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  1. It is Saturday afternoon, May 21, 2022. We are in Chioggia, Italy. It is a beach town south of Venice. How we got here is a long story. I'll begin with our flight from the US. Our flight from McAllen was an early one, we left Sandpipiers Resort at 5:30 a.m. for a 30 minute drive to the airport. Check in was a mess. There was a line until things got stopped up, only two agents and both had customers with problems. Skipping details, they held the plane for Louise and I and one other customer. We got to Houston in time to get to our gate for our next flight to Newark, NJ. The airport at Newark is bizarre. We hadn't had breakfast or much more than a snack and were looking forward to food. Apparently they have an airport wide system for food service. Every restaurant or bar had an electronic menu. You scanned a square code for the menu but it wouldn't work well with our phones. They advised us to switch to Google for our browser. We didn't and managed finally to get help so we could get a couple slices of pizza. We boarded our plane, a Boeing 767-400 wide body at 7:00 p.m. EDT. Once in the air, sunset progressed very quickly and after an inflight "meal" everyone settled down for the night. They woke us at about 2:00 a.m., fed us breakfast and landed in Venice at 9:00 a.m. Venice time (all of Italy is the same time). We were processed through Italian customs in a mass of several hundred passengers from our flight and another tour group. They hustled us through as fast as they could. The Venice airport is a really small airport, one runway and one taxiway. There were two planes at gates. We had reserved a room at the Antony Palace Hotel just west of the airport. A short taxi ride and we were at our hotel about10:00 a.m. The room wasn't ready so we waited in the lobby until about 11. Once in our room, we showered and hit the sack. After about 6 hours of sleep, we got up, went to the lobby bar and had a light meal, a plate of assorted prescutto meats with mozzarella cheese balls and a glass of wine (or two). Now it was about 9:00 p.m. Venice time. We went back to the room and back to sleep. Up the next morning about 9:00, showered again and checked out of the hotel. From the hotel we took a taxi to the Indie Camper rental agency, a completely industrial facility. There was no waiting room, they stacked our gear and took us to nearby mall. We explored the mall, got food and drink and found a large well stocked grocery store. We filled a basket with food and supplies and exited the mall just in time to be picked up, our camper was ready. They helped us get our gear into the camper, a quick orientation and they were closed. We spent about a half hour getting things organized before we hit the road. I had the Italy chip for our Garmin GPS we use in the car so the GPS is familiar. We had identified a campground south of Venice but not too far away as our first stop. The camper had a 1/4 tank of diesel and 1/4 tank of DEF which is the added to the exhaust of diesel engines to clean up the exhaust. First stop was a gas station to fill up. Surprise number one, their gas pumps, completely self service, take credit cards but require a four digit PIN. I haven't seen a PIN needed for a credit card in I don't know how many years and had to look up the PIN in my computer. It was three digits and was not accepted. I figured we would find another station and try again. As we pulled out of the station, the engine which had been running normally now was speed restricted to 35 kilometers per hour. Pretty slow for a major thoroughfare. I was driving on the shoulder with flashers and finally when I couldn't get better performance from the engine decided to call for road service. There was a call box and I pulled up and stopped. Talking to someone on the other end who is struggling with his English as I am with Italian, we finally decided to call for a tow truck. It arrived shortly and the camper was loaded onto the back of a slant bed tow truck. It turns out that the 1/4 tank of DEF and Diesel were much less than that. We had gone about 10 kilometers when the tow truck picked us up. He added DEF at their service center, it didn't help. It wasn't until we left and found another fuel station that the problem was solved. So the Fiat diesel engine derates itself for DEF and/or diesel. We stayed on the slower roads and pulled aside for following traffic when possible. Using cash, I put in enough diesel to get it to 3/4 full. Now things were running fine. It was getting late, the sun was setting so we set out for the campground. An hour and a half later we were there. I missed two or three turns which the GPS corrected each time. I'm not sure how much that added to our travels. In at least one case it simply turned us around and put us back on the same road and I got the correct exit that time. We arrived in Chioggia about 10:00 p.m. The town is on the coast, marinas and beaches everywhere. The bars and restaurants were going full swing. There were people walking everywhere. We also had to contend with 100's of bicycles and heavy traffic on narrow roads. Louise was not happy. No matter how many times we tried we could not find the campground. Tom was not happy. We finally drove by a campground, not the intended one, and pulled in, it was now after 11:00 p.m. They had one space. We took it and are staying 2 nights. We explored the campground, found the restrooms and showers. Facilities at this campground were unisex, everything except sinks were in enclosed spaces. Showers are pay showers and require Euro coins. We had none. No showers. The toilets didn't have toilet paper so it was back to the camper. Fortunately we had purchased toilet paper at the above mentioned mall stop. All was good. It took us a while to get the bed made and enough of our gear stowed that we could get to sleep. We opened all the vents, covered the windshield and climbed into bed. After a good night's sleep, the day looked better. We got more groceries, stopped for a snack and drinks on the way back from the Aldi food store and are now relaxing for the afternoon. The beaches are all controlled entry and have huge full parking lots. We haven't been to the beach yet but may try that a little later as some of the beach goers head off to the restaurants and bars mentioned above. Louise is sleeping soundly as I write this. It takes some time to adjust to the overnight flight and a seven hour change in time. We are adjusting. I am pleased that the driving isn't as bad as I had feared. Despite difficulties we were able to get around without accident or incident. We went through some pretty hairy stuff dealing with crowds, narrow roads and oh yes, did I mention that I'm relearning the standard shift of my childhood. There have been a few missed gears but, hey, it's a rental! So that is installment number one of the great Italian adventure. Four days and counting...
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