Wednesday, October 7, 2009

On Returning to America After Being Away

There is no way to put it nicely: coming back to American has been hard.
The reduction in blogging reflects that.

The 2009 summer trip through Belgium and France to Switzerland was great.
You can view the best photos on this blog by scrolling down to go back in time. When you get to the end of this month's "chapters," just click on the "Older Posts" button in the lower right to bring up last month's postings. You can go back month by month that way.
Or, you can just click on the month you want at any time from the menu on the right. The summer 2009 trip began in June and ended in September.
Cyane, at least, had been looking forward to returning to the end of the trip, returning to America, and taking care of business. Alan would probably have liked to travel longer.

So, what has been so hard to take, coming back to America?
Well, the level of public discourse and political dialogue, reflected in the first photo, is strident.
Having to drive is a shock. Not only are distances great, public transportation rare, but also one often does not feel safe when not in a car.
Financial anxiety and even outright poverty are rampant.
Exploitation of workers seems the American norm - if one can find a job.
The public world is so often disappointingly ugly.
On the other hand, there are many kind people, who are reflected in other entries here, who create beauty where and when they can.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Rich the Climber

This man has been rock climbing for 18 years and you can see it in his arms and hands.
He takes a break from his new house and family to do a little climbing on the boulders above Wissahickon Creek in Philadelphia.
Check out the moves below.

Some Photos of Food in America

The American model promises lots of choices and low prices.
People tend to buy a lot at warehouse-like stores and not shop as often.
Food tends to be more packaged, more processed, and less fresh.
But very cheap rekatively.
The labor in the food industry is also not paid very much.

Walmart Visit: Isolation

We visited a Walmart Huntingdon, PA.

It makes you feel lonely just to go in.

Walmart: Too Many Products, Too Little Quality

'Big Box' stores are warehouses displaying lots of product.
Wide aisles mean that skidloaders can directly bring in skids filled with boxes (mostly from China).
There are remarkably cheap prices.

Walmart has automotive products, food, and guns, along with everything else.
Even though there are lots of bicycles, Alan could not find any good quality ones.
Making choices can be hard.

October Friends

Fran, Jacqui's sister, with Alan and Cyane in Central Park.

Gini in Kutztown.
Eileen in the Rodale Garden.

Sheila and Alan in front of the Dakota in New York.

Neil and Rachel's Wedding; October 3, 2009

Choosing flowers above and final bouquet below.

Lots to celebrate and many people did.

Nice Pictures of People in New York

Many of the wonderful human interactions happen in and around the parks.
Above, walkers on the Bow Bridge in Central Park.

Jim, above, walks his dogs around the Sheep Meadow, while others relax on the lawn.

The streets of New York are alive, even at night.
Parts of Broadway have been closed around 35th St, see below, to encourage pedestrian traffic.

Huntingdon, PA House Rehab

Alan is installing new floors after having put in dry wall. He first levels the existing boards, then puts down luan 1/4 " subfloor, and then lays down Ikea laminate flooring (no glue or nails).
You can see the new walls being painted and the new floor below.
Marina, left, and Alan, right, host Claire for breakfast.
The house is surrounded on three sides by a cemetary with great views.

Summer 2009 Trip Summary

Dates:  June 10 to September 10, 2009  (Alan actually started 2 weeks earlier)
We left Brussels on June 13 and arrived in Switzerland on July 4.
We spent two months inside Switzerland.  See chronology below.

Countries:  Belgium, France, Switzerland

Distance:  About 1,700 kilometers bicycled; 1,000 from Brussels to Switzerland and about 700 km inside Switzerland.  250  kilometers hiked.  Went from sea level up to 2,912 meters.

Expense:  Averaged overall about $100 per day.  
We stayed with friends, youth hostels, campgrounds, and Swiss mountain huts.  
With friends, the average cost was about $80/day; on the road we spent about $150/day.

Photos:  If you scroll down in this blog and look for "Older Posts" button in the lower right you can work your way to entries going back in time.  You may have to hit the Older Posts button successively, or you can choose a date from the menu on the right.

13 & 14 June:  Travel from Brussels down the Maas/Meuse River thru Namur, Dinant, Givet
15 - 24 June:  Rent an old house in Haulme, on the Semoy River east of Montherme
25 - 26 June:  Bicycle south from Haulme, generally along the Meuse River visiting Verdun
27 & 28 June:  Stay in Nancy, Alsace
29 & 30 June:  Bike east along the Marne Canal thru Lorraine and into the Rhine region
1 July:  Stay in Strasbourg
2 & 3 July:  Bike south along the Rhine toward Basel
4 & 5 July:  Stay in Basel, Switzerland
6 & 7 July:  Bike southeast from Basel over the Jura Hills and along the Aar River to Zurich
7 - 11 July:  Stay in Zurich with Monica and Andres
12 - 17 July:  Bicycle loop route from Zurich thru: Filzbach, Braunwald, Seelisberg, Luzerne
18 & 19 July:  Zurich
20 - 23 July:  Train trip to Gimmelwald, with hike to Gspaltenhornhut
24 - 31 July:  Zurich
1 - 8 August:  Bicycle trip south over high mountain passes to Locarno Film Festival thru:
  Alpnachstad, Innertkirchen, Hospental, Bellinzona, Locarno, San Bernadino, Hinterrhein Valley.  
9 - 13 August:  Visit in Churwalden with hike to Arrosa
14 - 18 August:  Bike to Frauenkirch and visit in the Davos area
19 - 24 August:  Train trip to Vorderrhein Valley with hikes to Terri hut, Capanna Bovarina, and from Vals to Lanta Hut.
26 - 29 August:  Zurich
30 August - 5 Sept:  Paris, stay in rental apartment in the Fifth Arondissement
5 - 9 Sept:  Stay with relatives in the Fifteenth Arondissement
10 Sept:  Fly Paris to JFK