2020 was a very complicated year to enjoy travelling due to Covid19, as you all know. Despite this disease has affected us hard in many ways, the Speedy Marmots have been fortunate and we had few “sunny windows” within this Covid storm. Enough to keep us cheerful and optimistic. Life goes on and it’s obvious that better times are coming our way!
2021 started better, apparently getting things more under control. Slowly but steadily winning the battle against the pandemic and being ourselves and a huge percentage of the Spanish and European population vaccinated, we could start having a relatively normal life. The 3-Wheeler was claiming for some action! And we managed to do few “short fighter missions” with the little rocket, getting more and more confident with the machine and its reliability.
The month of June arrived. And sadly, our beloved Jaguar F-Pace had to be returned, as the five years renting contract reached its end. For different reasons we did not renew nor ask for a new SUV. One reason is that, for more than a year and a half, due to the pandemic, we rarely travelled with the Jag. The travel restrictions were still uncertain, so we decided to wait and see what will happen within next months. But the Morgan was still there, sending his positive vibes and asking for more kilometers!
With this feeling of tense calm, and the Morgan-driving itching, we are discussing about our holidays, and if they could be or not with the 3-Wheeler. And then we have fantastic breaking news! Chas confirms the news in our squadron’s WhatsApp chat: LAURENS AND RINEKE WERE CALLING TO ARMS AGAIN! THE JUNGFRAU-TREFFEN WILL BE HELD!
We have no SUV to pull the trailer to Montignac-de-Lauzun, meaning that if we want to join the squadron there, we’ll have to drive the 3-Wheeler from Madrid! We don’t hesitate. Let’s do it! From Madrid to Southwest France, then to Switzerland, and back, in our little rocket. Who said fear? With Whitesnake’s song “Here I go Again” sounding loud in our home speakers, we start the planning.
With Rob – our 2020 squadron navigation leader – not joining us for this year’s long-range campaign to Grindelwald, Chas, Steve, Mario and Charles ask us to prepare the routes to Switzerland. Ana Maria and I will lead the squadron! Challenge accepted! My friends, hold my beer! It’s time to choose the nicest possible roads for the 3-Wheelers and show how’s to navigate with an incredibly efficient copilot!
Step 1 – Let’s prepare the routes and create the navigator’s roadbook! Driving with a copilot is much funnier, as we can drive the “old fashion” way. It means that we won’t rely on modern electronics such a smartphone or GPS. But the copilot will have a detailed navigation roadbook, with full indications of every turn, roundabout, crossroads, etc. Do you want to know how a Speedy Marmots navigator’s roadbook looks like? Check out next pictures!
For such a long-range campaign, we create two books. One for the days from Madrid to Grindelwald, and the second for the way back from Grindelwald to Madrid. A total of 186 pages. Three indications / maneuvers per page, with the following data:
- The time to get to this point / maneuver from the previous one.
- The distance to this point / maneuver.
- The total accumulated driving time.
- The total accumulated distance.
- A brief and clear written description of what must be done while reaching this point: a description of the maneuver, in large size letters to be easily read in movement.
- A large picture of the place, with thick red arrows showing the way.
- Additional information with icons indicating if there is a petrol station, supermarket / restaurant, or anything else of interest nearby.
- When there are many roundabouts to be crossed without major direction change, also an icon with the number of roundabouts to be crossed.
Ana Maria will be the copilot most – if not all – of the days, as we’ll be driving very fast in country and mountain roads, and for many hours each day.
She needs a nice stopwatch, easy to use and with large and nice screen and buttons. But, if possible – yes, we admit we are a little bit too posh when it comes about accessories for the Morgan – with a vintage looking. So, we find her this nice electronic chromed stopwatch. She is really happy with it.
The roadmaps will show later to be really accurate, and the most important: the timings really match with our driving speed, and thanks to Ana Maria and her stopwatch we’ll be warned in advance with high precision of each maneuver.
Step 2 – Improve the comfort of the 3-Wheeler with a nice set of new headrests. Since last year‘s long-range campaign, we have in mind to order a couple of headrests for the Morgan. We order a nice pair tailor-made, and with a new specific design and size that proves to be excellent for our needs, as we drive with helmets for these long distances. If you want more details, we have a specific post about the headrests. Check it out in the Hangar Works section of the blog!
As our upholsterer had to buy a large piece of leather to do the headrests, we have quite a lot of extra leather. We decide to do another bag for the heavy and thick Barbour coats we carry with us for such a long trip to Switzerland. Because we never know if the weather will be good or find ourselves under a snowstorm in the Alps!
We have this trapezoidal large and thin bag in mind since last year, so we finally ask the craftsman to make it. And we are very happy with the result!
Even with both Barbours inside, this bag isn’t too thick, and it fits perfect underneath the two main bags.
Another good point of having this bag, is that it’s much easier to refuel, because to reach the fuel cap we simply fold it upwards instead of moving the two loose Barbours. We still must remove the main big bag on top, but we find out that now the refueling is much easier and faster.
Step 3 – Let’s protect our arms against the sun! Oh yes! We learned the lesson the hard way during previous “missions”, under the merciless Spanish sun… While you’re driving feeling the fresh air in your face and arms, you may not realize you’re getting sun burnt! We use UV protective arm sleeves to avoid such a bad experience.
Again, under the “be posh while driving your Morgan” philosophy, we decide to make some customized arm sleeves. Just for the fun. After some hours designing, printing, cutting, and ironing, we have nice-looking new UV protective arm sleeves for us and our squadron colleagues, plus some others for gifts.
Step 4 – Check the 3-Wheeler and get it ready for the long-range campaign! Our Morgan is in very good conditions. We made very few kilometers since last “short fighter mission” to Valencia, but it’s always mandatory to check again all fluids and general mechanics. Then I detect something wrong in our Morgan: the front left tyre is worn in an uneven way. The inner side is way more worn out than the outside.
The inside is already at 2 mm depth, while the outer side still in good 4 mm!
It’s a fact that since we got our Morgan, if we take our hands off the wheel while driving straight, the car immediately tends to go right. And while driving in sharp curves on country and mountain roads, it was always heavier to take the left ones than the ones to the right.
It’s clear that we have a toe problem on this left front tyre. I ask our good friend Steve how to solve this problem. Steve is a member of our squadron and an impressively skilled mechanic for Morgan 3-Wheelers. I follow his instructions, and I fix the steering problem in minutes. I only have to do one readjustment after the first adjustment in the garage and short test drive. Now the car handles perfectly straight, and we feel the steering wheel much lighter and agile under all conditions.
Despite we solved the steering problem, the left tyre needs to be changed. Meaning that both front tyres need to be changed. We ask Steve and Chas if they have a new pair of Avons, Blockleys or Excelsiors in their M3W Services stock. And of course, they do! So, we reserve the pair of Avons they have. Because those 2 mm depth on the inside of this left tyre are not good enough to drive back and forth to Switzerland, and even less if we have some risk of wet roads. The front tyres will be changed when we’ll join them in Montignac-de-Lauzun!
The night before we’re all excited and exchange some last messages with the rest of the squadron. Mario has just left Erfurt (Germany) and right now he might be driving his superb Heritage Edition on the German autobahn: our valiant friend has 1.350 km and more than forteen hours’ drive ahead before he reaches the squadron headquarters at Montignac-de-Lauzun! Charles is in the UK and still don’t know if he’ll be able to join us for the squadron takeoff next Monday. And Steve is working intensively on a new M3W Services creation: the secret “Project Mario”: will this be ready for the trip to Grindelwald? Continue reading and you’ll know…
All checks done. All packed. The Morgan is full of gasoline, and we’re ready to go. Next morning the big adventure begins!
Day 1 – September the 3rd: Madrid to Pamplona
All packed and ready! This is the first day of our two weeks adventure! We haven’t really summed the kilometers we’ll do in our 3-Wheeler. Does it really matter? We just know that we have two weeks of fun in front of us!
Today we will make it the fastest possible way to Pamplona. Let’s reserve the nice country roads for the following days! Using the motorways, we can make Madrid to Pamplona in approximately four hours and fifteen minutes. A little more as we’ll have to stop to refuel and grab a sandwich. Helmets on and let’s start the engine and make it roar!
This is our route today:
Madrid → Burgos (A-1) → Pamplona (A-1, AP-1, A-1, A-10, A-15 & AP-15).
The rocket runs like a dream on the motorway. 120 km/h are so easy to keep despite the terrible aerodynamics of our luggage on the rack. The power and torque of the V2 is so impressive that we must be careful with the radars on the motorway. Just a little bit of extra throttle pedal and we’re easily over the 140 km/h.
We stop after 250 km, some kilometers after passing Burgos. We grab a sandwich with a soft drink and take the Morgan to the petrol station to refuel.
And here the magic of the 3-Wheeler happens again. Just consider this: in Spain there are less than fifteen 3-Wheelers in the whole country; it’s obviously very rare to see one. And how many people from the UK, travelling in Spain, may cross one of them? And on the top of that, what are the chances that this person from the UK is friend of one of our squadron members? I would say one in a million. Even less chances for this to happen. But it happened! At our only stop to refuel, a friend of Charles T Kirby, from the UK, spotted us and took this video of the Speedy Marmots at the petrol station. Unbelievable! Pure magic! It’s a pity that this friend of Charles didn’t approach us to say hello. He immediately sent his video to Charles, and Charles shared it in our chat. We are still amazed of such coincidence!
We refuel quite fast and continue our way to Pamplona. Approaching the city, we have several cars cheering the Morgan! There is always plenty of thumbs up and happy faces celebrating the 3-Wheeler!
We reach this beautiful city faster than expected. We drove just four hours. A total time of 4h30min if we add the stop to eat the sandwich and refuel.
We stop again here this year for two reasons. The first one is that we have a couple of nieces studying here, Camila and Valentina, and we can stay at their place. They live in a beautiful apartment in the main old city square. And the second is that the city is really worth a visit. It’s known worldwide because of the San Fermines (the famous runs in front of the bulls) but it’s also a beautiful old city with a superb ambience in the streets, and the food and tapas are really amazing.
Pamplona is definitely one of the most beautiful cities in Spain. If you ever have a chance to visit it, don’t hesitate to do it!
We have the good news that Mario made it from Erfurt to Montignac-de-Lauzun without problems. He is now enjoying a beer with Chas at Au Bosq (Chas’s place).
We have a nice dinner with Valentina, one of our nieces, and then we walk the old streets to a very nice shop of typical Spanish delicatessen, where we buy jamón ibérico, lomo, chorizo, salchichón and a nice manchego cheese, for the dinners at Montignac-de-Lauzun with the team. We’re already drooling!
Day 2 – September the 4th: Pamplona to Montignac-de-Lauzun
Today we’ll enter France and reach Montignac-de-Lauzun. We’ll cross the Pyrenees from Pamplona through Eugi. It’s a road we’ve done many times before with “heavy bombers” but never with an agile and light “fighter” as the 3-Wheeler. And we were expecting this day for a long time! Because the roads we’re about to take are amongst the most beautiful we know!
Our route today is as follows:
Pamplona → Eugi (PA-30, NA-2517, PA-30, N135 & NA-138) → Saint-Étienne-de-Baïgorri (NA-138, D58 & D948) → Ossès (D948, D918 & D8) → Iholdy (D8) → Saint-Palais (D8) → Orthez (D2933, D933 & D23) → Grenade-sur-l’Adour (D947, D933, RD933S & D924) → Houeillès (D924, untagged road, D11 & D933N) → Aiguillon (D8 & D642) → Tombeboeuf (D813, D271, D126 & D120) → Montignac-de-Lauzun (D667 & D254).
It’s Saturday and the sun shines bright in an intense blue sky. And just few light white foamy clouds. We can’t ask for a better weather to drive today! We refuel after we leave Pamplona, just when we take the NA-138 direction Eugi. This is really an amazing road, probably the most beautiful to cross to France from Pamplona, with a superb green forest full of wildlife. We are lucky and cross very few vehicles. It’s a peaceful easy drive, a pure dream behind the wheel of a 3-Wheeler.
Once in France, renamed as D58, the road offers more amazing landscapes, with green hills, sheep, cows, and typical Basque country houses, before entering the deep valley of the river Nive des Aldudes, a river with crystalline waters and famous for its trout.
This time we don’t stop at our favorite spot: the Hotel Arcé in Saint-Étienne-de-Baïgorri. We have a long way to go to Montignac-de-Lauzun so we decide to keep driving.
We leave behind the French Basque Country and its curvy and hilly roads to enter the Landes. These roads are so relaxed! Long straight country roads under the shade of the trees and no traffic at all.
The 3-Wheeler purrs at 3200 rpm in fourth gear, maintaining a cruise speed close to 90 km/h. We enjoy the views, the trees, the sunny day… what a fantastic drive!
While approaching our destination, the chosen country roads get more twisted and fun for the driver.
Still relaxed and with no traffic, we make it to Au Bosq – Chas’s place in Montignac-de-Lauzun, where our mates are waiting for us with nice cold beers.
Again, Ana Maria proved today her skills as copilot and navigator. We are glad to see that the roadbook is precise, and that the timings we put on it are totally realistic. It’s more helpful to know, stopwatch in hand, how much time you have until next maneuver than just keeping an eye on the distance you’ve done since the last one. The dozens of hours creating the roadbook show to be worthy!
Steve is not there. He is still in the M3W Services workshop, close-by. We are staying at his place, so we finish our beers and go to Steve & Annette’s place to say hello before dinner, that will be hold at Au Bosq tonight. The following video shows the entrance road to Steve & Annette’s and… M3W Services! Simply heaven for any Morgan 3-Wheeler 5-speeder. Here is where the magic is done!
We have a fantastic dinner at Au Bosq. Beers, wine, our Spanish cold meats and cheese, tasty German sausages bring by Mario, duck confits and many other nice delicatessens. We don’t walk but roll into bed that night!
Day 3 – September the 5th: hangar works at M3W Services
Today we’re not driving, but staying at Montignac-de-Lauzun. This Southwest France area is so quiet and relaxing!
But we’re not laying on the grass sunbathing! It’s working time! Chas and Steve decided some months ago to create their own specialized 3-Wheeler workshop: M3W Services. They transformed Steve’s old garage and workshop into the 5-speeders paradise that it is now. Equipped with a brand new car lift and all imaginable tools, it’s the dreamed mancave for any 3-Wheeler’s lover. Ana Maria comes and goes, but stays most of the time working outside the house, while I’m with Steve, Mario and Chas in the garage.
