Long haul, short haul

I finished my post-race work in Austria at about three in the morning and a little shut-eye, I left at six, with a merry “nächstes Jahr!” for the gasthof owner’s wife, who has been kind enough (or perhaps) old nice enough to be happy to be up to make me a coffee. Then I was on the road, and I was soon belting up the Palten valley and then under the mountains to Wels. The roads were clear so we were all travelling at speeds that would cause Jean Todt to hide behind his couch. The road crossed the mighty Danube just before Schading and we were in Germany, where obeying the speed limit must be some of a crime. The road crossed the Danube no fewer than six times, before the river turned lazily to the south at Regensberg and I set my target for Nuremberg, which is famous for rallies and trials that have nothing to do with motorsport. At the same time this weekend it will host the biggest beer festival disguised as a motor race at the Norisring. One of the largest races of the German calendar.

I had decided to go by a route a little further north than the usual Salzburg-Munich-Stuttgart autobahn, on the basis that it seemed to be being dug up in its entirety on the journey down to the land of red bulls. Besides who wants to do the same thing twice? I pondered diverting for a quick tour of the Norising, but the policeman in my head insisted on going onwards, passing occasional GP2 trucks and a solitary Red Bull F1 unit, which I spotted going up to Wurzburg and Frankfurt, just as I turned off towards Heilbronn. I guess the other F1 trucks had flown Austria during the night, leaving only the stragglers behind. I was leap-frogging an Arden GP2  truck for most of the day, depending on our coffee breaks, as we charged across Germany and into France.

The vineyards increased in number as we approached Heilbronn, but the weather was still miserable and I stopped only briefly for a burger kind of lunch at the splendidly-named Bad Rappenau. The next town up the road is Sinsheim, which is kind of apt given that it’s close to Bad Rappenau. Too many sins and you get a bad rap.

Sinsheim is not really a Sodom or a Gomorrah but there is an odd museum where you can find Concorde and Concordski, not to mention all manner of other exotic machines, including a gaggle of old F1 cars, the loveliest of which (when I last visited) was a Jordan 191, one of the most beautiful F1 cars ever.

One passes by the two of Walldorf and I wondered if perhaps there is a small town nearby called Stadler… It is a little known fact that the celebrated Walldorf hotels are named after this funny little town, on the basis that it was the birthplace of one John Jacob Astor, the world’s very first multimillionaire, who was born there. Hence the name Walldorf Astoria… The next town is Hockenheim and I was reminded that we have no German Grand Prix this year on account of the lack of strategic thinking and overweening greed of the people who own F1. The fact there is no German GP is a shocking indictment (perhaps an emotive word where F1 and Germany are concerned) of the current system. I mean, logically, we have a German manufacturer dominating F1 and a German as the top driver at Ferrari – and we don’t have a German GP. How logical is that?

I crossed the Rhine at Speyer and passed the second bonkers museum en route where they put a Boeing 747 on stilts to make sure you don’t miss it. I then belted across the flood plains of the Rhein  to the vineyards of the Palatinate and the town of Landau, where they invented the horse-drawn landau carriage, which passed on into the lexicon of automobiles as the word for convertible. This is the start of the Pfalz forest, and a shortcut through to France, which will be brilliant when they finish building a new motorway. You end up in Zweibrucken (two bridges). I have sometimes pondered nipping down the road to the French town of Bitche, but I fear it might live up to its name.
I was in for a rainy afternoon from Saarbrucken to Metz, to Verdun, to Reims (no time to stop for a drink, nor to visit the old F1 track) but soon I was back in Paris as dinner time approached. It’s a long haul to Austria!

51 thoughts on “Long haul, short haul

  1. I thought Martin Brundle was a little rude interrupting your conversation with Toto Wolf on the grid without apology. These TV types eh! They all seem to think the world revolves around them.

    1. I’ve known Martin a long time and I understand the pressures under which he works. It was better than German TV that simply pushed me out of the way on one occasionally recently

  2. My favourite read after and before a GP. 🙂 Thank you for the virtual tour of europe. Just for interest sake, how many km was this route?

      1. Agree with Martin’s comment and your long haul of 1300 recalls for me day trips Townsville to Gold Coast for the Indy races way back.

    1. Completely agree. Look forward to these descriptions of countries I’ve never seen but are so vivid in my mind thanks to Joes’ words. Oh! to pop into a museum with a Jordan 191 on display!

  3. I always find your stories of the road quite evocative, road trips through Europe are a great way to spend some time. Too bad you don’t get to sop along the way and have a beer or a glass of wine in the loverly places you pass through.

  4. Pity you didn’t stop off in Heidelberg. I could have invited you for a beer.
    On a more serious note, hope you had fun navigating the A8 at Pirmasens, one day they will finally get round to completing it, it’s only been 50 years since it was built.

  5. Book idea:-

    Silverstone to Hungaroring:- A travelogue of Motorsports themed journeys through Europe.

