Position: 35°12’36.1″N 106°26’58.5″W
The last time we handed the fate of our adventures to a stranger was in the Azores. Back then it was our alternator in need of repair. This time we handed Aleta’s keys to a group of guys we’d only just met. Then we hopped on an airplane and flew back to America. Aleta’s care and feeding is now in the hands of Swedes and WhatsApp.
We left behind a menagerie of ersatz pets, including at least six spiders that called Aleta’s poop deck home for the past few months. We are missing Marlon so much that, yes, even spiders have become pets. Arachnids are Carol’s least favourite creature. For years large spiders worked tirelessly in our garden catching bugs and spinning big, beautiful webs. Every fair morning, dew glistened and clung precariously from the intricate circular patterns covering the bushes. With a modified form of cognitive behavioural therapy, I finally got Carol to the point of appreciating their hard work. She still screamed if there was a spider cheekily lurking in the shower, but it was progress.
Our eight-legged charges joined us at various places along our travels. I suspect a couple were Spanish, a couple French, while the rest boarded in Holland. Each evening at civil twilight they came out from their hiding places and hung in wait for something to fly into their traps. By that time Carol had usually made her way below decks and left the spiders to their dinners. We rarely saw them in daylight. Except once, in a David Attenborough moment, when life came full circle for an errant wasp.
A Tangled Web
As wasps do, it had flown lazily into the cockpit and mooched about in search of something interesting, like food. Keen to see it on its way, Carol shooed the creature over the starboard railing and our boarding ladder. One of our spiders had made its home in a notch on the ladder. It had also woven a magnificent web with quite a bit of effort. I watched its construction. Seemingly hanging in midair, the spider worked diligently as it ensured the web’s joints were patent and strong.
The sluggish wasp flew up over the railing, then in its wisdom turned around and headed back towards Aleta. Sadly, it had lost a foot in altitude and tangled itself fatally in the spider’s web. Ever on the alert, our spider sped out of its lair, tripped lightly down the web, and dealt the wasp a sharp blow to the back of its head. And there it was left to hang, and cure I suppose. All this priceless BBC-style spider action made Carol feel sorry for the wasp, while it did nothing for her feelings towards spiders. We can’t all live on tofu, I pointed out. Nonetheless, our newly developed sense of zen had collided abruptly with the reality of natural selection.
Over the Top
We left Sweden by train and caught an early morning flight from Copenhagen to Helsinki and from there to Dallas and points west. Our Finnair flights were mercifully free of both spiders and wasps. The 11-hour HEL to DFW leg took us up over the north pole, across Hudson’s Bay and down the middle of Lake Michigan. Our seats were comfortable, the staff were on their game, and the food passable. Perhaps the highlight of our meals was the wooden cutlery, fashioned, I like to think, by complex laser powered woodworking tools. The dry wood on my tongue reminded me of single-use chopsticks. The ones that are so absorbent your lips stick to them.
For the next few months we’ll be in Albuquerque helping Carol’s dad, Bob, get back on his feet. We should all be so fortunate that at 98 we not only have a 75th college class reunion to look forward to, but that we’re fit enough to be organising the event. That does not mean our adventures have come to a hiatus. Rather, we will spend the next few weeks filling in the gaps in our timeline from Germany, Denmark, and Sweden. By then we will be undertaking new adventures, some of which will no doubt include silliness on two wheels. Stay tuned…