Note: When Sharon adds comments, they will be in {curly brackets}. [When I add a comment AFTER the event is over, it will be in square brackets]


Trip Log 2. Day 2. When Bad Things Happen to Good People.

Thu, October 14, 2010. Landing in Milano. Driving to Our Dolomite Mountain Apartment.

[No photos in this report]

 

FIRST. OUR PLAN.

We were due to land in Milan at 8:10. I figured we’d have our luggage collected, minivan picked up, and SIM card purchased for the cell phone my first wife Carrie graciously loaned us, by about 10 am. I had figured about a four hour ride to our accommodations up in the Italian Alps north of Bolzano, so we would stop for lunch at Lake Garda (Sharon’s request) on the way, making our arrival time about 4 pm or so to our apartment.

We would meet Herr Trocker (sound of horse whinnying in background), the proprietor, get schooled in how to use all the stuff in our mountain apartment, then go out for groceries. I had a Google map, downloaded in several pictures and views, of exactly where the apartment is and how to get there {VERY complicated}. Be prepared. That’s a boy scout’s marching song.

REALITY (COMPARE WITH ‘FIRST. OUR PLAN’ ABOVE)

I have everybody prepared for the next few steps. We land, quickly pick up our checked luggage, and go through the passport check line. We don’t have any euros, which you need to get a luggage cart, so we have to man- and woman-handle our luggage ourselves.

We circle the wagons while I take off, looking for our car rental company and an ATM to get some euros. Well, I run around for half an hour, and finally find an ATM. I try to get some money, but the machine says that because of line unavailability, they couldn’t help me. Hmmm. I finally find an information booth, and learn that we should take elevator 5 down to the bottom floor, and that’s where we’ll find the car rental companies.

I make it back to the group, who has also learned that we go to the basement, and we slowly move to the elevator, sinking to the basement (Level -1, on the display), and after waiting a few minutes for a person to free herself, I learn that Auto Europa is different from Europe Auto, or some such coincidence. They direct us to the correct place, which is the correct company, but has still a different name.

We learn that oops, we were supposed to pick the car up in downtown Milan. Also, Hey, we were supposed to be here hours ago. {“It’s all going in the letter”.}

HUH-WHUT?

OK, OK, maybe if I’d read the three pages of fine print, I’d have known that, but that’s not where I asked our travel agent to pick it up. After some “Oh no” and “Senor, you in beeg trouble” looks from the lady checking, she finds an identical van here at the airport for us. She can rent us this one, and cancel the other one. OK?

Va Bene!

Jerry and I then take off, trying to find someplace to get euros again, and after traveling the length of the basement area plus the next floor up, up and back, we find the same ATMs I couldn’t get to work, and BOOM, we both get 300 euros, at an exchange rate of about 1.4 dollars per euro. Line available. So to get 100 euros, you have to pay $140.

After another trip to the bathroom for everybody interested, which is to say everybody, we again manhandle our luggage down the way, through the doors, onto the walkway, across the road, to the correct area of the rental lot, and the correct space.

Woohoo! It’s our van. Our troubles are over. Except for the tiny problem that we can’t get the car started. We have to call a girl over to show us. It turns out that the key is just a metal card that you insert into a slot. Then push in the clutch, press the brake, and push the “start/stop” button. After some trial and error, then the girl’s help, Jer gets it. He pulls forward about four feet so we can access the previously blocked rear hatch.

Ace packer Jerry loads all our bags neatly into the back, after folding the rear seats down, closes the hatch, and tries to back up, to let a car pass. We ARE in the rental car area road. But he can’t get it into R. Every time he tries, the car moves forward. Now we are further into the road. R apparently means Right Straight Ahead.

He suggests for me to try, but I get the same result. {So again, the friendly girl shows us how to do that too. She tells us that she has had a “quarrel” with her boss and can’t wait to go on holiday to England. Hey, lady you’re already in Italy, what do you want?}

OK, so you pull up on the ring around the gear shift lever with your first two fingers, while pushing down on the knob from the top with your thumb. OK, so NOW we’re in business.

