As it was decided that May 19th 2000 we'd have a reunion in
Brussels of the people I went on ski holiday with earlier that
year, I figured that since I would be a bit on the way to Calais
anyway (not much though :), I'd kill four birds with one stone
- Attend the reunion
- Visit a colleague of mine in London
- Go to Brighton to see the finish of that year's London to Brighton Mini Run (One of the biggest annual Mini events)
- Give my Van a good test-run before the upcoming IMM
And so I did.
The report start the Thursday before the weekend though. I collected my Van from my Mini-shop where it had gotten it's pre-IMM service.
During this service a couple of anomalies appeared, one being some bits, which looked like broken needle bearings, were sticking to the sumpplug at oilchange.
Since the gearbox didn't make any strange noises we decided to do the test-run anyway and see what happened. If worst came to worst they'd collect the Van on the trailer and thus get to go to the L2B themselves too.
Before driving down to Brussels I ran around the country a bit, covering some 600km of hard driving. The Van, nor the box gave any indication of having a problem so it seemed safe enough to leave the country.
Arrived in Brussels (Halle for those who want to know specifically :) a bit late, but early enough for the entree. As Belgians have a bit more 'savoir de vivre' as we Dutch do, no reunion is complete without having a enjoyable dinner with friends. (See also my SF'99 report) This time it was an Italian dinner of Parma ham with melon, Osso-buco and Tiramisu as desert. This of course accompanied by red and white whine but as I was driving I didn't taste that.
|P & Kids||Pe & D||P & F||K & I||A Pict
|T & Js
C & Jh
We looked at eachothers pictures and watched the video made during the holiday. As we are a quite large group and all end up doing different things during such a week a lot of the picts and videomaterial showed stuff that I hadn't seen before. Some of it also had better been left out :)
All in all a very enjoyable evening that ended around 1am. Some continued to a 'salsa-event' but as I knew it would be a 'rough' weekend for me anyway I decided to skip that and head for bed.
In the end it did take me quite a while to get there though. While checking my email (so what if I'm an email-junky :) I found not one single message to be there. That shouldn't worry anyone, but it did me as I knew there had to be some there. Thinking something had gone wrong in the change to another account the day before I sort of got a tad paranoid :) Later that weekend it turned out that on my way out I'd left my puter at home on with the MUA running, which thus retrieved and removed all messages from the mailservers every 10 minutes. So nothing was lost afterall :) Because of this ordeal I didn't get to bed before about 3am though.
On Saturday I got up around 10am as my sister and nephew were leaving. Got dressed and waited for Andy, my designated navigator for the rest of the trip to arrive. Which he did around 11am. As we would be doing a wheelswap that weekend at Brighton we loaded his wheels and other stuff in my Mini and set off for Calais at about 12:30. Andy proved to be not just a good navigator for the Mini-runs we'd done together in the past, but also for this trip. Always giving enough information in time without giving to much information. It's an art :)
When we arrived at Calais (in time ! :) and collected the
ticket we were told that our ferry wouldn't be sailing because of
a strike. Instead we were booked on an earlier ferry of P&O.
So we got the luxury treatment for cheap. We weren't complaining
Got to the other side of the Channel close to 4pm and arranged with fellow Mini-Lister Boris to meet at my colleague's apartment in Hampstead around 6pm.
Again Andy's navigational skills proved to be of value driving straight through London instead of all the way around.
Although IMO the apartment where my colleague Gerbert and his
sister Lydia were living didn't look like much on the outside,
even if others had told me the area is supposed to be 'posh', the
inside was a different matter all together. I can understand
someone liking living in a place like that.
Just after we'd got there Boris also arrived. As he didn't have to much time (and it was raining :) we decided to skip the idea of going down to Crystal Palace Park and hung out at the apartment talking about all kinds of stuff, mostly Mini's though I'm afraid :)
By the time Boris had to head back to his hotel to start his trip back home we all took the Tube down-town. After having said goodbye to Boris we continued on our way to a Japanese-Curry type restaurant. Sort of reminded me of the 'mensa' I used to go to back when I was a student. Good food for, specially for expensive England, good prices. I might be biased, but I enjoy having dinner in the company of people I like. After dinner it was already past pub-curfew so we headed back to the apartment. After some more talk, this time hardly about Mini's :) and a game of chess between Gerbert and Andy we went to sleep around 2am.
The next morning I got my 'wake-up call' from Andy around
8:30. I'm sure given his 'rhythm' he had been up for a while
already by then. After loading our stuff back into the Van we
said goodbye to Gerbert who still was half asleep :) and
headed down towards Brighton.
When we came closer to the Crystal Palace area the number of Mini's we saw increased. As we weren't doing the run and the lanes in London are at least 1½ Mini wide, we didn't have to follow this huge slow moving trafficjam of Mini's :)
The Van was still 'holding it's own' very well and would do so the rest of the weekend even if it at times was put under quite some stress. The only mishap of the weekend happened while hurdling down the M23. A sudden noise from the left and away flew the right-hand wiper. Being a non-vital item, even if it was raining (the Van is LHD) it didn't bother me much and eventually ended up buying a temp replacement for it in Brighton.
At the services where I fueled up again (hard driving means bad mileage :) I talked to another Dutch Mini-driver who we'd passed just before. Although I hadn't seen a Dutch List Sticker (which I didn't carry one either btw), he turned out to be a (albeit fairly new) Lister afterall. Benno, if I remember correctly.
Courtesy of a local Int. Lister we didn't have to follow the Big Trafficjam of Mini's down to the seafront in Brighton but used an alternative route which brought us right down there. Although we initially parked quite some distance from the pier, we decided against it when it started to poor down with rain. Eventually we found a good parkingspot just above Madeira Drive (the finish of the L2B) and just half a mile from the pier where the (Int.) Mini List Meets were planned for that day.
After walking down to Madeira Drive and looking for some parts (windscreenwiper amongst others :) at the stands we moved towards the start of the pier as the time of one of the scheduled MLM's was coming up. Initially we just spotted Andy Smith and his wife Michelle. Not much later we also met with others like Spag, Nigel (With Pants!), Scott & Kim, Ade & Helen, Greg, both John's (E. & FB) and Colin. The latter I'd never met before but was the guy we'd have to meet to further arrange the wheel-swap for yet another Int Lister. Talked to most people there a bit, mostly to John E. about our upcoming trip to the IMM.
Spag, ?, Nigel, Michelle, John E, Andy S,
Colin (back), Andy (tilted?),
Kim (back), Ade (back, talking to), Greg, Scott (behind), John B (taking picture)
After the meet Andy, Colin, Fat Bloke (AKA John) and myself
walked up to the Van and did the wheel-swap.
After having said goodbye to Colin and John we walked back to the pier again, only to arrive 15 minutes late for the next MLM. By that time no-one was there anymore (and it seems no-one knows if there was ever anyone at that one :).
As our Estimated Time of Departure was coming closer rapidly, we walked back along Madeira Drive, where we also met some Dutch Listers for a sec. By that time we really needed to get a move on, so we did.
The drive back to Dover along the A259 was pretty much uneventful, although Andy at a certain point must have regretted mentioning that we 'probably won't make the ferry if we stick behind this bus'. He didn't know I had a clear view of the road from the other side of the bus :) Even the detour along the way didn't slow us down much, nor did the yellow and blue (formerly white and blue :) policecar. We arrived 5 minutes before sailingtime at the gate...
Only to find out that the strike was still on and we were
again going to be booked on a P&O ferry (the one that had
rammed the docks at Dover a couple of months earlier :) about
half an hour later. We were still not complaining :) After
grabbing a bite to eat and talking to a couple of Dutch
Mini-drivers we got on board and both Andy as I got some
'shut-eye' during the sail. One crossing and a time-warp later we
were in France again.
If ever in need of fuel coming back from the UK to B/NL as I often do (I'd run out the time before, see IMM'99/Mini40-week report), take the exit just after you've passed the BP gasstation on your left (wrong side of the road) and get back on. After leaving the gasstation take exit 25B to do the U-turn again.
By that time it was 9pm and we set off for Brussels (Lembeek for those in the know :). Had nothing but rain on the way, but still didn't do to bad getting there in about 2 hours. Said hi to my sister and B-I-L after which we packed all of Andy's stuff in his Mini and he had to head home straight away as he would be working again early that morning. I stayed and had a drink before heading home. Still was raining cats & dogs but I was making good time none-the-less. At a certain point the low traffic that was on the highway slowed down for what turned out to be a car that had crashed into the barrier and now was standing reversed in the middle of the highway. I stopped and got out to ask the driver that was standing on the verge if he was ok and needed help. He was and didn't so I again continued on my way.
Around 2am I got back home, unloaded the Van, stopped at my parents house and talked to my dad about my trip for a bit, did some of my email (what a relief to find it there :) and got into bed. Slept in the next morning and passed by the Mini-shop to make an appointment for a impromptu 'engine-out, gearbox & timingchain checkup'. Time was not on our side with the IMM getting awfully close, but again the guys at the shop came through even if it did mean burning the midnight oil.
Obviously this will continue with the report of the IMM 2000 and trip to the North Cape...