Zen Adventure

Before we begin the story, a brief but heartfelt thanks to those of you who helped make this adventure happen, especially Dad and Mum, Pam, Richard, Noel, Daniele, Kelly, Rhadames, Clara, Kate, Christian.  THANK YOU!

The idea of getting the red car down to Malta had been passed around a few times, but no one seemed to have time.  Dad had said that he thought it might be good this year.   It could be shipped, so I looked in to that, but the idea of driving seemed more interesting.  It would mean I could stop to see a couple of friends on the way.

The idea of taking someone had been booted around.  Pam would be teaching so couldn’t come.  The boys were in school.  And I didn’t want to be slowed down.  I was aiming for a maximum of a week and had to be back by 20  May at the latest and would be tied up in the garden and with hay making till late summer.  So, if I was to go, I was leaning toward a solo drive.

When Dad visited with Romey and Anthony he confirmed he’d like to  have the car in the sun, so I started planning and by the weekend had decided to go, but not whether to go on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday …  On Monday, Pam encouraged me to take Richard, but I was reluctant.  At lunch I decided to take Richard – it might be the last chance for me and him to get to know each other a bit before he was gone for good … We would leave the following morning.

Just about to leave Noel’s workshop in January 2016 looking the best she’s done for years.

The preparations had started in earnest a few days before the off.  Padraig at Wesley James’ tracked and balanced the wheels.  Wesley warned me about play in the steering.  I said “That’s just how it is!”.  Wesley told me to “See Noel!” at least five times.  So I did.  Noel is a wizard who keeps the cars, trucks and tractors of many lucky folk around here running and looking good.  He had done an amazing job of “repainting” the car a year ago.  The paint job was beautiful but he also waxoyled the frame inside and out and re-welded a few of the more gaping holes.  (After picking it up last year, he demonstrated its roadworthiness by doing a few doughnuts on a country lane!)  The car wouldn’t have been ready without his magical touch.  On this occasion he gave the steering a clean bill of health but told me to replace the front driver side tyre.  We swapped it for the spare in the meantime. I’d look for tyres over the weekend.

So on Monday I phoned around to find tyres.  Tom McGagh (jr) in Bagenalstown suggested Askea Tyres  Carlow.  Pam and I went up in the afternoon. One of the two tyres they had in stock bubbled at the side when inflated so off it came.  Luckily we were able to change the worst offender –  the front driver side tyre –  which was cracking.

Mountain Ash at Noel and Anna’s

On the way home, a banging developed.  We stopped at Noel’s.  On the way in I had to snap  his mountain ash which looked gorgeous.  Brian gave a hand.  We tightened the wheel spinner – problem solved.  Brian mentioned play in the ball joint.  “Shhhh! Don’t say anything.  What you don’t know won’t hurt you…”

Racing pigeon resting in plot 6.

After we returned home, I walked around the garden and saw a pigeon sitting next to the leaf beet.  Weird!  Pigeons are supposed to fly away… Why wasn’t it moving? I leaned closer and saw tags on its legs.  I remember Anthony, who once helped me dig a 6 tonne mini-digger from a bog, telling me that sometimes racing pigeons become exhausted, are very weak and just have to land.    I phoned the number on the tag and Eddie answered.  He was from Dublin.  Yes it was his pigeon.  Could we give him some water and meal?  No problem.  And how about a pick up?  We’d do something in the morning as we drove through Dublin to the ferry.  We put the bird in a box with hay, water and rolled oats and barley.

Then, I went to pick up the rush print job of How to Get Rich and Famous from Patrick and Davy at Digital Outputs.  They did that in a day!  Super job!  Thank you!

And then picked Richard from the train station.  He had got permission to leave school at the last moment and had to run to catch the train from Waterford … but he made it. He was coming too.  When we returned home we noticed the car was looking less dusty – Pam had surreptitiously given it a good cleaning.  Thanks Pam!

That evening we packed and tried to get an early night.  Pam mentioned that having driven to Carlow earlier that day helped her appreciate the dangers involved … and maybe it wasn’t such a good thing to put Richard in the car.  But the die was caste…

I woke at 3.  The moon was bright.  I lay there for an hour and a half before deciding to move.  Bath, dressed, laundry, bags down.  I checked the car and walked around the garden in the pre-dawn light as the birds broke silence.  Full moon facing the rising sun, crisp air, dawn chorus – it was awesome.

