I should be arriving in Vienna right now. The lovely Danube River should this very minute be gurgling along 20 feet beneath my plump, bratwurst-fed hindquarters, delivering me into the classiest city in the world. The Viennese don’t seem to make any effort to be cultured, yet no one in the world is more cultured than they are. They don’t even have to try, so I’d say that makes them the most civilized folks on the planet.
However, I am not looking at the sunrise behind the Vienna skyline right now. By the way, it would look kind of like this, without the sunrise part:
I am instead looking at this:
The reason I’m looking at this Welsh tinker’s nightmare of a desk is that our European river cruise, for which we’d saved and planned rather a long time, was canceled at the last minute because God turned most of Central Europe into a freshwater lake. I thought all of that flooding meant our boat could just bounce around wherever our fancy led us, as if Europe were a gigantic pinball machine. But our travel agent explained to me why that was not so. I think it had something to do with hydrodynamics, low bridges and tall churches. I said, “Uh huh,” a lot, and she refrained from mocking my hopeful ignorance.
This is not my wife’s fault. I want to say that right now. I admit there’s a certain amount of evidence that disagrees with me on this. Back when she joined Girl Scouts every activity the troop planned got canceled due to rain, measles outbreaks, chemical contamination, or some other damned thing. However, once she dropped out of the troop, the plague of misfortune ended. A few years ago we visited Disney World, and a hurricane shut down the park for the first time ever. We took a Caribbean cruise the week Hurricane Rita smashed through the Gulf. When we drove through New England to see the fall colors, we found that a spring drought had produced leaves as washed out as a tie-dye skirt from your granny’s attic. And now the worst European flooding in 500 years.
I repeat, it is not her fault.
Although schedules prevented us from re-booking the European cruise, I don’t want to complain too much about the canceled trip. Our agent helped us find and book a last-minute Alaskan cruise instead, which is nothing to whine about. And I’m not complaining about the complete change of plans, or the non-refundable hotel deposits, or any of that.
I’m complaining about the luggage. I had convinced my wife that we could thrive for three weeks in Europe with just two carry-on bags to hold everything needed to cover our nakedness. She resisted at first, but she came around after we researched the topic for a few weeks. After I built a box the size of our not-yet-purchased bags and she practiced packing in it, she agreed it was possible. It even became entertainment, as for months we discussed packing strategies and microfiber underwear instead of watching TV. Our logistics for two small bags became every bit as sophisticated as the load-out for Apollo 11.
That plan is now blown to hell.
Somehow Alaska requires more clothes than Europe. I was surprised, since we’d planned to look fairly sharp visiting those German cathedrals and the Vienna Opera House. I figured for Alaska I’d just need a couple of sweaters and a pair of jeans. It turns out that an Alaskan cruise involves formal clothes, and dressy clothes, and extra scarves, and an improbable number of shoes. I could have photographed quaint Danish streets with my serviceable, cigarette-pack-sized camera. In Alaska I’ll need a big camera with a big lens, because I might spot a moose or some salmon a quarter of a mile away.
So we’ll be checking all the bags we can check and carrying on everything we can lift. I feel oddly defeated over the packing, but that’s a quibble, really. Each day I’m getting more excited about sailing north on a ship while our house sitter lounges around our home with my wife’s Remington 870 tactical shotgun:
And we’re timing this vacation right. Even though Alaska experienced record heat earlier this summer, with temperatures in the 90s, that’s all over. The weather’s settled back down to its normal cool, welcoming climate. Although this morning I did hear that the hot weather has spawned record swarms of horrible Alaskan mosquitoes.
But that is not my wife’s fault.