It’s June. It’s hot in Madrid. Very hot. 40ºC outside! The Speedy Marmots are seeking refuge from this early heat wave in our den.
As we work intensively with the blessing of air conditioning, we receive an email from Colin Duggan. Very interesting news! Colin and Carole, with Len Critchlow and his son Bill, are sailing from the UK to Bilbao, in Northern Spain. And in the ferry hold, their superb vintage Morgan 3-Wheelers! A pair of Super Sports. We’ll make a proper presentation of the machines further in this post.
Their plan is to arrive to Bilbao on June the 28th, and then travel down crossing the Rioja region, stopping at Sigüenza, then to Segovia, and back up to Santander via Lerma. Fantastic trip! And they’ll be so close to Madrid! Sigüenza is just a little more than an hour drive from our house!
In his email, Colin copies also Sergio Romagosa. Sergio is a Spanish owner of another amazing historical 3-Wheeler, totally restored. Sergio and I talk to each other immediately after receiving Colin’s email and agree to join them in Sigüenza with our little rockets.
Sergio is an insurance broker specialized in classic cars. In his web page – www.escuderia.com – you find a lot more information than just insurance! He is a real enthusiast of vintage and historic cars, and his knowledge and net of friends is impressive. In fact, someone from his wide “spying” net sent him a few days later this picture of Colin’s and Len’s 3-Wheelers parked somewhere near Burgos!
Unfortunately, we both can join our UK friends only for the weekend. But we’re excited to meet such experienced adventurers!
We make some calls to arrange our stay, but there is no room in the hotel that Colin, Carole, Len and Bill have booked very close to Sigüenza. We all tried at Sigüenza’s magnificent Parador Nacional, but this is fully booked for months! In fact, all the hotels in the area are busy. The reason is that the early heat waves we suffered this month of June made the lavender fields bloom earlier. The lavender fields use to bloom last week of July or beginning of August. The earlier blooming this year is the reason why this area, normally famous and crowded due to its proximity to Madrid, is unusually crowded this first weekend of July.
But Ana Maria makes her magic again and sends an email to the Molino de Alcuneza, this fantastic boutique hotel we stayed a couple of years ago (see our Short fighter mission #4), and she manages to get a couple of rooms for the weekend, for Sergio and his wife Susana, and ourselves. Fortunately, being in the travel business helps a lot in these situations!
The Molino de Alcuneza is part of the high-end Relais & Chateaux hotel chain. And with its 1 Michelin Star restaurant is probably the best possible choice around Sigüenza. We can’t complain about our stay!
Saturday, July the 2nd
Today we’ll meet! We’re the first ones to arrive to the hotel, around noon. We could have driven our 5-Speeder from home, but the day is too hot, and it’s also the perfect occasion to use our new Land Rover Defender to tow the trailer, for the first time. What a machine! And maneuvering the trailer with all the aids and electronics looks like a kid’s game. We’re in love with that car and its towing capabilities.
Sergio and Susana arrive just half an hour later, also towing their fabulous 3-Wheeler.
We unload the Morgans and keep them under the shade of the old watermill stone wall. Almost a hundred years of Morgan’s history together!
Meanwhile, the UK team is driving past El Burgo de Osma, through Berlanga de Duero, Caltojar, Rello, Barahona, Imon, to finally reach Sigüenza. They expect to be at their hotel around 14h30.
It means we have time to enjoy a nice lunch and the swimming pool!
We created a WhatsApp group for the occasion, and Colin writes they’ve arrived on time, and they are resting too, waiting for the sun and the temperatures to drop down a little more. We agree to meet at their hotel around 17h00.
During the afternoon, Sergio calls a friend that works at the Sigüenza’s city hall. He is another classic cars lover, and he tells Sergio that he’ll arrange a “VIP parking” for our machines this evening. We’ll have a chain open by the local police, so we can park our Morgans in the middle of Sigüenza’s main square, just aside the XII century cathedral! Now that’s real VIP parking! Sergio’s network is truly amazing!
At the schedule time, we join Colin, Carole, Len and Bill at their hotel. What a scenery! Four 3-Wheelers, three of them from the 30’s, all together in Spain! That’s really unusual! Ana Maria and I have tried several times to contact other 3-Wheeler owners, but apart a couple of great exceptions (Ralph Jenner in Andalucía – far South – and Simón Martínez in Catalonia – far Northeast) the few 3-Wheelers Spanish owners have not replied our messages yet.
Now it’s the right time to present the machines of this British-Spanish squadron! Let’s go from elder to youngest.
This is Colin and Carole’s beautiful green 1933 Super Sports. One of the last beetlebacks, a version with interchangeable wheels. With a nice JAP engine. Very few of these remain on the road today.
And here comes Sergio and Susana’s 1934 red and cream Super Sports. Astonishing restoration. Polished metals and neat Matchless engine.
