Tuesday morning I felt well enough to take an easy family hike outside St Emilion, past ruins and over vineyards. We’ve got a 5PM flight so take so pack at a leisurely pace and plan a slow-ride west to the Bordeaux airport. Good thing – massive rainfall flooded the route and turned our 45 minute drive into a 2 hour slog… but I enjoyed it since we padded our travel time. We got the easyJet booking right and had a flawless flight across france to Mulhouse-Basel. There our next host Volker awaited chauffeured us a pleasant 45 minutes across the historical Alsace Rhine River plain to their home in Ehrenkirchen, near Freiburg on the western edge of the Black Forest.
We’re entering an exciting new phase of our trip. Somehow I managed to negotiate a motorhome exchange: Simone and Volker will use our 26′ Class C RV “DeRig” for two weeks through the Sierras, and we’ll drive their 24′ RV for two weeks through the Alps. DEAL. Expensive Switzerland would otherwise bust our budget: touring via motorhome gives us a rolling kitchen, free lodging and cheap transport all in one package… and I get to be outdoors, demo a different RV and have a spontaneous itinerary. We have a rough Alpine route mapped out and have noted a few preferred campgrounds and parking spots, but we have zero reservations. Watch the police and the tax man miss me, I’m mobile.
Arriving at Volker and Simone’s Ehrenkirchen home in southwest Germany it’s sunny and hot, and we learn that this is the region’s banana belt. We’re welcomed with local beer then a feast on the deck. Their athletic children Enya and Elias are still in school so it’s a busy evening of feeding and parenting. Soon enough we get a preliminary tour of the RV, and sleep in it on the street for a night so we can settle in and work out some questions.
Wednesday there’s another healthy, hearty feast. While our boys gorged on grains and wifi access, Volker led me on a thorough tour of his motorhome and we did a short training drive out to a local dump facility. We’re delighted with his 2012 Adria Matrix Axess – the design is so much more integrative and intentional than our boxy Class C… it makes American motorhomes feel primitive. My favorite features include a ceiling drop-down bed, top-hinged windows that can be opened in rain, pulldown screens and pull-up shades providing varying airflow and privacy, integrated interior window, optional suction cup-mount insulated reflective window shades, tidy spill-proof little “suitcase” style black-water tanks that can be emptied into public toilets, ample fresh and grey-water tanks and very functional solar… all packed into a lightweight 24’x 9’ package that’s shorter, narrower, nimbler and quicker than our rolling design dinosaur. Time to upgrade?
We return to load the family and clothes into the RV and toodle over to the local town to stock up on food and – since rain is in the forecast – waterproof shoes. Better to shop on the German side of the border as we expect Swiss living to be expensive.
It’s a pleasant but wet drive through the tunnel-ridden Swiss-cheese hills to our first stop in Lucerne, where Sue’s graceful and gracious friend Rita awaits us next to our Transport museum meeting spot. We consider our options and opt to spend up to stay at a very conveniently located Lido RV camping site, drop the RV then jump in Rita’s Audi a3 for a traffic-clogged drive back to central old town parking. Rita’s brought along a gift bag with an umbrella, fidget spinner and other useful goodies, and tours us through the rain to the Lucerne train station where we buy a Swiss Half Fare and Family Cards to defray the astronomical costs of rail and cable car transport. Ben now has my sinus infection so we hurry over to a local restaurant where he can rest and take on fuel. After a lovely and too-short evening Rita returns us to the RV where we set up and sleep.
Early Thursday I slip out and onto Volker’s bike for a quick tour of the Lucerne sites we missed in last night’s rain: Lukas Ahorn’s mournful 1820 lion of a monument to Swiss soldiers lost during the French Revolution; the medieval ramparts of the Museggmauer city wall, the covered bridges Spreuerbrücke and Kapellbrücke, and of course the lakefront itself.
Back at the RV Ben’s pretty sick, so Sue, Max and I let him rest and hop on a bus down to the old town, where we book a 1 hour lake tour on the new Panorama boat. The town is beginning to swell with package Chinese tourists; they’re fun, happy company and well represented on our tour. Afterwards we stroll old town and grab some overpriced, mediocre Thai take-out before bussing back to Ben for a tabletop lunch. There’s just enough time to squeak in a visit to the neighboring Swiss Museum of Transport, with its ample and interactive displays of planes, trains and automobiles… spaceships, boats and transport infrastructure. It’s a fantastic museum, worth half a day.