I've been thinking a lot just lately about a little adventure that my little family and I took back in December 2014. So I thought that I might as well write about it, for no other reason than to keep it somewhere where my two little monsters can read about it when they're a bit older, and its no longer so fresh in their beautiful little minds.
Some of us, if we are lucky have a friend, a friend who is above all other friends, a friend who will do almost anything to help you, and you will do almost anything to help them. If we are really lucky, we have atleast one of these friends, I have one of these friends. Many moons ago when I was living in deepest darkest Wales with my then girlfriend I met this new friend. I didn't realise at the time that this friend would become probably my closest friend, but when my girlfriend of the time decided that she was going to attack me, fracture THREE of my ribs, and destroy pretty much everything in the house as she was very drunk, a raving lunatic, and abnormally strong! My new friend dropped everything for me, and helped me through a very dark time in my life without any questions or judgement. He also helped me to re-build my house after hurricane psycho-girl had destroyed everything in it's path! So, when he decided to re-locate himself to Germany and asked me to help move all his stuff, the answer from me was, yes, of course I will... It's what being a good friend is about! The trouble was, even though he had quite a small flat, and had got rid of a lot of stuff, he still had plenty of stuff left for me to transport. An idea was hatched, I'd get myself a pick up, and I'd just tow a horse-box behind it with all his stuff in it... Simple... Right?
Well that's the pick up bit sorted, that was easy enough, now the horsey box bit...
Unfortunately the horsey box bit didn't go so well... Those of you with sharper eyes will have realised that this is not a horsey box at all, it is infact a very tired, and very used steel garden shed!
I couldn't find a horsey box that I could afford, so what I decided to do in my wisdom or otherwise was to buy a car transporter trailer, and put a large garden shed on it! What could possibly go wrong? Well, I spoke about this to my two brothers, one of whom it has to be said is a pretty sensible type of chap. He said, it can't be done, you'll never get all the stuff there, the shed will come apart as you drive down the autobahn, and his stuff will be strewn across the autobahn, or more likely, the motorway before you even leave England! Thats the spirit! I had a look on Google maps to see just how far it was, and what I had gotton myself into... So from my house in England, to my friends new house in Germany it was only 710 miles!! However, we wern't going from my house in England, we had to go from his house in Wales, so it was England, Wales, Germany... No worries, only 1,005 miles... GULP!! 1,005 miles!! I'd better make sure that shed it firmly attached to the trailer! So the shed was bolted to some pallets which were in turn bolted to the trailer. The shed was then re-inforced on the sides, and the roof, and hooks were attached to enable me to strap the shed down to the trailer from both the sides, and the roof. One of my biggest worries (although I didn't let on to my nay-saying brother) was that as we drove along the roof gets blown off, as I thought that would probably seriously affect the structural integrety of the rest of the shed. Once it was on and bolted down, my mate who was helping me said, are you going to take it for a test? I said, nope, the test will be when we go! We then loaded all my friends stuff into the shed. It was loaded so that the shed was absolutely packed, nothing could move about in the shed, and I started by packing all my friends stuff around the walls of the shed first, in my mind turning the shed into one big solid object rather than a big box full of loose stuff! I then loaded Mrs Clint and out two little monsters into the Ranger and we were off, next stop... Germany! Well, it would actually be Dover as we had to get on the ferry, but you get the idea!
To be fair to the Ranger it drove pretty well, and you didn't really notice that you were lugging a garden shed behind you. Pretty soon, we were at Dover, and giving the shed a good looking over before getting onto the ferry!
To say that I got some strange looks while driving onto the ferry towing a garden shed would be the understatement of the year! We headed off to try and track down some breakfast. The crossing was smooth, which I was glad about as even though I come from a family with a bit of a Naval background I hate ships! Before long our channel crossing was over, and we were getting off the ferry in Calais! Horaaah!! Only 551 miles to go, which means of course, that we're nearly half way there! Before getting off the ferry I had another good look around my garden shed to see if everything was ok, and nobody had tampered with the ratchet ties that were holding the damn thing down. Everything was ok, it was all still tight, and still tied down nicely, it was looking good for the remaining 551 miles, so on we went!
The drive was going well, very well actually and I was just starting to think that this was maybe a bit too easy. But then, about ten miles from my destination my trailer decided that it was going to have a puncture or two. This meant of course, that I could only change one wheel, so I was going to have to do the remaining ten miles with just three wheels on my wagon, all the while keeping my eyes on the mirrors waiting for the Polizei to stop me for a chat!
