleries, a film festival for independent films etc. Quite well done! Surely, there are tourist traps with loads of hippie-stuff and we fell for it all. The clothes we were wearing that day still smell of patchouli

As you can gather from the pictures, the weather changed rather abruptly. The temperature dropped a lot and it rained all night and most of the days we spent in New York State. But we still enjoyed our visit to Woodstock!

Today, in Massachusetts, it’s beautiful, high blue sky, no wind and around 14 degrees Celcius. But brrrrr, it’s cold at night! We’ve bought Dane a sleeping bag and extra blankets for us. And told Emil to bring his sleeping bag from Denmark. If you think we’re without heating in our RV, think again. We have a furnace, which runs on propane gas. Apart from being noisy – but not as noisy as the aircondition – it works fine. It’s just that that kind of heat isn’t very sleep inducing, so we prefer not to have it on so much.

We haven’t got the ultimate picture of the autumn colouring here in New England yet, but the weather forecast is very promising, so come by again tomorrow! It is exactly as beautiful as everybody had told us it would be – and the New England towns we’ve passed on our way to this evening’s campsite were all quite lovely. We passed another Whole Foods supermarket, where we’ll shop tomorrow for the first days with Emil. He’ll probably be real disappointed with all that lovely, wholesome, healthy food – he’s been looking forward to eating junk food for a week!

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Gettysburg

The guidebook told us that Harrisburg, the state capital of Pennsylvania, is “not the most exciting place”, so we just passed it on the opposite side of the Susquehanna River, the bank of which I’m sitting, while writing these lines. The weather right now is probably the balmiest I’ve experienced in all my life. The gentle wind is like a caress of the skin, it’s warm, but not hot and the air is crystal clear, the way it only ever is in autumn. It was pretty cold last night, however, and the locals tell us, that today will be the last day with this unusually warm and pleasant weather. We’ve been incredibly lucky with the weather on our trip, don’t think we don’t appreciate it.

Instead we went to Gettysburg, this most historic of places in America. It had this incredibly corny museum – the American Civil War Museum – that had David and me glancing incredulously at one another. Out front are scores of American flags and the entrance is very majestic. Inside is – a huge souvenir shop… Slightly bewildered, we went to the counter and asked about the museum. The elderly but very brisk lady at the counter brushed us off – there wasn’t enough time, since they were closing at five. It was 4:15. We insisted and got our way. We were ushered into the museum, which turned out to consist of a parade of displays with tableaus of life-size dolls in various vital episodes preceding and under the war. And at the end of this – TADA – we were again ushered by same steely-gray-haired lady into an amphitheatre with a huge display of the same life-size dolls, this time depicting the entire battle at Gettysburg, including a scene where a soldier has his leg cut off by the field surgeon. With a film and educational voice-over in the background, the display was lit up a little at a time and suitable music played. The grand finale was when a display of sinister men with Lincoln in the foreground came rumbling up from the basement and the Gettysburg address came booming out of the loudspeekers.

Some of you readers might be too young, but others will remember oldfashioned department store mannequins and their weird expressions and glassy staring eyes. That’s what they looked like. It was good for Dane, though. A more European style museum may have been less interesting and less informative in his view. Bill Bryson often writes about American museums and how good they are. In one way he’s right -they are good. Because they are simple and play up to the television way of percieving things – perfect when you’re with an endlessly curious child. In another way he’s not. They are annoying, because they seem to believe that I’m a complete ignorant and need to have everything explained to me as if I were a dimwit (no comments, please).

After that we crossed the road to the enormous Gettysburg National Cemetery. Originally being the burial ground of the many, many union soldiers who died here during the three day stand-off (the confederate soldiers were all taken home and buried in the South), it has since become a burial ground for soldiers, who died in later wars. There are litterally hundreds, maybe even thousands of little stones for soldiers who perished in WW1 and WW2. But also in the Spanish-American war and in Korea and Vietnam. It is a solemn but very beautiful place.

 

It was also here, a few years later, that Lincoln delivered the aforementioned address.

