Rhein River Cruise

It’s a 1-hour drive from Koblenz, the little city with the flower show, to Bingen, where Gudrun would pick us up to take us back to the vineyard.

My parents and I, however, had no car. We didn’t rent one either. To travel the 60km, we took the scenic route: a 6-hour riverboat cruise down the Rhein.

Dad and I (and Mom, taking our photo) had the entire upper floor almost to ourselves. Only a few other people came aboard with us in Koblenz, the first stop of the trip.

Our boat, the Goethe, was an authentic paddle wheeler. I didn’t realize this until midway into our journey when I went downstairs in search of the bathroom and walked past the windows to one of the wheelhouses. “Well, I’ll be damned,” I said aloud.

We saw so many castles. Two dozen of them or more, perched high on bluffs overlooking thousand-year old towns.

We passed the famous Loreley, a rock that shoots almost 400 feet into the air. Between Switzerland and the North Sea, this is the narrowest point of the Rhein. Many boats have sunk here due to the strong rapids and rocks just beneath the surface.

About four hours in, the rain started. We scooted back inside and ordered lunch. How German is this?

And of course, dessert and coffee.

This apple strudel Mom ordered was absolutely delicious.

All of a sudden, it was time for us to disembark. “Next stop, Bingen,” came over the loudspeaker. We had just spent six hours on a boat.

How terribly slow six hours can trickle by when you’re zooming along in a car. But on a boat, paddling along at a snail’s pace, six hours can slip by just like that. ☼

Gondola Ride in Koblenz

When was the last time you took a gondola ride? Did you have a pair of skis clutched in your gloved hands? Were you on the edge of your seat, excited as all get out to reach the top of the mountain?

Gondola rides get my adrenaline pumping. Know what else gets me excited? Knowing a secret.

“Gondola number 17 has a glass bottom,” whispers my cousin Britta.

“Only 17? Why not the others?” I ask.

Britta shrugs. “It’s special.”

We’re waiting in line to get on gondola number 17. But we’re not actually in line, we’re off to the side.

“Can we do this? Just jump in line to get on 17?” I ask.

“Normally they don’t like it,” says Kati, my cousin Patrick’s girlfriend. “But I work here. We’re allowed.” She grins.

We count the cars as they come around. Twelve … thirteen. They’re sooo slow … fourteen. Come on. Fifteen.

All of a sudden, a bunch of boys rush up. Sixteen goes by. They flank us. “Seventeen! We have to get on seventeen!” they say to each other. They know.

Seventeen swings around. Britta and I stride toward the door. A couple kids manage to scurry in front of us. They quickly sit down on the glass viewing platform and spread their arms out in an attempt to save seats for the rest of their cronies.

I walk around and plop myself right in between them. Britta grabs the other side. We look across at each other and smile triumphantly. Nice try, punks.

Look at the glee all over my dad’s face. And he wasn’t even looking through the glass bottom.

Gondolas are fun. Even without the skiing.

By now you’ve probably figured out that I’m not riding this gondola to the top of a snow-capped mountain. Actually, I’m on my way to look at flowers.

For 2011, the city of Koblenz received the honor of hosting the famous Budesgartenshau, Germany’s national horticulture show. Some of the exhibits were located in the city center, but the largest exhibit was located across the Rhein river on top of Ehrenbreitstein mountain.

Sure, a flower exhibition isn’t the adrenaline-pumping thrill I expect and the end of a gondola ride. But that’s not fair to the flowers. They put on a good show. There were acres of them; so colorful and gorgeous. And a handful of them actually freaked me out a little. Seriously, what the heck is this?

I didn’t even know half of these plants existed. So! Many! Flowers! The designers of the show must’ve anticipated flower fatigue. How thoughtful of them to add space-oddessy (?!) chairs to the walking paths.

Besides the flower show, the top of Ehrenbreitstein afforded a sweeping view of Koblenz and the Deutsches Eck. The “German Corner” is a pointy piece of land formed by the Mosel river joining the Rhein.