The good news is that by some miracle the Polizei didn't stop me for a chat, and the shed was delivered safely to my friends new house. Once there we had a quick cup of tea, emptied the shed, then had another cup of tea with biscuits...
Then removed the shed from the trailer. Good! We had done it, the shed was in it's new home, and we had managed to do what nearly everyone I spoke to about this trip said that we couldn't do it! Of course this now left me with an empty car transporter trailer to drag home! Hmm, I hadn't really thought about that, but never mind it might come in handy! Over the next couple of days we did a bit of wandering around, acting like tourists. Mrs Clint bought some souvineers:-
Hmm... Not too sure about these, but I guess they might be very nice...
And drank some bier... Wasn't too sure about that either as a non drinker! Still, never mind, while this was going on I looked at a few cars...
This was a pretty scruffy little Mustang, the bonnet's scruffier than mine!
I didn't have pick up envy... Honest!
Well ok... Maybe just a little! I don't know what it is about the Dodge Dakota, but ever since selling my one, I've wanted another! All this car spotting and souvineer hunting was going fairly well, y'know, just looking... But then we decided to leave my friends house, and go to Stuttgart for a look round, and that's where I saw this:-
But better than that, it was for sale, and the icing on the cake? I had an empty car transporter trailer with me! So I asked Mrs Clint how much cash she had with her? She asked me why I needed to know, so I said, well, she's been buying CDs, and other souvineers all day, so I thought I might buy one, do you happen to have 700€? Yes I do she said. Great, I said, lets have it! Mrs Clint, still wondering what kind of souvineer cost 700€ handed over the cash, and I bought myself a Rekord! It didn't run so we pulled it onto my trailer with my winch. However, while we were doing that, some local lug-nut drove into my trailer while he was watching what I was doing, and not what he was doing! My trailer appeared to be fine after his little shunt, but his golf was well and truly müllered! Still, as my trailer looked ok, I said not to worry, and he drove off with steam bellowing from under his bonnet, and I headed off into the night to our hotel! 50 miles later we pulled into our hotel car park, and one of the wheels on my trailer was smoking... A lot!
The next morning I had a look at it only to find that the bearing was shot. So in my wisdom or otherwise I decided to remove the offending wheel, and see how it looked. It looked ok to me so then I moved the Rekord over to one side of the trailer in a bid to put more weight over the side of the trailer that still had two wheels attached to it, and thought that we'd head back to my friends place only 200 miles away, to try and formulate a plan there! Just 20 miles into our trip all was going quite well, but then...
POLIZEI! Great, I'm pretty sure he's not going to like this! I was right, he didn't! The angry little chap wasn't happy about, well anything really. He shouted at me in German, which i struggled to understand...
He took us to a TÜV center where my trailer underwent some tests...
It wasn't looking good. A little man who looked for all the world like the Carl Freidrickson character from the Disney/Pixar film "Up" wandered around it muttering "Nein" to himself a lot while he looked at it. He wasn't happy about the condition of my trailer at all, and he was more than a little upset by its assymetrical wheel arrangement! In the end he said I could go no further with my trailer, and promptly fined me 400€ plus 68€ for the test! Happy days!
Yep, that pretty much sums up what I thought of the situation. Luckily for me however I had the forethought to join a motoring organisation called the RAC before setting off on our trip, I called them up to tell them of our predicament. The first thing they said was that I didn't have European cover. I told them that according to my letter that they sent me that I was holding in my hand that I do have European cover, to which they replied, oh yes, so you do. Hmm... They then said that my trailer wasn't covered. Again I pointed out that according to my letter, my trailer was covered, as I had to pay them extra to cover it, once again the reply was oh, yes, so you do!! So, a fella arrived with a flatbed truck, and took my trailer, and Opel Rekord to a storage facility. We were told to follow them, and stay with it all while they (the RAC) decided what to do next. So we did...
After waiting around in the cold and sleet so long for the RAC to decide what was the best thing to do, the garage where they had taken my trailer and car to closed. So I phoned the RAC once again, and told them that I had a hotel booked about 100 miles away. They then told me that I should leave the trailer, and car on it, and it would follow me home in about 14 days time! Why they needed us to wait around in the freezing cold with two little children all day while they decided that i'll never know. But never mind, we were off!
