(This is the second 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)
Day 13 - Alsace Vosges Tour & Dinner with the Aussies
First, here are some photos of last night’s EHM car awards dinner: Today, we took another abbreviated road trip to the Alsace region of France for lunch and returned in the mid-afternoon...even had time for a nap before the evening festivities! It started off cool in the morning, but developed into a nice sunny day, perfect for a top down tour of the French countryside.
In the evening, we were invited to join the Australian Healey group for cocktails and dinner at their Hotel Bier Garden in Rust. We had a lovely gathering and dinner, getting to know each other better and telling Healey stories and lies.
Day 14 - Free Day in Riegel
Today was a free day to do what you wanted...go to a museum, take a drive, chill out at the Riegel Hof, do laundry, etc. Some of the guys went off to the Bugatti museum, Mike & Anna drove to Switzerland to look up relatives, some went to the local medical doctor for several minor ailments (like that cold that has been traveling through our group), and Kathy & I decided to drive to the Deutsche Uhren Musse (German Clock Museum), about 45 minutes into the Black Forest.
As you can see from the photos below, it was a beautiful top- down day with partial clouds and sunshine.
We drove to the clock museum into the midst of the 200-300 year center of German clock making.
Many of the famous clock makers, Gustav Becker, Junghans, and Wurttemberg worked here. The museum had a virtual history of clock making from all countries, including France, America, as well as those predominantly German. Mike was in hog heaven! In the evening, we drove into the Euro Park complex again for the final gathering of the Healey Meet...cocktails & dinner. We had a traditional Bavarian Beer Fest dinner with Oom pah pah entertainment and games of strength and skill, like driving nails into a post or hitting a carnival-like sledge hammer to ring the bell. We said our fond farewells to our Healey friends, because, tomorrow is like the old Willie Nelson song...”On the Road Again...”
Day 15 – EHM to Austria via Switzerland
We had another bright sunny day and terrific driving conditions.
We departed Germany, and the EHM 2018 via Switzerland through the Alps to near Innsbruck, Austria. Soon after departure, we passed other Healey’s leaving the meet, including a “Works” racer being towed and a right- hand-drive 100S driven by a woman.
About noon, we stopped for gourmet pizza in St.
Gallen, Switzerland, before entering Austria and climbing the Alps.
As the photos below illustrate, the countryside was beautiful...much like Sound-of-Music scenery. We arrived at the Alpine resort of Hotel Inntalerhof after passing through several long tunnels (much to Kathy’s chagrin). The Austrian’s can tunnel through sheer rock, like nobody! After settling in and enjoying the cool afternoon sunshine, we walked about 300 yards up a steep hill to dinner.
Day 16 – Austria to Switzerland via Liechtenstein
On Father’s Day Sunday, we left the Austrian Alps for the Swiss Alps...to view, according to the Swiss Germans See (Lake), Sky and Alps. Unfortunately, the trip down from the Austrian Alps involved going through numerous tunnels again, and as we approached Interlaken, we even had a dose of Swiss tunnels! Needless to say, Kathy was not a happy camper, compounded by the fact that she now has the dreaded cold sweeping through our group...probably got it from me! About midday, we toured and had lunch at the Schattenburg Castle, which dates from 1036 and is decorated in 16th century style. Following the tour we had the famous Schnitzel (see photo) and strudel at the castle restaurant, which was enough to serve 2-3 people.
Needless to say, we all took away “doggie bags”.
The afternoon drive was beautiful, though threatening weather ahead caused us to put our tops up. We encountered a little rain along the way, but not too much. About midday, our Healey began having an overdrive problem, which plagued several other members of the group earlier in the trip.
We were able to complete the day’s drive, but not without splitting with the group and limping into the hotel at Interlaken at a slower pace. Hopefully, over the next few days, we’ll be able to either fix the problem or develop a “workaround”. Once we arrived, we sat on the deck in front of the hotel and enjoyed the magnificent lake just across the street. In the late afternoon, we watched a storm form and move toward us across the lake. Many of us had a small dinner of soup and bread at the hotel, since we were still full from the huge lunch at the castle.
