Saturday, 25 July 2020

Alps 2020 - Day 7

As suspected, today was a lonely slog to Calais - 300 miles of mostly dual-carriageway and motorway. The weather was good - a mix of sun and cloud until Calais, when it got darker and started spitting rain.

The weather report said it was raining at home, so I put my roof up for the crossing and, Holy Cow, lucky I did. As I drove off the train in Folkestone, the rain was torrential, some of the worst rain I have ever driven in. The standing water on the motorway was unbelievable - for the first few miles, I thought I might have to stop to bale Zedster out! Great welcome home, England!

So, the trip is over:

And some stats, useful for future trip planning:

Total mileage: 1,892 miles
Fuel costs: £285
Accommodation: £280 (6 nights)
Tolls: £50-60 (final amount not in and does not include the £30 to get the Liber-T tag).
Food: £110

My Eurotunnel crossing is usually zero (Tesco vouchers) but I had to pay £80 this time because I changed my date from early June to July and they wouldn't let me pay the extra in vouchers.

They say "don't meet your heroes" and a driving trip to the Alps has been a dream of mine since not long after I passed my test. Unfortunately, this sort of trip is very selfish; it's all about the driving and that does not really cater for passengers - no museum trips, shopping, sightseeing (except through the windscreen) etc. So it is difficult to get spare time to do it - and you need the right car.

Which brings me to the star of the show - Zedster. Built in a garage by a semi-competent orang-utan (me), Zedster took all in his stride, racking up the sort of miles few would put their factory-built cars through. Surprisingly comfortable over distance and a hoot when the going got twisty, I had an amazing time and until I can afford a 911 (probably never), nothing else would have been better.

Who knows, I might even give him a wash.

Map of today's route:

Friday, 24 July 2020

Alps 2020 - Day 6

Another scorching day greeted us for the start of our return trip.

Breakfast of Kings at McDonald's,  although probably wasn't a good idea to have a coughing fit inside. Luckily the place was empty otherwise they would probably have had to burn it down.

At this point,  my faithful guide, Graham and I split up to go our separate ways. I'd like to take this time to thank Graham for his work this week. I hope he doesn't  mind me saying that when I get to his age, I pray  I'm half as organised, physically fit and as sociable to everyone as he is. Despite owning a sat-nav, he never used it,  preferring those papery things with coloured squiggles on them. They must work because he always knew where to go and whenever I misread my sat-nav, he would take the correct turn and be patiently waiting for me after I'd turned round. His knowledge of all the routes and history of them was like having an audio version of a guide book with me - fascinating stuff.

Many thanks, Graham.

Shortly after,  I arrived at Lake Annency and it is very beautiful. I wished we'd left a bit earlier and I might have gone for a swim - it was damn hot and the water looked amazing:

Unfortunately,  I had 280 miles to get to my overnight stop and it was already almost lunch time.

I started on what I thought would be a slog along A roads but I noticed my sat-nav had suggested a route through a green bit, so I chose that. That 'green bit' turned out to be the Jura mountains and the D991 was 30 miles of heaven; twists and turns, green forests and best of all,  hardly a soul around. It turned into one of the best runs of the week and I'll add some video to this post in the next week,  hopefully. UPDATE: darn, I started my camera but I didn't realise the battery was flat, so no video, annoyingly.

The next 200 miles gradually got duller,  although that is relative - the roads had some interesting sections when it looped and dived through local forests.

Finally arrived at my gite for the night - tomorrow is a definite slog for the tunnel.  My train is booked for 6pm but I should get there before that and hopefully, they'll let me get on an earlier one.

Map of today's route:

Thursday, 23 July 2020

Alps 2020 - Day 5

Glorious weather all day today, with an amazing run starting a few miles from our gite, up to the small town of Beaufort. At the top was a beautiful lake,  one of several we'd see today - a great place for an early coffee stop:

Next was a run up to Val d'Isere and the highest pass of the trip, the Col d'Iserian at 9,100 feet:

The next 100 odd miles was more of the same; bumpier roads than the Swiss passes but a bit quieter and a real workout for the arms.

