Archive for category Patagonia Rally 2010

Route 66

2 November, the day started chilly then it rained – not a good day to visit Newport CA and Balboa!

Lucy on a wet and deserted Balboa Beach

Balboa may look pretty in the summer sun

We walked on Balboa Peninsula beach and it gradually stopped raining and got passably warm.

Bird of Paradise plant – Lucy does horticulture

Warmer now at Huntingdon Marina Beach

Then up Highway 1 to Huntingdon Marina for lunch, a stroll on the beach and then to Los Angeles Airport where Lucy packed and was last seen heading off to airport security. Tomorrow I take the car to the shippers and fly back. Not sure when the Elan will arrive as its currently booked as “awaiting a share” for its container. We have done over 8,000 miles without losing any time on the road apart from one fuse. All the other mishaps have been identified in the car park/garage. Its running rough, though tick-over and starting are fine. Various things need attention – guess where I’ll be over Christmas!

1 November – a short day only about 80 miles. First stop was the Getty Center

Getty Center

Getty Gardens

(actually the slow freeway but we’ll gloss over that – traffic in the LA region is awful). I was geared up for sun but it was chilly and overcast. we visited the Central Garden where Lucy carelessly assumed that the Garden Guide would know about plants – but as the original garden designer knew nothing about plants why should the Guide who was more interested in the artistic combination of colour, shape, texture, size than what the plants might be?

Lotus meets Queen Mary

Queen Mary – the deck

Our next stop was the Queen Mary – we had crossed the Atlantic on this ship in 1956 or so – a visit was mandatory; Lucy was thrilled that her memory of the childrens’ play area was correct.

Engine Room

Engine Controls

As a sign of changing times we had coffee and muffins at Starbucks on the main deck! That was it for the day so on to our motel (very down market for Lucy’s taste). On the freeway (at dusk), a fuse blew and we lost the camera, fuel gauge and more importantly the TomTom – as we had little idea where we were or where we were going this was bad news. Fortunately it was just a fuse and once replaced, normal service was resumed – phew!

31 October – where did the day go? We didn’t leave our hotel just west of Yosemite that late; our route was to the southern exit with a detour to Glacier Point – it required a lot of climbing as Glacier is 3000 ft above the valley floor – which is why the views are worth the 32 mile detour

Misty morning above Yosemite

Above Yosemite

Looking down on yetserday’s waterfalls

Half Dome, dead tree and Dutch Admirers!

Then a slow descent through roadworks and a long run into Fresno. We grabbed lunch in the ten minutes before the café closed at 2pm; Fresno seemed dead and its only claim to fame was a memorial to the Lao people who fled the incoming Communist regime after the Vietnam war. A long fast run (interrupted by traffic jams) to just outside Los Angeles where our cheap motel is extra security conscious – its the only place where we have both been required to show ID and our passports scanned to the LA Police. The local fast food restaurant also needed ID before serving beer – Lucy didn’t have hers but mine seemed ok for both!

30 October – a day in Yosemite;

Its a big place

Vernal Falls on the way up

we climbed to the Nevada Falls, passing the Vernal Falls on the way.

Nevada Falls

The top of the Nevada Falls

Our descent was confusing as we followed the “easy route down” – the John Muir Trail, which went uphill in a series of hairpins before eventually turning into a gentle in contrast to the steps on the way up. Someone had invested heavily in the footpaths, building them rock by rock up the hillside.

Nevada Falls from Clark Point, John Muir Trail

The walk took us nearly 7 hours in moderate temperatures.

29 October – Yosemite! We set off from a dull Petaluma onto Highway 101 and over the Richmond Bridge – a two tier structure with eastbound (us) underneath and westbound on top – looks good though!

Loco #6 of the Hetch Hetchy line

We had to climb to about 3000 ft over a ridge to get to Yosemite and the car got hot but not too hot; I had already swopped my shoes for sandals – we had found the sun we had come south for! First stop was a post office to post some cards – and conveniently there was a 1920’s stem loco waiting to be photographed! I was aware that on this trip to USA I had failed to take a photo of that workhorse of the westward migration.

At the gates of Yosemite

Then to our hotel, just outside the National Park (inside costs a fortune whilst outside is merely expensive). We had coffee and cake on the balcony before visiting the park to take advice and plan tomorrow’s trip- now that I have a steam loco photo, I am missing a waterfall; we visited one

Great waterfall but its bone dry!

(the Yosemite) but it had dried up – no rain! The valley is formed of a flat floor with tall pines vying with each other tto reach the sky and high steep cliff sides, some with waterfalls and others with groups of shrubs and trees clinging on in desperate search of life. The autumn colours (late this year) add another dimension.
Our early evening stroll gave some great sunset photo ops – how about this one of

Sunset on Half Dome

Half Dome or the clouds over the western entrance?

Skies over the western entrance

28 October – another slow start with a drawn out breakfast at 9.00 and a walk round a very cloudy Westport so we didn’t leave until about 11.30.

Westport Hotel

Westport had been a logging port in the 1890’s with timber jetties extending far beyond the shoreline to enable the logs to be loaded onto coastal schooners for onward shipment. All that construction is long gone – a pattern repeated along this section of the California coast.

Laguna Point – 100 years ago this was a timber jetty with tramways

At Fort Bragg (our intended overnight stop from yesterday) Lucy dragged me round the botanical gardens. Then on south chasing the elusive sun which showed briefly at around 2.30 for half an hour. At a fuel stop we came across two people who had owned Lotus in the past and gave a reminder of how little interest the car has generated; (in a village 14 miles earlier a motor cycle loving garage owner had suggested we didn’t buy his “regular” gas as the next stop had “premium”) we also saw a frog eye sprite (“bug eye” in American) who waved enthusiastically.

Nearly sunny!

California coast

Our last stop was Fort Ross – once a Russian trading post supplying furs and

Fort Ross

provisions to the Russian Alaskan settlements, bought by the Americans in 1841. The fort had 40+ cannon not for use against the Indian tribes who were their trading partners but the Spanish further south. This largely reconstructed fort still flies the Russian flag,

Information panel in Russian

has information panels in Russian and sees itself as a link between Russia and USA.

Sea mist

The last couple of days on the coast road the Lotus has showed what it was designed for – the electrical problems seem behind us, the car starts happily even though we have the lights and wipers on fairly continuously in the cloudy gloom and the too frequent late night travel (not today as we set 6pm as a deadline); the handling is much better with higher tyre pressures – currently 34 psi but I want to try 36. We are one of the faster cars on the twisty hilly roads – tomorrow our drive to Yosemite will show how it copes with high speed motorway travel. Carry on car – you’re doing fine! But the lasting impression we will take away is the universal friendliness of everyone we have come across – even the most stupid and basic questions receive a friendly response. Another impression is the early closure of everything – we have been the last to leave almost every eatery in the last few days – today was 8.30 which we were told was local licencing laws but 9.00 or 9.30 are common place even in large towns.

27 October – a mixed day.

A sense of proportion

The motel didn’t do breakfast so sister was dragged to the only open breakfast vendor – a well known brand – and is not keen to repeat the experience. I checked the tyre pressures to see if the handling issues might lie there. 3 tyres had lost about 20% of their pressure and the 4th was nearly flat – the inner tube valve stem was leaking. So off to possibly the largest tyre shop chain in USA – not an experience I want to repeat! There was zero interest in getting me on my way – each customer was taken strictly in turn, even those who had left the car for the day.

Clustered stems

I had to be registered on their system – my phone number and post code didn’t fit into the system so that was a bit pointless. It took the best part of 2 hours before we left – and I had to supply a new inner tube as they had none in stock. The handling was definitely improved.
Today was to be Redwood day so we moved between Redwood forests, pausing only in Eureka for a very late lunch.

Elk

We saw Elk and Deer – and Redwoods. Our last visit was nearly an all night affair as we

A Giant – 16 ft in diameter

lost our trail returning from the Giant Redwood on the Avenue of the Giants – it was after sunset and dark in the shadows of these great trees. all of which look the same after dark! But we found our way back, using a fallen tree as a bridge over the stream. Then it was night driving to our hotel. We had not booked and had more or less resigned ourselves to either supper or a bed (unlikely to get both as everything closes so early) when in a tiny village on the scenic route south (not very scenic two hours after dark), we found a very smart Victorian era hotel who had both bed and supper! A real stroke of luck.

26 October – today started well, I retarded the ignition and the car started without the “grinding” of the past – and the exhaust was less smelly – happy car = happy me!

Misty morning on the Oregon coast

Never mind all this checking exact timing- does the car start? That’s the best timing position! Ok it meant that the engine was likely to stall at any junction but nothing’s perfect! We had a late start and it was misty and overcast. We went to see the Giant Spruce – 550years old, 185 ft high and 40 ft girth – yes the Redwoods are older and taller but they are in the future.

the Giant Spruce

The Oregon Dunes

Chill wind at Bandon

Rocks and reflections at Bandon

We continued down the Oregon coast to our overnight stop at Brookings; the car was fine except for the steering but there were serious cross winds and the steering is fine just the suspension isn’t and at the 55mph speed limit what’s the problem? Generous curves, straight stretches…excellent Lotus territory.

Sunset on the Oregon coast

This picture was taken just before the sun went down below the horizon, we got into the car and a minute later the TomTom switched to night-time mode – spot on timing!

25 October – another wet day!

Astoria County Jail

Pacific Lotus

The car didn’t want to start, which was not good. We planned to go to a house museum but being “winter” it didn’t open till 10am so we went to the Maritime Museum. We then planned on Fort Stevens – a military base with a long history – but it looked desolate so I decided I should have someone look at the insufficient charging of the battery. After several “no thanks” phone calls we found a garage who were available at 1pm. Result – inconclusive! The system was charging and the battery just passed one test and happily passed another. They suggested we leave the car overnight so they could try it cold; this was not in my plan so I bought some jumpleads instead.

Damp Beach

We ventured into the rain missing all those golden, sandy beaches and Lucy had to made do with the motel swimming pool. Maybe the car will start tomorrow and maybe the rain will stop……..

24 October – the good news is that the speedo now works! I am concerned about the electrics as the starter grinds and its not charging as it was before; it seems that the battery charges when going uphill more often than otherwise – sister is convinced there is a correlation – so maybe electricity flows down from the front to the back?

Fort Clatsop

A short day as we only drove for about three hours to Fort Clatsop, The spot where Lewis & Clark over-wintered in 1805/6 when they arrived at the Pacific. There’s nothing left of the old fort, just a replica. Up to 1985 the area was a bustling logging station where logs were assembled into “rafts” before being loaded onto ships for export to Japan and Korea. Now its a state park and all peace and quiet, particularly out of season (winter here started on 1st October).
We then got as far as Astoria where we had a late lunch and decided to spend the night. Its another town with steep hills on its grid system – one is 47 degrees! (we were going down it)

Looking South from Astoria Column

The Columbia river

Lunch was at a craft brewery and the strangled screeching we heard was the Sea Lions who use these shores to rest on the rocks and sea level pontoons which humans have so thoughtfully provided.

Sea Lions in Astoria

The Astoria Column (erected by a railway baron in 1926) gave fantastic views in all directions (once you’ve climbed the 163 steps).

Boats and the Columbia River Bridge

21-23 October – with friends south of Portland where we saw another USA – farmers markets with an extraordinary range of choice in vegetables,

Self service choice

a supermarket with aisles of self service in different varieties of flours, grains nuts and more,

Japn in Portland

Covered Bridge – some have sides

a Japanese garden in Portland where each turn brings a different shade of shape and colour; then out to the Cascade Mountains where we saw a covered bridge (an effort to keep ice off the roadway),

Mount Washington

Peregrine Falcon at High Desert Museum

a lava field at Newberry (last eruption 1300 years ago) ending in a craft brewery.

