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This is the map of my outgoing leg:


One always tries to avoid driving through Switzerland - going north I either go through France or to get to Germany I go through Austria. The speed limit in Switzerland is 120 km/h and 100 km/h in the tunnels and there are many many tunnels. And there is no tolerance for going more than 5% above those limits. It makes driving in Switzerland very tiresome because you are constantly looking at your speedomter and the Swiss police are ruthless at tracking you down for unpaid tickets even if you live outside of Switzerland. And if for any reason you do not pay your fines and come back to Switzerland they will either arrest you at the airport or when you check in to your hotel and give your passport to the hotel you can expect an early morning visit by a team of armed cops with a paddy wagon. Switzerland is also known for making heavy use of variable speed limits - where within 2,000 meters the speed limit will go from 120 -> 100 -> 80 -> 60 and back up to 120. It keeps you alert - Every country in Europe makes use of this but in Germany it is more extreme because although the national speed limit is 130 km/h vast stretches of their highway system also have no limit and the variable speeds are fascinating reflection on the discipline of the German driver who can be driving at 250 km/h+ one minute and is down to 60 km/h the next - it also explains why road deaths overall in Western Europe are now 1/3rd the rate of the US. Forty years ago US rates were lower than Western Europe but the Europeans figured out a number of solutions that left the joys of driving in Europe intact but dramatically lowered the death rates. Sadly, in the US we treat drivers like children and they act like children.

After my encounter with the French po-po at the border I paid my €42 ($52) to drive through the tunnel into France. Normally there are no borders in Europe - it is just like driving between US states except that the languages on the signs usually change. Most of Europe is now in the Schengen Area - one of the greatest achievements of post-war Europe and such an improvement on the old system where there were borders between all these countries. The UK sadly never signed up to Schengen and it is one of the reasons I left London - I was fed up with taking a day trip to Milan and having to show my passport 3x - once when landing in Milan; then when leaving Milan (leaving the Schengen area) and then landing in London. And now the UK has gone further and has left the Single Market & Customs Union of the EU with all the economic damage that it is beginning to do. Schengen Area - Wikipedia. As you can see the UK is completely out of Europe and Britons are now considered 3rd country nationals like Americans with no ability to work, live and retire in Europe without getting visas.


After hitting France I circled Geneva (obviously without putting two tires in Switzerland) and headed for the Ossuary of Fort Douaumont - the scene of the fiercest and longest battle of the Great War where 300k soldiers from all sides died: Battle of Verdun | Map, Casualties, Significance, Summary, & Facts

The photo below is the entrance to the American Cemetery at St Mihiel - the Americans joined the war effort in 1917 and the war ended in 1918. And those troops leaving for the European theatre usually left from Fort Riley, Haskell County, Kansas - the site of the first major outbreak of the Spanish Influenza that killed 50 million around the world and 675k in the US. Today we are at 543k deaths - those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it!

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More to follow later.
So I arrived at the St Mihiel Cemetery minutes before the 17:00 closing time. This is the resting home of over 4k US soldiers who fought in the first battle comanded by a US general in the European theatre. Below are some photos of the cemetery.


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Plant Cemetery Cross Sunlight Land lot

After the US cemetery I drove on to Fort Douaumont and the forests around Verdun were the longest battle of WWI was fought between the French and the Germans. During the 10-month battle I read that one ordnance went off every 2 seconds. There are so many unexploded bombs in these forests that the French Government has given this area the appellation of 'zone rouge' or red zone - no one is allowed to walk in these forests under penalty of serious injury or death. Furthermore so many bombs fell on the area that it completely destroyed eight towns that have the forlorn name of 'village detruit' or destroyed villages. You can see that in two of the photos.

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This ossuary holds the remains of over 130,000 unknown soldiers from both France and Germany. And to think that over 150 years the Germans fought the French three times with the final war being the most brutal in 1939-1945. But now finally through the peace project of the EU Germany and France are finally friends and allies and the border between these two countries has completely disappeared and has been replaced with ever denser commercial and personal links creating yet another powerful network and long lasting network.

After leaving Metz in the morning this is the final stretch of French highway, appropriately called the Autoroute des Anglais, that takes you to Calais and on to the car train that goes under the spit of water that separates France from the not-so-much-anymore United Kingdom. The one-way passage costs $300 for 35 mins! Travelling by car is very expensive in Europe but in return the auto infrastructure is excellent. And look at this highway - not one car or truck is visible.

