I’m back! Back from my month-long sojourn to the Continent for the European Austin Healey Meet. My apologies for the lack of Blogs this last month, but my time was totally consumed with Driving, Eating, Drinking, Sleeping and Repeat! Not to mention handling logistical issues for our group, expediting repair parts, confirming hotels and restaurants and the like. However, you have missed nothing, that is if you have been following the excellent blog posted daily by fellow tourer, Mike Scroggie. Nothing I could have written would have surpassed Mike’s great reports and photos of our trip. If you missed them, you can review the whole trip at www.thescrogblog.com.
By way of quick summary, Cindi and I, in our 1967 BJ8 Healey, along with 20 others in ten more Healeys (all shipped from LA), met up in Amsterdam and set off to attend the once-every-five years European Healey Meet in the Black Forest of Germany. 3000 miles later we arrived back in Amsterdam after visiting the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Lichtenstein, Austria and Switzerland! And yes, we all got back under our own power.
It was a superb trip, not without incident, but with many “special” moments. My Healey performed well, with only one broken vacuum advance hose (easy to fix, hard to diagnose), and the total lack of reverse gear! That led to some interesting parking exercises to insure I could either roll back or pull forward. With a little help from my friends (pushing), we managed just fine.
Others had their share of issues and at one point we had four cars without overdrive, not good when we did so many miles on the motorways at high speed. A Healey on the Autobahn is liability enough, but without fifth gear, it’s an adventure.
Sometimes things happen on trips like these which are unplanned magic. Like our small hotel owner in the Loire Valley putting on a garden party dinner for our group, complete with all locally sourced cheeses, meats, dessert and champagne. Or the night we stopped in non-descript Vernon, France only to find that they were holding their annual (free) music festival in the streets surrounding our hotel. See Mike’s blog for more details.
MY HEALEY IN FRONT OF OUR HOTEL IN THE LOIRE VALLEY
Only one more thing to report on the trip. The 200 Healeys that attended the European Meet were divided into five groups for Car Show competition. Only three groups for “stock” cars, with about 50 in my class. Our car won first place! Pretty amazing since it also won five years ago at the previous meet! Another of our cars also finished first in class, and one in fourth, with another winning Best of Show! So, our eleven cars out of 200 won 50% of the first-place trophies! Not bad for a bunch of cars that had already been on the road for ten days and 1800 miles!
While I was away, Susan and Creighton Turner of Pasadena borrowed my XK150 for a tour and to attend XK70, the 70th Anniversary Party of the XK type Jags. They were shooting for 700 XKs there, not sure if they made it, but my car won an award for the furthest travelled to attend the event. So, two trophies in one day!
After a tearful farewell in Amsterdam with Cindi, I headed off to Leeds, England to meet my new friend, Dieter Ellwood who had graciously offered to loan me his Volvo C70 as back up car for the remainder of my time in the UK. Aren’t Jag people great? I have always liked the C70 series and think it one of the prettiest cars that Volvo ever made. Imagine my delight when he pulled up with the top down! Now I have two convertibles to drive in England. (By way of reciprocation, Dieter is coming to the US in the Fall to attend the International Jaguar Festival in Santa Barbara and is borrowing my Healey).
The C70 is bigger than my previous rental and a real tight fit into my driveway (and without power folding mirrors) so am being really careful.
AND THE TOP GOES DOWN WITH A BUTTON, IMAGINE THAT!
Not wanting to make the four-hour drive back to Bledington in one day, and wanting to do some exploring on the way in any case, I decided to drive through the Peaks National Park on my way and stop somewhere. Pretty much at random I picked a Hilton hotel in a place called St. George’ s Field for my overnight. The National Park was beautiful, with miles of hills, moors and dales to explore on a glorious day. When I got to the hotel, in the middle of nowhere, I was surprised to see it surrounded by a number of football (soccer) fields (11 in all including one with artificial turf). When I inquired, “what is the place”, the gal at check-in looked incredulous. “Why this is the home of English football of course. The National team is based here as well as all of the top level junior teams”. Sort of like an Olympic Training Center and an NFL headquarters all in one. Who knew. The hotel was lavishly decorated with trophies, jerseys and other important memorabilia devoted to UK football.
So why was it so deserted? “The World Cup of course! Everyone who is anyone in football is in Russia for the tournament”. Oh yeah, that. So, I committed to getting informed. Turns out England is doing just fine and had just finished trouncing Panama (is that a fair fight?) 6-1 and is preparing for tonight’s final qualifying match against Belgium. They have already qualified for the round of 16 but finishing first in their group seems to be a big deal here. So, in a few hours it’s off the King’s Head to watch the match. Should be interesting. Go England. Must wear my red shirt.
On the way home, I stopped at Stratford upon Avon, home of William Shakespeare. Again, with the English town names……Stratford is NOT upon the Avon river, it is NEXT to the Avon river……but who am I to criticize accuracy. My opinion of Stratford is “over-rated”. I hate Shakespeare for starters (the guy couldn’t even write in good English), he drove me nuts in high school. Too many tourists, too little to see and do except buy silly souvenirs. The river is nice.
TOO MANY TOURISTS
TOO MUCH “CHATZKEE”
Anyway, now back in good old Bledington and the Old Reading Room. Feels like “home” again. Restocked, laundry done, found all my stuff that the maid had hidden. Got the Jag back and can’t wait to get on the road again. Stay tuned.