Friday, 16 April 2010


written 15th april

The last 24 hours has been as tense as an episode of 24!  as we have watched 21h of 24 (Day 5) in the last week - well you can never stop at just one! - we are somewhat tension junkies at the moment but still, this is all a bit much...

The following takes place between 1pm and 2pm bip bop bip bop
The scene is set.  We are directed by the tourist office to a spot in town where there is a working electricity station for motorhomes and plug in for a bit.  It turns out to be the car park of a hotel/leisure complex.  All seems to be going well, too well.....

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A grass cutting man who speaks no english tries to talk to us, gesticulating wildly at the electrics.  We don't know if he is trying to tell us it is broken (which it isn't) or that we are freeloading gypsies who shouldn't be using it.  We look simple and foreign.  He stomps off.  We decide to ignore him and continue sitting there.

Nothing bad happens

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The following takes place between 2pm and 3pm bip bop bip bop
We return to town to pick up email.  Still unclear whether Will has to fly home.  Necessary phonelines engaged, Deadline looming...  just about to leave park with wifi when... urgent comms on an unsecured channel - text comes in on the other line - Will does have to fly.  Email confirms it.  Trip will still likely turn out to be waste of time but has to be done.  Will tries to check in to ryanair online.  Crisis, needs passport number!  can't check in without it but it is on the van!

In anticipation of needing to print boarding pass, we try to find internet cafe from tourist office directions.  No where to be found.  Can we make it to tourist office in time before they close to ask again?? 

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We do, it was on the other side of the street, with no visible internet, wifi, @ or printing sign.  It looks like a cafe with a pool table.  Girl behind bar does not speak english.  Eventually it becomes clear that we will have to wait until after 3:30 for man in charge of printer to return.  We leave.  withdraw to base camp

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The following takes place between 3pm and 4pm bip bop bip bop
In anticipation of having to leave girl and van alone in uncharted territory, Will commences pre-flight electical checks.  New dizzy cap installed but no spark!  Jules won't start!  Tension! or more specifically, lack thereof... (sorry ;) )

What can be wrong?  initial diagnostics reveal nothing wrong.  indepth root cause trace analysis procedures commenced.

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problem solved when Will discovers that in checking that he had inserted the roter arm - which he had - he had, in fact dislodged it.  Crisis averted.  All vital signs restored.  spark plugs gapped.  patient sounding healthy

Sigh of relief, reassembling everything.  puddle of fresh oil noticed on floor....  Jules is bleeding... oh no!

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The following takes place between 4pm and 5pm bip bop bip bop

Crisis, oil leaking from rocker cover.  Is this a protest at being left?  Is Jules sulking about being left 'by Will' or 'alone with me'??  which is more insulting??  offending gasket removed and inspected.  Expert technical verdict: 'it's a bit cooked'.  Prognosis: could be be patched with buckets of RTV high temp sealant... but we have run out!!  Will remembers joint mortar bought for throttle fixing - but will it work...??  then, further disaster - gasket breaks...

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gasket squidged into place with joint mortar.  but we need help! Stat!  We return to town square and park with wifi for urgent comms

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The following takes place between 5pm and 6pm bip bop bip bop

In square.  desperate search protocols initiated for blue mustachiod veedub club man.  website found.  email but no phone!  urgent distress signal dispatched - how often does he check his mail?  Will he respond???  Will he have a gasket in his garage??? Will thinks of new gasket replacement plan involving cardboard but where to get some???

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Will checked in.  Flight at 1100h.   18 hours and counting.  Airport is 100kms away in another country.  Actual border to cross as outside EU...
  internet cafe now open but at first computer refuses to recognise secure data transfer medium (usb drive)  crisis!  helpful man tries again.  it works, phew.  boarding card retrieved (for surprisingly little money).  The search for cardboard commences.  helpful man points to shop across the street - but will it still be open???

T-17h to flight and counting...

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The following takes place between 6pm and 7pm bip bop bip bop

It is, of course - they are helpful like that in Slovenia and shops stay open until 7.  No card on sale but suitable cardboard identified on back of notepads.  purchase completed, strategic withdrawal to regroup at home base. 

replacement gasket plan initiated but will it work with two separate layers of cardboard??  a new plan.  there is a piece of mdf in the burning box which we nearly threw away the other day.  it is within millimetres of being too small.  could it work?  if it is the right size, how to cut it??  tools available:  junior hack saw with blunt blade, junior hacksaw with slightly sharper yet twisted blade, stanley knife with broken handle, desperation, ingenuity and sheer determination...  half of team focused solely on the problem, other half dispatched to comms park for updates...  will mustachioed veedub man come through for us?  any change from home...

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no comms from veedub man - hav we been spam filtered??  further panic comms on other line.  manage to talk them down. situation diffused on home front.  calm ensues.

return to van.  mdf gasket fitted and van reassembled.  will it hold???

T-16h and counting...

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The following takes place between 7pm and 8pm bip bop bip bop

ok, we stopped for some dinner at this point.  can't survive without food or cram eating into 4 min advert breaks like Jack Bauer and CTU must do.  Kept up tension with hour 22 of 24.  Will the president be unmasked??  Will he do the honourable thing??  adrenaline levels in van kept high...

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Will packs his bag

T-15h and counting

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The following takes place between 8pm and 10pm bip bop bip bop

Special double bill.  After sitting for a while, oil leak sems to have been curbed.  new gasket is working whilst stationary but not tested in the field.  Will it hold up under operational pressure???   And - crisis - signs of similar leaking from gasket on other side - oh no! 

No further comms from home.  nothing from Veedub man.  decide to make a strike for the border whilst roads are quiet and slip through under cover of darkness. 

Start engine.  Gasket holds.... for now....  we roll out

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Uneventful drive south.  Stop for supplies of oil at petrol station.  Still dripping but rate is slowing.  Levels ok.

Continue south to border.  At checkpoint.  no questions.  waved through.  breath sigh of relief.  Then realise - out of Slovenia but not yet into croatia!  a new checkpoint looms.  In excitement, moment of border crossing is not photographically documented... (in all honesty, I was looking for blue sign with stars on, forgot that Croatia wouldn't have one - d'oh, it is why there are guards actually here! - Croatia sign looks like town sign especially as doesn't actually say Croatia! Hrvatska really!)

Boarder guard takes passports.  stares us up and down.  indicates we should pull over just beyond barrier.  keeps passports....

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lone guard approaches van under cover of sodium lamps.  Will goes out to head him off.  He is relentless.  He wants the back door opened.  Will complies.  He also wants lights.  He looks in....  silence.....

Ok he says, have a nice trip.

Passports returned.

No stamps


we continue on the road.  Following signs for Pula.  Get on to Motorway.  Suddenly.  sign saying toll charge ahead.  Atlas intel is wrong!  No exits!  we have no local money...  what can we do...

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loan toll guard takes credit card.  charge is €2.  barriers rise.  he wishes us a nice holiday.

We are through.

well maintained, well sign posted road to Pula.

Engine sounding fine (better in fact for new electrics)

All going well, too well...

We arrive in Pula.

T-14h and counting

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The following takes place between 10pm and 11pm bip bop bip bop

With no map and no local intel, we set out of recon mission.  Heading for town, airport is signposted.  3kms on easy road.  Airport still open.  Test fit of bag into Ryanair cabin baggage slot thing.  Bag stuffed with redundant bits of engine.  Fractionally too big, but only half weight limit.  should be fine.

can't stay at airport, too many lights and guards.  return to town

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Temporary gasket fix still not satisfactory for prolonged absence of chief engineer.  permanent solution should be sourced.  and soon.  VW dealership and service centre targeted and identified.  We stop outside to wait for it to open...  we must be awake and 'parked' (as opposed to 'camped') before they arrive for work in the morning

T-13h and counting

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The following takes place between 11pm and 7am bip bop bip bop

ok, tension was not so much that we didn't sleep.  I don't know how Bauer and his crew do it quite honestly.  I would be tempted to hide under a desk for a quick snooze...

