Friday, 6 December 2013

Bad Road Trip (Part 4)

It's taken me four days to get here, but I don't know that. I just pulled up and slept in the car when I'd had enough. Didn't even get out of the seat, just kind of scrunched down with a couple of woolly jumpers as pillows. I can sleep pretty much anywhere.

Northern Spain and I kind of know the roads. Through the mountains - well, certainly big hills but probably mountains - from San Sabastian (I manage not to get back on the unnecessary road to Bolbao like I did last time - waste of fuel but then I didn't care) to Miranda is almost fun.

Somehow it's suddenly warm and as soon as I'm away from the coast road the traffic - dense there and lots of truck, one of whom was down right unfriendly in his unnecessary attempt to carve me up - anyway, the traffic fades to the usual not much. I'm feeling quietly confident, enjoying the sun, thinking a little less about route as it's fairly simple from here. Burgos comes and goes, no problem, and I'm on the right road for Madrid. Hard to miss so no concern about it. Yeah, it's going to be all fine from here.

Pretty much as soon as I think this, about half way to Madrid, maybe a little closer, sometime in the mid afternoon, there's one of those sudden horrible sounds that make you jump. Kind of loud and ongoing, it takes me a moment to realise a tyre has blown out. The handling isn't effect and I'm slowing up anyway. This particular piece of two lane motorway has a nice enough hard shoulder (you may not use this term for it but you know what I mean - spare bit tacked on the side of the road) so I pull on to it. It's fine.

I have a spare wheel.

And a jack. Two, actually.

But nothing to take the wheel off with other than my bare hands. Which isn't going to work.

I strip out the Jeep of almost every damn thing in it but see nothing that will even approximate something that will take a nut off a wheel. Or put one back on again after the wheel's changed.

I phone to see if there's a secret wrench or something hidden somewhere in the car. Apparently not.

Of course I should have checked through the Jeep before heading out. I mean, obviously. No one to blame but myself. I try not to think about it as I watch the odd car go by, vaguely thinking that I might succeed in waving down a Jeep size vehicle and borrow a wrench. Yeah, like that's gong to happen. There have been enough car-jacking stories to scare people off the idea of 'stopping to help' that no one's going to give the idea serious thought.

About that time. Frowning at the sun that's going toward the horizon, I notice that I am, in fact, exactly 500m from an off ramp that's hidden just over the brow of the hill. The peak of what looks like an abandoned Hotel is just visible. With little choice in it, I pack up the stuff back in the Jeep and nurture it gently to the turn off and up to the toll booth, where the guy wants some money before I park up and talk about solving my problem.

This is one of those places where two highways in the seeming middle of nowhere join up for no readily apparent reason. You can jump off one and onto the other just a short way away from where I am. There's pretty much an abundance of sod all but the toll booth guy points out a Gasilonaria in the distance. A little cluster of random other stuff is there also. Well, I've been in a shedload of Spanish Gasilonarias and never seen much in the way of tools but someone down there might have what I need for the borrow - or, worst case scenario, buy. Damned if I have enough money to just pay someone, which is what toll booth guy is suggesting.

Well, the walk isn't desperately unpleasant. The Gas station's small to medium and there's a shop associated. My efforts to borrow or arrange an assist for next to nothing fall pretty flat. Nope, I don;t have one, and so forth. But it turns out this is the only place I've ever seen were they do in fact sell what I need. For cars, anyway. It looks like there are two sizes, and on the principle that I might be lucky, I buy it for €15 and wonder out loud if he'll do a refund if it's no good to me. Nope.

Well, worth a try.

Turns out there are four options, not two. And one fits the nuts holding my wheel in place. Doesn't fix the inertia and semi-welding that ally on iron produces after a while, but some leverage fixes that. For some reason there is a garden fork in the back of the Jeep. Leverage. Just as well, otherwise I would have had to turn into a Donkey to do it. Not a trick I've ever had much success with.

From here it's all pretty much an anti-climax, I'm glad to say. I grab some sleep and then go for Madrid at night, when the ringroad will be quiet and my f*ck-up's unnoticed. Everything's changed since the last time I was there; it's all swish and shiny an new and the road I want seems to be completely unmarked. After a while of off an on again -including some really interesting tunnels that drop you in the middle of town - I stop and ask a Taxi driver. A simple but very useful trick. Of course, he knows how the road I want is marked and cheerfully tells me.

After this it's plain sailing. I mean, apart from the slight panic attack come dawn when it's not quire light enough to read the map I have and I'm convinced I'm on the wrong road. But it is a road going south. Says so every few hundred yards. Must be right. Turns out it is.

Granada. Malaga. All easy and familiar for me. The drive from Granada to Malaga is a joy because I know for a fact I have enough gas. Luxury. And I can open up the Jeep a bit and see that it will do a fair speed and is, in fact, a pleasure to drive the 4.0L three and a bit thousand pound chunk of metal.

I roll up where I'm going with exactly €15 to my name.

Well, hell. With that money I could have taken a detour and had some fun.