This was big. The Deutsches Eck is like Germany’s version of America’s Four Corners. Must have a photo of this. Or two. Or three.

Look at these parents of mine. I don’t know who told the joke, but finally! Non-camera smiles! (Factoid: their 29th wedding anniversary was just a few days prior to this.)

Down we go. ☼

Lunar Eclipse

At 4:25 a.m., I rolled out of bed to see the lunar eclipse just beginning. At 5:30 the moon was covered halfway. At 6:15 it was almost completely covered, but then the sun started to rise. Within a few minutes the moon had disappeared into the morning blue sky.

View from my balcony, 6:16 a.m.

¿Que Paso con la Moto?

It’s 1:40 a.m.

I roll over. Kirk’s not there. “Hey, are you almost done?” I call out hoarsely from three hours of sleep.

“I’m finishing up right now,” he says from the couch in the living room. He’s still working. His job is ridiculous.

He crawls into bed next to me. “Hey,” he asks, pending a question.

“Yeah?”

“So we still don’t know if the motorcycle shipped or not, right?”

A few weeks ago, we bought a motorcycle off craigslist – a dirt bike, actually – and had it shipped (or rather, are waiting for it to ship) to Costa Rica. We’re scheming again – trying to figure out how to make money without a job.

My chest feels hollow. “No … we don’t.”

Two thousand dollars. Just sitting there, in a warehouse in Long Beach. Kirk’s worried. Maybe in this moment, exhausted and on the brink of sleep, he’s not, but now my mind is reeling. Where is the motorcycle now? Is it still leaning up against that stack of cardboard boxes in the warehouse? Did Miguel do something with it? Is it even in Long Beach? Has it been sold? Is someone racing it in the desert? Is it on craigslist? Is it in a heaping pile, ditched after being used for a drug run? Who runs drugs on a motorcycle?

“Will you try to get a hold of Natalia tomorrow? Or send me Miguel’s number and I’ll try to call him,” said Kirk.

“Okay, yeah.”

I’m not falling back asleep. My heart’s racing and this stupid song is stuck in my head from a TV commercial where a dorky Asian guy is sitting at his cubicle rocking out with headphones on looking at photos of himself from Vegas on his screen saver. Hit the lights, ohh oh, hit the lights ohh oh …

Miguel, our shipping point man in Long Beach, is worrying me. I sent him an email yesterday. I haven’t heard back from him yet. I called him twice on Friday trying to figure out what was going on.

“It hasn’t shipped yet?”

“No, no, eet has not sheeped yet,” he says, babbling on in his thick Spanish accent something I can’t understand whatsoever.

“Ok, thanks Miguel.”

I hung up. Immediately, Kirk calls.

“So we don’t know why it hasn’t shipped? We gotta find out why, Lauren. From what I read about these guys, we really have to stay on them. Stuff can just sit there, weeks go by, months. Then what happens to it? Two thousand dollars just sits there, unnoticed? We’ve got to look at it as cash. Because that’s what it is. Two grand. Just sitting there. We need to stay on top of this.”

My stomach twists. I roll onto my back. I need to calm myself down. I try to think of something I really like.  A table full of deserts. What? No … how about something I can look forward to. Christmas dinner. What is with the food? Kirk’s family coming to visit. That’ll be fun. The Stone Brewery, the Safari Park, Ruby’s on the pier … But will I get enough days off from work? What if I get hired at this new restaurant? Will they hire me one day and let me take a week off the next? Do I really want this job? Should I even go to the interview in the morning? Damnit, it’s nearly morning now.  Okaay, forget that stuff. How about sheep? Should I count sheep? Who the f actually counts sheep?!

Oh jeez. What if the two grand is gone? Why did we even do this in the first place?

Hey! I say to Myself, that’s unfair.You can’t just shoot yourself in the mental foot with those kind of questions. There’s no need to get all bent out of shape. Your letting your imagination hijack your rationality. Hit the lights, ohh oh, hit the lights ohh oh …

Damn that song.