Post-Luke: Germany Solo
Sunday, June 16 to Tuesday, June 19
Time for Luke to head home. After spending just over two weeks with me, he was headed back to Canada; I'd be staying for a few more days to wrap things up.
Luke's flight left from Frankfurt at a fairly early hour. Then we found out as we got up that they moved his flight FORWARD (i.e. earlier) by an hour. Who does that? We quickly whipped everything into the M2 and departed our AirBnB in Adenau for the 160km drive to the Frankfurt International Airport. Being as we were in a slight rush and we were on some pretty empty stretchs of unrestricted autobahn, we hit the highest top speed of the trip - an indicated 260km/hr. Probably reading a bit optimistic but there you have it. Genuinely fast.
Early Morning Top Speed
The hasty departure and high rate of speed meant we did get Luke to the airport in time for his unexpectedly early flight. We quickly shook hands goodbye and I sent him on his way.
With Luke's flight dropoff out of the way, I was able to relax a bit. I had the weekend (the Saturday and the Sunday) to meander about Germany, with the only requirement being that I needed to head back to Niederstotzingen to give the key to the Swiss Flat back to Miriam's family.
Not really having any specific mid-day destination in mind, I just pointed the M2 in the general direction of Miriam's hometown and started driving. I noticed that the city of Würzburg was roughly along the way, and I'd seen or heard mention of it as a scenic place at some or other, so I thought - hey, why not stop there for the morning and poke around. And so that's just what I did - found a spot in a downtown parking garage in Würzburg and walked about. It is indeed scenic - full of clean streets and pleasant market squares and lots of impressive churches.
Multiple Religious Towers
After a few hours of walking around Würzburg, I decided drive a bit further south, stopping for another hour or two at the interesting little medieval walled town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. I visited here before in 2015 on Roland and Stephanie's "Semi-moon" trip. Within the nearly completely-preserved town walls (which have a functional elevated walkway in them) is a dense maze of little residential streets and an incredibly scenic (and a bit touristy) center square.
St Jakobskirche Sculptures
It was now mid-afternoon, and getting to be about the time I'd agreed to stop by the Roemer residence in Niederstotzingen to return the key to the Swiss flat. Only Daniel and Hanne (and their daughter) were home - Miriam's parents were out. I stayed for a short visit, sampling some more of the tasty Becherovka aperitif that Daniel had introduced to me two weeks before. So friendly - thank you.
I needed a place to stay for the night; Daniel knew of a decent, clean restaurant in a nearby town, and he generously rang them up and arranged a room for me. Perhaps they (the family company, Tesro) used that hotel for exhibitions or events or company guests on a regular basis.
I awoke on the Sunday - the third-last day before my flight home - with... not much really to do. I've never really been a enthusiastic solo traveller, only doing it when I really have to. And today was one of those days where I was going to have to do that.
Basically, I had to be back in Frankfurt for early Tuesday morning - both for the designated drop-off for the M2 and for my flight back home to Canada. Along the way I planned to stop in the Stuttgart area, where the company I work for has a regional site, to spend the day essentially as a day at work.
For today -- the Sunday -- I chose to undertake a big, looping drive - south, west and north, hitting a couple of potentially fun areas to drive and to have a look at the region of the Black Forest. It would be the final swan song of the M2 on fun roads in Europe. Where I come from -- the Eastern part of Canada -- we don't have roads like they do here in Western Europe.
The first part of my drive west was pretty sedate - regional highways, not particularly twisty - a reasonably modest towns here and there, but generally very rural-feeling. I was essentially following the valley of the Danube upwards, towards its headwaters. Parts of this upper valley is known as the Swabian alb - a region of low limestone hills.
M2 in the Black Forest
The valley of the Danube and the Swabian Alb eventually gave way to higher hills - hills that could legitimately be described mountains - although still mainly forested. These were the mountains of the famous Black Forest region.
I first visited a former-hilltrack-turned-highway, called the Schauinsland Strasse. It's now a park road and somewhat busy, but it was indeed nice and twisty - a little echo of some of the excellent twisties of the Alps to the south.
I then turned north and followed (roughly) the backbone of the Black Forest's hills. The route designated "B-500" is generally the highway you want to follow if you want to do this, but its existence was a bit discontinuous in the southern section. In the northern section it was explicitly labelled the Schwarzwaldhochstrasse, or Black Forest high street, and was more obvious to follow. This northern section is also in the Schwarzwald National Park (Black Forest National Park).
Here, Blueberries are Verboten!
Not that twisty B-500, Black Forest
My verdict on the Black Forest and the B-500 route - which is heralded by some as an excellent place for twisty sporty driving in Germany? In a word.... "meh". There are a few decent twisties in the very southern Black Forest (as mentioned above), but this stuff at the north end, in the national park and on the B-500, well, it's pleasant, but its not really that twisty. And there are (were) fairly low speed limits (70km/hr or less) in many sections and a few police radar traps. It was a mild "ok" on my rating scale. Certainly nothing like the main alps or Northern Italy. Not even close.
With the Black Forest drive done - the symbolic end of my European Delivery driving fun - I turned the car towards nearby Stuttgart, and I checked myself into a business hotel not far from work. I spent the evening starting to organize my stuff for the trip home.
Monday I spent at my company's regional office, meeting a couple of the software developers who I coicidentally needed to work with over the next few months (if you are reading this, hi Martin and Thomas!)
I got up super early on Tuesday (the 19th) and drove north to Frankfurt. I had an 8:30 a.m. dropoff time at BLG Logistics - the company that handles shipping cars from Germany to owners' home countries on behalf of BMW. Although I had left with what I thought was plenty of time to spare, some particularly horrible traffic nearing and in Frankfurt meant I actually arrived to my appointment fifteen minutes late.
