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The joy, and the anger

July 17th, 2009 Comments off

Daughter’s boyfriend joined us on Thursday in Bratislava for the final week of our vacation. He flew into Vienna from Brussels and took the train to the capital of Slovakia,where we met him. His joining us brought back a flood of wonderful memories of how Jeanne and I had camped with her parents when we were dating.  In fact, it was on a camping trip that I proposed to Jeanne, in 1971.

Last night, at our campsite in Vienna, Boyfriend proposed to Daughter.  We realized what was going on when we looked out the window and saw them.  Daughter’s eyes gave it away. They were bright, big, filled with wonder, and wet. They kissed, talked, hugged, kissed again. I grabbed Boyfriend’s camera, better than mine, and took many photographs through the front window of the Mobi, in the evening’s twilight.  If I get their permission, I will post them.

So now it is Fiancé and Daughter, and we are so very excited and pleased for them.  He is a good man and shares with Daughter an unquenchable thirst for adventure, and laughter, and puppies, and wine and beer. Not just Belgian beer, but all kinds of beer.

So we were on such a high when Fiancé reached for his laptop computer in the upper cupboard last night.  It was not there. We searched everywhere, and couldn’t find it.  It had been stolen. Jeanne checked our belongings and found things were not as we had left them on Thursday when we parked Mobi at a dirt parking lot near the historic center of Bratislava, Slovakia.

Parking in downtown Bratislava was impossible with the Mobi, and this dirt lot — with another motor home and other vehicles — seemed the only choice. I took my cameras and laptop with me, in my backpack, as we set off for our 3-hour walk. Fiancée left his laptop behind, however. It was a big one, not easily carried.

Hours later, after we found our campsite in Vienna and after the proposal, we discovered the loss. There had been no outward signs of a break-in. We are 99 percent sure that the burglar used a shimmy to unlock the front passenger door. We think this because there were no signs of forced entry, and because when we entered Austria from Slovakia, Jeanne opened her window and it made a squeal/squeak that we had not heard before.

Also taken was Daughter’s small purse of jewelry. Nothing terribly expensive, but sentimental, including an amber ring we had bought her while visiting the 600-year-old salt mines outside of Krakow.  But other things were not stolen — our MP3 players, for instance, even some loose money. Mobi’s satellite TV equipment was untouched, too.

The loss of Fiancé’s computer is traumatic for him because it contained virtually all of the information he needs for the commercial scuba outfitting business he operates in Antwerp. He hopes he will be able to reconstruct it. If I were him I would be beside myself with anger and tears. Fiancée has a way of moving beyond trauma.

This morning is a new day. Fiancé and daughter are kissing.

Picking a mobi: our first calamity.

June 17th, 2009 Comments off

Belgian Boyfriend: “Tom, you better pick a mobi.  They’re going fast.  I found one you might like. I asked them to hold it until Thursday.”

This was in May, when we were hearing that most summer mobi rentals are lined up six months in advance. Yikes!

Boyfriend sent me the online links with photos and layout diagram of the mobi he had found.  It looked nice. A big van: the two captain’s chairs up front; a café table and bench seat (that convert into a bed for Daughter); an efficient galley with two-burner range, sink and a large refrigerator; a bathroom with a separate, small shower stall, and a bed in the back for us. The base price: 3,620 euro, plus a security deposit of 2,200 euro – a kind of deductable before insurance would kick in for any mishaps.  Not wanting to waste any time and risk losing what I assumed was the last available mobi in all of Europe, I wired 5,820 euro to the company’s bank. I held off, however, on signing the actual contract until Boyfriend could read the fine print in Dutch.

And good that he did. We wanted vacation-cancellation insurance but the RV company’s insurance carrier said it could not provide it to Americans.

We asked for our money back. Saleslady said sorry, she had the money.  We said we had not yet signed the contract because she couldn’t provide vacation-cancellation insurance. Saleslady then found a company that would provide us with vacation cancellation insurance. There goes that argument.

But in the meantime, Boyfriend found another RV dealer who had the exact same model mobi who would rent it to us for – gasp! — 2,790 euro. And, unlike Saleslady’s mobi, this one would come fully equipped with linen, towels and kitchen utensils. A much better deal!

We told Saleslady we would not sign the contract and without one, there was no deal, and we wanted our money back. She held her position, and why not? Boyfriend’s lawyer intervened on our behalf. But his conclusion was that sending the money, and our series of e-mails, showed clear intent to rent the vehicle. At best we could ask to cancel the deal, and pay the penalty.

We played out that request, knowing we could get the other mobi by June 15. Saleslady dragged her heals and, finally on June 15, told us we could pay a 750-euro penalty. Ouch.  And it was a moot issue: Boyfriend said the other mobi was rented that morning. We had no choice. We kept the original one and are paying more for it than we needed to. Sigh.

To view all of the dealer’s photos of the RV we are renting, go here.