Saturday, July 2, 2011
I have been to many countries and my friends think it is funny that the first word I choose to learn is, "I'm sorry" which in German is "Enschuldigung". After the informational video (wi-deo..made Nick laugh)and an RV walk through, we were ready to hit the road. The RV frauline hit us up for the price of renting a GPS but Jack quickly spotted the German version of Best Buy across the street:A humongous electronic store. While Lesle was still getting checked out on the vehicle, Jack and I raced to the store, picked up a GPS and hopped in the check-out counter. Passing my credit card to the cashier, she shook her finger at me and said "No credit". I handed her my debit card and again another shake of the finger. Jack & I pulled out our Euros like kids at a candy store, plopping our money on the counter and saying, "How much can I get for this?" We were 5 Euros shy. Jack raced to Lesle, grabbed the cash and greeted me and 12 angry shoppers whose line I was holding up for my little GPS. "Entschuldigung." No credit cards at a Best Buy? I cannot imagine that back at home.
We have watched the tutorial, pushed all the buttons, signed our lives away and Susanne hands us the keys after this eternal process and says, "Have a nice holiday."
Long Pause.... Longer Pause... reluctantly, I grab the keys and with totally fake confidence get in the driver's seat. That is another key to my success as a goalkeeper: great actress. I feign confidence even though inside I am thinking: "Really? I am going to drive this thing? I barely drive at home?" I wave to Susanne and quickly glance for an exit as I was not paying attention to a thing when we entered McRent. There is silence like there is before someone is taking a p.k. I take a breath, turn the key and the loudest grinding sound one can imagine comes from the Caravan as it jolts forward.
You'd think in the tutorial and walk through Ol' Susanne would have mentioned it was a stick shift. "Entschuldigung" No one says a word in the back. I know it is because they are so happy it is not them behind the wheel. So much for Zach's opportunity to drive on the Autobahn. I put the R.V. in first and literally bolted out of McRent. Our house on wheels soon was on the Autobahn.
Sticking to the far right lane as BMWs, Mercedes, Ferraris and Porsches whizzed by us in the far left. Attention Washington drivers: you need to take a lesson from the Germans. They know how to drive. If you are slow, stay to the right. Fast, the left. Want to pass? Zip around the guy to your left and zip back in your original lane. No one gets boxed in, everyone can go the pace they like, people merge. In Germany, "merge" must mean step on the gas and get your car out there with the rest of the population A.S.A.P. I think in Washington it means, creep and hesitate and confuse the drivers on the freeway. They are not sure if you are merging, your car has broken down, or you are lost. Love the Autobahn.
Next stop. A campground near Leverkusen. On a beautiful lake, kids play area, small restaurant with the World Cup on t.v. We played soccer on the beach, set up our beds, watched parts of Canada/France and Germany/Nigeria while eating our first Brats. When it came to pay, we plopped down our credit card and again were told, "No credit." Now out of Euros' we pooled together our American dollars and asked if they would take our money. "Entschuldigung," I replied. The restauranteur said okay, but warned us that the lady in charge of the camp ground would not take American money. That night, we exchanged a few Euros for tokens for the showers (6 minutes of hot water /token), and hit the hay.
Nicholas woke up commenting that "Those potato sacks are HOT! I was sweating last night!" to which Gallimore explained that those are called, "Duvets" and you are not supposed to climb IN them.
The plan was to go to an ATM, get Euros, return, pay our bill and head out by noon to Leverkusen to watch Veronica and Mexico play Japan. "We cannot let you take out money from your bank card," said the first bank teller. "We cannot exchange your U.S. dollars here if you don't have an account with us." said the 2nd bank and bank teller. Tick,tock, tick, tock. We cannot "Dine and Ditch" and never return to Camp Leblarer See because they are holding Lesle's passport hostage. Eleven o'clock is now noon. The 3rd try, an ATM card finally works in an ATM machine and we are hauling back to the campsite to pay our bill in Euros and get to our first live game! Let's go V! who said she left us tickets at "Will Call."
Our 40 minute drive takes 2 hours. (there is traffic in Germany at times...like Friday at 2pm) So much for the fun tail gate in the R.V. Which was fine because there was no tailgating at Leverkusen. Tailgating would imply that there were places to park. Since it is in a big city, we got re-routed. "No parking here. Nearest parking is in Koln. (5 kilometers of horrific traffic). We tried to park in an empty lot and a gentleman looked at us and said, "No chance!"
Game time. The Soccer Six still in the R.V. watching the stadium get smaller. We all can't miss the game. We turn around and get as close as we can knowing we cannot park. Slowly passing by the same attendant who has been kind enough to explain in 3 different ways there is no parking for the game. Lesle, Zach, Nick and Ben jump out and head to the game. Jack and I are happy someone is going to get to see the game. I pull a U-turn in traffic as crazy as any Sounders game in the R.V. in front of 3 shuttle buses coming from Koln. Except, I can't do it in one fell swoop. I need to reverse. I do not know, and cannot figure out how to get the thing in reverse. Sweat is beginning to bead. I am stopping traffic in front of the stadium going in both directions. "Entschulidgung!" The lovely parking lady takes pity on us and says, "There might be an elementary school on the first left that you can park this thing." I said I would if I could get this thing in reverse. At this point Jack figures it out, we loop around and park the rig at an elementary school feeling quite sure that no one is equipped to tow our home. Off we race to the stadium that has no Will Call. We are sent to Ticket Truck, then to a hotel across the street, and end up with our tickets and our 4 compadres smack in the front row behind Japan's bench!
Twenty minutes late sprinting into this beautiful stadium and right down on the field no more than 30 meters away is Veronica Perez! I am screaming, Nick and Ben are embarrassed. I do not even care Mexico is already down 2 goals. It is so very, very cool to see a person you have loved to cheer for play with 23,000 other fans cheering too! The colors, the sounds,the crowd,and V-Magic trying to energize her team in a World Cup!
The game ended with Mexico losing the battle 4-0 on a hat trick by veteran Japanese captain Homare Sawa..quite a sight to behold, and now Mexico must beat New Zealand by more than a couple of goals, and cheer for Japan to beat England handily as well.
A quick dinner in town and guess what? No credit cards. Imagine that! A country that survives on people spending money they actually have. Benjamin fancies a good piece of schnitzel, while Nicholas enjoys a bratwurst with the round little bun so both ends are sticking out the sides like a big smile.
Back to a new camping spot after a long day. Gallimore, now behind the wheel found our new camping spot at 11:00 PM. The gate was closed, the R.V. humming that diesel tune ready to go to bed. A few campers were still up having a beverage and filled us in on the scoop. No entry after 10:00'oclock. "Entschuldigung" We drove a ways to find another spot and our crazy, eventful, hysterical day was over. Into our 'sleeping pairs' and guten naben! Pictures to come.