On January 10 it was time to rent a car, load a bunch of stuff, and most importantly the beasts to take them to their new home in Germany. So Dani, Xander, and I set out at the pre-ass crack of dawn from Sheffield for our road trip to our new house in Sickenhofen. I got three blocks away from the house, realized I hadn’t locked the door… so only a small false start and we were really off this time! The dogs had about 6 layers of pillows, comforters, and of course their dog beds, so they were all kinds of comfy!
Eventually, the sun came up — somewhere between Birmingham and London on the M1. Hitting rush hour traffic wasn’t so bad in Birmingham except that I realized they couldn’t simply exit — I’m not sure why exiting caused 4 lanes of traffic to slow down, but it did. We looped around London on the M25 and for some reason my GPS sent me down the M2 instead of the M20 to Dover, but I went with it… better than listening to it recalculate.
The dogs got to take a quick walk somewhere just north of Dover and I decided to go for a cup of coffee and a pit stop myself. And silly me, I wasn’t worried about the goodie bag because nothing had been opened to smell too good … except one thing. Buried in the bottom of the goodie bag was a bag with two Gregg’s sausage rolls (enough to make an adult feel pretty full for those who may be unfamiliar with the Gregg’s experience) also known as my lunch! Yeah, Gregg’s is like crack for dogs and Xander’s definitely a user! In the 10 minutes I was inside, the little shit had the time to dig it out (nothing else was disturbed), open the bag, and demolish the two sausage rolls on the driver’s seat (a double bonus). I come back and see him on the driver’s seat madly licking up all the pastry crumbs, Dani still sitting in the back looking very put out that she just watched Xander eat both of those by himself, and open the door to say, “Goddammit Xander” (this is what Xander thought his name was for the first year of his life because he was always in trouble). He did at least make the effort to look embarrassed (that he got caught before he was completely finished). There went my lunch.
That was the only mishap of our morning because not long after we dropped down into Dover (white cliffs and all) and right to the DFDS Seaways dock. The cool thing is leaving the UK, the dogs don’t cost anything … it’s only coming back into the UK that the British government charges you 30 pounds/dog for the UK Border authority to spend at most 2 minutes scanning their microchips and checking their pet passports. Woo hoo — the doggies weren’t coming back… HA HA! 🙂
Everything went nice and smoothly going through customs and so with my passport already stamped for France, I only had to wait about 15 minutes for us to be loaded onto the ferry. While we were waiting the border authority folks passed out pamphlets about driving in France. The French require all cars to have 2 breathalyzers (how’s their drunk driving problem?), a safety vest for the driver, put silly stickers on your headlights because as the pamphlet said, “Your headlights will dazzle the French drivers, even during the day” and a magnet on the car that says “GB” so that it’s clear what country your car is from (because driving on the wrong side of the car isn’t a clear indicator with the registration as a tidy follow up). Of course, all of this was available for purchase on the ship.
So, about 30 pounds later, I was safety-equipped and kind of ‘snuck’ (walked down the stairs) to the car hold and just got in the car… I actually didn’t hear the announcement (I know there was one because of the trip back) saying that no one could be down there AND no one seemed to bother… the dogs were much happier with me there. The dogs and I hung out for the 20 mile and 2-hour crossing (you might wonder why we didn’t take the 30 minute channel crossing — it was twice the money PLUS 15 pounds per pet so that they could ride in the car with me… I could make my day a bit longer for less than half the money).
Normally, I would have used this time to eat my lunch, but someone we all know already scarfed my Gregg’s (little shit). But so Dani and Xander both sat back and chilled. I listened to some tunes on my tablet and wrote most of a letter of application to a job in Germany on the trip, played a little solitaire, you know… normal bored traveling things to do. 🙂
Once we arrived and the flood of people came out, they opened the gates and we were released into Calais, France (Here’s a note when you’re traveling with your GPS and you lose satellite coverage for a period of time… you need to not only shut it off but unplug it from the car and then let it reboot or it can’t find itself). We get released and the GPS isn’t working and I’m thinking “oh … ummm…. hell”. We find a little side street and I reboot the GPS, it finds itself, and more importantly, our destination and we’re off.
Now, I’m not sure what I expected the drive across France and Belgium to be like, but I wasn’t really expecting it to pretty much be like driving across Nebraska but it really was. It was basically flat (some rolling hills), lots of farm ground, some random trees from time-to-time, semi trucks in the right lane, everyone else whizzing past in the left aside from the occasional twit who holds up traffic because they’re going exactly 1 mph (or 1.61 km/h) faster than the semi and decide to pull out in front of other cars (assholes) to toddle past them. The notable differences? Well… the houses/ barns were stone and instead of silos being the only thing poking up off the horizon it was big church steeples… oh yeah… and the signs were in French and Dutch :). Seriously, that’s about it — even the truck stops were the same brands — Texaco, Shell, and a few random local gas brands… Pizza Hut express, and truck stop cafes. I laughed… it was pretty much driving across Nebraska… maybe some parts of South Dakota too (it was more scenic than Kansas…but you get the picture).
After hitting Brussels rush hour (kind of like hitting Omaha at rush hour), then it was pretty much wide open dark space thereafter.
For those of you anticipating border crossings (or like my Mom hoping to get their passport stamped) yeah… not so much… it’s like going from one US State to another. There’s a nice little sign that says, “Thanks for visiting France” and then a couple hundred yards down the road one that says, “Welcome to Belgium” (etc). That’s it. One other travel note — unlike driving in the US, the longest I went without seeing a service area was only about 50 km (30 miles), so there are never any “pucker” moments of having to stop or needing gas! If you drive by one stop, wait about 15-20 mins and you’ll have another opportunity!
And then we entered Germany und das Autobahn!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ironically, as we got into Germany the terrain changed substantially to big rolling hills (for anyone from Colorado kind of like driving in the foothills along I-70 on your way to the Eisenhower tunnel) — big sweeping turns, some decent grades, and no speed limit! Since I had a little car, loaded with the dogs, I’d never driven the road before, and it was after dark I did limit myself to 140 km/h (or about 90 mp/h). 🙂 🙂 🙂 I was a happy driver!!!! Germany is my driving mecca! Yet as quickly as I was driving, I was pretty much middle lane material the whole way — certainly faster than the trucks and pokey cars, but every-once-in-while some Audi, BMW, or Mercedes would pass me like I was standing still. It was cool! 🙂 Of course, the Germans are sensible and when you’re coming into towns/cities, etc. they slow you down to like 70 mp/h, but then the little sign says the speed limit has ended and it’s off to the races again.
I cannot wait to drive a better car than a little economy compact car on the Autobahn! I’m fairly certain Stuart will not be pleased with the rate of speed… muah ha ha ha.
The dogs settled into their new digs pretty quick — in all… the Schipperkes live a pretty cush life. They’ve now been in about 20 US states and 5 countries … living in 3 different countries– more than we can say for most Americans.