When we finished our 4. journey to Tierra del Fuego, southern
Argentina, we were thinking about the next one. Alaska 2003. Almut went back
to Germany and I started a few months later to Mexico. After I saw that Mexico
was the wrong place for me to stay, I arrived in L.A. I found the right place,
it just took some time to find out how to stay. And as I were on the best way
to get my papers, the time was almost up. Almut came on December 22nd, I picked
her up at LAX and there I was expecting to get the first problems of this trip.
All units were in high-alert, so I was told. And I was told, not to go there
with my own car, as I recently fixed the fuel-cans again on top of it. Traffic
was chaotic and as I saw the signs "Checkpoint ahead. Prepare to stop."
I just left the line and looked for another way to access the airport. I wasn't
feeling like explainig to an officer that I was just going to the airport to
pick up somebody, not to blow up the airport. I drove a few miles and thought
to myself, that I would hardly find the way into the airport without passing
through a checkpoint.
I checked my messages and Almut was already waiting at terminal 7, so I had
to return. "Damned!" I made an U-turn and saw another sign announcing
a checkpoint. But at least I was the only car, I wonder why, because on the
other side there were millions oof cars heading to the airport. I passed the
checkpoint and they didn't even notice me. I have to stop comparing american
police to the german. The germans would have searched me and the car and it
would have taken twenty hours until they ralize that I'm just a tourist. The
americans seemed to know, that no terrorist would carry ten five-gallon-tanks
on top of a car with foreign plates. However, nobody bothered me - that's one
reason, why I love this country. Everywhere else - except maybe in Libya - I
always had to explain and to discuss. In the United States I don't. Just at
the borders, it is really hard to get in and it always takes hours and they
give me a hard time, they let one wait for hours, sometimes even those people
who do not even want to enter the country, but are just switching planes. No
matter if I entered by car or by plane, the always asked me a shitload of stupid
questions and were not really as professional as they are supposed to be, i.e.
last time I had to tell them, how long I want to stay and were not in the condition
to anzwer my simple question, as I asked, how long I was allowed to stay. But
once I'm in, everything is fine, everything works properly, no discussions,
no explainations, no bribes, nothing.
I also left the airport without trouble. First thing Almut asked me was: "What's the plan?" "Well", I said, "if you don't know, how shall I know? I was tinking about heading north, leave the country before I get in trouble, keep heading north through British Columbia to Alaska." She was surprised. "Oh, are we going to Alaska this time, already?" Well... that's what we said in Argentina. "My return-flight is on January 8th, will that be enough?" "What? January 8th? I thought January 18th..."
But Almut is way less complicated than any other woman, espacially the confused and undecided american ones. But she's also not a typical german. She just said: "Well, Ines said she can stand in for me, so let's just go and see what happens." That's what we always did, that's how it is supposed to be and that's why Almut is the best navigator I ever had. To travel is complicated enough if one has to follow even a rough plan, a complicated companion would make things even more difficult. I had that problem when I was driving north from Southamerica, I wish she would have been there at that time.
The very next day we brought Wolfgang's Scout to the mechanic. That's where his car is most of the time, and that's why I'm trying to convince him to buy himself a Mercedes. He and Almut were in the Scout, I was driving behind them. Once I had to apply the brakes, but there was barely a reaction. I wonder why that always happens just as I am about to leave for a journey. A few days before I left Cancún to go to the US I had the same problem. Almost the same problem, because the fact that I was in the US now made thing much easier. Now I have money and no problems with spareparts anymore. I called Manuel in Pasadena. He told me to show up the next day.
On the afternoon I went to the Getty's Museum with Almut. The first time I go to another place than to the Red Lion in L.A. Very nice, but afterwards we experienced the rush-hour, wich made it impossible to go to the cinema on the same day. And I am not leaving Hollywood without goint to the cinema. That would be the most ridiculous thing I would have ever done.
Christmas Eve 2003
Almut brought the german weather with her. Since she was here it was cold and wet. I remember that we had the same phenomenon in the Sahara a few years ago. I was there in 1998 without her and one of the natives told me that he has been living in Darj all his live and he saw rain once, maybe twenty years ago. Just for a few minutes. The next year I went there again and we had to wait one whole night because of heavy rainfall in the middle of the destert, that turned the track into a river. She always has to be different.
First thing was to clear the decks. The brake problem became worse, I felt that only the rear brake was working. I'm able to handle that as long as it is dry or only wet, but if the road is icy, the car will get out of control. And I expect some ice up there in the north. That had to be fixed. While I was waiting for the car I spent 40 US$ on Christmas-calls to Germany. But afterwards the car was almost ready. Just the plates were still missing. I went to Wolfgang's place. He was welding some stuff in the back and I asked for the plates. "I don't know, have a look at the mailbox." All I found was a notification. I went to the post-office and asked for my package. They told me, that it was still in the USPS-Car, which would arrive after the office would close. I needed that bloody plates, no matter how. "Where is the lady?" He brought me a paper with the streets where the lady delivers the mail. I had to find her. After almost one hour of searching, I finally found the car, but no lady. I decided to wait. She showed up half an hour later, and she was very nice. We need some of them in Germany.
While I was fixing my new german plates onto the car, a police car came by, stopped 50 m away from me and gave me a sign to get closer. "Not again", I thought to myself. I went to the car and didn't wait until they said something, as I knew what they wanted anyway. "Good morning, Sir. The tanks are empty, my papers are in the car, back in the trunk, which is open, as you can see. You can check everything, but please don't close all the streets again." "Again?" "Yes, I had the same story a few weeks ago, LAPD, Bomb Squad, Helicopters, the whole Highland closed..." I told them the whole story, they just said that they had to cancel the emergency call, as there were lots of units comming. No need for that. "Something else in the car?" "Yes. A huge mess, but nothing dangerous." We went to the car, I opened all the tanks, showed them my papers. Two more units came and some of the policemen remembered the story a few weeks ago. "What are you trying to do? Blow the whole street up?" They were on high-alert, so they told me. One of the officers spoke german and to me it was very unusual to see a police officer speaking german and being polite at the same time. We also definitely need lots of this kind of policemen in Germany.