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Two-Second Travelogue Part 1   August - Oct 2000

August 2000 (August photos) (Preparation photos)

August 5 - Preparation (Denver) - Endless mess. Endless boxes. Endless jobs. Set me free. Set me free. -- Duncan

August 16 - Preparation (Denver) - We'll see Oncle Marc for Christmas! Will we ever see a renter? -- Mark

August 17 - Preparation (Denver) - Let's not worry about Malaysia yet. We need a medical kit and haircuts. -- Monica

August 18 - Preparation (Denver) - Visiting friends for the last time in a year. Chris and Colin spent the night. Today, Duncan and I are going to play Magic with Jay and Joe in Ft. Morgan. -- Tote

August 19 - Preparation (Denver) - Our goldfish left today. -- Mark

August 20 - Preparation (Denver) - Omigod! Come see the basement! It has a floor! -- Monica

August 21 - Preparation (Denver) - I think my passport came today. After months of filling out forms and waiting, how am I going to tell them that my name isn't "Mark Huges"? -- Mark

August 22 - Preparation (Denver) - The boys are amazing. Cleaning and organizing the garage was a challenge, and working with the boys was fun. Like so many other trip jobs, they did it without complaint. I am proud of them. -- Monica

August 23 - Preparation (Denver) - [ . . .] -- Maggie

August 24 - Preparation (Denver) - Eleven years ago Tote beat the midwife to the hospital. We're still trying to keep up with him. -- Monica

August 25 - Preparation (Denver) - We couldn't have better friends. -- Mark

August 26 - Preparation (Denver) - Done with the yard. Done with the basement. Done with the bathroom. Done with the garage. Done with the passports. Done with the vaccinations. Done with the six-pack Elizabeth brought over. -- Mark

August 27 - Preparation (Denver) - Good-byes to everyone. Kind of sad. -- Tote

August 28 - On the Way! - It's hard to go. It's hard to say good-bye. I feel a sense of loss. -- Monica

Monica told me in a rather husky voice that "a year ia such a long time." Sometimes it seems this way looking for ward, though looking backwards, one year is too short to tease from all the others. I suspect that once we are back in the states for a month or two, the Big Trip will seem lika the Little Interlude. -- Mark

This place has the tiniest corn dogs I've ever seen. -- Maggie

August 29 - Ogallala, Nebraska to Atlantic, Iowa - Bouncy shoes, running between cornfields. Bouncy tires, driving between cornfields. -- Tote

The four best things about Ogallala: 1) The UFO watertower; 2) They sell unleaded gas; 3) At least, the cold water works. -- Mark

August 30 - Atlantic, Iowa - Slowly running in the morning heat with Maggie, Mark, Tote, and Duncan. Running along the gravel roadside to Atlantic, Iowa, to breakfast at The Downtowner. Eggs and sausage, tea and cinnamon rolls. Yum! -- Monica

Sea of crops. -- Duncan

August 31 - Grinnell, Iowa - Stunning to see a small but stunning Louis Sullivan building on an otherwise bland main street. (Next door is Cunningham's Drugstore complete with soda fountain and lunch counter.) -- Mark

August 31 - DeKalb, Illinois - Flowers on walls, flowers on floors, flowers on furniture - Grandma's house has so many flowers! -- Tote

September 2000 (September photos) (DeKalb photos) (back to top)

September 1 - DeKalb, Illinois
- At 5 PM the bank sign reads 97. Could be the humidity as easily as the temperature. We overheard one farmer say to another, "Hey Jim! Nice day to pull some wire in the attic, eh?" -- Mark

September 2 - DeKalb, Illinois - Grandma's teaching me multiplication tables and how to dress her Barbies. She says she doesn't have anyone else to play Barbies with. -- Maggie

September 3 - DeKalb, Illinois - Playing in the park, we were soaked to the skin. Then, big party. Lots of family. Lots of food. (Mmmmm - eggrolls!) -- Duncan

September 4 - DeKalb, Illinois - The evening word game score: Grandma - 0; Duncan and Tote - 2. -- Mark

A romp in the Malta Corn Maze with Todd, Peg, Justin, Jonathon, Dave, Joyce, Grandma, Grandpa, Mark, Duncan, Tote, and Maggie. -- Monica

September 5 - DeKalb, Illinois - We toured the former home of Isaac L. Ellwood, a barbed wire manufacturer. I liked the numbers (before barbed wire, the total value of farm fencing in the U.S. was about one-sixth the total value of all farms); Duncan liked the Persian carpets; Monica liked the "floating" staircase; Tote liked the "rabid tour guide"; and Maggie liked the enormous dollhouse. -- Mark

Kentucky Fried Chicken's macaroni and cheese is as bad as TA Truck Stop's. Kentucky Fried Chicken gets a 7. TA gets an 8. -- Maggie

September 6 - DeKalb, Elk Grove, & Rockford, Illinois - What could be more fun, or more Midwestern, than a tour of Illinois's marvelous toll way system, punctuated by stops at strip malls and fast food chain store? There must be something unique about the Midwest. Perhaps it is the absence of any particularly interesting characteristic. -- Mark

September 7- DeKalb, Illinois - Went for a run and read my R.A. Salvatore book. I also factored a few fractions and did some algebra. -- Tote

September 8 - Sandwich, Illinois - The gate attendant wished us a "swell day" at the County Fair, and we had one. Homemade pies and BBQ served by Annette and the other church ladies at the St. Paul's Catholic church food booth. The stunning power of draft horses aglitter in polished leather and chrome-bangles. Twelve foot sunflowers, giant vegetables, and more photos, cakes, preserves, quilts, chickens, and sheep than the mind can grasp. Did I mention my favorite, the swine? -- Monica

September 9 - DeKalb, Illinois - Yankee ingenuity - hah! The resourcefulness of Midwesterners trumps all. Where else would citizens be so resourceful as to devise Taffy Apple Salad (pineapple, nuts, and Cool Whip) and Mock Apple Pie (Ritz Crackers). In fact, where else would the citizens, awash in apples, find such ingenious ways to avoid using them? -- Mark

Uncle Dave, Tote, Duncan, and I played Dungeons and Dragons. We tried to catch a bad guy but then we went into a time warp. Uncle Dave made the monster two years old, and we got him -- Maggie

September 10 - DeKalb, Illinois - This could be called a disagreeable day, though it wasn't. We played more Dungeons and Dragons with Uncle Dave. Arguing is part of the game. I liked our game; it was funny. Later we went to see a community theater play about arguing called Squabbles. I liked the play; it was funny. -- Duncan

September 11 - DeKalb, Illinois - I liked watching the Big Green volleyball team play the Huskies. The Husky mascot pretended to do the same thing as the cheerleaders. The band yelled and played music. I watched the game, gave the mascot five, and kept track of the score. The Huskies won. -- Maggie

September 12 - DeKalb & Oregon, Illinois - As part of our homeschooling efforts, we spent the morning measuring the path of the sun so we can calculate the circumference of the Earth. (This may also be useful when we need to walk home.) I assume the neighbors think we are members of some Colorado cult. We also took a walk through the forest along the Rock River (comfortably soft after the spruces and pines of the West), examined a giant Taft statue of an indian (looks a bit like Rodin's Balzac and makes one appreciate Taft's Thatcher Memorial in City Park even more), and viewed the Oregon Public Library's art collection (a notable collection of work done in the area by people who were once well known, guarded by a librarian notable only for her surliness). -- Mark

September 13 - DeKalb, Illinois - First, we ate bagels. (The place in DeKalb is almost as good as Finster Brothers.) Then, we measured the circumference of the Earth with my Uncle Ted's class in Hugo, Colorado. Grandpa and I had a better measurement than my dad. Later, we smashed pennies on the railroad tracks. -- Tote

Grandma's is the best macaroni and cheese so far. It's a 13. -- Maggie

Mark:What's the story? Tote, why aren't the new pages up here?
Tote: What? You were supposed to do it!
Mark: Me!
Tote: Well, who did you think was going to do it? Anne of Green Gables?
Mark: Anne of Green Gables? Ann? of Green Gables? . . . Glad to see you're so well read.

September 14 - DeKalb, Illinois - A gray, rainy run. The heron has moved upstream. Sunset brings brightness. -- Monica

After two hours at Osco taking and retaking and retaking and retaking visa photos, we are still in a good mood. In the afternoon, I weigh - literally - geometry books. -- Mark

September 15 - DeKalb, Illinois - Wherever we live, our home will always be here, where our parents care about us more than we can ever deserve. -- Mark

September 16 - UA Flight 604 to Newark - I didn't think we'd be this high up. -- Maggie

September 17- Westfield, New Jersey - Cousins, cousins race through the place; Seems like half the human race; Every room has two or three; They move so fast they're hard to see; They come in sizes big and small; Sometimes without size at all; The energy that is released; Could power countries, Greece, at least. -- Tote

September 18 - Westfield, New Jersey - I rested up from the big communion party by staying up late reading Star Wars books and racing through Westfield High School with my cousin Abby. It was quieter and not as exciting without all our cousins being here. -- Duncan

September 19 - Westfield, New Jersey -
Mark: Duncan, can you help me here? I just cannot explain this positive/negative number stuff to Tote in a way he can understand. We've been at it for about an hour now. How did you learn this stuff?
Duncan: Well, we spent all of sixth grade on it.

September 20 - "Down The Shore," New Jersey - When we got to the beach, I pulled off my clothes and ran in the water and learned to surf waves. I did a back flip and almost landed on Duncan. When I got out I saw a gigantic fish. When I walked back with my mom, we found a jellyfish. Luckily I got a great lunch: pizza. - Maggie

September 21 - Westfield, New Jersey - Westfield prides itself on its colonial heritage. This is presumably why so many of its merchants refuse to accept credit cards. -- Mark

I feel a bit like a grandma, my kids past babyhood, in fact Duncan now a teenager, getting the chance to walk and soothe infant Mary Jo. It's wonderful to watch her focus on faces, smiling her left cheek dimple. -- Monica

September 22 - Westfield, New Jersey - The first day of Fall, autumnal equinox, the sun is shining, the crows are cawing, red leaves on the trees, kids walking to school, and Maggie sneaking up to watch Rugrats on Grandma's TV. -- Monica

September 22 - Cranbury, New Jersey - The nice thing about the New Jersey Turnpike is that it highlights how nice trees and grass look. -- Duncan

September 23 - Westfield, New Jersey - The longest dimension of Great Britain is 600 miles (from north to south). Colorado's longest dimension is 387 miles (from east to west). Great Britain has slightly less land area than Colorado. -- Tote

September 24 - Westfield, New Jersey - We have been over our packs so many times that we are about as prepared as we can be. Nonetheless, since leaving wouldn't be exciting unless we had a few things that needed urgent attention, we are running about looking for plastic bags and tiny notebooks. I thought about pointing out that Britain probably has plenty of plastic bags and little notebooks, but why dampen anyone's fun?

September 25 - Newark to Edinburgh - When I arrived at the New Jersey airport, I was not at all excited. I was excited on the plane only when we were ready to land. When we landed, it looked a lot like the U.S., and my excitement faded. On the train ride to Edinburgh, I got a good look at the countryside. That's when I started getting excited again. It didn't look at all like Colorado. The grass was very green. It looked like a lawn everywhere. There were sheep everywhere. The train carried us past places where I saw white waves crashing against grey cliffs. Edinburgh looks very different. The first thing I noticed was a huge wall. Above the wall I saw the castle. It towers over the city. The buildings have a very different style from those in the U.S., and the streets are narrow. The buildings are all made of stone. -- Tote

September 25 - Edinburgh, Scotland - Roaming through the Old Town, looking for a place to stay, the tall stone buildings and narrow streets just seem too charming and too medieval, and the streets too clean, to be real. The castle perched atop a cliff simply looks too much like a castle to possibly be a real castle. There are spires everywhere, some so elaborate they would look goofy anywhere else. If it were not a grey day, and I weren't so jet-lagged, I'd think we had somehow dropped into a musical set.

This is also a pricey place to stay. You know you're in trouble when a cab driver refuses to take even a small tip, saying "You'll need it. This is an expensive city." And he's right. (When I learned that Robert Lewis Stevenson, an Edinburgh native, had a very rough time traveling in America - he arrived in California half-starved and penniless and wrote to a friend "I never knew how easy it was to commit suicide" - I felt a bit revenged.) -- Mark

September 26 - Edinburgh, Scotland - At the castle I liked watching the guards, and I liked looking in the great hall. I really liked looking at the armor and swords. I also liked playing with the army bears in the gift shop. I liked the cover of the Harry Potter English version better than the American version. The cover shows Harry on his broomstick with the dragon over him. -- Maggie

We explored Edinburgh Castle with an audio tour. I learned that medieval coronations involved sitting on stones and putting numbers after your name. Safety tip: Run if your host ends the meal by plopping a bull's head on the table. -- Duncan

September 26 - Argyle Backpacker's Hotel, Edinburgh, Scotland - First rule of hostel living: Figure out how to operate the bathroom lights before turning in for the night. -- Mark

September 27 - Edinburgh, Scotland - Went on a practice hike before the sky fell; Maggie didn't want to go; At least it didn't snow. -- Duncan

I ate macaroni and cheese at a pub in Edinburgh. The pub had a pool table in it, and the Olympics were on the TV. The macaroni and cheese was white. It was pretty good. I give it a 13. -- Maggie

We had wonderful morning doing math in the hostel with our excellent math teacher. Then we walked the Royal Mile, ate haggis and mince pies, listened to a bagpiper, climbed most of the way up Arthur's Chair, watched our excellent math teacher fall on his fanny in the mud, got lost in a terrific downpour, and discovered that our hostel has a copy of Episode 1. -- Tote

I think the coolest part was the bagpiper store where they made bagpipes. There were two guys.
One was tuning the bagpipes while the other one was working -- Maggie

Why don't the Scots know that you can have two taps and only one spigot? Here it is one spigot for hot and one for the cold. Maybe they will one day discover warm water. -- Duncan

September 28 - Glasgow, Scotland - Charming place, if you like Kansas City.

