Normally you'll arrive at the Stuttgart airport in the afternoon. You might be tempted to try to pick up your car then. Don't. Youíve just been in one airplane or another for 14 hours or so. Also, if you plan picking it up that day and your plane is late, you wonít be able to. They close at 4 PM at the factory.

Do NOT schedule arrival in Germany on Friday and picking up the car on the same day. If your plane is late, itíll be Monday before you can get your car.

Instead use the taxi coupon to go to the Intercontinental Hotel for the night.

The Intercontinental is a walk through the park away from the shopping district. So if you want something from the Gap or Benneton that you can't get at home, go shopping. If you haven't been shopping in Germany, by all means go in order to see the sights. The area is very safe. But I still kept my wallet in a front pants pocket and kept my hand in my pocket. Charles Slement's pocket was picked in Barcelona, so you never know.

The Intercontinental will give you 2 free drink tickets and a 50 DM dinner ticket. The waiter bringing the drinks should be tipped, as the ticket doesn't cover that.

All through the trip we had difficulty tipping. Bellmen and the like wouldn't stick around for a tip.

The next morning, refreshed, relaxed, somewhat over jetlag, you can have a relatively early breakfast at the Intercontinental. You want to be at the factory in time to take the 8:45 tour as the next English speaking tour is much later.

Take a taxi. Our bill was circa 67 DM before tip this time. Last time it was over 80 DM. (I believe they've added another taxi coupon since I did this. Added 2002)

The taxi driver will take you to the main entrance of the European Delivery center. Inside they will check your bags. Before you get there put one camera around your neck. You can't take photos of the tour, but you can of the Delivery Center. Additionally you won't have the camera to document your first view of your new baby car if you don't.

When you check in at the information desk they will point you to a room where a lady will ask for your confirmation. Then she will send you to the tour while your paperwork is processed and the car is washed and gassed. They deliver 500 cars a day there, so they don't finish the process until you show up.

After the tour you might want to visit the boutique, which has relocated to the back of the accessories store.

Lunch is on Mercedes. You have a 100 DM ticket. Don't go into the buffet place. Go to the gourmet restaurant to the left identified with a knife, fork, and spoon sign. There you can spend 100 DM if you try. If you don't try, instead of change, they'll give you a bottle of wine to take with you.

When you go back and complete your paperwork pay attention to what the lady tells you about the valuable papers. Lose the MSO at your peril. When that is done you will be put on a bus to the pickup place, where they will call your name when your turn comes up.

The man who delivered our car to us went through the basics quickly. When he went to lower the top, it wouldn't go down. It would require 2 hours to fix that, which pretty much ruined our schedule.

We had an appointment for a private tour of the Mercedes-Benz museum at 1400. We still needed to go to E.H. Harms to do the shipping paperwork. We wound up making the tour an hour late and not being able to get to E. H. Harms by closing time, which meant driving back from Baden-Baden, 2 hours, and another two hours back to rejoin the Black Forest-Alps Rallye. In 17 years of doing European Deliveries, I've never had this happen to anyone else.

The delivery person told me, when I asked, the car had 10-40 oil in it, but the brand depended on who filled up the tanks that day as they had contracts with Mobil and Shell. And he told me I could use any unleaded as theirs starts with 91 octane and goes up. There was no 93 octane, so rather than use 91, I used Super, 95 octane for the trip. The car might not have needed it, but it helped my peace of mind. I'm sure the knock sensor and electronic controls would handle low octane, but thereís something about doing that to a supercharged engine that irks me. Additionally we measure octane by averaging two different methods. I don't know how they measure it. If in doubt, use too much. It's only money.

He set the radio to 102.3, which is Armed Forces Radio, and the only English language radio station in the area. We brought a couple of cassettes, the CD not being mounted yet. I would suggest more than 2. One album was Jimmy Buffet's "Songs you know by heart." We sure do now.

Later we found 102.1, Blue Danube radio, which we could hear around King Ludwig's castles and into Austria.

I do recommend taking some cassette tapes. Otherwise you'll be listening to German rap and German Elvis imitators. Last time we went, in 1995, we were cracked up hearing "German-German-German-German und The Rolling Stones und I ain't got no satisfaction." This time it was "German-German-German-Bill Clinton German-German-German-Monica Lewinski-German-German-German-Sex Scandal-German-German-German Kenneth Starr German-German-German Impeachment."

Do divert from the Black Forest-Alps Rallye instructions to go down the street to E.H. Harms, the shipper. You will need to give them your paperwork, and they will set up the shipping documents. If you are leaving the car at the Bayerischer Hof in München, this is CRITICAL as you canít without the paperwork. The nice lady there will type everything needed and sort it and make an envelope for you to leave with the concierge at the Bayerischer Hof along with one master key. She will also warn you to remove all personal items but leave the license plates on the car. Remove the first aid kit and warning triangle and carry them home in your luggage. They will not be in the car when you see it next if you don't. An American first aid kit will be substituted, and the wonderful warning triangle will be trashed. She will also tell you to please pay for parking at the Bayerischer Hof through the time which the car will be picked up. If you are leaving the car on a weekend, this means through Monday afternoon. In our case it was an extra 33 DM.

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