Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Visit to a Swiss Town

I think Heaven can be found in Läufelfingen, Switzerland! After our cruise we visited my sister-in-law's family, and had the opportunity to stay in "Grandma's" house. It certainly was dreamy!


It is difficult to spell and pronounce, but Läufelfingen, is located at the southern tip of one of the valleys branching out from Basel. To leave Läufelfingen to the south, one must either go through a tunnel or over the mountain. We enjoyed both routes... but I think my brother, who did most of the driving, enjoyed the windy road over the ridge and into the next valley - perhaps more than his passengers did!


Läufelfingen is built along the hillsides on either side of the valley. It is home to about 1300 residents. Many of the homes are ancient by American standards.


As you can see, the town is surrounded by farm lands. There are also many cherry trees, but most are not in organized orchards, planted row by row as we would see them here.

Screen shot from Google Maps
This is the main street in Läufelfingen. Uh, yeah... it is rather quiet! The market we visited for morning breakfast goodies is located on the left, where the car is parked.


The town has several water troughs. I guess they remain from the days when folks would carry their buckets to collect water for home.  The water may also have been for horses and other animals coming through the village. 


Here is another water trough. Do you see what looks like a Spruce tree mounted on the right end of the trough? It is decorated with red and white ribbons and has a wreath below.


Here is a closer view. The decorated tree is part of the annual May Day celebration. Evidently this is a huge thing in Switzerland.  The day we left I noticed that the trees were being taken down.


This is "Grandma's" house. It is an old farm house, that was renovated in the 60's. Originally the building on the right was the barn, and the home was on the left. My sister-in-law spent many weekends and summers living here. Now, the barn houses a garage and the entry and stairs for the home. The renovation is not complete. The plans called for a great room and bedrooms in the barn area. They are not finished. In fact, there is a door on the top floor of the residence that goes nowhere. The floor for the 'future' bedrooms still needs to be constructed. 


This is the back of "Grandma's" house. Before it was renovated, the wood areas were typical Swiss balconies with railings made from slats of wood with cutouts. 



Perhaps the balcony looked something like this:



All of the stairs were originally located outside the home. 

There was a small building behind the house. It was the original laundry and probably was the first part of the building with running water. My sister-in-law remembers taking baths in there, when it was warm. In cold weather water was heated on the stove in the kitchen and a curtain was put up around an old tin tub.

Here, the laundry is located on the right. The main part of the house can be seen over the roof. The building to the left is the original barn. 




Mr. Dreamy is standing in the back entrance. Originally, this would have been a door into the barn, but today it leads to the stairs leading to the main living area of the house.


Here he is from another angle. Notice all of the firewood stacked below what would have been the balconies before the remodel. The basement area has a laundry room, a bomb shelter and an old root cellar. By law, all Swiss homes must have a 'safe room'.


The firewood was used for this stove. I neglected to get a picture of the other side of the wall, where a tile outcropping, with another fire box, extended into the living room. My sister-in-law remembers sitting on the tile to keep warm in the winter.


It seems that most of the Swiss homes have lace curtains. This isn't really a curtain, per se, but I liked looking out the window and seeing the stone cat outside, looking in. Grandma's house has several stone cats adorning window stills and door stoops. 



I am in love with this little town. One of my favorite things was listening to the cows in a near-by 'pasture'. You could hear their bells as they grazed on the hillside below their combination house/barn Swiss home. Hearing the bells made me happy. (I apologize for the poor quality of the video - I couldn't get closer to the cows.... but you can hear the bells!)


Apparently, not everyone likes the bells. We heard that folks who had moved to town from another location were complaining about the noise of the cowbells. How sad. In my way of thinking, the cows epitomize life in a Swiss town. You know, Heidi, and all of that!



Picture credits:

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Saturday Centus: Old Glory

It is time for another Saturday Centus. Jenny has provided us with a picture prompt again this week. Appropriately, for our Nation's "Birthday", this week's picture is Old Glory.... an Old Glory who has seen better days.

