Wednesday, June 30, 2004

My Beloved Goes to the Dark Side

Would you believe blue skies, sunshine and it is hot here!  The weather is picture postcard.  This was our longest riding day, 400 Kilometers - we went from Austria to Italy, to Switzerland and back to Austria again.  We reached  Italy, and our first stop was the vanished town of Graun , which was flooded in 1949 when the lake was dammed.  Only the church steeple rises above the water.  My Beloved was immortality on film (or on pixels) standing beside the her new love - a BMW motorcycle. 

My Beloved On The Dark Side! Posted by Hello     
Lunch was at Glurns, a medieval town which is the smallest in Italy.  It is still walled and parts of the moat remain.   Had Spaghetti Carbonara, best I've ever tasted. 
After lunch it was time to tackle the the Passo Dello Stelvio , third highest pass in the alps and the highest pass in Italy.  It is so special it has its own webcam.  48 hair pin switchbacks and snow on the top.  And yes, again we encountered those ever so fit bicycle riders who rode to the top on leg power.  How do they do it???

48 Switchbacks! Posted by Hello

Again, I rode with the tour guide and learned the passenger more or less rides hands free.  You brace yourself against the gas tank with one hand, hold on to the side handle with your other and use your stomach muscles for balance.  It's more of a work out than 100 sit ups. No wonder they call Alpine Motorcycle riding a sport!  Holding on to the driver is not a good idea,  since the passengers weight pushes him into the gas tank on the downhill slopes.  I got the courage award for not only attempting this feat, but making it both up and down the mountain! 
We crossed into Switzerland via  the second longest tunnel in the world. Tomorrow My Beloved is buying a full face helmet and actually said 'I only want to drive a BMW for the rest of the tour".  Everyone else cheered and one of the members, who owns a BMW dealership in Altanta has offered her a good deal on her first BMW.
The final stop was Livigno, a duty free and very much touristed area between Switzerland and Italy.  The surrounding area was lovely, the town which was check by jowl with hotels and arun with traffic was not so.  Came back via the Ofenpass.  More switchbacks, meadows, mountain waterfalls, rocky peaks and alpine meadows.

I have been on a bike for 11 hours, had a half a liter of wheat beer on tap, half a liter of white wine and my head is spinning.

To be continued.......

Our tour guide is Austrian, a delightful gentleman with much riding and touring experience. This is his full time job and he gets to travel the world - nice work if you can get it.  All the riders are American - Mr. & Mrs. BMW, who have been invaluable when it comes to riding tail and giving lessons.  Mr. BMW is My Beloved's twin, separated at birth.   A friendly, never meet a stranger, always willing to help guy who does Iron Butt rides in his spare time.  His wife is bit quieter- I think she is the earth sign to his fire sign, and is also an expert rider, she was one of 3 women riding her own bike.

Bob & Lynda - Mr. & Mrs. BMW Posted by Hello

We encountered kindred spirits in a couple from Duluth, Minn.  Having done the the California Pacific Coast Highway  ride, they were the only Edelweiss tour veterans among us. Seasoned travelers, they gave us lots of tips of things to see in Paris.  We hope to meet up with them for another tour when time and budgets allow.  They weren't familiar with my beloved Minnesota tomes, the Betsy-Tacy books but I forgave them that small omission!

My Beloved and Her Kindred Spirits. Posted by Hello

We've also a brother & sister and their respective spouses, a couple from Wisconsin, who are renowned for their tattoos and one solo rider from Florida.  A very compatible and friendly group.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

I Go Over to the Dark Side

I rode a BMW today and I have seen the light! We went down today - nothing was hurt but My Beloved's pride. However, at the next rest stop, our guide tactfully suggested that she would have an easier time with the twisties and the hairpins on the upcoming passes if she did not have a passenger to contend with.

So I climbed on the back of his little BMW, an R11 GS. It is a little sport bike, meant to zip and zoom around the curves. It goes fast. Very fast. Very, very, very fast.
In fact, it is the best rush I have ever countered be it legal or illegal!

