Driving the Mosel Valley

One of the things that made us look forward to attending the EU Airstreamers’ gathering was that we would be able to be regular old attendees, instead of running the thing. It has been while since we had the opportunity to do that, and it has been a nice change. Nobody is asking me for my opinion on anything, and I got the impression that everyone is happy I’m not here to sell something. This is a laid-back group.

Since nobody was going to notice or care if we disappeared for the day, we made plans to drive west to the Mosel River valley for a leisurely tour of that scenic area. The road winds along the Mosel, and the hillsides are lined with grape vines, and every once in a while there’s a castle and a quaint village. There are even quite a few nice riverside campgrounds.

But before we could go do that, it was our day to try the European equivalent of dumping the holding tanks and filling up with fresh water. They have a much better system for that than we do. Since many campgrounds lack hookups, campers bring along a plastic barrel called an Aqua-Roll. The Airstream sucks water from this barrel to fill its own internal tank automatically, and when you need more water you just disconnect the Aqua-Roll, attach a sort of giant fork/handle, and roll it over to the water source. It’s dead easy.

We have been scrupulous about our water usage so our supply was still mostly full, but we did take a couple of showers and so there was some water in the external gray tank, which is called a Wastemaster. This is basically the same as our American “blue boy” tanks, but with more drainage points and a special shape that allows it to be slid almost entirely underneath the Airstream, to get it out of sight. The EU Airstreams ride lower than the US ones, so this is a neat trick.

We also decided to try our hand at emptying the cassette toilet, with considerable trepidation. It turns out we shouldn’t have worried; it’s a much nicer and cleaner system than the famous “stinky slinky” that we use in America. The cassette removes from the outside of the Airstream through a special door, and it’s virtually fool-proof. You just open the door, release a catch, and slide it out. It’s clean on the outside so there’s no “ick” factor like there is with the sewer hose.

Also, you can’t spill it unless you really try hard, it doesn’t smell, and it has wheels and a handle like your airplane luggage so it’s simple to roll it over to the designated spot and dump it out. We gave it a quick rinse, added fresh chemical, and popped it back in the compartment. Job done in just a few minutes. No drips, no errors.

Being Sunday, a few people have had to leave the rally to head back to work, but most of us are staying until Monday. We said goodbye to some new and old friends, exchanged email addresses, and promised to get together again in two years when this gathering will be held in the UK. Michael Hold will be organizing it, and he says he’s going to beat this record attendance of 54 Airstreams. We plan to be there to take a careful count in person.

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We have a Michelin map of Germany, but some nice folks from the UK lent us their book of German maps, and it has much better detail. With that in hand and a picnic lunch in the car, we finally headed out to find the Mosel river valley at about 11 a.m., two hours after I had thought we might leave.

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We didn’t even get 1/10 of a mile before running in to a tiny car show. It was irresistible, so we pulled over and took a few pictures of the Mercedes, Volkswagen, Porsche, Peugeot, and MG cars there. I could see we weren’t going to get very far today. (Note that the Mercedes to the right has a tow bar.)

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Still, just about everywhere we’ve driven in Germany has been scenic and interesting. We eventually stopped at a famous castle called Burg Eltz for a tour. Between our picnic lunch at the car, the treasure room, and the castle tour, we killed a couple of hours there, but it was worth it.

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If you go, seriously consider paying 2 Euros for the shuttle ride back to your car, otherwise you will be facing a long steep hike. But walking down pays off in more than monetary ways; you will have the opportunity to take some fantastic pictures of the castle from the road.

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We continued along the Mosel for another hour of driving, and I can’t begin to describe how fantastic it was. The weather has been ideal all week, and today was the best yet, so we wound our way down the smooth road with all four windows down and all four eyes wide open to take in the scenery.

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Eventually we stopped in the town of Cochem and began walking through the old part of town without any expectations. We discovered a vibrant shopping and restaurant district hidden behind the gray stone walls of the buildings that face the road, which completely sucked us in for the next 90 minutes. At 6 p.m. we headed for what the locals would call an early dinner (we were the only people in the restaurant for a while; everyone else was sitting at a pub somewhere), and once again got a surprisingly excellent meal. (Ignore the French Fries, they seem to come with everything. Under that crisply breaded veal is a bed of wild chantrelles in a delicious cream sauce.) I’ve grown cynical about restaurants in tourist areas, but our luck has been fantastic while we’ve been here. Is it just Germany?

We followed the Mosel west for another 30 km or so, and then broke off to head back to the Autobahn for our trip back to base. Just as we were leaving we spotted a sign that said Nurburgring was only 23 km away. That’s a giant raceway that you can pay a fee to drive with your own car. It’s another car fantasy of mine to drive that track with something suitable, and Eleanor was encouraging me to do so, but once again that fantasy did not involve me racing in a Citroen four-banger. So we headed home, doing battle on the back roads with the VWs driven by 20-somethings who obviously (from their driving style) wished they were on the Nurburgring as well.

We missed a turn or two on the way back, and ended up pulling in at about 10:30. There was just enough light left for us to see the rest of the group clustered around an open fire, playing guitar and accordion. Obviously they had a nice day too.

Tomorrow we will all have to leave, so we’ll say goodbye in the morning and head off to Stuttgart.

About the Author

Editor & Publisher of Airstream Life magazine