This super elegant in this blue duotone color is Len and Bill’s 1936 Super Sports. With another Matchless fantastic engine. A really fast machine for its age.
And at least but not last, the Speedy Marmot’s 2020 Morgan Sports Green 5-Speeder, with a much bigger and thirsty S&S engine. The 21st century version!
At the hotel they’re celebrating a wedding. Loud music and joyful ambience. We have some of the guests being curious around the Morgans, and we even give a ride to some of them.
So, after the appropriate introductions, anecdotes, jokes, and of course drooling over each other’s cars, we start all engines and drive to Sigüenza. All cars but Sergio and Susana stop at the petrol station to fill up the tanks with fresh and expensive petrol. Petrol prices these days are beating all records!
Sergio and Susana did not follow us to the petrol station as they wanted to make sure that our “VIP parking” was set up. And here we are! At the “VIP parking” in the middle of the main square! The Morgans become immediately the center of attention.
Soon after we park, we’re surrounded by many people taking pictures and asking questions. These machines are a true magnet to people of all ages.
Sigüenza is one of the most historic cities in Spain located north of the province of Guadalajara. Undoubtedly, this municipality is marked by its castle, the current Parador National. Construction began in 1123 to serve as a palace-fortress and residence for the bishops who were lords of the city for seven centuries.
In Roman times, it was a site with a lot of trading and many inhabitants, who surely built the tower or watchtower over the valley in what is now the castle-fortress. Visigoths and Arabs inhabited this city.
The reconquest of Sigüenza took place in the same year of 1123, being its first bishop, Don Bernardo de Agen, who commanded a powerful army and conquered the city from the Arabs who occupied it.
Since then, the history of Sigüenza and its castle has paralleled that of its bishops. From the XII century, these bishops and other influential people who passed through Sigüenza were raising, expanding, and fortifying the castle, until it became one of the largest and most important in the Iberian Peninsula. In its halls they put chapels, courtrooms, courts and jails. Many soldiers and servants were in the care of the Castle, where the bishops lived for long periods.
We walked uphill from the main square to pay a visit to this magnificent and historic fortress. But sadly, we can’t get further than the reception of the Parador Nacional. The excuse is that there is a wedding and the whole building is hired for this private event.
We come back to the main square through some narrow medieval streets, passing in front of a couple of beautiful roman churches, to finally sit down for a few cold beers and have relaxed and interesting conversations.
We just notice that Ana Maria’s t-shirt matches with the gay flag shown on the balcony of the City Hall (this is the Gay Parade week in many cities in Spain, therefore this flag on the City Hall balcony).
After a very nice time in this beautiful medieval square, we decide it’s time to leave for dinner. Sergio and Susana decide to stay and have dinner at the place, while the rest of the group we head back to our respective hotels.
Let’s get ready and rest for tomorrow’s route!
Sunday, July the 3rd
Today’s route is a round trip, from and back to Sigüenza, enjoying the country roads in the area. We plan to stop at Cifuentes for lunch. But before that, we’ll stop by a friend’s house to chill out a little bit, eat some appetizers and drink some wines.
This was our morning itinerary.
First section – From Sigüenza to Cifuentes
If you have a keen eye, you may notice that the map indicates 1h08min estimated driving time, and not 1h45min as I wrote. But this is because the Morgans our friends are driving are not 5-Speeders, with a powerful engine and 21st century settings. And consequently, their average speed on these roads is slower, between 45 and 50 km/h (28 to 34 mph).
Driving the old 3-Wheelers is a totally different challenge! Throttle, mechanic brakes through cables, independent brakes front and rear… the differences are many and the difficulty much higher. The skills of the pilot are key for a smooth drive, keeping the engine cool, and avoiding the brakes to fade away at the first downhill.
We planned to meet at 9h45 in front of Sigüenza’s railway station. The day is announced to be hot. Very hot. Hats and UV protective sleeves are a must for us. And of course, the essential sunscreen.
Sergio turns the crank of his Matchless engine and it fires immediately. We drive smoothly to the meeting point, with loud pops and bangs while the old Matchless engine warms up and Sergio makes the correct adjustments.
After joining the Brits, we all cross the village and Sergio makes a short stop to fill his tank. Now we’re all ready to go!
We drive towards Alcolea del Pinar. The road is easy, and the old cars run faster than expected, reaching on some occasions the 70 km/h (44 mph). No one wants to drive too fast, as the day is getting hot and Sergio’s engine is still newly restored, with very few miles on it, and he doesn’t want to force it too much.
We’re really enjoying the drive, despite some confusions with the maps and routes to follow at the beginning.
As our 5-Speeder is more agile, we play back and forth taking beautiful videos with the GoPros.
