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A new challenge

Nine MGAs vs the Pyrenees

Having an absolute blast driving over Dartmoor Our MGA at speed and the two of us having a great time driving over Dartmoor in 2010

When the 6 MGAs reached the end of our last MGA adventure, circumnavigating  the Mont Blanc region in 2012 and we were all enjoying a well deserved beer or two in the Bar Cascata overlooking the Aosta valley in Italy, ( see my original blog mgaventures.wordpress.com for the full story), naturally, the question came up “How can we top this?

I remember suggesting that we could maybe consider a trip to the Pyrenees as it is a beautiful region and is just made for MGAs.  I didn`t think much more about it but a short time later my friend Stuart who is brilliant at planning these kind of adventures, contacted us to say that we should really think about the Pyrenees for the next expedition and suggested July 2014.

Most of us…

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This years Projects.

May 2013

I havent really felt like adding to the blog since we got back from the Alps in early august, everyone who knows me will understand the reason for this.

The car has only been run a couple of times since then and the weather since Christmas has been so cold and wet that I dont think I would have been tempted out in it much anyway.
But I have now begun to think about routine jobs to do on the car again and to make a list of modifications I would like do before getting back on the road again.

So these are the job I am hoping to tackle once the weather improves a bit.

1        2- Speed Wipers  (The original single speed wipers were so slow in operation that they  hardly cleared the screen in any rain shower)

2       Thicker Anti-Roll Bar        ( The car was already fitted with a thin anti roll bar and lowered suspension when we went to the Alps but we found that taking hairpins at high speeds caused the left-front tyre to catch heavilly  on the wheel arch and it slightly kinked the metal.)

3        Electric Cooling Fan      I fitted an multibladed injection moulded fan to the engine a couple of years ago to give max cooling effect.

This has been very effective, reducing the normal running temperature from 185 degrees F by 10 degrees, down to

175 degrees F.  It is however, very much noisier than the standard metal fan and unfortunately, the car sounds more

like a double-decker bus than a sports car.

I have had the electric cooling fan kit for over a year but I decided not to experiment with it on the Mont Blanc trip as the injection moulded fan was already working so well.  I had no problems at all with the car overheating on the trip even climbing hard up the Grand St Bernard Pass so  I think I will put the electric fan project to the back of the list for now.

Fitting a 2-Speed Wiper Motor (from an MGB) to the MGA

First on my list is to go back to the unfinished 2-speed wiper project that I started last year before we took the car to Mont Blanc.

Back then the original wipers were working very slowly, almost in slow motion, and fixing this was obviously a priority.

I decided to tackle the job a few weeks before the trip and to be honest, I did rush the process a little.  So its no surprise that I am not totally happy with the end result.

 

The new mounting plate I fabricated to fit the wider base of the MGB motor turned out to be a little too narrow and I had to pop rivet an extra piece onto it to make it work but it looked awful.

The swept arc of the wiper blades was too big and the wiper blades tended to run over the bottom of the windscreen frame.

The MGB toggle switch on the dash just didnt look right on the MGA dashboard which has 1950s style pull switches.

Finally, I had messed up the wiring slightly so the wipers wouldnt self park and they just stopped where they were when they were switched off, which I found really irritating.

So I have bought a new crank wheel for my spare motor, fitted it with a 90 degree wheel one to replace the 105 degree one I first fitted and I am going to use 2 switch-over relays which allow me to operate the motor with an original MGA  2 position light switch using a special circuit taken from the mgaguru website.

I removed the motor which proved to be almost impossible without cutting through the new loom I had made up.

I have made up a new larger mounting plate to fit the motor which is larger than the original one.    Then I fitted the new crankwheel into the motor which should reduce the swept arc of the wiper blades to stop them fouling on the screen frame.  The relays were fitted on the back of the new mounting plate and I made up a new loom to wire it up to the motor. I fitted a 6 pin plug and socket into this loom to make it easier to remove and refit it at a later date.  This proved to be well worth the effort as in the event I had to remove and refit the motor a couple of times before I got the set up right and the plug and socket made removal really quick and easy.

P1020421

2 speed motor showing larger mounting plate, 2 relays, new loom and 6 pin socket

I wired everything up to a spare battery to make sure that the special circuit worked as advertised and it worked just fine. Then I made up the other part of the wiring harness and socket to connect to the car.

The new motor fitted into the car fairly easily and after only a few more scraped knuckles I was ready to give it a try.

So I pulled the switch onto the low speed and the wipers started ok but the wiper arms decided to swipe down off the screen and out along the bonnet!  Oops!

I didnt realise that the spare motor was set up for a LHD installation and it parked on the wrong side.  So I had to remove the motor again, luckily it was much easier with the socket in the wiring loom.  Then the crankwheel had to be removed again and and the ramp that actuated the park switch had to be moved into its other position 180 degrees away from the original.  It is just a case of prizing it out and plugging it back in.

I refitted the motor and this time it worked,  the swept arc fitted within the screen perfectly, the 2 speeds were really impressive and the wipers actually parked this time too.

We managed to test the high speed wipers on a very wet run back from MGA day recently and they were brilliant apart from the fact that the passenger side wiper arm fell off on the motorway! I think I must have forgotten to fully tighten it up!   But my side was great and it coped with 70 mph in torrential rain really well.

P1020424

The 2 speed wiper motor finally installed

It has been a tricky conversion and a bit long winded but for me it was well worth it.  If you only drive your classic car in dry conditions and suffer only the occasional shower, then the 2 speed conversion is probably not necessary.  But if like me, you take the car on long trips and have all weathers to contend with, then the 2 speed is just brilliant.

