Ales – 24/25/26 September – Part 1
Ales has nestled away in the Ardeche, a mountainous region of France, about 560 km from home with no direct route for the final 100 km of the journey. That last part was somewhat exciting, to say the least. Although the terrain is spectacularly beautiful, the poor old truck is not suited for the mountains. With constant gradients up, down and hairpin bends that took their toll.
Progress was extremely slow and after an hour or so on these roads, I started to notice the brakes were not pulling us up as they once did. This was somewhat disconcerting but I kept quiet as didn’t want to scare the passengers. Needless to say, my heart rate increased somewhat and I was scared. In fact possibly the most fearful I’ve ever been with the prospect of 7.5 tonnes of lorry speeding out of control down the road. It was not a favourable position for us.
We came to a left-hand bend at the top of a steep gradient and the brakes were just about non-existent. We got round and I immediately took advantage of a layby and pulled over. Going on would really have been irresponsible. They could see by the look on my face I was scared and not joking when I told the team we had no brakes. The consolation prize though was the view, amazing. I pinched a ciggy off of Matt, jumped out and sat on the bank to contemplate our position and how I might improve it. ????
There were no options but to carry on. We had to let the brakes cool down first though, as they were rather warm. After a discussion, it was decided to try going down in 2nd gear just using the brakes to slow the revs enough to avoid the rev limit. After the brakes had cooled, we hoped sufficiently, and with some trepidation, we set off.
I must say that the route we were on was not the route I’d pointed out on the map I provided Matt, who was my designated navigator. Once again he chose to follow the sat nav, as he said he couldn’t read the map. That said I must take some of the responsibility for our predicament. The 2nd gear thing worked surprisingly well which lifted my spirits and 30 minutes later we had reached the bottom where the road levelled out, following the valley through the mountains.
We eventually reached the bigger road that we should have been on and the rest of the journey was easy by comparison as we got behind another lorry which acted as shotgun.???? It was with a good deal of relief that we arrived in one piece at the circuit and were able to find a decent space at the far end of the paddock. I had a little snooze, after the nine and a half hour drive, while Sarah, Rik and Matt started to set up camp.
The evening was sunny and still quite warm, which was nice, and I was cooking supper by 10 pm before we all turned in for some much-needed sleep. ????