Author Archives: Chuck Huss

We Bought Two Electric Vehicles in One Day

The best vehicle I ever had was a 2015 Nissan Leaf. When new it got about 100 miles on a charge. By the summer of 2021 that had dropped to under 75 miles. Still, it was plenty of miles for most of the driving I did and the few times that it wasn’t, I would just plug it in somewhere along my route for just long enough to allow me to finish my trip. I figured I could drive it until the range dropped to under 40 miles. Then I would consider replacing the battery or buying another vehicle. Unfortunately, our situation forced me to consider replacing it years ahead of when I planned to do it.

We bought a house in West Virginia in November of 2020. We packed our three cats in two crates and put them in a moving truck while we towed my wife’s BMW 430i. It was a nightmare trip. The crates barely fit between the seats and we had to listen to constant cat cries for a good portion of the trip.

We stayed there until early January and then headed back to Florida. This time the crates went into the back of the BMW. I bought the biggest crates I could that would still fit in the back seat of the BMW, which was not very big. It felt unsafe because the only way to get the crates in and out was to put the top down. In an emergency, getting the cats out would be tough. Fortunately, we made it home okay but I didn’t want to do that again.

In 2021, we decided to spend September and October in West Virginia because the cold was just too much after being spoiled by Florida winters. This meant my wife needed to bring all her Christmas decorations back to our Florida home. She told me I needed to trade my Leaf in for a large vehicle like a van or SUV. I really did not want to do that and resisted the idea for a long time.

We probably should have just rented a truck again for the return trip but neither of us wanted to go through that again. I instead searched for alternatives. My first thought was that we could rent a large van that could tow my wife’s car but it is impossible to rent a one-way van, or a truck with a back seat, that can also tow a car. Also, because the rental car companies were experiencing a car shortage during 2021, they would not rent vehicles for one-way trips out of state. That eliminated the idea of driving two vehicles home. I also thought we could put a tow hitch on the BMW and tow a small trailer, but for some reason, a tow hitch was not recommended for convertibles. We also could not put on a roof carrier for the same reason.

In the end, I gave in and traded my car in for a big, gas-guzzling 2008 Nissan Titan. It was an older truck but it only had 19,000 miles on it so we thought it would be reliable, which it was. Unfortunately, I overpaid for the truck but since used cars were as scarce as new cars there were no good options.

I was able to buy bigger crates and the trip up to West Virginia went pretty smoothly. But then, with one week left in our stay, it became clear to my wife that I wasn’t totally happy there, even though I never said anything to the contrary. I also think she was starting to have second thoughts about our yearly trips up there. In the end, we decided to rent the house out and then spent the next week trying to find a tenant while we packed up everything that we could reasonably bring back to Florida.

I rented a trailer and we came home with almost everything we brought up there plus more. The truck did a good job for us during that time but if we had known ahead of time that we were going to rent it out we could have just flown up there while someone watched our cats and rented a truck to come back.

I think my wife felt guilty because now I was stuck driving this big battleship around that was totally unneeded and damn near impossible to park except at the back of parking lots. So when I floated the idea of trading my truck in for a new Leaf, she was all for it.

The idea came about four weeks ago when I brought the Titan into the Nissan dealer for an oil change. While I was there I walked around the parking lot casually looking for a new Leaf. I saw none. I asked a salesman named Miguel who said they didn’t have any and the only one coming in was spoken for. He also said that I could not order one from the factory at this time. I asked him for his card and figured I would check back.

Six days later, on a Saturday, I thought I would check how realistic it would be to trade my truck, knowing I owed more on the truck than it was worth. I checked Autotrader but there were no Leafs or any electric vehicles in my price range anywhere nearby. The exception was a few older Leafs that were highly overpriced. I thought about calling the salesman I talked to but I had lost his card and forgotten his name. Instead, I looked on the website of that Nissan dealer.

The website showed no Leafs but while I was browsing it a window popped up asking if I needed help. Without thinking I typed a question that I don’t remember now. I think I asked what my trade-in value might but I’m not sure that was my first question. She then asked me to text her photos of my truck and gave me her phone number. After I did that she said the only Leaf they had coming in was an SV model and told me about payment options but avoided telling me the price or what my trade was worth. I had to ask for each, which started to feel like I was dealing with the stereotypical used car salesman.

When she said the SV model would cost me $35,700, I said it was more than I wanted to spend so she looked for the standard S model and said there was nothing coming in. She then said she found one at another store and again mentioned payments without mentioning the car she found was also an SV model and that the price was $34,700.

I said I saw the car started at $27,400 and asked if I could just order it. She confirmed that they were not taking orders and asked what my max payment would be. I wanted to get away from payments and settle on a price so I asked what my payment would be if the car was $29,000. She said $29,000 is below MSRP and no dealership would sell it for that. I showed her a screenshot of the Nissan website showing the MSRP as $27,400. She replied that was before any packages were added. I said that is why I added $1,600 and she suddenly stopped texting me like she decided I wasn’t worth her time.

Later that afternoon, while my wife and I were having dinner at a Mexican restaurant, I mentioned that I was considering trading in my truck for another Leaf. She was all for it and thought we should drive straight to the dealer, which we did. There I was met by the same salesperson I saw the previous Monday, Miguel. He almost immediately asked if I had spoken with someone online. I don’t know how he knew so quickly but I told him I did. I also apologized and said I lost his card and forgot his name, which was true. I found out later that he had to share his commission with the woman that was texting me, which he was okay with but I wasn’t because I didn’t think she deserved anything, especially after she just stopped texting me back.

