Sunday, September 11, 2016

The End of This Particular Road

SUNDAY, 9/11:

I hope we get to Greenland soon.

Greetings from 37,000 feet somewhere over the North Atlantic. We left Paris an hour and a half ago, and we now have a mere seven hours left to kill before we land in Chicago, where once we clear Customs (always a wonderful, fun task) we only have six hours to catch our flight back to Marquette.

I really hope we make it (he says sarcastically).

It's been cloudy most of the flight so far, which I consider quite the bummer. I'm sitting in the window seat, and, given the chance, I could spend the entire eight and a half hours in the air just gazing down upon the land, the water, and whatever else may pop up. I guess that's the geography nerd in me. I've always been fascinated by staring out the plane window. And it's why I can't understand people like the woman in the seat in front of me, who's pulled down her shade and is trying to sleep. You have an airplane window seat, a seat for which you may have paid a premium. Why WOULDN'T you look out that window?

Anyway, that's why I'm waiting to get to Greenland. It's a sign that we've made some actual progress on this seemingly endless flight, and it's also a chance to see desolation at its absolute peak. Unless you fly over the very southern tip of the island—and we usually don't—all you see are rocks & glaciers. You see nothing else. There are no colors, and absolutely no signs of life at all. If you were an alien landing on the planet and happened to choose Greenland as your destination, you'd think there was nothing here and head back to Proxima Centauri (or wherever it was from which you came)

However, for a geography nerd there are patterns to be seen in the ice. You can see where the glaciers ebb and flow, and on the coast you can see where they're calving into the water. It's an interesting thing to see, and if scientists are right it's something you may not be able to enjoy much longer should the island's glaciers all melt.

And that would be sad.

Anyway, enough about the geography. I promised more pictures and more stories, and in no particular order, here they are--

See those two cars? Those are a Renault Twingo (in the back) and a Renault Clio up front. They are the two most popular cars you see in France. Those of you who read my daily blogs know of the “Outback/Silverado” game you can play in Marquette, where it seems like every other vehicle is either a Subaru Outback or a Chevy Silverado. When you see one, you'll soon see the other, and usually in equal numbers. Well, we noticed pretty much the same with Twingos and Clios in France, and instead of walking down the street going “Outback” or “Silverado”, we started walking down the street saying “Twingo” or “Clio”.

Guess it doesn't take much to keep us entertained.

Speaking of cars, we drove a little over 2.100 kilometers during the nine days we had the Cee'd. That's about 1,300 miles, or on average 150 miles a day. Contrast that with the, uhm, zero miles I usually drive in any nine day span at home, and you can see why I had fun on those narrow and winding roads!

While we're driving we have the radio on, and aside from all of the American and British hits they play over here, we get to hear a few songs you'd never get to hear at home. Here's this year's discovery, a song that has pounded itself into our brains, so much so that we listened to it, oh, a dozen times or so while packing last night.

May I present Paradis and “Toi et Moi”--

Listen to it a dozen times for yourself and see if it doesn't get stuck in YOUR head.

You may have noticed reading these that as you're driving through France you may see a lot of unusual things. Want a few more? How about a town that holds an annual accordion festival?

Or this, in someone's yard in Ste. Mere Eglise?

Or this, the very weird name for a model of Nissan that, if you say it fast enough, almost sounds like, say, the very weird name “Koski?

If you know where to look, you can find little things like that everywhere. All you have to do is keep a camera ready and you're all set.

I've been mentioning the greatest bromance in the history of French morning television for a few days now, and I supposed I should explain of what I'm speaking. We don't watch any TV while we're over there—we're just don't seem to have the time—but the one show for which we'll make an exception is “Telematin”. It's France's version of “The Today Show”, and we started watching it because it was hosted by this curmudgeonly older guy named William Leymergie. He'd be surrounded by all of these young correspondents explaining what was hot & new, and William would just sit there and shake his head in wonder and/or disgust. It's habit we picked up over the years, and would always look forward to William being, well, William.

But then Nate came along--

Nate is the young newscaster on the right of your picture, while William's the older guy on the left. Every since Nate's shown up, William's no longer quite as curmudgeonly as he once was. In fact, when Nate gets done with his newscasts and he throws it back to William, they'll chat, and William will often giggle, as will Nate.

Who knew? And that's the bromance I kept mentioning.

Want a few more flower shots? Of course you do--

How about this one?

And how about one more Tour de France picture, just for old times sake?

Or one more cow picture?

This next thing may seem stupid to some people, but I'll keep doing it until the day I stop coming over here. The first time I went to Europe my niece Mallory, who was then five years old, was bummed because she couldn't go. So I brought along a bookmark with her picture on it, took a shot of it, showed it to her, and showed her how she actually did “go” to Europe with me. Every since then I've done it every time we've gone over.

Here's the year's edition, taken in Villedeu-le-Poelles.

Mallory's now almost 19 and probably thinks her Uncle Jim is a dork for continuing to do this. But I am a dork. I've never denied it, and I'll often, in fact, revel in my dork-dom. So I'll keep doing it as long as I come over here.

Finally, I do need to mention the mad scientist who put together this perfect journey, and that would be Loraine. I don't know how she does it, but she keeps coming up with amazing things for us to do and incredible people for us to meet. And this year, she even got the weather to cooperate! I always mention she's an amazing woman, and this is just one of the examples why.

So, as always, thanks again, Loraine. You rock.

Well, that about does it for this excursion. Thanks for reading along, and thanks for all the comments you'd posted, the Facebook notes you stuck up, and the e-mails you sent. I do these blogs because I've been told you guys enjoy following along, and your feedback is proof of that. So once again, thanks. If you're not yet doing so, you may also want to check out the daily blogs I do for work. They usually don't ramble on and on about cows or have pictures of crap from the Tour de France, but you might find them vaguely interesting.

So if you feel like it give them a look.

I hope your digital passport is still in effect this time next year, because my favorite Mad Scientist already has another wing-ding in the works, one that may stick us in four different countries and have me take a crack at driving on Germany's vaunted Autobahn, a road that (gulp) doesn't have a speed limit in some places.

Well, we should be over Greenland soon, and the clouds seem to be breaking up, so until next time...

(p.s.--here's an update after landing in Chicago. I never get to see Greenland; in fact, the clouds didn't break until mid-Ontario. We did, however, get to “see” the house in which Loraine grew up as we flew over her home town of Reese, in the Thumb.

Oh, and in a sign of things to come, remember how I said we're doing our wing-ding next year? Upon arriving at O'Hare, our next destination greeted us!

51 more weeks!)