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we are rudely awakened by the alarm.  Tension remounts.  time is ticking away

T-4h and counting

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The following takes place between 7am and 8am bip bop bip bop

we make tea and eat breakfast.

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workers in audis, skodas and vws stare at us as they drive past.

t-3h and counting

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The following takes place between 8am and 9am bip bop bip bop

We enter the service area and identify key target.  he is with another customer.  Time is ticking away.  Eventually he finishes.  He speaks a little english.  we show him the gasket and explain the problem.  he takes us to a different desk and a man appears from the warehouse stacked with parts.  surely he can help.

He is friendly and speaks english.  He dialogues with primary information interface (parts computer).  computer says no.  he tries again.  part is found but labelled 'c' 'that's classified' he says 'I don't have clearance.  no can do' (he may have said classic and the part could not be ordered, but the result was the same...)

he tries again, different database.  same result.  he suggests another shop.  scribbles name and waves directions.  it is round the corner.  we roll out.

New target identified.  we home in.  Man looks in book.  VW transporter does not exist.  "It was never made" he says we beg to differ and search book ourselves.  he is correct no trace of VW transporter.  someone has got to him and tampered with the book.  all evidence of us has been erased!  (all though curiously the book did have 1970's rabbit parts...)  'italian book' he says.  that explains it.  it must be the vatican at work... Dan Brown was right, they control everything...

Now what?  we are running out of time...  'There may be somewhere else he says.  small shop, in town, they sell gaskets'  he tries to explain  where.  bad map, unclear directions.  its the best he can do.  we head out

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the directions are not clear.  "behind the bus station does not initially help.  Last minute sign seen, lane changed, but where's the turning?  pull into a VW specialist garage.  He knows what the gasket is but does not have one in stock, we have missed the turning for the shop we want.  We double back.  up a one way street, what if we are still wrong??

when, there it is, small door, picture of a head gasket above door.  target identified and locked on.

Will circles round and enters the shop.  The man speaks no english.  Gasket laid on counter.  Man grunts, steps out to look at van, reaches behind him...  is our quest in vain???  no!  new gaskets on counter and within our grasp...  but!  no money!!  and he doesn't take credit cards!!! , Bankomat at Garage he manages to communicate.  Wong way down one way street!  Team splits up and half heads out.  Target identified and accessed on foot.  Necessary medium of exchange acquired.  gasket appropriated, and less than expected! (15 of a currency sounds a lot for a gasket but a necessary price to those in desperation - it is much nore palatable when you remember there are 8 of said currency to the pound :)

now, how to find the airport from narrow, one-way centre of town back street.  Navigate using direction of the sun (and the fact that Pula is very small).  Destination achieved.  base camp set up in car park.

A text comes in.   unexpected intel.  Icelandic volcanic ash in UK airspace.  Planes may be delayed...

T- 2h and counting

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The following takes place between 9am and 10am bip bop bip bop

A recon mission confirms all indications are that plane will depart on time.

At camp carpark,

both rocker covers removed, other gasket also cooked.  temporary gasket did hold.  new gaskets fitted.  Not time to check they are seated correctly but seem to be holding.

Inside van all cupoards turned out in search of last minute things needed.

