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Posts Tagged ‘mobi’

Hard facts and warm feelings, if you’ll indulge me

July 24th, 2009 Comments off

We washed and cleaned out the inside of the Mobi this morning and returned it to the dealership that sells and rents them, about an hour away from Antwerp. It poured rain, a hard, drenching rain, most of the way back. This is typical of Belgium, said Daughter’s Fiancé.

The young man who checked us out on the Mobi back on July 6 also was assigned to make sure the Mobi was intact when we returned it. It was. His boss was a bit upset that we didn’t return it until 1:30 p.m. because we had promised to return it by 10 a.m., and Mobi was going to head out later in the day with another party. I should talk to them about the propane tank’s sticky valve, and the hot-water problem. The broken door lock got the mechanics’ immediate attention.

Remember how I complained that the water-intake cap was frozen shut? It was a locking cap, the young man showed me, and if I had unlocked it, a quarter-turn would have released it.  Oh. I hadn’t noticed the key slot in the cap. That was embarrassing. I am why Americans have a bad reputation in Europe.

The young man also said that the waste-water draining problem was a common complaint, that the valves stuck open or closed, so I shouldn’t feel bad about that. And he and two mechanics discussed how it was possible that someone was able to cleanly break into the Mobi and steal Fiancé’s laptop computer when we had it parked at Bratislava, Slovakia. The crooks might have been nearby (and there was a motor home right next to where we parked), using a device that would have recorded the frequency code of our locking fob, and used it to gain entry through the front door with no problem. Hmm.  Or maybe I failed to lock one of the doors. This will forever haunt me.

Back at the front counter, the young man went through the paperwork and gave me a copy of our invoice. Some security deposit refunds were due us, and would come later in a bank transfer. He said we drove 4,800 kilometers.  I did the math: 2,982 miles.  Over 17 days, it averaged to 175 miles a day. And just one traffic ticket, thanks to those young German police officers who accepted payment with American Express (which, by the way, is not very widely accepted in Europe).

Back at Daughter’s and Fiancé’s apartment, I hit the “properties” tab on “My Photos.” Between the four of us, we took 8,766 photos.  Thank God digits are free and storage space is dirt cheap. Eight-thousand, seven hundred and sixty-six photographs, all crammed inside my little Acer netbook (and backed up every other day onto a separate hard drive).

All those miles, all those photographs, and one wonders: what was our favorite place? We loved each of them for different reasons. The frolicking beer gardens of Munich, the overwhelming history of Prague, the public spaces and monuments of Vienna, the grace of Lucerne, the dramatic setting of Luxembourg, the majestic Alps.

I decided today that my favorite place is Antwerp. We leave tomorrow at noon, and it will be so very hard because we are leaving our Daughter and her Fiancé, and won’t see them again until Christmas. Conversations on Skype are nice but you can’t hug on Skype.

We had so much fun over these three weeks but without a doubt, the most fun, the most treasured moments, the highlights of our time in Europe, are those spent with them. There was laughter, of course, and silliness (we’ve been humming the chicken dance song ever since the proposal occurred in Vienna), and there has been tears, How I wish that they, and our Son and his wonderful wife back in Las Vegas, and Jeanne and I could all live near one another. It’s every parent’s dream, I suppose, but parents also want their children to pursue their own dreams and sometimes they come true on the other side of an ocean.

I took a few photos today of Antwerp as we walked around this afternoon — a bit of window-shopping by Daughter and Fiancé for an engagement ring. (No, they did not order the one from Tiffany’s in Vienna.) The photos aren’t necessarily of the most attractive or oldest or most historically important parts of Antwerp. We’ve visited those neighborhoods on previous visits. But these photos represent the neighborhood where Daughter and Fiancé live — near the train station, not far from the diamond district and not a far walk, down from where the Moroccans claim their neighborhood, to a wonderful Chinese buffet. (We have concluded, by the way, that there are four truly international foods: Hungarian goulash, pizza, kebobs and anything served at an Irish pub.)

