Over the course of the last two years, I toyed with the idea of possibly going back to Germany to attend ElbeTreffen. Sometime after the DSM Shootout last summer, I decided we had to make it happen and started planning in earnest. Plane tickets to Germany in the prime tourism season (summer) were crazy expensive, but I discovered we could save nearly US$1000 by flying into London. I’ve never been to the UK.
The GBXM World Tour 2012 began to take shape.
When I sat down to figure out how I would get Vanessa and I to ElbeTreffen, I had no idea it would turn into such an epic holiday. What follows is the full extent of our itinerary. This is perhaps the most elaborate vacation planning I have ever done…
Friday, 08 June: depart Phoenix
We leave Phoenix on US Airways, have a quick layover in Los Angeles, then catch a Virgin Atlantic flight all the way to London-Gatwick. I suspect our “great circle route” will take us damn near over the North Pole.
Airfare is far and away the single most expensive part of this trip. We’re traveling during peak tourism months. We paid US$2335 for (2) economy seats, plus an additional US$240 for “additional legroom” seating, so a total of US$2575 How much did I pay for my Pajero? US$2000. How much did I pay for my last Galant VR4? US$2500.
Saturday, 09 June: collect our Mitsubishi, meet FastestCat
Mitsubishi Motors UK is being generous enough to lend us a new ASX (aka: Outlander Sport) for our time in England. From what the email says, it’s a white, diesel model, with a manual transmission. I am finally going to get a chance to drive a Mitsubishi diesel. They don’t deliver press cars on the weekend, so we’ll be taking a taxi to a Mitsubishi dealership near Gatwick to collect the ASX.
Once we’re independently mobile, we’re off to Northampton, where we’ll meet Cat Lund for the first time. She’s generously hosting us in her home on the grounds of a nearly 1,000 year old Abbey. Chances are, we’re going to be grappling with jetlag, so this is a relatively light day. We’ll need to adjust quickly, as the days that follow are going to be packed!
Sunday, 10 June: English countryside tourism
I’m thinking Stonehenge, maybe a tour of Rockingham, definitely a stop into a pub for a proper pint and such.
Monday, 11 June: London tourism
I lived in Seattle, but never got to go to the Space Needle. I managed to get to Paris, but it was Bastille and I couldn’t get to the Eiffel Tower or Louvre. I will NOT experience the same in London. We are going full tourist on Monday, my friends. Big Ben, the Tower of London (Crown Jewels, Beefeaters), the London Eye (the giant ferris wheel), and even a “Duck” tour, where we’ll be driving down the Thames in one of those amphibious WWII vehicles.
Tuesday, 12 June: Mitsubishi Lancer Register (MLR) Mega Rally Meet-n-Greet
Dartin Frow, who runs the Lancer Register, has arranged for John Easton, former Mitsubishi World Rally Team Operations & Team Director and current head honcho of MML Sports, to give us a tour of their facilities.
Tuesday evening, we’ll be having dinner and drinks at The Castle Sleeper in Caldecott at 8PM. There’s a chance a few MLR members will show up with their Evos, but we shall see. If nothing else, it’s dinner with new friends to compare notes on life as a gearhead on opposite sides of the Atlantic.
Wednesday, 13 June: flex day, lunch with Adnan, “International 2GNT meet?”
We’ve intentionally left Wednesday open so we have time to go back and do anything we missed previously or maybe discovered along the way. It’s also the day we’ve got lunch penciled in with Adnan Ebrahim, who runs CarThrottle.com. On top of that, our longtime family friend Dino is in London on business, so we’re going to make sure we track him down for a pint and a cigar or something.
Thursday, 14 June: car swap, Bruges, Essen road trip
We can’t take our ASX out of England (as much as we wish we could!), so we’ll be returning the ASX to Mitsubishi and picking up a lesser vehicle. We’ll be picking up the rental at Gatwick, since we’re flying home from there at the end of our trip. We’ve booked a compact diesel with AC and a manual transmission. The booking says “Volkswagen Golf Diesel or similar.”
