Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Day Thirteen & Fourteen: Our Journey Ends


  • "Home, James!"

We left with hand-written directions to the Heidelberg military PX where we would stock up on some missed and needed American goods. Grandma is a military mom who could grant us entrance and buy us food. We were more than willing to go along in the game and finding the PX was just that, a game. The directions were clear, but like so many other adventures in our Tour Bus, the way was all an illusion. First we found the base where they helped us turn around and head towards the PX which was several blocks away. Once we found this PX they made us get out of the van, took each of our passports, and searched the van as we stood in a line along the wall. I was impressed at how thorough they were and thankful at the same time. I felt a bit of pride as I watched our countrymen at work.

As soon as we pulled into the PX it was like stepping over heavens threshold. I had to restrain myself from kneeling and kissing the paved "American" parking lot. A car lot sold the latest American cars, even a couple used ones. Fast food was congregated in one corner of the mini-America, dry cleaners and shoe store on the other. There was a bookstore which was tempting to rummage through, but we chose the store next to it as it was the largest and we assumed we'd find our foods there. It was like stepping into a Wal-Mart back in the states. It amazed me to see people pulling American dollars out of their wallets to pay for things. You've no idea how long it's been since I've held a twenty dollar bill in my hand. I actually felt the urge to grab one out of their hand and give it a good rub. We loaded up on all sorts of amazing things we'd forgotten about or never knew about and went in search of the food items.

Fearless Leader had surveyed the layout of the place and determined there was no food to be had behind this military fence so we'd have to search for the other location, but while we were here Taco Bell was calling our names . . . quite loudly. You never know how good Taco Bell really is until you've missed it. We waited in that line and ordered twice the amount of food we'd be able to eat and savored every little bite we got. The left overs joined us for the rest of the ride home and even if we never got to eat them we'd at least live off of the lovely aroma they'd fill the van with.

Upon finding the other PX location half way around Heidelberg, we parked outside the gates as we'd not signed ourselves in properly at the last stop. Only Army mom and pop could enter the gates and gather the goods. I made a quick list of the items we'd been missing most and those things which were heavy or impossible to ship from the states and sat in the van disappointed that I wouldn't be able to wander the aisles myself and live the experience of an American supermarket again, but when they returned with overflowing grocery carts I couldn't help but be pleased with the experience as it ended. By the time we'd found a spot for every packed paper bag (you can tell you're hopeless when just the sight of a paper bag makes you leap for joy) the van was filled to every last crook and cranny it could yield and we cruised on down the road.

We almost missed our dinner due to some communication errors. You see, some of us still had some sight-seeing in mind, while others only had road on the brain. We did eat and we ate at a city known for its beautiful cathedral, Koln, Germany. The city is lovely. I can tell you this because we had to drive down practically every one of it's main streets and across each of its bridges to find a spot to eat next to the cathedral towers. By the time we did the sun was setting on them, but the atmosphere made up for the lack of sun. A group of street musicians stopped in front of our sidewalk table to play us a few tunes while we ate our South American meal. I cannot say it was even South American, but it was supposed to have been inspired from somewhere on that continent. It was tasty, nonetheless. Even though we only got to see the towers from a distance, the experience was still one to remember and closed our tour of Europe properly.

The road led us home and we pulled into our familiar street sometime after midnight. The children were laid asleep into their own beds for the first time in two weeks and I wondered if their dreams would be sweeter. We adults unpacked the van as speedily as we could and clambered into our own beds to prepare for the day of departure.

Day Fourteen was just that; a day of departure. It was a haze of packing and running from room to room preparing for the inevitable goodbyes. Even as we all piled back into the Tour Bus without ceremony for the last time there was a buzz of emotion which clouded what was really being felt. The van was parked, the lines were wound, the bags were checked, and the plane beckoned it's last few passengers. As they pushed their way through security the grandchildren waved goodbye with tears and Screech Monkey called after them by name accompanied with loud cries of abandonment and the pain of loss. I had not seen this emotion in her ever before and I felt sorry that she could not experience the parting of ways with her grandparents more frequently. Eventually we turned our backs and parted our separate ways with a let down so severe it seemed as if we'd been dropped into a dream . . . or could it have been out of a dream?

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