We reach our friend’s house on schedule, at 12h30. Isa and Ricky’s house is beautiful, a pure oasis with water running everywhere, in the middle of the semi-arid region of Guadalajara. It’s a fully restored water mill, with a lot of history, and one of the oldest hydro power plants in Spain. Small size, of course, but surprisingly still generating.
Our friends delight us with a delicious Spanish potato tortilla, cold meats, homemade croquettes, and of course excellent wines and soft drinks that we enjoy by the pool. This stop in such a fresh environment is highly appreciated by all of us.
The day is very hot, and despite wearing hats and caps, sunscreen and UV protecting sleeves, we could feel that the sun is merciless today, and hitting hard. We do feel the dehydration! The air in this Spanish region is incredibly dry, and you can get easily dehydrated while driving the 3-Wheeler if you’re not careful and drink a lot of water.
After a nice hour and a half enjoying our friend’s company, house, and kitchen, we fire the engines and head to the village center. It’s just five minutes’ drive. We’ll have a light lunch at the restaurant La Esquinita. A nice spot with a terrace covered with a large centennial vine.
Arriving there, we have another surprise arranged by Sergio. He called a friend he knows through vintage and historic cars insurance business, and he was waiting for us at the restaurant with a fabulous and pristine 1931 Alvis!
Adam is British, and he lives in Cifuentes. And as you can see, he is another enthusiast of vintage and historic cars! Apart this Alvis, he owns an old Seat 600 too, that we missed to see yesterday in Cifuentes as there was a Seat 600 club meeting there!
We park the Morgans around this beautiful machine and, as usual, we have plenty of curious people asking and taking many photos.
We stay around the cars chatting and enjoying the conversation, but soon we realize that the sun is still up there, cooking everything that’s not under a shade, and we take refugee inside the restaurant. The thick stone walls and some air conditioning make the interior really comfortable compared to the outer inferno! We are reaching the 40ºC right now outside!
Lunch is again a very pleasant moment of rest, with excellent conversations and fantastic company. After rehydrating as much as possible, and with not too much food to digest in our bellies (hard to say in Spain, generally), we go out again under the sun and restart our route.
We do some videos and take the mandatory pictures after lunch, before saying goodbye to Adam and his daughter.
We fire the engines and head now towards Brihuega and its famous lavender fields. With a short stop at the exit of the village to refuel again the old machines.
This was our afternoon itinerary.
Second section – From Cifuentes to Sigüenza
We drive at very good rhythm, with the engines staying relatively cool for the heat of the day. Nice average speeds heading to Brihuega through Solanillos del Extremo. Definitely, this Spanish region is really dry.
We do a couple of stops before reaching Brihuega, to enjoy the first lavender fields we see in bloom.
There is very little traffic on this road, and we drive easily crossing very few vehicles, and comfortably stopping at will whenever we see a nice sight over the purple fields.
We finally reach Brihuega. And we must climb from the bottom of the canyon on one side to the top of the hill on the other side of town. The road is too demanding for the old engines, and Sergio’s Matchless gives him the overheating alarm and he needs to stop just before the end of the uphill.
After a few minutes waiting for the temperature of his cooling system to drop down, he restarts and joins us a few hundred meters further on the plain. There we stop for a good half an hour, drink some water and enjoy the views while the Morgans rest under the shade of the short trees, engines cooling down to reasonable temperatures.
We finally restart with crews and machines refreshed, and drive easy back to Sigüenza, enjoying the landscapes, more lavender fields in blossom, and even spotting few deer on the high grass fields aside the road.
After reaching Sigüenza, Sergio and Susana say goodbye to the British team and head direct to the Molino de Alcuneza, dreaming about the freshwater swimming pool. We can’t blame them, as not only their machine overheated today! Meanwhile, Ana Maria and I follow Colin, Carole, Len and Bill to their hotel, where we spend a really nice time chatting and having some dinner with beers and sodas.
Tomorrow, they drive to Segovia. We talk about the route, and we recommend them some mountain passes around this impressive city.
What a fantastic day! We are really happy we joined our friends. The experience of driving with such skilled drivers and their historic machines is an amazing experience we hope we’ll repeat again!
After a fond farewell, our day and our 3-Wheeler adventure ends with a short drive to the Molino de Alcuneza. Tomorrow, we drive back home with a lot of new great memories!
3 Replies to “Short fighter mission #6 – 2nd & 3rd of July 2022”
Great article, Javier! I really enjoyed your vivid description of the outing. I hope Sergio’s overheating episode has no repercussions, although the temperature really was extreme that day so overheating was almost inevitable at some point!
So glad I had the opportunity to meet you all, albeit briefly, that day, and I hope the British contingent enjoyed the rest of their trip and that they made it back to Santander without any serious hiccups along the way!
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.
The photographs are an excellent addition, and bring the whole report to life.
It has given me a very detailed insight into your stunning adventure.
Thank you for constructing such an phenomenal record.
Meant ‘a’ phenomenal record.