(October 5 - October 23, 1998)

Well, things changed since I sent you the last travelogue on Tuesday.  One of the things the manager who interviewed me for this assignment back in 1993 told me was that the job required FLEXIBILITY as plans can change in an instant.  It isn't uncommon for us to not know on a Friday where we will be on Monday.  As it turned out, schedules changed and Paris was no longer in the cards for me. SIGH!  (and that's a BIG SIGH).  That audit won't start until November 2nd and I will be at my nephew's wedding in NY on November 7th, so it didn't pay for me to stick around.  The team leader for Paris, Sue Ann, was on my team in Germany and she and another colleague who was slated for Paris headed out on Wednesday.  They will spend next week doing some staff work and planning.  The boss, Sue, went home on Thursday morning to Chicago.  Diane and I drove two other colleagues to the airport later Thursday morning, Lacey (finishing up his last audit with our team) who was returning to Boulder, CO and Sergio (who was on loan to us this month) returning home to Brazil (Rio).  Even though it ended early, it was a great three weeks and we enjoyed it very much.

Diane and I had a few hours to ourselves on Thursday so we decided to do a little more sightseeing.  A friend of mine from Poughkeepsie, Dave Meck, is on assignment in Montpellier in the south of France and he sent me a note with some suggestions for restaurants and places to see.  One of those was a 'modern' castle, Hohenzollern, about an hour from where we were staying.  What a place!  It was way up on a hill and visible for miles around.  We drove up as high as we could and then had to walk the rest of the way and what a walk it was.  It was beautiful with the fall foliage peaking.

Hohenzollern dates back to the 1400s when the first of three versions of the castle was destroyed by two fueding brothers.  It was rebuilt and lasted many years until fueding factions of the family moved away and the castle fell into disrepair.  In the 1800s, a family member returned to the place of his roots and fell in love with the place and rebuilt it a third time.  It stands to this day and the 'chief of the castle' is a 23-year old man who got the post by the rules of succession in the family.  We took the tour, which is where we learned this stuff, and found out that no one has ever lived in this version of the castle.  It was built soley to demonstrate the power of the family.  It is really quite a place and we ended up spending a couple of hours there.  Sorry, no digital camera this time but, if you want to see what the castle looks like, you can check it out on the web at http://www.burg-hohenzollern.com.

After we finished touring the castle, we started heading back on a scenic route so we could eat one more time at the Schwanen Restaurant in Herrenberg.  They have venison goulash that became one of my favorite meals at that restaurant.  As we drove through Rottweil and saw that it looked like a walled old city we decided to stop and check it out.  So we spent an hour for a quick walkaround and then headed to Herrenberg.  We still had to pack for the trip home on Friday.

Things have a way of working out sometimes and they did for our trip home.  Due to the length of the flights, I always get to fly business class when traveling out of the USA.  When Diane comes with me I either get a business class frequent flyer seat for her or, if IBM is paying her way (which is coach fare), I upgrade her to business class.  She has gotten very spoiled and rightfully so.  Not that I haven't gotten spoiled traveling around the world on someone else's money and enjoying the perks.  I usually tease Diane at least once on a trip that she is really spoiled.  WELL, after our trip home from Germany, the bar has been raised.  I have never in my life flown first class on an international trip, which is nothing like first class domestic.  We were sitting at the gate at the Stuttgart airport waiting for the bus to take us out to the plane when I heard my name announced.  I went to the desk and the lady said she would like to upgrade me to first class.  I said thanks, but I was flying with my wife and would rather sit with her.  So she looked on her screen and said she would give me TWO first class seats.  Talk about getting spoiled.  You eat on nice dishes and not off a tray, which they do even in business class.  It sure was a treat and we both appreciated the opporunity to experience an international flight in first class.  Wow!!!

Now that I've locked in my pension, I realize that I can make the decision to retire at a moment's notice, so I know that each trip I take on business like this could be my last.  I have been extremely thankful for this opportunity and my only regret is that I didn't learn about such traveling early in my career.  Better late than never.  However, who knows, I may not have appreciated it as much earlier in my career, plus Diane wouldn't have been able to travel with me given that she was raising four kids.  I was telling Diane on the ride home from the airport that I'm glad our plan is to travel the USA in an RV because I can't imagine what it would be like to retire from this assignment, with all this travel, to nothing but a routine existence around the house.  I think we would go nuts.  ;-)  I love to golf, but I'm not sure I would like golfing five or six times a week, nor do I think my back would stand for it.

Well, that's it folks.  I'm done with international trips for 1998.  I'm sorry I didn't write these travelogues from February 1993 to November 1996.  What a diary that would have given me.  I was able to write all but this last couple of paragraphs on the plane as we journeyed home, and I'm writing this last paragraph from my den on Saturday morning with the first fire of the season going in the fireplace, sipping a hot coffee, shuffle playing some CDs, and it is so peaceful and quiet.   Sometimes life is good, even when not traveling.  :-) 

I'm in a class in Dallas next week, then I'll be in Boulder, CO for three weeks for anyone whose travel plans may take them to those places.  Not you Tom, I KNOW I'll see you in Boulder and I'm looking forward to getting out to dinner a few times while we are out there.  Then I will be on vacation from Thanksgiving Day until January 4, 1999.  So, until next year, as far as travelogues are concerned, this is THE END!  Diane and I wish everyone a very happy, safe, and blessed holiday season.

Until next time.

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