Monday, June 11, 2018

RETROSPECTIVE: Dan & Simon Race Across Europe 2016 PART ONE

PART ONE: ARRIVAL

5-6 July 2016
After a fairly uneventful overnight flight from Philadelphia, I arrived in Frankfurt about two hours ahead of my former coworker and fellow board game enthusiast, Dan[1]. I did a little writing, noting in my travel log the auspicious sighting of a hawk and a groundhog while on my way to the Philadelphia airport. While I'm not a big believer in omens, I'm a big enough fan of the classics that it brought a smile to my face, symbolizing air and ground travel. Still not sure of what to expect, the two of us could certainly use all the luck we could get.

Dan arrived safely and we soon met up with his friend "Hans" to go car shopping. As you may or may not know, the impetus of this trip was to participate in the "Wacky Rally" - a UK-based race of sorts where the participants could spend no more than three hundred pounds on their vehicles. The rally was two days away and we were still without a car.

Our only good lead was, unfortunately, a stick-shift. We made a go of it, but it was soon apparent that we were out of luck, as neither of us was confident in our abilities driving stick[2]. We did a little research and decided to rent a car if it made sense in the morning. I was dropped off and made my way to downtown Frankfurt to wait for my friend Franzi to get out of work.

At some point, I discovered a cheap automatic-transmission Audi and sent the details to Dan & Hans. Amusingly, it was at a dealership on the other side of a fence from the dealership where we were about ready to give up on the endeavor. We would end up buying the car[3].

I met up with Franzi and a friend of hers and had dinner (which included both "green sauce" and the apple wine that Frankfurt is known for). After dinner I got a shower and hit the sack. Dan & Hans decided to do the paperwork to buy the car in the morning and I would meet them after they tackled the bureaucracy.

7 July
The next day came and Dan fought with the German bureaucratic machine in a suburb of Frankfurt, eventually obtaining an "export license" for the car[4]. We did some last minute running around for legal requirements (e.g. a first aid kit, high visibility vests), and supplies (e.g. water bottles, cheesy bread[5]) before hitting the autobahn. Between delays, wrong turns, and the car doing its best to frighten us, the five-to-six hour trip took several hours longer. I got a speeding ticket on the autobahn (it's not all unlimited speed, folks!).

We arrived in Lille too late to register for the race, partially due to the mobs of French people in the streets celebrating a soccer victory over Germany (which was a bit frightening, given we were in a German-licensed car). We eventually settled into our AirBnB and deployed our earplugs to mediocre results against the celebratory hoards[6].

8 July
We awoke on the morning of the eighth and scrambled to be first to the meeting point. We still had no idea what we were in for and were just hoping that the organizers would allow for such a last-minute registration. Hungry for breakfast in a very dirty, un-decorated car, we waited for the others to arrive[7].

PART TWO: THE RALLY

Dan's Footnotes:

1 Hello, I'll be doing some interstitial commentary, not with ads of course  (BUY FRITO-LAYS™), but with some added notes about what happened.

2 It turns out having the last time you drove stick being the time you learned to drive is not recent enough to recall much of anything.
3 Our noble steed was named the Orrery, after the famous colonial orrery made by David Rittenhouse a famous scientist and craftsman. An orrery is, for those who don't know, a mechanical model of the solar system. This name just further confirms we’re big ol’ nerds.

4 I do not recommend doing this without someone skilled in German and German culture to guide you. Not only do you need to be fluent in German (unsurprisingly) but you need to know many details about the local laws and regulations. Many thanks to my German friend for his help. It only took us about five hours. Without him we’d probably still be stuck in Germany to this day.

5 Cheesy bread is life! Cheesy bread is all!

6 I don't want to seem unwilling to celebrate cultural differences, but by the time it's 4 a.m. you should go to bed or at least stop celebrating outside my window.
7 We showed up early as we weren’t entirely sure how long it would take or how soon we should be there before the race, which let everyone see our as yet undecorated and junky car.

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