Friday, 20 August 2010

Tour Des Alpes part 3


Day 5 (478 km)
This would be the start of our home journey, and as it turned out in the end, the longest driving day of the whole trip.Aim was to drive as far as the town of Thun in the heart of Switzerland to meet up with fellow TR7 owner Thomas. And as the Stilfsèrjoch was open, we incorporated that one in the route. But sadly before we reached that, we first had to endure a serious traffic jam. The only road through the Vinschau valley was blocked due to an accident. So we got stuck right in the middle of a tunnel with the air temperature and the engine heating up alarmingly. So nothing we could do but switch of the engine and sit it out. As a result of this we lost almost an hour.
So by the time we reached the foot of the Stilfserjoch ...


The tourists were out in force, anxiously waiting to spoil the fun as much as possible. Needless to say I took revenge on a few of them. Luckily the view up to the top remained as impressive as ever with the road snaking its way up the North face ...


For the rest of the run up the Stelvio I can be very short, rather uneventful, even boring in the dense traffic. Only the engine tried to liven it up, by pretending to overheat a bit. But halfway up the temperature gauge’s scale, it remembered that it was built to be reliable. At the very crowded top I only halted briefly, so René could take a picture of the sign ...


After which we quickly headed down the southern slope, where we stopped briefly near the old Italian border post to re-enact a picture taken 8 years earlier when we did the Stelvio with ‘t Kreng ...




With the photo taken we continued with the descent which luckily was much less crowded and thus more entertaining. So we made good time to the bottom off the pass from where we headed west towards Livigno and Switzerland. But before we could enter Switzerland, we first had to cross three more mountain passes, the Passo di Foscagno, the Passo d'Eira and the Forcola di Livigno. After which we entered Switzerland over the Bernina pass. As we still had quite a few miles to go till we reached Thun, we pressed on. We opted for the “shortest” route over the Albula pass, which turned out to be a very good choice indeed. As this pass isn’t on one of the larger through roads, it is still fairly quiet and unspoilt. But in true Swiss style the road itself is in pretty good condition, they even went to some length in inventing an original/period way to prevent speeding ...


At the top we stopped for lunch ...


only to be reminded of the fact that Switzerland is very expensive indeed. At least it was a good lunch. And with the lunch and the discussion with the waitress over the bill finished, we headed down towards Thun ...


But in between there were some more great driving roads, and not only mountain passes ...


Although, due to the sometimes spectacular views, the mountain passes impressed most. And probably the best of them all was the Süstenpass ...


with nice flowing corners and a smooth road surface. Sadly René was so impressed by the scenery, that he forgot to take some more pictures from the navigator’s seat ...




As it was by now nearly six o’clock in the evening we pressed on towards our final destination for the day, the lake side town of Thun, situated at the north-western shore of the Thunersee, which looked very nice in the early evening sun ...


In Thun we would meet up with fellow TR7 owner Thomas. I had phoned him from the top of the Albula pass, to tell him that we probably would be much later than originally planned. So to be sure that we wouldn’t have to sleep on the floor he decided to book us a room in a nearby hotel, again thanks very much for that. So as a reward for that we invited him for diner. Needless to say that the remainder of the evening was spent on food, drinks and (mostly) Triumph talk ...

Day 6 (395 km)
Next day dawned quite early, and after a hearty breakfast we set of for the German border town of Bad Säckingen some 25 kilometres east of Basel. But not before I filled up the car with some decent 100 RON fuel. Was amazed to find out that over 478 kilometres and 8 mountain passes the engine had consumed only 46,5 litres of fuel. Very impressed with that.
We choose Bad Säckingen for the border crossing as there was no Motorway heading there directly, thus making the navigating that much easier (we didn’t buy a vignette, so had to keep of the motorways, I know thrifty Dutch) . But before we crossed into Germany we had a few hours of great flowing country lanes ahead of us. What the scenery lacked in spectacular views was more than compensated by the quality and layout of the roads ...


And despite a few navigational errors we reached the German border just past noon ...


From where we headed for the narrow Wehrtal ...


and lots of other great driving roads through the heart of the Schwartzwald (Black Forest). But all these lovely roads eventually took much more time than planned, and by the end of the afternoon I called it a day. So instead of somewhere north of Kaiserslautern, we found ourselves a nice hotel in the little town of Appenweier, not far from Strasbourg, still a fair distance from home. Here we put the car to rest for the last time ...


While we spent the last night of the trip with some good local food and beer.