The first thing I see entering the garage is Steve’s 3-Wheeler. But then I walk in a little bit more, see left and… OMG! Their secret project 3-Wheeler is there! They talked about it few times in the chat, and yesterday night they talked about it again. And now I can see it. Wow!
At first sight, it’s a black and orange Morgan 3-Wheeler. The color scheme is inspired in the Bugatti Veyron special edition Super Sport Carbon Black-Orange.
But apart the sporty color scheme, the keen eye of a 5-speeder owner immediately spots big differences. Walking around the car, the first details I can see are: the S&S black edition engine, a beautiful pair of frontal Ohlins with customized orange springs, orange seat belts, and the orange heat shields covering the straight totally free black exhausts. Also carbon fiber mudguards over the orange Turrino wheels with Michelin Commander tyres, carbon fiber air intake filter cover, LED front lights… I’m drooling.
But I knew that this car wasn’t special just for the aesthetics. So, I got deep into it with plenty of questions to those mechanical geniuses. And the complete technical description is simply jaw-dropping. If you’re a 3-Wheeler lover, please read carefully the following dream list:
- New S&S black edition engine
- Cerakoted cam chest & rocker covers in black
- 569 cams
- Unlocked ECU
- OJZ exhausts cerakoted in black – OMG that sound!
- G56 carbon-kevlar air filter cover.
- Magnecor plug leads.
- M3W Services fuel system.
- M3W Services rear disc brake. YES REAR DISC BRAKE!
- Bleazey Centa drive conversion.
- Uprated clutch
- G56 carbon-kevlar mudguards.
- Turrino aluminium tubeless lightweight rims.
- Michelin Commander tyres.
- Krazy Horse Empire Kit.
- Front Ohlins suspension in orange color.
- Back Ohlins suspension.
- Orange seat belts.
- Carbon fiber dash panels.
- Carbon fiber style rearview mirrors.
- Sports steering wheel.
- Rubber bonnet catches.
- Relocated battery to passenger’s footwell.
- BOSCH large capacity battery
- LED headlights.
- LED mini indicators.
- Cut lower windscreens.
- Black roll hoops.
- Black quilted interior upholstery.
It’s mean, it’s fast, it’s loud, and it has all the possible extras to make it totally reliable. It doesn’t matter if you like the color scheme or not, or if you think it’s too loud,,, these are secondary subjects! Because what’s not debatable is that this is the ultimate version of a 3-Wheeler taken to the – reasonable – limit.
What a machine! I’m still drooling while writing down this post. But the best of it, is that all these upgrades can be fitted in all the existing 5-speeders! Please Santa Claus, add many of these upgrades to my wish list!
By the way, if someone is interested, M3W Services has this rocket for sale!
Let’s stop dreaming and come back to reality… There is work to do! We need to remove my front wheels so we can change the tyres. On Mario’s car, we must install the new front Ohlins suspension and the totally customized Turrino wheels. And of course, the Black & Orange rocket needs to roll and be tested again to make sure it works fine for the trip to Grindelwald. I thought that Mario ordered nice new Turrino front aluminum wheels, but simple ones probably matching his Heritage Edition 3-Wheeler. But he always takes things to the next level! First, he has upgraded his Centa drive for a Bleazey converted unit. Really wise thing that I’ll do as soon as possible! Then the front Ohlins suspension.
But about the wheels… He has installed new G56 carbon – Kevlar mudguards but made them paint with 5 layers of paint and lacquer. They’re so well painted that you don’t know they’re carbon-fiber until you take one in your hands and feel the super lightweight! Impressive paint job! But hey! Then they unwrap his new customized Turrino wheels. Another jaw-dropping vision! Look at those wheels! An image is better than any description. Please look at that!
And yes, the mudguard you see in the picture, shining black and with the fine gold line, is a carbon-fiber one. What do you think? Isn’t beautiful?
After the “basic” jobs, it’s the turn of the Black & Orange rocket. It’s not running smooth enough. Chas takes it for a short drive, and we can clearly hear it’s misfiring. Steve connects the laptop and checks every possible problem with the S&S Protune software, but there is something wrong beyond a simple ECU map adjustment… Steve analyses carefully all the parts of the engine, and he decides to change the intake unit. It might be one of the sensors it has that is wrong and causing the misfires. I help him to change it for a new intake unit and then start again the engine to see how it goes. Bingo! No more misfires. Still a couple of very fine and delicate adjustments to the throttle / intake unit, and the terrible misfiring sound becomes a mellow loud purr. Is the car ready for action? Steve then takes it for a short drive. From the garage we can hear the sound while he is kicking down the throttle pedal on the roads around Montignac-de-Lauzun. And it’s simply amazing. He comes back looking 20 years younger! Probably the speed and acceleration made the airflow on his face act like a lifting. I think he lost some hair in the process too, probably ripped off by the wind. Or was he that bold earlier?
The day is ending, and all the cars are ready for the race. What a fantastic day. “Vive Montignac-de-Lauzun and M3W Services!”
We go to Au Bosq again for dinner. And again, what a dinner! If we stay a couple more days here, we’ll need an extension belt for the 3-Wheeler… if we manage to get in it! Chas and Chris made a delicious pork leg in the AGA. Juicy and with this nice crackling all over… Just look at this Pavlova we had for dessert…
During dinner, we receive excellent news from Charles: he is still in the UK but packing his things into the Morgan. He is joining us tomorrow en route! Great! Tomorrow we’ll be five 3-Wheelers on the road by the end of the day!
Day 4 – September 6th: Au Bosq to Salzuit
The night before we packed everything but the essentials for the night and morning. We’re ready! But there is a first task to be done before we take the cars to Au Bosq for departure: we need to go to Miramont-de-Guyenne to change our front tyres. The wheels were taken off the Morgan yesterday, and Chas comes to pick me at 07h30. We drive fifteen minutes and we’re at the tyre workshop as they open. They quickly remove our old Avons and put the new ones and balance both wheels. In less than one hour, total, we’re back to the M3W Services garage putting the wheels back with the new tyres and then the mudguards.
Now let’s go to Au Bosq for the short briefing and the takeoff! The cars are all clean and polished. The day looks fantastic, with a nice mild temperature and sunny weather forecast.
We fire the engines. All four 3-Wheelers are purring, shining under the fresh morning sun. Ana Maria has the roadbook ready, stopwatch in hand. Let’s go!
The route today will be as follows:
Au Bosq (Montignac de Lauzun) → Castillonès (D254, D227, D145 & D254) → Villeréal (D2) → Prats-du-Périgord (D104, D2, D660 &, D58) → Salviac (D54, D13, D63 & D673) → Saint-Chamarand (D673, D81, D12 & D17) → Gramat (D704, D2, Untagged road & D807) → Saint-Céré (D840, D807 & D673) → Laroquebrou (D673, D31, Untagged road & D653) → Jussac (D653, D18, D461, D59 & D922) → Chateau d’Anjony (D922 & D160) → Mandailles (D60, D35, D246 & D17) → Massiac (D317 & N122) → Brioude (D909 & D588) → Salzuit (D912 & N102).
The roads chosen are the favorite type of our squadron: small country roads with no traffic, crossing woods and small charming French villages.
It’s important to comment that even the smaller road in this part of France has an excellent tarmac. It’s extremely rare to find a pothole. They might not have white painting or be really narrow, but the surface is always amazingly good. It’s a pure pleasure to drive.
The squadron progresses reasonably fast and smoothly through the French countryside. Most of these roads aren’t so demanding when it comes to driving, so we can enjoy magnificent views. The sight of another castle on the top of a hill announces we’re about to cross another village. Old French houses, cars from the seventies and antique tractors working the fields transport us to a different era, far away from the stress of the modern cities.
This morning Charles told us that he expects to join the squadron when we’ll cross the A20 motorway, nearby Montfaucon. But when we slow down and stop to check on his progress, we find out he got a puncture! He managed to take the Morgan to a garage on a flatbed truck and repair the flat tyre. So, he is late on schedule. He won’t catch up until late evening, probably at the hotel in Salzuit.
The navigation has been perfect. No mistakes and the accurate roadbook are helping a lot. And of course, Ana Maria’s readings and indications. Now we’re approaching an interesting milestone: the Chateau D’Anjony. She tells me we’ll have to take right a small road towards the chateau, crossing a beautiful dense forest. She says she’ll tell me exactly when to turn. My anxiety makes me take right a little bit earlier, in another small road few meters before the correct one. The whole squadron follows. Ana Maria tells me I turned wrong, but stubborn as I am I think that the road will take us to the chateau. After a nice circle, crossing a small village, and come back to the place where I did wrong, we’re on the right path again. I suffer a couple of jokes and laughs from our colleagues while I admit I did wrong and should listen to her more carefully.
Once we stop by the Chateau D’Anjony, admiring the views, both Ana Maria and I tell each other that we smell something funny. Like burnt caramel. We can’t see anything wrong and guess it’s just the car that is really hot after few hours driving. We continue towards Saint-Jacques-des-Blats.
Before the village, we stop for a soft drink and coffees. Still, this burnt smell… Then Steve spots the problem! Oh no! A classic: the front right indicator support has broken. And of course, the indicator felt over the exhaust, melting like a marshmallow. That’s the burnt caramel smell! Bad luck. But it’s not a fatal failure. No big deal, so we simply cut the wires and keep the melt indicator in Steve’s boot. We’ll get a new one and fix that when we’ll be back in Madrid.
After the short break, we keep moving. We still have more beautiful roads ahead! We’ve been driving for almost four hours, but we are all still fresh!
The roads and the speed are comfortable. Nicely twisted and demanding on some sections, but mostly relaxed with no traffic and fun to drive.
We finally arrive to our destination: the Hotel Domaine Saint Roch, at Salzuit. It’s a beautiful hotel, super quiet – despite the loud 3-Wheelers’ exhausts – built on a XVIII century old building. We park the Morgan in the entrance yard, near to the medieval tower. A beautiful scenery.
We’re having a beer at the terrasse, just a little more than half an hour after we arrived, when we hear the unmistakable sound of a 3-Wheeler. Charles is here! Excellent news! We’re happy to meet our friend again, safe, and happy after his solo journey from the UK, despite the flat tyre.
Now the squadron is almost complete. We still miss Rob, but he has another great compromise this year: a vintage motorcycle race in Imola. He won’t come to Grindelwald this year, but he writes us in the chat and says he’s joining us for dinner tomorrow in Annecy! More great news!
After Charles gets into his room, we drive to the little village of La Chomette for dinner. Because it’s Monday (restaurants are normally closed on Monday in France) the only recommendable restaurant open today is there. La Crèche offers a classic local menu from the region – Auvergne – for a fair price.
We enjoy a nice dinner with local beer and exchange our impressions of the day. We are all really happy with the roads chosen and the accurate navigation by Ana Maria. The Speedy Marmots we are proud of the work done with the chosen routes and the huge roadbook!
Day 5 –September the 7th: Salzuit to Annecy
We slept really nice in this hotel. We highly recommend the Domaine Saint Roch to anyone who wants a quiet and peaceful place in this area.
After a nice breakfast we’re all ready to go. We’ll have another sunny day. Now with five 3-Wheelers, the squadron fires the engines at 10h00.
Today the route we’ve planned is as follows:
Salzuit → Allègre (N102 & D40) → Saint-Paulien (D13) → Lavoute-sur-Loire (D25) → Yssingeaux (D7, D72 & D103) → Riotord (D105 & D501) → Serrières (D503, D1082 & D820) → Val-de-Virieu (D4, D51, D37, D51, D51K & D17) → Les Abrets en Dauphiné (D73 & D1006) → Peyrieu (D592 & D992) → Praz (D24A, D31B, D1504, D992, D904, D921 & D57) → Albens (D991, D991B & D991C) → Annecy (D1201, D5, D141, D241 & D41).
Just after we leave the hotel, we make a stop to refuel. Now we all have our fuel tanks full of gasoline, and we’re ready for more action! As soon as we leave the N102 and enter the small country roads of the Southern part of the Natural Parc of the Livradois-Forez, the fun starts. Nice little country roads, with no traffic, nice tarmac, and beautiful landscapes. And with some sections with demanding hairpins. What else can a 3-Wheeler driver ask for?
After one hour and a half driving on these beautiful roads, we make a “technical” stop in Montfaucon-en-Veley. As usual, the five Morgans parked in front of the café attire many curious people. The 3-Wheeler is not a usual machine. And having five together with French, Spanish, German and British plates is a rare show.
Now we’re driving into the plain of the River Rhone. The roads get more relaxed, and we can speed up driving down to the valley of this big river. We cross it on a beautiful bridge at Serrières.
And then we continue on nice roads to Val-de-Virieu, where we stop to refuel and grab a sandwich. As it’s already very late for lunch in France, we park the Morgans at the main square of the village in front of the church, and Chas goes to a nearby supermarket to buy the sandwiches and soft drinks. It’s a calm and nice village, and we eat peacefully under the shade of the big trees. And we have a public toilet conveniently situated in the main square.
After this nice light lunch, we hit the road again. Now we’re driving by the River Rhone, cross it a few times, and reach the shores of the Bourget Lake. Here we take a very narrow road that climbs the cliffs by the lake, to cross to the other side where is Annecy. The views are breathtaking. It’s a pity that our GoPro is fixed looking forward, and the second one with the short handle is in the boot!
Once we’re on the other side, we take another beautiful road that takes us to Annecy through a very dense forest. Again, we’re lucky as we cross very few vehicles. We feel like we’re driving on a private road!
Once we’re in Annecy, we reach the hotel relatively fast despite the traffic. We’re staying at the Hotel Allobroges. We chose this one because it’s very centric, so we can walk to the beautiful old city center and the shores of the lake, and because it offers private parking. Having the Morgans sleeping in a safe place is important, and even more if we’re staying in a relatively large touristic city such as Annecy. The parking that this hotel offers, is not only an underground private parking with security cameras, but on the top of that each car inside the parking has its own private closed box. There is no better and safer place in Annecy to park your car for the night!
