Kathy & Dave

Kathy & Dave consider western New York to be our home. We love to hike and travel, exploring the world around us. Dave retired from the National Park Service after 30 years and had the opportunity to live in National Parks like Redwood, Shendandoah, Death Valley, Biscayne, American Memorial Park (in Saipan/Guam), and others. His last park before retiring was the Blue Ridge Parkway where he was actively involved with establishing the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Kathy has extensive experience in the medical field, from pushing papers to working with patients.

After working for the same hospital (Dave as the Emergency Preparedness Coordinator and Kathy in the Revenue Cycle Division as the Director of PFS), they sold their home and began a 10-month trip around the world, visiting 20 countries.  Then, COVID hit. 😒  After 78 days and only 3 countries, they had to return to the US.  But where in the US, since they had sold their home??

First, it was back to the wide open spaces of the Adirondack Mountains.  There is no place better to ride out a global pandemic than Saranac Lake! Then, they finally bought a log cabin on 2.3 acres in western NY.  It is good to be back near family again!  Kathy went back to work working part time for her old hospital in North Carolina (remotely) and Dave is doing a smattering of per diem jobs, from being an EMT for the County Health Department to teaching CPR at the community college.  Dave also started a new career as a Travel Agent!  Check out Daves Travel Agency if you are interested in booking a trip.

06/13/24 through 06/14/24…wait, what??  The vacation was supposed to end on the 13th!

06/13/24 through 06/14/24…wait, what??  The vacation was supposed to end on the 13th!

Ah, yes!  Bonus vacation days are great, aren’t they?  Well, maybe not when spent sleeping on the floor of an airport!

June 13, 2024 started off nicely.  We had a nice breakfast at the hotel atop Oslo.  We then packed up and went for a walk around the forested grounds.  We enjoyed looking at the unique Scandinavian homes on the mountain.  Especially since it was not raining on us for a change.  We decided to head to the Oslo airport a bit early.

The flight from Oslo to Reykjavik was uneventful.  We decided to grab some lunch at the Reykjavik airport before our next flight to JFK.  When we booked our flights originally back in January, we were supposed to fly into Boston instead of JFK, but jetBlue changed our flight from Boston to Buffalo, having us leaving 15 minutes earlier.  We thought that was perfect since it meant getting home 15 minutes earlier!  But Icelandair had other thoughts.  We got a message from them stating that since we now “only” had an hour and 45 minutes between flights in Boston, they deemed us a “missed connection” and bumped our flight to Buffalo until the next morning!  We called and asked what we could do, other than spend a night in the airport.  They were happy to reroute us to JFK airport, for a hefty, hefty additional cost!  Well, we paid that cost because sleeping on the floor of an airport was not appealing at all.

While eating lunch in Reykjavik, we received a message that our flight to JFK was delayed by an hour and a half.  That meant we only had a 40 minute layover in JFK.  (While we thought the 1:45 layover at Boston was doable, we were doubtful of a 40 minute layover in JFK!)  We spoke with an Icelandair representative at the Reykjavik airport who told us that, while the flight was delayed by an hour and a half, they changed the estimated arrival time at JFK so that we had a 1:20 layover.  Apparently, that was fine with the representative who said we should still be able to make our connection.  But then, they delayed the boarding of the plane for an additional 30 minutes and then delayed leaving the gate even longer.  When we arrived at JFK, we had less than 45 minutes to deplane, go through Customs, pick up our bags, take them to another Terminal on the train, drop them off, go back through security, and run to our gate.  Fortunately, the flight to Buffalo was delayed leaving JFK by a few minutes.  We eventually reached the gate, sweaty and huffing, only to find the end of the jetport empty.  Our plane had left!

We schlepped our way to the jetBlue help desk who offered us one ticket to a flight at 9 AM tomorrow morning.  The other person would be on standby.  Otherwise, the next flight with two seats guaranteed was not until 6:30 PM tomorrow.  We took the 9 AM flight for Kathy and hoped Dave could charm his way on board as well.  Then, we settled into a corner of the airport that seemed less busy to see if we could get some sleep.  A long, sleepless 11 hours later, we were at our new gate.  Kathy had her seat and Dave was No. 1 on the standby list.  At the last minute, they gave Dave a seat and he skipped his way down the jetport!  We finally arrived home about noon on June 14th, dead tired, but having to placate two cats who desperately missed us.  We were happy to do so!

