Can’t type it here…I typed it 3 times in the post.

Ok really…I’m not wandering around looking for these signs. They just jump out at me and maybe they aren’t as funny to others as they are to me. This one comes from the grocery store of all places.

Now what the hell kind of sign is this to put above the checkout counter of the grocery store? Does it mean that when you see the total you will shit yourself? Does it mean you can only afford to shop here is you have money coming our of your ass? As I type that it occurs to me that the money IS coming out of an ass. While you are pondering the possible meaning of this poster also consider that I had to bust out a camera at the checkout counter in the grocery store and take this picture. These people must have been thinking…”What an ass”.

Queen for a day

We took another 15k ride this morning since Sam didn’t seem to have any further problems or complaints about his ear. We didn’t want to miss Koninginnedag, or Queen’s day here is the Netherlands. As we rode into Middelburg there were all the signs I would expect of a Queen’s day celebration – everyone wearing orange, wearing crowns, people selling their things on the street, and Freddy Mercury blasting in the background. It was a wonderful sight. We spent some time wandering the market in the center of Middelburg, did some people watching, and then rode home. Having your work day start at 2:00 p.m. puts a damper on Queen’s day festivities. I don’t have the camera up here and I think Jen is preparing a post regarding Queen’s day, so you might as well head on over to to see what she is cooking up. I have no doubt it includes an observation on urinals, so it’s bound to be interesting.

She’s phoning it in all right

Since there isn’t much else going on here are some medical reports.

Dad is doing o.k. He went to the dentist because of a sore tooth and I’ll spare you the details, but he’s on some antibiotics. Adding drugs into his world always complicates things, so I’m sure they are excited about that. Pulmonary visit today to check up on his breathing, which my mom has been concerned about also. That covers Orion.

Here in the Netherlands we are battling a big cold with Sam. He developed some sort of “out of nowhere” earache yesterday and could not be comforted. He’s a pretty tough kid, so when he was squirming around crying that “it hurts, it hurts” it must have been a thing. Curiously he fell asleep about 15 minutes into this episode, woke up the next morning and has no signs of any problem. It’s going to be interesting.

Since I’m kind of on the topic, this is one of the subjects that I get asked about a lot and don’t really have an answer for. “What do you do when / if you get sick?” My health insurance will cover things while we are here, it just requires that you fill out a lot of paperwork and pay out of pocket initially….I think. The problem is what do you do when you don’t know the doctors, the hospitals, and the “system”? So far we haven’t had to find out. I did make a call to Sam’s doctor back home to see if there was anything we could do in the meantime, but that was such a waste. After telling the girl who answered the phone we were out of the country and the problem, she said that she couldn’t call something in for me and he would have to be seen. Really? You can’t call something in? Duh. Oh and what time do you have that we could bring him in? Keep in mind we would have to book a flight and see if we could get there on time. Seriously.

Anyhow…both kids, Dad and Sam are ok for now. Stay tuned. You know how these stories go.

Spinning out of control

Great bike ride today. I have additional respect for my brother-in-law, John Wrenn, who has been using his bicycle as primary transportation now for years. I don’t want to go down the road of talking about how “seasoned” John Wrenn must be after riding bikes for that many years, but let’s just say he can have the softest seat in my house any time he visits.

We rode about 22 km today, into Middelburg, around, and then back. We saw quite a few things we hadn’t seen on our previous journeys. We bounced down many alley ways, side streets and possibly some place you aren’t supposed to ride your bikes. It’s relatively clear about where you can ride a bike, which is pretty much anywhere, but it isn’t so clear where you can drive your car. I have been riding on paths I think are pretty much good enough for a bike, only to find some joker in a FIAT Punto driving up my backside. I’ll have to post a couple of examples later. I have two shots from today's bike ride that sum up the kind of day it was.

We’ll leave the lighter out for ya…

Just a short note to follow up on my funny sign series. I almost didn’t take a picture of this one because I thought it might be hard to “get”, but then I realized y’all were smart.

For those of you that don’t get it….first of all it is the sign near the door…not the white arrow with the blue surround. If you are still staring at it, my first thought when I saw it was “How cute. A crackhouse bed and breakfast” If you still not at least smirking I can’t help you.

The Mystery Machine

This post is to wrap up some loose ends and to solve some mysteries. Some mysteries will continue to linger, however, maybe never to be solved.

Hamburgers – the streak is broken. I was going to hold out until the perfect opportunity presented itself. Instead all it took was an actual opportunity. I ate my first burger in months in the shadows of a cathedral in Middelburg on a sunny, warm spring day. It wasn’t that good and now the quest is back on for the BEST burger in Europe, not the FIRST one.

