Jun 22

Thun, Interlaken

For this Friday post we’re looking back at our trip two weeks ago today. Enjoy the photos that tell the tale of this amazing adventure, which brought our wonderful vacation, sadly, to a close …

Don’t tell anyone, it is a secret, but we found our next house.

To be honest, we weren’t on the market, not really, but they say when you know, you know. You know? So come get to know Schadau Castle. It sits on the south side of the Aare, a tributary of the High Rhine, and just off Lake Thun. It is on the Swiss Inventory of Cultural Property of National and Regional Significance as it was built between 1846 and 1854 according to the plans of Pierre-Charles Dusillon in the Gothic Revival style, for the banker Abraham Denis Alfred de Rougemont.

Inside there’s a restaurant and the Swiss Gastronomy Museum, but those might be moved under the new ownership. And sure, this might seem a little rash to you, but we saw this sign, and we were inspired by Mach.

We’ve completely glossed over the word “was.”

Anyway, outside the Schadau Castle the views are terrific. This is Lake Thun.

And, in the background, you can see Stockhorn, which is in the Bernese Alps. From The Stockhorn’s summit at 7,190 feet you can dine, hike, and see many of the surrounding Alps and the valley of the Aare River and, of course, this lake.

This one is either Niesen or Morgenberghorn. (You’ll have to forgive me I’m doing this from maps and as a lifelong resident of foothills, coastal plains and … it is apparently called lowland hills where we live now … I am not an expert at mountain ID or distance estimation of Very Large Things.)

Let’s assume it is Morgenberghorn for a moment. The Swiss tourism site tells us the summit is at 4,068 feet, it’s a 6.2 mile route “for ambitious hikers.” And it’ll take you about six hours to get to the top, but you get great views when you’re there. I found an accomplished adventure hiker’s review of Morgenberghorn. He said “This route is a little tricky and there are a number of parts where you need to use your hands to climb. Chains are installed in most sections of the trail where you need to use your hands. I never felt unsafe or exposed … I’d only go for this hike if you are up for a bit of a challenge. In addition to the chains and rocky path, it is also 1300m of incline over 7km so you are doing some considerable incline to reach the summit … Solid day on the legs.” I think that’s probably Morgenberghorn.

But let’s assume, just for a moment, that the above is Niesen, because I just learned about something amazing there. Niesen tops out at 7,749 feet. This mountain boasts the longest stairway in the world, with 11,674 steps. It is only open to the public one day a year, for a stair run event. We missed this by a week!

The age group podium for the women was a 43-year-old who won in 1:15:20. Her chief rival, a 50-year-old was just 34 seconds back. We are presently enthralled by Doris Oester, the third place woman in the older age division (they seem to draw the line around the 42-year-old range). That more mature age group beat all of the younger women, so the third place woman third of all the women. And her time puts her at 30th in the overall.

Also, Doris Oester is 70 years-old.

She won this race in 2011. In 2016 she finished second. (She was two-and-a-half minutes faster this year than in 2016.) We are big Doris Oester fans.

For the men’s age group, a 42-year-old got up all 11,674 steps in 1:06:24. A 43-year-old was 1:33 back from the winner. And a 49-year-old man took third place with a time of 1:08:39.

But I digress.

Look who’s considering dipping her toes in Lake Thun.

… Still thinking about it …

… Considering running up all those stairs next year …

One foot in. She says it is cold. I’d be stunned if it wasn’t.

And wading out to her hemline.

Excellent use of the selfie stick there, as I stayed on the shore, warm and dry, to take these photos.

We discovered the surfers at Flusswelle Thun. There were six surfers out there on this Friday. When it was your turn you grabbed that ski rope and worked your way over to the spot where you see the guy surfing here. If you made it into that pocket it seemed that you could stay until you got bored, or made a silly mistake. This guy was actually standing on his board, gesturing and talking with people passing by on the bridge.

In the late afternoon we caught another train to visit Interlaken one more time. There were a few chocolate stores to visit. Here are a few of the sites from Interlaken, and the train ride back to Zurich.

This train ride took us back to Zurich. You probably don’t think of a train ride as an activity — I wouldn’t, ordinarily — but these views.

I came all the way to Switzerland for this photograph, I just didn’t know it until it flashed by.

Yes, that will be in the rotating banners on the top of the site soon.

Lake Brienz seems like a great place to go sailing, or to take a walk.

Mountains coming right down to a body of water will never not be impressive.

One more image for those sailors-at-heart.

And for those preferring a more pastoral foreground, with twin mountains in the background, here you go.

Switzerland is a beautiful place. I’m so glad we had the opportunity to visit. And I thank you for your indulgence in letting me stretch out vacation photos for two weeks here. Next week, we’ll start getting back into the normal routine on the site, much of it consisting of trying to answer the question “Where are we going next? And when should I start packing?”

Jun 22

Point du Hoc, Omaha Beach, Normandy American Cemetery

This was written for a Friday, two weeks ago. That’s the way of it around here for a bit as we go over our amazing travels. So, if you’d be so kind as to cast your mind back two weeks (and also 78 years ago) …

Like many panoramas, this one lives at the intersection between beautiful and enlightening and distorting. Like all panoramas on this site, if you click it, you can see the larger version. We were there two weeks ago.

We caught a morning train out of Paris to head west to Bayeux.

And in Bayeux we rented e-bikes to ride all over the beautiful countryside of Normandy. It is beautiful. We rode all over the countryside. And not all of it on roads. The Yankee suggested Normandy, and I said I wanted to go here, if we could, and after a lot of pedaling, this was our first stop for the day. (Note that upright stone just on the left margin.

If you stood at that stone and look left, you would see Utah Beach just beyond that point.

And if you stood at that sone and looked to your right, beyond the other point, you would see Omaha Beach.

And if you stood at that stone memorial, you’d be wear Ronald Reagan delivered one of the truly great speeches of his presidency.

Peggy Noonan had found his voice by then, and it didn’t hurt that the topic was such a dramatic moment, and the audience included some of the heroes he was talking about.

I remember reading about this anniversary, the 40th, in the second grade, before any of this made any sense to me. I remember a quote from one of the Rangers who was at that event. They’d taken them to the shore line and they looked up the cliff face in wonder. How in the world did we do that? That quote is now 38 years old, and as much as anything, I owe my awe to the moment to that awe of the men who did it.

The guns were located so that they could cover both Utah and Omaha. They could do terrible damage to the troops coming ashore, or to the vessels waiting off the coast. So they sent in the Army Rangers.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower and his staff planning Operation OVERLORD assigned the Rangers of the 2d and 5th Ranger Battalions, under the direction of Lieutenant Colonel James E. Rudder and organized into the Provisional Ranger Group, the mission of destroying the enemy positions on the cliff top. Unbeknownst to Allied planners, the Germans failed to believe that U.S. military command would consider the cliff top accessible by sea. The Americans, however, considered it an accessible assault point and reasoned that with a well-trained force, soldiers could land on the narrow beaches below at low tide and ascend the cliffs with the assistance of ropes and ladders. When Lieutenant General Omar N. Bradley told Rudder of the assignment, the Ranger officer could not believe what he had heard, but he understood the importance of the mission at hand. In his memoir, A Soldier’s Story, Bradley wrote, “No soldier in my command has ever been wished a more difficult task than that which befell the thirty-four-year-old Commander of this Provisional Ranger Force.”

The original ornate plans were ruined by rough seas, which put the entire Pointe du Hoc timetable well behind schedule. They were forced to improvise.

The delay gave the Germans enough time to recuperate, reposition their defenses, and lay heavy gunfire on the incoming Rangers from companies D, E, and F. The Rangers, no longer able to follow Rudder’s original plan, were now instructed to land all companies to the east of Pointe du Hoc on a strip of beach about 500 yards long and thirty yards wide. They came under heavy fire from the Germans while coming ashore. As the soldiers at the front exited the landing craft, the Rangers toward the rear laid down covering fire as their comrades ran to shore and took shelter in a small cave at the base of the cliff or in craters along the narrow beach.


The Rangers experienced much difficulty climbing up the cliffs that day. Many of the ropes that caught hold of the cliffs that morning were completely covered by enemy fire, making the number available for climbing severely limited. The wet ropes were slippery and soldiers were weighed down by damp uniforms and mud clinging to their clothes, boots and equipment. German bullets and “potato masher” grenades rained down from above. Nevertheless, the Rangers climbed to the top of Pointe du Hoc while under enemy fire. Several German soldiers were killed and others driven off from the cliff edges when Rangers opened fire on them with Browning Automatic Rifles (BARs).

The guns they were sent to capture, their primary objective, weren’t there. The Germans had moved them back from what they’d thought was an impregnable position. A two-man Ranger patrol later found five of the six pieces of heavy artillery and they were subsequently.

After scaling the 110-foot cliff face against brutal German fire, gaining the top and then fighting the enemy for two dys fewer than 75 of the original 225 who came ashore at Pointe du Hoc on D-Day were fit for duty. It’s a testament to bravery and grit, and courage and honor. We were fortunate to have been able to visit it for a brief time.

From there we rode our rental bikes to the Normandy American Cemetery. We weaved through traffic, passing gobs of cars (it was oh so satisfying) stuck in traffic in time to see the evening’s flag lowering.

The World War II cemetery in Colleville-sur-Met, Normandy, France covers 172.5 acres and contains 9,388 burials. In the gardens are the engraved names of 1,557 servicemen declared missing in action in Normandy.

In that building you’ll see massive maps describing the planning and the D-Day assault itself, and also the push all the way to the Elbe River.

None of this was a certainty when D-Day began. And it took about two months of hard, deadly fighting, before the Allies could claim Normandy as under their control. Great losses were absorbed and delivered to get off that beachhead.

On the cemetery’s chapel there is a carving in the marble of part of John 10:28, “I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish.”

The cemetery looks over a bluff onto Omaha Beach. There are 304 unknown soldiers at rest in the grounds of the cemetery.

It also contains the graves of 45 pairs of brothers (30 are side-by-side), a father and son, an uncle and nephew, two pairs of cousins, four chaplains, four civilians, three generals and three Medal of Honor recipients.

We were about 30 miles into our lovely afternoon bike ride, and we were starting to eye the clock. The bike shop we rented from closed at 7, and our train was coming at about 8:30. So we had to race back. (Nice bikes, would rent again. Would check to make sure my back brake worked before I set out next time, though. I had to feather off the front brake for the entire day!) We made it just in time, which was the shocking theme for the whole day. Just caught the morning train. Arrived with our bikes ready, got lost twice and still made it to the cemetery just in time to see the flags lowered. Lingered around that hallowed place a while, giving us just enough time to get back to the bike shop, which left us enough time to get a bite to eat at a place next to the train station. Which put us safely on the train.

It was an important day in important places. I’m glad we did it, and that it all worked out as it did, which was to say, perfectly.

She planned another great trip, and we’re just getting started.

We still have two days in Paris, where our adventures will continue.

May 22

Riding into the weekend

Finally, we were able to get in another bike ride this week. The two extra days off did my legs no favors. But someone didn’t seem phased. I was playing catch up for 90 minutes.

At the very end of the ride I caught her.

Or, seen another way …

Even then, it took a well-timed break — near our pre-selected turnaround point is the home of a few friends who were out in their yard so we stopped for a chat — and a desperate chase just to stay in sight.

She’ll get faster before I do, probably, which is the real concern.

Did you know I am still putting dive videos on social media? I am still putting dive videos on social media. Here’s today’s dose. I’ve got about five more weeks worth of clips, I’m sure.

That’s it for now. See you Monday. Until then, check out my Instagram. And did you know that Phoebe and Poseidon have an Instagram account? Also, be sure to keep up with me on Twitter as well.

May 22

Just a fast little bike ride

A weird thing happened on the way to my bike ride today. The Yankee is doing a sprint tri tomorrow, so she had a short ride planned. I was going to ride longer, but she got hers in early, which freed me up to do whatever.

