The Hills are Alive! Thanksgiving/Tuscany Vacation–(A Travel Journal)

Days 6 and 7 In Which the Gates Family Drives Through Three Countries to Avoid a Strike to Make it Home.

Day 6 (Friday)

Can’t get through to any of our airlines, so decided to pack our bags and head out in our rental car. Looks like we will drive to Frankfurt instead of risking getting stuck with cancelled flights. Yet another long drive, but that also means a glimpse of more countries.

We wave to Bologna as we drive by, catch a glimpse of Verona and begin quoting from Romeo and Juliet, and eventually leave Italy. A light rain is falling (the news says there is flooding on the west coast) and we head up through the Dolomites. These unusual, jagged sandstone mountains, as majestic as the alps, have their own unique kind of ruggedness.


We climb higher and higher through mountain passes and I am ever so grateful we didn’t come a month later when it would be snow falling instead of rain.

We drive into Austria, catching Innsbruck just before sundown, drinking in the views all around us. I wonder if people who grow up surrounded by such majestic scenery grow numb to it, or if they wake up each morning amazed at the sight out their window. I also wonder if all Austrians have legs of steel from walking up and down the steep countryside. The hills here are very much alive, just no music today.


Each village seems to have its church and tower on some high mountain peak. Do they have regular attendance? They did not build these with easy access in mind. Perhaps each tower can communicate with each other-one mountaintop to the next? Does anyone know? I have so many questions, and no one around me (I do have a limited audience and no internet) that knows the answers.


One thing begins to worry me. Soon after we got our van, it read “2000km to AdBlue.” We have no idea what that means. It is now reading at several hundred km, which is only 15 km short of our destination. What do we do? Will the car explode or freeze if we don’t put more in or is this like an oil change where you can fudge for a while without catastrophe? Thankfully, we have data on Doug’s phone.

AdBlue is apparently an additive for Diesel engines that helps clean the emissions. Still doesn’t tell me what happens if we don’t add it when told. The car handbook is no help. It’s in German and the only one who understands German is driving. We keep driving.

At the 250 km AdBlue warning, the dashboard pops up a warning which states the car will stop running at 200 km! Yikes! Now to find someplace that sells it. We coast into a gas station at the 200km mark. This is trickier than it sounds since the cars here turn off when traffic stops, starting up instantly when you take your foot off the brake and step on the gas. Just as we get to the intersection for our gas station—the light turns red. We breathed (gasped) a collective sigh of relief when it agreed to start up again, getting us to our coveted destination. They have what we need and we purchase the much-desired fluid. Then we are stuck with trying to figure out how to put it in. The internet said it most definitely doesn’t go in the gas tank, the manual doesn’t say where to find its tank but does show a picture. After checking under the hood to no avail, asking a local driver (who ended up being Polish and not local, speaking no language we can communicate in) and people in the station, all to no avail, we end up unloading all the luggage and searching the back of the vehicle, finally finding the illusive port through which this all necessary AdBlue goes in a hidden panel where we usually store our tire iron.

Success. The dash now reads “5000 km till AdBlue.” Must have poured it in the right place.


Breathing easier, we complete our journey through the rest of the mountains and into the darkness on the other side that is Germany. I’m sure it was beautiful, but the sights to be seen are not seen when seen at night.

This portion of Germany is NOT to my liking. Semi-tractor trailers are everywhere, crowding the right side of the Autobahn. Maniacal drivers practicing for their pilot’s license fly past on the left. Much of the road is under construction, so the lanes are crammed into smaller spaces, meaning we must either drive sandwiched between slower, killer trucks, or attempt life-threatening merges into the pilot’s lane and squeeze past the semis with barely inches to spare.

I give up on writing or Sudoku. This is where I close my eyes and keep them shut, surrendering myself and my family to the hands of God as He guides my husband along.

Obviously, since I lived to write about today, we made it.

At the hotel, I check my emails. There is a check-in email for Lufthansa. The first portion of our trip was supposed to be Lufthansa, flying from Bologna to Frankfurt. From Frankfurt we are to fly United back home. I try to check in on United. It says I can’t, my flight is managed through Lufthansa.  Oh, crud. Does that mean Lufthansa is flying and if we don’t check in on that leg of the flight we won’t get on United?

We try calling. Can’t get through to either airline.

Sleep well.

All things happen for a reason.

Day 7 (Saturday)

We get up way to early, concerned that there may be an airport full of disgruntled passengers waiting in line. We fill up our car and return it. We had no idea if this unexpected drop off at this location would cost a small fortune, but it doesn’t. Whew. So far, so good.

At the terminal, row after row of Lufthansa counters are vacant. Doug made a good call driving here. It appears most flights are cancelled. We find the small United counter off in a far corner and approach a man with our plight. It is not normally accepted to skip the first leg of a trip and join at the next. He asks some questions, then opens one of our passports.

“Elijah?” He reads the name of our second son. “That is a big name. A prophet.” He says.

“That’s right.” Doug answered. “All our sons are named after Bible prophets.”

A smile spread across the man’s face.

“You are believers.” He said. “So am I. Here you go.” He placed a sticker of approval on each of our passports, initialed each and waved us forward. “Have a blessed day.”

And that was it.

Hassle free, we are on our way home.

Thank you for joining me as I collected and posted my journal entries for this vacation! I appreciate your patience waiting for the last days to be published. Family and office needs pushed my writing to the side, and without time to get pictures together, I hesitated to post anything. I hope you enjoyed our journey! Join us again on the next one!

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