Monthly Archives: April 2023

Wrap it up

We thought we’d be in Ireland by now but we’ve still got some items to check off the to-do list and we’re thwarted by a couple of bank holiday weekends and the usual frustrations of the nomad life. While we get it all sorted we’re just meandering around Dumfries and Galloway, the area of southwest Scotland that many of my ancestors came from. Even while I’m trying to get through our list I’m still enjoying being in this place and thinking about how different it might have been 250 years ago. Probably not much.

As always we have no itinerary and just stay overnight wherever it’s most convenient to what we need to accomplish. On ANZAC Day, we walked to a local village and found a beautiful manicured park.

I always read the names on memorials in this part of the world to see if any of our ancestral family names appear, but of course our people emigrated long before the 20th century wars.

We thought this bench was the perfect place to sit and have our own private ANZAC Day remembrance.

One day we drove to see the Milennium Cairn, one of the local works by nearby resident Andy Goldsworthy, one of our favorite artists. There are three other works close by but all of them require a significant hike and the weather isn’t dry enough for long enough to seek them out. The Milennium Cairn is easy to find and beautiful.

You can see more of Andy Goldsworthy’s land art here or find either Rivers and Tides or Leaning into the Wind on a streaming platform. It’s inspiring to watch him work.

We revisited Kirkcudbright, a small town on the river Dee that we’d come to last year for the castle. The castle was closed so we left but this time we stayed for a couple of days even though the castle is still closed.

The river is subject to a wide tidal range. At low tide the boats sit directly on the mud. Many of the boats have twin keels so they sit upright but those with a regular keel list onto their sides until the water rises again. We know this is common in the UK but it’s the first time we’ve seen boats stranded like this in wide mudflats in extreme tides.

Occasionally we find the perfect pit stop. A day before our appointment for the required annual safety inspection we drove to a tiny village by the sea that provides black and gray water disposal, freshwater fill up, and rubbish bins. It’s provided at no cost; I’d have made a donation for upkeep if there’d been an honesty box or QR code. There’s no overnight parking allowed but the view was beautiful so after we serviced the van we stayed for lunch and then some. The next couple of days will be busy and we intend to enjoy the rest of our time in Scotland.

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Return to the castle in the clouds

It is an overcast and windy morning. I am back in Escape Velocity’s writers’ office, lost in quiet contemplation, attempting to describe for you thrillseekers how wonderful the experience of wandering through Stirling Castle was. So far I had, “It was a sunny day.” That’s when Marce said, “Holy sh*t it looks like Dumbarton Castle opened early!”

Now, Dear Escapees, we were nowhere near Dumbarton so we put £100 worth of BP’s finest in the tank and a few hours later we were backing into our familiar friendly parking spot in the tiny lot right under the Castle in the Clouds.

It’s our fourth visit and with excellent Bangin’ Pizza just two blocks away, why not? Tomorrow’s weather looks good but today’s is a nasty tempest and not at all conducive for a spot of mountaineering.

The morning dawned sunny and calm with a new EV record for early having already had, or in other words, fired up and ready to go. Just being able to walk through the outer gates for the first time was surprisingly thrilling but with 547 steps to go the order of the day is slow and steady.

Evidence of major rock wall stabilization is obvious as we start to climb the stairs. It’s another magical castle teetering on the top of another volcanic basalt plug. How do they do this?

Guardhouse and stairs

Everything is functional and designed for defense but still integrated into the extreme topography. I wasn’t prepared for how beautiful the grounds and setting are.

Guardhouse view of the River Clyde

You might wonder, how could anyone successfully attack this stronghold whose basalt walls rise vertically out of the swirling waters of the Clyde river? In 870 two Viking kings, Olaf the White, and Ivar the Boneless, with over 200 longboats, did just that. After a four month siege, and cutting off the water supply, things definitely got ugly in Dumbarton.

The Picts apparently took over for a couple of days, and notably in 1425 James the Fat tried but failed. Later medieval history seems to suggest that Dumbarton Castle was under near constant siege and squabbles. Even James IV, with the aid of the monster Mons Meg, the A-bomb of medieval times, subdued the castle. I can’t vouch for any of this but everyone agrees that Mary Queen of Scots definitely left for France from Dumbarton Castle.