Whatever is a thing I seldom do on the bicycle anymore, which is a shame and something to remedy. So I was looking forward to riding that, and my legs felt good and I thought it would be a grand, fast ride. I could go hard where I wanted to, not have to chase to catch back up at other moments, and so on.

So I left the neighborhood and went into the next neighborhood and thinking about the basic, familiar route I would take. There’s a hard stop sign at a hill just up ahead and that slows things down, but after that long little hill you take another stop sign and, from there, start to build some momentum over the next four rollers. Then comes a right hander onto one of those roads that has low commercial buildings — a dentist, an orthodontist and a funeral home — on one side and the back yards of houses on the other side.

Earlier this week I sprinted out that road and set the third fastest time on Strava, three seconds behind the leader.

This was to be my first sprint today, but my legs felt like solid stone. So, I thought, it’ll just be a pleasant and easy ride the rest of the way, for however long that feels rewarding. Freed up to do whatever.

Whatever turned into something pretty interesting as started feeling stronger with each passing little hill. Strava counted 24 timed segments on the route I chose today, one of our standards, and I had my second-best time on one of them, my third-best on five of them and set a new personal record on the longest segment, a 5.67-mile romp where I was trying to improve my overall speed. Usually I can add .2 mph over that portion, but today I did better, still.

I don’t have any photos of this, so that’s an archival photo of my shadow, because I was thinking about peddling and trying to remember how to breathe and recollect how gears work on my bicycle. It was the fastest outdoor ride of the year, so far, and for 28 miles it also somehow felt like the first ride of the year.

I see this as encouraging. And I see it as a reinforcement to do more of whatever on the bike. And now to start adding on to it.

To the miles ahead!

May 22

Do not dip the needle in gasoline

I didn’t know it any point in time over time, but I have watched four Karate Kid movies — including the unnecessary Next Karate Kid. I also watched the inappropriately named 2010 remake with Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan. (That was kung fu, if anyone is keeping track.) I had my mind blown by the 2015 explanation of how Daniel is the real bully, a violent sociopath, in the movie and, before that, the Sweep the Leg music video which is probably not canon. (The internet is a magical place where people put way too much of their free time.) I have also watched all four seasons of the Cobra Kai series. I’ve done so with two things in mind. First, that Daniel is the bully and, second that Daniel doesn’t realize his best days are behind him and Johnny thinks his best days are still ahead of him.

And now, after all of that — a runtime of 29 hours and 48 minutes, plus the four minutes it took to figure that out — finally this. The best line in the whole franchise, from Chozen Toguchi.

Yuji Okumoto has appeared in 100 projects over the years, and he also owns a restaurant in Seattle. He … is gasoline.

Graduation ceremonies are this weekend. We had one in the building today, the game design faculty do a special program for their students, and it is always one of the first ones to go off, and they do it in our building, and use the giant television to show off their hard work. It’s quite neat. Late this afternoon the Media School’s program was held in the IU Auditorium.

Tomorrow the big graduation in the football stadium. Other schools have similar multi-part ceremonies, as well. The School of Nursing will be in our building to take advantage of the extra space for their students’ proud family members. No matter their school or discipline, it is always fun to see the happy faces.

They’ve all been posing all over campus in their caps and gowns and nice suits and beautiful dresses for days. Graduation, like everything, has become a much more involved exercise over the years.

(Why the university hasn’t decided to control the flow of foot traffic around iconic and scenic photo settings for better graduation photos and a chance to maybe fund a scholarship or something out of the effort eludes me. But I’m sure they’ll get around to that one day. Everything gets more involved over time.)

And, we got a Covid booster today. CVS said “Why not?” Dude was done before he began. Best shot I’ve had in a long time — not that anyone charts these things. No emerging side effects, as yet, but I can feel the injection site. Previously, from the Pfizer shots I could feel the scratchy throat and weariness and whatever else just moving in for a day or two. No such problem with the Moderna. Conclusion: I got the placebo.

Or I’m immune to vaccines.

But before we commit to that, let’s see what tomorrow brings.