Fuel, frustration and a series of conspiring events en route to the Berlin airport

I was just a couple hours from reaching the Berlin Tegel Airport, on the tail end of a road trip around northern Germany, when a series of events conspired to delay and stress me out!

Berlin Tegel airport by MikesRoadTrip.com

First I was nearly out of gas and passed, unbeknownst to me, the last fuel station for about 70 km along highway 2. I was also desperate to use the bathroom! Both of these topics fully occupied my mind. It was all I was thinking about at the moment…fuel and bladder relief.  All of a sudden, while traveling at a rate of some 140kph, the traffic came to a sketching halt. I had no idea what was causing the traffic jam on this leisurely Sunday afternoon, but soon discovered a semi truck had jackknifed and closed down two of the three lanes. 

Watching the fuel gauge rest below the “E” (for empty) while I waited impatiently for traffic to move as my bladder screamed to be relieved intensified my stress level.

Fuel on empty by MikesRoadTrip.com

As hundreds of cars inched their way through the cluster of traffic, I could finally see some light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. After a nearly 20 minute delay, I finally made it to a wide-open freeway.  It wasn’t long before I found a restroom. Thankfully, the first potential disaster had been averted.

Unfortunately, there were no fuel stations in sight and I had no cell/data service to assist me in locating the nearest place for petrol. When I got back in the car from my bathroom break and turn the key, the digital display said I had 0 miles of fuel left. A big gulp of desperation lingered. With no choice but to move onward, I was soon trucking down the freeway.

Berlin traffic jam by MikesRoadTrip.com

It wasn’t long when I ran into a construction zone where traffic slowed again. I could feel the stress cause my blood pressure to rise. Finally, I saw a sign that said 5 km to fuel. I was so thrilled!  However, I had already run well past 600 km on this tank of fuel, which had become my benchmark for “Oh shit you’re out of fuel” from a previous fill up, as that too was a point in which I was running on fumes.

Traffic could not move fast enough, although I was thankful for the slow speed as it was probably conserving some of my fuel. That and the fact that my vehicle was equipped with a fuel saving device that basically shut the car off each time I came to a stop.

As I inch toward the off ramp I saw that the fuel station was in sight. Just at that moment the car started to sputter. With luck on my side, the off ramp had a downward slop and was thankfully able to coast down the hill. Without a drop of fuel in the tank I made it near the entrance to the fuel station and only had to push the car a few hundred feet to the gas pump. I cannot explain the intense wave of relief that washed over me once I reached that fuel pump. Not only was I in a foreign land with no cell service, but I had a plane to catch.

I had run vehicles down to fumes many times before, a couple of which made me feel similar to this experience, but never had I actually run out of gas in all my years of driving.

So, let this be a lesson that unless you know the area well, it’s probably not a good idea to test the fuel limits on a rental car in a foreign nation. 😉

The fuel was the second potential disaster averted, I still needed to make it to the airport in time to catch my flight. I was now well behind the time I wanted to be at the airport. As I raced in that direction through the outskirts of Berlin, the sun was falling low on the horizon. Out of my peripheral vision I saw flashing lights and my heart nearly stopped. For a moment I thought I was being pulled over by police. What was actually occurring was a series of trees equally spaced along the freeway in which the sun was piercing through and quickly being blocked every split second as to emulate a flashing light.

With jittered nerves, I finally made it to the airport, but still needed to return my rental car. Trying to navigate the various roadways, I was trying to take my time, but just as I got to a point where I needed to merge to the right in the direction of the car rental lot, I was boxed out by a taxi driver, causing me to have to exit the airport, make a U-turn and start all over again. This mistake cost me another 10 minutes, which again, added to my stress.

With the car successfully returned and my bags checked, I had just enough time to get through security and immigration. I made it to the gate just in the nick of time to board. As the boarding time came and went, it was soon announced that the flight had been delayed. My flight ended up leaving two hours late.

Have you ever come close or actually run out of fuel on a road trip? Leave a comment below and share your experience.

Mike Shubic

Mike Shubic is a seasoned road trip travel video blogger, traversing the byways of the world looking for those hidden gems of the road. From unique destinations, unexpected discoveries, creative cuisine, intriguing inns to exciting attractions…the road is his page. The experiences are his ink. And every 300 miles, a new chapter begins. Whether you live vicariously or by example, Mike will do the exploring so you can have an adventure.