I made it only as far as France; my car engine caught fire doing 90 mph on a motorway exiting Paris. I admit it was my fault. I was speeding, traveling much too fast for a car that age — an ’81 Ford Cortina. But I had no choice — that thing drove with a heavy pull to the right at anything under 85 mph.
I tore the plates off the smoking wreck and abandoned it, forcing me to hitchhike. Eventually, after hanging around for five-plus hours at a truck stop, I was picked up by the driver of a truck carrying frozen food bound for Slovakia. The first thing I noticed when I climbed into the cab was how small the driver was: He sat on a stack of cushions, and I noticed that the pedals in the cab were extended so his feet could reach them. Nonetheless, he was a cool guy, and the following four hours flew by while he entertained me with crazy stories involving him driving a truck all over mainland Europe for the past 15-plus years.
Later, I was dropped off in Cologne, Germany, where I spotted a guy jumping over a trolley on his bike, next to a coffee shop. I was delusional from lack of sleep and badly in need of a caffeine fix, but first I pulled out my trusty Nikon and took a single photo, then knocked back the strongest cup of coffee known to man. I’m going to miss that car.