The Vasawagn

It seems like forever-ago that we picked up our Citroën Jumpy C2 at London Heathrow and embarked on a crazy road trip around Europe. Interestingly, that was less than three months ago. We have spent a lot of time in that van. It has very little pickup, quite decent gas mileage, and perhaps the shittiest sound system I've ever had the misfortune of attempting to use in a vehicle. Yet as is true on so many voyages, it isn't so much the vessel as it is the crew.

We passed 11,000 kilometers on the van today. We’ve driven as far west as the Kerry Way in Ireland, as north as Stockholm, as east as Berlin and as south as Seville, Spain. That’s a lot of driving with a crew of kids and I can say with certainty that my kids are inhumanly well behaved in car rides; it’s just freaky. I remember my childhood, riding in the back of the Oldsmobile fighting with my brother... my relief that my children are not me is permanent and palpable.

Tori gets occasional car sickness and will operate her own bag and not even mention that it happened. They alternate between absorbing themselves in their devices (Nexus 9s) and peacefully staring out the window at the landscape streaming by… “oh, Mama! Look a another castle. Right on that hill” and, of course, sleeping.

My favorite thing about this road trip, hands down, was driving through the Alps. The Swiss Alps, the Italian Alps and the French Alps. I believe it is the most beautiful drive I have ever experienced in my life. Lisa and I have taken turns driving and have both had the opportunity to longingly stare at the landscape that most closely resembles beautiful paintings sewn together endlessly.

Swiss Alps

I was disappointed that it was foggy during our Swiss Alps drive; it made it difficult to capture the landscape in photos and I'm sure it deadened what would have been a euphoric experience into a merely exceptional one.

Green farms in Swiss Alps

I found the landscape and geology to be fascinatingly different (though I plead ignorance here and they might all be the same while I only learned to look at different things along the way). My recollection is that Switzerland was green and vibrant and filled with serene lakes all along the path; truly picturesque.

Into Cuneo

Italy was drier, but still exhibited the same abrupt rock formations and tended to be more trees and less developed. The drive into Cuneo was breathtaking and our excitement level to see the town of Lisa's mother's side helped bolster that further. The little towns tended to be houses only with significantly less farm land along the drive.

French village In France, the towns were more haphazardly stacked along the rise of the mountain (and at the same time artistically beautiful), but all of that was hard to notice with the absolutely fantastic geological formations in the ravines. The (hundreds of) layers of rock, so meticulously exposed. It was like driving through a lesson on the age of our planet and the epics of destructive tectonic reorganization.

We only have to drive to Brussels (from Seville) to return our car and transition from our European tour to our African tour. It’s a long drive and I’m sure I’ll enjoy not having to drive for quite some time afterwards. I think the next place on our trip where we will really need to operate our own transportation is New Zealand. Frankly, despite the freedom of our own car, it’s a relief to just let it go.

I'll note that one thing that frustrates me continually is how difficult it is to capture good photos from a moving car at speed. The van is particularly square and suffers from horrible aerodynamics. Opening a window at 130km/h is a horrible idea. We have taken nearly a thousand pictures through horrible, often bug-smeared, glass, at awkward angles, with misjudged shutter-speed settings and bad apertures, and been the victim of unlucky timing. Of these, maybe ten are decent and one or two are good. None are great. We'll keep trying.

I wish that cameras could record ground-speed as part of the metadata for photos. Feel free to peruse our roadtrip gallery over on SmugMug.

French village in the rearview

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