Miguel found a Leaf coming in that was an SV but it was under $33,000. Still, more than I wanted to spend, but it was starting to seem like getting what I wanted was going to be difficult. Besides, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have the extra features that the SV offered. I would have preferred the SV plus which has the bigger battery but I didn’t think the extra $5,000 or so would be a worthwhile expenditure considering I didn’t have a need to drive that far.

While we were discussing the car, another salesman, who I think was a sales supervisor, was also there talking to us. There were several top-of-the-line used cars in the showroom, one of which was a “used” 2022 Tesla Model Y with only about 36 miles on it. That caught my wife’s interest and the salesman was trying to get my wife to take a test drive. My wife wanted to test drive it but considering the price was $80,000 I said that was a crazy idea. But the salesman kept pushing and my wife kept buying into the idea. I kept telling her it was a bad idea and I could not get behind the idea of going that far into debt but, as usual, she didn’t listen to me.

Since she was going to take it for a drive with me or without me I decided to go with her. The car was like driving a spaceship with a glass roof and a computer screen that controlled everything. In the end, she decided to buy the car. I reminded her she was upside down on the BMW that she promised last year would be her last car in a long time after she traded her third Mustang in five years for it. So we spent two and a half hours at the Nissan dealer that evening and drove home in a Tesla.

A week later I was able to pick up my new Leaf.

My new Leaf next to my old Titan

So far I am happy with the Leaf but, after more than two weeks, I have driven it about 140 miles. I almost think it would have been cheaper if I had just sold my truck and taken an Uber to work every day. It would have been especially cheaper if I sold my truck without my wife present.

My Experience with Covid

A week ago Sunday my wife started to get sick with Covid like symptoms. It was the fourth time she was sick with those symptoms since the pandemic started. The first two times she tested negative, the third time she was not tested because she had been vaccinated by then. I was not affected any of those times but this time I was. Tuesday evening, while I was taking my German class on Zoom, I suddenly had the urge to cough. It was mild but it was enough to concern me.

I should mention here that I never feared Covid. I have been the polar opposite of those people who drive alone in their cars with the windows up and the masks on. I always obeyed the rules but I never wore a mask when I did not have to and I never got vaccinated. My concern with the vacine was that it was a new technology that had never been properly tested and I did not want to be a guinie pig. Most importantly, I was pretty sure that my imune system was strong enough to handle a bout with Covid so I considered the risk of the vacine was greater than the reward.

The concern I mentioned earlier was less about having Covid and more about missing work. When I woke up Wednesday morning slightly worse than when I went to bed the previous night, I knew I couldn’t go to work. I needed to get tested right away so if it did come up negative, I could get back to work as soon as I felt better. That proved far more difficult than I would have imagined.

CVS and Walgreens both offered drive through testing but you had to make a reservation and the earliest I could get was the next Wednesday afternoon, over seven days away. By then I would be compleatly over it. I called a nearby Med Express and they said they were taking a break intil 10:30, and I should come then. When I got there I called them from the parking lot which they require you to do first, but got a message saying their representitives were helping other callers and couldn’t answer my my call. The message said I should try back in a few minutes. I called 24 times in 30 minutes all with the same response. I decided it wasn’t worth it and went home.

When I got home I tried to find an at home test but had no luck. All the local stores were out of them. I tried Amazon, thinking I could get one delivered the next day but they were all seven days or more for delivery.

I talked to my boss after that and he said he might have a test at home but later I found out that he did not. He also encourged me to try again with the testing. I understood his point. He needed to know my status.

The next morning, Thursday, I felt about as bad as I would feel throughout the illness. My scratchy throat had turned sore and my cough was worse, although still not terrible. I added honey to my coffee in hopes of helping my throat. Sure enough, before my cup was half empty, the pain was barely noticable.

I showed up at Med Express Thurday morning, ten minutes before they opened at 8 a.m., and started calling them at 7:59. I realized that their procedure was not first come first serve but survival of the fittest. The trick was to call them at precisly the time they hung up with another caller. This required both luck and skill. I was pretty sure that either a person would answer or a machine. I didn’t think there would be a message first and a real person second so I dispensed with listening to the message. As soon as I heard the message, I hung up and redieled. It took 106 calls but finally at 8:30 someone answered. She took down some basic information and said she would call back. It took a long time but someone finally called back, got more information from me, then said they were waiting for a room to become available. During my wait an ambulance showed up and took someone away.

When I was finally able to go inside someone took my vitals and did the Covid test. About twenty minutes later a doctor came in to tell me my test result was positive for Covid. The test didn’t reveal if it was Alpha, Delta, Omicron or Unicorn. If an animal is attacking you, do you care if it’s a lion or a bear?

The doctor asked me some questions about how I was feeling and I had not even thought about it until then but I was feeling fine. I told him I felt bad that morning but was much better. He seemed to think the worst was over and said I could go back to work on Tuesday if I was symptom free and if it was okay with my boss. Unknown to me at the time, Covid had one more surprise for me.

