Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Willkommen to Burton

January 11th, 2012


Whispers of German spoken at the counter. Often just a few words, sometimes an entire conversation. The cafe’s menu reflected this. Seemed only appropriate to opt for the Ruben sandwich. Sauerkraut. Swiss Cheese. And corn beef. I didn’t remember the latter as being especially Germanic. But this was Texas. Small town of Burton.




January 11th, 2012

Burton. Germanic restaurant. And there’s sauerkraut



Zee Germans

January 9th, 2012

Ken meets Doris in the East Texan town of Warrenton. Fluent German speaker… Quite a few of them around there, apparently. And some Czechs.



Alpine encounters

December 6th, 2011


"An armed society is a polite society"

Regaled in Alpine attire – Lederhosen, traditional hat sporting a feather tucked into the band on one side, long stockings – he’d entered the cafe through a side door, picked up a newspaper and found a seat in the corner. Late seventies. German immigrant I thought, but he never spoke so I was left unsure. Didn’t look much like a retired car worker.

I’d stopped in a Fifties styled diner in the small town of Pine Valley. Imagery of Elvis and Marilyn Monroe, of classic cars, on the walls. On the road since seven, it was now gone ten and I’d only managed sixteen miles. Struggling with the climbs. Realising my intended night’s stop at Brawley was quite out of reach. Only question was how much further I’d get tonight.

Leaving San Diego a bit later than planned, progress up into the hills inland had been tediously slow. By four, less than an hour of daylight left, I’d managed little more than thirty five miles. Barely crawling into the town of Alpine. Desperately tired. The hills hadn’t helped but it was mostly my own fault. Chatting until gone midnight. Now a compelling need for sleep.


I liked the diner. Tasteful. It felt homely. Locals drifting in, some sitting along the counter, others at tables. Two men in Sheriff’s Department uniforms. Ill-fitting. Radio on the table, barely audible chatter. No firearms or utility belts. Then the realisation these were volunteers. Left wondering what use they’d be in an armed society.



Mechanical noises

October 13th, 2011

Mechanical noises from Ken Roberts on Vimeo.

Brief stop on the highway, the usual tranquility disturbed by mechanical noises from nearby woods. Ken contemplates what the source might be….



Blitzkreig into British Columbia

October 3rd, 2011

Blitzkrieg into British Columbia from Ken Roberts on Vimeo.

Still no bears, but hordes of Germans.. Just like France, the Yukon and British Columbia being popular destinations. Direct flight from Frankfurt into Whitehorse, most likely the only international airport in the region.



Close shave

September 18th, 2011

Ordinarily I’d have rebuffed him more forcefully. But he’d a number three razor in his hand, in the midst of trimming my hair. Didn’t seem wise to rial him too much. Friendly banter in a small, very traditional, barbers shop in downtown Anchorage. He was German, as fond of football as he was asserting all
English fans were hooligans. That, I quickly retorted, was a contradiction. Struggling to resist the temptation to point out that roaming amok around Europe was very much something his fellow countrymen knew far more about than the Brits.

But he wasn’t the first German I’d met since I’d arrived in the US. There’d been a teacher, staying in the hostel with me in Hawaii. And Christine. She’d also been staying with my host in the suburbs. More friendly banter. We’d vehemently disagreed over which you preferred, Australia or New Zealand. An all the more passionate exchange given we’d both spent a decent amount of time in the Antipodes. Both of us holding what we firmly believed to be very informed opinions.

She was leaving shortly for Berlin. Then off to John O’Groats and a trek down to Lands End. I offered to help her carry some of her luggage to the bus stop the next morning, gently teasing her about the lack of Germanic precision when she seemed a little unsure as to when we’d need to leave the house.



Masculine tendencies

July 22nd, 2011

"Like being in ****** Berlin" explained Franz. He was Dutch. Sharing a room in Nelson Youth Hostel, I’d mentioned I’d never had to look to hard to spot the odd German. In just about every country I’d passed through. He didn’t seem exactly smitten by them.

If he felt frustrated by them, this quickly faded as we discussed our missing room mate. Neither of us having actually seen her. For this was mixed accommodation. And the belongings strewn across the suggested a woman. Or a very effeminate man.

Whoever it was returned about one in the morning. Still asleep when I left to catch the bus north. Buried beneath the duvet. A woman I thought. Or a man in a wig. Can never be sure these days.



Playing for Poland

July 4th, 2011

Today’s Kiwese word or phrase: "pigs". Used to hang washing out on the line

Smorgsborg. Generous spread. Germans. Loud. But good spirited. Enthusiastic. Nelson Youth Hostel. Monopoly. Wehrmacht edition I thought. Playing for Poland.



Angel Delight

May 14th, 2011

I’d replied to the e-mail. Unable to resist inserting "Obeying zee orders" into the subject line. Well, so far at least, the Germans had been a regular feature of my travels. Hadn’t seen any for a little admittedly. But there’d been some suspicious looking beach towels around Surfers Paradise.

Emma, my trusty steed, and I aren’t exactly in anyone’s Frequent Flyer programme. But we do rely on my parents for advice on the best airline deals. Mum and Dad now experts in excess baggage and the byzantine rules of putting a bicycle on a plane. They do the research. I just make the booking. And cough up.

Latest effort my flights to and from New Zealand. Alas, without my bicycle. Far too expensive. My steed obliged to spend some time with friends in Australia. Few weeks there before a return to the road and the run down to Melbourne. Following my parents recommendation to the letter. As always.

Of course, there have been moments. The hop across the Caspian Sea. A small Lufthansa subsidiary my Dad said. Not quite. An old Russian Tupulov. Probably a cast off from Aeroflot. But it worked. Got me to Kazakhstan. And gave me a new-found interest in metallurgy. Metal fatigue and failure mechanics. Of rivets.

But never any hesitation to follow their considered advice. For an adult I may be, the odd grey hair – tell myself people pay good money for such mature highlights – but my relationship with my Mum and Dad is hugely important to me. Something this venture has really brought home to me.

Their opinion, their counsel, matters. Always has. True, as a teenager, I might have been a bit reluctant to follow their advice. Just once or twice. The odd moment when the only angelic thing in the house came in a packet. Add milk, whisk and serve.


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