2009 – Lonville Classic

Well, we’re off at last. We arrived at the Stena ferry terminal in plenty of time and were swamped by several folk who were either starting, finishing or in the middle of the Jaguar Driver’s club tour or rally. We had already followed a rather tasty E Type down the motorway so weren’t too surprised. We were also interviewed by the Stena Line PR chappie for a piece in their house magazine – such fame!
One of the JDC guys asked if this was the car he’d read about on the wonder web when he saw the Peking to Paris sticker on the side of the Talbot while another old boy from Ohio told us about his chum who drove his 1932 Auburn into a local creek when he had too much booze on board.
Off to Newcastle tonight to stay with Penny’s nephew and play with her Great Nephew, Harry.

waiting for the ferry in Belfast

29th August

I forgot to metion that yesterday’s posting was written and uploaded from the Stena Line Ferry in the middle of the Irish Sea: isn’t science a wonderful thing!
Once off the ferry, we trundled along the main (only) road to Carlisle and then across country to Shotley Bridge, near Newcastle to stay with Rory & Catherine and be entertianed by little Harry. What a fireball, he’s on the go absolutely non stop.
Just about as we reached Dumfries, the dynamo stopped charging. As you can imagine the air turned absolutely blue with my swearing and cursing. We had the dynamo only returned to us about ten days ago after a rebuild, because it wasn’t charging you see. So, Terry, Chris and Wood Auto (who did the rebuild) were damned to eternal purgatory, along with their friends, family and future generations. I’m glad to say that the curse has been lifted becaused I later found that the wire from the field coil to the voltage regulator had dropped off, but only after I had completely unloaded the car to get at our spare regulator. Happy to say that everything is ticketeyboo now!

little Harry practising being a racing driver

Thanks to Rory and Catherine for the B&B (and the G&T).
Today was a short hop down to the Ferry to Amsterdam with a nice stopover at Gibside, a National Trust estate for a brisk walk and then some lunch. Nothing much to report I’m afraid (or should that be glad to say). We’re on the DFDS service to Amsterdam. It is amazing how DFDS and Stena can get it right when the Norfolk Line service from Belfast to Birkenhead can get things so wrong. The service and comfort on board are excellent.
This update is being sent, yet again, from the high seas.
30th August
We got off the ferry at about 09:30 after a very civilised crossing. Despite the strong winds when we departed, it became calmer as the night wore on. Once out of the ferry terminal there’s not much to report. Just boring, straight but thankfully smooth motorways until just after Aachen. On the motorways we stuck to about 60 (ish) mph for two reasons. Recently I’ve spent a lot of time balancing the wheels and tyres and we could quite easily cruise between 75-80 mph. Unfortunately, there still seems to be a little wobble as soon as you hit 60 so you have to drive through it. There’s no happy medium and at the higher speeds, the winds make it quite unpleasant just keeping the car tracking straight, and besides, the noise of the wind and engine is really quite wearing, although it does give a lot of more modern cars a bit of a shock when we come storming past.
For the last bit to Bütgenbach we crossed the “Hohes Venn”, whatever that is and the road wound it’s way up to about 2,000 ft, twisting up and up through beautiful valleys and lots of hamlets. The roads are so good that the whole region is swamped by touring motorcycles. It is always nice to get a thumbs up from these guys. In many ways, we are in the same sort of situation, what with zero weather protection, wearing wind and showerproof clothes (even on nice days) and really a sort of camaraderie of the road. Just over 200 miles knocked off today zig zagging between Belgium and Germany and tomorrow we’re back in the land of Bratwürst.

