Speranza and I are on the road again. This is her first outing since her recent annual service and the fitting of new shock absorbers, a couple of new tyres, a few other fixes and the installation of a new "infotainment" system. Apart from the fact that it requires a Windows PC to update it (which, being strictly a Mac person I will have to borrow from someone when I need it) it seems like a good system.
This is the very definition of a #firstworldproblem of course but the installation did not go smoothly. I was without wheels for ten days while the splendid crew at Joe Macari figured it out. All was fixed just in time for a test outing to the Goodwood Revival last weekend which went well. Slithering over the Earl of March's wet fields seems to have muddied the wheel sensors however so that – while driving perfectly – she's complaining about clearly imaginary problems with her engine management system. I am hoping that will sort itself out when she's been thoroughly washed and had chance to dry out.
In the meantime, if I sit up straight and hold my head at the right angle, I can overcome my OCD tendencies, ignore the warning light and enjoy the splendid ride. I had not noticed the effect of the deterioration in the rear dampers as it had crept up on me over 60,000 miles of joyful motoring, but I can certainly detect the improvement. She handles beautifully and feels taut. She has danced along the Spanish autoroutes today, which were well surfaced and maintained and mostly unused. Why is it that Britain's motorways are all crammed with vehicles, badly maintained, strewn with litter and overgrown, despite motorists being milked relentlessly for tax in punishment for their environmental sins?
I am now heading for Porrera in the Tarragona district of Spain, where I will meet old friends from Poland this weekend to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary. They have invited a group of their friends, many of whom are also good friends of mine. I am really looking forward to it. The celebrations will take place at the winery which I came to Spain to photograph last year.
I set out yesterday to Portsmouth where, made slightly nervous by gale warnings for sea area Biscay, I boarded the MV Cap Finistere for Bilbao. It was indeed choppy but I enjoyed the voyage, had a good chinwag or two with an agreeable fellow passenger who came over to admire Speranza and, when I adjourned to my cabin, slept the sleep of the just. We docked on time at 1245 and I set off for a pleasant run in cloudy and occasionally rainy conditions to my overnight stop for today, which – randomly selected from a travel website though it was – turns out to be rather splendid. It's more a winery with rooms than a hotel, but it's very swish and – probably because it's in the back of beyond – excellent value for money. It suits me well though as it's close to my route and far enough along towards my weekend destination to leave me a pleasant run in the morning to meet all my friends for lunch.
As is usual on these road trips, I am using the "track my tour" app and the map showing my current progress (and some more photos) can be found here.