A Portuguese medical student, studying in Paris, picked me up in Tours. I took out my map and he pointed to Lisbon as our destination. He spoke little English and I no Portuguese, and what French I knew I had to copy from my Berlitz Pocket Phrase Book. But I asked if I could come along and he said Ciaou! which has a similar meaning to Aloha in Hawaiian, and could mean hello, goodbye, or whoop-de-doo! So off we drove down old highway number 3, through Poitiers' and Bordeaux's wine country and then onto Bayonne on the west coast of France. He had not been home to see his family in six years. He had two sons: a boy and a girl. We produced wonderful discussions like this along the way, neither of us understanding much of the other, as in most marriages, short or long endured. It's always good to have a family a few hundred miles away; you appreciate them more. My destination had been the Prado in Madrid; but, hey what, why not see the sea into which Vasco da Gama set sail to India long ago, and actually discovered it, unlike that Italian guy who went the wrong way.


On today's Europa maps, the highway numbers have been updated to form a more perfect European union. Highway 3 is now E05. The E says the road crosses European borders. Roads running North to South end in an odd digit, originally the digit 5, and increase from west to east. (Nevertheless, looking at today's Europa maps on Google, there seems to be zillions of exceptions to this scheme.)


The great E-road number update occurred in November 1975, the year I visited. I like to think that along the way somewhere during my summer hikeabout, someone important heard my critique on making maps easier to read for hitchers like me. But we never know whom we influence, nor how much, do we?

My chauffeur's little Fiat was falling apart — definitely not the shiny yellow of the Beatle's submarine, but the mind remembers what the eye did not see — and somehow we limped and spluttered into España, crossing the border at Irun, through San Sebastian along the Atlantic coast, and down the Pyrenees past Tolosa into Gasteiz, the capital of Basque country. Back then, Gasteiz was called Vitoria, its Spanish name on European maps. You know you have gained a respectful amount of political power when you can name your own town. This night in Vitoria-Gasteiz was my first night on the ground thus far. While I found a place to be comfy in my summer down sleeping bag, my driver slept in his Fiat, not so comfortably I imagine.