BD athlete Sam Elias reports on climbing and traveling in Europe—PART 3
Black Diamond athlete Sam Elias continues his travels and climbing in Europe, and sent us the following report, one filled with more frustrations and hassles that seemingly only happen when you are alone in a foreign country. Hey, at least he’s having a memorable adventure!
Click here to read Part One
Click here to read Part Two
My van is a 2000 Fiat Ducato. It runs on diesel and had about 180,000 kilometers when I got it. It was originally built as a windowless cargo van, but someone converted it into a kind of “down-low” urban-assault-type camper. It has custom camper/rv style windows with one in the ceiling, custom bench seats/bed, custom auxiliary camping gas system, an auxiliary battery, a built-in refrigerator, built-in 2-burner stove, built-in auxiliary heater for winter, and a custom stereo system with a huge subwoofer. It was a supremely lucky find. I was originally intending to buy a cargo van and convert it myself.
Even though my time in Munich was enjoyable, the instant I got the van, I was out. I was eager to utilize it for what I originally envisioned. The first destination was the European outdoor trade show, Friedrichshafen, and then to Arco, Italy to watch world championships and climb outside.
The maiden voyage to Friedrichshafen was filled with a lot of apprehension. My mind was buzzing with the stimulus of new material:
“What’s that noise?”
“Is it breaking down?”
“Should it drive/feel this way?
“How fast should I go?”
“Was this a good idea?”
“What if it breaks down?”
But after a little while my mind calmed, and I found that it actually drove and sounded and seemed really good. When I arrived to the show, I went straight to the Black Diamond booth. I was keen to see friends, and to check out the new goods that BD has coming in the future. There were lots of exciting new products, but of most interest to me was the Magnetron RockLock and Magnetron GridLock carabineers and the Vector helmet. The Magnetron RockLock and Magnetron GridLock carabineers (http://www.blackdiamondequipment.com/en-us/journal/climb/knowledge/magnetron-technology-the-reinvention-of-the-autolocking-carabiner-coming-july-2012) are sexy, new locking biners that use magnets to lock the gates closed. It’s a testament to the creativity and commitment to innovation and progression by which BD defines itself. The Vector is a new, badass, “barely there” helmet. It is a stylish design that comes in cool colors, it’s ultra light, and has a ton of ventilation.
As cool as it is to see friends and new products, the tradeshow atmosphere can only be endured for a limited time. And after my second day, I had seen everything that I wanted. So I jumped in the van and peace’d out. Next stop, Arco, Italy—a historic climbing area and site of the 2011 Climbing World Championships. I was rolling smooth and steady with my headphones in (because I didn’t have any tapes, CDs, or a way to connect my iPod to the car stereo) when I noticed that I had a ¼ tank of fuel left (2 fuel notches full). It jolted me into remembering something that the guy who sold me the van had mentioned in passing in Gerbanglish (German-Albanian-English): “You should fill at last one,” which I took to mean that I should fill up the tank at the very last fuel notch, which is 1/8 full. Unlike with unleaded fuel vehicles, it is unhealthy to run diesel-fueled vehicles close to empty. Thus, I thought that he was imparting upon me some common knowledge, some information that I already knew. Right then, while blasting on the autoroute, already in Italy with my headphones in my ears, the van lost all power. Instantaneously I went through a radical emotional cycle.
Denial: “Nope, this isn’t happening. No way.”
Rage: “No…NO…NOOOOOOO!!!!! Motherf@#&er!!!!! I can’t f@#&ing believe this!!!! I’m in f@#&ing Italy!!!! I can’t speak Italian!!!!! F@#& ME!!!!! F@#& EVERYTHING!!!!! THE F@#&ING VAN IS DEFINITELY BREAKING DOWN RIGHT-F@#&ING-NOW!!!!!”
Depression: “What should I do? This is so miserable. I can’t believe it. It’s almost unbelievable… Am I ever going to get to climb and enjoy this rig the way it was in my dreams?”
In the next few dark hours, I experienced a weight that crippled my spirit. I thought, desperately hoped, that I had only run out of fuel, but did not know for sure. I called for help from and “SOS” phone, which are at every kilometer on the side of the highway. I spoke to an operator that didn’t speak English, but had to know that I was broken down simply by the fact that I was phoning from an “SOS” box on the side of the road. I just said, “No diesel, no diesel.” It took 30 very long minutes for someone to come with a tow truck. He also didn’t speak English. He put the van up on the bed, and the transported it and me to a gas station. I put some diesel in, and tried to start it. Nothing. I just put my head down and thought, “Now, I’m really, totally, completely and utterly and very simply, f@#&ed.”
The tow truck driver said, “We go to workshop.” I just said “ok” to him, but my thoughts were, “What is broken?” “How long will it take to fix?” Where am I going to stay?” “This was such bad idea.” “I wish I was home.” We arrived, he removed the van, popped the hood, got some tools that I had never seen before, disassembled some shit, pointed at me and then pointed to the driver’s seat, and made a hand gesture of turning keys. I climbed in, and tried once, and then again and by some stroke of grease-monkey magic, it lit up.
I paid the guy—a lot—and went on my way. First, to fill the tank up to full, and then to Arco. I arrived late in the night. I was exhausted; properly beaten down. As I was approaching town, I could hardly keep my eyes open, my back was aching, and my legs were cramping. I pulled into a hotel parking lot, and crawled into the back of the van. I breathed slowly and deeply, trying to release the tension in my body and mind. Despite my condition, I couldn’t help but stay up a few extra moments to wonder about the landscape and scenery that I would awaken to, and the routes that I would climb in the upcoming days. It helped me to forget my troubles, and release into slumber.