So it’s over, this crazy vacation of ours. Nearly three thousand miles down narrow, old-city streets, meandering country lanes and along steep mountain sides shared with bicyclists. But the hardest miles are yet to come, the drive on Saturday to the airport for our flight home.

Running out of gas, times three

July 23rd, 2009 Comments off

Having left Geneva Wednesday for our sprint home to Antwerp, Belgium, we found ourselves searching for our final campsite of our madcap RV trip through Europe. We wanted it to be special.

But I was dragging. Driving through downtown Geneva had taken a lot out of me, in part because in the search for diesel, Miss GPS sent us down some harrowingly narrow streets. Everyone inside Mobi was assigned a window to look out of and declare how much clearance I had on one side and the other. We were measuring in terms of inches at one point, and the notion of knocking down a group of tightly parked motorcycles sounded more frightening than fun. Who knows why our computerized, satellite-driven tour guide chose to send us down such narrow streets — and, in the search for fuel, to deliver us not to a gas station but, instead, to a downtown farmer’s market.  GPS’s: You can’t live with ‘em, you can’t live without ‘em.

And so by Wednesday afternoon, with me growing weary driving down the two-lane highway, Daughter and Fiancé poured through the campground books, including one in only French, to see what was within striking distance. They selected a campground in a village we knew little  about, off a small, two-lane winding road far off the beaten path. We picked it because it was only an hour away and relatively cheap — 25 Euros, or about $37, compared to another campsite that was twice that expensive.

We found ourselves in the wonderful little town of Plombieres-les Bains, and at a quiet campsite up the hill where no one spoke English. (Fiancé speaks Flemish, French and German, so he comes in mighty handy.)

This was going to be a grand finale to our trip: discovering a little French town and a campsite among tall trees, alongside a cheerfully gurgling creek.  Daughter was preparing our last dinner — steak and salad — when she offered a plaintiff plea for help: Dad, there’s no gas! There’s no flame! What’s up with that?

We had run out of propane. Great.  The Mobi had two propane bottles and the dealership assured us that we had more than enough.  I checked. The second bottle was filled.  I had thought the two were somehow piped together like a daisy chain, and was doing a slow burn that it was malfunctioning. That’s when smarty-pants Fiancé pointed out that only one bottle was connected at a time. Duh. All I’d have to do is take the hose off of the empty propane bottle and attach it to the other.

But the second, full bottle had a frozen-closed valve handle, similar to our water-intake pipe cap. I couldn’t turn it for my life. Fiancé came to the rescue. He had a Leatherman, that same Super Tool that I had bought for the trip, and he turned his into a sort of pliers. That did the trick, and in a few minutes Daughter was cooking away.

The evening dissolved into a second bottle of wine and the logistics of Fiancé’s and Daughter’s wedding day (He had proposed to her just a few days earlier, in Vienna). Then to sleep, and being awakened in the morning by rolling thunder.

Before we left town, we walked around town — separating in four different directions and agreeing to meet at the  church an hour later. Somehow our cameras got switched among us — Daughter was using Fiancé’s camera, he was using mine and I was using Daughter’s. I’ve got some great photos on my camera — and I didn’t take them.

We were drawn to many of the same photo scenes, and I’ll post more later when I have time. But take a look and enjoy.

Next stop: Thursday night, back in Antwerp, in time to clean up Mobi and return it to the dealership by Friday’s deadline.

There’s a lot more to say, a lot to reflect on. Suffice for now to say that this has been a most amazing trip, with the theft of Fiancé’s laptop computer as the only casualty. By day’s end Thursday, we will have visited 10 countries in 17 days, and will have spent two days at the same campsite only two times — in Munich and in Vienna.

With Mobi due back at the dealership Friday afternoon, we are starting to run out of gas.

Le Tour de Gorman

July 21st, 2009 Comments off

Today, two major road events converged at Martigny (pronounced "martini" with a little action thrown in for a soft g), a Swiss town at the intersection of France, Italy and Switzerland and a gateway to the western entrance to the Alps.

The major roads entering the city were closed to accommodate today’s run of Le Tour de France, that superhuman exposition of lungs and legs.

