Weert, The Netherlands
Car packed, tyres pumped up, Littlins fed, bathed and had bedtime story. Dog discovered that we are packing the car, so he was first in, keen not to be left behind.
Oh-so-lovely-Daddy: “Tell me again, which way do you usually drive the first bit? ViaMichelin suggests something different.”
Me: “You know what, I’ll drive the first bit and hand over when I’m tired, ok? And you can sleep in the meantime.”
8:15 pm Teary goodbyes to Opa and Oma. Littlins strapped in
Me: “Littlins do you need a wee or a poo? We are going to be in the car for a very long time.
Little Miss: “No, Mummy I just did a wee in the shower.”
Me: “Ok!” makes mental note to tackle this some other time “Are you totally sure?”
Both Littlins “Yes!”
Start engine…Oops, I forgot to tell my parents that we are coming! (Well they know that we will be there by Sunday, I’ve just been a bit vague about when we are actually arriving… complications in the family, etcetera, a bit of domino effect of health issues.)
I text: “Just leaving. Kisses”
I put car in gear and off we go.
8:25 pm We turn onto the motorway.
Little Miss: “Mummy I really need a wee”
Little Man: “I’m hungry”
Cruel Mummy: “No and no! Sleep!”
Lots of chatter coming from the back. No more requests to me though. I’m on the first pack of biscuits. Put on a classical music CD… usually sends them to sleep.
9:15 pm An engine warning light comes on and I need headphones …more worried about latter, the classical music working better on me than Littlins. I need some lively music. We pull into a rest stop. Quick toilet stop… both need to go.
I restart the car…Phew! Warning light gone… and then so are we from the rest stop.
Ah, it’s quietening in the back. First to sleep Oh-so-lovely-daddy, but soon my “babies” drop off too.
At last peace! It’s almost dark. The moon is pretty bright… that’s always nice… driving in the moonlight instead of pitch blackness. It reminds you that there is a world beyond the road lit by all the headlights. The hills, houses and trees get an eerie shadow about them.
I open a big bag of crisps, but can’t hear the music from the headphones because of the crunch crunch. Put it aside. Sing instead, although that echoes back to me too.
Driving, I wonder where all these people are going at this time of night. We are all travellers, journeying through life, different start, different ends, we pass by each other on a motorway. What drives and motivates those in the car in front or the lorry beside me?
It is now dark, not too heavy traffic on the road. My favourite time to drive. I do some stock-taking, come up with some brilliant ideas… then forget half of them because I can’t write them down in the dark. I ponder over my life, what I’m doing, what’s driving me, even about this blog.
We’ve passed Aachen and Köln. I see a couple of shooting stars. I don’t bother to make a wish, I just think of my lovely family sitting behind me and I smile.
As I drive past Frankfurt airport, I see lots of lights of planes “queuing” to land and see a couple really close overhead. Again I wonder where the people on them are heading. Are they travelling alone? With family? For work?
…Our carseats are airline approved. How are they strapped in to the aircraft seats? …I do miss flying, maybe we should save up more and fly somewhere for our next trip.
12:35 am Some roadworks slow us down and engine warning lights come on again. I pull up at a fuel station. Get out, stretch my legs, family sleeps on in the back. I lean their seats back even further so they are comfy.
I get back in and the warning light disappears again. Note to self- first trip is to the garage, if and when we get toHungary. I keep the European breakdown assistance number handy… just in case!
Off I drive again. Back in my thoughts, no music this time. I hear a faint voice from the back… my ear tunes in even more. Little Miss is squeaking.
“Daddy wake up!” I shout “Your daughter needs you!”
He comes to just in time to put the light on and give her a sick bag. She didn’t quite get the aim perfect, so a change of t-shirt is needed, and the muslin is chucked in a plastic bag too.
Excitement over, they all fall back to sleep.
1:40 am Fuel stop. I ask Oh-so-lovely-daddy to put in 20 litres. (Austria will be cheaper- is my thinking.) There’s two types of diesels, he has a bit of difficulty deciding which to put in… yes, these are tough decisions in the middle of the night!
Fuelling done, off we go again.
Oh-so-lovely-daddy: “Do you want me to drive now?”
Me: “No, I’m ok. That coffee is keeping me pretty much awake, I’m fine, don’t feel tired at all.”
Oh-not-so-lovely-daddy: “But I had coffee especially so I can drive. You always do this…” then he fades out, because he realises unlike some( that really is ocassional and not all!) other times, he has actually been sleeping near horizontally instead of keeping me company. …it’s that fuelling dilemma… it got to him.
