Heading down to Kentucky

I got a friend down in the mountains of Kentucky that I’m going to see. Trev is his name, and if you’ve read this blog for a while you probably recognize his name. He´s a friend I’ve made from motorcycle riding, and while I was away last year he had a baby. I gotta get down there and see him.

Something else nice about this trip is that I get to see some friends from Germany. Otylia and Wojtek Labacki are living in Northern Kentucky for a short while, and I’m going to pick them up to show them around for the weekend. They’re looking forward to getting out of Florence, KY where they’ve been for the last month without leaving. I’m happy they can come along and look forward to showing them a part of one of our most beautiful states. I’ll take pictures this time and post them early next week.

Today is set aside for spending time with my friends in St. Louis and studying. Hopefully more of the latter than I’ve been getting done so far.

I saw Dan Hopper on Monday. He and I played some putt-putt and hit baseballs in the batting cages before he invited me out for dinner. I say out because lives far outside of town on the other side of the river. Dinner was good and so was seeing him. Dan’s got much of my furniture in his basement that he’s been keeping for well over a year now. I’m very grateful, but it’s now time to take it to Texas. So next week if everything goes as I plan I’ll pick it up and be back on my way home. St. Louis will be only an occasional stop after that.
Wish me luck studying for my test. It will be around noon next Thursday. If I pass that graduation is in December!

Yesterday was fun.

Yom Kippur was interesting as I’d never seen one before – growing up in the woods. I liked the service, but towards the end one of the Rabbis decided it was her job to preach to us about how the government should behave and it approached a boundary withing church and state. I never considered Synagogue to be like that and avoided churches that did so. Anyway, we got out alive and went to eat some Chinese food. The food was good, and the table next to us was a group of older women that spoke Spanish. It was interesting to hear them talk with the waitress since none of them knew English very well. I couldn’t figure out where they were from, their accent was not one I immediately recognized, nor did I hear any dialectal words that would make one country stand out over another.

After that Jessica and I headed to the “Taste of St. Louis” a big gathering where local restaurants set up booths and people sample their food for what I though was a reasonable price. Of course you couldn’t get filled up on the samples without going broke, but we did get a sample from a friend of hers that runs a catering business. Crepes with apricot preserve filling!

I forgot my camera of course, but there were a lot of people downtown last night. The after-party was in a bar not too far from there, and we got in free again thanks to the catering friend. Some big time musicians were supposed to make an appearance, but when we left at 12:30 they still hadn’t made it. The band was pretty good too as a Grateful Dead cover, and both of us sang along to many of the songs we knew. Sugar Magnolia and Shakedown Street were some of my favorites. I dropped her off and headed home.

Today I’m going to pick Dan up from the airport. Maybe Dave will accompany us as we go to meet our other friend Dan Hopper aka SuperDan for some batting cage activities and maybe some put-put. Dan has kept to himself lately, and I knew something sport related would get him out. Oh, and look soon for the photos from DS&T, I’m finally ready to finish up typing the entry.

Hi

Thing are going well. I’m in Missouri and getting all of my ducks in a row to graduate. The paperwork is filed, I’m getting my professors setup to be on the committee for my defense/orals. I finally got my grades from Germany, and they were actually better than I expected – well, they couldn’t have been better in fact. I made As in my physics classes, the ones I’m transferring to Missouri.

I’m very pleased because it is not normal to make As in Germany. I say that because there is no incentive like we have here. A German student at the end of his studies gets a certificate/diploma no matter what his GPA, and the guy with perfect score is just as qualified as the guy that just passed his classes. Like I said, I’m happy. If these grades really are part of my transcript like my professor says, I’ll have a 3.94 average for the Masters. There was one B+ I made my first semester in Graduate Electrodynamics. I redeemed myself though, and the second semester with the same professor and more difficult material I made an A.

Ok, today will be fun. First Yom Kippur at the Temple with my friends Dave and Diana. Then “Taste of St. Louis”. Jessica and I will spend more time with her friends who are pretty cool people. Then later Margaritas probably followed by sleeping. Gotta run, the day is beginning.

I’m back home again

I just got back from Dead Snakes & Tumbleweeds, a motorcycle rally in Texas. It was great to see my old friends and make new ones. Soon though I’ll be back on the road on my way to St. Louis. There is a lot of business that I need to take care of up there.

Photos and a story or two about the rally later!

Highlights part II.

We arrived late in Stuttgart, but not too late for a little party. Most people we knew had already left, some had even come back. Bo from Connecticut was in town before moving to Heidelberg, and we said good bye to him a second time. Johannes came also. He allowed me to stay with him while passing through town, and since my things were stored in his attic I swapped my winter clothes for beach clothes because we’d be heading down to the Spanish Mediterranean for some beach time.

The next day we left after taking care of some business such as bank stuff and getting money for the phones. After heading out we pointed the bike south to France. Things went well, and we got to France in no time. The major roads in France are all toll roads, so we jumped off as soon as possible for some back road time. The last couple days had been all highway, and I was ready for some change in scenery. It turned out to be a great decision.

Before long we were fully in the mountains and the sights just got better and better. Without going too into depth, I’m proud to show this photo where we stopped in a little town west of Lyon and say the St. Michael’s church on top of a rock hill. You could see it from the road, and we turned this way. This is definitely something worth seeing if you’re ever in the area. Of course we went up and took pictures of the church and the city, but that’s best saved for another time. We picnicked there and headed on again. The second photo is just one sight Jessica took while we rode through the mountains.

We rode through those mountains, the northern Pyrenees all after noon until Milau, and then what I’d been waiting for. This was a highlight I’d wanted to see for some time. The tallest bridge in the world, the Milau Viaduct. And boy was it impressive.

I took lots of photos there, and hope to make a panorama soon, but these were some of my favorites. This bridge was/is amazing, and it really is a testament to French ingenuity and skill. Here is a link talking about it. That night we rode on in to Spain. Gerona was our stop for the night. The hotel wasn’t bad, but it was dark, and we were tired. The next morning we got up and rode the rest of the way to Benicassim just north of Valencia through downtown Barcelona and along the costal highway. It was quite a ride with the Mediterranean on the left and mountains on the right. I can’t wait to share that ride also in a future post. We finally arrived at my friend’s beach-house town in mid afternoon, and this is what we saw.

It was really a great place to spend the next few days. Jessica and I took in a lot of sun that we’d been needing for quite some time. Carlos, our friend from Stuttgart, showed us around, and the town turned out to be very neat since most of the tourists were all from Spain. We were the only foreigners there. It was pretty cool, plus the nightlife there in summer is fantastic. A couple photos show one beach club that first night.

Yep, that’s fire twirlers. I do have a couple beach photos, but they’ll come out soon enough. Our last day there Jessica and I rode up into the Natural Park and saw the mountains. It was quite beautiful there, albeit dry, and we found an old monastery that was photogenic enough. This photo overlooks Benicassim from the mountains. Quite a cool place huh?

We moved on to and then stayed a couple nights in Valencia and did more beach time. Valencia is probably my favorite city in Spain, and having several friends there makes it all the better. One of them, Elena, hosted us for a night and showed us around a little. It turns out that this was our last stop on the motorcycle trip so I had to sell the bike. The Vulcan 500 had treated us well and carried us a long way on this trip, plus the shorter trips I had done throughout the year. I would miss it, but the memories will last for ever. Me and my last photo on the bike. Thanks to Elena and Victor for helping me sell the motorcycle. Victor wasn’t there during that time, but he played an integral part in transacting the money and paperwork.

The second photo there is the last moment I saw our helmets. I had planned to pawn the helmets, but everyone was either closed to too far away that last day there (no bike remember), and we had to make a flight in Madrid in just a few hours. We decided to leave the helmets at the bus station and watch to see how long they lasted. Spain is famous for petty thieves, and they lived up to the reputation this time. I took the photo of the helmets, and just seconds later they were gone. It was so fast that neither of us saw the thief.

The whole trip to Madrid I was eating myself up inside. After traffic there would be very little time to make it to the airport, but things worked out. We had to hire a taxi, but we made it before last call. This is a photo of Madrid from above. It’s a very large city in the middle of a desert-plain.

Next stop Dublin! We arrived in Dublin later that day. The whole flight had been sunny, but as soon as we reached Ireland the sky clouded up. Odd huh? It was exactly how we imagined it though. The coast was rocky and green. And of course the clouds just reinforced the stereotype.

I only had one day in Dublin. so we did as many interesting things as possible. Jessica was staying in Ireland and would be back to Dublin the next week, so she reserved some of her must sees for then. First we headed to the famous Trinity College, then on to the National Gallery of art. Dublin is a nice place although expensive and a dirtier than most European cities – nothing compared to some US cities however. An example of the cost there is in the next photo

Yep, that’s a 6 pack of Budweiser. Would you believe that it sells for $15?

We ended up our walk around Dublin at the Guinness Storehouse slash Brewery. It was a cool tour. At the end of course you get to sample some fresh Guinness, and believe me it tastes better in Ireland. You’ve never had anything like this – well maybe, but it’s worth going if you’re in Ireland. Jessica and I stopped to take this photo. It’s actually a funny story, but again we’ll have to wait for the whole thing.

That night we drove over to see some friends of Emmet, our Irish friend, and we had a good time staying out late drinking good Irish drinks at a local Public House (Pub). Emmet is on the Right, and I bet you can tell which one is Jessica. The rest of the group was a hoot – several are not pictured.

