Double Nickels 2016

Monday October 24th

The group had a civilized start leaving for Williamsburg sans the Morgans as Tom was sick and went to the doctor's instead.  The ride the Virginia Capital Trail (51.4 miles) from Williamsburg, the historic capital of Virginia to Richmond, the current capital. David, Emily, Laurel and Gary checked into an absolutely beautiful condo at the Old Powhatan Resort.  After getting settled, they took the Jamestown Ferry across the river to eat at the Surry Seafood Company.  It was a gorgeous sunset as Emily captured in the photo below.

Jamestown Ferry to Surry Seafood Company


Gary, Laurel, David and Emily rode 24 miles from Richmond to Herring Creek with a stop in Dorey Park for lunch. 

Downtown Richmond looking from Great Shiplock Park.

Neat sculpture in Dorey Park

The Morgans arrived at the Old Powhatan Resort and checked into the condo just before the rest of the group returned from their day's ride.  Emily cooked  a delicious dinner (asian chicken with rice and salad), topped off with a piece of her mother's pound cake and ice cream.  We're ready to ride tomorrow!


The plan today was to ride from Herring Creek to the end of the trail at the Jamestown Settlement.  It was a beautiful day to ride with our first stop being Charles City....but there is no city there!

Charles City Old Courthouse

Onward we cycled until our lunch stop at Chickahominy Riverfront Park, where we shared a table with a couple from was in the sunshine and the day was chilly! This evening we ate at one of the Helm's favorite restaurants in Williamsburg,  Giuseppe's Italian restaurant then returned to the condo to while the time away playing a card game


This morning we went to Jamestown and toured the Glass House, America's first manufacturing began here...making glass!  It is a really nice facility next to the river, definitely worth the visit.

Glass House

Next we rode the Jamestown Colonial National Historic Park's Island Drive loop,  a wonderful ride with very little traffic and and several eagle's nests! Following lunch at the Jamestown Settlement Cafe, we rode the Powhatan Creek Trail, a spur off of the Capital Trail. Arriving back at the Old Powhatan Resort, we stopped to tour the Manor House; quite an impressive home circa 1835, believed to be the country house of architect Richard Taliaferro. 

Manor House

After cleaning up from our bike rides, we strolled the Williamsburg Outlet Mall, then we stopped to eat at Oceans & Ale seafood restaurant.  It was a good restaurant but they were not Virginia Tech fans...they would not put the Hokies on the big screen TV!  We did watch the Hokies beat Pittsburg back at the condo!

The Belles!

Many thanks to Emily and David for planning a wonderful trip this year. We appreciate your efforts! The Virginia Capital is one of the best trails we have done.  Hats off to all of the folks involved in its development.  It is a very difficult task to build a fifty mile off road, paved bike trail through a lot of densely populated areas, but they did it!


Gretchen and I had to finish the Trail so we headed to Richmond on November 15th.  We rode from Richmond to the Four Mile Creek Trailhead and back on Tuesday and then from Herring Creek to Four Mile Creek and back on Wednesday.  Tuesday night we found a neat restaurant in Richmond, The Savory Grain and we had a delightful lunch during the ride Wednesday at the Upper Shirley Vineyards.


Sailing into Old Age

I have really missed sailing since we sold SunShower.  So this spring, Gretchen and I decided to buy a centerboard to sail on Smith Mountain Lake.  I began searching for an old person's boat, one that was relatively comfortable, easy to sail and stable.  We settled on a Catalina Expo and picked it up from Avon Sailboats in Rochester Hills, MI, in late June.

As the wind returned to the Lake this fall, we've been able to get out sailing and put her through her paces...and we are very happy with our purchase! The catboat rig with one sail attached to the Hoyt boom is easy to handle. The boom is high enough to allow easy tacking/jibing without bending too much or fear of hitting one's head. Unfurling and furling the sail from around the mast is easy and allows for the quick reduction of sail area if needed.  I was surprised that standing with the tiller between my knees and the boom off center is the best position to unfurl and furl the sail.  I think it is a more natural position for pulling the control lines than the crew has up front.  The rigging on the boat is excellent.  All of the controls are where they should be.  It's the first boat I've owned in 40 years of sailing that every control is where it should be; I can't think of anything to change!  The seats and the rails are wide and provide comfortable seating positions.  The boat is very stable for a 14 footer, a big surprise for Gretchen and me.  It even handles motor boat waves quite well! Finally, we love the blue sail!

