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We've returned home to the Seattle area as of August 2008, what an experience we've had! Please contact us via the links on this page with any questions or comments you may have.

The Winnebago Sightseer 35J has been sold to a lovely Scottish couple, so it will continue its adventures in Europe.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Final European post...

Thank you all for the warm welcome home! I'm so happy - the prior blog post FINALLY received comments!

Sadly, this is my final "European" post. It seems a little recap is necessary to wrap it all up in a neat package and capture some lingering thoughts.

For access to sporadically posted musings of the Scherer family check out our new personal blog: http://familyscherer.blogspot.com/

When I look back on the past 12 months, I am still amazed at what we did. Sometimes the brevity of our decision to pack it up and leave "Dodge" is unthinkable. I mean, we're supposed to be responsible adults, parents of young children, career driven... Then I realize how cool it is that we stepped outside the norm and explored a little more of our world.

We're (almost) back to normal - kids are in school and daycare after a few busy weeks of summer camp. Dan and I are working on next steps for our careers. We are looking forward to moving back to our real house on November 1.

11.5-months and over 10,000 miles later, we visited 10 countries, 95+ cities and over 100 campgrounds/stopovers. We relied virtually 100% on bikes, foot and public transit to get us out and about for our city tours, relenting to a rental car only 4 times during the trip.

All told, we probably missed more than we saw. Our first 6-months abroad was a mix of rather mindless wandering, which yielded some really cool experiences. We adapted to the formality of the UK and stuck to a pre-planned, fully reserved schedule for the last 3-months, which meant we were more prepared at each stop with regards to activities and sights.

Here are some random thoughts I've been noodling on along the way:

  • At the end of the day, we're all people. We want to be liked by other people; we all sleep, eat, work and play. Most of us just want to secure something a little better for our family.

  • Most people are really good folk at heart.

  • There's a tradeoff for everything. For example (having just watched Sicko) if you have great government sponsored healthcare, you're probably paying really high taxes.

  • Privacy is an interesting concept when virtually every street is filmed via CCTV (UK specific)

  • Obesity levels were interesting to observe as we traveled. For the most part, on the European continent, junk food, cereals and pre-packaged foods were really expensive. We noticed much less of an obesity problem in the general public (e.g. Holland, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium). Once we got to the UK, junk food was cheap again and there was a dramatic increase in noticably overweight individuals.

  • Sundays - it took a long time to get used to stores being closed on Sundays. Now that we're back, I find myself wishing our stores were closed on Sundays too - it's nice to have a break from non-stop consumerism. It might push us to spend more time with friends and family.

  • We're way too young to not have jobs - we missed our professional lives and contributing to the businesses we were involved in.

  • We need to be near our friends and family - it's hard to build new friendships when living a nomadic lifestyle.

As we inch back to "normalcy" I can't help but fear that we've lost a little bit of what we gained in Europe. For example:

  • We keep forgetting to take our fantastic reusable bags (they were 0.19 EURO in France and are awesome!). Looks like the move to reusable bags in our region is slowly gaining popularity. I even saw a woven reusable bag at Costco this weekend!

  • We're back to being a 2-car family - though we tried to remain sensitive to MPG pressures when making purchase decisions.

  • We haven't taken public transit since being home. I love the freedom to be able to go wherever and whenever I want. On the other hand, I miss feeling like I was taking a car off the street and getting exercise at the same time.

  • We're back to mass-shopping at Costco - a blessing after experiencing the food prices in Europe. The behavior is driven in part by habit, but mostly cost (and storage space - we have room in the freezer!). Food prices have gone up dramatically here at home in the past 11-months, though I think when compared to Europe, food is still pretty affordable.

  • Shopping for food every other day was cumbersome at times, but we miss the yummy produce we ate in Europe.

If there's one thing I hope we learned it's to slow down, relax and enjoy life. We need to remember to take care of each other, our extended family and our friends. Life is too short to not foster those relationships.

Frequently asked questions:

What was your favorite city or country?
There is no single favorite destination. We found a variety of favorites, largely based on what we were trying to accomplish at the time.

  • Isle of Skye, Scotland - would love to go back and hike, explore, get lost. Definitely need to make it to the Orkney Islands some day.

  • Paris, France - for a big city, we really enjoyed our stay.

