Euro 2011 - Dan's Diary

Tuesday 28th June - Pontarlier to Bolzano via Geneva, Mont Blanc and Milan

My route took me from Pontallier, through Geneva, onto the Mont Blanc tunnel and then on the Italian motorway network to Bolzano.
The morning so far had gone well and without a hitch ... until now. I needed to get on the road as soon as the aircraft was airborne however was stopped in my tracks by the motor of the driver’s seat burning out in a position where I could just about get into the driver’s seat, however was virtually impossible to drive. So, with my non – existent French, I went to try and get some help as I couldn’t shift the seat back. “Bonjour ... car broken ... help?” Luckily, a very kind gentleman, who spoke more English than I could French, managed to get his nephew who was a mechanic to come to the airfield and fix it! Relief! So just over an hour after Robin and Ed had launched I was on my way.

The route from Pontarlier to Geneva from the map looked pretty straight forward. Oh how we were wrong! The constant sharp turning, narrow roads which were also slippery due to the melting tarmac made it quite nerve wrecking to start but I eventually got into the swing of things. I was concentrating so hard on a particular stretch that I missed the vital ‘turn left’ from the TomTom which lead me to the Swiss border. ‘Oh it will be ok’ I thought to myself, ‘it will find me another route’. ‘In 400 meters sharp left and then sharp right’. It wasn’t joking – as I carefully manoeuvred around the first sharp corner I preceded to the top of the hill to the next sharp bend only for it to be coned off by the Border Crossing, so a quick trip down the other side of the hill, a quick spin around and I found myself being interrogated at the border.

I knew he was going to be difficult when he got out of his booth, looked at the British number plate, walked around to the right side of the car and started talking to me in French. My plea for him to speak in English was eventually met. After 20 minutes of telling them that I wasn’t going sailing and that the trailer didn’t contain a bunch of illegal immigrants or a ton of white powder I was on my way again.

The Swiss roads were fantastic – some of the best driving roads that I have seen. I wished I was in a Lamborghini, not a Shogun with a glider trailer on the back. The winding roads and hilly terrain made it perfect. Suppose you can’t have everything. The views were stunning too. My first sighting of the Alps, which had Lake Geneva at its base, was as I came over the top of a hill just before Geneva – stunning!
Geneva shouldn’t have been an issue but as there were more road works than the M25, traffic was pretty heavy. Luckily TomTom had a traffic divert option which I stupidly chose to follow. After cautiously navigating the tight back streets (and hundreds of parked cars) of Geneva, I was back in France on my way to the Mont Blanc tunnel. It should all be plane sailing now!

Around 30k short of the tunnel the overhead gatso sign decided to flash ‘TUNNEL CLOSED. EXIT AHEAD’. I think the words that came of my mouth were something like ‘Oh that’s a shame’. What was even better is that there were no diversion signs so I decided to follow everyone else through a little village – presuming that they knew where they were going. Stuck in traffic I got in contact with 13 to let them know of my ‘progress’ and that a beer will be required when/if I get to Bolzano.

Happily the tunnel reopened and 6 hours after leaving Pontarllier I got into Italy, although 500km from my destination. Luckily it was motorways a majority of the way. The first set of Italian roads were pretty good too – cutting in and out of the mountains – all I needed was that Lamborghini again, and a digger at the end of one of the tunnels and I would have felt like I was in the Italian Job.

I had one minor disadvantage in the fact that TomTom didn’t have an ‘Italy’ setting however it all seemed to go pretty well until I got to the traffic, and the wrong lane, around Milan. As none of the very kind natives (I think that’s what I called them) would let me in the correct lane and I didn’t fancy forcing the binder trailer in, I had to come off the motorway. Happily though, after navigating the back streets of Milan this time (I was getting quite good at this!) I got back onto the motorway and travelling at *cough* kph made my way towards Bolzano. Nothing could go wrong now ... or could it?

As the sun was beginning to set I pulled in for some fuel and to locate the headlight deflectors (which I couldn’t find) near Brescia. Thankfully the traffic was light as I rejoined the motorway and I was able to make good progress. Oh wait a minute, no it wasn’t. There was a convoy travelling at a snail’s pace taking up 2 of the 3 lanes. After around 20minutes I managed to pass it and the rest of the trip was pretty easy.

Halfway along the final stint the trailer lights decided to short and thought that they were at a 80s disco rather than at the end of a vehicle. As I was being flashed by lorries from behind, and then from the front as well, as I couldn’t get those reflectors, the signs for Bolzano appeared. What a relief!

So fuelled on Red Bull and travel Sweets,  4 hours after the Binder had landed, and 11 and a half hours and 722km after setting off, I met up with Robin and Ed, dropped off the trailer at the airport and made our way to the hotel for the night. No beer for me tonight!