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Oct 27, 2001
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December 23, 2001>>>
Dec 23, 2001
December 23, 2001>>>

Deutschland Day Tripper

Lots to talk about, so I'll just take some exerpts out of the log I kept while in Germany. This is the panic leading up to my flight out: "It’s 11:00pm, German time and I finally get a chance to sit and catch my breath after almost two days of running around. Saturday was crazy...At about 9:30 pm that night as I was finished cleaning house I decided to start packing. The first thing I packed was my documentation. The first problem I ran into was the fact that I did not have my mobility folder. I couldn’t find it. Inside there were my shot records, my emergency data information (who to notify if I was killed) and dog tags. I drove to the base and tore my office apart, checking every drawer and cabinet in my office and the office across the hallway with no result. I had remembered putting my important documents in one of my mobility bags (I had three of them) but I’d already checked those once. After about 30 minutes of searching I assumed they must have, in fact, been at home. I drove home and turned my house upside down.

Welcome to Germany--drive over 50 and we'll kill you
Welcome to Germany--drive over 50 and we'll kill you
About halfway through that I realized another shocking discovery. The folder that contained my mobility folder also contained my travel orders (can’t get in or out of the country without them), my points of contact once I arrived, and my airline tickets! For about a minute I went into panic mode but then backed off and told myself God would provide and I had to keep faith and trust Him. But I was not only riding the fence, I was leaning into the panic zone. I had to leave for Germany at 8:30am the next morning and it was now 11pm and I had no orders and no tickets.

I quickly drove back to base and tore apart my office again and two other offices in the building, the orderly room, the break room, the security office and every other single building I’d visited on Friday as well as constantly remembering where I was and when I had my orders. I searched until about 1am and drove home and searched the house and car, called the base police, the base hospital, and tried to find if there was a way to get into the base Military Personnel Facility where I’d out processed. No luck. At 2am I went to bed. I’d exhausted myself mentally. I prayed very hard, never admitting defeat but saying I trusted the Lord and he’d make all good. I even tried to stop thinking about it and said to myself I was giving it up to him. It worked somewhat but my mind was so messed up I dreamed about it. I awoke several times and tried not to think about it. At 7am Marty (my boss) called and I told him I’d had no luck. Once again he asked me many questions as to where they could have been. I told him I thought I had put them in my mobility bag but I’d searched them three times. So he called the superintendent with the bad news at home. I walked out and turned on my computer and brought up my work email to see if perhaps someone had found the folder and had emailed me. No luck there either. I walked over to my mobility bag, more for effect than actual results. I pulled out the chemical and cold-weather gear, all wrapped in a dark brown plastic wrap and sat it on the floor. Then I noticed the word 'AAFES' written on the back of one. AAFES? That’s the name of the big store on base. It was my folder! I was so careful that I didn’t lose it that I stuck all the critical information in the bag I’d gotten from shopping on Friday and tied it closed and placed it in the mobility bag…unfortunately, the bag was the same color as all the other bags and unless you look really close you couldn’t tell the difference."

I pulled out so much hair that night, and was so stressed that I looked like this when I flew out (airport photo on the right). But by then I was so relieved to find my paperwork that I was smiling and whistling as I draggd my 272 pounds of gear through airports for hours. It just didn't bother me. During the flight from Atlanta to Frankfurt, Germany, there was a medical emergency on the plane in the seat behind me. The guy looked like he couldn’t breathe. The flight crew rushed around him and were yelling at him for a while--things like,”What is your name?!” I tossed my pillow back there for them but they had the situation under control. After about 30 minutes of this they cleared out a back row and carried him back. I don’t know what happened to him. I assume he survived. After watching many airplane disaster films, I'm pretty sure--he ate the fish.

A few thoughts ran through my mind at this time--Is this a bad omen? Was he the pilot? Did he know too much? Do I know how to land a plane? What if he answers,"My name is Michael Paul"? And why is one of my toe nails always longer than the others--is he the leader?

I need to lighten up

Road to my Roots
And now, more from my log:
"At about 9am German time, we landed with ice on the passenger windows. There was a light snow on the ground. As I started to exit the aircraft I was feeling energetic, smiling at all the sad tourists and making a few of them laugh when I watched two kennels go by with dogs inside and I remarked,” They should do that with people…put us in cages and carry us through airports”."

December 23, 2001 – Dörrenbach: After settling in my room at Vogelweh lodging in Kaiserslautern, meeting my co-workers and getting a (tiny) Mercedes rental car, learning a few local roads after work, I finally got myself on the road and set out for Dörrenbach, the land of my ancestors--the Weiss clan (my mother’s family).

I woke quite late (almost 9am) but managed to get out by around 10:30am on December 23rd. I hadn't shaken the cold that had plagued me the past few days, and my head still hurt from sinus congestion. The drive was much longer than expected, but I didn’t get too lost. I made six wrong turns and six additional right turns (to correct the six wrong turns). The problem with navigating in Germany was that they didn’t tell you if the road was heading east or west. You just had to know which city/town you were headed for. So every time I’d turn off I’d stop (when I could find a place to plow into a snow bank) and pull out my enormous European road atlas to see if I was headed for the correct city. This atlas was huge, and contained Switzerland and Austria too, which could've led to some temporary panic attacks if I'd opened it to the wrong page.

The local radio stations were cool, playing the older music I loved, and skipping rap and hip-hop. I hadn't heard Ballroom Blitz in a long time, and they played it often. I drove south to Pirmasens, east to Annweiler, south to Bad Bergzabern, and west to Dörrenbach. Three photos below were shot in Annweiler, and the bottom two show the Burg Trifels (I think Burg means 'castle' in German--which may explain why the movie "Ice Castles" confused many Germans).

Pink Panther's headquarters?
Pink Panther's headquarters? Holy Crap!  That's a Castle!
Holy Crap!  That's a Castle!
This castle dates to the 11th century and once held King Richard I, known as Richard the Lionheart for about 20 days in the spring of 1193. About 100,000 people visit this most popular castle in Rhineland Pfalz each year--however, I'm not one of them. I just found this information a few hours ago, nearly eight years after my visit. At the time all I thought was,"This is sooo cool, I'm in Germany, and--HOLY CRAP! That's a castle on top of that mountain!"

And it's getting bigger and bigger!
And it's getting bigger and bigger!

Bear with me
The roads were pretty snowy and icy, and there were extended forested areas which could've left me stranded with my can of Mt. Dew spilled all over my unconscious body as giant German bears broke the window of my Mercedes and had their way with me.
After a few minor wrong turns I saw the sign for Dörrenbach, nestled in a little valley. I drove up a snow-covered, narrow mountain road for 2 kilometers, and there I was. It was a charming little town seemingly built on a hillside with the church (built in 1304) in the middle of town. There were no flat spots--it clinged to the hillside like a mosquito on a windshield.
Home Sweet Home
Home Sweet Home