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

Report 5. Sunday, May 14, 2017. Mother's Day in the U.S. The Oslo-to-Flam Drive, with a stop at the Borgund Stave Church.

We are up and on the road early. It's not long til we begin to rename all the birds seen yesterday, in the order they appeared. But here are two more mirror pictures we get along today's route.

Every bale of hay we see is plastic-encapsulated - EVERY bale. Here is a fellow moving three of the big bales down the highway. And here is what an ambulance looks like in Norway.

Somebody STOP me!

At 7:45, an important event occurs, and it won't be the first time. I accidentally hit record on the DVR (digital voice recorder). It reminds me of the name of the support group for people who CANNOT STOP TALKING. You know - On and On-Anon. I finally realize it and stop it. Nothing interesting or share-worthy is said. And if you believe THAT...

A little after noon, we stop for lunch, on the road to Flam, our objective for tonight. Turkey and cheese sandwich and the Norwegian version of cheese puffs, with part of a coke to drink.{I don't drink this many cokes at home (in fact I had been cutting way down because of the sugar) but it is a "safe" drink for us. That and bottled water are the key to not getting sick}

Finished, we head out again, and just before 1 pm, Sharon yells (well, shouts. well, says loudly), "That road goes to a meteor crater!" {Huh? I don't remember this at all, so no details}

Not knowing anything about it, and dead set on getting to Flam and the fjord boat ride, we pass.

Amazingly, I bought this brand new DVR because I could hardly understand anything I spoke into the old one. But I am VERY familiar with the buttons and the way to do everything, so I bought a brand new one for the trip.

At 1:07, I learn that the brand new one is heading for the same condition as the old one. DANGGGGGIT! So my notes on the transcription of the 1:07pm entry go like this: "Jibberish"

Sharon claims I'm talking to it wrong. {All I know is that when I talk ito it, it sounds clear on the replay. Bob talks into it and it sounds "gravelly or buzzy."}

Our second stave church of the trip is at Borgund, and we arrive there a little before 4:30, having gone about 80% of the way to Flam at this point. But after the stave church visit, we will drive to Flam and sleep there two nights. Because we are going to get to Flam so late, we can do neither the scenic mountain train ride up and back, nor the fjord boat tour today. Naive of me to think that we could drive there and do both of those things in one day. Pardon me while I adjust my reality setting. Gronk! Squeek! Rrrrr! There. I'm adjusted. Well, we'll see.

{We have found out that these churches, especially the roofs, are dark, almost black because they "tar" the wood for preservation. It also means that they are prone to fires so there is a fire hose here in a box with instructions for how to initiate putting out the fire if you see one.}

{These carvings are traditional (I guess that goes without saying since they are on a 900 year old church). They are acanthus vines and often roses and are called" rosemaling", There are also sometimes dragons in the carvings.}

{I love these old locks. and Look at the graffiti. I wonder how old some of it is}

{These "portholes" at the top of the church were the only light sources. The X braces commemorate St. Andrew who was crucified on a cross this shape.}

Finishing up in Borgund, Sharon wants us to drive the "snow road", which is very slow and a bit steep, with lots of switchbacks but scenic overlooks. But stopping in a little gas station to find out if the snow road is open, I learn that they don't know. On the other hand, I see a lady with two daughters, and I ask her. She says she lives in Flam, and the snow road is not open yet, and we must take the tunnel. I thank her, head back out, turn around, head back in (today is Mother's Day in the U.S.) and ask her if today is Mother's Day here also. She says no, looks at her daughters and says, "I think it's in February here". I again thank her and head back out to tell Sharon that we "must" take the 24.5 km (15 mile) TUNNEL!!! which basically descends monotonically, with special features inside, which we will describe (I'll leave this to Sharon). {First I have to ponder the word "monotonically" (in this case, it means descending or staying level, but not reversing to ascending in the entire stretch) which Bob says is a common enginering term, Oh well. This is one of the longest tunnels, maybe in the world. We are told there is an interesting "room" halfway through. It is great that they tell you how far you've come and how far you have to go as you travel through the tunnel. There is a sign that will say 20/4.5 which tells you have 20KM to go and have come 4.5 already. They have periodic SOS telephones and periodic "regular" telephones in telephone booths in case you need to make a call. The fear here is that long distance drivers might get bored or sleepy in this dark, long tunnel.. So halfway through you get a light show with red, yellow and beautiful blue lights lighting up an enlarged "room" where you can pull over if needed. In another tunnel, that I will probably forget where it was, they actually had a roundabout in the tunnel where you could turn left and go an entirely different road out of the tunnel. Pretty amazing!}

