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Social Media and Touring Europe in MGs
By Scott Munton
Prior to planning this journey, my wife and I opened a ‘Facebook Page’ to diary our trip, ‘Europe in a 42 year old MG’. Rather than pollute our own walls with what may bore some people, we gave the option, should others be interested in checking our progress. It turned out that not just our mutual friends started following our tour but hundreds of unknown MG followers did too! – mainly from another Facebook page called ‘MGB GT Fan Club’, a cracking and very friendly page.
So, my wife Kerrie, Neive our nine year old daughter and I departed from Dover for Dunkirk on the Friday night ferry for yet another annual tour around Europe in my Blaze 1972 BGT, blogging and loading pictures on the page every time we found wi-fi.
A long hard drive through the ungodly hours of Saturday morning and through the rest of the day paid off, as we arrived at a nice little campsite just outside Salzburg, and put our heads down knowing that the rest of the holiday would be a little easier on all of us. A steady 60mph with the trailer on the back was easy work for the B series lump as she purred along the German Autobahns.
The following morning we headed for the Slovenian Alps with the Croatian coast in mind as the destination. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking, and the journey relaxing as we purchased the Austrian vignette, allowing us the use of their motorways. Once out of Austria and into Slovenia we then stayed firmly on the A and B roads; Slovenia wanted 15 euro for their vignette, a little harsh as the motorway journey would’ve been around an hour! So we took in the countryside through both Slovenia and Croatia.
The car behaved perfectly although towing near on 370kg on the tow bar seemed a little excessive on some of the mountain climbs. I kept a careful eye on the temperature gauge with slight concern she may be working a little too hard at times!
The old Yugoslavia is very evident as we toured through some of the Slovenian villages and towns, it seemed like we had gone back in time! It felt that I was a million miles from Western European culture, even though both countries are now in the EU. Some buildings still showed scars and damage from the unrest they suffered all those years ago. In a beautiful kind of way those buildings shouldn’t be repaired. Old buildings have a sort of character and seem to tell stories of the life they have endured, don’t they?
We arrived in Porec, Croatia that afternoon, at a large campsite on the Adriatic coast which belonged to a large chain of European campsites, so we knew the facilities would be well up to scratch. Three days resting gave me a chance to check the car over; all was well, with very little oil or water used.
The thought occurred to me, not being a football fan, that this particular night was the World Cup final and I would miss the action. As we peacefully sat sipping a nice bottle of red wine we could hear the screams of excitement coming from German caravans nearby all over the site; who needs technology and media to keep up with current affairs? So I understood the Cup was won by Germany!
The next part of the journey was to take us to Rimini, Italy, and then on to Lazio where my sister lives. But after getting past Venice, we experienced heavy traffic and numerous road closures making the journey tedious and not at all enjoyable. A diversion was needed! At this point I decided to take the Autostrada through Tuscany and head towards my sister’s and find a campsite en-route.
That didn’t happen! Fourteen hours later we arrived at my sister’s house having driven from Croatia in one hit, taking lunch and comfort breaks in of course! We were hot and tired, and Steve, my wonderful brother-in-law, produced ice cold Italian Peroni, all was good in my world again!
We spent eight relaxing days in Canale Monterano visiting local sights and places of interest, with my sister being tour guide. During our stay we endured one breakdown: the earth wire on the fuel pump came adrift, rendering the car immobile! A simple fix once we got the car back to my sister’s house, and she was back to life again. The opportunity to wash the MG down was a welcome one as she gained a lot of interest from the Italians, so I felt she needed to look her best.
Time again to hitch up the trailer and start heading north, up the western coast roads of Italy, with the Med to our left and Tuscan mountains to the right, the hum of a B series through the stainless steel exhaust, the sun on our faces; it was a perfect cruise up into Cinque Terra, great twisty roads climbing and descending with the views down to the Mediterranean. It was most enjoyable, a recommended drive!
Eventually arriving at the most southern tip of Lake Maggoire, just outside Arona, we settled down for another three nights, again another opportunity to check over the car and relax, enjoying the lake and wonderful weather.
This time my inspection found a rather bad leak from the rear offside brake cylinder. On informing my wife, she had a small panic and blogged our trouble on our Facebook page, asking if anyone reading was local? I decided to contact Adrian Flux insurance, not for the recovery but to find a new cylinder… not on a Sunday and not in Italy! I’d have to wait until Monday, this would eat a day out of my schedule and was not an option.
So, I then stripped the cylinder, cleaned it, rebuilt it and that seemed to stem the leak to a ‘minor seep’. This, I thought, will still get us home, even though the next leg of the journey would be the twisty bits of the Swiss Alps taking in the San Bernadino pass!
Then the miracle happened, which is one of the reasons I wrote this article.
We received a reply on our Facebook page by an MG member in Lake Konstanz; Georg Hefti replied! He had the part and could be with us in a little over four hours! And yes, he did just that!!
This unsung hero drove over the Swiss Alps, down to the south of Lake Maggoire just to deliver and help fit a new brake cylinder. That is the power of social media and the strength of the MG marque across the globe! He then refused any cash and drove home again. Georg explained he was helped once whilst in the UK with a breakdown; was this MG Karma?
Georg? If you’re reading this I salute you and nominate you as the MGCC hero of 2014!
The following morning we headed up to the German side of Lake Konstanz to spend our last night under canvas, reflecting on the experiences of the previous week’s touring. Rain came down; early night, and off in the morning to the root MGCC Luxembourg.
A lovely dry sunny drive through Germany and France until we arrived at Guy Maathuis and family, where his hospitality was extended with open arms to us; a wonderful BBQ and a look round some of the cars Guy has in his oversized man cave of a garage, every MG owner’s dream!
Guy took me out in his supercharged 1100cc six cylinder MG K3 race replica. I grinned and laughed all the way round like an excited schoolboy! This machine was loud and very fast! He then let me take the wheel of his MGC roadster on the same route, in which I gingerly eased the throttle without the enthusiasm he showed me in the K3; after all, with it being left hand drive and his car on unfamiliar roads, I wasn’t going to gun it, was I? We finished the evening chatting around the remaining fire over a large selection of different schnapps.
The last part of the journey was returning to the ferry at Dunkirk. This was without doubt the saddest drive of the two and a half weeks out in Europe. The rearmost exhaust bracket decided to shear off after all the cobbled and rutted roads the car had endured; a quick fix with a bungie strap and she got us home!
In summary: 3,435 miles, 11 countries, an average 29mpg, new friends, dearest petrol was 1.94 euro in Italy, the cheapest was 1.13 euro in Croatia.
Would we do it again? You bet! Just so long as my nine year old daughter can still get in the back that is!