Final Day – Arriving in Paris (Author: Tim)
Lazy morning as we were not starting until 9ish, it was raining quite heavily as we came down for breakfast, the car was in an underground car park but the roof was down – the decision on whether to put it up was deferred until we exited the garage. Breakfast had an “end of term” feeling to it, general high spirits tinged with a slight sadness that the great adventure was nearly over and we would soon be parting company with all our new found rally friends. As we set off it was only spitting with rain, so we left the roof down. Leaving Troyes we tried to fill with fuel at a couple of fuel stations, neither had any fuel due to the strikes – slightly concerned that we did not quite have enough fuel to make it to Paris we decided to try the next fuel station en route. Within a few km we were out into the rolling countryside of Northern France with a bit of mist and the sun trying hard to burn it off. The car was “on fire” it seems that the new plugs and condenser and cleaning out tiny metal filings from inside the distributor cap seems to have cured the misfire or Benson realised that he just had 200km to run before he could take a well earned rest ! Navigation was simple tulips through a couple of passage controls.
The route took us through Fontainebleau and right past the front of the famous “Palais de Fontainebeau” and we had still not passed a fuel station ! A cough and a splutter indicated that the main tank was dry, so we switched to the reserve, unsure of how much fuel we had left. 40km from Paris we joined the motorway and after 10km we found a service station with fuel and a long queue. After 20 minutes and an argument with a French Postwoman on a motorbike, who felt she could jump the queue we got some fuel and continued to the Bois de Boulogne. Here the cars were held in a line and eventually released in batches of 10 to travel to the finish in Place Vendome, we had to wait for an hour and a half before we set off for the centre of Paris. We entered Paris at Porte Maillot and drove up Ave de la Grande Armee, round the Arc de Triomphe and on to the Champs Elysees – lots of people cheering and clapping all the way. I will always remember driving down the Champs Elysees, three abreast, horns blasting with Bill and Biddy Bolsover in #75 Chevy and Peter/Detlev in #50 Studebaker. The crowds thickened the closer we got to Place Vendome, as we turned off Rue Saint-Honore, there were hundreds of people cheering and shouting, just short of the finish ramp we met my sister Clare and nephews Fred and Henry who jumped onto the car and crossed the line with us.
Crossing the line ….. What a sense of achievement ! We drove an 81 year old car more than 14,500km over 37 days – the car covered every metre of that distance under his own power, not towed or trucked once. If I am honest, when we set out from Beijing, given the problems we had with overheating prior to shipping the car I really doubted we would make it to Paris – it was more a question of how far would we get. But as the days passed and the distance to Paris decreased we had a growing confidence that we would make it. This was an amazing journey and tougher than we expected, I am very proud that we made it. Julie’s navigation was impeccable, with only a couple of errors and we only had one day when things got a bit heated between us – but this was the most time we have spent together since we met !
Would we do it again ? At the moment I don’t think so, I would be more inclined to do something different maybe a rally in Africa or South America. We will see ……