“Or similar” makes me a little nervous. Let’s just say I really don’t want to be driving a Chevy in Europe. (I wouldn’t drive one at home in the US!) I guess an Opel or Vauxhall wouldn’t be that bad (maybe an Astra or such), but it’s the principle of the thing, ya know. In any case, we’re paying US$280 for our rental car, plus another US$100 for the GPS rental through Auto Europe, which has been very helpful along the way.
We’ll probably drive the car straight to Dover, where we’ll either take the Chunnel or a ferry across the English Channel to Calais, France. From there, we immediately head east, driving through Belgium, The Netherlands, to our stopover in Essen, Germany, for the night. I gotta stop in Bruges, even if only for lunch, ya know?
Friday, 15 June: arrive at ElbeTreffen, “International BaWu MitsuFruende meet?”
In 2010, Vanessa and I spent a day with the Baden-Wurttemberg chapter of Mitsu-Talk.de. They were celebrating their 1-year anniversary. We were celebrating GBXM’s 1-year anniversary. Friends for life. On this day, we will see them again at the biggest Mitsubishi meet in Germany, Elbetreffen.
Even though Vanessa and I will probably be driving a Volkswagen or Vauxhall or something decidedly non-Mitsubishi, our friends have already confirmed we get one of the 350 or so reserved parking spaces on the official ET grounds. Our rental car will be parked with their prized Mitsubishis. How cool is that?
Saturday, 16 June: ElbeTreffen, first ever Gearbox Magazine board meeting
I’ve mentioned it before. I’ll mention it again. My partner in this online publication is Dennis DeJong. He lives 5,500 miles (8,800km) away from me in The Netherlands. We’ve been working together for nearly a year. (In fact, we’ve been working together since July 2011, so this is almost another 1-year anniversary.) This will be the first time we’ve met each other face-to-face.
Sunday, 17 June: back to Essen
After breakfast and what I expect will be some tough goodbyes, Vanessa and I will hit the road, headed back to Essen.
Monday, 18 June: back to London
We get back to London and have a room booked at a guest house near Gatwick. We’re going to try to get together with Rich, who I know from GalantVR4.org, and who will be back home in the UK for a visit from his long term work assignment in The Philippines. Hopefully we can make this one happen.
Tuesday, 19 June: back to Phoenix
Mid-morning Tuesday, we return our rental car and catch another Virgin Atlantic flight out of Gatwick, bound for Las Vegas, Nevada, where we’ll have a rough, 3-hour layover before a short hop home to Phoenix, technically arriving on the 20th. It will be good to be home, to see our pets, to get some sleep, but it will be hard knowing we’ll never be farther away from our next global adventure as we will be that day.
Wednesday, 20 June: GBXM World Tour 2014 planning begins
Our goal is to get off the continent to meet our international gearhead family every other year. In a way, planning has already begun. Jason’s already offered us a place to stay in Australia, and there are a LOT of gearheads down under we’d like to meet one day. Pretty sure we’ve got an open invite to India as well, thanks to our friend Yatin, and I’d love to attend a Western Motorsports event one day.
If you “play with cars,” you’ve got friends all over the world.
Maybe you just don’t know it yet. When we get back, we’re going to resume our usual interviews with gearheads from all over the world, but we’re also going to make a very serious effort to start getting more of us together in person.
It doesn’t matter what you drive, how you drive it, or where you drive it. Even if we don’t speak the same language. We are all gearheads. That one day I spent with the BaWü MitsuFruende changed my life forever. Kinda like the first time I went to the DSM Shootout or the first time I attended a rally, or a drag race, or an autox – only 100X more thrilling.
And I want YOU to experience that.
In the meantime, don’t miss a single update from the road. I plan on posting a LOT of pictures to our “GU+” Tumblr, which all ends up on our Facebook page and goes out over our @GBXMNET Twitter account. You can also score a sneak peek at conversations taking place in our semi-private Gearheads-United forums if you follow us on Twitter, by the way.
Keep going fast with class and pressing on regardless. Gearheads United.