White tower left, the Beak right
Stewart’s Tower
Prince Regents Battery
The French prison
Yes that’s Escape Velocity from the lookout you see in the beginning photo
The armory
Stairs to the white tower
Moment of truth for height averse Marce

It seemed prudent to stop in at the castle’s tiny museum to allow our quivering legs to settle down and it turns out they have great examples of carvings found in the terraced garden at the beginning of the stairs.

We’ve wanted to see this castle for a long time and you worry that it might disappoint but it turns out it’s even better than we could have imagined. The pizza’s still great too.

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What do you do all day?

We get this a lot. We got it when we lived on a boat, too. I guess people think if you travel full time or long term, whether by boat, campervan, or with suitcases or backpack, you’re on perpetual vacation, busy touring every day. We’re not, and I think most of our traveler friends would agree. Even though we’re often on the move, we’re living life just like anyone else. We’re just living it in different places.

All the things you do to keep your household running we do too. We shop for groceries and household needs, we plan and cook meals, we maintain our home/boat/vehicle, we do our banking and other administrative chores, and so on.

Take laundry, for example. On the boat we had a washing machine — bliss! — but since our boat systems depended on solar charging, we planned laundry day based on the weather. On a sunny day I ran the watermaker to top up the tank. On the next sunny day I ran the washer, maybe two loads, and hung it to dry in the cockpit. On the third day I ran the watermaker to replace the water the washer used. And of course, wind and solar dried the clothes.

The campervan has no washer. Sometimes we find a reasonably priced drop-off service, and other times we use a self-service laundromat. Here in southern Scotland there are outdoor machines, usually located behind a filling station, where for a fair price we can do our laundry while we’re parked right alongside. The machines work great, laundry soap is included and they accept ApplePay.

When we traveled through Asia this year we paid someone to do our laundry. Most of the guesthouses we stayed in offer laundry service, which we prefer because there’s less chance of some article going missing.

All of this is to say that unlike going on vacation, where you do your laundry when you get home and unpack, we do laundry when it needs to be done, wherever we are and however we can.

Mail and online ordering are a challenge. I mentioned a few posts ago that we’re waiting for the arrival of my replacement credit card mailed from the States. At the same time we ordered a new thermostat for our refrigerator. These two deliveries would have been easier on the boat because we could use a marina address to receive mail or packages. Marinas are used to it. In the campervan, at least here in the UK, nobody seems to get that we don’t have a permanent address within a few hours drive, and even the post office has refused to accept an Amazon delivery. This kind of thing is a time-sucker and we’re always happy to stay in one place and get our ducks in a row for a couple of days.

We both have our own interests in addition to travel. I like to spend time researching family history, either online or at a library, archive or historical society. Jack keeps up with Formula 1 news and other interests. We both read. Every day, rain or shine, we get out and about to explore our temporary neighborhood and chat with anyone we happen upon, maybe visit a café.

The other day this gentleman arrived near our parkup with a basket of homing pidgeons. I was in the middle of cooking but I switched off the hob and jumped outside to have a chat.

In a thick accent I struggled to understand, he told me how long he’d been doing this, how old the birds are, how the club he belongs to is losing members, how far away he lives and how long it’ll take the birds to get home.

He checked his watch periodically, and at a predetermined time he opened the basket and the birds flew out.

We watched them circle a few times before heading off toward home. Then my new friend said goodbye, picked up the basket he told me had belonged to his father, and drove off. I love these encounters.

A few minutes later it started to rain and the schoolchildren that were down on the riverbank gathering specimens were herded out of the muck by their teachers and marched back toward town, undaunted by the downpour.

Almost every parkup brings surprises. A great bakery. Or a beach. Or a good sunset. We just take whatever every day brings and live our lives around it.

That’s what we do all day.


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When in Stirling

I was having a softly streaming sunny morning, kicked back, waiting for the day’s first cuppa to reach my frigid toes. It’s a cold April in Scotland.

There will be no taxi subterfuge on this one dear Escapees. The mountain does not come to Escape Velocity, we will climb to it. First, one has to navigate the modern municipal flats of Stirling, crossing over the railway tracks on a footbridge into the hills of old town Stirling.

It’s nothing but up from there. Unrelenting, steep hauling of one’s caboose up the mountain to Stirling Castle.