31st August

After a pretty decent meal last night, we set off at the relaxed time of about 10:00. Penny seems to have caught a bit of a tummy bug. We both ate the same things last night so it can’t be that. She didn’t sleep much and as the morning wore on, the cramp got worse. It did eventually ease up but we decided to stick to motorways again so that she wouldn’t need to concentrate with her head down in the maps. On one section in the middle of the day, we decided to get off the motorway and find a little auberge for lunch. We were both amazed to find that everything was shut. We ended up in a village supermarket with a couple of ham baguettes. The French roads aren’t as much fun as when we were last here. Speed limits everywhere and traffic calming islands all the way through the villages. Not much fun and the average speed became really too low so we had to go back onto the motorways again. After lunch we were both able to strip off our outer jackets and drive in shirt sleeves. In the afternoon, it became really hot and with no shelter from either the sun or the wind, our faces are taking a bit of a battering. Since we left Stranraer we’ve done just under 1,000 km.
Tomorrow is a shorter day, into Switzerland with Unterwasser (Underwater?) our target for thre night.
1st September
Penny is back in the land of the living, thank goodness. I obviously had a big temperature as well as the gut pains. I went to bed at 5 pm and stayed there until 8 am this morning and felt much better. Onward to we went through some of Germany before making our escape to the clean clear air of Switzerland in brilliant sunshine – possibly a bit too hot. The road south was fantastic as we climbed higher and higher through little alpine villages that all seemed to be selling Cuckoo Clocks. We reached about 3,000 ft and with none of the overheating problems we experienced on the P2P in 2007. The mountain was called Hornburg which sounds a bit “Lord of the Rings” to me. Geoff is very pink but I am okay. I was more covered up. We had lunch at a very nice little restaurant in Frauenfeld in the shade of some peeling bark type trees. I even drove the car for a little bit along a quiet road with no difficult navigation. We swopped seats when the changes of direction became too much for Geoff! It is a long time since I’ve driven the old car,so Geoff was very happy to take over the steering wheel! We took a detour to take the cable car up Santis mountain. On this occasion, we did stop to prevent the car from becoming too hot, although the water temperature didn’t get above 90 degrees. Some 4,000 feet at the cable station and over 8,000 at the top. Geoff kept well away from the railings as he is a chicken when it comes to heights. (Chickens can’t fly!)We arrived in Unterwasser a little before 6 pm and took a look at the place where we had our honeymoon – it is closed (and quite sad looking) and has a bicycyle shop underneath it now. The whole area looks very different, more built up – but it was 33 years ago that we were last here.
(italics are Geoff’s contribution)

on top of Santis
“our” old hotel in Unterwasser

2nd September

Tonight w’re in San Bernardino. It was quite a short drive today but not without some shenanigans first thing. Last night there was a torrential downpour which is quite normal at this time of year in Switzerland and guess who forgot to put te waterproof cover over the dustributor? Yup, that would be me! I had forgotten all about our experience with rain and wind in Iceland – Doh! Still, a bit of work with tissues and the magical WD40 soon had us firing on all six cylinders again and in the right order but only after I had got it going (satisfactorally I thought) and farted about 2km up the road to fill up with petrol. A second session with the WD 40 worked this time.

drying out the ignition in Unterwasser
(maybe there’s a clue in the name)

From Unterwasser we headed off to Leichenstein, passed through Vaduz, the capital, all the while looking for somewhere to park and have a leisurely morning coffee but ended up in a petrol station for a break. Penny spotted a little supermarket within the complex so popped in for some bits ‘n bobs to make a salami roll sort of picnic lunch. Guess what, today was the first on of the trip with more roadside cafes and restaurants than the previous five days put together.
Still, we followed the motorway south for a bit then got off to use the A road beside it. This was to avoid the long tunnels the bigger road uses as they are thoroughly unpleasant in an old, open car like ous. The road wound up some seriously mountainous roads and we eventually stopped in a restaurant car park for our picnic, then went in for coffee and the necessary comfort break.

our lunch stop (about 3,500 ft)

We trundled on for a bit, getting higher and higher and the roads through the villages became rougher and rougher. Eventually, because of roadworks we had to re-join the motorway again and I decided that I wanted to head straight for our barracks for the night. This meant about 6km in a tunnel but avoided yet another climb of nearly 12 km and 2,000 ft on very narrow tracks. We arrived quite early and had a stroll round but nearly everything was shut. We did manage to buy some waterproofing spray for the Tonneau because everything under the old front section was soaked last night. Dinner tonight at 5,310 ft and off to the glitz of Lugano tomorrow.
3nd September
Heavens, literally, did it rain last night. We had a very good meal in the Bellevue Hotel in San Bernardino last night and eventually had to close the bedroom windows because of the noise of the Hinterrhein river outside our room. When we got up this morning, we could hardly see the car across the street because of the low cloud (at 5,300 ft – low?). Eventually we plucked up courage and loaded everything back into the car under umbrellas but everything still got wet.
We set off on the ‘motorway’ which only has one lane in either direction because of the steepness of the valley sides, barely able to see 100 to 150 feet ahead. We dropped 3,500 feet in about 12 km and thankfully out of the clouds. We eventually stopped at a motorway services just outside Bellinzona for a coffee. What a place. I wish British services were even half as good! The displays of fresh food were unbelievable. Unfortunately it was too soon after breakfast to indulge.
As usual, there was a crowd gathered around the car when we set off again. Soon we reached the outskirts of Lugano and because of the steep hillside and the tall buildings, the SatNav had trouble picking up a signal to find our rally HQ hotel. Thankfully, while we were waiting at a traffic light, a face appeared beside me and shouted “Geoff – Good to see you.” It was Joost, our rally director who was only a few cars behind in his Porsche Carrera 4. He told us to turn left after passing under the railway lines and the hotel would be on the right soon after. Unfortunately, the junction had no left turn because of roadworks so he scooted in front of us and led us through some very narrow backstreets to the Villa Sassa. What a place. We both felt a bit embarressed checking in in our wet, sweaty rain gear while there were very chic girls and men strolling around nonchalantly, dressed to the nines. We are the first car to arrive but it turns out that Joost is expecting the second car quite soon, the Isotta Fraschini from London. We had a chat about this car and it turns out we think we know them from a rally two years ago around Ireland.
We have the afternoon to ourselves before signing on this evening. Hopefully our room will be ready before long so we can change and look civilised while staying at this very upmarket hotel.
It is quite hot and steamy and still overcast as we decide what we’ll have for lunch but it might brighten up later.