I was quite surprised how few nutters we met - most other traffic were locals or tourists in family cars. One guy in an Elise wanted to go faster but his wife in the passenger seat obviously kept him under control. There were a group of Porsches we caught up with who briefly provided some fun and then we passed a couple of bikers by the side of the road - they caught up with us shortly after and I did my best but,  man, they were quick. I let them past as i was slowing them down but it was damn fun trying...

The last 30 miles of the day were a gentle cruise in lovely evening sun (with McDonald's for tea - classy) - I was just too knackered for any more.

Sadly, tomorrow I head for home although I'll try fit in something interesting on the way to Nancy for an overnight stop.

Video for today:

Map of today's route:

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Alps 2020 - Day 4

The day started dreary and wet but it soon dried up and the first 70 miles were a relatively straight run west along a valley, with towering mountains either side. Tame compared to yesterday but pretty and a great cruise.

At Martigny we turned up to the famous Grand St Bernard Pass. Being one of the oldest passes and with a modern replacement, this one is narrow and bumpy, almost like Applecross but it goes up to 8000 feet:

At the top is the Swiss-Italian border and the less inhibited Italians loved our cars; one woman insisted on a photo in the driving seat, then a couple of kids. For our few hours in Italy, loads of locals stopped and stared and every time we stopped, someone came up to ask a question. They like their cars...

On the way down, I followed a lovely, new Renault Alpina. It was surprisingly wide and quite quick but I think the guy got a little worried of crashing his very expensive toy - he let me past after 3 or 4 miles with me tied to his rear bumper.

The last stretch to the gite we were staying at was relatively simple but always stunning scenery all around:

A bit of lack of planning meant a meal of coke and fruit bars - so rock and roll.

Tomorrow is a loop round the French Alps...

Video of the day:

Map of today's route:

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Alps 2020 - Day 3

Wow, what a day! Sun, rain, hairpins, a breakdown - we had it all.

The day started a bit cloudy and on the run down from Grindelwald to Interlaken, the heavens opened. I just managed to pull in to a petrol station with a roof in time and put my roof up,  much to the amusement of a local family who were fascinated. Graham is made of hardier stock than me and soldiered on,  although he also hasn't got a roof anyway.

Somehow,  we got split up so I did my first pass (Brunig) alone. Unfortunately, after the first mile or so, i got stuck behind a slow line of cars but the view was amazing - peaks, drops, glacier-blue streams. Coming back down, I met up with Graham and were headed for the Sustenpass which heads up from Inertkirchen and what a stormer that was. Traffic was light, the rain had stopped and it was a long run up, with what seemed like 1000 hairpin, curving roads - I hope my camera got some of it.

The run down was even better - in 4th, squirt along the few straights, cut the corners on the gentle curves,  hard on the brakes for the tight corners - exhilarating and tiring.

Next was a hop past Andermatt, a very fancy ski resort, and up the Oberalpass, where I had a little play with a Mini Cooper, who kept up with me - I really hope he was trying and was at his limit otherwise I need to get a turbo!

We stopped for lunch and now might be a time to mention Swiss prices - pretty much all food is double the price of home. My burger and chips was £16 and was good but nothing to rave about. However, petrol isnt too bad, only a little more than home.

Next up was the Furkapass, quite rough and bumpy compared to the others but just as awesome up and down the other side. The top was at 8000 feet and the view? Out of this world:

Then the Nufenenpass, more of the same, down past Amermatt again and the Furkapass again.

It was on the way down here when my throttle cable went ping - lucky it was on the way down, I was able to roll to a stop in a layby. Also lucky,  I had ordered a new throttle cable from GBS just 2 weeks ago because I knew the cable was a little frayed. Putting the new one in took an hour, with some nice rain halfway through to keep me cool.

With the delay, we skipped the last little run up past our hotel for the night and went straight there instead for some well deserved macaroni and apple sauce (don't ask but it was very nice).

What an awesome day, probably my best in my driving life. The roads, the views, in a car I built - it doesn't get better.

Tomorrow we go to France via Italy...

