Archive for April, 2009

First days

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

At 10:30 Monday, April 27 Anno Domini 2009 we departed Rosedale for Chicago in the Ziegler’s van. We stopped at a CVS to get some all purpose soap, but as exciting as that sounds, those who didn’t come in the store had even more excitement. Pippi, the Ziegler’s miniature dachshund escaped from the confines of the van and ran across the parking lot and several lanes of traffic before Elizabeth could grab her. Next, we stopped at a Dick’s Sporting Goods where we tried to locate some small camp towels. Then did not have what we were looking for, but Jerry, the store’s manager, helped us immensely by calling to other Dick’s in Indianapolis and having them hold several towels for us. So Jerry if for some reason you stumbled upon this blog, thank you and don’t read the next sentence. We ended up finding the towels at the other Dick’s and didn’t buy the ones set aside for us. We also stopped at KFC and all 11 of us (excluding Pippi) got a free grilled chicken leg. If Colonel Sanders is reading this and worried that we won’t thank him while heaping praise on Jerry, Colonel Sanders…Thank you. If you would have started out grilling instead of frying your chicken you could be several billion dollars richer.

We arrived at O’Hare with Rebekah, the Ziegler’s two year old, excitedly reporting every time she saw an airplane and one time exclaimed, “That one is even bigger than me!” We got our send off with some cheese fries, our last bit of truly American food in several months. We made it through customs without incident which surprised me considering I have a metal plate and 5 screws in my leg which did not set off the metal detector. We traveled via Aer Lingus in an Airbus 330. It was a nice airplane complete with personal touch screen screens on which you could watch TV shows, movies, play games, or check out our flight status (We traveled at 40,000 feet where the air temperature was -75 degrees with 100 mile-per-hour winds.

We landed at 7:30 a.m. local time Tuesday and got through customs no problems. After we got our luggage we discovered that the bus drivers of Dublin were on a limited service strike. The ladies at the tourist information center were able to look at a chart and see which routes were not available, which operated infrequently, and which ran as normal. It is nice that the bus drivers at least schedule their strikes carefully and let others know their plans. We took a bus into Dublin and discovered that the Dublin port was about 2 kilometers from the bus station. We decided that it was not worth the money for us to take a taxi or wait a long time for a bus, so we walked to the port with all of our luggage. We had two big bags (Dan Shenk’s and a communal miscelaneous bag), two camping packs, two small backpacks, and an additional very small bag. (We packed in accordance with having a car to carry our things, not having to carry them ourselves. We started out and I quickly determined that it was much more comfortable to carry my small backpack on my chest and my large camping pack on my back. Dan Ziegler did the same, so we both looked rediculous but at least we were more comfortable. It became increasingly important to be comfortable because we kept walking and walking. We decided that it must have been 2 km’s to the entrance to the port and several more after that point. All in all, we walked loaded down for an hour and a half before arriving at the Irish Ferries port. Throughout the walk we noticed that there are quite a few Guinness trucks driving around. The only surprising thing about this is that they looked exactly like the trucks that in the US that transport oil. So do these trucks drive around and pump huge amounts of Guinness into tanks that are buried below pubs. If anyone knows the answer to this question, please let us know. Also, at the end of our trek, one of the wheels blew out on one of our pull-behind bags. Therefore, Dan Shenk drug the bag along the ground creating a wonderful scraping noise. We laughed at ourselves: Dan Ziegler and I had two backpacks each, one on front and one on back while Dan Shenk drug his bag along the ground. We decided we looked like a group of vagabonds.

At the ferry station they had a special room for early arrivals, so since we arrived at 12:30 for a 2:30 ferry, we made use of it. We were ravenously hungry but didn’t know what to do. Suddenly we remembered that we were carrying a hotpot, some ramen, and a power converter. We got some water out of the restroom sink and boiled up some ramen noodles. While eating, I looked around the room and burst out laughing. There were nine chairs in the room and every one of them had something on them, either ourselves or one of our possessions. Also, our bags were open and stuff was strewn about the floor. We no longer look like a group of vagabonds; instead, we were nothing short of a group of hobos.

Our ferry ride was fairly uneventful, except that we had to block out the Dumbo: The Elephant movie blaring behind us. We landed in Holyhead, Wales (Cymru in Welsh) and were greeted by the wonderful Welsh script. As I read once: “Welsh writing looks like the alphabet threw up.” One example phrase: “Ewchimewn I’w borth a chalan lan.” We had several hours in Holyhead and explored the town which had a new age bridge connecting rustic buildings on both sides of the river. It seemed to be completely out of place but looked impressive. We noticed that all the young teenage boys wore sweat pants and prefered to use one vulgar word as much as is humanly possible while still getting ones point across. They seemed to think they were pretty cool and who could think that they might have failed?

