By John Sieger, Special to   Published Sep 24, 2013 at 12:36 PM

The change from hilly Germany to mountainous Austria is not quite as sudden as encountering the Rockies in the middle of Colorado, but it is no less dramatic. It is also about as chock full of charm as any place has a right to be.

In fact, that last sentence was typed in a tunnel that cuts through one of the more dramatic mountains this flatlander has seen. Before that, there was the beautiful alpine town of Salzburg and a couple smaller villages that were probably turned down as a setting for "The Sound of Music" for being too ridiculously beautiful to believe.

All this beauty is filtered through the experience of hours in a van with three band members and Klaus the Tailgater. Over here, that act doesn't involve a party in the parking lot of a stadium, but rather racing up on much smaller vehicles, stabbing the brakes and making a rude gesture (just a little out their view) that resembles grabbing some sort of low-hanging fruit. For some reason, I trust Klaus implicitly, and he is competent beyond the dreams of any musician's fantasy of a road manager.

I mean, he booked the tour, drives, translates, rents the gear, sets it up, tears it down, sells the CDs, deals with the club owners and any other task that comes up. All will a gruff kind of cheer that goes down pretty easy.

Back to the van. This is a Mercedes Sprinter, and that logo is ubiquitous on the autobahn and city streets. Poor people seem to drive them or else there is no lower class here. It seats five comfortably, but for the first time ever, I am the smallest person in the band. Greg and his son Dylan are both over 6'6'', and Kurt Koenig is almost as tall and sort of large. No one messes with this bunch, but when we hit a curve, I sometimes disappear into one of them.

Klaus, who seems to rely on his own peculiarly intuitive internal GPS, took us down smaller and smaller roads on the way over today, and finally we had to double back when it threatened to turn into a gravel hiking path. It's all good, thanks to headphones and a playlist that ranges from The Detroit Cobras, Howlin' Wolf, the Louvins, The Beach Boys, Nina Simone and and the surreal Andre Popp.

Add the best gas station sandwich a man could dream of, and we can forget that most of today is being spent sprinting up on hapless smart cars.