No eye contact and a set of blinders is the apparel of choice in the city of Antwerp. This seems to be the status quo for most big cities. But, once I caught their attention, most were willing to stop, stay, and discuss anything for any length of time. A few times they went further than going out of their way to help me. It appeared to be a perfect chance for them to stop and talk to someone who speaks English every day. I was very impressed. Predominantly Flemish in Northern Belgium, French is also a necessity, with most citizens speaking English also. Some speak just a little English, but others love to practice the English language and were more than happy to indulge in conversation. Delectable Italian Restaurants (my weakness) are everywhere. Kiosks containing Gauffres (Belgium Waffles) with your choice of powdered sugar, whipped cream, ice cream, strawberries and chocolate topping were easy to be found. Frietkot (French Fry shack) served with mayonnaise are a Belgium mainstay. I found just the right chocolate shop—Elisa, One factory, one small store outlet, and maybe fifty different types of chocolates. I tried 15 or 20 varieties. I’m melting! But nothing topped the opportunity to take a tour with a personal guide through The Cathedral of Our Lady. This Cathedral is an astounding piece of architecture built in 1352 which contain many 16 century Baroque paintings from local artist such as Peter Paul Rubens and Otto Van Veen. Visiting Belgium has rekindled my long lost interest in art and ancient architecture which is encouraging a desire within me to visit more European restaurants—no… I mean countries. Everyone deserves a chance to visit Antwerp.
I do not believe anyone gets to spend enough time at the beach. This is especially true with my family. So, Val, Olivia, and I spent a day lying on the beach with my younger brother and his girl friend. What a nice gal. As we enjoyed the sun that shone itself through the fog, the turbulent Pacific waves pounded the beach sand, creating a polishing effect for the most beautiful rocks. You see, we were not there to take in the sun and work on eliminating our farmer’s tan but rather layered up with clothing, gloves, and a hoody and walked almost two miles in the sand from Big Lagoon Park to Patrick’s Point State Park’s Agate Beach. We found a place were the medium size rocks mingled with the dark gray sand, and we nestled down for the long haul. Rolling the rocks over with our hand, we would search for the elusive agate that lay waiting to be found. Because all the rocks there were very beautiful, I could not help but to save a few of those also; red, green, yellow, orange, stripes, spots, and multiple of those listed. After a couple of hours, some good conversation, and quite a few agates, we called it a geological day. As we started the two mile walk back to the car, we decided we would walk with a whale for company. This stretch of beach is very steep allowing for deep waters very close to the shore. About 100 feet from the shoreline the whale meandered taking its time feeding. Keeping the same pace as the whale, we walked with him for about three quarters of a mile while the hump back fed on the shore fish. It finally drifted out to deeper waters as we approached more shallow surf. We could not take the whale or the suntan with us, but the beautifully polished agates will be a reminder of our trip to Arcata and of God’s work here upon this beautiful world. (:There are over thirty agates in the rock picture. See how many Jelly bellies you can find:)
What a special night. I got to organize, Val got to see her daughter, Mark was an usher, CJ was in a nest, Kathy practiced Photography (by the way Kathy, the sewing was beautiful), Larry cracked a few jokes to make Lois laugh, and Riley is an Eagle. We are very proud of him. Riley has been active in community service, he received the LDS Duty to God award, received seminary’s Disciple of Christ award, and graduated with honors in the top eight of his class at his High School. I can not say he is an over achiever, but he seems to have a pretty good grip on the real meaning of and the importance of life. Kindness, tolerance, and compassion are his strong natural attributes. Coincidentally, these are the virtues I lack the most of. He has taught me as much as I have ever taught him. He is attending a university this year with music as his major. For his Eagle Project, Riley installed a wood burning stove, stove pipe, and a stone heat shield in the Old Pinery Lodge for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I believe he stands worthy to have received this Boy Scout Eagle Award. Riley, look what you have done.
I was standing in the dark and far to the side of a quiet freeway swatting at tens of mosquitoes that were trying to get their dinner. The weather was calm which made me a sitting duck for a hungry bug. The half moon illuminated the landscape just enough to see were I was standing. Val was in the car with her headlights on high beam. I tried to find a setting on the Kodak to get the best shot of the reflective “Welcome to Indiana” sign I could get. I was not having much luck, but the mosquitos were having a free buffet. Tiny lights drew my attention away from the Kodak, Indiana, the blasted mosquitoes, and even Val who was trying to get her headlights in a better position for me to take a picture. There, twenty feet away, were tiny green lights that were etching a memory I would not soon forget. In an amazed state, I wandered up to the hedge were the fireflies did not seem to care that I was even there. I glanced over the hedge, and the row of trees that lined the field, which I now stood by, was engulfed with thousands of fireflies. I am sure I would have looked like a buffoon to an Indianaite, but that was not going to stop someone living on the other side of the Rocky Mountains to enjoy such a beautiful site. Val and I were able to take some long looks at other fireflies during our stay in Illinois. Some were green, some blue, and some yellow. I sustained a few wilts for the experience, but it was truly the fireflies that etched the memory.
So, we got this great idea I needed to save a few bucks on fuel for commuting. After many months of swearing never to pay somebody in Utah an over-inflated price for a Compressed Natural Gas car, we found one. The only problem was that it was in BelAir Maryland. Of course, this was an opportunity we had been hoping for, and so the adventure began. The only plan we made was to take an eleven day Mormon tour and let everything else fall in place as we traveled. We journeyed to Palmyra and the Hill Cumorah Pageant, Kirtland, Nauvoo and the Nauvoo Pageant, Martins Cove, and finished the trip at the “This is the Place Monument” in Salt Lake City. I will not bore you with the little details like going to Niagara Falls or Mount Rushmore. If you would like to take a trip back to a Mormon site, please contact us so we can chat, for it was awesome. Even though our vacation put a perma-grin on our face, nothing will make a person smile more than filling a tank full of .85 cent fuel—so, I like to brag.