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Czech trip

I've a friend who married a Czech girl….or Granddad, where is the Sudetenland?

Dear all, greetings from a damp Shropshire. Some of you may remember that last June I had planned a trip to the Czech Republic in Albertine, nee No2. I know it's taken a while to put pen to keyboard, but that's part of the reason why I failed to edit PAG.

It's a short(ish) story, are you sitting comfortably?

I had prepped Albertine for the extended trip with an oil change, new plugs, air filters and two new front tyres. I had also modded the luggage rack that Albert had made to accept my motorcycle panniers. With the three Kappa 35ltr panniers and a large holdall behind the seat on top of the fuel tank…….hindsight a wonderful thing……….. we thought that there was more than enough room for all the items we wanted to take. On a fine Saturday morning Elaine and I set off on our trip full of anticipation for what we hoped would be a great adventure.

M54, M6, M1 (lots of roadwork's), M25 (lots of idiots), M20 (lots of Johnny foreigners).

It's amazing how many pretty girls flash beaming smiles when you are driving a Pembleton. (PTN the prettiest girl was, of course, sat next to me in the car). I just hope that the smiles were of joy and not laughter………… but then if seeing a Pembleton loaded to the gunnels and with a pair of daft buggers ensconced, ambling down the motorway makes people laugh, then what the hell. Isn't that what Pembleing is all about? Everything was going swimmingly not too many aches and pains and Albertine was coping well, apart, that is, from the near-side mudguard doing its noddy dog impression whenever I dared sneak over 60 mph. (Must get that sorted. Two new shocks to be fitted when I sort the top engine mounts). Due to the traffic we missed the 4 o'clock ferry by about 10 minutes and, as we had chosen to go via Dunkirque, we were left with 2 hours to while away.

I've never really wanted to use the Eurostar as I feel that setting sail is more of an event, the brass bands, the bunting, the cheers of the crowds and the toot from the tug as you are nudged out of the berth, it's…. sort of a better way to start a holiday on the continent. …….hindsight a wonderful thing……….

Anyway, we had booked a room at the Ibis Hotel in Dunkirque so as to get an early start on the Sunday. We had planned to do a lap of the Nurburgring on the Sunday evening after dropping the luggage off at the B&B.

We used the Ibis chain in Dunkirque, Koblenz, Regensburg and Salzburg. Reasonable inexpensive, clean, parking (if you're early) and a breakfast to top up on.

The time arrived to get off the ferry, there had been some light drizzle and as it was getting on for a little after 9 the light wasn't at its best. With the shine on the road, being somewhat tired I failed to notice the open-cast mine masquerading as a pothole in the middle of the port access road………………. The rear wheel, closely followed by the rest of the back end, crashed down. There was a horrendous thump, a few expletives were cast into the wind and the whole situation was enveloped by a strong waft of Esso's finest.

We coasted to the side of the road and jumped out. On looking under the car I couldn't see any immediate damage apart from a steady stream of fuel coming from the petrol tank. I whipped the seat out and pulled the holdall from off the top of the tank. I could see near the mounting point on the passenger side that the fuel seemed to be weeping from a fracture in the side of the tank. What to do? I gave the rest of the tank the once over and decided that, having seen no further damage we would push on and have a better look in the garage at the hotel.

On arriving at the hotel I was dismayed to find that the garage was full and I would have to leave Albertine on the road outside. The receptionist told me not to worry "as there was a prison just down the road and the police are about all night long……………".

We unloaded and covered Albertine up in the car cover we had bought with us.

Sunday dawned bright and clear so, after breakfast, I padded out to assess the damage. Albertine was still there so I assume the local Gendarmes had done there bit.

No marks on the car, no marks on the wheel, the floor (marine ply) looked sound but unfortunately there was an inch fracture in the side of the fuel tank. I suppose a 20-year-old plastic tank must have had its fair share of knocks but this one proved to be one to many. We were lucky to have gotten away so lightly. With a full tank of fuel and a bag sitting on top I'm amazed the mounts didn't give way. (Well done Albert, all credit to your building skills). Now let me set the scene, it's Sunday morning, the Tour de France is going through Dunkirque on Monday, the receptionist told us it was a half holiday on the Tuesday morning and my French doesn't stretch to ‘Do you have a fuel tank for an ‘87 2CV?' That would mean finding, getting and fitting a tank, most likely, by late Tuesday or even early Wednesday. We had a wedding on the following Saturday and had arranged to be in Znojmo on the Thursday night.………(The directions to cross half of Europe consisted of ‘Just go to Vienna and turn left'.)

It was an easy decision, out came the bodge tape. The tank would ‘do a trip'.

Home that is.

We left Dunkirque on the 10 o'clock ferry and where back in Shropshire just in time for a cup of tea and bed on the Sunday night. The entire luggage was transferred to the Scenic and we set off, again, on the Monday morning. Norfolk Line Ferries were very good with the chopping and changing of cars, but they say it happens all the time.

Monday evening was Dunkirque, Tuesday was the Nurburgring, (a fully loaded Renault Scenic around the Carousel is a hoot) with a room at the Koblenz Ibis and by Wednesday evening we were in Regensburg and back on time.

In Regensburg we stumbled on a small stone café on the banks of the Danube and filled up on some delightful bratwurst, sauerkraut, bread and beer. It was only when we returned home and did some Googling that we found out this café has been doing its bit for riverside diners since the middle ages. Apparently it's world famous, we did bring some of the mustard home and have found that Polish sauerkraut and some small German sausages from Lidl form a passing resemblance.

On getting to the Czech Republic I managed, via the internet, to have a replacement tank sent to my home and on return, spent a damp Sunday afternoon swapping them over. On the Monday morning I took Albertine to work and all, so far, seems to be well. But now the top engine mounts need replacing, remember Albertine is a pre-production model, with non-standard mounts. Phil has been ever so patient and Albert; well he's been a real star. He may no longer own a Grasshopper but I feel he always be a Pembletoneer at heart.

Things could have been a lot worse, we were lucky. It was a shame to have to return for the Scenic, as some of the roads we travelled were glorious. The Nurburgring, Bavaria, down-town Vienna and to be honest, I'm sure that if I had appeased the locals by waiving a piece of paper I could have driven Albertine right up into the courtyard of Neuschwanstein, the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang castle. On the way home we also stopped off at the Eagles Nest and spent the night at the NATO School in Oberammergau. (Serving NATO members only – sorry)

I'm thinking of taking Albertine to the Nurburgring this summer, I wonder if I could arrange it to coincide with the Belgium trip……?

‘Honey, where's my passport?'

Yours, covered in Brasso,

Roger O'Vernowt

P.S. Go and look on Ebay under 'Klaxon'. They are about £18, come in chrome or red and when you press the horn it sounds like the Isle of Man Steam Packet. Just remember to disconnect for the MOT.


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