When I stopped to take a photo of an interesting building at what I hoped was at least halfway up, a local gentleman said, “That house is the oldest in Stirling.”

He added, “Do you know about the shortcut up the hill?” Of course we didn’t but I’m always up for a shortcut. What followed was five minutes of charming thick Scottish brogue, most of which I couldn’t understand but he seemed pleased so we gathered that we were to make a left then immediately jog right at the old pub that isn’t there anymore. What could go wrong?

Following the Escape Velocity paradigm we found ourselves on a walkway heading straight up the mountain. These people are made of stronger stuff.

The rest breaks were becoming so frequent that I wasn’t sure if we were spending more time climbing or resting. The merciless walkway suddenly ended at a two lane macadam road which seemed significant but left us without a clue as to where we might find a castle. Turns out a long staircase was hidden behind a copse of trees. Our shaky legs probably made the stairs seem longer than it ought, but we reached the arrival lot with just a handful of adventure seekers taking snaps of the view.

What a contrast to over-crowded Edinburgh. Still climbing toward the castle gates we could see the beginnings of ramparts when we came upon this familiar chap.

King Robert the Bruce

Have they ever seen a volcanic plug that they haven’t built a castle on? How fortunate that this one is near the lowest downstream ford of the Forth River.

The palace is covered in royal gold colored plaster.

Started in the late 11th century the castle has been the home of royalty and had more than 8 major sieges.

The Great Hall

After our tour of the castle we think our local man in the know suggested we take the long circuitous way back down to see the historical sights missed while trekking up the shortcut. Sounds good to me.

It was a spent duo of escapees that staggered back to the van, tired but happy.

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A wall and a wheel, from sea to sea

Both my parents were great readers and history buffs. My dad read any period of history, while my mom held a particular interest in the history of Britain. I wouldn’t be surprised if she could have recited the names of the kings and queens of England in order along with the dates of their rule. I say this because she could recite all the American presidents in order, the 50 state capitols alphabetically either by state or by capitol, and, in a dazzling triumph, all the names in our family (at the time numbering over 100) alphabetically either by first name or last name, or by birth date. I know. Incredible.

I didn’t inherit that talent but my sister did. But back to British history; it’s daunting. There’s just so damn much of it. When we first got to Scotland we bought a big fat book of Scottish History but except for making good use of the index to answer specific questions, neither of us has managed to wade through something both my parents would have gobbled up.

By now you’re familiar with our mode of travel: go somewhere, look around, figure out what you’re looking at. In this case we found ourselves near something on the map called the Antonine Wall. We know about Hadrian’s Wall of course, and Jack has that on his Must See List. But the Antonine Wall? Never heard of it.

While Jack took a personal day, I strode through the woods along John Muir Way toward something called Rough Castle Fort along the Antonine Wall. It had rained the night before and the trail was soft in parts.

After about a mile and a half I emerged from the forest to what looked like a big lumpy field. This, a placard informed me, was the fort and the wall.

Most of the ancient sites we’ve visited have been excavated and either preserved as is or reconstructed to varying degrees. This one, with no visible evidence of excavation, is a mystery. There are placards with artists’ renderings of the buildings but looking around you really need to use your imagination.

Artist’s idea of the fort.
The present view from the same spot.

Unlike Hadrian’s Wall, constructed of stone, Antonine Wall, begun 20 years later, was earthworks on a stone foundation. Nearly 2000 years of natural forces have understandably had an effect. It’s difficult to capture what the eye can see while walking through the space. The photo below is about as good as I could get to show the remains of the wall.

The wall ran 39 miles, from the Firth of Clyde to the Firth of Forth and marked the northern frontier of the Roman Empire. It was 3 meters high and 5 meters wide at the base with a deep ditch on the north side. The ditch is how you can tell where the wall was.

An early 1900s excavation uncovered lines of defensive pits which would have had sharpened sticks at the bottom.

There were originally 19 forts along the Antonine Wall with smaller fortlets inbetween. Nevertheless, the Romans abandoned the wall only eight years after completion and retreated back to Hadrian’s Wall. It seems they couldn’t subdue the Caledonians.

Wikipedia tells me Rough Castle is the best preserved of the forts along the northern Roman frontier. Earlier excavations were covered up again and more recent research depends more on technology like LIDAR. Today it’s just a pretty place with a brief but significant history.