Le Tour de Gorman — that superhuman exposition of human relationship and RV daring-do as the Gormans careen through Europe in a  Mobi, accompanied by Daughter and her now-Fiancé — entered Martigny later on Tuesday, as biking enthusiasts were walking back to their cars and streaming out of town.

We were unimpressed. In fact, I have come to detest bicyclists and their fancy Spandex pants and colorful helmets and weird shoes as they share my Alpine roads.

Narrow winding roads were not meant to be shared.  Either close off the damned highway, as they do for Lance & Co., or ban bicyclists from the roads.  Based on my experience, they cannot be shared.

At best, on a flat, straight portion of the road, you can see them as you approach from behind, time your braking and/or acceleration, and pass them quickly at the first chance. But roads in the Alps are generally not flat and straight.

If the road is curving, you have to constantly wait for an opportunity to pass them. And if your Mobi is as wide as ours, almost filling the pavement from the shoulder line to the center line, to give them even two feet forces you into oncoming traffic.  We did this and I drank a lot of Scotch last night to recover.

If you are going uphill when you encounter your bicycling buddies, you normally have to downshift, and even though I’ve  been driving the stick-shift Mobi for more than two weeks, there is nothing easy about downshifting and re-engaging your gears when you are driving a 50-ton vehicle uphill. Fifty ton, give or take but I know it’s gotten heavier because Jeanne has been buying a lot of refrigerator magnets.

You might think driving downhill is the better scenario for coming up on bicyclists. But these pedaling pals of mine love going downhill. They live to fly downhill. In fact, when we are going downhill, they pass me and probably curse as they do it.

The worse scenario is to come upon a bunch of Bozo bicyclists on a 170-degree hairpin turn and, at the very moment you encounter them, a propane truck suddenly enters the hairpin from the other direction. Ohmygod, grip the wheel and close your eyes – wait, don’t close your eyes – and scream – wait, don’t scream, you’ll scare your passengers. You downshift, you brake, you measure the space from your front right bumper to the bicyclists, you anticipate your turning radius, and that of the propane truck’s, and you briefly become very spiritual and give serious thought to whether Heaven is in the clouds or just a state of mind and if it is in a cloud whether Peter at the gate is wearing Spandex.

Moving in to Mobi, finally

July 12th, 2009 Comments off

It’s Sunday night, almost midnight after a full and wonderful day in Prague. It is a most amazing city, seeming much larger, more dynamic and more filled with energy, history, beauty and architectural wonder than its population of 1.5 million or so would warrant. We will spend part of Monday there revisiting one of the neighborhoods before moving on to Auschwitz and Krakow as we begin week 2 of our 3-week mad-cap RV trip through Europe.

If I sound in good spirits, it partly is because I’m finally moving in to Mobi. It is now a five-room house: the family room with its two chairs (when the driver’s and passenger’s seats swivel around), two couches and dining room table; the kitchen with its three-burner range, sink and ample-size refrigerator and freezer that is cold enough to make ice in ice-poor Europe; the full if tiny bathroom with its sink, cabinets, medicine chest, toilet with the swivel seat and shower stall (which we have yet to use because the campgrounds have had nice shower facilities); the master bedroom with overhanging cabinets and privacy curtain, and the basement. I’m guessing our house is about 140 square feet, not counting the basement.

Ah, the basement.

It is the storage locker that is accessible from the outside back of Mobi, and from inside Mobi by pulling up the master bed mattress (which sits on a wood frame on hinges). Imagine the Wizard of Oz, when the tornado is coming and Dorothy’s family is rushing to the storm shelter, and someone (not Dorothy) lifts the door to the storm shelter. That is how we lift the bed  to get into the basement. Except that there’s a mattress on top of the door, and sometimes a sleeping spouse.

When we picked up Mobi, the basement was stocked with toilet chemicals, the electrical cord, the water hose, the swivel do-hickey that opens the awning (which we have yet to do), and an emergency something-or-other.

I began referring to the storage locker as the basement, and it seemed the perfect place to store things like toilet paper and paper towels.

