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From Here To Eternity (Not The Movie)

July 21, 2017

From Here to Eternity is not the movie. Rather this describes our yearly translocation from the United States to Italy and back again. I thought about calling this post The Endless Summer but we also travel in the fall.

We are fortunate enough to live continuously on two continents. We have a home in the Italian Alps and one in North Carolina. However going from one to the other involves ingenuity, a good deal of time and a ton of patience. It is that latter quality with which I find myself in complete short supply. I am getting older and patience is not in abundance in my battered brain.

Let me start by saying that neither of our residences is close to a major airport. I often envy the international traveler who can get on the plane where they live in Los Angeles and get off where they live in Rome. Ah, to be a big city boy once again!

Our trans-Atlantic travel is sometimes smooth but that wasn’t to be this year. This is our actual travel story:

Our odyssey begins in the Italian Alps when my alarm clock goes off at midnight. My wife and I hurriedly jump through the shower and we begin madly shutting down all of our utilities under a black Tirolean sky. Out of breath, we do some last minute checking and jump into a waiting car of a friend whom I’ve coerced into taking us down the mountain to Bolzano some 50 kilometers and an hour away. It is one in the morning. We creep through the night in anticipation of what’s ahead. We finally arrive in Bolzano after the 15 hairpin turns of the Mendola Pass. It is here where the actual journey begins.

We wait impatiently for the airport shuttle to arrive. They are always on time. After all we are in the German speaking province of Bolzano now and things take on a Teutonic order. We came early as usual just in case of Italian-esque problems. None appear. We load our luggage which consists of only two small carry-on bags as we have learned that anything more is suicide. Off we hurl into the black, up the Brenner Pass, through Austria and on to the airport in Munich. It’s a 4 1/2 hour ride up but we want to make sure we make our 9:30 flight to Atlanta. We hit the airport early and it’s only six AM.

The Munich Airport is bustling, even in the early morning hours. We go through the departure desk and security in one smooth motion. We have done this over thirty times before so we are practiced. If everything goes as planned (it seldom does), we will be off for Atlanta at 9:30 but we have already been up nearly ten hours.

This is a good trip and we haven’t been bumped. That means we don’t need a ride out to a hotel in Erding and the added time and expense. Oh rapture! Wait a minute, no – wrong. We are bumped and must now go back through security, out of the airport and wait for a hotel shuttle. We are now in Deutschland and nothing is free. The shuttle ride is an arm and a leg but we finally make it to Erding after waiting and hour for the bus.

The hotel that I booked hurriedly in the airport informs me that the 120 Euro a night room is now 750 Euros because they are in the middle of Oktoberfest. Scheisse! They are nice enough to lead the poor Americans to a cheaper hotel and we finally throw down our luggage in disgust, take a walk, and head to our favorite Greek restaurant. A complication quickly arises. My wife is sick from so much travel and can’t eat. I polish off her meal as well as mine, belt down two Ouzos and head for the hotel. Any festing in October is out of the question.

The morning comes and we take an overpriced cab to the airport and start all over. This time the Gods of air travel are kind…. sort of. We can’t go to Atlanta but Detroit is open. I bob my head in the affirmative. We board, I play a quick game of trivia when we reach cruising altitude and we both settle in for the 10 1/2 hour flight. The good folks on the airline keep us busy. “Want coffee?” “Want a hot towel?” No, actually I just want to sleep for our journey has just begun but sleeping is a near impossibility. The mixed linguistic clatter from the cabin and the whining infants will make sure my eyes are not shut for more than ten minutes. Tick-tock!

We arrive in Detroit and go through customs. It is a ten minute procedure compared with over an hour in Atlanta. I file that gem away in my brain for next year. We skip the baggage carousel (remember we pack light). We have to wait a couple of hours for the Atlanta flight but it seems worth it. We make it on the plane and do the three hour plus pop to Atlanta. The trouble is that the airline confiscated our carry-on luggage, saying there was no room on the plane. At this point, I really don’t give a damn… they’ll show up.

We make a smooth landing in Atlanta, Georgia. It would be grand if we could get off the plane, which has now become a swampy breeding ground of germs, and just go on home. Yes that would be great but it ain’t so! We have to go again through security. After assuring everyone we are not Sacco and Vanzetti, we are allowed to proceed on the tram toward the gate for our connecting flight to Asheville, North Carolina. The trouble is that flight doesn’t leave until 10:30 PM and it’s only five.

Now we kill five hours eating and trying to nap. The napping thing just isn’t meant to be. After what seems to be an eternity, we see that the gate is open. Great! We’ll be home in an hour. Wait a minute, actually no. It seems that all flights are oversold. Now our options are simple: Spend the night in Atlanta and catch a morning flight or rent a car and drive the three and half hours to home. I opt for the latter as I just want to get into my own bed.

The rental car counter isn’t actually in the airport but in a satellite building. We walk and walk and finally we are there. I ask the smiling face behind the counter for directions to I-85. He obliges but with a major omission. We get on I85 and after a mere 3 miles traffic comes to a complete stop. Mr. Smiley sort of forgot to mention the re-pavement of two lanes of the interstate in downtown Atlanta. I muster up the absolute last of my patience and we finally make it to the Asheville airport after 6 hours of driving. I want my damn luggage before we go home. They all know us at our small airport and one airline friend sees me coming like Popeye spinning his pipe. “Your luggage is right here Mr. Rizzi. We know what happened and we’re sorry… but good to see you again.” I put the bags in the rental car. Thank God it’s only another 20 minutes to the house.

It is now nearly six in the morning and be have been in transit for some 60 hours. As I enter our home I turn to my wife. I honestly want to cry but simply mutter “never again” as I admit to myself that we will be doing this all over again in a few months but in reverse.

PS – Our return trip was also bumped so we spent a night in Atlanta. The good news? We got moved into business class and were able to get a few winks before landing in Munich and taking the train home. Oh, to be young again….

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Read author Allen E. Rizzi’s latest books available at Amazon.com

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From → America, Humor, Italy, Travel

4 Comments
  1. Olive Blankenship permalink

    I’m exhausted just reading about all your trials and tribulations of traveling!

    Like

  2. Yikes! All I can say is: better you than me! 🙂

    Like

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