Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Friday, 30 April 2010

In Bruge

Bruge, Belgium

Herb and Jean are both 82. Herb does 80 regulation push-ups a day. I'm inspired.

You can't take tulip bulbs out of Holland.

I think about smuggling some bulbs in my underpants, but the Holland airport now does a "full body" scan of all travelers after the fiasco with the underpants bomber on Christmas Eve. We're on the same flight as the poor deluded fool who cooked his genitals on Christmas Eve.

Back in the USA, we have to march past dope-sniffing dogs. They pull about ten kids out of line from our flight that smell funny to the dogs....

Hey sure to wash those clothes in a laundromat in Amsterdam before you come back to the USA....

This is the Bell Tower in the Market Square that was featured in the movie.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Diamnond Heists and V-1 Bombs

Antwerp, Belgium

Here is the story of the clever Italian who used hair spray to make off with 350,000,000 euros worth of Antwerp's uncut diamonds.

Another little known fact is how Hitler rained 6,400 V-1 and V-2 missiles on Antwerp for no really good reason. Antwerp got more of these than London.

I can report that Belgian beer is very good.

We move to Bruge today. The cult movie, "In Bruge" piqued our interest in the city.

Only three more days and we fly out Sunday unless we decide to change our return tickets and stay a few months as elderly Eurotrash.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Operation Market Garden

Arnhem, the Netherlands

You may recall the 1970s movie, "A Bridge too Far"? On Monday we went to see the Canadian cemetery at Oosterbeek near Arnhem and the War Museum.
Uncle Bruce made his second landing here as a pilot of a Waco Glider. The first was in Normandy a few months earlier. He crashed and injured his back when a jeep he was transporting burst through the fabric of the cargo compartment. The WACO could carry a howitzer or a jeep or 14 airborne troops. It was a "million dollar" wound.

About 20,000 American and 10,000 Commonwealth soldiers parachuted in or landed in gliders. The bridge at Arnhem would have shortened the war by six months, had it been captured and held.

Unfortunately, two unexpected Divisions of Armored Panzers were resting up near Arnhem and the lightly armed British and Americans were badly outclassed by the German defenders.

I remember Uncle Bruce had very little love for the SS troops, who, he told me, had a nasty habit of machine-gunning inconvenient prisoners.

Here's some Wiki background:
In World War II, during Operation Market Garden (September 1944), the British 1st Airborne Division and the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade were given the task of securing the bridge at Arnhem.

The units were parachuted and glider-landed into the area on 17 September and later. The bulk of the force was dropped rather far from the bridge and never met their objective. A small force of British 1st Airborne managed to make their way as far as the bridge but was unable to secure both sides. The Allied troops encountered stiff resistance from the German 9th and 10th SS Panzer divisions, which had been stationed in and around the city.

The British force at the bridge eventually surrendered on 21 September, and a full withdrawal of the remaining forces was made on 26 September. These events were dramatized in the 1977 movie A Bridge Too Far. (The bridge scenes in the movie were shot in Deventer, where a similar bridge over the IJssel was available, as the area around Arnhem bridge had changed too much to represent WWII era Arnhem). As a tribute, the rebuilt bridge was renamed 'John Frost-bridge' after the commander of the paratroopers. The current bridge is the third almost-identical bridge built at the same spot. The Dutch Army destroyed the first bridge when the Germans invaded Holland in 1940. The second bridge was destroyed by the US Army Air Forces shortly after the 1944 battle.

A second battle of Arnhem took place in April 1945 when the city was liberated by I Canadian Corps of the First Canadian Army.

Owing to the Allied withdrawal, the vast majority of their dead had to be left on the battlefield. Here they were buried in simple field graves (some little more than their own slit trenches) or in small mass graves dug by the Germans. Kate Ter Horst, whose house was used as a first aid post during the battle, found the graves of 57 men in her garden when she returned after the war. After Arnhem was liberated in April 1945, Grave Registration Units of the British 2nd Army moved into the area and began to locate the Allied dead.

A small field north of Oosterbeek was offered on perpetual loan by the Netherlands government to the Imperial War Graves Commission in June 1945 and the dead were reburied there. Many of those killed during Arnhem's liberation were also buried at the same site. The cemetery was completed in February 1946, originally with the graves marked by metal crosses, although these were replaced by headstones in 1952. Most of the German dead were buried in the SS Heroes Cemetery near Arnhem after the battle, but reburied in Ysselsteyn after the war.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records 1759 graves in the cemetery as of 2004. 1432 of these are Commonwealth, including British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealanders. The cemetery is also the last resting place of 73 Polish soldiers, (many of them exhumed and moved from Driel, to the disappointment of Driel's residents)and 8 Dutch civilians - some killed in the fighting and some former Commission employees. 253 of the graves are unidentified.

As of 2003 there were still 138 Allied men with no known grave in the area, and they are commemorated at the Groesbeek Memorial. However, evidence of the battle is often discovered even today, and the bodies of Allied servicemen are reinterred at the Airborne Cemetery. When found, bodies are exhumed and Dutch Graves Registration staff attempt to identify them before they are reburied.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Cape Horn Was Invented Here

Hoorn, The Netherlands

Hoorn is a municipality and a town in the Netherlands, in the province of Noord Holland.