I woke Richard around 5 or so.  We tucked in to eggs and toast. Loaded the car, loaded the pigeon, hugs and kisses and off.

About 06.05, 26,101 miles on the clock.  We stopped in Ballon to fill up. The Dublin commuter crowd was already on the road.  Though we all wanted coffee, we were in better moods than them: We were on a road trip!

We cruised to Dublin.  On the M50 I got the directions wrong and we took the wrong exit and incurred a toll.  We had chosen the longest trip through Dublin.  It was interesting to see the town waking up and see different parts of it, parts I’d never seen, but I was a bit impatient with the traffic.  Insane!  Richard was cool about the whole thing.  He nonchalantly mentioned every now and then how much traffic we faced and how much quicker the other route, which the mapping app recommended, would be… but he didn’t give me a hard time.  And the engine was warming as it sat in traffic.  We got to the port half an hour before departure.  Irish Ferries, comfortable as always, this time the quick crossing.  Just as we were about to enter the hold, we released the pigeon, who soared in to the sky, got her bearings and turned for home.  Eddie left a voicemail that she’d arrived 5 minutes after we let her out… a fun beginning to the trip, little of which had been planned from Richard coming along, to the pigeon rescue, to waking up at 3am, to the Dublin detour, and we felt good.

We dozed and did a bit of internetting for the two hour crossing.  After disembarking we stopped a Lidl for provisions then started off on the A55.  It is lovely countryside, partly by the sea and we made fair time to Chester.  We even undertook a Lambo!

Then the car stated to overheat.  We stopped and refilled the water.  But soon the temperature was up again.  I got in touch with Noel who mentioned leaks and, I think prompted by Brian, maybe it was a leaking head gasket.  But he gave me testing instructions over the phone and it seemed the worst it was was a leak in radiator or hoses.  We were at a service area where a fellow kindly directed us to the nearby town of Helsby and a motor factor there.  Clive (I guess (who coincidentally might share a passion for Pratchett) but I don’t know …) at CAW Motor Factors helped out with rad weld and coolant.  We continued on.

The temperature issue ameliorated but didn’t go away and stayed with us to London.  It didn’t seem to be leaks because they didn’t show on rad or hoses.  It wasn’t the head gasket because there was no constant bubbling on filling the rad with water.  I wondered if the radiator cap was the issue because it didn’t feel tight.  I wondered if water was being released too easily. The electric fan didn’t help – it wasn’t working yet was blocking air flow thereby reducing the capacity of the cooling system to cool the engine.

After Chester the traffic got heavier.  We even undertook a Lambo!  But then, as we rounded Birmingham on the M6, heavier traffic and intermittent crawling pushed the temperature up a bit more.  Suddenly the engine stopped. We were in the middle of the motorway.  I hit the clutch and popped the car in to neutral to maintain speed.   Luckily the traffic was slow, maybe 70kmh.  Rich was dozing off but was immediately leapt in to action as we both jumped out of the car and pushed her off to the side.  French might have been spoken, but we were pretty calm.  After a couple of minutes I tried the engine again and she started.  We rolled off again.  I dropped speed and cancelled an evening appointment with Rupert.  We had to refill the radiator frequently.  The scenery was lovely but the car gave me a little cause for worry.  It was good to have texts from Noel and Rupert, who had followed progress, asking about how we were getting on.  And Daniele’s advice as we passed Oxford was welcome “Get here safely”.  Thanks to them all.

I planned to go to the TR Shop if we made it to London … which we did, eventually parking around 20.45 near Kensington Gardens.  The 5-6 hour drive had taken over 9.

On our stroll: Colbert in Sloane Square and overhearing strange snippets: “…he had like a tiny risotto…”

We spent a memorable evening with Daniele and Kelly.  They are a breath of fresh air and generous hosts.  A pint at the pub with a summer evening crowd, a colourful Italian restaurant nearby and later Richard and I parked near the flat we had been offered by my parents.  We took the luggage in, then strolled around the neighbourhood.  For Richard it was a new experience with new worlds opening up.  It was fun for me to share it with him.  On return we showered and passed out a little after 0100.

We were up and at Floris Cafe by 0830.  It’s my usual haunt when passing through South Ken.  I had the usual eggs and chips and Rich had the full breakfast.  Great place, good people. Coffeeee!