Flee mount/mound – I was sent an answer to this one from one of my relatives, but I’m not sure I understand it. I can’t tell if it is a real answer or they are messing with me. I have further speculated that the flee mount is a built up area near the canals of Holland whose purpose is to be a safe have or a place to “flee” in the event of a flood or breach in a levee. For animals or humans I suppose.

Lack of ice cubes in Europe – still a mystery. In fact it leads me to my next subject and the introduction of some additional mysteries. First…Ice cubes will get you dimed out as an American right away. Here are a list of things that will get your cover blown as an American in Europe…if you’re hiding the fact that is.

  1. Asking for “extra” ice cubes or ice cubes at all.
  2. Wearing tennis shoes. This one isn’t hard and fast, but anyone over 15 probably isn’t wearing tennis shoes and they definitely aren’t white.
  3. Wearing a baseball style cap. Again this one isn’t fool proof, but combined with either of the above and you are definitely American.
  4. Eating waffles with whipped cream (slagroom). This one I don’t care about. The waffles are delicious and I love whipped cream.

Now for the additional mystery.

Why don’t the Dutch, a people whose lives seem dedicated to the proliferation of bike riding, wear helmets? Even the small children don’t wear helmets here. I know we have become a bit of a coddled society and protecting our brains has become a bit of an obsession, but what’s the story? The bike rental guy pretty much barely held back his laughter when Jen inquired about a helmet for Sam. Even if you have bike lanes and have been riding bikes for thousands of years the occasional collision between car and bike is bound to leave a mark. I would rather it didn’t leave a mark on my I.Q. Ok…back to your jobs people.

In and out of Brugge

Welcome back everyone. I think this post will have to be short on details since Sam is sick this morning and could use a little attention. He has a cold and a fever and has been hunkered down in bed. We had a long weekend and I think we wore the little guy out.

The weekend consisted of our usual exploring techniques. Wandering around, never quite sure where we are at any given time or knowing what we might find. We do too much buying candy, waffles, ice cream or you name it. I hope the kids don’t think this is how it’s going to work all the time. We spent Sunday morning on a short bike ride to one of our new favorite spots, Veere. It’s just so nearby and interesting we can’t resist. Yesterday we found a little candy shop on one of the side streets and sampled the fare…highly recommended. There is a picture below somewhere. Later in the afternoon it was off to something a little more daring….an hour + trip to Brugge, Belgium. I have never heard of Brugge, but I think that’s true of a lot of Americans, at least until the movie In Bruges was released last year. I spent a lot of time spinning around amazed at the architecture of this place. Something I can only try to describe in the pictures below. Eventually we will have ALL of the pictures on the site for you to view. There are just too many to put on this page. I’m a bit of a picture freak at times. Anyhow. Here are a couple of pictures before I get back to Sam and his runny nose. Enjoy and watch for the entire set posted to the shutterfly site. Might as well go and rent the movie also.

Oh yeah…I told you I’d post the picture of the candy shop. I figured I’d put a couple of “They really do ride the bikes” pictures also.

How do you work this thing?

Hey guys…this is Sam. I’ve decided to take a little time out of my busy day to tell you how things are going from a kids perspective. I gotta say….things are good, but I had to ditch thDSCN1919e family for a day…get away from it all. All they want to talk about is hamburgers, shopping, groceries…blah, blah,blah. I’m not old enough to ride a bike yet, or I should say these slackers haven’t taught me how, so I had to take the car into Middelburg yesterday.  I’m new to roundaouts also, so it was rough going. For those of you paying close attention, that’s not a cigarette in my mouth, I kicked that habit back when I was 3. I got to Middelburg just in time for my game. I’m not sure who signed me up for this giant game of human foosball, but someone needs to tell the authorities that this is going on. Exploiting kids like this is pretty lame. DSCN1931After the game I like to wander around town a bit. We won the game, but my team is nothing like daddy’s Cardinals. 13 – 5, 2 and a half games up in the Central? My dad just keeps laughing to himself and mumbling something about some Locander guy. Anyhow, here is a picture of this big old churchy looking thing I found in the middle of town. It looks like it is at least 10 or 12 years old. DSCN1907

I’m not sure what else goes on around here, but I’ve almost been run over by about 50 nut jobs on bicycles. Daddy and mommy rode here on the bikes here yesterday also, I think I saw them at the beer tent. I got to hand it to them it’s quite a trip. It’s about 9 miles to Middelburg and back, all flat land and no wind. I’m not sure why dad is complaining so much today. Anyhow, after my long day I spent like 45 minutes looking for a bathroom. Since there wasn’t one to be found I kinda broke a rule about going potty. Hey, when ya gotta go, ya gotta go. While I’m thinking about it, Why is there a picture of this? Strange. Well that’s it for me today.DSCN1935 I’m not supposed to touch the computers, but I was pretty sure daddy wasn’t going to post anything today and I didn’t want the Grandmas and Grandpas to get upset. One of them is watching my doggy at home and I got to keep them happy. Talk to everyone soon. I’m going to go color my picture of Albert Pujols.