I Go Over to the Dark Side!  Posted by Hello

I had the time of my life and My Beloved had a much better day of it too, since she only had to wrestle the bike around the curves. I think our guide had a better time of it too, since he did not have to worry about us. If he did mind, he was most gracious about it all and never let us know.

And tomorrow, My Beloved is going Over to the Dark Side too. She is exchanging the Electra Glide Classic for a BMW.  Two of the members of our trusty tour group own a BMW dealership in Atlanta  and have been most helpful with bike advice and riding tips.

We went to far Western Austia today. The day  was chock full of twisties, hair pin turns, snow on the side of the road at the top of the passes, waterfalls, forests, rocks and rills.  Around every corner was a mountain meadow ablaze with flowers, and I kept thinking we might encounter Julie Andrews twirling about and singing to the hills. They were not alive to the sound of music but they were alive with sound of cow bells. We saw white cows, brown cows, tan cows and black cows. No wonder there is so much cheese - and very tasty cheese it is too.

Charming villages, with houses with carved wood trim, steep roofs and window boxes bursting with flowers. Never have I seen such vibrant color. Narrow, winding streets, church's with pocket size graveyards - I do wish we had time to explore one of them.  Went through the Hochtannbergpass, more panoramic views and the Oberjoch pass. 
Much of the area is given over to skiing in the winter and we saw St. Anton, the skiing resort favored by Lady Diana. Her taste in hotels is better than her taste in men.

And in the " you had to be there"  department, dinner came with entertainment tonight. A musician who alternated between acoustic guitar, electric keyboard and the accordion. His rendition of "I Found My Thrill on Blueberry Hill" is one of the record books -or The Gong Show.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Of Sausage, Mushrooms, Mountains and Churches..

Today I heard my beloved utter something I never thought I´d hear "I surrender, where can I trade the Harley in for a BMW?" Of course she didn´t but she did give it some serious thought. And today was an "easy" day on the mountain passes! We had picture postcard views, mountain passes with snow, switchback, hair pin turns, rain, sunshine and fog.

Many BMW's - and one lone Harley! Posted by Hello
Saw two of King Ludwig castles, Castle Neuschwanstein  and Castle Linderhof (from a distance), tried Weisswurst a  Bavarian wurst and a mushroom dish that must have been the inspiration for Campbells Cream of Mushroom soup (it has suffered mightily in the translation).  We are riding the Tyrolian Countryside of Western Austria, riding through picture postcard towns such as Mittenwald in Southern Germany & Kesselberg, in Austria.

The mountain passes topped anything 6 Flags Roller Coasters have to offer. Sheer drops, a road they claimed was 2 lane but we begged to differ, hairpin turns and no retaining walls. The Austrian do not spend their tax money on boring things like concrete walls to separate on coming traffic. And we now know why BMWs are so popular - they are made to corner on the tight curves without spinning their driver into on coming traffic.

We shared the road with cars, busses, trucks, farm equipment (which went very, very slow) and other motorcycles (which went very, very fast) and bicycle riders who did not let a mere 5000 foot peak dismay them. We got to the top of the highest pass -there was still snow to be seen, and there were some older gentleman on their bikes. And they weren't even breathing hard. The hills of the MS150 are mere bumps in road compared to what these men were dealing with.

We returned in time to take advantage of the sauna and the steam room (most necessary) and another wonderful meal. We are staying at Hotel Holzleiten and the bike tour is organied by Edelwiss Bike Travel.  Edelwiss is a company that specializes in motorcycle tours of Europe, South Africa, New Zealand and the United States.  Much experience in the field and it shows! They do know what they are doing.  We are doing their Alps Touring Center tour, which differs from most of their tours in that we come back to the same hotel each night, rather than from moving from city to city.  We are headquartered in The Mieminger Plateau, a  part of Austria renown for summer hiking.