The amazing Englishman/American Bill Bryson tells a great snow road story in one of his books Sharon has just finished, and she will tell you THAT story too. NOTE: Sharon does not recall such a thing, and we both scour the Bryson book, and neither can find it. So... NEVER MIND.

Finally exiting the great tunnel, we go right to Flam Camping. That's what they call their RV parks - camps, and the name very, very often is the town's name + the word 'Camping".

We are up moderately high, above a river, with tall mountains behind us. We have electricity and can use either our camper, or walk down to their building with toilets and showers. It's a long way down there, but having this view makes it worth it. {They have terraced the hillside and some sites are camping cabins, some open areas for tents, and some for campers like us with electricity hook up posts. We can see the harbor and the Flam-Myrdal train station. Both are within walking distance for us and we now plan our activities which include a fjord boat ride and the train ride up and back. We hear what is a common sound in this part of Norway, sheep and lambs bleating to each other. It is lambing season and we love to see the little lambs}

REFLECTIVE NOTE: Now the great thing about life is you get to experience the moments that you didn't want to have, or don't want to have. So our such story is the way we fought over whether to take the snow road. I wanted to take the tunnel to maximize our chances of getting either or both of the train ride up and back down the mountain and the fjord boat cruise done today. Sharon had been dreaming of the views from the snow road pullouts for a year or so and quite simply wants to do that, and then adjust whatever we need to timewise. We argued about it til we reached the actual turnoff, which had a big sign and something even better - about two feet of snow on the road that we would be on in five seconds if we headed up that way.

OK, says Sharon, "no snow road". We both laugh, and I'm sure Sharon will add a bit of her perspective. {A great life lesson; maybe the thing you are arguing about already has an answer independent of you as a human being. The universe decided this so why were we spending time arguing about something in the future? Hopefully I can start living out this lesson in a productive way.}

We shop for groceries sometime during the day, and here are those pictures.

{Old El Paso products!! Great, I can make soft tacos, which we love. You can also see packaged lefse in there "la lompa" package, hamberger patties that I am going to use as hamberger meat to make the soft tacos (haven't found just ground beef yet), "kalkunfilet" which now know is turkey slices, Jarlsberg cheese that I love (Could it be that it is made here? or maybe Sweden), yarn (Yarn!! Yes I couldn't resist buying wool yarn in the supermarket) and next picture down, look at those terrific salmon in the freezer! Great shopping. I just grab a customer if I don't know what something is, ask "do you speak English?" and the answer is almost 100% "yes" and they help me.}

These are not OUR fish, just frozen fish in a basket in the glass-topped freezer section.

Finishing up at the grocer's, we hit the road again. And come to THE TUNNEL, the normal way to get from Borgund to Flam.

It is so long that there are three spots where you can pull over and rest. They are signified by lots of blue, as I recall, but I read recently that each is a different color. Hmmm, don't think so. Blue like these. I think there is even one place where you can do a U-turn in a chamber off to the left and come back into the main tunnel, heading the direction from whence you came.

Below is what the rest of the 15-mile tunnel looks like in the majority of the span. But after what seems longer than it should be, we exit, and find our camp. They give us a nice site up the hill, overlooking the city. Sharon gets this one of me stepping out of the Sunlight (get it?).

And for our dinner, Sharon fixes us shrimp with her custom-made dipping sauce. Has a nice tang to the taste buds. Wonderful spot. Tomorrow we'll do the train up the mountain and back AND the fjord cruise. I am so jazzed!

Good Night Guys,
Bob and Sharon

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