Conclusion: The Expo is a great old person's boat!  We have found her comfortable and easy to sail in winds up to 15 mph.  We wanted a boat we could sail into our seventies on SML and we think the Expo fits that bill. 

The one caveat is simple.  It is a cat rig and does not point as high as a sloop rig.  So if you plan to race, buy the Catalina 14.4, the sloop rigged mother of the Expo. 

Fall Break and the Beach

Sunday, September 25th

Off to Hillsborough to pick up Henry so we can spoil him on his fall break. It is obvious from the ride home, that Grandpa is going to have to download Pokémon Go to his iPhone!


This morning we went to see the Unity project at Randolph College.  It portrays the fact that people of different colors, shapes, orientations, cultures and interests can weave a strong fabric IF they work together! And we found quite a few Pokémon stops!

Next we went to the recently installed labyrinth, a replica of a 13th century one at the cathedral in Chartres, France.  We were surprised that Henry really liked walking around the maze.


A day at the lake.  We put the Key West in the water and went to Henry's favorite restaurant for lunch...Moosie's.  Why is that his favorite you ask?  It's not the food,  rather it's the chance to feed the carp after the meal!


Today we continued our tradition of going on bike rides with Henry. Today he was dressed in his new LIGHTNING bicycle shorts when we rode the Virginia Blue Ridge Rail Trail in Piney River.  He rode 13.2 miles, 3.2 miles more than on his last ride with us!  You're the man, Henry!


Kelley and Katie get together every year for some beach time and this year they invited us to join them.  So today we are headed to Murrell's Inlet.  We arrived in time to visit with Kelley, Seth and Maggie and to have dinner with them.  Katie and Audrey will arrive later because they are traveling after Katie gets off of work. We're heading back to the campground so we will not see them until tomorrow.


We took the kids to Savannah's Playground at Market Common. It is a wonderful playground which is ADA-approved with equipment designed to provide children of all abilities the opportunity for social interaction. The kids loved it! After eating lunch at the playground, we headed to the military plane exhibit next to the airport.  We had to search for Pokéman!


It was a perfect day at the beach.  The kids loved playing in the sand and the waves were just right for the girls to ride...armed with their life jackets!

Plus there were opportunities at Huntington SP to capture Pokémon!  Who is this dude, Henry?

The kids were dying to have a pajama party and sleep together.  It appears from the photo the plan started well, but I'm told it only lasted about 10 minutes!


We went for a stroll on the boardwalk in Murrell's Inlet and of course, searched for some more Pokémon!  After lunch, Katie, Henry and Audrey left for home.

We hung out with Kelley and Maggie this afternoon, visiting The Hammock Shop and several other local venues.  After dinner, we said our good byes and headed back to the camper.  We'll leave for home in the morning. We had a great beach visit and thank Seth and Kelley for their hospitality!

What did I like best during Henry's fall break?  READING his books with him that had the CAPITAL letters!

Class Reunion

Wednesday, September 21st

Gretchen and I are heading north, to Schuylkill Haven for our 50th high school class reunion! How is that possible? First, we'll spend a few days with Priscilla and Phil.


It's a Thursday and Priscilla has off so we are all heading to Conshohocken to eat lunch with Stephanie and Natalie.  Natalie is adorable and Stephanie is enjoying motherhood!  And of course, Priscilla and Phil are quite taken with grandparenthood!

After lunch we went for a walk on the Wissahickon Creek Trail,  a beautiful natural path along the creek, right in the middle of the city!

Returning to Orwigsburg, we decided to pick up cheese steaks (minus one cheese) and eat diner at the beautiful Olmes' property.  Priscilla and Phil had hoped to break ground for their new house this fall but the sale of their current house is moving slowly and builders are slow to render bids.  It's a frustrating process and we wish you guys well in getting this building project underway!


On our way to their property to take a hike and let Maggie run, Phil took us by their realtor's house. Can you tell in what field her husband was very successful?

Yep, you guessed it, he was into cell phone communications! After our hike, Gretchen and I got ready and headed to the class reunion.

Our 50th reunion was held at the Schuylkill Country Club and it was a delightful affair.  Hats off to the planning committee for a job well done. Thirty eight class members attended the reunion; that is 44% of our classmates that are still alive.  So it was a very good turnout, so much so that it was difficult to get to chat with everyone.  The drinks flowed, the food was good and it was fun to learn about the current activities of our classmates.  Being a real introvert, I dread these types of affairs, but Gretchen drags me along.  I'm glad she does because I really enjoyed the evening.  It is evident from the class photo below that our classmates are more healthy and aging more gracefully than previous generations. We are so lucky to have been born in the USA!