For that night we hadn’t booked a campsite. Among the little advertisements on the town map, Dane found one that he thought looked very promising. Since it was only a mile away, we went for that. It was huge, the amenities were mediocre (would probably have been better in the summer) and miles away from the site they gave us, which had nothing all the other sites we’ve been on didn’t. And it was the hitherto most expensive one. What a disappointment! On top of it being ridiculously expensive, it was also the first site, where we had to pay seperately for the Wi-Fi. A total rip-off.

The contrast therefore to the campsite we’ve been on since yesterday, was stunning. This one is small, totally humble, with few but adequate amenities, free Wi-Fi (which actually works without me having to wave the computer at the signal), extremely nice people (a couple who owns the place) and an absolutely sublime location. We’re on a small island in the Susquehanna River near the town of Sunbury. And the camper is parked, so that this was the view from the “bedroom” window around 8 o’clock pm:

And here’s what I’ve been looking at all day, from the very comfortable perspective of a deck chair in the sun with either book or computer at hand:

When at dusk I finally lured them out of the water, we had dinner outside by the fire. It was just perfect! David only caught a single fish (small-mouth bass according to camp owner), but doesn’t seem to mind, as long as he can stand out there all day and enjoy the scenery. David and Dane both had the pleasure of seing a beaver – it had a little dam at one of the riverbanks a little way up river. I missed that one.

Tomorrow we will be going east into the state of New York. Now it’s only a few days till we’re picking Emil up in Boston’s Logan airport (Sunday). We’re all looking forward to spending a week with him. He is also an avid fisherman, so the three of them will probably drive off to some distant river and leave me to a day of shopping in Boston (or is that perhaps wishful thinking?).

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We have officially left the South

Because we’re now in Pennsylvania.

We spent a few days in the Shenandoah valley because it’s so incredibly beautiful there and there are lots of sights. One of the musts of the area is Thomas Jefferson’s house Monticello, which is the only American building to have made it onto Unesco’s list of World Heritage Sites (Denmark has two, Roskilde Cathedral and castle Kronborg). Thomas Jefferson was the father of the Declaration of Independence (All men are created equal…) and simultaneously he owned more than 600 slaves in his lifetime. It is just SO hard to understand that a man, who had spent a lot of time in Europe, was completely absorbed by the thoughts of the Enlightenment and who was clearly a very intelligent man, could believe that negroes were not “men“?

The house was interesting, but not overwhelmingly so. But the demonstrations of the craftmanship of the slaves was quite interesting. We got to see how they made nails, baskets out of woodshavings and carpentry. And they showed us all the lovely fruit and vegetables the slaves grew for their masters to eat. We also saw what a grown slave got to eat in one week. Beside that he was “allowed” to grow his own veg and catch his own fish in his spare time – that’s at night and on Sundays.

The next day we went and saw the Luray Caverns – prehistoric caverns with fantastic formations of stalactites and stalacmites. We laughed at the tour guide, but not where we were intended to laugh. I don’t know if this is typically American – it probably isn’t – but most of the formations were named after Disney characters!!!! He’d say something like: “See this structure here, we call it Pluto, you folks can see why, can’t you?” And everybody laughed. We found it slightly weird to name these majestic ancient structures after cartoon figures!?!

This is an optical illusion created by stalactites mirrored in a still pond

We loved the country roads in Virginia – the rolling hills, the dense woods, the roadside stalls with apples, pears, cider…

Last night we just made it into West Virginia to a huge campsite with lots and lots of people. It was the first time we’d seen that many people (and children – usually it’s mostly retired people) at a campsite. The explanation was that today is a national holiday – Presidents day. This morning we set the GPS to take us to Gettysburg in Pennsylvania, a relatively short trip. And it took us back into Virginia, then into Maryland and then, finally, into Pennsylvania. It was map-hell, I can tell you that! Well, now we’re well into a big state that takes up two pages in our map of the US.

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I saw a black bear!

