After all the excitement of the World Cup, the long drive to Germany was looking like a mighty big hill to climb though luckily we had managed to pick up some stowaways in the back of Gladys in the form of George Brannigan and Veronique Sandler. The two kiwi riders were looking for a ride to our next port of call in Willingen, Germany and the old girl was more than happy to oblige. Early on Monday morning we departed Scotland and left the endless midges and epic highlands behind us heading 972km back to Dover for the first leg of the journey.
Driving down the length of England, there isn’t a whole lot look at and seeing as Gladys’s stereo had been unceremoniously removed by the previous owner we had to look at alternative forms of entertainment with the initial stroke of inspiration coming from George. What we didn’t know was that this particular game would carry on for far too long and leave us mentally drained.
At Fort William I was lucky enough to procure a cowbell for cheering on the riders and after finding it again we positioned it where the rear vision mirror should have been and proceeded to hit it every time we saw an Audi drive past. This sounds simple but every time you mis-called a car it resulted in a swift punch in the arm and after 700km and many, many missed calls your arm goes a different kind of numb not often experienced in everyday life.
Of course there was no actual point to this game other than to have the satisfaction of calling the correct car before the other two people (Me, Richard and George were in the front with Sarah and Vero in the back) . Reading this back it sounds absurd that we even considered playing this game but it was a highly entertaining replacement for the stereo that still hasn’t been rewired.
Pulling into Dover at 9.30pm after being on the road for almost 11hours all we wanted to do was crawl into bed and sleep until our ferry the next morning. What we didn’t know however is that Dover isn’t the most accommodating of places and after driving around town fruitlessly looking for a place to stay we decided to camp on the side of the road and went off to find ourselves a nice grassy area to put the tent up.
When we finally found our “hotel” we put the tent up on a wee walking track up on top of the Dover cliffs looking out over the English Channel hoping to get a nice sunrise in the morning. With Richard and George in the tent, Sarah and Vero in the back of the van and me across the front 3 seats the Gladys hotel was more than accommodating for the 3 of us, and despite Georges fears of waking up on the train tracks at the bottom of the cliff we all somehow made it through the night unscathed and moseyed on down to try and convince the customs officers that we didn’t deserve to be stuck in a cold, wet England.
Unlike the last time we tried to cross the channel this crossing went very smoothly and we didn’t even get our van inspected going onto the boat. An hour and a half later and we were now in wet, cold France(should have stayed in England, at least we can talk to the people!). Leaving Calais with full stomachs and half of my hair we plugged Willingen into the GPS and set off on another 700km of driving, hopefully towards some sun!
Without much to see from the motorways, France and Belgium both came and went and before we knew it we were in Germany bearing down on Willingen, however when we arrived at 9pm it was clear that this little hamlet was in no fit shape to be holding any sort of event and I would be quite surprised if anybody there even knew what mountain biking was! Scratching our heads for a bit we had another look on the GPS and the inevitable happened, we discovered that there are actually two Willingen’s in Germany and naturally we were at the wrong one and our actual destination was 200km away. Oh dear.
Re-routing the GPS to our actual destination we set off only to find a million roads closed and our journey being extended over some very foggy mountain passes that looked like a scene off “The hills have eyes” or something. It was a pretty surreal and almost creepy scene where you were expecting to come face to face with big-foot or something equally as nasty. After running over a fox (didn’t hit it though, he somehow managed to squeeze in between Gladys wheels and disappear off into the night) we cruised into Willingen 2.0 at around midnight and set up camp for the night in what turned out to be the car park for the mini-putt course to rest up before seeing what lay in store for us at the Wheels of Speed!