Day 13

Tour of Loch Ness and all the way to Metz

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or, why do things always break on weekends?

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img0079.jpg (83586 bytes)Having spent an excellent night in a forest near Inverness I decided to make a tour around Loch Ness and, depending on the weather, to head as far south as I would get. Maybe in part given by the rather cloudy weather I didn't find the lake all that exciting and so I started heading south at about 11 in the morning. I wanted to go south along Loch Ness and then get to the motorway in Glasgow.

img0080.jpg (61987 bytes)The trip was initially rather uneventful; the traffic was extremely dense, lots of tourists with motorhomes and caravans clogged the winding road. About 100 miles south of Inverness however rather strange sounds started to come from under the car. Initially thinking that these were normal noises just reflecting the road conditions, I didn't pay too much attention to them. Soon, however, the noises started to be rather persistent and loud. At that time it was just after noon and I was again in the middle of nowhere, just this time in the middle of a maybe 200 miles long traffic jam. Hence calling for help was not an option and I had to get to the nearest town myself, or at least as close as the car allowed.

img0078.jpg (135194 bytes)When the road began to climb rather steep hills, the steering of the car became at times nervous. So I pulled over into an overfilled parking lot and suspecting a suspension failure I removed both front wheels. A similar noise was coming from a front suspension on another car years earlier after it partially broke; this time, however, all three elements of the suspension were in perfect order on both wheels, and the brakes worked perfectly as well. Since the noise only showed when the car was accelerated and the gears worked smoothly, I concluded that it must be the central differential lock of the 4WD system which does not behave as it should. Since this is not an essential part of the powertrain I decided to go ahead and head south, at least to Glasgow, the closest city at about 100 miles away.

In Glasgow it was impossible to find a VW dealer to be still open to inspect the car, and so I headed further south, with a car which always attracted people's attention given the impressive noise it produced. I decided not to wait again till Monday just to meet a mechanic who has never seen a 4WD Golf before anyway but to head more towards Germany where this car is much more common. I must admit that at times I thought that the car would fall apart, and onlookers sure thought so all the time.

img0096.jpg (71935 bytes)Luckily, the car behaved perfectly, even quietly, once accelerated to about 80mph. Hence I had no problems on the motorways, and with a full gas tank I traveled nonstop for some 4 hours to enjoy the smooth and unexpected ride. This way I caught the 23:30 ferry from Dover to Calais. On board I ate some excellent dinner, as I haven't eaten anything noteworthy for a long time.

The French had no immigration guards of any kind at all, and since the road was so empty at this late hour (through the transfer to France I lost a hour to the timezones), I drove for some 400km further before going to sleep at one of the famous wonderful highway parkings.

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