I have just returned from Spain by car total miles 1500 door to door and i have to say we had the time of our lives…the car is an old Rover 400 and i have to say did us proud heaving us along the motorways for two solid days …we laughed so much i felt i must tell our story ….but in Chapter One i must thank the the many new friends i have made in Gran Alacant over the last week with canceled flights and money running out for many people a great community spirit evolved not just from the Brits but from many nations ……with little help from airlines and Governments alike meetings sprung up all over the place where everyone was helping each other and exchanging notes…….
Having two flights canceled i thought it was time to bring our Rover 400 out of it,s semi-retirement ….it,s many trips to the beach had left the poor old car some what heavier that it was ….sand on the floor and in the boot we felt gave the car character so we left it in …although we did brush the seats down.
It was decided that i would drive and take a lady friend of ours who,s medication had run out and my young son and my sons friend who had come on holiday with us…..they were told to travel light due to the fact the car was already over weight from the sand ….this left one seat in the car spare ….who will take that seat????…
Well we had one free seat in the car and i set about asking around to see if anybody wanted the spare place …well up stepped Mike Cook who lives just a few houses away from me in Spain …Mike had spent a couple of nights in our company in particular the Hot Chocolate night at Los Belgas…..he had just spent 300euros on a coach back to England which surprise surprise did not turn up ….in fact nor has his refund they promised him (watch out for that one)
Mike is a sales Manager for Mercedes-Benz of Southampton so i thought he was the ideal man to be my co-driver as the Rover and Mercedes cars are very alike ….turns out Mike prefers B.M.W cars so i was a little out on that one.
OK 9am on the day of departure from Gran Alacant and my wife and little girl came out to wave us off……bags soon covered the evidence of sand deposits in the boot which seemed to give us a little more confidence (no idea why really)……but the newly found confidence was soon shattered by my Spanish friend from across the road who had come out to see what was all the commotion was about …….i explained to him in my much improved Spanish that we were driving to England in my ROVER 400 he looked at the car,then me and shook my hand laughed and then proceeded to run his finger across his throat “he with little confidence ” i thought to myself………….this did not worry me .
What i saw next worried me……Mike my newly found co. driver was stood at the top of his steps with the biggest piece of fricken hand luggage i have ever seen …..I looked at Mike and then the car and found the need for a toilet (fast) Mike asked my wife was i worried she said “no it,s an age thing”…..she was lying …….yep i was worried.
The street soon filled with people waving us off …..and at 9.10 am we started the car …..and blow me she started up at this point i knew we had reached the point of no return we were on our way.
Although we had known Mike for a while the thought of traveling such a long distance with a relative stranger did worry me a little …..we need not have worried Mike turned out to be a lovely man ….as we got to Max Coop supermarket he turned round and asked or the children “are we there yet?”……..we were still laughing when as we reached the roundabout by the n332 a Spanish driver nearly took us out with the world famous Spanish roundabout trick we all know so well (enter the roundabout without indicating ..change lanes on the roundabout ..overtake on the roundabout and then exit without indicating)…having driven in Spain for some years now i used the classic defensive move of closing my eyes and hoping for the best (always works).
I drove for the first hundred miles taking us past Alicante and Benidorm ….i think Alicante is a lovely city but the outskirts looks poor and shabby viewing it at speed is the best option Benidorm looks tidy for a holiday resort with rolling green hills behind it….we stopped shortly after for a pants check the thought of that roundabout manouver still fresh in our minds if not our trousers.
Changing drivers Mike took to the wheel noticing the many dead insects that had already hurled themselves at our windscreen he reached for the windscreen washer …i shouted “don,t press that it does,nt work” alas it was too late ;yes water did hit the windscreen but the Rover 400 is well known for the in-ability of its windscreen wipers to come into contact fully with the windscreen ….what a mess!!!..it had soon become apparent that Mike had much to learn about the Rover 400.
below a picture of Mike with the car.
Mike i know was struggling to come to terms with the gulf between the Rover and the usual car of his choice …..he often mentioned how handy it would be to have cruise control on such a long trip ……these things are sent to try us my suggestion of placing a brick on the gas pedal as a form of cruise control got a blank look at first (he knew i was joking)i think?
