Thursday, August 6, 2009

Goodbye America, for now.

That great time for updating the blog has arrived – travelling. It's my last few hours in the USA & the international part of Philadelphia International Airport doesn't have as many flights & airlines as some of the bigger international airports – so I flew through check-in & then security with only a couple of minutes of waiting. Consequently, I now have two hours to pass before boarding for Frankfurt. The convenience of flying from Philly & sticking with Lufthansa for the airdollars means I have a couple of extra hours from that German dogleg on the way to Heathrow. On the upside, I've managed to get through my US trip without buying too much stuff to push me over the generous baggage limit (which I've been pretty close to the whole time) & my travel agent back in NZ must have pulled the right strings & got Lufthansa to waive their ridiculous $US200 fee for flying with a bike (even when it is undersize & underweight).

Since returning from DC, I've been pretty lazy overall & haven't really done all that much. Just generally hanging with the Lindes & amusing Katarina & pleasantly getting back in to reading a few books (some fiction, some non-fiction – the most interesting of which was about the surveying of the States beyond the Appalachians & also explained how the country is still stuck with archaic set of physical units that it uses). One morning last week, Doug & I rode out & around Lake Galena – mercifully, the humidity & temperature were not quite unbearable. As it was midweek the path around the lake wasn't too crowded & it was a pleasant ride; on the way back we detoured a little & Doug showed me a huge Polish Catholic church & associated facility. The place started in the sixties (I think) & apparently it is well patronised by Poles from New York & New Jersey.

Continuing with the theme of different religions – on Thursday we took a day trip out west to Lancaster County & dropped the kids with Jessica's parents on the way. Lancaster County was one of the first places in America that the Amish, Meddonites & Amish Meddonites (I forget all the differences, but the Amish are the most conservative) established themselves. As well as showing me the area & the people & part of their lives, Doug & Jessica were on the lookout for a couple large collapseable wooden drying racks – I think I marvelled at the Amish furniture making skills previously. So over the course of the day we stopped & browsed around numerous furniture stores & I was no less amazed at the quality & sturdiness of the craftmanship. We eventually got a couple of drying racks from the first store that we visited – in the amusingly named town of Intercourse.

We spent a couple of hours with Ada, an older Amish-Meddonite woman, sitting in the back of the CRV guiding us around the local area while she pointed out & explained different aspects of Amish life. It was all very interesting & quaint as one would expect – from the buggies, one room schools, horse drawn farm equipment, all sorts of implements running on compressed air (generated using diesel engine, instead of electricity) – I was intruiged by the ceiling fan with the air piston – the communal telephone in a little hut some distance walk from the houses, the plain but large houses & barns, scooters instead of bicycles, to the plain dress. We stopped at a few stores where the Amish have gone in to cottage industries as the land is becoming more & more scarce & therefore expensive. The quilts were all hand stitched & incredible and the soft pretzels were amazing; there was the huge variety of produce, preserves & so forth that we had seen at the markets in the Poconos. Back to have dinner & collect the kids, it was then back to Doylestown.

Friday I was planning on going in to Philly & riding the singletrack at Fairmount. Alas, the weather forecast discouraged me from that – over the next few days we would have a big storm some time in the afternoon. I quite liked seeing the rain & always like big thunder storms – Katarina had quite different ideas however. Sunday was a cracker of a downpour with some quite good flooding in the storm water overflow area across the road & also in the yard & a little in the basement.

The only other thing of real note from the remainder of my stay in Doylestown was being bitten by a dog (just a scratch really, but more of a surprise – considering I'd just walked the entire length of the section on the sidewalk past it) – I suppose that is a disadvantage of the unfenced sections. There doesn't seem to be Animal Control to call, so I got to talk to another of America's finest late on Saturday night. Thought I better get a medical opinion as I wasn't too thrilled by the very slim possibility that I might die of rabies in a few months. So the family clinic wouldn't see me, so it was down to the Emergency Room of the hospital for me. In the space of an hour I think I had my blood pressure & temperature taken, answer enough questions to fill in three or four forms, was told that it wasn't infected (duh) & rabies is not common in the area. When it came to explaining that billing me next week was not really going to work as I would be in Britain, things got a little complicated. When I was told that I should pay five hundred dollars, I laughed a lot – I couldn't help it. What a screwed up system. Yay for travel insurance.

My last few days in Doylestown consisted of too many little treats from various food shops in town (wonderfull organic thin crust pizza, water ice, gelati, ice custard & so forth), amusing Katarina, changing the brake pads & tyres on my bike (varying success on the brakes – one rubs a lot, one seems to have some air still in the system), packing, watching the Phillies (lose a lot) on TV (I think baseball is a lot like cricket – it can be really slow at times, exciting in other parts, but a lot of interest is in the details – of which I don't really understand for baseball).

So now I'm in London & it's great to see familiar faces & places again – Vittoria has grown & there is a new addition to the family, Amelie. My longing to hear a NZ accent was fulfilled earlier than I expected – shared the flight from Frankfurt to Heathrow with a couple from Invercargill. They had just finished four weeks of campervanning around central & west Europe with their kids. It was great to swap travel stories & even find an Oamaru connection (boarding school at St Kevin's). Sure was great to have some bread that wasn't full of sugar, but I'm sure there are some things that I'll miss from the States (wide streets spring to mind for some reason). A big thanks to the Lindes for having me to stay & taking me all sorts of places.

No comments:

Post a Comment