July 4th-7th 2019
A mad dash to the finish in Paris !
|Start of the special stage in Szczecin|
|Heading into W Europe !|
The first driving test was at Groß Dölln, which is an established Driving Centre in frequent use, some
way north of Berlin. The track has multiple permutations, and we used a fast flowing section which included sharp corners, rises over crests, and some sweeping longer bends - And a very tight chicane to slow us down ! Basically the layout was the one outlined in bold black below.
|Groß Dölln Driving Centre layout|
After Groß Dölln, we headed another 100 kms to Stendal Airstrip - Seemingly a light aircraft and gliding centre. There was still the odd plane landing there, and as we had time on our hands until our allocated start times, there was time for a good German sausage in a roll for lunch - Excellent !
While waiting, we learned that they had amended the course, and there was only one pencilled diagram of the changes for us all to learn from ! And they had added a chicane, but couldn't remember whether it was left-right or right-left ! Armed with such detail, how could we go wrong ? So off we went. I can't remember a lot about it now, except that we caught the VW Beetle up just as we came to
|Wolfsberg IS VW !|
|Bugatti Royale in VW Museum|
walked into the main visitor centre, where we had our ERA Main Time Control, and then were given a pass to enable us to first of all go and have a free drink and sandwich courtesy of VW, and then to visit the superb museum.
|One of the first Beetles|
(Note. Although I was aware of the post-war story of VW, since being there, I have read a book about the start of both the VW Beetle, VW as a factory, Ferdinand Porsche, and Wolfsberg - A town built purely for the workers at VW, and originally named "The town of Strength through Joy". I wish I had known these details when I was there.)
|The quick Ferrari 308GTB|
|Even hotel decorations are Beetle parts|
both km wise and time wise. Initially a lot of the time was spent on the Autobahn, and it was not only rush hour but it was also a Friday, and I think that half of Germany was on the move. For Ashton it was even worse, especially since Gidget was now getting tired, and not easy to keep braking and accelerating. We then went onto backroads, and if anything the traffic was even worse, with traffic lights and junctions everywhere.
On the autobahn we had a time control, and in the same gas station complex we filled up with fuel. Once we had our time book stamped, we set off, but hadn't gone more than a couple of
kms down the road when suddenly Gidget's engine just died, and we coasted to a stop. Fortunately there was a place to pull off to the side of the autobahn and we frantically searched for the problem. Initially we thought it was the fuel pumps, and we swapped relays and tried everything, to no avail. While I was checking fuses etc, Ashton managed to get hold of the Sweeps who were not far behind, and once they arrived they checked various things before finding that the distributor points weren't opening, so no spark. It appeared that the good old Gobi dust had caused another issue - Its abrasive qualities had slowly worn away the cam on points, to the point where they no longer opened !! With them reset, Gidget fired up no problem, but just another reminder of things one needs to check frequently on an event like this.
Once going again, eventually we were off the autobahn and back onto less crowded back roads,
|Aircraft in roundabout !|
|Driving through the country side|
else. The smell got stronger and stronger, and when we pulled up at the circuit the car behind warned us that we were leaking fuel onto the ground. On opening the bonnet, after some searching we eventually found the lower banjo on the front carb had come loose - It was the same banjo on the rear carb that had come loose all those kms ago as we drove into Ulaan Bataar ! Once again the shielding to protect the fuel lines from the heat of the exhaust manifold had saved the fuel from dripping straight onto the hot manifold, but that same shield also made it almost impossible to reach the banjo with a spanner. We were pulled off to the side trying to fix it, and wondering if we would get it done in time for us to complete the stage. Eventually we got it tight, and the fuel leak stopped, so we left all the tools on the grass verge and went out to complete the stage.
|Morning coffee at Monastery|
I met a distant Belgian relative who had been waiting patienty for our arrival since early afternoon, and while he kindly asked me out for dinner, I begged off after a beer in the bar, and after a quick bite to eat was soon in bed.
|Tulip notes for Menen stage|
|Spectators on roundabouts|
|Tyne Cot cemetary|
|Arriving at Tyne Cot|
|Arriving in Ypres|
|Entering Ypres car park|
park beside St Martin's Cathedral, which dates from the 1500's, and at over 100 metres tall is one of the tallest buildings in Belgium. We have had crowds lining the roads everywhere for the last 2 days, which really made our journey through Belgium very special, but those crowds were nothing compared to those waiting for us in the town square beside the Cathedral.
|Our last stop in Ypres|
|John & Marian go for dinner|
|Well wishers along the way|
|Heading towards Paris|
|Place Vendôme at last|
14,000 kilometres, 114 degrees of Longitude, 12 countries, 8 time zones, 1,300 waypoints, and about 1800 litres of fuel - Oh, and two rear springs and a clutch ! All in just 36 days.
To put the journey into perspective, there have been over 4000 people who have conquered Mt Everest over the years, but in the 7 ever events, less than 700 people have ever conquered the Peking to Paris, and maybe less because many people (like Gerry Crown !) have done it more than once. It is an achievement to celebrate, and to be proud of. And I have to thank Ashton from the bottom of my heart for giving me the opportunity to be a part of his dream.
|With our cheer squad !|
They, and many others still at home, had followed our journey every step of the way (when the Spot Tracker was working !), and for their love and support and friendship, we thank them all - Without you all the journey would have been much more difficult for us both. 👏
|Gidget on the truck|
In the excitement and relief of reaching Paris, and being surrounded by family and friends, Gidget got a little ignored. We took off our bags (with our few clothes), and grabbed our phones and instruments etc, and put the roof up, and left her ! She was due to be collected that evening by CARS as all cars without Central Paris Permits have to be out of the city before Monday morning. So she
|Loaded & ready to head home !|
|Ashton & Caroline at dinner|
|Ceiling of ballroom|
|Gidget saying goodbye to friends !|
What an event ! 2 1/2 years of working almost every day (and night !) to not only rebuild Gidget from the ground up, but to make her "P2P ready" culminated in the 36 days of the mad dash from Peking to Paris. It certainly was not what I envisaged when the idea was first discussed ! But Gidget made it, and of that fact I am extraordinarily proud - I rate it as one of my more successful achievements in my life. And having spent all that time preparing the car, Ashton then drove her the entire way so she not only made it to Paris, but arrived with the distinction of making it the entire way under her own steam - Something that cannot be said of many. I now need to restart my life and work out where I go from here - Right now, I am not sure !
Thank you for following us on our journey - It has been a pleasure having you all along for the ride.
Rest of the pics are here :- https://photos.app.goo.gl/pQ6vFrsR8yz37L2J6
|Gidget in the Gobi Desert, Mongolia Photo courtesy of Gerard Brown|