EU Tour 2019 Captains Report

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EU Tour 2019 Captains Report

Postby greenwoo » Mon Jun 10, 2019 3:51 pm's time for a Captains Report on the EU Trip to the Alps. For those that didn't follow the prep and planning, the Tour would take us down to the Haute Alps in France, where we'd stay in 1 Hotel for 5 nights and do 5 'round robin' driving days.

It was on this trip that we decided to grade 'tinkering' activities into; Breakdown, Consumable Failure, Tune Up. It gives the writer great pleasure to report that there were no Category B's! All motors and their associated drivers returned to Blighty intact and in rude health.

Day 1.
Of course the banter started at the Chunnel where we all met up, 4 kits, 2 Elise and a Cayman....a motley crew who gave as good as they got when it came to the proverbial mickey taking and joking around. Locked and loaded we got to France and 'formed up' convoy style for the first miles, inevitably separated on the Motorway a while later - but by minutes not hours. The idea was to bang out 180 quick miles to get us to Reims where we'd take lunch at a private airfield.

It was at this point that I needed ( well the car needed ) a tuneup.....the clutch cable had slipped at the fork end and on the Motorway i'd thought that the travel was a tad long. By the time we were on the roads leading to the Airfield it definitely needed a 'tweak' as I was relying on rev matching to change gear. It 'may' have been at this point that I pointed out that it wasn't a breakdown but merely a tune up to aid driving. 2 spanners and a gnats cock later we were sorted and eating French Cuisine whilst sheltering from the sun. It was a balmy 28/29 degrees.....which made me ponder the wisdom of filling my bag with sweatshirts and warm clothing at the expense of but a few T-Shirts.

As an there anything better than blatting in just a T-Shirt? ( well not JUST a T-Shirt, that would cause all manner of issues).....Of course the moaners found it a tad hot, there's no pleasing some people. My factor 30 sun cream was no match for the sun and by the Hotel my nose resembled that of a 70 year old alcoholic....and my forehead wasn't much better!


Steve was worried about the lack of charge to his battery, so we hopped down to a Bike dealer to get the lowdown on 'why'....their conclusion was that the stator charger thingy wasn't working 100%. So relived of some Euros he bought a spare battery 'in case'.....and we agreed that this was a Breakdown, but a fixable one.

A few more 'basic' miles took us to some fine roads just shy of our first stop....a small holiday resort where we had cabins next to a lake....oh and a few beers to cool off after the scorchio afternoon where the temps had nudged 30 degrees. It was here that the first and probably best 'jape' of the Tour was played out - on me! Each cabin had been left unlocked, the keys left inside for us...well not me, because 2 pranksters had the quick thinking to grab the keys to mine and lock it. Leaving me puzzled as to whether the door was dodgy or WTF was happening....Resulting in me having to get the master keys from reception. I said it then and i'll say it again.....Bastards! ( but funny bastards ).

Dinner taken al-fresco on the terrace overlooking the lake, a balmy evening with barmy banter!

Blue skies and the tweet of some inconsiderate birds woke us all. Could it be as hot as the previous bet! A cheeky 30 degrees awaited us after we'd stowed the cars and set off. The direction ever South, heading for the Jura Mountains which would afford us some splendid views and scenery.

We took coffee as and when, sheltering from the sweltering heat - well all bar me, daft as a brush I felt that I wanted to top up my red nose. The Jura is a blend of subtle and brutal, green valleys and rugged mountains, high enough for snow during the winter months. Our destination for lunch was a little resort area , a sneeze and a stagger from the Swiss border. Unfortunately the summer Luge was closed, a pity as the fall on it looked like it would be possible to get some serious speeds! Instead, we quaffed some Cokes, ate some fine food at a swanky establishment before picking out some landmarks way down in the valley from a previous trip.

The early afternoon took us down to the valley before climbing the sublime Col Grand Colombier, a 'shorty' at a mere 1500metres, but wow, just wow - the views from the summit are a just amazing. The outline of the Alps puncturing the horizon, the turquoise waters of Lake Bourget closer, rocky outcrops closer still! We stopped at an Auberge just a hundred metres down the road....topping up on fluids and banter!