Afterwards we went to get credit and found a bleary eyed fellow uninterested in customers because he had a “fiddle spinner”.   We asked what it was while we got the phone top-up.  He explained that it was a dangerous addiction which he played to stop him cracking his knuckles, but that it distracted him so much that he couldn’t even be bothered to stroll to the microwave to get his coffee!  People are strange…

Then I met Charles and Allen.  Allen, a successful entrepreneur building a business which turns waste tyres in to fuel, also has a passion for cars and has raced, maybe at Le Mans but I’m not sure.  He came to look at the car.  He clearly understood some of the issues I was facing and offered some pointers, including staying below 50mph for safety if the steering was suspect (which I didn’t think was the problem, but…).  Thanks Allen.

Richard returned from his walkabout – Sloane area and through Harrods – and we loaded up and left.  We passed by Kensington Palace to give Kelly some copies of How to Get Rich and Famous for Ivan, who has been a great supporter and would give copies to selected friends. Then we headed for Chiswick.  I hoped to see Guy (though our comms broke down and I failed) and go to the TR Shop.

I’ve been going to the TR Shop since the early 80s.  The counter used to be along the left wall, now it’s at the front.  It is a real place, a human place and I’m grateful to Lukas for helping me out for decades.  I picked up a radiator cap with a  slightly longer neck and primed at 4 lbs rather than 10.  The longer neck was essential to keep the water in.  I also picked up a few emergency supplies like radiator hoses, fan belt, coil, distributor cap and leads, and spark plugs, just in case …

The heating problem subsided, though never went away, partly because the electric fan didn’t turn but blocked the radiator.  George (in Gozo) later told me that the lighter pressure of the radiator cap helps reduce water loss, as well as the correct length neck.

We continued to the Chunnel train.  We made good time and arrived in time for the 1520 departure.  Sadly Richard’s phone was damaged when dropped and we lost some great photos – but have since recovered the phone and photos, hurray!

We arrived in France about 1730 French time.  After filling up we erroneously took a slight detour toward Brussels before getting back on the Paris road.  I wondered if it was a sign that we should visit Marc, now in Brussles on his brief vacation from Africa, but I decided to stay on track simply because I had given myself limited time to do the trip.

It was beautiful drive and we made reasonable time toward Paris.  After 100km or so I checked the wheels.  There had been more shake than I was used to on the down slopes of the rolling motorway.  We jacked the front wheel and checked the spinners.  Everything seemed fine and while stopped, Sebastian pulled up, checked out the car while we were fiddlin’, and then we chatted a bit.  He showed us a snap of his 70s or 80s Cateram, a more modern racer and I tried out my incomprehensible French on him.  It is cool when spontaneous camaraderie is sparked by a mutual passion …

We continued on, but as dusk fell I realised our lights were not working properly.  We pulled in to a service area and looked for a solution, checking wiring and fuses, but we  didn’t have luck.  I phoned Rhadames to say we were delayed.  We had some bread and cheese from the now closing shop and I continued to fiddle.  Eventually I got the fiddle right and they came on.  We got going again, though it was nearing 2300.  It was 40km to Paris and Rhadames was not yet asleep. Soon there was a motorway diversion and, as traffic merged, we were edged in to the verge by a truck.  Luckily we rumbled over the grass on to the road without any bangs.  That was the only traffic incident we experienced and everyone came out fine.

Arriving on the Paris peripherique it felt good to be able to keep up with the traffic.  The car sounded awesome growling through the tunnels as we sped half way around Paris via the “exterieur”.  We arrived Vanves after midnight and were happy to be let in from the quiet street.  And what a warm welcome:  my favourite pasta, a pizza a glass of wine!  Ahhhhh… home.  We zoned out by about one in the morning.  Thanks to Rhadames, Clara and Ruben for looking after us.

Rhada and I woke around 6am and got ready before waking Ruben at 7ish to get him ready for school.  I was a bit bleary eyed and apparently “someone” had kept Rhada awake with loud snoring!  Richard decided to sleep some more and I went with Rhada by taxi to drop Ruben at school.  We enjoyed a coffee and croissant while waiting for his appointment to arrive.  Then I left to enjoy a walk back to the apartment.