Jenny provides us with the rules:

Write 100 words about the picture
Style of writing: Any


She also asks us to visit other entries. I always find it fascinating to see how different the responses are from each other. Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy reading what everyone has to say.




There she is, 
tattered and torn...
Some say, like the flag, 
our Democracy is worn.

Our forebears came together
and fought for our rights.
Now selfishness rules
and apathy blights.

The Government legislates,
And the courts uphold.
Laws seem to contradict
the ideals of old.

Their measures split us apart
like the threads on the seam
of the flag in the picture.
Is this our American dream?

I say it’s time 
to revisit the plan.
Recall freedom of choice,
and justice for each man.

Tattered, or whole
the flag is still there.
Remember the values.
Show our nation we care.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Tecknic: Planes, Trains and Automobiles.... and so much more!

Now we'll go back to Europe... for real! Well, I'm not going back, but I still have some posts I prepared about our European trip in May....

Mr. Dreamy and I stopped by the Technic Museum in Speyer, Germany, one rainy afternoon on our recent European trip. Wow! We were wishing we had more time to explore. This museum was HUGE. It had everything a guy (and even this girl) could love. And we just scratched the surface!

Our attention was snagged when the bus drove by the museum earlier in the morning when we saw this:

(All photos that appear to be taken on a sunny day are courtesy of the Technic Museum!)

Visitors can climb up to tour the air ship, which is a mere 65 feet above the ground. Those who are adventurous may slide down an enclosed spiral slide all the way to the ground. Dreaming was not feeling adventurous. That may have been partially due to the torrential rain which made it difficult to look up at the beast, let alone think about climbing stairs!


The Boeing 747 jumbo jet was one of about a 4 dozen aircraft open to visitors - many displayed above ground, as if in flight. Some inside...


Some outside...

Then, there were the trains. Again, some were inside huge buildings, 


others were outside. 
Due to the rain we did not tarry at the outdoor exhibits.


One of the trains on display made steam engine noises while the pistons appeared to move the wheels. I was very impressed with many of the interactive displays.

The museum has many vintage cars. Dreaming was not particularly happy at seeing her first car featured in a 'vintage' display!


It also has one of the largest selections of fire engines. What little (or big) boy wouldn't find it fun to see all of this equipment!

Although these look like tin toys, they are full-size.
They are the 'real deal'!

There were motorcycles,


ships, and submarines:


Visitors could go onto and into the ships. 
We toured this submarine and a Coast Guard-type rescue ship.

The museum had big boy toys,


... and little boy (or girl) toys.



Oh, and speaking of little boys... I was tickled when I saw an adventure unfolding. I tried not to be too obvious in taking pictures. So, I only took a few, from a distance. It seems that Dad had the boys for the day. They were all very young. The youngest, perhaps a three-year old, delightfully walked through the exit turnstile leaving the museum grounds. He was very proud of his accomplishment. Dad was not sure what to do. He couldn't go through and leave his other two boys. The entrance was quite a distance away. If he went through with the other boys, would they allow him back into the museum? I don't understand a lick of German, but I suspect from the tone of voice that he used some choice words!


Dad looked left and right. Tested the bars of the turnstile. They only turned one way. Then, he encouraged his young son to climb the bars.


Another family, seeing the adventure unfold, came to his aid, helping the little boy over the turnstile.


We've all been in sticky situations before!
How nice for someone to come help this family.

The museum also had a large selection of large 'Musical Organs'. Some were like those you'd find on this carousel:


Others were like this animated musical organ that might have been seen at a fair in the early 1900's.


The museum has left the back of this particular 'organ' open so that visitors can see the mechanics. Dreaming apologizes for not taking a picture!

This museum is really out of this world. Oh, and yes... it has displays about space travel and Russian and American launches. The prototype for Russia's equivalent to the Space Shuttle is on display. The Buran prototype was used to test launch, gliding, reentry and landing before the real Buran was launched in 1988. 