From the fort I followed the Union Canal, part of the Scottish canal system. The swans on this day were undisturbed by narrowboat traffic.

Until the 1930s the Union Canal was connected to the Forth and Clyde Canal by a system of 11 locks, dropping boats 115 feet and completing a continuous waterway from Glasgow to Edinburgh. It took almost a day to pass through the flight of locks. By the ‘30s the route fell into disuse, the locks were dismantled, and in the 1960s the Forth and Clyde Canal was closed.

Around the bend, the Union Canal goes through the Rough Castle Tunnel, illuminated for some reason with constantly changing colored lights.

The view from above the tunnel facing East.

On the other side of the tunnel the canal appears to end in mid-air, but this is where the story gets good.

In the 1990s the British Waterways Board and the Millenium Commission, along with other entities, sought a way to reestablish the link between the Union Canal and the Forth and Clyde Canal. The result is the Falkirk Wheel, a rotating boat lift that replaces 9 of the original 11 locks, raising boats 79 feet and making a continuous sea-to-sea passage along the two canals possible again.

Aerial view borrowed from the internet.

The wheel not only benefits the narrowboaters navigating the Scottish canals, but also draws tourists from all over to see this one-of-a-kind feat of 21st century engineering and design. I recommend reading the whole story here. It’s fascinating. Tourists can ride on modified narrowboats, lifted from the Forth and Clyde Canal to the Union Canal, then along the canal to the first lock and back to the Wheel for the lift back down. Even on a chilly weekday when we were there it was busy.

Without a drone or a helicopter it’s difficult to photograph the entire structure, so I recommend googling for some better overall photos and videos. We enjoyed sitting in the café on a drizzly day watching the mechanism and the delighted visitors boarding the boats for the slow-motion watery elevator.

The best part for us is that for a small fee we could spend the night and enjoy the services from the marina. Once the tours were over for the day, we had the place to ourselves.

While I was out taking pictures a huge flock of geese flew by, loudly announcing their passage. I watched until they disappeared, then went inside our cozy home for dinner.

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Facing the music

The United Kingdom is quite serious about diesel pollution. They are clamping down on population centers like London and, of immediate concern, Edinburgh. Escape Velocity is a 2009 Fiat Ducato-based chassis with a relatively clean burning class 4 diesel engine which, it turns out, precludes us entering many populated cities. It takes a minimum of a class 6 or better to get into Edinburgh proper but as luck would have it, we just found out the draconian exclusion hasn’t started yet. As a further hassle the more you travel south in the UK the fewer park-ups can be found, especially near cities, but we have a secret weapon, Marce the bloodhound. We decided to face the music and dance.

We rarely use a campground. All we need is a lot to park in and transportation into our city of interest. She found all of that for £2 a night at a park-and-ride, just two train stops outside of Edinburgh. No clue if that will be within the exclusion zone when they do in fact clamp down and we’ve been led to believe that the maps and signage are less than perfect elsewhere and it’s easy to inadvertently wander into an exclusion zone with a hefty ticket featuring a photo of your vehicle showing up in your morning Royal Mail. This country is blanketed with CCTV cameras and there are no less than 12 in our park-and-ride lot.

The ride part of the park is adjacent to our lot so it would be hard to be more convenient and it’s a cold but sunny day so we’re off to see Edinburgh. Train tickets are purchased online and within minutes we were disgorged at Edinburgh’s massive bewildering train station in the center of town. Ramping up to street level the first thing we saw was this.

It’s a memorial to Sir Walter Scott and for £8 pounds they’ll let you climb the 287 steps to the top. It’s that kind of town but as a consolation prize members of Historic Scotland get into Edinburgh Castle for free. Care to make a guess what we’re doing?

The Scots had every reason to be paranoid, what with nearly every castle changing hands typically about every ten years or so, but if there was a huge bulging volcanic plug in the vicinity they built a castle on it, which you’ve got to think ought to help with the defense of the place. Consequently you can imagine that to see Edinburgh Castle you’re going to have a wee climb. Sure enough, at the end of the bridge over the station you turn to the right and immediately start to climb. It does nothing but get steeper from there.

A short pause to replace what little oxygen I have left for the climb.