Charles is not staying with us at the same hotel. He decided to remember his childhood sleeping in a camping! He has a tent in his 3-Wheeler and missed the last beautiful road entering Annecy as he went looking for a clean camping. We make few jokes about the camping offering hot water and clean toilets or banning him for dinner. But apparently it’s a really nice spot and he seems happy to spend the night in the tent.
After doing our check-in and having a quick shower, Rob contacts us saying he is already in Annecy with his sister and his niece’s one year old charming Labrador retriever. They came from Courchevel driving his beautiful red Triumph TR4 to join us for dinner. After some nice beers at the hotel, we walk through Annecy’s old city center to the lake shore, crossing some of its canals. This city is known as the “Venice of the Alps”, and it’s really a beautiful place.
We walk towards the lake, enjoying the narrow streets and small bridges over the canals of Annecy. We decide to sit down at a very nice terrasse. Charles joins us just one beer after we’re sitting. The bistrot is called La Taverne de Maitre Kanter, just by the main canal between the Pont Perrière and the road bridge, in front of the Saint François de Sales church. Superb spot!
We all enjoy a fantastic dinner here by the main canal, just by the lake. The size of the main courses is quite impressive! But the best as always is the good company. The squadron is almost complete!
We say almost, because we miss Ari, Charles’s wife. Another brave copilot! She joined us last year but couldn’t make it this one. We hope to see her again soon!
After this generous dinner, we walk with Rob and his sister and the dog to their car. It’s a pity he is not driving with us this year, but his plan for Imola with his vintage Norton racing motorcycle looks like a superb plan too!
We make our way back to the hotel. This city looks even more beautiful by night with its old buildings lightened and the terrasses of all the bistrots crowded.
What a beautiful day! Nice and funny roads, amazing landscapes, excellent destination, and better dinner with friends! We hope all days could be like today!
Day 6 – September the 8th: Annecy to Grindelwald
We wake up in a fresh and sunny morning! Again, the weather forecast from Annecy to Grindelwald is very good. We shouldn’t see a cloud! Just blue skies.
We load the Morgans and get ready to fire the engines. It’s a Wednesday, and we don’t expect much traffic. Probably only when we drive by Thonons les Bains and Evian. We’re avoiding entering Geneva and will cross the border to Switzerland in the southern shore of the Leman Lake. The route planned for today is this one:
Annecy → Nâves-Parmelan (D5) → Thorens-Glières (D5) → La Roche sur Foron (D2) → Évian-les-Bains (D903, D1206, D903 & D1005) → Saint-Gingolph (D1005) → Aigle (21, H144, 9 & 11) → Saanen (11) → Thun (11, 9, 11, 9, Simmentalstrasse, Gwattstutz & 6) → Interlaken (Hofstettenstrasse, Staatstrasse, Längenschachen, Seestrasse, 9 & 6) → Wilderswil (Wagnerenstrasse, Unspunnenstrasse & Rugenstrasse) → Grindelwald (Grenchenstrasse, Haupstrasse, Stegmatte & Grindelwaldstrasse).
We cross Annecy looking for the D5 towards Nâves-Parmelan. No traffic this time of the day: it’s 10h00. The Morgans roll smoothly through the streets and avenues and finally take the D5. What a surprising road! It’s beautiful! We’re climbing uphill on a nice tarmac, crossing very few cars coming down to Annecy. Green hills, beautiful houses, dense forests… we really don’t feel we’re just minutes away from a city the size of Annecy!
After packing his tent, Charles reconnects with the squadron up in Thorens-Glières. Perfect time coordination! We cross the village and continue uphill towards La Roche sur Foron. This road is truly beautiful. So quiet and peaceful! The landscapes are relaxing and the road not too demanding, which we appreciate being the first section of our route today.
After we cross La Roche sur Foron, the roads get a little bit ugly, as we’re forced to take fast lanes and some short parts of the motorway to get around Thonons and reach the Leman Lake’s shore before entering Évian-les-Bains. The road / street along the lake shore is really nice. The traffic gets slow in Évian, but that’s normal as we’re crossing a big village and there is only this main street taking us to the Swiss border.
We refuel in Évian and then go to Saint-Gindolph to enter Swizterland. Steve is warned that he must pass the border at idle or even stop his engine, as the Black & Orange rocket he is driving can be really loud! But we pass without any problem. We’re not even stopped, and the Swiss border policeman simply smiles and cheers the Morgans as we pass by. Few meters after crossing the border, we kick down the right pedal and the 3-Wheelers roar loud again.
Our next stop is Aigle. This Swiss village has a beautiful castle in the middle of vineyards.
We will meet there a new 3-Wheeler owner: Pedro Freitas. He lives in Montreux, and we will meet in person for the first time. As we chatted via WhatsApp frequently, the 3-Wheeler made us already friends, and he wanted to join our squadron at Aigle and get together to Grindelwald. Pedro was waiting us there with his wife Victoria and their dog Raul.
And another good surprise is that Didier and his red-devilish 3-Wheeler is there too with Pedro, waiting for us! So nice to have two more “fighters” joining our squadron on the way to Grindelwald!
Didier’s 3-Wheeler, and Didier himself with his outfits, are fantastic! Such a nice character!
We rest for half an hour, the time to conversate and grab some watermelon that Pedro offers to us. Once everyone is re-energized, we get again into our cockpits and prepare to leave town.
We drive downhill from Aigle’s castle, slow and carefully, as the streets are narrow within this old medieval town.
Then we take the road across the vineyards, and the landscape when we get closer to the hills gets even more beautiful. The classic landscape with green hills, and a dream road with nice hairpins across valleys and forests of the Gruyère region. Can it be more Swiss?
We reach Saanen and we can see the Gstaad airport. Now the road goes along the Kleine Simme River. It’s easy and relaxed to drive, and we’re enjoying fantastic landscapes on our way to Thun, the city on the western extreme of the Thunersee Lake.
Today we decided to drive to Interlaken taking the Northen shore of the Thunersee Lake. It’s more a street than a road along the lake’s shore. But despite the traffic and speed limit, it’s a really pleasant drive.
Then, at the entrance of Interlaken, we take the shortcut right uphill to Wilderswil, and from there we continue to Grindelwald.
After we pass Wilderwil we let Chas take the lead of the squadron, as he knows exactly how to get to the parking of the hotel in Grindelwald. It’s nice to have a 3-Wheeler in front of us because it can be seen in our GoPro footage!
We’re finally arrived! We do the check-in at the Hotel Bernerhof and get into our room for a quick shower. But first, we go on our balcony and admire the views. What a beautiful place! The views are breathtaking today. As it’s sunny and with very few clouds we can see all the peaks around.
After the shower and getting comfortable at this hotel where we’ll stay four nights, we go downstairs and walk around the village. It’s a typical area focused on winter sports, but of course also an excellent spot for summer hiking and many other activities.
Looking at the landscapes and the views over the Eiger, the Mönch, the Grünhorn, the Jungfrau, and other surrounding mountains, we totally understand why it’s such a famous and nice place.
We meet other 3-Wheeler owners that, like us, have already arrived to Grindelwald, and have some beers and a nice dinner. After dinner, we come back to the terrace of the Kreuz & Post Hotel and meet more 3-Wheeler owners. We finally meet Laurens and Rineke, the organizers of this fabulous yearly event. It’s nice to know other crazy pilots and share our experiences and be here all together. Laurens says he expects we’ll be twenty-two to twenty-five 3-Wheelers this year! We’re anxious to see so many together! Time to go to bed and get ready for the adventure tomorrow.
Day 7 – September the 9th: Grindelwald
We had a nice sleep, but we wake up early as we’re nervous for today. It’s our first day at Grindelwald! After last year’s attempt, frustrated by the Covid-19 restrictions imposed by the Swiss authorities, we’re finally here with the Morgan 3-Wheeler! The departure for today’s trip is scheduled at 10h00. But we all want to be at the meeting point earlier! It’s the moment to meet and know all other pilots and see their machines. So, we want to be there at 09h00.
After a quick fast breakfast, we go downstairs to the parking early to wash the cars. Everyone wants his “fighter” to look clean and shiny. It rained early this morning, but now it seems that we’ll have a sunny day!
The cleaning and drying operation takes a good half an hour before we’re totally satisfied. Cleaning the spoked wheels and the engine is the hardest task. Mainly the engine, because of the roasted insects stuck between the cylinders’ fins.
After removing all the smashed bugs, dust, and other dirt from our 3-Wheelers, we fire the engines and move to the meeting point. This is above the main big parking, in front of the hotel. Normally it’s a closed area just for pedestrians, but Laurens and Rineke have the right contacts to get it open for us. So, all the 3-Wheelers can gather there with plenty of space and no other vehicles around.
We are twenty-one Morgan 3-Wheelers this morning. It’s an impressive show. Lots of curious people are looking and taking pictures of our little rockets while we introduce ourselves to the other owners.
It’s easy to see that we’re all quite unique. There are not two 3-Wheelers that look the same! Some of the customizations are incredible. And of course, some of the outfits are spectacular! We love Didier and Caroline’s devilish style in total harmony with their hell-machine!
A couple of small dogs, of course many copilots, a huge teddy bear… the pilots and crews are all really special.
But soon we’re getting nervous… We can hear all the S&S engines singing together “Start me up!”.
Let’s go! We align the Morgans and get ready to hit the road. It’s the first time we drive with such a huge squadron of 3-Wheelers. We hope it’s going to be easy, and that no one gets detached and lost.
But very soon, just after we jump on the cockpits and run the few meters out from the meeting point, we see that Laurens and Rineke are the best possible pack leaders! Rineke gets up the street and crosses her 3-Wheeler in front of the incoming traffic, blocking the street for us, with strong authority. She’s the ultimate Swiss traffic commander! All 3-Wheelers take off one after the other in perfect order while the pedestrians and the stopped drivers watch astonished the huge squadron. When we’re all out, Rineke closes the formation, and as soon as she can, she passes all of us to get in front to repeat the same blockage maneuver in the next crossings and roundabouts. No Swiss driver dares to protest! If a powerful-looking woman behind the wheel of a mean machine crosses it in front of you, while twenty other “fighters” pass fast as lightning and roaring like hell… would you protest? You better don’t!
The route planned for this morning is as follows:
Grindelwald → Wilderswil → Interlaken → Merligen → Gunten → Sigriswil → Eriz → Oberlangenegg → Schallenberg Pass
Driving downhill from Grindelwald to Wilderwil and Interlaken, we can see that the rhythm is fast. Good news. It seems that we are all comfortable driving at Laurens’s speed. Then when we take the road on the North part of the Thunersee Lake.
We must slow down because of the speed limit. We drove this road yesterday, but we don’t mind repeating as it’s a beautiful drive. And this time we’re a huge Squadron!
And as soon as we start climbing uphill from the lake, at Gunten, we enjoy narrow roads with no traffic.
This is such a special moment for us! Our first time in Grindelwald with so many 3-Wheelers on these beautiful roads!
We pass some bridges with traditional alpine wood ceiling. We’re enjoying the drive, the scenery, the company.
That’s a fantastic experience we highly recommend to every Morgan 3-Wheeler owner.
We enjoy the beautiful drive up to the Schallenberg Pass, where we stop for lunch.
The restaurant is the only one up here: the Gabelspitz Schallenberg. Simple and nice typical Swiss lunch with the corresponding beer – only one; we’re driving! But please don’t ask about the size of the jar… – and a nice opportunity to chat with the others.
We really like the restaurant. And we can eat outside at the terrace as the weather is still sunny and warm. This has been a fantastic morning. But we need to continue! Laurens tells us that we have more beautiful roads to drive now, and with breathtaking views over the lake! Let’s go!
The afternoon itinerary is planned as follows:
Schallenberg Pass → Siehen → Röthenbach → Oberei → Thun → Heilingenschwendi → Tschingel → Gunten → Interlaken → Grindelwald
As you can see in the previous video we have a little bit of confusion at Röthenbach. Laurens misses the turn left and the whole squadron must do a 180º turn within the village. Not an easy task with a 3-Wheeler! If you ask why, just know that we always make the same joke: it has the same turning radius than the Queen Mary…
This happens when we cross a beautiful Jaguar XK150. The driver sees us, and he also makes a 180º turn to follow us, just when he finds out we’re changing direction too. A funny moment that allows us to enjoy the view of many of our 3-Wheelers coming towards us and a little bit of chaos, and of course again the superb Jaguar XK150.
We continue driving direction Thun, and the roads get more demanding, getting narrow and curvy within the woods. When we get out of the woods, we’re surprised with breathtaking views over the lake, as Laurens said. What an excellent itinerary!
We finally drive down to the lake’s shore and head back to Grindelwald. This is such perfect day! We’re so happy to be here with all the rest of the 3-Wheelers owners!
Driving behind Jürgen’s 3-Wheeler, with his huge teddy bear as copilot is hilarious. The teddy bear is called Pierre (check his Instagram account mog_bear_pierre), and depending on the speed and curves, Pierre waves his right arm saluting everyone. A brilliant funny copilot this Pierre! We love it!
We arrive back to Grindelwald and park the cars at the meeting point to discuss about the day and exchange our impressions about the afternoon drive. Everyone has a huge smile on his face. What a great day!
Laurens and Rineke remind us that we must be here again soon. At 19h00 we’ll take off again and climb to the Männlichen restaurant at 2.222 meters of altitude! This said, we go back to the hotel and have a shower. Then join Chas, Mario, Steve, Charles and Andy for a beer at the terrace of our hotel, enjoying the views. We talk again about the day and the cars, relax, and enjoy the views of the Alps. Pure holidays!
It’s time to get to the meeting point, ready to drive again.
And what a drive! It’s really a steep service road uphill, very narrow, and with a last part a little rough.
Laurens warns us to drive carefully and slow the last section, avoiding as much as possible the central bumps. Yes that’s a negative point of driving a 3-Wheeler: in small service or dirt roads, you always have two clear lines for the front wheels, “cleaned” by the tyres of normal vehicles circulating on them. But the center of the road can be really dirt with stones, plants and roots, and it’s where your rear wheel must go if you’re driving a 3-Wheeler!
This small service road is impressive. Really steep and beautiful. We’re driving uphill slowly, passing below the gondola cable car that takes you to the First peak. The village of Grindelwald gets smaller and smaller deep in the valley below…
When we’re arriving to the top, we have a little bit of rain. Nothing serious. The weather has respected us all day, but now, being so high in the mountain, we’re literally into the clouds and a light rain drops gently over our Morgans.