I must say that i was quite greatful to the garage that my trailer and Rekord was taken to The staff at Hübl GmbH & Co KG, Dantestraße 15, 70197 Stuttgart, were very kind and helpful and despite their poor English, and my even poorer German they tried their very best to sort things out for us with the RAC, and kept bringing us hot drinks all day while we were waiting for the RAC to pull their collective fingers out of their bums, and sort something out!
I just thought I'd show you this rather cool little drain in the middle of the garage storage area, I thought it was kinda cool! Anyway, once I knew my trailer etc will be following me home. We hit the road again!
Ofcourse, by this time we had missed our hotel check in, and so we decided to drive a further 200 miles back to Köln to a hotel we knew was still open at 2 am when we thought we'd get there... This was a heck of a drive, we were running out of diesel. There was a sign that said there was a fuel station in 25kms, but there wasn't!! Then the fuel light came on, but no fuel station showed up... Somehow, by drafting behind trucks et cetera this little truck managed to get us over 50kms with the fuel light on... I don't think I'll ever know how it got us there that night, but it did! I was relieved when this place showed up! The rest of the trip went without hitch, Mrs Clint bought me car sticker for my car...
Not really had the nerve to put it on my car yet to be honest!
I found a cool old Renault by the side of the road. I didn't even try to buy it... Didn't have a trailer to transport it home!
Before too long we were back in Calais waiting to get back on the ferry to go home.
Finally onboard the Ferry home I could sit back, safe in the knowledge that my trailer and the Opel Rekord upon it would soon follow me home Or so I thought! The 14 days that the RAC promised me my trailer and Rekord would be returned to me came and went, then the 15th, then the 16th, the 17th, the 18th, the 19th, and finally on the 20th day had passed! There was still with no word from the RAC I thought that I should phone them up and see what the heck is going on. I called them up, and got passed from person to person until over an hour later I was talking to someone about where my trailer and car had got to. The person I was talking to informed me that the RAC would not be recovering the Opel Rekord that was on the trailer, and this is why neither had been returned to me. Why not I asked. The representative from the RAC told me that the car on the trailer is not covered by my policy, and therefore if I wanted them to recover my car also it would be a further £1400 + VAT. What? Why would you not recover the car as well I enquired. Well, apparently becasue they didn't know there would be a car on the trailer, it's not covered. I said, why would you not expect there to be a car on a car transporter trailer? What kind of idiots are you? Anyway, this just went round and round and in the end I figured that I was getting nowhere. The outcome from all this time spent talking to some fool from the RAC was this, they said that they would recover the trailer, but not the car, they would however recover the car for an added £1400 + VAT. Or, they would recover the trailer, and I could arrange to recover the car myself! Ok I said, you recover the trailer, and I will have the car recovered myself. When can I expect my trailer to be returned to me? It shall be returned to you in 14 days time! Hmm, I've heard all that before, ok I said, I'll wait for the trailer to be returned and I'll make my own arrangements for the recovery of my car. To say that I was feeling a little disillusioned about the RAC was probably the understatment of the decade!
The arrangements that I had decided upon to get my car back went like this, I hired an even bigger trailer than mine, hitched it to the back of my Ranger, and at 06:00 hrs on 23 December 2014, with Mrs Clints words ringing in my ears "BE BACK BY CHRISTMAS EVE!!" I pointed the nose of my Ranger at Stuttgart 664 miles away, and headed off with my brother!
For the second time in a month I found myself at Dover waiting to board a ferry to Calais, and it was windy... Very VERY windy! YIPEEE!!
Look at the size of that thing! It's a monster! I figured that maybe I could get my trailer on there too!
Oh joy!! As the ferry rocked about and I tried my best to walk in a straight line, We decided that we were a bit hungry, and a spot of breakfast was the order of the day. As we wandered to the resturaunt on the ferry we were greated by the smell of warm fresh vomit!! Joy of joys, hopefully we can find somewhere out of the smell, and maybe get a bite to eat. To be honest, while I was standing in the que I sort of lost my appetite a bit, and instead I opted for a bottle of 7up, and a bag of crisps! Good healthy breakfast then. We ate this out on deck, because although it was very windy, and raining, it wasn't smelly lol!