We only had a few hours to spend at the museum. I think we could have spent at least a week there. The extent of the collections was almost beyond belief!


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Back to Europe

We are on the road again. We left home one week ago and went north to a rally in Gillette, WY. There were 2300 motorhomes for attendees and another 300 that belonged to vendors. Wow! That's a lot of motorhomes! We were parked in parking lots and fields around the Cam-Plex in Gillette. Just about every nook and cranny was filled with motorhomes. If I could have taken a ride in an airplane above the grounds, it might have looked something like this, with motorhomes parked where you can see them in the picture and also where I drew in the red squiggly lines. There were motorhomes everywhere!


We were parked in the squiggle under the "l" in the word, "Display". While at the rally we:

 looked at new motorhomes on display, 
went to workshops, 
shopped in a vendor area, 
went to concerts,
visited with friends,
ate junky food,
and walked...
walked some more...
and some more!

Then, the rains came. We had storms on Friday. We had storms on Saturday.... with hail. Luckily, the hail never got to the 'baseball' size they were predicting. 


The insurance companies would have had a ton of claims if that had happened with all of those motorhomes and cars exposed to the weather!

Sunday morning it was time to leave. Well.... it was time for folks to try to leave. It was muddy. Motorhomes were getting mired in the mud.


And, the photo I missed? As I walked the dogs, I saw a fella try to pull his 40' motorhome out of the mud with his jeep. Guess what? The jeep couldn't do a thing. The motorhome was still stuck in the mud. 

We waited until almost noon, giving the Wyoming sun the opportunity to dry the mud out, a bit. Mr. Dreamy did a great job of driving... and negotiated the slight hill and the mud with ease. No tires spinning. Just steady progress. We were on our way.

We thought we were traveling through Wyoming and into Montana.... until we saw this:


Wait! Didn't we leave Amsterdam last month and come home? How can this be? It seems that there must be some sort of  wrinkle in time going on... and we are back in Europe. When we stopped at a gas station, they even had the famed Dutch caramel waffle cookies on the counter! It turns out that there is a bakery in Billings that produces the Dutch treat.


My thoughts  about the existence of some sort of tesseract were supported by this sign the next day:


Amazing....  we found a new route to the old world that doesn't require crossing the ocean! Well, maybe not....

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

On the Road Again

Waking up in the wilds....


Well... maybe not that wild,
But, beautiful, none the less!

St. Regis, Montana

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Saturday Centus: Double-Edged Sword

As I write this, it is thundering outside. We are being pelted by rain and hail. The motorhome is shaking in the wind. Oh, how I wish I could send this rain to Colorado, where even more fires are burning and threatening homes.

Jenny provided the picture picture below as the prompt for this week's Centus. My response, of exactly 100 words, is below. Follow this link to Jenny's blog to read other responses.



“Oh, Momma, look. It’s going to storm. Maybe we’ll get some rain this time.”
With a weary sigh, she glanced to the west, watching the towering clouds and the menacing blackness sweep toward them. 
“Oh, please,” said another of her offspring, “everything is so dry.”
Momma shivered in the wind. The storm was a double-edged sword; fire? or life-giving water?
Lightning cracked, followed by a thunderous boom. A wisp of flame erupted. A small plume of smoke made its way through the tree’s branches. 
The tree embraced her offspring as her dry leaves curled and began to smolder.



Thursday, June 20, 2013

Help is on the Way

The Black Forest Fire is almost a thing of the past, leaving only ugly scars along the landscape and in peoples' brains. This was the most destructive fire in Colorado history... and it all happened in a matter of days. It was terrifying, even for me, living well outside the boundaries of the blaze.

Fire statistics:

Containment: 95%
Homes destroyed: 509
Lives lost: 2
Acres burned: 14,280
Cost: 8.5 million

There are many folks out there interested in helping fire victims. The hard part is connecting those that need with those that are willing to help.


