Saturday, August 15, 2009

In .2 Miles Take Second Left In Roundabout

Not much is happening, worth noting, in real time, so I thought I should sort through more of our vacation photos. My intentions were noble, but as I looked for images from our day in Avignon, I was detoured. I could tell you about the amazing preparations for the Festival in Avignon, but before we could get to Avignon, or to Triberg, or Brienz, or Brussels, or Barcelona or Triberg, we had to get in the car. None of this is going to translate very well... not the tedium or the wonder, not the frenzy of driving out of Paris or in to Brussesl. You won't get leg cramps from sitting in one position while trying to comfort a tired-hungry-bored four year old from reading this post... I hope you won't. That would be weird. And you might not think it is hilarious to be *lost* in France when the French road workers and the GPS cannot agree on the best route. We logged a lot of time in our Renault Espace and the sights and memories are as dear and precious embarrassing as any from the Louvre.


First of all... I Love a Road Trip. And we saw things that I could not believe were real, like miles and miles of sunflowers. These were in France and we kept driving passed field after field of them, but the opportunity to stop and really appreciate the sight never materialized. And every time a really good photo-opp came up my camera was turned off, but I took this picture anyway... blurry and wonky and all. I am so glad to have it. I remember when we were finally arriving at our destination I announced to all: "Tomorrow we are pulling over, no matter what, to take pictures of the sunflowers. No matter what!" I was serious. I was a little cranky too, but only a little. The next day we did not see a single sunflower.

The GPS and eating crow.
Mmmm mm... this crow is tasty. I am eating crow because I mocked Geoff mercilessly for getting a GPS. My feeble mind could not comprehend installing, updating, and preparing software for driving through Europe. It was not an easy process to get the software to work, and I kept thinking that a good map would be all we could ever need to get from point A to Point B. I was wrong. I was wrong and sometimes the GPS was really wrong, but I still admit that even at its most ineffective the GPS always, eventually, got us to our destination.

See the purple line going all over creation? Yeah, it's supposed to have us on an actual road, and not in some French farmer's driveway.

By the way there was a GPS in the car, but other than showing us where we were we never could get it to tell us how to get somewhere else.

Gee. This road looks narrow.

I actually enjoy getting lost. I have a really good sense of direction, so being turned around is a welcome challenge... it's interesting. But this spot?! I had no idea how to fix this. Our GPS was trying to reroute us, but because of roadwork detours she just kept sending us on ten mile loops, down dirt roads, passed the moors, in to the tulgey woods and back to the blocked road we started from.

You could not ask to be lost in a more beautiful setting. In fact there was nothing wrong with this unscheduled tour, except that we had to be in Avignon by check in time, or we would be in deep doo-doo. Six people sleeping in an Espace is deep doo-doo... I don't care how adventurous you are.

Sheila, Alex named her actually directed us in to someone's driveway. Our rental car had a big "rental car" sticker on it. As though no once could guess.

The afternoon we left Holland and pointed our car toward Triberg, Germany, Sheila really gave us a tour. We wove in and out of France-Germany-Blegium... back and forth and it kept getting later and later and later, and it even got dark eventually. And most of the time I was thinking, "Please don't let it be the Autobahn. Please don't let it be the Autobahn. Please don't let it be the Autobahn." All my life I have been hearing boys talk about the mythical Autobahn, where you can drive as fast as you want, and then their eyes glaze over and they make gear grinding-motor noises. The Autobahn has held a grip of fear and dread over me for a very long time, which is silly since I have spent 99.9% of my life living 5,700 miles away from the Autobahn; 99.5% of my life has been spent living along the I-5 Corridor, which I drive frequently.

I won't ever buy the shirt, but I imagine myself being in possession of a T-shirt that reads: I SURVIVED THE AUTOBAHN. German roads are good and safe and other than feeling uneasy in an overloaded mini-van traveling at 100 MPH, I managed to contain my cookies and only periodically seethe, "Geoff." And believe me, he knows very well what I am saying when I seethe, "Geoff," and my voice is kind of shrill and panicky. He knows.

For every episode of terror or tedium on a road trip, there is always levity, humor... immaturity, if you will. I will. My sense of humor is stunningly immature. I know I mortify my children.

I told Max he could tell his classmates all about the Autobahn and Germany, about language and history and fascinating cultural facts. Then I snickered every time I did my level best to learn German by reading road signs.

I feel I should apologize for posting these and implying there is something funny about it, but I am too busy thinking of any German words I know and then adding them to Ausfahrt and saying them aloud in a heavy German accent.

Humor goes a long way to making a road trip bearable, so does singing and "I Spy" and reading aloud and eating Lays potato chips that are flavored like roast chicken... honestly the chips smelled like a Thanksgiving dinner. If you prefer, they also had ham flavored potato chips. We laughed a lot. And I only recall two instances when Maria cried inconsolably. Here she is sharing Alex's earbud and listening either to the Doctor Horrible Singalong soundtrack or Monty Python. I never did let the children listen to Barney.

