Although France looks pretty small on the globe, with truck speed limiters set at 90 kph it does take a long time to cross with a load of horses. After sitting in traffic for three hours on the Paris ring road, having to do a u-turn at a busy intersection with a hundred crazy frogs blowing their horns and screaming at us, and taking a minor wrong turn (thanks for nothing Tom) our trip was made much more exciting when Elena – groom, co-pilot, navigator, tea maker – discovered which fuse to pull that would disable the speed limiter and release Tania the Scania’s full potential on those French motorways. This left us with nothing to do but to marvel at the amazing standard of European motorway construction as we flew past other trucks. French motorways are quite amazing; you drive in, take your ticket from the toll gate, then drive dead straight on the smoothest bitumen for miles, before exiting to have a small heart attack when you realize you are up for €120 of road tax. I fail to see why the French economy is doing so badly at that rate.
We eventually reached our destination of Fred Varin’s place in Saumur. We put the horses into the most beautifully quaint French stables with timber shutters overlooking the stunning French countryside. Lani, Barry, Elena, and I all agreed we could’ve stayed there for a week.
Up early again the next morning and back onto the motorways when the 2 coffees I had for breakfast forced me to make the mistake of pulling into one of the lay-bys. The Jon-Dams, with their blue flashing lights seemed to take more offence to this than I thought they would. I was not sure if it was the public urination, not indicating when pulling out of the lay-by (a side effect of taking the speed limiter fuse out) or doing all of this while on a mobile phone that saw me fined a further €147. Fortunately, they didn’t notice the people smuggling we had going on as Elena was hidden in the back under 3 doona covers.
Barry and Lani felt like they were travelling in first class because Elena found a way of extending the dividers allowing them to get their heads down by feeding them on the floor, only possible because the motorways are so smooth. And they arrived feeling so fresh at Pau that they bounced off the truck like the 4-star fire breathing dragons they are.