The Gazzette of Colorado Springs has been fantastic throughout this ordeal. They have kept their web site updated with fire information on the top and readily accessible. They have suggestions for help and for providing assistance. 


The Denver Post published this list, which Feral Woman sent to me:


Here are some other ways you can give or get help according to the Denver Post recent article-

• El Paso County has established an online information clearinghouse at elpasoco.com/pages/safetyandassistance.aspx. This is where displaced residents can download copies of the re-entry packet, which includes key emergency phone numbers and other helpful information.

• Several Colorado broadcast stations will host a live phone bank fundraiser 4:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday to raise cash for American Red Cross relief programs in the Black Forest area and other fire zones, and help fund preparedness work in other Colorado communities facing potential disasters including fires, floods, tornadoes and more.

The television and radio stations participating are: KMGH (7News), KUSA (9News), KCNC (CBS4), KDVR (Fox31), KWGN (Channel 2), KCEC (Univision), Rocky Mountain PBS, Colorado Public Television, KUVO, KUNC and KRCC.

• The Margarita at PineCreek will host a benefit on its patio — rain or shine — 6-8:30 p.m. Thursday. Participants' $20 donation at the door goes to the Pikes Peak Community Foundation Emergency Relief Fund and covers a round of drinks, appetizers and live music from The Other Band and The Acme Bluegrass Band. RSVP at 719-598-8667 or themargarita@att.net

• Panera Bread stores in Colorado Springs are hosting a food drive for Care and Share Food Bank and will throw in $1 for every pound of food donated, up to $10,000. The food bank is seeking canned and boxed meals, soup, cereal, peanut butter, canned vegetables and fruit and snacks.

• The American Red Cross continues to operate an overnight shelter at Palmer Ridge High School in Monument. The Red Cross cannot accept goods of any kind, but money can be donated at redcross.org/colorado or by calling 1-800-REDCROSS. You also can make a donation of $10 by texting a message to 90999.

• Evacuees and family members can register to reconnect through the Safe and Well program at safeandwell.communityos.org/cms/index.phpt.

• A multi-organization assistance center has been set up at the El Paso County Public Health Department, 1675 W. Garden of the Gods Road, Colorado Springs. Evacuees can speak to representatives of major insurance companies, utility providers and local nonprofits, as well as grief counselors, health care workers and emergency personnel. Comfort Kits containing personal hygiene items and stuffed animals are also available. The center is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Phone: 719-444-8301.

• Additional Red Cross aid stations distributing clean-up kits — sifters, shovels, trash bags, work gloves, rakes, paper towels, and face masks will be available at fixed site locations and mobile distribution beginning Thursday — water, snacks, and offering informational resources and emotional counseling are open at School in the Woods, 12002 Vollmer Rd., Colorado Springs, 11a.m.-6 p.m.; Colorado 83 and Hodgen Road, noon to 6 p.m.; and Woodmen Road and Black Forest Road, noon-6 p.m.

• Large-animal shelters remain open at Cactus Creek Ranch, 18550 Midway Ranch Road in Pueblo; Flying W Ranch, 3330 Chuckwagon Road in Colorado Springs; and the Elbert County Fairgrounds in Kiowa.

• Small animals can be dropped off at the Humane Society of Pikes Peak Region, 610 Abbot Lane, Colorado Springs. Lost and found animals can be registered at the Black Forest Fire Lost and Found Pets on Facebook.

• People interested in volunteering for the recovery effort can get guidelines from HelpColoradoNow.org.

• Vacant and ready-to-move-in properties can be listed by clicking on the Colorado Disaster Housing Resource button atColoradoHousingSearch.com or by calling 877-428-8844. Available housing is listed, too.

If you have other resources to share, e-mail newsroom@denverpost.com with "FIRE HELP" in the subject line.




