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We started Saturday with breakfast, then a quick trip to Kaiserslautern.  I followed Bill in my car as he drove our Toyota to the Volvo dealership, where we left our 13 year old SUV to move on to its next owner.  I clearly remember the March day in 2006 when we bought that car brand new.  We were living in northern Virginia and we had two cars that were aging and in need of an upgrade.  My 1997 Toyota Corolla was particularly ready to be retired, although it had served me extremely well under rather demanding conditions.  I repeatedly drove it to and from South Carolina and Virginia for three solid years and almost never had a problem with it.

I had enjoyed the Corolla so much that I wanted another Toyota.  We picked the RAV 4, in part, due to Bill’s children.  He wanted a car that would accommodate them, should he ever get to see them.  Well… as it turned out, Bill’s ex wife did a really excellent job alienating the girls; so to date, he still hasn’t seen them in person since Christmas 2004.  However, this story has a somewhat happy ending, since a couple of years ago, Bill’s younger daughter reconnected.  They have regular Skype sessions and, I hope, will soon have a visit so he can meet his grandchildren and son-in-law.  Perhaps someday, the older daughter will also come around.

Bill liked driving the SUV, so he decided to get another one.  We ordered a Volvo XC60 in May and it will be ready for pickup on July 1st.  We’ll be traveling to Sweden on Saturday, spending a couple of nights in Gothenburg, and fetching our new vehicle Monday morning, after a tour of the factory.  Then, we’ll work our way to Leipzig, by way of Copenhagen and Rostock, so we can catch Mark Knopfler in concert.

I’m pretty excited about the new car, but I’m more excited about finally taking a proper trip in a country that doesn’t directly border Germany and isn’t the United Kingdom!  Seriously, we’re long overdue!  Our travels were a bit more diverse during our first Germany tour, although we did miss a lot of local gems in Baden-Württemberg that we caught the second time around.

Anyway, yesterday morning consisted of driving to K-town.  It’s not a bad drive from the Wiesbaden area.  The countryside gets prettier the further west you go from Frankfurt.  I would have liked to have taken pictures but, for once, I was too busy driving.  I don’t especially enjoy driving, especially in traffic, but it’s good to keep up those vital life skills.  I drive a stick shift and, although it’s kind of like riding a bike in that you don’t forget those gear shifting skills, it is easy to get out of practice.

When we got to Kaiserslautern, we parked the cars and I took one last photo of our beloved RAV 4, which has seen us through the bulk of our marriage and taken us to and through many European countries and several U.S. states.  Bill was grinning broadly as he complimented me, once again, for my superior “road march” skills.  He says I would have made a great tanker because I’m good at driving in a convoy.  Thanks, Bill…  I think.

So long, RAV 4.  It’s been a pleasure!

 

Bill took care of a few administrative details regarding the sale of the RAV 4 to Volvo.  It seems like there are a lot of hoops to jump through, although Andre at Capitol Motors really made the process easier for us.  When I remember what we went through to buy the RAV 4 at Koons Tyson’s Toyota in northern Virginia, I’m really grateful for the military car sales program.  Our civilian car purchase was exhausting and stressful, while buying from Capitol Motors was a breeze!

We also bought my 2009 Mini Cooper through that program in Stuttgart, as we left Germany the first time.  It’s so much easier and less stressful to order what you want and not have to deal with haggling or aggressive salespeople trying to upsell their product.  And, if you qualify for the military sales program, you get a nice discount.  Our new car is costing significantly less than it would if we’d bought it in the United States.  I’d say we’re saving about $8,000.  Granted, we’re still going to be paying a lot, but we’ll be getting a really nice, brand new car just the way we want it instead of having to go through the physical and psychological rigamarole that comes from the typical car buying experience.

After we said goodbye to the RAV 4 and finalized our plans for next week’s car buying visit, we went to Cantina Mexicana for a nice lunch.  I mentioned in a previous post how good the food is at that place, especially since it’s Mexican food.  Below are a few photos from our visit.  This time, I decided to have a chimichanga for the very first time.

Cantina Mexicana is a good place for Mexican food in Germany.  We haven’t found too many like it.  Authentic Mexican food is kind of rare in these parts, unless you happen to know someone who knows how to make it and has the proper ingredients.

Aww…  serious Bill in repose.

 

We started with lemonade.  I had the mint version, and Bill went with the ginger version.  I probably should drink more lemonade over beer.  Maybe that will be my next project– discovering new soft drinks with minimal sugar.  They also brought us the usual chips and salsas, some of which were surprisingly spicy.

 

Although we didn’t really need the extra food, we decided to get the sampler of dips.  It came with guacamole, queso, and frijoles.  As you can see, the queso was stretchy.  So were the frijoles!  We brought most of this home for later.  Mexican food is usually better the next day, anyway.

