13 May 2009


Ambien does the trick! JL and I sleep for most of the trip to London. Our flight arrives on time and we have 2+hours to wander about in T3. I like this terminal better than the new British Airways Terminal 5.

We take our time before walking to our gate. When we sit down we are accosted by a fellow traveler. The less I respond, the more questions she asks. There is something sadly wrong with this lady, and her husband seems a bit better, but is badly disheveled. They tell us they have been flying to Vienna yearly for ten years to visit her aunt. On the plane she creates a scene talking loudly and exclaiming her fears. The flight attendants are diligent and soon a kind passenger moves into her row to calm her through the flight. The flight attendant told my seat mate that this woman is afraid of flying, has taken the classes, and this is her first flight since. A very different story than we heard in the airport. My seat mate says that obviously someone needs to attrack some attention…

Our flight to Vienna is just a few minutes late so we have plenty of time to collect our luggage, get Euros at the ATM at Flughofen, and step outside to await Radko and Evka’s arrival. We quickly hug and exchange car keys, a cellphone, and car papers for some bus and dinner Euros. The Bratislava bus is boarding for R+E, and JL and I jump into the pretty blue Citroen. We are on our way toward the A1 and Maria Alm. It is 7:30pm—7 hours later than in the central U.S. Thank you Ambien for the 5 hours of sleep. We expect a 4 hour drive.

30 minutes out of Vienna we stop at a typical Austrian rest stop--this one is called an Auto Grill--and purchase cheese and tomato sandwiches on Kaiser rolls, some water, and an espresso for me, the driver. Our travel continues perfectly until unwittingly I slide past Salzburg and onto the A8 in Germany—we have not noticed any Willkommen signs. At Salzburg, I was supposed to head south on the A10 or diagonally on the 267… An hour later I realize that we are not in Kansas any more—or even Austria—and, we turn back after consoling ourselves with Magnum ice cream bars. YUM! JL's first Magnum, and she is impressed.

It is now Wednesday a.m., very early.

After about an hour [two hours total: one there and one back :( ] we find the A10 and all goes well until there is a detour—hard to understand for sure with the language barrier, so we double back a bit to make sure. Sure enough! It is very dark south of Salzburg and there is road construction, but we still enjoy winding down and up small mountains. We are psyched because even though we are a few hours late, we are on the right road and what else can go wrong?

We find the proper turn into an area called Hochkönig and even find the village two away from Maria Alm—Mühlbach, a quaint and charming spot. This is ski country and we can see the snow-capped Alps even in the dark, and can hear the rushing mountain streams—swollen with the Spring melt. We have been bragging about this lovely little Citroen, but then I stall it out on an upswing just west of Mülbach. No problem. But, this little car does not want to start again in first gear and bumps along in second. I have to back down the mountain a few hundred yards onto level ground and kick it in gear again. I am more than a bit out of practice with a 5-speed, so little wonder I have stalled it. Just luck that things have gone so well thus far.

Like The Little Engine That Could, we start back up the slope—this is not the steepest we have driven tonight. The Citroen stalls again, and back down we roll… God is good as there were no cars in either direction for the ONE AND A HALF HOURS we repeat this insanity. After at least five tries, JL suggests that we call DM to come and rescue us. It is now after 3:00am. I agree, but want to give it one more try. Somewhere in the middle or beginning of all of this the windshield wipers have conked and it is raining… God is good, but does not always spare us from travel inconveniences. Still, there is NO traffic...

The sixth try we get the furthest yet—the good and the bad news as we have further to roll back down the mountain. Did I mention that there is very little shoulder on my right and a rushing stream with a sizable drop-off on my left? Thank you, God, for no traffic. Both JL and I have our doors open as we roll down the mountain—the hazard lights flashing. I park the car on our predictable flat spot and reach for the cellphone, which is nowhere to be found! Some time in the past few hours it has fallen from my purse. We move suitcases and shake coats and search purses and say swear words—O.K. that was just me, but I earned every one I said.

The cellphone is in the smallest door pocket in the right rear seat area. I press redial and DM quietly answers the phone—two little girls are asleep nearby. He is shocked into wakefulness when he hears we are on the road. Stay where you are with the hazard lights flashing, he says, and I will be there in 25 minutes. We are greatly relieved because it is about 3:45am.

DM arrives around 4:30am. Turns out that our side of the mountain route is much, much curvier and elevated than the side of the mountain he drove to reach Maria Alm. He safely parks the Citroen, and we are on our way in the Kangoo to Alpenland Sport Maria Alm. Maybe the extra weight of our 200+ lbs of luggage, plus two cushiony grandmas was just too much for the Citroen. DM thinks the little car was worn out. Still, why no windshield wipers?

We check into our resort at 5:00am Wednesday, May 13th—a good five hours later than we had expected. Without a comment the night clerk has upgraded us to a studio with a full kitchen. There are twin platform beds with yummy duvets and soft pillows. We fall into bed and sleep until D+M and the little girls wake us at 10:00am.

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