Lava Field at Newberry

I was abe to instal the speedo cable which my sister brought with her – today will tell if that makes the dial come to life!

20 October – before leaving Ellensburg I restored the connections to the rev counter so there was now only one dead dial on the dash. I also checked the website for the Boyer Bransden connections – both had been disconnected in our attempts to solve the points problem.

Umtanum Valley

I was much relieved when the Boyer Bransden unit resumed as my stock of 3 new points was now exhausted – one causing trouble, one not fitting and the third in use.
We followed the route given by the motel to a waterfall – just it wasn’t there! So we had a short walk along a valley coloured by the yellows of autumn. From here we dropped down to the Columbia river and the Lewis & Clark Trail (theirs was the first expedition to cross the western USA from St Louis to the Pacific in Oregon in 1804/6).

We stopped at the Maryhill museum, once a railway baron’s mansion and now an art museum in the middle of nowhere. Garage spaces designed to hold 24 cars now showcase Rodin sculptures but it was the variety of chess pieces and sets that really caught the eye.

Columbia River – once Rapids now a Dam

On to Cascade Locks, once fearsome rapids but now under the waters of the dam. After that the rains came and the road to Portland became a river and very difficult driving with road markings invisible under standing water. In Portland we met up with friends for a beer and a Courtney Barnett concert. The Elan was left in a weekend garage as we were whisked away in a 4WD for a night’s sleep.

16/19 October We continued our journey up to Vancouver Island where Bill and Janet had very kindly offered us a bed, We spent two nights there and after a leisurely breakfast decided to “attend” to the car. I have never spent such a frustrating time changing a set of points! Something somewhere was wrong and it took me all day to get the ignition to function again. Bill was very patient but we lost the chance to explore the beauty of the Island. Then, having spent a day of glorious sunshine on the car we set off in the wind and rain to return

Seattle from the Space Needle

Pike Place Fish Market Seattle

to Seattle where my sister was waiting to join the tour

Chihuly Glass Exhibition

and Allison returned home to see the dogs.

Elevating Seattle’s streets

We had time to visit the hilarious Underground Seattle tour showing how Seattle’s streets were lifted by a storey after the great fire of 1889. I decided I had had enough of the rain and cold, with the car being blown off course in the dingy spray of the Interstate – I was heading south for the sunshine! We endured more Seattle traffic and crossed the Snoqualmie Pass and what was surely beautiful scenery had I been able to see it! Sister said it was spectacular!

14/15 October – two days long on driving and low on photos! On 14th we went to a meeting of the

GGLC cars and members

Showing how we treat Elans!

Golden Gate Lotus Club hosted by Status Autos of Redwood City (www.statusautosinc.com). Our Elan was clearly the scruffiest car there, no great surprise! I guess that after I had shown some slides of what we do to Elans, they probably thought the car was in remarkably good shape! We left our friendly hosts and took the scenic route over the Golden Gate Bridge in the general direction of Seattle. First choice would have been the Pacific Coast highway but its about 5 hours longer and we didn’t have that in our timetable. Second choice was Highway 101 but that runs through Santa Rosa, which has just been decimated by the California Wildfires. We decided on the boring but practical Interstate 5. It wasn’t all bad and the scenery round Mount Shasta where we stopped was spectacular but very cold – seriously cold! We put the heating in on our hotel room.

Church at Golden

Day 2 we had 400 miles ahead of us, stopping only at two sites from the “50 Great Drives Book”. One was a wash out – the “Oregon Vortex”, the second was the goldmining ghost town of Golden where just a couple of buildings remain and the creek, carefully cleared up by teams of volunteers – it was hard to see this peaceful valley as a goldmining location with powerful water jets pulverising the rocks and polluting the entire downstream.

Peaceful Creek

13 October – a day in San Francisco. In the evening we checked the car and put some spacers to stop the sump guard hitting the exhaust – maybe it will now be quiet

Start with a Cable Car on a turntable

Looking back

An interesting bank exhibit

The Powerhouse of the cable car system

Up and Down

The “Painted Ladies”

11/12 October – First stop was the Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara Mission

Mission, the pearl of Missions. An imposing set of buildings with a clear view to the sea, this must have been impressive in the late 18th Century when the Spaniards started converting the indigenous peoples.

Morro Rock

Then on along the Highway to Morro Rock and Hearst Castle,

Neptune Pool Hearst Castle

where we had the Grand Rooms Tour of the newspaper magnate’s Hilltop

Hearst Castle

Mansion full of antiques bought largely from Italy. Our overnight stop was in Salinas. I drove the car over a kerb in the dark – yet another thump on the unfortunate sump guard. The car is now making some very nasty noses which I hope is only the exhaust banging against the sump guard – if its not that then it may be more serious!

The Big Sur coast

The second day we set off for The Big Sur – on the northern section of the Highway – sadly a mudslide earlier in the year has cut the Highway into two sections and the missing link will not be repaired until early in 2018 – so we had to approach Hearst Castle from the South and the Pfeiffer Canyon from the north. The bridge at Pfeiffer is also down – due to be re-opened tomorrow – so we went to the nearby Andrew Molera State Park for a lengthy walk before returning to the eccentric Carmel and its famous 17 Mile Drive. We were slightly later than planned into San Francisco – and the evening traffic was something else! We had over an hour of stop start darkness driving on the Freeway with an unhappy Lotus but somehow the TomTom kept us on track and we reached our overnight stop – exhausted!

10 October – where did today go to?

That’s why you come to Malibu

The Coastline

It is 90 miles from Santa Monica to Santa Barbara – we took a long route but it still took all day! We started thinking that our hotel booking for Santa Barbara was just too close then realised that we needed time on the car so spent some time driving round various “shops” until we found a friendly wash/lube who let us use their pit to check the underside of the car and all those nuts that want to come loose in the course of a long journey; then there’s gearbox oil level and oil filter. I reckon the diff oil level was ok as the whole area is completely dry whereas the gearbox is like an oil well!
That done it was the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu for breakfast which became brunch – a roadside burrito for me followed by a chocolate cake in a swish restaurant for Allison.

Ventura

Mission Church – bless those Halloween pumpkins

We continued to Ventura and then Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara – not even time for the famous Mission but we did visit the Mission in Ventura.

Santa Barbara frrom Stearns Wharf

9 October – The Pacific. A short day of just over 100 miles – well perhaps! We left at around 8.30 and arrived shortly after 5pm.

Wigwam Motel

There were plenty of detours and Route 66 things to see and cafes to stop at. We followed some (now) dead end alignments, including one that has a Mormon Trail Marker indicating the route they took from Salt Lake City to the west. Over a summit and alongside a creek we found our way to San Bernadino – definitely the back end of this town with the strong wind throwing dust at our open window (the other one remains broken).

Roadside Orange

We visited a Wigwam Motel – that would be interesting if our tour company had not already booked us into the “safety” of well-known chains, a Giant road-side orange, a restored petrol/gas station,

Stagecoach Inn – not very busy

Monravia – fuel station

a couple of closed Inns, cafes and a 1915 pharmacy, now a café/gift shop. We drove round various parts of LA – both planned and unplanned – as well as various side trips to try to get a photo of that “Hollywood” hillside sign and the Lotus.

Lotus goes to Hollywood

Then on to Santa Monica where we visited the “official” end of route 66 – at some traffic lights – and the unofficial end on the pier where haze again dampened the photos. The Route ended with a paddle in the Pacific.

Officially – the End

The Pier Santa Monica – the End

Without a speedo I cannot be sure of our mileage from Newark but I think it was just over 3,800. Now on to the North and Vancouver………..looking forward to meeting some of the San Francisco area Lotus owners next weekend.

8 October – to California.

In Sloan Canyon

What should have been a short day got longer! We started a little later than planned and then headed north rather than south; having sorted that out our route to the Petroglyphs at Sloan Canyon was interrupted by the construction of a new gated community there’s an awful lot of new building just south of Las Vegas.

Heading south once more we left the Interstate for the 5 miles of the Zzyzx road which goes to a dried up salt lake and the Desert Studies Centre – cars aren’t allowed on the lake bed but we are and Allison found a tennis ball stuck in the dry mud – house joke as we always find tennis balls when walking the dogs at home in the lush greenery of the Norfolk Broads.

The Street, Calico

Further south we came to Calico Ghost town – a silver mining village abandoned in the 1890’s when the price of silver plummeted – now a theme park.

Calico – the mines

As

Fuel costs a little more nowadays!

temperatures moderated from the day time 35C we regained Route 66 near Barstow.

Sagebrush Inn, a Roadhouse – what you saw was what you got!

Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch

We reached our hotel in Victorville at around 7pm – a long hot day.

7 October – in Las Vegas. By way of contrast to the extravagance of Las Vegas we visited the Las Vegas Springs Preserve. This was the origin of Las Vegas – the Springs which provided the water which made life possible when Las Vegas was an oasis in the South Nevada desert. It was only recently when excess ground water pumping reduced the water levels that the Springs dried up. Now water comes from the Colorado river – and tourism is only 5% of the usage – a figure I cannot understand seeing all the massive hotels in the town!

On The Strip

In the evening we toured The Strip.

6 October

Seligman

More Seligman

Checked that fan belt again and decided that it did have ½ inch play and didn’t need attention (too tight and the water pump is damaged which is a major engine repair job). Leaving at 7.30 ish it was chilly – and the car felt it (doesn’t like the cold!). Spotted 9 or 10 of the Borgwards we had last seen in St Louis; they were heading towards Grand Canyon, their trip had taken them to Phoenix, which was not on our route.

At Williams we rejoined Route 66 and a few miles later followed what the book describes as the start of 159 almost uninterrupted miles of pristine route 66> The road was empty until Seligman which was full of tourist busses, whose occupants were more interested in the kitsch than a live Lotus Elan – shame!

Hackberry General Sore

Then to Hackberry and a general stores full of things only tourists would need. One feature here were sets of five “Burma Shave” (a brushless shaving cream from the 1920’s) roadside adverts. At Kingman we chose to detour off the direct route to Las Vegas by tackling the Sitgreaves Pass, a narrow but now well maintained road which used to terrify previous generations who paid the locals to drive their cars up and down the 3550 ft mountain pass.

Sitgreaves Pass

Oatman Hotel

This took us to Oatman – it looks like a wild west town

Oatman

but is lined with modern tourist cars. An actor plays the sheriff and discussed with us whether we should be fined for having our steering wheel in the wrong place!. Then across the desert to Las Vegas, experiencing the extremes between the empty expanse and the clogged urban motorway system. Somehow the car coped with both. Our hotel, the Luxor, is huge; checking in was as if we were at an airport with snaking lines of guests shuffling forwards and took over half an hour.

5 October – rest day at Grand Canyon.

The Descent

An early morning descent about half way down the Canyon and twice as long to get back up! Its very chilly before the sun’s rays warm you up, then its too hot.

The Mule Train – balast to repair the paths

4 October . It was an early start to meet at ten past six for a sunrise tour of Monument Valley (the bus arrived at 6.30!).

Early morning Monument Valley

We meandered around a trail in the valley, spending quite a lot of time at a “hogan” (anglicised spelling) – a native Indian woman’s house – of a lady who sold horse riding tours and various crafts – am I cynical?
Breakfast was late and slow so we didn’t hit the road till 10.30. Again there was a direct route to Grand Canyon and the scenic route via Page and the Horseshoe bend where the Colorado river tries to do a 360 – or at least 270 – on its way to Grand Canyon.

