Tuesday, October 15, 2013

R & R from hell!(REPOST)

R & R from Hell.....(REPOST)

My AFN roomie, Will, bought a new Ford sedan to take back to the states...so we had some R & R coming and I talked him into driving south to the sun...Nice and Cannes where I had a great time before.
To save time we worked out a plan to drive all day and night...one of us sleeping in the back while the other drove on.  We cut the travel time in half that way.
I was snoozing when Will suddenly pulled the car off the road and stopped.
It was the middle of the night and we were in northern Italy somewhere when a rough looking guy with a flashlight pointed at me and a gun in the other hand pounded on the window.  It looked like he meant business so I reluctantly opened the window and he unlocked the door and stuck his head in.  We both thought this is it...robbed on a lonely Italian highway in the middle of the night....or maybe worse.
The guy spoke English and we explained we were U.S. Army soldiers on vacation.  Suddenly he put away his handgun and smiled and became friendly.  He was a member of the Italian mafia he said and responsible for this sector but he went on to say (to our relief) that they wanted NO problems with the American military and he mumbled something about doing business with Americans for years.   I figured that was black market stuff as a lot of that was still going on after the war.  He shook our hands and told us to move on and thanked us for serving to keep the peace.
What a start to our vacation.
Then we ran out of gas.  We never figured that the gas stations would be closed all night...thinking like back home where gas and coffee were readily available anywhere anytime. But this was Europe in 1955 and not only were those businesses closed at night...they even shut down a for several hours in the afternoons...which meant if you didn’t get something to eat you might starve until someone opened back up.  Hell of a way to run a business but that was the way it was. 
So...I had this great idea.  We both pissed in the gas tank of his new car and he tried starting...and would you believe...it worked.  For about five miles. The the engine coughed and sputtered and stopped.
But wait...there’s more!

Will tried the engine again but this time smoke and fire started pouring out under the hood!  We grabbed our Army top coats and smothered the fire out.  As luck would have it we saw a few lights down the road and as it WAS downhill we could push the car into a closed gas station and wait it out until morning...not far off.
The mechanic checked the engine and said the fire had just burned off the grease and oil and not done serious damage, to our relief.  We filled the tank and he helped us start the car.  All seemed normal which was unbelievable after what we had gone through.
   The only noticeable thing was that somehow the horn and the lights connections had reversed so that you had to press the horn to get the lights on.  Weird.
We were a bit delayed getting to Nice on the French Riviera but as I recalled we had a fairly good time.
We gave ourselves two full days to get back to the Castle.
So...we gassed up for sure before nightfall and headed north toward the Swiss alps which we had to cross again.
As he went higher into the mountains we noticed signs on the shoulder but neither Will nor I figured the words out.  Then he came to a screeching halt and we got out of the car and couldn’t believe the sight.
In front of us...blocking the pavement was a glacier!  That’s right...a real glacier of ice and snow....and of course another yellow sign we didn’t understand.
We turned around and stopped at a gas station and were told we had made a mistake...we were taking the summer highway...which was open in the summer but not winter.  We had to take the “winter” highway which was on the other side of Switzerland!  I checked the map and there was no way to get there from where we were.  We actually had to drive back down into France...find a highway that would take us in the direction of the Winter road and I figured we were in trouble on time here.  
We began our descent and I told Will one of us would have to call AFN to request the additional days to return.  He recommended I do it because he said he didn’t get along well with the First Sergeant who we’d have to talk with.
I made the call...got four extra days...and told Will we were going back to Cannes and Nice with the extra two days.  We did!

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