Sharing a bed for a night with your brother in law, on valentines day and the week thereafter. Driving on the German Autobahn at otherwise highly illegal speeds, with no muffler. Lacking time to sightsee all these beautiful places because there’s another mountain pass to conquer. The Carbagerun requires sacrifices.
Update: links to all the other chapters added below.
The Carbagerun is a rally through Europe for street legal €500, 1998 or older bangers. Every year there’s a winter edition, a summer edition and a moped edition. I participated in the 2016 winter edition. Start: February 15th, the Netherlands. Finish: February the 19th, Andorra. After entering Switzerland highways were mostly avoided. We took about 1400 pictures, most from a moving car, most not that nice.
I described the preparations we made for participating in this rally on Oppositelock before. Short summery: I bought a ‘97 Mitsubishi Galant wagon for €500 in December 2015. It’s a slushbox and NA 4g63 engine equipped rational choice, but one I haven’t really regretted. Much. More on that later.
Way day zero? Well, my brother in law had been using the Galant as his daily driver because his crappy Hyundai decided to, well, crap out. He also lives about 6 hours from me, we had to be present before 8 am and I needed to take a 3 hour train ride to reach the starting location. So we booked a hotel. It being February 14th and being somewhat paranoid I informed the hotel this was a business trip with a colleague. Everything to avoid rose pedals on the bed.
At shortly before 8 am. we arrived at the huge parking lot turned starting location. Even though the Carbagerun winter edition is dwarfed by the summer edition, I was amazed by the amount of cars. 281 participating cars.
Lots more pictures where those came from, but there’s a story to tell. So off we went. We had a trip consisting of mostly highway ahead of us. Destination: Basel, Switzerland. A route through Belgium and France.
We also had two assignments to do that day, both of which seemed to have been thought out during a drunk night. It turned out the assignment wouldn’t get better during the trip. Interview someone on camera previously interviewed by an infamous Belgian interviewer (Jambers), and photograph yourself in specific female Belgian superhero outfit (including boots and everything) that was targeted at 6 year old kids (Mega Mindy). We called a carnival shop to ask if they had an outfit. The shop owner tried to lynch me right through the telephone, as I was supposedly the 80th caller with the exact same question that day.
After about 100 km disaster struck. Well, a stroke of bad luck. Despite our best preperations the famously crappy Belgian roads took their toll. Our muffler decided it needed a divorce from the rest of the exhaust. Loudness galore. Note that the muffler was still air tight after Christmas, as a leaky exhaust would have failed the mandated inspection it had then. The muffler did still seem to be mounted solidly to the car, so we continued on. To a DIY garage in Heidelberg Germany my BIL knew about, as he lives in that city. We wanted to make sure we could continue our journey safely, and wanted to know if the damage could be fixed
It turned out where was nothing we could do to fix it without a spare muffler. It was late in the afternoon, so there was nothing to do. Luckily the muffler was still mounted solidly, so there was no risk of launching a muffler on a tailgater. We left, heading for Switzerland.
Besides the noise there was another downside. Due to whatever reason related to the two muffler parts being in a certain position from the other the Galant lacked all power in the 3000-3500 RPM range. Below 2700 RPM and above 4000 RPM it was fine, but at that cruising sweet spot of 3000 RPM it was dead. And extra loud. Did I mention I managed to buy a Galant with an automatic transmission? Ugh.
These exhaust problems resulted in a significant loss of time. We decided to skip the scenic route trough France and go straight to
the finish in Basel Switzerland our money-saving hotel in Lörrach Germany, 15 minutes from the finish location in pricey Switzerland.
Day one was a bit of a letdown. Mostly higher speed (~170 kmh) Autobahn cruising. Something I do frequently already. Boring, but inevitable here.
After breakfast we went to the starting location to fetch the route and assignments. There were told there were two routes we could take, and we should take the short 8 hour one as we were supposedly ‘late’ (9:30 am?) so the long 10 hour route would be too long for the day. In hindsight we would’ve picked differently, but that’s hindsight. So we took the short route. Before we knew it we were driving through the Alps. From Basel via Breitenbach to Balsthal.
The mountainous drive didn’t take too long, probably about an hour excluding the stop and traffic jam. We soon found ourselves on the highway.
Luckily our highway stint didn’t take too long. Way past Bern, at Bulle, we got off the highway. B roads, that’s what it’s all about! From Chateaux-d’Oex to Aigle. From Aigle to the big Saint Bernard tunnel, but with a slight detour over the pass through Champex-Lac.
Right before the Saint Bernard tunnel, which we were supposed to take, we also spotted a sign for a Saint Bernard pass. Interesting. So we followed the sign.
This is what it would’ve looked like:
This is what we actually saw. Notice that it’s the exact same mountain.
No entry. The roads had not been cleaned. Too bad. Tunnel it is then.
In the tunnel we crossed the border. I cross national borders at least once a month, usually more often. This was the first time in a decade that I had to stop for a border. Switzerland not being part of the EU might be a reason. The hideous fuzzy dice on the rear view mirror? Or was it the loud exhaust? I didn’t take long though, with us being the
neatly shaven formally dressed exemplary citizens we are.
And suddenly: Italy. First observation: this isn’t as clean as Switzerland.
We were on the highway shortly after. The planned route for the day was over, our navigation would guide us to our hotel. Even from the highway this part of Italy does offer rather nice views. With lots of small castles on hilltops.
Our hotel was Hotel Galant. When I saw that name I knew I just had to book it. Our car didn’t result in a discount, sadly. Looking back I should’ve asked if they wanted to sponsor us.
The three star Hotel Galant was actually a rather nice hotel, considering the cost. €62 for a roomy double room including breakfast buffet and parking. Not bad.
Being an Italian hotel it did have its quirks.
After having installed ourselves in the hotel we headed to the finish location. We skipped the assignments as they were unrealistic or too time consuming (trunk full of snow... we had a wagon; photograph a teammate driving a Lamborghini tractor; photograph a teammember close to a row of actual (full size) Fiat 500s arranged like the Italian flag, with the right colors in the right order).
The finish location was in a biker bar. La Sacra Birra Saloon. Translated as the holy beer saloon, I bet. There was a live cover band, cheap food and obscenely expensive drinks. The place was packed with Dutchmen. We stayed for food and left shortly after. Not really our crowd.
(picture time stamps as provided by the camera. I’m unsure about the accuracy. It was probably still featuring summer time, so it’ll be 1 hour off)