I might be running 33 years late but I’m certainly making up for lost time. I am undergoing a most demanding induction course into the automobilia world and steering me unflinchingly, while barely peering over the dashboard, is my eight year old son. Whisper it softly but I do vaguely recall a passing infatuation with cars at that age. The passing soon passed, however, and I became deeply immersed in footballing ephemera instead. It wasn’t enough for me to simply play or even, from time to time, attend a big match.
I can remember still the pinch of excitement as I opened my new packets of football stickers, sharing joy and pain with my friends, concocting shady transfer deals behind closed doors and wondering if I was ever going to see George Best again. This was but a prelude to a more sinister development, whereby I started recording the results of imaginary matches in my exercise books, complete with scorers, half times, crowds and league positions, if appropriate. Oh, I did things properly. If they’d handed out prizes for footballing obsession, I’d have hoovered up every time.
There is often a thin dividing line between passion and obsession and my son is already starting to exhibit some disturbing parallels with his father. My relationship with cars hitherto has been strictly of the A to B variety. In other words, as long as I can reach my destination safely, securely and speedily, I’m a pretty happy bunny. I am strangely unmoved by upholstery, sound systems, alloy wheels and other delights. I have never spent an afternoon washing my car. My son, however, spent an hour painstakingly polishing and sprucing his car yesterday. And as for the remote control, glad you asked, a solid ten minutes checking the electrics.
Yet it all started so innocently. An occasional reference to a car in the street was an entirely natural form of curiosity. My mumbled acknowledgement was usually enough and we went on our merry way but I felt a frisson of alarm as my son started to recognise cars he’d seen before and ask me about them too. The first time this happened I thought he was talking to someone else until he looked me in the eye with a quite disarming sincerity and repeated the question.
“Dad, did you see that red Porsche, isn’t that the one from the end of the street I showed you last week? That was so cool, how fast did it go? Can we go in one?”. Well, there’s off guard and there’s on the canvas. As I groggily sought to compose myself, I nonetheless realised that my son had achieved a major landmark. He’d entered football sticker country.
No longer would my studied nonchalance suffice. My son was already in second gear while I was groping for the ignition. I could have handled simple car spotting but my son started to display a much wider repertoire, engaging in a running commentary on every journey and inviting from me, normally at a moment of maximum inconvenience, some expert analysis on the virtues of the latest BMW convertible
Ultimate European Road Trip Series – Part Three – The Lead Up to the Big Day
We began this adventure by selecting and purchasing a Porsche Macan S for our road trip of a life time and by developing an inspired travel itinerary for the entire month of September.
This segment of the series is focused on some last minute fine tuning, and the lead up to the “Big Day” event… picking up the car at the Porsche factory in Zuffenhausen Germany.
Ready… Set… Go… well almost
Once an itinerary has been decided we traditionally step back and review it for the less obvious elements. Are there any components that we can take care of here at home before we step on the plane? Our logic is simple… get stuff here and save time there!
A few things to consider…
Road Tax Stamps
Driving a car in Europe, a rental or your own, is going to require road tax stamps and/or toll. A suggestion is to purchase the mandatory road tax “vignettes” in advance via the toll tickets web page. They processed our order and had the stamps in our hands in less than seven days.
Check your car rental agreement to find out if they are included… we used Hertz a few times and they were not included. You can also wait until you get there and purchase the stamps at the border crossings… your call and your time.
In a pure Italian flair… Italy still uses paper tickets, toll booths and people to create bottlenecks where ever possible… viva Italia!
Update your GPS device(s) with the latest version of their mapping software and bring an old-fashion tour book (sometimes there is no WI-FI access) and an actual paper map and highlight your driving routes.
Tickets for Special Venues
Secure tickets for unusual events such as a Zeppelin Airship Ride at Lake Konstanz, Germany or the Salzburg Marionette Theater for “The Sound of Music” performance in Austria or for special concerts or venues that are limited. They may not be available when you get there… arrange to pick them up at the box office or have them sent electronically.
Carry-On Luggage Rules
Carry-On luggage rules have changed so check your luggage to be in compliance with your particular airline and avoid the hassle when you get to the airport… some are strict and some are not.
The Volvo Overseas Delivery Program – Yes They Really Do Provide a Free Trip To Europe
Though I tend to drive less frequently these days, my 2005 Acura TL turned six years old, and the time had come for something new. I test drove a plethora of vehicles including the Audi A4 and S4, BMW 335, Infiniti GSx, Lexus IS 350, Mercedes C and finally the Volvo S60 T6. The finalists were the Audi S4, the Lexus IS 350 and to my surprise, the Volvo S60 T6. All three of these vehicles are offered in all wheel drive, a definite plus for my New England climate.
The Volvo S60 T6 is different from Volvo’s of the past, it has very sleek European lines, a sporty look, excellent acceleration (300HP) and provides a great ride. It boasts extremely comfortable ergonomic seats, great styling, a state of the art navigation system and all the options I required. The S60 T6 also came with a 5 year/50,000 mile full maintenance, bumper to bumper warranty, including oil changes, brakes, rotors, wiper blades, etc., ensuring a what I expect to be a maintenance free 5 year ownership at my mileage levels.
When I compared the total price, after adding the options I selected, the Volvo came in comparably priced to the Infiniti and less than the Audi S4 or Lexus, which came as no surprise. To my surprise, however, Volvo said they would provide a complimentary trip to Sweden to pick up and use my new car. I was somewhat dubious about that last statement and researched several blogs on the subject.
According to my research and the DVD Volvo sent, the free trip included free airfare for two, 3 nights free hotel (3 nights for existing Volvo owners or 1 night for new owners), airport transfer to your hotel, hotel pickup to the Volvo delivery center, lunch and a tour of their factory, and use of your own Volvo for your vacation, including insurance and roadside assistance. Assuming the commercial accurately portrayed the trip, this appeared to be a really fun way to take another vacation abroad, compliments of Volvo.