Class reunions have always been held the weekend of Schuylkill Haven's Borough Day and today is the day of the event.  However, we must skip it and hit the road to Virginia since we have to pick up Henry tomorrow in NC.  He is on fall break and will be spending the week with us!

On the way home, we stopped at Orr's Farm Market in Martinsburg, WV, to buy vegetables.  To our surprise, it was the weekend of their fall festival....lucky for us!

Thanks for you hospitality Priscilla and Phil.  As always we enjoy being with you guys and appreciate your kindness.


Camper Shake Down

Friday August 5th

Today, we began our first shake down trip in our new Aliner camper.  After several weeks of planning and preparing the trailer, we felt we were ready.  Our plan was to drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway so we could camp in the cooler elevations.  Our first stop was at Chantilly Farms, a beautiful campground near Floyd, VA.  After setting up camp, we drove to Mabry Mill and walked around Floyd where people were gathering to go to the Friday Blue Grass concert at the Floyd Country Store.  We love the funky shops in Floyd.  I particularly love the tie-dye clothing!  We opted not to go to the concert and returned to the campsite to enjoy a beautiful evening in the mountains.


We headed down the Parkway and stopped at the Blue Ridge Music Center. To our surprise, there was a free mid-day concert and we were able to eat lunch while listening to a really good Blue Grass band. The three folks on the right in the photo below are father, daughter and grandfather respectively! We got off the Parkway at West Jefferson and drove through Todd to the KOA Campsite near Boone, NC.  By the time we set up camp, it was time to call it a day.


Today, our first objective was to ride the Railroad Grade Road in Todd.  We thought it was an old rail road that had been made into a rail trail...since I found it on the Rail Trail website. It is not!  It's a country road that is heavily used by bikers and the cars were few and bike friendly so it was a great place to ride....flat as a pancake for 10 miles along the New River.  The weather was for showers possible after noon so we thought we would be safe beginning at 9:30 a.m.  We rode 10 miles to Fleetwood and tuned around for the trip back.  Three miles into the return trip, we noticed heavy fog in the distance.  It turned out to be pretty heavy rain that soaked us for the last seven miles! The ride is absolutely beautiful and the only downside from the ride was the smelly, wet bike shoes we had in the back of the van for the rest of the trip; even when we put them on the roof while parked whenever we found a moment of sunny sky.  Alas, nobody stole them...we were hoping!

Hot tea with lunch in Boone warmed us up and we headed back to the campground for showers.  Later in the afternoon we headed to Blowing Rock to walk around the old town.  It's a yuppy kind of place and we love it!


We drove south with a quick lunch stop at Linville Falls en route to Mt. Pisgah where  we noted the camper brakes were acting funky.  We set up camp and then headed to the Inn for dinner.  The Inn was in the clouds and we asked a couple at the window table near us if we could take their photo to verify the view.

Mt. Pisgah Inn was the first place Kelley ordered something off of the menu other than mac and cheese or toasted cheese, 22 years ago.  She was 16 years old and ordered trout.  In her honor, I ordered trout tonight and it was delicious!


During the night, we found out that our camper was water tight as it just poured on and off all night. After breakfast, we headed down the mountain in search of sunlight and the North Carolina Arboretum. What a wonderful place, with gardens, galleries, an outdoor Bonsai exhibit, biking and hiking trails and an education center with a cafe. One of the artists on display throughout the gardens was Sean Kenney, a Lego sculptor.  Here is a photo of his Monarch Butterfly.

The one thing that did not work well in our camper set up was the grey water drain. So we headed to an RV dealer in Asheville.  It was a nasty place. Gretchen took one step into the store and walked right out.  But they had the parts we needed and now we have a functional drain!

Our next stop was Brevard.  We had never actually stopped there but we had passed through on our way to finding the spot Daniel Day-Lewis ran up the rocks in Last of the Mohicans for the girls when they were teenagers! Brevard has a really nice town center to stroll around.  We then found the Brevard Music Center which was really nice.  We'll have to plan a trip in the future to attend a concert.

Our next stop was the Cradle of Forestry on our drive up Mt. Pisgah to our campsite.  It is an impressive place exhibiting the history and scope of forestry.  The science of forestry began on the Biltmore Estate with Gifford Pinchot, who managed their  forest in the early 1890s and then became the first Chief of the U.S. Forest Service. German forester Dr. Carl Schenck replaced Pinchot at the Estate and founded the Biltmore Forestry School in 1898.  Summer classes were taught in a camp on the current Cradle site.

