Featuring: Rover the Rover (age 32)
and: Little Min (age 14)
We waved at each other cheerily as we left Gasthof Staud'n'wirt, thinking "we've got plenty of time, we might even get an earlier ferry!". Little Min was the first to have problems. The milo was dead, the speedo was dead, as was the fuel gauge and the temp gauge. We had an instrument-free panel. This, combined with a small, leaky petrol tank was not good. Little Min did her best but that wasn't good enough when the drivers kept overestimating how much petrol was left. Also, German autobahns sometimes leave awfully large gaps between petrol stations. Running out was OK we thought, we had two cans in the back. But on running dry a second time Little Min protested at being abused. She would not start. She was all clogged up and very heavy to push.
Then a green and cream vehicle went past. "Look," said Mike, "its Rover." "Nah," said Tina, "that's wishful thinking." "Oh look, its stopped, and who's that coming towards us?", said somebody. It was a good fairy in the shape of a hirsute caver who hadn't changed his underpants for three weeks. But even so, Adam was welcome. Little Min was bump started and with Rover travelling in convoy, just in case, made it to a petrol station in Luxembourg. "Hooray!".
It was a good job that Team Min was there because Team Rover hadn't got enough dosh of the right type to pay for the petrol. They'd got some French Francs and Deutschmarks, but the man didn't want them to pay with a combination. He was being awkward and demanded one denomination only. All was well, we bade one another guten tag and continued
Team Rover decided to slog on to the coast, hahaha! Team Min got too tired and kipped down for the night. The next time Little Min ran out of petrol the good fairies didn't arrive so we huffed and we puffed (rather, Mike did) and on the tenth attempt, she started. We were very tense, and considered changing roads, autobahns aren't made for Little Min, so off we went onto the B road. Luckily for Rover, we found a petrol station quickly, and reconsidered.
"That's Rover," said Tina, pointing to a service station car park. "Oh yes, and there's an axle stand under the back wheel" replied Mike. As we got close, we found Rover very ill. First, a big ball of flame had erupted out of his back wheel arch, causing Adam to decide to stop. The oil had leaked, the bearing had run red hot, the brake seals had failed, and brake fluid sprayed onto the bearing wooomph! Jared knew the French for "brakes" on the SOS telephone. The man who came disconnected the brake and told them to drive carefully. And all had gone well, until they tried to go round a corner in the car park, when the wheel fell off. When Team Min arrived, they had had breakfast and were thinking of leaving Rover and hitching home (aah, poor Rover).
Team Min to the rescue, drove to Dunquerque, and threw themselves on the mercy of a very nice French lady at the Sally Line. She must have thought us right idiots, coming in saying "we have a broken down Land Rover 20km away, what do we do?". She organised a man to move Rover, and a taxi to take us to the man, and she let us take Rover right up to the ramp at the ferry terminal. She interpreted our English to everybody. Rover only had to limp a few yards, with the brake shoes and drum as wheel bearings. Jared walked alongside to check that the wheel didn't fall off again. Amazingly, with all the drama we were still only four hours off schedule, but it wasn't over yet...
Meanwhile, back at the P&O (would you trust this ferry line?), where Team Rover was supposed to be, Adam tried to use his ticket. A cock-up on the way out meant that the vital bit was missing, and he had to buy another. We had wondered about getting help from P&O (sail safe, sail Sally!) because we thought Rover was booked on there. But in the end we thought the Sally Line was best 'cos it was smaller and nearer and that was worth an extra ferry ticket. It was a good job we did. We wouldn't have been happy Wombles turning up at P&O, having paid 'loads-more-money' on the recovery and STILL having to buy another ticket.
The RAC were called in Dunquerque. Unfortunately the RAC card got left there as well (take a bow, Mike). All was not lost. We rang them again in Folkestone using the phone no. on the RAC card that goes with the Mini. A little man came but he didn't do anything. He was just sent to check we weren't lying and had just ran out of petrol or something like that, and he phoned up the computer to check we really had got a card. Hours later the little man who does did. We were whisked back to Cambridge much faster than Rover is used to. Little Min had a hard job keeping up.
The story is nearly over. Only one more thing could go wrong, the alternator. Again we were lucky (well things could have been worse!), five miles from home the ignition light came on and a strange noise was heard. But Little Min managed to get home before she conked out which is more than can be said for Rover (sorry Mike).