Day 3 The Final Day of the Tour Combloux France over the Grand St Bernard Pass and returning to La Salles in Italy.

( Note- If you are looking at this blog for the first time you can see earlier posts by scrolling down to the bottom of this entry and click onto”Earlier Posts” The blog starts in July.  Also, when you first open up my blog, it may take a  few minutes for all the pictures I posted to upload.  So at first, they may just look like a coloured band, but  if you wait a minute or two, they will all appear fully .  The pictures are in quite high resolution and so if you would like to see any in more detail,  just double-click on it)

DAY THREE  (Climbing the Grand ST Bernard Pass)

We had a great dinner last night and then later from our balcony we watched two amazing firework displays in the towns of nearby Combloux and also Sallanches down in the valley bottom 5 miles away.  They were wonderful displays celebrating

Bastile Day in France although we began to worry about the heavy

rain that began to fall during the fireworks.

The view from our bedroom balcony, the Bastile Day firework displays we saw from here later were amazing.

I was really worried about having enough fuel for the final leg of the tour as we just hadnt had time to top up the tank after our extra detours on the day before.  The fuel consumption had been a little worrying for most of the trip and had dropped from a norm of 33 mpg in the UK to 25mpg in the Alps.

(Shortly before we began the trip I had taken the car to be dyno checked and tuned on Pete Burgess`s rolling road dynomometer in Alfreton Derbyshire.  He tuned it for performance and it was running really well but max power is not the same as max economy and is measured  at fully open throttle settings.  So when I get back I will try to sort out the carbs so they also work well at the lower throttle settings too.)

So to avoid holding anyone up en route (and also to avoid setting off late on our own after our novel approach to navigation the day before!)  I decided to get up really early, sneak into breakfast at 7.30am and then dash down into the valley to the town of  Sallanches to see if I could find a petrol station that opened early on Bastile Day.

It was still raining quite heavily at 8.00am so up went the hood and I blasted the 5 miles down to the valley, get some fuel and then hopefully find my way back.  The rain was still quite heavy and the car was sliding quite brilliantly around the tight bends and I really enjoyed the run down to Sallanches.

I pulled into the first fuel station I spotted that looked open and surprisingly busy, I got out of the car and then realised that the fuel pumps looked odd and there was a vaguely familiar smell about the place which was definitely not petrol!

The pumps had no hoses attached to them but strangely  there was a long queue at the kiosk.  I eventually realised that it had been converted to a turkish style drive through coffee and kebab outlet, which was a bit disappointing! The odd smell at the kiosk was due to some very long hand rolled cigarettes which it seemed were being both smoked and sold at the kiosk!

I decided that perhaps I should take my car somewhere else for fuel!
So I drove on a couple of miles and luckily spotted a real fuel station and managed to top up the tank and then navigate back just as the rest of the group were finishing their breakfasts.  They very kindly had asked the management to save some for me as they thought I had missed mine but I was still full of coffee and croissonts from earlier and had to politely decline.  Also the rain had virtually stopped and the sky looked a little brighter too.

The Hotel Caprice de Neige, drying out the cars after the heavy overnight rain.

Stuart saw me return, looked up at the sky, held up a finger to test the breeze  and said “You may have been a bit premature putting up the hood you know!” not perhaps realising that at 7.45 am I was driving through  heavy rain on the way down to my unplanned drug dealers experience. He somehow is always right about the weather so I took the hood down and hoped for the best.  By the time we had re packed the car (sidescreens in the boot again) it was beginning to dry up with the odd patch of blue in the sky.  Good old Stuart!

Ian and Tom busily discussing how long it is taking for Roger and I to pack the cars and get everything ready!  🙂  Weather beginning to dry up a little but stii quite cool.

Stuart and Roger dressed for the cold weather whilst I am shivering in my shorts waiting for Stuarts “promised” sunshine to appear!

Ian and I volunteered the use of our proven vast route finding and navigation skills to lead the way for todays leg of the tour, but for some reason  none of the other 10 seemed to be very excited by that prospect!  So we found ourselves in the middle of the “peloton” for the first part of our run NW in the direction of Chamonix.  ( Its still mid tour de France and Bradley Wiggins is still in the lead.)

The roads are still really wet and greasy with lots of heavy looking low cloud but at least the rain has stopped.  Its quite cold though, more like a ccol damp English summer day except for the scenery, have to admit that we put the heater on for the first few miles!

A damp start but no rain, the scenery more than makes up for it though.

We headed East down towards St Gervais les Bains and then along the Arve valley floor to Chamonix.  The mountain scenery here is fantastic and the skyline is dominated by the Mont Blanc and the sharply pointed Aiguille du Midi separated by fearsome looking glaciers which look to be ready to tumble into the valley floor.

Our leader Brooke standing with Mont Blanc in the background, not sure which of these two that impresses me the most!

We couldnt resist this stop to look at the amazing skyline that you get from the valley floor in Chamonix.

Me on the right, freezing in shorts but I didnt really notice as I was totally  blown away by the mountains.

In the same place, me on the right still being amazed by the mountains above us.
On the left however Roger looks to be more concerned with something that he may have stepped in! 🙂

From the cool damp valley floor at Argentiere  we climbed up a lovely winding road to the Col Montets 4793 ft , over the border into Switzerland and then the climb up to Col de Forclaz 5010ft.

Crossing the Swiss border today is almost an anti climax today, the border posts are still there but they dont appear to be manned.  The last time I crossed into Switzerland 10 years ago I recall seeing lots of armed guards and so times have certainly changed!

Its starting to get warmer, the roads are drying and the sun is out.  Looks like we are going to have a great day.

Ian said that I should change my name from Col Firth to “Col de Forclaz”!
I know the headgear looks ridiculous but it works for me! (I can get sunburnt on a sunny day in December in the UK)

Then we made our way down from the Col de Forclaz and over the edge of the Rhone Valley to descend towards Martigny.

The Rhone valley is a most spectacular place,  a typical U shaped valley caused by glacier action in the last Ice Age but of  absolutely enormous scale.  The sides of the valley rise steeply thousands of meters but the floor of the valley is characteristically  flat and as you drive over the lip of the valley the view takes your breath away.

The Rhone valley, a quite amazing descent towards Martigny. If you double click on the picture you can zoom in to see the detail on the valley floor. Thank goodness for disk brakes!

We avoided the centre of Martigny and then we turned eastwards along the E27 towards Sembrancher.  From here we headed south and began the long long climb up the Val d` Entremont towards Bourge St Pierre.

Its getting quite warm by now  and the cars are just singing along up the valley in warm sunshine , its a great road with long easy curves, most of it taken in 4th gear, so we are really pressing on.

The skyline looks amazing and a couple of the pictures I took over the top of the screen here are my favorite ones of the whole trip.  The cloud formations over the mountains  here look like something from a sci-fi movie.

A great skyline, if a bit distracting from driving the car around the corners.

My favorite picture of the whole trip, it has an unearthly look about it.
Its as if we are climbing up towards MGA Heaven!

The driving was awesome but it was time for a break and we found a really nice roadside cafe to stop for lunch.  There was quite a lot of choice of food but everyone seemed to settle once again for the standard fromage/jambon baguette and a coffee (or in my case, a beer!)

Its as if taking any more time for a meal at lunch time kind of wastes the more important MGA driving  time!

We did well to line up so neatly considering that we were all thinking more about food than MGAs

Ready for the off again, cant wait to hit the climb up to the Grand St Bernard

So with the drivers refreshed and re-fueled we set off once more  with me still in selfish mode in the drivers seat.  (I have to admit that I just had to drive the St Bernard myself in my MGA,  sorry Ian!)

We resumed the climb up the beautiful Val d`Entremont and I admit to being pulled in two ways, should I take a leisurely drive just to take in  the stunning scenery, or should I just enjoy the driving ?

But as soon as I got behind the wheel and fired up the engine the “red mist” took over and I just wanted to blast the St Bernard Pass into the dust!

I will just have to return to look at the scenery  another time! (It will have to be in a bus or something though and they will have to make sure that I am not driving it!)

The road splits as the incline steepens and you drive into a half covered section that is the start of the St Bernard tunnel section.   You have the option of taking the left fork into the tunnel section that avoids the summit completely (not a bad idea in the winter!)  or there is a less obvious right turn that leads onto the original pass section.

Well our navigational skills kicked in again and naturally, we both missed this turn even though we were supposed to be following a couple of other MGAs although, to be fair, we were some distance behind!

So rather than miss the best part of the tour I did an emergency U-turn  inside the half covered section just before the entrance to the tunnel, to be honest, it was more like the fast handbrake turns that you see in the escape and evade type of car chase movie scenes.  It kind of took Ian by surprise! (Im fairly sure that it was illegal too!)

Was great fun though and even more fun to put my foot down to try to catch up with the rest of the cars.

We soon caught up and  reached  the steeper part of the pass and the road just got better and better, although my “red mist”  had to be held in check a little as we came up behind a Volvo estate that was on a gentle cruise looking around at the scenery.  Fortunately the Volvo driver, at the last second, always seemed to realise that he was halfway into a corner and just managed swing the wheel enough to stay on the road.  We managed to get by him on a straight section (possibly the only straight section!) and I am certain that he was so busy looking at the mountains that he didnt notice me pass him!

Our MGAs sandwiching the “Sunday driver” Volvo!

The offending Volvo acting as a mobile chicane!

This is a great road and it got even better once we got by the crawling Volvo, its so much fun driving in convoy with a few other enthusiastically driven MGAs

Starting to really press on now that we have got in front of the crawling Volvo.

Great driving now, there are some scary drops though if you get the corners all wrong, it pays to concentrate on the driving here!

Just when we were beginning to enjoy ourselves, we come up behind another Volvo!
Fortunately, at least this one is driving at a reasonable speed!

Between a rock and and a hard place, you begin to worry about the paintwork when you drive roads like this!

Ian looking surprisingly cool and collected after being driven
at high speed up the St Bernard. Also looking surprisingly
cool is the temp gauge which still only shows 185 degrees F
after climbing hard for over 15 miles up to an altitude of 8100 ft.

Not far to go now to the top but we dont really want this
drive to end!

The summit in sight.

The Grand St Bernard Hospice which straddles the road at the summit. altitude 8100 ft

The Grand St Bernard Hospice that straddles the summit at 8100 ft

The Grand St Bernard Hospice straddles the summit
of the pass and you actually drive through it.

Ian is getting really excited by now, not like me, by the prospect of the fantastic view that we hope awaits us on the other side of the summit, but much more by the prospect of coming face to face with a St Bernard dog!

What a fantastic car park.

Bob parking up, he was amazed by the view and even
more by the fact that his twin-cam hadnt boiled up on
the way  to the top!

Cars taking a well earned breather after a breathtaking
run up the Grand St Bernard Pass.
(My car is nearest to the camera)

Stuart Mumby`s car parked in front of mine.  A great
advert for two MGAs restored by Bob West.

Bob wandering his way from his car up past Rogers
“whistling” MGA to see the St Bernard Dog compound
which is up on the terrace behind the hospice.

St Bernards on show

Ian and Roger somehow have found there way into
the Dogs compound! All that drooling and panting,
I wish Ian would stop doing that!

Ian`s newly adopted daughter 🙂

Irene`s seemingly in-exhaustable supply of hats has
struck again! Irene (on the Rt) has brought yet another
hat out of her tardis-like storage! I have lost count of
how many she has worn this trip!

Ian and Roger paid to go into the compound to see the St Bernards up close and personal,  but then after 5 minutes the staff decided to take them out for a walk around the summit so the rest of us got to see the dogs for free!

We all follow the dogs down through the Hospice , I think I know now how the
kids in Hamlyn felt when they listened to the “Pied Piper”!

Bobs Twin-cam looks so good in this setting.
If ever Clausager needs a new cover photo for his book,
this is the one!

Bob rather spoils his superb twincam`s image by awarding himself the
“dirty jersey” and actually wearing it whilst standing next to his car!

Getting ready to leave the summit and freewheel down to the border post which you can see below at the lakeside.

We had to stop at the border post which is the large building by the lakeside in the picture above.  It wasnt the border control that stopped us but a German doctor and his family who wanted to take some pictures of themselves with the cars.  He kindly offered to take a picture of Ian and I in the car together which is probably the only such picture we have from the entire trip.

The stupid grins say it all! No need to ask if we have enjoyed the trip so far!

Same picture but with the two of us wearing our
Legionne de etrangere hats in readiness for our descent
back into Italy`s sunshine.  St Bernard  himself overseeing
us in the background.

The rest of the group at the border make the absolute most of the experience.

The road down was just superb, lots of sweeping curves that were just
lovely to drive, We all had to dodge a massive boulder that had just toppled
onto the road a few hundred yards below the summit, guarded by a
Raybaned member of the politzia who was casually flicking a
white gloved hand at us in typically “mafiosa” like latin style.
As if to say “You toucha my boulder, I breaka your car!”

Following Brooke through some of the curves, he really
attacks the corners and he is great fun to follow down
these roads. Its as if he has been driving his MGA
for 50 years! Oh yes, I forgot to mention that
he has been driving his MGA since when it was new!

I think Ian was holding on tight with one hand whilst trying this
picture with the other. Mind you, I was really pressing on around
the corners, trying to keep up with Brooke. I really like this picture
though as it shows just how quickly we were pressing on down
the pass and also how fast Brooke was going!

I enjoyed driving down the St Bernard so much that I really wanted
to turn around at the bottom and to do it again! But in view of the poor
navigational skills that we had shown so far when we were on our
own, we decided to stay with the pack! Maybe we would be able
to re run the route in reverse on our next trip to the Alps.
in reverse

Looking back at what we have just driven down, Fantastico!

Ian whilst taking a close up of his arm and wrist in the door
mirror, catches a very good shot of Brooke really pushing his
car on through the bends!

Bob and Linda in their Twincam followed closely by Roger and Tom in their
1600 Mk II in a high speed bunching up behind me through the corners.
Obviously I was not driving as quick as I thought!

Bob seems to be getting closer than ever. I think I need a supercharger!

Glad now that we are not going up the pass, it wouldnt
have been much fun following the motorhome all the
way up!

We are past most of the twisty bits now but it is still just great driving.

Down on the Aosta valley floor again, our first glimpse of Mont Blanc
since we left La Salle on Day 1. Brooke has promised us a treat at the
end of today so we are “nearly” looking forwards to the finish!

Brooke wanted us all to see this view of Mont Blanc, a great
photo-oportunity to get all of the cars and the Mountain together.

We just loved this spot, almost wore out the camera taking
pics of the cars and Mont Blanc. We would have stayed much
much longer but, Brooke just happened to mention the “B-word”! and we
all just got back into our MGAs and just accellerated away.
Its surprising what you do when someone just happens to mention
the word “beer”!

I love this picture, it looks like we are on the starting grid
for the race to climb straight up Mont Blanc.

Brooke  had told us that he had a really pleasant end for the journey waiting for us a few miles further on.  We turned off the main road and crossed a steel bridge to see a bar perched next to an amazing waterfall.   This was the Bar Cascata at Leneney and was one of  Brooke and Arline`s favourite places in Aosta.  I wasnt sure which one was the more attractive at the end of the long hot days drive.  Luckily it didnt come to a choice as we managed to be able to have a beer and look at the waterfall at the same time.

Not sure which is more tempting, a dip in the water after a very long
hot days drive, or a long cool beer? After a long microseconds
consideration, the thought of a cold pint of Peroni beer won hands down!

Cool beer, cool spray from the waterfall, cool cars,
cool scenery, cool mountain roads and
really really cool people to share it with.
Definitely MGA paradise!

 

 

A great way to end an amazing journey

We kind of took over the seating area outside the Cascata each with a long cool drink in front of us and just talked about the tour.  We eventually agreed there are just not enough superlatives in existence to  adequately describe the the trip we had just undertaken. It was that good!

I just want to thank Brooke and Arline for coming up with the idea of the Mont Blanc Tour and for organising the hotels, the amazing reception by the town of La Salle and, best of all, for designing the route over Mont Blanc which was just amazing.

Also our grateful thanks go to Stuart and Irene for inviting us to join this tour.

Finally I would like to thank Roger and Tom, Roger and Liz, Bob and Linda, Brooke and Arline and finally Stuart and Irene for making the tour so very enjoyable and for making Ian and I so welcome.

Cant wait for the next tour!

Colyn

“Lost in France” Day 2 of our Mont Blanc Tour-Areches to Combloux via Col de Aravis 4879ft and Col de Columbiere 5242ft

So its up early, a bit bleary eyed on day 2 for a typical continental breakfast -coffee, lots of bread and more coffee and then outside to pack for the journey.

