NOTE:  When Sharon adds comments, they will be in {curly brackets}.

Report 0. Tuesday, May 9, 2017. The Story Behind the Trip and the Flight to Oslo via Amsterdam.

NOTE: Click here to skip the background and go straight to the trip itself.

Anders Olaf Johnson was born in Sweden May 22, 1844, where he spent his childhood and youth before he, along with his family, moved to Norway. As a 19-year-old, he saw a baby girl lying in her cradle. She was Louise Paulson, born October 6, 1863, during the civil war in America. He waited until she grew up, and they were married September 22, 1882. Anders was a fisherman with his own boat, and he and Louise's home was on a high hill above a fjord on the north coast of Norway, in or near the fishing village of Gamvik, where Louise, and later her children, could look down and watch for fishing boats to come home when the weather was stormy.

They had four children in Gamvik, the last of whom was Magdalena, known as Lena (Sharon's mother Gretchen's mother).

When Lena was a baby, the six-member family took a boat to New York, carrying little Lena in a basket, and settled in Webster, Wisconsin, where the weather was similar to Norway - cold and icy in the winter. Perhaps that felt familiar, but more likely they already knew somebody who had moved there.

After the family's arrival, four more siblings were born, for a total of eight children. Sharon and I went to Lena's 100th birthday party in Webster a couple of decades ago, and Lena lived to be nearly 101 before she passed away.


For years now, Sharon has said to me determinedly," someday I want to visit Gamvik, where my grandmother was born" . {My mother, Gretchen, had travelled there along with my uncle Terry Burford, in 1999. I got her "trip report", AKA diary, from Uncle Terry to read her description of their trip.}Sharon and I both thought it was just a nice plan, but never really pictured it happening. We had two round tickets on KLM to fly to a new airport in Istanbul, just minutes from where daughter Tara and husband Cihan live, but we had already been to Turkey five times and we came up with a different idea. What if instead of going to Turkey, we pay for Tara and Cihan to fly to Amsterdam, meet us there, and the four of us spend a week together exploring Amsterdam! Tara and Cihan were excited about it, and I was able to talk KLM into forgiving the #300 per ticket change itinerary charge. So KLM gave us until May 26, 2017 to fly out on the first leg of any trip we wanted to take on KLM.

I had a retreat the last weekend of April which I had a major part in planning, and I couldn't leave before that. Sharon had responsibiities near the end of May which she needed to be back for, which included care for her clients in her marriage and family therapy practice, so we had our two outer limit dates.

We planned that, bought the tickets, reserved special extra leg room seats and were all set, when Cihan got an assignment that knocked him out of the Amsterdam trip. What to do? What were the choices? Well, one big objective was to give Cihan a nice break from his duties, so together we said we'd try to tack their Amsterdam visit with us onto the END of our Norway trip.

And that's the name of that tune.


I dived (dove? doved? doven? half a doven?) into this with a passion. I LOVE planning our international trips.

Plan 1. Fly to Oslo, rent a motorhome, take about a week to visit the fjord area, fly to an airport in a village near Gamvik, rent a car and see what connections we could make. But wait. We have gotten tremendous enjoyment in Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain by renting motorhomes and touring the country. Could we do this here? It turned out that there wasn't enough time. When I reviewed this with Sharon, she asked how much extra time I thought we'd need. I figured one week would work, and she said she'd make it happen on her end.

Plan 2. With this new notion, I had us tour the fjord area for about a week, then drive up the spine of Norway to Gamvik, hitting several highlighted areas along the way, then drive back to Oslo, but through a piece of Finland and Sweden, where the roads are better and we could drive straight to Oslo, more or less.

Plan 3. Or 2-plus. Sharon said to me, "And can we pick up some new birds there?" I told her I didn't think we'd get any new birds, as they are similar to the birds of Great Britain where we already had birded (this idea coming straight from Bob's brain, which doesn't always know everything). I said I'd check, so then I had another bit of fun.

More on Plan 3. I have a database with our 3000+ birds in it in alphabetical order in the form "lastname, firstname". I found online all the birds in Norway in the form "firstname lastname". So I had the distinct pleasure (I'm serious) of casting Norway's birds into the same format as ours. Using Excel's features, this was pretty slick. Then I constructed a comparison algorithm. For every bird in Norway, I had the logic look down the Lutman list at every one of our 3000+ birds. If it found a match, it'd put a zero into the results column. If it didn't, it'd put a 1. So zero means we already have that bird, and a '1' means it'd be a new bird.