It was dusk, we were back in the RV after a 4 1/2 mile (7 km) hike down and up a mountain and heading home. And suddenly, in the ditch right by my window, he sat and stared at me. Less than 10 feet away. He was probably waiting to cross the road. Unfortunately David and Dane didn’t see him – David because he was concentrating on the road and was by the other window and Dane because he was facing away from it. I am still elated – having seen a real bear outside the zoo.

On our hike we saw a lot of deer, several hawks and numerous chipmonks. Oh, they are cute, so tiny and such swift movers. Even if we saw 25+ we never got a picture. The bear picture is obviously not taken by me, I’ve borrowed it from Wikipedia.

The goal of our hike was the Dark Hollow waterfall by the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. The Skyline Drive has been named the most beautiful stretch of road in all of America. And it truly is beautiful. We’ve stayed in the area for a couple of days, so tomorrow we’ll drive up the northern part of it, heading for Maryland.

The weather was perfect for hiking. I’m guessing it was around 24 degrees C, slightly cooler in the shade, which there was most of, the hike being in the woods. The first 2 miles was down, down, down till we reached the water. We sat by the edge of the stream and had our sandwiches. Then up, up, up for more another 2 miles. Phew, it was hard going, but since I’m convinced it’s good for me, and since it was such a beautiful trail, following the waterfall upwards, I was happy even if panting. Dane was of course jumping around like a mountain goat.

 

Larger scale pictures and a few more here.

I’m trying to read books that touch on the America we’re seing. I’ve read a couple of books by James Lee Burke. One with his Louisiana cop David Robicheaux (had read several of these years back in my crime-fiction period and been fascinated with the places he describes (Atchafalayan basin, New Orleans etc.)) and another about the civil war. I’ve just started yet another Bill Bryson book – this one about the Appalachian TrailA Walk in the Woods. David is reading The Lost Continent, also by Bryson. On a somewhat other note I’m simultaneously reading a book I stumbled over in one of the four airports I managed to visit on my way to my aunt’s funeral in Texas: Mindless Eating. Need I say more? Well, I will (you knew that, didn’t you?). It’s a book about food psychology and it’s good. In numerous studies the author and his collegues have shown that we eat according to a whole other set of parametres than we think. And that’s ALL OF US. Nut just the mindless fools out there without control of self. If we eat out of a big plate, we eat more than if we eat out of a small plate. If we drink out of a tall, slim glass, we drink less than if we drink out of a low, wide glass. If the biscuit tin is within reach, we eat more than if it’s up on the top shelf. And so on and so forth. If you’re interested in food and eating (like, if you have children…), you should at least check out the homepage.

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Oh, Charleston

We loved Charleston. It has a destinct European feel to it, yet obviously Southern and American. The city’s architecture is inspired by settlers from Barbados, where it was customary to have your balconies on the side of the house instead of towards the front, like the houses in e.g. New Orleans. Also you find lots of single houses here, whereas the rule elsewhere is semidetached the way you find them in England. Most houses seemed to be in mint condition. There are probably several explanations for this, one being the apparent general  prosperity of the area, another that Hurricane Hugo visited Charleston with devastating effect in 1989; suffiently many years ago so that everything that could be restored has been so, and the rest torn down. But that’s only me guessing.

See some examples of the lovely houses in downtown Charleston here:

 

Earlier I’ve mentioned how I find it difficult with 5-digit house numbers. This one is a bit to the other extreme:

 

Both signs on same house – the first one a bit watered down (no pun intended)

The city is surrounded by water – almost. Check Google Earth if you have it installed. It was a very windy day, so it was very nice along the Battery, as they call the easternmost part of the city, facing the Atlantic. The houses facing the sea are palaces more than houses.

 

We spent quite a few days in the Charleston area – or rather David and Dane did – and we drove up and down highway 17 every day. So every day we passed a furniture warehouse that was burnt to cinders with loads of flowers and things out front. Every time we talked about what might have happened there. And one day, in another location, I saw a sticker saying: Support the families of the perished firemen. We guessed that the two were probably related and Googled it.  There’s even a large article in Wikipedia about it. 9 firefighters died to save one person. We can not even begin to imagine the kind of press coverage a tragedy like this would have had at home. And we had’nt even heard about it.

