Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Stick Shifts, Traffic Circles, and X-Files

Warning! There are no photographs in this post. It was dark and I was too scared to even think of snapping pictures.

After walking 17.5 miles on Tuesday, September 28th, we finally reached our hotel in Logrono. The lady at the desk got us all checked in. I was ready to go up and collapse on the bed for a quick little power nap before dinner, but Kathie and Kathleen thought we may as well get our travel plans for the next day finalized.

“Tomorrow?” asked desk lady. Lucky for us, she spoke English quite well.

“Yes. We’re taking the bus to Leon tomorrow.” Leon is 200 miles from Logrono. From Leon, Kathleen would fly out at oh-dark-thirty on Thursday morning for Barcelona. Kathie and I would take a bus with our new hiking buddies to O’Cebreiro, with the intention of walking the next 100 miles.

“But tomorrow is a general strike. There will be no public transportation tomorrow,” said the desk lady.

“None?

“No. No bus, no taxi, no train, no airplane. None,” said the desk lady to much rolling of eyes and clasping of foreheads (on our part, that is).

“I gotta get outta here. I’ll see you upstairs.” At that point, I was too exhausted to comprehend the seriousness of the situation…or care. So I went upstairs and started my nightly unpacking routine.

Shortly after, Kathie came flying into the room and said that she and Kathleen were taking a taxi to the train station where they would rent a car for the drive to Leon. “Oh, this isn’t good,” I thought to myself. “Has either of them driven in Europe before? These drivers are maniacs.”

On they went, though, and I showered and dressed. With a little time on my hands now, I noticed a pizza delivery menu on the desk. “Ooh, pizza sounds really good,” I thought. “Wonder if I can convince them to order pizza when they get back? That way we wouldn’t have to walk another step.”

Huh.

The door opened and in walked Kathie with a dejected look on her face. “All they had were standard transmissions.”

Now here I must interject that Kathie – for some reason – never learned to drive a stick shift. No, even her Z-car had an automatic transmission. Back then, I thought a Z-car even having an automatic transmission was sheer and complete blasphemy.

“Uh, Kath? You know I can drive a standard transmission, right?” Had she already forgotten my Miata (2000-2008) and 914 (Dark Ages)?

The look on her face instantly brightened. “Uh oh,” I thought to myself. “Maybe I shoulda kept my mouth shut.”

She picked up the phone, dialed the desk lady, and asked her to get us a taxi immediately and call the car rental place to have them stay open ‘til we got there. (It was already 7:15 p.m. and they would be closing in fifteen minutes.)

As quickly as she did this, my insides started to quiver. You know that feeling of impending doom, of facing a locomotive that you have no way of stopping, of being the deer caught in the headlights? All the clich├ęs in the world could not describe my fear in that moment.

I knew, however, that there is no stopping Kathie when she’s on a mission, so I ignored my own common sense/quivering innards and meekly followed her out the door, thinking “How do I get myself into this stuff?” (The answer, of course, is that I travel with Kathie. Adventure follows this woman like a starving dog.)

Fast forward 30 minutes. We’re in our little Kia pulling out into Logrono’s rush hour traffic. Rush hour, you say? Yeah, the Spanish keep different hours from the rest of the world. And Logrono is no little town – with a population of 200,000 peeps, traffic was hopping that evening.

Kathie navigated with the help of her iPhone's GPS. Somehow, we maneuvered our way through a boatload of traffic circles (“What does that light mean? Am I supposed to go now?”) without hitting any pedestrians.

“OK, now we have to push the button on the intercom and the desk lady will open the garage door for us,” Kathie informed me as we approached the hotel.

The garage door opened inward on its side hinges to reveal a huge black hole. “Oh God.” I felt like Indiana Jones contemplating his leap of faith in The Last Crusade.

Turning left off the street, I crossed over the sidewalk and into the void. The front of the car dipped down and gradually I caught sight of the 30 degree descent before me. "Oh God."

“I want pizza delivered,” I told Kathie. Now was the time to get what I wanted. “With Pepsi.”

“Sounds good,” she replied without tearing her eyes away from the view ahead.

That was one of the best pizzas I ever ate.

Tomorrow – driving to Leon.

(That warning had you going, didn’t it? You were expecting, like, the X-Files or something, weren’t you? Tee hee hee…)

1 comment:

Katharine said...

Yup, it was Heulga hell, and what a great time we had... with your sister and the dog. Never give up!