Okay, yes, I have been very bad about updating. Let’s see if I can remember some of the fun tidbits from the drive and our last few days in the US.
Two days was not enough time to really explore the back roads of West Virginia. We saw some lovely covered bridges. We accidentally stumbled across the first battlefield of the Civil War (300 confederates vs 2000 union troops, fighting for a ridgetop farm).
We were struck by the lack of sheep. We saw a few small mobs, but all that lovely landscape NOT covered in sheep is a bit weird after living in NZ. But considering how many wandering dogs there are in the area, I can see why people would want to stick with cattle.
The final push down to Knoxville was a bit of a death march. Since we had not covered ground as quickly as planned in WV, the last bit of driving was quite long, and we did not arrive until late. Carol and Joel have a lovely new house. The AC was appreciated, as we had driven out of the unseasonable cool weather in Delaware, and into a southern heat-and-humidity filled “normal” summer. Our poor little antipodean bodies were not ready!
Some highlights of this part of the trip included a trip to the Museum of Appalacia- which is all of 5 minutes from their house. The poverty of the region led to a great deal of ingenuity. The hand-carved rifling-jig in the gun workshop was especially nifty. (as was the specialized “gun anvil”)
We also visited an alpaca farm. While Tam and I had a perfectly reasonable conversation with the retired husband, Carol and Joel were talked at by the seriously crazy wife. You see, she had helped her brother co-author a series of books (The Arc of Millions of Years). Apparently they had “cracked the Mayan callender”, and this led to a revelation about the truth of 2012, the book of revelations, how all the animals fit on the arc, magnetic tetrahedrons, the dead sea scrolls, and a bunch of other stuff. AND she and her borther are apparently the last living people who saw the Roswell crash. Boy-howdy, you meet some interesting people in this world.
One other weird thing we noticed- lots of people in that exurb of Knoxville had what we would call “lifestyle blocks”- a nice house sitting on 3-5 acres of land. In NZ this would be fenced off, and there would be stock grazing it. In the US, there was not a fence to be seen, and the entire vast expanse of lawn was mown. Yee Gods, what a waste of time and money mowing that much grass mechanically. It does explain why the market for pet-alpaca is worse in American than it is in NZ- people with 5-acre blocks are the perfect sales target for selling alpacas. But when they don’t have fences (and don’t even consider having stock!), it makes it more difficult.
Packing for the trip was a bit stressful. Thankfully all the stuff made it through fine. We wre bringing back my kilograms of books and had carefully backed the bags to limit the danger of (a) theft by the TSA, or (b) having the luggage “searched” by the TSA in such a way that ends up damaging most or all of the contents.
The flight across the pacific was going well, and then I fell ill. After the fact I realized this was one of my classic “24 hour bugs” which lays me out flat, and then I am fine the next day. Not surprising I picked up a bug, what with all the travel, eating-out, lots of strangers, etc. Having this bug hit half way across the pacific was not fun. Headache, nausea. Bleach. By the time we reached Auckland I was a serious zombie. I have vague memories of Tam collecting the luggage and keeping things organized. I was lying on the floor, drifitng in and out, most of the time when we were not actively moving from point to point. I must say all the Customs/Biosecurity/Border agents were brilliant. When they saw Tam escorting one of the restless dead, they quickly moved us along. We jumped to the front of lines. This was good.
At biosecurity we had them spray all our shoes. We had been on that alpaca farm three days earlier- and after the owner told me of the dieases they have to test for I wanted to be VERY SURE we were clean. Some of those diseases are on the “OMG- nuke it from orbit” list MAF maintains. In the same category as foot and mouth. Sometimes I forget how lucky we are in terms of many animal diseases down here.
Anyway, just as we finished biosecurity and were free to go- I felt trouble coming. I ran out into the terminal looking for a bathroom. NOTE FOR AUCKLAND AIRPORT- YOU NEED BETTER SIGNS SO DISTRESSED PEOPLE CAN FIND A LOO QUICKLY!!! Knowing I only I had moments, and since no bathroom was in sight, I ran out the front doors– and prompty chundered all over the street. At least that made me feel a bit better.
The flight to Wellington was also a blur, with a bit more chundering. First time I ever used an air-sick bag. The ones provided were well suited to the task. We then retrieved the car from Steve and Jennifer’s place, and drove home.
We returned to find our that the house had no water. Not a drop. Let the fun begin!