It's been quite a year for the Hutchins / Wilkins family. We started out by moving out furriest member, Xena the dog, to Europe with us. She didn't much enjoy the flight, but soon settled into her new home in The Hague. We took her with us on several trips.
Last May, after Les finished the Sonology course at the Royal conservatory of the Netherlands, we set out to bike along the Loire to follow in the footsteps of Joan of Arc. We went from Orléans to Tours in several days, taking Xena along with us in a dog trailer. This worked out so well that we took Xena, the folding bikes and folding trailer with us wherever we went. When Les played a gig in Berlin, Xena and the bike stuff came along too - and on further to visit Prague and Dresden. Our next bike trip left from The Hague and took us through Antwerp to Brussels. We were scheduled to go further, but the last day of that trip included several disasters, including Xena's trailer getting hit by a flatbed truck and a junkie trying to steal Nicole's bike. Still, after the trailer was repaired and after Les' concert in Austria, we were off on another bike trip, this time to Copenhagen. We biked about a thousand kilometers through the Netherlands, northern Germany and Denmark until we finally ran out of good maps and took the train the last hundred kilometers to Copenhagen. Fortunately, by complete coincidence, we arrived just in time for Gay Pride!
For all of our bike trips, we usually spent the night in a tent and packed it and all our gear up the next morning, loaded it onto the bike and were off. European campgrounds are really nice. One in France brought us fresh baguettes and croissants every morning. One in the Netherlands had pizza and beer. It was quite different than my experiences camping in the US. We hardly roughed it all, except on our first night in Denmark, where several hotels had closed, as had the advertised campground, it was pouring rain and we ended up in a hastily pitched leaking tent in a cornfield! (The next several nights were spent in hotel rooms . . ..)
Alas, soon after returning form Copenhagen, it was time to move again. In September, we packed all our stuff on boxes and mailed to the US and England. We would soon be separated, but first Nicole helped Les move to a new home in Birmingham. Les expects to get a PhD at the University there in music composition in 3 or 4 years. So we loaded our bikes again, took them to a ferry and moved Xena to England. Once Les was settled, Nicole returned to the US, where she applied and was accepted to San Jose state University's Library Science program. She will start her masters degree in the spring of 2008.
Les's program is going well in England. Due to a visa mix-up, Xena is wintering in the UK, while Les takes a much-need vacation on the West Coast to catch up with old friends. This unexpected time off has provided Les with an opportunity to pursue a long sought-after sex change and he started taking male hormones in December.
We hope your year was filled with blessings and wish everybody a happy 2008!
(I'm half-tempted to mail this.)
(edited to incorporate Vince's suggestions.)