The ambience at the Männlichen restaurant is so good again, with all the group sitting in many different tables chatting and having fun. It’s been an incredible day, and this climbing to the 2.222 m altitude for dinner was the cherry on top of the cake!
But hey! Now it’s time to come back to Grindelwald! Oh yes… It’s dark, wet, and the only way down is the same service road we took up here! But nothing can scare us 3-Wheeler pilots! Start the engines, lights on, and slowly driving downhill, avoiding smashing the many toes that, attired by the warm and wet tarmac, jump in front of our light beams. And of course, paying attention not to drive over one of the huge anti-tank mines on the road… I mean the fresh massive cow “deposits” and their unique “Eau de Vache” scent.
We all make it back safely to Grindelwald. Our little group decides to pass by the Shell petrol station to refuel. Now with the tanks full of the nice 100 octane Swiss gasoline, we’re ready for tomorrow. We park the Morgans at our reserved spot behind the hotel and walk to the Kreuz & Post Hotel terrace for the last drink of the day.
Day 8 – September the 10th: Grindelwald
We wake up today with dark clouds menacing rain. But nothing will stop us from enjoying another big day with all our friends! We join the big squadron before 10h00 at the meeting point. Many pilots are already there.
We align our 3-Wheeler with the others, and walk around the cars, talk to our friends and know more about their machines and the people. It’s nice to hear their stories and experiences.
Little by little the other 3-Wheelers wake up in their garages and join the squadron. It seems that Pedro’s machine was possessed by a demon today! Was it too close to Didier’s devil-tailed 3-Wheeler? We love this picture!
Laurens tells us that we shouldn’t worry that much about the rain, because Grindelwald is such a narrow valley, in the middle of huge high peaks, that it has its own climate. Now it’s wet here, but we’ll probably have sunshine after we leave the valley. We take the raincoats and get ready for scattered showers, just in case. But it’s not that cold. In fact, I’m just wearing a short-sleeve shirt underneath my thin raincoat.
The route planned for this morning takes us to the Western side of Thun.
Grindelwald → Wilderswil → Interlaken → Leissigen → Krattigen → Aeschi bei Spiez → Wimmis → Reutigen → Niederstocken → Oberstocken → Blumenstein → Wattenwil → Gurnigel Pass → Sangernboden → Schwarzsee Stärn restaurant.
Pilots and copilots get ready, including the two dogs and of course Pierre the teddy bear. We jump into the Morgans and fire the engines. It’s time to go!
As expected, the road is wet, and we have very light rain while we’re leaving the Grindelwald valley. But nothing uncomfortable. As Laurens said, once we’re out of the valley it stops raining. The day is still cloudy, but it doesn’t rain. The roads get dry soon.
The driving today is fast and comfortable. This morning the roads are not as twisted and demanding as they were yesterday, but they are so beautiful again!
The Swiss landscape is really special. It’s looks so green to us! In Madrid the weather is very dry, and the green color is not so common on our landscapes and country roads. And those Swiss wood houses with their flowers on the balconies are so unique!
We slow down in a couple of places to admire the views. The mountains here are not as tall as the high peaks in Grindelwald, but worth to slow down and take some pictures.
We’re getting closer to our noon destination when the squadron stops. A traffic jam on this road? Is it roadworks? We’re blocked by… a herd of goats! They take their time to cross the road, with their bells hanging around the neck tinkling. A big black and white ram watches us with unfriendly attitude.
After this peculiar pause, we kick the right pedal again and reach the Schwarzsee, a nice little lake, and stop for lunch.
The restaurant is in a beautiful spot, just by the little lake. We get in for lunch, as it’s still cloudy and the terrace is not open because it might rain.
We park the 3-Wheelers properly aligned, as a good and disciplined squadron. As usual, we have some curious people gathering around the cars and asking many questions about these amazing machines.
When we’re talking with the others, we realize that two cars are missing: Andy’s green one and Steve’s Black & Orange rocket. Maybe a failure? Chas checks out sending a message to Steve’s mobile phone. He has an answer: Andy’s regulator failed. Fortunately, Andy noticed that the voltage shown on the dashboard was inappropriate: too low! Because he suffered this same failure before, he recognized the symptoms. So, he stopped to change it before draining the battery. The good point – lesson to be learned – is that Andy always carries a spare regulator in his 3-Wheeler. Experience is so valuable in a 3-Wheeler! Andy knows how to replace it on the side of the road, but Steve stopped too, and helped him changing the regulator in less than 15 minutes! It’s so nice to have such a skilled mechanic in the group!
We have an excellent meal. The steak is really good. When we want to pay with our credit card, we’re told they only accept cash. Thankfully Chas has enough Swiss Francs to cover our meals. Another lesson learned: always take cash with you. In Switzerland, still many places, in isolated areas as this one, only accept cash!
We’re back in our cars and ready for the afternoon route. It should go like this:
Schwarzsee Stärn restaurant → Zolhaus → Plaffeien → Zumholz → Schwarzenburg → Ruti bei Riggisberg → Plötsch → Burgistein → Wattenwil → Forst bei Längenbühl → Thierachern → Amsoldingen → Wimmis → Spiez → Interlaken → Grindelwald.
We start the engines and align the Morgans, ready to go. Laurens takes the lead, and the fun starts again!
We’re lucky because it’s not raining, despite the menacing clouds above our heads. We’re driving fast again, and we have some nice hairpins and curves on the road. A really nice drive.
But then, an aspect of the physiology of the human body begins to reach its limit… We both had sparkling water during lunch. Too much water apparently. I’m the first starting to hear the call of my bladder. But very soon after Ana Maria too. We think it’s going to be OK and we’ll resist. But kilometer after kilometer, it’s getting worse.
We’re supposed to pass around Thun to take again the fast road of the Southern side of the Thunersee Lake. But we suddenly find ourselves blocked and deviated because of important road works. The squadron is forced to drive slowly into the outskirts of Thun. While we’re driving in town, Ana Maria and I see a petrol station. We stop and jump out of the cockpit. We look desperately for a toilet. There is none! Most of the Swiss petrol stations are like the French ones: self-service and consequently no shop nor resting area and… no toilets! And we’re in town, just by the main busy street. There are no trees nor bushes to hide behind. We run into a garage near-by. The man at the front desk doesn’t even ask. Just by the look of our faces he understands and points out where their private toilet is. Thanks God he allows us to use it!
We’re detached from the squadron. But that’s not a big issue as we were all heading now back to Grindelwald using the main big road.
So, now calm and relaxed again, we make our way back to Grindelwald, talking about the maximum amount of water we may have for lunch tomorrow, and the nice and welcoming that our Spanish petrol stations are, always with a nice shop and café, and toilets…
The day is not finished! We have another nice dinner organized by Laurens and Rineke. Today we’re going to the end of the village for a classic cheese fondue. We all reunite again at the meeting point. Fewer cars, as it’s a short drive and we share cockpits. I’m driving with Mario as copilot because Ana Maria stays at the hotel. She needs to work. It’s unfortunate because she misses the dinner, but we’re happy she has a huge workload again. The last year, due to this terrible Covid-19 and the consequent restrictions, her bespoke travel agency was totally inactive. I’m happy to see her business taking off again, and stronger!
After a short drive, we align the Morgans in front of the restaurant.
Tonight, I share the table with Victoria, Caroline, Didier and Pedro. Such a nice company! We talk about a lot of subjects, but the most interesting related to the Morgans is our future trip to Morocco. Ana Maria and I have the route planned. I tell them about the country, as I know it pretty well. For leisure and business, I’ve been there more than thirty times. And for Ana Maria’s business, it’s one of the most demanded destinations, so she knows the country extremely well too. Ana Maria’s partner in Morocco told us that one of the passes we included in our route may not be in good conditions for the 3-Wheelers. So, we’ll go again soon to this beautiful country to check the roads. Didier, Caroline, Pedro and Victoria are really interested in this trip. If the situation Worldwide gets better, we hope to be in a good position to launch a solid proposal soon. And make it a reality for no later than 2023. It would be fantastic to make this trip with a nice group of 3-Wheelers!
We really enjoy this dinner. Nice white wine and the cheese fondue, that I love. I miss Ana Maria, but I know that she’s working hard, and she’ll be able to go to sleep sooner tonight.
After this lovely dinner, and this long fantastic day, we drive back to the hotel. Let’s go to sleep! Tomorrow it’s Saturday and we take off earlier. It will be a big day, plenty of mythical mountain passes!
Day 9 – September the 11th: Grindelwald
Today is a big day. It’s Saturday, and we expect more 3-Wheelers to join the squadron. So, Laurens and Rineke reserved the most mythical mountain passes for today’s route.
This is the plan for this morning:
Grindelwald → Wilderswil → Interlaken → Brienz → Schattenhalb → Innertkirchen → Gadmen → Wassen → Göschenen → Andermatt → Alp-Hittä restaurant.
We go to the meeting point earlier, as the route is longer, and we need to take off sooner.
We may encounter much more traffic than the previous days, because it’s Saturday and the sun is shining bright!
For sure many cyclists, motorcyclists and of course regular cars want to enjoy the mountain roads too.
We’re getting ready. The ambience is great again this morning. We’re twenty-five 3-Wheelers today! And the weather forecast seems to be extremely good!
We have nice chats, fix some little problems on some of the cars, and exchange ideas and thoughts in such a good ambience!
When Laurens has the confirmation that we’re all here and ready, he gives the “fire the engines” signal. We all jump into the cockpits. The engines start to roar.
We drive down to Interlaken. We’ve done this road in and out of Grindelwald now many times. It seems a routine; like a warmup, and we don’t pay the attention it deserves! Today with this sunny morning we can see its beauty. Once in Interlaken, we can see that it’s going to be a busy day. There are a lot of tourists and heavier traffic than the past two days. Here is where our route today really begins.
After crossing Interlaken, we’re going East. This time it’s the Northern shore of the Brienzersee that we’re driving. Another beautiful road. We can see many paragliders flying over the slopes of the mountains that border the lake. It is an excellent sign of good weather. It indicates that it will be stable for at least several hours.
It’s such a beautiful day! When we’re crossing Brienz, we can see the famous Brienz Rothorn Bhan, an 1892 steam train that takes you from the lake shore to the Brienzer Rothorn at 2.351 meters of altitude.
Next time we’ll come to Grindelwald, we need to stay few more days and enjoy this kind of things!
After Brienz, we leave the lake behind and head to Innertkirchen. The landscape is amazing, and we can admire some waterfalls on the sides of the mountains we drive by.
When we’re crossing Innertkirchen we can see that today they have a big festival in town. What is it? It’s the alpine descent of the cows! A very Swiss tradition that consists of decorating the cows and take them down to the valley from the surrounding Alps. We miss the cows as it’s still too early. What a pity. But hey! We have the Sustenpass to do! So, right foot down and let’s go uphill!
We’re enjoying the road and going uphill, with few cyclists and almost no traffic, when we see a medical helicopter ahead. It’s apparently static in the air, like collecting someone, and some seconds after it rushes down to the valley. The squadron is stopped immediately after. Something happened on the road ahead. After some minutes stopped we decide to switch off the engines. Whatever happened uphill seems to be serious. We get off the Morgans, we talk, relax, and take nice pictures, while waiting for some information.
After half an hour stopped, the Swiss police tells us to come back to Innertkirchen: the road will be blocked for, at least, a couple of hours more. The accident ahead was very serious. We all turn around and drive downhill.
Then, entering Innertkirchen, we are stopped again. What’s the matter now? The cows parade! We are stopped waiting for the cows to enter the village and let the road free again. We would love to walk down to the village to see the parade, but as we don’t know how long it will take them to reopen the road, we wait in the Morgans.
Laurens is concerned about the lunch. He phoned the restaurant earlier and warned them we’ll be late. And they will wait for us anyway.
As the Sustenpass is closed because of the accident, we’ll get there doing the route but the other way round. It means we’re doing now the Grimselpass and the Furkapass. So, our route this morning gets as shown here below:
Grindelwald → Wilderswil → Interlaken → Brienz → Schattenhalb → Innertkirchen → Turn around in Sustenpass → Inneertkirchen → Guttannen → Grimselpass → Gletsch → Furkapass → Realp → Hospental → Andermatt → Alp-Hittä restaurant.
We stay blocked at Innertkirchen’s entrance for another half an hour. But the scenery is beautiful and we’re with the squadron, so we enjoy more talking with the rest of the gang.
When we finally move, we can’t see any of these nicely decorated cows, but we can clearly see they passed on this same road… we must drive in short and brisk zigzags to avoid rolling over their “organic deposits”. Sometimes it’s inevitable, and we have to drive very slow to avoid the front tyres lift the fresh brown mixture up in the air and have it raining over us.
Now the squadron has a free road ahead. The blockage at Innertkirchen has this advantage! We really have no one ahead of us. Our right foot drops heavily on the right pedal and the big S&S V2 blocks roar very load as we climb fast to the Grimselpass. What an amazing road!
The Rhone River is born on the glacier on the top of this valley. This is truly a fantastic area of the Alps.
After such an amazing road, we climb the Furkapass, another mythical climbing in this valley. On our way up we stop to admire the views. The whole squadron pulls aside, and we get out of the cockpits to take nice pictures and share our enthusiasm after the Grimselpass.
As we’re taking this pause, we check if the squadron is complete. Oh oh…. We miss two cars! Kees and Alice, the Dutch couple with their matt black machine, and Didier and Caroline with their red-devil fighter aren’t here!
Despite the amazing views on the whole valley, we don’t see them on the road making their way here. Quick calls and text messages and WhatsApps, and we only get a reply from Didier. No news about Kees and Alice yet… Obviously we’re all worried about our colleagues.
Didier and Caroline are at the bottom of the Grimselpass but they have a failure. The car runs, but Didier has no response from the throttle pedal. The most probable cause is a broken throttle cable. We ask if someone has a spare throttle one, but within the chaos of being parked on the side of the road and being such a large group, we have no positive answer. Steve jumps in his Black & Orange rocket and drives back to join them.
Before he does so, Laurens gives him the appropriate indications to get to the restaurant. It’s useless that the rest of us wait here, and we’re already late for lunch, so we decide to move forward. We really hope that Steve’s magic mechanical skills solve the problem, and Didier and Caroline manage to rejoin the squadron.
