Susie was not happy to join a club that most of us have long been members of - the legions of drivers who have received a speeding citation.  She managed to get through high school, college, graduate school and many years in Marble Falls where driving is a way of life.

Yet she has managed to maintain a pristine driving record.

At least until today.

We left Vienna and embarked on a grand day of driving.  We chose to take the The Grossglockner High Alpine Road, one of the “1001 Things to Do Before You Die” experiences.  This route made a 4 hour drive become a full day delight of travel.  Some drives have the rare ability to make you forget your destination and make the trip itself the better than most destinations.  Some of the routes through the rockies have this aspect.  Similarly, the drive to Milford Sound in New Zealand had the same gift.

Every time we came past a corner, we saw another jaw-dropping mountain, church, memorial or garden.  Imagine having kids in the car for 8+ hours and having them engaged.  That actually happened.  The closest thing we had to an argument was the selection of music to compliment the travels.  We have certain songs we associated with New Mexico, Utah and Midland drives and they wanted to find the “right” match.  The final verdict was Les Miserables.  Big music for big views.

The drive started at 72 degrees, fell to 42 degrees next to the glacial and rose back to 84 as we arrived in Venice - so you can see that we rose and fell quite a bit.

We took tons of pictures.  In fact, we took so many that the camera battery is drained, so I am using a picture from the web.  Also, I continue to suffer from weak internet service (I currently sit in the lobby of a Venetian pension nursing a weak signal), so the blog remains picture-less.  Let me simply say that the drive was everything it was advertised to be.

Unless you count the police at the Austrian border.  For a non-speeding person like Susie to get a ticket requires a combination of events.  Here is the combination:

  • Exciting music (we had finished Les Miz and were listening to the Allman Brothers - famous for their tendency to make the foot heavier)
  • A well organized speed trap within 2 km of the Austria/Italy border and
  • An incredibly slow truck that was going 30-40 km/hr below the speed limit in a one lane road.  Susie spent 20 minutes behind this guy.  As much fun as the drive was, the view of the tail end of the Henrich Mueller truck was not the highpoint.  At a long straightaway, Susie saw her chance to pass.

Just as the radar gun hit her.

When she was pulled over, she made a strategic mistake.  She thought they might take pity on a foreigner that spoke no German.  She looked vulnerable and explained about the truck.  No dice.

You should know that languages are among Susie’s many skills.  She studied German in college and had been improving on an hourly basis on this trip.  Had we stayed 2-3 more days in German-speaking countries, I have no doubt that would have been discussing the finer points of foreign policy in Deutsch.

But she bet on the “feel sorry for the foreigner” approach.  In retrospect, she saw the errors in her ways.  We were at the border. They chose that location to find foreigners.

25 euros ($37) later, a mildly addled Susie was musing on the other defenses she might have taken:

  • “I have four children in this car.  Would YOU want to lengthen or shorten the trip?  [This would have been particularly effective if we could have had Liam and Virginia engage in some vintage discord.]
  • “I have a urinary tract infection.  I am looking for a bathroom.”  [It is my experience that even the seasoned male professional begins to retreat when female-related ailments thrust to the center of the conversation.]
  • “You blue pen matches your steely germanic eyes.” [OK, this was my thought, but the thought amuses me.]

Nevertheless, we paid and moved on.

A few other highlights from the day.

At a stunning rest stop next to a glacial river, we skipped stones and walked by the water.  As we decided to return to the car, my boys challenged my to two races - a 40 meter sprint and a 200 meter run.

I have become accustomed to the idea that I am more athletic than my boys.  I am still taller (by less than an inch, but taller nonetheless), and have been stronger and quicker.

In the sprint, Wiley tripped at the start, and Liam was leading for all but the final 5 meters, when he started to trip and fell forward  just as we came to the end.

On the longer run, I got a bit of a lead to only have it erode to less than 2 feet at the end.

The mantel has not passed, but it may indeed before the end of this trip.  This is one of the great seminal events in a father’s life.  I am not overly hung-up on this, but it is one of the additional realizations that they are not so much my boys as young men.  I am delighted at their growth and maturation, but it is a little tough to know that they will never be just “my boys” again.

One final note.  On the drive in, Susie explained that Italy is having a bit of a demographic crisis.  Historically a Catholic country with large families, the advent of birth control pills and new attitudes have led to a meaningful shrinking in the size of the Italian family.  The native Italian population is nowhere close to replacing itself. Like Austria, the average family is having less than 1.4 children.  If you take out recent immigrants to Italy, the number is even lower.

The shrinking size of he Italian family reached a point where the Pope implored Italian women to have larger families.

I have no great opinion on this.  My view on families is that great parents should have as many kiddos as they are comfortable with, but I am not focused on population growth or shrinkage.  I just hope to see more great families that encourage the growth of extraordinary individuals.

I share all of this about Italian fertility simply to set up this comment.

While Susie was talking with all of us at a restaurant, lovely Virginia was attempting to get her attention.  Rather than the usual tapping on a shoulder, she was tapping against Susie’s triceps area.

No woman over 25 (other than perhaps Michelle Obama) should ever have anyone tapping against her upper arm.  From what I gather, there is a fear that you will appear to have “lunch lady arms”.

As a wise and happily married man, I choose to avoid these topics and all like them.  The question “how do I look in these slacks” has induced in me mild panic.  Let me start by saying that Susie is beautiful and looks awesome.  That does not change the fact that there is NO correct way to respond to “do I look big in these?” or “do I have lunch lady arms?”

My basic opinion is that this would be an excusable time to induce a fake seizure.

In any event, Susie asked Virginia why she was interrupting by hitting her arms.

Without a hesitation, Terrill simply commented, “I see why Italians don’t have children”.

I, however, am glad we have all of ours!

Steve Sir

PS We will have dinner tomorrow with Laura Hill (former Senior Camper Division Leader that is currently in Italy).  I look forward to posting an update.




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