We decided to eat at the Inn again since the food was great and the prices reasonable.  Tonight the view was the same from the restaurant and fog shrouded our camper. We both had burgers and they were really good and REALLY huge! We have not eaten that much food in one seating in years and hopefully, will not for years to come!

We were planning to drive back up the Parkway but since we encountered brake problems, we decided to come home via major roads.  All in all, it was a great shake down trip.  The only item we needed that we had not packed was an essential...a wine stopper!


A Life Celebrated!

Friday July 29th

Family traveled from afar to celebrate the life of Peg; our mother, grandmother, great grandmother and friend.  We gathered at the Olmes house Friday evening for dinner. It was a chance for old folks to remember, cousins to catch up on each other's lives and children to meet and play. The food was great, the beverages ample and the camaraderie priceless! Thanks so much for your hospitality Priscilla and Phil.


The morning was blue sky and sunny as we gathered on the cemetery hill to return Peg's ashes to the earth.

Adults reflected as the pastor read, while children petted granite lambs, wondered what the hole in the ground was for, roamed among tombstones and shuffled on chairs. Tears dropped on cheeks as family and friends voiced remembrances, mementoes were placed in the grave with the  urn; a photo, roses, dollar bill, and a deck of cards.

We departed feeling blessed for having known this strong, loving, kind woman who always voiced something positive about the people she met.

May the Lord bless and keep you Margaret Louise Bolton, Amen.

Next stop was Seton Manor to hang the Dove on the 'Living Tree' wall plaque, signifying the contributions family and friends gave to the nursing home in Peg's memory. 

Lunch followed at Heisler's Dairy Bar, a favorite of Peg's plus everyone who grew up in the area. Indeed, ice cream was consumed and miniature golf was played!

In the evening, we ate dinner together at the Oak Hill Restaurant; a final time to enjoy the memories we have of our times spent with Peg and to cherish the short time we had to see each other this weekend!


The celebration was over but our memories of a life well lived persisted as we headed north, east, south and west by plane and car to our distant homes with smiles on our faces!

With an end, a new beginning awaits.

Priscilla and Phil, your property with its view of Hawk Mountain is awesome! May the real estate elves move quickly and the construction begin soon!


Summer Break with Henry

Friday July 3rd

Grandma and I picked up Henry in Hillsborough and headed for Lynchburg.  The plans were to spend the Fourth of July weekend with Aunt Jenny and Uncle Jeff at SML.  Of course, as soon as we arrived at the lake, Henry wanted to do his favorite thing...go FISHING! Soon, he caught the first of 43 fish he would snag over the weekend from the Bender's dock..

We went to the festivities at VISAYC on Saturday and Sunday which has become a tradition.  Sunday night Henry, Aunt Jenny, Uncle Jeff, Grandma and Grandpa piled into our boat and went to see the fireworks at Parkway Marina.  We had a wave-filled ride home but it is definitely a great event on the lake!

On the Fourth, we went to Booker T. Washington National Monument and hiked on the trails.  It is a beautiful spot! In the afternoon, we went for a boat ride in the Bender's boat and had a traditional Fourth of July dinner with hamburgers, hot dogs and chips.


Grandpa had a dentist appointment and then we traveled to Orange, VA, to see campers Grandma and Grandpa were interested in.  With Henry's help, we selected an ALINER Ranger 12!


The highlight of the day was a trip to the Lynchburg SPCA where Henry got to play with the kittens! It is interesting that visitors can play with the kittens and cats but not the dogs.


Today, we went for a seven mile bike ride on the Blackwater Creek Trail.  Grandma and Grandpa are so excited Henry likes to ride his bike.

 We are also excited that he wanted to stop when he saw this sign on a tree.  He is a young environmentalist and that is a very good thing!


We went back out to the lake for an end the week surprise that Grandma and Grandpa had arranged. Grandpa, Uncle Jeff and Henry were going on a fishing trip with Kenny, a local guide.  The trip was a success as Henry caught his first striped bass; a 37" 7 pound fish that stretched from his chin to his knees!

It has been a great week Henry.  Grandma and I love having you with us during your school breaks. And we have proof it was a busy week that tired you out!


Scandinavia Trip

Tuesday May 10th

Left for DC and checked into the Crown Plaza in Herndon where we will keep our car for the duration of our trip. It's a great hotel and we got a room on a Club Level idea why!

It had a TEVE Electric Mirror in the bathroom that has built-in Bluetooth and speakers. So, you can listen to whatever your phone will stream. I told Jenny she needs one in her new bathroom at the lake!


Travel day and night - We leave Dulles at 2:10 p.m. and arrive in Helsinki tomorrow at 7:30 a.m. There is a 7 hour difference between DC and Helsinki.


Arrived at Helsinki airport at 7:00 a.m. following very smooth flights, then took the train downtown arriving at the GLO Art Hotel by 9:00 a.m. To our surprise, they had a room ready. We could check in and take a nap!

Around 1:00 p.m., we headed out to orient ourselves to the city using the Rick Steves (RS) Helsinki Walk. We walked to the harbor and had lunch in the Old Market Hall.

The Walk starts at the Market Square where the City Hall and the Swedish Embassy are located. Havis Amanda, the fountain in the Square with its nude woman was too racy for the Victorian town leaders and they threatened to not pay the sculptor. But he got the last laugh by orienting the piece so they would always have to look at her bare arse!

Next stop was Senate Square where the main focus is the Lutheran Cathedral flanked by the Senate Building on the right and main University of Helsinki building on the left.

Strolling along the Esplanade, we realized we had not had our daily coffee so we ducked into a cafe to remedy that shortfall. Next stop was Stockman's Department Store (think Finland's Macy's) which is very impressive; definitely worth strolling through even if you buy nothing.

Three Smiths Statue represents the solid
character of the Finnish people.

Our last stop was the Chapel of Silence. Opened in 2012, the wooden Chapel provides a moment of respite from the commotion of the center city. We sat in silence and sent a prayer aloft for Peg who was in failing health. Little did we know she had died during the night. I will always remember Peg for her positive outlook and the fact she always found something positive to say about the people she knew! May God bless and keep her.

We were very tired so we decided to eat at the hotel restaurant, even though no one else was there when we arrived. The food and service were wonderful and we were only a hundred yards from our room!


Suomelinna (Fortress of Finland) is a group of fortified islands protecting the Helsinki Harbor since 1748. Sweden and Russia held the Fortress until after WW I when Finland finally took possession. Today, it houses the Finnish Naval Academy and is a beautiful park 10 minutes by ferry from the harbor. Great place to stroll around on a warm, sunny spring day.

Suomelinna Luthern Church
It was built as a Russian Orthodox Church
 with onion domes which were removed by the Swedes.

Helsinki Harbor

Next we took the Tram Tour (RS) after some difficulty finding the right tram. First stop was at the unique Temppeliaukio "Rock" Church where we were delighted to find an orchestra practicing for a concert.

One stop later, we hopped off to see if we could find the Sibelius Monument honoring the famous Finnish composer and violinist Jean Sibelius. We found it by following several tour buses filled with Japanese tour groups!

How many pipes?  600!

Following the tram tour, we had dinner at Emo and headed back to the hotel...exhausted!


The forecast was for 100% rain all day but it was just light drizzle on and off. We checked out the train station in preparation for our departure tomorrow. Then we strolled through the Design District with its numerous shops featuring the wares of Finnish designers. A late lunch in the Artist Cafe at the Swedish Theater followed by shopping for dinner and a tour of the Hietalahti Market ended our tour for the day.

Impressions of Helsinki

It is very clean, safe and the people are nice.

Not a particularly beautiful city.
Block after block of 6-8 story rectangular shaped buildings.
However,  there are many small parks everywhere.

The food scene is eclectic.
Every place we ate (none were expensive)
served wonderful, uniquely seasoned food.


Easy connections and flight to Oslo got us to our hotel (Thon Cecil) by 2:00 p.m. We went immediately to the National Gallery because we thought it was free on Sunday. It isn't. They switched to free on Thursday last fall! But the cashier, noting our gray hair and aging bodies asked us if we were of pension age? So, we got in for half price.

The Museum has a collection of Edvard Munch paintings we wanted to seen including The Scream and Madonna....very cool. Sohlberg's oil painting Winter Night in the Mountains is outstanding.

Since many Nordic painters went to Paris in the late 1800s to study under the French masters, the Museum does a neat thing. In a room several Matisse paintings are hung with those of painters who studied with him. The next room Cëzanne, the next Monet and so forth.

Also, we saw a first in our museum visits. There was a room with a sculpture surrounded by chairs. Sketching supplies were available and guests were invited to sketch the piece and hang their drawings.

The new Oslo Opera House is outstanding; it rises from the water and visitors can walk from there up to the top on the roof! It is a happening place.

