By 6:45am, we were all aboard Kermit (that’s what we’ve named our green Terios) and bound for Dover. As we didn’t have much time to spare and Laura and I haven’t actually driven Kermit yet, we figured it would be better for Dad to get us to the port so he took the first leg of driving from our house to Dover.
We boarded the ferry which gave me a nice opportunity to nap (I had clearly had too much excitement the night before with my last minute dash to London to retrieve my IDP) and Dad disappeared off to find food.
We had smooth sailing across the Channel which gave us some stunning views of the British and French coastlines.
We stopped to refuel 90 miles out of Calais at which point we all rotated; I moved into the back, Dad took my seat and it was Little Darnley’s turn up front. It was her first time driving Kermit and her first time driving overseas – but you wouldn’t have known as she did absolutely fantastically. She got a good dose of clutch control practice when, following a rather nasty car crash just outside of Lille, all the cars were sent off the motorway and forced on a two hour diversion snaking through picturesque French villages and country lanes.
By the time the diversion finally ended, Little Darnley had been behind the wheel for nearly four hours so we pulled up just outside of Luxembourg to swap places. Now it was my turn.
I wasn’t much better off than Laura. I’d also never driven Kermit and aside from one day of driving an automatic around Okinawa, I’d never driven overseas either. On top of that, I’d also only got my licence last October and hadn’t driven since the end of last year as I’d been living in Japan… But there’s a first time for everything – and today would be a day of firsts!
As we set off again the weather took a change for the worse. As we headed West, the clouds thickened and the air grew heavy – a storm was on the way and it was going to be a big one!
As I drove down through France towards Strasbourg, the first spots of rain began to spatter on the windscreen. Seconds later, lightning lit up the sky and the heavens opened. It was the first time I’d driven in anything like it. The road became a river and I could feel my heart rate quickening as the car aquaplaned every few hundred meters or so. With Laura fast asleep in the back, both Dad’s and my eyes were fixed on the road ahead. The visibility was so poor even just seeing the line markings on the road became a struggle. We were both fascinated to see cars all indicating off and pulling onto the hard shoulder or hiding under bridges to avoid the rain. Motorcyclists I could understand but cars?
I stuck to my nerve and carried on. We crossed the German border heading for our first night stop: Stuttgart. As darkness fell, I could feel myself flagging a little but with the help of some Haribo Tangfastics (thanks Mum!) and a swig of coke, we pressed on. It was close to 11pm by the time we finally arrived in Stuttgart – I’d done a solid four hours of driving but it felt like much longer.
We had previously planned to camp but after the traffic delays earlier in the day and accounting for the poor weather conditions, we opted to book a budget hotel instead. We parked the car, checked in, showered and collapsed into bed.
Day 1: 553 miles (885km) down. Countries: UK, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany