Once in a Blue Moon - Balkan Dreams - CycleBlaze

November 1, 2020

Once in a Blue Moon

We flew home under a Blue Moon.  I like that. It sounds somehow fitting as a way to return from a tour that is ending too soon.  For those of you that didn’t know, or did know once but like me have forgotten much of once you knew when you had a younger brain, a Blue Moon is the second full moon in the same calendar month.  This month’s first Blue Moon fell on October 1st.  It’s a relatively rare phenomenon, occurring about every 18 months - the orbs have been to align at the right time of month, and the month has to be long enough.  It’s even rarer to have one fall on Halloween, which somehow makes it feel even more portentous.  That’s something that happens only every 19 years.  Spooky!!

And, this month’s Halloween Blue Moon is an even rarer event, a full moon that is visible worldwide, in all 24 time zones in the same month.  This is an event that hasn’t happened since 1944 - so long ago that even I wasn’t born yet, kiddos.

And, in rainy Portland, what are odds that the moon would even be visible?  Yet, there it was, just rising in the east as our taxi drove us from the airport to Bruce and Andrea’s home where our newly cleaned Jetta was patiently waiting for our return.  Such faithful friends, all three of them!

I’m disappointed now that I didn’t take a photo of the moon last night, but heads were groggy and minds were on other things.  Instead, this image I lifted from NBC News will have to do as a reminder.

The Blue Moon beams down on the dome of the U.S. Capitol. Somehow it seems even more portentous to have this rare event unfold above this building, at this time.
Heart 3 Comment 0

The flight from Bologna departs early, at 6:20.  We wake up at the terrible hour of 3:30, check out, and catch a taxi to the nearby airport, arriving the recommended two hours before departure.  We really appreciate our taxi driver, who keeps making probing attempts to communicate with his extremely limited english vocabulary.  A word at a time, he gradually pulls a bit more information from us.  Did we like Bologna?  Si!!  First time?  Si!  How long here?  10 weeks, 2 in Italy and 8 in Croatia.  

We get across that we arrived in Italy on the ferry to Ancona, and have bicycled here by way of Ravenna and Ferrara.  This catches his attention - I imagine he probably bicycles himself, as so many folks here do.   Where are our bicycles?  I gesture to the back of the cab, to the heavy suitcases he’d jammed inside.  Then, the clincher: Electrico, he wants to know?  No, I reply, and slap my thigh loudly as clarification.  This earns a big grin of appreciation from him and fist bumps for both of us when he drops us off - and a generous tip for himself, of course.

Waiting for the taxi at 4 AM, Bologna.
Heart 4 Comment 0

The flight home is as normal and uneventful as such flights ever are, with one exception.  Even though we arrive at the airport two hours before departure and we’re among the first in line to check in, we come close to missing our flight from Bologna because we hadn’t paid in advance for our luggage when we pre-checked in through the KLM website.  Rachael tried repeatedly, but their website seems to have some issues.

That doesn’t sound like a trip ender.  Except that the line to the counter moves very slowly, advancing perhaps one passenger every four or five minutes.  And except for the fact that when we do finally reach the counter and check in our baggage, the agent is unable to take payment for our excess luggage.  This is one of those airports, where you have to go to a different desk somewhere else in the airport to make payment and then return with your receipt to pick up your boarding pass.

And except for the fact that there are two cashier windows next to each other, both attended and with no one waiting in line.  We ask at the one on the left, but she points to the other one, which services KLM.  This takes like twenty seconds - just enough time for another traveler to slip in behind us, step up to the other window, and plant himself there for the next 10-15 minutes.

And except for the fact that once our turn arrives, it takes close to half an hour - really! - before our payment finally goes through and we get our receipt.  That poor agent has an impossible job.  Somehow, she can’t complete the payment transaction online but has to call KLM over a cell phone repeatedly, and no one is answering.  She has two phones, and she goes back and forth alternately calling on both of them, perhaps ten times in all before she finally gets through.

Throughout all this, I keep reassuring Rachael that we have plenty of time; but we don’t, really.  We rush back to the check-in desk with our receipt,  pick up our boarding passes, and are instructed to hurry to the gate.  Fortunately the airport is nearly empty and we fly through security.  We’re the final passengers to board the small, full plane to Amsterdam.

Relax, Rocky. There’s plenty of time.
Heart 3 Comment 0

It’s a short flight to Amsterdam, about two and a half hours.  Still sleepy and a bit stressed out, I close my eyes and doze for about an hour.  When I  come to again, I look out the window and see probably the most spectacular sunrise I’ve ever seen from the air.  The sun is just barely appearing above a thin cloud bank, casting a pale golden glow over the clouds.  Gauzy, glowing filaments of clouds pass beneath us, and below that the snow covered Dolomites are clearly visible.  An ethereal moment that holds us both spellbound until it passes.

Sunrise over the Dolomites.
Heart 7 Comment 3
Ron SuchanekA free-form verse....I apologize.

Sunrise over the Dola-mites
Not as good as the Yose-mites
Wishing I was in Tan-Zaynia
Or maybe Thighland
Or Minneanapolis, or Jeruzhulm.