We raised a glass of Frydenlund Pale Ale to toast Gretchen's mom and looked out at the sculpture in the fjord with boats cruising by...delightful!

She Lies is meant to be a monument about change, longing and hope. 

It represents an iceberg deposited in the fjord due to global warming. 

It's always changing due to the reflective surfaces and it rotates with the tides!

Walking back to the hotel, we discovered the spot where the first settlement of Oslo occurred. It was called Little Christiania, a name that endured until 1925 when the city took back its old Norse name...Oslo.

A nice cafe next to the "Thumb" lured us in for supper. Cafe Skansen did not disappoint serving a huge bowl of excellent mussels and a fine halibut entree. Wow, food in Oslo is expensive!

After dinner we strolled up Karl Johans Gate to the Palace and looked down the Gate toward the Parliament building before returning to our hotel.

The designs on the Parliament are real flowers!


The Akers River provided the water power for the mills during Oslo's Industrial Age; late 1800s.

Now, some of the factories remain, converted to condos in this trendy district called Grünerløkka. We walked up the river gorge (RS walk) and felt like natives since nary a tourist was in sight along the busy path.

Fabrikkjentene Sculpture - four women who toiled in the factories with 700 others!

Back in the center, we checked out the Oslo Cathedral (Lutheran) with its ornate box for the Royal family. There has been a church on this spot for 1000 years!

The rest of the afternoon we walked past the City Hall, Akershus Fortress (the historic military base) and the Nobel Peace Center, which celebrates the lives of prize winners, on our way to Aker Brygge.

City Hall

Nobel Peace Center

Oslo Harbor with Akershus Fortress in background

Aker Brygge is the upscale redeveloped restaurant, shopping and residential district along the harbor. It was abuzz with Norwegians today since tomorrow is their Independence Day!

We ate dinner in an outdoor cafe (RS suggestion) along a quieter section of the harbor quay. We ordered gazpacho which we knew would be served cold and shrimp, which surprisingly, was also served cold...with eyes...but numerous, sweet and tasty!

Impressions of Oslo

Walkable, safe center city with neat neighborhoods along the Akers River.

Beautiful redeveloped water front areas.

A lot of construction is underway.

Tons of people smoke!


Caught the train to the airport passing streams of Norwegians dressed in traditional garb arriving for the celebration! Too bad we didn't know about it, we would have liked to have seen the activities.

Arrived in Stockholm at our hotel by 2:00 p.m and headed out for new and old town orientation walks (RC).

Sergels Torg

Stockholm was much as we remembered it but the old town wasn't as quaint as in our mind's eyes. There are pretty views along the water.

 We ate dinner at the Cafe Panorama in the Culture Center. Decent food at a good price.


Skansen is the best folk museum in Europe (RS). It is located in Djurgarden, a beautiful park island in the harbor which was once the king's hunting grounds. All of the buildings are original, transported from all over Sweden and reconstructed on the site.

Today, at the time of our visit, the baker was putting finishing touches on his goodies and school was in session!

Skansen is huge; you wander through barn yards, past wind mills and manor houses and the town center. Plus it has a zoo and a mountain top concert stage. We really enjoyed it a lot! We finished the day walking along Lake Mälaren, past City Hall to Mälarpaviljongen, a waterside restaurant. The Arctic char was excellent!

Gretchen informs me we walked 30,000 steps today. I truly believe by the end of this trip I will reach my yearly step goal and will not have to go for a walk again for the rest of 2016!


First thing today, we climbed the City Hall Tower for a view of Stockholm. The cool thing about the climb was the last third was mostly through ascending brick hallways around the four walls of the tower! Unique tower with great views from the top and a huge statue of Saint Eric!

Next stop was the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace. Since it was a week day there was no band but still, a neat event to attend.

We had hoped to explore the Stockholm archipelago by taking a 2 hour cruise to Grinda today. But...we discovered that nothing was open on the island until June 1st. So we went on a 20 minute cruise to Fjäderholmen.

Fish stew is not soup! I learned this today when I ordered it thinking I would eat a light lunch. I got a big bowl with 1/4" of a dark, savory broth topped with a layer of mussels, calamari and sautéed fennel with another layer of Arctic char and halibut, plus boiled potatoes and garlic butter. Neither soup nor light but a superb lunch for sure.

The archipelago is hyped as an escape from big city life to nature and in a way, Fjäderholmen is a good example. It is a summer escape with restaurants and craft shops in a completely natural setting...with high rise apartment buildings half mile across the water.

