I set out from Somerset this morning with the simple task of making it to the opposite side of the country to get on board a large boat. With the top down and a clear blue sky above, everything was perfect. I was off to the motorsport mecca in my dream car and the sun was shining down on me. It may have been single figures temperature wise and I couldn't feel my hands but I had a smile on my face. My specially prepared road trip playlist was giving me everything from Elbow's "One Day Like This" to Matt Munro's "On Days Like These" and everything was perfect until I made the first stop of the day...
The cheap Shell that I had planned to stop at had everything but the V Power I needed, something that was to become a theme of the day. Another station further up the motorway allowed me to quench the Honda's thirst but might as well have required me to bend over whilst doing so. £1.57 a litre!?
Onwards through Bristol I managed to have a little fun in the small tunnel like section under the M4 interchange until the VTEC 4 pot got drowned out by one of Maranello's V8s. He had the roof up though. Pussy...
I soon met Matt in his spanking week old Clio and we carried on east, taking the usual TomTom diversion through Bracknell to break up the motorway driving and avoid a section of the worst road in the UK, the M25. Another stop at Clackett Lane gave Matt a chance to get out of the not so comfortable Recaros and we were joined by Rich in the MX-5 complete with a full compliment of tools and two spare wheels and tyres strapped to the boot rack. Optimistic as ever!
Soon off the M25 and onto the M20 and M26 we met the final contingent, MR2 drivers Adam and Woz, in Maidstone before leaving in search of a Shell again. Not a problem of course, I've got them all programmed into my sat nav, the chosen one being Folkestone. However, a little yellow sign at the side of the motorway was to strike fear into the MR2 drivers - "No fuel at services". Erm...
We made a stop anyway to check the sign was right. It was. The Shell station was barricaded and completely closed. Our only other option was to use the local Tesco in the hope of finding some Momentum (thanks to the tip off from an old guy in a rather cool Vauxhall Firenza!) or head for the continent in the hope of a Shell. It was decided to get into France. I had a Shell in Dunkerque bookmarked, it couldn't be third time unlucky, surely?
We arrived in the port at a punctual 3pm, breezed through the rather lax border controls and made our way through to check in. Being the first time in a few years that I was not taking my Rallye had an effect on me as I automatically pulled up to the LHD queue before realising a minute later that I was on the wrong side.
Once Woz had fixed his headlights (yes, he broke the car before we even left UK soil, it doesn't bode well does it?) we were soon boarding and after a little cheeky manouver managed to get the cars in line, only separated by a belgian MPV. Result. The crossing was calm and without any issues, bar Adam almost getting locked in the car deck. On return to the cars, feeble attempts were made to block the glare from our headlights with black electric tape. At least we'd made an effort.
On the other side it was business as usual as we followed the queue out of the docks. We let the belgian out of our convoy so we could be together, only to get split up again on the approach to a roundabout. Nevertheless, we all made it safely into the village of Loon Plage on the hunt for the elusive Shell. We found it. But it wasn't a Shell. And being 7pm on a Sunday it was also deserted. Hmmm. On to the hotel then to consider our options.
Another 10 minutes down the road though a couple of confusing junctions and round the wrong way of a one way system through a supermarket car park we found our F1 Hotel. Check in was as simple as showing the guy my printed off reservation, probably the easiest thing all day. We found our rooms and settled in, Adam, Woz and Rich sharing Room 101!
Finally it was time to eat. Easy option McDonald's was abandoned in favour of a deadly trip through Dunkerque centre to find stone baked pizza (this may have included a red S2000 driving down a road on the wrong side for a few seconds...). The menu was as confusing as the last time, but we managed enough French to get something we each liked. The French man serving us had as much of a laugh at our language barrier as us. Remember from previous experience, jambon et fromage is always the safe option. The gale force winds on the sea front forced us to eat in the cars, probably not what Matt had in mind for the 8 day old Clio! All that was left now was to get back to the hotel and get some sleep for an early start in the morning. With the top down (naturally) it started to drizzle. No problem, I'm used to that. It started to rain. Fine as long as I keep above 40mph (65kph now I've swapped the clocks over). Then we hit a red light to coincide with an absolute downpour. I patiently waited, getting drenched, for the lights to change so that I could demonstrate the roof mod on the move to Woz in the passenger seat. The last two miles back to the hotel were done roof up but it was too late, we were already soaked!
Weather for tomorrow looks dry, so the tonneau cover could be making an appearance (yes, I've managed to fit it in the boot with even my wash buckets and my slippers!). We have located a Carrefour petrol station next to the hotel selling 98RON (we'll just have to not be fuel snobs for once) for the morning and we're planning on leaving at 8am bound for Spa and then Adenau.
More to come tomorrow ;-)