It takes a while but eventually you start to get a peek-a-boo view of the beginnings of the castle as the charming, but steep, street turns into castle instead of street buildings.

Of course, on your approach you have to negotiate a large, let’s agree to call it an arrival area filled with thrill seekers, photographers, YouTubers, fashion posers, ticket buyers, and at least two castle buffs in the mood for ice cream, balloons, and children crying over dropped ice cream cones.

We haven’t faced this much chaos since Kathmandu.

Heading through the ancient gates by necessity, it’s slightly less crowded.

Kitted-out with audio tour headphones we started climbing again.

I can’t remember ever being in a place so grand.

Correct to a T, even the paving blocks are perfectly laid.

The views are magnificent, all the better to see those trying to sneak up on you.

Mons Meg, smasher of great walls
The crush of tourists waiting for the one o’clock cannon.

We decided to walk back down into town via the Royal Mile, dodging the crowds and pipe blowing buskers, to share a pint with our friend at a very fancy old pub on Princes street.

Apple pay, credit cards, cash, it’s all good

It took a while, mostly due to whimsical signage, to find the correct track to get back to our parking lot but find it we did.


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Back in the swing of things

It’s been two weeks since we arrived in Scotland and moved back into the campervan. In some ways we slid right back into it; in others we’ve had some adjustments to make.

From the storage place we drove directly to a caravan supply store and swapped out our empty propane bottle for a full one. Propane fuels our heat and hot water, the refrigerator, and the stove. Next we stopped at a grocery store for a few essentials for dinner and breakfast before checking into a small campground where we could fill the water tank and plug into shore power to get the fridge down to temp before we do a full food shop. After not driving anything at all for six months Jack had no problem negotiating the ubiquitous clockwise roundabouts or squeezing the van into the narrow spaces of shopping centers.

It was damp and rainy and we were the only ones at the campsite but it served our purpose as we unpacked and made a first pass at organizing. It will end up being many passes as we remember what needs to be at hand and what can be stashed away.

After a more substantial grocery run the next day we felt confident we could go offgrid and drove to a beautiful parkup at Louden Hill near something called the “Spirit of Scotland” monument. We had no idea what that is and couldn’t see anything from the van.

Early the next morning an unexpected blue sky lured me outside to follow the trail toward Loudoun Hill, a volcanic plug that dominates the landscape. This place, we learned, is the site of two key battles in the wars of Independence, led by William Wallace in 1297, and Robert the Bruce in 1307.

The Spirit of Scotland is a modern (2004) monument to these battles. The outline of William Wallace frames the hill, with the inscription Thou saw’st the strong arm of a Wallace raised to stem the tide of alien tyranny. It’s a dramatic addition to a dramatic landscape.

I gave up on the idea of climbing the hill because of strong wind and hurried back to the warmth and shelter of the van. I was glad I went early because it was Easter and for the rest of the day the car park and trail were crowded, despite deteriorating blustery weather with spitting rain that would have kept a normal person home by the fire with a good book. The Scots, we’re reminded, are not normal.

Our original plan was to head straight for Ireland but we’d had an unexpected spanner thrown in the works. Before we left Turkey the bank canceled my credit card without warning “on suspicion of fraud.” My card is always in my possession, I’d had no fraudulent charges, and the bank couldn’t say what convinced them the card was compromised. Despite my desperate pleas, they shut down the card and sent a replacement. To New Jersey. I was in Turkey about to travel to Scotland, with no working credit card. That’s not entirely true. I do have a backup from a less desirable bank (points and rewards-wise) and Jack has his own account, but still.

My sister, who receives our mail, promised to forward the new card to the storage address in Scotland as soon as it arrives in New Jersey, and all we have to do is hope it gets here before too long. That puts Ireland on hold while we hang around the general area until the mail arrives. We need to come up with a plan.

I chose a quiet parkup where we could stay undisturbed for a few days and we found ourselves adjacent to a UNESCO World Heritage site.

This is the village of New Lanark, founded in 1785 and built around cotton mills operated by water power from the only waterfalls on the River Clyde. The village is an important example of urban planning in the early Industrial Revolution, and includes housing for workers, schools, shops and a church. The experiment was successful, combining profitability with better living and working conditions at a time when most factory workers endured a grim existence.