I thought it was time to break the news to him that at 65000 miles i was worried about the cambelt situation ….he replied “what about the cambelt”…..i did not reply for a while as we were approaching Valencia and i felt as the driver Mike needed no further worries…..but the Rover 400 had a secret …a secret that would have every Spanish driver quaking in his boots …..the dummy break pedal
CHAPTER SEVEN …THE WHITES OF THEIR EYES
After Valencia we settled down to the long stretch towards the wonders of Barcelona something the children were looking forward to …the problem with motorway driving in Spain is the manhood extension four wheel drive drivers who have the art of coming within inches of your rear bumper (why do they do that) anyhow it,s a pet hate of mine and many years ago while the Rover was still in England we had inline switch put in that would illuminate the break lights at the flick of a switch (legal) i don,t think so..but it has it,s uses….on this trip it came into it,s own …..many times a manhood extender would approach only for me to flick a switch ……you could see the whites of their eyes and sometimes even the attempt to move their faces away from their windscreen.ok ok…bad of me (un-lucky).
Many from Gran Alacant and from England were tracking us.. many i know had their doubts on the long trip reaching it,s conclusion my mobile phone never stopped ringing and this was to get me in trouble
CHAPTER EIGHT..The Very Dodgy Ringtone
As the miles passed the the constant phoning by family and friends became a problem…yes they were worried and i understood that …the problem was my ringtone…my 24 year old son had installed a naughty ringtone (female orgasm) some weeks before and could i frick get it off…..Mike was driving the first time it went off and did his best not to start laughing but alas it was too late…how we did not crash God only knows….Mike said later that day once he regained his composure “that bloody ring tone of yours is going to get you in trouble”….and many miles down the line he was to be proved correct.
Barcelona was just 100 miles away and we passed Reus airport …now this is the airport that Ryan Air claim is in Barcelona….but when booking a flight to Reus airport please put to the back of your mind the thought of coming out of the terminal building and hailing a taxi ..to start with there are know taxis and if there were it would cost you a shite load of money.
OK …one hour after Reus (note the sarcasm) we came into Barcelona and what a lovely city it is …in fact we were to see more of it than intended.
As we entered the lovely city of Barcelona we had fantastic views of the olympic village on our left and some great close up views of some huge cruise liners to our right the only problem with that is the olympic village should have been on our right and we should have been nowhere near the sea never mind a cruise liner (we were lost) well mike was lost he was driving!!!
Not wanting to panic Mike anymore than he already was on this trip i thought it best to keep the truth from him….we then reached our first traffic jam and the screaming engine fell silent (don,t panic Rover 400 fans she was just ticking over) the silence was broken by my mobile phone yep (female orgasm ring tone again) ..in a vain effort to shut the bloody thing up before i caused any more distress to our female passenger (pauline) i answered it as soon as i could it was my wife “were ok just a little lost in Barcelona i will ring you back as soon as i can ” i said …as i put the phone away in my pocket i looked across to Mike who was looking at me and he looked less than happy “you just said were lost ” he said …..”no no no your driving,your lost” i said.. .with the traffic moving again he turned round and began to drive again laughing and muttering something about my ring tone getting us arrested one of these days.
As it happens we followed the coast north and came across the motorway we required …and soon we were heading for the land of frogs legs and snails.
tomorrow ….frogs legs and snails
CHAPTER TEN …the land of frogs legs and snails
Taking over the driving and the Spanish/french border we were to receive news that would threaten the whole trip …Derek (hollis) on the Gran Alacant plaza (a local forum )had posted about sharing a car back to England only to be told that it is in fact against the law for a British national to drive a Spanish registered car in the U.K…..prior to leaving i had checked and double checked with my insurer that the trip would be legal….What the hell was going on? who was right and who was wrong?……was there any way out of this situation?
Tomorrow ….now that would be telling
CHAPTER ELEVEN….the reprieve
Well while waiting at a motorway station close to the french border the news came through that in fact we could proceed with our journey…..although Mike said he was less than happy to proceed unless i sorted my fricken ring tone out….why could we proceed well it turns out my insurance company were correct i could indeed drive a Spanish plated car in the United Kingdom due to the fact i have employment in a E.U state other than the United Kingdom….but this part of the story was to have a final amusing twist later in the story ….well the French/Spanish border lay before us and as we climbed towards it the countryside was green and lush…..expecting to be stopped we collected our passports together and turned my phone onto silent (i just knew it would ring if i did,nt) only to be waved through by border control we were in France.
CHAPTER TWELVE …..in tomorrows chapter we cross the Millau Viaduct but wet your appetite here is the video of the crossing where we went through 600 miles
CHAPTER THIRTEEN…..how to order a Mc Donalds in France in Spanish
Our target for the first day was 600 miles and that was within our grasp….our aim was to turn up towards Toulouse and stop for the night….this went out the window i,m afraid with our inability to actually take the Toulouse turn off ( it helps when navigating around Europe or anywhere for that matter to actually take a turn off when required rather than watch it pass you by )….well we headed towards Montpellier…..i settled Mike down by claiming i had i had a back up plan..and i did ( the map ).