Love, Sam

Ok…I give up.

I have walked by it. I have seen it in pictures. I have read that it is one of the “finest flee mounts of the province Zeeland”, but I have no idea what it is. I now turn it over to you. This “hill of something” is located out our back window and we have visited it up close. The local sheep surround it and have been spotted on top of it also. I think I even saw a cow up there too.


Please put me out of my misery and tell me what this is.


Jen has some mini contest over at I only mention it because it involves adding captions to a picture she has posted and my friend Mike Locander has disparaged me in many of his comments.

Drop on over there and outdo him.

Honey I lost the house

There are a couple of things I think you never get used to when exchanging homes. You move in, sometimes for long periods of time, but you can never quite have it just right. Some examples: The trash can is never where it should be. My dad will attest to this one. A thousand years ago, in Orion, my mom and dad made an executive decision to move the trash can. To this day Time and I open the wrong door or look in the wrong place. Dad still think it’s funny. It’s the same in our exchange houses. I have to stop and think about where it is and then when I do kinda figure it out….we move. International standard = Under the sink on the left. It is just easier that way. Light switches. You know how in your house you can make you way through the dark and hit any light switch within a couple of inches without even seeing them? It apparently takes me months to figure out what switch turns on what. Last but not least….where the house is. This is the second house that we’ve been in on this trip and I have had the same feeling in both. What if I lose the house? I’m in a foreign country, the language is different, I basically don’t know where I am at any given time. I would hate to have to ask a stranger where my house is. Luckily we have a GPS for this exchange, but I definitely don’t leave home without it.

Veere right!

Interesting day. We finally made our way to the bike shop to get everyone outfitted with bikes. It’s surprisingly cheap to rent bikes here…I guess. Cost me like 50 euro for 4 weeks X 3bikes. That’s 150 euro total for those of you that are confused by the math already (Locander). We took a ride to a town nearby to get our bike legs, and we were amazed. The weather was beautiful, the riding was easy, and the town of Veere was about as European as it gets. (as much as I’ve been able to ascertain to this point). We did take some pictures from a walk we took earlier, but you have to click this link for Veere. It looked exactly like this.

This is the link you should click….really

We had lunch in a little outdoor cafe and ice cream while strolling the streets. A short bike ride back home and it was time to start the day. We haven’t determined what our plans are for the weekend. Belgium? Middelburg? more biking? I think all three.

Built for two? That’s nothing…

So I’m sure you have heard that the Dutch are known for their use of bicycles. I had heard this too, but I really had no idea the extent of it. In the short time we have been here we have realized that this bike thing is way more ingrained that we had ever imagined. I walked outside this morning for a breath of fresh air and I was met with a string of 20 kids on bikes headed to school. The killer part of it is that the infrastructure is built to support the riders. All major roads have bike paths or bike lanes. There are places to park the bikes everywhere and best of all, if everyone is riding a bike you aren’t the odd man out. People here look at you strange if you aren’t riding a bike. I have taken to carrying bike rider items so they know I’m cool. The bike tire slung over the shoulder, a bike chain belt with a helmet hanging off….you get the picture. Here is a quick photo to back up my story. More later…we are off to get Sara a bike so she is as cool as we are.


Carmen Sandiego

We have an entire day under our belts here in Holland. We basically relaxed, got the hang of things, and unpacked yesterday. The kids are excited to have two cats and a chicken to look after. Weird kids. We did make one of those mistakes yesterday. The kind of mistake you make when you are unfamiliar with the doors and locks of the place you are staying? Yeah, we locked ourselves out. I kicked into MacGyver mode, the kids could care less and Jen thought we should just ask the neighbors for the key…pssshhh…that’s too easy. Here’s the scenario. Keys are on the counter, there is an abundance of sticks, and there is also a cat door. If you are operating the stick you can’t see the keys, so it is now a team exercise. It took about 15 minutes and a near argument between me and Jen, but I fished them out and we moved on. Pretty fun though. There were actually some exclamations and hugs when the keys came through the cat door.

Here are only a couple of pictures from the house. We plan on doing much more exploring today as we get our bearings.

(Click the pictures to enlarge)

Plane silly

I have terrible luck on flights. I’m the guy sitting in the empty row of seats watching everyone file on to the plane with that look. You know the look. Please don’t sit here, please don’t sit here! If there were only three people on a flight, I would be in the middle with the other two right beside me.