The company is equally delightful. More on that later. We have been told that Austria is a mixture of German efficiency and perfectionism and Italian "Que se ra, se ra" and live in the moment and the hotel's internet connection most definitely has an Italian flavor.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Warm Apple Strudel

We've actually had some ...Though we have yet to encounter Schnitzel with noodles.
Web links will come later -the internet connection at this hotel has a mind of its own, in fact I have lost one post already so I will try this short one again.

After an very  interesting  plane flight in a very small twin properly aircraft (it looked just like the one Shirley Temple danced in while singing On the Good Ship lollipop) we reached our final destination- Innsbruck

A-HA! The secret appears to be to save often and not to attempt the spell check which given mzy lack thereof and this German keyboard could result in some very hard to decipher posts. All English teachers are requested to put away their red pencils!

We arrived to late to see much of if the town, but what we did see, was straight out of Disneyland, sans of course the mouse. Brick streets, outdoor cafes, pastel colored buildings with carvings, lots of pastries and beer, beer and more beer.  We spent the first night in a very old hotel, with much European charm - and twin beds which resulted in hysterical laughter.

Innsbruck Posted by Hello

The hotel we are staying at for the duration of the tour  is out in the country and could double as a set for Heidi.  Half Timbers, slanted roofs, window boxes ablaze with flowers, alpine meadows and primeval forests. It has another life as a spa so it comes with some nice extras like saunas & steam rooms - coed and clothing optional.

We´ve meet the others on the tour - all Americans but the tour leader. Everyone will be on BMWs but us - My Beloved of course will settle for nothing less but a Harley and of course, that´s what we have.

The next 5 days will be spent either riding and eating or eating and riding. Given the quality and quantity of the food here and the magnificence of the scenery, I don´t think we can wrong either way.

Group Pix! Posted by Hello

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Suspended in Amsterdam

Our connecting flight to Innsbruck was canceled and everyone forgot tell us - rather rude of them since we are the party most affected. So a one hour layover has morphed into a 6 hour marathon at Schiphol. My Beloved is NOT HAPPY.
We have various options but the only thing we could get was a free nights stay in Amsterdam, which will do us no good since we MUST be in Innsbruk by early tomorrow evening.

My Beloved, who does not like to take NO for an answer is still rattling about trying to get satisfaction. I keep reminding her she should know from experience just how stubborn the Dutch are and to just give it up.
I'm to tired to be upset about it, and besides one of us needs to be calm.
At least this airport has every amenity known to humankind including an internet cafe and a massage center. Not to mention some choice people watching.

In my roaming I found the chapel just at the beginning of a Muslim call to prayer. The floor was carpeted with Muslim men, each with his own prayer rug. In the anteroom sat 3 of their children enjoying a meal of Chicken McNuggets. Talk about culture clash.

Oddly, I'm speaking Dutch to the staff, who are answering me in English. I wish they would speak to me in Dutch since I need to bring the language to my frontal lobe. People who look American and speak Dutch with an American accent are not in their lexicon.

When we were checking in in Houston I idly picked up one of those stick on luggage tages. Written on it, in a very young and very uneducated hand was a name and destination - IRAQ. I hope whomever he is gets there and more importantly gets home safely.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Counting Down to Leaving on a Jet Plane

It's 3 hours and counting. I am showered, changed and ready to go. My Beloved, who likes to leave things till the last minute has numerous odds and ends to tie up. I am biting my tongue to keep from commenting. Blogging is a good diversion.

I have 4 books for the trip alone, plus 5 more in the suitcase. All are disposable - paperbacks of books I already own or just looked interesting - all compliments of thrift stores. Some folks move in a trail of bread crumbs, me I leave books to mark my presence. I rarely sleep on planes and since it's a 9 hour flight I want to BE PREPARED. Especially since we are looking at plane delays, given the weather.

One of my biggest fears is always being stranded somewhere with NOTHING to read. Oh the horror!

I've been re-reading Betsy and the Great World by Maud Hart Lovelace in preparation for the trip. Never mind that we are going by plane rather than transatlantic liner and that some 90 years separate her trip from mine. We are still going to visit some of the places Betsy did. My Beloved has been warned that Betsy Tacy pilgrimages are on the agenda, especially in Paris!   