We make our way to Andermatt. We enter the village to take the road that climbs up to the Oberalppass. And on our way up we stop at the Alp-Hittä restaurant for lunch.
After we park all the Morgans, we check with Steve if he has joined Didier and Caroline. It’s confirmed: broken throttle cable. And they have no spare. Steve is trying his best to find a solution. There is nothing we can do but wait.
So, we get to the terrace and sit for lunch. The place is really nice. The views are breathtaking, and the terrace is the ideal spot for a sunny summer day like today.
We’re having a light salad and pizzas but can’t stop worrying about the missing cars. As the news about Didier and Caroline’s broken throttle cable spread properly amongst us, we get a nice surprise: one of the pilots has a spare throttle cable! Great news!
We try to contact with Steve and Didier, but we have no reply. Maybe they have no mobile phone signal, or maybe they’re on their way here? Who knows! We’re nervous and keep trying to contact them. Then, we hear the characteristic roar of the Black & Orange rocket, followed by another S&S V2 big block. Steve, Didier and Caroline are driving uphill towards us!
How did Steve managed to fix the broken throttle cable? Well… he didn’t! But then, how managed Didier to get here? The temporary fixing is impressive for many reasons. Just read and tell us if the whole set isn’t brilliant!
The cable broke at the pedal end. It was cut just by its metallic end head, that got stuck in the pedal fixing hole. As there was no way to fix this at the pedal end, he removed the urban cooling kit from the back of the engine to have access to the cable at this other end. Then he decided to pull the cable off its sleeve. The cable was clearly too short to be re-routed inside the car to the pedal. So, he tied the end of the short throttle cable to an electric wire he carries in his 3-Wheeler as a spare. And takes it over the bonnet, and between the two windscreens, so Didier can accelerate pulling by hand the cable. And to avoid it scratching the bonnet, they use a towel that Didier and Caroline carry in their 3-Wheeler and put it over the bonnet. The towel and the improvised hand-throttle cable are hold with the leather bonnet strap of Didier and Caroline’s Morgan. The fan and cover of the urban cooling kit are totally removed, and Steve will carry them in his passenger’s footwell. Simply brilliant, isn’t it?
But Steve is not the only “hero” of this story! What do you think about Didier? Hey! He drove the Furkapass pulling the throttle cable by hand, changing gears with his left hand while he kept the steering wheel straight with his right knee, perfectly coordinating the acceleration and the clutch! In the Furkapass! And the most impressive of it all, is that no one passed them nor was even stuck behind them on the road! Amazing driving skills Didier! Impressive driving and impressive attitude! They can finally enjoy the lunch with all of us.
We finally get some news from Kees and Alice: their Centa rollers failed. As they haven’t done yet the Belazey modification, this is, very unfortunately, the end of the trip for them. Sadly, there is no way to fix the rollers on their car without removing the engine, and this means one or even two full days of work in a proper garage with a skilled mechanic and the appropriate tools. What a pity! They have called their road assistance and the car will be taken back to The Netherlands. Sad news for everyone. No one likes to see a squadron colleague “shot down” by this kind of fatal failure.
Coming back to Didier & Caroline’s problem, we check the spare throttle cable we have. Steve is not very convinced to be able to change it here, as the broken end head seems to be stuck in the pedal hole. He estimates it can take one hour to be fixed. But we check the footwell and the pedals after lunch, and with Steve and Chas at the front and me diving into the footwell to put back the pedal spring, Steve manages to change it in a little more than ten minutes!
When Didier fires his engine and accelerates it like if nothing happened, all the crowd applauses and cheers! Great job again Steve! Now it’s time to come back to Grindelwald via the Sustenpass that we couldn’t take this morning. The route back is promising too!
It will go like this; identical to the one we should have done in the morning, but the other way round:
Alp-Hittä restaurant → Andermatt→ Göschenen → Wassen → Gadmen → Innertkirchen → Schattenhalb → Brienz → Interlaken → Wilderswil → Grindelwald.
We go downhill to reach again Andermatt, and from there we head to the Sustenpass. The road starts with a series of covered sections to protect it from the snow and possible avalanches in winter. There is a little bit of traffic in this section. But as soon as we deviate towards the Sustenpass, the traffic gets much better, and the road opens again with more amazing alpine views.
We’re enjoying again these classic narrow and curvy roads, and fortunately with not too much traffic. So, the squadron can progress fast and smoothly through the mountains.
Despite we’re at very high altitudes and driving through all these mountain passes, the weather is fantastic. The sun is shining, and the road is dry and nice. However, when we’re in the shade of the mountains or within the dense forest, the air at some speeds is fresh, so we wear our raincoat to be more comfortable.
Another good thing of driving on this kind of roads, is that you cross many special nice cars. Of all kinds: from old classics to new modern super sports ones. At the top of the Sustenpass we see this lovely Fiat Cinquecento. What a brave driver to climb up here with this tiny old car!
Reaching the top of the Sustenpass is a beautiful experience today. The low clouds cover the top and we come in and out of them. A really nice driving experience. Only then we have a few raindrops. But it’s not really rain, but just that we’re too close to the clouds.
We keep driving up and down on the skirts of the mountains, and finally start driving downhill again towards Innertkirchen, on a series of fantastic hairpins.
The downhill of the Sustenpass becomes familiar again. We have already passed the point where the accident occurred this morning. The road is clean and with no traffic now.
Steve gets scared when a small deer crosses the road just in front of his 3-Wheeler. The Black & orange rocket brakes perfectly! This rear brake disc is clearly an improvement! The poor animal is way more scared than him! He runs on the prairie before getting into the woods again. It can be seen on the next video!
We finally make it to Brienz and drive by the lake and back to Grindelwald, crossing, as usual, Interlaken and Wilderswil. Entering Grindelwald, we see that some are refueling, and we do the same, so we don’t have to worry about it tomorrow morning.
We stop all together again at the meeting point. It’s been a fantastic day today, despite the morning events that obliged us to do the rerouting. The fixing of Didier and Caroline’s throttle cable was quite a story! We just miss our Dutch colleagues Kees and Alice, but hopefully they’ll join us tonight for the farewell dinner!
The rest of the 3-Wheelers have done a pretty good job today. After so many mountain passes, the machines are resting, with their characteristic cracking sounds of the hot metal parts cooling. Have you ever seeing a Euro4 pre-catalyzer exhaust after a hard day? Look at this beautiful glowing red color!
Dinner tonight is at the 3692 restaurant. We decide to go walking, as it’s not that far away. But Chas asks for a big taxi and we jump in. It was the best idea, as we get there first and have time to enjoy a nice Weissbier and wine, waiting for the others to arrive.
As the other squadron’s members come to the restaurant, the ambience at the terrace is fantastic. We finish our drinks enjoying the views before getting inside for dinner.
Ana Maria and I sit tonight with Didier, Caroline, Pedro and Victoria. And don’t forget Raul, Pedro and Victoria’s teckel! What a lovely dog! We have a really nice dinner, with “awards” for some of the pilots, fairly won because of special facts – Steve gets the recognition he deserves for being such a formidable mechanic and Didier gets one for his amazing hand-throttle-drive today in the Furkapass – and we make some toasts, especially for Laurens and Rineke for such a fantastic organization.
After this fantastic dinner and the good wine, Ana Maria and I decide to walk back to the hotel. It’s dark but it’s so nice to walk in the fresh night of Grindelwald! We have a heavy heart as this great stay in Grindelwald is about to end. But we still have days ahead before arriving back home. And of course, we can always come back next year to Grindelwald!
Day 10 – September the 12th: Grindelwald to Bourg-Saint-Maurice
Today we’re leaving Grindelwald. And our small squadron splits. Mario will drive back home in Erfurt and Charles will head up North to the United Kingdom. We’ll be only three “fighters” on the way back to Montignac-de-Lauzun.
It’s another sunny day. And the weather forecast for our route today is perfect. The views from our terrace are amazing. Not a single cloud!
Our little squadron joins for the last time at the parking behind the Bernerhof Hotel to say goodbye. We hope we’ll be driving together soon again!
The route we have planned today is very interesting, as we’re going to pass a couple of minor mountain passes in Switzerland, then cross to Italy through the mythical Col du Grand Saint Bernard, and from there to France via the Petit Saint Bernard. It goes as follows:
Grindelwald → Wilderswil → Interlaken → Spiez → Wimmis → Erlenbach im Simmental → Därstetten → Weissenburg im Simmental → Boltigen → Zweisimmen → Schönried → Saanen → Gstaad → Gsteig bei Gstaad → Les Diablerets → Col de la Croix → Villars → Ollon → Martigny → Col du Grand Saint Bernard → Aosta → Pré-Saint-Didier → Bourg-Saint-Maurice.
Yesterday during dinner, we talked with Didier, Caroline, Pedro and Victoria about our today’s route, and they decided to join us for the first part to Glacier 3000. Nice! We’ll have our friends with us a good part of the day! We all join at the Grindelwald’s train station parking at 10h00. We say goodbye to Caroline, who’ll be driving home on her own car, direct to Montreux, leaving Didier driving solo.
We drive out of the Grindelwald valley and take the road on the Southern shore of the Thunersee. We’re trying to move quickly out of this area, and head towards Gstaad as soon as possible to avoid traffic. Being Sunday, we find plenty of cars on the road. We can clearly see that the traffic on the opposite direction is really dense! As we’re driving out of the area, we have less traffic, and the scenery is still beautiful. We really love those Swiss wood houses!
At least, during a long part of the route, we’re driving behind a trio of Dutch Porsches 911, and later, after Gstaad, behind a Bentley Bentaiga. Much better than driving behind a white van!
We stop at Gstaad for a short coffee break. It’s a very nice terrace on the green grass at the entrance of the village. Raul, the teckel, enjoys running and playing with a couple of huskies while we recharge our energies. After half an hour, we jump back into our cockpits, and we climb up to Glacier 3000.
The road has much less traffic here and we can breathe and feel the end of the summer in this alpine area.
Arriving at Glacier 3000, we stop again. Here Didier, Pedro and Victoria will stay for lunch. We agreed to stop here to say goodbye, as after this stop, they will drive back home to Montreux in a different direction than us.
Chas, Steve, Ana Maria and I decide to continue instead of grabbing something for lunch, because we still have many hours ahead before we reach Bourg-Saint-Maurice. And being lunch time for the Swiss, if we continue driving now, we may have less traffic on the Grand Saint Bernard mountain pass.
We leave our friends enjoying their lunch and hit the road again. Few kilometers after Glacier 3000, at Les Diablerets, we take left towards the Col de la Croix. That’s a very nice choice of road! Almost no traffic, maybe because people is having lunch. Nice tarmac and beautiful curves through a dense forest.
This is a perfect road to drive our 3-Wheelers! It ends up in Ollon, the last village getting to a valley full of vineyards.
We take the motorway along the River Rhone towards Martigny. There is no interesting alternative road for this section, and we still have many hours to drive, so there is no better choice than the motorway here.
After Martigny, the fun starts again. We’re driving uphill to cross to Italy, via the Grand Saint Bernard. The road starts climbing lightly and we enter the famous tunnel that takes you to the Aosta Valley, in Italy. But our plan is different: we’re going to leave the tunnel and its “easy” road to cross via the real mountain pass!
Just after driving by the Toules Dam, there is an exit in the tunnel that takes you to the old mountain road. And here we go!
This is a mythical mountain pass, so we’re eager to drive it through. We guess we’ll do very nice videos here… but… what’s going on? The GoPro is not responding. Really??!! We’re driving the Grand Saint Bernard mountain pass between Switzerland and Italy, in a very narrow and demanding road, and the stupid GoPro refuses to record! This is not the first time we have this issue with the GoPro, and we know that to make it work again we have to stop, remove it from the suction cap, remove the windslayer foam shield, then open the carcass, and finally take off the battery. And put all back again. We can’t do that here! There is no place to stop safely, and we prefer to keep driving.
Ok, we accept this fact and enjoy the drive. Sorry folks! There is no video for this section! You’ll have to trust us when we say that the road is amazing. It’s fun to drive on a 3-Wheeler, and the views, as you can imagine, are breathtaking.
We finally reconnect with the main road that comes out of the tunnel. We’re in Italy! Now let’s drive gently downhill to Aosta and find a place to refuel and have a light lunch.
We’re driving on the SS27, slowly. There is traffic and we can see that, despite the road is large and could be driven much faster, it has a speed limit of 70 km/h. And even 50 km/h in many sections. And there is no place to overtake. The vehicles in front of us seem to be “driving Miss Daisy”.
We relax and then think about refueling. It’s important that we do so before we pass Aosta, so we don’t get stressed. We have already done four hours and 240 km from Grindelwald. We still have gasoline in our tanks, but according to our roadbook, there aren’t so many petrol stations ahead!
While refueling I reset the GoPro. It seems we can record now. It’s already 15h00 and we are getting hungry; specially Chas and Steve, who live in France and are used to have lunch at 12h30. Let’s look for a terrace or small restaurant to grab something!
We leave Aosta and drive now towards Pré-Saint-Didier. The road goes along the river Fiume Dora Baltea, and we drive through nice looking vineyards and small villages with their old castles and churches.
The landscape is beautiful. But we drive slowly. It’s boring. Because there is traffic and because the road has a speed limit of 50 km/h. Really…. 50 km/h. You may think that in Italy the drivers speed like crazy, and they don’t respect that much the speed limits. But not here. Maybe the Aosta Valley is a “different Italy”. But oh my God can they drive slower!? At this speed we can enjoy better the views over the vineyards and the many castles. But we’re hungry and driving slowly. And all the restaurants, cafés, and bars we pass by are closed. Probably because it’s Sunday, and late for lunch here too. We really need to stop and refresh our minds!
While we’re looking for an open place to grab something and have a coffee, we realize why they do drive so slowly here. It’s full of radars! We don’t see one or two… we see at least twenty of these red posts! Incredible! This is a mine field! Ok, let’s keep driving slow then…
We keep looking desperately for a place to stop. And then in Runaz, we finally find an open bar on the side of the road! Hooray! There are people sitting outside a building with a big BAR sign. We pull aside immediately. The place is called Vineria La Barrique.