motorway services

4th September

Last night we went to the official reception with lots of fizz and fabulous nibbles, all this on a beautiful lawn overlooking Lago di Lugano. We met a lot of the other competitors for the first time and really ‘clicked’ with a few of them. Unfortunately, word has got out about our P2P adventure a couple of years ago and that is all that everyone wants to talk about. Nice meal, bottle of wine and off to beddy byes!
I know you’ve heard it before but WHAT A DAY! By Penny’s reckoning we only did 87 miles. That said, most of them seem to have been vertical – up and down cliff faces. Imagine if you can, doing a U turn within four average car park space widths, every 100 metres or less; also in light, rainy fog! The roads were fantastic and we eventually ended up at a little cafe on the shores of lake Como for a coffee break. Then the heavens opened and boy did it rain. The re-start was delayed (thank goodness) and we set off for the next stage, around Como and the lunch halt. Unfortunately, George Clooney couldn’t make it as he dined there last night but we had hundreds of Carabineri around because some guy called Silvio Berlusconi was in town. He didn’t want to see the Talbot – no taste that man.
After lunch we went past the world famous Villa D’Este, through Como to a time check, then a free drive to Bellagio. Only one road so we couldn’t get lost. From there we crossed the lake by ferry and returned to Lugano. This was probably one of our scariest drives ever with thousands of Lugano (Italian) workers going home along a road litlle narrower than two cars plus half an inch. They were in a hurry and straight lined every corner. My nerves still haven’t settled, so, a bit of work to the car and straight up to the room for a medicinal dose of G&T. We both decided to opt out of tonight’s wine-tasting dinner so that we could go to bed and be fresh for tomorrow’s competition on yet more mountain roads and with more Italian drivers. No time for photographs today.

5th September

Sorry there’s been no update for a while but we have been either driving, dining or imbibing with no apparent break between any of them.
Wew started with a timed section to Porto Valtravalgia for morning coffee and croissants and copious cakes over looking Lago Di Maggiore . Our time wasn’t too bad here and we think better than yesterday. Must point out here that there are no daily results and we haven’t seen any score cards as Joost ( the rally director) and his squad are playing their cards close to their chests. We then crossed the lake by ferry to a chaotic timed restart in Intra. The weekly flea market was all around and we could barely see the road. This took us on to lunch at Villa Aminta – the most “over the top” chintzy, chandeliered hotel we’ve ever seen. It reminded us of a 1950’s Hollywood film set. More booze and more fantastic food, too much when there’s still more rallying to do on a timed section up and down yet more vertiginous hillsides.
From there back to the ferry and the same stop as the way out for ‘Apero time’. Guess what, more food & booze.
From there, straight back to the hotel for a super quick shower & change before we were bussed out to a restaurant up yet another mountain for dinner overlooking Como.

6th September

After a very short night’s sleep, we were on the road again about 9 am, for a short lakeside drive, this time around Lago di Lugano, with, of course yet another coffee & croissant break. The timed section we think we did pretty well on. From there we drove probably the steepest road yet, ascending over 2,000 feet in next to no time (no barriers on the single width road, don’t forget). At the top we had a five minute timed section to a control 1.6 km further on down. We think we nailed that one to within a second. Finall we had chaotic drive back to Lugano weaving around thousands of cyclists. It was quite satisfying to come across Ferrarris and Lamborghinis that couldn’t get past because they were too wide.
The finishing control was held in the Piazza of the old town in Lugano and needless to say, there were hundreds of tourists and sightseers milling around. We parked up in age order of car and endured yet another full on lunch in a lovely restaurant beside the square. Speeches and prizes followed. We were awarded 2nd place, pipped to the post by a 1931 Alfa Romeo.
Lots of hugs amongst the competitors as we all left for our different destinations. Joost Vreeswijik and his crew, not to mention his long suffering and heavily pregnant wife, Chiara, all derseve a big pat on the back for increasing our waistlines and organising such a wonderful three day adventure around the lakes of Lugano, Como and Maggiore.

overall winners
Peter Reck and Andrea Scheid from Germany
1931 Alfa Romeo 2300 s/c
crossing Lago di Como
dessert at Villa Aminta
just one of the hazards, an archway, under a church, half way up a mountain
crowds at the finish, our car is in there somewhere

No more postings for a while, we’re having a holiday!

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