  • Costa Brava, Spain - loved it! L'Estartit was the tiny town with nothing to do but enjoy the beautiful beaches (note: we were there in low season and had the beaches to ourselves; given the high density apartments for tourists, I'd imagine it's another story altogether in high season).

  • Hall in Tirol and Innsbruck, Austria - loved the scenery and the people were super. NorthPark deserved more of our time for hiking and maybe some day, skiing.

  • Germany - well, Germany has a piece of my heart. My host parents are there and I just love the country.

Any new favorite foods?
We cooked a LOT. The fruits and veggies we purchased throughout Europe seemed more flavorful and fresh. Brötchen (small rolls) with jam is a new favorite for breakfast. We shared lots of homemade pancakes with friends along the way. Real French bread... fresh eclairs... virtually any of the pastries in Belgium... smoked Gouda from Holland... Nevermind the beer and red wine - it's amazing we didn't gain more weight while we were gone.

You homeschooled the kids?
Yes! In an RV! I think I am more empathetic of our school teachers. I now understand that the many, many school holidays are vital to the learning process. Sometimes walking away from a new concept for a few days allows time for the kids to think it through. I think I understand more about Megan's learning style and know that we have to find a way to stay involved in her education.

Are you still talking to each other?
Yes, believe it or not, we even still like each other.

Did you meet tons of new friends?
Yes, we met a few new friends, who we hope will visit us some day. We were a little isolated at times, particularly when we were in non-English speaking countries.

Would you do it again?

What would you do differently?

Convert the motorhome to LPG (propane). It's much less in Europe and is quite readily available (with the exception of Spain). Tow a car, particularly in Spain and UK.

That's about it for now. We are happy to be home again - though we hope we've opened the kids eyes a little and made it "OK" to travel, experience other cultures and learn new languages.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Home Again!

After an excrutiatingly long day doing an airport shuffle (and we were on a direct flight), we are home! Love the weather ... it's so warm and sunny today. My favorite moment was looking out the plane window and seeing the mountain ranges as we started our final turn into Seattle. So beautiful!

The luggage - long story, suffice it to say if I never have to pack 50lb bags again and shuffle them around Heathrow and SeaTac, it will be too soon.

Huge thanks to both our folks for meeting us at the airport & helping shuffle us and our stuff to Dan's folks. My mom went the extra mile and got the emissions + tabs renewed on the car and cleaned it as well. Talk about a sight for sore eyes - I didn't realize how much I missed it! Dan's folks are being super gracious in welcoming us in their home until we figure out our next step(s). We can't thank you enough for everything you have done to support us during the past year.

Another shout out to everyone who called us before we left London. Thank you for the farewells and the good wishes for our journey. We will miss you all (yes, even you, Phillip).

Everyone is healthy and happy - the kids are simply thrilled to be home. None of us slept well the 72-hours before departure and none of us really slept on the flight either. Tiredness seems to be a great antidote to jet lag. That said, I'll let you all guess who had the pleasure of getting up with the kids at 5:45 this morning. ;-)

Sophia finally gave up and fell asleep at Heathrow. Wish I could do that!

We're thrilled to be home. Realize now how huge our roads really are... as well as the cars on them.

Dan in all tiredness drove my car home last night. In a dazed, sleepy slur, he tried explaining to our folks how confusing it is to be driving on the right side of the road in a left-hand drive car after spending 3-months in the UK in a left-hand drive RV but driving on the left side of the road; except for the past week, where he was driving a right-hand drive car but on the left side of the road... you figure it out. He's all mixed up and has to conciously think about which lane to turn in to! Thank goodness for insurance.

Ciao for now!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bye Bye, RV

We've had an amazingly busy and complicated week. Literally in the last 24-hours prior to taking the motorhome to consignment, we had four offers / serious interest inquiries on the motorhome. In that time, we had one family from Scotland (who had seen the unit in Perth several weeks ago) come through with a solid offer and funding.

With bags are packed and in the rental car (barely), we drove Colin (the new owner) out to the main road and set off to an airport hotel for two nights.

One last look as we drove away.

After retrieving the forgotten cell phone, we finally experienced how it feels to drive behind the Winnie!