Horseshoe bend

Research had shown that none of the walking trails that we could do in the time available in Grand Canyon would give us a view of the river – so we joined lots of Chinese tourists at Horseshoe bend.

We then traversed plenty of hot desert with a few

Little Colorado River in a baby canyon

baby canyons reaching Grand Canyon to find that the day had just got longer – we had crossed another time zone and our early start now seemed even earlier.

View fromThe Watchtower

The eastern entrance to the Canyon National Park brought us in near the Watchtower – which gave good but hazy views over the Canyon.

Car at the Canyon

I almost managed a photo of the car and the canyon! Tomorrow is a rest day before we head off to Gambling World – otherwise known as Las Vegas – and no its not on Route 66.

2/3 October

Recognise this scene? Its the way we are going – Monument Valley

We went off-route to visit some friends in Colorado, rejoining the tour at Monument Valley. Our route was north west from Albuquerque to Durango and on to Lake Vallecito (7200 ft). The speedo failed as we left and despite my efforts to revive it there’s no sign of life – so if anyone asks how far we went – I don’t really know! I tried fixing it the next morning- but failed – the TomTom shows my speed so I should be ok with speed limits. I also tightened the alternator belt which had screamed at me yesterday – it was about right at 8am when the sun was down and it was 3 degrees but by late afternoon when it was somewhere over 30 degrees it felt rather tight – have the pulleys expanded?

In 4 places at one time

We left late for 4 Corners – the meeting points of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado.

Valley of the Gods

A great disappointment – sales opportunity for Navajo Indian tourist ware and apart from that a disc in the concrete. Then to the Valley of the Gods and on to Monument Valley. The latter probably the most recognisable image of the Wild West – sadly for my photos we were there at the wrong time of day and it was hazy.

1 October Rest day in Albuquerque – the best laid plans…….. I had planned to spend some time on the car this morning to check the brake squeal. I had not planned on replacing the clutch slave cylinder in the hotel car park – but that’s what I had to do as the clutch pedal went straight to the floor when I tried to move the car to a less busy area. Not my favourite task but I do carry 2 spare cylinders and looking on the bright side – we had the time, it was not raining, it was warm and I had a secure place – so all in all it was a “good” thing! The last time I replaced it was in Peru in the Urubamba valley after visiting Macchu Pichu – maybe hotel car parks and clutch cylinders have something in common?

We then visited a museum (coffee and cakes by way of contrast to the tarmac car park!).

NewMexico landscape looking west

Then eastwards along the newer (1950/60) track of route 66 through Albuquerque and the “music road”. There is a small eastbound section where if you drive at 45mph with the wheels on a particular strip you get “America the beautiful”. Its true!! Though Allison says it was flat – maybe I drove at 44 and not 45?

Albuquerque Old Town

We returned on the Interstate and were tourists in the Old Town – and the clutch reservoir is still full!! Tomorrow we leave the route to visit friends in Colorado and after that its Monument Valley and then two nights in Grand Canyon – photo ops to be sure!

30 September to Albuquerque. There are two “alignments” of Route 66 between Tucumcari and Albuquerque. One is the direct (later) route which is largely the current Interstate and is a direct east/west line; the other has east/west, north and south elements – we chose the latter via Santa Fe.

Blue Hole

The rain cleared before our first stop at the Blue Hole of Santa Rosa – one of a series of linked lakes, connected by a natural underground system with a constant supply of clear water, very popular with divers. Then we crossed the flat lands of New Mexico to Las Vegas (not the Nevada version!).

The Other Las Vegas

This was not on route 66 but was used as a source of provisions by travellers – so we had morning coffee in the genteel surroundings of the Plaza Hotel.

Post cards at US Post office near Starvation Peak

From modern comfort, the route took us past Starvation Peak – a place of fear for the settlers heading west.

Not that way to San Jose

We visited a couple of Route 66 dead ends and dirt tracks – and were surprised to find so many US Post Offices tucked away in remote corners – you have to try pretty hard to find any back home! We followed a dirt track of old route 66 (4 WD only the book says) but did decide against the all-mud options after our previous efforts. The area was full of history – the Santa Fe trail, the Old Pecos Trail, Civil War battlefields and Indian Reservations.

Santa Fe Cathedral

We stopped in Santa Fe, the oldest (State) capital city in USA with its Spanish Churches, arched walkways round the Square and its Adobe style architecture.

Santa Fe Loretto Chapel

Then with the skies darkening and “precipitation in sight” we headed for our overnight stop in Albuquerque, deviating only for an Indian Trading Post – which was closed when we got there! Dinner was accompanied by the rumble of thunder, pity the car leaks.

29 September to Tucumcari – a short day of only 115 miles – but we took a longer route! Today was also the day that we reached the halfway mark when we passed through Adrian, Texas

On the Mid Point

1139 miles to go (precisely inaccurate!).
We started with Palo Duro Canyon, the second biggest in USA.

Palo Duro

After the rain, the trails were closed but we were able to drive to the bottom and tried to find some stunning photo ops – limited success. Then to the (in)famous Cadillac ranch 10 Cadillacs standing nose first in a soggy, muddy field where people are invited to add more spray paint to what is already there. I’m not a fan of getting needlessly muddy in a small, car!

Mud and Spray can

Texas has a couple of ghost towns which were more interesting than the Cadillacs. One at Gruhlkey Road has a beautiful tarmac road with central yellow lines leading up to a dead end. The other

First/Last Motel in Texas

at Glenrio, which straddles the Texas/New Mexico border has a dual carriageway in one State and in the other a derelict motel which was once the first (or last) motel in Texas.

Please rescue me!

Before Tucumcari, we found yet more fields of rusting cars crying out for restoration – and this time they are for sale! We arrived around 3pm (after another one hour time shift) to find that most of the museums had just closed. So spent a little time on the car, neglected up to now apart from fluid checks. We are losing water somewhere, the brakes are squealing, the handbrake needed adjusting and the passenger’s window is best left were it is. Otherwise all seems ok – mileage since leaving home 2600.

28 September to Amarillo. One of our first tasks was to find a car wash and clean off at least some of yesterday’s mud. Next stop was Fort Reno, part of the Red Indian resettlement program in 1860/70 but we were too early and it was closed. Then to more scenes of abandonment – a restored gas station and the aptly named Canute which the guide book says “is worth the detour for all the remains of old businesses”. Just before that we visited the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum – described as mandatory by the book and there we met the other half of our tour – its only taken a week!

One feature of the road is the quantity of old, abandoned cars which in UK I am sure would have been snapped up for restoration.

Rotting peacefully

I parked in a driveway to take photos of a field; the owner drove up and, having asked how I get a gas can in a car so small, said that he put the cars there for people to take photos – but they were not for sale.

Murals in Shamrock Texas

Continuing west we entered Texas and it started to rain just about the time we got caught in the “Jericho gap” – an 18 mile section of the route now in private ownership – we returned to the Interstate – not fun in the spray and standing water. We had to visit the “bug ranch”

Bug ranch

– a satire on “Cadillac ranch” which comes later – 5 VW’s dug into the ground. Our evening meal was at the Big Texan – a cross between showbiz and a restaurant. Limos whisk you from your hotel (ours was about an hour late) to a two storey hall where all staff wear Texan hats, there are 500 covers and they consume the equivalent of 14 cattle per day.

27 September to Oklahoma City – we knew today would be a long one – 295 miles if travelling direct and Route 66 is not direct and is stop/start, seeing things and using byways, towns and villages (and “unplanned detours”) – anything but the Interstate. We left at about 7 am and arrived 12 hours later.

Paris Springs – early and damp

Kansas and still damp

Most of the day it rained and was fairly chilly but we set out with shorts and T-shirts for yesterday’s weather!

Kansas may have only 13 miles of the route but we spent some time there in Galena, where the Gift Shop was about to close for the winter and at the coal mining museum –

Galena Mining Museum

once a railway ticket office but picked up and moved to its new location on the main road.

Oklahoma provided plenty of interest – the Sidewalk Highway,

9 ft highway

a 9ft wide stretch of tarmac road, the Blue Whale, a brick paved bridge,

At Shoe Tree Trading Post

the Shoe Tree Loop where folk have hung shoes on the tree at the entrance and a stretch of the Ozark Trail – not to be attempted in the wet (it had rained all day so not the best of our ideas!).

Must wash this tomorrow

The attractions we missed were many times more numerous than those we visited – but with such a long day. Museum visits sadly are not an option.

They started with 5

26 September – the 5 Borgwards from yesterday have now become 13; seems that one as already had an engine transplant shortly after arriving.

Meramec Caveens

Our first site today was to a Jesse James museum – but as it was now winter, it was closed.

Meramec Caverns (with coloured lights)

Then to the Meramec Caverns – a 24 mile complex of underground caverns, stalactites, rivers, outlaws (Jesse James again) and Civil War battles. This took a good chunk out of the day.

Cuba, mural, Borgward

Then on to Cuba – town of murals – before some Route 66 dereliction

Bridge at Gasconade River

and on to Lebanon before ending in the rain in Springfield. Our route book was written by a route 66 expert who encourages tourists to visit the “mom and pop” businesses along its length. One such was a motel in Lebanon where we stopped to buy some souvenirs but I was struck by the anger of the proprietor towards us because our tour hotel was in the big city of Springfield rather than using her motel – understandable but unwanted.

25 September St Louis, hot.

St Louis in the Shadow of the Arch

St Louis River of Bridges

St Louis Gateway Arch


A group of 5 Borgward cars travelling from New York to Los Angeles had arrived at the hotel when we returned from sightseeing – how often do you see one let alone five?

24 September – Today was one of the lowest mileage days of the tour – but when we followed the meanderings of the Route – it got extended! We tracked back into Springfield to find one of the “Giants” at Lauterbach Tire. Then we had to decide which “alignment” to follow as today the 1920’s route was about 12 miles away from the 1940’s.

The Old Brick Road

We chose the 20’s and drove the “old brick road” – a section of just over a mile of brick surface. In Virden we found a memorial to the 1898 battle between coal miners and the mine owners. Our

The concrete road

guide book described the next section as “an evocative concrete road like the snaking course of a river” as the road followed a series of right angles through the cornfields. After the brick square in Carlinville we changed allegiance to the 40’s, visiting the Route 66 shrine to “Our Lady of the Highways”.

Our Lady of the Highways

Soulsby’s Shell Station at Mt Olive

Further on we had to visit the “Pink Elephant” Antiques, complete with more Giants – this was top class kitsch!

Pink Elephant Antiques

Our last visit was to Chain of Rocks bridge. This steel and concrete bridge carried Route 66 over the mighty Mississippi for 30 years till 1965. Its famous for its bend – it’s a mile long with a 22 degree bend in the middle – and the scene of many deaths over the years. Now the bridge is deserted and all the roadside stalls, cafes and businesses have disappeared and its a wildlife park. There were just 8 pedestrians and a cyclist when we were there.

Bridge with a bend

One of them gave us a good tip for our evening meal – and we still haven’t met the other members of our party! Tomorrow is another rest day in St Louis.

23 September – This weekend saw the annual Springfield car show with 1,000+ cars on display in the centre of the City.

The interior Capitol, Springfield

We had booked to be on display but turned up without any driving licences – you have to show a driving licence to be able to put the car on display – hmm! We were in two minds about the display as we don’t “do” static displays but it was close to the main historic sites – based round Abraham Lincoln, President of USA during the Civil War and whose family came from Norfolk. So we displayed; much of the time we were off visiting but when we were there,

Springfield Show

we had groups of people wanting to talk about the car and its travels. It was another hot day – temperature records were being broken as we sweltered at 94F.

