Rome & Rental Cars: a Sweat to Remember?

Fern Brady — author and rental car ace!

NOTE: What’s your worse rental car nightmare? Fern Brady returns to RoadBroads to share hers. 

Guest blogger Fern Brady is the founder and CEO of Inklings Publishing. She’s worked as a foreign correspondent, schoolteacher, and realtor. Fern’s publishing credits include two children’s picture books, and multiple short stories and poems. Next comes her debut novel, United Vidden (Book One in her Jornian Chronicles Series). Follow Fern’s writing at: 

Thank you, Fern, for joining our RoadBroads team today! - Melanie & Ellen

Rome & Rental Cars: A Sweat to Remember?

After nearly missing our flight from Germany, we landed in Rome, Italy.

Ten o’clock in the morning and the four of us thrilled to a full afternoon of exploring.

All we needed was a car.

First, we had to find the car rental hub.

Winding our way through the congested airport, we lugged our five pieces of checked luggage and four carry‐ons then crossed a connecting skywalk. Entering the rental offices, we froze.

In horror. We had arrived in Donut Land.

Double doors opened up into a cramped round space. Employee offices centered the donut. Along the outside wall, individual rental car companies staffed counters crowded with passenger‐packed lines that jutted out like spokes on a wheel. I counted fifteen people in one line. They looked like us, tired travelers who craved any place but here.

At the entry, we noticed a floor mat with the room’s layout. Our car company was located, of course, on the opposite side of where we stood. We would need to make our way through every other line to get to ours.

I think it would be better if I stay here with the luggage,” I turned to my brother and father who were still trying to sort out the room’s diagram. “So we don’t have to go through these thick crowds with our stuff.

It’s time for baggage island,” I began to move our stuff to an out‐of‐the‐way corner where I could guard our luggage at my back.

My brother stared at the overcrowded space and sighed, “Good idea.”

Next to him stood his wife, Mariely. She turned to the hub.

Okay, we’ll get this done. Text us if you need something,” she said before squaring off as if ready to lead us into battle. My brother and father flanked her. The trio left. I stood there. On guard, and sweating.

It. Was. Hot. Like no A/C hot. Like dripping‐down‐everywhere sweat hot.

The lines grew. More and more people arrived. Hours ticked by. Other baggage islands began to form as passengers realized what I was doing.

I became an archipelago.

A line formed right next to me. With a child. Random, arbitrary, piercing shrieks issued from The Creature. Her parents ignored her as they tried to coordinate something with others of their party. I threw The Creature my best ‘teacher look.’ It worked for a time but had to be reissued periodically.

Two and a half hours later, we’re told we have a car.

We streamed sweat as we hauled our luggage through the bustling airport to the car pickup area. And, no, the car was not ready.

An hour later, we learned the insurance was incomplete. Runarounds ensued. My brother returned to the original counter attendant. Another told us a different story. We sweated. We steamed. We waited.

At seven p.m.—nine hours after we landed in Rome—we had a car.

A station wagon. Roomy. Cool.

We drove to the hotel then walked to dinner.

Road Race of a Summer Lifetime

Fern Brady — author and, now, race car driver!

NOTE: Imagine speeding down the road, knowing you’ll never get a ticket. RoadBroad Fern Brady crossed the Atlantic to experience this once‐in‐a‐lifetime high. 

Guest blogger Fern Brady is the founder and CEO of Inklings Publishing. She’s worked as a foreign correspondent, schoolteacher, and realtor. Fern’s publishing credits include two children’s picture books, and multiple short stories and poems. Coming next is her debut novel, United Vidden (Book One in herJornian Chronicles Series). Follow Fern’s writing at: 

Thank you, Fern, for joining our RoadBroads team today!  — Melanie & Ellen

Road Race of a Summer Lifetime

A highlight of this year’s summer vacation occurred in the small German town of Nurburg.

I mention the town’s name and people immediately think Nuremberg. That place is well known for its post‐WWII Nazi trials. But Nurburg is neither as popular nor as large as the former.

Nurburg boasts the ruins of a wonderful example of High Middle Ages castles, but that is not why we traveled here. Located in the Ahrweiler district, in the state of Rhineland‐Palatinate, Nurburg’s claim to fame is its 24 kilometer (15 mile) Grand Prix racetrack known as the Nurburgring. Built in 1984, car manufacturers routinely use the track to test engines

My family and I came to Nurburg for one reason: to race.

The Nurburgring track is open to the public, for a fee, on select Friday afternoons. If you have your own car, you can drive the track as many times as you like, paying the user fee for each lap. If you come from overseas—like us—rental car businesses will rent you a race‐ready vehicle. Costs vary, based on the car and package perks you choose.

Fern readies for the drive of a lifetime.

My brother and father drove in one car while my sister‐in‐law, Mariely, and I took the beautiful BMW you see in the picture. Yes, helmets strapped on before buckling in.

We purchased four laps each. One lap included an instructor who offered driving feedback plus tips for handling the less‐than‐90 degree turns on this dangerous race track. My brother also purchased the Go‐Pro camera option so he could watch his performance afterwards. Mariely and I skipped that choice because… well… what happens at Nurburgring stays there.

There is NO SPEED LIMIT on the thoroughfare. Speed aficionados can enjoy letting loose on the track without fear of receiving a speeding ticket. However, the track’s numerous blind turns temper any love for speed. Some turns are extremely tight. The asphalt of the roadway grows slick in some cases from accidents and/or rain.

And yet, it’s an adventure worth enjoying. The thrill of being free to floor the gas pedal, plus the nerve‐wracking agony of keeping the car on the road and steady as you take one road curve after another offers a once‐in‐a‐lifetime high. No doubt, there are repeat customers hooked on that feeling, destined to come again and again.

There are many crashes on the Nurburgring. Some are deadly. Others are costly, especially if you rent the car. I suspect repairing your own damaged vehicle can’t be too cheap, either. Cars can flip over on the raised track curves, smash into roadway barriers, and even run into each other. The track is often closed for hours to clean up oil spills.

Cars are not the only vehicles on the course. Motorcycles are also allowed. During my final lap, I witnessed a car merging back into the right lane, driving a motorcycle in its blind spot onto the raised curb. The biker hurled Evil Knievel‐style over the track barrier and crashed on the other side. As we left Nurburgring, a helicopter was taking the driver to the nearest town for medical care.

All in all, I am glad to check off this experience from my bucket list.

Once is more than enough for me.