So here we were, wiped out, standing in the freezing dark at the entrance to Ramstein Air Base. There is an envelope waiting for Judy. Ex-fiance Bob from Newark writes that he is on a training mission for two days. Fortunately he has left a key to his BOQ, but we have no idea how to get there.
We must look pretty forlorn. A shiny car pulls up to the guard house. The door opens and an officer with two stars on his shoulders – a General – gets out and introduces himself. We tell him our tale of woe and he says that what we need is a good meal. He climbs into the front seat with his driver and we pile into the back. At the Officers Club, the general calls three of his officers and they appear within minutes to take us to dinner. Thick steaks, baked potatoes, salad and banana cream pie. It all tastes like home and we do it justice.
They escort us back to Bob from Newark’s BOQ. After a few months of life in tiny French quarters everything looks so BIG – bedroom, bath, living room – all for one person.
Over the next days we indulge in the Americaness of it all. Bob’s friends appear to consider us welcome exotics dropped into their world, in need of special care. We do not suffer from lack of attention. For our parts, we relax back into English, and enjoy being pampered. The guys pitch in to help make paper chains and string popcorn for the bedraggled Christmas tree Bob sets up. There are eggnog parties and happy hours and Italian night and more steaks. We spend Christmas Eve at the home of a young captain and his wife, putting together toys for their kids’ Christmas morning.
And then it is time to leave this cozy bubble for the sleety roads taking us to Innsbruck. Bob drives us out to the autobahn and we are on our way. Hitchhiking turns out to be easier than expected, a blessing in these frigid temperatures. Our ‘Innsbruck’ sign works and we have our first ride in five minutes, with a long haul truck driver. The truck’s large cab has a sleeping platform in back of the seats – a big step up from the Alte Liebe.
Innsbruck on New Years Eve! We connect with Don and Rick (the two on the right) who introduce us to their skiing buddies. We settle in to one of the many beer halls for a night of excellent beer, lots of singing in assorted languages and celebration of our first big adventure.