It’s still too cold in Scotland for us, so after a quick turn around the village to admire the water sluices and surviving waterwheel we took refuge in the warm café on site.

The village was built long before the advent of modern vehicles and the car park is a steep uphill slog from the river. Of course I had to detour to visit the graveyard.

By the time we got home we decided to head east to Edinburgh. And we’re hoping for warmer weather.

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Winding down, winding up

After nearly three weeks in our fantastic, affordable sea-view hotel room, the management informed us that as of April 1 the rate goes up almost 50%, putting it right out of our budget. I found us a cute little boutique pension for a reasonable price right smack in the middle of Kaleici Old Town. The hosts are very nice, the place is spotless, and breakfast is good but the room is so tiny that I barely have room for my yoga mat, and we not only don’t have a sea view, we barely have any daylight at all from our tiny little window. No matter, we have work to do.

My days are filled with planning our journey back to Scotland and sorting the logistics of picking up our campervan, stored in a rural area south of Glasgow with no direct path to get there via public transportation. When we left last fall we paid the storage boss a pretty penny to drive us to Edinburgh airport and we don’t want to incur that expense going back.

We work in the mornings, writing and planning, and the afternoons are spend exploring more of the labyrinthine streets of Old Town and eating our fill of local foods. Jack eats döner kebab nearly every day, and we found a popular little café that serves the best baba ghanouj I’ve ever had, even better than my own which, if I do say so myself, is better than most.

The shopkeepers in our new neighborhood see us so often they even stopped launching into their spiel when they see us coming because they know by now we’re not going to buy anything.

Every day we pass a shop with a pile of large gourds outside. Inside a craftsman is drilling holes in elaborate patterns to make beautiful lamps.

We love these lamps, and if we hadn’t dragged a vacuum cleaner through five countries we might have room for one. I tried making one years ago with a Dremel and a calabash gourd from Grenada but mine was definitely not as beautiful as these.

About that vacuum cleaner. You may remember that in Penang we stayed in an Airbnb that had a terrific stick/hand vacuum that we fell in love with, both because it was effective and because it charged via USB-C. We thought this is perfect for us because our campervan doesn’t have an inverter and USB charging we can do offgrid. We bought one. That meant we also had to buy another rolling duffle to carry it. In retrospect we should have bought a smaller rolling duffle, because with all this extra room we acquired more stuff than we usually do when traveling. We’re not really souvenir people but we do sometimes buy textiles or decorative items, or useful things like a water bottle or can opener or, say, a vacuum cleaner. There’s also Jack’s growing t-shirt collection.

In olden days Jack chose one t-shirt from each country we visited. Lately, though, his allotment has increased to three, sometimes more. I don’t know the final count of acquisitions on this trip but it’s a lot, maybe a dozen. Frankly, I don’t really want to know.

I’m not entirely without guilt. I bought pajamas and a bag for my yoga mat from a women’s collective in Kathmandu, and a distinctive blue batik tablecloth and matching napkins made by the Hmong in Northern Thailand. We both picked up various non-souvenir clothing items here and there by necessity, either because of unexpected cold weather, or because something just wore out. Travel is hard on clothing.

The new “Brown Rolling Duffle,” as it’s identified on its AirTag, was cheap and not very well made but all it has to do is survive until we get back to the camper. From the beginning we had our doubts. Back in Penang we had our beloved 30-year-old tech backpack expertly repaired and reinforced, so when one of the handles pulled out of the new duffle as we got off the train in Bangkok, we assumed a repair would be easy. In the end it was easy — one of the housekeepers at our hotel took it to a shoemaker and had it restitched for next to nothing. But looking at how little reinforcement the handles have we worried it would happen again. And it did.

The new brown duffle (left) hours before one of the main handles ripped out. The black one on the right has survived many years of airline baggage brutes. Both cost less than $20.

By the time Mr. Brown Rolling Duffle rolled onto the baggage carousel in Antalya he was missing one handle completely, and the other one dangled uselessly, barely attached. The one remaining handle on the short end has started to split the seam. We’re going to have to figure this out. We have one more flight and possibly two trains to go before we can retire Mr. BRD.

A few days before departure we left the tourist area of Antalya to find a hardware store where we bought five meters of thin rope for the duffle. We did a final load of laundry, topped up our transit card, packed up the last six months as efficiently as possible and tweaked the plan for getting back to the van.

