Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Car Trip (07/18/05)
TITLE: Road Trip to Austria
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I’m an Ohioan, born and bred, a woman who in her teens and early twenties didn’t travel much further from her home than to the next county, and that took all of 20 minutes. That all changed when I met my husband in 1970. I year later we were married and with his military and civilian careers, we began traveling to many parts of the U.S and Europe.
Nothing prepared me for the trip we made to Salzburg, Germany in 1989. Having just arrived in the western part of Germany a week earlier, we were “shell shocked” to the new environment and doing our best to adjust. I thank God that my husband was born in Germany and understood most of the language and customs. We had barely unpacked our clothes and a few household items in a newly found hotel when Roy’s commander told us that a business trip to southern Germany and Austria would be on the agenda.
We had about a day, if that, to prepare for the trip. All we owned stayed behind in that small hotel, where we had just begun to feel comfortable.
It was a cloudy but brisk day when we left. My husband and I pulled out of the hotel around 6:30 in the morning and as we drove up to the starting point, a local gas station, light snow began to fall. About six other cars with families inside greeted us. We all got out of our cars and talked about the trip. There was excitement and optimism in the air; all of us eager to make the trip. But, there was an ominous moment at the gas station that gave me a “heads up” on what was to follow.
The head man, the one in charge of the trip, was having trouble understanding the map. He turned it to the right, to the left, upside down, right side up—scratching his bald head as he grimaced his face in curious gyrations. Seconds later, he cried, “Of course, this is so simple…we’ll simply stay on the autobahn until we reach Exit 42 and then drive straight into Salzburg.” Everyone seemed accepting of this except my husband and me. (In my mind, there something comical but foreboding about the words displayed on the hat he was wearing….The words read, “Don’t ask, just go!”)
The trip started off positive, with the lead car going at a fair pace but that soon changed. It wasn’t long before the lead car began speeding at lightning pace, leaving the rest of us behind, eating his dust. Just as quickly, many of the cars followed his lead, trying to catch up with him. About an hour later the lead car and several others behind, sped off the autobahn and went in a direction that totally confounded my husband and me. My husband pulled over, got off of the autobahn and reached for the map. I’ve never seen him look so confused or mad.
We both looked at the map, and instantly knew that we were lost! Lost in a country we knew little about, with temperatures falling, night approaching and a destination, we knew not where.
After struggling with the map, we finally got on track. It was only by the grace of God we finally arrived at our destination, late by about two hours. Even though we were the last couple to arrive, I think we appreciated the beauty and the opportunity to be there, more. I believe it was the struggling that made our arrival so satisfying and beautiful. By the time we approached Salzburg, it was dark, snowing heavily and our stomachs were growling for food. As we rounded the road, approaching small town of Salzburg, all of the struggle and anger dissolved as we saw the most beautiful sight we had ever seen---the mountains of Austria! Snow capped, they reached high into the sky, as if shouting, “Look at us, for we are close to Heaven!”
As we drove further into the town, our eyes were treated with small, cozy old-fashioned stores, people strolling along on the sidewalk, and a hotel that made our weary hearts, happy. If I live to be a 100, I will never forget how good it felt to see that hotel! It was tall, grand, and old but with grace and beauty that gave us both comfort and joy.
That horrifying road trip turned into wonderment and joy!
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