22 September Our objective was to follow Route 66 – but there are challenges;

The Story of Route 66 – Road Ends!

Route 66 now longer exists and has been superseded by the Interstate network, Route 66 had various adjustments over the years so its course moved and finally much of it has been removed.

Gemini Giant, Wilmington

Various people have documented the Route’s history and each State has its Route 66 Preservation Society who have put up road signs – and helped the huge tourist industry riding on the Route 66 name.

So we were provided with a comprehensive set of route notes, noting

Two Cell Jail, Gardner

the major attractions, and the definitive Route 66 Guide. I had also downloaded a complete set of tracks for the Route for the SatNav – it was when the directions diverged that the fun began……..!

Our hotel was not on Route 66 so the SatNav took us to the nearest point on the route – and may have landed us in hot water as this included two roads with auto toll booths and we didn’t have the correct card or change – so we paid more but the Stop sign still lit up – hmm!

Much of the world was on Route 66 today – Canadians, Portuguese, Americans and Brits – including a party from Caister which is about 6 miles from home in Norfolk. The people we didn’t see were the others in our tour group.

Amongst the features of the

Ambler’s Texaco Station, Dwight

road are preserved petrol stations from years gone by, many painstakingly restored and now museums/souvenir shops.

Sprague Super Service Station, Normal

Others have been demolished and others turned into homes.

21 September – the tour starts today – so the organiser says! I arrived in New York late in the evening 4 days ago to allow two days to get to Chicago – about 800 miles – and one day in case there were Customs things to resolve. In fact there were none and I left the warehouse about 30 minutes after I got there. They thoughtfully brought a battery pack but the Elan started on its own. Everything seemed to be where it should be, the car was undamaged and off we went. I did nearly 450 miles, mainly on Interstates and around the same speeds as everyone else but faster than most of the “semis” (artics). Overnight near Erie. Then on towards Chicago but using highways today. Decided that Chicago hotels would be pricey so stopped in Valparaiso – having been to the Chilean original at the end of the Patagonia trip some years back. The similarities stop with the name! It was seriously humid and sticky – the temperature was about 90F and I was dripping. The local attraction is the Indiana Dunes, a National Park based on the dunes and coastal vegetation.
Then to Chicago – parking was the problem – measured in $$$$. But I did find the end of Historic Route 66 and the Start. Seems that the original westbound Route 66 is now one way eastbound hence it is the end if you are travelling east! The current start is now on a parallel road one way west bound so I drove the first 15 miles or so before leaving to find the first night hotel. As on our last Tour with Scenic there is just one other car – why is the take up so low? Haven’t yet met Ronald and Angela – but have seen what I guess is their Ontario registered Mustang in the parking – we have about 20 days to find them!

If you look at the map at the foot of our home page, there’s a large area without a little red car! The USA. So in 2017 we aim to rectify that. Getting to the “Land of the Free” has certain hurdles to overcome – first a full visa (having Iran in our passports is not a good start) but a trip to the Embassy solved that. Then car insurance – UK insurers won’t touch USA and the Americans aren’t too keen as we don’t have a USA postcode – and if we did the car won’t be registered there. However there is an insurer who will cover us for a “Collectors Car Event” – the Route 66 Tour – and after that we have 40 odd days to do as we please (60 days maximum all in). Now we know the rules, we can play the game!
The Classic Persia rally was very gentle on the car, the sump guard was the main casualty having had too many close encounters with the frequent road humps (into, out of and through most towns). That has been fixed (reshaped with a large press) so we are good to go! Route 66 here we come!

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Classic Persia

October 21st – tourist day! We took the bus again and really the only times we got off were to change busses or to go on boat trips – and both boats we only made by the skin of our teeth, one had already cast off but as there were only 8 other passengers it was no problem. Today’s photos try to show the old (dhows) and the new (the infrastructure and skyline).
dsc03370 dsc03357 dsc03351 dsc03377 dsc03388-copy dsc03409

October 20th – Its a different world in Dubai! We got to our hotel after the flight from

View from the hotel room

View from the hotel room

Dubai scene

Dubai scene

Bandar Abbas at around 11.15 and by the time we got to bed it was past midnight. Our hotel is unashamed luxury, the staff are embarrassingly deferential, everything is available (at a price), ladies wear what they want from full burkas with just the eyes – showing at one extreme to (nearly) everything showing! The building work and skyline is amazing, there are excellent roads everywhere, driving is disciplined, all the cars are modern and clean – and the flight time was just 35 minutes. We bought a bus ticket and spent the day hopping off the bus and into tourist sites. This evening is our rally dinner – but the organisers have not yet got the cars to the containers; they had planned to do this without us being involved. The cars are in the UAE but the next part is
Compare this with....

Compare this with….

....this - at the same site

….this – at the same site

unfinished and this evening we might find out what is happening and whether we may need to be involved tomorrow.

October 19th – up early (5.30) as I could not sleep – so checked the car’s points instead! The

Portside in Bandar Abbas

Portside in Bandar Abbas

gap had closed up. reset it and the car started ok so maybe that was it. We then convoyed to the port and spent about 3 hours being processed, getting back to the hotel at around 12.30. We are not expecting to see the car until Southampton.
Allison (not) shopping in Bandar Abbas

Allison (not) shopping in Bandar Abbas

October 18th – this was to have been a 9 hour day but after questions were asked, the route was shifted to become 7 hours. We had a navigational “moment” on leaving the hotel so had an unguided tour of Shiraz. The Garmin didn’t help as it repeatedly took us back to the same square and gave impossible directions. Eventually we got out and drove south into the heat of the desert – 39 according to Kieran. The car was not entirely happy and the water temperature was around 90 for most of the day. We had several spluttering sessions but outside of these the car ran well. Paul’s Mercedes suffered similarly; he changed points, condenser and plugs and the problem continued. Our problem may be points but the car starts ok which it doesn’t normally when points are dying. Anyway we now have just 10 km to go to the port and the next journey will be in England. Bandar Abbas is hotter and more humid than anywhere we have been before and we were dripping when we reached the hotel and its welcome air conditioning. Tomorrow is scheduled to be a day at the port, getting the car exported from Iran (then we can redeem our Carnet de Passage). First stop is the ferry to UAE then a transporter to the container port in Dubai.

October 17th – a day in Shiraz – somehow much more tiring than a day of driving and certainly

Arg-e-Karim Khan Zand

Arg-e-Karim Khan Zand

Vakil Mosque

Vakil Mosque

more expensive! A taxi into town brought us to the citadel, built 250 years ago, more like a palace but it has been a prison. Inside the gardens contained orange trees (every garden has orange trees, green skinned) but we didn’t try picking them! Then a bit of a ramble through various bazars to the Vakil Mosque, where we came upon our tour guide who was most concerned as he had lost one couple and was trying to find them. Then to the money changers and a teahouse before visiting the Shah Cheragh Mausoleum. This was a huge complex
Shah Cheragh

Shah Cheragh

Shah Cheragh

Shah Cheragh

and seems to have absorbed what is marked o the map as a large intersection. It contains the graves of two brothers of the eighth Imam. Allison had to wear a Chador and we were accompanied by an official guide. Here we met two more sets of participants -there must be a statistic to calculate the odds but I guess they are low. Lunch was at a local restaurant up a side street – all Iranians apart from us. Another Mosque and a
Nasir al-Molk Mosque

Nasir al-Molk Mosque

150 year old house
Narenjestan

Narenjestan

more gardens – and we were finished!

October 16th – the rally were organising a tour of Shiraz today and a trip (by car) to the ancient sites tomorrow. We preferred to reverse the programme so that if anything happened carwise en route, there would be a day in hand to sort it out. So we went to Persepolis and then to Pasegard.

Persepolis

Persepolis

dsc02610 Persepolis had changed since our last visit nearly 40 years ago. There was a visitor centre, stalls and car parking. The site had been protected against excess human traffic by way of screens and fenced off areas. None of which takes away from the spectacle. Then on to Pasegard, a disappointment but maybe I was thinking of another site at Naqsh-e-Rostam when I remembered what we saw before.
Wherever we went the Elan was the most photographed object in town. dsc03192

October 15th – we took advantage of the 6am breakfast and were on the road by 7.00,heading for Shiraz.

On a quiet mountain road

On a quiet mountain road

The direct route was 4 1/2 hours, ours was slightly longer but we avoided the roughest section and were in Shiraz shortly after 3pm. En route we had our first motoring incident, peacefully bumbling along the motorway, a local drove into the passengers door – a glancing blow, I guess he was so busy looking that he didn’t see where he was.
No real damage

No real damage

I jumped out and shouted at him – after hooting furiously at him. He didn’t try to protest any innocence and indicated that the marks could be polished off. There was no physical damage, just we ended up with some of his rubber strip and white paint and he had some of our red! He was a bit alarmed that I was dripping blood – caught my thumb on something whilst jumping out. However he kissed me on both cheeks, we shook hands and that was it. Allison says the door closed better afterwards.
Palace at Barg-e-Eram

Palace at Barg-e-Eram

We went on past the hotel to the Barg-e-Eram, the most important of the numerous gardens in Shiraz, a peaceful and quiet contrast to the noise and bustle of city driving in Iran! Our room is on the corner of the 16th floor with views onto the mountains ringing the city one way and the car park the other – to see a little red car way down below!

October 14th – second rest day. I tightened the fan belt before breakfast and found we had lost one of the bolts securing the alternator. Timothy had spent yesterday in the car park working on the Lagonda and reported a steady stream of visitors – the Lotus bonnet would be full of fingerprints! Everybody was asking him what was happening so he really needed an assistant just to speak with people! Half the rally went on a

Courtyard Friday Mosque

Courtyard Friday Mosque

Inside Friday Mosque

Inside Friday Mosque

tour of contrasts in the morning, first to the exceptionally plain Friday Mosque, tiled in the courtyard but inside just bricks and a little mud coloured plaster, different styles of brickwork – a huge complex constructed over seven centuries. Part was rebuilt following an airstrike in the Iran-Iraq war. Then to the Armenian St Saviours Cathedral – the interior covered in
Inside St Saviours

Inside St Saviours

paintings, some depicting the gruesome tortures of saints. An unusual Cathedral in that it had a Mosque-like dome to stay in keeping with the surrounding architecture.
We then went to the Khaju Bridge – now an irrelevance as the Zayanden River has been redirected to provide water for Yazd. The riverbed is dry as a bone and surprisingly free of debris. A fleet of
Dried out pedalos

Dried out pedalos

pedalos stand forlornly by the bank. Then to the Palace of Hasht Behesht and the inevitable ice cream at the Abbasi Hotel for Allison.

October 13th – the first of 2 rest days in Isfahan. Brief check of car before breakfast – need to tighten up fan belt otherwise all seems ok. A tour was arranged to the four main sites in Isfahan

Shah Mosque

Shah Mosque

Ali Qapu Palace

Ali Qapu Palace

– the two Mosques on the main square, Maidan-e-Imam (it had different names in the past), Ali Qapu Palace and Chehel Sotun. This was followed by a trip to a carpet shop and lunch. Allison thought but not for long about a carpet. The others were more serious and were going to go back later. Then a meander round the bazar, after which Allison realised she had lost her camera. We retraced our steps – souvenir shop, pistaccio shop, exchange booth and found it on top of a pile of nougat in the sweet shop – untouched. We ended at the Abbassi Hotel for afternoon tea; Allison had come here with her mother 40 years ago and it was the highlight of mother’s trip to Iran. Returning to our hotel after supper, I was crossing a 4 lane dual carriageway when a policeman came out, shook m
Se-o-se Pol bridge at night

Se-o-se Pol bridge at night

y hand and stopped the traffic for me!