We went back to the train station and made supper (more ramen noodles) and waited for our train at station 2. Right when the train was suppost to leave we decided to go up to the platform and check it out. It turns out that platform 2 was approximately a third of a mile long and the train had arrived at the far end and departed before we knew it. Since I had previously never ridden a train before, I missed my first train before I had ever ridden a train. How many other people can say that? We were able to catch another train an hour later and only got to Cannock an hour later than normal. Big bushes of yellow flowers, stately stone fences, some odd rock formations, a lot of sheep with their young lambs, and fog covered mountains created wonderful vistas and made for a beautiful train ride.

Since we were arriving at midnight, we decided to sleep in the Cannock train station. We stepped off our train at our stop, felt the cold air, and looked for the building that would house us for the night…and we looked some more. There was no building at this train station. We carried our luggage off of the platform and contimplated our options. We determined that if Cannock’s train station doen’t have a building, it is probably a tiny town without a hostel or anything of that sort. We thought our best option was to pitch our tents… then we decided that our best option was to pitch our tent because it was COLD. Dan Ziegler started setting up our tent while Dan Shenk and I went in opposite directions to search for the town and to see if any place had internet access. We needed to get in contact with Jim, the man who sold us our VW Passat to know when we could meeet him to get the car. We failed in our scouting mission, but Dan Shenk did discover where the actual town of Cannock actually was. We all climbed into the tent which is approximately 4 feet wide and tried to get to sleep. We all had a hard time positioning our arms so that we were not either hurting those next to us or making them uncomfortable with where they were placed. We were able to fall asleep though, in no small part due to the fact that we had just a couple hours of sleep on the plane the night before and spent the whole day traveling from Ireland to England.

We got up this morning and found a library where we could access the internet and contacted Jim and arranged a rendezvous and vehicle transfer. We also were able to walk through the town and eperience how the English live in an area that isn’t a tourist area. Men were at the pub by 10:00, women wheeled their babies around town, and all sorts of people stood outside of their bank waiting for it to open like pre-teens the night before a new Jonas Brothers CD comes out. There was also an odd statue outside of the library. The man is wearing only a loin cloth but has to transport a mass of some unidentified substance without it touching his hands. Therefore, he has to hold it in his loincloth which means he has to hold his loincloth vertically…. Don’t you love art.

Jim picked us up and took us back to his “compound” where we laid our eyes upon our “Stunning Jet Black 1998 VW Passat Estate SE Tdi.” The paperwork isn’t very complicated and within half an hour we left Jim behind and were experiencing life in the left lane, driving on the right side, and clockwise roundabouts. We are currently driving in Wales (most of our blogs will be written in the car) and haven’t had any really close calls. It is a nice, tight car to drive and gets over 40 miles per gallon. There are a few problems such as the back right door currently doesn’t open and the back left window won’t open, but other than that it is a very comfortable and has quite a few nice creature comforts.

This afternoon we also went grocery shopping. We found an Aldi’s (yes, in England you have to put a Pound in the mechanism to get the cart unlocked) and were able to buy a lot of cheap food that should also be nutritious. We were most humored when we came to the World Foods section and saw hot dogs sitting in buns and packaged in sets of two. The other prepackaged American foods in the World Foods section were chicken patty sandwiches and cheeseburgers. Aren’t we proud of what foods we have given the world. What does Italy have on us?

We are planning on spending the night near Conwy, Wales and will catch a ferry back to Ireland tomorrow.

We have a couple of pictures at our Flickr site that correspond with my post and will have more for you before long.
Thanks to those of you who read all the way through this ridiculously long post.

david (with help from the Dans)

On Our Way

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Well.. we’re finally on our way… Daniel, Dan and David are leaving Chicago O’Hare Airport (ORD) at 6:50 PM CST Monday, 27 April, 2009. Matt will be joining us in just four days.
From the inception of the idea 3 years ago to the past few months of intense planning, I never doubted that this amazing journey would actually happen, but I really was wondering what form it was going to take. The final form is:
4 Guys – Daniel Shenk, Daniel Ziegler, David Miller and Matt Wolfer
4 Months – approximately May through August
A Car – A right-hand drive 1998 VW Passat Estate TDi Diesel
Now we’re on our way and couldn’t be more excited, but maybe a tad apprehensive. We have a pile of luggage with everything we could imagine we would need, but more important, we’re all ready to be flexible and take what may come. After all, this can hardly be anything but an adventure!

Daniel Z