In October, Tim and I went north to pick up the newest addition to the Rietkerk family: a Volvo sedan. The Army ships one vehicle with the family when you move overseas. We donated the trusty gold Honda Accord and shipped the Honda minivan. For the past 3 months, the van has been great. It’s taken us as far north as Denmark and south to the Czech Republic. With more than 115,000 miles on the 2006 model, we thought now would be a good time to purchase another vehicle. Being in the land of “no speed limit”, every soldier’s dream is a super fast car. Most choose the BMW 300 or 500 series in black. In fact, there are so many of these models on military bases, it’s hard to believe they are something special in the States. Tim and I were first taken with the BMW, but after careful research (and the 50th anniversary special Volvo was offering) we decided to purchase the Volvo S-80, a 4 door sedan, in the classic dark blue Volvo color.
When you purchase a Volvo, you can have it delivered to the dealer OR you can opt to take factory delivery up in Sweden, which is what we did during the last weekend in October 2011. The deal goes like this: if you elect to pick up at the dealership, you will pay a $600 delivery fee. If you go to the factory, Volvo pays for your trip up north and then you drive it back home. Tim was able to get leave approved for the trip to Sweden and on Monday, Oct 31 we boarded a train in Parsberg (a 5 minute drive from our house) to Kiel, via Regensberg and Frankfurt. The train travel took 8 hours but was thoroughly enjoyable. No distractions to our reading selections, we stopped at the Starbucks in Frankfurt for a little snack and then enjoyed a picnic lunch with bottles of wine on the train.
Once we arrived in Kiel, it was a 10 minute walk to the Stena Line ferry where we checked in, received room keys and hit the buffet.
The ferry left port at 7:30pm and traveled across the Baltic Sea overnight. We arrived in Gothenburg Sweden at 9am and left our luggage in our cabin, which we would return in the evening. We were warmly greeted by our Volvo driver who whisked us away to the factory, about 15 minutes from the dock. Once at the factory, we were the first to check in and our car was rolled out in the delivery waiting area. We were like first time parents, oohing and ahhing over the shiny new toy. Our Volvo rep Leif took us on a tour of the bells and whistles of the car and then let us take over and take it on a spin on the test track. Lest you get too excited, the track is about 1/4 mile long and limited to low speeds. We’d have to wait to test the power in the engine until after lunch.
At 11:30, we enjoyed lunch in the restaurant which featured a traditional Swedish meal: meatballs, potatoes, gravy and lingonberries. Better than IKEA! Then, it was time for our factory tour. Sorry, no pictures allowed but it reminded me of the Disney movie Wall-E or the ride “Cars” at Epcot: lots of robots doing very detailed work. When we did see humans, they were surprisingly young; I don’t think we spotted anyone over the age of 50 on the floor and most looked like young adults. Impressive tour though. They kept emphasizing that every Volvo is created with specific customer specifications. Every vehicle is pre-ordered and built to match the end user’s desires.
We left the factory at 3:30 and drove around the city enjoying the sound system and bluetooth capabilities. Once on board the ferry again, we made our way back to the buffet. After a restful night’s sleep, we disembarked with the car and headed south to Lupburg. We made it home in 8 hours and thoroughly enjoyed driving the car on the autobahn. Tim got the car up to 110 mph, a thrilling prospect after many years at speeds half that. We are going to enjoy traveling to new places in this car.