Where's Frankie?

Smoke gets in your eyes

Sunday 9th October

Bloody typical, you hang around waiting for the weather to improve, you look at the weather forecasts and they are showing no improvements so you move on.

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And you wake up to this view in the morning. The day is looking good and I have planned a route. Lucy really went trigger happy today, over 100 photos in all and things are so serious that she hasn’t been able to play Candy Crush all evening. I have tried my best to trim them down a bit.

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Nothing to worry about but the snowy mountains seem to be getting closer. I’ve been thinking about this part of the route for the last couple of days and it is only the lack of stellplatz in Austria that has almost forced us to take the famed Grossgluckner pass, the highest proper road in Europe.

48km of stunning scenery with 36 hairpin bends, climbing to a record height (for Stella) of 8,240 feet, a very exciting drive for everyone.

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And then it nearly didn’t happen. The pass was closed due to snowfall so like fools we waited for the snow plough to arrive instead of turning round and finding an easier route. We really do need a smack around the face sometimes, even the steepness of the first bit of road should have made us think twice.

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But what do we know. Within minutes we are above the snow line having to lean forwards as far as we can to help Frankie up the slopes. It was second gear most of the way, a couple of visits to third gear were rapidly aborted.

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And after 10 minutes we had to stop to let Frankie have a breather (and to let my shoulders have a rest). This was after 5 hairpins, only 31 left to go.

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Stunning views in all directions and minimal barriers to make it all just a bit more exciting. A couple of times I accidentally glanced over the edge and the vertigo started.

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I was expecting to see much more traffic than we did. There were other cars, there were lots of lay-bys where you could pull over and there were widened sections where the speed freaks could hurtle past poor old wheezing Frankie.

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Every time you turned a corner you would see another set of hairpin bends that you’ve got to climb and overtime you say to yourself “are we really going over that?”. The answer was always YES.

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Picnic benches covered in last nights snow, must be a good four inches.

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Well above the tree line now and we think we’re at the top, just over 8,000 feet.

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And looking down at one section that we’ve just been through. We stopped for lunch and in that half hour the clouds came down and it started snowing.

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This is the first inkling that things were about to go wrong. This is the road that we have to take and I have just pulled over to let the brakes cool down a bit. I knew they needed cooling because they weren’t working terribly efficiently and there was a bit of smoke, when I say a bit of smoke what I mean is that Lucy thought the tyres were on fire and we should bale out. Unfortunately we couldn’t do that because the hand brake wasn’t holding us. And then the brake warning light came on and eventually we managed to stop by using a kerb to hold us. Only another 6,000 feet vertically down and 20 hairpins to go.

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Eventually we moved on keeping in second gear to hold us back a bit but as you can see the road is sloping down just a bit. After negotiating one of the hairpins we are magically in the land that snow forgot.

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The first town that we got to on the road, Heiligenblut, home of some very sharp hairpins and our first Austrian policeman. Luckily he didn’t notice the smoke and try and stop us (or he did notice the smoke and knew that he wouldn’t be able to stop us).

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Lucy still has time to look out of the windows and see the pretty old buildings, I’m too busy wiping the sweat off my brow and trying to ease the tension in my shoulders.

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And then that bloody Stella finds some more upey downey bits. We had another 30 miles of this after the Grossglockner road.

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I can see where I want to be and then when we get down there Stella finds a bit of road going up that looks just like an ECG trace from a heart attack victim. She is talking today which is a plus point but she does seem to have a smile in her voice. I think she hates me because I don’t “turn round when possible” very often.

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Well earned beer photo of the day. Our stellplatz holding upto 35 vans is owned by the next door hotel which luckily has a bar.

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Todays meal was stir fried chicken, leek and asparagus and it was very nice. The asparagus looks a bit odd, it is sold in jars and possibly already cooked so very delicate. Last nights dinner was macaroni cheese with broccoli and cauliflower, it looked a bit like a car crash but was very edible, I’m starting to become a culinary expert. I think it may be the Keith Floyd influence, talking of which, our bottle opener died today and it was just luck that we had a spare courtesy of Nick and Elaine and the Guildford Round Table.

4 thoughts on “Smoke gets in your eyes

  1. Pam

    Oh, how we chuckled at your brakes on fire…sorry for not being more sympathetic, but that happened to us on the road between Bugos and Santander on our first trip. Bloody scarey though and stupid us took the same route, albeit in the opposite direction, this year…engine got awfully warm. You enjoy those beers 🙂

    1. Mark Post author

      It was a bit worrying at the time but now I have calmed down with some beer and wine and I’m feeling better. Scary at the time. Have you got your repairs sorted out yet, or are you still saving up for them?
      We spent 5 days at Caberceno because the weather was so good and we had a super spot next to the grass overlooking the lake.
      While we were there lots of people drove in, took selfies and then drove off – what’s that all about?

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