I was determined to run again without the side-screens fitted and we managed to squeeze them into the boot like we did the day before.  The secret is to use lots of smaller bags that you can squash into any remaining space.  We used the old pillow cases (that normally wrap around the stored side-screens to prevent them from getting scratched) to spread out our things, which meant that each time we unpack the boot,we look like we are back from a shoplifting session!  But it did the trick and we managed to get the side-screens in there again somehow.

Getting ready for the off

Bob had a spot of trouble with the float chamber valve sticking open and offered to show Ian the highly technical special procedure required  on a Twin Cam to un-stick it!

Bob`s Bespoke Bashing Beam.
Bob showing a subtle and delicate touch with his Special Twin-Cam Float- Freeing Tool.
An MGA owner should never be without one!

Well a quick bash with the 4X3  did the trick and the flooding was fixed.

Ian was a bit concerned that Bob had forgotten to put the float chamber tool back into his tool box.

So he  slipped it onto Bobs  boot rack for safe keeping!

Ian adding some decking to Bobs boot rack!

Then we were on our way, north out of Areches and into Beaufort.

The route looked to be  fairly straightforward and so we stopped in Beaufort to top up my fuel as we seemed to be using more than everyone else and being Bastile day in France we were concerned that not many petrol stations would be open.

So out came the maps and we set off in pursuit of the other 5 cars, we pressed on a bit lots of throttle on a wonderful winding road deep in a valley.  I think I was enjoying it a bit too much and I began to realise that we probably should be climbing up into the mountains and not racing down to Albertville.

So we stopped and after a look at the maps we turned round and began to look for the D218B which climbed up the Cols Saises and Le Praz towards Flumet.

5 miles on after driving up some super bendy roads we caught up with everyone at Les Saisies  where they had stopped for a coffee.

They were all concerned that we had broken down but I said that the car is fine, the problem had been both with the driver and navigator!

Caught up just in time for coffee in Le Saizes

We were tempted by the cafe owner to stay a little longer as she offered us a deal on their local cheese speciality  Raclette but it was a bit early and we had to refuse as we had some more alps to climb.

Driving up through the villages on the climb to Col des Aravis. You can see Brookes blue MGA further ahead.

Heading on up to Col des Aravis, some amazing cliffs up there.

We cruised through some lovely mountain roads enjoying the scenery and through some pretty mountain villages and then stopped at the top of Col des Aravis at 4879 ft to enjoy the view.  The cliffs overlooking the summit of the pass are really dramatic.  There was a large and very expensive restaurant next to the car park which had a quick look at but both potential bankruptsy and the lack of a local mortgage broker to organise a loan from, prevented us from eating there!  They probably didnt sell the compulsory jambon/fromage butty anyway!

Typical Alpine chalet

The top of Col des Aravis 4879 ft, we were tempted by the restaurant until we saw the prices! Great cliffs though and some “not so great” souvenir shops, -ok if you want to buy a complete goat hide or “whistling marmots!” —which sounds like a euphemism for some kind of unpleasant stomach disorder!

Tried to get an impressive picture of the MGA front with the superb backdrop of the cliffs towering over Aravis. Unfortunately the “White Van Man” parked too near and rather ruined the effect. ( “camionnette blanche homme” doesnt sound quite the same does it!)

We had a look around the souvenir shops that surrounded the car park which sold lots of stuffed marmots and sheepskin and not much else.  So we decided to get back into the cars and head on down to find somewhere that we could afford to eat without having to file for bankruptcy!

Bobs twincam decided that she didnt really want to start at 5000 ft altitude and Bob, resourceful as ever, waved-off all offers of a push start in favour of freewheeling down the hill to bump start it.  The only problem was that his car was facing uphill!  This, however, didnt phase Bob who proceeded to let the handbrake off and freewheel down the hill backwards at ever increasing speeds until he disappeared around the corner a few hundred yards away, still accelerating fast.  We feared the worst when we lost sight of him and it was a tense few minutes later before he came back into view, this time with engine running and leading a few bemused French motorists up the hill!  They must have wondered what on earth it was bearing down on them at high speed and so quietly on the wrong side of the road!
Further down the pass we came to the ski resort of La Clusaz and parked in the town centre to search for an affordable lunch.  After a few heart-attack inducing quotes from about 30 euros upwards we found a little sandwich bar where we could sit outside in the sun.

It was busy and filled mostly by Brits on holiday who had already found the best value place to eat in the town.  We soon had a new fan base to wave us off as word got out that we were driving six 50+ year old MGs through the Alps.  The most noise  was being made by 4 English girls on a wine-tasting, girls only holiday.  I think large volumes of wine had been consumed without much thought being given to the actual taste of it!  But they were obviously having a great holiday and they gave us a great send off with lots of cheers, waving of serviettes, raised glasses and the odd thrown chunk of baguette!  I was slightly disappointed that we never saw any Brit-female style  mooning or flashing style send offs and I almost suggested that maybe we could drive by again to see if our luck would be in the second time.  But common sense prevailed and I decided that I should maybe settle this time for the un-expected bonus of an extra chunk of baguette!

Ian took over the driving then and I clambered in amongst the camera and map cluttered passenger side. It took us a few minutes to sort out the change over and so we had to try to catch up with the “peloton” of the other 5 MGAs that had gone ahead. (well it was Tour de France week!)

The route seemed to be straightforward and I was navigating this time and so it should be a piece of cake!  We seemed to be making good time and Ian was enjoying the drive.  Chatting about the super scenery and how amazing the tour had been so far.  After passing through St-Jean-de-Sixt we then drove into a lovely valley where all I had to do was look for a left turn in le-Grand -Bornand.

Must have gotten a bit distracted by the beautiful town that Le Grand-Bornand was and a couple of km beyond the town the road split into two forks.  I knew we had to go left so we took the left fork but worryingly, it began to narrow considerably after another km.  We stopped, turned back and tried the other fork (the Rt one), this ran up the valley for a bit, took us through a disused ski lift area and then petered out into a farm track.  So maps out again, back the way we came and we decided to try the left hand fork again.  Once we got through the narrow section the road opened out again and began to look more promising

Beginning to look a bit narrow for a main road??

But it still didnt feel like a main road and as we climbed up the valley side it got steeper, narrower and more and more bumpy.

Getting really narrow now, looking even less like a main road!

Ian looking in determined mood ” We will find the right road if it kills us!!”

After about 3 miles of spectacular climbing roads the road opened up to a wide circular car park in front of a rather foreboding looking hotel which was scarily reminiscent of Quentin Tarrantio`s  ” The Hostel”.  We had seen a few cars going up to the “Hostel”  but hadnt seen any  coming back down! !

So we decided not to stop the car to go inside and ask for directions, I have found it is always better not to have any fingers, toes, limbs or any other extremities sawn-off un-necessarily!  Which may well explain Ian`s  press-on driving style from that point on.

Then we got back to the fork for the “3rd” time and took the road back to Le Grand-Bornand to try find where that illusive left turn had gotten to.

It still took us about another 15 minutes to find it and I worked out that on our un-intended detour,we had  probably wasted about over an hour or so and put  another 15 miles onto our tour!

Ian began to really push the car up the hairpins as we climbed out of “Death Valley” at last and we blasted along and over the Col de la Columbiere  (5242ft) without stopping.

Then he was off again, pushing the car even harder down the steep hairpins,  and I began to wonder if the new brake pads I had fitted were going to survive the descent.  There was the very distinctive smell ofvery hot brake pad in the air and  you could feel the heat from the discs wafting out from under the wheel arches on the tight bends !

Fortunately Ian ran out of steep downhill hairpins before he ran out of brakes and we reached some less demanding roads before the brakes actually caught fire!

Not sure which was more scary, the prospect of walking into the “hostel” to be chopped up / or being a passenger in my own car when Ian was in “Im not scared to meet my Maker” mood!
We were now beginning to reach the valley floor at Scionzier and Cluses with more its gentle roads which gave me chance for any perspiration and other fear-induced damp patches to dry out!!!

After we hit the main D1205 route to Sallanches we hit major rush hour traffic and struggled along for quite a few miles in now very hot weather.  I had to both navigate and answer numerous text messages from Irene Mumby who was asking  lots of questions :-

1 Where  were we?    2Had we crashed or broken down?    3 If the car was written off, could Stuart have my Alloy wheels for a fiver?  I answered:  1 Dont know, lost most of the day.  2  Car ok apart from brakes on fire and navigator had nervous breakdown!   3  No,  its £6.00 or no deal!
Luckily in the centre of Sallanches, going through a busy street market  I spotted the turn off to Combloux.  Using more instinct than ability we found the correct road and began the long climb to our hotel in Combloux.   Unfortunately we were caught up in a rolling road block caused by lots of  very slow moving circus vehicles on the move and it must have taken us another 35 minutes crawling along at 10mph  to finally reach the Hotel Caprice de Neige in Combloux.

It was a relief to get there and even the ironic cheers and applause from the others at being last to arrive was music to my ears.

I was really ready for a shower and a beer or 3 but there was just one more formal ceremony for us to go through before we could check into the hotel.

Bob had been using one of his favourite and treasured items of clothing as a general wiper and polishing cloth and it was now looking a little worse for wear.  It was something he liked to keep for special occasions like the Gala Dinner that we MGA owners usually hold when we all get together.

It had been decided that in respect of the fact that the Tour de France was in full swing and that a British rider(Bradley Wiggins) was in the lead and wearing the “Yellow Jersey”, I should therefore be awarded the “Dirty Jersey” for being last driver to reach Combloux!

I was delighted with this and as you can see from the picture below, I wore it with pride! (albeit slightly tainted with the smell of engine oil, metal polish and petrol fumes)

Wearing the “Dirty Jersey”, no I`m not smiling, its just the side effect of the various volatile fumes rising from the material!

We didnt have very much time to shower and change for dinner but its surprising how quick you can be when there is a beer or two waiting for you.

So we made it to the end of day two, it was quite a challenge at times but fantastic and unforgettable just the same.  We  perhaps shouldnt have expected anything else on Bastile Day.
Couldnt stop singing Bonnie Tylers song “Lost in France” after that.

Day one of the tour, La Salle,Aosta valley in Italy to Areches in France

In lovely early morning sunshine our six cars descended to the valley floor and were directed to the beautiful La Salle town hall buildings by the local police force.  No, not for a spot check on the cars and papers but by pre-arrangement.

Brooke who has lived in the La Salle regularly for many years had arranged a wonderful reception for us. Waiting outside the town hall in their traditional regional costume were four absolutely delightful children who just couldnt stop smiling.  They put up with being photographed standing by the MGAs for what must have seemed like hours to them and just put up with it and just kept on smiling.

Our police escort and council worker Senora Stefani who helped to organise such a great reception for us

Image

Four lovely children who welcomed us to La Salle wearing traditional local dress. The boy on the right looks particularly cool!

To be fair they did make a big dent in our weekends supply of sweets in return, but they were an absolute credit to both their town and their parents and it was a real pleasure to meet them.

These were just brilliant kids, just a real privilege to meet them and a credit to their town and families.

After about an hour the four of them were driven in parade in four of the MGAs  just the short distance along to the town centre in the shadow of the main church, everyone must have known we were coming as the children quickly found the horn buttons in the centre of the dash.
We must have ruined anyones attempt at a lie-in that morning including a old lady who I just managed to photograph as she came out on her balcony overlooking the town square, to see what all the fuss was about.

An old lady looking out over the church square to see what the commotion was.
Obviously not impressed by those noisy, smelly new fangled, horseless sports carriages!

She mustnt have been all that impressed with our cars as she did quickly did an about-turn and went back indoors!

Then it was handshakes all round and we were waved off on the first part of our tour.

It was a lovely experience and I would like to thank Brooke and Arlene  for organising it for us.

We then set off up the valley through Morgex and Courmayer  and started our climb

out of the valley up the really steep switch back roads through beautiful pine forests and up to the Colle San Carlo at 6406 ft.
It was a very warm and the cars started to get very hot on the way up to the top,

Roger Martins radiator started to hum a continuous note reminiscent of

Our first clomb

On the way up to the Colle San Carlo 6406 ft

an old fashioned kettle boiling.   It sounded like middle C to me but we decided that in view of the cars name, it would be better named “middle A”!

We decided to have a break at the top to give the cars a chance to cool

down a little thinking that we had much worse to come but as it turned

out, this was probably the steepest climb on the hottest day of the tour.

Rogers car singing away in Middle “A” after climbing the Colle San Carlo

I was relieved to see that my cars water temp only climbed  to 190 degrees F on the way up to the Colle which was much less than I expected.

We then raced our way down the hairpins wearing big grins as we drove into the ski resort La Thuile.  The plan was to stop for a coffee break here

and then carry on up and over the Petit San Bernard Pass.

As we all pulled into the main car park in the town centre we were waved away as most of it had been reserved for a Bollywood film shoot.  Then

we were all waved into the car park by the film crew next to a Ferrari and a very pretty Indian film star who was being protected from the sun by a big umbrella.  Stuart arrived last but strangely enough, his car was  directed to park pride in the most photogenic place in front of all the others!  It must be his charismatic smile and good looks!

The film director decided that our MGAs would make a great background for his film shoot,  but not the drivers for some reason!

Stuarts car arrives last but somehow gets the most photogenic place on the film set!

Once I realised that they were not looking for an overweight old MGA driver as a replacement male romantic lead, I thought  that maybe I would have more fun driving the car and we decided to move on!

She was really pretty though, and a man can dream!!

Then we set off to climb the Petit St Bernard pass.

This was an absolutely brilliant road with some really steep and tight corners with scenery to die for, it was just fantastic.   The engine just growled its way up either revving away in second gear or grumbling away in 3rd.   If only there was a ratio in-between.

It started out very hot but began to get much cooler as we climbed beyond the snow line.

Climbing up some superb roads up to the Petit St Bernard

There seemed to be more cyclists than cars making their way up the St Bernard, some very fit people here in France.

Went into the wooden hut/cafe to get in from the cold (only about 7 degrees C up there with a chilly breeze).  Ian and I bought the 2 last remaining jambon et fromage butties and would have quite happily eaten them if it wasnt for the longing, mal-nourished looks from both Tom and Roger who arrived just too late.  So we gave half a sandwich each to them just to ease the feelings of guilt! As a Yorkshireman “It woh ard not t mek em pay summat fot snap!”  (Translation available for a small fee)

It was just unreal driving such a great car over such fantastic roads and it was almost a disappointment to actually arrive at the summit of 7178 ft.

Made up for it by having yet another jambon/fromage butty and a beer at the top though.

There was a superb statue of St Bernard just beyond the summit to wave us off.

The man “Saint” himself seeing us safely over the summit

Then it was time for a driver change and I swopped places with Ian to let him drive the rest of the way down the pass and on to the hotel in Areches.
It isnt as simple as it sounds to switch drivers, first you have to lift out the seat squab to remove the temporary wooden spacer that I am experimenting to lift up the front of the seat. Then you have to slide the seat forwards, replace the spacer and then fight with the static seat belt adjustment to make them fit.  Also I have to take all my camera gear, spare clothing, drinks with me.

For some reason, Ians camera, clothes , drinks etc, all stay on the passenger side and with all that gear and maps etc its a little like sitting in a car in which the airbag has just deployed!  So the change over does take some time.

The real reason I let Ian drive! He would be nearer the 500 foot drop than I was!

But we got on our way down the pass  a way behind the others but soon  caught up with them a few miles on where the road widened and gave an un-missable  chance to take a group photo with a superb backdrop.

We just couldnt miss this photo-opportunity, a great setting of all of our cars.

A long descent from Petit St Bernard

A pity you cant hear how much the tyres were howling on this shot

It became quite exciting on this superb series of hairpins

From here down to Bourg St Maurice then up and over the Cormet de Roseland pass at 6453 ft, after all the other passes it seemed a really easy climb!

Parked at the top of the Cormet de Roseland at 6456 ft

From here it was a lovely run down the valley to Beaufort and then south to a beautiful little town called Areches where we pulled into the hotel Christiania car park.

 

The Hotel Christiania in Areches, a typical alpine ski hotel in a beautiful setting.

Once we were checked in I was seriously tempted by the idea of a shower and a power nap but fortunately spotted Bob, Roger,Stuart and partners heading for the local bar and  a few well deserved beers!