My Beloved AKA "Super Tourist" is Ready to Go! Posted by Hello

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Still Wet - or Where's the Ark???

June in Houston is supposed to be dry, but someone forgot to tell the powers that be and it's been raining for what seems like forever. Normally tomato plants are burned to a crisp due to the heat, this summer they are rotting in the garden beds.

Spent more time in in-services and have achieved the holy grail of all librarians - my cataloging is caught up. Or at least the cataloging I know about. I'm not about to stick my nose round the library door, since I am sure there are books there waiting for me. The in-services have been fun - we sit around and catalog, share information and get to know each other a bit better. School librarianship can be a lonely job.

Then onward to one of those frustrating doctor appointments where you wait and you wait and you wait. The staff had the gall to request that new patients arrive 10 or 15 early to fill out paperwork. Why I don't know, there is plenty of time to fill it out while cooling one's heels in the waiting room for an hour and a half.

I think I have all the e-mail under control for the trip. Yahoo.groups are set to web only - we'll see how many I activate when I get back! Phone numbers and e-mail addresses are written down. It is going to be strange to not have a computer for 3 weeks. I hope there are as many internet cafes in Europe as folks say there are! Otherwise there will be some serious withdrawal going on!

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Rain, Rain, Rain

This has been on of the wettest summers I can remember - the storms keep rolling in every afternoon and with them come flooded streets and all the general inconveniences of big city life.

We're about ready to leave for Europe - I can't really believe it's going to happen - I guess it will sink in when we get on the plane. I'm going to see Paris!
And Austria and Holland and some other assorted places. We've had to put the trip off several times due to work and health reasons so part of me thinks something will come up again to postpone the trip.

More in-services today - they don't seem ever to end. However, it does result in work getting done and brownie points so they do serve a purpose. Not to mention picking up some good gossip and assorted bits of information.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Tossing, Tossing, Tossing & Yarn Shops

Lots more stuff going out the door thanks to Freecycle. I wonder, do folks really NEED the things I'm posting, or are they just compulsive about getting something that's "free"? No matter what I post it's taken within minutes, sometimes within seconds. All I know is that I have gaps in my bookshelves and empty space in my pantry which pleases me to no end.

Had lunch today with my thrifting buddy M, and K, an old friend who has just rejoined the land of the living after living, after ending a bad marriage. One lovely side benefit to summer is that I can be a lady who lunches. We meet at Onion Creek which is as close as you can get to Austin without leaving Houston. Prime people watching, good food and good conversation with old friends. What more can a body ask for - well some temperatures in the 70s would have been nice, but then this is Houston in the summertime.

K is a serious knitter so took her over to new yarn shop Yarns 2 Ewe that claims not to be your grandma's yarn shop and it certainly lives up to the name. I'm not a knitter but the yarns were lovely to look at - kitten soft and the colors just glowed. They cater to the both the sweater knitter and the fiber artist. Back of the shop was fitted out with comfy sofas and chairs and folks are welcome to bring their knitting an sit a spell. Women came and went, always accompanied by their knitting, something very soothing and timeless about the place.
K said she'd be back!

Then it was off to Penzey's a most wonderful spice store that seems like a bakery at Christmas time. Bought way to much - as always but couldn't resist the little bottles and jars of lucious aromas.

Being a "Lady Who Lunches" could be habit forming. Just where is the winning lottery number when I need it so?

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

12 hour workdays are 4 hours to long.

Another day spent correlating TEKS and TAKS. Educators do so love acroynms and Texas of course has to have more than anyone else. We always do things bigger and better in Texas (except when it comes to Presidents - we started out with a bang with LBJ, but it's been downhill ever since). Work wasn't nearly as frustrating as yesterday, we have a template and method to our madness. We did get pretty punchy toward the end - writing educationese will do that to a body.