My plan is to locate the road to the freeway, get going, then stop and get a SIM card in a shopping center close to a medium sized city along the way. Also, Jerry needs a data card for his Garmin GPS, so we need that too. The rental car girl gives us a set of instructions to a store we write down, but I’m uneasy. Some part of this has the ability to delay us for an hour or more, trying to find a store and getting lost. I want to get on the road.

I say let’s go, but everybody believes her “simple” instructions. I lose 3 to 1, so Jerry takes off, following the directions we were given. I don’t like it. We immediately can’t find one or two key landmarks she gave us, and are heading for east Timbuktu. After an hour or so, we decide to find the autostrada (turnpike) and head out. I’m nervous that a) we’re going to be way later than I told Herr Trocker, b) we don’t have a phone to call him, though I do have his number, and c) we may not be able to find it in the dark, which it now is surely going to be when we get there.

The only mistake we can make, really, is to get all lost and drive through Milan in rush hour traffic.

We finally get a bead on things, and realize that we have gone through Milan, we’re on the east side, away from the west side, where we need to be, and are heading north. We find a likely road to take, and finally make it across, and slightly north of Milan again, but on a high-speed autostada.

We are hungry and stop for some sandwiches, then take off again. We get to Verona, then turn off the A4 onto the A22 autostrada. The light is starting to go. We switch drivers in there somewhere. I drive, and Jerry works the maps. {This sounds simple but there was actually a lot of suggestions from everyone, including “let’s just go to a hotel, we’ll never find this in the dark”. If you have ever seen The “Amazing Race” and heard people argue about directions, it was a lot like that.}

GPS BACKGROUND

Jerry ordered a Garmin GPS several months ago, then for $99 extra the Italian detail CD. But the directions say that before loading it you need to save the existing US/Canada data onto a spare card or else you will lose THAT. It DOES know we’re in Italy and has the major roads though, so that’s something.

BACK TO OUR TALE

We finally locate what I think is the turnoff to get to Castlerotto, from which I also think I can find the country road that gets to our country/mountain apartment. We turn off but immediately get lost because it’s so dark. We take four of the five possible ways you can go from this little intersection where there’s an inviting looking hotel. Somebody brings up the idea of just staying the first night in the hotel {again}, and not knocking ourselves crazy.

We stop in at the hotel, and ask directions and take off for that direction. The problem is that there’s the autostrada, with a river generally paralleling it, a road on the far side, and a road on this side, both roads having multiple branches, and connecting to each other with a number of bridges.

We drive around the area, getting lost every time. {We are supposed to go over a bridge and then up into the hills, but every bridge we go over ends into a dead end and we have to go back.} We found a pay phone some time ago, and have called Herr Trocker (horse whinnies) to tell him we’ll be late. He speaks German and Italian but almost zero English. In the end he says ok, we think. Anyway, we take off again, getting lost another couple of times, till it’s 11:15 and even I agree that we should give up trying to stay our first night in our already-paid-for accommodation, and instead pay for two rooms in the hotel we’ve been sort of centered on. It’s 80 euros each couple ($112) per night, breakfast included.

They don’t have WiFi it turns out but an internet cable and port, for 5 euros per night.

We have lugged all our luggage onto the elevator, and up one floor, to Floor 1, aka the first floor, aka the second floor, in American.

The beds are comfortable, and we plan to sleep well, knowing we finally gave up my dang plan of getting to our accomo the first night. Earlier I had the hotel manager call Herr Trocker (horse whinnies) again, and tell him we won’t be there tonight.

Now it sounds like I’m complaining and unhappy, but from the moment, I accepted the idea of staying in the hotel, I’ve been in heaven. Ahhhhhhhhh. So there. {It’s a beautiful room, very IKEA with built-ins and as sparkly clean as I have ever seen a bathroom. During the night, trying to turn off a bathroom fan, Bob hits the button for the “European Shutters” which come down over our balcony door and lock us in. I guess it locks the burglers out too. Anyway, when we get up in the morning and raise them we get a wonderful look at a river that runs behind the hotel. Hotel Brunner, thank you for a good night.}

And there you have Thursday, Trip Log 3, Day 2. Tomorrow morning we’ll be rested up, and I predict we drive straight to where we would have gotten today had our airplane not developed its problem causing us to be five hours late getting in to Milano.

Sleep tight, don’t let the… uh, never mind.

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