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Mike's Excellent Adventure to Europe 1993

Part 1: The Trip Over

So, Gary and I embarked on our trip to Europe.  We flew from Syracuse to Newark via a turboprop.  Gary got a little airsick, which is really funny considering he's a pilot.  Anyway, we land in Newark, and we have about a three hour layover.  We considered going into New York City, but then we think that by the time we got to Manhattan, it will be time to turn around and come back.  So we skip it.

Instead, we spend our time in the airport deli.  There was this guy, who was about 40 or so, who was trying to pick up on some 20 year old girls in the airport deli.  He has this slicked back hair, and he has a pack of cigarettes rolled up in his sleeve, like he's Bowser from Sha-Na-Na.  We notice that his uniform doesn't look a thing like any of the airlines served in the terminal, which leads to believe the guy's a poseur.  It was pretty entertaining, though, watching him get shot down.

Continental 747
(Photo: Continental Airlines)
The plane we flew over on.

Eventually, we got to fly out.  We were flying a Continental 747-200, which was pretty cool because I have never been on a 747 before.  I have never been out of the country, either, except for Canada and Mexico, but they don't really count.  So, we fly out, and it's pretty cool.  We departed around 7 PM at night on July 10th, and about two hours into the flight, the flight attendants tell us it is now night and we need to sleep.  Outside it is dark, but my body still says it is only 9 PM, so I couldn't sleep.  Gary decided that if we had some beer and/or wine, it would help us sleep.  So, I am pounding back the beers until I finally get asleep around midnight EST.

Only thing is that then, it is around 6 AM local.  So, a half-hour later, the flight attendants all come around and tell us we have to open our shades, and it's time for breakfast.  The shortest night of my life.

Anyway, we land, slightly hung over and extremely tired, at Frankfurt, Germany at around 9 AM local on Sunday, July 11th.  We now have to go through immigration/customs.

Aerial view of Frankfurt
Aerial view of Frankfurt on approach to landing at the airport.

Now, unlike the other guys in my office, I have a passport.  But, I find out that it isn't necessary.  I show my military ID and I am in Germany.  No paperwork, no long questions.  My ID and that's it.  And because the Germans (masters in efficiency) have about a dozen lines, we are inside Germany in about two minutes.  Now, we are off to get our car.

Gary had a plan.  We used to have this old Lieutenant Colonel who was always giving us advice about how to game the system, but it never really seemed to work, so I didn't really follow his advice.  However, Gary listened to this guy.  Supposedly, if you wait until the last possible minute to make your rental car reservation, they will be out of midsize Opels and have to give you a full-size BMW.  Good theory.  Or they could give you an Opel Astra - a super small economy class car - which is what we got.

So, we throw all our luggage in the back (it barely all fit) and we head out onto the Autobahn.  Gary, thinking we still had a BMW, gets into the left lane.  After we almost get run over by a truck, Gary gets back in the slow lane, which is for the slow cars (like ours).

We have important roles.  Gary is the driver, and my job is to 1) keep him awake and 2) navigate.  Gary tries to convince me that there is a city called "Ausfahrt," but I realize that it is "Exit" in German.  So, we are heading down the road to our base.

Normally the trip takes about an hour.  In an Astra that can't get over 100 km/h, it takes an hour and a half.  Gary and I have to crank the music and sing along in order to stay awake.  It's the middle of a Sunday morning, but it feels like it's the middle of the night.

Around noon, we arrive at the base.  We check in at the lodging, get our room keys, and Gary decides to go take a nap.  I want to sight-see, but Gary is tired.  Besides, he says, the other guys in the office can take me out sight-seeing.  We call their rooms, and when there isn't an answer, Gary assumes they are at lunch.  They were really on a road trip and didn't get back until late that evening.

I resisted the temptation to sleep, knowing that if I sleep all day, I won't be able to sleep at night, so I force myself to stay awake, which is really hard if you are alone, in a strange place, with no car, and only one TV channel.  But, at least I was in Germany, which was really cool.  And it wasn't all burned out, either, like my grandfather said it would be.

Continue on to Part 2: Celebrity Sighting