Shake Down

I have been remiss in my reports. I left England on the 8th October taking Bertie the ‘B’ for a shake-down run of some 1800 miles. The plan was to travel through France down to Cadiz in Spain, from where we would catch the ferry to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. I often spend the winter on the southern end of this island, where the climate is usually in the mid seventies during the coldest part of the winter and the high seventies for the rest of the time.

Things started well, with the weather in England dry and the temperature in the mid teens. We drove down to Folkestone and boarded the Channel Tunnel train for a swift crossing to France and then drove south heading towards Tours. Normally I stop over at Le Mans but wanted a change from the routine and was pleasently surprised both with the town itself and the hotel I found. Tours is a university city and the student activity, even on a Monday evening, was vibrant. All the city centre restaruants and bars were crowded and I concluded that students in France must be wealthier than Britain.

Bertie ran well for the seven hours drive, mostly done at a steady 120 kph. Nothing had apparently fallen off!

Day 2 and we ventured further south to Blaymont, Lot and Gorrone where I conveniently have a cousin. I had been invited to stay for a few days and took the opportunity to give Bertie a quick visual check over. The oil needed topping up, but otherwise the engine appeared fine. I noticed that the headlights were not functioning. They were fine when we left the UK and still worked from the flasher unit, so I deduced that the problem was either the on/off switch or the dip switch. I decided to leave it until I got to the island as there was no night-driving planned and the weather forecast was good.

Day 6 and we set-off for Burgos in central Spain. This was a change from the normal stopover in Salamanca. I have past through Burgos before in 2006, but I decided to stay for a day and explore. The birthplace of its most famous son, El Cid, is celebrated with numerous status. Burgos has a magnificant Cathedral and the tourist is well catered for by way of food and drink. Burgos Castle is also a fascinating location with a memorial to the fallen soldiers from France, Spain, Portugal and Great Britain. Burgos had been the central administration and military logistics base of the French forces in Spain. The Duke of Wellington pitted a very strong contingent made up from almost 20 regiments of the British Army, including the ‘Black Watch’, an American infantary regiment, several of the guards regiments and many other regiments no longer existing. I would to report that we gave ‘Jonnie foreigner’ a jolly good spanking, but our repeated attempts to over-run the castle were repelled. With a massive French army approaching from the north, Wellingtons’ forces were complelled to withdraw, a rare experience for Wellington.

The following day we made our way through steady rain to the town of Merida a short way north of Seville. The plan had been to stay in Seville itself, but I received a warning that England were due to meet Spain on the fooball pitch in Seville and finding a hotel would be very difficult. To my surprise, it seems that we handed out another spanking and the Spanish, normally so very vocal, didn’t wish to discuss the matter. The next morning we left for Cadiz.

The ferry from Cadiz to Gran Canaria is scheduled to take some forty hours and therefore I normally book a cabin for the two nights that we are sea. Everything had gone swimmingly as they say, perhaps not the best phrase to use, when the ships’ engines fell silent (they should have done a shake-down run first) and we just drifted for almost five hours. Eventually, things returned to normal, but we arrived in Las Palmas at midday rather than 8:00 am. Whilst at sea I was also able to catch-up on the news from around the world and discovered that I had been tracked from south of Blaymont, all the way to Cadiz by torrential rain and flooding.

Well I have been on Gran Canaria for a full week now and have settled into my routine. I have fixed Bertie’s headlight problem (it was the dip switch that had fallen apart), discovered and replaced a missing nut holding one of the exhaust brackets in place and a couple of other minor items. However, all in all, I am pleased with the way Bertie has performed mechanically speaking and feel I must have got most things back together correctly during the rebuild. Yesterday, I drove up to the central mountain on the island where I like to spend a day each week walking. That was a deciding factor on whether to tak Bridget or Bertie on the next run, should there be one. I am afraid Bertie will not be going. The MGB is a good, and even comfortable, touring car. When it came to narrow, winding mountain roads it was very hard work. The car is given to lumbering around tight bends, the steering is heavy and it had a tendency for the front wheels to drift. I also found the gearing was wrong much of the time and I was constantly changing up and down between 2nd and 3rd. I think I am too old to consider doing that for seven or eight hours a day.