June 11-12, 2024 What?

The last two days before we head home have been a series of: I don’t know; huh?; who would’ve thought that?; and a bunch of what’s??, as we meandered towards Lillehammer, Norway – site of the 1994 Winter Olympics. Heading out, we decided to not rush our last few days in Norway and just enjoy the spectacular natural wonder that abounds around us. The route took us back towards the fjord we had just kayaked the day before and, of course, the switchback road to get from one side of the mountain to the other – like their hikes in Norway – was straight up and down! Following the GPS, we ended up on a very small, and less traveled, road. Then, we ran into a construction site which had completely blocked the road. We waited for the crew to move, but after a few minutes, the driver of the large truck flashed his headlights at us and pointed to a goat path parallel to the road. Shrugging our shoulders, we backed up and drove the goat path right past someone’s house until we ended up on their driveway and then back to the road. It looked like the family was enjoying a nice breakfast.
Getting through that, we reached a high point where it was akin to a moon landscape, except with some pockets of snow. The road was still twisty with a series of ups and downs, but now we were driving so high, nothing was growing expects a few scraggly plants. The GPS, directing as usual, told us to turn “left.” Looking at the map on the screen, it looked like we should go straight. But viewing the road straight ahead, it just looked like a parking lot. Deciding the GPS must be right, we turned left and suddenly reached a toll booth. In all fairness, there are lots of toll roads in Norway, but usually it registers on the EZ Pass and we just drive without stopping. Not so in this case. Paying a hefty 339.00 Norwegian Kroners (approximately $33.00 US dollars), we said to ourselves, “Well, we have no choice. We need to get to Lillehammer.” Paying up, we were advised to be careful, as here were was snowy conditions and visibility was limited. Kathy, not at all keen at that point, gritted her teeth and trusted in Dave’s abilities to keep us on the normal narrow roads of Norway. Driving up we soon hit the snow, but it was not sticking on the road. Then the switchbacks began in earnest. They were so sharp, that Dave swears as he took one turn, he drove by the back end of the car, still yet to make the curve! A bit later visibility decreased. At one point, the GPS told us to make a U-turn. That is when we still figured out that it was a dead end. We paid $33.00 to get to the highest viewpoint of a fjord in Norway, only to see clouds and snow! For people from Buffalo, this was kind of a suckers bet! Oh well, they had great sweet rolls! And Dave got a great hot sandwich for lunch.
Turning round, we headed back the way we came and eventually found the right road, which turned out to be that “parking lot” we had seen earlier. Meandering along, we reached the next stop along our journey to Lillehammer – the second largest Stave Church in Norway. Stave churches are a world heritage site in Norway. This one was built in the year 1158! The church was beautiful and it was definitely worth the stop. We wandered through the small church that was built by Catholics, but was converted to Lutheranism during the Reformation. Over time, all references to Catholicism had been covered over or removed and it is now still a working Lutheran Church. We finally arrived in Lillehammer and set out to discover the 1994 Winter Olympic venues. Unfortunately, we found very little except for a few sculptures and signposts indicating what it was. It was still neat to visit and we enjoyed the wandering around. It was a nice change after being in the car for hours.
Our last full day was soon here and, of course, when we peeked out the window, it was raining. After reviewing the forecast for the day, it was decided a perfect day for heading back to Oslo and our last night in Norway. Deciding on a long route that took us through Sweden, it was a perfect way to end our trip. Being in the outer edges of Sweden, though, we did not find much to see. We didn’t even pass through a large town during our entire sojourn through Sweden. The landscape was beautiful, and looked not that much different from the eastern part of Norway, unsurprisingly. While coastal Norway has large mountains and fjords, the eastern part is relatively flat. It kind of reminded us of the High Country of the Adirondack Mountains in the west, and the lower hilly country in the rest of the Adirondack Park. Lots of trees and water. This was true of the part of Sweden we drove through. We now know why there are more NHL players from Sweden than are from Norway. It’s hard to build a hockey rink in the mountains!
Our hotel, which we booked because it was close to the airport, was not what we thought. What were we thinking? Apparently, there are two Best Westerns in Oslo, and ours was an hour away from the airport. Plus, it was at one of the highest points and still be in Oslo. I would say we have a great view, but, just as we had started the day, we are ending the day. What, you ask? Yep, it is raining! At least the restaurant had a nice restaurant for eating dinner. We were the first ones in the restaurant at 6:30 pm and the waiter seemed annoyed that we had ruined his peaceful rest time. Dave ordered the chef’s special, chicken confit, while Kathy ordered the pulled pork dinner. Upon the food’s arrival, Dave had a sneaking suspicion that the waiter got his revenge for ruining is rest. The look and aroma of his meal did not say “chicken”. One bite into it and Dave confirmed that his “chicken confit” turned out to be salmon confit. Anyone who knows Dave knows how much he tries to avoid “swimming food”. Gracious Kathy offered to switch plates with him. When the waiter returned, Kathy asked him about the chicken versus salmon. He said, “Oh, yeah, I guess I did say chicken, didn’t I?” Dave noticed the twinkle in his eye, at least in his imagination. The waiter did offer us a free dessert as compensation, which, of course, we gladly accepted.
Then, it was off to bed to await our morning trip to the airport for our flights back home.