Last day, going home (532 km)
The last day turned out to be one not really worth remembering to long. While preparing to leave it started to rain, and that stayed with us more or less all day. As we still had a fair few kilometres ahead of us, we decided to take the Autobahn till Karlsruhe, from where we headed over the Bundesstraße B48 through the Pfalzerwald ...


to Kaiserslautern, and from there to Bernkastel-Kues. After lunch in one the many little villages along the shores of the Mosel river we headed toward Adenau, and the Nürburgring. We shouldn’t have done that. Scarcely out of the Mosel valley we met some road works, with a very un-German diversion. Yes of the variety that isn’t signposted correctly, as a result of which we were running in circles. And in true Eifel style the downpour began. Luckily the hood is pretty much waterproof.
To cut a long story short we managed to find our way to the Ring and from there to the A1/A61 ...


where she again proved to be a very relaxed long distance cruiser ...


And home in the end. Sadly most of the road grime she collected over the week was washed away in the Eifel downpour.



The car clocked up 2825 kilometres without too much trouble and with pretty good fuel economy, averaging 10.7 km/litre (or 30.2 mpg) over the trip. Looking back I have to admit the car behaved pretty well, although there were some issues that spoiled the fun a bit;
Firstly the grip of the Continental tyres is rather poor under braking (in wet and dry conditions). Although this could be caused by the Mintex pads biting to hard when cold?
And secondly not being able to rev the engine when needed was a bit of a disappointment, especially on the passes. The little skirmish with the M3 on the Jauffenpass clearly showed that the car can be quick and handles rather nicely (although the tyres will start to screech pretty quickly).

So we again have a few small issues to sort in the coming weeks;
  • Fit other tyres and only use these for sedate events;
  • One side of the instrument lights stopped working (probably a loose contact);
  • Speedo cable bounces up and down wildly (probably caused by a broken strand);
  • A slight water leak along the fuel filler cap surround;
  • And of course the oil leak at the water pump.

At least I don’t have to worry that I have nothing to do in the next couple of weeks. Will start on the water pump tomorrow ...

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Tour Des Alpes part 2


Day 3 (334 km)
This was to be the first “touring” day. Original plan was to head up to the Stilfserjoch (probably better known as the Stelvio) and return over the Umbrai. But after sitting in a traffic jam on the SS38 outside Merano for quite a while I decided to pull into a fuel station. While filling up the car with fuel, the attendant told me that the Stilfserjoch was closed due to heavy snowfall on its northern flank. So we needed a change of plan. As we already had lost quite a lot of time in the traffic jam we opted for a short trip into Switzerland, over the Ofenpass and then back over the Reschenpass. Especially the Ofenpass was good fun with very smooth road surfaces and nice wide flowing comers ...


and some very nice views.




After lunch in the public house at the top of the Ofenpass we headed down into the valley of the River Inn.


Which we followed right till the border with Austria. But instead of taking the Finstermünzpass we took a shortcut, a rather lovely and almost deserted pass road between the villages of Martina and Nauders.


From where we headed back to the B&B in St. Martin. And as we passed the road leading to the foot of the north face of Stelvio for the second time that day we found out that they had cleared the snow there. So we decided to stop for a drink and see if there were some interesting cars come down. Not much really, only grey boxes and motorcycles. So nothing we could do but admire the views instead.




With the drinks finished we returned “home” to our B&B, only to find out it was still too early for some food. As the Jauffenpass is only a few miles from St. Martin we thought it a good idea to go up there just for fun, which it was. Added bonus were some fabulous views at the top.


Only problem was the low early evening sun, as a result of which in some places visibility was rather poor, with the sun shining through the trees and straight in my eyes. Not good if you can’t see where the road is going. Another thing which we noticed on the way down was that the brakes clearly were starting to get on temperature, they could be smelled very clearly. So René thought that they were overheating. But it looks like the Mintex M1144 pads need some heat in them to work properly, as the feel of the brakes was much better than the previous days.

But that evening, while returning from St. Leonard, they were up to their normal standard again. While slowing down to allow some bikers (on foot) to cross the road, the brakes managed to lock up the front wheels rather dramatically. The bikers also saw the fun of it ...

Day 4 (226 km)
I had planned a trip back over the Timmelsjoch, through the Õtztal and up the Kaunertaller Gletscherstraße. But after reaching the top of the Timmelsjoch ...


we found out that the weather on the north side of the mountains wasn’t brilliant. So after a little photo shoot at the top ...






... plan B was put into action. This plan consisted of driving to Bozen (Bolzano) through the Passeirtal and from there over the Penserjoch and Jauffenpass. Only problem we encountered was a filling station that didn’t deliver the fuel I paid for. Luckily that got sorted properly.
The drive up to the Penserjoch proved very nice, with the road gradually climbing out of Bozen through the narrow Sarntal, up to the pass itself ...