Today was a day to appreciate just how dull Britain has become. Talked with two policemen who could not think of a single place we could eat in central Glasgow that had any sort of Scottish sense to it. Courteous, as everyone has been, they spent five minutes discussing the issue with us. Italian restaurants, pizza places, and bars there are aplenty but nothing vaguely unique. If we had liked we could have had breakfast at Starbucks, shopped for a book at Borders or clothes at The Gap, lunched at Burger King or McDonald's or had a picnic from Safeway, dined at Pizza Hut, taken in a showing of Space Cowboys, enjoyed Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby for dessert, and nachos with our Coors Light beer. All before retiring to the Holiday Inn to watch the Flintstones, watch a commercial for "Billy Bass" -- the singing fish, and turn in for the night. Of course (with the possible exception of staying at the Holiday Inn) the same could be said of Edinburgh, and I fear, much of Europe. The most foreign thing we encountered all day were the accents of the policemen. (No longer from Glasgow. Now a part of a regional police force which they hope will become national.) Sad all round.

Although I have very limited experience, I regret to say that taking the bus around Scotland seems much better than taking the romanticized but apparently "privatized" British rail system. The bus was clean and efficient, stopped at a nice downtown station, and cost about half what the train would have cost. Moreover, our bus was much less crowded, quieter, and more comfortable than the packed train we took between London and Edinburgh. For those who complain about Amtrak, I might point out that there was no water or toilet in the King's Cross waiting room. (The toilet, it was very civilly explained to us, is about a block from the waiting room and requires exact change. Exact change, we were politely informed, was unavailable. Thank goodness the Ghanian gentleman running the bathroom showed no signs of privatization and let us into the bathroom for free.) Several of the bathrooms on our train were out of order and others were disconcertingly moist. To compensate, the staff was exceedingly polite and civil.

I was also saddened to discover this morning that Her Majesty's Stationary Office was similarly "privatized." The store in Edinburgh now resembles a very dull Dalton's. The clerk very politely explained to me that she really didn't know where the Queen buys her note paper. I think she would have been just as polite if I had asked what Her Majesty does when she finds herself without exact change. -- Mark
September 28 - Edinburgh, Scotland - Yesterday we went on a hike up towards Arthur's Chair in Edinburgh (pronounced Edinburroh). All the terrain was beautiful. And there was a great view! For lunch I had a great bridie, which is a pastry with some onions and minced meat. It's the best food EVER! I also had Irn Bru, the drink to make you strong. It tasted like odd cream soda. I even had Irn Bru Sorbet. I saw the coolest sword on the Royal Mile. On the Royal Mile, we also got a sample of "the best fudge in the universe."
Today, we take a train to Glasgow, near the start of the West Highland Way. I can't wait to start hiking. - Duncan

September 29 - Drymen, Scotland - The first day of our West Highland Way trip. Our path took us mostly between farm fields and meadows. We watched pheasants bob about; lots of rams, ewes, and cows, sometimes sharing their pastures with seagulls and crows; cleverly designed gates and stiles giving us access through fences and stone walls; hedgerows with a never-ending supply of brambles (blackberries); moss and lichen-covered rocks, stones, bricks, and tree trunks; birds calling from dark thickets on the hills; chattering brooks the whole way. -- Monica

I think the best macaroni and cheese so far was Gregg's macaroni and cheese pie. I think what made it the best one so faar was the crusting. And I give it a 16. The crusting held the macaroni and cheese so I could walk and eat it without spilling it. I've had two in Scotland, so far. There are lots of Gregg's in Scotland. -- Maggie

The kids loved the automatic handwasher in the pub. You stick your hands in, and the machine drops soap on them, then water, then pauses for you to wash, then rinses, and finally a hot air blower kicks in. They now have cleanest hands I think they have ever had. -- Mark

September 30 - Balmaha, Scotland - The second day of our West Highland Way trip. We hiked through Garadhban Forest (reminded me of both the Olympic Peninsula, and where hobbits would live), then up and over Conic Hill. The views from the top were of swatches of farm fields, separated by hedgerows, dotted with sheep; the southern end of Lock Lomond with tree-covered small islands, white sail boats, and every once in awhile a beam of sun splashing out of a quick hole in the clouds; to the north and east, smooth rolling hills with higher, darker mountains beyond. -- Monica

October 2000 (October photos) (back to top)

October 1 - Balmaha, Scotland - The window to my right looks out from the second floor towards old whitewashed barns and garages, with a dried-out, heather-covered hill beyond. It's very quiet in this old manse (vicarage turned B&B, built before 1600). Maggie is downstairs poking around and Mark and the boys have dashed out with Chrissy Bannerman (our host) to watch her grandson play rugby. We are in a tiny village at the southern end of Loch Lomond, Balmaha, in Scotland.

We heard that today's weather is to be dreadful. We decided what a perfect excuse for a sit-down day but a sky that is merely overcast, ate a huge Scottish breakfast of cereal, milk, juice, tea, toast with homemade bramble jam, sausage from Mrs. Bannerman's Highland cattle, ham, eggs, and fried tomatoes. We ate it off Spode china and with monogrammed silver and drank our tea from a silver teapot presented to Mrs. Bannerman's father-in-law who was a member of the Scotland and Oxford fifteens and the Duke of Montrose's factor. There are still no signs of gale force winds and rain at 10:30. -- Monica

October 2 - Rowardennan, Scotland - A quick run, literally, into Drymen for supplies and a bus ride home. We're unsure when we will be able to purchase any real food again. With everything we intend to use for a year already in our backpacks, we don't have room for much more. But food does seem a requirement.

One of the supplies we need is cash. Collecting enough of it brought Drymen's economy to a standstill for 30 minutes. The ATMs will only dispense 100 pounds a day to foreigners. (During our first hour in England, I tried to withdraw 150 pounds, and the display told me "your account has insufficient funds to complete this request.") Up to this point, we have gotten by with a credit card and a small supply of cash. Beyond this point, no one accepts credit cards.

This means a cash advance on my credit card. The severe-looking bank clerk warned me it might take a few minutes. I asked her whether I should return when the line behind me would be bit shorter. She said, "No need. We take them as they come."

The clerk took my card, looked at my passport, and called the Bank of Scotland. The Bank of Scotland called First USA in the States. First USA promptly hangs up on the Bank of Scotland. The Bank of Scotland calls again. First USA requests every number imaginable off the credit card - there are more than you think - my passport number, my birthplace and date as listed on my passport, my billing address, my mailing address, the last four digits of my social security number, and my mother's maiden name. After Bank of Scotland collects all this information from the card, my passport and me (shouted throught the window) and relates it to First USA, First USA hangs up on Scotland once more.

The line of people with real work to do now stretches out the door. Another bank clerk has pitched in but the line doesn't seem to shorten. Even I am wishing that my clerk would surrender to the incivility that characterizes "customer service" in the States and let me slink off quietly.

Yet, the Scots are nothing if not tenacious. The folks native to this part of Scotland survived the predations of the Highlanders and Rob Roy. They are not about to let a nitwitted nineteen year-old from the States defeat them. So, the Bank of Scotland, unbelieveable as it seems, tries again. This time, they have an answer to every question and parry to every thrust, and they succeed.

If it were in the Scottish character to grin at a stranger, I believe the clerk would have been grinning when she returned to my window. Though I could not discern a change in her expression, perhaps her head was held a bit higher or her back was a bit straighter. She undoubtedly had the air of someone who has succeeded despite the odds.

Her only comment, as she deliberately counted out my banknotes, was the remonstrance, "Your bank was quite rude." -- Mark
I ate macaroni and cheese at the Rowardennan Youth Hostel. We are hiking the West Highland Way. I give it a 9 because it had a good cheese sauce, but not enough macaroin. The person who made the macaroni and cheese, his name was Dave. -- Maggie

October 3 - Inverarnan, Scotland - Kindly remind me to think again before planning a long hiking trip in a place where every home and hostel contains a "drying room."

I believe that Scottish rain is made from something other than water. The rain today was neither hard nor harsh nor windblown. Certainly not torrential or driving. Yet somehow, in no more than a quarter of an hour, I was soaked. Water pooled inside my backpack and even inside the stuff sacks inside my backpack. I could not have been wetter if I had swum across the Loch.

We left the tidy, warm, and friendly Rowardennan Youth Hostel this morning. It sits near the path to Ben Lomond, one of Scotland's most climbed peaks. It's the southernmost of Scotland's "munros," one of the 284 Scottish mountains over 3000 feet listed by Sir Hugh Munro in 1891. We keep meeting "munro baggers," like Helen and Allison whom we met on the walk up Conic Hill. Helen bagged her 50th munro on her 50th birthday.

This afternoon we took a ferry across the Loch from Inversnaid, a comfortable looking but not particularly attractive hotel that has served generations of tourists. Wordsworth, Coleridge, Gerard Manely Hopkins, and Hawthorne all wandered around there. Wordsworth supposedly encountered his "sweet Highland girl" in the Inversnaid ferry house. No one in the place is particularly "sweet" or particularly helpful.

It was about some waterfall near Inversnaid that Hopkins wrote:
What would the world be, once bereft
of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.
Though still a fan of "wildness," my sympathy for "wet" is waning. -- Mark
At twilight, we made our way to the Drovers Inn, a bit like an older version of the Buckhorn Exchange . . . very old sheep-farmer-to-the-market inn . . . with lots of stuffed animal heads mounted on the very sooty walls. It was a very dark, unkempt pub.

The children ate and painted watercolors. Mark and I shared a plate of grilled, smoked mackerel with chips and salad. The boys each had a bowl of stagshead soup and crusty bread. All three shared three plates - one of mince and tatties with side vegetables and two steak and Guiness pies with chips and salad. -- Monica

October 3 - Inverarnan, Scotland - The children have taken a liking to tea, and find the chocolate-covered biscuits a wonderful accompaniment. Tote says he would like to live in Drymen, Scotland some day and be a shepherd. Maggie's current goal is to buy a bow and arrow. When she returns home, she wants to take lessons in archery, fencing, and horseback riding. Duncan's enthusiasm is infectious. His ease and desire to hike help keep our spirits high. -- Monica

Scottish Glossary
aye - yes
ben - mountain
inver - mouth of a river
fine day - not currently pouring rain -- Mark
October 4- Crianlarich, Scotland - I'm glad Duncan stepped in the puddle instead of me. Dad never guessed any of my riddles. One answer to a riddle was raspberry seeds. -- Maggie

We're halfway! We spent last night in a West Highland Way "wigwam" - a snug, beehive-shaped, cabin designed by some West Highland Way guru. After we hung all our wet clothes up inside, ours looked like some bizarre Gore-Tex tenement. Apparently designed for three hikers, ours was particularly "snug" with five of us inside. I dreamt we were riding out a huge storm in a boxcar.
Above our camp, a spectacular waterfall, Grey Mares Tail, roared all night. In the morning, we could see three other waterfalls high on the hills around us. The Way follows the River Falloch through the valley above Loch Lomond and all day long we passed short cascades and gorges.

The kids are amazingly happy though we spent the day walking in the rain. Maggie often has to scale rocks on her hands and knees -- remember she is carrying her own pack -- and still seems to smile nearly the whole day. Duncan cannot wait to get started and is always after us to plan longer hikes. Tote keeps moving and smiling and chattering away. They made quite a sight today, walking along with their plastic-covered packs and bright parkas through the tan and green countryside. I hope I never take them for granted.

By the middle of the day, we were slogging through mud and puddles that we would have tried to skirt or hop earlier in the walk. Our feet couldn't be wetter anyway. -- Mark
Today we hiked along grazing sheep, in pastures along the banks of River Falloch. The Way through the Glen mostly included a sandy/muddy, stone-strewn path with lots of ferns and mushrooms.

Tote and I hiked together after lunch and arrived a good 40 minutes before the others. We hiked well together, kept our spirits up, and hiked a similar pace. Tote helped me up when I took a tumble (slippery stone) and rolled in a rivulet. I wasn't hurt, but I certainly did "sog"my feet (a term Duncan coined.)
Tote and I asked directions to the youth hostel at the small train station's Tea Room and arrived at this impressive, well-organized, impeccable accomodation. The kitchens (and all other aspects for that matter) of these official Scottish Youth Hostels are superbly equipped, and everything is CLEAN and tidy. Both times now we've had one room with four sets of bunk beds. Each bed has a covered pillow and a comforter on a covered mattress. When you check in, you're given a sheet sack with a pocket in it, to stick your pillow in. -- Monica

October 5 - Crianlarich, Scotland - It's time to make a few changes and take a rest. As we continue north the Way will run through "highlands" tall enough to have snow on the top. We also need to lengthen our daily walks, if we are to land in "towns" at night.

To this point, we've carried all our luggage for the year on our backs. I think with more hills and more miles ahead of us, it's time to lighten our loads.

The distance between towns is now controlled by the distance a drover and his livestock covered in a day. There are two theories on how that distance - about thirteen miles - was determined. It is either the distance the livestock could walk without trouble or the distance a drover could cover without a dram.

Figuring out just how to lighten our packs is more difficult than one might imagine. After we discovered that what our guidebook called a food shop in Balhama was really a souvenir stand with three dehydrated soup packages and fudge for sale, we don't really trust what it says. And, people in one town generally know little about the next town or, more precisely, little that is of interest to us. Is there a food shop? What sorts of places are there to stay? Is there a place to eat? And the few people walking the Way at this time of year are moving in the same direction, from south to north, so we cannot help each other much.

After consulting a bus schedule and the hostel manager, I decide to take a bus to the end of the Way and lock our extra stuff (about three fifths of our belongings) into lockers at the Fort Williams hostel. To catch the bus back tonight, I must do this in an hour. Just before I leave, a visitor tells me it is about four miles from the bus stop to the hostel. No one knows whether there will be any cabs around, but everyone is sure it will cost at least $10 and take over an hour to get the bags to the hostel and me back to the bus station. Then the visitor mentions that the bus stop is near the train station. If the train station has a luggage storage place (called "left luggage" around here), and most do, it's worth a try.

