one of our wheels – its not supposed to look like that
After a glorious first fortnight in the French alps – some truly memorable days in the ski holiday hotspots of Alpe d’Huez, Les Deux Alpes and La Grave- it was time to up-sticks from our first campsite in Bourg d’Oisans and head for our next sojourn in Brides les Bains, below the ski resorts of the legendary Les Troi Vallees.
Many things happened in between getting up that morning and our leg-stretch stop 2’30″ into the 3 hour drive… but this post is a pictorial account of how the last 30 minute leg turned into a rather more eventful few hours of highway high-jinks.
If it can go wrong, it will go wrong.
Murphy’s law had been pretty much in effect all day, but we remained cheary and confident that we would get to Brides les Bains with plenty of time to get settled before dark & enjoy a relatively easy day. For once, we had no work planned, only a little travel.
Stopping for a freshen up, Iddi returned to my driver’s window and said “you know the back doors gone”
“what do you mean?”
“gone as in bent?”
“no, its gone”
“you mean its not working?”
“no, its gone”
… this went on for some time until Iddi eventually elaborated,
“its not there anymore”
what do you mean the back door is gone? it’s not there any more
The rear door could have fallen off at any time during the last two and a half hours drive… it would take up to 5 hours to retrace our route and get back to where we were now.
This was one of those moments when you completely reframe your ambitions for the day – our hope for a casual day of travel and camping evaporated and was replaced by the goal of merely getting to the new location with all of our caravan.
We paid the toll to leave the highway, took a new ticket (to pay to retrace our steps) and headed back on the opposite carriageway… our biggest fear was not finding this rare piece of a vintage caravan at all… but only just ahead of our fear of finding it right back at the entrance to the campsite we had left!
… it was then that we caught our first piece of luck that day, or so we hoped… just 2 miles down the road, Iddi thought she saw an appropriately sized piece of shiny metal on the opposite shoulder.
“was it our door?”
“it was the right size”
“but was it our door – should I turn around?”
“it was the right shape”
“how confident are you? should we turn around?”
“I think that might have been it”
We turned off at the next exit and Murphy’s Law resumed… it was not a junction, but a slip road onto another highway with no way to turn around.
Long story cut short, we eventually turned around, got back onto the first highway and started to guestimate the distance to where “possibly our door” had been seen…
… and then…
brrrum-brrum, brrum, brrrum, brr… HUGE vibrations and the rear of the car started to move around without warning…
… can our luck really be that bad?
I tried to imagine what extra carnage our missing door might wreak, but could think of nothing. I slowed down and pulled onto the shoulder.
one utterly shredded airstream tyre
In a completely unrelated event, fate had dealt us a second caravanning-based hammer blow. A flat tyre might seem trivial but, in my head, it was the end of the world… here’s why:
- I bought the airstream in Arizona with no spare wheel
- a spare wheel is a legal requirement in the UK & Europe so I ordered one, with tyre from a Brit tyre dealer, in the American 6 stud configuration (unusual in Europe) … planning to try it on the Airstream before leaving the UK, but…
You get the picture… I had a missing door, where the whole bathroom might fall out… a tyre blow out… and a spare wheel that might not fit on the axle… on a French highway shoulder we didn’t quite fit on… and, I then discovered, our warning triangle was missing (also a legal requirement in France).
I didn’t expect the next hour to go well.
Iddi directs juggernaughts away from snoman changing wheel
But, as Churchill once said, “if you’re going through hell, keep going!” - in the face of such adversity, we could but bravely press ahead.
While I’ve never caravanned before, I understood it would be far easier to change a tyre on a twin axle – no jack required – by simply driving the good tyre up one of our levelling-ramps. Hey-presto, the flat tyre is off the ground and ready to be removed!
ramp is under the good tyre – ready to swap out the blow out
Audentis fortuna juvet
As if to reward such quick thinking, the hastily bought spare wheel fitted perfectly…
… within a few short minutes we were rolling again and pondering how, if we were not driving on the shoulder, had the “probably our door” managed to get onto the shoulder?
I’m sure this door was a different shape the last time I saw it
We arrived at the door half a mile later and discovered exactly how - at least one truck had helpfully bounced it onto the shoulder by driving over it. The door was bent but intact the damage looked salvagable.
I predict a lot of DIY in my near future
While picking up the door, a French policeman arrived and I explained the whole saga – I can’t tell you how relieved I was that he arrived after the fact – we might have been looking at a fine for not carrying a warning triangle too! Needless to say I bought one the very next day. Luck was still shining on us when, at the next service stop, we met the same chap – he shared a few laughs and took a family picture.
one odd wheel and door in back of car, but alls well that ends well
The mere ‘good day’ we had hoped for was ultimately far surpassed by the jubilation of rescuing that day, and ourselves, from catastrophe – we arrived triumphal in Camping La Piat, masters of our own destiny, and resolved to not think about the repairs until manana. To the chirrup of some encouraging and also some mick-takingtweets, we enjoyed a glass or three… and went to sleep satisfied.
Jimmy inspects airstream spare wheel – father elsewhere in vino euphoria
NEXT: Val Thorens – the highest ski resort in Europe
(add your Val Thorens ski holiday business now to SNO.mobi ski holidays guide and I’ll name-check you in the next blog post)