I glanced across to Mike who seemed to have become a little agitated by my frantic attempts to find another route…he need not have worried “its all in hand we can miss Montpellier out ” i said …i could see Mike was thinking ..”you mean like we missed Toulouse out ” …….i treated his quip with the contempt it deserved ..after all he was driving and he missed the turn off ( stands to reason)
Well we turned off north towards Millau and satisfied we were on the right road stopped off for a Mc Donalds …the children were happy with this as you can guess …..but this turned out not to be one of our best moments; Mike,s Spanish is poor ( not as poor as mine ) but still poor…so helping each other out we ordered our meals in Spanish ( in France ) Pauline who was getting hungry at this stage stepped in and saved the day firstly by pointing out that we were in the wrong country and then placing the order by pointing at the menu boards ( handy trick that…pointing at the menu boards )
Having taken our fill we set off again and started to climb towards Millau and what was to be the highlight of the journey the Millau viaduct and our target of 600 miles for the day
CHAPTER FOURTEEN….Pauline disturbs me in the night
I must admit we had no idea the Millau viaduct was on our new route until we were almost upon it…..but what a stunning wonder it is ….Designed by the French structural engineer Michel Virlogeux and British architect Norman Foster, it is the tallest vehicular bridge in the world, with one mast’s summit at 343 metres ….you feel like your driving through the clouds although due to the in-ability of the windscreen washers to come into contact with the windscreen that often we hoped moisture was kept to a minimum …and our prayers were answered …….i have to say Millau is a must visit .
Well we had reached our target of 600 miles and we made for the closest hotel which turned out to be twenty miles past Millau at Banassac …although the Rover 400 had done well..i parked it facing down hill (just in case we needed a jump start) ….we dumped our bags and children in the rooms and made for the bar with thoughts of a swift drink and then a good nights sleep …the bar was empty apart from an elderly French couple in the corner ( they must of been French they did,nt speak Spanish ) …then disaster i went to check on the children …they were fine but on my return to the bar i just knew something was up… Mike and Pauline were sat there looking less than happy “WHAT” i asked …yep you,ve guessed it my fricken mobile had gone off while i was away ( female argasm ) twice according to Pauline ….Mike looked furious ….not as furious as the French couple though (that bloody ring tone ) ….after the French couple retired possibly with thoughts of my ring tone fresh in their minds Mike and Pauline began to see the funny side ……but Pauline was to have her revenge in the night
We retired to our rooms with thoughts of a good nights sleep …Mike had his own room and Pauline the children and myself shared a family room (twin beds) ….well i,m to old for anything else…….but any thoughts of a good nights sleep went out the window when Pauline went over into the land of nodd (fell asleep) …it,s no secret to anyone who lives within a 100 yards of Pauline that she can snore for England,Spain,France or any other fricken country she happens to be in ….sleep was not an option (for me anyway)….i contented myself with watching Mr Bean in french on the T.V …i did spend twenty minutes or so trying to change my ringtone but soon lost the will to live.
We had booked the 11.30 pm sea France ferry from Calais to Dover so at 9.00 am we were again on our way stopping for continental breakfast a few miles down the road not a sniff bacon never mind black pudding and fried bread (god i was missing Spain).
The scenery was fantastic.. chateau,s perched on mountain tops with lush valleys below them ..the road it,self climbed and then dropped often i would slip the car into neutral as we coasted down a hill (legal) i don,t think so …but it gave the car a rest.
We were closing in on Paris ..well it was still a couple of hundred miles away ( but closing in sounds better) ..we decided to take the gamble and drive through Paris ..was this a good idea?…well lets put it this way (it was Mikes idea)
CHAPTER SIXTEEN..a child called Paris
Paris has always had a place in my heart …my daughter was made there 30 years ago ( too much information?) you might think so but there is an important lesson to be learned here ….if your not planning a family when visiting Paris take a tourist guide and a map and take in the sights…..this saves many sleepless nights some nine months later.
Well we had taken the gamble and decided to give the Rover 400 a tour of Paris and it payed off …the traffic through the city was not too bad …although the children were a little disappointed not to take any of the sights in …..however not as disappointed as my parents were at my inability to take the sights in 30 years previous (i was only 17)
We had saved some time and we phoned ahead and checked the times of earlier ferries …..but horror stories had filtered through to us via mobile phone that there was a huge backlog of traffic at Calais ….
