(This is part one of a two part series chronicling the experiences of several members of the Austin Healey Assoc. of Southern California and the San Diego and Golden Gate Healey clubs attending the European Healey Meet, 2018. Those attending included Steve & Cindy Kirby, Peter & Alexandra Roses, Terry Cowan & Lisa Mandell, Jeff & Diane Boysen, Mike & Kathy Scroggie, Jay & Katie Miller, Steven Kingsbury, Dick Ames, Louie & Bonnie Fisher, Hema and Janakie Ratnayake and Mike Biss & Anna Johansson)
Healeys Arrive in Rotterdam Our container ship MSCBATAX left the port of Long Beach, CA on April 18, 2018 and cleared the Panama Canal on April 27th. We expected it to traverse through the Gulf of Mexico, around Florida and up the US east coast before proceeding across the Atlantic to Rotterdam. Instead, it progressed directly through the Caribbean Sea and across the Atlantic to Barcelona. Once there, our containers were transferred to another ship, the MSCSOLA, which then headed north up the European coast, stopped in England and on to Rotterdam, arriving on May 19th.
Our two containers containing 12 cars arrived safely and our Healey’s (and a Porsche and MG) were offloaded in ample time and waiting for us on our arrival on June 2nd.
Day 1 – Hail Amsterdam!
We all arrived in Amsterdam staggered over several days, around June 1st. Most of the group came in early and spent a day or two touring the city of Amsterdam. When Kathy and I arrived on June 2nd, after clearing customs and gathering our luggage, we were met by Steve Kirby and Peter Roses, who were sweeping the airport for the late arrivals. They ushered us to our chartered coach waiting right outside the airport entrance. Steven Kingsbury, the last arrival, appeared about a half hour later and we were a complete group of 22 people! We then proceeded to Delft, about 45 minutes away, to the Hotel De Plataan to drop off the navigators (i.e., the wives/significant others) and luggage while the drivers continued about an hour south to the port of Rotterdam to collect the cars.
Surprisingly, after reconnecting the batteries (which the shipping company Schumacher, back in SoCal disconnected without telling us), all the cars coughed to life after 2 months of being idle and bouncing around in the container on the high seas...but not without a bit of cajoling. Once the cars warmed up, we departed the warehouse area, gassed up and caravanned back to the hotel in Delft to rejoin the ladies...with only two cars getting separated (i.e., lost) on the way back (more on this subject later). By cocktail hour, however, all cars were back at the hotel after hitting some nasty traffic on the way back...it looked like LA traffic on Wednesday of Thanksgiving weekend! Can you believe it, this was caused by their version of CalTrans which collapsed 5 lanes into one on a Saturday afternoon...
I guess you can go half way across the world and not be free of civil servants getting their revenge! Day 2 - Healey Museum Visiting the Healey museum is something that all proper Healey owners must do before they die.
The day started out beautifully sunny...a top-down day wearing shirt sleeves and short pants. We headed out at the very civilized time of 10AM for about an hour and a half hour drive on mostly secondary roads with a lot of beautiful scenery, farms, windmills and canals. All cars and drivers performed flawlessly, with nobody getting separated from the two groups of cars.
We arrived at the museum at about 12 noon, but were surprised to find a group of a dozen or so Rolls Royce’s and Bentleys taking up most of the parking spaces in front of the museum, where we were going to stage out group photo. They were in the process of ending their tour, so we visited awhile with them before entering the museum and eventually parking our cars in front of it for our photo shoot.
The museum itself was an impressive display of all things Healey, from one-of-a-kind cars, engines, tools, parts, posters, photos, Healey toys, etc. It also is the archive for all the Healey shop records, memos and Healey history.
Truly an amazing collection! We were served a delicious lunch by the museum owner/ operator Hans and his staff...
soup, salad, breads, meats, cheese, and other local delights. On the drive back, after fueling up, we took another route on mostly primary roads and arrived back at the hotel in Delft about 4PM. After parking and covering the cars, we gathered on the hotel’s front patio for cocktail hour and enjoyed the sunny weather and observing the local Dutch families on their Sunday afternoon. The square in front of the hotel was busy, and we split up in groups for dinner in the local restaurants and pubs.