Monday, June 17, 2013

One Helluva Week

One week ago today, the community of Black Forest, CO began the day, going about their normal Tuesday routines, never dreaming of the nightmare that would come with the wind that afternoon. 502 families (at last count) lost their homes, one couple lost their lives, at least 30 horses were unclaimed, some died in the fire and others may still be wandering through the forest, along with other pets and farm animals.

Many homes, and many of the iconic buildings in the community were saved through the efforts of just over a thousand firefighters. Some firefighters have returned home, others are still managing the fire which is at 75% containment. In looking at aerial photos it seems that many of the homes that were saved are islands in a sea of charred land. As these families return they must deal with the loss, the stench and the surreal landscape. 

Almost one year ago, a friend I have met only via her Blog narrowly escaped a wildfire. The fire blocked her escape. She and her husband drove to a green field and waited out the fire, then raced through the flames to save the house. Her Blog name is “Feral Woman”... it fits her “hell-fire, spit and determination” attitude!  In reading Feral’s posts I could feel her exhaustion and sense her discouragement. In viewing her photos, I could understand her nightmares. Here are three of the posts Feral put up about the 2012 fire she experienced in Montana:



Recently, Feral posted a picture taken the morning after her fire.
She wrote:

i put this up for contrast to

a little something I put together

~dedicated to you, our blogger friends, & our blogger friends & family in the Colorado fires~

because its all I can do right now; such is the way with fire. 
you wait.
 and
a year later,
what you told me
was right...

Feral's video touched my heart. She made me cry. I cried for the Black Forest community that will never quite be the same. I cried for other communities experiencing destruction. But, I also cried a few happy tears, too. Feral speaks of the promise of the future...



Thanks, Feral. This is so beautiful. Well said! Thanks for showing my friends that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks for letting me share this uplifting video.

Feral Woman also sent me the following list she found in the Denver Post:

Here are some other ways you can give or get help according to the Denver Post recent article-

• El Paso County has established an online information clearinghouse at elpasoco.com/pages/safetyandassistance.aspx. This is where displaced residents can download copies of the re-entry packet, which includes key emergency phone numbers and other helpful information.

• Several Colorado broadcast stations will host a live phone bank fundraiser 4:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday to raise cash for American Red Cross relief programs in the Black Forest area and other fire zones, and help fund preparedness work in other Colorado communities facing potential disasters including fires, floods, tornadoes and more.

The television and radio stations participating are: KMGH (7News), KUSA (9News), KCNC (CBS4), KDVR (Fox31), KWGN (Channel 2), KCEC (Univision), Rocky Mountain PBS, Colorado Public Television, KUVO, KUNC and KRCC.

• The Margarita at PineCreek will host a benefit on its patio — rain or shine — 6-8:30 p.m. Thursday. Participants' $20 donation at the door goes to the Pikes Peak Community Foundation Emergency Relief Fund and covers a round of drinks, appetizers and live music from The Other Band and The Acme Bluegrass Band. RSVP at 719-598-8667 or themargarita@att.net

• Panera Bread stores in Colorado Springs are hosting a food drive for Care and Share Food Bank and will throw in $1 for every pound of food donated, up to $10,000. The food bank is seeking canned and boxed meals, soup, cereal, peanut butter, canned vegetables and fruit and snacks.

• The American Red Cross continues to operate an overnight shelter at Palmer Ridge High School in Monument. The Red Cross cannot accept goods of any kind, but money can be donated at redcross.org/colorado or by calling 1-800-REDCROSS. You also can make a donation of $10 by texting a message to 90999.

• Evacuees and family members can register to reconnect through the Safe and Well program at safeandwell.communityos.org/cms/index.phpt.

• A multi-organization assistance center has been set up at the El Paso County Public Health Department, 1675 W. Garden of the Gods Road, Colorado Springs. Evacuees can speak to representatives of major insurance companies, utility providers and local nonprofits, as well as grief counselors, health care workers and emergency personnel. Comfort Kits containing personal hygiene items and stuffed animals are also available. The center is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Phone: 719-444-8301.