Then I went over hill, dale and freeway to pick up some shirt paint I'd acquired via Freecycle. Along the way I passed 2 thrift stores I'm fond of but don't get to very often. Scored 2 c2004 textbooks so it was a worthwhile stop. Even found some CDs by artists I recognized - something that does not happen often! A 2 CD set of James Taylor live is a good addition to the collection. What I thought was a few tubes of shirt paint turned out to be over 100 tubes. I need them for a school project next year. All in all, very worthwhile jaunt.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Monday Monday

Just where is my vacation anyway? It does not appear to be happening. Today was spent working - at least for pay - unlike last week which consisted of in-services for no pay. I think education is the only profession that expects you to continue your education on your own time and pay for it with your own nickel - and a non tax deductible nickel at that. Doctors go to exotic places like Hawaii and New York City, teachers, we schelp to the administration building and drink bad coffee out of Styrofoam cups.

Today was also spent working in a group, which does not suit me. Give me a task and I'll do it, make me work in a group and I get so FRUSTRATED. We had trouble coming up with a format and it seemed to take forever to get anything done. Finally, by the end of the day we had one set of lessons and template so hopefully the rest of the week will go faster. Otherwise it will be a long, long week! I have the horrid fear that August 1st, the beginning of school will be upon me and I won't be ready. This past year the itch to retire is growing stronger and stronger but I know it will be a number of years before I can contemplate that seriously.

On the positive side, Amazon book sales are doing nicely, though like many of the on line booksellers I'm mourning the upcoming demise of Half.Com. A pox on E-Bay for closing it down!

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Pop Culture Junk Mail

Summer is also my time to learn some new computer tricks myself -including keeping a Blog, and using Blog This! Rediscovered Pop Culture Junk Mail I keep forgetting about this site - Gael Cooper has such a unique eye. I meet her on the Maud Hart Lovelace Listserv and she also introduced me to the Thriftlist, another favorite listserv.
Pop Culture is a delightful collection of odd bits and pieces of the floatsom and jetsom floating out there in Cyperspace.

Rain, Heat and School Libraries.

I do so love a summer storm - providing I'm inside! We had a dozzy with thunder and lighting streams of water running down the windows. Made me very happy to be home and not out in traffic, a situation where I don't like rain at all.

I am finally finishing with my inservices and am beginning to feel that my summer approaches. I'm taking a E-Bay break and have 150+ books in the hopper waiting for the June doldrums to end. Coupons are clipped & filed, bills are paid and I'm tossing things right and left. The cookbook shelves got decimated today. Care packages are going out to the girls tomorrow. Cooking magazines found a new home via Freecycle

And I've been reading - for pure pleasure, something I haven't much time for now that I'm selling books. Islands by Anne River Siddons, some new YA fiction for review books, re-reading some Grace Livingston Hill just for the descriptions of the clothes and food. They are florid beyond belief and everything is so refreshingly black and white. My guilty trash pleasure.

I'm even starting to think about next year's lessons plans - scary, scary thought.
I've a big stack of Library Sparks Magazine and Pat Miller's books on Stretchy Library Lessons. Ordered some books I can use next year and once again I've begun to revise my lessons and projects. Next year's goal is contests, lots of contests.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Of Golf, the Gipper and The Heat

So the Gipper's body has finally gone to meet his mind. Can't say I'm sorry, when a 93 year old man with Altzheimer's dies, it's more of a blessed relief and certainly not a tragedy. The tragedy was that nobody will ever know what really happened during his presidency, that his memory was gone before the scholars could probe it. Of course the media is on full blown overdrive and are acting like it's the most history altering event to come down the pike. Call me cynical

So we escaped to the golf course, which does not allow radios, TV's or cell phones. The older I get the more I appreciate these civilized touches. Not that I am any good at golf but it's a sport for optimists - you can always assume your next shot will be better. Of course it rarely is, but hope springs eternal in a golfers soul. And the clubhouse had the golf channel on - so we were spared the endless news loops and rehashes.

But it's hot- the Houston summer is on us with a vengeance. The beer at the 19th hole tasted divine!