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End of the Road, Almost

March 24, 2002

Dear Friends and Families,

The Roadtrip was ending. We had just a few days to find a place in Austria to store our car and move on to a family excursion in Budapest. Driving was out of the question because our insurance company refused to cover Hungary or, in fact, any other former member of the Evil Empire, such as our real home country Ukraine. I suppose that's an interesting comment on the relative lawlessness of the region.

So, what could we do? We found ourselves in Graz, about midway through Austria, headed for Vienna. Earlier contacts with friends in Vienna had proved fruitless, so we were getting a bit worried. Since the car would be parked for several months, we could not depend on regular public garages, as we had on earlier occasions.

Marianne's answer was to visit the local Porsche dealer and ask for help, so we did. We showed up at the showroom and she asked the salesman if he spoke English. He said "No, but he does", referring to a guy on a mobile phone standing next to him. Well, using the second fellow as a rough interpreter, Marianne asked her question: could we store the car at the dealership? Answer: "No." This was understandable since the place was filled with cars already.

Then our "interpreter" said he knew a place outside of town where a car could be safely stored and he even mentioned a monthly rent that was right at our budget. He went out to his car and brought back an engraved business card for "Johannes Schatz" director of " Schatz, gmbh" (= " Schatz Inc." in American). The businesses on the card included references to "logistics" and to "hair dressing". We were confused. But, after a few more words, we understood that our interpreter was Johannes himself and he was also the one that owned some garages in Voitsberg, 35 minutes away. He assured us that it was a secure location, so we agreed to meet on Sunday or Monday. We figured that, if the place was just a run-down garage in some industrial area, we'd drive away and hope for a better solution in Vienna.

On Sunday, we called and agreed to meet at the address on the business card. Sure enough, it was a hair salon in the front with four individual garages in the back. It was in fact next to the train tracks, in an industrial area of Voitsberg, but it seemed OK. Johannes showed up and took us around back and opened the first garage. Oops, it was full, full with a gorgeous red Ferarri, not the only one we'd see today. The next box was empty and after some confusion over the locking system, we managed to put our pride and joy away, even using a custom-fitted cover that Johannes had come up with.

So far, we had no paperwork. For that, Johannes said we'd run up to his nearby house. When we got there, we were completely convinced that Schatz Inc. must be both solvent and prosperous. The house was a beautiful ten-year-old Austrian chalet that looked out over the valley and up to a castle on the opposite side of Voitsberg. Under the house were a couple more garages, each with a red Ferrari.

Finally it dawned on us that we had stored our Porsche with someone who was essentially the local Ferrari dealer. Our's is the most humble car in his garages. If he doesn't worry about his million dollars worth of cars, I guess we won't worry about ours.

On the kitchen table, Johannes prepared a simple letter that said he agreed to store our car for up to six months. That's it. We were done, except for the ride back into Graz. It had taken us 45 minutes to get out, but Johannes managed to return us in about half that, including a five minute break when the police gave him a 21 euro speeding ticket. I kept thinking that, if he drives his Audi station wagon 200 kph (125 mph), I can only imagine what he does in a Ferrari.

Back in the hotel, we could reflect on our return to the non-driving world. It's been fun having a nice car to run around in Europe, but there was always a bit of worry connected with our transportation. We'll put that worry aside as we finish our touring and return to the working life (I hope!!).

Best regards and be careful where you park.

John and Marianne




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