Test drive on the Autobahn

| September 15, 2012

Today, I alone, with no one else in the car, test drove a Volvo on the Autobahn. Now, if the story ended there, it would sound pretty badass. Unfortunately, the story does not end there.

My husband and I celebrated our tenth anniversary this week. We have always exchanged gifts using the traditional list. Some years you’re stuck with, say, wool, but we’ve always been creative. This year, the traditional anniversary gift is Tin. You know what’s made out of tin? License plates. Like the one I want on the front of a new Volvo.

So Paul took me to the Volvo dealer today to get in the XC60, XC70, and XC90, then test drive whichever I liked. The 60 is the smaller SUV, which we thought I might lean toward for the roads of Europe; the 70 is the station wagon, which is much roomier and with more cargo space, but a little low to the ground in my experience; and the 90 is the “large” SUV, a mix between too big to park in Europe and so small that I can see over the roof if I stand next to it.

To my surprise, I ended up liking the station wagon, for myriad reasons. There’s a rugged look to it, not some kind of wimpy mom-look, blahblahblah, I’m not trying to sell you the car, I’m just telling you how I came to be on the Autobahn, alone, test driving a Volvo.

The salesman took Paul’s license and i.d. and made a copy. We then realized that there was not a built-in booster seat in the car I was to test drive (a feature of the Volvo), so Sequoia could not ride in it. Looks like I’m going to drive alone. The salesman never even asked for my license.

The salesman turns on the setting that shows me the speed in kilometers, since the car is to US specs. Me: “If I make a right out of here, then the next right, can I basically do a square and end up back here?”

Salesman: “Yes, but that won’t really give you a feel for the car. Go up farther.”

Now, if Paul had been standing there when the salesman said this, it’s possible that the rest of the story could have been avoided by an interjection such as “Maybe you should take the GPS,” or “No, I think a block will do it.”

But Paul wasn’t standing there when the salesman said this, so I pulled out and drove past the first right. I soon came to the next opportunity to branch right. So I did.

Onto the Autobahn.

My stream of thought went something like this:

Shit, this is the Autobahn…Oohhhh, I’m test driving a Volvo on the Autobahn, let’s see how fast it’ll go!…Oh, hey, the little light for when someone comes up along side me works…Ooooohhh, I’m passing you guys on the Autobahn in my Volvo!…Uh-oh, I don’t know where I am…Maybe I shouldn’t keep speeding aimlessly down the Autobahn…

Take next exit, hoping I can just loop around and head back. Apparently not. Shit. The road seemed to parallel the Autobahn, though, so I decided to press on. I’m sure it’ll take me back.

And that’s when I had to brake for the red-and-white-striped cones and barriers. Well, at least the brakes work.

…And serpentine through a construction zone. Not bad handling. I found myself in the middle of farmland. The construction zone extended as far as the eye could see. The road had taken a turn and no longer was I parallel to the Autobahn. Shit.

U-Turn #1 Executed in one maneuver. Through construction barriers in the middle of the road, but without going over the edge of the road where it is not filled in yet. This thing turns pretty nicely.

Back on the Autobahn and heading, to the best of my knowledge, toward where I originally started. And yet the first exit doesn’t look right. Neither does the second one, but I take it. As I slowly round the bend, I carefully type VOLVO into my iphone map app. Seven pins drop within a few mile radius of my car. I am heading away from all of them. I’m making negative progress toward whichever of those could be my dealer.

Just as I go to zoom in and look for the one on the street that starts with ‘B’ (yes, folks, that’s what I remembered: Volvo dealer on a street that starts with B in Wiesbaden), my phone begins Searching… and I completely lose reception, just as I enter a town. Mind you, this is a significantly-sized town that probably has a name, because there was a fairly large REWE grocery store and other shops that greeted me as I drove into town. But the one thing I knew, and the only thing that I needed to know, was that this town had no cell reception and it wasn’t where I needed to be.

U-Turn #2 Executed in 3 maneuvers. I’m getting used to the gear shift not being on the steering column. I can do this. I don’t hit the sign of the store whose front pavement I’m turning around on. Dare I say it, this thing takes curbs as well as an Expedition. Before getting back onto the Autobahn, I text Paul “ADDRESS PLS”. It does not send, but I continue pushing the button as I drive.

As I unsuccessfully circle the region, I am on the verge of tears. I’ve been gone for half an hour. I’m now glad that I’ve left Sequoia and Paul at the dealer for one reason: the salesman knows I have not stolen his car. I am definitely coming back for my child. I recall an Esso station across the street. If the damn phone would get reception, my next plan was to search for an Esso station coinciding with one of the Volvo dealers. I am starting to perspire from the stress. But at least I now know how the temperature controls work.

Soon I find myself back at the edge of the city of Wiesbaden, which is not at all where I want to be. The model I’m driving is not equipped with the City Safety features that brought us to the Volvo dealer. Left to my own devices, I personally am not equipped with City Safety. I’ve driven in the city plenty before, but in DC, for example, I was comfortable transferring the responsibility of safety to the person not driving an Expedition. Here, I wanted to find the effing Volvo dealer. Like 25 minutes ago, and without an accident.

Suddenly, I look up and see the giant letters that spell out COMMISSARY on one of the military bases I’ve been taken to over the past two weeks. I turn onto the street that goes toward the base for comfort’s sake, but now what–I don’t want to enter it.

U-Turn #3 Executed in 1 maneuver. I think that UTurn was legal. Wow, this thing is AWEsome at UTurns!

Certain my phone should’ve picked up reception by now, I am cranky to see it is still searching; I turn it off and back on as I turn onto the road that I almost-firmly believe will take me to the Volvo dealer. There is now reception, so I resend the text to Paul, requesting the Volvo dealer’s address. No response. Fortunately, I begin to recognize landmarks such as “Funny cone-shaped farmhouse”, “Where I got stuck when road went down to one lane”, “Place I call Home Depot”, etc. And then I saw it: the Volvo dealership.

I turned in. I parked the car. I got out. I entered the dealership. I asked Paul if he got my text.

Paul: “No. You texted?” [Pulls phone out of pocket] “Oh, yeah, I guess I did. We figured you were lost.”

The salesman had already had plenty of time to go over all the details and pricing with Paul, so he highlighted only the key points for me. One thing, he noted, I might be interested in?

The LandNav system.


Category: In Germany A Broad blog, Shits & Giggles, Travel

About the Author ()

Kari Martindale is a writer and ESL instructor. She’s visited all 50 states and 37 countries, including many of the big cities of Europe and a ton of Christmas Markets. She spends her days straddling the fence between a sense of adventure and a sense of dread. She is married to what is clearly a patient man and has a daughter who, frustratingly, is just like her. Her academic and professional backgrounds are in linguistics and foreign languages. When she's not teaching ESL, she's writing. When she's not writing, she's thinking about her next trip.

Comments (2)

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  1. Michele boyd says:

    Keep the Kari tales coming – good times.

  2. Jacki says:

    love it!!!