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May 22, 2002
Ten months (Gail)

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At the Museum of the Gorge in Ironbridge: reviewing where we've been

Where has the time gone? Ten months away from home and family. Here we are going through another spring in another hemisphere. The last spring we experienced was in New Zealand and it was uncannily similar to this. There was rain, wind, windy roads, friendly people and sheep. It seems that just a short while ago we were in the carefully planned portion of our trip. We were able to complete plans for the first third of the trip prior to leaving home. Then we handled the next few months rather loosely but still with certain destinations in mind. This looseness was an advantage giving us the flexibility to explore as the mood hit us. To be honest there has occasionally been an element of the unknown. I hesitate to call it surprise, though there have been times when we were not completely sure of where we would sleep. Lends an element of excitement to the whole thing.

The fact that this is perhaps not everyone's cup of tea and a bit of a crazy way to live was brought to our attention in the Cotswolds. The lady of the house declared, in no uncertain terms, that she would not enjoy traveling like this and would miss her home too much. Her husband holds out hope that someday she will change her mind and just be willing to go to France. The funny thing is that we do miss home and family. The travel is interesting but at times gets to be a burden, and being cut off from everything comfortable and familiar is hard. It is frightening when a Travel Inn chain motel starts to feel like home. Russell has taken to wandering down to breakfast at the B&Bs in his sweats. Yesterday Joss finished his lunch at a café, got up and went outside without even thinking about it. He played out on the sidewalk while we finished. I suppose we are comfortable with the travel but homesick.

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Breakfast at the Lodge Farm in Wales (note Russell's attire)

Now we are in the UK and all our attempts at smooth plans have been thwarted by bank holidays, football matches and the Queen's Jubilee. This is a small country and once everyone makes up their mind to travel it becomes chaos on the motorways and impossible to locate a room. Factor in the roadwork going on everywhere, the one-way road controls and the rain and at times it has been less then a pleasure to drive. I see why the British seem to be such a patient people. They have a lot of practice.

One thing that has made the driving fun has been the constant stream of questions coming from the back seat. Just one example is "Mom can someone grow mustaches on their eyes?" Now think about that for a minute. There you are dealing with traffic and you have to translate that question into something that makes sense. The answer is yes. He was referring to someone he had seen with bushy eyebrows. Well you can't laugh because the traffic is bad and you don't what to crash and die and being a good parent you don't want to hurt his feelings. This is only surpassed by the request for a strawberry daiquiri for dinner. Travel with kids. Fun.

We are now in Scotland and facing the daunting task of finding rooms during the Queen's Jubilee weekend (which adds a day to a bank holiday three-day weekend). Why didn't we make the reservations sooner? Well, quite simply we didn't know where we would be when. We spent a few hours pouring over the Rick Steves guidebook and finally came up with our list of top picks. They proved to be everyone's top pick. Finally, we managed to secure non-RS farm stays near the areas we are interested in and will undoubtedly have a wonderful time. One thing we have noticed is that the RS places are all full of (gasp) Americans and the farm stays aren't. I don't think this would have been apparent to us if we had just been traveling on a short vacation. But because we have used his books to help plan these past few months we see the pattern more clearly.

The B&B operator in Ironbridge Gorge was shocked that we were American's arriving from Wales and not the Cotswolds (opposite the common direction). Seems the RS people always follow his route and we didn't. She said no one ever contacted her from Ruthin so she thought everyone who left her and went there was enslaved in the slate mines. We were her first proof that people do come back from Ruthin. She said that with Americans it's a bit like the cult of Rick Steves. If his guide says be there at ten they are there at ten. She called us rebels.

I am still amazed at the boys. Living closely with them everyday is an experience I am happy we have had. They are still best friends. Joss still wants Cameron to play all the time and Cameron wants to read all the time but usually they work it out. Cameron is very good about creating an imaginary show for Joss to watch in the car. Once we get home and they are in different schools Joss will be so lost without his big brother. And they are growing so fast. I know I have mentioned this before but it is very apparent now. When Joss stands next to Cameron he comes to about Cam's shoulder, sitting he gains and comes over Cam's shoulder. Cameron's legs have started to get very long. They are both still very thin. Joss still eats like a gazelle managing to nibble a bit for breakfast and then announce half an hour after getting in the car that he is going to starve to death. Cameron is eating everything in sight at meals but doesn't need the snacks as much as Joss.

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A study in height differences: it's all in Cameron's legs

In Germany we got new shoes for them. These are already falling apart. Their previous pair, bought just before leaving home, lasted ten months. These have about one month on them. Looks like we will be purchasing new shoes again; so much for "Made in Italy" quality. The rest of our clothing is holding up very well. Cameron has outgrown his sweatshirts and long johns. He wears his long johns constantly and I just about have to wrestle them off of him to wash them. Joss on the other hand strips down to his underwear the minute we hit the room and his shoes must come off his feet the instant he is in the car. You know those t-shirts I mentioned in my last letter? Well the weather has not cooperated and we are still wearing sweatshirts and long pants. Of course everyone keeps telling us that it is "unseasonably cold for this time of year". The heavy coats don't come out as often and that's promising.

It's funny the things that are showing signs of wear (besides us that is). Certain keys on the computer keyboard are wearing out. You probably have some idea just how much we use the computer; writing Web letters, animation, Cameron and Joss stories, bookkeeping, that sort of thing. The letters N and M are rubbing off and the space bar has a shiny spot. Zippers on suitcases are starting to protest at the constant use. They are holding up but I keep my fingers crossed they make it the entire way.

I will be very happy to get home to my yard and house and the "gentler arts". I have been the only female in the group for ten months. I've lived with Lego weapons, Lord of the Rings cards, sticks, rocks, Mech Platoon, brotherly wrestling and male moodiness for so long I'm not sure if I can remember what it's like to talk to another female. It's gotten to the point where really clean clothes (translate: washed in a laundry) is as exciting as something new. Everything I own has had to be sturdy and serviceable. Meanwhile my bootlaces look like they may break any day.


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