The Austrian Donner Party

It’s midnight, we were somewhere between Flauchenwinkl, and Salzburg, Austria.  Our 20 year old taxi driver’s performance had failed against the deep austrian winter that, on this particular night, had come in heavy like the bitch she can be.  The road was one lane, just enough room for our 8 passenger “vinto” van to squeeze between the head high snowbanks.  Our driver had given up, the van was pitched on a 20 degree incline with one foot of fresh snow on the road, he did not speak much english, but assured us that no one was coming and a tractor was our only saving grace.

Back track 24 hours earlier, Parker White, Chris Logan and myself are giving the locals a show on the dance floor in Champery, Switzerland at “The Crevase”.  The bar owner had graced us with not only his presence but drinks on the house, it was time to celebrate… something our “one drink then go to bed party” did not recognize.  Nor did we recognize the clock that read 4 a.m. It was time to leave the bar, catch a train at 6 a.m.  Fuck it, I’ll sleep when I die… right?

It’s now 7:30 a.m, we are approaching Lausanne, a train conductor is talking to me.  Parker is studying a foreign stain on the sleeve of his hoody… “It smells like puke?”.  The greased up, ski bum whom prides himself with not washing his hair in two years is complaining about puke on his sleeve? Chris quickly confirms the puking incident that occurred outside the bar on the way home.

“You need ticket!”  Oh ya, the conductor.  I had none of the sort. Fuck off man… I mean sure I’ll get one at the next stop.  Blood shot eyes, evil smells, and alcohol still pumping in our veins, this man was dealing with american swine, the best of the best among european tourists.  In hindsight I would commend the gentleman for his patience.

We did not know at the time that the next train, the one we were about to miss would unravel our day of travel plans and dump us in  a country we did not know existed, make us miss every connection we planned on taking, and eventually into the misguided van of an austrian high school graduate…

Liechtenstein, the smallest country in the world.  Once a year they host “carnival”. Everyone dresses up like some acid freak party and goes to the middle of town all day to light off fireworks, and drink… something we were familiar with… welcome home boyz, where is your costume you american freaks?

The taxi driver meant us no harm, he was the guy who volunteered to drive all the way to pick us up at 11 pm… we had gotten close to our destination but still not close enough.  The drive began as any other. Through the city, into the country, then into the ski town… then out of the ski town, and onto some side street.  The street lights had long been gone, a plow had not touched the road in a day or so and mother nature was blessing us with lots of fresh…

We haphazardly fitted some chains to the front tires in the blizzard with freezing bare fingers, and little to no light.  “We go a few meters then check” sound good to me just get my ass to bed.  A few meters concluded with a mess of chain, and plastic wrapped around both tires in some fucked up fashion… obviously we had not put them on properly.  The driver refused to back up to a flat spot 100 feet back on the road for fear of not being able to stop.  Without backing up the chains remained mangled and our night was looking more and more like some Donner Party remix. Time to take matters into our own hands.

I asked the driver if I could back up the vinto.  I did, and we got the chains off.  I then proceeded to back up to the fatal flat spot, which happened to be a perfect spot to put chains on properly.  Now we are set.  “I’ll drive” I tell him.  I had watched him gingerly burn the clutch out on his previous few meter stretch with the chains” I wasn’t going to risk my night on him anymore, plus he had just finished off half a pack of cigs and was well on his way to the end… time to shit or get off the pot, and I needed to shit, or go to bed. You smoke I’ll drive. My dad insisted that I learn to drive a stick when I was 15.  I did, and that night I was thankful for having it, because I got us up that fucking hill and to our lodging that happens to be halfway up the ski area.  Our road was a maintenance road used to service the top of the base lift at Flauchenwinkl.

We awoke to this and are not drunk anymore…


that’s my track on the left…

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2 Responses to The Austrian Donner Party

  1. b. fredlund says:

    Good story! Thanks for sharing. Keep writing!

  2. dr says:

    Fuckin gonzo style. That made my day.

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