Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Bad Road Trip

It became necessary to move a Jeep (the call it a Limited Edition Cherokee but I've seen hundreds of them) from the UK to Spain. It is a Spanish Jeep and not much use in the UK, and that was surely part of the reason. It turned out there was no one else to move it but me, and I more or less wanted to be in Spain anyway.

Simples. I'd drive it. No problem.

Okay, I knew I had a very limited budget because... weelll, these days I always have a very limited budget. Still, I did some research, found the tank size and milage of the vehicle, did a route planner thing on line, saw it was possible. It looked possible. I knew it was going to be tight and when I rolled up in southern Spain at the destination town (ish) of Malaga I would be doing it on fumes. Still, I'm brave and strong. Nothing could go wrong that I couldn't deal with.

I won't go into details about what money was in my account, but think 'not much' and then halve that figure. It was always going to be tight, even if all the figures were bang on the money. No room for error. No room at all. I was going to be sleeping in the Jeep, just for example, right from the start. I had no plans to eat. Eating wasn't in the budget. I'd done the trip before, from Roscoff having taken a ferry from Plymouth. In a classic mini. Heads down mindless boogie, stopping only for fuel, 80mph all the way, twenty-hours none stop driving. It was fine, except the boredom and fatigue and the storm that started before Granada and had wrecked Malaga. I stopped after seeing three parallel cars in a ditch on the road from Granada to Malaga with the weather in mid storm. I slept in the Mini in a Gasilonaria carpark. Drove on in the morning and wimbled around malaga trying to find a road out that hadn't been washed out. Then I had credit-cards and spare cash and frankly didn't care much what happened. No stress except that which I put on myself. It was almost fun. Almost.

The first part of the Cherokee trip went well. M5, A303, M3, M25... well, the M25 is the ring road around London and it sucks. Not as bad as Paris, which is not as bad as Bordeaux, which is better in many ways than Madrid, but I get ahead of myself.

The M25 is where I had to speed up some from my gas saving 50mph as much as possible target speed. I didn't want to burn gas and the M25 made me. Bad M25. Then the M whatever to the Channel Tunnel. I stopped for fuel by guesswork one off-ramp early and had to go ask directions for the gas station in a pub (bar) bur didn't stay for a drink. I was on schedule and didn't want to blow it. More gas, then, next off ramp and a new experience.

The Channel Tunnel is great. It's brilliant. Cheap (£65-£70 for a one way trip). The getting on experience is easy, the ride is smooth and almost pleasant and best of all, short.

Anyone who has driven long distances knows that the bulk of all thought is focused on the next right road going to the next right town and I'll spare you the boring details. The first part of the trip was night driving and easy enough, No one pushing me for speed. i pulled in somewhere and slept, then pushed on the next day. Lots of looking at gauges - fuel! - and fretting. If anything went wrong I knew I had no budget to fix it. I wanted very badly for nothing to go wrong. My plan was to nurse it through France, where gas is expensive, and chill through Spain. I put in €20's and €30's of gas and ran lots on empty - knowing that I had 'a bunch of miles' before empty really meant empty. The Cherokee is an automatic so I really didn't want to run out of fuel, but I really didn't want to put much in at a time either. Slow for max fuel economy and never much fuel in it.

Yeah, this was getting to be fun already. Oil, Fuel, Temp, road, signs, repeat. Give up the fight for non-toll roads, as my powers of concentration and decision making weren't up to it and I'd waste more gas than I'd save in tolls. Forget it. Stay on the main drag. So I did and all was well. I could see my budget stretching fine already. I was pretty sure I wasn't going to make it. May I would, though.

It was Ruen where things got interesting. The freeway/motorway/toll road just ended. No warning, some cones and a divert into Ruen (I'm pretty sure it was Ruen and I missed that it sounded like Ruin). In traffic, trusting my instincts to take me to the next road I needed as I sure hadn't planned on this (though it always seems to happen that I get diverted into a town somehow) the phone rings. I'm in traffic, strange town, hunting for the exit sigh which must must must be in the right direction and I don;t want to burn fuel in the town) so I don't even think about answering it.

I find my way out easy enough, more luck than judgement, but that's normal for me and I don't sweat it. I'm on a road that goes the right way after a little complexity and I have fuel. I continue to Le Mans, where I am now low on fuel and thinking to press on to the next gas station but... the read gets complicated with junctions and I'm suddenly done making decisions. I pull out and drop into the edge of Le Mans, knowing I need gas (I've been on empty a good while) and pull up just of a roundabout in a (place that's more warehouses than anything else - small business - there are words but none of them in any language are coming to mind right now). And I stretch, think about how I'm to find a gas station without too much running around as I don;t want to run out of fuel in traffic, and check my phone.

I missed call, one message. The message is my very nice bank telling me to call them at once as my card may be spending money without me. It hasn't been, of course, but they have suspended my card until I confirm I'm me.

Small problem. No credit on my phone. *sigh* Well, I have a Spanish chip and planned to swap and I'm working on a budget, you know? Pointless now as I have no cash, no fuel, and no functioning card.

What fun.

I think I have to leave it there for now - I'll let you know what happened next in par two. Right now I have stuff to do that needs doing and there is, as is often the case, only me to do it. So, have fun thinking about what you would do next. I know I did.

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