The new July 2010 issue of CAR Magazine dispatches the ever-adventurous Mark Walton on a road trip with a difference: he has to beat the dustcloud and return from Spain using only Honda machinery in less than 30 hours. That's the time it took HMS Albion to repatriate stranded tourists from Spain to the UK in the aftermath of the volcano. Welcome to an unusual trip using boats, bikes, quads, boats and more. Click on the links for video of our adventure, a digital issue preview and wallpapers of our trip.
How do you pack for a journey like this? Inspired by the adventures of returning holiday makers under the Icelandic ash cloud, Car Magazine has decided to send me to Spain, so I can make my way home again by a variety of wheeled and watery means. I stand in my house before I leave for the airport, looking around and trying to decide what to pack: bike leathers, swim suit, hard hat, cowboy outfit, it’s like the Village People are on tour again.
Not really. Though I do have a new set of bike leathers with me, box fresh but thankfully vented to get a bit of airflow through my armpits. Our first mode of transport is the new Honda VFR1200. I used to commute on a Fireblade up until a couple of years ago, when it got nicked out the back of my house; really looking forward to riding again, and the VFR doesn’t disappoint. Even if you’re a regular supercar driver (which I’m not) the lightning response and sheer speed of a 170bhp motorbike certainly gets your attention early in the morning.
At the Pyrenees we meet up with Peter Derbyshire, a Brit who’s been organising walking and cycling holidays in this part of the world since 1987. He’s helped us locate some off-road tracks that criss-cross the still-snow-capped peaks. I’m seriously stunned by this part of Spain – proper jagged mountains overlooking idyllic green pastures, the airy silence ruined only by the waspish buzz of a Honda quad.
I’ve never driven a quad before, but after slicing down the Spanish motorway at 160mph on the bike, I’m feeling hopelessly self confident on this 420cc single cylinder. It’s ridiculous fun: just open up the thumb-operated throttle and go – go up hills, go down grassy knolls, go over walls, go everywhere and anywhere. I come soooo close to falling off when I land a jump on one bouncy front wheel. You can see it on the CAR video, if you look closely. Madness.
I don’t need any special equipment or clothing for the next part of our journey, the CR-Z, though a hairbrush would have been a good idea, with hindsight. I like the CR-Z a lot – this little hybrid may not be the fastest car in the world, but it’s got a lot going for it, in its poise and its steering. And Peter Derbyshire has led us to some incredible roads – I reckon he could run driving holidays too, with hairpins like these on his doorstep.
France is massive. And quite dull. We switch to a Civic, our fourth vehicle in the journey, for the long schlep up the motorway. No special equipment needed here, though a tightly stacked iPod comes in handy.
Then we’re at Calais, and it’s time to get changed again. Now I’m dressed up like a sea-trawler fisherman crossed with a Lake District rambler in the rain, as I climb aboard Andrew Norton’s 8-metre RIB. This boat normally marshals at powerboat races, hence the blue lights on the top (no, it’s not a police boat). With almost 450bhp fizzing out of two massive outboards and a top speed of 50-odd knots (65mph), it can do Dover-Calais in just 30 minutes. At first I’m concerned I’m going to throw up the whole way, but the ride is much smoother than it looks in the video and the pictures, even when you’re jumping clean out the water.
Then we’re home, for my final mode of transport. I won’t give it all away now, but let’s just say it showcases Honda’s cutting-edge technology. Find out more in the Car Magazine online video, or in this month’s new July 2010 issue.
Big Thanks to: Jo Coaker, Dave Brains, the guys from Rainbow, Andrew Norton, Peter and Jude at www.borderlinehols.com and Michael at Held Leathers, www.held-uk.co.uk