Mike took over the driving so that i could catch up on sleep knowing that once in England (if we made it) i would have another 250 miles to drive
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN……. where did everybody go
Well the six year holiday for the Rover 400 was just a hundred or so miles away from ending….never in my wildest dreams when i drove it out all those years ago did i think it would be returning home to England ….to start with the windscreen wipers would need to be fixed (fast) if the car was to survive in the British climate ….when imported to Spain the car was in mint condition but the last six years had taken it,s tole ..the boot had been broken into smashing the lock and the sun had burnt the top of the dash board and also cracked the speedo lens and a freak hail storm had hammered the cars bodywork (nasty)
The horror stories of huge tailbacks at Calais played on our minds and as we closed in on the port we expected huge traffic jams …but as we got closer it became the apparent that there was nobody there (well there was us) …
We approached British passport control and handed over our passports just in time for my mobile phone play it,s part (female orgasm) however this time to bloody thing was not to hand..i had packed it in my bag in preparation for boarding the ferry …both Mike and i frantically tried to shut it up by raining blows on the bag ..this was all too much for Pauline broke out into uncontrollable laughter …..turning round to the passport control booth i was greeted by a less than impressed passport control officer …handing our passports back she just shook her head from side to side and waved us through ..Mike had been right that bloody ring tone did indeed get us in trouble
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN …bye bye France and hello dodgy burgers
Well having got past one very unhappy passport control officer the ferry awaited… we lined up in row 12 ready to board we were told to line up in row 11 and the little ticket we had been given to put on our rear view mirror also said row 11 but what the hell why start sticking to the rules at this late stage in proceedings ……we boarded and made our way up to the food deck (mistake) 7 euros for a shergar burger in a box ….we decided that for health and safety reasons we would take our fill once back in England.
The children loved the ferry though and although frozen stayed on deck in their T shirts and shorts (i did tell them to travel light) i have a lovely photo of them looking back at towards France …
CHAPTER NINETEEN ….what now for the Rover 400
Well we had made it to England and although we had a long journey ahead up to Yorkshire which was dogged with road works (as usual for England) we had the sad task of saying goodbye to Mike ….his aunt had arranged to pick him up at a junction of the M25…….Mike was to ring the next day and say that he had indeed had the time of his life (and asked me to message him my ring tone) turns out life for one day without it had proved too much for him ……what a crock i was stuck with the fricken thing he actually wanted it.
Back in York and after a quick look by a garage it was decided that life could just not go on for the Rover 400 the cam belt would have to be changed….spark plugs were shot and the tories were in power last time it had an oil change and on top of that there was the funding required to return such an old car to Spain.
The fact that i am typing chapter nineteen here in my house in Spain with the Rover 400 sat outside is because of a final twist in this story….. “Two Men Gran Alacant And A Rover 400” has a rather large fan base in particular Torrevieja where i receive many private messages and messages on the forum asking when the next chapter will be ready and in fact the story is to go to print later this year…..well one of these fans and a local business when hearing the poor old Rovers plight helped fund the return of the car ….and there she sits in some Spanish geezers parking spot (now thats pushing it)
CHAPTER TWENTY ….THE END
The Rover 400 drove like a dream during it,s return journey although the drive was shorter (i returned via Bilbao) …but something was missing …it was not just the fact that i was on my own…no it was the fact that every bloody thing worked …the windscreen wipers,the cam belt,even the frickin radio worked.
Mike and i will remain friends forever and the Rover 400 will always have a place in his heart ….he phoned me the other day telling me his latest sales ploy when selling a Mercedes Benz …….when showing a customer round a new car he will slam the door or rev the Engine and say….”you see sounds just like a Rover 400″…….silly sod
Some reviews of this story and the links to them (thanks guys)
I’m loving this thread! It’s like real good, old fashioned comic book adventuring! ‘can’t wait for the next episode!
What a welcome addition to the forum, light hearted, entertaining and having driven here to there countless times, chuckling with that knowing nod.
I look forward to your next literary masterpiece.
I can’t wait – this is great.!
Its great that such an entertaining little story that gives people a good laugh every day could come out of a complete nightmare !!!!!!
This has been a wonderful story and I have enjoyed reading it. Congratuations on making it home.
Loving it Ian
The Rover 400 you are a brave man.
I’m addicted.!!! Can’t wait for chapter 9.!!! Much better than following the Election coverage!!!!
Never knew you to be a writer but hey this is spain and is full of surprises.I see youre building up a bit of a fan base in torry keep it going its very interesting reading and funny.
You can read the full story on a local magazine link below my thanks to Barry at the Gran Alacant Advertiser Spain