 

The next day we drove north along the coast. We chose to bypass the famous Myrtle Beach, finding it very commercialised and touristy. A bit further north, in North Carolina, we stopped in Wilmington. The coastline there is gloomily named Cape Fear. Nothing to remind me of Robert de Niro there, though. It was still extremely windy, so we decided to try the sea instead of the swimming pool that afternoon. Dane wasn’t too happy with that, because he’s learning to swim and you couldn’t really swim in those waves, just let yourself be thrusted here and there. However, he loved playing the lifeguard!

 

Now we’re heading inland and it’ll be a while before we see the ocean again. But we’ll see lots of lakes and rivers – and mountains. We’re headed for the Appalachian trail (part of it) and will be camping in the Shenandoah hills, Virginia.

See you there!

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Catching up

My aunt’s funeral was just as it should be. Her son and daughter had taken great pains to make arrangements that would have pleased my aunt and that would be pleasing to the family. The coffin was decorated with the Danish flag and red and white flowers, and they’d found a Lutheran pastor, who held a very good and balanced speech, where he touched upon both my aunt’s addiction and her recovery through AA, many years ago. He did both in a subtle but yet straightforward way.

Before I went to Texas we went for a tour on foot in the swampy forest outside Savannah, where we were camping. It was wilderness for dummies, so we weren’t exactly about to get lost. But since it wasn’t the weekend or holiday, we were by ourselves. It was hot, humid, different and fascinating.

The color and the stillness

Crabs – hundreds of them

What a tree!

We visited Savannah, but were’nt really that impressed. Much to our own surprise. The much acclaimed River Walk was extremely touristy and rather sordid. We found a really nice café and enjoyed the many lovely, shady squares. We also visited one of the houses from the 19th century. We couldn’t help snickering a little. When you come from a country where you don’t even raise an eyebrow to churches that are 800-1000 years old, it’s quite funny to experience the Americans’ awe over objects and houses that are less than 200 years old. But – the other side of that coin is, that we Europeans could learn about taking more pride in our history from the Americans.

Talking of history – the next day we visited Fort Pulaski. A fort that it took 12 years to built, but only 30 hours’ of union bombardement to conquer.

While I was away, Dane and David had a great time doing real father-son things. They went fishing, but all they caught was a poor old turtle, which they of course let go again. They saw an alligator in the lake by the camp ground, so didn’t go fishing in that lake… They wen’t canoing together and Dane climbed a twenty meter climbing wall. Probably all for the best that Mommy wasn’t around for that!

As mentioned earlier, Dane has developed a vivid interest in the second world war, battleships and fighter planes. At Patriot’s Point he got lots more input to feed that interest.

More and bigger-size pictures here.

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Absent

It’s been a while, I know (no Internet at campground and busy with travel arrangements). And it’ll be a while yet, for tonight I’ll head out to Texas for my aunt’s funeral.

There’s a lot to tell, because we’ve covered a lot of ground since my last real entry. Right now we’re at a lovely campground just outside Charleston, South Carolina, and David and Dane will stay here, while I’m in Texas. We’ve been through Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and Georgia in the meantime.

See pictures with commentary and send us a message. We miss hearing from y’all!!!!

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Sad

My sweet old aunt, Godmother and namesake in Texas died last night in her sleep. We’d been looking forward to seeing her again at Thanksgiving, but now there’s a funeral…

We’ll be changing our plans, but don’t quite know to what extent yet.

We’re at a campsite outside Savannah without Internet, so I’m writing this at a Starbucks café in a Savannah suburb, while David and Dane are out fishing in the Moon River. The campsite is in a state park and beautiful. We went on walk on a nature trail in the park this morning. It was beautiful and very exotic.

More later.

By the way, friends and family: We would like to hear from you too!

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