Travels with Pew
Pew is the name Barbara gave to our little 1996 106 Peugeot diesel. It has a suitably diminutive feel. We are now probably more than half way through the task that we had set for Pew. Being our transport from October 2012 until April 2013 when we return to Skookum.
Our friends Marc and Mary owned Pew as a little run-about for errands in servicing their barge charter business in Roanne France. I don’t think that they did huge distances although someone did as it had 235,000Km on it when they sold it to us. Buying a car in France and registering and insuring it was a bit daunting a first blush so when Marc offered his car to us it seemed that it would be an easier process as they had already gone through it and could be our guides. Marc said he was thinking of about €1000 and subsequently listed it for €1500. We ended up paying about €1350 which is really top dollar for a 1996 with 235,000Km on it as many people haven’t hesitated to tell us but Marc has a reputation for maintenance and the car had new tires and a two year mechanical inspection whereas we could have bought a load of trouble from a less conscientious seller. Anyway we did the deal on the phone and Marc left Pew in the parking lot in Roanne with the keys in a magnetic box in the wheel well and mailed us the documents.
We winterized our boat Skookum in Saverne and as part of our personal winterization we drove to Roanne to pick up Pew. 600km on the train there and then a test drive of Pew back to Saverne. All went well. Pew actually quite liked highway driving it seemed. Pew cruised happily at 120kph with the occasional 130kph which is the max in France. Some final errands in Saverne and we set off for the UK. Another 600km trip to Zeebrugge through Belgium and the ferry to Hull. So far the little Pew has done well. Crossing the channel with a dog has certain restrictions, which are a lot easier to deal with when in a car. This was definitely part of the reason to have a car for this segment of our adventure. Flying into the UK with a dog is extremely expensive as the dog is considered freight and has to be handled by a specialist freight company at great cost. By ferry the dog just needs a pet passport and can either stay in the car or in specialist kennels. Not all ferries have a pet service so check before you book.
I won’t reprise all the travels covered in other blog entries as this is mostly about Pew and the vagaries of owning a car in Europe. And especially about an old car with 235,00kms on it. At that mileage it is typically an end of life type of experience much like being over 65 years old! Marc had sent us the documentation for the transfer to a marina in Strasbourg but we ended up in Saverne so had to make a trip into Strasbourg to pick up the envelope. This involved maintaining the fiction that we were on our way to spend the winter there. As it turned out moorage in Saverne was about ½ the price with electricity thrown in so we stopped there. Unfortunately Marc left out the most important document the French government bill of sale which enables the Carte Gris to be transferred. Several transatlantic calls later (Marc was back in Canada by this time) He downloads and mails a copy of the government bill of sale. Meanwhile I had been to the Sous-Prefecture to scope out the process only to find that they would only accept the original Government form and its duplicate copy. I picked up an original and with a bit of ingenuity the problem was solved.
Our other dilemma was a French address for the government to send us the new Carte Gris as it would take a couple of weeks. For this I used my sister’s address in the South of France but I could have used the Marina once I had signed up for a 6 month stay.
On to the insurance. We signed up with Credit Agricole and the insurance was fine. However it had to be connected to a French bank account, which also required verifying a French address with some mail addressed to me at my sister’s place. My sister scanned and emailed a property tax bill in her name, which ultimately was accepted although the broker was a bit dubious. So now I was feeling quite proud of myself for transferring the ownership and arranging the insurance all in my somewhat broken French.
A few days later we were buying the ferry tickets and the license plate number was required. I had the paperwork so copied the number down to the website. A little later I was walking by Pew and noticed that the license number was completely different. Momentary panic before it slowly dawned on me that the number had been changed with the change of ownership. I had been driving around unaware. A trip to a nearby gas station and €20 later new plates were installed made on the spot in a machine in every gas station.
So Pew duly bought and registered, and insured for an annual premium of €620, Credit Agricole said that if I could provide a no claims driving record there would be a rebate to my shiny new Credit Agricole account. I emailed ICBC and wonders of wonders my claims record arrived in less than 24 hours. My claims record was only for 6 years, so I asked ICBC to send my records for the last 10 years as per CA instructions. 24 hours later the revised report arrived, I submitted it to CA and they refunded €400 to my account! I couldn’t believe it. My thanks went to ICBC and CA. When was the last time some part of the evil corporate empire refunded you a generous amount of money. Our annual insurance was now €220 albeit for an ancient car with no collision.
Another benefit Pew offered was a little diesel engine in Pew that runs on 5L/100Kms of diesel, which is nearly 60mpg. Here we are now 10,000Kms later having spent about €600 on fuel.
In Hull, Yorkshire, Barbara’s mum’s home I sent Pew of to a Peugeot dealer for an oil and filter and a 50 point check. I reasoned that good oil is the life blood of an old diesel engine and I was not sure when Mark had changed it and also I thought that I would have a Peugeot mechanic look over the car and see what he/she noticed. It turns out –not much.
So we headed out on the next phase of our journey from Hull to London and then to Canada for three weeks (by air not by Pew!) to visit our families and to pay Marc for Pew before returning to the UK and Hull. Then it was off to Freiburg for Christmas via Bruges and Dordrecht.
I noticed a small miss (hiccup in the engine) on the trip to my sister’s London house upon our return to the UK, and sure enough when we came to leave London Pew would not start. I turned to the internet; my sister turned to the AA (Automobile Association). The diagnostic tool of chat rooms online led me to a small valve designed to bleed air out of the fuel system. With 235,000kms under it’s belt the valve had given up and was instead bleeding air into the fuel system. Various remedies were recommended. Sticking a wad of chewing gum into the valve seemed the most successful and certainly cheaper the £191 for new valve (without labour). Not having any chewing gum I took a wine cork, which fit perfectly and, coated the end with epoxy steel. It was inserted and hardened just before the AA service man arrived on his snazzy motorcycle. Pew started up and the AA man said it was the first time he had seen this particular fix with a wine cork as we confessed that we had to drink the wine to liberate the cork.
Apart from a bit of a leak of diesel on Carol’s driveway, which was a bit embarrassing (a bit like staining the sheets) we were on our way to Freiburg.
Now the issue with Freiburg was that Germany enacted a new law saying that all cars must have M&S (mud and snow) all weather tires and there were fines if you didn’t have them. Now Marc had put new tires on Pew in the summer, but these were not M&S. We really didn’t want to put a whole new set of tires on Pew and we did not have anywhere to store the other tires. I checked the law closely and it actually read that if conditions demanded it then the M&S tires were mandatory so we could go to Freiburg for Christmas as long as it didn’t snow. The Black Forest for Christmas without snow seemed improbable as the Germans really invented Christmas. but it happened and in fact hit 20°C one day.
But ONE DAY over the Christmas break Pew would not start. My latent fears about owning an ancient car were not far from the surface. I quickly shorted out the pre-heater circuit and Pew leapt to life once more. I investigated a new pre-heater relay and then removed the existing relay to discover that the main wire had corroded away. Another easy fix – fortunately.
The next leg of our journey was down the Rhone, stopping by my sister’s house in Aigues Mortes to pick up the Carte Gris (car ownership) and the CA Bank card PIN (so we could actually take money out of the CA account) from the mailbox and then along the coast to Barcelona. Again our journey has mostly been covered in previous blogs. Pew performed flawlessly cruising down the motorways. We even took a little side trip to Grenoble to have a touch of the Alps, where Pew took the rise in altitude in stride. I won’t go into driving and parking in Barcelona as the rest of Barcelona was so overwhelmingly beautiful.
Kerry’s perch on the luggage
Pew continued on through Valencia and Denia to Granada. OMG. Granada and the Albyacin. The road entering the Albyacin was narrow to the point that to fit down the street we needed to fold the mirrors in. I was following the GPS on the IPad to get to the house we had rented. I was a little unsure but we pressed on and did in fact meet our landlord’s agent at a corner past which she had thought we would not make it any further.
The main road to our house in the Albyacin.
This is Pew parked on the main road through the Albaycin after a snow storm. This is not a dead end, there is a left turn at the end.
We found a small spot to park as long as we were within 2 inches of the wall. Pew lived in that spot for the best part of two months except when we went skiing up in the Sierra Nevada with concerns again (although not legal ones) about snow tires. Fortunately the roads were clear and the skiing excellent (Although snow did come to the Albyacin before we left). The switch back roads up to the Sierra Nevada and also to Ronda were a little hairy, mostly because the drive shafts on little old Pew had long since passed their ‘best by’ date and were clicking energetically as the balls in the Hardy Spicer joints ran back and forth in their tracks. We drove carefully and tried not to use too much power around corners in order to give the drive shafts a longer life that might extend beyond our needs.
The Sierra Nevada up to 3000m
We are now in La Cala de Mijas south of Malaga and preparing for the next leg north to Toledo, Madrid, Bilbao and then by ferry to Portsmouth.
So far so good with plucky little Pew.