This generated a list of upwards of 200 birds. But wait. Some spellings were different, so that took a special pass through the list. In addition, in the Norway list, they included a bird, even if it had been seen only once in a hundred years, and they had an 'R' in a certain column, to indicate it was "rare". When I threw out all those birds, and seabirds, since we weren't going out on the water looking for them, I wound up with a list of about 40-45 possible new birds for us.

Then, looking at some Norway birding sites, I found a bird guide named Simon Rix. I emailed him and he was available. Our best birding money has been spent hiring local expert birders to help us get difficult and even not-so-difficult birds. So we wound up scheduling Simon twice - one day at the beginning of our trip, and one at the end. The reason is that at the beginning of our trip, the springtime nesting birds are not here yet, but will be at the end of our trip. On the other hand, some birds will be here at the beginning of our trip, that will fly out to their own nesting grounds and not be here at the end of our trip. Our conclusion? A day at the beginning and a day at the end. We also hired him to scout out, using his resources, potential locations during our travels when we might find some of our target birds ourselves.

Had enough?

In summary, we made a plan to fly out of San Francisco Tuesday May 9 arriving in Oslo via Amsterdam Wednesday morning, May 10 , Returning: fly Oslo to Amsterdam Saturday June 17, spend about a week with Tara and Cihan, and fly home Saturday June 24.


Friend Bob Ross picks us up at 9:30 the morning of Tuesday May 9 (we like to arrive at the airport 3 hours before international trips), drives us to SFO and drops us off. We make our way to the KLM desk, check our luggage, including an extra bag with goodies Tara and Cihan had been buying on the internet since they knew we were coming, pay for our extra-leg-room seats on the long flight, breeze through security and settle in at our departure gate, arriving there about an hour and a half before flight time. Ahhhhhhhh. But finally it is time to board, which we do and find our seats near the front of the coach section.

We nap, watch movies, sleep, I work Sudoku puzzles and occasionally walk the aisles to keep from getting stiff. And of course, we eat - lunch, then dinner, and in the morning, breakfast. {The extra leg room seats are a great benefit. I get into my seat, put my pillow behind my back, put the lap throw Anna Cureton made, over my legs, put my book and knitting close and I'm set for the trip. And it is a nice new airplane with each seat having it's own TV, movie screen so I can just enjoy movies all the way. Bob uses it to see where our airplane is at intervals during the trip}

We land at the Amsterdam airport, find two free luggage carts, load them up with our two carryons plus my backpack plus Sharon's knitting bag plus my seat cushion, and make our way through the airport - a long, long walk, find our departure gate and settle in there. {An important piece is to count our luggage as we go. We had initially 3 check-in pieces and 5 carry-ons. We left the check-ins, of course, so now only have our carry-ons: 2 carry-on bags full of "can't be lost" items; 2 personal items (Bob's backpack and my knitting bag); and Bob's special pillow for his back. (My pillow and lap throw are tucked into my knitting bag). We have to keep count so nothing gets left behind, either at the checkin counter, or later on the plane (not mentioning the time we DID forget Bob's backpack on the plane as we transferred in Los Angeles and it was gone 15 minutes later when Bob went back to retrieve it! Oops!} So the last bit is to do a two-hour flight from Amsterdam to Oslo, which we do.

Here is our announcement screen.


And here I am making our Oslo airport hotel reservation, from the departure gate in San Francisco.

Son-in-law Cihan showed me this slick app called flightradar24. You either put in a flight number, or you can go out your back door and point your iPhone at a plane, and it will give details on that plane. Below shows two views of our flight when we are over Canada. Dig all those airplanes (not to scale, yuk, yuk) over the U.S. and the Atlantic.

Here we are, on the plane. Sharon has a cool warmer across her lap, at her seat. {The one Anna made and gave to me, what a sweetheart.}

Here is me waiting for our KLM "Cityhopper" flight from Amsterdam to Oslo. It's actually Wednesday May 10th. At right is the plane we will take. We get a great kick out of the long ultra-modern, glassed-in ramp to the airplane, only you have to take 15 steps or so down to the ground, walk over to the plane and lug all your carryon up the stairs. And you don't have to pay extra!

2017! Ain't life grand?

So that's it for the trip to Amsterdam and picking up the flight to Oslo.

Bob {and Sharon}

Next Report (1)
Report List