My chimichanga– a fried burrito filled with shredded beef.  I also could have had shredded chicken or ground beef.  It came with an “iceberg salad”, sour cream, and an avocado slice.  I finished most of it and brought the rest home for later.  I liked the chimichanga fine, but I think I prefer regular burritos.

Bill had chicken and beef Mole Poblano.  Mole sauce is made with unsweetened cocoa, which gives it a distinctive flavor.  His dish came with Spanish rice and refried beans.  I could tell he really enjoyed the food, since he grew up in Texas, Arizona, and Arkansas.

Cantina Mexicana also offers a lot of tequilas for sale.  We recently stocked up, so we didn’t need any tequila ourselves.  But I can see it would be handy for those who don’t feel like heading to the grocery store.  Families with children will be happy to note there’s even a play area for kids in this restaurant.  Also, most of the wait staff speaks excellent English and the menu is in English and German.

 

Once we had our lunch, we drove back to Wiesbaden in my car.  I was glad to let Bill do the driving.  We had great weather, so I put the top down and enjoyed the expansive views in this part of Germany.  I’ve been missing the more rural areas we were used to when we lived near Stuttgart.

We had to get home, though, because we had plans for last night.  One of Bill’s co-workers happens to be someone he knew in the late 1980s, when he was posted in Germany as a lieutenant.  Several other guys from that era were also at the party.

To be honest, I don’t always enjoy Bill’s work related gatherings, since I don’t know a lot of Bill’s co-workers and some people in military crowds tend to think I’m a bit weird.  But last night’s party was a lot of fun.  For one thing, Bill’s buddies from the 80s were hilarious and had a lot of great stories about Bill from the days when we didn’t know each other.  For another thing, the food was great… so was the music.  Our host was playing INXS, Bon Jovi, and Def Leppard.  I felt like I was back in high school.

Every time we have one of these gatherings, I’m reminded of how small the military world is.  One of the guys Bill knew in the 80s is a Facebook friend of mine.  I “met” him through another Facebook friend, whom I knew offline when we were both in college.  My original friend joined the Army and made it his career; he’s now a colonel, based in Virginia.  One day, I posted on one of his Facebook threads.  So did Bill’s former colleague, Paul, who is now in Missouri.  Bill happened to notice Paul’s name and said he knew him.  I asked Paul if he remembered Bill.  He said he did, so we all friended each other.

Paul couldn’t be at the party last night, where there were at least three guys besides Bill that were part of their original Germany gang in the late 1980s.  But I was able to take a few pictures of that crew and share them, and Paul said he wished he could have been there.  I have never met Paul in person, but I wish he could have been there, too.  I think he would have made the party even more fun!

“Band of brothers”… although Bill now works with the host of the party, he hadn’t seen some of these guys in more than 20 years!  They had a blast!

 

This isn’t the first time Bill’s world has collided with mine.  Bill and I met online in 1999, and we chatted for a long time before we ever had our first face to face meeting.  I was nervous about the prospect of meeting him, since those were the days when Internet dating was still kind of weird.  But then fate intervened, when the Army connected Bill with one of my relatives by marriage just a few weeks before we had our first date.

Bill met my aunt’s brother at a National Guard conference before he met me offline.  I had been chatting with Bill for well over a year when he ran into my relative by marriage, who also happened to be a retired state trooper.  He assured me before I met Bill offline that Bill was “okay”, which made our first face to face meeting a lot easier.

Bill has also met a guy I knew in the Peace Corps, who now works for USAID.  I get the feeling that even if we hadn’t met on the computer, we were destined to be together.  Or, at least we were destined to meet.  As unlikely as it was that I would meet him back in 1999, fate put us together somehow.  Twenty years later, we’re still having fun!

 

And finally… I need to make a comment on our host’s house.  He lives up in the mountainous part of the Wiesbaden area, so he has beautiful views and an awesome terrace for entertaining.  I was impressed with their house, except for the white carpeting, which I think would be hard to keep clean.  But there were a couple of other things I noticed.

First off, this toilet flusher.  In almost seven total years in Germany, I encountered one like this for the first time at Ente in Wiesbaden, when we ate there on Friday night.  I was surprised when I saw another one in our host’s home!  Instead of pressing a button, you turn the knob!

And secondly… his house has an indoor pool!  I have seen houses like this advertised.  I’ve seen other German houses with their own saunas.  This was the first time I ever actually saw an indoor pool in person.  It was awesome, even if they did have it covered up!  I’m jealous!

Anyway… our Saturday was jam packed with action and we really enjoyed ourselves!  I’m not sure what we’ll do today, but I expect the day won’t be so busy.

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