As I speak a little bit of Italian, and at least I understand more than I can speak, I’m in charge to enter the place and ask for coffees and something to eat. The place is quite… I won’t say depressing… but, at least, peculiar… Behind the bar are two girls. They look like they went to a rave party last night. They’re both smoking and holding a big glass of white wine. I ask for two cappuccinos and an American (long) coffee. The answer is clear: “this machine only makes one kind of coffee: expresso.” Ok I’ll accept three expressos then, and I ask for a couple of light sodas too. I can’t see anything to eat. I ask, and they don’t reply but look at me and smile like if I said something funny. I guess there is nothing to eat. The tallest girl tells me she’ll bring our coffees outside, as Chas, Steve and Ana Maria are sitting on a table by the window. I get outside and join them. I have a slight sensation that these girls are, maybe not drunk, but for sure quite happy on wine.
Ana Maria and I remind we have a smoked salmon sandwich and some Swiss Landjaegger (dry sausages) in the car! These, with the coffees and sodas, will make our improvised light lunch!
The girl brings the coffees and then sees the 3-Wheelers. She runs back inside and comes back with a friend with a smartphone. She asks us if she can take a picture of herself with the cars. We politely say yes, and just warn her about the hot exhausts. We’re surprised when she asks if she can sit in one of them, when she’s already halfway in the cockpit. We’re amused and say yes again. She has chosen Chas’s Squint Studio 3-Wheeler for her photo session. She stretches her shirt to lower the neckline as much as possible and puts on sexy faces while his friend takes the pictures.
But the funniest moment is to come! The other girl, in black shorts and a black stretch top, comes out too, cigarette and glass of wine in hand, asking loud to get a picture too! In my basic Italian I can understand the basics of this conversation between the two girls. The tall girl in the Morgan calls her fat, and that she’ll never take a picture with her in these black shorts and stretch top, because in between she has a huge single love handle. The reply is not very poetic, as you can imagine. The tall girl strikes back saying something about her friend’s black stretch top and the fact that she’s not wearing a bra, and some movements related with the bells of “la cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta di Aosta”. I can’t stop laughing inside while the two girls – obviously very good friends; there is no violence in their words – exchange insults with “love”.
Finally, the second girl holds her stomach and pulls up her “bells” by passing her arm below and grabbing the 3-Wheeler’s roll hoop for the picture. Enjoy the result…
After this funny special moment and with renewed energy, we fire the engines and continue our journey. The traffic is much less now, and the road is faster with reasonable speed limits, so we can reach Pré-Saint-Didier relatively fast. The valley gets very narrow in some parts of the road, and we can enjoy its wild nature.
Once in Pré-Saint-Didier, we continue towards the Col du Petit Saint Bernard. Despite the French names we’re still in Italy. This was a French zone before 1861, therefore the French names are still all over the place in this valley.
At the beginning of this mountain pass, on the Italian side, we find some traffic, so we progress slower than desired. But finally at the top, and on the French side, the road is almost empty, and we can enjoy again the fast cornering and lightness of our 3-Wheelers.
It’s been a very long journey, but we finally make it to Bourg-Saint-Maurice. The Base Camp Lodge hotel is surprisingly good. It’s brand new, and it offers a fantastic underground parking, nice rooms, and a modern restaurant with a nice terrace!
When we sit down at the terrace for dinner, we have a warm welcome from a high-flying bird. He drops a fresh bomb over Chas. So big that the shrapnel hits the table too. It’s a sign of good luck, isn’t? When we’re laughing about it, with Chas cleaning his shoulder and the waitress changing our table placemats, we get a message from Charles. Bad news! Something went wrong with his 3-Wheeler!
It looks like the bevel box has lost a bearing, and the displacement of its axle made the drive belt jump out of the rear sprocket. And the flange over the bevel box’s sprocket has blown out getting caught between the sprocket and the back frame. Apparently a big mess. But the most important: Charles is ok. He must call the road assistance and his car will be collected by a flatbed truck.
After teasing Charles with silly jokes trying to de-stress him, and that he agrees with Steve and Chas that M3W Services will go for his car and take it on a trailer to Montignac-de-Lauzun as soon as possible, we concentrate on our dinner. A very nice dinner we must say!
We check the weather forecast for tomorrow. Our roadmap has two options. As we see it’s going to be sunny again, we decide to choose the long route: the Col de la Madeleine, the Col du Télégraphe and the Col du Galibier, some other mountain passes plus les Gorges de Saint-May and get to Nyons! Let’s go to bed! Tomorrow it’s going to be another epic journey behind the wheel!
Day 11 – September the 13th: Bourg-Saint-Maurice to Nyons
We wake up and have breakfast early. We intend to leave Bourg-Saint-Maurice around 09h00, because the route today is long. This is the plan:
Bourg-Saint-Maurice → Aime (N90) → Moûtiers (N90) → La Léchère (N90) → Notre-Dame-de-Briançon (D990) → La Thuile (D213) → Celliers (D213) → Col de la Madeleine (D213) → Longchamp (D213) → Lepalud (D213) → La Chambre (D213) → Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne (D1006) – Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne (D1006) → Col du Télégraphe (D902) → Valloire (D902) → Col du Galibier (D902) → Col du Lautaret (D902) → Villar-d’Arène (D1901) → La Grave (D1901) → Le Freney-D’Oisans (D1901) → Le Bourg-d’Oisans (D1901) → Col D’Ornon (D1901) → Entraigues (D526) → Valbonnais (D526) → Les Miards (D526, D26A & D212B) → La Roche (D212B & N85) → Corps (N85) → Saint-Disdier (D537 & D937) → Agnières-en-Dévoluy (D937) → Veynes (D937 & D994) → Serres (D994 & D1075) → Verclause (D994) → Sahune (D94) → Nyons (D94) → Saint-Maurice-sur-Eygues (D538, D94C & D94) → Maison d’Hôtes La Fontaine Au Loup.
We fire the engines as scheduled and leave Bourg-Saint-Maurice driving down the valley of the River Isère. This valley is one of the most famous of the French Alps, as you have many famous ski stations: Les Arcs, La Plagne, Courchevel, Val Thorens, Tignes, etc.
It’s a beautiful day. It seems that the weather forecast was right. We should have sunny weather all day long.
The N90 gets larger as we drive downhill, and it’s soon a two-lanes fast important road. When we arrive to Moutiers, I find myself under the following dilemma: the roadbook and Ana Maria tell me I should stay on the N90 and keep driving some kilometers before the next maneuver, but my iPhone with Google Maps on the Ram mount of the dashboard tells me to leave the road and enter Moutiers. My advice: unless you see something obviously wrong on the road ahead of you, follow your copilot’s indications and the roadbook! Ignore the faddish electronics, or you will look like an idiot!
As you can imagine, I did wrong… So, after some silly ten minutes going back and forth in the streets of Moutiers and on a strange service road signalized as forbidden to regular traffic, we get back to the N90 where we left it…
At 10h00 we finally get to La Léchère, where we leave the N90. We drive few kilometers until Notre-Dame-de-Briançon, where the real fun starts!
We know this road, as Ana Maria and I drove it last year. And it’s as amazing and fun to drive as we remember! Plenty of hairpins climbing in a dense forest, with no traffic at all. We can’t ask for a better road to drive this time of the morning. Let’s enjoy and reach the Col de la Madeleine!
We make a stop up there. It’s such a beautiful sunny day! We enjoy the views. And the coffees!
After this short break, we continue driving downhill toward La Chambre, passing by many little villages that are clearly focus for winter sports like skiing, as now at the end of summer they seem almost empty. We cross very few cars, and some cyclist. But there is no traffic on the road today. We feel like driving on a private road again!
When we’re at La Chambre, we‘re at the bottom of the valley of the River Arc. It’s a relatively wide valley, with some large villages and an important railway net. We drive along the River Arc until we get to Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne.
Until here, this route section has not a special interest, neither from the driving nor the landscape. But from Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne, as we cross to the other side of the valley upwards to the Col du Télégraphe, the road is fantastic again.
The road and the landscapes are beautiful, however, as we’re still close to the valley and its largely populated areas, we find more traffic and cyclist than desired getting to the top of the Col du Télégraphe. But once we pass the top of the Col du Télégraphe, the road has much less traffic again as we connect with the road uphill to the Col du Galibier.
In fact, the uphill to the Col du Galibier starts few kilometers from the top of the Col du Télégraphe. On the other side of the mountain, is the Col du Lautaret. It means that this Col du Galibier (2.642 m) is a crazy super high mountain pass caught between two other high mountain passes: the Col du Télégraphe (1.566 m) and the Col du Lautaret (2.058 m). Just imagine that: a mountain pass over two mountain passes!
From the Col du Télégraphe you climb +1.076 m in just 23 km to get to the top of the Galibier! And from there, you descend -584 m in only 8,6 km! If you check these numbers, you’ll realize the kind of stunning road we’re driving!
We find many cyclists and motorcycles, but it’s normal here, because it’s one of the most famous mountain passes of the Tour de France. So, it’s really mythical for the cyclists and anyone who loves the high mountain passes in the Alps.
The following video shows the Col du Galibier’s drive almost complete. It’s long, yes, but from our point of view really worthy! We hope you’ll enjoy it!
When we arrive to the Col du Lautaret, it’s already 13h00. We stop for a minute and discuss about the best time to eat. We decide to continue driving, as we usually are satisfied with a very light sandwich late in the afternoon (or dried sausages like yesterday) and it’s better to keep driving while all the French are having lunch.
The drive downhill from the Col du Lautaret is another demanding road, with many hairpins and it’s quite steep in some sections. We took the right decision, as there is almost no traffic, allowing us to move away from these amazing mountain passes faster than if we had made a stop for lunch.
This valley is narrow and beautiful. And the road goes along the River Romanche. It’s not as demanding as at the beginning, at the Col du Lautaret, and this is welcome as we can drive faster but more relaxed. It still has some demanding sections, adding some spice to this gentle drive. But nothing like the Col du Galibier!
We cross several little villages and the Chambon dam. We’re really enjoying this drive. It’s the first time we’re coming this way, because last year, when we reached the Col du Lautaret, we turned left towards Serre-Chevalier, where we spent a night. This time we turned right, and it’s way more spectacular. We admire the narrow valley and some waterfalls that from the top of the surrounding mountains drop very close to the road.
We arrive to Le Bourg-d’Oisans. We should have stop here for lunch and maybe refuel too, but we’re driving so comfortably that we just keep driving. From here, we take another special road: the D526 to the Col d’Ornon.
This road is narrow and curvy again, progressing within a very narrow valley. We drive under the shade of the tall trees, and we pass La Palud. After some funny hairpins, the road gets easier, and the valley gets wider.
We pass more little villages, but we can’t see any restaurant open. According to the roadbook, we have a petrol station at Valbonnais. Maybe we can find an open restaurant there? It’s already quite late – again – for French lunchtime. So, after refueling, we keep looking for a place to eat something, but everything looks closed. Plus, it’s Monday, and this day of the week is not precisely the best to find an open restaurant in France.
But finally, we find a place at Les Eglats. The Pizzeria Chez Bernard is open! It’s just on the side of the road. We’re the only clients this time of the day. And the lady in charge receives us warmly and makes some French fries and a nice sandwich for us. We even enjoy some ice cream, relaxing at the terrace.
After this refreshing stop, we jump back in our Morgans and keep going towards our destination. This road we’re on now is part of the Route Napoléon.
We cross the Sautet dam and get into a plateau that takes us to the last high mountains of our route today. In this plateau, we have a very long road section ahead totally straight.
I rev up our engine and put fifth gear. I’m enjoying behind the steering wheel cruising nice and easy at high speed when suddenly I see a huge locust flying straight towards my face. The beast has the size and looks of a Sikorsky MH-53 helicopter.
I can’t avoid the collision. The insect explodes right in the middle of my helmet visor, leaving a slimy paste the diameter of a quarter pound hamburger, after putting a lot of sauce on it … Thanks God I’m wearing a helmet with a visor down to my chin! Otherwise, I would be chewing it.
This carnage happens just before the village of La Posterle. I must lift my visor to see the road, hoping that the smashed locust doesn’t have a brother-in-law with the same suicidal tendencies and aim, because my face is unprotected now. I stop after crossing the village, take off my helmet and need to pour quite an amount of water over the visor to clean the mess with a handkerchief. After a few minutes cleaning and making sure that the visor is perfectly clean again, we restart the engines and continue driving.
If someone asks himself why we’re wearing helmets, while it’s not mandatory, he just got the answer! We’re used to have insects’ impacts on our helmets, but not so humongous! Fortunately, we have no more big insects impacts as we progress fast on this nice road.
As just said, this section of the road passes between the last tall mountains of our route. We can see we’re letting the Alps behind us. This is a narrow valley, with imposing very tall rocky walls. A beautiful farewell to the Alps.
The road takes us to the entrance to the Northern part of the Provence.
From there, the road is familiar again for all of us. We drove this back-and-forth last year when we went to Grindelwald.
The most interesting part of this last section is the Natural Parc of Les Baronnies Provençales, where we drive in the Gorges de Saint-May. We really don’t mind repeating this road! It’s a beautiful canyon.
We finally make it to Nyons, and from there in about ten minutes we arrive to our hotel for the night. It’s the guests house La Fontaine Au Loup, where Ana Maria and I stayed two nights last year.
We loved it! It’s not just because the place is quiet and relaxing, but also because Allain and Valérie, the owners of the place, are really charming.
As soon as we’re installed, I put my swimsuit and jump into the pool. The water is cold, but I enjoy it so much! After such a long driving day, it’s fantastic to be in this place.
After a short bath I join Chas and Steve who are enjoying a beer under the olive trees. And when we thought that today’s adventure with the Morgans was finished, Steve notices that his Black & Orange rocket’s rear is looking unusually low. He approaches to check and…. the rear tyre is flat! He says that when he was entering the place, he noticed like a short drift on the stones of the entrance ramp. He clearly got his rear tyre damaged there.
Back to work! And let’s hurry up because the sun is going down! We remove the boot tray and the rear mudguard, and with a low jack lift the rear of the car. We find the puncture. No good news: it’s not a nail nor a classic thin, clean puncture, but a little cut of about 1 or 1,5 cm, probably due to a hard root or a sharp stone. The first thought of Steve and Chas is that we won’t be able to repair it. But hey! The Speedy Marmots have two magic things in our tools and spares! A Slime kit including a compressor, and a little black bag we bought on the internet consisting of a tyre repair kit, made in India, that looked amazing on the You Tube videos. It’s the Grand Pitstop Tyre Repair Kit. And it comes with some tools and some kind of rubber mushrooms / plugs to insert in the puncture.
