Getting a flat tire in the Bavarian countryside makes you realize just how far you are from home.
We recently got back from a trip south to visit Salzburg and southern Germany. Berchtesgaden, where we stayed, is a delightful village that once housed and inspired Hitler himself. It’s amazing and horrifying that so much beauty could fuel something so ugly.
Roads in this country are interesting. We’ve learned to have faith in our GPS, even when she tells us to turn right into a teensy paved road leading straight into the bushes. It always ends up at a village or restaurant, even if we do sometimes pull into a field to make room for the passing tractors.
It was a lovely hot morning and we had decided to double up with some friends for a day trip to the Konigsee Lake. Germany is a lot like the Northwest, when hot summer days happen you jump on them. My kids get so excited when the weather hits 72 degrees.
As we took the teeny, windy road down the backside of the mountain toward the lake I couldn’t decide if I wanted to throw up (not a lover of heights here) or just put a bag over my head. The blind corners are a killer, so you kind of close your eyes and pray there isn’t a tractor waiting on the other side.
Jason was handling the hair pin turns like a pro (his words, not mine) when out of the blue, he clipped a curb going around a particularly tight corner.
“Argh!” Rex, 7, yelled from the back. “Did he pop the tire just like you did that one time Mom?”
I rolled my eyes and looked over at Jason who thought this remark was totally hilarious.
“No,” I said to Rex. “He did not pop the tire.”
“Oh no,” Rex wailed, “Now we’ll never get to the lake to go swimming! Oh Dad, why did you pop the tire?”
I glanced back at Jason. “Did you pop it?” I asked.
“No,” he said with a shrug. “We would have felt it by now.”
For the next three or four minutes, as we came to the base of the mountain, we listened to Rex lament about the tire Dad had supposedly popped.
“Rex!” I finally hollered, “Will you please stop with the ...”
Plump, plump, plump.
“No,” I said in unbelief.
“No way,” Jason replied.
He pulled the car over and we jumped out. Sure thing, there we were in the middle of the Bavarian countryside with a tire that had just spent it’s final breath saying: I told you so, I told you so, I told you so.
That’s when we discovered that our German van does not, in fact, have a spare tire.
Like all good wives I piled the kids into my girlfriend’s car, ditched my hubby, and headed to the lake with the kids. I left Jason behind hoping that the insurance company would see our flare gun and smoke signs and send a tow truck.
When Jason finally made it to the auto mechanics, he jumped out and went to find the owner. He found someone who could speak some English and attempted to buy tires.
“I need four new tires,” he said. We had been planning to replace them this fall but waiting was no longer an option.
“No no,” the man said, “I sell you only one tire.” Jason took a step back in shock.
“But my car, it needs four new tires. The tires, they are old. I need new tires.”
“No no,” the man replied. “You break one tire, we sell you one tire.”
I don’t know about you but I’ve never been to a tire store in America where they didn’t try to sell us at least two sets of tires and the village goat, not to mention plying us with popcorn and refreshments and 42 channels of cable television.
Jason was dumbfounded. Finally the tow truck driver came to his rescue. He took the store clerk out to the car and showed him our weary tires. After a few minutes of intense conversation the tire dude finally came back in.
“OK, OK,” he said to Jason. “I sell you four tires.”
Sometimes we really miss having a village Les Schwab.
Annie Valentine is a wife, mother and columnist. Readers can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her blog at regardingannie.wordpress.com.