Washington D.C – Or, why are the Nationals so bad in playing baseball?

Our rough plan after the Smokey Mountains is to work our way up to the White National Forest for a few more hikes on the Appalachian Trail. A dangler on the way is Washington D.C. – would be criminal, not to visit the capital! On the way to DC we have such a good timing that we can still visit the Rotary Club Roanoke Valley. Read here why this was the most welcoming club so far!

Rotary Club of Roanoke Valley-what a perfect start in the day!

But before we can tackle the tourist program in Washington, our hippi bus complains and demands an oil change. Well, ok, it is really good so far, so many miles without complain, so let’s go get you some new oil. The service of the car rental is really good and gives us an appointment close to our route. How funny – a drive through oil change. What ideas Americans come up with is really incredible. There are Bank Drive Through, Fast Food Drive through, Donkin Donuts Drive Through, Pharmacies Drive Through …. Actually, you almost never have to leave the car. Great! Back to our oil change drive through. There is even a screen so we can track how the employee under our car releases the oil. Not really exciting, but good. After ten minutes we drive out again, let’s go to the capital!

With the metro we drive into the city and join the masses of tourists. Of course, we visit the “white house”. It is not so easy to really get a view on it, as it is locked all around with lots of police officers. But than we manage to catch a glimpse. The flag is hoisted, I once heard that means the president is in the house. Do not know if that’s true, in any case, despite all the effort we can not discover a man with a strange hairstyle.

Thanks to a recommendation of a hiker, we visit the “Spy Museum”, really a great museum! Then quickly to the American-German Friendship Garden. We saw that on google maps, of course, that we stop by. Whether the garden reflects the respective relationship of the two countries is not known to us, we do not hope it is. Is not actually a garden, but a gravel road with a sunk in the floor panel. Mmm, after all the running around and exploring in Washington we wanted to take a break, but this “garden” does not invite you to linger. No matter, so on. Capitol, Washington Monument, museums, the full program.

The next day we booked a treat, a baseball game. Washington Nationals vs. Arizona Diamantbacks. Of course, we both have no idea about baseball, we chose the game after the appropriate date. Heiko prepares via youtube, so we understand the rules of the game. He is very proud that he can even explain the game to me. Relative to the beginning the pitcher throws instead to the batter backwards to the base. You should have seen Heiko’s face. A huge question mark. He was so proud to have it all figured out and then this guy throws in the wrong direction. It was hilarious!! That was pretty much the highlight of this game. The Washington Nationals have not been able to forward a single base with any player the whole game. Of course, now we do not know if baseball is always boring, or if we have chosen only two teams that play badly. Probably the latter is correct in every case. The fans were there, but not really involved in the game. One got the impression that the families come to eat rather than to watch baseball. Next to us was a family who ate the peanuts with shell??? Is this ignorance, or laziness? It can not be flavor, I tried it because I could not believe it. Tastes, as you imagine …

After 2/3 of the time it started to rain heavily and we leave with all the fans the stage. The teams keep on playing, poor boys … It was an experience anyway and we do not want to miss it, but honestly it was more fun watching the people around us than the actual game.

Pennsylvania, Lancaster or A look behind the scenes at the Amish!

The big question at the morrow after the game was:. What shall we do today? A look at the map shows us that we are coming through Pennsylvania on the way to the Whites. Great, that was the state with the highest Amish density! Great, we’ll do it. At a stopover we come – once again – past a fast food chain, which we ignored so far. “Auntie Annes”. A “Bretzelstand”, which boasts to have the original Bretze. This time, curiosity wins. As feared, it is no culinary delight. Heiko says dryly: It’s ok, but it has nothing to do with a Bretze. Any American who eats a Bretze in Germany, will probably be disappointed, like Heiko was here with this pastry. Well, we tried it. By the way, fresh bread is what we miss most. Neither New Zealand, and certainly not USA offers something in this direction. I’m afraid that we will not get any tasty baked goods on Newfoundland either. What we have here and meanwhile is probably our most visited chain is “Dunkin Donuts”. Good coffee, delicious donut, so you can comfort yourself about the missing bread.

In Lancaster, the city with one of the largest Amish communities, we book a tour in which we can visit three families. Unfortunately, this is not as private as we would like, but at least you can take a look at this culture. You are encouraged to ask all the questions you want – of course you do not have to say that twice to me …. Great! The first surprise for us is that the families talk at home in Pennsylvania Dutch. A language that in our ears is a mixture of Swiss German and Swabian dialect. Since the Amish originally come from Switzerland, that also makes sense. Of course, we  try  if we can communicate in German. And it works wonderfully! I would not have expected this. In fact, children do not learn English until they start school, and they only speak Pennsylvania Dutch in the first years of their lives. We also visit the minister of the congregation, who immediately brings out his holy scripture with pleasure. It is the Old and New Testament written in Old German. We learn that the sermon is held in German and everyone learns to read the old German script. He listens enthusiastically as we read some passages.

It is striking that many Amish are barefoot. However as I ask about this, there is no real answer. Maybe tradition. Everyone knows that the Amish do not use electricity. As we learned that is not quite correct. They are not connected to the electricity lines, but it is ok to use electricity they produce. In addition, they have many devices that are operated with air pressure, such as the washing machine. I guess it depends on the minister of the community how strict the rules are.

All three families we visit are strict with one rule: no TV. However, forbidden, but still used from the teenagers are the smartphones. At my request, the priest confirms that he sees this as the greatest danger. So far, most of the Amish teenagers have made the conscious decision to baptize themselves after “Rumspringa” (actually written in that way, describing the time the teens are allowed to dive into the other world before being baptized) to become a full member of the Amish community. Due to the smartphones and associated social media, you tube, however, there is the fear that fewer young people will enter. Basically, it is also useless to ban television when the young people have a smart phone …. Basically, the Amish have similar problems as the churches, which also have fewer and fewer members. The openness and friendliness of the three families visited was incredibly beautiful. Whether it’s the culture or the individual, in any case we have felt very welcomed and honored that we have received such a personal insight into the culture and tradition of this particular community.

The road to New Hampshire or In search of the perfect weather!

The weather forecast of the White Mountains causes us to pull the ride there as long as possible. It would be a pity if we had to do the beautiful hike in the rain. So we take our time and take a few breaks. For example, we go to a movie in a village. We have the cinema all to ourselves (you have to say, it’s a afternoon show of “late night”). I have never seen such comfortable cinema seats. You can drive them electrically to a lying position. For a moment we think about getting our books and reading a little bit after the movie, but we are not that brazen ?

Since Heiko occasionally fishes without success, I take that in hand and book us a fish outing on the sea. On board the “Lucky Lady” Heiko should turn his fishing luck! Since it makes more fun for two, I let me be convinced to join, well. In the office I see a sign: no bananas. Of course I think that’s a joke and ask the captain. He is very serious and tells me that it brings misfortune to have bananas with you. The least that happens is that you do not catch anything. Well, we do not want to risk that. We actually have bananas in our luggage and take them out again. Superstitious people, the captains! The fishing is first (even) more boring than back then on the small rowing boat. You do not throw the rod, but just let it sink to the ground. After about 10 minutes you reel up again and see if the bait is still there. The sepia that you use as bait are slippery and I refuse to touch them. Heiko hooks the bait for me, hihi. But after we both do not catch anything forever, I also become superstitious. Maybe it brings bad luck, if you do not attach the bait yourself? And, believe it or not, after I’ve attached the slippery thing myself, a sea bass is really biting. Yeah, that’s fun !! Heiko even catches 5 fish, two are too small and are released. In the end we are happy owners of 4 beautiful fish, the dinner is secured! Heiko conjures up a fantastic dish and we enjoy our home-cooked fish!

Charged with this success, we continue slowly in direction of our hike. Uih, Roto America is on the way, a plant subsidiary of my former employer. I’ve never been there before, so we decide to stop by. The boss of the plant, my former colleague, Chris, takes time for a lunch together. Then a factory tour, great! Spontaneously we are invited by Sue to eat with her and then even to stay overnight. That’s terrific! What a great evening awaits us with Sue and her husband Todd. Time flies and we have a great evening with home-brewed beer, wonderful dinner and great conversations. We are not only invited to spend the night, but then also have a leisurely breakfast, drink home-roasted coffee and watch the countless birds in the beautifully landscaped garden. Sue and Todd, you are great, thank you for this time!

So, now we are on the direct way to the Whites! Two Rotary clubs are on the way, both welcome us, read here what we have experienced:

Rotary Club Southbridge, Massachusetts-great speaker, great club

Rotary Club Laconia, New Hampshire -great discussion, great club!

The White National Forest – or – The Whites are forcing us to our knees!

As planned, we reach the park in the best weather. So we like that! We use the beautiful weather for a small tour to Mount Avalon and Mount Field. 800 meters of altitude almost 10 kilometers, perfect for the afternoon! We have heard a lot about the Whites: very demanding, lots of scree and little path. Somehow we did not take it so seriously, we start hiking and realize later that we have forgotten our poles. Well, it will work that way. And it’s also a relatively easy route, but more challenging than the path in the Smokey Mountains. Unlike in the Smokeys you have at the summits some great view. So, you will be rewarded for the climb. We like that! On the summit of Mount Flint the wind picks up and it’s cold. Good to know, we have to rethink our choice of clothes for the hike … In the Whites there are 48 summits over 4000 feet. The first one we have dealt with! As you can see in the photos, we have a new accessory: fabric gaitters. We have seen it both in New Zealand and on the AT constantly, finally we have found them. Never before have we had an accessory that we were so often addressed. Insane. Probably because they are still so new and “shiny” …

Appalachian Valley – Gray Knobs Hut 3 Miles

But finally, it starts. A two-day tour is planned on the “Presidential Range” and immediately thereafter the so-called Pemi Loop. A total of 15 4000-foot peaks is included. Cool!!

After the successful trip and one day rest and prepare – also to give the knee some time to rest – we want to go. Stupidly, the shuttle is already full in the morning, so reschedule, short day, since we can only go in the afternoon. When we come to the shuttle stop, we have again cell phone reception (so the guy from At&T obviously lied as he said you have reception everywhere with At & T ). Very good, just check the weather. Oh man, today radiant weather, tomorrow rain and then better again. Seriously? How has that changed so fast again? So, when we climb the summits, it rains. That is suboptimal. Mmh, let’s rebook the shuttle and leave one day later! Exactly! Unfortunately, our plan fails because of the inflexibility of AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club). Although seats would have been available tomorrow as well, they do not want to rebook us and refer to their policies. Really now? Well, nothing helps. We decide to take the shuttle and if necessary, stay one day in the first hut to climb the summits on a nice day. This will be a hammer day, many peaks and then descent, but in good weather this must be fantastic!

So let’s go. The path is steadily uphill, the 1300 vertical meters must indeed be climbed. The last 3 kilometers are really steep. Phew, exhausting! The path is always in the forest, we cross a few streams. With beautiful weather we enjoy the movement. After 2.5 hours we reach the hut. A beautiful hut, as we know it from New Zealand. With $ 25 per person per night for a roof over your head relatively expensive. At the last campsite we paid $ 30 in total and there was even a hot shower. But as you say so nicely, the demand controls the price. The hut is beautiful in any case, you can spend a rest day here easily. We are still alone, beautiful! We stay alone until later Sahra, a ranger, comes by. She shows us a place from which you can perfectly watch the sunset. Awesome!

Gray Knob Hat – Mt. Washington 6.5 Miles

We wake up to bright sunshine. Really now? No cloud in the sky, calm, the sun is shining. Mmh, maybe start today? First breakfast. Sahra receives the latest weather forecast for the next day. WHAT? Looks worse tomorrow than today. Okay, that helped us make the decision, we’re leaving today. It’s already a bit late for such a long day, but not too late to make it. Let’s go!

Our decision will be rewarded with fantastic views on the way to the ridge. Great, that’s how it should be! The first summit is Mount Jefferson (5716 Feet) Great view, but we see a few darker clouds, oh hopefully they will pull away! The second peak, Mount Clay (5533) gives us a clear view of the next – and highest – peak: Mount Washington. We are still happy, even if the wind refreshes. And then suddenly the occasional dark clouds turn into a black wall. Lightning fast. Seriously, just then it was still so that you could convince yourself that you can walk dry feet and a second later it starts to pour, crap. All right, we decide not to climb the summit of Mount Washington to get ahead faster. Then the wind joins the rain. The wind gets so strong that the rain feels like hail. The poncho turns out to be an absolute bad buy, it seems more likely to capture gusts of wind to blow me off the mountain. It keeps neither the rain off nor me warm. Great thing! Phew, that’s really not nice and really uncomfortable. New plan change: The Mt. Washington can also be easily traveled on a mountain railway. Accordingly, there is a restaurant on the summit. We decide to ascend and then warm up first. The ascent to 6288 feet is super corrosive. Over boulders we balance ourselves upwards. We have to fight against the wind, slightly bent forward to move forward. Every wind direction change requires a quick intervention with the poles to avoid a rude fall. It reminds us of Mount Rintoul in New Zealand, which ended in a fall. But this time we manage to fight our way up without falling. After felt eternity (and in reality 4h) we reach wet, tired and frozen the summit. It is surreal after this climb to see tourists in shorts and flip-flops eating ice cream in the restaurant. First, we need a hot tea to digest the ascent. Enough “presidential range” – it’s enough for today. We decide to break off and drive down with the mountain railway. In the train ride we chat with a Couple who are so kind to drive us from the train to our car. At least this works! Back in the car we have to sort ourselves first. Was this it with hiking in the US now? First of all, for today! We have a few days left, maybe we can escape the rain front. One to Zero for the Whites!

Cape Cod, or lobster, lighthouses and sun!

Since the weather is not stable in the next few days, we decide to head back to New York. The weather map shows us that there should be nice days in “Cape Cod”. Sounds funny, here we go!

Cape Cod seems to be a popular holiday destination for Americans. With endless beaches, temperate weather and nice little hikes, that’s exactly what we like!

We make a beautiful little 12km hike to enjoy the great weather right away. Through a pine grove to the beach to the extreme tip and back. The sun is burning down, oh yes, that’s nice!

Another hike takes us to one of the many lighthouses. With just under 9 kilometers, it’s rather a short walk, but it’s enough to whet our appetite. Cape Cod is a lobster area, you can find them in supermarkets and of course in all restaurants and bars. Of course we indulge ourselves, we deserve it!

New York, New York – or, the end of our journey using our “hippi-bus”!

On the way to New Jersey to deliver our car, we plan one more night on a Walmart parking lot. Even at a parking lot, you can experience beautiful sunsets! And somehow the tolerated dispersed camping in the parking lot is also part of our adventure in the USA.

We get a bit sad that we have to hand over the beloved bus now. After 7800 miles (12552 kilometers) on the streets of United States and 74 nights in our bus, we have to separate. No accidents, no bumbs, Heiko has certainly brought us safely across the US. I also drove once!  Maybe 100 miles….. After my beautiful car back at home the driving feeling did not really convince me;)

Although we have tried to do as little shopping as possible during our stay in the US, the things still accumulated and we doubt whether we get everything in the two backpacks. Thank God we still have a “Daypack”. Nevertheless, we send things home, drive to “goodwill” and give things away and throw rigorously away. Even with all this measures,  the backpacks are overflowing. The way to the hotel shows us that we are not done with sorting out. With this weight we surly cannot go hiking!

But first we found a nice centrally located hotel for a few days to explore the Big Apple!

And, although we are not hot-blood city people, we like the metropolis well! Thanks to the very cheap and well-developed metro system you can connect all the highlights: Statue of Liberty (by the way, you can admire the Lady in full glory when taking the free ferry Staten Island – that’s good for the Swabian heart!), Flatiron, Manhattan Skyline , Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge, Union Square Metronome, Central Station, Ground Zero, Times Square, Guggenheim Museum and a real New York steak – You name it, we’ve been there!

Sasha, the Marketing Director of Haiti Outreach, places a visit with a friend extra to the same time we are in New York. Great to meet her! To talk with her about Haiti and about her work we even are more looking forward to our upcoming visit to Haiti.

Bye bye AMERICA!