German Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger on his RV tour of the US and Canada.
German Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger on his RV tour of the US and Canada.
For The Washington Post

The Ambassador & the RV

The sun sets on Lake Champlain in South Hero, Vt., among the stops on the author's RV itinerary.
The sun sets on Lake Champlain in South Hero, Vt., among the stops on the author's RV itinerary. (Andre Jenny - Vermont Dept. of Tourism)

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By Jutta Falke-Ischinger
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, December 18, 2005

It is one of those typical Washington fundraisers in a windowless ballroom: black tie, long dresses.

"Is it true?" one woman addresses me. "You and the ambassador are renting an RV for your summer vacation?"

That's what we want to do, yes, I say.

"My God!" She can hardly speak. "But who is going to drive you?"

"Wolfgang."

"Wolfgang? That is sooo wonderful," she replies, her expression betraying her true feelings.

Yes, this trip is my husband Wolfgang's idea. He is the German ambassador to the United States, and we've been living in Washington for four years. It's not that we haven't traveled around the country: Our official trips have taken us from airplanes and limousines to hotel rooms, dinner tables and ever more conference centers. But the real America, we felt, was happening somewhere else. Clearly without us.

That's how the RV idea was born. We decided to drive up to Haliburton Forest in Ontario with our 11-month-old daughter and the family dog, exploring Upstate New York and New England along the way -- a 2,800-mile round trip from Washington.

Wolfgang has done this before, renting an RV 30 years ago and touring the East Coast. He just loved the freedom, he said, even though the car roof was shaved off in an unfortunate encounter with an underpass. It's not something I'm particularly keen on experiencing myself.

This time Wolfgang is not leaving anything to chance. He has established a promising correspondence with AAA, which has sent us road planners and lists of campgrounds almost every day for the past two months.

Having successfully avoided camping all my life, I watch the preparations with some skepticism. "Stop worrying, campgrounds in America are not as cramped as they are in Europe," my husband says. "You don't even see your neighbor!"

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