We get on the plane in Oslo and I have the window seat right behind Sam. There is this huge guy lumbering down the aisle…I don’t need to tell you the rest. So right before we take off, the guy on the aisle gets up and moves leaving me and the middle seat dude together. I think to myself, “Great…Paul Bunyan here will just scoot over to the aisle seat”. He must be a very lonely man, because he remained in that seat the entire trip. Jen laughed at me the entire ride here.

Gapinge, Netherlands

Well we made it here. It’s funny that a couple of short hop flights and a two hour drive can take all day, but it did. We made it out of Alesund on time and with no drama, a little hop to Oslo. We then boarded our longer (1.5 hours) flight to Amsterdam. There are a couple of stories to tell there, but it’s for later. We flew over the tulip fields of Holland on our way in and it was amazing. There is a picture of this from another site on Jen’s blog (Click here), you might have to search around a bit. Once we arrived in Amsterdam we were greeted by the owners of the home we are exchanging. They are great. Friendly, nice, down to earth people who we got along with right away. We were happy to meet them and glad that we now have met two great families in a row. It took us a couple of hours to drive to their home in Gapinge, but it was nice to take the drive and see some of the region. We arrived at their home at around 9:00 p.m. The house here is great. The backyard / garden is beautiful and the surroundings look to be fun. There is a windmill right across the street and all sorts of things to explore. Sorry, but I don’t have any pictures to throw your way at this point. I wanted to update everyone on our adventures and let you know we are here safely.

Larry Update!

I arrived to hear a voicemail from dad. He sounded great. My second voicemail was from my mom, she sounded great also…haha. Chemo day was progressing with no drama. The doctor didn’t have much to say, or mom didn’t pass it along. I guess the best message here for this is, no message. Two more treatments to go, get some meat on his bones, and by then I’ll be dropping by Orion to give him the business in person.

A proper match

As a last second event not to be missed, one of our neighbors dropped by with a great offer. Two tickets to that evenings soccer match in Alesund. I was in the other room, but when I heard “tickets” and “fotball match” I wandered over to get a good listen. Seems our neighbor had season tickets for the local matches and wasn’t going and wondered if we could use them. Well cross “go to European soccer match” off our lists, because Sam and I went and had a great time. Sam, who is “bored” after about 5 minutes of doing anything that isn’t his idea, had a great time. There was even a couple of points where he was cheering for the home team.

In a bit of a “Larry Carroll moment” we sat next to Bridget from Wisconsin. Of course she had relatives in the Quad Cities and nodded her head when I said I was from Orion. She was teaching in the area for a year and was there with one of the neighbors from our little town. I guess it really is a small world.

We stayed for the entire game, which ended in a 1-1 tie. The fans for Alesund are much like I encounter at Cardinal games, wearing their colors, chanting and cheering, the there were two notable differences. One was the singing. I knew that European soccer matches where known for their displays of affection for their team, but singing the entire match was interesting. At least they were good singers. Second…as soon as the match was over everyone seemed like they were running to get home. It was weird. Everyone knows it is going to be crowded and jammed to get out, but there were literally people running to get to their cars. Maybe in America we are so used to sitting in lines that we just plod on and accept that when we get there we are going to sit and wait.

All in all, we had a great time. Special thanks to Per for letting us use his tickets. It was very kind. Sam is still sleeping, so it must have been fun.


Checking in with Larry.

I talked with my mom AND my Aunt Pat the other day on the double secret, Skype, video spy phone. No offense mom, but it was nice to see someone other than you and dad on the video screen.

My mom took Larry to the eye doctor hoping that they might wish to fix the cataract in his eye, but they declined. They are going to wait until July, after the chemo sessions, and for better health. That kinda sucks, but I guess July is closer than it used to be. Chemo session scheduled for Tuesday. It figures that this is a travel day for us, but our travel isn’t very extensive and we will be at our new home by 1:00 pm Orion time. One more down, two more to go!!

I’ll wait for a report from Pat and other interested parties for a “I haven’t seen Larry in a while” update.

A list before we go…

Ok…I guess it is time for the “What I will miss about Norway” post. We’ve had such a quiet, relaxing time here, it’s hard to believe it’s time to go. I traded lists with my counterpart the other day, I think we both agreed that there was much more to miss, than not. There are probably more things to list than I have here, but this is what I sent him.

