Our epic road trip failures

In Highs & Lows, Lessons learnt, Life, Our Journeys, Our Tips, Road Trips, Trip-Types by GaryLeave a Comment

Something we can smile about now

Regular followers of our blog will know we like a road trip, in fact, I can be a little obsessive. Who else would pick a road trip to Amsterdam, rather than a normal mini-break to this bicycle capital of Europe? I blame it on my childhood, in the cab of a truck with my Dad, the open road ahead of us.

So whilst planning my latest road trip

I started thinking of the 'memorable' events from all those road trips we had embarked on in the past.

So I have come up with my top 10 epic failures I've had on my road trips.


Mont Ventoux

So we head back to 2012 and a road trip through the south of France. We're based at St Remy-de-Provence and we're having a day trip out and checking out Gigondas, home of the wine of the same name.

The temperature is in the mid 20's (75f) and the sun is shining.

We've decided to check out Mont Ventoux, famed as a particularly tough challenge in the Tour de France. However we're not cycling, we're driving. The hood's down on our Audi S5 convertible and we set off. Passing those who like a challenge and are tackling the route on their bikes.

We climb higher & higher, I'm pretty adventurous around the switch back, Janis is complaining (to be fair she is closer to the edge - but that won't matter if we both pop off the edge!). As we climb the temperature plummets and despite the heated seats, and the heater working full blast to stop us turning blue it's getting cold.

We arrive at the top at the car's telling me it's 4C (40F) - Wish we'd packed the coats now!

The view from the top of Mont Ventoux, France

Still a nice view! Or so I believe - my eyeballs were a little glazed.

It wasn't so much the fact that we were turning blue at the edges from the cold, but that I was trying to prise my fingers from the dashboard.Janis


Caceres and a rare car failure

Roll forward it's 2016 now. It's our car again, but this time it's been upgraded and it's my beloved Audi RS5 cabriolet and we are enjoying our 'Tour of Spain II'.

We arrived in Cáceres just as the fuel light came on, still, I had plenty of fuel. However, as I negotiated through the narrow streets, doing my best to ignore the GPS which had become possessed by a devil, we arrived in the centre of Plaza St Maria. The car decided to just die. It was as if I'd run out of fuel - but I hadn't.
I had a helpful truck driver indicate to me I couldn't park in the middle of the square - through sign language (polite!) I gestured I hadn't parked, I'd broken down!
I reached for my Audi Roadside assistance, dialled the number and set about waiting in a queue. After what felt like an age, I thought one last try at firing up the car, and by magic, she started. Phew

Cathedral Santa Maria, Cáceres, Spain
Moral of the story, ensure you have breakdown cover whilst travelling in your own car overseas. Ohh and don't let your fuel run too low.Janis


In the Search of Driving Heaven: The Col de Turini

Another tour of the south of France back in 2008, and this time it's Janis's Audi S3 - Our little pocket rocket. I'd have loved to have brought my Audi TT Roadster - but we don't travel light. Still, the S3 is a great little drive.

The TV program Top Gear had recently run a segment on 'In the Search of Driving heaven', and it just so happened one of them was in the South of France - The Col de Turini. Now we may not have been driving a Lamborghini, a Porsche or an uncomfortable Aston Martin, but we were going to enjoy the drive.

Unfortunately, I think a group of German Porsche enthusiast had also seen the same show. As I was heading up, they were heading down - each one in the chain cutting the corner more and more. As I approached the switchbacks I ended up facing a Porsche on my side of the road. 10 seconds later and this would be a tale of bent metal.

I think I may have shouted 'Stick to your side of the road'…..or there may have been another couple of words thrown in between. Janis


Iceland: I don't know how to tell you this

2007 now, and it's a hire car - a Toyota RAV4 and we're embarking on Iceland's Golden Circle over a long weekend. So we stock up on Scooby snacks and a few sweets to keep us going. In the mix is some harmless toffees, or so I thought.

We're heading out along route one and Janis passes me one of the said toffees. Without taking my eyes off the road I attempt to pop the little fella in, but butter fingers here drops it on the floor. Never mind I'll sort it out later.

A little further along the route and we start a reasonable climb. The Rav 4 has a little less power than I'm used to as we climb, I attempt to overtake a slower moving truck in a dual carriageway section. I stab the accelerator hard down and we start to pass. Once passed the vehicle I pull in and lift the throttle, except the throttle stays open. I've now crested the hill and we're heading downhill now. Janis is now interested in why I'm in such a hurry. I look at her and say;

"I don't know how to tell you this, but the throttle's stuck open."

Trying desperately to get my foot under the accelerator before I have to resort to knocking the car out of drive I manage to prise the throttle open. It turns out the pesky little toffee has warmed up a treat, and got stuck under the throttle stop acting like glue.

I think I'll avoid giving Gary toffees from now & stick to mints.Janis


Costa Rica: Why do I need a 4x4?

2007 again, but it's a little warmer - we're in Central America. It's our 'Sloths & Mojito's road trip'

Again it's a 4x4 - A Mitsubishi Shogun no less.

We were warned that some of the lesser roads could be a little challenging. And so it turns out to be true.

After leaving the Cloud forest reserve I decide to follow the GPS against my better judgement, but the detour is going to be miles out of our way. I follow a track that's becoming more 'challenging' all the time. As we start to climb what appears to be a 30-degree gradient I start to doubt my wisdom, Janis had doubted that some time back.

As I edged forwards I could hear one of the wheels spinning. Time to be honest - I'm no master of the off-road but I try to stay calm despite a large bout of "I-told-you-so" coming from the co-pilot's seat. Now if memory serves me right this is a time for diff' lock & low ratio (Where did that come from?)

Anyway, after a couple more minutes of profanities, we hit some decent tarmac. Onwards

Believe me sometimes detours are a good thing. I was so relieved to see the tarmac.Janis


A 2,000yr Old Aqueduct - "I think I'll ignore the GPS!"

So back to 2016 on the 'Tour of Spain II', and we're in my trusty Audi. We're heading to Segovia. As we enter the ancient city we find there are roadworks in place and a number of roads closed.

The car's GPS is doing the best it can to steer me around the obstacles, but when it tried to get me to drive into the 2,000-year-old aqueduct, that was a step too far.

From the lessons of past trips, we then pulled out the paper map. When that didn't help we then tried our very broken Spanish. Another 2 laps of the city and we arrived at the hotel without a scratch on the car or the aqueduct.

GPS doesn't always know best….Janis


Monument Valley is not an off-road experience

2006 Now: West Coast USA road trip and we've been a little extravagant. (That's what happens when I get involved in the planning). We're queuing to pick up the Hummer H2 from Hertz and I glance across to the sign that states you MUST NOT take the 4x4s off-road.

Fast forward one week to a dark day in Monument Valley. This is a pretty manic road trip and we only have the one day to visit before heading on. It's grey, it's overcast, but it has to be done. We pay the entrance fee and follow the 17-mile trail.

As we near the end of the trail the skies get darker and then the heavens open. The red sandstone trail we follow quickly becomes a river, and I am now driving down a river! In true 'Top Gear' style, I just apply more power. The aim is to reach the park exit and the safety of Highway 163.

The more power option turns out to be wrong as I end up creating a bow wave in front of the Hummer, and the red water floods over the bonnet/hood. Although my predicament is precarious - the folks in the hired Hyundai being towed out by the park officials - it appears that nobody is having a good day.

So one week later, as I hand the Hummer back, still with red sand in the slats on the bonnet, I'm preparing to explain myself. Nope, not been off road - really!

In hindsight perhaps we should have taken it to a car wash.Janis


Las Vegas: Why can I not see the traffic lights?