Friday morning I felt pretty good. I got up and did my usual. I fed the cats and made coffee for my wife and me. While I was making my wife’s coffee, I started feeling slightly nauseous. That feeling seemed to get worse by the minute and before my coffee was finished brewing through the Keurig, I grabbed my wife’s coffee and raced to the bedroom. I gave her the coffee and plopped down in bed while I waited for the nausea to go away. After a few minutes, I got up and retrieved my coffee. I did not realize that nausea was a Covid symptom, but now I know.

For the most part, the nausea wasn’t there but I learned that standing would bring it on, so I just spent much of Friday relaxing in bed while binge-watching the old Lois and Clark series. My cat Frankie seemed more concerned than usual and spent a lot of time keeping me company.

Saturday I was feeling pretty good and was able to do some work around the house. It was nice having an excuse to relax but I couldn’t milk that for more than a day.

Despite being vaccinated, my wife was hit much harder by this illness than I was, but even she got through it pretty well. By Sunday she had been inside our home for over a week and was ready to go outside. Since I, and possibly she too, were still potentially contagious, we just put the top down in her car and went for a drive.

I should mention that fever was never a factor for either of us. I think my wife’s temperature reached 100 degrees at one point and mine reached a high of 99.3. It actually was lower than normal one of the times I checked it.

Today, Monday, I am nearly 100 percent. My lack of fear proved to be justified in my case but I would not avoid getting vaccinated based on my experience. One of my passions these last 14 years or so has been learning about natural health. While I still succumb to outside influences and eat poorly sometimes, for the most part, I think my habits are much healthier than the average American. I was actually disappointed in myself, though. I imagined my immune system would take care of this virus in half the time. I guess there is always room for improvement.

How I Cured My Plantar Fasciitis Unconventionally

I first developed Plantar Fasciitis several years ago. It is a condition caused by pain and inflammation of the Plantar Fascia where it connects to the heel. The Plantar Fascia is a thick band of tissue that connects the toes to the heel.

The pain is most intense in the morning after getting out of bed or after sitting for a long time and then standing up. It typically improves with movement but the pain usually does not fully go away.

When I first found out what I had, I ordered heel inserts for my shoes. It took about two months but the problem finally went away and I put the inserts away in the closet just in case it came back.

A couple of years later it did come back and I dug out those heel inserts and started wearing them again. This time they did nothing. I gave it a couple of months like the first time but had zero results.

It should be noted here that I am not a health professional and nothing that you read here should be considered health advice. I am simply relaying my own personal story. Everyone is different and what works for one may not work for another.

I had read years earlier that feet need to be exercised and the best way to do that is to walk barefoot on uneven surfaces, like a beach. Unfortunately, it was not convenient for me, or most people for that matter, to take a walk on the beach every day.

I decided to do a little research and the more I read the more I realized that wearing shoes might actually be the cause of plantar fasciitis. There are a number of reasons for that. Shoes can be very constraining. They don’t allow our feet to move the way nature intended. They also tend to lift the heel higher than is natural and bend the toes upwards. In addition, people who grew up wearing shoes have learned to walk completely wrong. We have learned to walk by striking our heel to the ground first and then rolling the foot forward. This puts more pressure on the heel than it was designed to handle but because of the padding in the shoe, you don’t notice it.

At about the same time I was learning this I went to one of my regular chiropractor appointments. I was going for neck pain at the time but I did mention the heel pain to her. She told me I should buy more supportive shoes. I did not contradict her but I remember thinking that the information I was learning was something that even chiropractors don’t know.

I decided to do the opposite and go as close to barefoot as I could get away with. I found a company in Canada called The Bown Bear that sells traditional moccasins. These moccasins are not something you can buy at a typical shoe store. They are simply soft leather with no insole. They are probably the closest to barefoot you can get while still wearing “shoes.”

Buying moccasins was only the first step. I then had to train myself to walk the right way. It was a little hard at first because I had to think about each step that I took. I had to remember not to put my heel down first. Instead, I practiced placing my foot down with the ball of my foot hitting the ground at about the same time as my heel or even slightly ahead of my heel.

I tried to imagine how our primitive ancestors would have walked before foot coverings were invented. It’s probably easier to imagine if you just walk around outside in your bare feet for a while. If you walk around like you do with shoes, heal first, you will quickly regret it and adjust your foot placement accordingly.

Our modern world does complicate things somewhat. While our feet are perfectly designed for barefoot walking outside in a natural environment, they were not designed to walk on flat hard surfaces like concrete. Nevertheless, I still thought wearing the moccasins was worth a try.

I did make exceptions for a few things. I bought sneakers that were as flexible as I could find and wore those in situations where I might step on something sharp. I also noticed the moccasins have less traction than sneakers and were somewhat dangerous when walking across a parking lot in the rain. It turns out that the white lines are painted with something very slippery. Again, this is a problem that our ancestors did not have to deal with.

I probably went barefoot or wore those moccasins about 90% of the time when I was not home. I don’t remember exactly how long it took but in a relatively short period of time, maybe a couple of months, my heel pain was completely gone.

It has been about five years since I bought that first pair of moccasins and I have remained free of heel pain. I have bought several more pairs of moccasins since then and I continue to wear them as often as I can.

Our modern world has brought us many conveniences but it has also brought us many problems. I think it is always wise to look to Mother Nature for solutions to problems before seeking help from modern science. What do you think?

A House Divided . . .

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” is an important line from Abraham Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech on Jun 16, 1858. The line was borrowed from the Bible and Lincoln used it to talk about the growing division between people who supported slavery and people who did not.

