How I Won The Cold War, Part 14 … THE DAY IT RAINED SHOVELS

I drove

I drove anything, anytime, anywhere

The guys at Koblenz dubbed me the “Lone Eagle.” I drove all the time, and in spite of explicit regulations to the contrary, I’d usually drive great distances alone.

If we needed something delivered, I’d deliver it. If we needed something picked-up, I’d pick it up.

I drove in order to fight the boredom of sitting around the kaserne all day pretending to work. I also enjoyed the sights on the road, not to mention some of the girls I’d meet in various hang-outs along my routes.

One of these, a roadside restaurant/bar, stood directly across the Rhein from the infamous Lorelei, a gigantic rock upon which a mythic siren sat strumming a harp and singing plaintive songs that lured many a sailor to an early grave.

As I wasn’t a sailor, I figured I faced no immediate danger and found a personal siren at the restaurant. She served me many an hour of succor and relief from my driving duties … not to mention free beer and bratwurst!

But despite my efforts to fight boredom, driving itself would often become boring, as well as dangerous. Plying the same route month after month on three or 4 hours of sleep made for one decidedly drowsy eagle!

A Rhein maiden luring an innocent sailor to ruin at the Lorelei

The Lorelei siren luring another innocent to ruin

For the thrice a week fifty-five mile milk-run to Bad Kreuznach (or BadK, home of the 101st Airborne Division with its post office, commissary and Post Exchange) I usually had one or two passengers with me.

In order to fight the tedium I’d invent driving games, such as how many cars I could pass in a stretch. My personal best was seven Mercedes in a row with my two and a half ton truck.

I’d often get frustrated with German drivers, many of whom were new to motoring. These neophytes would often pull stunts such as parking on either side of a country highway and holding a conversation in the middle of the road.

On one trip to BadK I came upon a couple of guys who’d parked their vehicles half on/half off both sides of the highway, narrowing the road to a single lane. The only way to fit my truck through them would be to drive in the left lane in order to diagonally squeeze through. I was trucking at top speed, around 70 mph (they had governors to restrict their speed, but we’d easily defeat them) with a couple of buddies in my deuce and a half (the 2 and 1/2 ton truck), and impetuously thought, “I’ll be damned if I’m going to stop or even slow down for these boneheads! I’ll show ’em!”

The mighty deuce and a half!

The Lone Eagle’s mighty deuce and a half!

The situation called for precise, scientific calculations. Blessed with more self-confidence than common sense, I figured I could do it! No sweat! I’d negotiate the obstacle, without slowing down by hitting the brakes hard when I pulled even with the car on the right, thereby causing the truck’s suspension to lift its body higher than the hoods of the cars, and then, by turning hard right, make it sway diagonally while still elevated. Then it was merely a matter of down shifting, accelerating and turning hard left to make the beast sway and ultimately squeeze between the vehicles as if they were simply no more than flags marking the course for a slalom skier on a downhill run!

As I approached, I paid no attention to the Germans or my passengers. The maneuver required precise coordination and total concentration. When I hit the target at speed I jumped on the brakes and went through my maneuvers as slick as a Blue Angel performing precision aeronautical acrobatics … and surprisingly made it through perfectly without a scratch!

Let's get the hell out of here!

Let’s get the hell out of here … quick!

It was beautiful … but probably less so for the German owners of the vehicles who were last seen running for their lives through fields on either side of their cars!

I gave out a victory whoop and looked over at my passengers, who, I figured would be as ecstatic as I was. Wrong! The fellow who’d been sitting in the middle was now sitting on the lap of the guy to his right! I don’t know when, or how he did it, but I do wish I had a photo! It was an unforgettable sight!

Stunts like that added to the legend of the Lone Eagle, but it was a round trip from Koblenz to our company HQ in Butzbach that really scorched the Eagle’s feathers!

I had a hot date that night in Koblenz and I wasn’t going to be late come hell or high water! On the way back, bored and sleepy, I figured I needed to invent a game of some sort to keep awake (the jeep was “open” meaning it had no doors … of course it didn’t have a radio, nor did anyone have the yet to be invented Walkman, iPod or the like).

Contemplating my options, I decided on a “pedal to the metal” challenge, by which I meant to drive at top speed for the entire seventy miles, keeping the accelerator fully depressed throughout (the absence of a speed limit on the German autobahns enabled such foolishness).

All of a sudden I was airborne!

All of a sudden I was airborne!

I sped along successfully for about half of the journey, passing several astonished Germans in Mercedes, BMWs and Audis while doing so (as with our trucks, the jeep’s governor had been defeated allowing a top end speed a bit north of 70).

Then I came to a construction zone, littered with signs and flags and scores of Gastarbeiter (guest workers, mainly Turks whose labor was cheaper than the large earth-moving Cats employed throughout the US at the time). I tried my best to read the signs, but to no avail. I was going too fast and I couldn’t slow down … after all I had a game to win!

So I continued, ignoring the signs, ignoring all the guys frantically waving their arms, ignoring the safety cones … until, all of a sudden, I found myself airborne, a predicament I couldn’t ignore!

That’s when I realized they were replacing the entire road surface, which entailed stripping the road down to the large crushed rock of the roadbed itself! This procedure created a differential of several inches between the autobahn and that bed, enough to send me hurtling through space!

I kept relatively calm, considering the situation and having no good alternative. When I hit the rocky roadbed I started spinning violently sideways. The tires spit out large chunks of rock like machine guns spraying a battlefield! I steered counter to my slide, downshifted, hit the accelerator hard, steered in the opposite direction, downshifted again, hit the accelerator again, until, after wildly zigging and zagging for a few hundred yards I had the damn thing under control.

I didn't stop to apologize!

I didn’t stop to apologize!

That’s when I looked up and saw shovels raining down on earth! Dozens upon dozens of shovels!

At first I couldn’t interpret the images my eyes were sending me! “Shovels? It’s raining shovels?”

Then I saw the Turks. A long line of them peeling back from the road like a banana in front of my eyes! And as they ran, they were tossing their shovels up in the air to get the hell out of the way of that crazy jeep spitting out rocks like bullets!

And did I keep the pedal to the metal? Damn straight! … because I knew if I stopped those Turks wouldn’t be exactly welcoming and friendly! So I got out of there as fast as I possibly could … without looking back!

And that’s how, despite everything, I posted my very best “pedal to the metal” victory! And the hot date? Well, let’s just say I made it to my Mädchen on time … and luckily in one piece!

p.s. Upon my discharge, the army surprised me with a Good Driver Medal! I’m sure, if they’d heard, some German civil engineers and a whole bunch of Turks would have lodged a spirited and vehement protest!





About Joe Illing

I hope you'll find my posts entertaining, occasionally edifying and worth whatever time you can spend with them ... Joe
This entry was posted in How I Won the Cold War. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to How I Won The Cold War, Part 14 … THE DAY IT RAINED SHOVELS

  1. Pingback: How I Won The Cold War, Part 22 … HOW I EARNED MY STRIPES | FINDING MY WAY

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s