This is the return trip - I decided to shake things up a bit and take the long way round - it was perhaps one of the most glorious grand touring trips I have ever taken. Pure road freedom except for the slightly obstructed border between Germany and Austria - the Austrians can be a bit prickly. But every other border was wide open and once the Covid-19 pandemic subsides it will be back to the freedom we have enjoyed for the past twenty or so years among the countries that comprise the Schengen Area.


So this time I drove through 6 countries. I left London, UK at 06:00 on Saturday, drove down to the Channel Tunnel, got on the car train and popped up in Calais. This time, rather than speed through France and into Italy I decided that I wanted to have an excellent lunch of French food in.....Belgium of course. Even the French will admit that their food tastes better in Belgium than in France. But alas, my favorite brasserie in Ghent was closed - as were all restaurants in Belgium. So I stopped at Burger King!

This is the XLR parked in the car train for the $350 return trip to France!


This is the highway leaving Calais and heading to Bruges and Bruxelles in Belgium.


Shortly after the sign to tell me I am going to be in Belgium in about 500 meters!


As Belgium is one of the smaller countries in Europe it does not take long to drive through it. Whenever someone in the US tells me they can't make an 'international' phone call I think of a Belgian saying that to me - I would fall off my chair laughing. I don't know why we get hung up by international geography in the US. If you like driving you will love driving in Europe - take your Cadillac, roll it on to a Ro-Ro ship, fly to Bruxelles, pick up your car at Antwerp, keep the US license plate, US driving license, get green card insurance from the AAA and away you go - spend a week; spend a month; spend the rest of your life. That is what I decided to do and I don't regret it.

But of course in Germany this is the GREATEST SIGN IN THE WORLD. This is the sign that denotes that the road ahead has NO SPEED LIMIT! Bless my sweaty palms I was going to burn some fuel on this day. Well not so fast - do you all know that at speeds above 200 km/h I burn through a tank of gasoline every 90 mins? Well neither did my US Visa card which blocked me on my second tankful 90 mins after my previous tankful! When I called them up they said that they suspected fraud because I had only filled up the tank 90 mins earlier. I had to patiently explain to them that at the speeds I was driving that is how quickly the tank drained!


A German gas station - E90 for the Greens, 95-Octane for the station wagons and 101-Octane for the passionate drivers of which there are many!


Another 90 mins; another fill-up and another €100 or $118! I was checking the brakes because the constant braking to haul the car down from 240 km/h to 120 km/h because of all the variable limits was turning my brake pedal into a marshmallow.


A common site at all rest stops in Europe - beer in Germany and in Italy less beer but more wine and hard liquor. Europeans tend to see this as perfectly normal and responsible!

I ended up spending the night at the Marriott Hotel in Munich - it was $120 for a suite - hotels in Germany are not expensive. A 5-star hotel that starts at $600 in Paris or Milan is $300 in Berlin. I never understood why but I never complain. The day was a mixed bag weather wise. When I left the hotel it was 2c and by the time I made it home to the Med it was 21c! I love that variability. The photo above shows a spot of rain somewhere.


I had mentioned variable speed limits in an earlier post. The Germans, the Swiss and many other northern European countries including the drive-on-the-wrong-side of the road Britons heavily use variable speed limits. This means that the limits move up and down in quick succession on stretches of highway and they can also be changed depending on weather, traffic, crashes, pollution as the traffic control system dictates. It is one of the many reasons driving in Europe at much higher speeds is possible and also why it is much safer than driving in North America.


On the continent practically the only country with free motorways is Germany - Switzerland, Italy, France, Spain, Austria, Portugal all charge and the cost is expensive - 250 km from Paris to Calais is about $20 in tolls. It adds up. Here I am stopped at the German-Austrian border to purchase my 10-day vignette for $11 which I plaster on my windshield.


Here I am on my way to the border town of Villach and it gives directions to two other countries - Slovenia and Italy. I was 20 clics from Slovenia, one of the loveliest little countries in all of Europe and of course the home of Melania Trump. Alas I did not have time to make a detour and add to my country count. I headed straight for Italy on some of the most beautiful roads I have ever driven.