What a treat to enjoy Paris on a sunny morning in May.  A hot air balloon was rising next to the Eiffel Tower over the Seine as I crossed.  The timing couldn’t have been better.  And I took a little detour through a park on the way.  There were arrows on the ground pointing off the main path, so, in the spirit of the zen adventure, I took the hint and followed them.  They brought me through pleasant glades and it seemed a metaphor for life – that if you take “the road less travelled” you enjoy the byways while still being in touch with the more distant main route …

After the park I found myself in the square where the Metro rises at Corentin Celton.  Some lads were demonstrating or testing a robotic goods trolley – it looked like it was good for lazy lads and then for putting people out of a job.  After watching it for a while, I walked up the hill to the sleepers in the flat.

On arrival Clara and Rich mobilised and we left on foot to meet Molly down by the river.  Clara and Molly went for a coffee while Rich and I walked to the Eiffel Tower and then on to Concorde near where we met the others to go to lunch.  We found a Cafe and enjoyed yummy pasta and a beer.  The boss kindly treated us to another eau de vie… after which we headed for the flat and Rhada for the office.  We had planned to leave after lunch but I decided to stick around a little longer to hang out with Rhada since he would be home early.  I’m glad I did, though it meant we left in the rush our traffic.  There was gridlock on the peripherique, when we left at 1900ish.

It was only a couple of km to our exit and we made it out of Paris in about half an hour and headed south.  The whole time we’d travelled on motorways we’d been the slowest vehicle in the slow lane. The small size of the car becomes especially noticeable when you’re surrounded by large trucks.  On this stretch I started to notice the small size more.  There was some rain and the performance of the wipers was variable.  (We had learned at the TR Shop that the wipers are probably original, based on the serial number.)  I hoped to reach Kate and Christian that night, but knew we had left Paris too late.  Around midnight we pulled in to a rest stop and parked.  We slept.

About 0400 we started off again.   There was a diversion at the next motorway exit.  We didn’t want to exit, but were forced to and there were no signs for the diversion.  After asking a cop, who said head for Autun, we started following signs for Bourg and then Chalon.  We pulled in to Chalon north about 0600 and stopped in a quiet gas station to get our bearings.  When I turned the ignition the battery was flat.  Must have been lights, heater and wipers that drained the battery… I asked a few early morning passers-by for jump leads (in my best French haha – “pinces” if you’re wondering) but no luck.  Rich said “Shall I push?”  I didn’t think we had a chance, but after a while said “OK, let’s try.”  We pushed the car to the back of the lot, then started for the roll, I jumped in, Rich was powering the machine from the back, I let the clutch off in to second and she fired.  Wahoo! We’re off again.

We re-found the motorway, got on and then off at then next exit and followed Kate’s excellent directions to St Bonnet de Joux arriving for le petit dejeuner around 0800.  Kate and Christian welcomed us.  Christian had some jobs on the farm, Kate fed us coffee (ahhhhh) and toast.  Soon Lucie came down for breakfast, after which we all dropped her off at school.  On returning Rich and Kate went for a stroll while I looked at the car and chatted with Christian.  The clutch and brake pedals had been sticking on each other, which can be quite worrying in traffic or at high speed or both!  He ingeniously proposed a washer to move the joint on a couple of mm – simple and effective!

We stayed for a delicious lunch, checked maps and then bid farewell.  Would we head for Marseille or Geneva? Unfortunately a family tragedy meant we could not see Pad and Keeley near Marseille, so we headed toward Geneva.  But, t turned out that Maria-Daniele would be out that evening, so we decided to head for Italy… The drive through the Alps was spectacular.  Hills, valleys, tunnels, viaducts, precarious edges, hard climbs … through the Mont Blanc tunnel (11.6km!) and out in to Italia!

We stopped to refuel and water.  We were keeping a record of mileage since the fuel gauge was erratic and we didn’t want to run dry.  We also matched the miles on the clock to the kilometres on the road signs to make sure the reading was good.  (It was.)

After a bit of lollygagging we headed on south.  After passing out of the gorges and valleys as the Alps subsided, we came to flatter country which appeared flooded.  Rich thought it was planned and we reconed it might be rice paddies for aborio rice used in rissotto.  And then we saw evidence of haymaking – most fields had already been baled, though we wouldn’t cit for another month or more.  We continued straight down and headed for Genoa.  It sounded historic and was on the coast.  Hopefully we’d find a place to stay.