October 12th – a long drive to Isfahan so the interest had to come from the road. Today was part

Procession

Procession

of Ashura and the roads were empty – of cars. In the towns there were processions – drums. flags, people with “mud” on their hair, face and clothes and the rituals of self-flagellation.
On the road we came across the stationary Mercedes of Paul & Sandra – this time a broken fan belt. After problems with the gears and ongoing unhappiness with the ignition timing, Paul’s comment was – I should have brought a Lotus!
Altogether three rally cars came to Paul’s aid as well as numerous Iranians, some to take photos –
Four of the remaining five rally cars

Four of the remaining five rally cars

mainly of the Lotus, but there was also the Mercedes and the Porsche to choose from. One kind man
lunch boxes for Bernard

lunch boxes for Bernard

went back to the nearest town and returned with lunch boxes for each rally car. The friendliness of the Iranians cannot be overstated, they ask where we are from and say “welcome to our country” – the only exception being when you are lost at a road junction, unable to read the Farsi signs and not knowing where the places are anyway – then impatience and hooting are the order of the day.

October 11th – the direct route to Kermanshah is 130km and takes just over 2 hours.

The scenery - Lotus

The scenery – Lotus

dsc03033 Our route was up into the hills of Kurdistan, overlooking Iraq and was nearer 350km and 7 hours. We came across a broken down Mercedes early on –they were stuck in 5th gear, fortunately they were able to hammer the external gear linkage which was jammed and were able to continue. Then we had a lengthy stop at a military control point, together with the Mercedes of Phil & Kieron – but not the Landrover of Dina & Bernard which sailed on through as the soldiers were looking the other way; frantic military hand-waving went unnoticed! We spent a good 20 minutes whilst our passports were checked and phone calls made. We were told not to take photos but of course every passing car had mobile phones out taking photos of the Elan! One can understand their suspicion, after all why would any sensible person take a 350 km trip to another town when 130 was on offer?
The route split after a while; we opted for the shorter and quicker route – probably just as well because the other route was extremely rough. We stopped at an empty layby to look out over Iraq. The layby soon filled up and the cameras were out in force; people were in the car, on the car and around the car. Two teenage girls came up from another layby and had a long conversation with Allison, also translating questions from the others and our answers about the car. The upshot was that we were invited to lunch at Grandma’s but first we had tea with them in their layby – cue more Lotus viewing and photos! After lunch we set off on a route which crossed between the road we wanted to be on and the main route of the day, joining just after the end of their rough section. Concerned over the gearbox – a new noise and very hot. The gear lever rubber sleeve had come off – so that may explain some of the noise – and checked the oil so we’ll see how tomorrow fares.
At the hotel, Phil and Kieron told how they were nearly blown up – rock blasting was taking place on the main rally route (the rough part) but the only warning was a man in dusty clothes, running around and waving his arms. They took him for a village idiot but stopped when the car behind them stopped and flashed – the road ahead was soon covered in rockfall……

October 10th – today we planned to go completely off route by visiting the remains at Tahkt-e-Soleyman

The Lake in the crater

The Lake in the crater

The Lake

The Lake

en-route to Sanandaj. The rally had encouraged us to use a navigational app called Gallileo – we had the app but not got round to loading the tracks or using it. Today we wanted it to make sure that we knew where we were as I was not sure if I could program the Garmin sat nav. In the event we used both though relying mainly on the Garmin. I missed the first turning and then we were confused when the Garmin tried to make us drive across a dual carriageway and through the Armco in the central barrier! Eventually we got on the right road and navigation was ok thereafter; we rejoined the rally route about 80 km before Sanandaj.
The site was built around a crater and enclosed in 200AD. It contained a Zoroastrian Fire Temple where the Kings used to come to complete their accession. We had the site virtually to ourselves, most of the other visitors being Iranian.
Leaving Tahkt-e-Soleyman we had our first puncture of the trip and 10km later found a town where it was repaired. The sight of the Elan drew the crowds and as usual I found it very difficult to answer one of the most common questions – how much does it cost? How would you value a collector’s car in a country where there are no spares and often unsuitable roads? The mobile phone cameras are out in force everywhere the Elan appears and its difficult to tell if men or women are the greatest fans! Two cars are now “out” of the rally -the Lagonda, being trucked to Isfahan when new parts from UK should be fitted, and the Bentley, now on a truck to Bandar Abbas with steering failure.
Our evening meal was in town and, as we left, the streets in the centre were eerily quiet as the police had closed the roads – probably anticipating tomorrow’s Ashura processions and marches.

October 9th – we could have done the scenic route to Zanjan which involves gravel and slow roads and an average speed of 42kph over 2 hours – but we didn’t! So it was a gentle day’s travel and we arrived in our hotel at 2pm.

Zanjan Friday Mosque

Zanjan Friday Mosque

The road ahead near Khalkhal

The road ahead near Khalkhal

We spoke with Timothy, the rally mechanic, who diagnosed the dripping oil as a failed seal on the cable drive – which is what I thought but still not sure just where it is. 40km out from the hotel we came upon a broken down Bentley, spewing steering fluid onto the road. They had set out early to do the full route in daylight (for the first time) so not the best start to their day. We could not help apart from moral support and they contacted Timothy who should be along in about an hour. That was the only rally car we saw all day.
Our route was along the Caspian – but not close enough to see – and then climbed to 2300m and a completely different landscape. This was back to dusty desert and hillside dwellings, far away from the bustle of the coast. We took a taxi into town and wandered through the bazaar and past the outside of some mosques.
Every town has black flags fluttering as it is early in the month of Moharram; women should wear more sombre clothes in the days leading up to the religious festival of Ashura which is next Tuesday. Certainly in the streets, the vast majority of women wore black chadors.

October 8th – surprisingly all the rally cleared the border and got to Tabriz though some of them did not arrive till past midnight. The Lagonda needs garage repairs and plans to join later when we have rest days. We fixed the horn but failed with the window – one pulley has come adrift and needs refixing so the window is held up with the universal repair tool – cable ties.

car park repairs

car park repairs

We motored gently to Astara via Ardebil, hoping to visit a Sufi World Heritage site on the way – but lost the signposts so failed on that as well! Astara is on the Azerbijan border and it is odd to see the border fence, topped with razor wire alongside the road as it drops down from the dry desert plateau to the damp greenery of the Caspian. In the evening we took a taxi into town and after a tour round the sites had a meal, whilst the taxi driver went to change some money for us. Where else would you give a taxi driver USD 200 and expect to get it back again? The driver didn’t speak much English so the communication was via his sister on his mobile phone!
October 7th – this was always going to be a long day – and it was. In theory we could do just 500km and a border crossing (which was known to be a long slow and inefficient process). We set out at 7am and made good progress until we were stopped by Paul & Sandra’s Mercedes – the road ahead had been closed by the military. We turned round and soon came across the Bentley who followed behind. In the first village we found Paul & Sandra who were getting instruction from a local on a rough track which bypassed the closure. He said we would never make it over the rough terrain and as we did not have the mapping equipment which the others had we continued to retrace our route. The Bentley stopped to have a puncture fixed and we soon came upon the other Mercedes (Phil & Keron). Together we decided not to risk the rough track but to complete 3 sides of the square and add over 300km to our day by travelling north to join the main truck route.
At the border there was a 13km queue of lorries, two abreast waiting to cross – what an extraordinary waste of time, money and people’s lives!
Border Crossing with Mt Ararat

Border Crossing with Mt Ararat

It took us about 3 hours to complete all the formalities – including all our fingerprints, twice, on a sheet of A4. Then on to Tabriz, only stopped once by the police, which we reached just after 8pm, well into darkness. Not my idea of fun as night driving was definitely on my “don’t want” list. The Elan is attracting interest from everyone all the time; every second car overtakes us, lets us overtake, hoots, waves, flashes or calls out to us. If we charged per photo we’d be rich! A very tiring day but there are no more border crossings so hopefully it will be the worst day. The car is doing amazingly well, the only things I know I have to look at are the horn, passenger’s window and the recurrence of the gearbox oil being pushed up the speedo cable and dripping onto my legs.

October 6th – we got covered in “stuff”! Overnight

Tar!

Tar!

Still tar

Still tar

we were parked under a tree and the red elan was unmissable target practice. My first task was therefore to clean the car so our early start was a little delayed. We sorted out a route thanks to TomTom which took us as we thought onto a ferry (TomTom picture of a boat was a hint) but the ferry had turned a splendid and empty bridge. After the bridge the road looked and smelt like liquid tarmac – and if something smells like a pig and looks like a pig it probably is a pig! It seems they had spread the liquid tar but not got round to the chippings. I figured that if I went slowly I would get stuck – so I carried on at normal speed for a good surface. When we got to the next town the brakes made a horrible noise so we stopped at a friendly fuel station to check them out. The tyres, which I had worried about, were clean but the sides of the car were covered with black tar and puddles of tar were forming on the ground, where it was dripping off the underside and suspension …… What a mess! The garage brought us glasses of tea and the men sat round as we emptied the boot to find the jack handle to check the brake pads – which were fine. I made gestures of cleaning and after a reply in Turkish I was handed a smart phone with the translated message – “purge with diesel”. Penny dropped – after a road incident involving diesel, the road is resurfaced – diesel kills tar.
We continued our 8½ hour drive to Van, where the black car had become brown as dirt and dust adhered to the wet tar and baked in the heat of the day! The first fuel station with a washing function couldn’t help but the second could and the chief mechanic knew exactly what to do – and an hour later we had a sparkling clean car – though the underside and suspension will have to wait till we get back home. How long we have to love the smell of diesel remains to be seen.

October 5th – the longest day so far at 9 hours plus stops. Some of the group left at 5am for balloon rides over the valleys and at breakfast we saw about 20 of them gliding over the valley and as we set out we saw them again, deflating on the ground. Driving at night was not what we wanted so we pushed on as fast as we could and our only sight seeing was the burial mound and statutes to King Antiochus and his family on top of Mount Nemrut.

Early evening view from Mt Nemrut

Early evening view from Mt Nemrut


We reached our hotel just after dark at about 6.30; Allison said the engine felt lumpy after she drove the last leg but a quick fluid level check was all that we had the energy for!

October 4th – a short day scheduled for 6 hours which we reduced to 4½ by using the main roads more. Our first stop was Church of St Jean at Gulsheir – carved out of the inside of a lump of rock

Church of St Jean

Church of St Jean

and contains some unusual frescos. This is the appeal of Cappadoccia where rocks take on strange shapes and are frequently hollowed out as houses and, in the case of our next visit to Tatlarin, underground cities. Then to the Castle at Orchisar, a mix of carved rock and construction, right in the centre of a town largely devoid of tourists. Our last stop was Sword Valley,
Sword Valley

Sword Valley

not many tourists but there was a film crew filming a TV episode. Getting to our hotel from the wrong direction was a challenge as the GPS was in the right place but too high up as the hotel occupied several layers of building on the side of a cliff face.