The bus runs through places that are absolutely beautiful and exotic. The low evening light throws the bright green, brown, gleaming rock, and shining water of Rannoch Moor, and the mountains of Buachaille Etive Mor, Creise, and Meall a' Bhuiridh into fantastic jumbles of light and color. The landscape is so different from anything I have seen before yet so like I have imagined the landscapes in fantasy stories and myths that all those myths and tales suddenly seem plausible. The CityLink bus I'm on seems foreign, and I spend a moment questioning whether I haven't imagined the bus, the bags, and all the rest.

In Fort William, the good news is that there are lockers in the train station. The bad news is that, although one must pay for 24 hours, there's nothing that hints at what happens after 24 hours. The ticket window clerk assures me, and then patiently assures me again and again, that the lockers do not just pop open after 24 hours. Instead, one pays the overtime when one returns for the bags. I look at all the signs again and, though I see nothing to the contrary, I also see no indication whatsoever that the clerk is correct. Nonetheless, I decide to trust the clerk and stuff all our stuff into the locker, pay for 24 hours, and get back on the bus.

Back at the hostel, a young woman from New Jersey tells us she recently used a locker in a different station and that she is pretty sure the lockers were only good for 24 hours. -- Mark

October 6 - Bridge of Orchy, Scotland - Ah, ah . . . what an absolutely splendid hike today! My favorite so far. Fourteen miles in overcast, low 60's Scottish beauty. Today included one of my favorite parts of the trip so far: We watched two shepherds and two dogs herd their flock from one pasture to another farm's pasture. One fellow was about 60, lined weathered face, lanky body, and totally incomprehensible as he spoke to us about where to stand to stay out of the way. The other was a silent, young, robust fellow of about 35.

We're currently sitting in the only place in this tiny village that one can buy a meal. It's a great pub in the Bridge of Orchy Hotel. Duncan is writing in his journal, so is Mark. Maggie is drawing a still life of my glasses on the table, and Tote is reading. We looked into staying at this hotel and even the much cheaper bunkhouse is $25.50 per person. Instead we'll be staying at a B&B. It's not even in this village. After we eat dinner, our hostess will come and drive us to her house. -- Monica

I think what was really cool was watching the shepherd herd his sheep. What was really funny was the sheep dog. I think I'm psychic because I knew that Mom was going to take pictures of Highland Cattle for an hour. I'm Little Trailer and Dad is Jet Assist when we go up hills. -- Maggie

I woke up last night imagining lockers popping open in the train station. -- Mark

October 7- Kinlochleven, Scotland - Today, we went up Devil's Staircase to the top of a mountain shrouded in mist. We put stones on all the cairns on the mountain to make a wish. When Tote and I went up higher, we saw a skeleton floating in the mist above. -- Duncan

Another surprise: our B&B had the ruins of a castle in the yard - and a famous castle at that. Achallader is where the chiefs of several important Jacobite clans (fans of James II) agreed to pledge loyalty to King William in exchange for amnesty and cash.
(James had bolted for France after William landed in England at the invitation of English leaders. James, his son, and his grandson -- Bonnie Prince Charlie -- ultimately made 5 attempts to regain the throne over 60 years, royally pissing the English off. The English responded by attempting to destroy the clans and filling the Highlands with the charming military roads which now make up a good deal of The Way.)

The chief of the MacDonald clan made his pledge a few days after the treaty's December 1691 deadline. Although more powerful chiefs skipped the oath altogether, King William approved "extirpat[ing] that sept of thieves,." meaning the MacDonalds. In February of 1692, the MacDonalds were innocently housing 120 soldiers in Glen Coe. The soldiers, led by a Campbell, received orders "to putt all to the sword under seventy." At 5 AM, the troops proceeded to kill about 40 MacDonalds, burned the houses, stole the livestock, and left Glen Coe empty.

Apparently, the 40 dead wasn't large by Highland standards. Mrs. Aitken (our B&B host) related that the main outrage was the shocking breach of hospitality. Others believe a worse outrage is that the MacDonald-Campbell feud and the continuing Jacobite revolutions led to Robert Louis Stevenson's long-winded novel, Kidnapped. -- Mark

October 8 - Ft. William, Scotland - Fourteen beautiful miles through high country and a cold rain has brought us within three miles of the end of the Way. We're just across a river from Ben Nevis, the highest point in Britain. We'd love to climb it, but it's snowing at the top. - Mark

October 9 - Ft. William, Scotland - Today we finished the West Highland Way and bought postcards. - Maggie

The locker door is still closed! -- Mark

October 10 - Holyhead, Wales - Train, train, train, train, ferry, bus, bus, bus, no time for a real sleep. - Tote

Is copious pancake makeup a sign of a mental defective? We make it to the Holyhead ferry terminal in time for the 8:45 PM ferry to Dublin. The sarcastic, young woman running the Irish Ferry ticket booth goofs, announces that in her expert opinion no one is to blame, and leaves us to spend the next five and a half hours, from 9 PM to 2:30 AM, under the florescent lights of the ferry waiting room with at least two drunks.

When we finally board the 3:30 AM ferry, Frank Leonard, a handsome, grey-haired gentleman from Donegal is waiting for us. He had observed the fiasco and had been similarly abused by Max Factor's biggest customer. He insists we take his cabin for the crossing and will not take no for an answer. Monica suspects he has booked the cabin just for us. We end up flopping onto clean sheets for three hours of sleep while the ferry crosses to Ireland.

It's curious that the misfortune of being stranded created the opportunity for Mr. Leonard's kindness. Even more curious, is my feeling that his kindness is a marvel I am glad we didn't miss. -- Mark

October 11 - Beaufort, Ireland - After four trains, three buses, and one ferry, we're finally here. - Mark

As we got off the bus in Killarney, out of the station walked Uncle Dave. He had arrived from Cork just ten minutes earlier. -- Monica

October 12 - Beaufort, Ireland - At 2 PM, Jack, Monica, and Dave drive off in search of provisions. They return at 7, smiling and bearing two six-packs acquired during their "brief" visit to one of the Beaufort pubs. It is a great misfortune that Jack has left his hat at the pub and will need to return tomorrow at 2PM to claim it. -- Mark

I'm not so dumb! -- Jack

October 13 - Beaufort, Ireland - We went up a big hill today. The hill was called Coolcummisk (weird name). We went peat hopping. It's when you're on the side of a peat cliff - about 4 feet high where people cut out peat for fuel - and you jump from sticking out peninsula to peninsula. I fell in a crevice and fell forward on the heather so it didn't hurt but I was surprised.

When we got to the top, we piled up the cairns real high. I made a T on one. Dad said when we get back down we might be able to see the T with the binoculars. -- Tote

We call the room where Tote and I sleep "the roost." We built the coolest forts. Mine was like a big throne room. Tote's was like a throne, too. There was a courtyard in between. -- Duncan

I wonder what place we will be in on my birthday. I think we will be in Nepal on my birthday, but I do not know where I will be on my half-birthday. -- Maggie

October 14 - Beaufort, Ireland - We toured Ross Castle and Muckross National Park in Killarney. We got a tour of the tower castle. -- Monica

Today, we went to Ross Castle. It was a tower-like keep castle. From the inside it was much taller than it appeared from the outside. Everything seemed large, but it was only four stories. I liked the wood constructions in the great hall: the musicians' stand and the ceiling made from Irish Oak. -- Duncan

October 15 - Beaufort, Ireland - We hiked in the rain to the base of McGillicuddy's Reeks. Then we hiked in the rain some more to Beaufort. Then Uncle Dave hosted a great feast at Kate Kearney's Cottage. -- Mark

October 16 - Beaufort, Ireland - We hiked to the highest point in Ireland: Carrauntuohil. It was the best hike I have ever taken! It started pretty flat. On one part of our "hike" we had to climb up a cliff at about a 50 degree angle through water running down the cliff. We had to walk down small waterfalls and walk through rock-strewn creeks.

I thought the view from the steep section was better than the view from the top. From the steep part, everything was laid out below us, and we could tell what it was. From the top, there was just too much to absorb, and it was all too tiny. It was like ascending in an airplane. During the takeoff, it's really interesting because you know what things are. After you're up, you really can't see things. -- Duncan
I went up the highest mountain in Ireland. It was the coolest hike ever.
Grandpa drove us to the trailhead. The beginning was flat, but we made that quick, because we could not wait to go up the mountain.

As we approached there were lakes on both sides of us. Duncan named everything. One lake was Loch of Dark Waters, the other was Demon Portal. Hydra Falls was his name for the waterfall that fed Demon Portal. The mountains behind the lakes were Cloud Top Crags.

When we got close, I saw the trail go up the mountain. It was almost vertical. On the way up, we were literally climbing little waterfalls. At the top of the vertical path, there was a pass, Dawn Pass, according to Duncan. On the other side, we looked down at all the other mountains. When Dad and the rest of the group came, we started up the little trail that led to the very top.

The top was amazing. There was so much to take in. There were two wind shelters made from piled up rocks. They didn't have roofs, but they worked.

The way down was easy, and when I got back I felt so good. -- Tote

I went on a pony ride with Grandma. We went through the Gap of Dunloe. One horse, named Old Billy Boy, pulled our cart. I think it was cool, because I saw a rock that looked like there was a house in it. The rock had little tunnels to channel the water so it wouldn't get in the house and the rock looked like it had a door in it. Mike was the driver. -- Maggie

October 17 - Beaufort, Ireland - Today the weather was wonderful. First, there were gale force winds. Then torrential rain storms. In the big wind we ran around outside. The wind pushed us to extreme speeds, and we could go seven feet on a jump! The rain smashed into us feeling like hail. When we ran back to the safety of the porch, we went at sprinting speeds of less than 1 mile per hour against the wind. -- Duncan

October 18 - Beaufort, Ireland - We said good-bye to Uncle Dave, did math, painted watercolors, straightened out our e-mail (I hope), and got ready to move on. -- Mark

October 19 - Dunquin, Ireland - Rushing waves smashing white against dark rocks. Spray thrown hundreds of feet in the air, creating a mist that looks like smoke in the afternoon light. -- Duncan

The waves are so cool. There are cliffs on the edge of most of the coast, so when a wave hit them water flew everywhere. -- Tote

The land slopes upward, gently and greenly as it approaches the ocean and then plunges in sharp cliffs to the sea. At dinner, through the window, we watch the white waves crash over the tops of small islands and the sea throw itself high in the air as it smashes against cliffs. In the dark, we hike toward the shore. I finally feel I am seeing something that I haven't seen before. -- Mark

October 20 - Dunquin, Ireland - Today we saw a little beach on which some colossal wave came in. Tote and I charged in close and ran as the surf nipped at our ankles. Under the blue water, foamy white tendrils shot out as the waves crashed in. Later we went to a big beach, and we built cities in the sand. Mine looked like those "alien" circles in the cornfields. Then we went to a rocky coast and saw a cement structure made up of stairs and platforms built into the rocks. We thought they might have been part of a World War II base. -- Duncan

A military base, smugglers' dock, gun emplacement, or spy outpost? Turned out the cement and iron ruins in the inlet were nothing more exciting than an old swimming pool. -- Tote

We went to get food in a little town a little way away. On the way, we stopped at a small beach with big waves. Duncan and I dodged the waves for awhile. The water was so cold. After we got food, we went to a different beach. It had smaller waves and was a lot bigger. After we got back to the hostel, we went to another beach. This one was really rocky. The rocks were great to climb on. -- Tote

Our first day without rain! Well, with only a little rain. -- Maggie

We're at Europe's westernmost spot. Between us and North America, there is nothing but water. Most of the day we hike. I tell the kids it's fine to climb a nearby crag. They scurry up it and wave to us from the very top. It's not until our return, when I see the other side of the thing, that I realize they were waving to us from the edge of a huge cliff. Later they ran and jumped and pranced around on a narrow strip of sand framed by awesome cliffs and crashing waves. The scene was startling. In some primal way, the cliffs and the sea and the huge waves scare me, yet the kids play, happy and unmindful of any danger or threat. -- Mark

October 21 - Dunquin, Ireland - The Blasket Center is right across the road from the hostel. It is a long low building aligned with Great Blasket Island, which is just offshore. The building was controversial in this small, relatively isolated place, and its scale is enormous compared to any other structures for many miles around. Inside, the building is filled with slate, fine wood, lovely furniture, art, an enormous stained glass window, a theater, cafe, and library.

The Center also contains exhibits showing how people on the island lived and some description of how the island's population dwindled after World War I. Perhaps the greatest part of the exhibits describes the intellectuals who "discovered" the islanders while trying to learn Irish. Many islanders, with the aid of these outsiders, published autobiographical books and collections of island stories.

The kids and I found the Center a nice, snug place to drink tea, do math lessons, and write in our journals. Monica studied the exhibits and sat in a sunny room and looked out to sea. -- Mark

October 22 - Dingle, Ireland - From inside our warm hostel, the high winds and rain looked cool. When we decided we were going to hike in it, I felt unsure. After we made it to Dingle, hiking through windblown rain that hurt our skin, I felt so good because I actually did it. -- Tote

One thing that Irish men in their 50s tell us again and again is that young people in Ireland have better educations and better "chances" than they had. They state this simply as a fact, not as if they have been cheated or as if they deserved better. -- Mark

October 23 - Dublin, Ireland - We left the Rainbow Hostel. It had a Ken Kesey mobile parked out back and the giant kitchen I've always dreamed of with a piano, fireplace, and two splendidly large, wooden, farm-kitchen tables. (It also had loads of twenty-somethings, dogs and chickens, and a cement phallus atop a birdhouse.) We took the bus from Dingle to Tralee, then from Tralee across the country to Dublin.

While still on the Dingle Peninsula, Maggie and I caught a quick glimpse of two cranes doing their mating dance, hovering over a mud flat. -- Monica

Today I experienced another one of those things that I know no one will believe. I called directory assistance (a free call) and was instantly connected with a real person who did her best to help me find the number I wanted. Amazing? (They also have bike lanes on many of the major Dublin roads.) -- Mark

October 24 - Dublin, Ireland - I went to Dublin Castle, and we found the Dublin Garden. In the Garden, there were benches around a circle of grass. The grass had bricks laid flat in a path making four snakes. On their heads, there were glass eyes. I think what was really cool were the six snakes tangled up in a Celtic knot. I like following the snakes, head to tail or tail to head. My brothers and I were the only ones there, running and jumping along the snakes. -- Maggie

The National Museum has lots of great artifacts: tools, weapons, jewelry, pots from ancient people and Vikings -- all from Ireland. My favorites were the Viking swords and a longbow. The swords were decorated really cool. The longbow was longer than I thought it would be. The exhibit showed how they cut the sapling so that the heartwood was facing the archer and the outer wood faced away. This made the bow work better. -- Tote

We ended our day with Evensong at St. Patrick's Cathedral, the national church of the Church of Ireland. We went for two reasons. First, I wanted to avoid the steep admission charge required for entrance during the day. Second, the choir school was founded before Columbus's voyage, and missing a chance to hear its students seemed silly.

Penury has its benefits. From the boxed pews (an acolyte in fleece came by to shut the door on our pew, so nothing would interfere with the choir), we examined the cathedral and listened. I had forgotten just how extraordinary a choir can sound, particularly one in which half the members are boys. The minister declaimed in a high church accent that left no doubt that it was we poor sinners, not him, that needed the help of the diety. The choirmaster glared at one grinning choirboy.

On the way out, we threaded through the choir parents waiting for their sons and chatting just like parents at a soccer game. Duncan and Tote, who I am pleased to say think A Modest Proposal too shocking to be humorous, pointed out Dean Swift's grave.

While musing on the beauty of the whole affair, I was suddenly and literally brought down to earth. I had run into a street sign. Sometimes life resembles metaphor. -- Mark

October 25 - Dublin, Ireland - We spent the afternoon at the Alfred Chester Beatty Library, housed in a new building attached to Dublin Castle. Beatty was born in New York and made his first million mining in Cripple Creek. His passion was collecting sacred texts and manuscripts from all over the world. He bequeathed his collection to Ireland. We found it interesting learning about the texts and connections between Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism. -- Monica

One of the most interesting aspects of the Chester Beatty Library and it's collection of sacred texts is the absence of evidence that Beatty appreciated any aspect of his collection - other than the fact that the collection existed, he could add to it, and it was his. Nothing indicated that he had read, pondered, or was in any way affected by the collection's contents. -- Mark

October 26 - Dublin, Ireland - We went to a museum about the famous writers of Ireland. I really liked when the audio tour read something from Dracula by Bram Stoker.

After that we went to a tower where James Joyce lived for six days. Joyce supposedly left after Trench had a nightmare about a panther and fired his pistol into the fireplace to kill it. Later, Trench had another nightmare and Oliver St. John Gogarty grabbed the gun and yelled something like, "I'll take care of him this time!" and blasted away at the pots and pans over James Joyce's bed. Joyce left that night.

The tower was built to defend against Napoleon. Inside there was a really tight, really small spiral staircase going up to the top. On one side of the tower there were two cubbies. One had a "murder hole" and the other, gunports. When we left the tower, we went down to a little beach where we played a sci-fi game where we threw ourselves on the sand. -- Tote

I liked watching the scary shows at the writers museum. My favorite story was the last one, called the Hellfire Club. I also liked the one where he said, "You always kill the thing you love and the coward does it with a kiss and the brave man does it with a sword." I didn't understand the crow one. -- Maggie

I know it's just a place, but standing atop the Martello Tower where Joyce's Ulysses begins and looking out at Sandycove town, its steeples and the sea, I am swept away by how marvelous life can be. -- Mark

Tote and I found a really cool game called Warhammer 40,000. It involves using miniatures to fight another player. It is set far in the future. Each turn, units move a certain amount fo space and shoot a certain distance. A cool thing about it is that it doesn't have a set board or grid. Instead you use a table with model plants, hills, wall, rocks, rivers, trenches, and buildings. You use a read measuring stick to see how far your units can shoot and move. When you shoot you use dice to see if you hit, if the shot is deflected off armor, and to see if it kills. We were going to go back to the game store today, but Mom and Dad didn't let us go, and we had to do stuff they wanted. -- Duncan

October 27 - Between Holyhead and London - We're currently on a train to London after a mad dash to the ferry. Last week, there was a fatal train accident caused by some sort of track defect. A similar defect has since been discovered in a number of other spots. So all the trains in Britain are moving quite slowly. Some are cancelled. All the trains are packed.

Near us, an American couple is doing their best to make the worst of a bad situation. They are whining and complaining, as if they were never inconvenienced in the U.S. I feel so bad for them that I am thinking of having the kids explain to them how to travel a bit better. -- Mark

October 28 - London - Today, we went to the British Museum. We saw artifacts from Egypt and Assyria (largely reliefs and giant winged things). We started looking at things from Greece. They have many tons of things -- the front of a temple and a Greek vessel depicting a satyr balancing a cup on his . . . well, not a place we often balance things. I enjoyed walking around and looking at the hieroglyphics and cuneiform - the written languages of Egypt and Assyria. -- Duncan

It's just amazing to me that the Brits have the best treasures of the world housed in one place. I could visit here every day and never get tired of it. -- Monica

Why did they do this? They stole everything from all around the world. -- Tote

I nearly gag paying the sum that we are paying for this rundown (but absolutely clean) hotel room. Even the Hyatt Beaver Creek is cheaper. I know it's the same price as the hostel (which has no space for us.) I know the location is good, but there are holes in the carpet, virtually no floorspace, the British Museum might add the furnishings to its collection, and the bathroom is not only down the hall, it's down the stairs. It pains me so much to pay for this that I have to send Tote down to the desk with the banknotes.

Fortunately, I found a new hotel. It's no less expensive but much more pleasant. -- Mark

October 29 - London - We went to a great Chinese restaurant today with Kevin Hawken. We had tons of Dim Sum - like appetizers for the meal. I loved the spring rolls and dumplings. Chinese food's the best! -- Duncan

Today we played Where's Waldo in Leicester Square. How we played was everyone stood in the little area and tried not to be seen by the person looking for them. They had to be visible to the person looking but tried to blend into the surroundings and crowd.

The first time I was leaning against a wall. I was found first. Second, I stood in the middle of all the people. I was found first. Then I sat in a coffee shop window and looked out, and I was found last. -- Tote
Mark: Don't you think that they could watch a little rugby -- I mean it's an English thing, after all.
Monica: It's just so violent. But I guess you're right. It is cultural experience. . . Go ahead Duncan, you can watch it.
Duncan: Mom, if human sacrifice were part of the culture, could we watch that?
Monica: No! And maybe you should turn that off right now.