 

Chill out day

The day after we arrived at the Hotel Les Combes in La Salle, high up

on the side of the Aosta valley was supposed to be a take-it-easy day to

recover from our 600mile trek from the UK.
It started out quite relaxed over breakfast- a typical continental one

with lots of cerials, breads, croixannts, cold meats, cheeses, coffee,

coffee and more coffee. (how do you spell croissants?)

The cars looked a bit of a mess, spattered with thousands of bugs and

dirt from the rainstorm that we blasted through, top-down, in Geneva

and I was quite cool with the “travelled look”, that is until someone

decided to clean their car!
So then the other cars looked terrible and so we all had to follow suit, I

was just pleased that my car doesnt have wire wheels to clean!

It isnt easy to chill out and do nothing when you have the combination

of a clean MGA, all ready to go, warm sunny weather and the prospect

of stunning alpine roads to drive.
So 3 of us took our cars out and drove down the 1500 foot descent to

the valley floor and then on up to the head of the Aosta valley to explore
We stopped at Courmayer expecting a modern boxy typical ski resort but

we were surprised at how pretty a town it is. It was just too pretty a

town to miss and we stopped over for a beer (a small one) and the

compulsory fromage/jambon bagguette. (I have lost count of how many

we ate on the trip!)

We then returned to the hotel and I decided to try wrestle with this blog

for an hour or so whilst everyone else hit the sun loungers, but after

uploading only a single picture, I woke up an hour later to find that

everyone else had disappeared and the hotel was empty. I now know

how Will Smith felt in “Legend” except I only had the MG for company

and not an Alsation dog. I adjusted a couple of things under the bonnet

including re-attaching a choke return spring that was dangling loose and

increased the tickover speed  a little as when the engine got hot, the

tickover slowed right down.
Even revving the engine didnt bring anyone out of hiding and I was just

beginning to wonder if the rest of the party had been involved in an

Alien Abduction or something, when I got a text message saying,

“We are all in the bar up the hill, can you come?”
I replied “Which hill, as there are a few around here!”
So I took a chance and stormed up the road outside the hotel in the hot

Italian sun for about 1/4mile until I heard the familiar sound of clinking

glasses and laughter, there over the hedge I saw everyone at the bar

looking especially relaxed. I stood for a second, dripping wet and out of

breath, feeling a little hard done too until a voice rang out “You look like

you could do with a beer” and with those words, forgiveness came very

easily!
Ian, my brother in law was on his second coca cola and looked very cool

and comfortable next to my dripping wet state and I wondered how he

had managed this?
Then an hour or so later as we left the bar to return to the hotel I

realised why he was so cool when he got back into Bobs twin-cam for

the return journey. Just as they left the car park Irene tugged at the

hem of her shorts to show a bit more leg in the attempt to thumb a lift in

Bobs car. Bob jambed on the disc brakes, stopped the car dead, turned

to Ian and said “You are going to have to get out!”

They are a great group of people with a great sense of humour (it helps

if you own an MGA) and I knew then that it was going to be a great

holiday!

Dinner was a four course event in a stunning dining room that

overlooked the entire valley and very enjoyable it was too.
Most opted for an early night in preparation for the mornings Mont Blanc

tour start, I worked on the blog a bit more but was hampered by the

glacial speed of the internet connection, it took 20 mins to upload a

picture and after uploading 3 I gave it up and went to bed.

I will try to attach some picture of the chill out days events if the system

will let me.

P1010796.JPG?psid=1 Chill out day
View photos Download allYou are invited to view Colyn’s album. This album has 6 files.
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19 July, 2012 21:54

I have just realised that most of my posts on the blog have been lost

because I thought that when you added a picture to a written blog, it

would just wrap the words around the picture. What really happens is

that when the picture is posted, the words are just deleted.So here is a

round up of how things panned out on the journey down to Italy.We

travelled from Zeebrugge on monday 9th July and travelled the 300 miles

down to a lovely little town called Beze just west of Chaumont in the

company of Stuart and Irene. It was a great drive down the French N

roads with just one short sharp shower near Geneva which we survived

without putting the top up and we soon dried out as the sun began to

shine.  We arrived at Beze to stay at the Logis Le Bourguignon hotel in

the early evening and had a great relaxing meal there. It was a lovely

warm evening and we sat outside til quite late. See pic.Next morning we

set off after a continental breakfast and had a lovely drive down through

the Jura valley and on down into Geneva.
My fuel consumption had been a bit higher than I expected and when

we filled up in Geneva (cheaper fuel prices in Switzerland than in France)

I expected to have a couple of gallons left in the tank. In actual fact

there was only a half gallon left in there, about 13 miles worth! So I just

made it.
I decided that I had better keep a more careful on the fuel after that,

the situation isnt helped by the fact that the fuel gauge shows half full

when the tank is actually empty!  Then we headed on through the

border, back into France and we drove into the Mont Blanc tunnel. We

thought it was a couple of miles  long but as we drove through it we

realised it was nearer to nine miles. I remarked that I was surprised how

dry it was in the tunnel and as I said it, a drop of water that felt like the

size of a teacup full, smacked me right between the eyes! Must fit a hard

top sometime.   From the tunnel exit it wasnt so many miles to the Aosta

Valley going through Courmayer and Morgex and we arrived at the

Hotel Les Combes in La Salle at about 6.15. Its quite a climb to the hotel

from the valley bottom up to the hotel and the cars were getting a bit

warm by the time we arrived. But what a fantastic location and a great

reception from the other 10 in our party and the hotel owners.

Stuart and Irene below waiting for their meal at Les Bouguignon  in Beze

P1010754.JPG?psid=1 New folder
View photos Download allYou are invited to view Colyn’s album. This album has 6 files. 
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