A quick recap of our position – the petrol tank was nearing empty; the low fuel indicator shining brightly on the dashboard. The car was somehow driving on petrol fumes alone. She Who Must Be Obeyed now knew of our predicament and had, for now at least, spared my life. My brain was hurting with calculation after calculation and the clock was ticking down towards the ferry departure.
I was counting the markers between emergency phones trying to gauge which direction would be quickest for me to walk should we become stranded. The distance between the phones seemed to be about 1.2 miles. Odd, I thought, so another calculation to convert that into kilometres made me realise that they were about two kilometres apart. That made sense!
With the car now running completely on fumes, I was wishing I was back in the Massif Central and that the final few miles to the petrol station were all downhill. Sadly they weren’t, but the car was still moving in the right direction and it hadn’t started to splutter yet; a clear indication that the tank wasn’t quite empty.
And with that last wish, the miles clicked over to thirty four beyond the number when I had first spotted that the low fuel indicator was glowing. Now should have been the time to panic, but what would have been the point? There was nothing I could do but keep the car pointing in the right direction and hope.
Suddenly, there came a glimmer of hope. In the distance, standing proud was the service station sign. We were now only five kilometres; just over three miles from safety. I started to think if the car gave up now because it had exhausted the fumes, it could be quicker to walk to the petrol pumps rather than wait for a recovery vehicle.
And if I walked, would I be able to ask the service station attendant for a petrol can to take back to the car?
But the car kept going; the exit came into sight; up the exit ramp we went; round the Helter Skelter of roads which seemed to spiral endlessly; across the bridge over the autoroute to the service station on the other side and gently easing up to the petrol pump.
We made it!! 🙂
The car gratefully drank from the petrol pump, filling itself to the brim. It consumed forty nine litres; that’s one shy of the maximum.
I still had one litre of fuel left in the tank! So why was there any concern? We clearly had plenty of fuel – we could have gone further! 😉
With the pressure seemingly off, She Who Must Be Obeyed demanded we stop at the service station for a while; have some hot food, a toilet break and give me a chance to stretch. After all, I had been driving non-stop for the last nine hours. So we ordered some food and a strong coffee for me and we sat down to relax. Well, when I say relax; we did our best in plastic bucket seats at a Formica clad table!
Now that I wasn’t driving, She Who Must Be Obeyed had a minor go at me for not telling her about the fuel situation much earlier so that she could have plotted a different route for us. A route which would have taken us away from the autoroute and into a small French town in the hopes they had a petrol station.
Despite the fact that I had spared her the worry, and that we had in fact made it safely, I thought I was too tired to protest; guilty as charged – one nil to her!
With the car and the passengers now refreshed, it was time to head off to complete ‘section 4’ of our journey. A section which had started so badly that we hadn’t had time to register we had started it!
We had about one hundred and twenty miles left of this section which would take us all the way to the ferry terminal, and despite our unscheduled dinner break, we still had three hours to get to there. At last I could relax a little behind the wheel and take it easy. No more hills or mountains; no more busy city streets; no more bottlenecks just autoroute all the way.
Oh what joy!
Sadly, a joy that was short lived. As we set off on this last stretch of French roads, She Who Must Be Obeyed checked the paperwork for the ferry only to realise she had made a mistake. Our ferry was an hour earlier than she had told me.
Pressure back on!
Once again I had to concentrate on a strict time schedule. It wasn’t too bad, because even with a trailer, a heavy trailer, we should be able to cover one hundred and twenty miles in two hours, but it just meant that we couldn’t afford any hold ups. We had to hope there were no accidents; that the weather didn’t take a turn for the worse and that the toll booth towards the end of the journey wasn’t as busy as the one just before Paris.
But I couldn’t help giving a wry smile when She Who Must Be Obeyed told me about her error.
One all – I thought! As mistakes go, we were now equal. 😉
And with that, the rain came; very heavy rain. All the other drivers on the road started to drive much slower and the spray from the vehicles in front was as bad as the rain. Water hitting the windscreen from all directions!
I decided I had to drive like Michael Schumacher, the former Formula One World Champion from Germany – the Michael Schumacher of old. Not the one who would force other drivers off the road, but the one they used to call the ‘rain meister’. The man who would be able to cope with rain during a race and maintain his speed while all the other competitors would struggle.
And with that I took to the outside lane and left the other vehicles in my wake.
I was determined we were not going to miss that ferry and we didn’t. We made it with a little time to spare. A little time to relax before boarding the ferry and taking ‘sections five and six’ of our journey; the final two sections of our journey which up to now had been quite eventful.
What would these last two sections bring?
Fortunately nothing! We arrived home in the very early hours of Saturday morning ready to climb in to our waiting beds and sleep. Grateful in the knowledge that we had successfully negotiated all those mountains; grateful to have eased passed Paris relatively quickly and definitely grateful the petrol tank hadn’t quite emptied itself.