While in Leicester Square, which is closed to most traffic, a fellow on a motor scooter marked with a big, scarlet L rolled past me. In Ireland, and I think in England, those big Ls mark the driver as a learner. I thought to myself, "This guy is really a learner: he is completely lost." When I saw that he had a bunch of handwritten notes and a map clipped to the windscreen, I decided he must be some sort of government worker checking things out, but on a Sunday? "Perhaps he's just one of those very organized whackos," I thought.

When we saw the same fellow after lunch, stopped beside another street and looking up at the buildings, we decided to ask him what he was up to. Turns out he is at the end of three years worth of study to become a London cabbie. He has passed the initial written tests, and now is studying full-time for his "orals." He needs to be able to correctly drive between 400 pairs of points scattered all over London. This is quite a challenge. There are one way streets, alleys, ways, arcades, and courtyards, and if there is a single street that runs in a straight line in this city, I haven't seen it on the map. He looked a bit wistful when he asked whether most U.S. streets really run north-south or east-west and when we told him that many city speed limits reached 40 mph. The cabbie-in-training beeped and waved when he passed us again later in the day. (No wonder the cabbie who took us from the station to our hotel was embarrassed when he had to make a u-turn, because I had mispronounced the name of the hotel.) -- Mark

October 30 - London - I played a game with coins, cream containers, coffee sticks, and tea bags on Duncan's bed. We went to a game shop that had Warhammer 40,000. I got smashed on the London underground. It was fun. I was sort of lifted up by all the people trying to squeeze onto the train. -- Maggie

In London, the traditional Bobby seems to have been largely supplanted by the closed circuit camera. Cameras are everywhere, from streets and shops and hotel lobbies to - I'm not making this up - public bathrooms. It is also amazing how little English beer the English drink. They now seem to serve the worst beer in the world, predominantly Budweiser, Carlsberg, Heineken, and Stella Artois - a Belgian lager. The fabled British bitters seems to have sunk into a rather tasteless state, and porters have ceased to exist in most pubs. -- Mark

October 31 - London - That bathroom by the church had wax paper instead of toilet paper. -- Maggie

We're seeing London on foot. As we go along, we bump into history in every direction. We visited Twinings, the Pepys Room, the Temple Church, Barbicon, Lloyds of London, St. Paul's, the Bank of England, Bush House, the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge, Samuel Johnson's House, the old walls of London, and St. Katherine's Dock. We celebrated Halloween with candy from Uncle Dave, a pomegranate, and Magnum Double Chocolate ice cream bars. -- Monica

Before William built the Tower of London, ravens lived in the trees in that area. After William completed the Tower, the ravens moved right in. Ever since, the people of the Tower have believed that if the ravens leave, the Tower will crumble and a great disaster will befall England. To make sure the ravens never leave, the guards of the Tower have 7 ravens with clipped wings. They are cared for by the raven master. Each raven has a name and is distinguished by a plastic ring on its leg. The raven master calls the ravens with a complicated whistle for each one. He whistled one tune and a single raven came hopping over and into its house. Then the raven master closed the door.

All of the guides of the tower live inside the Tower with their families. I thought it would be cool to live inside the Tower. -- Tote

You've got to love a cathedral that has a revolving door and loads of crystal chandeliers. St. Paul's must be an impossible place to have a service. At Evensong, the voice of the reader, even with the help of a speaker system, triggered reverberations that made the church roar and the readings nearly incomprehensible. (Remember, these Anglican fellows practice their diction, too.) The original altar, beneath something that looks like a gilded wedding cake, has a bare bones replacement at the crossing. Though we sat at the top of the nave, beneath Wren's great dome, the choir, seated just on the other side of the dome, was completely unintelligible. This had a positive aspect - the echoes of a final "Amen" took 5 seconds dwindling to silence.

Archbishop Cranmer devised the outline of our Evensong. We had run into Cranmer earlier in the day at the Tower of London. As Archbishop of Canterbury, Cranmer presided over the English Reformation, the break with Rome, and Henry VIII's divorces and annulments. This did not gain him any points with the Catholic Queen Mary. When Mary came to power she had him stripped of his ecclesiastical office and sentenced him to death. This reversal of fortunes may have convinced Cranmer to sign several recantations of his theological "errors." Nonetheless, Mary ordered him to be burned as a heretic. When the appointed hour arrived, Cranmer was supposed to make his recantation public and cheerfully go off to be burned. This isn't exactly how it played out. Cranmer had nothing to lose and his conscience to regain, so instead of disavowing his protestantism, Cranmer recanted his recantation. He reasserted that the pope's power was usurped and transubstantiation untrue. Then Cranmer held his right hand, which had "offended" by signing the recantations, in the flames until it was consumed. The rest of him soon went the way of his hand.

London is a beautiful city, but it also has an astounding amount of atrocious modern architecture. Currently, across from Parliament, someone is constructing something that looks like a weird, evil, ocean liner -- complete with loads of soot-black smokestacks -- that has run aground and is ready for salvage. When the children saw a modern black building near the Old Bailey, they exclaimed that it was so sinister looking it could be the home of Darth Vader. Has Hieronymous Bosch been reincarnated as an architect? I can imagine some horrible, twisted, creature with distorted features and a three-piece suit clambering along the rooftops of these things looking for victims.

Worse though than these hideous blots is the plethora of bland, flat shapes with ugly glass atriums, chrome knick knacks, and gloomy cement plazas. The Barbican, home of the City of London Museum, typifies these places. It even includes those horrible elevated pedestrian ramps that replace sidewalks in large urban developments. On a drawing board these things must look charming winding their way from frigid cement plaza to frigid cement plaza, keeping pedestrians confined to their proper places. In reality, of course, they prevent any direct travel, and the slightest breeze creates wind tunnels. Walking on these things has all the charm of riding down the interstate with your head stuck out the window. -- Mark

July 27, 2000- Preparation (Denver) - I was a little bit afraid. When I stopped being afraid, I sped up and left Duncan in the dust. It's the bigger space on Montview that made me more confident on the bike path. I left my dad in the dust. -- Maggie

Wheel Theory, Donuts and Bagels

Why do donuts have holes? A question asked through the generations.

My first theory is that, in the distant past, Neanderthal man ate donuts and bagels off of sticks. In the days before spoons and forks, sticks were replacing fingers as the eating utensil of choice for the upper crust of Neanderthal society. Neanderthal bakers put holes in their wares to accomodate this new dining method. The hole was left traditionally.

It is worth mentioning that the stick and the donut are the foundations of modern society. The invention of the wheel is directly attributable to the stick and donut interaction. Also, the first profession, sword swallowing, developed at this time.

After sleeping on this theory, I decided that another was probably more accurate. Donuts used to have disgusting cream fillings, like liver cream and cream of broccoli. Then a young caveman named Oog designed the donut corer. It was an instant hit among Neanderthal children. Soon, donut shops were selling "pre-cored donuts."

-- Duncan

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