Lotus Elan

Picos, pals, and driving by moonlight

PostPost by: jimj » Sat Sep 26, 2015 2:13 pm

Picos Europa???. the Westie Way

Inspired by the last century`s great adventurers, our very own David Westaway, whataguy, planned and led an expedition to, predominantly, the mountains of northern Spain. Shackleton, Amundsen, McCullagh, Scott, (that`s Terry Scott), he even has a wife named after Edmund Hillary. Alright Ed?

16 of us intrepid travellers volunteered to undertake what hardships and privations the trip would entail but without Sherpas nor sled-dogs we were forced to journey in a lovely selection of classic cars. We were in the loveliest, of course; our Lotus Elan. The fastest, most economical, best handling, most comfortable, and actually the most practical, it`s hard to comprehend those detractors. Yes there are some (you know who you are), but I believe it`s more a reflection of their intellect than the quality of our choice. Plus, the Elan is incredible value, alright, if you must?.cheap. Included in our heroic group was 2 Healey 100/4s (to M spec), XK140, XK150, M100 Elan, Audi Quattro, and even a DB5 convertible. You know, the one that with the hood up, from the rear, looks like an A55 Austin Cambridge. It`s quite nice though.

Do you think that people`s car choice might be subconsciously influenced by aspirational self-image? Maybe the E-type owner wants to be a playboy, the Aston owner a secret agent, Porche an engineer,the Healey owner, manly, Triumph Spitfire, the opposite, Ferrari owner a spiv, and so on. Whereas the Lotus Elan owner must be inured to such vanities choosing the car simply because it`s better than most cars at most things. That must be right, don`t you agree?

David, whataguy, and Hilary had gone to enormous lengths, if not the end of the world, preparing for the trip. Hours and hours of research and two separate recce trips to organise great overnight stops, lunches, coffee stops, places of interest to visit and, particularly, fabulous driving roads. They then produced a detailed tulip route book, all at their own expense. The trip turned out to be great value but, nonetheless, if you multiply the individual cost by 16, the total adds up to a significant sum. It`s about the same as the gross national product of Greece so not so much but, still, reflected our confidence in David, whataguy.

As the W day neared, excitement mounted. I`ve recently taken to re-reading books I enjoyed as a schoolboy and a week before, maybe I was tempting fate reading Great Expectations. I think it`s important, in the interests of overall contentment, in life generally, to avoid disappointment by not expecting too much. I`ve only recently come to terms with being too posh for Cheryl Cole but not posh enough for Fiona Bruce, so we ?prepared for the worst hoping for the best?.

We had a very rough ferry crossing, especially the Bay of Dismay, and were 3 hours late to our first overnight at the Parador in Santillana Del Mar, which is lovely. Originally David had planned our trip around overnight stops in Paradors but was persuaded, instead, to seek out quirky, unusual, not quite as posh but much more interesting places. Though Paradors are all very nice, being state run, they are a bit formal and inflexible. Arriving late and desperate for a beer, the bar had closed at 10. Yet the bar 2 doors away was still buzzing at midnight. Jeremy Corben, take note. I admire and respect him, just as I did Tony Ben or Dennis Skinner, or Margaret Thatcher for that matter, but, come on! I see he`s appointed as shadow minister for agriculture a vegan. How about a headless person responsible for the Ministry of Hats? On the other hand, how about a Daily Mail reader as minister for Racial Equality?

First stop on our epic adventure was the Altamira caves with paintings from 13,000 years ago on the ceilings. They were discovered by a young couple, exploring, in the 1920s. I don`t know what they were exploring and can only speculate as to why she was looking up at the ceiling.

With 8 cars all travelling the same route, around the same time, it was surprising that for 90% of the time we didn`t see the others, which was nice. Even nicer, David, whataguy, had sussed out special coffee stops and lunch stops with easy parking where we`d all get together. It was a great bunch, all good pals and every night most, if not all of us, ate together. I don`t think the Spanish have a translation for fine dining or haute cuisine and the food is rather bland, mostly. I twice chose octopus which doesn`t have much taste so went well with the accompaniments. But, which would you rather have? A great time with mediocre food or a mediocre time with great food? We had a great time. All the cars were in fine condition and none had any mechanical issues. A very good tip when preparing your car for a trip and checking your tyre pressures is to be sure to check your spare tyre too. It may not have been checked for some time.

Astorgia was the overnight stop after much twisting, turning and just plain Lotus Elanning through the Picos Europa. It has a magnificent cathedral and an architectural effigy by Gaudi. I`m not into bling but I do like that sort of thing. We were off then to San Clodio calling in at the another Unesco site; the Roman gold mines at Las Mendulas, then a tour around a bodega, and some more great driving.

We`d had another super day but the next was not so good: David had done a fantastic job producing a highly detailed and accurate tulip route book, and rally plates too. I`d put mine on but someone suggested that the Spanish Policia might take a dim view of a ?rally? should someone have an accident. What`s the chance of that? But I took mine off, reluctantly, anyway. Anyway, the route book showed a curve in the road with the coffee stop just after. I slowed and signalled early, checking my mirrors to see the cars behind were slowing too. As I began to turn some git, further back, decided to overtake the line of cars and wiped off our front corner. Another Spaniard told us he accepted responsibility and hadn`t seen our car as it`s small ! he was blithering, he must have been, he was a blithering idiot. There was no puzzle as to what I was saying, there were cross words. I love that (little) car. Que sera, as they say in Spain, no-one was hurt and the car was driveable. With miles of tape, some spare wire and a spare switch under the bonnet we had main beam, but pointing skywards, one side light and indicators. Carole had stopped crying and we were off to the excellent go- kart track where I had another disappointment coming third. The car seemed to be going better than ever, the missing bits had added lightness, a la Chapman.

The track, near Sanxenxo, was opposite the most lovely beach where those of a non-masculine gender could feel they weren`t forgotten. I have to say that some of the blokes do talk about cars rather a lot. There again, in one bar I was sat between Judy and Tina and they were talking about ironing. I didn`t have much to contribute. That may have been a good thing, Alan says I talk a load of rubbish. At least, unlike some, I know when I`m talking a rubbish. The overnight on Isla La Toja was terrific at the Hotel Louxo which louxover the bay. I write rubbish too.

A short drive gave us all day to take in more culture, some exercise, and some vino rosada in Santiago de Compostela. The chief wine-taster (really?) at Le Bon Vin raves about rose wines y`know. It was all really interesting weaving between limping El Caminoers. Santiago means St. James who`s reputed to be buried there. Various acolytes took his name; Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Jackson. The golden altar was something else, like a Victorian fairground. The huge cost of these cathedrals and the square miles of gold leaf guilding were all paid for by desperately poor people in the main, hence the word ?guilt?.

Lugo was the next, shortish hop staying in a brilliant little place inside the city walls. There was upmarket shopping for the ladies, great bars and restaurants, an incredible Roman fortification and a rather disturbing brothel with ladies parading outside. Assuming you put your best produce on display we wondered what the budget offerings were like. Tony nearly found out. Roger found a laundry, not carrying much clothing for himself. We did notice, one morning when he searched through his small case for something, that it appears he has taken a job as a travelling salesman for Ann Summers. Oooer!

More great driving on a fabulous route, with a pre-booked lunch at Enrico`s with parking by a lake, that David Westaway is brilliant you know, whataguy, took us to Cangas de Onis in a privately owned hotel with fabulous views and a terrace overlooking the valley. This was the scene of a famous disagreement, a while ago, between two gentlemen. Money was wagered, an arbiter was sought, and the matter was resolved. The milkman did indeed live at that house and David paid me the ?20. The food was, for once, delicious too.

Back into the Picos Europa the forecast rain must have rained in the plain as we drove hood down all day. I had had suffered some disdain from one of those manly, Healey types one morning when I left the roof up until lunch. It was 10 degrees and foggy so call me softy, or maybe sensible. No-one ever has though. We finished at a hotel of my choosing overlooking an amazingly bay in the smart resort of El Sardinero which, surprisingly, is a suburb of Santander. It`s a super spot and we had an excellent dinner, and another great time at a restaurant overlooking the bay. The hotel was ridiculously cheap, perfectly adequate, and just the best position in town?..or anywhere. The big attraction, for me, was the name: Hotel Chiqui.

The ?rally? was over, Alan gave a speech, David did, John did, Judy wanted to. Bilbao the next day and a tranquil pleasant cruise back to Portsmouth.

Adventure over? Not quite. We were off the ferry PDQ by 2.20 p.m. so should be home by 7 at the latest with no need for my wonky headlights. Oh, oh, we got a puncture driving off the ferry so I emptied the boot in the customs shed for the first time ever and changed the wheel. Regrettably that great piece of advice about checking the pressure in your spare had been neglected and we didn`t have enough psi to go around??.or round, in this case. The police were super helpful and suggested I limp up the motorway. Are you sure? for a few miles to Tesco`s at Port Solent. A trip to a tyre place in Fareham delayed us into mega Friday traffic and we ran out of liquorice allsorts around Oxford, disaster. It was bonnet open by Silverstone and the mis-aligned lights switched on. You may have noticed that the moon was extra bright last night. How people waved and flashed us back, but only until Monyash about 10 miles from home. We`d cut across country along unlit, twisty, country lanes and the lights went out. We still had one sidelight, the left indicator flashing, and Carole holding a torch out of the window, protesting as only a woman can. With 1400 miles covered and the car running sweetly there was no way I was stopping. Carole said (shouted) that I was juvenile, which must be better than senile.
Home by 9.45 and the bonnet badges, as ever, got a big kiss.

Enormous thanks to David, whataguy, and Hilary, whatagal, Peter for sorting the temporary electrics and everyone else for being great company.

Where next Dave?
Jim
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PostPost by: jimj » Sun Sep 27, 2015 9:14 am

Deja vu
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PostPost by: gjz30075 » Sun Sep 27, 2015 9:29 am

Great story! Thanks
Greg Z
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PostPost by: trw99 » Mon Sep 28, 2015 8:41 am

Another enjoyable tale, thanks Jim.

Hope the Elan repairs up well for you.

Tim
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PostPost by: Ross Robbins » Tue Sep 29, 2015 4:26 pm

Another wonderful JimJ adventure filled with allusions to which I can only wonder but laugh just the same. Good for you Jim for using the Elan even if it does risk damage such as you had. Let us know how the repair goes...I hope as well as the trip did!!
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PostPost by: jimj » Tue Sep 29, 2015 4:59 pm

Thankyou Ross, it`s a nice compliment from THE tripmeister. You can interpret one of the allusions by googling Bassett`s Liquorice Allsorts.
The insurance company is delivering the car to Paul Matty, which is like an English Dave Bean.

You should come on one of our trips though you may find the length of straight bits of road somewhat shorter.
Regards,
Jim
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