In no particular order:

  • The neighborhood and the neighbors. We haven’t spent a lot of time with our new neighbors, but they have been very welcoming and friendly.
  • The view. The magnificent view of the mountains in the morning won’t be easily replaced.
  • The weather. This might seem weird, but I will miss a brisk, cool day and the variety of weather. My mom is going to call me now and offer me the chance to return to Orion.
  • The pace of life. We have enjoyed the slower, laid back lifestyle we have had for these couple of months.
  • Alesund – we have really had a good time exploring the city.
  • Playing with the kids and having so many kids for them to play with. This has been such an opportunity for Sam and Sara. Sara at school has made so many friends. In fact we had 6-8 of the girls over the other day to say goodbye to Sara. Sam has been building a fort with the older boys in the neighborhood for a week now. He will be sad to go.
  • Having the morning off. We’ll see how much longer I enjoy this one, but it has been nice to get up in the morning, grab some coffee, catch up on things and worry about getting to work at 2:00 p.m.

I made the list a little shorter that the one we traded, but I had combined some thoughts. Long story, short, we have had a great time here, hopefully made some new friends, and are looking forward to our next adventure. The Netherlands had better be good, because it is going to be hard to beat Norway.

Charles E. Ost

Just as I was all set to lash out at the service industry here, some lady goes and ruins it for me. I had run across enough instances of bad service that damn it, I was gonna tell them about it. Then I run into, let’s call her Lisa. Why? Because I have no idea what her name was and it’s short and easy to type.

Yesterday we made a mistake. We took Sam to a nearby play area that we had heard about 20 times, but for whatever reason we never made it over there. This place is a giant warehouse type building with the super deluxe McDonalds playland sets in it and a bunch of tables for the parents to hang out. They had a counter to serve food, ice cream, candy, soda, you name it. Think of a super clean, well run, well lit, not crowded Chuck E. Cheese, then make it even a little nicer in your head. Here we come to the mistake part. Sam had a blast. We should have tried this much earlier than only a few days prior to leaving. It’s not the type of place you want to rely on to entertain your kids all the time, but a great place to go when you just can’t climb the rocks in the backyard that day.

Here are some pictures and then I’ll tell the Lisa story.

Now, this is where Lisa comes in. We’ve never had ANY issue using our ATM card or credit cards wherever we’ve been, even with the shady London tour company. Today none of our cards worked. We had ordered some food from Lisa and just received it when this happened. No big deal for her, she tells us to go ahead and eat, figure out the money later. I end up going to the ATM where the card works just fine, return and pay Lisa. The kicker to this whole story is that Lisa doesn’t speak a word of English. Maybe we have it backwards…maybe that’s the trick. That way both sides have to work a little harder at communicating.

Ferry Toll taker man and Hurti-rude-en ticket taker could learn from Lisa.


I thought I would update with a rare picture of me and Jen. I also have to add one disclaimer. I am happy. Some people have commented that when we have pictures of just the two of us, neither of us seem happy or are not smiling. The reason for this is the photographer. Again…I love Sara to death, but her A.D.D. affects her ability to take a picture. I’m not sure why, because you would expect an A.D.D kid to just snap pictures like crazy, drop the camera and run away to the next thing. In fact we joke with Sara sometimes about it based on this T-shirt.


We just say, “Oh Sara spotted a chicken.” When her attention wanders. When taking a picture, however, she sits, and sits, and sits, until just when you get irked enough to make a face at her, then she clicks. The results are pictures like this.

Hurtigruten 096

Jen has more patience that I do and managed not to make “the face” until seconds after the click. Love ya Sara, but “Take the damn picture!” : )

Maybe it’s a sign

Sometimes I wonder if the things that kick around in my brain are as funny to other people as they are to me. Today we are going to test that theory I guess. As I wandered the ship yesterday I kept coming upon signs that cracked me up. At some point I decided to take pictures of these signs and show you what I am talking about. Maybe these are only funny to me, in which case one of us is weird.

I would say this one is maybe the least funny of the group, but I kept thinking to myself, self…”What is the Danger of Life?”  If you open this gate is there a chance they will make you live? I could go on and on making jokes that are less and less funny, but that won’t make either of us happy.

Hurtigruten 028

Let’s see….”I’ll have some coffee please, a couple of yogurts, and what else?…..Oh yes, I see it now, One ASS.Smakaker. Those of you less versed in the Norwegian language might think you are getting some sort of titillating punishment or something even weirder. I decided not to look it up and just order one. I’m not telling.

Hurtigruten 033

Now after an Ass.Smakaker, what else could you ask for? How about a little squeezing? If you go through this door it is apparently a possibility. I noticed two more things on this cruise. One, it was filled with a lot of our older generation friends and two, the older ladies spend a lot of time going in and out of this door.

Hurtigruten 044

Finally we have reached my favorite sign on the ship. I think it is because it can have so many meanings. Did this life ring just have a really great idea? or is it a really good idea to use the light ring if needed? Isn’t there some “Danger of Life” if you combine the life ring with the electricity? I hope it isn’t lame, like there is a light bulb attached to the life rings. That would be disappointing.