Now everything goes down there.  After Daughter found cabinets to put her clothes in, she put her empty duffel bag in the basement. When we stopped by a small grocery store in Germany that she knew had great prices, she bought 8 bottles of wine, so now the basement is our wine cooler.  We store the tabletop fan in the basement when we don’t need it, and the sling-canvas camping chairs). There are bottles of water and diet Pepsi down there too, and when I stepped in some dog poop the other day while walking along a river that cut through downtown Munich, I put those shoes in the basement (after cleaning them as best as I could). 

And I had been putting my duffel bag — filled with my clothes –in the basement, too.  And every time I needed something, I would have to lift the master bed frame to reach down into the basement to grab a fresh shirt, a pair of socks, whatever.  This could be problematic if Jeanne was in bed; she’d have to roll over to the far side of the bed so I could lift the hinge on her side. If this was in the morning and Jeanne was sleeping, this task would be too daunting. It would be like trying to roll over a sleeping bear that doesn’t like being awakened. I’d rather face the tornado and take my chances with the mean witch.

So tonight, after my shower, I finally emptied my duffel bag, claiming two cupboard spaces above the bed that have been empty. I am now moved in, with my duffel in the basement now empty. The bear can sleep without my bothering her.

I’m celebrating by indulging in a chocolate-covered banana cream cake pastry that I bought a country ago. It may not be healthy but, by God, it is local food and everyone says I should try the local food.

Life is good.

Welcome to Prague, Nevada

July 11th, 2009 Comments off

We arrived in Prague Saturday evening after a thankfully uneventful day — in fact, a good day, considering how it started.

We had filled our water tank in Munich and, in the course of trying to figure out our hot-water problem, we ran the tank dry. So we had refilled it on Friday, and this morning we were going to run the hot water to wash the morning dishes. Not only was there no hot water, there was no water, period.

This was the last straw! The Gormans have turned into magicians!  We can fill a 100-liter water tank and make it disappear a day later without even turning on a spigot!!

For the third day in a row, we called the dealership in Belgium. This time, a real person answered. And he apparently was a mechanic, because when I told him there was no way a water tank could end up empty in a day without even using it, he said yes, there was one way.  He instructed me to look beneath our bed, through a tiny door, where the boiler mechanism for the hot water is.  “It is possible that the water boiler bled the tank empty without you knowing it,” he said. “It would have pulled the water in, and then drained it beneath your Mobi. You wouldn’t know.”

And the solution? “Do you see a red button?” Yes. “Push it. If it releases and goes higher, that is good.” I pushed it. It shot up higher, like an old-fashion car lock. Bingo. “You will be fine now. Fill your tank again. Everything should be fine.”

Since he was helpful, I mentioned that the valve to our wastewater tank could not be closed. I told him that the handle for the open-close valve just turned and turned and turned and never seemed to lock in an open or closed position, and that every time we run water in the Mobi, it pees on the ground. “Next time,” he said, “press the handle toward the plate right in front of it. Squeeze it. That will engage the valve.”  Oh, squeeze the handle while turning it? The snot-nosed kid at the dealership who taught me how to use the Mobi a week ago never mentioned that.

I went outside, knelt on the ground, reached under, grabbed the handle, pressed it and — bingo! again — the handle this time engaged with tension and I definitely could feel it opening and closing, not unlike a fireplace flu. So I think our watewater tank will now hold water.

So, with hot water (we assume — we won’t be trying until after dinner tonight), and a functioning wastewater tank, we set off for Prague. The German countryside was beautiful  — rolling fields of tall corn and other crops, with a backdrop of lush forests, and we drove through small villages with beautiful homes. We wondered what the Czech Republic would be like. It’s not like the countrywide would suddenly change…

We entered the Czech Republic, paid about $20 for a motorways windshield sticker at the border (no need to see  passports or proof of car insurance or anything, just the money, please) and discovered we were entering some knock-off version of the United States. More specifically, Nevada, if not for the trees.

