Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Bad Road Trip (Part Three)

Daylight, raining some, back on the autopista (or whatever the french call them, you know freeways/motorways, whatever). As I had free internet I googlemapped Le Mans and confirmed that, yes, of course, I could continue by getting back on the same place I got off the day before. Obvious, really, but by now I'm feeling a little paranoid about details. I really can't afford for anything to go wrong.

There's a little fretting and concentration as I make sure I'm pushing on in the right direction. The sort of thing that goes, 'yes, it's okay to head for Orleans because Tours is also on the sign' but after a while I'm confident I'm set of Tours and after a while I'm seeing Bordeaux on the signs and a green E05 and it's the E05 and I know I'm fine right the Spanish border. Yay. And all I have to do is stay on this road. I have slight misgivings about Bordeaux as I've driven round it, in inadvertently into it, once before. But all fine for now. Tours, Poitiers, and I'm kind of tired and for some reason decide it's okay to drive in Bordeaux at night.

I still recognise some things, though, so it's okay. Big arc of bridge, check. Funny kind of looks-like-it-should-be-something-else bridge, check. Follow the E05. It's fine. It's fine. And the signs are less than ideal, but I come up to a turn off for the E05 that looks like it might be the turn or should be the turn but it looks dark and poky and uninviting and... I decide on the spur of the moment to come back onto the ringroad because surely that dingy little thing can't be the main drag south from here....

But it is, because the E05 doesn't show anywhere and, oh, nuts. Bordeaux. Did it again. Off into a gas station and park up. Buggrit. I need a map of Bordeaux. I'm done guessing. Well they have a map, and coffee because I want to buy the right to point at the map and ask where the heck am I on this map? Just after te turn I wanted? Oh. Perfect.

The people are sweet and one has some Spanish so we are fine. I'm glad because the last thing my tired brain wants to do is strain to hear and grasp any French. My brain likes Spanish fine, but won't cooperate with Spanish. For the record, it also does German fine. Odd, I know, but that's just the way it is.

Anyway, I decide I'm too tired to go on and I'm going to sleep in the car. Inside the ringroad, Bordeaux, despite the associative name, looks very seedy. I remember the centre looking pretty run down when I accidentally drove into it years ago, and the ringroad looks just as grim. Not my first choice of place to sleep but it's a gas station and there are cameras and just over a barrier there are a few trucks with the drivers doing the same as me. Head down and snooze. It's coldish and not that comfortable and I more snatch naps than sleep, but it's okay. I've slept less comfortable and colder places, though not in recent history. Dawn rolls around seemingly slowly and I know that there is a cambio de sentido ... which reminds me. A truck driver once phoned me for directions to a small town in southern Spain. He said "I'm somewhere near Cambio de Sentido, must be a big place because I'm seeing it everywhere. Anyway, I don't want to get back on the ringroad and the map says I can come of at the next exit into some backroads that will take me round the block to the road I'm on.

The map lies. Or, more accurately, it is less than entirely truthful. For an hour or so I follow the map through the suburbs of Bordeax. Through Gradingnan, through the nice suburb of Canejan, and really quite pleasant suburb of Cestus (yes, a fighting claw, which strikes me as an odd name for a town but probably it means something else in French) and there are no roads that link to the 1010 which I know from the map will take me to the E05 which is, you may remember, where I want to be. The map suggests there might be but non. Still, it's pleasant enough and I am once again struck by how little road traffic there seems to be in France - it's something I've noticed before but never investigated. Maybe it's just that the country is big and people more spread out. Whatever. I head on to Le Barp and soon find myself presented with a sign to the desired E05 and make it back on without issue and relax.

It's easy from here, I know. I'm still putting gas in the tank in dribs and drabs because available funds are tight. The sun comes out for the first time and it's warm and pleasant enough and I keep running figures in my head and I'm not going to make it. It's somewhere round Bayonne where I'm absolutely sure I just don't have enough to put in the tank to make the distance. The guides are rubbish, the mileage of the Jeep isn't close to what the book says, whatever.

Well, just after Bayonne I come off at a gas station and there's nothing else to do but phone Jane, the best person I know, my editor, my friend and one best wife imaginable. We are still close. Still friends. Friends for ever. And, as I know will, Jane drops a couple of hundred bucks into my account and I relax some. I'm back to probably going to make it and I'm close to the border, so I chill a little, invest in a bottle of water so I stop dehydrating and take the advice to actually eat something. A cheap packet of cookies.

Next day I stop for gas somewhere and the guy speak Spanish and though I overrun the meter by a couple of cents he shrugs and just takes the note with a causal 'forget the few cents, dude' - I would put that in Spanish but I forget exactly what he actually said and don't want to make something up without being obvious about it (if that makes sense to anyone I'll be surprised). I relax a good deal at this. In Spain I know how things work. In Spain I can do stuff to fix problems.

Which is just as well.

And my time is up. Back to work. And the work is going fine. I think it's going to be a very productive year.

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