Dear Family, Friends, and Diary,
Getting ready for GERT - our Great European Road Trip. First priority has been to get healthy. Our Covid is over, except for residual tiredness. I suppose that will just blend with jet lag - and bit by bit aging. Marianne got new bionic help - glasses and hearing aids. I have managed several Peloton sessions, including "rides" along scenic European bike paths. No sign of the elephant.
House health has had some hiccups, not unexpected with our 90-year-old place. A sprinkler valve started leaking, but our irrigation guy responded immediately with a fix. And then had to come back to fix the fix. One street tree was knocked over and I will repair that later today and hope it will survive.
Inside house care has been turned over to Gloria. Nothing obvious requires work, but we've equipped her with a phone list of plumber, electrician, sprinkler-fixer, and two neighbors. All the utility bills have been paid and arrangements have been made to cancel the newspaper, cable-TV, internet, and Peloton, a monthly savings of almost $400, plus lowered electric and gas charges. GERT almost pays for itself. Almost.
Neighbors have been informed, although I expect we will be gone a month before anyone but Vern and Joan notice. I have gone for a walk or two to say goodbye to neighborhood flowers. I look forward to more interesting walks coming up. .
Marianne met up with her Zumba friends and we had a quick call with Ted. Along the way we have updated correspondence friends, but with modern communication, I'm not sure they will notice much. We are keeping our US phone numbers active so calls and texting can continue. Of course, our email addresses are as they have been for 20 years. And this website should stay current.
Now, what about trip preps? Marianne's bag is 75% packed and my stuff has been spread out, waiting for final sorting. We each will have one largish checked bag plus carry-ons. We are trying to not over-pack, since that is our normal failure, but it's hard to not get caught up in "what if". Of course traveling back to Germany isn't like going on a jungle expedition so our fall back will be stores. Europe has plenty of stores.
Hotel arrangements are being made, with just a few glitches. Friends in Erlangen, whom we were to stay with, have been called away on family matters, but other friends have offered their nearby Nuremberg apartment. Problem fixed. A small hotel in France we had almost settled on had a flood and is out of service until 2024. Our reservation confirmation in Modena, Italy, has been side-tracked by vacation of staff on that side. Consequently, we have resolved to worry and plan less.
Some of my European trip worry has been the same as here: driving and what are the complications of electric cars. To get used to navigation I have assembled several jigsaw puzzles. Really. I have also spent too much time on YouTube examples of folks driving and charging in Germany. It seems charging will be less of a challenge there than it is over on this side of the Atlantic, especially given that we will be sticking with Tesla. We'll see.
As for attractions, our first ten days will be focused on seeing friends and familiar places in Frankfurt and Bavaria. Marianne is in charge of our social calendar and is filling our dance card. It will be fun.
What have we forgotten?
The plan for Monday, September 4, was simple enough. Get a Hertz car, fill it, drive to Gabby's, have some family time, and return an empty rental car. What could go wrong?
Our bags came together, after days of preparation and partial packing. Each of us has one large bag and two or three carry-ons. We reviewed our lists of necessities, from passports, medicines, technology, and too many clothes. All good.
On our way out to the airport to pick up our rental car, we stopped for a couple gifts for young Ukrainian friends we will visit in Maastricht. Two more small things to squeeze in my bag. Despite the detour, we arrived at Hertz early and our ordinary car was not ready. Instead, we were offered a Chevy Bolt. Sure, why not try the small electric car?
At the very last minute, we counted cables and chargers (US and EU plugs) for a computer, an iPad, two iPhones, hearing aids, Kindle, two watches. All set. Then I turned off the coffee maker, got that process a bit out of order, and spent 15 minutes swearing as I did a last minute fix. Finally, I washed my hands and discovered the downstairs sink was leaking. No time to fix, and I should have just turned off the water at the cut-off valve, but that solution came only hours later. Now we will need to coordinated Gloria and Plumber Jon. From miles away. A little more stress.
On the road at last, Marianne asked "Where did you pack the gifts?". Gifts? We concluded they were still in the back seat of the Tesla and debated just leaving them there, but it would have been too much of a disappointment for us to arrive empty handed. Twenty minutes later we were back home.
Back again on the drive, one we have done a zillion times, I noted that our detour had meant our little electric would need a bit more power to make it all the way to Los Gatos. No problem, we are veterans at charging on the road. Except this Bolt was no Tesla. We stopped in Gilroy and located an EVgo charger (one of two, surrounded by a sea of Tesla Superchargers.) After 30 minutes with the help desk technician, the charger started working. Meanwhile, dozens of Teslas had come, filled-up, and went on their way. A lesson-learned: only buy Tesla.
By 4pm, despite Memorial Day traffic, we had made it to Gabby's where we enjoyed some family time. Mamal's mom Zohreh came over and joined us for a great barbecue. She will head off to Iran, while we are in Europe, so we exchanged travel worries. We are all veterans of our planned travels, but none of this is worry-free. Dinner and conversation was fun. I should have taken more pictures. Another lesson learned
After dinner, I took the little Chevy for another charging session and shook my head even more at the inconvenience of charging anything but a Tesla. It took another hour to get enough power to turn the car back in to Hertz. In the end, I should have simple tried to not charge and accept the Hertz charge for turning the car in empty. Yet another lesson.
Back home, Marianne went to pug in all her devices for overnight charging and discovered that all her cables had been left behind. This was upsetting, far beyond the actual inconvenience, because we had spent so much time getting the technology organized. In the end, I had some spares and we managed to solve the problem, but not the distress. One more lesson.
After a night of not-very-good sleep, I was back at Starbucks, writing this diary. A comfortable routine, before our big travel day. Then I went back to the Rahimi Resort, to give final hugs before kids were off to school. (I am not learning the lesson of always taking pictures! Darn!)
By 9:30, we were ready to get on the Silicon Valley freeways up to San Francisco Airport, aka:SFO. An hour later and Gabby was dropping us off. It seemed like just yesterday she was dropping us off with our 27 boxes, bound for a new adventure in Kiev, Ukraine. (It was September 6, 1998 - 25 years ago.)
Formalities of check-in were a breeze. We'd spend a gazillion miles to be booked in United Airlines "Polaris" class, the airlines combination of international First and Business Class, so there were literally no lines at check-in and only two or three people ahead of us at emigration and security. We could get used to this style of travel.
Once inside, we immediately headed to the Polaris Lounge where we were served delicious light breakfasts. Killing time here was far different from past trips of crowded terminals and coffee stand meals.
Eventually, we made our way out to Gate G12, where our Boeing 777 was waiting for us. We lined up 10 or 15 minutes before scheduled boarding, just because we'd run out of other things to do, and it was fun to chat with fellow travelers. Unfortunately, that fancy plane had a minor technical issue, so we ended up standing and chatting for another hour, while a mechanic did his fixing. It's an 11-hour flight, so we were all in favor of fixing things.
On board, Seats 10D and 10G turned out to be nice little cubicles, roomy enough and quite private. This was definitely not like the Economy middle seats I used to get stuck with more often than I care to remember. Those flights earned us the luxury of this flight.
Service was good, with the warm nuts and (non-alcoholic) drinks remembered from past exposure to flight luxury. The dinner was filling, but bland, as food at 33,000 feet normally is. Afterwards, we looked for interest among the dozens of movies and TV offerings, but struck out.
Of course, I could write this diary, but could not figure out if the plane had Wifi beyond just what United Air Lines offered. Oh well, I'll post this when I can.
Our seats went flat, so we could get in some real sleep, not hours and hours, but enough that we arrived civil and coherent. Mostly.
John and Marianne