DAY 337

Tuesday 12 June 2012

It arrived. Finally. That mythic day -- that seemed so far away, then despite being ignored crept closer and closer -- has dawned. Dian got up around dawn, Nicole a little later, because we wanted to leave for Dusseldorf by 7:30 or so, and had to say our goodbyes to early-to-work policeman Henri.
Charles did not sleep. He worried and fussed over our ancient, bulging, some patched together with tape, some too light some too heavy suitcases, concerned that the checked bags would be over limit and we’d be charged an extra 50 euros/$63 each (times six!), and that the carry-ons were so ridiculously pushing the regulations that they'd be disallowed as we tried to board. Even laughed at. And then what?

So he used his superior packing skills to tear apart and reassemble, and just when he thought he could get a couple hours sleep he realized the cell phones we'd be losing were full of precious memories (messages) and phone numbers so spent two hours transferring them. That's OK. His usual philosophy of "You can sleep when you're dead" became "You can sleep on the plane" (and he did!).

The goodbyes to Henri and then Roos were brief and full of good feeling, any sadness offset by knowing that they would be coming to the Andrews family Thanksgiving gathering in Tempe, AZ in November, and then a drive out to the coast after.

We got off around 8 -- no problem, the drive to Dusseldorf Int'l was only a little more than an hour. Last journey in the White Rabbit! Last mission for Excalibur -- to arrive in one piece and be turned back to its rightful owner for the buyback. Charles felt a little pressure but relaxed into his I-can-do-this mode.

We found our terminal then drove out about five minutes to wait for a phone call from Lisa, Sebastian’s girlfriend, saying she had arrived by train. She was right on schedule (gotta love those Germans) and we drove up to see her smiling face in front of the Air Berlin sign. It took a while to unload our unwieldy cargo onto a couple of carts, for which we had to beg coins for bills, then more strangers to ask to get the right amount for the final settlement for Sebastian.

At LAX security would be threatening you away from the curb after 15 seconds, but this is Europe where security seems fine but more sensible; they didn’t ask us to remove shoes, belts, tattoos, but Dian and Charles both got pulled aside and “wanded” when their shoes caused a beep (Charles’ cowboy boots always do, steel shank construction, for Dian it was a first).
It was a nostalgic moment when we took some photos and said our goodbyes to Lisa and watched her drive off with our faithful white buddy, our home and transportation for the last seven months of this remarkable journey.
Monica putting the last finishing touches on the meal
We held our breath but sailed through all the Air Berlin checkpoints with no questions and settled into our seats with high fives – we did it! No sad thoughts at this moment, just relief and anticipation of getting home and seeing family and friends and god ol’ southern California.

The plane food was not bad and the final one had a German potato salad that was excellent. A little Rhine wine and Wersteiner beer let us know we were still in German air space as we drifted off – dreaming of the next journey?

Dian with her parents, Joe and Marie
When we landed we had to have a photo in front of Barack Obama's portrait which security hurriedly shoed us away from. No matter. With all clearances passed we saw Myles at the end of the long ramp, waving and giving us a welcoming smile. After chatting with him we took a shuttle to Dian's parent's house in Rancho Palos Verdes. The trip through some of Southern California's most beautiful beach towns, (Hermosa, Redondo, Manhattan) reminded us that all the places we visited were on a par but could not surpass our homeland's beauty.

On the driveway Dian's sister, Monica and her parents were doing a dance and singing a song they had made up to welcome the weary travelers. Festive balloons and signs adorned the entryway and after a quick perusal we all agreed we were none the worse for wear - on both sides!

Monica's homemade Texas pecan pie
Folks might find it interesting to note the sums we tallied for our trip. (Remember these are rough estimates). Here they are:
Food: $8,000.00
Airfare: $3,000.00
Camps: $2,500.00
Diesel: $6,500.00
Ferries and Tolls: $1,200.00
Museums and Attractions: $1,200.00
Gifts and Souvenirs: $300.00
Postage and Letters: $3,000.00
Tech Equipment: $500.00
Van (maintenance, tows, insurance, roadside assistance, registration, and purchase with buyback option ): $9,000.00
TOTAL: $35,200.00

At Home Costs: $19,000.00

TOTAL: $54,200.00
Having tenants helped with a large part of the cost.

