AFTER A RELAXED day exploring Luxembourg, we had an epic driving day in prospect. So we packed the van, hooked up and with snacks, maps and flask of coffee stowed safely in the Volvo, we hit the road in the hope of crossing Germany in a day.
Leaving sunny Luxembourg, hopes were high of getting to Austria in a day
Our original hope was to get to Salzburg as a night stop. With a car that hadn't cost less than £500 and with no caravan in tow, this wouldn’t be a problem. It’s around 340 miles on good roads, but car and caravan per se were not the problem. Not ours in particular at least.
In Germany, the speed limit on the motorway for a car and caravan is 80kp/h which is very close to 50mph. You can tow at 100kp/h (62mph) if you subject your car and caravan to a TUV test in Germany on arrival. Frankly, I didn't relish the prospect of being laughed at in a German test station when the Volvo and the Sprite rolled in, and in any case, the Sprite doesn't have shock absorbers which are a requirement of getting the Tempo 100 certificate. All of which means we were stuck with a 50mph touring speed.
Using very crude maths and averaging that time out, it generously puts you at the thick end of a seven hour drive. Factor in very large lorries, steep inclines and a car which possessed 125bhp 16 years ago, it was obvious we had our work cut out.
Long road to Salzburg
Things started well enough. A ten-minute delay leaving Luxembourg caused no real problems and for the next couple of hours, things went very well. The motorway cleaves the industrial town of Saarbrucken in half but we breezed through before turning off the motorway, following signs to Pirmasens and Landau.
Although this took us off the motorway and onto the A-roads to cut out around thirty miles of road, our low average speed meant it should be worthwhile. Aside from being trapped by the odd lorry crawling up a hill, we made good progress. We got back on the motorway, following the A65 past Karslruher en route to Stuttgart.
€1.644/l for unleaded blew the lunch budget - Tesco own-brand Frazzle anyone?
Over there? Really?
It was on this stretch that we pulled in for fuel at the suicidally dangerous Pforzheim Service Area, just after J45 on the A8. It involved leaving the motorway onto a tiny two-way road, crossing the motorway bridge and then driving through the service area on the opposite carriageway and executing a U-turn on the petrol station forecourt to end up facing back the way I’d just come but lined up with a pump. And in case you think was a result of my idiocy, it was signposted flawlessly and we followed three local vehicles doing the same thing. In case you come this way yourself however, 30km further up is a far more modern, conventional facility that is worth hanging on for.
By the time we had concluded this little petrol-flavoured adventure however, we realised we were going to struggle to get to Salzburg and still find an open campsite. Mrs Donnelly headed straight into the site guides and picked us a site ominously located directly off of a motorway parking area. Still the Caravan Club guide implied it was fine for an overnight stop, so we followed the instructions. In the lay-by though, all signs indicating the presence of a campsite were gone and all that was there were a lot of lorries parked up. Not fancying a night of wild camping nestled among the refrigerated trucks, we headed back onto the motorway to find Tenda Camping just a few miles further on and about three miles off the motorway.
Progress so far
In total, we’d covered around 278 miles and although short of our target, we’d found a presentable looking site with good facilities and an encouraging looking restaurant. As we settled in with the impressive beer and schnitzel menus, we began plotting a route for the following day, to claw back some of that lost mileage. All we needed was a good night's sleep at this four-star touring site. I'll tell you how that went tomorrow...