We've had two mostly sleepless nights. Now it's time to reshuffle our packing and make sure everything complies with the 50lb per bag rule. =)

Tons of fantastic memories to bring home. Leaving is bittersweet - we are thrilled to be heading home and back to our in-area friends and family. However, there's tons more to see and experience - we've just barely scratched the surface.

Back in 2!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Americana Wrap-Up

Last I wrote, we had just arrived at Americana, a weekend long music/lifestyle festival.

After almost being rained out Thursday and Friday, the clouds gave us a bit of a break and it warmed up nicely enough to enjoy time outside.

We were easily the least patriotic of the bunch and we don't own a stitch of western gear! Folks and rigs were decked out in American (and some confederate) flags. Vintage automobiles, motorcycles, and newer rigs like Chevy Tahoes, Suburbans, and such abounded. It was very strange to be surrounded by these "oversized" American rigs after almost a full year of seeing virtually only compacts and sub-compacts.

One row of American RVs out for the weekend

The best part of the weekend was having a chance to say our goodbyes to folks we've met along the way - all our best to Robert and Diane; Phillip and Des (and Jemma); Roger & Marion - and all the many others we met along the way & over the weekend. Happy trails, y'all!

Main stage

Homemade caravan + business. The back of this unit is a firing range(!) with a container stacked on top for living quarters.

American fashion interpreted.

Feeling it yet?

Custom trikes!


Classic Winnie!

To the event organizers, I recommend a few changes. We recommend adapting to the modern crowd, even if it means cutting out some of the bands to change the energy level of the event. Here are the highlights of our thoughts after the weekend - I'm hapy to consult on future event planning! =) =) =)

  • Musical diversity - Country Western and Rockabilly are well covered. There were almost too many concerts to try and figure out which were worth attending. Feel free to mix it up a little with some 70's and 80's cover bands. The audience is young enough to recognize and appreciate the music.
  • About that rain... you know it's going to rain, why not plan for temporary staging in front of stage 2 (which was a complete mud bog for 3 of the 4 days) and possibly tents for both the main stage and stage 2.
  • Dance diversity - There was a huge emphasis on line dancing. Break it up - offer hip hop, square dancing, etc.
  • Food - This was a total miss (and extremely overpriced too). Missing in action were: apple pie, brownies, chocolate chip cookies, BBQ, Tex-Mex food... the list goes on. An event like this would be premium space for American breweries (RedHook, Pyramid, Deschutes) to show that we too have great beer. Wineries too - any that are in the international business should be banging on the event planner's doors to be at the event.
  • Activities - Add some interactive events that don't break the bank. Music is fine, but 3 solid days of lawn-chair concerts feels a bit dull after day 1. Easy crowd pleasers that fit the Americana theme: comedy, rock wall climbing, American football exhibition (with cheerleaders -- tell me a college team wouldn't be thrilled to pull this off), rodeo exhibition (with an honest to goodness announcer and cowboys - think Ellensburg Rodeo), roller derby, heck, even an outdoor movie. There was plenty of room at the showgrounds to accomodate all of these activities and the entertainment value would make people feel good about the money spent to attend. (50 pp + 25 camping)
  • Make traveling to America a reality - This would be a prime event for the large tourism offices to show up - where's the Las Vegas tourism board? New York? Florida? I know many of the folks who attend the event don't make it out of the UK. That said, there are tons that do and there are tons that can, but they need that little push to tell them it's OK. American RV rental firms should be out in force - show folks that they can come on vacation and rent an American RV. Bring out the tourism industry with videos, posters, itineraries. The interest is there - these folks LOVE America and want a "genuine" experience.
Off the soap box. If you can't tell from above, at present, the event feels a bit tired and the crowds are not super energetic. This is more of a series of lawn chair concerts (though folks were driving their picups and classic cars to and from the concert fields).

On our way home very shortly. Can't wait to settle back in!


Friday, July 11, 2008

Learning About Americana Lifestyles

Believe it or not, we're at an American Lifestyle event - Americana - just outside of Lincoln.
Maybe we'll learn something about ourselves! For now, we're camped alongside more American rigs than we've seen all year, in a very friendly group of people.

Musical line up is mostly country-western or rockabilly with tons of line dancing workshops. Hells Angels are the security staff (!) and there are awards for American autos & bikes.