Would we do it again? Yes!

DAY 336

Monday 11 June 2012

On the second to last day of our adventure we were packed and tied up loose ends in the guest house. With a couple of confirmation calls to Air Berlin regarding weight and size restrictions we managed to squeeze 11 months worth of travel treasures and left overs into two checked bags each (the second one costing 50 euros).
We had a nice cup of coffee and Nicole's cake with the family from across the street who saw our suitcases and realized there was no place to sit. Roos, ever the hostess whisked everyone back to her kitchen where we chatted and got to know Harrie, Eitje, Vicky, Robbin and Lucas a little better. It had begun to rain when Henri came home and after walking the dogs and showing the family the bullet holes in their house (now filled in) from the war years, they left.
We got ready for dinner out, our treat. The restaurant was in the nearby town of Helmond and was a great choice. Called "De Steenoven", it turned out Roos went to school with one of the owners, Doreen who converted the old brick oven into a wonderful restaurant where we had five courses of excellent food from guinea fowl to jumbo shrimp. By 11 we were back in our guest house and ready for bed. It felt good to be going home.

DAY 335

Sunday 10 June 2012

After coffee we went to the humble yet charming Neerkant craft fair. Then we went to Harrie and Ietje's to celebrate their daughter Robbin's 20TH birthday with the whole family. We brought a guitar over and played some music at their request. We were asked to play "Country Rose" and told them it was "Country Roads" but Roos insisted on singing it the old way! A small clay figurine was given to Robbin that had a happy and sad face on it. She imitated the sad face perfectly but cautioned us NEVER to post the photo on the internet. We got a preview of what Nicole's cake might taste like while eating Robbin's far more tastefully decorated creation. It was delicious!! At about 5PM we went back home (literally across the street) to prepare for our party.
It was a full house with Gert, Inga, Peter, Ans, Deborah, Herman, Benji, Paolo, and all five of us, but the bounty and quality, unsurprisingly, did not disappoint. Herman even picked up the guitar later and played a bit, to the surprise of even his wife and kids. By 11:30 our farewell BBQ had broken up and we said goodbye to our Amsterdam friends. and Roos' family.

DAY 334

Saturday 9 June 2012

Thee days left?! Oh my gosh!

We emptied out the van and cleaned it with lots of elbow grease. Nicole, Robbin and a friend of Roos' got a cake decorating lesson all morning. Meanwhile Dian and Henri went grocery shopping for the barbecue. Charles continued working on the blog.
Robbin and Nicole
That evening we watched Holland vs. Denmark while eating bitterballs, croquettes, french fries and sausage. Typical Dutch "fast food."
Finished fondant foundation
Nicole wanted her cake (right) to be as "garish, bawdy and rococo" as possible.

DAY 333

Friday 8 June 2012

Entrance to Efteling
Roos made sack lunches, and we were off the The Efteling amusement park. It is a park that is slightly older than Disneyland, but shares many similarities, though its attractions are more based on fairytales. Nicole opted to ditch her camera for the day, so nearly every picture was taken by Charles! As a bonus, his journalist pass got him in for free!
"Papier here!" The trash can at the park. If you throw something in he burps or says thank you.
Our first stop was the haunted house, then twelve more scary and fun attractions.
Typical Dutch "food vending machine" design, you can see what food is in the tray behind glass, you pay your money, the take it out hot.
We're back in Morocco!
View of the whole of Efteling from the Gondola ride
"Typical, typical, typical Dutch right here." - Roos

In the middle we had hot chocolate and poffertjes (typical Dutch mini pancake-like treat with powdered sugar and butter), not to mention a bounty of candy from the park's candy store.
From an old fairytale, this donkey poops out a gold coin if you give it a small donation.
The old forest sage. A bit of a rambler, this was Roos and her mother and sister's favorite part of the park, the old man was so funny
By 6PM the new water show had started, which was glorious. After seeing trolls and fairies, we drove the hour back to Neerkant where we all watched a movie, then afterwards conked out.