Curves ahead - many of them...
Howdy Boys and Girls.... It’s been a long while since I have posted much of anything here... I have been busy at work and in life. It’s all good - just a bit hectic and not much time for Oppo. I think you guys know the scene... So, sit back with a glass of Whisky, or hot coffee and have a read...
I have been traveling a good bit for work lately... Four trips to the EU in four months. I don’t have time for fun side trips on the majority of these trips, HOWEVER, on my last trip, I made some time for me, and saved my company a wad of cash booking my airfare as an open ticket (win-win).
I flew to London (LHR) and my first day (Monday) was a long one.... I jumped off the plane, processed through the UK border, and headed to the rental car yard. They provide me with a (large by UK standards) Vauxhall Insignia Diesel. Nice wheels, but a little tight for my 6'4" 190# frame. Like most EU market cars, the steering felt amazingly connected (compared to the dull steering we get in the sates). It was also shod with Conti DWS summer tires ! YAY ! The Diesel is willing, and the manual gearbox engaging, so this was turning out to be a nice start to the week-long trip... Unfortunately, the tires were inflated to insanely high pressures - over 40 psi according to the TPMS.
I had a 135 mile drive up to Heanor to make a post-lunch meeting. No sweat, I’ll just jump on the motorway and... STOMP ON THE BRAKES and Park on the M25 for a bit. OK, once on the M1, traffic was moving quite nicely and I engaged the cruise control like any self respecting American. I did make a rest stop on the way to let traffic subside, drain some coffee, and reduce the ridiculous tire pressure. I had my afternoon meeting and then headed south all the way to Fareham where I would spend the night for meetings the next day.
With the meetings in Fareham behind me on Tuesday morning, I drove across the Solent onto the Isle of Wight. This is tricky and requires a buoyant thing underneath you such as a ferry. Fun times !
I bombed around the tiny Isle of Wight for 2.5 days doing work-related things, and then hopped a ferry back to the mainland on Thursday so I could hit an LHR>BRU flight that evening. I was working my way to the Netherlands, and eventually into Germany - to visit the Eifel Region. Home of the world renown Spangdahlem Air Base. Oh - and that little racetrack in the woods - the Nürburgring.
Well, then... Before I dropped the car at the rental lot, I stopped for fuel and took the long way around LHR so I could catch some of the ‘heavies’ landing on 27R. I lucked out as a QATAR Airlines A380 approached in the distance... I don’t have to tell you how cool it was to stand under one of the largest commercial passenger jets on final approach...
I dropped the car, and jumped on the flight to Brussels. Even though it was a short flight, I lucked out with a business class seat, and they served a delightful afternoon tea. Cheers !
We hit the ground, and I made it to the rental car desk promptly... where there was a long line. I travel enough to have Executive status with National/Enterprise, but on this leg, I rented with Avis - so I waited. Eventually, I broke out some of my wicked French and the agent took pity on me. “I can English speak.”, he said. “Merci, Monsieur.”, I quipped. He ran through his paperwork and remembered my rental as the “one-way-guy”. Yeah - that’s me. Brussels to Frankfurt. “I am going to make you a very happy guy.”, he says. Feeling a little uncomfortable, I say, “Oh, yeah ?”.
As it turns out, they had a few cars tagged in Germany, and they are a PITA to deal with in Belgium, so they want to get tham back to their country of origin. I would be doing them a favor buy renting it one way. I had reserved a vehicle in the VW-Golf class, but received a VW Tiguan 2.0 Diesel - loaded - as a free upgrade. Unfortunately, it was an Automated Manual Transmission. “No manual transmission Tiguans?”, I inquired. “Nope, not tonight.”, he replied. Shucks. OK, off into the Belgian night, I went, driving towards Heerlen, NL.
I dispensed with my meetings in Heerlen by 1400on Friday, and hit the eastbound road into Germany: Home of the Autobahn with no speedlimits, but with 24 hour stau (traffic jams). No sooner had I merged onto the A4, I was slowing for traffic, and eventually parked on the speedlimitless highway. How ironic.
My destination that evening was the tiny town of Spessart - an easy 140 km drive that I should have been able to make in 1.5 hours, but it took 2.5 hours due to the stau on the A4 and another on the A61. Once I departed the Autobahn, I was in some familiar territory - the forest-lined roads of the Eifel Region. Even the approach to Spessart was entertaining...
I arrived at the family-run “Landgasthof”, and checked-in before 5PM. There were several hours before sunset, so I jumped back in the Tiguan and sped towards the Nürburgring.
RACECARS ! The 2nd round of the VLN championship was Saturday, so there was practice Friday night. The beauty of watching, listening, and smelling racing at the Nürburgring is that you don’t need a ticket to “get in”. The racetrack runs through the countryside, you need only find a _legal_ place to park (for which you might pay only €5), and then hike to your hearts content around the track. I had plans to meet up with a former colleague living in Cologne on Saturday morning, but I wanted to do some exploring right away... I found a spot on the local road to Nürburg to watch a little.
Even from this public road, I could snap a few photos of the VLN practice...
Then, I moved to a better vantage point. After discovering a public parking place (no fee) near Hocheichen, I hiked up to the legendary vantage point.
Porsches, Ferrari’s, BMW’s.... Oh My !
A group of Porsches even executed some synchronized racing for us !
Then, I hiked down towards Quiddelbacher. These boys are flyin’ up the long straight run to Flugplatz !
Please tell me if you know of a track in the USA that the general public can get this close to balls-out racing WITHOUT A TICKET !
I headed back to my hotel for dinner, and it was a feast. The “Bockshahnspfanne” was Veal Schitzel, Egg, Pan-fried potatoes, green onions, and corn - enough calories to jog the entire Nordschleife !
On Saturday morning, my buddy met me at the hotel and we headed towards the Nürburgring after hitting the Frühstück (breakfast buffet). We parked at a well established and ample parking lot - Brünnchen. We hiked along the racetrack during final practice/quali all the way to the Karussell, passing the Steilstrecke along the way.
The turn after Klostertal, heading up to Karussell.
Getting dizzy at the Karussell !
We turned back towards Brünnchen, and practice ended. Did I mention that the scenery here is breathtaking ? Racecar sounds echo through the forest-lined hills !
We had some Schweinbraten and a drink, and headed towards Pflantzgarten for the start.
We had had enough sun for the day and headed back to Brünnchen to head our separate ways. I was going to my old stomping grounds at Spangdahlem, and he was heading home to Cologne... One more video of ‘YouTube corner’...
The route for this portion of my trip was entertaining (on purpose)... The Tiguan, while an automated manual gearbox, was quite fun compared to the bland American-market cars you might encounter in the states. Even the Tiguan was engaging in the twisties. :-)
The back roads and quaint villages of the Eifel Region are inviting. Despite all of my travel abroad over the years, it had been 25 years since I had been back to this area of Germany. It was like I had never left, but there were signs of change.... The A60 had grown, and the air base had grown incredibly, as well...
I drove on to the little town of Speicher from which I had taken the train many times across Europe back in the early 1990's. Aside from a modern digital train arrival display (out of frame), the station hasn’t changed at all in 25 years.
I started to drive east to Frankfurt where I would stay the night and fly out Sunday morning. There were just a few places to stop along the way...
And finally, a fitting end to the fun part of the trip - merging onto the A61 behind a vintage Porsche
930 911... Life is good. Be in it !
And that concluded my week-long Business-Pleasure trip earlier this month. It was a ton of work to plan, but a helluva lot of fun to execute. Be well. Travel safe. Keep the shiny side up.