Day 3 - Delft to Kerkrade, Holland
We awoke this day to "June Gloom" ...a grey morning with what looked like a thick marine layer. Ahead of us was a busy travel day of 265 km (for you Yankees, that is about 160 miles...rough conversion, divide the km in half and add 10%).
Metric distances are what most of the world uses, but not us.
Anyway, it was a long day of driving with a couple of minor mechanical issues but two very significant experiences...a visit to the Kinderdijk Windmill Park and the Netherlands American Cemetery, both very important experiences.
The Kinderdijk Park is a series of old Dutch style windmills, used historically to manage the excessive water in the “low countries”.
We walked a couple miles through the park viewing the landscape and toured the interior of one windmill, where the family who ran it would reside. The American Cemetery is located not far from Eindhoven and Nijmegen, the two cities where American paratroopers dropped during the infamous “Market Garden” WWII operation. Over 8,000 WWII American servicemen are buried there. That evening, we had an excellent dinner at the Abbey Hotel Rolduc.
Day 4 - Kerkrade to Moussy, France
Day 4 started with a "June Gloom" like marine layer again, and a little cooler. We departed the Abby on time headed for Givet, France for lunch, the Moet and Chandon winery for an afternoon tour and our overnight at the Auburge Champenoise, Moussy. On this day, we travelled through sections of the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and France. Just before noon, the sun came out as we were driving through the Ardennes forest, which was beautiful. Along the way, we went by many recognizable WWII locations, such as the Ardennes forest, through which Germany invaded France in May, 1940, and again in late 1944, resulting in the "Battle of the Bulge". We also drove by and over the river Meuse through some quaint villages.
Later in the afternoon, we toured the Moet & Chandon winery and sampled their 2009 vintage champagnes.
When we went to leave we were surprised to encounter a thunderstorm underway...and several of the cars had been left uncovered! We quickly raised the convertible tops and drove the final 7 miles to our hotel in the rain.
We had a few minor mechanical problems that slowed us down a bit, but all parties arrived at the designated locations for lunch and the afternoon tour.
All in all, another good day touring in Europe.
Day 5 - Moussy, France to Trier, Germany
By morning on Day 5, the previous night's thunderstorm had passed and it was grey marine layer again. After loading the cars and having breakfast, the group met in the hotel parking lot for the daily driver's meeting, held by Steve Kirby. Since the weather forecast called for more thunderstorms later in the day, most cars left the tops up...at least until a gas/ rest stop where the weather ahead looked clear and sunny, and the tops came down. I think it's only appropriate that we're traveling in France, Belgium and Germany on the 74th anniversary of D-Day! Before getting on the road, we all gassed up shortly after leaving the hotel (more on French gas stations later!).
This one was especially confusing, and just about everyone's experience was not satisfactory. To make a long story short, after fueling up a few of the cars parked in an adjacent parking lot waiting for all to finish. Next, we saw a police car arrive with flashing blue lights on. Then, a really big, menacing looking security guy walks up and begins rattling a lot of French to us. It seems Steve Kirby didn't stop by the pay booth to pay his bill, thinking his credit card at the pump was approved...and it wasn't. They thought we were trying to do a "gas up and dash". Anyway, all was worked out with Alexandra acting as translator and nobody was arrested! Our main stop was the historic city of Verdun, where epic WWI battles were fought. About noon we arrived at the Brasserie du Park and had a delightful lunch sitting outside enjoying the clear sunny day. After lunch, a few of us walked nearby to the river Meuse and viewing some of the WWI and WWII monuments.