06/09-10/2024 – Riding along in my automobile ♫ ♩🎶

06/09-10/2024 – Riding along in my automobile ♫ ♩🎶

Riding along in our automobile, with a particular place to go, we headed off for our next destination. We started off on our seven hour trip that, of course, included the obligatory tunnels, a ferry or two, and a lot of long and winding roads.  The day was pretty much casual as we enjoyed the day of rest listening to music and just watching the scenery as we drove to Valldal, and our “Bed and Breakfast.”  This lodge, our next home away from home, is steps away from a beautiful body of water that was filling up faster with the ever present rain that has continued to come down since we arrived in Norway. Finding the location, we meandered in and dropped our luggage off and set off for a stroll along the town, which consisted of approximately 3 blocks that ran along the waters shore. We attempted to find some lunch to take with us for our kayak trip tomorrow.  We finally opted to stop at the grocery store to peruse the aisles. Way strenuous day! Not sure how we managed to survive it intact, but we did. No excitement to be found anywhere – and Kathy is breathing a sigh of relief.  Settling in, we snuggled under our comforters and anticipated our day tomorrow.

Dawn came early as the sun in Norway rises at approximately 4 am and we were awake by 5 am. That is what happens when you fall asleep at 9 pm, getting old has its good points and bad points.  We ate a hurried breakfast and set off for the meeting point for our four hour kayak tour in Geirangerfjord.    Sit right back and you’ll read a tale.  When we arrived, the weather started getting rough (and we were afraid our tiny boat would get tossed!) Fortunately, the fearless Captain kept us on track and we were soon headed out into the fjord to see the Seven Sisters Waterfalls.  While the weather was dismal, it did lend itself to providing us with a spectacular view of the falls.  Dave, the “captain” of our kayak, managed to maneuver us close so that we could get an up close view of the falls.  Our guide, Lukas, (who is originally from Patagonia, Argentina) kept us entertained with stories about the area and the Norwegian culture.  The group was small – just three couples – and we were all of different ages and from different countries (Wales, Portugal, and the US, plus Lukas from Argentina). It made the time enjoyable getting to know our fellow paddlers. It was a great day and we enjoyed the time paddling up and down the fjord, despite the rain.  The sun did peek out at us at one point!  Lukas did remind us that all the rain gives us all the beautiful and powerful waterfalls that we have been enjoying immensely here in Norway.  Despite all the enjoyment, most of us were glad to get back to the dock after the four hours.  We all massaged our aching shoulders that are not used to the constant paddling, as well as our legs which are not used to being inside a cramped kayak under a skirt.  We decided Geiranger had more to offer, so rather than driving back to our B&B, we opted to hike up a waterfall path and visit the local historical museum. The museum was focused on the uniqueness of the area and why it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was interesting to wander through the museum and learn so much. A couple of interesting tidbits:  98% of Norway’s electrical power comes from hydropower – yet the majority of its wealth comes from the drilling and exporting of off-shore oil.  What an interesting dichotomy! Finally deciding to head back, we started the hour journey back and arrived “home” just in time to figure out dinner. Opting for leftover pizza for Dave and a gas station hamburger for Kathy seemed like an inexpensive option.  It seems like the food in Norway has been the most expensive fare we have ever seen in our travels.  This is why we have been opting for PB & J sandwiches and fruit.