Essentially, the country was divided between Democrats and Republicans. A little over two years later, Lincoln would be elected president and the division would become so great that the country would be split in two and the Civil War would begin.

I really did not expect I would be writing about politics on this blog, but something happened recently that made me feel like I should say something. It is something I have seen developing for some time but recently has become a real problem.

First, I should say that I am a registered independent, so I have no horse in the race. I have never been interested in politics. In fact, I do not like politics, and I like politicians even less. It is my belief that a person can not be elected to a high office, or even be in the running for that office, without being in the pocket of rich and powerful people that have an agenda that does not include helping the average American.

I have not voted for any person for any office in probably a decade or more. I have voted for issues, such as state amendments, but not people. I do not vote for local candidates because I never have the motivation to learn about them and feel it would be irresponsible to vote for someone whom I know nothing about. I also do not vote for senators, representatives, or for presidential candidates for the reason mentioned earlier.

After the Civil War the United States became a single country again and we lived in peace with ourselves for a long time afterwards. We got along with our neighbors and coworkers and did not much care who they voted for in the last election. I think that started to change about twenty years ago.

In 2000, George W. Bush narrowly defeated Al Gore for president after a very strange recount in Florida. Because of the recount and because Al Gore won the popular vote, many Democrats felt cheated out of the presidency. I felt like campaigns are based on getting electoral college votes and not the popular vote so, in my opinion, George Bush out-campaigned Al gore. Many people did not feel that way so there arose an “us versus them” mentality. Bush became a lightning rod for political discontentment. I remember one of my in-laws blaming George Bush for the shoddy condition of one of the streets near her home.

I thought maybe the two sides would start getting along when Obama was elected but the divide became even worse. Then Trump was elected, again without the popular vote, and now it seems like it must have seemed to Lincoln back in 1858. There is such a pervasive attitude now that anyone who does not share your “correct” political views is the enemy. It is hard to believe now that this is America. It seems we are no longer all Americans. Instead, we are Republicans or Democrats.

What got me thinking about all this was a Facebook post by a “friend” who said that if anyone supported the president then she no longer wanted to be friends with them. I thought that was taking politics too far and it is scary to think she is not alone in this attitude. If this attitude spreads like it seems to be doing, we could be looking at a second civil war. Anyone who’s political beliefs do not align with our own is now the enemy. That is scary for me because I do not fit nicely with anybody’s political beliefs.

When Donald Trump was elected, I wrote my cat’s name as a write in candidate because I felt that my cat would make a better president than Trump or Clinton. That angered a coworker of mine who said, “not voting is a vote for Trump (which made no mathematical sense) and that I “was what is wrong with America.” I never really thought I was what is wrong with America but now I see that she was what is wrong with America, and probably still is, for her intolerance to other people’s opinions.

When I posted on Facebook that I voted for my cat because I thought that he “cared about people more then those two,” my best friend called me a liar, twice, and went on a rant about how I was dragging Hillary’s good name through the mud. Really? I was attacked by my best friend for that? The truth is my cat cares about people quite a lot.

I have for a long time thought it was best to have the House of Representatives and the Senate controlled by opposite parties. This way one party cannot easily ram through legislation that might be bad for the country but good for those rich individuals that have politicians in their pockets. Plus, it is always good to have opposing viewpoints because both sides are usually at least partially right. So even if the intentions of the legislation is good, it is still good to look at it from all sides because there are often unintended consequences in the noblest of causes, and it would be good to have someone point them out.

Try to imagine an America where everyone is a Democrat, or everyone is a Republican. Both scenarios would scare the hell out of me because nobody would be there to question whether what they were doing is right. All you would need then is a tyrannical leader and you would have another Nazi Germany.

So, thank your lucky stars that we are a country that is free, for now, to have people with opposing viewpoints. Go out and make friends with people from the other side, because you and I and this country are better off with them here.

My Favorite German Words

I am currently taking a German language class and one of my assignments this week was to discuss a few of my favorite German words. This was a difficult assignment, not because I couldn’t find German words that I like but because there are too many.

There seem to be more compound words in German than in English and many of these words are descriptive in ways that are both funny and true. They also tend to be more accurate than their English counterparts. In addition, these words are easier to learn because they are essentially two easy words put together to form a more specific word, so if you know the two easy words you can easily understand the compound word.

For example, one word I find amusing is “Handshuhe” (all German nouns are capitalized). This word literally means “hand shoes” or in English you would call them gloves. I think someone learning German can understand “Handschuhe” easier than an English learner could understand, or remember, “gloves.”

A word that I really like is “Warteschlange.” This word not only sounds good but it has a cool meaning: “wait snake.” It technically means “queue.” It would be like the line at the post office or an amusement park that twists around like a snake.

Another great word is “Scheinwerfer.” This word literally means “light thrower” which is a much cooler word than “headlight.”

Then there is “Stinktier” or “stink animal,” which is much more descriptive than “skunk.”

Faltier” or “lazy animal,” is a sloth. A “Staubsauger,” or “dust sucker,” is a vacuum. A “Stachelschwein,” or “spike pig,” is a porcupine. “Fledermaus” is a “flutter mouse” or bat. Another of my favorites is “Flugzeug,” which means something like “fly thing,” which, of course, is an airplane. There is also “Schildkröte, or “shield toad,” which is a toad with a shield, otherwise known as a turtle. There are many more similar words but I think you get the idea.

