Thursday, February 2, 2023

The Random European Clearing House

Returning to France

One must remember that our vehicle is French, and our license plate is French, so that “F” denotes to the world that we are French. We are constantly confused for being French. We open the car door in Serbia and someone says, “Bonjour!”. I got a parking ticket in England and some nice man walked up to me to apologize in French. Since everyone treats us like the French, even though we're not French, our return to France, was in some ways . . . a homecoming of sorts. When your last memory of driving in the UK, is the M25 and your first experience after setting foot in France Is the A1 you are in love with France. I guarantee it. The roads, the food, the wine – I could be French. 

But I do miss the British Isles. Travel is the stitching in the fabric that blends it together and generates new hybrids of joy. English apple butter smeared on a French croissant – se magnifique!

Then I went to The States and Aleja went to Colombia.

Christmas with Cousins! Bill and Linda Orr

Can your brother do De Niro?

Has your girlfriend mastered pet impressions?


I reconnected the batteries & the water system in Encore and we unpacked our goodies from our respective countries. Going home is nice. Returning is nice. Change is nice. There was no mildew and no pipes burst in the freeze of winter. Encore forgave us for deserting her and we sped south for the Spanish border and hopefully some warmth.

Today is our 1-year anniversary of moving into our beloved Encore. We chose well and are very happy to live in this Freedom Machine. Here’s a visualization of our previous 12 months

Feb 2 2022 - Feb 2 2023

And Without Further Delay – The Unrequested Random Clearing House

Not every idea I have fits cleanly into a topic thesis, or supports a through line of thought. Here are those left-over orphaned ideas and half-baked musings.  They are the underdeveloped notions that refused to play nice with others. Let’s just acknowledge that not everything can be an anecdote, but, for some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to abort these zygotes with the delete key. Congratulations folks, it’s another unrequested episode of Bobby’s Random European Clearing House. 

The Height Of Civilization

If you had to distill it down to just one question, and one question only, to determine if a culture was civilized. I think it would have to be “how do they treat their pedestrians?” In parts of Europe the citizens don’t even look up before stepping into the crossing walk, let alone pause and look both ways. Their culture has made them so supremely confident in their right to be treated safely as a pedestrian on the roadways that they trust blindly. And so far, I’ve never seen the results of a collision.

In Denmark, the bike lanes were so big and wide that I almost mistook them for being a frontage road and turned onto them with Encore, and she would have fit! That's what prioritizing a healthy lifestyle looks like: bike lanes the width of roads. Kudos Denmark!

More Indices Of Civilization

The duck stairs of Haarlem almost knocked me over. This photo below might prove that the Dutch are the most righteous humans on the planet (As if they really need the extra superlatives - they are already the tallest, most attractive polyglots.). This was not a one off. I saw many of these duck stairs. Maybe the 1 question to ask should be 2 questions: “How do they treat their pedestrians and their animals?”. The other obvious giveaway is the hydrating dog bowls you’ll find at most restos in Europe. 

These stairs allow the ducks to enter and more importantly exit the canals

On The Subject Of The Dutch…

This is direct from my journal: “Got to Amsterdam yesterday. Parked. Plugged in. Headed off on the e-scooters. They buzz along at 25kph. The Dutch do an amazing job accommodating two wheeled vehicles. We blazed through farmer's fields on an Olympic quality track and crossed canals with young Dutch sunbathers partying on their boats. Naked full breasts everywhere. By the time we got to the free ferry to cross the river and enter the city center I was already in love. We shared a bottle of wine with my friend of 30 years ago and had a fine meal. Then got whacked on space cakes and wheat beer and raced 45 minutes back to Encore. This is urban paradise. I'm strongly considering buying a boat for these endless canals and living on it until I grow barnacles or learn the language. Either way, by that time I’d be too old and spoiled to leave.”

The Dutch all ride bikes. They probably learned how to ride a bike the day after they took their first steps and they ride fast, real fast. Force is the following formula: “Mass of giant Dutchman x Acceleration of bike.” You look both ways or you die in a bike lane.  

The Dutch people are so tall that I have to stand on my tiptoes to use the urinal. Try to pee on your tiptoes. Go ahead. It's not easy.

The Dutch conversation is a lot of spitting and sore throats. Small price to pay to hang out with the world’s finest people. Who could give them a run for the title? Only the Scandinavians. There – I said it. My tribe didn’t even make the top 3. I’ll let you guess at third place. 


Are the Belch just watered down Dutchies? And can we call them Belch? 3 out of 5 dentists say we can. We loved Belgium, but these cobblestones are making it almost impossible to ride on two wheels with a beer in my hand. I think maybe this Lifestyle should be called "Chasing Beauty". We went to Ghent and then drove 30 miles to Brugge. Chasing beauty.

Ahh – The Cuisine

Europe is the height of civilization and I am embracing her varied and storied cultures with vigor. Along the way - I may have noticed something. There seems to be Food based cultures and Economic based cultures. Germans don't emphasis cheese and wine like the French. Yes, they are excellent at beer, but wine takes time and their wine misses the mark. Could they be a little impatient? They have the biggest economy in Europe and they worked hard for that. However, their food hasn’t matured. It’s less imaginative with fewer ingredients, but . . . it gets served on time. Have I found an inverse correlation between productiveness and gourmet food? 

“I Like To Sweat And Swat Mozzies”

Euros and their funny ideas about air conditioning. Would you like uncomfortably high heat, with sweltering humidity and mosquitoes, or do you like cool dry and bug free? An air conditioner is a dehumidifier that makes for cool deep sleep and doubles as a white noise maker. The Euros choose the former and smirk at us for choosing the later. I’ll never understand their rationale.

Global Ne’er-Do-Well

I have a great affection for directionless leisure. Some would say I excel at it. 

                    You know you have too much free time when this is of interest

We spend a lot of time being lazy on the shores of a lake with our toes in the sand, writing in journals, flying the drone or throwing the fishing magnets. “It's 3. Should we start dicing fruit for the sangria?” It’s a languid existence on the periphery of society. I commented earlier about civilization, and though we hold valid passports, we don’t really belong to any specific culture. We’re international voyeurs coming to a city nowhere near yours. “No thanks, just looking.” And then we’re gone. Societal parasites flitting about the continent taking notes and smiling widely. And Europe is weird and wild enough to take us in. Thank you, Europe. 

I've lived in Europe now for a year, which... pretty much makes me European. Yeah, I'm European now. I drink Aperol spritzers, I smoke cigarettes, and I support a premier league team. No. None of that is true. But after a year, I might have a slightly better understanding of Europe, but only slightly. I believe the prudent choice would be to continue the research for many more years. And that’s just what we’re going to do.

Your man on point….

Captain Bobby 


When you drive around Europe, you begin to see a pattern: Hard scrabble peasants colonized by the civilized Romans. From England to Spain, F...