There would be no time for sight seeing on this little trip, however I did still manage to see a few sights while out on the autobahn...
Thank goodness for that, I thought I was the only one stupid enough to try towing a shed!!
As night fell we arrived in Stuttgart, of course the garage where my car was had closed for the day, which I knew before setting off. However they did say that they were going to be open for a few hours the following morning, which I had also checked before setting off. My brother and I checked into the Holiday Inn for the night, which was very nice! The following day, up bright and early, good breakfast at the Holiday Inn, and off to pick up the broken Rekord. As before the staff at Hübl were extremely nice, and helpful, however, at first they didn't want to release the Rekord to me, as in their opinion it was down to the RAC to recover it (and I couldn't agree more with their opinion!), but in the end, after calling the RAC they decided I could take it, but they wouldn't allow me to take my trailer, as the RAC had told them that they would be rocovering it. So, iI paid them a small fee to cover the storage of the Rekord, and they helped me to load it onto my trailer. They even then stood outside and waved me off, which i thought was a nice touch!
Not content with just sticking a big "International Rescue" emblem on the back of my truck...
My brother thought it would be hillarious if my Rekord had one as well! For the second time in a month I was filling up at this petrol station. I know you're probably all thinking that its not very unusual to be filling up at the same petrol station twice in a month, and I agree with you, but this petrol station is 664 miles away from BelongaClint.
Right then, tank full of go-go juice, point the nose at Calais, and stand on it!! I looked at my brother and in my best Hans Solo voice said, "punch it Chewie!" and we made the jump to light speed!
She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts! I must say, that this old Ranger, with its 2.5 litre TDCi engine sure did have some get up and go, and with Calais showing as 454 miles on the satnav, and supposedly the journey was going to take and estimated 7 hours I knew we would really need to get a wriggle on, and I really needed to stand on it because the last ferry out of Calais, being that it was Christmas eve was at 18:00hrs, and it was 11:00hrs before we left Hübl in Stuttgart! So with Mrs Clints words still ringing in my ears, "BE BACK BY CHRISTMAS EVE!!" I welded the accelerator pedal of the Ranger to the floor, and went for it!! By 17:00hrs...
We were waiting to board the second to last ferry to leave Calais before Christmas!! Well, I did say that I welded the accelerator to the floor! (theres a small chance I may have exceeded the speed limit just a touch!)
I cant tell you how relieved I was to be finally on the ferry, heading for home!! What you're looking at here is a photo of triumph!! Even if the truck wouldn't start now, we would still be home by Christmas! We headed straight up to the resturaunt to get some celebratory tucker before the place smelled of vomit! As we sat there eating our dinner there was more good news...
Look how flat and calm the sea was, the crossing back to Dover was exceptionally flat, and smooth... Lovely! Once back on English soil I decided that I didn't need to exceed the speed limit anymore because I was no longer trying to get to Calais before the last ferry left on Christmas eve. Therefore the 132 mile drive back along the motorways from Dover to BelongaClint took just under three hours, the traffic was light, presumably as most normal folk were already home on Christmas eve tucking into the Quality Street!
Mission accomplished! But as I pulled up outside BelongaClint I did feel the need to phone Mrs Clint to tell her that I had unfortunately missed the last ferry out of Calais! She was not impressed at all. I won't bore you with the actual words she used, but let's just say it would've made Gordon Ramsey blush! She's got quite a way with words my lovely lady!! Needless to say, ten minutes later when I did walk in through the front door, she was a little bit happier, but still not impressed, and another round of expletives ensued!! Yup, she's quite the wordsmith!! I'll tell you what though, I was shattered, but so pleased to be back home with my little family for Christmas thawing out in my lounge with a cup of tea and a couple of Mrs Clints home made mince pies! Plus of course, I now had my Opel Rekord, and the RAC promised me that my trailer would be home just after new year. Of course, New Year came, and went, but my trailer never came home. In the end, after badgering the RAC for months about bringing my trailer home they told me that they were not going to transport it home for me. Instead, they were going to send me a cheque for the price of it. Like the rest of the promises the RAC had given me, the cheque never arrived. I'm sure there's a lesson to be learned here, They really did try everything they could to not recover me, and in the end, whenever I phoned them about it I would get passed from pillar to post until I would finally hang up, and give up. But I wonder if any other recovery service would be any better? You live and learn I guess.