Randomness (r_ness) wrote,

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Got back very late last night from visiting orewashinanai.

I guess it was in solidarity with all you folks in the Northeastern US who've been buried under piles of snow, but it was snowing for most of the trip back. orewashinanai and I were eating lunch in a restaurant on the Grote Markt in Mechelen, when we noticed that snowflakes were beginning to fall.

"Don't worry, it rarely sticks," he said.
"Yah, but it will in the mountains," I replied.

And so it did. Driving through the Ardennes that night was a lot like driving through Vermont, without the birch trees. There were thick stands of conifers on either side of the highway. Just like in Vermont, the right lane of the highway was fairly clear, but the left lane was slushy and treacherous.

There were a bunch of accidents. Somewhere on the way to Luxembourg, between exits 50 and 51 on the E25, a couple of cars on the other side of the highway had gone off the road. One of them was flipped over onto its side. I reached for my phone. Then I realized I had no idea what the emergency number was in Belgium. Fortunately, by the time I'd thought that far, I could see the first responders, a fire truck, barrelling up the hill with lights flashing.

I tried going south to get out of the snow, but even as far south as Metz the snow was still coming down, still sticking. I turned east, onto the autoroute to Strasbourg. Overhead, the LED panels said the French equivalent of "Salting in progress. Drive carefully." The trucks crawled along in train in the right lane, throwing up slush which obscured vision just when you were trying to overtake them in the slippery left lane.

Finally, somewhere after the Lorraine-Alsace border, the snow stopped sticking to the road. It kept coming down, but the ground was warm enough to melt it as it hit. Soon after the second toll barrier, the snow stopped and the road was dry.

I learned some things on this drive.

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg has the lowest fuel prices of any of the five countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, and Germany) I drove through last night. They get so much business at the service areas they have a big area for the tailback. And because it's nearly a dollar a gallon less expensive, I can see why they have to be prepared.

French autoroutes are both the best and the worst kept of the highways I drove on. The free ones aren't in very good shape. There was one enormous hole on the edge of a rest area onramp, going south into Metz. I also saw a sign saying "Warning! Potholes forming!", which made me wonder: If you know that much, why don't you do something about it? Maybe they're going to.

On the other hand, their toll highways are some of the best around. They were in better shape than the German autobahn, which is saying something. I guess you get what you pay for. It's fortunate that their toll highways take plastic, because one 160km (100 mile) stretch cost me something like 11 euros ($13).

I made all the border crossings without my passport. (I'd forgotten it back at the place in Germany on Friday before I left.) Thanks to the Schengen agreement, this wasn't a problem. If you're driving a private car, you can just sail right on through the border stations--where they exist at all--without even slowing down.

But I should probably remember to bring my passport along.
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