Hurtigruten 120

There ya have it. While others were walking around enjoying the sights and the weather, I was looking at the signs and giggling to myself.


Wow…what a day. To get the drama out of the way, we made it to Alesund with time to spare, sauntered over to the ship, walked up to the reception and bought our tickets. I think I will pass on the opportunity to discuss the customer service skills of the person who sold me the tickets, maybe for another time. I think that even Norwegians would agree that the service industry here could use a makeover. I promise….it will make the blog later.

Our cruise left at 9:30, arrived in Geiranger at around 1:30, and returned to Alesund at 6:00. A nice full day of cruising the Norwegian fjords. I will preface the pictures you will encounter further along, with the warning that the weather wasn’t at its best. It was quite cloudy and not very warm. The temperature was no big deal, but if you want to get the best views of the fjord, clouds are not your friends. We saw a ton of waterfalls on the way, some immense cliff faces, and very cool snow topped mountains. Here are some of the better pictures, might as well just get that out of the way. I know you would rather see it than have me describe it.

Hurtigruten 038 Hurtigruten 046

Hurtigruten 055 Hurtigruten 103

It was a great day with the family and we had a lot more fun than we could ever put in pictures. I have many other thoughts to post, but I know everyone is just hitting refresh over and over again, waiting for something new.

Take 2!

Geiranger #2 attempt coming up. The weather isn’t as nice this morning, but what can you do? Go to the web and find super nice pictures of Geiranger for us and think cloud clearing thoughts. I will post upon my return, unless Jen decides to leave me there.

If this doesn’t work today I think I’ll give a call to the Time Bandit.

Time Bandit

I was the first to notice that something was different. Once we missed our ship, or better yet, arrived early for our ship, we decided to get the most of our 12 Kr. parking. I looked down the jetty and noticed that some of the sun was blocked, there was a Mercedes SUV parked in my way, and there was a certain richness in the air that one wouldn’t normally associate with being on a fish dock. I looked a little further down the way and found the source of the Robin Leach air I was feeling. There it was….the Time Bandit. For those of you that are big Discovery Channel fans, this was not the crab ship. I have decided to post pictures of the two so you can see the difference.

The Time Bandit that was docked in Alesund is apparently an excursion boat for hire and is the latest and greatest offering from Johs Lunde Yachting. This is a 95 foot luxury yacht that accomodates up to 25 of your friends and comes with a captain and two crew members. This will set you back about $15,000.00 a day if you are inclined. In fact, I can run down there and take it for a spin if you want a first hand account of how she rides.

Since I was under the watch of the Secret Service my picture was a little less glamorous, but here it is.


Mom! – send me a check!

Our ship has come in…..or has it?

Here it is….the standard Carroll story. Running late, forgetting stuff, people are upset, laws are being broken…happens every time. This morning we were trying to move fast and make it to the ship to Geiranger to view the spectacular Norwegian fjords. It was a super nice day, the view looked like it was going to be fantastic, we just had to make it to the dock. Where were we going to park? I think we all know that I am now scared of the parking situation and I think I’m on a “Most Wanted” parking list. Where do we buy the tickets? The guy we called the day before wasn’t Mr. Helpful. We screeched into a parking space, jumped out of the car and lo and behold… ship. Did we miss it? NO. Was it running late? NO. The cruises to Geiranger start tomorrow. Sigh.

Silly Billet

I’m bringing my case to the public. A few weeks ago I casually mentioned that I had been robbed of 300 Kr. by the city of Alesund for a parking “misunderstanding”. I have decided to plead my case to you since we received a letter stating that “We cannot refund your fine since your story about how you didn’t understand our system was weak and dumb”. Ok, I threw the letter away, but I’m pretty sure that’s what they wrote. Since we were in town today I took the opportunity to take a couple of pictures that I think makes the case for my mistake or at least makes the case for classic American ignorance.

Here are three pictures that will exonerate me and hopefully prevent others from making the same mistake. I feel I was put here for a purpose and maybe this is it. I know, it’s no ‘cure for cancer’ or ‘save the whales’ operation, but if I can just make a difference.

Picture #1 – this shows the general area. Notice there are no big “PAY US HERE” signs, or signs with giant pictures of money, or something that shows a person being handcuffed next to their car for failure to pay….NOTHING!

Picture #2 – The lady that helped us get the form to plead our case to the traffic czars said that the area was clearly marked in INTERNATIONALLY understood signs and markers. Ummm….huh? The word “Takster” translates to the word tariff, which even if I knew that wouldn’t necessarily mean much to me. The key to the sign is the word “Avgiftsbelagt” – it means FEE. Ugh.

