It’s 6 am on a cloudy Friday morning, mid October. I’m about to bite into my breakfast at Bristol Airport and my phone rings. Its my customer, the screen reads “Jayne”. What could she want at this time ? I’ve not even landed in Spain, I’m thinking. I reluctantly answer the phone.
“Hi Mick, Just ringing to make sure you made it to the airport on time?”
“Yer, Yer, I’m here Just waiting for the gates to open and that.”
“Excellent, we have an issue. One of the sales guys has booked some of the kit to go out on Sunday and we could do with it back here Saturday night. Is that possible if I make sure you’re away by later today?”
I’m silent as I’m thinking what to say? I have to say yes don’t I really ? Do I ? Can it be done ? All these thoughts in a split second. Time is relative, it appears.
I meekly let out “I’ll do my best”.
As soon as those words left my mouth my brain kicked in “What the hell are you thinking man ? Why did you say that ? You’ve gone self employed so you can say no to people.”
“Brilliant Mick, I’ll make sure the van is loaded the moment you arrive at the FIRA.”
The phone goes dead, Jayne has hung up and I feel angry at myself, why did I do that ?? I tuck into my breakfast and waiting for my flight to Barcelona.
The flight goes without any fuss and I managed to grab a bit of sleep.
I’m soon in the Taxi on my way to the FIRA. I’m at the front gate and a familiar face is their to greet me. Connie, an Irish girl, short blonde hair.
“Mick the Vans loaded you can get straight off. No need to help us.”
“Cheers Connie, I appreciate it.”
“No problem we’ve all been given our orders from high above.”
Connie rolled her eyes in sarcasm. I let out a laugh, we both knew it was going to a tall order.
“By the way there should be enough fuel in it to get you into France, there is a fuel card in van. Follow me and I’ll take you it.”
I followed Connie through a sea of people to hall 5, and the familiar black van was sat there, my chariot of fire ready to go.
I jumped in, start up and rolling towards the Ronda (Barcelona Ring road) Do I go along the waterfront and risk traffic or around the north side and at a good 10 miles to my journey. I took the risk of traffic and ran along the port, I’m soon zooming out of Barcelona on the AP-7. I look down and realise I have been conned, there isn’t enough fuel to get me into France. Luckily I knew of a decent lorry station near Figueres, just before the border. the Ap-7 seemed to fly along, through Catalonia’s sparse landscape. As I pull into the fuel station I began to do the mathematics of getting home. It comes down to;
Do I run part way today and rush back tomorrow ? Or foot down all the way and clamber into my own bed in 18 hours’ time.
I checked the Maps and another conundrum, Do I take the slightly longer route (Montpellier, Lyon, Reims and up to Calais)? or the short route over Milau Bridge, Clermont Ferrand and into Paris ?
Coming up to Beziers I throw the dice at the shorter route. I could stop north of Clermont Ferrand for the night. The A-75 begins to climb into the Midi Pyrenees, and you begin to just have a glimpse of France’s real beautiful landscape.
Dropping down the other side, the Road twists and winds steeply downhill, All of a sudden there is a flash ahead. Bollocks I’ve gone through a speed camera. I look down and I’m over the limit. I hope to god I don’t get done for that! Pottering on at some speed I come up to and go over Milau Bridge and its an amazing feat of design & engineering. Being somewhat scared of heights I didn’t stick around to take pics, jobs to be done and money to be earned.
If I’m honest the rest of the journey up into Paris went like a blur and I vaguely remember it. As dusk began to set in I pulled into a service area to stretch my legs and fuel up. I went into pay and realised I hadn’t eaten since breakfast some 12-13 hours earlier. The shelves seemed bare and the food counter looked less appetising, I looked at the premade sandwiches. I thought that would do and went to get a few drinks and paid for the fuel. I pulled off the forecourt and started to check hotels. I took a bite of my ham and cheese sandwich. The moment I took a bite it came straight out…… Jesus Christ what the fuck is this ? I binned the lot. At this point I decided I took a little disliking to French premade sandwiches and got the hell out of Dodge…… In fact foot the floor let’s get to Blighty! I downed a can of energy drink and got out of there.
Hitting Paris “under the radar” around 11pm. I’m hoping the traffic will have somewhat died. I was optimistic to say the least, I got snarled up on the Boulevard Peripherique, does anything ever go to plan when I’m in this City ?
After 20 minutes we begin to move and I’m on my way out, just after Parc Asterix (Somewhere I have always wanted to go, growing up watching the cartoon. Move over Disneyland!) I pull in for more fuel and began more logistical thinking. I can’t let up otherwise I will end up hitting rush hour on the M25. I won’t bore you all with details back to Britannia, as I have explained in another post the run up from Paris. I get up to Calais and in the que for the Channel Tunnel, the sun is beginning to break its around 5 am. I’ve effectively been going for 26 hours straight now. Still no rest for the Wicked I had to get around the M25 before 7am.
As soon as I disembark of the train its foot to the floor along the M20, I’ve gained an hour back and it’s just after 5 am GMT. As I come around to Heathrow the fuel light comes on. My eyes are really getting heavy at this point and I need a break, I open the windows and nurse my way to Beaconsfield. I fuel up and get 2 cans of Red Bull and a large strong coffee. I drink the Red Bull and hope the coffee will help for the journey back. Only to Cheltenham now, going around Oxford and along the A40 to Cheltenham is quite peaceful compared the monotonous motorway run I had been doing earlier. Parking the van up at my customers its 10:45. I gather my bag and belongings and pile them into my Ford Fiesta which I had decided needed less weight and was stripped out for a track day I was doing soon. Being strapped into bucket seats for the run up to Worcester the van seemed so much more comfortable. My head hit the pillow and the caffeine was still keeping me awake so I began to think more about the numbers. I had done 1000 miles circa, in around 20 hours. Including stops for fuel and slowing down for tolls, while most single men at 25 were out partying on a Saturday night I was looking forward to my sleep. Smiling to myself I had earnt a large amount of money. Just then my phone rings; its Jayne, what could she want now at this time ?