A couple of weeks ago, the time came to set off on the annual family holiday. And we were not the only family setting off that day. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that other families were also going on holiday that day – it was after all the start of the school summer break, however, that is not quite what I meant! We were holidaying with three other families and two of them were setting off at the same time as us. The fourth family would be joining us a week later.
The first three families were all going to rendezvous at the ferry port of Dover before sailing across to Calais, France and the start of the really long drive to our holiday destination just outside of Rome, Italy. This was to be the third holiday in five years that we had made a journey to Italy. On the other two holidays the drive was to southern France and Spain. We don’t do short drives!
We set off a little early to ensure we didn’t have any traffic issues on the 120 mile journey from our house to the port and also to try to get something to eat before boarding. We encountered no traffic issues, so we arrived a little earlier than anticipated – plenty of time then to find somewhere for food! What we were not expecting was to sail (if you’ll pardon the pun) through the security checks and the booking office and be loaded onto an earlier ferry! This of course meant that not only did we not have any time to go in search of something to eat, but we would now be well and truly ahead of our fellow holidaying families as they hadn’t allowed as much time as us to get to the port. We were half way across the channel tucking into some on board fare before they had boarded our ‘booked’ ferry.
Although SALLY (our Sat Nav) had taken us to Spain and France during the previous two summer holidays, this was to be the first time she had taken us to Italy! For the previous two Italian trips we had the pleasure of the Sat Nav belonging to FIL (Father-In-Law). And on both those occasions, we chose to ignore FIL‘s Sat Nav for the first half of the journey and only paid attention to her once we reached Switzerland. We did this purely because we had worked out a route through France ahead of time and the Sat Nav wanted to take us through France, Belgium, Luxembourg, (back into) France and Germany on the way to Switzerland.
Ahead of this journey, we checked the routes using various online planners and decided that the route FIL‘s Sat Nav wanted to take, through more countries, whilst sounding longer, was actually the better route and only increased the distance by some eleven miles! Time would tell as to whether we made the right choice and that time arrived sooner than expected for us as we had boarded the earlier ferry. Now SALLY would have to earn her keep.
We had a printed version of the route as a back up in case SALLY played up. As we drove off the ferry, we expected SALLY to tell us to turn toward Belgium, just as FIL‘s Sat Nav did, but no, that is not what she wanted us to do! SALLY was trying to take us the route we had taken in previous years; so once again, we would have to ignore a Sat Nav until it realised which way we were going!
It took several miles and the entering of a new country before SALLY finally gave in and accepted we were going a different route! However, once she realised the route we were taking, she soon changed her route and we were able to put away the map and just listen to her. This meant that She Who Must Be Obeyed was able to sit back, relax and try to get some sleep whilst I kept driving with one eye (and ear) on SALLY and the other eye on the road.
The journey was going really well, at least for the first 500 miles after the ferry! You may recall our fuel issues on the return journey of last year’s holiday (read this). This year we had changed our vehicle prior to our holiday and one of the many features it came with was an electronic display counting down the estimated number of miles of fuel left in the tank. As this feature was so new to me, and as I had barely driven the new car before our holiday, I spent a lot of time watching how the estimated fuel changed depending on the current speed and type of road (long, straight and uninterrupted or hilly and full of corners). This countdown was a God send and meant I wasn’t going have to repeat all the many calculations I kept making the previous year.
When I filled up in the UK before setting out on this epic journey, the fuel count displayed 650 miles to next refuelling. Wow, my last car would barely go 300 miles when packed for a holiday. It’s not as if the new car had a fuel tank twice the size of the old, on the contrary, the old took 50 litres of fuel and the new 70. As we approached Switzerland, I realised I had yet to make a fuel stop, something I would have done twice by this point in the old car. We had clocked up 600 miles since we started the journey in the UK, and the fuel consumption changed constantly to the point where at one stage the estimated refuelling point had dropped to 500 miles but had recovered to 630. I pulled into refuel whilst I still had 30 miles on the clock, but the service station closed just as I pulled in as it had run out of fuel! We had no choice but to rejoin the motorway and carry on.
A sign post indicated the next services were 40 km away – that was OK I thought, it is just under 20 miles. However, that service station turned out to be in a different direction from the one we were heading.
So would we make the detour to get fuel or carry on in hopes of finding a service station on our route?
Had I learnt from last year’s episode?
Would She Who Must Be Obeyed be so forgiving two years running?
Find out in the next episode…(here)