Finally, a word that I found to be quite amusing is more of an idiom than a description. “Schattenparker” literally means “shadow parker” and is a word that my teacher never heard before. It essentially refers to a man who is not very manly. The reason behind it is that a man who takes a shady parking spot rather than leave it for someone who needs it more is not behaving manly.

Of course, German does not have a monopoly on funny compound words. English has a few good ones too. “Aftermath,” for example, is a weird word. Perhaps it is the destruction that takes place after one does math. I don’t know. “Bulldozer” is probably my favorite English word but I have no idea why it is called that.

What do you think? Do you know any words, either in English or another language, that you really like or that are funny in their literal meaning or just funny in the way they sound?

Coronavirus Response Defies Logic

What has happened since the Coronavirus (COVID-19) reached the United States has been nothing short of bizarre and unbelievable. As far as I can tell, this virus is no worse than H1N1, SARS, Ebolola, and others, but the response has been a thousand times greater. It feels like the beginning of the Apocalypse.

I think the craziness in the United States started a little over a week ago when I read that people were hording toilet paper. That surprised me and still does because what is it about this virus that makes people think that toilet paper will suddenly stop being produced. After toilet paper, paper towels disappeared from store shelves. Again, I don’t get the logic. Will a virus prevent the manufacture or delivery of paper towels?

I can understand the disappearance of things like hand sanitizer, disinfectants and even isopropyl alcohol, but when the potato chip isle is ransacked it means we have all gone crazy. I guess nobody can survive an apocalypse without their chips.

I think it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. People think there will be a shortage of certain items so they stock up and create that shortage. The shortage then scares everyone else into stocking up.

The funny thing is, the produce section is pretty much untouched. I would think boosting your immune system with healthy, whole foods would be a top priority, but not so. Instead, people are buying up meats and canned soup, neither of which will help fight off a virus. I guess I could understand soup but not in a can.

The closing of businesses are what really bother me because it will be a huge burden on our economy and will increase our national debt beyond belief. Or should I say even more beyond belief? Some of the closings I agree with. Places where large groups of people crowd together should be closed, such as movie theaters, sporting events and the like, but closing retail stores and restaurants seem like overkill. Yes, there is a risk, but grocery stores are open and how is shopping at Macy’s more of a risk than the supermarket? I think if the stores are proactive with cleaning and people are diligent about washing their hands then that risk is minimal.

Restaurants are another place that should stay open. I think if each group of people are separated from other groups by six feet or more, and the staff practice good cleaning techniques, than it would probably be safer to eat out than to go to the grocery store.

So far, this is the worst mass panic that I have seen in my lifetime. As of now, I worry more about the response to the virus than I do about the virus. I will admit, though, that the possibility that this panic is justified has crossed my mind. Hopefully, the worst case scenario won’t come to pass and this will all go away soon. In the meantime, we should all try not to worry too much but also try not to take this too lightly. A little caution and some soap never hurt anyone.

Differences Between Germany and the United States

I recently vacationed in Germany with my wife and learned some interesting ways that the country is different than the United States. Of course, there are more similarities than differences but here I want to share some of those differences, at least from my observations. Keep in mind that this is only my opinion based on my travels in the southern states of Bayern (Bavaria) and Baden-Württemberg and may not apply to all of Germany.

Germany is very similar to the United States in many ways. In fact, the large influx of Germans into the United States during the nineteenth century, including many of my ancestors, helped to shape what America has become. Nevertheless, there are many differences that I have noticed that I will detail below.

Coffee

In the United States, people love drinking coffee. There are many ways to drink coffee but I think the most common is with cream and sugar. Cream, when ordered in America, typically is understood to be half and half, which is halfway between whole milk and light cream, about 12 percent fat. I like no sugar and heavy cream in my coffee, which is about 38 percent fat. So far, Starbucks is the only place I have found that has heavy cream as an option.

Coffee also seems to be somewhat popular in Germany but cream is not. It is nearly impossible to find a coffee shop there that offers cream, or even half and half. It is almost always low fat milk which is 1.5 percent fat. That does almost nothing for coffee. One might as well drink it black, which is something I can’t do. Occasionally you might find a coffee shop that has whole milk but you are just as likely to find a shop that doesn’t even have regular coffee. Surprisingly, the Starbucks at the Munich train station had all their fancy drinks like lattes and espressos but no regular coffee.

it is very common for hotels in America to have coffee makers in the room. They usually supply their guests with regular and decaffeinated coffee along with various sugars and containers of half and half. Our hotel in Stuttgart provided us with a kettle to heat water and instant coffee but no liquid cream or even milk. Our hotel in Munich did not have any option to make coffee.

It is also common for American hotels to provide free coffee for guests in the lobby. I looked for that option at our hotel in Munich and was directed to their restaurant. There, they told me I needed to have it delivered to my room, which I did. That was a mistake because the coffee was horrible and they charged me 15 euros for it. Our hotel in Stuttgart had a free breakfast buffet where they provided coffee with milk but I could never get it to taste good. They did have some good tea options, though.

Finding heavy cream or even half and half at the store was equally difficult. We looked for it at an Aldi’s store but could only find an artificial creamer. I did eventually find heavy cream at a store in Stuttgart but when I ran out and went back for more they were out of it.