We arrived Genoa as the light faded.  We cruised in from the west and found ourselves in a port town – large warehouses, rail lines and cranes and ships behind port walls.  The street lighting was dim.  Before long we passed a Best Western and circled back to see if they could take us.  They could.  We parked, checked in, left out bags and went out.

We found we were near the port and airport but that downtown was 7km away.  Well, we weren’t getting back in the car again.  We strolled along and came across Vecchia Genova,  a modest pizza joint on a corner.  A large fellow had just driven his 1000cc racebike into the shop.  “Buona sera! Aperto??” In my best, non-existant, Italian we asked for a pizza and a couple of beers.  The people there were welcoming and cool. They helped us get internet and get oriented in the neighbourhood.  We wanted to go back.  We took out pizza and beer (delicioso!!) and strolled.  We walked up the steep slope in to the residential area.  The gardens and roads are picturesque and pleasant.  Recycling bins were conveniently available and we used them.  We meandered back to the hotel by midnight.  The shower was bliss!  Could’ve stayed there for ages.  We zonked soon after.

We were down at the buffet by 8.30.  Coffeeeeee! And eggs and croissant and sausages (for Rich) and more …  And we were ready.  We loaded the car and hit the road.  It was a beautiful day and the drive was fun.  We had to get fuel and stopped at the next service area.  This was were we met the reputed rip-off opportunity in Italy which some fear – €1.99 a litre!  In France the price was advertised well before the service area, in Italy you didn’t know it till you were at the pump.  Our fill ups were 25-35 litres and we had some flexibility in the budget so I didn’t grumble.  It was a sharp contrast to the wonderful evening we’d had before and put it down to a local economic divergence.  (The next most expensive was in southern Italy were we found fuel for €1.75 a litre.) We filled up, checked the water, declined the very expensive coolant and continued in the sunshine.

We coasted south till the road forked around Pisa.  We had planned to take the coast road, but made a mistake and found ourselves heading for Firenze and Roma.  But we decided to retrace our path, since we wanted to be on the coast.  This might not have been such a good idea.  The scenery was lovely, but the road was a disaster zone – rutted, cobbled, holey – and everyone still maintaining motorway speeds.  The car got shaken.  Exclamations were muttered!

About 200km north of Naples, the car started to shake badly.  I thought it might have been tyres or steering damaged by the poor road.  We stopped and checked the tyres for bumps.  All seemed OK, but the shaking remained.  We texted Noel who gave some suggestions.  We stopped again to check, again.  This time I removed the wheels and checked the steering.   All seemed OK.

It was warm so we also took the roof down and used the windows as wind-breakers behind our seats.  And so we continued.  But the shaking remained with us for the rest of the day.  I tried to find the right speed and feathered the throttle to try synchronise the car best to reduce the shake.  It wasn’t easy and we dropped our speed from 80-100kmh to 60-80kmh.

The drive was beautiful.  We passed around Rome and continued south along a picturesque, though intermittently industrial, landscape.  As we approached Naples the sun was setting.  We passed around and continued south.  We stopped at a service area for a bite.  The pizza was nothing compared to the one we’d enjoyed the night before, but the venue gave another insight to Italian life – it was big and full of food.  A bus load of students arrived, ate and left quicker than we did.  We continued on for another couple of hours, pulling over at another service area before midnight.

I woke early at 4.  I tried the lights, they didn’t come on.  I tried the ignition – the battery was flat.  I started to explore the connections behind the panel.  After about half an hour a van with trailer pulled up nearby.  After 10 minutes the driver came over to offer help.  He gave me a torch with a magnetic back.  I had been using a couple of LEDs which turned off after a minute!  Unfortunately his torch ran out of power after a few minutes.  The fiddling continued and Waldher offered a hand.  Richard too had woken by this time and after a while went in search of coffee.  Waldher returned to his van to sleep, while his partner took over the driving.  They were off to Palermo to pick up an 1970s Alfa!  I got out the computer and tethered the phone and started looking up wiring diagrams.  By about 6 I’d rewired the lights and ignition and the panel was back on.  But we still had a flat battery.  Fortunately we had a Richard.  After a stretch and another coffee we set off.  Richard push-started the car and we headed out.