Wherever I go, it'll be a Peninshula,
With the Best Words and Nasty Women,
Full of diversary, just like Missouria
Former home of U-licious D Grant
Reply to this comment
3 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Ron SuchanekWe can’t complain, since it’s free-verse. At 5¢/word though, we might quibble. Ms. Grumby’s limericks or Suzanne’s haikus are a better deal.
Reply to this comment
3 months ago
Ron SuchanekTo Scott AndersonThat's true, but what my verses lack in value is made up in Trumpiness.
Reply to this comment
3 months ago
OK, now we’re really leaving Italy. The border with Austria must be down there somewhere.
Heart 4 Comment 0

The rest of the journey home is generally uneventful.  Airports and planes are nearly empty - I’d say the trans-Atlantic flight is about 20% full, and the final leg from Minneapolis is at most half capacity.  Flights are long and wearing but otherwise unexceptional.  PDX feels like a ghost town, the airport is so still.  There’s only a single taxi in the queue when we arrive, and we’re lucky not to have to wait.  Bruce, Andrea and the Jetta are waiting for us when we arrive, and we have a brief, groggy reunion at a safe distance.  There will be time for more after we wake up.

We’re staying in an AirBnB apartment in northwest Portland for the next month.  I can’t say I really cared for the place so much last night, after having trouble figuring how to get in and lugging our gear and groceries up a flight of stairs.  I really preferred the apartments in Varazdin, Zadar and Ferrara.  Judging things when you’re tired, disoriented and jet lagged is the wrong time to cast judgement though.  This morning, it feels quite nice.  It will be fine for a month.

And beyond November?  We don’t have a plan yet for the six week gap between the end of the month and when our place in mid-January comes available.  There’s time to think about it.  In the meantime though, I’ll probably keep this journal alive for awhile and post from time to time.   we are still dreaming of the Balkans after all, even if we won’t be seeing them again any time soon. 

We were both struck last night by how beautiful Portland is right now, with the autumn colors just coming on.  How long has it been since we were in Portland at this time of year, anyway?  We should probably take this opportunity for a second look at some of those heritage trees before the leaves drop.

Rate this entry's writing Heart 12
Comment on this entry Comment 14
Lyle McLeodHappy to hear that you made it home. Travel days are a necessary evil but this one's behind you now. We really enjoyed vicariously travelling along with you on this trip. Some outstanding places you got to and as always, beautifully described in prose and displayed in pictures.
Look forward to your next trip.
Reply to this comment
3 months ago
Jen GrumbyWelcome home!!

Glad you had some friendly faces to greet you when you arrived.

Thanks for the excellent morning reading during your journey!

Look forward to reading about your Portland adventures .. and hopefully a Covid-safe gathering in the not-too-far future!
Reply to this comment
3 months ago
Bill Shaneyfelt9 or 10 hours of jet lag is a pain! Hope you get over it quickly. They told us it takes a day for every hour when I did a lot of it. Rest well!
Reply to this comment
3 months ago
Bob DistelbergWelcome home! Glad to hear you're going to keep this journal going.
Reply to this comment
3 months ago
Andrea BrownWelcome back, dear friends. Let's raise a glass to this blue moon. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXwwz_UESbQ
Reply to this comment
3 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Andrea BrownWhat a beautiful song! I’ve never heard this one. She’s so young!
Reply to this comment
3 months ago
Andrea BrownTo Scott AndersonIt's a classic Nanci Griffith. 1987, but there are earlier, better, slightly slower versions of this.
Reply to this comment
3 months ago
Patrick O'HaraGlad to hear that you arrived safe at home. Hopefully, your 'home' will be a lot safer after the 3rd. The hosers up here in Canada are hopeful. Fingers crossed.
Reply to this comment
3 months ago
Suzanne GibsonWhy do those things always happen to you! That must have been a harrowing finale at the airport. Glad you made it home in one piece. Looking forward to your continuing journal. Even if it's just about trees. Trees are nice, but I'll miss your visits to the beautiful cities along the Po.
Reply to this comment
3 months ago
Suzanne GibsonAnd no videos with the perfect music... They will be sorely missed!
Reply to this comment
3 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Suzanne GibsonI feel confident that we’ll be back sooner than later. Bologna looks like a great city to begin or end in a tour in.

What I’d like to know though is why we so often leave disasters in our wake. The day after we leave Cinque a Terre they had those devastating floods back in 2008. Not long after we left the big island in Hawaii in 2018, it was shattered by a massive eruption on Kilauea. Stromboli, Spring of 2018, the same story. We leave Oregon this summer, and horrific fires ensue. We set sail for Ancona, and Covid starts overwhelming Croatia; and yesterday there was an earthquake in Zadar. I expect to hear news of a 1,000 year flood on the Po before long.

Still want us to bike up your way?
Reply to this comment
3 months ago
Suzanne GibsonTo Scott AndersonMaybe you should count the hundreds of places where you have been and no disaster ensued... Or maybe disasters are everywhere...
Reply to this comment
3 months ago
Victa CalvoRelieved to read you two made it home safely. Here's hoping the world turns to a more positive future in the coming months and that we all have more cycling adventures written into our futures...
Reply to this comment
3 months ago
Rachael AndersonTo Suzanne GibsonThanks so much for your wonderful comment! I sure hope we get a chance to meet someday!
Reply to this comment
3 months ago