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. By now it was well past noon, so 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 ...

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