I had a great breakfast in Lucerne and set off in good spirits. The only nagging concern in my mind was that the blood/alcohol limit for driving in Switzerland is low and I'd had a skinful of wine and martinis the night before. Best not to get breathalysed eh?
Yoko (my hired Toyota) and I made good progress until, emerging from a tunnel in the Italian bit of Switzerland, something went bang. It turned out it was both tyres on the right side and I was running on metal! I pulled immediately into the hard shoulder, in a horribly exposed position, and called the Swiss emergency services number. A helpful guy on the telephone listened to my description of where I was, found me on a surveillance camera and despatched a squad car. The nice young policemen offered a menu of French, German, Italian and English. In English they then politely asked me to blow into a breathalyser.
My Russian colleagues often observed that with such a big "organism" as they put it, I should be able to take more alcohol than most. It seems they might be right. I passed the test. Phew! The policemen waited until the recovery truck arrived and then escorted us back onto the motorway. All very Swiss as Toblerone and punctual trains, to be fair.
I had tried to contact the car hire company (as required by the contract) but none of the numbers on their contract slip worked. Eventually I thought to call their corporate office and was given a breakdown number in Switzerland that worked. I put the guy onto the policemen who – in one or other of their native languages – talked him through what was wrong, where we were and whose truck was on the way. I have only ever met a helpful cop in the States before. These Swiss ones even laughed when I observed I was 66 and today was the first time I'd ever been happy to see a policeman.
The car breakdown business seemed less shifty in Switzerland than my recent experience in Germany too. I guess it helps if you're summoned by the cops (although in Poland or Russia, the cop would be taking a markup). The repair business lived down to industry stereotype. The garage fitted the new tyres, took my money (later to be reimbursed by the car's owner) smilingly handed the keys back and said I shouldn't drive it far as the wheels were damaged and the tyres would come off again! Calmly I called the car hire contact and agreed it was safe to drive 50km to their nearest rental office, in Lugano, and swap Yoko for another car to proceed on my journey. The new car is a Kia ProCEED, so let's hope that's an omen. I've christened her Nira (Korean for Lily) and she's delivered me (about three hours later than planned) to today's overnight stop in Cervesina.
Onwards to the South of France tomorrow. Let's hope I can steadily improve the percentage of journey days without a roadside recovery from its current 50%!