As some of you have already noticed, posts regarding Nordschleife runs are drippling in on Oppo from several members. Its actually not a coincidence, in case you missed it, past weekend set the stage for something profoundly epic, something that, in my personal opinion, had broken the internet if it could. What is this thing I’m talking about, you wonder? Well, it’s the one and only EUROPPOMEET!!!
As some of you might remember from the countless ‘Reminder’ articles, the ‘Update’ articles on several EurOppo members’ cars and ‘Info’ posts, somewhere last year October, the wheels on organizing a continent-wide meet had been slowly set in motion. What to many seemed as a ‘doom-scenario’ and ‘just a fantasy-filled idea’, worked out into meeting of 19 people in total, from 5 different countries.
It took some careful planning, some organizing a couple of polls and (for some) some wrenching, but we managed, as a group, to make it succeed beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.
I can’t deny that, in the early stages of prepping for this meet, I was one of the sceptics. I feared that, by the time Friday, the 24th of March comes lurking around the corner, we’ll have about 5 EurOppo members left in the group that are willing and ready to meet up. Mind you, I had no problem with 5, but by February, we had a Whatsapp Chat group of about 25 people, so to end up with only 5 at the actual meet-up would’ve been a bit of a letdown.
The following months, up until that Friday, were mostly filled with excitement, daydreaming of how the meet-up would be, getting the Teg ready for some track-time and enjoying the group chat.
One of the things we’re lucky to have in this day and age are the various ways of communicating with each other. I despise people that have their head stuck in their phone all the time, but have to admit that the EurOppo group chat was a very, very entertaining way of getting to know everyone. Naturally, you can’t judge someone by just a group chat, but I started to feel very positive about the idea of spending a weekend doing car shenanigans with these guys.
Friday March 24: Pre-Meet:
Now, the original timeframe for the EurOppoMeet was set for saturday the 25th and sunday the 26th of March, but a bunch of guys in the group had taken a day earlier off on friday and had no problem making it to our campgrounds that friday, including myself. When planning this meet into my work schedule, I had gotten so excited about everything that I accidently had taken nearly a whole week off, so from wednesday till friday, I hadn’t had any plans.
After discussing it in the group, the idea arose to do a pre-meet meet on friday. If there were people interested, it would be possible to meet up a full day earlier to get set up, scout the area, take some pictures and do a nice scenic ride. Since the Teg was as ready as she could be, I did not have much planned for that friday, so I agreed, with a couple of other Opponauts to meet up on friday, do a nice drive and hang out.
Friday.......I woke up on Friday at around 8am. It was my intention of waking up around 10, have a nice, relaxing breakfast and pack my stuff in the car and head out. I only had a 1.5 hour drive ahead of me, so I could take my time until the 2pm meetup time at Leuven, Belgium. I couldnt get my excitement toned down and decided to just get out of bed and wander around, make sure I had everything with me that I needed. A bottle of water, check. Beer, check. Clean clothes for the weekend, check. Beer, check. Toothbrush, check. Beer.........check. It’s worth mentioning that the brilliant mind that is the EurOppo group came up with the idea that everyone had to bring beers from their region, which is really the best idea ever. In the end, I had more beer in my car than water, but meh, water is overrated anyway.
Around 12 midday, I packed up my stuff and headed out to Leuven, Belgium. The idea was to meet up with Wout (ZZW30) first, do a small drive to a local supermarket near Liege and meet up with Niels (Screenname?..:(..). In terms of weather, the friday could not have started any better. I was accompanied by a nice breeze at a relatively warm and very sunny day. As mentioned before, I did not have a very long drive and luckily, the drive did not take a lot longer than usual, as I did not have any traffic jams or problems on my route. So far so good!
I met up with Wout at a gas station just outside of Leuven. First impressions are always a bit......awkward, I guess. I consider myself an easy-going guy that could hang out with anyone, common interests or not, and happily enough, the meet-up went as I hoped: Smooth, relaxed, basically as if youre meeting up with a friend you haven’t seen for a while.
After a brief chat, we hopped into our JDM ‘monsters’ and headed for Liege. The belgian motorways were not gentle on my much stiffer engine mounts, but hey, I choose the ‘racecar’ life, so I had to live with it. After an hour drive, we pulled into a parking lot of a large Carrefour supermarket. Opponaut number 3 would be joining us shortly.
After finding out that Niels, our third Opponaut for the friday club, was located in another section of the parking lot, we moved our 2-car party into that section, only to find out that Niels had brought something legendary to the meet. No, I’m not talking about a full-on race car or a one-off classic, I’m talking about his Renault Espace! One of the first things that popped into my mind was ‘Holy sh*t, is he taking that thing on the Ring? That would be awesome!’.
Again, after meeting up with Niels, I had the same feeling when I met Wouter. Naturally, I’m aware that I’m talking to people I met from the internet and of course, the first couple of minutes we’re all deciding if we like each other or not and if there’s a match or if, more importantly, you, for some unexplicable reason, don’t like a person at all. As mentioned above, I really liked the group so far. Our conversations, naturally, were mostly about our cars and beer, but even though that was the case, we got along very well.
The ‘unpleasantries’ were done. It was time to do the first scenic drive for EurOppoMeet. I have to give credit where credit is due: The drive was amazing. While leaving the parking lot, I decided to hang back since I figured that would be a better idea with the Espace in the group, but to my very pleasant surprise, the Espace, had no problem hanging on to the MR2's tail.
The whole way, I kept thinking: If this is what’s in store for the whole weekend, this is going to be one of those situations where you just can’t explain how amazing of an experience a trip and/or holiday was.
We had 2 hours to kill until we were joined by a couple more EurOppo members and boy, did we kill those 2 hours perfectly. I have done a lot of backroad driving, a lot of spirited driving across roads that are simply amazing, but this...this was on a whole other level. The scenery, if it werent for me driving, I could have just sat in the car and enjoyed everything that was to be seen around me while opening one of the North Brewery beers I brought. Simply breathtaking.
We did a 2 hour scenic ‘detour’ and pulled in at the camping grounds where we would stay for the weekend. As I was pulling my stuff out of the car, a beautiful french coupe came around the corner. Dutch license plates, duurtlang! Perfectly timed arrival.
We unpacked all our stuff in our ‘Chalet’ and agreed to get some groceries. What better to do that than in an Espace? Again, brilliant car.
We were joined by another group of awesome Englishmen, a Dutch-speaking German in a BRZ, our resident ‘Teach’ teacher and mister FSI himself :D.
The more time I spent with this group, the more awesome this whole meet started to look like. A proper group of car enthousiasts, driving addicts and beer afficionados. We were, really, like the Top Gear trio times 3.5, cracking jokes and sharing stories as if we had known eachother for years. It could not have started off in a better way.
More to come in Part 2 and Part 3!