It was shortly after this that my sat nav decided it had had enough. The red trail of the route darted around the screen like a snake on acid, and Mr TomTom didnt like it one bit.....'WTF, how many hairpins and turns'....
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Needless to say as drivers of nimble little cars, this is what we'd come for, roads and scenery! This was foreplay to the main event, the Alps and the Vercors, but heck I could spend a few days sampling more of the Jura. The 'crazy' road took us down to the Northern edge of Lac Bourget and the road then ran alongside into the Town of Aix Les Bains.

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The waters were implausibly turquoise, and with the sun pummelling us with 30 degrees it took some resolve not to stop and jump in! Instead we knocked off the last 50 miles but inevitably the sat nav's had the last laugh, spitting us out in various directions ( all correct ) just different ways of reaching our Hotel in Allevard. By some fortune, Rob and I rocked up first and grabbed a beer on the terrace as the others arrived one by one.
I realised that night over dinner that I had a distinct advantage over the others which was that I knew where we were going and what was planned.

To even that out a little I brought forward a surprise that i had thought to hold off for later in the week. I'd bought a bee keepers outfit and a bumble bee costume as a bit of homage to Tony B ( for homage read 'piss take' ). After sharing this with the guys we decided to take some photos through the week with the characters in the background to see if the great and the good of SKCC noticed....with a bigger reveal planned for the end of our stay.

Burger, booze, bed.....and ready for the next day!

Day3 - Parc de Vercors.
Famous as the home of the French Resistance during WW2, if you visit you'll see why - heck, this is a place of rugged, rocky hidey holes.

But first to get through tip, DON'T, it's a royal pain in the ass. I swear that anyone with a tomtom older than 3 weeks will struggle, there's more traffic lights that a traffic light sales convention, and more 'sort of' temporarily closed roads than - erm, struggling with that one....there's a lot! Course, we know how to cheat....use a Bus Lane! So with that dispatched we headed to Pont Royans, a lovely little town straddling a small river, with buildings cut into the craggy rock faces. Stunning ( sorry i know i used the word before, but it was stunning).
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We grabbed a coffee and of course a 'bee' shot, before heading toward our lunch stop.

Now in France like anywhere else, a road that's closed is a challenge, we'd already proved that on day 1, but here....nah, closed means closed - they make sure of that by tipping 20 tons of rocks across the road and saying 'feel free if you have an off roader'. Kit cars, nope not a prayer. Needless to say the diversion when it comes to a mountain road are not plentiful, and we had to go back 15 miles or so and the whole thing cost us an hour. Not an issue, as the replacement road was stunning, erm, no it was sublime. BUT horror of horrors, the Aubgerge i'd programmed was closed...

alps vercor royans.jpg

Plan B? Lunch back in Pont Royans, by which time we'd lost Rich who'd fallen off the back to top up his tank with his spare fuel. Needless to say, he popped back with a smile and a tale or two as the rest scoffed yet more top end cuisine. It's a tough job this driving malarky. The afternoon took us through the Choranche Gorge, it was erm - bloody marvellous ( and stunning ), a narrow road that hugged the river before climbing upward to a balcony road. Gotta love a tight passage.

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The late afternoon provided the first consumable failure of the frigging clutch cable decided to lose its nipple. Cue the comments, and cue Mr G with a spanner....2 pairs of hands are better than 1, 3 is a luxury and we had the job done by the time the rest had grabbed us some lollies ( well it was 32 degrees ).

Thing was, that unscheduled stop and the earlier diversion had cost us time, and we decided to cut the route and head direct to the Hotel. Bummer? Nah, turned out that 'direct' meant 45miles of twisties that were part of the route anyway! With another balcony road thrown in for good measure.

Beers, banters, japes.....setting us up for the next day.

Les Alpes. Our first foray into the Alpes 'proper'.

This day would take us toward the Northern part picking up 2 awesome passes before a little 'Lake Action' close to Annecy. The passes in question, Le Grand Bornand and La Petit Bornand. Lovely jubbly.

We did the Petite first before regrouping and going over the higher of the 2. I switched my music off for a while and listened to the soundtrack of 3 whistling turbos, a tweaked zetec and revvy elises ( should that be elisi?)....and I wondered what the locals made of it all, up there in countryside that looked like a Sound of Music set. At least they couldnt moan about speeding and the like, a/ we played the game fairly, slowing way more than the locals through the hamlets b/ the buggers have started a craze for speed humps which don't really suit sportscars ( or push bikes ).