Picture #3 – Now lets pretend that you had a cousin who once lived in Norway for 3 years and one day told you that the word Avgiftsbelagt meant FEE and then 20 years later when you wandered into Alesund to park you remembered that. AH! FEE! I must pay! Then you encounter this:

Now here is where I shine. I create charts and drawings and reports for technical people and try to confuse the hell out of them with colors, arrows, buttons, and fonts. It is only because I create the same mess as shown above that I could manage to navigate it the next time we parked there.

So I ask you. Was this a fair exchange? Roughly $45 dollars to teach me that I have to pay more attention and that a great parking space downtown in no way could be free? To be fair I will consider any comments on the above and I am open to the possibility that I might be wrong. (except I’m not)

A Sam upside down cake

Kids are funny. Sam was sitting around wondering what to do yesterday when his kid sense picked something up. He stood up, listened intently and exclaimed…”The kids are outside!” He got Sara to help him with his shoes and coat and off he went. The next thing I know I see him outside the kitchen window, up on the hill, being held upside down by one of the neighborhood boys. Sam has adopted two of the older boys in the neighborhood as his buddies. I’m not sure what they think of the little guy who comes running to play with them every chance he gets, but they seem to have taken him under their wing and let him join in. Yesterday he teamed up with one of the younger boys hanging around and they played for a couple of hours, neither one speaking the others language. Hopefully being held upside down on the side of a small cliff face translates into toughness or strength in the face of adversity when we get home. I guess it could affect him differently and he could start crying whenever he hears the Norwegian language, but I doubt it. He’s having a great time.

Larry Note

I talked with mom and dad yesterday and everything seems good. Every time I talk to my dad he is reading the paper. Now either the Moline Dispatch has expanded their coverage, or my dad spends too much time reading the paper. If anyone wants a good joke to play on Larry, just replace his newspaper with something crazy, or put an old one in its place…like from 1972 or something. There is nothing very new on the medical front, just getting through the remaining chemo treatments and spending a couple of months after that trying to gain some weight and energy.

Kubb rube

DSCN1634 After sitting on the sidelines for a bit trying to figure out the game, it finally happened. No injury, no last minute trade was made… of the players just gave up in frustration, plus there was skiing to do. I had no time to warm up or prepare, but I was in…I was playing Kubb. I won’t even begin to try to explain the rules here, but this is a link to history and somewhere there are rules listed (click here). Basically the game consists of many people throwing sticks at other peoples sticks and hoping that you get more sticks than they do. When I read that back to myself it seems so much easier. The neighbors were very nice to let me and Sam play and put up with our rookie Kubb status. Brush up on your stick throwing skills because we are bringing it back with us…..not the sticks, the concept.

Travel math

and now we begin the dance….

This is the part of the home exchange that I don’t do so well with. I like to have all the details worked out up front and have everyone on board and briefed on the particulars. We have most of the things worked out regarding moving from one location to another, but it’s the small things that bother me usually. Who has keys to our car and where are we leaving the keys to this car? How are we going to get the location of our car from the Norwegians to the Dutch? How do I get some U.S. currency to the Dutch to get the car out of the parking garage…..and on and on. I’m also ALWAYS the one who calculates the “When do we have to leave for the airport?” time. Let me see if I can show this in math form so you can appreciate my role here.

Leave the house time = Distance in miles divided by 1.5 considering traffic, tunnels, ferries, and the ever present “Oh shit! I left my _____ behind, we have to go back!” I don’t even have the metric version of this rule worked out.

Once you have this value you need to factor in the time of day you are leaving. If this is a morning flight, add 45 minutes for waking up, getting some coffee, shuffling around the house in a daze. For an afternoon or evening flight, add 44 minutes.

I always use the 2 hour airport rule in addition to the above calculation because it gives me the buffer zone I need for errors in my calculation. So lets review. For a 9:00 a.m. flight we have the 2 hour airport rule, the 45 minutes for the 30 mile drive, 45 minutes for the time of day rule and voila! I set the time for departure at 5:30 a.m. knowing full well that we will actually depart at 8:00 a.m. and people will be crying, laws will be broken, and marriages will be strained. Since I am typing about this an entire week ahead, you can imagine my state of mind.

Happy Easter

Nothing to report here in Norway. I post most of these entries in the morning…long before most of you get up and long before much happens here for the day. That means I have to rely on something to report from the previous day and it was a pretty laid back day yesterday.

