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Living memory.

Living memory.

The Kapkas, European roads and the memories of a lifetime.

The Kapkas, European roads and the memories of a lifetime.

By: Amy K. Hooper
Photos: Mary Kapka

When Mary and Rick Kapka of Kansas City decided to indulge in a new car last year, they went big, buying a 2015 Audi Q5 and taking advantage of the European Delivery Program. In retrospect, it became the loving couple’s last great adventure. Originally, we asked Rick to convey his thoughts with an article, but he took ill with a rare form of cancer and passed away before we were able to print it. Instead, we combined Rick’s words and Mary’s memories, giving her a chance to relive this experience they shared and to create the expression of a living memory—the idea that so long as we can remember them, our loved ones are still with us.

It was always planned as the trip of a lifetime: flying to Europe, picking up their Q5 and taking a leisurely 900-mile drive. They had what Mary called “a relatively simple process” buying the vehicle through Molle Audi in Kansas City, Missouri, and found themselves in Munich in May of 2015. (Customers can collect their cars in Ingolstadt or Neckarsulm: European Delivery)

“The Q5 was the most luxurious car my husband ever purchased,” Mary said. “If I didn’t know better, I would think he had a premonition.”

They were excited for their journey to truly start after checking into Hilton Munich Airport. “After a short nap, we were anxious to make our way to Munich’s historic Old Town,” she said. “We walked to the station, which was just a few minutes from our hotel, purchased tickets and boarded a train. The town was filled with activity, and the atmosphere was festive. We had lunch at one of the many outdoor cafes, and my favorite part was people-watching while we sipped on some local brew.”

The next morning, an Audi chauffeur awaited the Kapkas in the hotel lobby. The one night of lodging and the shuttle service were part of the delivery program. Rick wrote:

Our driver helped load our gear into the trunk of a very European-looking A8, and in a few minutes, we left the airport behind and were on the autobahn heading toward Ingolstadt. We were comfortably ensconced in the back seats, and if I would not have asked the driver how fast we were going (approximately 90 mph), we would have assumed around 60. The drive was so smooth that it almost felt like we were standing still.

I had spent a couple of my early teenage years going to school in Bavaria, and the view of rolling hills with perhaps a farm in the distance brought back a memory or two of those times. Soon enough, we were inside the Audi delivery center in Ingolstadt.

Their hours at Audi Forum Ingolstadt included the program’s pre-arranged two-hour guided tour plus access to the cafeteria for one complimentary meal each and to Audi museum mobile, which features dozens of cars, motorcycles and bicycles.

Rick described the museum as “pretty amazing and probably worth a visit to Ingolstadt even if one is not planning on picking up an Audi:

Several examples of Audi cars—including Horch, Wanderer, NSU and Auto Union branded vehicles—are on display. There are racing cars, delivery vehicles and everything in-between, including an exhibit of Audi police cars through the ages. I was pretty up to speed on cars in my youth and remember that Germany in those days, at least to kids in my socioeconomic demographic, was known mostly for VWs, though we were of course aware of some of the other German higher-end cars.

I do not recall being aware of Audi or any of the other brands that made up the entire Audi family before I went to school in Germany. When I arrived in Bavaria in 1965, I noticed several unfamiliar brands of cars right away. As I recall, our art teacher had an Auto Union 1000 with rounded fenders, which I fell in love with immediately (the car, not the teacher). I probably pictured myself driving that AU along some moonlit road with a cutie on my side and “no particular place to go.” The museum held several examples of more recent Audi models too, including an early ’70s 100 (one of my all-time favorite designs) and an example of the famous 1984 Quattro.

After the factory tour and the actual delivery, the Kapkas were soon on their way, driving from Ingolstadt toward Rothenburg ob der Tauber, about 100 miles northwest of the factory, and had their first experience driving the Q5 on the autobahn.

Much of the route between Ingolstadt and Rothenburg is on autobahn highways, so I knew that I would have a chance to experience the new Audi at decent speeds. The Audi support person in Ingolstadt suggested keeping the engine below 3,000 rpms for the first 1,000 miles. As we were on mostly highway-type roads, this was not difficult to do at all. The fact that the eight-speed transmission responded to every demand made of it was comforting nonetheless.

After an overnight in Rothenburg, the Kapkas drove south to Landsberg on the Romantic Road, which Rick described as a two-lane road that’s quite narrow in some portions. Following lunch in Dinkelsbühl, Rick was hungry for faster-paced delights:

The autobahn parallels the Romantic Road, so it was on to the autobahn. After all, what is the purpose of having an Audi in Germany if you cannot drive it at decent speeds from time to time? Though it was my second time on the autobahn with the Q5, I could not get over how easily the car responded when I pushed it—nor the smooth, quiet ride quality.

While equally appreciative of the car’s performance, Mary had other considerations on her mind, having taken up photography after retirement. “There were so many unique areas we visited along our route,” she said. “It seems like I must have asked my husband to pull over a hundred times so I could capture the beauty along the way. I was mesmerized when we got to the castle at Neuschwanstein. We actually took the tour, but I would have been satisfied to just stand back and enjoy the grandeur from a distance.

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“After all that, we traveled through the Alps—which were spectacular,” Mary said. “I kept thinking ‘It can’t get any better than this,’ but when I laid my eyes upon the Dolomites, I felt like it was the most beautiful landscape I had ever seen.”

Rick appreciated the Dolomites for another reason: a chance to drive the Q5 over more challenging terrain. Although he typically left the transmission in the automatic mode for downshifting, he used the manual shifting mode on some downhill slopes and winding roads:

The transmission responded to everything required—uphill accelerations and downhill decelerations without any excessive noise or trouble. In all cases, the ride was incredibly smooth. While these roads are better suited for a true sports car, we were both thoroughly impressed with the ride quality and road feel experienced in the Q5.

After exploring Italy, the Kapkas arrived in Kobarid, Slovenia, to investigate Kobarid Museum’s displays about World War I. Rick’s grandfather was a soldier in the Austro-Hungarian army, killed in battle in late 1914 along the Eastern Front in present-day Poland—lending personal significance to the museum and the cemetery outside Bovec. While driving on the Russian Road toward Triglav, Rick noticed that the Audi effortlessly handled the 50-some switchbacks:

It began to rain about halfway up to Triglav, but the rain had no noticeable effect on the ride. We stopped at several sites along the way, some related to an aspect of the war, others just so we could better observe the incredible views afforded to us by Triglav and the Julian Alps. Our descent was as breathtaking as the ascent. The mountain ride proved to be pretty remarkable; the natural views of the mountains and the added historical perspective made for a wonderful combination. This drive is certainly a bit out of the way—but just as certainly, it was worth every minute we spent on it.

Stops in Bled and Piran preceded the final stop in Koper, Slovenia, where they parted ways with their Q5. Rick described the transport company recommended by Audi as experienced, professional and helpful, even suggesting a nearby business for the required car wash. From the transport company’s parking lot, Rick and Mary took a taxi to Trieste, Italy, where they stayed overnight before flying to Kansas City and awaited their vehicle’s celebrated arrival in mid-July.

When Rick went to pick up the Q5, Mary stayed at their home and enjoyed seeing him arrive in their Audi. “When he came driving up the street, it reminded me of a commercial when the neighbors turned their heads to admire our ‘fancy’ car,” she said. “Several of the neighbors came over to congratulate us, which led to an impromptu celebration with wine and a toast to ‘the good life.’”

With the memories to match.

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