The Netherlands have 12 provinces. Two of them are North and South Holland (kind of like North and South Dakota without the buffalo).

We should see Belgium in a day or two. The tulips are blooming.

Cape Horn, the most southerly point of the Americas, was named after the town by Willem Schouten, who rounded it in 1616.

What's Blue Got to Do With It?

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Drugs aren't really legal here. However, they may have wisely decided that the battle is not worth the effort and do not enforce what laws there are.

Therefore the smell of weed is pervasive. There are 1600 "coffeehouses" in Amsterdam that sell a little something extra with the coffee...

Mrs. Phred makes me laugh sometimes. I'm focused on the last page of a mystery novel and she asks, "Do I look good in blue?" I burst out laughing at the question.

My internet connection on the boat is very weak.

Maybe I'm sharing the bandwidth with too many others.

I am frustrated failing to load pictures. More later. After midnight?

Ok...Back in the are a few Amsterdam Pix....The food and company on the Riverboat were great...definitely and old folks game....the halt and the lame were pervasive...

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

The Volcanic Clouds Have Parted

RDU Airport....High Noon

Our Flight to Detroit and then on to Amsterdam is good to go. Happy we didn't waste money on trip insurance. They aren't paying anyway, claiming natural the fine print, SUCKA! Breakfast at the airport was oysters Rockefeller and a goat cheese, onion and strawberry salad. It feels funny to be on vacation again and watch the suits with their laptops and blackberries....

I got new books in the airport by Tim Dorsey, Lee Child and Michael Connelly for the long flight. Maybe we'll get a hotel room in the red-light district over a hashish den before the river cruise starts on Friday.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Eyjafjallajokull - What are the odds?

Asheville, North Carolina

We have a flight scheduled to Amsterdam on Wednesday. Normally, I wouldn't mind a reschedule or a refund, but we've booked a river cruise that starts Friday and those Dutchmen are not going to be handing us back a check if we fail to appear. It was pricey...I should have bought the trip insurance. We're on the same flight as the underpants could be worse...What's that cooking?...smells good...idiot child.

The volcano acted up in 1821 and then it laid doggo until we were ready for our river cruise.

We've found a great tennis court here in Asheville. The scores have been 6-0, 6-1, 6-0 and 6-2. I might not have done quit that well, but Mrs. Phred is hitting them all to me instead of flipping them into a corner as she is quite capable of doing.

In town, the people and stores and restaurants show a very serious hippie quality and flavor. We had mojitos and a cuban sandwich on one visit and plan to hit the Biltmore Estate on Sunday.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is just opening. They had a lot of damage to the trees from winter ice storms, which they are just now clearing. We drove up to Mt. Mitchell at 7,000 feet today. There were a lot of bicyclists pumping slowly up and whizzing quickly down.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

only a lifetime

Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina…

Was it Billy Pilgrim that came unstuck in time and space? Sometimes I feel that way too. There I am….Five years old and unable to untie my ice skates. I have to walk miles back home with my ankles twisted painfully.

The memories of years of places and people shout and compete for attention.

We’re in the Pisgah National Forest. …again. Today we saw a waterfall with Eastern swallowtail butterflies flitting in the mist. The butterflies like the mist.

It’s not first time for us or for the butterflies. You couldn't make up butterflies. Who could imagine laying little eggs that turn into fuzzy caterpillars that eat leaves and weave themselves into cocoons and then turn to mush and metamorphose into lovely butterflies that lay little eggs that turn into fuzzy caterpillars?

We left Baker Creek State Park in South Carolina two days ago. We went to dump the “black water” and “gray water” and nothing came out, which could be a very serious impediment to our future travels.

However, it turns that the only problem is that you can’t empty our tanks completely when the RV front is lower than the rear. The last time we saw these butterflies our motorcycle gas tank split a seam and I had to epoxy it with a miracle product called “JB Weld”.

This time, our GPS power supply fell apart and I had to steal a spring from a ball point pen to get it going again. We also lost a brake light bulb and the new floor pulled apart when we retracted the slides. We’re gluing it back, but it seems to be kind of a gremlin zone for mechanical things, studded with lots of mountains and waterfalls.

These worn down Appalachian mountains are thought to be a billion years old. The dinosaurs evolved and died out in the last 250 million. They don’t change much in a lifetime.

only a lifetime...

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

FDR, Krautrock and Alligators

In the Okefenokee Swamp

FDR made this area a wildlife refuge by a stroke of the pen in 1937. I'm still waiting for Obama to take up his righteous mantle and create some things like that. I wonder if he has a Harry Hopkins, Frances Perkins, Cordell Hull or Bernard Baruch to whisper in his ear? What's that? Geithner? Gates? Hillary? Oh Dear!

"3am At The Border Of The Marsh From Okefenokee" is a track on Tangerine Dream's 1976 album Stratosfear.

I loved the album and liked the swamp even more. You might have missed the Krautrock movement which came out of West Berlin in the early 70s. That's OK...I did too.

A big gator approaches us as we stop for lunch ten miles into the swamp. I throw a crust of bread which lands between his eyes.

I've never suspected that gators are very good at problem solving. This one crosses his eyes and keeps turning and snapping, but can't get at the bread crust on his nose.