Day 17 – Switzerland to France
Today, we headed south through some of Switzerland’s wine growing region, then southwest to Bourg-en-Bresse France, where we stayed for the night. It was cooler than previous mornings, so several cars went top-up, at least until the lunch stop. About midday, we stopped at an Italian restaurant, on Lac Lemon and had a nice lunch of lasagna, pizza or salad.
Following lunch, it had really warmed up and several more tops came down before we continued southwest towards Lyon. Four cars in Group 2 proceeded separately on the afternoon drive (more on this below). We travelled on both highways and smaller mountain roads and through a nature preserve. The weather was perfect. In the mid-afternoon, Group 1 stopped at a small roadside snack bar for an afternoon refreshment, and to allow Mike & Kathy to catch up after making a wrong turn earlier. There, we took a great photo of the Healey’s on the roadside in front of the cafe. Once on the road again we proceeded to our hotel, arriving about 5PM.
After arriving at the hotel, getting settled and cleaned up, we met in the hotel bar for cocktails. Someone then received a text from Bonnie that Group 2 was doing “roadside repairs” for a bad wheel bearing and were delayed a couple hours....that’s all the information we got, not even whose car it was. Of course, we immediately began speculating on the nature of the problem and a bet was placed on whether it was Jeff’s, Hema’s, Steven’s or Louie’s Healey. Around 7pm they came limping in with great joy and applause from the group, now on their second round of cocktails. It turned out it was Louie’s Healey with a bad rear wheel bearing. He had been hearing a strange noise coming from the rear wheel and had the good sense to purchase a backup bearing, seal and a special tool that allows changing it on-the-go, from AH Spares while at the European Healey Meet. They found a local mechanic who performed the work professionally and after a couple of hours were on the road again. Well planned and executed on Louie’s part, and great support from his traveling partners! During cocktails, Peter began scouting the restaurants in the local area and found a great one not far away, so the group all walked to dinner on a beautiful warm evening. There, we dined on delicious French cuisine, while discussing the day’s events.
Day 18 – Across Rural France to the Loire Valley
Today we had a very long day of driving, 477 km, about 286 miles...we departed (near) Lyon at 9am and arrived at our chateau in the Loire Valley about 5:15pm. Everyone was exhausted from the long day of driving in warm temperatures, most cars with the top down. When we arrived at the 16th century chateau, restored in 2012, our host and owner Pasquale greeted us and parked us out front to unload and check-in. The chateau and grounds are magnificent and we’ll enjoy our two-night stay here for R & R (for our cars, drivers & navigators!).
Along the way, we ran into the mother of all road repair project that cost us 45 minutes to get through. They must have been repairing a bridge on the motorway, so rather than take the traffic down to one lane each way, they routed all traffic off the motorway entirely...through a couple of roundabouts and back on about 1000km down the road. There was a massive backup of cars and large trucks...what the military would call a “Cluster Flux”. I hope the French road repair department is reading this blog, because in most civilized countries, this would have been done either at night or with much less disruption! See the photos below and you’ll know what I mean.
We stopped for an excellent lunch at Auburge de Grand Champ around midday. There was a restaurant dog who was the official greeter, especially when scraps were passed out! Due to the motorway delays, we arrived about an hour late to our destination, a beautiful restored old chateau Le Haut Des Lys in Villandry, France. After cleaning off the “road dust” and having a few cocktails, the group walked about 400m to a lovely restaurant at the Hotel Auberge, where we ate outdoors in a courtyard surrounded by fruit trees and vineyards. We had a choice of duck, fish and pheasant, with local wines.
Day 19 – A day of Rest in the Loire Valley
This was a free day to recharge our batteries (the people, not the cars!)...and rest, wander and explore, get a massage, work on your Healey, etc. Most of us slept in late this morning, and barely made breakfast that closed at 9:30 am. Several of the ladies walked to the Villandry chateau to see the gardens, although it was quite warm in the sun...about 85 degrees. Kathy was still not feeling well (that darn cold) so we tried to take her to the village doctor, who was off today...probably playing golf! Instead, we went to the local pharmacist and got some cough medicine and decongestant. She now seemed to be on the long road to improvement, although the nagging cough persisted. My cold is now almost two weeks old and still around.
Before dinner, we lined up all the Healey’s in front of the Chateau for a photo shoot that Pasquale could use in his promotional brochure and website. (check the photos, they’re classic!). In the evening, Pasquale and his wife planned a special dinner, at the chateau, for the group with local food, wines and desserts. We were treated to a “Country French” meal of meats, cheese, pickles & onions on French bread...everything was delicious and produced locally. For dessert, we had champagne and cherry tarts on a thin layer of crust...equally delicious. In fact, several of us had two, three and even four (sorry, Steven!) helpings.
The group also toasted our two big winners in the EHW Car Show, Peter & Alexandra Roses for Best in Roadster Class and Steve & Cindy Kirby for Best in Convertible Class and they posed for photos with their Healey’s.
The visit to the chateau was a five star experience...many thanks to Pasquale and his family and staff.
Day 20 – Loire Valley to Vernon, France
We split the group up today, as Peter, Alexandra, Loren & Cody left the chateau early to visit Paris for two days, while the rest of the group continued on to Normandy.
We will see them again in Amsterdam on June 23rd.
The rest of the group departed Villandry at 8:30 am, headed north. Around noon, we entered Chartres, the location of a spectacular 12th century cathedral. We had lunch and toured the cathedral. The drive there was not without some issues...we had to pass through several more of the countless toll booths found throughout France...none are like the one before. It is particular frustrating since most are un- manned and the instructions are mostly in French. Some take credit cards, some not. Cash works but you get a gaggle of coins back if you use paper money. The parking structures are another frustration. You usually get a ticket when entering, if you can figure out how to get the darn machine to dispense the ticket. Upon leaving, you either feed the till on the way out or pay and validate your ticket at a separate kiosk before exiting, then feeding the ticket into the exit kiosk. Again, if you speak French, it may be straightforward but if you don’t, We then proceeded on to a “Gardens of Monet” visit in Vernon.
This is a beautiful and interesting setting, where Monet obviously was inspired for many of his works of art. The streams, ponds and lily pads closely resemble many of his famous paintings...see photos below. Kathy was in “Hog Heaven”! Following the gardens visit, we continued on for a short distance to the Hotel Normandy. While having cocktails and watching world cup soccer in the pub, we heard that Louie & Bonnie had an ignition problem and had arrived late. Terry helped them change the points and the Healey fired right up and ran fine. The hotel has an Irish pub attached, where several of the group had dinner.
Day 21 – Normandy, France to Bruges, Belgium
Today, we left for the last full day of our journey...the home stretch from Normandy to Bruges, Belgium. The day started out as usual, as we departed in two groups. Group 1 included Steve & Cindy, Dick, Terry & Lisa, Mike & Kathy and Jay & Katie. At some point in the traffic of leaving Vernon, Jay & Katie got separated from the group. We intended to gas up at the first opportunity before going too far, but didn’t locate a station while leaving town, and we found ourselves on the motorway, where they have rest stops and gas about every 25 miles or so. Right after going through yet another toll booth, we see Dick slowing down and pulling off to the side of the road, with two fingers raised (which means “I need gas”). Terry stopped to check things out, while Steve and we continued on another few miles to a rest stop/gas station. Terry joined us shortly thereafter and reported that Dick ran out of gas.
The dilemma is what to do now...we thought about buying a “Jerry” can, filling it, and taking it back to Dick’s stranded car, but there is no easy way to get back to where he was. Instead, Steve managed to struggle in French with the operators of the rest stop store and got a roadside rescue vehicle to help. Thinking he would take Dick some gas, the next thing we see is a huge tow truck with Dick’s Healey aboard and Dick in the cab with the driver. After offloading and filling up, were ready to go again, after about an hour plus delay and Dick’s tow bill of 170 Euro! (making matter’s worse, Dick later noticed his cell phone was missing...he must have left in the truck cab!).
We proceeded on to the Normandy coast, above the WWII landing beaches, headed for Calais and our lunch appointment at the restaurant La Sirene overlooking the beach. We lined up the Healey’s next to the restaurant for a photo shoot. It was a beautiful clear day with no clouds or fog, and you could clearly see the White Cliffs of Dover across the channel. We dined on a delicious French meal, although the helpings and courses were too large for a midday meal.
After lunch, we continued towards Bruges, Belgium on a windy coastal road and passed by Calais, Dunkirk and other French coastal towns. After rejoining the motorway, we arrived in Bruges about an hour later, around 6pm. Our hotel was next to a canal and within walking distance of “old town” Bruges. Following cocktails at the hotel, the group walked to the old square for dinner at an outdoor cafe.
Day 22 – Bruges to Amsterdam
Well, our 3 week adventure is about over. Today, we drove the last leg of the trip to the Radisson Hotel near the Amsterdam airport. Some members of the group are flying home tomorrow, while others are spending the weekend in Amsterdam. Mike & Anna left the group yesterday morning, continuing on in Europe to visit relatives.
The drive from Bruges, Belgium to Roosendaal, where we drop off the Healey’s, is only about a 1 1/2 hour drive. We planned to arrive on/before 12:30pm, and everyone arrived as planned. Peter & Alexandra were already there, having driven from Paris. The only car missing was Steve LaFaro’s MGA, which shipped over in our container 3 weeks ago and was returning with our cars...Steve Kirby received an email that Steve LaFaro’s MGA was on a tow truck (again!) and would arrive at the drop off site late. Once we checked in the cars and transferred all the baggage, we boarded a bus that Steve Kirby had arranged to transport us to the Radisson Hotel in Amsterdam, about an hour away...where we enjoyed beers and watched World Cup soccer.
We met that evening at 6pm in the hotel for cocktails and gathered in a meeting room at 7pm for our farewell dinner. We had a wonderful “last supper” together as Steve summarized the tour highlights and shared the following statistics (thanks to our Garmins):
• Distance Travelled – 4971.6 km (3089.2 miles)
• Average Speed – 70 km/h
• Driving Time – 35 hours
• 229 Roundabouts traversed; 42 in one day! An important part of any Healey tour is the list of mechanical problems we experienced, by owner, throughout the trip (these are not in any particular order, however, it appears that Louie won the “Healey Road Warrior” award for the most issues):
• Steve K. – Reverse gear didn’t work; vacuum hose rupture
• Mike S – On-the-road breakdown due to dead battery; inconsistent starter; broken anti-sway bar bolt; overdrive problems
• Mike B - Broken driver’s window; cracked windshield
• Louie – Bad rear wheel bearing; flat tire; muffler wrapping issues; leaking carbs; ignition (points) problem, ”co-pilot problems”
• Jeff – Blown fuse; broken muffler bracket
• Hema – Overdrive problems
• Jay – Flat tire
• Dick – Steering/wheel balancing issues; side curtain flew off car and repaired with gorilla tape; taillight and horn electrical issues; RAN OUT OF GAS!
• Peter – Points adjustment problem; cracked windshield
• Steven K. – Overdrive problems; overheating
• Terry – Overdrive “blip”
All told, the 2018 European Healey Meet, and our pre- and post-tours were a terrific experience. For half of the group, this was our second Meet, as six cars attended the last meet in Crieff, Scotland in 2013. We have been told that the next (6th) meet will be in Norway in 4 or 5 years...stay tuned!