Sunday June 3, 2001 What adventure could be complete without a few airline snafues? This time it was a thirty-minute delay at Denver International after we had boarded and taxied for take-off. Thirty minutes soon became indefinite as foul weather in Chicago temporarily closed O'Hare. After two more hours in the airport terminal I was again off for Chicago eventually landing at 4:45pm. As my connecting flight to Amsterdam had long since departed, I booked a KLM flight to Gothenburg, Sweden departing the following day. So Chicago it was for 24 hours... and to my delight, an impressive city to get stuck in. From Enterprise I rented a terrific $45 mini van/hotel room combo and promptly asked for directions to the best pizza joint downtown. The unanimous answer was "Pizza Uno" on Ohio Street. Sunday evening the city was still abuzz with nightlife. Towering skyscrapers (dwarfing Denver’s), rich history, and a distinctive aura demanded that I park and hit the streets on foot to soak it all up. A passerby confirmed the earlier dining recommendation. Pizza Uno was busy and had a great atmosphere. I grabbed a seat at the bar for my authentic Chicago experience (four beers, a personal Chicago pizza, and baseball). Next to me were a pair of financial advisors in town for a convention and opposite, would you believe it, a Saab owner! By 12:15am I decided I would not close the bar tonight. Off to my hotel-on-wheels where I found a quiet spot on Chicago’s well-lit streets. Until tomorrow, goodnight!
Monday June 4, 2007 6:00am, coffee at Big Mag and then off to say “hello” to a few Saab independent shops in town. From numerous owners conventions I’ve come to know Kevin Henry, owner of Saab Tech. What a remarkable shop. He kindly offered the use of his shower as my mini van was not equipped with one. Before I could leave Saab Tech to visit my next acquaintance, in he walked. Fred Capella is the proud owner of perhaps the only turbo diesel Saab 9-3 sport sedan in the states. On many occasions he has come to visit Mile Hi Body Shop in Denver. By 11:00am I departed for downtown Chicago which today was rainy and overcast. Sears Tower was partially shrouded in the clouds. Overhead the subway cars clicked and clacked just as I’ve seen in the movies. I returned my rental car at O’Hare, check-in preceded without a hitch and I was promptly off by 4:30pm. Ingred, whose husband passed away twenty years ago, passed the time with stories of her new love at 77 years of age. She now lives six months of the year in Chicago, the other in Germany. Talk about a long distance relationship! After taking in a movie (Wild Hogs) I’m calling it a night. Hope my baggage finds it’s was to Gothenburg!
Tuesday June 5, 2007 Chatting with Ingred and the abbreviated night resulting from the international flight has meant little sleep for me. As I suspected, my luggage has not arrived in Gothenburg. For the sake of others, I hope it will catch up with me soon! The next item on my itinerary is to meet Paul and Myrna Bottone in Stockholm, a 6½ hour drive. Remaining alert with Sweden’s infamous moose population will be a challenge... are the Swedes known for strong coffee? What a beautiful country! In this agricultural region, not a farm house or barn appears in need of repair and the neatly trimmed hay is like a dense green carpet. In the spirit of a re-badged GM, I’ve plastered my sluggish and uncomfortable rental Skoda (Czech. made) with plenty of Saab emblems. At first glance it could almost be a 9-3 sport kombi. Arriving in Stockholm, I became momentarily lost on my way to meet the Bottones. The Swedish folk are hospitable (and attractive!) and quickly had me on the correct route. A hot shower at the hotel was a welcome amenity before grabbing dinner at Under Bar, one of many restaurants in a fifteen-block-long tourist trap. As lamb dishes appeared to be the overwhelming favorite of the area, I chose lamb kabob and a $6.00 beer. Running on fumes at 10:45pm and no where near dark (sun down is likely past 11:30pm), its lights out for me!
