Thursday, May 28, 2009

24 Hours to Medemblik

After a lot of running around arranging my travel, it was determined that I would ride with three other Polish boys to Medemblik, and my equipment would go in the coach boat from Mragowo. I didn’t have super high expectations for an entirely smooth trip, but it ended up being more than a little crazy.

The guys were supposed to pick me up from the Puck sailing club at 8:30 a.m., which was about an hour and a half after the Polish Olympic team departed. The reasoning was that since the Olympic team had a heavy van and trailer, we would catch them no problem. I wanted to push for an earlier departure, but one of the kids ended up oversleeping and we left Puck around 9:30. It did give me some time to check in with the campground to make sure we still had our bungalow.

The guys finally arrived in a 1990s Corolla station wagon that one kid had borrowed from his parents. We threw in all the gear and were on our way. In about a quarter mile, we noticed some grinding coming from the rear of the car and we pulled over into a supermarket parking lot. Upon exiting the car, we discovered that the rear shocks were bottomed out on the wheels. The car was too heavy and the wheel wells were shaving down the tires. It was a dilemma. We unloaded the car and re-loaded it with more

weight in the front, which seemed to work at first, but after we sat down, it bottomed out again. After a long debate, we were stumped. We definitely couldn’t drive over 1,000 km, and on Polish roads, with a bottomed out car. A few phone calls were made, and one kid’s uncle showed up. He put a few bags in his car, and we were off to the mechanic’s.

It took about 5 minutes for two big, Polish mechanics to strip off the wagon’s rear wheels and shocks. We all stared at the dirty, old shocks while the mechanics tried to find replacements in their big garage. The uncle walked around smoking and making phone calls, rescheduling appointments because of the emergency situation. Meanwhile, the mechanics hadn’t found the right parts, so the uncle sped off to Gdansk, about an hour away, to find new parts. The mechanics rolled the car out of the garage, and the next car drove in.

For the next 3.5 hours, we sat in the sun. It was an unusually warm day for May, and we followed the shade thrown by a pile of roofing tiles. One kid played video games on his computer, while I checked out the truck repair garage next door. Two huge trucks, engines opened, were in the bay, and mechanics were crawling all over them. Next to our car, in which we were sitting, was a VW Passat, which had been in an accident. Body panels were pulled off and wires were strewn everywhere. One mechanic was buried in the wiring all afternoon. We sat, and shoes, shirts, and pants came off as the day grew hotter. We went to the store, we used the bathroom, but mostly we slept in the car.

Finally came a diesel roar and skidding tires, and the uncle pulled up in a cloud of dust. He pulled the shiny new shocks out, and the car was rolled into the garage again. 15 minutes later the new shocks were installed and the car rolled out. We loaded as fast as possible…and when we sat down, the car bottomed out again. It was a devastating moment. Finally the uncle took two of the heaviest bags to be delivered by another coach, and we were off. It was about 4:30 pm and we had a 15-hour drive to look forward to. Every big bump, the car would bottom out again. Soon a sticky black residue from the tire was all over the fender. For some reason the right side was lower than the left, so as the lightest in the car I got to sit on the right and listen to the tire grind all night. All the heavy bags were loaded on the left side, and I sat in the middle as far as I could go.

After we crossed the border to Germany, the roads were smooth and the car ran well. We were using LPG (liquid propane gas) which costs about half of normal petrol, but burns faster. We stopped a lot at gas stations, where the guys would get stuff to eat, we would check the tire, and switch drivers. One of the boys drove as fast as he could through the night, and in the morning we were in the Netherlands. As soon as I got behind the wheel for my shift, the car wouldn’t start. It was another devastating moment. After two tries pushing it across the parking lot, the engine fired and we were on our way once more. We finally arrived at the camping at 9:00 am, got the keys to the bungalow, and crashed for the next few hours. We had brought the cold, wet weather with us, and we registered and prepared our equipment in the afternoon as fast as possible so we could get home and sleep again. After all, the forecast was for 35 knots the next day.

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