The day will come when I will die. So the only matter of consequence before me is what I will do with my allotted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar in the breeze.--Richard Bode

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Back home in Illinois


I left Heidelberg about a week ago, headed to the Frankfurt Airport in the shuttle van. Just before the airport we got into a huge traffic jam because of a wreck ahead. By the time they got it cleared and the van got to the airport, I had just barely enough time to catch my flight home.

I think the other people in the van probably missed their flights.

It worked out well for me though because there was only a couple of seats left, and because I was the last on the airplane the ticket agent upgraded me to first class. Wow, that was an experience: champagne as soon as I sat down, all the alcohol I could drink (unfortunately, I didn't want any, it being kind of early in the morning), seats that reclined into sleepers, a selection of menus served on real china. I could get used to that pretty quickly.

I got home to my own local airport very late, but it was sure good to be back.  Now, I am doing some things around the house and waiting for my October trip to Australia where my daughter, Jessica, and I will be riding a BMW motorcycle that belongs to my friend Dave who lives in Brisbane.

That will be my next blog. So, if you can, check back sometime toward the last of October.  Meanwhile, it turns out that I have a broken bone in my foot caused by my accident a month ago when I dropped my bike on it. I go to a specialist tomorrow to find out what needs to be done about that. Then, early in September, I am going to Wyoming to see my grand-kids and to help my son in a building project at the church where he pastors.

Life is good!!


Saturday, August 8, 2015

Milan, Italy, and the World's Fair

Hi from Milano,

I am staying in a nice hotel here in Milan, and Odysseus is comfortable down in the garage under the hotel. He and I are both happy to not be riding in this heat. After a summer of rain and cold weather, I was crying for some warmth, but this is far too much heat. It is broiling hot. That doesn't keep me from getting out and exploring this fine city, though. I was here years ago, but it is sure not the way I remember it from that trip. One of the first things I wanted to do was visit the famous Duomo church. It is magnificent.

I bought a ticket to go up on the room. I am a cheapskate, so I decided to take the stairs instead of the elevator. I wish I had counted the steps in those stairs. There were sure a lot of them, going around and around in a tight spiral staircase. The view from the top is impressive.

I bet a dedicated photographer could get some wonderful shots from up on top Milano's Duomo. I am not all that dedicated, but I still took several pictures.

I won't bore you with all the pictures I took, but maybe one more ......

Inside the church was impressive too. I wonder if the place is ever filled. Maybe on Christmas Eve? Or Easter Sunday?

Just to prove I was there, here is a picture of me....

This guy needs to get out of church once in a while and go eat a McDonald's burger.

Milan has several churches, and this next one is particularly famous. It is the Basilica Santa Maria dela Grazie. Can you guess why it is famous?

You did not even try to guess, did you. Be honest now. Okay, I will tell you why it is famous. It is because Leonardo da Vinci painted The Last Supper here. It is down in the basement.

                                 Última_Cena_-_Da_Vinci_5.jpg (5381×2926)

I have to be honest. I took that picture of The Last Supper from the internet. It turned out that I had to order tickets at least two weeks in advance to see the thing. Oh well. There was a lot to see in Milano. I especially enjoyed this Chinese drum group.

They sure put a lot of effort into their show.

Get out of the fountain, kid. The fish in there will eat your toes off.

I came to Milan because there World's Fair is there this year. I had a little extra time in my schedule, and I wanted to see it.

President Obama was at the USA pavilion to greet me. I wonder how he knew I was coming.

I wandered around in there looking at the pavilions of various countries until I was exhausted.

The pavilion I enjoyed most was the one with the New Holland farm equipment. Look at the size of this combine. I was able to sit in the cab of the thing.

This is a grape harvester. New Holland claims that it is as gentle as if the grapes were picked by hand. It even pulls the stems out of the grapes before putting them into a truck. I think it looks like something from the Star Wars movies.

New Holland says that being in the cab of one of these machines is as quiet as being in a limousine.

Look at these two playing their horns at the Swiss pavilion. I didn't know that they could actually play music on those horns. It was pretty good.

This day absolutely exhausted me. I was tired and over heated by the time I got back to my air conditioned hotel. I go back to the Expo tomorrow, and then I have two days to get back up to Heidelberg before my Green Card insurance expires for this summer. I hope to
have enough time to ride back over one of the famous alpine passes on my way back to Germany. I wish we had some mountains in Illinois and Indiana.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The CERN Particle Collider

I rode my motorcycle to Geneva because I had a ticket to visit the famous CERN Particle Collider.  It was something I really wanted to see. As a science teacher, it was like going to Mecca. I was surprised when I found out that CERN is right under the Geneva airport, and that the city has grown up over the site. I guess that is okay since almost everything takes place in tunnels deep underground. From their website, I was expecting something that looked like a park. It wasn't that way at all. It was more industrial. Of course, the place has been doing experiments for many, many years. To start my visit, I parked in the special motorcycle parking area. My motorcycle was the only one there.