• Additional Red Cross aid stations distributing clean-up kits — sifters, shovels, trash bags, work gloves, rakes, paper towels, and face masks will be available at fixed site locations and mobile distribution beginning Thursday — water, snacks, and offering informational resources and emotional counseling are open at School in the Woods, 12002 Vollmer Rd., Colorado Springs, 11a.m.-6 p.m.; Colorado 83 and Hodgen Road, noon to 6 p.m.; and Woodmen Road and Black Forest Road, noon-6 p.m.

• Large-animal shelters remain open at Cactus Creek Ranch, 18550 Midway Ranch Road in Pueblo; Flying W Ranch, 3330 Chuckwagon Road in Colorado Springs; and the Elbert County Fairgrounds in Kiowa.

• Small animals can be dropped off at the Humane Society of Pikes Peak Region, 610 Abbot Lane, Colorado Springs. Lost and found animals can be registered at the Black Forest Fire Lost and Found Pets on Facebook.

• People interested in volunteering for the recovery effort can get guidelines from HelpColoradoNow.org.

• Vacant and ready-to-move-in properties can be listed by clicking on the Colorado Disaster Housing Resource button atColoradoHousingSearch.com or by calling 877-428-8844. Available housing is listed, too.

If you have other resources to share, e-mail newsroom@denverpost.com with "FIRE HELP" in the subject line.





...and then, there were none!

Yesterday brought fabulous news... our neighborhood's status was changed from "Mandatory Evacuation" to "Pre-Evacuaion". That means our evacuees could return him, as long as they were ready to evacuate within an hour. So, at 8:30 PM, when the announcement was broadcast, all of our guests packed up...


.... and left. 

Do you blame them? (Was it something I said?!)

The horses will remain until the pre-evacuation status is changed. Then they, too, will be back in home paddocks and pastures. What a wild week it as been.

The fire is not out. There are still many people who remain on mandatory evacuation, and many people who do not have a home to come home to. How devastating. The incident commander feels that he may have this 'wrapped up' by the end of Thursday.

The current evacuation map is as follows:


The Black Forest Fire statistics are as follows:

Containment: 65%
Deaths: 2
Acres Burned: 14,198
Homes Destroyed: 483

It has been a wild and crazy week!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Eating an Elephant

The age old question is, "How do you eat an elephant?"


One bite at a time!

The firefighters are tackling the Black Forest Fire in the same manner. One hot spot at a time. The news has been very uplifting. As of last evening the fire was at 55% containment. Many folks were allowed to return home.... but not our evacuees. The current line between their properties and the stand-by evacuation area is about 2000 feet.


The red area is the mandatory evacuation zone. Our friends live at the point of the arrow. 

Oh. 

So. 

Close!

We are taking bets on when the zone will move. Since they will not have another press briefing until noon, unless they have big news to share, you can bet we will all be standing by the computer looking at the live streaming briefing on one of the news channels. 
This fire, although not the largest, has been the most devastating of any Colorado fires. It has destroyed 483 homes and 17 others have partial damage. The number may change. The problem is that the firemen have difficulty determining just what is a home. In some areas mailboxes are gone and there are no identifying numbers remaining. Some of the homes in the area were built so long ago, they didn't even have foundations. 
I am in awe of the work the firemen have put in. They really made every effort to protect homes. 

Firemen holding the line.

If you look closely, you can see that
most of the homes in this neighborhood were saved.

This was the heart of Black Forest, and one of the hardest hit areas.
The white rectangle on the upper right is the elementary school, which was saved. 
Many other community buildings, including the Community Center were saved.


A picture of the building prior to the fire.
The Community Center is an historic building built in the early 1900's.
People were so relieved to learn that it was still standing.

Hooray for the firefighters who put their lives on the line over the past few days.



Take A Hike

Stepping back in time a bit....  I flew into Denver to pick up my car, visit with my dad and then get a few odds and ends taken care of. Th...