Wednesday June 6, 2007 Hotel Bema is a B&B style hotel in old Stockholm. A light breakfast and our trio set out for a full twelve hours of sightseeing. First up was a boat tour of Stockholm’s waterfront and many bridges including an audio tour of the area’s great history. Afterwards, we made our way to the main island to stroll the ultra-narrow alleys of the old city. All of it immensely enjoyable, one day was not enough! Back at the hotel I was greeted with a wonderful surprise... my luggage! What a difference fresh clothes make. I was beginning to feel less like a tourist and more like a vagabond. As this was our last night in Stockholm, we concluded the night with a toast to the city.
Thursday June 7, 2007 At this point in the year, the daylight hours can really throw you for a loop. The sky is never totally dark and by 1:30am, the sun is already making its way up the horizon. The Bottones seemed unfazed by the peculiar setting, however, by 5am I could no longer sleep. I sauntered down to a café for a latté and muffin and enjoyed the serene morning. The winter here must be difficult. From a local’s description, there can be up to eighteen hours of darkness in one day. 7:30am and we’re off for Trollhattan. Running a bit late for our 1pm tour of the Saab Factory, we pushed our Skaab, I mean Skoda to its upper limits of 160kph. In Trollhattan, our attention is captured by a busy shipping canal providing access to an inland lake, vital to many industries including Saab. The Saab Factory was a sight to behold. Our tour began at final assembly where an assortment of painted bodies prepared for the intricately choreographed spectacle of equipment fitting. Computer automation supplies a steady stream of parts and ensures each unit is built to exact spec. After the concluding installation of doors, each car springs to life and drives off under its own power. If only cameras were allowed! This particular plant produces sport sedan and sport combi 9-3 variants, sedan and combi 9-5, and the Cadillac BLS. Tom and Patty Donney happened to share the same tour. As the Bottones and I check into our hotel rooms, the anniversary festival is clearly under way. My Skoda, now donning more than 75 Saab emblems, is attracting interest and snapshots. As you would assume, most everyone at the festival is Swedish. Yet, already I have met Derrick and Louise of Spain. Both attended the ‘99 owners convention in Colorado and look forward to coming back in 2009. Armed with 250 promotional buttons, Paul and I are doing our best to improve upon our previous SOC Colorado attendance. Bargains were to be had as Saab supplied huge quantities of surplus parts. The Saab Museum with curator Peter Backstrom is also a must see. With perfect examples of every production model built from Saab’s inception and many concept and experimental cars, one can learn much about Saab’s heritage in a short amount of time.
Saturday, June 9, 2007 As a full day of track events were on tap, the entire festival moved to a road racing circuit in Lynkkopp, a small town 45 minutes from Trollhattan. Infield were many show vehicles as well as festival attendees anxiously awaiting their own chance to lap the racing course. First up, early two-stroke models were directed on track followed by progressively later Saab models. A grand site to see for any Saab enthusiast, but soon overshadowed by modified class vehicles including one 700+hp Saab that absolutely made everything else look as if it were standing still. Next up was the outrageous talent of the Saab Performance Team. Flying 180 degree turns, 360 and 720 degree spins, two-wheel maneuvers, close formation driving, and precision slalom passes are spectacular to see but can definitely leave you tense. One slightly miscalculated stunt resulted in a barrier impact only two feet to the left of Paul and I. Paul was able to capture the entire crash sequence on video before ducking for cover. With only a broken tail light and scuffed bumper, the driver continued with the demonstration as if nothing happened.
Sunday June 10, 2007 Back in Trollhattan for the festival’s final day. Saab revved up the excitement with live music, an air demonstration featuring a quartet of Saab fighter jets, and the unveiling of the new 9-3. The museum’s extensive collection was augmented with new production models and past model variants that are not regular fixtures. Eric Carlsson throttled his two-stroke rally racer and the first Saab automobile ever built was fired up for our enjoyment (both would miserably fail Denver’s noise ordinance). As I’m on the run, check back soon for more information and photos!