When they first started doing their research at CERN computers were new. A lot of their work was done with adding machines. Times have really changed. One of their many accomplishments was the development of the Internet. Now they have lots of computers there. The data they collect goes out over the internet to scientists all over the world.

The actual collisions take place in tunnels deep underground. It was quite the engineering feat putting all of this together.

When an experiment is going on, the particles they are colliding are accelerated to nearly the speed of light. At that speed, they become enormously massive. It is all controlled by huge magnets like this one.

The magnets are very precise. It is amazing how they were able to design and engineer all this.  A lot of the daily maintenance goes on in this huge room.

This was the guy who showed us around. He is an engineer and he is from Poland,.

There are thousands of engineers and scientists who work there. They do experiments 10 months out of the year, and they work in three shifts around the clock. A lot of the experiments are done for scientists who never actually come to the facility, but instead work "on-line" from their own country. Here is the control room.

I had a good day at CERN and I learned a lot. But today it was time to move on. I wanted to get down to Torino in Italy. I decided to go there through the Col de St. Bernard which is a mountain pass over St. Bernard between Switzerland and Italy. I do love those mountain passes through the Alps.

It was very hot today, so it felt really good to get up into the mountains.

Time for a self portrait. I think I look like I should be in a spaceship.

How about another picture; this time with the helmet off.

I love riding these twisty mountain roads. Unfortunately, once I got down the mountain into Italy, the temperature was very, very high.  I was certainly ready to get to Torino and find myself an air conditioned room and something cool and wet to drink.

I wanted to go to Torino to see the famous Shroud of Turin. I wasn't aware that they only let people see it every few years. This was a viewing year, but they quit showing in in June. Now it is August. All is not lost though; I had to come this way anyway because my real goal is to get to Milan, Italy, where this years World's Fair is going on. I will be there tomorrow. Now, it is time for a nice tall drink of water and a good night's sleep. Talk with you later.


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Geneva, Switzerland

Hi Again:

The weather turned off warm and sunny and I am loving it. I have been staying at a very nice Bed and Breakfast near Ghent (or Gent) Belgium. It is out in the country in a tiny town, and I enjoyed riding the back roads from it to Ghent. Look! A windmill. Not many of those things left.

The roads in the countryside of Belgium are exactly the sort I like to ride, with small villages and tree lined paths.

Ghent is pretty famous, and so of course I had to go there for a Saturday afternoon walk-about. Unfortunately, all these towns are starting to look the same to me -- musicians playing on the squares for tips, lots of stores selling junk for tourists to let get dusty once back home, restaurants with their sidewalk cafes packed with people watchers. 

Unfortunately, it being a packed Saturday afternoon in the tourist area of Ghent, trash was everywhere. The place looked very dirty to me. All my pictures were of things up high.

Ghent does have a nice castle, however. It is well worth the time to visit it.

Ghent was nice enough in a rather used sort of way. I am glad I went there, but I was looking forward to going the other direction to Brugges more. My B & B was about 25 miles from Brugges, but in the opposite direction from Ghent. Again, the roads getting there were fun, especially on a Sunday morning with no one stirring.

Unlike Ghent on a tourist clogged Saturday afternoon, trash thrown everywhere and trash cans overflowing, Brugges on a Sunday morning was super clean.

Like many of the European cities, especially in Holland, Belgium and Western Germany, Brugges has a lot of old canals. I still think it would be fun to explore Europe on a house boat, just drifting through all the canals. I think it would be too slow and peaceful for me though.

I was all ready to kick back and explore this part of Belgium for days, but then -- surprise!! -- I managed to get a hard-to-come-by ticket to tour the CERN Hardron Particle Accelerator. But it is at Geneva and I have two days to get there. Gotta hustle along. My route will be down through the forested Alsace-Lorraine  area of France, and then along the Jura Alps to Geneva. It should be a fun, if frantic, ride.  Much of the time I was on super highways (Interstates? Autobahns?). I don't much like those, but they are a great way to make time. AT one point I was in the left hand of two lanes, passing a truck and doing about 70 when the man in the car behind me got tired of following me I guess, and he passed me. There were some hand signals back and forth between the two of us. My heart was in my throat!

It was the smaller country lanes up in the mountains I liked better. Sometimes I could look way down and see beautiful villages in the valleys.

Lots of farms in this area. The wheat has been harvested, and not the farmers are bailing straw and taking huge loads of it down the roads. They can really back up traffic.

A fun thing: many of the farmers, or their children maybe, and many of the towns had made sculptures out of the straw. They were pretty clever at it. I did not take any pictures (too far to go and not enough time), but I wish I had. My favorite was a tractor made of straw.

But finally, saddle sore and ready to quit, I came to a viewpoint in the mountains and, look, there is Geneva way down there. It is hard to tell much about it from my picture, but maybe you can see Lake Geneva down there.

Odysseus says he is more than ready to quit for the night.

I am in a very nice hostel in the heart of the city, right on the shore of Lake Geneva. There are dozens of people here in the lobby right now, each of them trying to use the internet which clogs things up. So, I am going to quit for this update and go take a much needed shower.