So he starts off on the fuelling dilemma: “If you know which fuel you want, then why don’t you do it yourself…”
Before he can continue, Little Miss interjects: “Look, the moon is following us too!”
Good move Baby Girl!, I think to myself. Well distracted. She has some good female genes.
… it quietens down again and they all go back to sleep.
I drive on enjoying the thinking time again. I monitor our average speed, look at average fuel consumption, experiment which speed correlates to roughly what consumption. (There’s certainly enough roadworks to force me to slow down for a couple of kilometres every once in a while.) In the meantime, I drive by some lit up castles and churches in the distance: What a pity that we are not doing this in the daytime! …then again there must be horrendous traffic on these narrowed bits with roadworks; the sheer volume of lorries and add in the cars. No thank you! We will see Germany another day.
The road takes us over the Danubea couple of times. …Oh how I’d love to navigate the whole length of this wonderful river!
Then we are in Austria. I pop in to buy a motorway sticker. The family sleeps. Little Man whimpers as I get back in, but a “shhhshhh” reassures him back into his slumber.
Just as I drive past a motorway service, the fuel light comes on. No problem, I’ll get off at the next possibility and the sat nav will lead me to the nearest fuel station, right?
I come off at the next exit, reset sat nav to take me to fuel… it takes me to a small village 4km away, with a deserted single pump station. Ok, this isn’t it. Let’s find the next one.
It’s 7km away in the other direction. Instead of doing a u-turn the sat nave takes me on the scenic route through the village. All lights are off, there is very little to be seen.
I drive on to the next one. Ok, this is promising: it’s big and brightly lit. Lots of trucks parked up. A pay point at the pumps. One credit card… doesn’t work, one debit card…also doesn’t work. Shit! Fuel very low now. (This is one disadvantage to driving at night.)
Only way is forward I decide and head back to the motorway. On the way I see lights in the kitchen of a house by the road. I toy with the idea of what they would think and do if the car broke down and I went and knocked on their door. I also wonder why are they up before dawn?
On the motorway the next big city is Wels. Surely they will have a 24hr fuel station that accepts Visa and Mastercard! I drop my speed to between 50-55 miles/hr (that’s 80-90 km/hr) and the fuel gauge actually jumps up… may be from joy of me not being as heavy footed?
4:40 am In Wels a lovely BP fuel station awaits me. I fuel up 75.02 liters (I think the tank is only supposed to be 75 litres) and save 20 Euros compared to fuelling at the next motorway service station. Family still asleep.
The sun’s coming up. The lines left by the aeroplanes look like a giant has scratched the sky. There’s mist hanging in the valleys. I wish I could take a picture of some of these! Instead I just whizz by and try to capture the images in my mind… I have to be pastViennabefore the morning rush hour. At the moment (even with a comfortable average speed of 108 km/hr) I am on target.
I love the bit of motorway before Vienna. A bit of up and down and nice curves and bends to give driving some fun. The sun is straight in my eye, so it is good to dip behind a hill once in a while. Meanwhile the family sleeps on.
I pass Vienna before the traffic really builds up.
6.20 am As I am driving out from the ring road, I feel like my eyelashes have had thick lead mascara applied. This is way past my bedtime! I pull over immediately onto a wider part of the hard shoulder and hand over to Oh-so-rested-daddy.
He complains that I drank his Fanta, but then drives us on. I try to sleep… both Littlins are awake. I put on an Ice Age DVD. I sleep a wink. Little Miss is very pale. I sleep a wink more. She throws up some more.
On the Hungarian border we stop to buy a motorway pass. In the meantime, Little Miss stands in the fresh air and I undo the isofix attachments of her seat and reposition it onto one of the forward facing seats. We drive on. I sleep a wink or two. Little Miss throws up some more. This time her aim is perfect. I didn’t realise we had so many sick bags. (Thanks to DFDS Seaways for those!…they had handed us a couple when Little Miss was looking rather pale on the ferry.)
Getting closer, we are 10 minutes away when Little Man finally wants to come out of his seat. He’s done very well! During the last 10 hours he has only been out of the seat two times for 2 minutes for a quick peepee. I think the paddling of the seat and that it can be reclined have given him an über comfy journey.
9:05 am As we pull in to my parents’ street, Oh-so-telepathic-daddy asks: “should we call them on the mobile to ask them to open the gate?” I tell him off for laziness … not admitting to have thought exactly the same the same moment he said it.
He gets out, rings the bell and we are welcomed home with open arms. We made it! 1200 odd km, 800 miles or so.
A special moment too, as me and the Littlins get to meet their 8 month old cousin for the first time. It’s been a long journey long time coming. It is time to enjoy family … but a quick nap first, maybe.