It's one of life's small pleasures to be sent on a business trip to a place you've always dreamed of visiting.
When Ford Motor Co. invited the press to the opening of the Th!nk Nordic factory in Aurskog, Norway, in November, I didn't need to be asked twice.
Jac Nasser was on hand to do the honors at the factory, which has begun making a small battery-powered urban car called the Th!nk City. Ford owns a majority stake in the company. Norwegian King Harald V presided at the ceremony.
I was deeply touched when a group of 200 children greeted the king by singing to him and waving Norwegian flags.
For me, Norway means cross-country skiing, my favorite form of outdoor recreation. There was no snow in Norway in early November, but I didn't let that stop me from paying a visit to the Skiforeningen region on the outskirts of Oslo, a vast area dedicated to skiing.
Even though I write about the auto industry for a living, I'm not ashamed to admit I enjoy riding public transit systems, and Oslo has a very good one. A tramline called the T-bane runs underground through the city center and emerges above ground to climb the steep hills behind the city. At the hub of it all is Holmenkollen, a ski Valhalla featuring an outstanding ski museum and a ski jump, replete with stadium.
As I rode up the hill, I had to pinch myself to believe I had finally come to Norway. I took a hike on the snowless trails and imagined what they'd be like covered in the white stuff. I got lost in the maze of wooded trails. An elderly gentleman who was ski-walking the trails (walking with the aid of ski poles) offered assistance. His name was Leif Hovelsen. When he learned that I was American, he told me his father brought cross-country skiing to America and that there's a hill in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, called Hovelsen Hill.
I tried to imagine my favorite ski heroes flying along these trails: the great Vegard Ulvang, now retired but my favorite skier of all time and a near-mythic figure in Norway. Then there's Bjorn Daehlie; it's front-page news this week that Daehlie's ski season ended before it had begun, due to a back injury.
I left the trails behind and continued on to the ski museum at Holmenkollen, which is built into the base of the ski jumping tower. I climbed to the giddy heights at the top of the tower, which offers stunning panoramic views of Oslo and its fjord. The wind was blowing hard, and I could feel the tower swaying slightly. Not a place for sufferers of vertigo. I tried to imagine going off the ski jump - gathering speed down the long slope, then flying into midair, all of Oslo at my feet and thousands of people cheering as I land far down the run. I'm way too old to start learning this sport.
Bradford Wernle is a staff writer for Automotive News Europe based in London