I’m back on the road again.
Well actually, at the minute I’m at sea. My fellow shipmates and I have just set sail from Bilbao for the second time in as many hours, having had to return to port due to a medical emergency. The Brits, of course, were moaning when they saw the poor sap get out of his wheelchair and manage to walk to the ambulance. The delay will probably result in them missing the first edition of the Daily Mail tomorrow. I digress. A more rational mind would instantly dismiss the idea of driving from the southern tip of Spain to the north coast, then from Portsmouth to Manchester with the prospect of doing it all again a week later. But for me, rationality and travel make poor bedfellows. And here are my reasons: Firstly, I hate flying — last Sunday I calculated that I will have to make a staggering eleven flights (that’s a total time sixty-nine hours spent in the air, folks) to attend a friend’s daughter’s wedding in Aussie in May. Okay, we’re going to visit Zubu-Bugoland where my friend owns a bank and breeds rare-breed pigs, and also take a trip to Auckland to watch the Irish Lions thump the All Blacks. That’s quite enough flying for me in one year. Secondly, I love a good road trip.
Or, at least I did until yesterday. I had set off early doors from the delightful old town of El Puerto de Santa Maria, a suburb of Cadiz, where I had overnighted having watched Marbella Rugby overcome the Club de Rugby Athletico Portuense (better known by the unfortunate acronym CRAP). I was aware that I was facing a drive of over a thousand kilometres to reach my second overnight stop. But my heart was filled with bonhomie as I sped along tree-lined motorways, empty of traffic and not a single pointless barrier replacement 50mph zone up past Sevilla and on to Salamanca. My soul sang as I contemplated why on earth anyone would prefer being shoehorned into a microscopic seat, next to a sweating fat bastard coughing germs over you, while you eat an overpriced Ryanair Panini and spill warm Stella over your pants at thirty-five thousand feet. I have the luxury of time on my hands, I don’t have to saw off the handle of my toothbrush to meet cabin luggage requirements, I can go where I want, stop when I wish; I am the master of my own destiny, the veritable king of the road. Or I was, before a Portuguese truck driver tried to kill me. It’s mid-afternoon and I need to refuel both Ladybird (that’s Sophia’s replacement, by the way) and myself. After two abortive attempts to find a decent pit stop I’m back on the A62, just south of Valladolid. The road runs parallel with the Portuguese border and for the last couple of hours I have been aware that most of the trucks I fly past are Portuguese. I start to pass an 80-tonne Portuguese artic when I notice the bar steward is starting to
drift across the two-lane highway into my space. I back off and he straightens back into his own lane. I’m about to get on the horn to establish I’m behind him when I decide that he must have surely seen me, and start to overtake again. I’m almost level with the cab when he suddenly veers into my lane. Only this time, it’s not a drift; it’s almost as if he’s trying to ram me into the central barrier. I step on the brakes and manage to hit the horn as my off side tyres struggle for traction on the kitty-litter, the thin strip of gravel separating me from the road and the barrier. This is seriously bad news, I’m thinking as Ladybird’s tail end starts to wobble — I’m going to either end up in the Armco or beneath this bastard. Either way, it’s not going to have a happy outcome. He is clearly either pissed, high on drugs, watching porn on his mobile, or any combination of the aforementioned. But suddenly I understand the logic of spending an absurd amount of money on this ridiculous little car as the ABS kicks in, the Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) and the Torque Vectoring work in harmony to transfer power to the wheels that most need it — and boy, do they need it? Suddenly I’m behind him, out of immediate danger, and the bastard is back on his own side of the road. Seconds later I’m past him without further incident but my heart is still going like a Ginger Baker solo as I pull into the next services five minutes later. By a happy coincidence there’s a gaggle of traffic cops chewing the fat next to the petrol pumps and I decide to give them something to do. Of course, I reflect as I find one who speaks better English than my Spanish, this could well backfire as a) I’m driving a Porsche and b) much as the Spanish dislike the Portuguese, they like the Brits even less. But maybe out of boredom or sense of duty they take my narrative pretty seriously. Of course I didn’t get his number plate, I was lucky to escape with my life and with my little car intact. All I have to give them is that it’s big, it’s all white (like practically every other truck) and the word Agility is printed on the left rear door. ‘Ok,’ says the traffic cop, ‘if you catch up with him, try to get his number, ring 112 and we will apprehend him.’ So I set off like I’m Dennis Weaver in the film Duel. I now have my heart in my mouth every time I pull out to pass a truck. Before Salamanca I had passed maybe a hundred vehicles, mainly cars, in around four hundred kilometres. But now, north of Valladolid, my joie de vivre is much diminished. This is as much fun as running the towel-flick queue to the showers at prep school.
Then half an hour later in the distance, I think I can make out the word Agility on the left-hand panel of a truck door. And even before I’m close enough to confirm that this is the culprit, I know it’s him: he’s at it again, all over the road like Rab C Nesbitt on his way home from The Giblet. I hang back, then creep up slowly so I’m close enough to snap a couple of photos of the back of the truck (yes — highly illegal I know). I then get past him before he can select another Pornhub video, slow down, get on the horn, stick on my hazards and brandish my phone in front of the rear window. This of course, may mean absolute nothing to him; but to me it’s Portuguese sign language for: ‘I’ve got you… you murdering bastard. Now just wait ‘til I stop at the next services and call your number in, then we’ll see who’s King of the Road!’ Which is precisely what I do. I’m quite surprised when he doesn’t follow me into the services and lurk menacingly until I’d done on the phone. The despatcher speaks English and thanks me for my information. She will dispatch some cop cars to apprehend the bastard and give him a thorough going over (my words, not hers.)
An hour later, she calls me back to tell me they stopped the bastard and have given him a major tongue-lashing, and thanks me for calling it in. Result. We’re in the Bay of Biscay now and the sea’s as rough as a pissed-up Cheshire Housewife. The male member of the singing duo looks like death and I have a fiver that says he’ll throw up before the end of the set. I came second in the movie soundtrack quiz with a lad two years’ out of Eton (don’t they teach them anything useful there)? But now I’m off to bed for a good night’s sleep. Hasta pronto, chicos!