Should be an interesting weekend!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


For those who do not yet know, we are planning our return home quite a bit earlier than originally stated. We'll be home later this month (yes, that's this month, July!). We can't wait to settle back in and rekindle friendships and our family relationships. We've missed you all terribly over the past (almost) 12-months.

We've been in London for about a week now. About half of them rainy - the rest quite warm and beautiful. So goes the typical summer in the UK. There's tons to keep you busy and empty your wallet in this town. The contrasts between new, contemporary buildings and awesome architecture is simply stunning. Sometimes it works, sometimes I stare in awe, wondering what the architecht(s) were thinking.

Old mixing with new

More old mixing with new

The city is quite overwhelming and while transportation is good, it often leaves you about 1/2 a mile from your destination or having to trek it between a tube and rail station. Maybe we're just too impatient to catch the connecting bus. That said, it's relatively cheap to get around London - just £5.80 for the non-peak day card with the child card costing only an additional £1. The tube and rail lines are often partially closed for maintenance on weekends and holidays so be sure you check. Oh - and we've found the health and safety announcements an interesting addition to our travels. So far, at the train station we've been advised:

  • "it's advisable to carry a bottle of water in this warm weather"
  • "when it rains, the platform can be slippery"
  • "mind the gap"
We made the typical tourist mistake and mistook the Tower Bridge for London Bridge. A little disconcerting on day 1 as we exited at the London Bridge rail station but couldn't find "London Bridge." Oops. The beautifully ornate bridge we were expecting is known as "Tower Bridge" and is a pretty long (though worth it) trek from the train station. I found it fun to see the bridge in action though as Dan pointed out, "it's just a draw bridge."

Sophia on London Bridge with the Tower Bridge in the (distant) background

Tower Bridge in action

We felt like the London Eye was a "must do" given that it's the world's largest ferris wheel. Don't know that aside from the sheer novelty of it that I can honestly recommend it to anyone else. Lines are long for tickets (30+ minutes), followed by about a 30-minute wait (on a weekday) to get on the ride. It takes about 30 minutes to slowly rotate around - kind of odd to be crammed in a small, hot little glass pod with 15 of your closest strangers and no corresponding references (unless you purchaed the additional guide book). Short of the fact you're able to say you did it, time is better spent gaping at Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and maybe just wandering around, lost in the crazy maze of streets for a while.

The Eye of London as seen from the ground and looking at the pod in front of us at the top.

View from the top of London Eye

Big Ben & Houses of Parliament - we were just in time to hear the chimes on a sunny, beautiful day. Cool iron work.

Big Ben towering over Megan & Sophia

Kung Fu Panda was a huge hit with the girls. It opened at the downtown IMAX on the fourth of July - a perfect excuse to go to a movie on Dan's birthday! Best bet is to pre-purchase your tickets. All seats are preassigned at this theater and it made the actual event smooth. The theater does a cool presentation of how IMAX works before the show - very enlightening for the girls!

The girls can't stop "kung fu fighting" after seeing this hit!

Today (8.July) we got up early and made our way to the masses thronging Buckingham Palace so we could witness the Changing of The Guard. As we approached, I thought, "A downside of being a part of the Royal Family is you wake up each morning to throngs of people outside your house." Seriously folks, the ceremony was long and relatively subdued. Unless you are pressed up against the fence outside the palace courtyard, you really don't see or hear much. Despite the ceremony, a few cars exited the palace, creating excitement among the crowd - at least one person thought they saw a member of the Royal family today. Glad we did it though kind of wish we had taken the advice to view the ceremony at Windsor Castle as it's more intimate.

Flocking to Buckingham Palace for the Changing of the Guard

End of ceremony - cool to see the huge gates open and the soldiers marching by

Our favorite activities (besides dinner with Simone and Stefan) turned out to be the free museums. We first visited the Science Museum in an effort to quickly get out of the rain. It is so huge and so fun, it was hard to leave. The hands on science experiments, sponsored by Shell, were awesome and a ton of fun for Megan (us too).

Playing with bubbles

Exploring space equipment including a life sized astronaut mannequin

This afternoon (8.July), we went to the Natural History Museum (also free) and had our fill of earth science, creepy crawlies (cool ant exhibit) and dinosaurs. I think we saw maybe 1/4 of the entire museum before we finally left, exhausted and in need of coffee and cake. ;-)

Natural History Museum

Into the center of the earth

Snack, anyone?