It was a gorgeous sunny morning but the shake was still with us.  The road took us through some hilly patches where the car would coast on the downhill.  On one of these occasions she slipped out of fourth.  I tried to put it back, but was met with resistance and a grinding sound.  I tried third.  She went in easily, and then slipped in to fourth … and the shake was gone!  Now I remembered that the car had slipped out of fourth the previous day – the gears must have misaligned when I forced it into fourth! I’ll have to look that one up when I get back.  The point was, the going was now smooth and we could raise the tempo to 80-100kmh.

This one had some light, though dim. No lights was very black!

There are numerous tunnels along this stretch too and the lights seemed to be working most of the time.  Not having lights wasn’t a great issue in the tunnels because tunnels are lit and other drivers have lights.  But as we entered one tunnel I “interpreted” a sign in Italian posted at the entrance -“no lights in this tunnel…” or something like that…  As we cruised in, I switched on the lights.  They didn’t come on.  It was getting dark fast.  I started to brake and by the time we slowed we were in pitch black darkness.  No light.  I didn’t know what lane I was in or if I was facing into a wall or not.  I breathed.  I flicked on the indicator.  OK, some light.  We were stopped diagonally across both lanes.  Hopefully any car roaring up fro behind would see the light flashing, but it would still be tight.  I pulled to the side and frantically fiddled with the switch.  A car shot past.  The lights came on.  We resumed the journey and were very happy to exit that dark hole in the ground …

We headed for Reggio di Calabria from where I had caught the ferry a few decades before.  But the port was quiet and only a foot passenger ferry was operating.  Oh dear!  I asked a cop and he pointed me to Villa San Giovanni which I had noticed we passed 5km above Reggio.  We headed back along the minor roads and found our way to the port, bought a ticket and boarded the commuter ferry to Messina.  From there we headed to Catania.

Sicily was different from Italy.  Similar countryside but it felt a bit more rustic, provincial, feudal, … mafia??? It was a lovely drive with the car top down.  We got to Catania and wound our way through the streets to the port.  We saw the signs for Virtu ferries but no ferry.  A lad at a local bar was in no mood to help.  He seemed more interested in making sure I did not speak to his female colleague, reminding me of Asterix in Corsica where speaking to a female was cause for a vendetta!

Eventually I found the office.  It was closed.  Meanwhile I’d check the Virtu website and it seemed there would be a sailing form Pozzallo that evening.  We left Catania and headed south again.

We approached Pozzallo and exited to the local roads which deteriorated significantly.  We hit a dip in the road which brought the car down hard on the road, but we cruised on, finding the port five or ten minutes later.  We knew we were in the right place because we could see a massive catamaran ferry with Virtu on its bow.  We found the queue – there were only three cars there.  We stopped.  The hand brake didn’t work.  It had snapped off, probably when we hit that dip just outside Pozzallo … boring!

We got out and stretched.  We had made it (at least to the ferry).

After half an hour or so someone official looking turned up.  We inquired about tickets.  “Oh no.  It’s full.  You can book for Wednesday.  Or go on the waiting list.”

“Yes please!”

We got on the waiting list and stood by for four hours hoping we’d get on.  Roberto at the ticket counter kindly charged my phone and laptop while we waited.  The people in front of us had driven a car and caravan from Wales and were wait-listed too.  They had seen us on the road.  They too had had challenges – they had duct-taped the exhaust back on in northern France and it had lasted this long.  A few other hopefuls showed up so that when boarding started around 2030 there were half a dozen waiting to get a ticket.  I think the team at Virtu would have liked to put us all on, but knew the boat was packed.  We’d have to wait and see …

At nine o’clock they let on a wait-listed motorbike.  OK, well if a motor-bike is not a sure thing, maybe there’s no room for a car.  And there was a car and caravan in front of us.  After another 5 minutes they started chatting on the walkie-talkies.  They wouldn’t take the car and caravan and they gave us the green light and we drove on! Wahoo!  We were happy, though felt sympathy for the family in the caravan since they had had a long tough drive too.

On board we had a slice and a drink and I fell asleep on the deck.  It’s a super two hour crossing and we arrived Valletta at 2330.  We drove off and sped for the ferry at Cirkewa,   There was a minor detour, but luckily we made good time arriving 1210 and drove on to the ferry soon after.  We landed Gozo and drove in to Torri by 0100.  After a mutual celebration we unloaded, decompressed, showered and slept.