Transportation

From what I have seen, the German transportation system is very similar to what you would find in the United States with a few differences,

Speed Limits – Some Americans think the Autobahn is a free-for-all and everyone can drive as fast as they want everywhere but I saw posted speed limit signs just about everywhere we went so it really isn’t that different than the United States except for the drivers. In America, you will occasionally see the crazy lunatic driving like a bat out of hell on the highway but in Germany those crazy lunatics appear way more often than occasionally.

Germany has plenty of slow drivers too and on more than one occasion while we were passing one of those slow drivers, we had to hurry back into the right lane because there was a car approaching behind us who was about to break the sound barrier and we didn’t want to stand in his way. I say “his” because the speed demons almost always seemed to be men.

Road Congestion – We sat through many traffic jams while traveling through Germany but we also covered a lot of miles so I think it is about average compared to the United States. What’s different is the reason for those traffic jams. Every traffic jam we encountered in Germany where we could determine a cause, that cause was road construction. Not once were we delayed by an auto accident. In America, I would guess that auto accidents are responsible for a quarter to a third of all major delays.

I don’t know if Germans are better drivers or we just happened to miss the accidents by chance. I did see one guy hit a pedestrian. He wanted to pull out onto a busy road and was looking left while moving forward. He didn’t notice the woman crossing in front of him from the right until he hit her. Fortunately, she was okay but it makes me think that maybe we just got lucky and perhaps Germans are not better drivers.

While stuck in a traffic jam in Bavaria one day, we noticed all the cars were driving off to the side so there was a gap in the middle. We assumed this was required so that emergency vehicles could get by.

I find this to be a great idea. After this photo was taken, a Polizeiauto sped by with its lights on.

Pickup Trucks – In America, pickup trucks are almost as common as cars. In fact, I recently read that Ford will soon stop selling all of it’s cars in North America except for the Mustang and one other vehicle. It will instead focus on pickup trucks and SUVs. In Germany, a pickup truck is as rare as a good cup of coffee with cream. I saw only one pickup truck during our entire ten days in Germany. By contrast, in America it wouldn’t be unusual to see a dozen pickup while driving to the local market.

Below is a video I took in Munich. Notice there are are no pickup trucks. I probably should have taken a video in America to show the difference but I didn’t think about it until now.

Gas Stations – When self-serve gas stations first appeared in America one would pump gas and then go inside and pay. It soon became a problem because many people would pump gas and then drive off without paying. That problem was soon solved by offering pumps that accept credit cards and and/or requiring people to prepay before pumping gas. In Germany the old system is still in place. I don’t know why. Perhaps Germans are more trustworthy. I did not see one station that accepted credit cards at the pump or that required people to prepay. Considering that I usually pay for gas with cash, it was definitely more convenient for me, although I will admit to being a little confused the first time I needed to buy gas.

Bicycles and Scooters – Bicycles are more common in Germany than in the United States. I used to ride my bike to work so I appreciate a society that embraces bicycles. They not only save gas and lower pollution, they also relieve traffic congestion and parking problems.

Another thing I saw a lot of was electric scooters. A few cities in the United States now have electric scooter rentals, or what they call sharing, but they seem far more common in German cities.

Energy and the Environment

The United States has come a long way during the last fifty years in reducing pollution and conserving energy but Germany seems to have come even farther.

Wind – I saw many large wind turbines in Germany and while I know there are areas in the United States that has them, there are none near me. According to Wikipedia 18.7% of total power in Germany came from wind in 2017. In the United States, that number was 6.33%.

Solar – Solar power also seems to be more prevalent in Germany than in the United States. I noticed many homes and small businesses with solar panels while in Germany. Again, according to Wikipedia, Germany is ahead of America in solar power generation with 6.6% of their power generated by solar in 2017 compared to 1.32% in America.

Energy Conservation – I think both countries have come a long way in improving energy efficiency but I have noticed a few things in Germany that I hadn’t noticed in the United states. Our rental car, for example, would shut off every time we stopped and then the engine would start up again when we stepped on the gas. This was a little annoying at first but I got used to it pretty quickly. I read that that feature is pretty common on German cars but I never saw it on an American car until just last week when we rented a 2020 Chevrolet Malibu that also shut off when the car was stopped.

Another thing I noticed at the Munich airport was that the escalators only run when someone steps onto them. When they are empty of passengers they are off. I thought that was a great idea and I hope to see that in America soon.

Drinking Water

In America, drinking tap water is common but in Germany it is not. At many restaurants in America, it is common practice to bring water to everyone before asking what else they want to drink. In Germany, you have to ask for water and then you usually get bottled sparkling water. We had to make sure we asked for still water when we ordered it in restaurants. I have heard that the Germans aversion to tap water comes from its name, Leitungswasser, which means something like line water or plumbing water.

Restaurants

I believe tipping has gotten out of control in the United States. It seems like everyone expects a tip nowadays and in many cases it is virtually mandatory. Restaurant workers are paid meager wages with the expectation that tips will make up the difference. I would rather pay more for the food and not have to worry about paying my server’s salary. From what I understand, this is close to how it works in Germany. A tip is still expected, I think, but it is more like five to ten percent instead of fifteen to twenty percent.

Because servers were not really working for tips, I was expecting service to be worse than in America. In some cases it was but usually it was about the same. Even restaurants in towns that had few tourists had good service.

