Our Team in Rieti

Our Team in Rieti
The US Team and Crew




Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Mark Keene is the First to 'Blog' In

Welcome to my first blog. I'll try to give you some highlights of the trip so far and my impressions of the flying and Italy.

After the Standard Class Nationals in Cordele, Chip and I dropped our ships off at the port of Charleston for their 12 day ride across the ocean to Bremerhaven Germany. Bremerhaven is in the north of the country. Alfred Spindelberger (Cobra Trailers) was gracious enough to bring our trailers from the port to his shop in conjunction with a delivery he had. He then took my trailer and fixed some problems caused by my neglect over the years. Thank you Alfred and Agnes!

Rosalie and I arrived in Frankfurt on the 20th of June, spent a couple of days at Alfred's place and then went to Kirchheim to visit the Schempp-Hirth factory and Tilo and Katja Holighaus. They were wonderful hosts and we had a great time with them and their three kids. While there, I had a Flarm installed and a few other things done to the ship, by our installer who was none other than Liz Schwenkler. Liz is working at the factory full time and is a newlywed. In November she married a local and they have a nice house in a small town outside of Kirchheim.

On Tuesday we drove from Kirchheim to Rieti, a drive of over 12 hours. In Italy and Germany, the speed limit while pulling a trailer is 80kph which works out to just under 50mph. It's difficult to go this slow, but with the threat of hidden speed cameras, cops with radar and steep fines, we complied to our best ability.

The car we have is a small one that gets good gas mileage and pulls the trailer very well. It looks like a very small Ford Taurus wagon. Speaking of gas, it's expensive! One liter is 1.5 Euro, which works out to be about 6 Euro per gallon. Now add the poor exchange rate and the cost in dollars goes up to $9 per gallon. To put it in perspective, for 12 gallons we paid over $100! It would take cost $270 to fill up the 30 gallon tank on my van. I'm glad we have a car that gets good gas mileage.

It was 1am when we arrived in Rieti and the airport was closed and locked so we parked in the police station parking lot and slept in the car. In the morning we dropped the trailer, activated our phone and found our bed and breakfast. Then Rosalie and I went to see Rome. Unfortunately, because she had to leave the following day, we had only one day. Rome wasn't built in one day and you can't see it in one day either. What we saw was interesting and educational. Rosalie left on Thursday morning.

Rieti is an interesting town. I'm told it's about 500 years older than Rome. The roads are laid out the same as they were back then too, with the addition of "modern" roundabouts. Recently, the've added one way streets to the mix. If that's not enough, the Italian driving habits leave a lot to be desired, but more about that later. Anyway, without my trusty GPS, I would be lost and out of gas somewhere in the mountains. After five days, I still can't tell you how to get to the bed and breakfast. One day, even the GPS got lost and routed me through a parking lot. It's favorite direction is "recalculating." I fully expect it to come up and say "you try to find it, I give up." At any rate, the database seems to be good.

Now to the drivers. In Italy there are no rules. Stripes dividing lanes? It's treated like spilled paint because many drivers take their half in the middle. Want to change lanes? Just pull into the car next to you and move him over. Passing on a two lane road, with traffic coming? No problem, there's enough room, if the mirrors aren't too wide. And there's only one way to find out. What we call aggressive driving and is outlawed in the US is the norm and expected in Italy. When we drive like "normal" US drivers, we get strange looks, not to mention having cars so close to our bumper that we can't see the car, just the driver who looks like he's in our back seat. It's truely a freeforall. An entire blog could be written just about our driving experiences so far.

I'll have more in the next day or two but for now I gotta go fly. Arrivaderci!


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