October 3rd – photographs and general milling around delayed our departure

Pera Palace Hotel Istanbul

Pera Palace Hotel Istanbul

but eventually we left into more Istanbul traffic – and the car following us, following the car in front all got lost as the Garmin (supplied by the rally) lost signal in the underpass. An illicit U turn corrected that error but more were to follow as the day wore on. So much so that Allison for whom our recently acquired TomTom was a thing to be distrusted, was soon calling out for me to chuck out the Garmin and bring back the TomTom – but the Garmin has our route programmed into it so not an easy option.
The route book said that we had an 8 hour day ahead of us; we decided that after a late start and a few wrong turns, we would follow the main road, forsaking the scenic route – but we did arrive with daylight to spare whilst most of those who followed the route were driving in the dark. We checked the car over, planned our route – using TomTom – for tomorrow with hopefully sightseeing time in the strange world of Cappadocia. Our hotel is a series of caves – and I’m not sure whether caveman has internet…..

October 2nd – this was planned as a short day – just 4 hours plus a border crossing and unsurprisingly it didn’t quite turn out that way! We reached the border ok but when it came to buying our third party insurance, the website had crashed so we spent over an hour waiting to buy this legally required but totally irrelevant document. Our wait was small compared to a guy who was taking his bike to a biking event in Anatolya. He had to insure both his bike and his van – the complication being that one person was bring in two road legal vehicles – he had arrived at 3am and it was now midday….
We stopped in Edirne to see the Selimiye Mosque – a World Heritage site – and the Lotus was much

Selimiye Mosque Edirne

Selimiye Mosque Edirne

admired in a town that is usually bypassed by folk hurrying away from the border. Then to Istanbul.
Istanbul from hotel balcony

Istanbul from hotel balcony

TomTom’s assessment of journey time was way out as we entered an 20 km traffic jam. Thanks to the powerful fans supplied by Cliveyboy.com the temperature never rose above about 90 degrees and overheating was not a concern (it was 30 degrees outside). TomTom didn’t recognise our hotel but I had set a neighbouring one as our destination so we arrived in time for the evening fally briefing – with pole position right outside the front doors.

October 1st – after a non breakfast we headed further south east. The car is using a little oil and this morning the radiator needed a top up. It was warm and hazy as we passed Belgrade and pushed our way past various road works. Sight seeing was in short supply on this trip as we hurry to catch up the day we lost but we did manage a visit to a 14th century monastery set up in the hills. dsc02896
The border to Bulgaria was empty and the crossing quick. The main road was dual carriageway in the main and avoided most towns – except Sofia where TomTom reckoned that straight through the centre was better than the ring road. There is no way of knowing if that was the right choice as there is no control to compare against – you have to believe it or not! The route out of Serbia was slow as the road is still being built but Bulgaria (apart from Sofia) seems to be all dual carriageway and much of it very new.
Tonight we stopped in Haskovo (as planned) and in theory tomorrow needs only 350kms and one border crossing to our hotel in Istanbul ….and the minor matter of navigating through that huge and busy city!
September 30 – our hotel was everything you might expect of a southern German hotel, a jovial host in lederhosen, wood everywhere, large portions and an excellent breakfast. The Elan was parked in the beer garden overnight – hope it had a good time!
We were on the road at eight and planned to get south of Zagreb for the night so as to be somewhere near our original plan – and it worked; we spent the night just north of Belgrade having travelled through five countries to get there – Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia.
The car hummed, the only problem being at the border crossings where the clutch wouldn’t disengage – annoying as the slave cylinder was new the week before we left, the master cylinder refurbished a few months ago and fluid levels fine.
We were navigating on the TomTom and after Zagreb its instructions were simple – 375km straight on. Night fell as we crossed into Serbia and I was uncertain as to the quality of the road, it was dual carriageway, the slow lane was bumpy from all the trucks and the outside occupied by folk travelling much faster than us – at 70 we were constantly overtaken but much faster and the car felt unstable – I will have to chat with Spyder again when the car gets back home.
We were fortunate to be travelling east and south – our border queues were relatively short but the other way, towards western Europe they were long and slow.
Neither Croatia nor Serbia are in the Euro and we had no local currency – but thanks to plastic this was not a problem – fuel, tolls, motorway vignette, restaurant and hotel – all gobbled up by a piece of plastic! After leaving the motorway we stopped at a petrol station and asked about hotels (the language being a cross between German and sign language). The instructions included “rotunda” (roundabout) and semaphore (traffic lights) but when we arrived a local policeman said it was closed! Cue more instructions but incomprehensible – so our friendly cop jumped into his car and lead us back to the motorway we had just left, down a track and back towards town – was this an exercise in obfuscation? No, the road was closed. The hotel was a massive construction and hosting an 18th birthday party for 150 people so the restaurant was closed. More sign language/German established that they had a room but no meals and cost all of 28 Euros so where could we eat? More half German/sign language confused the message whilst the athletics club, the beton on the road, the police and the lefts and rights morphed into each other so the porter got into his car and we followed him! The beton on the road and the police merged to become a sleeping policeman and some lefts became right but we got there! He then arranged our meal and we gorged on meat, meat and more meat with a little beer to wash it down. Our first impression of the Serbs was very pleasant – last time we were in the area it had been Yugoslavia and the main road a ribbon of tarmac with dirt tracks off each side.

September 29th, we have reached the small historic town of Altdorf near Nurnberg – but it wasn’t meant to be like this – we had planned to be in Zagreb. We started as planned on the ferry to Hook of Holland but then worried too much about the car’s poor starting! The car had been fine before going to the workshop for a change of engine gaskets; when it came back the starter was grinding rather than spinning rapidly. It did not improve much after the evening trip (with lights) to Harwich but stalled on the boat and only just started. Thinking about it rather than sleeping I decided I was worried about starting a rally with a non-starting car. Was it the electrical connections (via the chassis), the battery or the starter? Not the first as I had cleaned them recently but there again both the battery and the starter were also new! I reckoned I could pick up a battery anywhere – but a starter? I had one at home so to cut a long story short we took a circuitous journey back home from Hook of Holland, picked up the starter and set off again but 24 hours late and this time via Dover/Calais as the Harwich ferry was fully booked. By now battery and starter were fine!!
Thus after a (very) early morning ferry we had a long drive to Nurnberg, held up by numerous roadworks and are still not as close to Istanbul as we should have been yesterday! We have two more long hard drives ahead of us if we are to make the rally start!

We set out tomorrow for our third long distance rally in thirteen months – that represents over 16,000 miles, not bad for a car that becomes 50 next year!
A number of things went wrong in Norway so some have been resolved –
– points so we have a Boyer Bransden for negative earth (the old positive earth version is now on the yellow Elan),
– we replaced the rear wishbones,
– the engine had been very noisy so the cam cover came off and the cam lobes were found to be disintegrating! That meant new cams and new cam cups – as well as flushing the engine to remove any loose swarf.
– still overheating so we have a pair of Revotec “pull” fans mounted between the engine and the radiator – kindly supplied by cliveyboy.com
– the engine continues to run after the ignition is switched off – not sorted yet; I’m sure its connected to the fans and cliveyboy has sent me a new fan controller (but I’ve not fitted it yet). The problem is electrical and could be a result of changing the ignition switch – get to that in due course!
– fully refurbed steering rack ( so hopefully the car will go where its pointed and not jump around the road!)

So where to this time? The title says it all – first stop Istanbul where the rally starts then through Turkey and Iran to the Persian Gulf; we take the quick route home (fly) whilst the Lotus has another container trip. I’ll try to update the story and photos as we go along.

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Arctic Highway Challenge

12 July – we arrive in Travemunde at around 9pm after about 30 hours on a very calm ferry crossing from Helsinki (about 1150 km).

View from our hotel in Travemunde

View from our hotel in Travemunde

Travemunde harbour

Travemunde harbour

Yesterday was the 300 mile drive to Helsinki, which started on glorious roads – wit no speed cameras! We had some confusion as Allison was adamant that we should be on road number 89 when in fact we were on the 68. Changing the direction of the map made life a little clearer! Sue and Will did a grand tour of Helsinki Old Town before arriving at the port 15 minutes after check in closed.
My first task at the hotel was to change the points – they had been ok but this was a precaution against a breakdown (and losing time) at the side of a German autobahn. Probably a good thing as the set that came out looked pitted with limited life expectancy.
Now 7.00 am local time on 13 July and our incoming ferry has just turned around in the narrow river to start its return to Helsinki. We hope to be on this evening’s boat to Harwich – and more car repairs to look forward to!

10 July – a drive to Kokkola but a late start as our sleep was disturbed by some noisy night clubbers. Yesterday was characterised by a sequence of lakes and evergreens, with the odd speed camera; today in principle we were on the coastal road alongside the Gulf of Bothnia – but I didn’t see any sea – I saw plenty of speed cameras. They were everywhere – grey boxes with two lenses and you had no idea what they were thinking! The car ran happily enough. Kokkola

Kokkola Orthodox Church

Kokkola Orthodox Church

used to be a port, exporting tar. Over the years the land has risen so the sea is now further away and the harbour has had to move several times! One claim to fame is a captured English barque – a rowed boat carried on warships. This was captured

Boathouse with captured barque

Boathouse with captured barque

in the Crimean war in 1854 when the English attacked Finland (yes Finland is a long way from the Crimea but Finland was then part of Russia).

9 July – so that should have been a straight forward drive of about 5 hours from Karasjok through the border to Rovaniemi in Finland. It was raining when we set off – I am sure we have had more rain than we should have. The roads were empty so it didn’t matter too much that the car was bouncing over the road when it encountered rain in the lorry tracks. The border was deserted and I guess we saw fewer than a dozen cars going our way for the first hour. First stop was Sodankyla to see a

Sodankyla Church

Sodankyla Church

17th Century wooden Church – somehow it escaped the scorched earth policy at the end of WW2. We stopped to refuel and there in the café was the friendly man from Ostend with whom I had put the world to rights whilst waiting for the lorry to be pulled out of the ditch yesterday.
We carried on to Rovaniemi but I could not resist a stop at the Arctic Circle line and the

Don't get lost at Santa's village!

Don’t get lost at Santa’s village!

Santa village which has been constructed around it – yes you can have 365 days a year Santa – whoopee! This had to be followed by culture at the Arktikum – a museum of the Arctic and the Sami people. Then to the hotel – Allison found she had lost her handbag (cards, passports, phones, money, house keys – nothing of importance!) By the time we had got back to the Arktikum no sign, gone! The hotel receptionist was very helpful and phoned around – yes a bag had been handed in but no details would be given. She drew us a map and we ran off; the building was closed, no-one there. I ran back to the hotel – oops, wrong building, try this instead! A policeman let us in, thankfully everything was there – a big thank you to the honest citizen of Rovaniemi! She had put it on the roof when getting into the car – and left it there when I drove off.

8 July – a fairly short day (150 miles) to Karasjok, close to the Finnish border. We left early and made good progress on empty roads – where have all the RVs and bikes gone? This stopped suddenly when we found a Highways van parked across the road.

Road closed

Road closed

A lorry ha gone off the road and into a ditch, two tow trucks were on hand to pull him out. After about an hour and a half it was winched up and onto the road. We were in a hurry as our guide book said there were guided tours of the Sami parliament at 1pm and Allison particularly wanted to go.

Samediggi

Samediggi

We got there with 20 minutes to spare – and found out that tours were every hour on the half hour! More culture followed at the local museum followed by a tourist trap at the Sapmi Culture park. The Sami are the indigenous people – historically semi nomadic reindeer herdsmen and now spread across Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia.