At the top we encountered a German woman who was driving a lovely coloured Triumph motorcycle. And judging by her friends rather sarcastic remark (“great you’ve chosen a colour from 1980”), she was not very pleased when I pointed her to my car a few yards away ...


And after enjoying some lunch and the views ...




we headed down ...


for the last pass of the day, the Jauffenpass.


On the way up to the pass road itself I was driving behind a modern BMW M3. As the driver was really hanging around I thought it a good idea to challenge him a bit. He took the bait, resulting in a very nice blast up to the top of the pass. Jolly good fun indeed. The down side was that I lost nearly half a litre of oil in 25 kilometres! Made a mental note to keep the revs down.

As we had been on the top a day earlier we decided to drive on and stop a few miles down the road at a public house with a nice terrace overlooking the valley below and enjoy a few drinks and the views.




Initial plan was to stay there till the first Triumph came up the road. But after a few drinks we left the idea and returned to St. Martin, otherwise we might probably still be sitting there! To end a nice day we were driven inside the restaurant by a fairly heavy rain shower that managed to find its way into the valley ...


To be continued ...

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Tour Des Alpes part 1


Returned from the DHC's shake down run last Wednesday, a report from the driver’s seat;

Day 1 (771 km)
The original plan was to leave on the Tuesday the 4th of August, but due to the water pump playing up, and René being taken to hospital with an acute bacterial prostatitis, that was postponed a few days. But two days later Rene had recovered enough and the water pump was replaced, so we headed south. As we had lost two days, and the weather forecast wasn’t exactly brilliant for the Thursday we decided to drop the initial plan to drive to the Alps over secondary and country roads only. And rightly so ...


Instead we took the Autobahn all the way through Germany. And despite the by times monsoon like rain we made good progress. The car ran very well on the Autobahn, easily cruising at 120 km/h @ just under 3000 rpm. Also very impressed in the way the tyres coped with the by times huge amounts of standing water. There were no traces of aqua planning at all. But that seems to be their only pro ...

But after I had pulled into a service station for some fuel, and a short rest, I found out that the water pump was leaking very badly. Not coolant but oil! In just over 500 kilometres she’d lost well over half a litre of oil, not good with a lot of challenging Alpine passes still ahead. But there was nothing that I could do but top up the oil and hope for the best. Which I did.

And by the middle of the afternoon we left Germany and entered Austria, where we eventually found ourselves a comfortable hotel in the little village of Längenfeld, not too far from the Timmelsjoch. But not before I had nearly totalled the car while overtaking a lorry on the Fernpass. Going downhill I wanted to overtake the lorry on the outside in one the few hairpin bends this pass has. Was a pretty good plan as I could clearly see that there was no oncoming traffic. But while braking into the bend I was reminded pretty abruptly how much grip these tyres lack. At the slightest push on the brakes the front wheels locked up immediately in the still wet conditions! This resulted in a nice under steer slide in the direction of a pretty solid rock face. Two thoughts crossed my mind in rather quick succession at that moment;
  • I should have fitted the steel wheels with the Yokohama’s;
  • Release the brakes and more power;

The first thought was pretty useless, but the second thought worked pretty well. Although sliding wide I could keep the car under control and on the tarmac where she belongs. Needless to say that this narrow escape gave me a perfect reason to drink a few well deserved beers in the Hotel’s bar that evening. Sadly the car had to endure more of the downpour, which she took rather well ...



Day 2 (86 km)
Next morning loomed still very wet indeed, but the heavy rain had been replaced with a very light drizzle. We were informed that in the night in some place on the higher grounds up to 40 centimetres of fresh snow had fallen. But compared to yesterday it looked rather nice ...


After a hearty breakfast we set off for the last leg of the journey, over the Timmelsjoch into Italy to find ourselves a place to stay for a few days.


As we were rather early there wasn’t much traffic on the Timmelsjoch, but maybe this was also caused by the rather uninviting conditions ...


But at least the weather conditions provided me with some rather dramatic back grounds for a few pictures of the car ...




With the photo shoot over it was time to head down the Timmelsjoch in search for a hotel or B&B. Plan was to try to find something in Sankt Leonard in Passeier, but that turned out to be not such a good plan. Everything we tried was fully booked, and to be honest I didn’t mind very much to turn my back on the place, it all looked rather to touristic in all the wrong possible ways. Found ourselves a simple B&B in a neighbouring village a few miles down the road.
As it was by now well past noon we decided to give the car a well deserved rest outside the B&B ...



And have lunch somewhere in the village, washed down with a little beer ...


The rest of the afternoon was spent with a sightseeing tour off the village ...








To be continued ...