Today was my first solo trip to Wiesbaden. Quick recap, we flew from Mobile to Frankfurt from 10-11 Jan, stayed in Wiesbaden for a few days, then on 20 Jan my new boss came and picked Ginger, Lizi, Faith, and I up and brought us to our new temporary home in Grafenwohr. While there we’ve made a few quick trips, none too far. Ginger went to the Czech Republic to have her nails done (a story all to itself), and I’ve made a few work trips. This is the second time in two weeks that I’ve been in Wiesbaden overnight for work but my last jaunt was like my other quick trips around the country so far with someone else. Whether I drove or they drove, I was not alone.
I wasn’t nervous, but I woke up nearly two hours before the alarm went off and couldn’t get back to sleep. Last night I had arranged to meet up with two friends for lunch. We had met in Kansas City five months ago right about the time I was interviewing and contemplating taking this job. Again, a story for another time. Since the week before we had gotten stuck in a stau (I have got to figure out how to put umlauts in here) near Wurzburg I was afraid I might not make it on time. As a safety measure I decided to take off early to insure timely arrival.
At 0630 I rolled out of the house for about a three and half hour drive. I skipped breakfast thinking I would drive right by the McDonald’s in downtown Grafenwohr. Instead, the GPS told me to turn left instead of right at the first light. Last week Peter mentioned that we could go clockwise or counterclockwise, so I decided to go with the GPS and turned left. There was no McDonald’s for two hours.
When handheld and dash-mounted GPS units became popular I resisted the urge. It was hard because as a former surveyor and someone who played with the technology long before it became feasible for mass consumption this was harder than one might think. But it was mainly driven by the desire that I did NOT want to become one of those people who turned just because the machine told me to. Flashback to this morning, I turned early. No problem, I was headed on the autobahn in the wrong direction (though not counter to traffic so I was safe). My previous training told me to go down an exit, turnaround, and come back. Sure maybe it was 12 km, but I was good. Until I got there. My instinct said turn left, my GPS said right. I didn’t go with my gut. I took the road less traveled.
Needless to say, it did not lead me back to the autobahn.
On my previous drive by idiot box experience back in the early 2000s the machine thought I was an 18 wheeler and took me a long way out of the way to turn around. Thinking that might still be the case I pulled over, turned around and sat perpendicular to the road I had just come from. Twice. Neither time helped.
So I drove through some gorgeous country, quaint towns, tight roads, switchbacks, and did I mention it was snowing? Had I not been worried about the fact that I had no clue where I was I could have enjoyed myself. The views were spectacular.
After about 2 hours I finally got back on the autobahn headed towards Wurzburg and feeling comfortable. I made it past the construction and the grosse stau from last week without incident when the GPS unit started telling me to get off at the next exit. I made my way to the side but thought that since there was no big diversion it must be thinking I was on a side street instead of the autobahn. So I ignored it. And found why it tried to direct me off the road.
I used the left lane and passed up a mile or so of traffic stopped in the right lane until I finally got stopped myself. This was worse than last week. I put it in park. People don’t get out of their cars on the autobahn. Today they did. Normally I’m the first to jump out. Having never met a stranger I talk to folks stuck in traffic. But I only do that when they speak English it seems. I couldn’t even tell what they were saying because they spoke in German.
After about 15 minutes I heard a helicopter. Quick aside here. When I was studying for my license they told me that ADAC in this country was similar to AAA in the states. Similar, but like all things German (except the wine), better. This time they mean it. If you’re on a bus trip and the bus breaks down ADAC will come pick you up and take you to a hotel until they fix the bus. Back to today, another difference from AAA, the helicopter was an ADAC helicopter. It was a very nice helicopter, more like Blue Thunder than TJ’s in Magnum PI—nice chopper. Soon I noticed the traffic on the other side of the road was stopped, I guess so the chopper could land.
After about 25 minutes I heard the lady behind me talking loud and saw two guys ahead and to the right of me run around their car like a Chinese fire drill. Two cars ahead someone turned off onto the embankment. I followed.
Now this is the kind of thing I might have done in the States. I don’t know if it was a road, some kind of access, or just the first vehicle melted the snow and drove over the mud to get to the parallel road that was 250 meters away. Either way I got back on track.
It was Level of Service A the rest of the way, to through, and past Frankfurt. I was doing 150 entering some tunnels they built just for noise control. Not walls, not noise attenuation, freaking tunnels, giant tunnels to keep the noise down. In Frankfurt they do have some runways/taxiways over the road, but these tunnels are for noise. One other thing I try not to do here is convert my speed into miles, what’s the point? The limits are given in kph, and I’d rather think I’m going 50 through town than 31. But 150 is still fast. That’s keep the radar detector on and look out for cops hidden behind the trees fast. They use speed cameras here, but that’s a different story. I don’t know how to spot them yet, but they haven’t spotted me either so it’s a draw.
Once I got to Wiesbaden, I didn’t have the address of where we were meeting for lunch, rather I had the address of the District Office so I was a little concerned about how to find where I was going. On the plus side, I was right on time so I called one of the guys I was meeting who wasn’t far behind me. Then, when I got lost, I talked him through how to find me and I followed him the rest of the way in.
All in all, an adventure packed day. I’m still not sure why they’ve trusted me with the ability to create my own travel plans or drive my government vehicle all over the countryside, but it’s too late now, Baby! Watch out Deutschland, I’m going to be alles uber.
Yeah, it’d make a better ending to say the name of the song, but that’s in bad taste in this country. I’m slow but trainable.