Video of the day (although I was having so much fun in the morning, I forgot to turn my video camera on):

Map of today's route:

Monday, 20 July 2020

Alps 2020 - Day 2

The day dawned hot again and it was only a short 170 mile day planned to get to Grindelwald in Switzerland.

A short 50 mile blat on some lovely clear roads got me to the Swiss border, with the flat plains of France starting to get hilly. Found my first hairpin, floored it in second, back-end snaked about - awesome!

Decided to stop at the pretty town of Goumois and, by chance, it was right on the Swiss border:

The next 70 miles were amazing - beautiful roads snaking up the hills, along valleys, fields of sunflowers, swooping eagles (?) and all with huge mountains looming in the distance. I just hope my video camera got it all because I didn't want to stop to take pictures.

I had a bit of brain fade because my sat-nav started taking me on roads with blue signs, which I thought were motorways, so I kept trying to follow green signs. Sadly, green signs in Switzerland are motorways and as I didn't have a vignette, if I'd been stopped, I'd probably be writing this from jail.

So I had 30 miles of confusion but when I worked it out, after subjecting 2 old ladies to my O-level French, I got back on route and came to the amazingly beautiful Thunersee, a huge lake fringed by hills and the mountains to the south:

The road along it's northern edge is slow but beautiful, with a short section reminiscent of those famous French Riviera roads, with overhanging cliffs on one side and azure blue on the other. I had to show a local in a Renault what true handling was - he just about kept up on the straights but vanished backwards on the bends. Or maybe it was all in my head and he was worried the crazy Englishman was about to lose a wheel from his clown car.

On the slow but beautiful climb up to Grindelwald behind a truck, my temperature gauge suddenly hit 100 and my HP fuel pump sounded like it was on its last legs. With the engine off and ignition on, I couldn't hear my fan. After arriving at the hotel, the fuse was ok so I've swapped relays to see if that is the problem- I'll check tomorrow.

Hotel room is very basic but the view from the terrace more than makes up for it:

My guide for the week, Graham, arrived shortly afterwards. He has routes planned out for the next few days, so looking forward to that.

Oh yeah,  my head is now seriously burnt.

Video of the first 2 days:

Map of today's route:

Sunday, 19 July 2020

Alps 2020 - Day 1

And so, on his 18,795th day, Neil created The Road Trip. And it was good.

Well, hopefully.

My dream trip started rudely at 4.30 am with my alarm waking me. The forecast was for rain at that time but it was dry and off I set:

The hour or so to the Eurotunnel was uneventful and Zedster was purring nicely as I kept ahead of the rain. Amazingly, I slept for the whole 35 minute crossing - I'm not great at early mornings.

I planned to do much of the first leg to Dijon on the autoroute - almost 450 miles and much as I'd love to, I couldn't do all that on N roads in one day.

The next 4 hours were still quite fun (I'm just weird, I love driving long distance, even on motorways). I stuck to 65-70 mph because it was just more comfortable with no roof on. Long distance, the wind noise is significant and it was quite strange, I kept seeing the same UK cars flying past me - we did 300 miles leap-frigging each other despite the fact they were flying past me at 10+ mph each time and surely they weren't stopping every 90 odd miles that I had to? Part of this was my Liber-T tag which meant I never had to queue at the toll booths but still...

Traffic, as always in France, is so sparse, you sometimes feel you're in some sort of post-apocolyptic world, which I guess isn't too far out in the current times.

I got to Reims (300 miles) just after lunch,  so decided to come off the motorway and do the last section on some smaller roads and through some towns,  which was much more fun:

By this time, the temperature was up in the high 20s and I was getting suspiciously lobster like, even with suntan lotion on!

I finally got to Visoul,  about 20 miles from Dijon, and my hotel for the night:

Roof on in case it rains overnight, a quick, traditional French McDonald's for tea and I zonked out at 7pm, waking at 11pm to write this!

So, Zedster still in one piece and performing beautifully so far (better than me and my panda face), tomorrow is the start of some proper roads as I head into Switzerland, somewhere I've never driven in before - can't wait!!

Map of today's route: