Day 66: Reims to Paris

Number of tie wraps: 50 (final count)

Countdown: 8585 miles down, 0 to go. We’re in Paris!

Proof that we are really in Paris!

Proof that we are really in Paris! (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

We arrived at our hotel in Paris this afternoon at 2:10, officially ending Leg 1 of the World Auto Tour. Congratulations to Jennifer Quam (who guessed 35 tie wraps) for winning the tie wrap award! I’ll let you sort the prize out with John.

In 1908, the German Protos was the first car to arrive in Paris, but the Thomas was declared the official winner when it came into town four days later on July 30 due to the 30 day penalty assessed to the Protos (15 days for using the train in the U.S. and 15 days for the Thomas to drive to and from Alaska). When the Thomas first entered Paris, George Schuster was almost arrested for not having a headlight, but a bicyclist offered his headlamp. When they couldn’t remove the light from the bicycle, bystanders simply lifted the bicycle into the Thomas between the two front seats and the problem was solved. The Thomas then proceeded to the Grand Hotel for a dinner reception. Click here for the original New York Times article about the Protos arrival in Paris, and click here for the original New York Times article about the Thomas arrival in Paris.

Our arrival into Paris was much less dramatic. We had a short, but wet, drive over from Reims, as you can see from the photo below of a bystander in Paris taking a picture of the Roadster as we passed by. No one was shouting, “Vive le car Americain!” as we passed by as they did for the Thomas in 1908!

Wet arrival into Paris

Wet arrival into Paris (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Our hotel is very close to the Eiffel Tower, and I even have “une petite” view, as described by the hotel receptionist when I checked into my room.

View of the Eiffel Tower from my hotel room

View of the Eiffel Tower from my hotel room (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

The rainy weather limited our sightseeing this afternoon to a few views of the tower and the Seine River, but we still have tomorrow! We’re also hoping to get a photo op with the cars and the tower before John, Luke and Leo depart for Leg 2 of the tour and tomorrow evening we have a celebratory dinner at a traditional French restaurant. So stayed tuned for more pictures!

I fly back to Seattle on Tuesday, but I plan to continue blogging about the trip as Luke sends me updates.

Days 61-62: Berlin to Hanover to Cologne

Number of tie wraps: 50 (one added since last post)

Countdown: 8251 miles down, 334 to go

Sorry to miss the post last night – I didn’t have an Internet connection and the World Cup took precedence anyway! Before I forget, I wanted to post a picture I missed from the other day that shows Leo with his friends Siegfried and Inge Niedek. Siegfried and Inge were the ones who alerted us to Heidi Hetzer’s circumnavigation of the globe, which I blogged about two days ago.

Leo with German friends Siegfried and Inge Niedek at our hotel in Berlin

Leo with German friends Siegfried and Inge Niedek at our hotel in Berlin (Leo Jannsens photo)

Today we had two bright spots in our rainy drive to Cologne — an auto museum and a castle. The Automobil-Museum is near the city of Dormund, and it displays a rotating set of cars from a collection owned by the von Graeve family, along with automobile-related items, such as those shown in the picture below. The sign for Veedol oil reminded me of the “Miss Veedol,” the first airplane to fly non-stop across the Pacific Ocean, a feat accomplished by Clyde Pangborn and Hugh Herndon in 1931.

Display at the auto museum in Dortmund

Display at the auto museum in Dortmund (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

The museum also has a bar with an interesting beer tap made from an old Jaguar engine.

Jaguar engine beer tap

Jaguar engine beer tap (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

While we were having pizzas for lunch at the Pizzaria in the museum, Barbara van Graeve stopped by to say hello and to tell us about the Mille Miglia, an annual 1000-mile car rally that takes place in Italy. There is a restaurant at the museum named after the rally, and the restaurant interior is a replica of the square in the town of Brescia where the race begins.

Mille Mignia Restaurant with Barbara von Graeve and her Italian chef

Mille Mignia Restaurant with Barbara von Graeve and her Italian chef (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Luke had never seen a castle before, so after leaving the auto museum, we drove to the Schloss Burg for a quick tour and pictures from the top of the tower.

Schloss Burg, outside the town of Solingen

Schloss Burg, outside the town of Solingen (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

It's a long way down from the top of the tower!

It’s a long way down from the top of the tower! (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

View of the valley from the top of the tower

View of the valley from the top of the tower (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

We arrived in Cologne about 5 p.m., in plenty of time for a nice Italian dinner. I have a beautiful view of the cathedral in the center of town from my hotel window.

View from my hotel room in Cologne

View from my hotel room in Cologne (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Tuesday (yesterday) we had an easy drive to Hanover, although John added another tie wrap to the Roadster after the door latch on the driver’s side broke. This brings the tie wrap total to 50, or one tie wrap for approximately every 160 miles driven.

Tie wrap #50!

Tie wrap #50! (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

A few hundred feet before our hotel in Hanover, Luke and John spotted a “Pit Stop” auto service chain right down the road, so they took the Roadster to get the tires balanced. Karen and I took the U-Bahn into the town center and began a walking tour, but we were soon distracted by a free jazz concert (small glass of white wine included) at the Market Church. The concert was scheduled to begin at 10 p.m., but the organizers had “pre-poned” it to 9 p.m. because they knew that at 10 everyone in Germany would be watching the World Cup. We listened to two very talented 23-year-old pianists play duets for a half-dozen songs, including “That Old Devil Moon” and several improvisations. One of the pianists was Toms Mikals, from Latvia, and the other was Lennart Smidt, a Hanover native.


Inside of Market Church where the jazz concert was held

Inside of Market Church where the jazz concert was held (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

After the concert, we found a nearby bar to watch the World Cup semi-final game between Germany and Brazil. Germany was ahead 1-0 when we arrived, but within a few minutes, Germany had scored three more goals and the atmosphere in the bar went from excitement to an almost disbelief that the game could be going so well.


One of many places for watching the World Cup semi-final game last night

One of many places for watching the World Cup semi-final game last night (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

At halftime, with the score 5-0, we walked back toward the U-Bahn, figuring we would finish watching the game at our hotel. As we passed a bar near the Market Church where the concert was held, we spotted the two young pianists and went over to tell them how much we enjoyed their playing. Lennart Smidt’s fatherwas also there, and it turns out that he plays the organ for the Market Church and has also played a concert in Seattle. Small world!

When we arrived at the train station, electronic signs indicated that trains were running, but the station was devoid of people, creating an eerie contrast to the supercharged crowds just a few feet above us. We had just missed a train on the line we needed, and the next one wouldn’t arrive for 30 minutes, so we decided that was a sign for us to stay in town, and we found a rocking Irish Pub and settled in to watch Germany finish trouncing Brazil with a final score of 7-0. We’re planning to pick up some German flags or t-shirts to watch the final game in Paris in Sunday. Go Germany!

Tomorrow we drive 271 km to Chimay, Belgium, where we’ll enjoy chocolates and beer until Saturday. From there, we push into France and arrive on Sunday in Paris — the World Auto Tour Leg 1 final destination.

Day 51: Pskov, Russia to Daugavpils, Latvia

Number of tie wraps: 49 (holding steady)

Countdown: 7067 miles down, 1518 to go

So far, all of our border crossings have been filled with angst, and today’s lived up to all expectations. We arrived at the border crossing by Grebneva, Latvia about 10:30, had cleared the Russian side by around noon, and thought we would surely be in Daugavpils by mid-afternoon to enjoy the sights. But the border gods had other ideas in mind.

First, one of the Latvian border guards pointed out that John had only a copy of his registration for the 1928 Roadster, and that copy wasn’t sufficient proof of ownership. The fact that John had used the copy to bring the Roadster in and out of Japan, China, and Russia twice didn’t seem to sway the guard’s opinion. While we were mulling what to do about this turn of events, the same border guard came back out and said that Leo’s Envoy also couldn’t enter Latvia (or anywhere in the European Union, for that matter) because it doesn’t have a front license plate. He was unpersuaded by the fact that the state of Florida doesn’t issue front license plates, so there is no way to legally obtain one. However, he said that we could bring Leo’s car across the border on a truck. Presumably, we would then be out of his hair and on our own to deal with no front license plate.

The border guard also suggested that we return to St. Petersburg to obtain convincing documentation. In addition to setting our itinerary back several days, the main problem with this approach was that it wasn’t entirely clear what documentation the customs folks wanted. John asked if a U.S. embassy or consulate could just fax the documentation and the guard said he would check and come back. He disappeared into another building and when he returned, the verdict was that John and Luke could drive the Roadster across (for reasons still not entirely clear), but the Envoy had been denied entry and would have to start the whole process over.

We waved goodbye to John and Luke at about 2:30, and then Cathy, Natalia and I climbed into the Envoy with Leo and drove about 200 yards back to the Russian border. After a bit of negotiation, we were able to turn around without reentering Russia and we drove back to the Latvian Customs line to wait for another turn. While we were waiting, Natalia had a brief conversation with the Latvian border guard who had denied our initial crossing, and he indicated that they had found a “solution.” We pulled back into the customs area about 4:45 and 15 minutes later, we were on our way. We still don’t know what the “solution” was, but we’ll take it!

After getting across the border, we met up with John and Luke and had a nice drive through the Latvian countryside, where we saw many houses and small farms with gardens and greenhouses.


Latvian countryside

Latvian countryside (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

We arrived at our hotel about 7:15. but we gained an hour, so it was only 6:15. We said our goodbyes to our Russian guide, Natalia, to whom we are eternally grateful, and our new guide, Karen Bradbury, greeted us with champagne and a new set of tie wraps for the Roadster! Karen will be with us until Paris.


Our new guide, Karen Bradbury, and a new set of Roadster tie wraps

Our new guide, Karen Bradbury, and a new set of Roadster tie wraps (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Alas, this is our only day in Latvia. Tomorrow, we head to Vilnius, Lithuania, 173 km. We’ll be staying there Monday for some sightseeing and then on to Kaunus.