Cleanliness

In some ways, Germans seem to take care of their public properties better than Americans but in other ways Americans are better. Many places we went to in Germany were very clean, including the trains and the underground stations but for some reason the government seems to tolerate graffiti much more than in the United States. Sure, there are some bad areas in America but it seems like everywhere we went in Germany, except small towns, someone, or many someones, had defaced public property with spray paint. Sometimes it was artistic but more often than not it was an eyesore. Some of it seemed very old too, like nobody has bothered to paint over it in more than ten years.

Public Restrooms

I don’t think there was anything that caused more problems for us in Germany than finding a public restroom. I can only assume that Germans have developed very strong bladders. There were many times during our trip when our good time had to be put on hold because one or both of us had to use the restroom. In Heidelberg, for example, we probably could have spent much more time there but my wife and I both had to pee after the long drive to get there and we couldn’t find a restroom that we could use.

In the United States, places that sell food are required to provide restrooms for their customers but I don’t think that is the case in Germany. Also in the United States, grocery and convenience stores always have restrooms for customers but in Germany I did not find one store with a restroom. Gas stations we encountered in Germany had restrooms but they were always outside and needed a key. Most gas stations in America, except for the older ones, have restrooms that anyone can use and usually nobody need buy anything, although I always buy something because it just seems fair. Some gas stations even try to attract customers by making clean restrooms a top priority.

Hotel Beds

In the United States, it is most common to have a choice between one king bed or two queen beds in hotel rooms. In Germany you can get a single room (Einzelzimmer) or double room (Doppelzimmer). That means one twin bed or two twin beds that are sometimes pushed together to form a king bed. For Americans, this is weird.

First, there is a crack down the middle which is awkward for couples who like to sleep close together. Second, there are separate sheets and blankets which also works against closeness. Third, the pillows are square which is fine for putting behind your back while sitting up in bed but rectangular pillows, in my opinion, are better suited for sleeping.

Conclusion

Our vacation in Germany was perhaps the best vacation my wife and I took together. It is a wonderful country but my intention here is not to conclude which county is better. I simply wanted to point out some of the differences I noticed. I am sure there are plenty of other differences I could have wrote about but I would have needed more time in Germany to notice them.

Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed my posts on Germany and I welcome any comments you might have. There are a couple of more German related posts that I want to write before moving on to another topic and I hope you will watch for those.

If you want to read the entire series about our trip to Germany, you can start here.

Vacationing in Germany: Part 11 – Going Home

Our flight back home from Munich was fairly early so we got up at 3:30 in the morning, which was actually fifteen minutes before our alarm was set to go off. We were ready to go by 4:30 but waited until about 4:45 before leaving the hotel room.

We had arranged for our car to be picked up from the garage by 5:00 and were pleasently surprised to find out that it was outside waiting for us. It took a few minutes to get the address to the airport programmed into our car’s GPS because we didn’t realize that the Munich airport was not in Munich.

There wasn’t much traffic that early in the morning so we got to the airport fairly quickly but finding the rental car drop off was a bit confusing but after one or two wrong turns we found it. It was organized chaos with what seemed like hundreds of cars waiting to be processed.

Once inside the airport we had some problems figuring out where to go but that is why we gave ourselves plenty of time. We had an 8:50 flight but boarding started much earlier, at 7:45. I suppose that is because we had to take a bus to the plane.

View from our terminal as we waited to board.

Our trip back from Germany was not as bad as the trip to Germany. The long flight was earlier in the day and the hours of sitting didn’t seem to cause me as much pain as did the flight to Munich.

I think the only part of the return trip that was a hassle was going through customs when we got to Charlotte, North Carolina. The process seemed designed to make it as inconvenient for travelers as possible. We first had to go through customs and then we had to pick up our luggage and go through customs again, but this time with our luggage. Since they didn’t bother looking through our luggage, I don’t know what the point was. Why the customs people just couldn’t be on hand while everyone’s luggage was transferred to other flights is a mystery to me. It would have been much easy and faster for travelers.

We then had to stand in a very long line to go through a security checkpoint again even though we had just come off of an airplane and had already been screened in Munich.

If we arrived on a domestic flight and then transferred to another domestic flight this would not have been done. This tells me they don’t trust the screeners in Germany and other countries but if that is the case, why do they allow them to fly into the country in the first place?

Once we got through security, we found a pizza restaurant and had lunch. I then found a Starbucks and couldn’t resist buying a real American coffee with heavy cream. It was very difficult to find coffee with real cream in Germany. Everyone offered only milk and usually that was low fat milk.

We flew back to Tampa in another sardine can but at least the window shades were open this time and the person next to me wasn’t hogging the arm rest so it was tolerable.

When we finally arrived in Tampa, it was about 6:30 in the evening. We had been awake for 21 hours and we were exhausted. Once we got our luggage, we ordered an Uber which took only about five minutes. Taking an Uber to and from the airport was a very smart decision because it not only saved us about fifty dollars in parking fees, it also saved us gas and we didn’t have to risk parking our car in a public lot for ten days. Plus, we were too tired to drive.

We had a wonderful time in Germany and I hope we can go back again in a few years, but after a long trip we were very happy to get home to our cats.

That is the end of our trip but I still have more to say about Germany. I hope you will look for my next post when I compare some of the differences I noticed between Germany and the United States.