That reminds me, it was earlier today that we witnessed the way that the locals crack on with fixing roads, no piddling around - it's a wham bam thank you maam job. One side of the dual carriageway was shut, about 35 20 tonners were ready to take the scalpings and as swiftly as possible behind came the glorious 'black stuff', laid with the precision of a billiard table maker. Why can't we do that here?
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Anyway, back on track....3 of the group decided to grab an early bath, and headed direct from lunch toward the Hotel as Jay wanted to remove one of his plethora of fans ( seemed he'd started with 3 and thought that 1-2 might be blocking the airflow to the rad causing the engine to run hot in extended 'blat mode'. The rest? We headed for the opposing shore of the Lake Annecy....where we grabbed a table, soaked in the sun and muttered about why was life so unfair that we only had a week away.

Back at the Hotel it seemed that the direct route wasn't much quicker, as the guys had only pulled the froth off their 2nd we regaled them with tales of the topless sunbathers in an attempt to make them question their decision to cut out the Lake.

Dinner? Ah a mixed grill at the Hotel...we'd been looking forward to this and oh dear, it wasnt quite the 'uk' version....a couple of sausages and a bit of chicken does not a mixed grill make ( i paraphrase Rob who said something like' what's this , where's the main course'....subtley of course.

Ready for Day 5.
Ah Day 5, or as it became known, Day 6 short route. I knew that 2 passes were 'iffy', one due to snow and one ironically that had opened and then closed for road we switched the itn to day 6 short. Needless to say, not everyone listened - and all bloody breakfast there seemed to be someone who wanted to clarify 'what day 6, short??'

This would take us North and east initially before swooping back...toward the Hotel. In the process we'd 'do' the Cormet De Roseland and the Col Madeleine. The former a stunner, starting at a man made dam with still waters, where we took a coffee looking down on that and up toward loftier peaks.

A bit of drone exploring soon had the Guv'nor of the Inn warning us that drones are forbidden by the Dam due to terrorist threats....sure enough, there was the only warning sign i've seen like it - a red triangle road sign with the pic of a drone being taking out by an Apache gunship....( ok the last bit is a blatant lie) was a Huey.
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Back in the cars we headed up the Pass, a proper twisty pass with all that you'd expect, epic scenery, snowy crags and feeeeeeeeeck a bus coming the other way. Bloody tourists! It was after this that we had a typical 'tour moment' - guys calling for fuel then driving past a petrol station, others behind ( moi ) thinking they'd have pulled in, others driving past as they didnt need fuel....the end result. 2 cars went 'off piste' heading to goodness knows where, the rest had an enjoyable run up the Petite St Bernard Pass until we decided we ought to track the others via a 'where are they now' app. We all ended up at a Ski resort - Tignes for lunch, having been chased up a twisty/turny road by a locak who clearly knew the road well in a .........Sprinter van. He must have had balls the size of boulders!
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A short skip and a hop from the bottom took us to the Madeleine Pass which part way up had a Road Closed sign ( in French oviously)...i decided that i'd forgotten all my French and we ignored it. Top choice, there was a tiny section of road works halfway up and nothing more to trouble our ascent. Better still, once at the top we saw a few bikers coming from the opposite direction, so we had an inkling that we'd get down as well! And we did....exiting at La Chambre and heading for the Hotel.

Pizza and a chilled bar for an after meal drinkie saw Steve being groomed as a locals 'bitch'....definitely time to head for bed ( no not in 'that' way)...

Day 6.
Well sadly no chance to run the day 5 route that i'd saved in case of a miracle, so with a key pass shut that screwed the route, I threw together an alternative....and loaded the sat nav's over brekkie. Today the Hotelier warned us it was likely to rain.....nah, it didn't , but the cloud cover was low....very low. We found that out 3/4 of the way up a narrow Pass called the Col du Glandon.

If you have ever got halfway into something and wished you hadn't - well this was that with the added spice of death or maiming. The road was in theory just wide enough for 2 cars, driven expertly. But as I alluded to the conditions, namely the visibility was erm, shocking. At a guess i'd say 15ft max, probably more like 10. Not helped by goggles that were collecting moisture and in my case dark lenses ( yeah i worked that out toward the summit).