Same trip as 4 - and we're in Vegas ready to hand the car back to Hertz after 14 crazy days. All I have to do is return the Hummer fully fuelled to Hertz. I'm dropping the car back at the McCarran Airport depot, and the gas station is maybe 1/2 mile from the drop off point - simple.
As I leave the petrol station I flick right onto the street and I 'm facing a junction but I can only see the back of the traffic lights across the top of the junction. I then look at the 6 lanes of traffic facing me on the other side of the junction - I'm going the wrong way, head-on, into the traffic. Corrective action is swift, forgetting I'm driving a Hummer I spin the truck to 180 degrees, and floor it.

2 minutes later I'm pulling into the Hertz lot - now that was close!

Ohhhh crap, we're going the wrong way…Brings back memories of Planes, Trains & AutomobilesJanis


Across the Green Mountains - "What is that smell?"

So we're going back a long time now - 2001, October to be precise. We're on a road trip through New England with the aim of seeing the autumnal colours of the foliage in fall.

Being 2001, we're pre-GPS and rely on paper maps to plan our routes. All the accommodation has been booked and we're heading from Williamstown, Massachusetts to Stowe, Vermont. So in our room in Williamstown, with the map unfolded in front of us we spot the Green Mountains.

"Wouldn't it be great to drive up one side of the mountains, see the view from the west side and cut across to the east side" - Wouldn't it just.

So we hatch the plot to drive up Highway 7 before cutting across to Highway 5 - simple.

Did I mention the car? A large white Chrysler Concorde - it was enormous compared to my car back home and had an automatic box.

Now I can't remember the exact route I took when I turned off Highway 5 but I know it was tarmac. Well, it started that way. We cruised up the mountain, following the other traffic, and then watch as it all peeled off to a lodge part way up the mountain.

However, we pressed on. Strange the tarmac had given way to gravel, and the only cars we were seeing were pick-ups, and there were a few folks around, but they were sporting camouflage, and carrying hunting rifles. I guess I looked a touch out of place in the white Chrysler. Anyway, we made it to the top and due to cloud cover were slightly disappointed by the lack of views.

This is where the fun started. I had mentioned the car was automatic, and perhaps I should have mentioned I wasn't that experienced with an automatic car - I had a manual/stick shift back home - but why should that be a problem?

As I descended the hill I kept my foot resting on the brakes, keeping the speed to a safe level. However after a short while, I noticed the brakes were starting to get a little long, and the speed was picking up. Added to that we started to get an acrid burning smell in the car - I'd cooked the brakes. The last few hairpins were very hairy - especially as I headed straight towards a pickup parked on the corner. A rally style flick of the car, and a lurid slide around the corner.

We made it to the highway on the other side, found a layby and mopped our brows - that was a little uncomfortable.

This was another white knuckle ride, I don't think I had ever seen Gary look so relieved that we had made it.Janis


Kings Canyon and "How far back?"

This is the tale that is mentioned the most often. Our 2002 West Coast USA adventure is another gleaming white Chrysler - This time a 300M. It's still pre-GPS, and we've got our paper maps.

I'd wanted to see the giant redwoods at the Sequoia National Park, and Janis has pointed out Kings Canyon. Why not do both.

So we set off at a leisurely pace, wanting to enjoy the drive. We admired the beautiful landscape of Yosemite, had a leisurely stroll around the Sequoia National Park before heading to Kings Canyon. As we had some miles to cover we skipped lunch and looked forward to a decent meal in the evening.

The drive through Kings Canyon twisted, turned and climbed through the landscape. It wasn't until we reached the end of the canyon that it dawned on us that we had to return the same route, and that route looked to be around 200 miles and it was around 6:00 pm. That 200 miles are going to take us around 4-5 hours - Oh no.

It would be fair to say we didn't spare the horses for the return journey as best we could, but despite my best efforts, we arrived back at the hotel at 9:50 pm. The restaurant had closed, the bar had closed but the convenience store was open for another 10 minutes. Our feast that evening was Beef Jerky (3 varieties) & Scooby Snacks.

This tale always appears to be my failure in the planning, but at least it taught Gary a lesson in listening to me…..or did it? Janis

Have You?

Had any epic failures on your road trips? What have you learnt from your own experiences? Go on - own up. 🙂

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