On the way back to the hotel we strolled through NK (Nordiska Kompaniet), a huge department store in Sweden that locals suggest means No Kronors left!

Impressions of Stockholm

Big bustling city environment but the center is still safe and walkable.

Djurgarden, Lake Mälaren and the archipelago
 provide easy access to the natural environment.

Tons of people smoke!

Lots of bikers and as a pedestrian,
you need to worry about them more than cars!


Rolling on the rails to Copenhagen this morning, it is the first long ride we've taken with our Eurail pass. The country side is rural with farms, small towns, lakes and boreal forests.


Jens Olsen Clock in City Hall

Olsen was a clock maker who was mathematically inclined. He worked out the equations for this precision time piece that keeps track of world time, planet positions and many other measurements in his twenties. Then he spent 30 years raising the funds to have it built. He died a few years before the clock was started in 1955. One of the gears makes one revolution in 25,753 years! What will the earth be like when it completes its first turn?

Copenhagen has free, three hour walking tours every day starting at city hall. The walks are highly rated and justifiably so. Dan O, our Aussie guide, was very entertaining and we saw most of the central sites and learned a lot about Denmark. I even got to be his helper!

Parliament is housed in Christiansborg Palace, a former royal residence.

Hans Christian Anderson lived in a light yellow house on Nyhavn, the new harbor, just to the right of the photo below. The famous writer of fairy tales, failed in his ambition to become a dancer and actor. But he was a great story teller and his friends encouraged him to write his stories down. Thus began his writing career. The Little Mermaid is immortalized with a sculpture on the harbor donated by Carl Jacobsen, the Carlsberg Brewing Magnate, whose philanthropy via his foundation has really changed the Copenhagen landscape.

Amalienborg Palace is the home of the Queen and Crown Prince located on the main harbor. There is even a place nearby where she can board the Royal Yacht. It has two pavilions, one for the royal family and one for their guests to wait for the yacht! The Marble Church in the background has the largest dome in Scandinavia. It is an Evangelical Lutheran church that opened in 1894.

Following the tour, we doubled back to Nyhavn and went on a canal boat ride. It was nice to sit for an hour and to see Copenhagen from the water. I loved scouting out the boats moored along the canals.

Heading back to our hotel, we found TorvehallerneKBH, a market complex with a lot of food vendors as well. We got fruit and picnic supplies for supper. At the hotel Cozy Hour (think free glass of wine or beer), we met an Australian couple born in Beijing and a couple from Minneapolis. Turns out they are both going on the same Baltic Cruise leaving from here Monday.


Outside our hotel this morning, the streets were roped off with official looking folks at each corner. We found out it was the day of the Copenhagen Marathon with 30,000 runners.

First stop today was the University of Copenhagen's Botanical Garden. It is a beautiful place, so nice to stroll around on a beautiful spring morning.

But we were disappointed, they no longer have the temperature controlled pavilion for Arctic plants...poor plants!😕

Next stop was the Rosenberg Castle, another royal residence. We walked through the gardens but decided not to go in. It was so nice outside and we have seen a bunch of European castles!

On our way to the harbor, we caught the changing of the guard at Amalienborg Palace and then walked along the harbor to see The Little Mermaid and the Gefion Fountain.

The fountain represents a Danish myth; the goddess Gefion was given the challenge of cutting a chunk out of Sweden for Denmark in one night, so she turned her four sons into oxen to quickly complete the task.

We followed the marathoners to the bridge to Christian Havn were we got a bite to eat then we toured Christiana.

Christiana is a free state within Copenhagen. In the 70s, hippies squatted in an abandoned military base and by the time the city wanted to reclaim the land, the hippies had squatters rights; so they remain to this day. On the main drag, aptly named Pushers Street, you can buy marijuana. But since it is illegal, there are no photo signs and the sellers are in kiosks that hide their faces. Our conclusion....we're glad we didn't choose the hippie option in the seventies!

Cozy hour with the cruising couples and dinner at a TorvehallerneKBH restaurant with the locals completed the day.

In the morning we leave the hotel at 6:30 a.m. to catch the train to Olso. Yes, the Morgan's can rise, if not shine, to make travel connections.

Impressions of Copenhagen

Viking bikers..Copenhagen has more bike riders than any other 
city in Europe and they are very, very dangerous!

It has a laid back, yet vibrant atmosphere.

It is dirty.

Houses along the canals are colorful and neat.

The University of Copenhagen Botanical Gardens are awesome.