Departure day was cold, windy and wet, and we said goodbye to our pension at 6 AM and dragged our baggage up the steep cobbled lanes of Old Town and through the deserted streets of Antalya to the tram station in a freezing drizzle.

Mr. BRD is hogtied and I’m confident we won’t lose our belongings to rough handling by the airline. I’m just hoping UK Customs doesn’t want to search us.

Our crowded flight was uncomfortable but uneventful and we were welcomed to Scotland with unexpected sunshine.

We stayed one night in an airport hotel, then took a taxi to the train station, a train to the town closest to the storage place where we were collected by the boss man and returned to Escape Velocity. She started right up.

Our six month Asian odyssey has ended with another successful knee replacement for Jack and a big bucketful of great memories. Now a new adventure in the campervan begins.

The brown rolling duffle did his job but with missing handles, open seams, and zippers missing teeth, he’s headed for the skip.

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It’s Complicated

We’re really excited about our adventure to Perge, which is where all those shiny-pants museum statuary came from. We’ve been researching Antalya’s flash new tram system and with the help of a kind woman who watched our frustrations trying to decipher the transit card vending machine and stepped up to help us, we purchased our very own plastic card which can be used by both of us. I guess they figure you’re going to share anyhow so what the hell.

The next test is guessing how much lira to put on the card. Turns out the A tram line goes out to Perge and has a spur line B to the airport. How close it comes is anyone’s guess, but I was able to find a tram stop about twenty minutes from our guesthouse, most of it up a steep winding road through the old town. Everything went smoothly, and I mean the tram just glides along like it has nothing to do with the hard steel rails underneath. Clean, modern, and comfortable, the only stress was remembering where to get off because Perge is nowhere to be seen on the monitor.

After about an hour Marce suddenly said, “This is it.” The tram was elevated at this point but there was very little to see, kind of a dusty burbs vibe. We followed everyone else down the very long concrete staircase to the ground, and did the Escape Velocity wander-around-and-guess-which-direction-to-walk trick. I was under the impression there would be a taxi at this juncture but the taxi drivers figured they have us at a disadvantage and in Turkey you never want that scenario. I guess we showed them.

Thirty-five minutes later, dusty, hot, and exhausted we wandered into the Perge gift shop. One bottle of cold coke and one bottle of cold water and we were off toward what the sign said, “This way to the ruins.”

First thing we saw were two colossal round towers, probably part of Perge’s main gate. It’s meant to be intimidating, and they are definitely humbling. Just beyond the gate is an amazing forest of one-piece marble columns.

This is a huge city. There’s a very large market square surrounded by dozens of buildings, homes or warehouses. You be the judge. We would have appreciated a guide of some sort, an app, an audio tour maybe, at the very least a brochure with a map. Marce asked at the ticket booth but they have nothing. There are a few signs but we were mostly on our own.

After the market bit, you’d have to call this a boulevard, over a mile long with water running down the center canal, bridges over the stream and one piece marble columns as far as the eye can see.

I was compelled to see everything that I could and that meant reaching the end.

After about a mile the main boulevard forms an intersection continuing straight into the hills.

The intersecting road to the right quickly deteriorated into rubble, however the left wing was really interesting.

Complete mosaic floor

It eventually ends in a massive pile of stone blocks.

It must have been an impressive building judging by the sheer size of the pile of stone blocks at the end of the street.

We still haven’t seen inside the incredible theater that gave up a lot of sculptures to the museum but that will involve retracing our steps down the “miracle mile,” back through the market square, main gate, and gift shop, not to mention the parking lot and out the long driveway to carefully cross the highway. It was worth it.

No one else was in the theater which seats over 12,000 with a 3-story stage more than 52 meters long which easily enhances the moody, spooky feel of the place.

It boggles the mind when you consider who might have sat in the hard stone seat that you’re sitting on.

Marce insists her fear of heights is not irrational!

It’s easy to tell where the sculptures were but access to the backstage area is blocked off due to an unstable structure. This is the kind of place you have to tear yourself away from just to leave. Golden, late afternoon sun was angling down into the theater reminding us that we are far from home and we still have a bit of a hike to do.

Exploring the stadium will have to wait for another time. We’ve got a tram to catch.


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