Vacationing in Germany: Part 10 – Back to Munich

Our last morning in Stuttgart was mostly spent packing. We packed everything that we didn’t need for the rest of our trip in our suitcases and put what we did need, or at least what we thought we might need, in our backpacks and one other bag. We then had breakfast at the hotel, checked out, and headed back to Munich.

We checked back into the Excelsior Hotel where we stayed three nights at the start of our trip. We planned to stay here two more nights at the end of our trip but decided to spend another night in Stuttgart instead. Since we had already paid for the previous night we were able to check in early. We were put in room 326. It was on the same floor as our last room, 328, but we had a view of the street this time instead of a view of other rooms.

We then decided to walk in a direction that we hadn’t been to yet. Not long into our walk we noticed several tour buses.

After speaking with the lady selling tickets, we decided to pay the 36 euros and got on the next bus. They said we could get off at any stop and get on another bus when we wanted to continue. That was certainly a great option but we just wanted to tour the city and see what we had missed. Since we spent every day on road trips, we never really saw Munich.

We sat on the top level in the front, which offered a great view. The top was open so I was able to stand and get photos without the glass obstruction when the bus was stopped. Coincidentally, we sat next to an American couple. They asked us where we were from and I said Florida. They said they were too. They lived in Dade City where they recently moved to from Clearwater. We told them we also recently moved from Clearwater but to Largo. We all lived in the same town at the same time but met each other thousands of miles away.

It was a pretty interesting tour. We saw many of the places that we were not able to see before. I think if we planned it better it would have been good to spend an entire day in Munich and get on and off the bus at our leisure. When we booked the trip I thought we would spend the entire day following our arrival touring the city and then an entire day again on the day before our departure but it did not work out that way.

After getting off the bus we had a nice lunch at a German restaurant called Münchner Stubn. The weather was beautiful and we were able to sit outside and enjoy the day.

I had the bratwurst platter and Rose got the Fillet. We both enjoyed the food. If fact, I think every time we ate real German food during our vacation it was delicious. Of course, who knows how to make real German food better than real Germans?

I started eating before I remembered to take a photo.

After going back to the hotel for a while, we went back out to the coffee shop across the street for drinks where we sat outside again. We were sure the second half of October wasn’t always that pleasent in Munich so we wanted to enjoy being outside as much as possible.

We needed to get out the door by 5 a.m. the next morning for our trip home so we packed our stuff and went to bed early. Very early. I don’t remember the time but I think it was around 7:30. That was about 1:30 p.m. Florida time. The jet lag was bad enough after getting to Germany, I could only imagine how bad going home would be. Of course, going to bed at 7:30 is not the same as going to sleep at 7:30. I think I lay in bed for three hours before falling asleep.

What do you think about Germany so far? Next I will write about our trip home and then I will write about the differences I noticed between Germany and The United States.

Vacationing in Germany: Part 9 – A Day in Stuttgart

As our vacation was nearing an end we decided to skip the day trips and just spend the entire day in Stuttgart. We were supposed to be heading back to Munich on this day but we bought another day at our hotel in Stuttgart, The Park Inn. Actually, we decided we liked it better there the day we arrived and asked about extending our stay that afternoon but we were told that the hotel was booked for that extra day. That evening my wife, Rose, saw that there were rooms available on the internet and at a rate that was a little more than half of what we paid by booking eight months in advance. We talked to the manager the next day (who was very nice and helpful during our stay) and booked the extra night even though we already paid for the same night in Munich.

After breakfast, which was free in the hotel, we went across the street to Marienplatz and bought an all day ticket for public transportation, which cost around 13 euros each. We were a bit unsure about which train to get on but since it was an all day pass we figured it didn’t matter. We ended up getting on what I later learned was called Zahnradbahn.

Since learning the German language, or at least trying to, I have been interested in why things are called what they are called. I knew Zahn means “tooth” but later learned it also means “cog.” I also knew “bahn” was a track or railway. I was not sure about “rad” but I knew “fahrad” means bicycle. I looked it up and found out it means “wheel.” Put together we get cog-wheel-railway. Okay, I can kind of unterstand but that was the only line with that name. Most everything else was called “stadtbahn” (city railway).

We road the train for about ten or fifteen minutes until it reached the end, a station called Dergerloch. We wanted to go to Konigstrassa but it was clear pretty early that we were on the wrong train. We didn’t care because we wanted to see the city and going to Konigstrassa was just not that important.

The area where we got off had many stores. Rose found a nice store that sold chocolates.

We walked on a little and came upon a little farmer’s market.

There we bought some grapes and a few other things to take back to our room.

We also bought some specialty olives.

We skipped the pasteries because we didn’t want to deprive the bees.

The train went uphill to get to Dergerloch so we had a good view of the city on the way back, even if it was through wet glass.

When we got back to Marienplatz we took the elevator down to the stadtbahn station and found the right train.

We got off a few stops later near Konigstrassa.

Rose did buy a few things there but there were not many stores that interested us so we headed back to Marineplatz. Since there was a constant light rain, it wasn’t a great day to walk around.

After we got back, we went out for lunch to a place called Onkel Otto’s. It was a nice place with very good German food and good service. Rose took a photo of me there but it came out blurry The only other one I have is below. I wish I had thought to photograph the food.

Later we went back to the hotel and repacked our luggage for our trip back to Munich the next day. Instead of going out for dinner, I bought some bread and bologna at the store and a few other things and we ate that and the grapes we bought earlier.

On my next post we will be heading back to Munich. I hope you will look for it.