From then, all went well - a very competent lady at BLG Logistics processed the me (and the M2), and got confirmation of the special expedited process for shipping the car to the port of departure as quickly as possible (this was due to the screw-up with my extended European insurance that I described on page four of this report). I took tons of closeup pictures of the car for recording purposes, then one final goodby shot. See you in roughly a month, M2!
My flight back to Canada was with Icelandic discount carrier WOW Air. They have a model that utilizes narrobody aircraft running fairly short routes from Europe and from North America that join up in Iceland. You can get a very inexpensive flight across the Atlantic this way, with the minor penalty of stopping in Keflavik, Iceland.
Apart from some ridiculous food pricing in the Keflavik Airport (stupidly enough, these ridiculous elevated prices were for foreigners only), the Icelandic-flavored flight back was quite good. The seats around me on my flight back were mostly empty, making it a much more spacious and relaxed affair. And the break mid-atlantic was in some ways kind of a nice break. Landing back in Montreal, my brother George graciously picked me up and ferried me the final hour and a half back to Ottawa.
It was now time for the long wait.... when would the M2 arrive? It was to make its way across the atlantic on the huge auto carrier Morning Christina. There were a few crude tracking instruments I could use, including some live webcams I discovered. It left the port at Bremerhaven, Germany on June 25, steamed out of Southampton, UK on June 29
Steaming past Portsmouth, UK
Six days after leaving England, the M2 arrived in Halifax (on July 6th). From there it disappeared into the hole of the "Vehicle Processing Facility" in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia (apparently if you have any Canada-specific options, like for example the "M Performance Exhaust", it gets installed here and takes a *really* long time). For me it was just... long - or at least, longer than I would have liked. Finally, on July 18th, I saw a notice that it had been delivered to O'Regans BMW in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I hurredly booked a ticket to fly one-way to Halifax to pick it up.
On a bright, sunny Maritime summer morning, I took the bus from the airport into downtown Halifax, then walked past historic Citadel Hill and beyond, following Robie Street and Kempt Street into one of Halifax's main commercial areas, where O'Regans BMW of Halifax
was located. I had an appointment to officially receive delivery of my M2 on Canadian soil (Many thanks to Dave Carter of Otto's BMW in Ottawa and Jeff Porter of O'Regans BMW in Halifax and Ruby Samra of BMW Canada for arranging my Halifax pickup, by the way).
Anyhow, the M2 was waiting for me in a prominent spot on the dealership floor, behind a large external glass door and almost ready to head out. After doing the necessary paperwork and affixing my Ontario plate to the back of the car, I was able to drive it out and give it a once-over inspection. Apart from a somewhat larger-than-expected 16km of elapsed mileage, all seemed in order. Everything was exactly as I'd left it, and the car was in great shape.
It was nice to be driving the car again - solid, taut, well-balanced. And the sonorous sound of the 3 litre straight-six. I noticed that the nav system had been programmed for North America, complete with little speed limit graphics in our rather boring black-bordered white style (I prefer the European-style speed limit signs, especially the "unrestricted one" - ha). I drove across Halifax's Mackey cash-only Toll Bridge (without a penny of cash in my pocket, much to the consternation of the gate attendant, who ended up letting me through). Then onto the Trans-Canada north. The journey from factory to home continued!
I took a few deviations from the standard highway route north, trying to find a twisty or two (I drove a bit of the highway along the north edge of the Minas Basin, as far as Parrsboro, and found some nice scenery and mildly twisty roads, before I turned north. I hear the road beyond Parrsboro is twistier!)
I guess I should stop and explain why I picked up my car in Halifax in the first place, rather than letting it be delivered all the way to Ottawa, where I bought the car. Well, a couple of reasons - the most important being that I needed to be in the Maritimes anyway for my Mom's 95th birthday and a general family reunion (I'm from New Brunswick), and since that coincided roughly with my M2 delivery, I thought... why not pick up the car in Halifax, since that's not too far of a drive from my home town?). The second reason was a little more philosophical - I liked the idea of meeting my car at the port, and bringing it along on the next phase of its journey from factory to home. Like I was journeying with it every step of the way (where practical, of course).
Next up on my journey north, I stopped at Luke's parents place - in a small community near Hampton, New Brunswick. It seemed fitting that the M2 should visit the childhood home of the co-driver that had spent so much time driving it in the not-too-distant past. Sue and Rob were wonderful hosts, attempting to ply me with as much food and drink as I was willing to have. They seemed to approve of the M2, also. Only a small frown at the angles and edges of the lower front bumper. Overall, though - passed inspection. I was now able to continue north.
Reunion and 95th
After a few more hours of northward driving on mostly (no, pretty much entirely boring) New Brunswick roads, I arrived in Bathurst - the small city where I grew up. I spent the weekend celebrating my mother's 95th birthday, as well as a reunion of my immediately family. My Mom liked the car too, for the record!
New Canadian Home
The final drive - the leg from my hometown to my current home, Ottawa - was done on a rainy Monday. It's mostly 1,000 km of straight highway driving, so the cruise control gets much more of a workout than tires or brakes.
So, the journey ended there. Quite an odyssey, from the BMW Welt in Munich, up and down all those mountain passes and innumerable hairpins. And autobahns and tracks. I'd do it again in a heartbeat, and I think Luke would, too. And just maybe, we might.....
Thanks for reading all the way to the end! As a final aside... If you haven't already noticed, there is a full-length movie of this trip. It gives a sufficiently different perspective from the text and images, and if you are still having fun, I encourage you to watch it. It's available on the Movies Page.