March, 1975

My introduction to the life of a rambling man began above Winiger’s Bakery in Prairie du Sac, WI in the winter of ‘75. Sharing my first apartment, at the age of 18, with my high school friends, Brian and Rob,  I found myself looking for an escape from the small Wisconsin town I called home and a chance to see the world.

I had graduated from high school the previous June and had no immediate plans for college, so I opted to work as a cook at my parent’s restaurant, The Fire House, across the street from the bakery. It seemed my fledgling adulthood was either going to be a continuation of daily work at the restaurant and nightly play “above the bakery”, or do something different, bold and exciting!

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A decision was made one cold and snowy night in March that Brian and I were going to Europe, using our thumbs as our mode of transportation and a two-man pup tent as our lodging.

Having secured two one-way tickets from Chicago to Luxembourg, we found ourselves chain smoking Old Golds and drinking complimentary Cognac in the back row of an Icelandic Airlines jet, at the age of 18, toasting ourselves as we began the adventure of our young lives! That night, high above the Atlantic, four snifters into our introduction to France’s best, I asked Brian, “By the way, how much money did you bring?” His reply was, “$100!”

Ok, we were traveling on one-way tickets, my compadre had a hundred bucks on him, but I had four hundred, so as was our motto back them, “Who cares?!” We pooled our money and made it work. Our daily budget was no more than $5 each, per day!

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Thus began my rambling travel adventures. I’m happy to say it was one of the best decisions of my life.

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We survived 11 months hitchhiking through fifteen countries, working illegally in France and Germany, sleeping on park benches, in abandoned buildings and on church floors, crashing with squatters, stealing vegetables from untended gardens and doing whatever else was necessary to continue our rambling ways.

We found work at a high end seafood restaurant on the French Riviera in Port Grimaldi, France, me working as a cook and Brian a dishwasher. We bought black market Eurail tickets during our two week stay aboard “The Struggle For Life”, a floating youth hostel on an Amsterdam canal. We climbed a mountain at midnight in The Land of the Midnight Sun, 400 miles north of the Arctic Circle in Narvik, Norway. We ran completely out of money five months into our adventure and were only saved that day by a passerby who happened to overhear us talking about our dilemma as he passed us walking up a flight of stairs. He ultimately hired us (illegally) to work for him bagging groceries at the US Army Commissary in Frankfurt, Germany. We were deemed undesirable by customs officials when entering the United Kingdom in Southampton, England. Our trip was completed after four weeks of hitchhiking through Ireland when we purchased return tickets to Chicago in January of 1976.

My appetite for rambling was whetted and we’ve been traveling the world since!

My intention with this blog is to share my stories with you as I continue these rambling ways now that I have retired. My wife and soulmate, Nina, has been my traveling companion for the past 36 years and we look forward to sharing our continued adventures with you. From time to time, I’ll also share “flashbacks” to trips we’ve taken in the past.

Thanks for coming along with us and feel free to share this blog with friends if you think they would enjoy.

Ramble on!

Mike

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

3 Replies to “Early On”

  1. When I was in Germany, a army buddy & I traveled around Europe for 30 days. The $5 a day book {the bible}brought back many memories. Thanks & look forward to reading more of your adventures. Jap

    Liked by 1 person

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