Me: Children, why does Barney sing to the children?
Our Children: To make the children happy.
Me: And why does Barney the dinosaur want the children to be happy?
Our Children: Because happy children taste better.
Me: Very good. I love you. You are bright and capable. Now clean your room.

Far from the highway and heading straight in to that lake.
Ausfahrt! Ausfahrt!

Maria sang to Max about the drive being almost over, about us stopping soon and for him to sleep in peace, because she was loving him. He did sleep, and the capacity for her to sing such a kind and tender song and for him to receive it makes me feel wonderful.

Somewhere in Belgium.
Enjoy this while you can, because Geoff is probably going to make me take it down... unless I can make him see it the way I do. He did all the driving. I did all the navigating, with Sheila's "help." Sometimes we were turned around or sleep deprived or worried. Sometimes we wanted get out of the car and never leave the spot we'd discovered, because we had found some place beautiful and good. We met and fell in love in 1982, and we planned a trip to Europe... and we put it off and postponed it and planned again and then renegotiated, and finally we were here... there. I like this picture, because I know he loves us and works for us and because I love him and I am happy to support him... where ever we are.

Where ever we go.


Tiglizzyclone said...

Those are all great photos. Especially the one of Maria! And Geoff looks just fine! Remember... a picture is worth a 1000 words!

Anna Banana said...

Laughing about the GPS! We used iphone GPS on the I-5 corridor (I Know! LOL!!) and it was truly fubar. But as J pointed out, the GPS was never wrong, it was the humans on the learning curve and the ssssllloooowwww loading that messed it up. ;)

Katie said...

I bet those sunflowers were amazing in person. Frankly, I enjoy the blurriness of the shots you got! And the thing about Barney had me laughing hysterically. Glad Chickenblog finally made it to Europe...

mtnchild said...

With all I've heard about GPS, I think I'll just stick with a paper map. Of course, I might change my mind if I ever get farther that 20 miles from home ... LOL

Your pictures are so beautiful, and I seem to relax when looking at the wide open spaces.


judy in ky said...

Did Sheila have an Australian accent? My friend gave her GPS an Aussie accent and it's a riot!

Laura Jane said...

Great photos, how lovely that MAria would sing to Max.

I am too scared of GPS to ever use one, but I have seen them used to great effect in Japan last year - of course I couldn't understand a word they were saying oe read the text, but we followed the purple line beautifully to our mountain spa (we weren't driving).

Making my ausfahrt now... (ooh, WV is excus....excuse me for my ausfahrt)

Tracy said...

This post was a trip, Natalie...literally! :o) As ever you have a way with words and photos...And seeing those masses of sunflowers makes my Monday brighter--thank you! :o) ((HUGS))

barbara said...

Neat pictures! Must have been some trip. I too have survived the autobahn, which I attribute to sitting in the back seat so I couldn't really see the road in front of us! My husband, son, and I took a trip to Germany about ten years ago, before we all had GPS. I was sure we needed a map, and my son, who was living in Germany at the time, insisted that no one in Germany used maps, they just followed road signs pointing to the next city on the route. According to him, the maps were not accurate, so they did not use them. (This did not seem likely to me, as everything in Germany seemed very orderly and organized. But whatever.)We got lost some, but it's all part of the adventure!

fiziskandarz said...

i was laughing my lungs out reading the GPS!! and she even had a name!! lol! anyways glad to hear everyone had a lot of fun during europe trip :D altho it sounds a bit tiring, but i bet it worth every sweat! [ and yea, totally + utterly agree with u. switzerland is awesome. we glad we pick the country as our 2nd anniversary honeymoon ] :)

warren said... funny!

What an awesome time! I can't imagine that many see, I love sunflowers. I would def stop to see such a sight. Anyhow, your trip looks amazing!

Maybe you should take a trip another year to Thailand...I hear Phuket is nice (sorry if that's too crude). I just laugh when I think about it...

happy zombie said...

All right... who Ausfahrted.

I love this post on so many levels. It reminded me of hubby and I going to P.F. Changs and I wanted to hurry and get inside because I needed to pee... to P. F. Change. Thank you Natalie. And Shelia too. And to the kids for "Because happy children taste better." had me roaring. And BTW... I read that in a thick German accent - and I about P.F. Changed my pants.

The probligo said...

Loved the GPS...

Reminds me of (true) story of a visitor to NZ who programmed the GPS for the "shortest" trip between Hanmer Springs and St Arnaud in mid August. The "shortest" route involves the use of a "summer only, recommended 4 wheel drive only" road through a mountain pass. After driving their campervan for 4 hours, they came to a locked gate in the middle of nowhere. Locked? To stop traffic going over the pass - in the opposite direction.

Sometimes "quickest" gets better results than "shortest"

Enjoy the fun....

epipa said...

reading this post was so funny ;-)) (i know all about the sheilas ;-)))...but our Autobahn(en) are save and -you can tell the boys- all cars should drive 130 km/h maximum - usually (i hope, this was correct grammatic?! my schoolenglish is far away since years ;-))
not ALWAYS as far as you want. :-))

congratulations for survival ;-)
lovely greetings from germany!