One last breakfast in Oberprechtal, and some more visiting with the Kerns, and we were ready to head north as we wrapped up our 3-week trip. Frau Kern was very excited to show us photos of an Easter fest she had created 14 years ago, and we saw a local newspaper's coverage of the castle fest we had attended yesterday. Although this visit had been as a customer, it was far, far more than that, and I think M&M saw that. With the car all packed, we said our goodbyes with some moist eyes, knowing this may be the last time we see one another. It had been a wonderful visit, and we will continue to stay in touch.
My planned route north was to use some back roads in Germany and France, and possibly avoid some Autobahn traffic delays common around Karlsruhe and Mannheim. I certainly did find the back roads. At one point, the GPS and I took us almost into an industrial factory yard. This route and my inattention may also have gotten me a speeding ticket. It used to be in Germany that when you entered a village (at the village name sign), the speed limit went down to 50 km. This is now routinely signed to be a maximum of 30 km/hour. As we were exiting one small village along the Rhine River, I was doing 42, and I think I got my picture taken. Linda and I both saw a flash from a roadside tower (I've since seen lots more of the same sort of tower and am convinced it is a traffic photo device.) I suspect that I'll get a "greeting" from the Polizei with a fine of about 25 Euros (or $30), but I was told it may not happen for many months, or may not happen at all. (BTW I did get my bill for 15 Euro--glad I saved some for this purpose. The email exchange was the nicest ticket I've ever gotten. Very polite.) In any case, I'm now much more observant of the 30 kph speeds. One person speculated that a major reason for the reduced speed in villages is to help protect new school children unused to traffic and speeds in their village. That makes sense during the first month of school, and I cannot argue with it.
Using a mix of back roads, major roads, and some sections of Autobahn, we made our way through northeast France, back into Germany around Landau, then on to Pirmasens, and north toward Ramstein Air Base and Landstuhl Hospital. Those were places at which Linda and I were stationed when we met. We drove through Mittelbrunn where we each lived at one time, and then stopped in Landstuhl to pick up some flowers. Then on to my first village in Germany, Reichenbach-Steegen north of Ramstein AB. We passed the converted train station where the boys and I lived for two years, and it has been really fixed up and lots of new homes surround it--what a change, but it has been 40 years. Unbelievable!!
Our goal was to stop in Reichenbach-Steegen and visit with Horst and Jutta Kettering. Horst and I met in the fall of 1977 when I attempted to join with the village Alte Herrn (Old Gentelman) soccer (or as they say, Fussball) team. He and I have stayed in touch over the past 42 years, and it was important for us to visit with the Ketterings. We enjoyed some sparkling wine (Sekt) and then coffee and cakes. Jutta was very gracious and welcoming, and Horst was entertaining. He made Marsha and Marilyn feel very welcome. We stayed for two hours, and then needed to say our goodbyes. As Horst and I spoke, we both realized that this might be for the last time, so it was a very special visit.
After the Kettering visit, we were headed for the Moselle for the night. I had hoped to find the way using somewhat-familiar back roads, but it was asking too much of a tired crew. So we used the Autobahn as much as possible, and other major roads. We wound up exactly where we planned, the small village of Beilstein on the Moselle. Our hotel for the night, the Burgfrieden, was very nice. We checked in with the minimum of luggage, then met in the restaurant for dinner. I have to admit, I don't remember what everyone ate, but I do know that instead of a beer, Linda, Marsha, and I drank Moselle white wine. It was great.