This was quite an adventure. Here is the route.
Our original plans were to leave Cannes early, drive to Nice to check out the city for a few hours and continue driving to Switzerland to stay over night at a nice bed-n-breakfast in Central Switzerland. But of course, things didn’t work out that way…
Basically we only had problems the all the way to Germany.
It already started in Cannes, when I wanted to start my car. Well, my Fiat was standing all the time I was in Cannes, since it’s ridiculous to drive a car during the film festival. Traffic in the packed city is exhausting and parking impossible, unless you have a reserved parking space. So I stored my car at the Adobe house. But unfortunately the button for the hazard warning lights popped out at some point of time and had to be blinking until the battery went dead. So starting the engine was a small problem. Luckily the house was on a small hill and after help from Vassoula and Melody pushing the car out the car port, I tried to start the car during the roll down the hill. (I learned that from my VW Scirocco, I had about 10 years ago). But no success. The car refused to start…
We didn’t have jumper cables. Bummer. So I decided to call the German Automobile Club ADAC, that I had joined just before I left Germany. I thought something could happen during this journey with my car and didn’t want to take any risks. It was starting to pay off. So they came within an hour and the French mechanic could help me. Once again I noticed how bad my French is, because I could not explain what was wrong to him. But with basic English and many gestures, he actually knew what I was talking about (and I think he liked my Fiat a lot…).
Soon after that, we actually managed to leave Cannes. With my girl friend on my side, the car running smoothly and the convertibles top down, I was ready to take the challenge of the 900 Kilometers ahead of us. But the steady cruise ended just an hour later. Traffic jam – EXTREME traffic jam. Due to our delay leaving Cannes we joined the swarm of people also wanting to leave Cannes. But that wasn’t the main problem. After about an hour of stop and go traffic around Monaco we came to the cause of the problem: a huge fire on the hills around Monaco. We could watch 4 fire fighting aeroplanes refill their water tanks in the Mediterranean See, fly around us and drop their load on the fires. What a show!
We didn’t have any popcorn that goes along with the show, but could have used some, because we started getting really hungry. Getting food in France isn’t always as easy as it sounds. They just love to close down their restaurants for hours in the middle of the day. After trying many different places we had no choice: We had to go to McDonald’s. It simply was the only place to get food at 5 pm in France! Just ridiculous.
Back on the road, we sill had a far way to go. So we basically drove straight through to Milan. It was night by now and had started to rain. It really isn’t fun driving in Italy at night without a navigation system. Their road sign system is indescribably bad. I was constantly confused and drove in the wrong direction. I started to get really pissed. And a bit worried, since one of the head lights kept going on and off. We some how made it the Italian-Swiss boarder and all went well so far, but it was late and we wanted to find a place for the night. Shortly after we agreed to charge our batteries somewhere, we actually found a hotel next to the high-way. Totally exhausted we were looking forward to just falling over on a mattress and sleep. We only had to check in quickly and get a key to a room. But we didn’t get key. The hotel was fully booked. We thought this is a joke. Unfortunately it wasn’t. We had to continue searching for a place to sleep.
Now this might sound not of a big deal, if you are an American reading this. We just take another hotel.
Well, we tried. We tried hard. We tried really hard. As beautiful as I mentioned how Central Switzerland is during the day, that’s how DEAD it is at night. NOTHING was open. Bed-and-breakfasts and hotels close as soon as it gets dark, I believe. After stopping several times and ringing numerous door bells we stopped at the police station to get some help. They weren’t a big help because they didn’t know a place for us to stay. So we had to keep on driving.
We were driving north through the 10 mile long St. Gotthard Tunnel in the middle of the night. Now I have driven through the alps several times before and trough many long tunnels before. Statistically seen, most accidents in tunnels happen through cars overheating and catching fire or head-on collisions by getting on the incoming lane. Tunnels like these are dangerous (some stats).
But these known dangers didn’t concern me, because it already had gotten very cold in the alps and the car was running fine. So the danger of over-heating was unlikely occur. But what about hitting incoming traffic? Now this is were it gets really weird: There wasn’t any.
During the whole 10 mile drive through this scary tunnel not a single car passed me and I could only see tail lights in the far distance in front of me – nobody behind me. When you know that this is one of the most busy alps-passes, where 20.000 cars drive through every day, you start to feel like Tom Cruise on Times Square in the movie Vanilla Sky. Driving overtired on this monotonous lane in this concrete tunnel where not a soul is in sight feels like Lucifer is awaiting you at the end. You start imagine those tail-lights in front are his red eyes.
At the end of the tunnel it actually almost was hell for us. Cold hell though. Snow everywhere and hard rain!! We are in a convertible with no heating system. It had to be detached, because coolant was leaking out of it. This is just fantastic. What else could go wrong?! How about that the only place open was a luxurious 5-star hotel directly at a lake. Nice – but very expensive. But also the only place open and it was too cold to sleep in the car. Sometimes I really do like credit cards. This was 2 hours after we saw the last hotel receptionist. It’s 4 am now and I’m not going to talk about what our tiny single bed room cost for the few hours of sleep we could get, before we had to check out again.
All refreshed, we had some first-class breakfast the next morning, before we continued the last part of the journey. That sure was a nice way to start the day.
The rest of the travel wasn’t so spectacular. Well, that would be a lie.
The Fiat started to cause problems. We have been noticing some light fumes in the car all the way. That’s normal for old cars and I knew that there used to be a problem with the oil pan, that my Dad and I fixed last summer. But the fumes got more intense, the closer we got to Germany. On a regular basis I stopped to look under the hood and check the oil. The car wasn’t really loosing oil in a dramatic way, but it definitely was loosing some. It seamed that it’s coming directly from the engine, which is not good (a side that repairs will cost a fortune for this). So some oil was dropping directly onto the muffler and caused all the fumes. I knew we’ll make it to Stuttgart though, but the problem was, that the toxic oil fumes really starting effecting us. So we had to take many breaks not to pass out, but that was fine. What was surprising was how cold it was in Germany. There was a 20 degree Celsius (68 degree in Fahrenheit) temperature drop from one day to the other. Of course, we got to Germany the second day. This kind of drop doesn’t happen very often and it was just determined to happen, while we are doing our only longer drive with my car for the summer.
Well, that’s it – long story. A lot always happens on road trips. That’s why I love them so much.
All in all, I think that this was something like a big test for me and Mel, how we would handle all these unusual nail-biting situations together and i think we did extremely well. We didn’t fight at all, even though being tired we were a bit grouchy at each other. But when it was most important, we were there for each other and give each other support. It really showed how well we get along and I give this test an A+ with a shooting-star!