By then I was wondering who'd get my cd collection when they scraped me off a rock somewhere .....'down there'. Down there being the operative expression as there were no guardrails or barriers. I breathed a sigh of relief at the top and after a chat decided the clever thing to do was to get back down as soon as poss.
alps mountain snow colour.jpg

The route should have taken us over another Pass, but I knew there was one heading down sooner, and we agreed that we'd take that one and regroup/replan once down in the valley. Trouble was, i didnt know how far along the turning would be, just that it would be the first turning on the left. Cue comedy error 2 of the Tour. 5 cars got to a junction within 100 metres ( not visible due to the clouds ) and turned right, assuming that the left turn was further along otherwise i'd have mentioned it....3 cars me included called on the radios but by then it was too late, out of range. So we had 2 groups doing different things.

Sods Law is that later that day the others told of 'best days driving' / 'awesome' / 'stunning' / 'king brilliant' the clouds had eased quickly in that direction and they had 130 miles of passes and B roads to play on.

Gary, Rich and myself headed to the Col Du Garnier which i knew was shut, but the idea was to do as much as we could, grab lunch and figure out how much time we had to play elsewhere. The part that we did - about 10 miles in was fantastic, but the road was closed at a ski resort - which confirmed that ski resorts off season ( no matter how big ) are a/ bloody drab b/ lifeless....1 bar, 10 punters, 1 menu option - 'no ta'. We grabbed a bite down in the valley and headed toward home.

As we drove along we had a nice touch of luck. First the sun had come out with a vengeance AND I spied the vague outline of part of a car up a mountain, and realised that it was doing 'the Laces' 21 hairpins....we ducked off the road we were on, found the Laces and 'did them' followed by the Col de Chaussy.
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Back at base i called the Mrs to explain about the day...'why didnt you stop going up the road when you realised that the clouds were so low'....trying to explain to someone that the only thing you could turn around once committed would be a motorbike with a 7 point turn didn't compute with Mrs G. Beers al fresco on the terrace and swapped tales were topped off by the video which some of you have probably grimaced at, but which made our evening....and the evening of the Hoteliers and a few guests.

I always feel the same with the penultimate day, sadness that the direction is 'home', and a tinged acceptance that the roads aren't going to compare with those that we'd had for the round robins. With the cars stowed with all our gear we headed off the destination for the night Troyes.

Today would be a mix of the mundane to knock off some miles and some excellent B roads. Unfortunately it seemed the virgin i'd sacrificed to the Sun Gods may have been interfered with, and may not have been as pure as the driven snow. Because today - drum rained ( a little ). It was beautifully sunny again as we left Allevard but by lunch the clouds were starting to gather, and sure enough it rained. By then we'd split ( no idea how ) into 2 groups and i'll admit we got a little wet - amazing how 30 mins of rain can bugger up the roads, with us tip toeing for a while.
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Luckily they dried out quite quickly which was handy as we had 2 stretches of loose chippings to contend with, the 2nd a bit iffy at the end of a downhill straight with not a lot of warning that the bend was covered in gravel. Squeaky bum time as i tried to scrub speed in a straight line - rapidly.


The 2 groups got father apart and resolved to 'do their own thing' for coffee and fuel....but by chance we all rocked up at the Hotel pretty much at the same time. Another comedy gold moment as the entrance for the parking was cleverly hidden....resulting in a few tours around the roads nearby.


Having tucked the cars away we wandered into the Town, it's a lovely place with a medieval part, timer framed buildings that looked as though they'd been there since about the 1600's. Cue the comment of the day, 'someone' read an inscription which happened to be the dates that a famous General had lived in one of the houses - 'nah, not the 1660's, this one was built in 1909, look it says so there'. Quality.

Day 8.
If yesterday was a bit of a morose day ( for me ) then today was more so, the reality that the fun and camaraderie would only last another 8-9 hours for this trip.

We pinged off some motorway miles and then headed across country, but by then we'd lost Rich off the back of the peleton. We'd guessed he'd be low on fuel, but hadn't guessed that he'd dive off the motorway to get we spent the next hour or so wondering if he was ok until he sent a message saying he'd see us (hopefully at lunch).

Coffee was later than normal and probably about 150 miles from Calais, With a busy driving/work schedule for work Phil decided to chip off early and head straight to the Chunnel, with a jaunty wave he went 1 way and we went the other.