First, we try with just one of the Indian rubber plugs. But the tyre still loses air. Then we inject the Slime liquid into the tyre and try again with a second plug. And bingo! Despite the ugly puncture, it seems to work fine. But we won’t really know until tomorrow morning. Steve and Chas don’t seem to have much faith, but now there is nothing else we can do but relax and enjoy our drinks and dinner.
The dinner starts with a very nice cocktail by the swimming pool. It’s a blend of a melon local liquor with a white wine. The balance between the sweet melon and the white wine is perfect! And Valérie brings some appetizers consisting of caramelized cherry tomatoes and a mousse of olives tapenade.
A Belgian couple, also guests of La Fontaine Au Loup, joins us for the appetizer and dinner. They’re a lovely couple, both speaking fluent English and with excellent conversation and good sense of humor.
This is the fantastic dinner cooked by Valérie:
– cheese cake made of sheep cheese and roasted peppers
– caillette with ratatouille
– Eton Mess with red fruits
All accompanied with white and red local “Côtes du Rhône” excellent French wines.
If you’re asking what is the caillete, it’s a typical French recipe from the region – the Drôme – consisting of a mixture of pig meat, bacon, liver, spinach, salt, pepper, and spices, all wrapped within a thin tripe, and finally cooked in the oven. And Valérie’s personal recipe is delicious! Very light (despite what you may think looking at the ingredients) and tasty.
Dinner and company are really nice. We share our stories and talk about many current issues, exchanging ideas with our table mates.
This afternoon, my father wrote me, warning me that in the area of the Mediterranean Pyrenees there is an alert for strong storms. During the dessert we review the weather forecast for tomorrow and indeed it seems that there is a good chance that it will rain. We decide that tomorrow, instead of making the planned long route over the Parc des Cevennes through the mountains to Montignac-de-Lauzun, we’d better take the motorway to get there as soon as possible. And with this in mind, we go to bed.
Day 12 – September the 14th: Nyons to Montignac-de-Lauzun
“The waters rose higher and higher on the earth. And the ark floated on the water. The waters rose on the earth until all the high mountains under the entire sky were covered.”
Today we wake up early. We have two major concerns: Steve’s rear tyre and the black clouds in the sky.
But things seem to be right! Steve’s rear tyre is perfectly inflated and apparently it hasn’t lost pressure during the night. The true test comes now, as he’ll drive the car on the roads and motorways. We all hope it makes it to Montignac-de-Lauzun.
And we can have breakfast outside! It’s cloudy, but not raining yet. We double check the weather forecast and rain is confirmed almost everywhere in Southern France, under the form of summer thunderstorms. So, it will rain at random, here and there, which means that getting wet or staying dry will be just a matter of luck. As we decided last night, in order to be exposed as less as possible, we’ll make our way on the fast A9 motorway. Yes it heads South, but it’s the fastest way, and if we try to make it heading North passing by Lyon, it will take us almost two extra hours and the chances of rain are, as per the weather forecast, the same.
This is the route we planned for today:
La Fontaine Au Loup → Tulette (D94) → Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes (D94 & D976) → Orange (D976 & D43) → Nîmes (A9) → Montpellier (A9) → Narbonne (A9) → Carcasonne (A61) → Toulouse (A61) → Damazan (A61) → Tonneins (D143 & D120) → Verteuil-d’Agenais (D120) → Tombeboeuf (D120) → Montignac-de-Lauzun (D667 & D254).
As we’re driving on motorways most of the route, and it might rain, we decide to keep the GoPros in their bag, protected and dry in the boot. As another precaution, and for the first time, we use the big rain hood for the luggage on the rack. All bags get totally covered. Only the leather straps are exposed to the rain, as they go over the plastic hood.
Let’s go! This should be an easy drive. And if it rains, we’ve done that before. With our nice quality raincoats and the helmets, combined with the speed on the motorway, we shouldn’t get that wet. Our previous experience under heavy rain, and for many kilometers, was much more positive than we expected. So, we’re not afraid.
After a proper goodbye to Allain and Valérie, we fire the engines and leave La Fontaine Au Loup. We’re driving on small roads until we get to Orange. The good news is that Steve’s rear tyre seems perfect. No loss of pressure nor unwanted vibrations. So, we take the toll motorway here. I give the paper ticket to Ana Maria, and she keeps it in a pocket of her raincoat. There is a light rain right now, nothing to be concerned about. But the skies are totally covered with dark clouds.
Today we’re using Google Maps on my iPhone as a navigation system, properly fixed in the RAM mount on the dashboard. Because today we’re not really doing nice mountain or country roads, and obviously our roadbook has a totally different route.
We leave Orange and drive fast on the motorway. We’re cruising at normal speeds of 130 km/h. And then the rain gets more intense. But we’re still good. Only Chas is struggling a little bit, as he is the only one that hasn’t a helmet. At that speed the raindrops can be quite uncomfortable when they hit your face.
It’s being forty-five minutes that we left La Fontaine Au Loup, and we’re approaching Nîmes, when hell from the skies starts dropping a massive amount of water. This is not a normal rainfall. It’s getting harder and harder and the day becomes night. I switch on my rear fog light as we try to progress at 70 or 60 km/h on the motorway. All vehicles are forced to slow down radically as we can’t see much further than 10 or 20 meters ahead because of the rain curtain.
And then it rains harder. This is insane. We are afraid. That’s humongous. We just passed the first exit for Nîmes, and Ana Maria and I are talking about stopping as soon as possible, probably next exit, when Google Maps surprises me alerting via the intercom. It says “Alert! Leave the motorway as soon as possible. Big accident ahead and motorway closed”. Just at the right time! The Nîmes West exit is few meters ahead. And thanks God we can exit, and that Steve and Chas follow us!
Ana Maria takes out the toll ticket. It’s still dry enough to be read by the machine, and we manage to pass the barrier while Steve and Chas, both with their tickets soaked, get blocked, unable to pay as the machine can’t read their tickets. We get to the roundabout in a huge traffic jam, completely wet, and still raining like hell. We can’t see Chas and Steve, but we can’t stay here waiting for them. So, we keep moving inside town on the street that Google Maps indicates is the way to follow.
The roundabouts and the streets are flooded, and it’s getting worse. We’re driving on 20 or even 30 cm of water. We don’t know if it’s even deeper in some zones, I can even see the water over the side exhausts of the 3-Wheeler. We’re desperately looking for a place to stop when we see a Total petrol station. We stop under its roof. But it’s useless as it’s raining sideways with violent wind gusts. The petrol station is closed, and we realize there is no mobile phone signal. The whole city of Nîmes is flooded and suffers a power shutdown! We can clearly see the water rising at the petrol station.
Then Ana Maria tells me that the Citroën showroom and garage nearby is open. I can’t see it is, but because they have no power! But yes there is people inside! I run in, by a side emergency door, and beg for mercy. The garage manager tells me to approach the car to their doors, as the petrol station will be totally flooded in minutes. He thinks we’re in a regular car. But I point out the 3-Wheeler, and he immediately tells me to run and get it inside the garage as soon as possible. He and his guys run to manually open the last large door. Now, being inside, covered, and with – for now – the Morgan in a safe garage, we feel relieved.
If you’re reading this, and are thinking that we’re exaggerating, please click on these links, and see what 168 mm of rain in only ninety minutes did to Nîmes this Tuesday, September the 14th 2021… We were there, in the middle of this mess!
Météo Gard en Twitter: “🔴 Voici l’autoroute A9 complètement inondée au niveau de Bernis (#Gard) suite à une #crue du Valat de Vallongue, un petit ruisseau. N’empruntez jamais une route inondée ! 🎥 Stéphane Rochette pour Météo Gard https://t.co/610yKhGqcv” / Twitter
Just imagine you’re driving a Morgan 3-Wheeler there! If we did not take the motorway exit on time, we would have found ourselves in the middle of the flood that took away many cars and trucks on the motorway, just few hundred meters after the exit we took! We would have lost the 3-Wheelers!
We’re trying to contact Chas and Steve. We’re really concerned about them. But there is still no mobile phone signal. Still no power. Many of the workers at the showroom and the garage are around the Morgan and help us to dry the inside as much as possible. Our little 3-Wheeler is a brave car! It has survived this biblical rain and the water on the streets with courage, and it seems to run perfect! Respect for the little Morgan!
As a classic Mediterranean summer storm, it suddenly stops raining and the sun appears in the skies. Almost two hours have passed since we got into this Citroën garage. And we have no news from Chas and Steve!
Finally, the mobile phone signal gets back. It’s weak but good enough to send a couple of WhatsApps to our friends. They are safe! When they finally managed to get the toll barrier opened for them, the roundabout was completely blocked. But they were able to take refuge next to the toll booth, in a small parking lot with toilets where they stayed during the crazy storm.
Chas and Steve ask us where we are. We forward our position but warn them that the roundabouts and the street in front of the garage are still flooded. We all need to be patient.
The area recovers power, which means we can buy a small chips bag at the vending machine in the showroom. Now it’s been an hour since it has stopped raining, and we can see how the water level in front of the garage is receding rapidly. We tell Chas and Steve and hope they can make it here.
Twenty minutes later we can see them coming towards us in the main street! Such a relief to be all together again! Then we discuss about what we should do. There is no information, and the 4G network is down. We hardly manage to send or receive a simple text message. We think that we must leave town as soon as possible, escaping from the next showers. This said, we thank everyone in the Citroën garage, and we start the engine. No hiccups nor alarms or weird symptoms. We’re proud of our little machine!
That was not a good idea… We soon see that there are many streets and roundabouts still flooded. The policemen and firemen are working like crazy trying to solve as many situations as possible. But the whole situation exceeds them. We’re forced to return into town, and we decide that the best is to park the Morgans in a safe parking, grab something for lunch, and wait, hoping to get information of when and how leave this town that looks like Venice right now!
Paradoxically, it’s sunny. We leave the 3-Wheelers in the underground parking – first floor, just in case – in the city historic center, and we walk and enjoy the area. We can see all the terraces closed and the waiters and owners cleaning the disaster that the heavy rains have caused. Many big branches fallen from the trees, damaging awnings and tables. The walkways, covered with water one hour ago, are still dirt and slippery.
We finally enter a coffee shop nearby the famous Arène de Nîmes. As they got no power for many hours, now they can only offer muffins and coffee or hot beverages. Good enough for us! We sit in a corner and keep checking the news, the weather radar images and the route maps, hoping for an escape route to be open.
It’s been six hours since we left the motorway, and we’re still blocked in Nîmes! Ana Maria is asleep, and Chas, Steve and I talk about the different options we have. The news say that the motorway will be closed for many hours, as it was flooded in five different points and the water took away cars and even big trucks, that now need to be recovered with heavy cranes. We are considering about looking for a hotel to stay the night, but it’s not really our preferred option.
Then, breaking news: there is one road open that allow cars to leave Nîmes: the N106 to Alès, a village forty-five kilometers North. According to Google Maps, it’s going to be very difficult to reach the main roundabout that allows us to take this road. Many streets are still flooded, and we shall do a lot of turns and detours to get there. And from there, what do we do? We decide we need to get out of Nîmes as soon as possible, despite the risk and the massive traffic jam we may encounter trying to do so. And once in Alès, if everything goes well, we refuel and try to get to Montignac-de-Lauzun using the mountain and country roads we planned originally. This is going to be epic.
Back to the cars again! We turn here and there, pass in front of flooded houses and parcs, the whole city is a total disaster. In one of these tiny streets, driving slow in traffic, our Morgan screams from the back. It sounds like a seized bearing, spinning ungreased about to shatter. With so much water and dirt, we’re afraid our Morgan said “enough”. I stop immediately and look underneath the car, thinking I will see a big mess, or something clearly broken. But instead, I find a piece of metal rail bent and hooked on the wooden body, which when dragging brushing the asphalt is what made such a noise. Is it a part of the car? It doesn’t ring a bell, but I show the bent piece of metal to Steve – who knows these cars by heart – with concern. Fortunately, the answer is quick and forceful: that is not from the Morgan. It is a garbage, surely brought by the water that flooded this street before, and that will have gotten caught in our car. Luckily it didn’t cause a flat tire or any visible damage!
We finally make it to the roundabout and manage to connect with the N106. The skies are getting dark again, but it’s still not raining, so we get as fast as possible to Alès. One hour later, we stop in Alès to refuel, and then do as we decided recently: let’s cross the National Parc des Cevennes on this N106 and other country roads! They all appear in green color in Google Maps, meaning they’re open and without traffic. And they’re the only way to Montignac-de-Lauzun! It’s going to be a long drive! Still more than six hours to reach Montignac-de-Lauzun if nothing goes wrong. This said, we expect to get there around 01h00 – 01h30 tonight.
This is our new route from Nîmes to Montignac-de-Lauzun:
Nîmes → Alès (N106) → Florac-Trois-Rivières (N106) → Ispagnac (N106 & D907bis) → Chanac (D907bis & D31) → Massegros-Causses-Gorges (D32) → Sévérac-d’Aveyron (D995) → Rodez (N88) → Villefranche-de-Rouergue (D994 & D1) → Cahors (D911) → Tournon-d’Agenais (D620, D653 & D656) → Monflanquin (D102 & D124) → Cancon (D124) → Montignac-de-Lauzun (D124, D145 & D227).
We are very lucky most of the road, as it doesn’t rain again. We are escaping the storms and despite the roads are wet, it’s not really raining. And we have to say that we’re really enjoying this route. Despite the dark light – the sky is permanently covered with dark grey clouds – the road is beautiful. We cross dense forests and nice little villages, and with no traffic. It’s a pity that our GoPros are in the back, and we can’t take videos. We just take some pictures with Ana María’s iPhone.
We progress better than we would have imagined. And we keep going as it’s getting dark. I really don’t want to be leading the squadron at night with my standard lights. And even less if it starts raining again.
It’s midnight when we’re reaching Cahors. And here we’re caught under another thunderstorm. It’s not raining as violent as in Nîmes, but it’s quite hard too, and we decide to stop in a petrol station. Covered by its roof, we refuel and decide to wait until the rain stops or at least gets lighter. We have time to remember that we had just a muffin for lunch and no dinner… But food is not our first concern tonight.