A few more days in Norway and we head home, but for now we will say, so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye!

06/08/2024 – The Ups and Downs of Bergen

06/08/2024 – The Ups and Downs of Bergen

Like most of our trips, we have had our ups and downs for the days we have spent in Norway. Today started out as a downer as we watched the torrential downpour from our skylight window in our room. The steady pounding of the rain did not bode well for our day. On the upside, the free breakfast buffet was on our floor so we didn’t have to walk far to get some breakfast. The downside of breakfast for Kathy is still the dark bitterness of the coffee; for Dave no chocolate milk that he has been enjoying on a regular basis here. On the other hand, the upside of breakfast was lots of great fruit and a big bowl of cereal. All in all we felt that it was a good balance between up and down.

Heading back to the room, the few short steps was enough time for us to see the sun shining outside of the windows, being so far up on the top floor allowed us to see quite a ways out and blue sky was in the horizon. Quickly brushing our teeth we bounded down the stairs to explore the city of Bergen. First we again walked into the old town quarter of Bryggen and up to the castle/fort Rosenkrans and the 13th Century Haakon’s Hall to see if we could see more during the operating hours. What a downer, we saw pretty much what we saw last night.  The only up was when we climbed up and were able to view the fjord from the top of the sentry wall. It was still fun and we enjoyed every minute of it.

Climbing down, we headed back to the hotel for a brief respite. Along the way we got to watch as a multitude of entertainers got their floats together for a large parade to be held that day at 1 pm. The parade in celebration of Pride Month seemed quite large and festive with bright rainbows adorning all the shops and painted on the faces of those who milled about. Finally back to the hotel, we had a quick PB&J sandwich, some fruit, and chilled for a bit before we headed out again.  This time our mission was to find the trails leading to a lookout point at the top of Bergen. We had two choices, climb the trails to the top or take the tram…of course we opted to hoof it up. About a quarter of the way up, Kathy spotted a man giving CPR to someone lying on the ground. Dave hurried up to assist, like always he rose up to the challenge of helping others. A Norwegian nurse was giving CPR and Dave checked his pulse and attempted to see if his pupils were reacting to light. Thankfully, an ambulance crew arrived just as Dave was about to take over compressions. We were feeling down and sad as we observed his wife watching the frantic efforts of the people attempting to revive her husband. After such an event, we decided to head back down the mountain. At the base of the hill, the sun was replaced by some tears from heaven as the rain started again to descend in torrents. Deciding on the better part of valor, we opted to hop into McDonalds for a McFlurry for something cheer us up. Eventually the sun came out again and we decided we still needed to get to the top of the mountain. This time we decided to take the tram up and then back down.  It was well worth the effort to see the view of Bergen from up on top of the mountain.  As we wandered around and admired the view we came upon some goats that were looking for a little attention. Dave scratched the heads of a few and enjoyed the distraction.  The trip down the tram gave us excellent views of the city and it was amazing how much we could see through the clear glass roof of the funicular.

This evening we headed out to church. We had previously discussed the sadness of today and of the death of the man who fell a few days ago at Pulpit Rock. Dave philosophized that while the outcome is probably not good for the man on the trail, he died in a way that he would have wanted to go, doing what he loved with the women he loved by his side.  That made Kathy feel better, but it still put a bit of downer on the day.   This afternoon as we head out to church we will remember both men and their families in our prayers.

06/07/2024 – Struck….Striking….Stricken

06/07/2024 – Struck….Striking….Stricken

Struck, Strike, and Stricken have so many connotations in the American vernacular, but for us they covered the gamut today. First of all, for us it meant we left Odda and we struck out for Bergen, the next stop on our tour of Norway.  The meandering road along the way delighted us as passed by mountains, rolling landscapes and the ever present waterfalls. (We wondered if Norway has more waterfalls or more tunnels.  Kathy looked it up – Norway has over 900 tunnels!)  One waterfall along the way delighted us to no end, so of course we had to stop! The waterfall is large and magnificent and after a short walk you get the opportunity to walk behind it! Of course, we had to see it for ourselves and we headed up the walkway to see the falls from both sides. It was a fun and experience, I would say unique but this is not the only time we have had the opportunity to walk behind some falls. It was, though, one of the largest and most power waterfalls we have been behind and we were grateful to stand under a large granite outcrop as the water poured over the mountainside.

Back on our journey we headed towards Telavag, a city on the coast of Norway and known for its unique place in history during WWII. Telavag is home to the strategic site used by Britain and Norwegian resistance fighters to land boats to offload ammunition and soldiers, while at the same time a launching point for those fleeing Nazi persecution. The site was known for being totally destroyed by the Nazis, with the town leveled and the massacre of men and the internment of all the women and children.  The Telavåg Exhibition – Nordsjøfartmuseet (museumvest.no)  The museum is a stark reminder of the dangers of hate and intolerance and how war hurts the innocent.  After watching a short movie about the destruction of the village and the massacre of the men, we wandered the museum looking at the reminders of such a terrible time.   We were stricken with sadness about the inhumanity of the horrible act and utter destruction that happened. Yet we were amazed by the striking resilience of the community that came back and was rebuilt after the war. In four years, most homes had been rebuilt and the community, while not whole, had set about a path for recovery.

Soon we were off to find our hotel.  We struck out on our initial foray into Bergen ending up on a dead end road with no way to go forward. Flipping a quick U-turn, we headed back around in hopes of finding a parking a garage. Luckily, we managed to find a garage and the hotel within a block of each other.  From there, we hoisted our packs and headed down to check into the hotel in the heart of Bergen. Depositing our luggage in our room, we headed out to find some dinner. Striking it rich, at least gourmet rich, we opted for a delicious meal overlooking the square.  Kathy indulged in Sangria and some wonderful chicken pesto and Dave opted for a platter of chicken with some wonderful sides. We both felt like with had stuck gastronomy gold as the meal was delicious with wonderful ambience. We also had the pleasure of being served by a young man, who was on his first day at work.  He was cheerful and friendly and earned the nickname, “Spoon Boy”, as he brought Kathy a spoon for her pasta dinner.  He said that was his only job, since he was new and was not allowed use of the iPad to take down our order.

Heading out, we decided to try and walk from the new part of the city to the Bergenhus, an old historical site at the end of the Bryggen  – the old quarter of the city dating from the 13th Century.  Apparently, some Germans from the north of Germany settled here and started up the Hanseatic League, a successful venture into the fishing industry.  While we managed to make it to the site, we struck out as it was closed and then, of course being in Norway, it began to rain and rain, and of course- rain. We hunkered for a bit in a bar where a men’s choir was singing.  Braving the elements, we struck out again to try and make it to our hotel with the hopes along the way of finding a bakery to purchase some rolls. We struck it rich, finding not only rolls but some lovely dessert to have once we made it back to the room.

Finally back in the room, we settled in and struck up a lively conversation about our day and future plans for the trip. All in all, we had a great day and it was striking for the variety of things we did including natural, cultural, historical, as well as modern aspects.

June 6-6, 2024 – The Destination

June 5-6, 2024 – The Destination

Road trips are usually about the final destination, but the last two days it has not been about the destination but the path we took to get to our destinations. Leaving early from Stavanger we set off for Odda, a small town near the base of Trolltunga hike. Trolltunga in Norway – Official site: Enjoy a spectacular hike to The Trolls tounge | trolltunga.com  This hike was the next hike on “our” itinerary.  We say “our itinerary” loosely, as it is highly unlikely that Kathy will do the ten hour hike over Norway’s rocky terrain, but we will see once Thursday morning arrives. Along the way to Odda we were treated to more tunnels. Norway seems to have an inordinate amount of driving tunnels, through mountains, under the sea, and under rocky outcroppings to avoid waterfalls or falling rocks. Driving along, we were left speechless upon rounding a corner when we saw a magnificent waterfall with water that poured furiously down the mountain, rushing over jutting rocks, and crashing just inches away from the road before disappearing under the road.  It then reappeared on the other side where it rushed to meet the fjord at the bottom.  We had to stop! No “ifs”, no “maybes”, no “we have a timetable”, we just had to stop. Some things are worth it and this waterfall definitely was. Apparently CNN rated Langfoss as one of the top 10 waterfalls in the world, Langfoss Waterfall – Fjord Norway .  We would agree! We took some amazing photos and then wandered below to see the lively action of the falls from the viewpoint of standing next to the fjord. Not a single view disappointed us and we were glad to have stopped.  After having our fill of this natural delight, we were back on our way to find our final destination of the day, our Airbnb in Odda. The place, a charming apartment, was a nice change of pace as it was tucked in a neighborhood and out of the hustle and bustle of being in a crowded or busy hotel and city. We soon were off to buy some staples for breakfast and lunch to tide us over for the next couple of days.  First, though, was dinner where we chatted up a young man from the US who works for an accounting firm in Charlotte, NC. He had just completed the Trolltunga hike where he had actually hiked up the night before with a guided group.  Instead of relaxing by a campfire and watching the sun set with a group of new friends, he spent the night in a tent due to a blizzard!  When morning arrive, the group hiked back down to Odda. Apparently blizzard conditions with intermittent rain and snow forced the group he was with to huddle in the tents. Upon discussing it with him we made the decision that both of us would opt out of the Trolltunga hike. While it would be great to see the view from the top and get that iconic photo from atop “The Troll’s Tongue”, we were skeptical that there would be a view. (As we drove by the area where Trolltunga was the next morning, there was very low cloud cover.  We also saw fresh snow on the rocky mountaintops.  Hiking on snowy rocks to see a view obscured by clouds was not a good balance of risk versus reward in our opinion.  Especially when we would have had to catch the shuttle bus at 0545 hours!)

Phew, next day already. Today is the 80th anniversary of the D-Day invasion and it is interesting to remember it in a European country. Having recently visited Hiroshima and now being in a country that was occupied by the Nazis, our travels have given us a broad view of how others saw the events of WWII. We watched a show on TV while here in Norway that gave the European view of the landing by the British and Canadians on D-Day and it was quite interesting. Both Dave and Kathy were fascinated by learning information that we never knew before.   After waking up refreshed and enjoying a leisurely breakfast, we discussed what we wanted to do, where we wanted to go, and at what time. We are grateful for all those men and women who fought oppression, especially those who gave their lives and suffered so many years ago so that we can travel freely in the EU.

Feeling thankful, full, and ready to go, we headed out the door to find the Hardangervidda National Park, which supposedly has reindeer – something Dave desperately wants to see. We soon set off, only to figure out that the park was so huge and the visitor center was more than two hours away. Instead, we opted for a quieter section of the park where we found ourselves driving up the tiniest, cliff-faced, zig-zaggy dirt road ever invented. Whoever put this road in needs to have his/her road building license revoked. Thankfully we found – after a very long way up – a parking area where we got out finding a less arduous hike than Trolltunga.  Dave chatted up an English gent from Oxford who luckily had a map of the area. After a brief discussion we were off to hike to a waterfall, the almost two miles in and two miles out, while not easy, were way more to Kathy’s liking.  While she struggled here and there, she managed to make it out and back. Like many things these the last two days, it was not about the final destination, but the journey.  Along the hike, we found fresh reindeer poop, met a local farmer with his two dogs out for a hike who explained that the reindeer poop was actually moose poop, saw a big waterfall cascading down, had lunch on a charming plateau, and got a few chuckles in as Kathy got sucked into some mud that had her captured both times almost to her knees. Luckily, handy dandy Dave was to the rescue and managed to drag her out of the sucking morass that was trying to claim her – and she managed to keep her boot in the process. Soon we were headed back to Odda to dry out and wash some clothes, but it is not just about getting back. Sometimes it is about the path you take.  And in this case, it included a roundabout in the middle of a tunnel which we made sure to get video of on our return trip!  Tomorrow sees us head to Bergen where we have nothing planned but to enjoy the culture of Norway.