7 July – a rest day after a midnight stint at North Cape, where the weather was good, mist on the water below

North Cape Midnight Sun

North Cape Midnight Sun

us and a clear sky above. What you see in the photo is mist, not sea. The drive back to the hotel included patches of fog and dazzling bright sunlight straight ahead – what a contrast! The rest day was spent on the island, visiting remote villages, constantly surprising ourselves at the number and variety of people we meet both tourists and “staff” -Canadians on a tour boat, a girl from the Philippines, one from the Isle of Wight, from Glasgow, a Norwegian married to one from Edinburgh, motorbikers we bump into from hotel to hotel

Reindeer

Reindeer

6 July – it was almost dry as we left Alta but then turned to wet with low cloud so some very slow driving on nearly empty roads. As we went further north over the hills, the sun emerged and burnt away the cloud – great! We stopped at a silversmith in the middle of nowhere – and were given some reindeer horns for the dogs to chew.

Repvag - a hidden cove

Repvag – a hidden cove

Repvag - street lights on this track?

Repvag – street lights on this track?

Elan at Nordkapp visitor centre

Elan at Nordkapp visitor centre

The road to Nordkapp

The road to Nordkapp

.

Kameyvaer

Kameyvaer

After checking in we went to North Cape and booked for an evening meal and hopefully a view of a “full” midnight sun – where the sun is visible and not just its rays. So six years after the Elan went as far south as possible – to Ushuaia in Argentina we ended up as far north as possible. We stopped for afternoon tea at a German run hotel in the tiny village of Kameyvaer – picturesque with deep blue waters

5 July – a long day with rain, wet and chilly! Speed cameras, cloud, road-works and very little sight-seeing. We left Narvic after looking at the steering, deciding it was not good but equally there was nothing to be done about it here. Arrived in Alta and decided it was much the same. Tomorrow we should get to the destination – North Cape.

4 July a day of mixed fortunes! We awoke early and went to visit the “museum village” of A (it has a circle over the A but not on my keyboard). The bakery was open so we had a freshly warm bun before taking photos and getting back to breakfast. I had found oil on my trousers and feet last night – now traced to the speedo cable (speedo died two days ago) – it now turns out that the outer cable had slipped over time where I had installed one of our trip meters. Pushing that back together means that the speedo now works – whoopee – haven’t checked my feet for oil yet! Then on to Narvic. Stopping for a photo-op,

a smell of fish

a smell of fish

there was a smell in the air – no not the car but fish being dried – photo. Our planned stop was the Viking museum, where we spent a couple of hours and were fortunate to arrive at the time for a sail on

Viking Ship

Viking Ship

a Viking ship. This is a 2/3 replica of one they found – and it goes! The sail

Viking Ship - sail

Viking Ship – sail

is all in front of the mast so if they want to change tack, instead of the sail and boom flying across the cabin, they release one bottom corner of the sail, pull in the other side – job done!
We left at around 2.30 with a little over 4 hours driving ahead of us – times dependent on how quickly you could overtake the queues of RV’s – get a close convoy and you’re lost! Almost immediately the engine coughed and spluttered – you hope its something simple but experience and your inner self tells you its – points. Glide to a stop in a convenient bus stop, triangle out, boiler suit on; there is a quick way to do this if you have all the right tools and lighting and you’re in the workshop. But when you’re at the side of the road, the only way is distributor out and hope you can get it back in the same place and keep the ignition timing – and it worked! Engine purred at the first ask and we flew! Now the problem at these speeds was the car’s desire to bounce around the road on the bumpy surface. At the hotel car park – problem diagnosed – there is play in the steering rack, can’t fix it here; have to drive more cautiously – oh shame!

. 3 July – we started as has become customary in the rain. We have 150 miles to the ferry – but there’s only one a day so we can’t be late. We’re told it will take 5 hours which seems a very long time but not sure we can risk too much sightseeing just in case it does take that long. First visit, the Arctic raceway, a motor racing circuit just below the Arctic Circle; we arrived about 9am but its a bike day and no-one is awake, plenty of RV’s in the car park. Then off to the Arctic Circle Visitor Centre,

Arctic Circle Centre

Arctic Circle Centre

a building which the guide book describes as plonked by the roadside. The landscape here is much bleaker than before with barren rocks and less vegetation – its a deserted plateau. There is less traffic and we make good progress. The ferry for the Lofoton Islands leaves from Boda

Road to Boda

Road to Boda

and we find ourselves behind Sue and Will’s XK, having last seen them at breakfast. Its a 4 hour crossing and a short drive to our cabin at Reine, with a view

View from the cabin

View from the cabin

over the little harbour and the barren hills looming behind, some in cloud and others not. This last picture

The land of midnight sun

The land of midnight sun

was taken at five minutes to midnight, there’s a chill in the breeze and the sun’s rays can be seen between the hills above the boats centre right of the picture

2 July – today was going to be a long day with 300 miles to do and speed limits of c 80kph (50 mph) – and Norwegian speeding penalties are severe (so we have been told). Leaving the hotel car park, the speedo needle fluctuated wildly between 20 and 60 and settled on 0 for the rest of the day. No speedo, no odometer and the fuel gauge reads either full or empty. Fortunately the trip meter does work and tells us distance and speed. The day started warm and dry – the inevitable rain came later! We headed north on the E6 with a change of landscape to a more wooded feel.

lunch stop

lunch stop

We stopped again for afternoon tea in Mosjoen where there was a festival

Fuel at 1933 prices not included

Fuel at 1933 prices not included

and found that one of their art exhibits was a refurbished 1933 Shell petrol station. We’ve not yet met the other half of the tour but we did see a couple who we had also seen in Trondheim so maybe its them – but where’s the car? Time will tell; we have a long ferry journey tomorrow to the Lofoton Islands so all should become clear……

1 July – a rest day in Trondheim.

Trondheim Cathedral

Trondheim Cathedral

We started with Trondheim Cathedral – and a leaflet caught my eye – advertising a production of How Like an Angel – a show premiered by the Norfolk & Norwich Festival in 2013. Next to the “Festung” overlooking

Trondheim from the Festung

Trondheim from the Festung

the town, by way of the bicycle lift – its not photogenic! It consists of a metal path up the hill with a footrest poking out of a groove – put one foot on the rest, lean on your bike – and up you go! Then to the old town and later to the WW2 U Boat pens, now storage facilities, a bowling alley and other businesses – but such a solid construction that demolition was almost impossible. The car is snug in its underground car park, clocking up £25 per day parking charges. I decided the squeak was caused by movement in the rear suspension bushes (brand new!) – and that nothing will fall off just yet……

30 June – we left at 8am and headed for the Atlantic Road a series of bridges hopping over islands for 8 kms between Molde and Kristiansund,

Atlantic Road aerial view - in the sun

Atlantic Road aerial view – in the sun

winner of numerous awards for its design. sadly it was raining!

Atlantic Road bridge

Atlantic Road bridge

This bridge is perhaps the most photographed feature.
Then on to Kvernes to see another Stave Church – we got to the outside but they had a series of tour busses from the cruise liners booked in for guided tours so our visit was very brief – we continued to Kristiansund. The Codfish museum was much quieter and surprisingly interesting! Then on to our overnight stop in Trondheim where we have a rest day, waiting for the tour’s second car to arrive from Oslo.
29 June – a short day but with two steep hills to contend with. First the Ornevegen

Ornegegen

Ornegegen

“Eagle Road” out of Geiranger. This was straightforward, a popular road with packed view points. We met up with two English motorbikes who planned to do in one day what our route has given us 2 to do – but maybe they were travelling faster! We detoured to Tafjord

Tafjord Quayside

Tafjord Quayside

– a small village at the end of the fjord, whose claims to fame are a power station and a “tsunami” 100 years ago caused by a slab of rock falling into the fjord and creating a 60 metre high tidal wave which washed away most of the old village. Then over the plateau to the Trollstigen

The Trollstigen

The Trollstigen

“Trolls ladder” which has steep hairpins as the road drops alongside a waterfall. Lunch was on the banks of the Romdalsfjord

Romdalsfjord

Romdalsfjord

– a much flatter and open Fjord contrasting with the sheer sides of Geiranger en route to another Stave Church at Rodven

Interior Rodven Church

Interior Rodven Church

. Now in Molde, an industrial town and the end of the Fjord section of the journey – and the German tour group have rolled into town; they now head south whilst we head for island-hopping Atlantic Road and the north, via Trondheim where we expect to be joined by the second car in our tour.

28 June – a rest day but that is not what Allison thinks about her knees. The German tour group was leaving as we checked fluid levels, tightened the handbrake and set the electric fans to permanent “on” in preparation for the two climbs tomorrow.

Reserved Car Park

Reserved Car Park

Geiranger is a tourist area and has been for 150 years, it has loads of walking routes – just Allison reckons we walked too much! From high above the Fjord we watched a cruise liner arrive to join the Musica which was already moored up ( the Musica weighs 92,000 tonnes and carries 3220 passengers!)

Allison watching MCS Musica

Allison watching MCS Musica

27 June – the Flam railway.  This 20 km section of railway rises nearly 900 metres and lasts about an hour.  It twists and turns through some 20 tunnels to link Flam on the Aurlandsfjord with the main Bergen to Oslo line.

Flam railway landscape

Flam railway landscape

The rest of the day was concerned with tunnels, Stave Churches and overheating (nearly). Major tunnels are a feature of the area, one has a roundabout and another, 24 km long, has three rest areas,

Laerdal Tunnel

Laerdal Tunnel

slightly surreal with a ghostly blue lighting above and yellow lighting at ground level.
Stave Churches are wooden Churches from c. 1150, there were thousands but now only 29 remain.

Kaupanger Stave Church

Kaupanger Stave Church

After the Churches it was the 1434metre high Sognefjellet mountain pass (said to be the highest in Northern Europe). At the top they were cross country skiing but getting up there proved to be hot work for the Lotus and we had to stop when the temperature gauge got to 100C. Not sure those electric fans are cutting in properly! This was followed by the fastest section of road driving we have yet encountered in Norway – parts of the route have a speed limit of 90 kph but I could not possibly recall what speed the speedo showed! Arriving at our hotel in Geiranger the car park was reserved – for a German Classic car tour! We joined them, adding a touch of Lotus class – how is it that a German tour group can muster 40+ cars but our UK group was only 2 and the second has yet to arrive?

View from Geiranger hotel room

View from Geiranger hotel room

26 June it was still raining when we disembarked at Stavanger.  About 30 km later and we queued for another ferry on the island-hopping coast road to Bergen.  This was Fjordland, where the roads hug the shore line and waterfalls cascade down the steep slopes on both sides.

Fjordland

Fjordland

We stopped at Langfoss waterfall (conveniently located opposite a lay-by on the main road) and we handed some Norwegian flags by a very excited kiosk owner – the Royal Yacht with King and Queen aboard was due to pass by at any moment.

Royal Yacht

Royal Yacht

We could be honorary Norwegians and wave enthusiastically!  Our next stop was not so simple.  There was a noise and feel of a puncture but no flat tyres; one wheel had come loose and was wobbling on the hub.  This was annoying as it damages the locating holes on the rim and may be another write-off – and they aren’t made any more.  Another waterfall at Tvindefoss was said to be one of Norway’s most popular sites (it is believed to enhance sexual potency).  The continuous rain put a damper on that and it was nearly deserted!  We carried on to our overnight stop at Flam – home of the  Flam Railway.

25 June and a leisurely drive to Hirtsals in Northern Denmark with a visit to Aalborg thrown in – hmm it didn’t quite work out like that!   Getting out of Hamburg went ok but it was raining and it rained all morning until we got to Denmark.  The two lane motorway north was full of cars and water and roadworks – and we crawled.  We had to stop at one stage in an emergency pull-in when the wiper rubber tried to fly off the blade – that was fixed by that invaluable invention – a cable tie.  We crawled into Denmark as the Security Services glanced at but didn’t check every vehicle.  Aalborg was a might have been and we reached the ferry terminal about half an hour before check in.

24 June – now in Hamburg after some unwanted excitement en route. The car went to the rolling road on Tuesday morning to sort out a lack of performance and low speed power. I went to collect it on Wednesday afternoon – and drove for about a mile before it died – completely, dead. A tow truck took me back to the engine tuner. Points. No surprise, the car has always eaten points and this was solved by the Boyer Bransden ignition pack – but that was for positive earth. After the Amazon, I installed an alternator, which is negative earth and after checking all the wiring I hoped not to need this protection – wrong, obviously! How long will these points last now?
Thursday and last minute checks – radiator level low – where has the water gone? I started the engine, stopped it and saw a dribble round the thermostat housing. A new gasket was not the answer but a new gasket plus some sealer did the trick. Then off to Harwich – and the temperature gauge just carried on getting higher – the fans were ok but not switching on; I tweaked the temperature control and they woke up.
DSC02051
Friday and the “scenic route” to Hamburg via Hoorn with its historic port and old buildings then to the dam separating the Isselmeer from the North Sea, sadly it was overcast and apart from hordes of motorbikes there was little to see. DSC02052 We continued to Germany and motorway jams – but at least the radiator temperature held steady – useful having two fans! Reaching the hotel in Hamburg we found the reason for the motorbikes – a Harley event in Hamburg,

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Bulgaria June 2012

Bulgarian Rally

The 2nd Interbalkanic Classic Rally sounded too good to miss – so we signed up for it. It was to be based at Varna on the Bulgarian Black Sea and jointly organised by the Greeks and Bulgarians. Our route out was influenced by insurance, the Green Card only covered EU countries which ruled out Belgrade (Serbia) so we fixed on Calais, Aachen, Cologne, Frankfurt, Regensberg, Linz, Graz, Pechs (Hungary), Arad (Romania) and Rousse (Bulgaria). With detours this came to about 1900 miles – and 32 hours according to the internet routefinders. No-one had told the internet about Romania – as we were to find out.

During the last rally we had problems with points, differential and starter motor so we now had a new starter and diff and had fitted a Boyer Bransden ignition system, still points based but with electronic wizardry to reduce the current passing through the points and hopefully extending their life. Whilst it had not been a problem we had for some while also suffered from a petrol leak in the Webbers so they had been refurbed and restored to their original, larger jets.

Twelve miles fromhome the engine was missing so a plug change and a tweak of the carb balance and mixture seemed to improve the situation. Our run was smooth to Dover and on to the overnight stop in Liege where the hotel corridor had more bikes than residents. The next day was a long run to Graz but with no lorries on the road on a Sunday it was an easy one. On Monday we crossed into Hungary and headed for Pechs. It was a public holiday so no lorries and the roads, which curved and flowed gently though the countryside, were Lotus terrain and pleasurable driving. A problem emerged at a fuel stop when the boot handle gave up. It had long been stiff and the prospects of a shut boot which would not open or an open boot which would not shut were equally unappealing. We found a compromise and moved on.

Pechs was a European City of Culture in 2008 and has a main square with pedestrian streets off – but the tourist information was closed, on a bank holiday! We were pointed towards a locked gate and managed to extract some tourist leaflets carefully positioned within reach of long arms. We found a hotel just off the square – very friendly staff but with that mid European speciality – an aura of faded glory. The underground car park looked welcoming as the heavens opened behind us and the meandering tourists scurried for shelter. The car park wasn’t such a good idea next morning as the car does not like steep inclines especially first thing in the morning. Furious revving and slipping of clutch helped us escape the fumes we left behind – sorry guys!

Crossing southern Hungary on largely empty roads to the Romanian border near Arad we made good time but the rest of the day was pretty dire. It started with a 6 mile queue of lorries to enter Hungary all parked up on the verge of the single carriageway main road. Arad was busy and was being dug up – probably to improve the roads. It was hot and the first main holdup was a crash between a van and a lorry at a junction a few metres before a level crossing – which itself was taken slowly because the rails lifted as the lorries passed over. We stopped and crawled and stopped and the temperature rose to a good 99 degrees (why did the electric fan choose today to have a earthing fault?). We saw four accident sites that day and were only surprised there were not more. That poor country is blighted by the continuous thunder of heavy lorries, vans and cars all chasing time through country and village alike. The traffic moves in bursts as you overtake one group of lorries before catching up with the next batch a short way ahead. The underlying poverty both here and in Bulgaria is demonstrated by the “ladies of the road”, waiting in lay-bys for their next client.

We reached Sibiu before dusk and enjoyed a brief but damp stroll round the 12th century town and a rest from the concentration of the road. Next morning we sorted out the fan and changed the points as the engine was clearly unhappy. The points were more burnt than I expected from the new ignition system – I later discovered that it was also not earthing properly and the engine was much happier when that was improved.

The plan was to drive the trans Fagarasan mountain road south to Pitesti – but when we got there we found it was closed as the winter snow had not cleared. We tried to visit the Monastery of Cartisoara – but that had a sign saying it didn’t welcome tourists – despite the brown tourist sign. This was clearly going to be a good day! We returned to the main (lorry) highway and the motorway to Bucharest. An electrical check at a service station found the ignition earthing fault and the engine hummed as we approached the capital. Sadly the navigator didn’t recognise the importance of the signs meaning “ring road” so we ploughed on to the very centre at 5pm on a hot Tuesday. Fortunately fan and ignition worked perfectly as we asked our way out to the road south to Bulgaria – we asked at petrol stations, we asked pedestrians, we asked the drivers of the cars ahead of us, beside us and behind us – and it worked! The only one that didn’t was the taxi driver who demanded an extortionate 50 euros (reduced eventually to 20) to guide us out. Once we found the road we sailed down to the border, no formalities there of any sort, not even a passport check. Then on to the picturesque town of Velika Tarnova, arriving just before dusk.

For a morning we were tourists before completing the final 140 miles to the rally hotel, driving through a flooded Varna as the heavens again opened and the streets turned to rivers. We were amongst the first to arrive and soon met the only other non-Balkan participants, a Belgian couple who live in Greece. The others were from Greece and Bulgaria with a few from Romania; this meant it was an international rally so all documentation was in English (with a Greek accent).

The rally was unlike any other regularity rally we have ever attended. The start was at 9.30, much later that the 8.00 we are used to.
We fluffed the first regularity as I had not read the instructions properly and was too busy directing the driver to realise in time that we’d gone wrong. We headed north to Kavarna, whose Mayor awarded us a prize for looking good and Allison was interviewed by the national TV for broadcast on the news reports that evening. The highlight of the day was lunch at the Thracian Hills Golf Club. We were joined by a Bulgarian crew and despite our complete lack of Bulgarian and their limited English we soon established that the local car club was very friendly with members from a wide background and a huge variety of cars. I don’t know how they’ve managed it but they have all sorts of classic and vintage cars, maybe because we were English we heard more about our cars. These guys regularly come to UK buying up cars – Bentley, Jaguar, a model T Ford. One ran a garage and had a second hand tow truck bought in England – for work not the rally. One Greek couple must have the last surviving Morris Marinas – not one or two but seven!

Day two and the rally headed west and after visiting the Standing Stones at Pobiti Kamani
(stones or petrified forest – opinions are divided) we provided entertainment for the residents of Denvya by chasing round cones. We should have excelled at this but the Elan has a deep rooted dislike of chicanes round bollards and stop-starts into “boxes” and stalled and would not start! It did this on the last rally in Spain so there’s something to sort out here – suggestions please!

Lunch was at an old mill whose wheels were powered by water bubbling up from springs – a very tranquil and peaceful setting and our Bulgarian friends from yesterday were insistent we should join them again. The restart was particularly random, one moment we were wandering round the springs and the next there was a concerted rush to leave – and with the time control at the end of a country track this resulted in a long queue of cars going nowhere slowly!


Day three and we headed south to a Russian owned beach resort and lunch. We returned to the hotel at about 4pm and as the cars had done little more than 200 miles in the three days there was little need to do much apart from clean off the dust.

Prize Giving that evening was clearly the purpose of the rally. We were seated at long tables in our car clubs and this time we were with the Greeks. The meal started at 8.30 and after the appertisers was prize giving. Everyone received a prize – we didn’t intend to be greedy but we received five! One for winning our class, one for finishing the rally, one for the longest distance travelled to the rally, one for Lady Driver and the last for representing our participating club – Club England. Allison was also awarded honorary membership of the Automobile Retro Club Varna. Then there was dancing and singing and at about midnight the main course arrived – we didn’t last long enough for desert and left the Varna and Burgas clubs celebrating a successful and enjoyable event.

Our return journey mirrored the outward, with sightseeing in Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary and a haul Austria to Calais. Romania in particular was a changed country once we got away from the main lorry route. This time we found the Bucharest ring road, which was slow and tedious (not really any better than ploughing through the centre though we had the advantage of knowing where we were going!).
We visited fortified Saxon churches on deserted roads and tracks near Sighisoara and entered Hungary through the much more pleasant crossing at Oradea. Hungary’s motorways are top quality and we sped through to Tata where we spent the afternoon wandering round the lake, drinking coffee, eating cake and watching “dragon” boats rowing to the beat of the cox’s drum.

We had one overnight stop before Calais, at Wuerzburg where the locals were drinking Franken wine in the sunshine on a bridge linking the main town with the Fortress Marienburg on the hill opposite.

Then on to Calais and home. This was one of our easiest trips with the car taking the long hard slogs and the gentle meanders in its stride. There’s still something to sort out with the fuel consumption as we only managed 23 mpg and a very sooty rear end! Somehow that’s no surprise as there’s always something that needs doing…….

2nd Interbalkanic Classic Rally – brief report

Now in Sighisoara in Romania on the way home and its raining! A contrast to the rally which was run in the heat and sunshine of the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast from a base in Varna. A rally unlike any other we have done – we ended up with 6 Trophies and Allison was given honorary membership of the Automobile Retro Club of Varna. Despite making a hash of two of the nine Regularity sections we won our class so got a trophy for that, a trophy for finishing, one as representatives of the “England car club”, one for travelling furthest to attend (1,900 miles each way), for Allison, Coupe des Dames and one from the Mayor of Kavarna. When the Press found out how far we’d come, Allison was interviewed for Bulgarian TV – and they broadcast the footage!

The rally was more a party than a rally with the purist concepts of early starts and snatched lunches replaced by a more self service approach and two hour lunches. Our Bulgarian hosts were particularly welcoming and despite our complete lack of Bulgarian insisted that we join them for lunch, where we found their knowledge of English was better than many were prepared to admit.

The participants included a pair from Romania, a Belgian couple and the remainder roughly equally split between Greeks and Bulgarians. The cars displayed the totally unexpected wealth of classic cars now restored in the Balkans – a mid 1950’s Bentley, and 1930’s Moskvitch, “modern cars” such as Golfs and Mercedes 190 – and extraordinarily to the English, a Morris Marina, one of 6 owned by the same couple. There were Porsche, Jaguar, Alpha Romeo, Beetles and BMW.

How’s the Lotus after this travelling, with some pretty long days? Liege to Graz was the furthest in one day and Pechs (Hungary) to Sibiu (Romania) probably the hardest with hour after hour of following trucks on totally inadequate roads through villages and valleys, overtaking one goup just to come up to the next. We saw four accident scenes that day. Pretty well all things considered – we’ve had some earthing problems, the boot lock is broken and the air intake box is held on with bailer twine!

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