We woke to the peace of Gozo, … and a flat tyre hahaha.  We must have got it on the dirt track going down to the house.  We spent the day in luxury, moseying around, fixing the tyre at George’s (Emer suggested the light problem might be caused by dirty points on the voltage regulator – will check that), removing the electric fan (we determined that teh switch was defective and until fixed the car will be cooler without the fan blocking the radiator), taking a dip in the sea and closed the day with a fabulous dinner at Porto Vechia with Mum and Dad.  The next day we accompanied Mum to Floriana and then she dropped us at the airport.  We had to get get back to reality …


Why zen adventure?  Because we didn’t plan very much and let the universe point us in the right direction.   For example, why did that pigeon land in our garden the evening before we left for Dublin, and me happening to remember something told me by a pigeon enthusiast ten years ago?  The cosmic rhythm!

We visited friends who were available, we arrived when we arrived, we stayed where we stopped and took the ferries we arrived in time for.  Yes, I aimed for a schedule and that influenced us, but in our heads we just went with the flow and enjoyed the journey.  As they say “comme je trouve” and we found fun!


A few people ought to be recognised and celebrated for their help  and generosity in making this adventure happen.

Top of the list is Dad: Thanks for letting me drive your car!  It was super fun.  A real life experience.  And thanks for making the whole trip “risk free”.  And thanks for the welcome you and Mum gave us in Gozo.  It was a fantastic dream.

Thanks to Noel, without whom the car wouldn’t have got out of the yard.  I learned during the trip of some of the extra work and care you gave to the car when you painted it and felt very fortunate.  She held together as well as she ever has, she was protected out and in by your coatings and she looked fantastic.  And your advice and reassurances while on the road took away our worries.  Thank you!

And Richard for being a good friend and partner on the trip.  Cool, engaged, good with the navigation, two push starts, many water and wheel checks and being a great companion.  Thanks!

And Pam for giving me the time to go, for cleaning the car the night before we left and for your support and back up which made our adventure much easier and more fun.  The little cushions you gave us worked too! Thank you, xo.

Along the way many people gave a hand from friends who looked after us, like Daniele and Kelly, Rhadames and Clara, and Kate and Christian, to those who offered advice, like Noel, Rupert and Allen, to strangers who offered a hand, like Sebastian, Waldher and Roberto and the fun, helpful and generous characters we met along the way.  Thanks to all.

Vital Statistics

Triumph TR3  first registered 1956 August 1. It’s basically a powerful go-kart: 2 litre, 2 seats, you’re 10 cm from the tarmac, you are the power steering and ABS (ie be strong and pump those drum brakes), great torque,  still can get over 80mph though probably shouldn’t, and able to do doughnuts!

It’s original but, parts have been replaced and repaired.  The biggest difference is the fibre glass wings which were probably put on in the 70s or 80s when they were popular and the originals would have had some wear by then.

The engine had a leak in the cooling chamber between cylinders after its first trip to Malta in 2000.  That was looked after by Joe Zerafa.  This is a wonderful photo of the car in his shop before the site was developed.

We set off at about 6am on Tuesday and arrived about 1am Monday having travelled about 3,656 km, three ferries, one Chunnel, and numerous tunnels and viaducts through the Alps and in Italy.  It was an awesome trip.

Thermal issues

For a few days after we returned home my laptop shut down for no apparent reason.  I wondered if this was a processor overeating and did an internet search which confirmed the likelihood of that being the problem.  I loaded a thermal monitor and sure enough the processor temperature was ranging from 60 to 95 C. I reckoned it would shut down if it hit 105 C or so and guessed that had been happening.  At first I just used a cooling platform to moderate the temperature while I got some work out of the way.  Then one morning I disassembled the laptop to clean the fan and vents.  Compliments to Acer for the design (V3-571) because although I had to displace the motherboard, following instructions in the manual (downloaded from manualslib.com – thanks) it was quite a smooth process.  While in the guts of the machine I found that the anchors holes for the monitor screws had broken – possibly a piece had lodged in the fan itself.  After a quick vacuum and brush all was put together again.  The machine now runs at 40-50 C as it should.  The lesson – watch the temperature … haha.


You can see our snaps etc mashed up in a video here.  It’s quite fun.


Our Suicide is Painless
Zen Adventure - video

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