Well – where do I begin? What a day!
We all had to meet in the car park at 0815 for a photo shoot. Unfortunately, the weather had other ideas, and it was really raining hard. The photo shoot had to be in the bar! Where else? We had decided to do fancy dress on the official fancy dress day – the last day – only. Most people did the same last year. Not this year! We were virtually the only team not in fancy dress. We had the Big O in lederhosen, the Bright Sparks in orange jumpsuits, To Infinity and a Blonde in alien costumes, a whole team of wrapped presents, a telly tubby, a couple off MASH bringing Hot Lips in on a stretcher – the list goes on. What a start – and that was without seeing any of the cars!
We had Super Mario, the Parrotmedics, Toy Story, a Land Rover “Rover the top”, and many more that had had hours of work gone into them. It was a fantastic compilation! We set off at 9.00am, and tried to keep in convoy for a couple of miles – then we were on our own. The route today started from Lille, and ended up in Colmar – via Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany at least once – most several times. The weather was appalling. Last year we had brilliant sunshine the whole time.
Our challenge for today was to get a team photograph with a saxophone. Good job we all had google on the go! Dinant was the birthplace of Alfred Sax – and there was apparently a good few scattered around the streets. It took us only an hour or so to get there – and the rain had stopped and it was actually quite pleasant. We parked up, and went up to the bridge where the whole thing was lined both sides with huge models of saxophones. We had our picture taken with one of those, and by another one in front of a hotel – and in a chocolate shop where we all lounged on the furniture pretending to play chocolate saxophones. We had bought them first! There was a little museum just up the road which was a Sax Museum – where there was the real thing. This is the picture that is going to get us the points! We saw several of the other teams in the town – a lovely little town by a beautiful river that we could have spent all morning at. But no – onward we went. The other challenge was one we had to set ourselves – that fitted in with the theme of the Ghostbusters. We found a supermarket, and went in and bought a white sheet (it was on the list to bring, but got forgotten!) We stopped and drove in some woods – blew Raquel up and covered her with the sheet that now had black eyes printed on, and propped her up behind a tree. I took a picture of the other three pretending to look for ghosts, with her appearing at the back. I could just about hear an audience of children shouting “she’s behind you!”
After that we went past a very large graveyard with a few huge tombs with broken doors. It had to be done! Raquel was put peeping out of the tomb, with us scattered around pretending to look. Nobody came and hustled us out – surprisingly! Then, Sonia spotted a zip line sign. “Let’s take Raquel on the zip line” she says. So we turned around, found where it was and drove there. It was around half a mile walk from the car park up and down steps and hills – didn’t know this was a trek as well as a car rally! We got to the start – and they said they were too busy. We should have booked! Sonia did her bit – we got them to take us on one of the high bridges, and Paul took the shot. Sonia is afraid of heights – so not quite sure why she suggested this! We walked up the pathway after getting all the safety harnesses and helmets on. Then we came to the bridge – we were clipped on a high wire, had a wire either side of us to hold on to and wooden slats that got further and further apart the further we went on. Sonia took the sheet – she insisted – so on the middle of the bridge she put the sheet over her head, and we made as if we were chasing the ghost. Brilliant! I could feel the rope bridge shaking with Sonia – she was so brave to do it. We should get extra points for that! And it didn’t rain! She decided to climb up a bit of a rock climbing wall on the way back to the car – and we got a picture of a ghost halfway up!
We had updates all the while on facebook and twitter, so we could keep up with where all the teams were. Unfortunately, To Infinity and a Blonde had broken down just outside Lille – and that is where they stayed for seven hours! They called for a backup car from England, and had to wait until it arrived. Several people had got lost – we even had one update from Istanbul. I think that may have been a slight exaggeration! Disaster then struck. Paul noticed the temperature needle was on red, so we pulled into a rest area. The bonnet came up, and the steam came out! Had to leave that for half an hour to cool down. A few cars along the line was the Romanski Team from Mark Warner in a white London Taxi – with the bonnet up. Not only was there steam coming out of their engine, they had borrowed a frying pan from the restaurant and proceeded to fry bacon and eggs from the heat. That’s their challenge for the day sorted out then! They pulled away – and then we had to sort ours out. Luckily, we had a container full of water of the roof (for our Ghostbuster Super Soakers that are coming out on Sunday). Quite a lot of it went in the radiator – I don’t think there was much left in the car! After about an hour, we felt it was safe to continue on!
We had started to get into the hills – we were up at 1600 feet and then down and up again. I don’t think this was doing the car much good either! Paul was most disappointed that his new off road truck hadn’t even made it through the first day. One of the reasons he wouldn’t buy a banger was because he didn’t want to break down! We went OK for a little while – then we got in a really huge traffic jam. We must have been in it for over an hour, and the engine just heated up all over again. We pulled into a little lay by, and did the same operation all over again. This time you could hardly see the car for steam! We decided that we needed to keep going at under 60 miles an hour so the engine didn’t heat up, and not too fast that it would heat up that way, but fast enough for the wind to keep the engine cooler. Then the rain came! And boy did it come – the sky was so black, it thundered and lightened, and came down so hard it was thumping on the bonnet. But it kept the engine cool. Paul then pointed out that our box on the top of the car to put the ghosts in was metal. Oh dear. Wonder how many points we would get for being struck by lightning?
And time was getting on. All these stops, and traffic jams. Our meeting point in Colmar was between 7.30pm and 9.30pm. Too late, and no points! It was not looking good. We still had two and half hours to go, and it was 7pm. Touch and go. The Bright Sparks passed us – so we weren’t the only ones that were on the drag. The engine was behaving itself – and the miles went, but we weren’t making up any time as we had to keep the speed under 60. The mileage signs were showing a diminishing balance – but not fast enough. It was going to come down to seconds. We had to meet in a cafe about five minutes walk from the hotel – and it was still raining cats and dogs. Sonia and I were the only ones with a coat in the inside of the truck, so when we got to the hotel we grabbed the camera bag (evidence) and ran in the general direction of the town square, where the cafe was. We got soaked. But we made it by the skin of our teeth! Our challenges were greeted with positive words – always a good sign! We had a quick drink and then went back to find the other two. Who turned up at the cafe just as we turned up at the hotel. The car park had a maximum height of 1.8m - the truck is 2.3m. They got soaked sorting out the luggage and the parking, so we all got soaked. Still teams that hadn’t checked in – missing in action! Including the white taxi last seen frying eggs on its engine!
But then we had a text from Crusader HQ. We are in fourth place. All to play for tomorrow!