Next week is going to be pretty hectic as we prepare to leave for our next destination. We are planning to try to grab the first fjord excursion of the season from Alesund sometime this week. We have to try to find the best weather day possible so it is not a wasted trip. The excursion is an entire day leaving at 9:30 in the morning and returning at around 5:00. You don’t even leave the ship. Apparently you sail in, the ship turns around, and you sail back. We want to catch one of the larger ships for this trip. I think they rotate through the “fleet” as the season ramps up. We hope to get some great pictures to add to our almost 800 shots to this point. We haven’t really deleted many as we just dump them on the computer and move on. Digital photography is a wonderful thing until you have to sift through the rejects, not to mention the kids “Can I take a picture?” photos.

I hope everyone has a nice holiday and anyone who checks in here today, please say hello to our friends and family back home.


More pictures from today

Since it is soooooo much easier for me to post pictures now you are probably in for it.

 A random dogDope on a rope

 WifeWhat you looking at? 

That dog showed up out of nowhere and scared the hell out of me. Minutes later another family showed up to have a picnic.

Now I’m having fun…

As you may or may not have noticed….I have a new toy. A new tool is more accurate. I like to think of this as adding the visual experience to the high level literary experience that you already receive. I’ll be playing with the features of this new tool, so if you see something that looks bad, weird, or not right, let me know.

The pictures above were taken from a little outing we had this morning. We were basically trying to re-engineer a local creek by damming it up with rocks. It’s a little game I like to call “Wear out the 4 year old”. It must have worked because it took us 45 minutes to walk home because Sam was “out of energy”. We had a great time climbing on the rocks and enjoying the best weather of our stay here. I think we almost hit 70.

Anyhow…time to go. I think the pictures will all be clickable now…which is really the only problem I started out trying to solve.


Just in time for us to leave, the weather is really getting nice. Yesterday it felt like it was almost "home" weather. We spent some time outside goofing around. One of the things we haven't mentioned about this house is the backyard. Since the weather hasn't been the most cooperative for playing, the back yard hasn't been a factor, but it is a little boys dream back there. Large boulders rising out of the ground for trucks, cars, ramps. The owners have put a sand box there also, surrounded by a rock base, and if you get tired of that you can build a fort or climb the rock wall behind you. Sam and I had a little fun out there yesterday. Here are some pictures.

Celebrate good times....

Guess what? I forgot to mention the other day that my dad only has 3 chemo treatments left!!! I had lost track over time and worry. So there is one more treatment this month on April 21st.....and then a couple more finishing on or around May 19th. This would be cool enough on its own, but here is a cool bonus. May 19th is Sams birthday. I have no doubt that Samuel Lawrence Carroll will enjoy sharing his birthday with a celebration for his grandpa.

Who is the baseball trivia genius?

Sam was born in 2004 and I was born in 1967. Anyone know the baseball connection? It's pretty cool...c'mon, look it up. look it up. It's regarding something you have never seen in your lifetime.

Anyone seen the remote?

It's weird that everything works remotely. I pay my bills on the computer. I sure don't miss seeing them arrive, but I guess I still have to pay them. Working remotely has been fine, I'm not sure some of the people that I work with even know where I am. In fact it is one of their favorite jokes to start conference calls with. "What country are you in today?" Yesterday I cleared our DVR/cable box of recorded shows over the internet. I forgot to clear the schedule on it so it goes on recording all our favorite shows at home. Sara goes to school remotely and is doing fine. There is a trade off with remote school that is going to come to a head at some point. She gets good grades and is outside the goofy influence of her teen friends, but is isolated. How long can we hide her from that world that makes her even more teenager? It has been interesting.

Swing and a miss!

Well my Cardinals are off to a semi-slow start and I guess I'm not that great of a fan if I can't get up at 2:00 a.m. to watch them play I thought I would re-visit or visit things that I miss while travelling.

1. - Hamburgers - I wanted to lead with this one because it would give me an excuse to update the "Hamburger clock" - haven't had a hamburger for almost 9 weeks.

2. - Normal business hours. - I was tempted to go with an "all meat" list because I realize now that I also miss steak, but I miss going to work at, or around 8:30 and being normal. Ok, I'm not sure I'll ever be normal, but working until 10:30p.m. and logging off at exactly 8.5 hours isn't my style. Maybe that isn't normal either as I think about it.

3. - Ice cubes - Now don't get all "What's his problem with ice cubes?" on me. I don't personally miss them, it's more of a curiosity to me than anything. I miss them because Jen makes me run down to the basement to get them from the freezer.

4. - Shorts - Ok this might sound weird, but bear with me. I miss throwing on shorts and a T-shirt and being ready for the day. This goes hand in hand with jackets, socks, boots, hat, scarf, gloves. The climate here has been an enjoyable break, but I had forgotten how complicated living with "weather" was.

Only a 4 item list. That isn't too bad huh? There are probably more, but some of them don't make for interesting reading. I have an entire list of things I don't miss....don't worry Tim, I miss you too. I'll save those for another day.

Go Cards!!