Memory Ten

Driving down the coast of Italy after a picnic lunch with wine, I, as the only driver, found it hard to stay awake with three sleeping passengers. Somehow, I did and we arrived in Rome on August 5th and found our rooms at the University. 

kveit0159pWe had been hearing bad noises from our car and, at a garage, it was diagnosed as a bad bearing. They could fix it but it would take three days. This decided how long we could stay and we started enjoying the sights of Rome. We saw everything in Shirley’s guide book including several visits to the Vatican, Colosseum and the ruins of old Roman Rome.

We went to the university at meal times and ate a lot of pasta which was the cheapest thing on the menu. We wound kveit0505pup every afternoon at Giuseppi’s Ice Cream Parlour near the Colosseum. We also liked the area near the Spanish Steps and I think we saw every fountain in Rome. We threw coins in the Trevi fountain to make sure we would come back. The fountains were all in attractive plazas or squares and we sat at outdoor cafes and did a lot of people-watching.

On the third day, our car was ready but not until fairly late so it was almost dark when we left Rome.  My three passengers all wanted to head back towards England because of time and money. I, however, had promised myself I would “See Naples and Die” so I drove south. Finding a campsite in the dark proved difficult but we turned off the road at an open site and pitched our tents and went to bed. In the morning, we discovered we were in a garbage dump.

trevi

Naples was well worth the trip because we got to see Pompeii and Herculaneum which were covered up by volcanic ash from Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. They had an earthquake in A.D. 72 from which they were recovering, when the really big one came in 79. It is an amazing place and it would be impossible to see much of it in one day. It whetted our appetites to learn more and we read a lot about what happened on our way home.

We drove up the slopes of Vesuvius until our car complained and we headed north to imgresFlorence. We had one more campsite surprise the next night. We camped on the side of a small river which appeared to be a perfect site. In the early morning, we woke up to a terrific noise of cattle. We had camped on the place where they forded the river and we were surrounded by lowing cattle for about an hour.

Michelangelo-David_JB01Florence was spectacular and we could not see much of it as we had to keep moving. We did see Michelangelo’s David. Our route took us through Bologna and on to Venice. We camped outside Venice and went on the water bus to Piazza San Marco and saw the gold-roofed cathedral and its campanile or bell tower. We could not afford a gondola ride but we went up and down many streets by water bus and taxi. We saw Marco Polo’s birthplace.

We went west on the Auto-strada to Verona and Milan and then crossed the Alps from Italy to the German zone of Switzerland viaimages the spectacular St Gothard Pass and the Susten Pass, both of which zig-zagged at about 6,000 feet altitude through the mountains. Our car stalled on some of the hills and was a big problem until we were told what to do by an Englishman who was pumping gas at one of our stops. He showed us that the gas pump was next to the exhaust pipe on most English cars and the heat vaporizes the gasoline. He said that you just have to pour water, wine or urine on the pump and it will condense the gas. We actually used all three methods on the way into Switzerland.

We did some sight-seeing in Bern and camped with a farmer’s permission in a big field in Interlaken. This is a flat valley between Lake Thun and Lake Briest, with the river Aare joining the lakes and running beside our campsite. Doris and I walked to the farm-house to see if we could buy some milk. They gave us milk and some home-made wine. We looked back at our campsite and saw Roger and Shirley running around, waving their arms. They had pitched their tent on a wasp’s nest.

After Interlaken, we went back into France and headed for our ferry at Dunkirk. I have not mentioned all the money juggling we did at the various country borders. We tried to use up our local money before we left the country, but we found you could usually use either currency near a border, if you did not mind the exchange rate. Our border decisions were based a lot on the price of gas in each country. We were almost a day early for our ferry, so I decided we could do a quick side trip to Brussels so we could say we were in four capitals. We had a celebration lunch in Belgium and got to the Dunkirk dock in time. As we disembarked at Dover on August 15th, we learned that Queen Elizabeth had given birth to Princess Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise on that day.

Back in London, I wanted to get the car back to my mother as fast as I could, so I headed home to spend some time there before going back to college to start post-graduation research. My mother was pleased to see her car again and I sensed she had had a hard time without it. She enjoyed my stories of all the places we went and the sights we had seen, but to this day, I realized that we had treated her badly and did not even bring her a present back. I do however, think that she was proud of me getting my degree, the first in our family to ever do so.

I played golf and caddied for Dr. Hunt as if I had never been away, and I certainly needed the money. I drove Dr. Hunt to several towns to other city and county courts and enjoyed listening to him conducting his cases. We usually played golf somewhere on these trips and I was his golf companion, not as his caddy. He paid for me to have a caddy sometimes. This was a life I could get used to.

On one such trip, I left early in the morning after having breakfast with my mother. When I returned in the afternoon, I was shocked to find my mother just as I left her, sitting at the table. I slowly realized that she had died almost as soon as I had left. Later I found that she had an Aortic Aneurysm and death was instantaneous. She had not had any warning of any kind and had been quite active and well. This occurred on September 6th and she was 54.

She was cremated and, after an altercation with the village vicar, her ashes were placed in her father’s grave in Castor churchyard. I had to leave to go to college and Dr. Hunt kindly offered to have one of his junior lawyers handle what were now, my affairs. I never received, or asked for, an accounting but I was told that our household items were sold at a village auction and, after the expenses of the funeral and a still outstanding debt on my father’s gas station, there was nothing left but the car. I believe Dr. Hunt might have made a contribution in order for things to break even.

I left Ailsworth with my few belongings and my car for the rest of my life, parent-less and ready to make my own decisions and fortune, but that’s another memory for another day.

2 thoughts on “Memory Ten

  1. Did you camp in actual campsites or just on the side of the road wherever you could find a spot? John and I camped on the side of the road in Big Sur and Santa Barbara which I loved. But you can’t get away with it anywhere – you have to be in a national forest. I took a trip to Europe in high school and we followed a very similar path. London, Paris, Florence, Rome, Naples, Venice, Lucerne, Innsbruck, Munich, Frankfort. It was an amazing trip. We are starting to plan a road trip through the UK and Ireland and your stories are very inspiring.

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