Once we got on the road again, we had about a two hour drive to our destination, Tiere the oldest Roman city in Northern Europe....again with tops down. We arrived in Tiere, birthplace of Karl Marx, at the height of rush hour traffic and the beginning of a driving thunderstorm. Traffic was a mess, and the road we needed was blocked for construction (again!) and we looped around looking for another way to get there. After finally stopping to put up our tops, and getting lost and separated, we all finally found the hotel. Once there, Terry opened the covered garage door and thankfully, we entered into a dry garage under the hotel.
Following unloading the cars and checking in, we all met in the hotel bar for cocktails and discussed dinner plans. It was highly recommended that we take a taxi or a local bus to the old Roman city center called "Port Negra". It is accessed through the old city gates, built in 160 AD, which opens up into a large cobblestone square containing many shops, bars, and restaurants. The rain had stopped and we had a delightful dinner outside in the square. Another terrific day touring in Europe, seeing all the places we've read about but never visited.
Day 6 - Trier to Assmannshausen, Germany
Today we a drove through the Moselle Valley to the Rhine. The day started, as usual, with a Driver's Meeting by Steve. At Cochum, we parked our cars, wherever we could find space in this busy tourist town. After enjoying a quick Knockwurst and beer/wine, we took the bus up to the medieval castle high up on the hillside overlooking the Moselle River. We had a great tour of the external and internal castle grounds by an entertaining guide. The castle is many hundreds of years old and was added on to and restored over the years.
No matter how old we get (and our Healey group is not getting any younger!), you can always learn something new. While displaying a knight's suit of armor, the guide mentioned the process of lifting the eye shield became the basis for the military salute...I never knew that! The external grounds had a spring well where the inhabitants could rope up fresh water during sieges, and they had a hidden escape staircase in case the residents needed to evacuate in a hurry. The interior was a lot of old carved cabinets and period correct furnishings, with many mounted animal heads.
Since we parked all over town, we had difficulty gathering together for the remaining leg of the day's trip to our destination in Assmannshausen, which was about 120km down the Moselle, just over the Rhine. Kathy and I got separated from the group but the directions were pretty clear, so what could go wrong? We never found any of the other Healeys but continued down the Moselle towards Koblenz. About halfway, our Garmin navigation began going nuts and kept trying to get us to turn around and take another course...the only thing we could figure out, it wanted us on the other side of the river? Then, Kathy said the Garmin just lost power, which was troubling but we didn't know how much until we stopped to reconnoiter. After a bit of fiddling with the Healey (which wouldn’t start) and getting a push start, we were able to get rolling again towards Koblenz.
After missing our turn off in Koblenz, we continued up the Rhine looking for a bridge to cross over. Finding none, we crossed on a ferry, and after more mechanical issues, we were able to limp the remaining way to the hotel, arriving at cocktail hour to the cheers of the whole group! After reconnecting with the group and offloading our luggage, I moved the car to the parking area and we began working on the car.
Peter suspected a burned out fuse that we installed about a year ago when installing a dynomator (hybrid alternator in a generator looking cylinder shell). It turns out he was right, and we replaced it with a spare I had in my parts kit.
After cleaning up, the entire group boarded a river boat for our trip to Rudesheim, for our reservation at the famous Rudesheimer Schloss Restaurant.
There, we had another great dinner and wine, including traditional German entertainment Day 7 - Day Off in Assmannshausen It’s Friday morning, our day off from driving, and all the guys were wrenching on their cars, trying to fix various problems encountered over the previous 6 days touring. We restarted my car and recharged the battery. However, I had another problem with my front end which hit hard a few days earlier going over a bump when exiting a bridge. It turned out I sheared off a bolt holding the right anti- sway bar to the chassis. We were unable to find an auto parts or hardware store nearby, so we decided to order a new part from AH Spares to be delivered to Rust, Germany when we would be at the Healey Meet, and we'd install it then.
