Highway 26 Revisited

I have a love-hate relationship with France’s A26 motorway. It whisks me into the heart of France regularly enough, and usually provides the final sad miles back towards home at the end of an adventure. It also regularly vexes me with its weather. Today was one such day. I hate setting out on a journey when it’s raining, but I hate getting caught unprepared by the rain even more. We got utterly stuffed in a thunderous downpour today, about five miles from the nearest shelter.

On this trip, weather like that is a big issue. We are, god help us, just starting out on a 2,500 mile tour of the Alps in a thing called a Grinnall Scorpion 3. It is, as you’ll have seen if you clicked the link, a small, 3 wheeler sports car, powered by a big BMW motorbike engine. Like me, it has an open top. I can put a hat on (leather flying helmet and goggles being the preferred headgear), but the Grin, as I call it for want of a name) cannot. It is open, without even the option of rain cover. In fact, apart from a remarkably effective windscreen, its only concessions to bad weather are the two drain holes in the floor, to allow rain out.

Leaving Calais, it was fine weather. A few miles on, however, and the sky resembled something from one of my old meteorology textbooks – huge anvil clouds, underneath which our route descended. We were aiming for a lunch stop at the Aire du Rely, home normally to second breakfasts on earlier starts. We got beaten by the rain, as the Grin became the equivalent of a motorised canoe for a while and were, erm, a bit damp on arrival. We’d normally drive wearing some kind of waterproofs if it’s wet, or wait until it stops. We were seriously caught out this time. When we set out after an extended lunch break, we wore them. Wouldn’t you know it? The sun came out for the remaining 50 miles.

“We” on this trip are me, my wife, aka Co-pilot, our customary furry travelling companion, who has frequently appeared in my blogs, and Jane. Jane runs the GPS. I’ve never met her face to face, and she’s a terrible know-it-all who insists on having it her own way.

And the trip? We’re due to meet up with several other Grinnall owners near Troyes tomorrow evening, before the real fun of the next fortnight begins. I plan to blog the trip occasionally, so keep watching this space. When we have wifi, I’ll be tweeting under the #bigtrip hashtag.

At tonight’s hotel, I’ve seen a weather forecast. I am hopeful.

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