Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Alpine Drive

Part of the fine print in the email prep for the turkey day trip to Salzburg said, 'don't forget chains for your car.'

Wait, we don't have chains, we just got here, we don't even have coats good for snow much less equipment for the van to tackle snow. Not even an ice scraper. What did we sign up for?

I was able to buy chains before we left, apparently they are readily available at most gas stations. Hmmm, Makes me think well need them sometime in the assignment, maybe on this trip. Yikes.

The drive across the mountain pass into Austria was not snowy. We saw signs for the chain-install pull off area, but did not need to use it. Whew.

It was snowing heavily when we left on our day trip into Salzburg . The first stop was the salt mine. We made it to there easily enough, but the roads were getting bad and it was only 10 in the morning. The mine entrance is hidden away high amongst some steep hills. When we left the mine, the trip down the hill was treacherous to say the least. We had 5 cars in our train, and we were number 2 in line. At one point I look back and see the car behind us completely sideways in the road, wheels locked, and sliding right for us. I decided to get moving and get some space between us. We made it down that hill and into the city without a wreck, despite that car behind me performing a complete 360 degree spin in the road just before the snow plow coming up the mountain.

After a few hours of shopping and enjoying Salzburg we had to once again brave the roads. We were confident the Autobahn would be ok since it would be plowed and well traveled, but our house was 40 min off the main road on side streets deep into mountain ski country.

Just minutes after entering the highway we pass the plows. I wasn't sure it was the best plan, but they were moving pretty slow. The roads were certainly better behind the plows than in front of them. The roads were passable. I say that because many people passed us in lanes that I certainly didn't feel comfortable driving on. The one lane with two tire paths was all I wanted to be on.

We stopped a couple times on the 2 hour trip and waited for the group to get back together. Over time we ended up spread out and some were quite unsure of driving in the snow.

We had intel from another member of the group that had made the trip earlier in the day that chains were required to make it to the lodge. That had really freaked out a couple of the drivers.

As we rounded the corner, left the last main road and began the steep climb to the lodge my hands gripped the wheel a little tighter. First up was the lead car, a giant suburban...I watched from as far back as I could be while still being able to comfortably see what was happening. The road is mostly straight but very steep, and the last 50 yards have a hairpin switchback. The giant chevy makes it fine. Ok. My turn. I get some speed to maintain momentum. There is some slippage but I'm going in the right direction. I make it over the last wooden bridge and prep for the hairpin. I let the momentum carry me up, slowing, then start the turn. We initially turn, but then start slipping towards the rock wall on the uphill side, I decide that is better than the steep downhill drop on the other side. We stop before contact, and I ease back into the gas and safely make it to the drive way. Wahoo! I say hey that wasn't so bad. I quickly park, pour the kids into bed, and then head on foot down the hill to help the others. Car number 3 is the same one that was sideways earlier. He looses traction much earlier in the hill and the boys are out installing chains on his Audi. After some fumbling we get him up the hill. Car number 4 was a minivan similar to ours. He makes it up without chains just like I did. I warned him about the slip and he also avoids the rock wall. Last but not least is the most freaked out driver. She had already moved over to the passenger seat to let me drive when I walked down to check on her. I give it my all, but her van seemed lighter than mine and she did not have the same traction. I lost forward momentum just before the hairpin and started sliding back down the hill. Eventually we stopped sliding and she quickly handed me her set of chains. The fellas help me put them on and we get the last of our vehicles into the parking area.

I think some of the guys lost a few months of heartbeats in that drive, but it all worked out in the end. Seems to me it was just God's way of giving us guys some shared challenges to overcome so we could grow together. And a good excuse for a stiff drink when we were all safely inside the warm lodge.

The next day we decided not to leave the mountain and just let the kids play in the snow. The kids loved it.

The drive home on Sunday was a little wet, but no snow. Yea!!! Another European adventure complete.

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