Made all of the travel connections easily and arrived in Oslo. Checked into our hotel and went to eat at the Cathedral Restaurant. That was our day!


Caught the ferry across the Harbor to Bygdøy to go to the Viking Museum. The best preserved Viking ship resides there.

What impressed us was the wood carvings on the hulls, on all of the Viking utensils, furniture, wagons and weapons! They were master carvers as well as master seaman. I cannot imagine going to Greenland or the Mediterranean in one of their open boats!

It was still a cold dreary morning when we arrived at Vigeland Sculpture Park. What a magnificent place! In 1921, Gustav Vigeland made a deal with the city that he would beautify Oslo with this garden in exchange for a studio and support! There are 600 figures in the park, all nude which we found to be tender, loving and playful.

The subway climbs the mountain west of Oslo where residents can ride with their skis and slide down the free public slopes to their homes. It's a great train ride to the top with grand views of the city.

We walked down the slopes to the Frognerseteren Hovedrestsurant (great view and traditional ambience with mediocre food), and then on to the Holmenkollen Ski Jump that hosted the 2012 World Ski Jump Championships.

Back on the train to return to the city, an announcement was made to clear the train...because a truck accidentally ran into the fence at the next station. Our seat mate David, a sixty something businessman who was heading downtown for a dinner meeting, took us under his wing and led us several kilometers to another train stop; all the way with stimulating conversation. Thanks David! Great day in Oslo!


Rode the train from sea level to over 3500' and from spring back to winter; frozen lakes and snow capped mountains were common the last quarter of our ride. It's also a moonscape as Phyllis remembered it from her travels across Norway!

Then we took the Flåm Railway down the mountain where it was spring again and short sleeve weather under a very hot sun!

The Flåm Railroad is incredible. It is referred to as the 20 train; it has 20 tunnels (18 dug by hand at a rate of 3 feet a month) in its 20 km descent from Myrdal to Flåm and took 20 years to build. It is not a cog train so the track had to weave its way down nearly 2500' using a gradient normal locomotives could handle!

Cruise ships stop at Flåm and no doubt help the local economy. But to say the least, they certainly change the character of the place.

View from our hotel room balcony.

They also hurt the environment by running their engines while docked and spewing diesel exhaust into the air.

We would not stay in Flåm if we were planning another trip to the fjords.


A spectacular ferry ride through the Aurlandfjord with stops at Aurland and Unredal began our day.

Undredal has the smallest stave church in Norway. It seats 40 people.
Can you find it?

Then onto Gudvangen via the narrow Nærøyfjord. Three thousand foot mountains rising from mile deep waters literally hundreds of yards from each side of the ferry provide awesome vistas!

To have or to be? Erich Fromm

Photos cannot capture what you see in the fjords.  You have to just take in the moment. You just have to be!

Upon returning to Flåm, we took a walk through the park above the town and then up the valley to Lunden before enjoying a glass of wine waterside at the Marina Cafe.

View behind cruise ships!


Rode the Flåm Railway back up the mountain to Myrdal and then we caught the train to Oslo. I booked two nights in the Thon Airport Hotel because I thought it would be an easy connection to the airport for an early flight Sunday morning. NOT! It's an easier connection from Oslo! Plus they charge 70 kronor per person for the airport shuttle one way! May I just off! It is a nice hotel but not worth the hassle....skip it! Plus, there are no restaurants except the hotel's and McDonalds.


We caught the train this morning to Eidsvoll, a small town at the end of the commuter line to Oslo. We wanted to see what small town life was like. People were out and about the small central shopping district, picking up supplies and eating in cafes. It was definitely small town life with a lot more dependence on cars.

It was interesting to see that there is very little use of the riverfront. There was only one restaurant on the water and no place to walk along the water.

Being boaters, the other interesting thing we noted is the relatively few boating facilities on our travels. Even in the larger cities, there are no marinas that could rival those in Annapolis. Perhaps, boats are just too expensive.

Palace Guards

We made a final visit to Oslo, had lunch at a bakery so Gretchen could have a pastry, walked in the gardens around the palace and had tea at the Opera House before saying our good byes.

It has been a great trip. We found things we liked in all the places we visited: the Chapel of Silence and quaint environment in Helsinki; the diversity of things to do in Oslo; the folk museum and archipelago in Stockholm; the energy of Copenhagen; and the natural beauty in Flåm. And a real plus, it only rained briefly one morning during the entire trip!

We fly out of Oslo early tomorrow and it will be good to be going home!