Our intent for Ireland was to visit the Gaelic Music Festival in Tullamore, Ireland. It was a great place, and is famous for some of my favorite whiskey. The last day of my European travels ended right there. We woke up after sleeping a couple hours and Emmet drove me to the airport to fly back to Germany. It was an amazing trip. I look forward to telling all the stories in future posts. Until then enjoy these photos!

Saw Lance Armstrong last night.

It was cool. Mom got us passes to watch an interview with him and Texas Monthly magazine. He’s promoting a cancer research and a bond initiative for Texas. The interview was quite interesting, and of course there were the questions about bicycle riding and competition. It was a pretty cool interview. Of course I went with my mom and her two friends that all ride bicycles. These women were all googlie eyed over him. I guess he is a hero an all, but really, and I had to hear it. I have to say he’s well spoken and witty at times and made for an interesting time.

So, here’s some photos of him and his daughter who was running around during the interview. She provided some laughs.

The interview was on UT campus, so I stopped to snap a photo of the UT tower. And later that night I got the capital building, but it was dark. I’ll try to get another better one soon.And at dinner we sat under the biggest Pecan tree I’ve seen in a long time. It was quite photogenic so I snapped a few. It was a good dinner, and I got to drink one of my favorite beers from times past. Turns out it won’t be my favorite beer anymore. Man, I was spoiled for so long buying good tasting beer. I can’t believe it I used to like that beer. Man, I’ll have to quite drinking or go broke buying expensive beer. The good news is that my burger was good, and made with real beef!

One last thing. I posted the second half of highlight photos and the story associated the other day, but I have trouble seeing them. If you are having the same problem please let me know.

my email is cross(at)crosscountryadventures.us

Thanks.

First impressions of home.

After arriving in Houston I stayed with a friend of mine, Forrest, for a couple days. It was great seeing him again, and he was very interested in hearing what I had to say. That was great for me because I had the “well In Germany this and that” mindset, and he never grew tired of hearing my comparisions. I think most people would have told me to shut up after just a little of that. We had a good time hanging out and even got some work done before he took me back to the airport.

I arrived in Dallas on Saturday morning. Mom was waiting for me at the baggage claim and Grandma circling with the car. We were so happy to see each other, hugs and kisses all around. I had seen my mom this year, but it had been more than that since I’d seen my grandmother. She and I were so happy. Sunday was her birthday, and I got to see the aunts and cousins that live in Dallas and have been a part of my life since I was born. Homecomings are always great! Plus we eat really well too.

So, I’ve been home almost 6 days now and some things have come to my attention that I had lost in a years time.

The first thing I noticed is that the roads here really are bigger. I’m not sure if it’s Texas or in general, but it’s so nice to ride on a road wider than a car! I’ve been driving too of course, and it’s fun to be able to read the road signs again.

This morning I fried some eggs. I always do that, but I realized as I was cooking that the butter was salted… That’s a good thing, and those eggs tasted much better because of it. 😀

When Forrest and I had gone to Taco Bell one afternoon I paid with quarters, but both our meals were on one ticket. The bill came to exactly $3 and Forrest gave the man a 5 and 4 quarters. That’s 6 dollars, and I asked him why he would do that??? He said he didn’t want change, “but” I answered, “you’ll get a one and a two back.” The Euro of course has one and two Euro coins and the paper money starts at 5. I had forgotten about 1 dollar bills! How silly I felt.

Something I really like is water at a meal. It was great the first time I sat down and water was placed on the table and it even had ice! I turned around once while eating and the glass was full again before realized it. Refills and free water are a good thing. Try that in Europe. HAH.

That brings up waiters of course and the difference. Once in Paris my cousins, mom, and I waited 45 minutes after eating for the check to come. I think someone would be fired here for doing that. Here the waiters actually wait on the customer, and you can get the check or a drink or anything promptly. That’s handy!

Last night we went out to a bbq house. It was fantastic. I hadn’t had a cooked peice of beef but only a few times this year (that I didn’t spend too much on and cook myself). Here is was bbqued and ready to eat. Yummy. Not only that but they had IBC rootbeer in a glass bottle waiting for me. You already know what I drank for dinner last night.

And maybe one of the most significant things I’ve noticed is the heat. It is wonderful. I spent the last year wearing coats and jackets even in summer. I was wearing a long sleeve shirt when Forrest picked me up from the airport. It was the first time I had felt really warm in a long time. Spain of course was warmer, but even on a really hot day there, I’d feel more comfortable in Texas.

I’m glad to be home. Things are familiar here, and I’m ready for a vacation from my vacation. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll go back for sure would even consider living there again, but it’s nice to know my way around and speak the language without straining myself. Of course my grandmother left the room yesterday when I put the Spanish Channel on the television. Oops.

I promise to get the second set of pictures up soon from the bike trip around Europe. My grandmother’s connection rivals ours from 1996 and we’re blazing at 26.2kbps. As soon as I get a decent connection I will upload those photos and tell the second half of our exiting trip around Europe. 😀