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Car reassembled, ordered to behave itself, last minute instructions imparted:

 - need to check oil level before departure and regularly on trip

 - what to do if red light flashes (find safe place to stop, check oil, refill)

 - what to do if red light come on suddenly.  turn engine off immediately, take out of gear, cruise to stop.  hazard lights.  refill oil.  immobilise car and crank engine to distribute oil.  drive carefully to safe place to stop

 - which wires in engine bay should be connected and which shouldn't - as all mentioned are green and only one should be connected, potential for confusion remains high.  shouldn't need to know though,  all being well....

we proceed to security.  nearly through.  last minute dash back to van - no contact lenses!

once again at security.  Promises to be careful.  Instructed to call if problems and Will will reroute the satellites, upload the schematics to my PDA and talk me through - or something, whatever Jack Bauer would do.

Will goes through security.  And gets passport stamped!!  jealous! Scanner lights flash.  possible shoe bomber!  asked to remove shoes, goes through no problems...

T-1h to flight - all seems well...

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of course, as with any good series of 24, we all know that there are still two hours of this day to go...

The following takes place between 10am and 11am bip bop bip bop

Will buys expensive airport coffee and settles into wait at gate.

Meanwhile, in carpark, oil level checked, and found to be low.  topped up, engine starts, no oil everywhere.  all good.  Van tidied and everything restowed.  Girl and van head out en route to safe parking in Slovenia, stopping at tourist office and supermarket.  new adventures await!

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Girl and van merrily heading on the road, t-shirt on, windows down, radio up.  its a beautiful day.  life is looking rosy.

meanwhile in the airport, inbound flight arrives, unuaually speedy turnaround, even for ryanair, flight attendants looking harrassed, urgently requiring pasengers to get on with it, urgent fnal calls, no time to even stow luggage in overhead lockers...

plane engines start... and power down again.... what is happening????

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The following takes place between 11am and 12pm bip bop bip bop

Plane returns to gate and passengers disembark but required to stay airside.  Urgent communiques of delay to all and sundry.  but only some texts get through...

Girl recieves text.  Flight grounded but no news.  what to do, continue on to freedom, adventures and really wild things or turn back??

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Girl and van turn back, arrive at airport and wait for information desk lady to come off phone.  Phone call requires information to be immediately relayed over tannoy.   UK airspace closed.  All flights into UK airports landing after 12pm are cancelled.  Flight from Pula scheduled for landing 12:05 and despite crew's deperate attempts for early take-off, flight is cancelled.  Announcement confirms - passengers required to return groundside.  no go for today.

first passengers start trickling through.  where is Will?  deperate queue begins to form at Ryanair ticket desk.  abandoning plans for tearful reunion after long absence at arrivals barrier, girl gets in queue but they won't be able to do anything without Will there.  Will he get there in time???  will there be flights??  will he get on one???

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The following takes place between 12pm and 1pm bip bop bip bop

Will emerges from re-immigration (another passport stamp!! grr) just in time.  Rumours are flying round the queue about flight availability and the impact on UK airspace.  Will gets to front on queue.  There are no further flights today.  next flight from Pula is Saturday.  There are no available flights from Tieste, Venice or Ljubljana (which we know is having last minute retarmac'ing work done - we find this out from a woman Will has been chatting to who was only on this flight from Pula as her flight from Ljubljana the previous day was cancelled last minute due to this work, you would think they would have known!!).  what to do???

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Will opts for Pula flight on saturday, and ticket is booked but he still needs to check in online and print boarding card.  Harrassed Ryanair lady offers to print it but queue for desk with printer is crowded and going no where fast.  Bored looking man at Eurocar desk is sweet talked into allowing us to connect laptop to his wifi to check in and print but operation fails, access denied.  Can't face the wait, so, a mere 24h after our adventure begins, we stumble, blinking out into the sunshine and leave Pula airport...

to be continued...

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see, I told you it was tense... ;)

oh, and veedub man did get back to us today, didn't have gasket but would have helped us find right shop.

what a nice man!

1 comment:

  1. Oh dear! We've got ten staff stuck in the UK (and Sweden), won't be back until at least Wednesday now, thankfully Friday is a public holiday, but all mad with exam classes.

    If you want passport stamps, come to Asia! I've used 8 pages of my passport already this year.