This T-Rex moves and roars ... leaving Sophia to run around growling at everyone for the rest of the afternoon. I'm sure she insulted at least one commuter as we passed by and she looked directly at them and gave a mighty "roar."

Cool iron fence outside the Natural History museum

We've trekked all over London and probably still haven't seen 1/4 of the city. It's just a massive, sprawling experience. Glad we visited - even if it's not our absolute favorite destination. Wish the weather had been a bit more conducive to exploring the outdoor parks more - the few we meandered through are quite beautiful.

Tower of London

Ciao for now!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dan!

Normally, the 4th of July finds us scurrying around the house, cleaning up and prepping food for our annual party, to the tune of bottle rockets being launched throughout the afternoon. I can't say we don't miss it...

Without further ado, Happy Birthday, Dan! We'll make a day of it with the Eye of London, IMAX showing of "Kung Fu Panda" and dinner out. Hope you don't miss the fireworks too much.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

York, England

York - marketed as "Europe's favorite city" by the tourist board was indeed a beautiful city. Not sure I'd classify it as a European favorite, however.

City map (hey, why not?)

Despite all advance planning and communications efforts, we had a bit of a rough start at the campground. Somehow the wardens didn't know we were coming in a 35' motorhome (despite the fact it was clearly marked on the online booking form) and somehow, it was my fault. Mass transit at the site is extremely limited (4x a day). There is an ingenious park and ride system only about 1.5 miles away - but there's not easy access for bicycles (the bike lane ends quite suddenly on the very busy road leading to the park and ride with no side streets or side paths). Taxi fare to the park and ride was £6; taxi to town center was £10.

We finally made our way to the city, where it promptly started drizzling (not in the forecast...who's in charge of the weather??). Cool city - lots of interesting buildings to look at and enjoy. The shops have some fantastic fashions on display for summer and the streets were busy with tons of pedestrians.

Side street in the "Shambles" district

No heavy goods vehicles down this street!

Sophia, ever on the lookout for pennies, spotted glass jewels embedded in some of the paving blocks.

We took the kids through the Jorvik Viking Centre, enjoying the 2:1 price break from the Caravan Club book. It's an "interactive" exhibit about early viking settlers in York. It reminded me a bit of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland - you meander through a recreated Viking village - sights, smells and sounds similar to that which one would have encountered in the day. After the little ride, visitors are left to explore the exhibits - some with staff in uniform who tell stories, answer questions, etc. Megan heard all about how coins were made and even purchased a souvenair coin, stamped by hand in front of her.

Sophia - trying a Viking helmet on for size
Waiting for Sherry to finish taking pictures...

Reproduction prints can be found all over the city - this one was on one of the entrances to the city wall. (The Ambassadors, Hans Holbein The Younger, circa 1533)

Entrance to the market area
We're probably missing out on the best food...but just couldn't bring ourselves to sample from this booth. He was happily selling "real pork fat" - maybe Emeril should visit!
We declined touring York Minster and the tower. The cost is pretty prohibitive, even if it is a "once in a lifetime" experience and a "fine example of gothic architecture." We saw tons of gothic churches on the European continent and they didn't cost £30 (~$60USD) for the family to tour.

York Minster peeking out through a side street.

We opted instead for the city wall tour - free and a fun find. Our path was from Bootham Bar to Monk Bar. It rained the whole time, but was fun to walk and see views of the outer section of York Minster.

York Minster, viewed from top of city wall
Stairs at Monk Bar, leading up to city wall

If I could have one wish granted for the city, it would be that their transportation system be consolidated. I counted no less than 6 bus companies driving around the compact city. I don't think there's a single day-pass (like most other regions offer) that works on all bus lines. Their park-n-ride plan is great - users get free parking and a £2 fare (RT) to the city center - buses at the park-n-ride leave every 10-15 minutes from about 8am to 7pm Mon-Sat. There was a little bit of room for motorhome parking, but we couldn't see how to get around the height barriers (there were others who did).

On a parting note, how exactly do these buildings pass inspections? Maybe they are exempt due to age?

One set of many leaning buildings...not the worst, by far, but the one that I managed to snap a picture of.
On to Peterborough next, enroute to London.