Day -2: The First Breakdown
Updated: Aug 23, 2019
The first challenge - making it to the Start Line
In a historic turn of events, Matt was wide awake and ready to get going long before our 7am alarm. We opened up the little camp stove and made ourselves some coffee while looking at the plan for the day. It was a fairly long drive, but as it was all still on immaculate European motorways we weren't worried about making good time.
I took my first turn at driving Buzzy and also my first time driving a right hand drive car in a left hand drive country. Thankfully the roads were fairly quiet for the first half hour while we found our way back to the motorway, giving me a change to settle into the drive.
We pulled over at a service station to grab another coffee, and had our first selfie request from a bemused stranger. There were lots of furtive sideways glances and surreptitious photos - Buzzy stood out a mile next to everything else in the car park.
We did a driver swap after a few hours, and not long after had our first sighting of a fellow rally car at 632 miles into our journey. A mere 15 miles later we saw a second team. Both occasions were celebrated with much horn beeping vigorous waving and shouted greetings between cars.
By 660 miles into our journey we heard our first bad engine noises. It started off as an occasional grinding noise of metal on metal, before becoming a more frequent noise. A smell of burning rubber soon accompanied the noise.
“A smell of burning rubber soon accompanied the noise”
We pulled off the road into a truck stop to see if we could identify the noise. It was a hot day, probably the warmest weather that Buzzy had been driven in so far, and certainly the longest continual drive in high temperatures.
There was nothing overtly wrong on roadside inspection - just the awful noise and smell. A bearing going was the primary suspect, but there wasn't a lot we could do pulled over in a lay-by. We weren't sure wether it was best to leave Buzzy for a few minutes to give him the chance to cool down, or to get back on the road before anything could cool and seize up. The remaining 100km to Pilsen were slow and steady, with all fingers and toes crossed.
As Matt was driving, I was scouting out a suitable campsite to stop at for the night. There were a couple of mentions of a campsite on the outskirts of Pilsen that a few other teams were planning on stopping at. I added to the thread that we would also aim to stop there, providing Buzzy made it. Buzzy did us proud, and accompanied by the awful grinding and stench of burnt rubber we rolled into the gateway of the campsite. We were touched to find that Laura, one of the ralliers who had seen my message earlier on about having car troubles had come to meet us at the gate and saved us a space next to their car.
Amongst the distractions of the day we had completely forgotten to take out any Czech Koruna, which was the only currency the campsite would accept. We needed to get a few other bits and bobs anyway; food for dinner and beer, and so we abandoned Buzzy just inside the gate and set off on a walk into town, not wanting to risk putting any unnecessary miles on the clock.
After two days sat in the car it was actually really enjoyable to have a chance to stretch out legs. It was early evening and a pleasant temperature, and the walk was far more scenic than we had expected.
Beer, food and cash acquired, a space in the campsite procured and we had our first go at setting up a proper little camping area. It was completely unnecessary, but really quite fun, and we soon had the awning out, the hammock up and chairs and table set up with a view out onto the lake.
After a quick test of the hammock, we got the kitchen equipment out and started to cook dinner. Dinner was nothing too ambitions for the first night of cooking, just a simple courgette linguine that generated minimal washing up. We'd had grand plans for accomplishing all kinds of sophisticated meals on our two burners, but the reality of long days driving and cooking in the dark rapidly quashed any notion of anything more fancy.
More ralliers kept arriving, and by the time we'd finished our dinner we had ended up gathering a good sized circle of new friends around our fold up table and citronella candle. In anticipation of the carnage the next day's launch party would most likely bring it was a fun but relaxed evening of chatter and banter, finishing at a remarkably civilised hour.