Hello from the other side of the pond! Yes we made it back to the States, finally!
I have been absent for a few day because honestly I needed time to recover. The time change is always exhausting and the trip itself, well that is a whole other story….
I know I titled this post “Getting there is have the fun” perhaps I should have used “being” there is half the fun, because getting there is sometimes a misery. Today I though I would share some of the good, bad and the ugly of getting my self, two kids, two pets and way too many pieces of luggage from Germany to the U.S. via several planes, trains, and automobiles.
Our flight was scheduled for Sunday at 1:50 pm out of Frankfurt which is normally a two and a half hour drive from our house. The plan was to get the house cleaned and pack up the last of our belongings we would travel with Saturday morning. Then we’d drive up in the afternoon have a leisurely dinner, a good night’s sleep and a nice breakfast before the flight. My husband is staying in Germany another month so he would be the support team, driving us to the airport, helping with the kennels and luggage, and getting us checked in before heading back.
Since my SUV had already shipped and my husbands primary car is a Mini Clubman the only car big enough to transport our luggage was our 1985 Land Rover Defernder 110. Let me say that this car is my husbands toy and I have never even driven it, he purchased it in the Netherlands about a year ago because they are rarely available in the States. It is a British spec model with right hand steering, no A/C (or any other creature comforts) and tops out at about 65 MPH. Not my ideal ride to the airport but the weather had been lovely reaching about 70ºF most days and the ride was not too long, plus we had no other choice.
Saturday, after a morning of scrubbing and mopping, we load up the family and the pets and our last worldly belongings and headed out. Just our luck, the temperature is beginning to hit the upper 80’s, one of the hottest days we’ve had in Germany so far. This is the day we have to take the car with no A/C for a 3 hours drive (the ride is longer when you can’t top 65.) Perfect timing!
We set off about 1:30 pm with an estimated arrival at our hotel of about 4:30. Once on the Autobahn with a little wind blowing the heat was tolerable and the kids and pets were getting along. The cat would occasionally vocalize his displeasure at being in the car but for the most part all went well.
That is until about 4pm…
Just 30 miles from our destination a vibration started in the steering. Chuck thought it felt like a flat which was not good because we had removed the spare from the back to fit in all our junk. We pulled to the shoulder but the tires looked fine so we decide to get off at the next exit to have a look under the hood at the power steering. As we pulled off the steering seamed to improve so after taking a break to checked the fluids, hoses and tires we decided to push on. We were so close and we had to get to our flight, we made the decision to stay off the Autobahn and take the back roads the rest of the way. Unfortunately about a mile down the road I glance out at the front tire where the vibration seemed the worst and noticed a terrible wobble. It looked like it was about to come off. Emergency!!!
We pulled off the road and were at a loss, what do we do now? We have a road side assistance policy, but have never had to use it before and when we called all the recordings are in German, not helpful. A friendly bicyclist helped us request assistance but it is Saturday and while some auto shops may have limited hours on Saturday most are not open at all. We noticed just up the road from where we pulled off an auto shop, closed but still right there…
We walked over to see if anyone was around and fortunately the barking of the guard dogs brought the owner out just as roadside assistance showed up. The owner spoke excellent English but the roadside assistance guy did not, thankfully that meant we had a translator but the news was not good. The car needed to be towed but nothing could be done until Monday when the shops opened and we still needed to get to the airport. The train was an option but I had two hot animal, six pieces of luggage, two kennels and no way to get then to the train station 5 miles away.
The owner of the auto shop turned out to be our savior, although he did not work on Land Rovers he knew someone who did. He offered to drive us and all our belongings to the train station. He would also keep the car until Monday morning when the shops opened and help us get the car in for repair. It is now 6pm. and the next train to Frankfurt left at 6:40 so we load up into his smaller SUV with luggage and the dog in our lap for the next leg of the journey.
This part was a lot more painful than the heat…
Imagine trying to get two animal, six pieces of luggage, and a huge kennel up steep flight of stairs to a train platform and then onto the train while it stops for only a few short minutes. Rough!
We got on the first train only to find it was stopping short of Frankfurt. We decided on a system for getting off and on as quickly as possible with the kids going first with the animals while Chuck and I unloaded the luggage, handing off water bucket style, until everything was off/on the train. I only wish I had a video of this because I’m sure we looked half crazed. Anyone else trying to get on or off the train at our door was out of luck, we were on a mission!
We ended up having to take three trains and climbed about six flights of stairs with all our piles of stuff, but we made it.
Here we are on the platform poised for the next boarding.
In all this excitement the dog seemed okay with her first train ride, at least once the train was moving.
The kids remained in good spirits, and no one (including myself) cried. Although I was painfully close at times.
Estimated time of arrival to the airport 8:27 pm and we still had to find the shuttle to our hotel.
We made it to the airport exhausted and hungry so we stopped for a dinner break in the terminal before hunting for the hotel shuttle. After missing the first shuttle we finally arrived at the hotel around 9:30pm only five hours late but still early enough to get a good nights sleep before our airport adventure.
We had to be at the airport 3 hours before the flight to get the animals checked in. Good thing, because once we got there we were told both of our kennels were too small (even though those were the kennels they came over in.) This was about the time the tears came, not hysterical tears but I did have to take a break and have Chuck go find the kennel sales to keep from really losing it. The airport generously (I’m being facetious) sold us two new kennels for the bargain price of only 380€ ($400.) Do you get a credit for the two kennels you now have to abandon with them, of course not. But what else can you do?
With the critters in their new extra-large kennels and lots of money paid to the airline we finally get all the bags and pets checked in and I can breathe a little sigh of relief.
Chuck stayed until it was time to go through security and we enjoyed a cup of coffee feeling sad to leave him behind but glad to be done with one more step of the journey.
One last good-bye and we made our flight with time to spare. Meanwhile Chuck headed back on the train to figure out the truck situation and have it towed to a local repair shop. Still waiting on the damage ($$$.)
Thankfully the flights were uneventful with only a few short delay and we arrived at my Mom’s house 24 hours later.
For all the bad luck I’d say there was a lot of good luck too. Thanks to some wonderful helpful people and the family (mostly) holding it together we made it to our destination intact, even if it was a bumpy ride.