With Wendi back in the welcoming arms of Josh and Simone back in Canada and getting much needed healthcare and restful sleep on a real bed, the drive from Athens to the United Kingdom was not going to be a whole bunch of joy! Still suffering from the bronchitis that had now decided to completely eradicate the voice, it was sure going to be fun… not!
With great anticipation the container was opened and there she was shining back at me brightening my world. Batteries re-connected … a few visual checks in the engine compartment… this was the moment of truth… a turn of the ignition key… our trusty and faithful Pumper sprang into life and within a few minutes of warming up was purring. Laying heavy on the mind; the intent was to drive to the UK to sell her before returning to Canada. Depression began to set in to add to my health woes.
Well it seemed like a good idea: the old Veedub buses sell at a premium in the UK and we would save the $2000 to ship her back. Maybe it would be fun shopping for another in NA and fixing it up! Hmmm! We already had a couple of prospective buyers awaiting our return and it looked like the import and transfer of ownership would be a breeze.
You can’t trust the weather in Europe in April…it was bloody cold and Pumpers heating just wasn’t up to the challenge of keeping me warm from Athens to the UK. With good old Canadian thermal underwear that fortunately Wendi had persuaded me to bring along and was buried in the bottom of the clothes bin, gloves, my Nepalese hat and a hoody, and sucking throat candies all the way, I shivered the journey in 7 days including a stopover day on the coast of Northern Italy with Wendi’s bro. Man do we have it good in North America… the highway tolls paid to Italy and France were extortionate… surely we now own part of those countries and the Alps on the border where I almost needed a mortgage to get through the tunnels.
On Route: Attending the Men’s XXXL convention where BFP’s (Body Fat Percentage’s) are not on any sort of scale recognizable to attendees at this plush conference. Trays of food leave the buffet with aspirations for the Guinness Book of World Records for the height one can pile spaghetti, french fries, or any other culinary fare being served on the day. The occasional salad is seen but it doesn’t fool you, it always accompanies one of the mega meals. Second servings and or dessert? – Mandatory unless someone really doesn’t have a sweet tooth; they attract a scornful look from their associates.
To make everyone feel at home the waiters and servers at the buffet would quite easily qualify for this convention, they apparently like their own cooking. It would be a toss-up as to which of the two groups would win in lbs. /Capita.
But wait… I’m not at a fancy Convention Centre in Vegas or London or Prague, or other Go-To city in the world. I’m on a boat! The ferry from Greece to Italy and these XXXL delegates are all Truck Drivers living it up at the finest 5th Wheel Truck Stop anywhere. More like a 5 star cruise, the truckers must really love this stop-over, and it’s like a social gathering, seeing their buddies weekly all protecting this plum route. Not bad, drive to the port and enjoy the next 26 hours cruising the Aegean Sea. Greek, Italian, and French groups I can detect, but I might as well be in Babylon with all the languages that I hear. Even the PA system makes announcements in 5 languages.
But the weight excess is more than slight, Knowing I will be jumping into Pumper in a couple of hours and driving the same roads as these professionals, it isn’t comforting to reflect that most drivers behind the wheel of these monster trucks and tandem trailers are high potential heart attacks waiting to happen, cholesterol coating their arteries waiting to trigger the time bomb. I’ll be extra aware!
But, the 26 hour ferry ride every week or 2? Life ain’t all bad for these guys. During the tourism high season they get plenty of competition for the amenities, (which includes a swimming pool and poolside bar), from the throngs of Europeans that use these ferries to shave 5 days and half a dozen EEC border entries and exits en route driving to Greece. But in April tourists are few and well outnumbered by the juggernauts… the trucks… and their drivers!
Driving toward Bologna in Italy the polizia car pulled in front and hung a stop sign from the window! Only 10 minutes earlier I had reflected on only being stopped by police once throughout Europe and even that was an excuse for the young French Gendarme to study the bus.
Obeying the sign following the police car into the motorway service area; K, here we go! In pretty good English, “Can I see your license and vehicle documents.”
“Would you like my International license also officer?”
“Yes and insurance and passport.”
He spread the documents across a table in his trunk and began to study them while his partner looked around the bus for anything that could be construed as illegal.
“Why do you have a UK passport if you live in Canada?” … explanation…
“How can you have a vehicle registered in the US if you are a resident of Canada.” … “No officer, Ontario is in Canada.”
“Where is the expiry date for your registration?” … “On the reverse of the document.”
For 20 minutes these diligent cops grill to try and figure out the story. From Canada? How did you get the bus to Europe? Where have you been? Are you English or Canadian? Where are you going? Etc. etc.
The documents are returned “everything in order” I enquire. “Si, tutto è buono”.
“Un momento.” “Can I take a picture of your bus…!” … “Of course you may.”
Circling the bus snapping images galore… then asks if his partner can take one of the 2 of us.
“Love to.” “Can you take one with my camera please?”
Suddenly this went from a very serious road check to an all-out ‘love in’.
10 minutes further on the highway, there they were again checking out a truck on the shoulder but on seeing Pumper approaching they wave vigorously as we fly by flipping the peace sign.
Just South of Paris, warming with a hot chocolate in a service area, we dodge a bullet! Someone tries to break into Pumper destroying the door handle in the process! Fortunately they were unsuccessful or frightened off but it could have been worse. A broken window at those temperatures would have done me in!
With the bus all but sold to an amazing couple of Veedub fanatics 30 minutes north of London, Wendi and I had an emotional skype call… ‘What were we thinking… sell Pumper? … are we out of our minds?’ ‘The memories of the last 40+ months and the 30+ countries we have driven, are worth way more than any premium we would get in the UK market. Seller’s remorse! It was such a hard thing to let the buyers down, but you know… ‘VW is not just a marque, it’s a family.’ I know they forgive us.
Pumper is somewhere on the Atlantic headed for NA, as re-united we work to establish a base in Ottawa… thinking already about an East Coast of Canada road trip later in the summer.
Peace and love… and travel on our minds!