As happens the rest got split, with Rob and I heading a group of 2 and the rest somewhere behind. Imagine my surprise when at a small Peage/Toll booth Phil rocked up, clearly his direct route wasnt as good as the one i'd plotted for 'interesting' roads! Rob had got through the toll, but my Sanef Tag wasnt playing ball, so after doing about 10 miles with Phil I let him zoom off and plodded along expecting to find Rob along the way. The clouds thickened and threatened rain, we skirted it for the most part but me being 15 mins ahead of the others caught it and i sat it out in a layby, assuming that Rob was already at lunch which was just 10 mins down the road. He wasn't, I guess he'd assumed that I was waiting at the tolls for the others, when in fact i'd had the 'tag' he'd chipped off direct as well.
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Reformed and with a cheeky kebab for lunch we got a text from Rich - 'see you at coffee'. And we did....meeting him by the lake just 20 mins from Calais, after having had a whale of a time of some superb switchback roads to cut across country for 50 miles or so.
The clock was counting down and soon we were back at the Chunnel. Than the Lord i had my waterproofs on, i had a warning about heavy rain that I thought was 'ollocks - because we exited into warm sunshine, but just shy of Maidstone the heavens opened. Big Time. the 50mph speed restriction suddenly seemed very fast/unnecessary, as i poddled along at about 40 intent on keeping the car in a straight line. 30 mins later it was all over for another year. Job done.

the roads obviously, and the banter, and general good natured chit chat. So much of that i wish i could bottle as there's so much of it that its not possible to recall it all.

The scenery, and contrasting landscapes, and some ironies - such as going through a mountain tunnel called Le Chat, and thinking - 'full chat' is what we've given it all week long. I exaggerate of course. There are moments when we open up our little cars, and many when we just make 'good progress', respecting the locals, the cyclists and walkers.

The thunderous noise of Jays car backfiring ( deliberately on a map setting ) in a tunnel or two which probably caused a Tsunami somewhere in the world. Rich's borrowed car behaving so faultlessly that i swear he was doing anything he could to get his hands dirty - i've never seen him so clean on a Trip.

Filming our Top Gear special, and some driving filming which hopefully someone will stitch together soon. No doubt others will have their tales to tell - and will probably remind me that i've forgotten some moments....

To those that came. Thanks for making it a great trip, to those that didn't I hope you liked the pic's and the read....and the door will be open to newcomers for 2020.
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Re: EU Tour 2019 Captains Report

Postby nelmo » Mon Jun 10, 2019 5:43 pm

Luverly :D

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Re: EU Tour 2019 Captains Report

Postby locost220 » Mon Jun 10, 2019 6:25 pm

Me G I owe you one for that, big time. :D
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Re: EU Tour 2019 Captains Report

Postby Kegco » Mon Jun 10, 2019 6:51 pm

Nice read and great pics
Well done all
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Phil N
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Re: EU Tour 2019 Captains Report

Postby Phil N » Mon Jun 10, 2019 7:55 pm

I’m currently 1072 miles from our main hotel in Allevard after a day at home and a slog up to Scotland in a somewhat different vehicle. That has made me less blue so thank you!
Was my favourite trip so far and hate to repeat myself but the cloudy day turned out to be the best roads!!!
Thank you so much for organising and thank you all for the memories.
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Re: EU Tour 2019 Captains Report

Postby DJ. » Mon Jun 10, 2019 8:44 pm

Good write up Mark, sounds like another brilliant road trip :)


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Rob E
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Re: EU Tour 2019 Captains Report

Postby Rob E » Mon Jun 10, 2019 9:01 pm

Just sat down after a long first day back at work, ahhhh the memories, I’d have to agree with phil, that was a fantastic trip made very special by all that went and the roads :o wow , oh and that cloudy day, we really do need to re-visit that thrown together route , what a route , thank you Mark for putting this together , till next time .......

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Re: EU Tour 2019 Captains Report

Postby Crunchie Gears » Tue Jun 11, 2019 6:14 am

Wow, that is a trip and a half! :D :D

I really enjoyed the write up and pictures they captured some of the amazing sights.

Very glad I am not bidding on eBay for you CD collection Mark :lol: :lol:

I missed not being on this one.


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Tony B
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Re: EU Tour 2019 Captains Report

Postby Tony B » Tue Jun 11, 2019 7:31 am

fantastic report, well done guys and absolutely loved the bee p1ss take, especially the video posted on the other thread. those roads are something else aren't they, I just love going down to that region!!

hopefully the tours will keep coming and coming.....

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Re: EU Tour 2019 Captains Report

Postby b33fy » Tue Jun 11, 2019 8:21 am

Brilliant report Mark, glad the weather was on your side, shame about the mixed grill or was it single grill..? :lol: sounds like a very successful hitch free trip, nice one.
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