We check the weather radar images with the smartphones, and we see how the storm is progressing. We’re still under heavy rain, but if the storm keeps moving North-East as it looks like on our screens, it may stop within fifteen or twenty minutes.
But we have another concerning storm going towards the road we need to do now. If we wait for the storm we’re in to pass, we may be caught by the other storm in almost all the road we have to drive from now. We make our estimations, and we decide that it’s better to get wet now for ten or fifteen minutes than getting wet for one hour and a half.
These driving conditions are the worst scenario: it’s dark at night, it’s raining cats and dogs, and I’m leading the squadron on small and twisted country roads, most of them without paint marks, with my low intensity standard halogen lights.
It is under these circumstances that I’m proved to be blessed to have Ana Maria by my side. She’s a fierce copilot that never drops the towel! She takes the smartphone and covers it with our fleece blanked so the rain doesn’t blur the screen, and in the dark she keeps telling me which kind of curve is coming ahead, reading the map on the screen. On one and every curve she tells me if it’s a curve to the right or left, if it’s a long or sharp curve, and the bending of it (45º, 90º, 180º, etc). Thanks to her skills and perseverance, we get out of the heavy rain in less than fifteen minutes. Best copilot ever!
The night still gives us one more surprise. But this is a good one: on a very narrow and twisty stretch of road going up a hill, we surprise a fawn in the middle of the road. The frightened animal runs ahead of us for almost a minute. A lovely experience on a terrible day.
We finally make it to Montignac-de-Lauzun. It’s 01h30. We split with Chas. He’s heading home, and Steve and us are going to Steve and Annette’s place. We parc the Morgans in silence by the barn, trying not to wake up Annette or the dogs. Chas and Steve are home, and Ana Maria and I are staying at Steve and Annette’s guests’ house. Like home too now for us.
We drop the luggage in the guests’ house, and we’re amazed that the rain hood has kept the luggage totally dry. Not a single trace of humidity on the leather bags! It’s nice to see it’s really effective! After a hot shower, and hanging all the soaked clothes, we get into the dry and warm bed. I guess it takes us less than two minutes to fall asleep. This day was, by far, the hardest day in our 3-Wheeler.
Day 13 – September the 15th: Montignac-de-Lauzun
We didn’t put any alarm clock last night. We wake up later than 10h00. We can’t remember exactly when. We have a message from Steve saying that he dropped some hot fresh croissants by the door. Such a nice detail! They taste great to us.
Ana Maria and I talk about our plans for today. We are supposed to drive to Pamplona and stay there for the night at our nieces’ apartment. But we are too tired after yesterday epic journey and driving now five hours to Pamplona is not the best idea.
We talk with Steve and Annette if they agree that we stay one more night at their guests’ house, and they’re happy we’re staying. Another good point is that we will enjoy dinner with them, Jackie and John, and Chas and Chris. Annete is preparing some chilies for tonight. We know she’s an excellent cook, so we’re already drooling.
We go for a walk and enjoy the countryside of Montignac-de-Lauzun. It’s a peaceful area. So quiet and relaxing! We wouldn’t mind living here!
While Ana Maria is catching up with work, I revise the 3-Wheelers with Steve. Apparently ours is in perfect running conditions. But the oil level is too low. We fill it with almost three liters of fresh oil! I’ll have to check it more frequently, just in case.
We talk about the upgrades I want to do. First one, mandatory, is the Bleazey Centa conversion. I don’t want to find myself in the same situation than Kees and Alice, with the rollers gone and the car back home on a platform.
Steve shows me the different possibilities of better batteries. The standard Banner installed by the Morgan Motor Company is known for being erratic. Some live for years, but others just for months!
The fuel pump is like the battery. It can last forever, but many – too many I would say – fail quite soon ruining your trip. They’re not reliable at all.
As I don’t like to play the Russian roulette with the battery nor the fuel pump, replacing both by more reliable parts is a must-do job! On the list for this winter’s jobs!
Now I’m confident we’ll make it to Madrid without trouble. Once there, we must do the yearly revision at the dealer’s workshop, to get the maintenance book stamped and keep the warranty.
We enjoy this peaceful day. We recover a lot of energy! We truly needed a break from driving!
In the afternoon, we talk with our nieces in Pamplona. As we have delayed our arrival for one day, their plans will be jeopardized if we arrive tomorrow. It’s Valentina’s birthday, and she has organized a big party at their place tomorrow night. Ana Maria and I think about it, and decide that if we, the “old” couple, arrives tomorrow to their place, we’ll ruin the party and probably don’t sleep that well with the youngsters partying in the apartment until late at night!
So, we decide not to stay in Pamplona tomorrow. And we quickly check if there is a room available in our favorite place of the French Basque Country: the Hotel Arcé in Saint-Étienne-de-Baïgorri. Bingo! There is one room available for tomorrow night! We immediately make the reservation.
We’re in the garden, under the umbrella, resting and checking the emails with the laptops when Chas and Chris arrive for dinner. We quickly join the party. We have some Spanish cold meats and cheese as appetizers. They are part of the ones we brought twelve days ago. And as expected, Annette’s chilies are delicious. We talk about our trip and laugh with some of the anecdotes. Another fantastic dinner with such good company!
Day 14 – September the 16th: Montignac-de-Lauzun to Saint-Étienne-de-Baïgorri
We had a wonderful time in Montignac-de-Lauzun, and we enjoyed a lot our friends during the whole trip to Grindelwald. But it’s time to say goodbye!
Today we’re going to Saint-Étienne-de-Baïgorri, in the French Basque country. The route is on easy, nice and relaxed roads, and not too much time behind the steering wheel.
Montignac-de-Lauzun → Tombeboeuf (D254 & D667) → Tonneins (D120) → Villefranche-du-Queyran (D120) → Houeillès (D120, D214, D283 & D8) → Mont-de-Marsan (D933, D933N & D932) → Hagetmau (RD933S) → Orthez (RD933S & D933) → Sauveterre-de-Béarn (D23) → Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (D933) → Saint-Étienne-de-Baïgorri (D15).
The weather forecast announces scattered showers during the whole day, but clearly lighter than the terrible thunderstorms we got two days ago. We hope we won’t get too wet. In fact, we’ve proved that under normal rain, with the raincoats, the fleece blanket and the helmets, there is very little water ingress in the car, and we don’t get wet.
After the goodbyes, and promises to see our friends again soon, we leave Montignac-de-Lauzun around noon, with a heavy heart.
Right now, the road is dry, and the clouds don’t seem to be a real menace. We make a short stop at Tonneins to refuel, and we continue our way on the relaxing roads of this Lot et Garonne region. We discuss about stopping or not for lunch. Today we decide to stop for good in a restaurant for a proper lunch. We’re not in a hurry. We are crossing Saint-Justin and we see a nice-looking restaurant with a full terrace. We parc the car just by the restaurant when some rain drops start to fall discretely. We get a table inside, as all the tables on the terrace are busy.
The restaurant is called Le Cadet de Gascogne, and it happens to be the best restaurant in the area. Nice lucky choice we’ve made! The “Menu du jour” looks great and we order our starters and mains. Then we see all the people from the terrace running inside. It’s raining for good now! We’re lucky as we’re sit inside. Many of the guests don’t have a place inside to finish their meal and need to wait or pay and leave.
After the little chaos because of the sudden rain, forcing to clean the terrace, our plates arrive. Delicious! It’s really a recommendable place to stop for lunch! We have our desserts and coffees just in time, as the rain has stopped. It’s the right time to pay and continue our route!
We know it might rain again, so we get ready for it. We have our raincoats and of course the helmets. And now we take out the fleece blanket and put it over our legs.
We’re arriving to Mont-de-Marsan when it starts raining again. It’s light, sometimes gets heavier, then light again. But we’re good and dry. And the heating seats give us this extra comfort needed in such circumstances.
We’re driving for a while behind a beautiful metallic grey Jaguar E-Type. It’s true it’s one of the most beautiful cars ever made. Precisely when the Jag takes a different exit at the last roundabout of the bypass at Mont-de-Marsan, it stops raining. And it doesn’t rain again for the rest of the day.
After a couple of hours of nice and relaxed driving on the beautiful Basque Country roads, we arrive to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. Its walls welcome us under a clear blue sky.
And just fifteen minutes later we’re in this paradise called Saint-Étienne-de-Baïgorri. We’ve been here many times. The Hotel Arcé is like our little secret escape site. When we’re stressed and need to get somewhere peaceful, where the mobile phone signal hardly gets, this is our spot. If you look carefully at the following pictures and videos you’ll understand why we say this is one of our preferred destinations.
We unload the luggage and, because the parking looks full, I ask Pascal, the owner – and chef, he is wearing his apron – if I can leave the Morgan at the entrance of the hotel. His first reply is “No please don’t let a car at the nice entrance!”, and he comes out to see. When he sees the Morgan he gets really excited. He loves the car – the 3-Wheelers usually have this positive effect – and tells me I shouldn’t leave this beauty outside because it may rain. But is there a covered garage? I didn’t know! And yes there is one, but it’s his private garage! He tells me to follow him. It’s the old building just by the entrance path. He opens the huge old wood doors with a very old iron rusted key, and what a nice surprise!
He has a neat, restored, original Jeep Willys! And a nice-looking motorcycle. To make place for the Morgan, he needs to move the Jeep to the back. He jumps in the Willys, turns the ignition and the beast starts immediately! He tells me he uses it frequently, as his daily car. This Jeep is in stunning conditions! And with all the original accessories: ax, shovel, jerry can, etc. It’s a delight to the eyes.
We walk back to the hotel, and I find Ana Maria talking to Christine, Pascal’s wife, and heart of this hotel. She knows Ana Maria for the many times we’ve being here. And because Ana Maria sends here her clients when they ask for a route in this area. We feel like home here. The views over the river, the little breakfast house, the church’s bell tower, the typical houses, the green colors everywhere… It’s so quiet… The only sound here are the birds singing and the sound of the water.
Ana Maria needs to work again until dinner. While she’s in front of her laptop upstairs, I enjoy a local beer under the platane trees by the river. I talk with some other guests that politely ask questions and make comments about the Morgan. It’s a relaxed time waiting for dinner, with good conversations.
The Hotel Arcé is not only a beautiful and peaceful hotel. It has a fantastic history. Founded in 1864, it’s now managed by Pascal and Christine, the 5th generation of this house! And it has one of the best restaurants in the area. Probably the best, at least in our honest opinion. Pascal and his team offer amazing plates, some based on centennial recipes, such as “La truite au bleu”, but with a contemporary touch.
Have a look at their website. It’s worth a visit: www.hotel-arce.com
We enjoy an excellent dinner. Ana Maria can’t resist and asks for the “Truite au Bleu”, a really old recipe for a fresh trout. They keep their trout alive in a fishing pot in the river. You won’t have a fresher trout than here!
After diner, we walk in the village. It’s so quiet. The warmly illuminated buildings transmit you so much peace. We cross the river by the Roman Bridge and come back to the hotel. It’s time to go to bed.
Day 15 – September the 17th: Saint-Étienne-de-Baïgorri to Madrid
We wake up in a superb sunny day. There is not a single cloud in the blue skies and the weather forecast from here to Madrid seems perfect.
We have breakfast by the river, under the shade of the platane trees. We love so much this hotel! We talk about staying here again when we’ll do the tour in the Western Pyrenees with the rest of the squadron.
Before leaving this nice place, Ana Maria needs to do a couple of easy tasks in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. She has clients that will start there the Way Of Saint James (also known as Road to Santiago de Compostela or “El Camino de Santiago” in Spanish). She needs to get the pilgrim passports and check a hotel there. So, we drive to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. It’s an easy 12 km and fifteen minutes’ drive. We park the Morgan and walk into town.
Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is a fortified village, with a big fortress on the top of the hill, the Citadel of Mendiguren, that was a strategic point to control the entrance of Spanish troops into the valley, this side of the Pyrenees.
Today it is a beautiful town, very well preserved, and full of life. It is considered the starting point of the French Way Of Saint James. This is where the first stage of the “Camino” starts, which ends in Roncesvalles, on the other side of the Pyrenees, on the Spanish side. The large number of pilgrims passing through this village has made it a bustling town, with an extraordinary offer of shops and restaurants.
With all tasks successfully done, we drive back to the Hotel Arcé. We just do another short stop to refuel on our way there.
Once we’re at the hotel, I ask for a small bucket and clean rags to wash the 3-Wheeler. Instead of taking me ten minutes, I spend more than half an hour cleaning the Morgan, because all the guests coming in and out the hotel stop by and ask many questions and give good conversation.
Now the car is clean and shining. We finally load the luggage, and despite the “traffic jam” at the entrance of the hotel, we finally leave at 13h00.
We’re going back home the same way we got into France two weeks ago. This is the route:
Saint-Étienne-de-Baïgorri → Eugi (D948, D58 & NA-138) → Pamplona (NA-138 & N-135) → Vitoria (PA-30, PA-34, AP-15, A-10 & A-1) → Burgos (A-1 & AP-1) → Madrid (A-1).
The first part to Pamplona, we’re driving on the beautiful roads across the Pyrenees. We know them pretty well. I can’t remember how many times we’ve done this road! But this is just the second time with the 3-Wheeler, and it’s obviously different than doing it on a closed and heavy SUV.
We pass Pamplona and some kilometers after we stop to grab a sandwich for lunch. And from there, right foot down and motorway to Madrid! It’s a very sunny day, and being Friday there is not much traffic but just around the big cities such as Vitoria and Burgos.
We finally arrive home around 19h30, after two stops (fast lunch and refuel). It’s nice to be back. We’re the last ones of all the Grindelwald gang to be home, and the good news is that we’re all safe back into our houses and happy!
It’s been an incredible adventure! When we sum all the days driving, we’ve done 4.366 km and 72h10min behind the wheel. This is according to the mathematics. But reality is that our ODO shows almost 4.600 km more than when we left home two weeks ago. Who said that the Morgan 3-Wheeler is not a machine to do long trips? Ah, ah!
THE SPEEDY MARMOTS ARE BACK HOME, SAFE, AND ARE PREPARING MORE AMAZING TRIPS! STAY TUNED!