The first billboard we saw was for a poker tournament. The next, for a casino. It was called “American Chance Casino”  but before we could react, we already were past the off-ramp. Then we saw a McDonald’s billboard. And a topless joint called Pamela’s. And another McDonald’s.  In fact, in the next 45 minutes we would pass no less than 10 McDonald’s restaurants. And McDonald’s wasn’t the only English we saw. About a third of the billboards — actually, they were signs hanging across the freeway, attached to overpasses — were in English, which confuses me.

The other remarkable first-hour discovery about Prague, as we drove through town, was the amount of graffiti. It was bad, with only one or two displays of graffiti art, and the rest mish-mash.

We found our campsite for the evening without too much trouble (the address didn’t show up on our GPS but when we pulled to the side of a road near the Prague Zoo to figure things out, a passing motorist pulled over, too, and asked if we needed assistance, and then pointed us in the right direction.)

The campground is one of maybe 10 along a street of what was once, apparently, a very fancy neighborhood with larger  homes and larger back yards.The homes have been turned into B&Bs or hostels, and the back yards converted into campgrounds.  Interesting. We are parked next to a mom and daughter from Switzerland; the other mobis around us are empty, suggesting that their occupants are still walking around the city and haven’t returned yet.

There is only one computer here, in the reception office, so there will be no photos with this post. I’m hoping to grab some time on it when the line thins.  I told the young man operating the office that the owner should invest in wireless. He said the owner has balked, due to cost.  I told him I would pay $10 a night for wireless. He said he gets lots of offers like that.

At this moment, we are sitting outside, 8:15 Saturday night. I’m sipping my rusty nail (scotch and Drambuie), Daughter has her wine (she bought 8 bottles in Germany today because the prices were incredibly cheap), Jeanne her diet Pepsi. We’re in our sling camp chairs, at a burgundy, round plastic table that was sitting nearby that Jeanne grabbed. It’s maybe 65 degrees, beneath an early-evening blue sky.

People all around us are talking. We don’t understand a word. Daughter is getting ready to cook dinner. Later we’ll see if the hot water works.

Tomorrow, Sunday, we will go into historic Prague.  Life is good.

The dark side of camping

July 8th, 2009 Comments off

Our first night in Mobi was Tuesday night, at the riverfront campground on the edge of Heidelberg. We were exhausted and ready for sleep. We closed up tight and pulled every curtain shut.  When we laid down, it was blissfully dark.

A gentle rain lulled us quickly asleep.

And we didn’t wake up until 11:30 the next morning. Two-thirds of the campers had left, and we didn’t hear a thing. When you are on vacation, and don’t wear a watch and don’t care what day of the week it is,and there are no noisy campers near you – or sirens, or honking cars, no street cars, and the inside of your baby motorhome is very dark, sleep comes easy.

And the officer asked, “Sprechen sie Deutsch?”

July 7th, 2009 Comments off

It didn’t take long to grow comfortable with Mobi, running down the German autobahn at 130 kilometers an hour. No, I don’t know how fast that is in miles per hour and it really doesn’t matter, I suppose, because speed is relative. I was passing a lot of vehicles, but some very fancy sedans were passing me as if I were standing still.

I was very irritated by one vehicle that really slowed me down. It was a German police mini-van, that had been following me, then passed me, then slowed down. A flashing light on the back read, very clearly, “Bitte folgen.” I had no idea what bitte folgen meant.

Then the police car’s flashing lights turned on and I felt bad for whomever was in front of it. But there was no one in front of the German police car. And both officers inside the vehicle looked over their shoulder and waved madly at me as they drove to a near stop and pulled onto a dirt road. They waved for me to follow them. Hmmm.

Jeanne was asleep in the back. Daughter, sitting shotgun, said “Uh oh.” And I wondered what I had done wrong. The officers were a man and a woman and their combined age was 50 at most. Their uniforms looked like they were Scouts, khaki green with a badge embroidered on their shoulders. But I assumed the gun and handcuffs on their belts were real. 

The woman officer said something to me in what I assume was German. I looked blankly. She said it again. I said hello. She asked, “Sprechen sie Deutsch?” I said, “Huh?” She said, “Do you speak German?” I said no, in my very best English. She said, “Uh oh.” (In any language, “uh oh” translates as “uh oh.”)

She beckoned her partner, who spoke somewhat better English. Long story short: I had passed someone but didn’t make it back into the slow lane fast enough. I crossed the pavement that was painted, I guess, out of bounds. I drove over an imaginary median. Busted!

“You must pay 119 euro,” the young man said. I thought he was asking for a bribe. I was on guard to be bribed. Daughter’s Boyfriend had warned me that in the Czech Republic or in Poland, I might be pulled over by police and told to pay money to avoid something worse. So, being prepared, I told the young German officer that I had only 30 euro on me. (More was in the glove box but, truthfully, I only had 30 euros on me.)

He said he takes American Express.

And damn if they didn’t have a credit card imprinter in their vehicle, along with their weapons.

As I waited for them to complete the paperwork, another police car pulled off the highway and onto the dirt road, followed by a sedan that, I assume, was also busted for some infraction. I felt as one with some strange European. But then I saw the two officers who pulled him over. They were two hot blonde German police officers. 

As I waited for my ticket to be processed, I chatted with my officers. I told them I would like to take their pictures because I’m sure I would write about them as my new friends. Suddenly the male officer spoke very good English: “Oh no, no photographs. Our boss does not want to see us on the Internet.”

I promised them they would not be on the Internet. I did not take their photographs nor get their names. But the officer spelled “Sprechen sie Deutsch” for me, and he told me what “bitte folgen” meant: “Follow me.”

I now know five words of German.

Mobi for three weeks to travel across Europe, 5,000 euro. Traffic ticket, 119 euro. Personal language lessons from a German police officer on the outskirts of Trier, priceless.

American Express, don’t leave home without it.

Meet Mr. Mobi

July 6th, 2009 Comments off

This afternoon we picked up the motorhome, better known by its nickname, Mobi. It’s a smart vehicle, with a refrigerator/freezer that runs on 220 volts, 12-volt battery or propane depending on the situation, a flat screen TV with rooftop satellite dish and DVD player, rooftop solar panels to help charge the auxiliary battery, a bathroom featuring a separate shower and a toilet with a swivel seat (!) to maximize space, a three-burner range (but no oven, which was disappointing to Daughter who likes heating croissants for breakfast) and tons of storage. Tons.

At the dealership,I was taught how to turn the pedestal dining table into the second bed for Daughter, how to dump the toilet, how to run the GPS and how to know the difference between the diesel-fuel intake and the water intake. “People are stupid,” the young man said when explaining the difference. And then he added for some reason, “You’re American, yes?”

While I was getting the how-to tour, Daughter’s Boyfriend went inside the salesroom to find something to drink, and returned with two beers. Belgium.

Boyfriend followed me home, and not more than 3 minutes after leaving the dealership he waved me over on the highway. A corner of the rear bumper had come loose and was flapping badly. We’ll have to find some duct tape but hopefully this won’t be a sign of what’s to come.

When I pulled up to Daughter’s and Boyfriend’s downtown Antwerp apartment building, I encountered my first real driving test: parallel parking a 21-foot motorhome in a spot that was maybe 23 or 24 feet long. You can see the results. Jeanne and Daughter then loaded up the food, bedding and other provisions.

So tomorrow we begin our vacation in earnest. Jeanne is poring over the map and the tour books to find the best campground prospects, and they all sound marvelous, with rivers running through them. This won’t be the Europe we already know, the one with honking cars, police sirens with their signature European wail, and the constant rumble of the street cars. This will be its soft, quiet side. We are ready for Germany’s Black Forest.

The storm before the calm

July 2nd, 2009 Comments off

We’ve been planning our RV trip through Europe for a few months and the realization that we leave in just two days is hard to grasp. We’ve prided ourselves on being calm, thoughtful, focused, paying attention to the important details.

For instance, we remembered to contact AAA in Canada a couple of weeks ago to get an international camping card, so we don’t have to give the campground manager our passports to make sure we don’t skip out without paying. That would be a nuisance because we wouldn’t have our passports with us when we take the buses into town. We leave the camping card instead. Somehow it vouches for us.

The other to-do’s on the checklist are almost all done, too. I got myself a great camera-carrying backpack, and my money belt, and the other day we bought a pair of duffel bags because they’ll be easier to handle than suitcases in the mobi. Jeanne has picked up the items that Daughter and Boyfriend want us to mule over to them. We even remembered to print up business cards to leave behind so people we befriend will know how to contact us. Last night we walked the house sitter through our home. The dogs will be groomed before we leave. In other words, just about everything is done.

But wait, no, it’s not.

We’ve got to call the credit card companies and tell them not to cancel our cards when they see strange charges in Europe. We’ve got to scan our important documents – passports, drivers’ licenses, credit cards, insurance policies and the like – so we can e-mail them to our kids, and to print out copies for ourselves, in case we lose the originals and need backups for proof. We’ve got to shift money around in our bank accounts so we’ve got enough cash in our debit account. I’ve got to download a ton of albums into my MP3 player and make sure all my electronic toys are charged and we have all the recharging cables and USB cables and batteries. We need to do one more load of wash. We need to clean the house and open up the suitcases and see if everything fits.

And when we walk out the door early Saturday morning, we need to make sure the toilet isn’t running and the iron is off. Well, no we don’t. The iron is never on.

Our flight leaves Las Vegas at 8 a.m.  We land in Brussels 12 1/2 hours later – 7:30 a.m. local time the next morning. We’ll have a day of calm. We pick up mobi Monday afternoon.

And then we’ll have some real stories to tell.

Following the push pins across Europe

June 30th, 2009 Comments off

We leave for our European RV vacation in just four days, and we thought we’d better sit down and figure out what our basic plan of attack is once we get there. Plan of attack. Sounds like we’re planning a military assault. I’m hoping I can just pull the mobi out of the dealer’s lot without causing a scene. It’s heavier and larger than anything I’ve ever driven before. Well, there was that semi when we moved our daughter to college.

Our goal for this three-week vacation is to see as much beautiful countryside as possible, so we will immediately drop southeast out of Antwerp, where our daughter and her boyfriend live, and head east for Germany’s Black Forest, rather than heading northeast toward Berlin. We’ll cross southern Germany, through Bavaria, then head northeasterly toward Prague in the Czech Republic, then into  Poland and brace ourselves for Auschwitz. The basic route then takes us southwest, across western Slovakia and into Austria (Vienna, Salzburg and Innsbruck) before heading into Switzerland (Zurich, Bern and Geneva as the main targets but surely being seduced onto highways leading higher into the Alps). Then, we head back to Antwerp via Dijon and Reims, France.

We will, of course, be taking country roads versus the major highways, and targeting campgrounds outside the cities. And once in country, we’ll refer to our specific guidebooks and maps and solicit the advice of locals. In other words, we don’t know where the heck we’ll be, any given night, but probably we’ll be in the shadow of a huge blue pushpin.

We created a very general Google map showing the very basic route. It’s about 2,100 miles as the crow flies (are there crows in Europe?) but we’re assuming we’ll put in 3,000 miles or more. We are hoping, too, that the GPS doesn’t crap out, or we may end up in Slovenia instead of Slovakia.

Jeanne has been doing most of the research, and has relied heavily on what has turned out to be her favorite reference guide, “Central Europe” by Lonely Planet. She also has a lot of tabs sticking out of “Europe by Van and Motorhome” by David Shore and Patty Campbell, and is poring over Fodor’s “Eastern & Central Europe” and “RV and Car Camping Vacations in Europe” by Mike and Terri Church.

We could buy more specific guides, of course, but there is a weight limit to our luggage.

My diet-demanding health coach will be tickled pink with this news: Our route should take us to Uttenweiler, Germany, where we will visit her family’s bakery and we can say hi! to her cousins Gertrude and Paul. And pick up some streudel while weíre there.