After slicing through from Verona and the damp and dreary plains of Northern Italy I took the Cisa Pass highway (Cisa Pass - Wikipedia) over the Appenines and ended up in the sunny Med and home. All in all 3,400 kilometers spread over two weekends. And now the boss wants to head to Slovenia and Croatia for the 4-day Easter break. It all depends on the weather and the Covid-19 restrictions - but most importantly the weather. No point in going to a hotel in Mali Losinj, Croatia if the weather is not at least 20º and sunny. We won't be driving the XLR - probably the CTS-V Mk II. It is faster and a 4-door for more comfort.
Had a photoshoot a month back!


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Hi Batmobile - Cool V. I might be in Riyadh next month. Looking forward to all the automotive eye candy!
I thought I would talk about a trip that I took with the XLR during the height of the pandemic. I drove from the Tuscan coast to London in 2 days. The first night I stopped in Metz, in Eastern France. I had wanted to visit the killing fields of Verdun - 80 kilometers from Metz (pronounced 'Mes') and also the resting place of thousands of young American soldiers who died in 1917 and 1918 mostly from wounds suffered in battle against the Germans but some, ironically, who succumbed to the first wave of the Spanish Influenza that killed 50 million worldwide. And now exactly 102 years later we are suffering through another pandemic. It was a sobering experience but let me start at the beginning.


This was last Saturday morning - I had left Tuscany and was at a service station somewhere between Genova and Alessandria when I stopped for coffee and gasoline at 09:00. As you can see the service station is deserted because Italy is in full COVID-19 lockdown as was France as you will see later on. I have also snapped a photo of the empty autostrada ahead of me on that Saturday morning. Even in the depths of the COVID lockdown last year in the U.S. I never saw the roads this empty!

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As you can see from the photo above the highway is empty!

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And here I have arrived in the flatlands before climbing into the French Alps at Aosta and on to the 4,800 meter-tall Monte Bianco and its 11.7 kilometer long tunnel for which one pays the bagatelle of $55 to drive through! And the road sign tells you how far I have to go - so I have basically already driven 250 kilometers to get to this point. It is telling me that the town of Aosta is 17 km away; the Mont Blanc is 61 km; Geneva (CH) is 153 km; and Paris (F) if 684 km. By the end of the evening I will have driven approximately 1,100 km in 2 countries. Anyway, I will stop here for tonight and pick it up further along.
That's awesome. You got me re-thinkin of a trip I've only talked about here in the states. Drive from Jacksonville FL to Miami Beach, FL on the A1A. It runs along the east coast of Florida....
Well you should do it then.

I drove my 2020 CT6-V from Allentown, PA to Miami last month. I had done this trip a few times so I decided to shake things up a bit and rather than drive entirely on I-95 so after Wilmington I took an easterly turn and headed towards Dover on Route 13. Crossed over into Virginia and continued down on 13 until I got to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (12 miles and $14 toll) that popped me out in Norfolk. There I picked up I-95 again until stopping for the night in Charleston.

The car has been parked at the NB Center of American Automotive Heritage for the past 2 years. It too will be heading to Europe some time this year - I already switched out the small wing mirrors and put on the larger more elegant European-standard mirrors. The Cadillac dealer here in Miami is struggling to persuade Cadillac tech to send the code to instruct the BCM to let my European tail lenses with the amber turn signal work. Unlike my XLR where it was easy to switch out the US tail lamps for the European tail lamps with the amber turn signal all cars from GM since 2019 do not allow any changes to the BCM anymore. Bye bye tuners. All the cars, SUV and CUVs are locked down because of the imminent arrival of autonomous and electrified driving.
More photos of the unique 2009 XLR - one of only two with a Bvlgari instrument panel - the Bvlgari instrument panel was only standard from 2004-2008.


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What's your thoughts on these wheels? I'm not a big fan of chrome wheels and my wife feels the same, but we're on the fence about replacing them with OEM's as they sort of look ok.
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I think most agree the V style wheels look very well on the car. How ever have you looked at the very few choices in tires for the 19 inch and priced them? For the cost of tires you can get new wheels and tires in 18 or 20 not to mention the high cost of V wheels. Of course that's my opinion also.
I don't mind the V wheels at all, but not sure I want that look. Here's my XLR with the 19" off my BMW 335is.

And here's the chrome wheels painted black. I found some stockers a couple hours away for cheap, so I'll likely pick them up and keep them in case I get tired of this setup. Thanks for the suggestions.

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Here is my 2008 xlr-v

Also, started filming some YouTube videos with it:
2006 XLR-V For Sale



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