      1. Go for it Joe! These days I believe you can use crowd-funding to get people to commit cash in advance for a book. I’m sure you would have many investors from among those of us commenting here, not to mention all your other readers elsewhere.

        (But please do stop at the Hungaroring. No further east, or you may run afoul of my boycott….)

  6. Years ago in the 80’s we were at the Nurburgring for a Goodyear tyre test. One of the trucks hadn’t turned up, and his trailer had most of the tyres on it that were needed. Someone phoned the factory back in Wolverhampton to find out where he was and how long he was going to be, as we were ready to start fitting up. He was a general haulage guy from the factory, sent out on an occasional jolly that happened from time to time when the race boys were out. Seems he had phoned the office to try and find out where the circuit was, he was driving around the outskirts of the city and he couldn’t see any signs for the Nuremburgring………………..!!

    1. Yes, a common mistake for non-Germans. I’ve read plenty motorsports books who made the same mix-up. Joe seems to be one of the few writers who don’t need an editor.

  7. Love these “travelogues;” often brings to mind DSJ’s “Letters from Europe” in Motor Sport. Just curious, are you a GPS (stand alone or on your phone) person, or as I suspect, you use old school detailed Michelin maps and your personal knowledge of years on the road to make these trips.

    1. Yes I agree Jeff, I reckon you should put your travelogues together Joe, maybe expand them a little to chapter size, say 7-8 pages, and do a book of them that would not only interest us motorsports fans, but the general public, which you have done with others of your books before.

  8. Great road trip, lovely to read over a cuppa or a glass of wine as the mood takes you.

    We have the inevitable app (Sygic) for our tablet (Samsung) but also keep the Michelin Routier guide to France in the car and the 14 local area maps for our preferred areas which are at a better scale for exploring.

    France is a big place!

  9. I’m not sure if your travelogues make my day stuck behind a computer screen better or worse!

    (deffo better 🙂 )

    1. He only saw the Red Bull truck because all the Merc-powered trucks were 100km further up the road

  10. Statler and Waldorf are also a pair of Muppet characters – they’re the two old hecklers that crack jokes about the rest of the show on the original series. The more you know!

  11. Bitche and its impressive Citadelle is actually worth visiting, and 5km North-West you have a very interesting Maginot Line museum of Fort Simserhof

  12. The Speyer and Sinsheim museums are a great way to break up a road trip. Amazing collection of vehicles and planes. We need more people like that with too much money and a fascination of all things mechanical!

  13. The two museums are a wonder of every kind of machine imaginable. They were one of my ‘must visit’ locations on my first trip to Germany a few years back. Well worth the time for a petrol head.

    Everything from the blue flame to the Russian Buran shuttle.

  14. The Blue Flame was arguably the sweetest-looking land speed record car of all time. Back around 1981 I heard it was for sale, and a price of £5k was mentioned. Recently married and a new home owner working for the parsimonious Wesley Tee at Motoring News, I had no way to fund the purchase, but I wish I’d found one even if at thirty eight and a half feet the Flame would have been tricky to house. I believe it made its way to Sinsheim shortly afterwards. As a beautiful piece of automotive art and a great tribute to the colourful Gary Gabelich and the Reaction Dynamics crew it’s well worth a look if you are down that way, as is the museum itself, its cache of cars and its military vehicles.

  15. I’d just like to add my support for your travelogues Joe. The fact you are prepared to write them at all is commendable. Hope you find the feedback worthwhile.

  16. I love your pieces like this, not only the details and trivia that stand out, and how these places are mapped, but the style they are written in – I feel the motion, feel drawn along at highway speed with the scenes whipping by the window. Thanks for doing this.

  17. A joy to read, as always, and quite inspiring. Look forward to the next leg of your travels and hearing your take on Calais if you’re going that way…

  18. Joe, what do you drive? One assumes to belt the flood plains of Rhein, the optimum car is being driven.

  19. Well, after due consideration, I think the Austrian GP makes such a gorgeous TV spectacle that the whole race-track thing needs a re-think…

    If you look at it from 10,000 feet, it’s the TV audience that matters, not the people who show up… it’s not like stick and/or ball sports where the crowd can make a diff… so, F1 should concentrate on beautiful settings… whether it’s easy to get to or not shouldn’t matter… the theme should be “beautiful settings plus F1 cars going fast”….

    Disclaimer: I know F1 doesn’t treat the tracks properly, and the promoters need a crowd… just saying how I think things should be, that’s all…

  20. Eventually the Karlsruhe to Munich Autobahn will grow up and have three l(or more) lanes AND a hard shoulder. In the meantime anyone who goes in that direction should consider visiting the old Solitude Ring near Stuttgart and also MotorWorld at Boeblingen. Motorworld is based on an old airport and includes VERY secure parking for a lot of VERY NICE cars. Free to enter, there was what lo0ked like a road legal real GT40 in Gulf colours with dead flies and road dirt on it. Fabulous!

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