Several cars had overdrive problems, which required them to drive slower to keep the revs down. Jay had a flat tire, but with help from several of the team, they were able to clean the splines and get the spare on. Six guys made a trip into Rudesheim to look for an auto parts and/or a hardware store...with no success. Steve Kirby had periodic problems that he suspected was the Pertronix distributor...the car kept cutting out, especially when he accelerated, or put a load on it. Once Terry began looking at it, they cleaned the spark plugs, tightened all the connections, advanced the vacuum, and noticed that the vacuum hose to the carburetors was fractured. After attending to all this, the car was running fine again.
Some of the ladies spent the day shopping by training to Wiesbaden, about a half hour drive. There, they also had lunch and returned to the hotel by 4PM and joined the guys for cocktail hour sitting in the sunshine in the front of the hotel looking over the Rhine.
At about 7PM, we gathered downstairs for wine and a BBQ dinner of sausage, trout, pork, shrimp, corn on the cob, and wonderful German potato salad. It was a delightful cool evening, the threatening storm clouds had passed and we dined outside watching the Rhine boat traffic and the world go by. We have the luxury of a later departure tomorrow morning headed for Heidelberg for lunch. Hopefully all the Healey’s have been repaired enough to hit the road again.
Day 8 - Heidelberg and the Neckar River Valley
Before getting on the road this morning, we assembled all the cars in front of the hotel in Assenmannshausen for a photograph. We left in three groups, our normal groups of 4-5 cars each and two going on ahead since they had to drive slower due to broken overdrives.
The sun was out, so most cars departed top down.
We arrived in Heidelberg a little before lunch but got separated in the busy city traffic. Our group (Kathy and me, Terry & Lisa, Mike & Anna finally found parking about 6 stories deep in a parking structure with tiny parking places. By the time we were able to park and shut off the engines, we had set off the carbon monoxide alarm! We quickly exited the garage and found an Irish pub nearby for a nice lunch.
Once on the road again, we continued on about 120 km to Eberbach. Along the way, we encountered another driving thunderstorm...seems like we do this every afternoon! We stopped along the roadside to put the tops up, and some of us got soaked. It was still raining hard when we arrived at the Hotel Karpfen in Eberbach after a little searching (windows steaming up, windshield wipers on, such as they are). Once at the hotel, we unloaded and tried to dry off, then gathered in the beautiful beer garden for end-of-day cocktails. Later, we broke into groups and walked to dinner. Six of us found an Italian restaurant nearby and had a great dinner. We made it back to the hotel before the rain started again.
Day 9 - Drive to Rust, Germany for EHM
Today, we awoke to sunny skies and partially cloudy weather. We loaded the cars and took down the tops...what could possibly go wrong? We got on the road for the last leg of our pre-tour, as we arrived in Rust for the European Healey Meet, where we would be for 5 days. Rust (pronounced "Roost") is near the Rhine and Black Forest of Germany. Here, had time for laundry, shopping for those sundries we forgot to bring and work a bit on the cars, as well as take part in the EHM activities.
Along the way, we stopped at a rest area to fuel up (and offload our tanks) and came upon a group of Danish Healey owners also headed to Rust. I took a photo of the bonnet of one of their cars which was a really cool tribute to the meet and all the countries participating...see photos.
Almost all of us had some minor issues with our cars to attend to. Our boots are stocked with spare parts and tools, so we could attend to a lot of minor issues. AH Spares, was there and had a supply of many commonly needed items. Steve Kirby specially ordered a sway bar connector bolt assembly from them for me and others who needed overdrive components, etc.
We arrived at the Riegeler Hof, a small family owned guest house about 15 minutes from the Euro Park complex, where the event was. When we arrived at the hotel, we had a great lunch outside in their beer garden. Then, we unloaded the baggage and the guys headed off the Euro Park hotel complex to register. After registering, talking to a few old friends, kicking some tires, and having a beer, we headed back to the Riegeler Hof to clean up, gather the ladies and head back to the hotel for the welcoming reception.
At 6:30 PM, the group gathered in the hotel beer garden to travel to the Euro Park for the welcoming reception. Before going, we presented Steve Kirby with a gift of a Healey logo shirt and jacket, purchased earlier at the reception regalia display. At the reception, we had cocktails, "finger food" appetizers and observed a couple of presentations.
The schedule for the week's events was discussed, including the car show scheduled for the next day. At the hotel, a few really classic Healey’s were displayed...see photos: Day 10 - Car Show at ETM In a word, the car show today was spectacular. Over 200 cars were arranged in classes with some really special Healeys, like five original 100-S's, two 100-S rebuilds, several Works rally cars, many 100's, and a 1948-49 Duncan Healey (double overhead valve). There were many beautiful cars that you don't see on a regular basis. Ed Neumeyer's BN3, that won Best In Show last year in Monterey was also there.
In attendance were many notable Healey people, including “Mr.
Big Healey” John Chatham, Bruno Verstraete, who owns the 100-S endurance car that ran at Bonneville, Steve Pike, the noted 100-S restorer from Australia, Joe Jarrick, the noted Healy historian and biographer, Rob Rowland, owner of the Healey Works in Australia, and many others. Bruno and Steve are shown in the photos that follow.
The guys drove over to the hotel complex for the car show about 9:15AM...most of the ladies stayed behind to take a walk and explore the village of Rieger. Two of our team were selected for "the ring of honor" acknowledgements...Peter Roses and his 100-6 and Steven Kingsbury for his 100. They stayed behind to get special videos and acknowledgement.
AH Spares was in attendance and several of the team (including me) got the parts they needed to repair their cars.
There was a mechanic also in attendance who helped with needed repairs.
The group returned to the Riegeler Hof for lunch in the village...beer, schnitzel and pomme frites. We then retired to our rooms for R &R before dinner. The rain downpour started about 4PM, right on time! Once the rain stopped, we walked into the village for another terrific German meal.
Day 11 - Drive through the Black Forest
Day 11 included the first of two rallies through the beautiful countryside surrounding Rust, Germany. We joined the rally headed through the Black Forest, as they passed near our village of Riegel at about 10AM. Steve had plotted an abbreviated tour of about 150km through the Black Forest to the city of Titisee, famous for its Cuckoo clocks. There, we had lunch and visited the surrounding shops.
The weather was cloudy with rain threatening but never really materializing. Driving through this beautiful countryside makes you understand its name...the trees are a deep dark green which sets them apart from the lighter grass fields, making them look dark, nearly black.
We climbed several thousand feet into the mountains on mostly country roads and our Healey’s all performed perfectly. The photos show the beautiful countryside.
Once back at our base in Riegel, we prepared for cocktails and appetizers with our guests from other former colonies of "Mother England", about 30 cars and their drivers & navigators. The "colonists" from Australia, New Zealand, America, and Canada have a special relationship and enjoy visiting during these international Healey events.
Day 12 - Colmar & Track Day
Today, the group broke into two groups, one going to Cormar, France on a mini-bus, and a group of the guys going to the track (Terry, Peter and Jeff). Colmar is a town in the Grand Est region of northeastern France, near the border with Germany. Its old town has cobblestone streets lined with half-timbered medieval and early Renaissance buildings. The Gothic 13th-century, Eglise Saint-Martin church stands on central Place de la Cathédrale. The city is on the Alsace Wine Route, and local vineyards specialize in Riesling and Gewürztraminer wines.
Those of us who didn't go to the race track boarded the mini-bus at 9:00 and headed for Colmar. Our guide Anna led us through this remarkable city, explaining it's very long and tumultuous history. What struck us most was how many times the city had alternately been part of Germany, then France, then Germany, then France.
(It's now France). Anna explained that her own family had changed nationalities numerous times, all living in the same place. Apparently religion was one of the most contentious aspects. Lots of Catholic vs. Protestant issues, depending on who was running the country.
After our history lesson, we wandered around, shopped, ate and drank, then met up, boarded our bus and headed for our hotel.
Most of us took the opportunity to grab a snooze.
It was a delightful day. No rain!