We drove from Lauterbrunnen to Zermatt to see the Matterhorn one more time. This provided a new experience, or two, for us. When we put Zermatt into the GPS, it asked if we wanted to avoid a ferry, but there was no water showing on the route to Zermatt. We learned that we were going to take a 15-minute ferry ride on a train. This was a very dark, somewhat noisy and bumpy ride thru a very long tunnel. Another new experience.
We continued the drive to Zermatt until we ran into a sign that said we had to park and take a shuttle train into the town of Zermatt. We parked in a very new and spotless parking ramp. They were actually power washing the floor above where we parked, the floors were painted - when have you seen a parking ramp in the US with a painted floor? No wonder things are so expensive in Switzerland. We paid our 26 CHF to ride the shuttle train and soon arrived in town. It is still very picturesque and nice that there are very few vehicles. We walked thru the town looking for the best spot to take pictures. We had to wait awhile for the clouds to clear so we could see the top of the Matterhorn. We took a few pictures as the weather was again beautiful.
We got back on the shuttle - a very nice and nearly new train, then paid a few more CHF to get out of the parking ramp and headed for Germany. Our plan was to get to Darmstadt/Greisheim in time to find a place to stay for that night. We got to ride the train ferry again and were doing great until the front left tire went flat while we were doing 120 Kph in the left lane, just South of Thun, Switzerland. The Renault handled this very nicely, the car did not swerve at all towards the median guard rail. We pulled onto the shoulder, the tire smelling and showing a number of cuts in the side, but no damage to the wheel.
I emptied the trunk, set up our warning triangle, and put on my bright yellow safety vest. I took out the spare and learned it was a full-sized tire, but with a 80 Kph max sticker on the wheel. I changed the tire and loaded all of the stuff back into the trunk. We got off the highway at Thun and called Renault to see what we were supposed to do. They told us that punctures are not covered by the insurance and that we would have to buy a new tire. They gave us the directions to the Thun Renault dealer. We drove there and talked to the service manager, or Kundendiensleiter. Herr Sandro Mani was the nicest, most helpful person. He gave us the choice of buying a new tire, for $250 CHF (over $300), but we would have to wait till Monday, or he would take a tire off a used car with 8000 Km, but for the same price as new. The mechanic, looked at our spare and said it was H rated which he said was good for 190 Kph. Tirerack says a H rated tire is good for 210 Kph or 130 mph. Since the Renault will not go that fast, I decided to drive to Germany on the spare as we had lost enough time already.
We got as far as Rust, Germany when we decided to get a place to stay. It was already 8:30 PM and we needed to find a Pension before they closed. We found one near Europa Amusement Park for a reasonable amount that provided us a breakfast. The room was quiet and the shower and breakfast was great. We drove towards Darmstadt, stopping at Bensheim to see if we could find the house where our friends, the Klinkams, lived while we were both living in Germany. We actually found it easily and took a picture. We drove to Darmstadt, stopping to see that the Germans have done nothing with the US military buildings since the Army left town. We drove downtown and parked in the car park under Luisen Center. We had Goulasch soup at the Rathaus restaurant and it was just as good as we remembered it.
We did a little shopping and even had personal help to find a store by an employee of Sport Hubner, who took time from his break to walk us to another store that he thought might have what we were looking for. We then drove to Griesheim to see our old house. As we were leaving, Herr Haake, our next door neighbor, came home and we talked for awhile. Then Heidi Tobin, our old American neighbor, came home and we talked with her. We then drove to the old Stripes location to see how depressing the emptiness was. We stopped at the Pension Postkutche and were lucky to find Kathy Page at home. We talked with her and her daughter for a while and then headed for Viernheim to meet Elli and Pasquale, the friends with one of the Ferraris we met in Italy.
We met them at the RheinNecker Shopping Center and got into their car to drive to a special restaurant. This restaurant was outstanding, with a wonderful menu. It was hard to make a decision as the menu was large and varied. Elli did a great job of interpreting the menu for us. Every item we chose was delicious, as was the champagne, and wine and dessert. Elli and Pasquale went far beyond just being friends by not allowing us to pay anything for the outstanding meal. We left the restaurant after midnight, after meeting them at 6:30 at the shopping center. To say we had a good time is putting it too mildly. The conversation was as good as the food even though we had to converse in English due to our lack of language skills. We think Pasquale knows and understands more English than he lets on, but he was very patient to wait for Elli to interpret. I hope we can return the favor some time. It may mean we have to make another trip to Europe, which we would certainly love to do, or they would have to travel to Minnesota.
They gave us a ride back to our car and we headed for Enkenbach-Alsenborn to Chris and John Taylor's house. We were low on diesel fuel but thought it would be no problem as there are many stations open 24 hours on the Autobahn. We started driving at 80 mph as the car told us we could go 67 Km and the GPS was telling us we only had 50 Km to go. It wasn't 20 Km down the road that the gauge read empty and the computer was reading blanks for the distance we could go until we needed to stop for fuel. We slowed down to 100 Kph, 62 mph, and drove thru the darkness waiting to see the welcome sight of gas station lights. Another 15 Km down the road we dropped to 80 Kph. We did not want to run out of gas and experience getting a ticket for that offense, plus be stopped by the side of the road for who knows how long. We saw an Autohof, a service area off the Autobahn that was open. We drove in and put 56.3 Liters into our 60 Liter tank. We had lots left, why were we concerned?
We got to the Taylor's house at 1:30 AM and since we had a key, were able to enter and get to bed without waking them. The next morning, we headed out for the Kaiserslautern area to see if we could find a tire to match the other 3 on the Renault. Chris had done some on-line research and we went to a couple of stores, but they said they could not get the tire until Tuesday or Wednesday . Chris decided to try the second ATU store just to see if they could do better. Initially, they gave us the same news. We asked if the tire was available in another ATU store in Germany. He showed us the list of stores with this tire in inventory but all were 400 to 600 Km from where we were. But then as we were about to leave, he said that he found one in Mannheim, just an hour away. He called the store and reserved the tire for us and we set off to solve the tire problem, which would then allow us to continue our trip on Tuesday to England. We found the store, GPS system worked great, and while they were mounting the tire we went to McDonald's for lunch. This McDonald's had free refills of Cokes which we had not seen in Europe on this trip.
We got the tire and came back to the Taylor's. I mounted the tire, put the spare away and gave the car a sponge bath, mostly trying to get 6000 km's of bugs off the front off the car. Tonight, Chris is cooking dinner for us, but unfortunately, John has to work, so he will be home late. Tomorrow, we plan to drive to the Rhein and Mosel river valleys to see lots of castles and beautiful scenery.