The Long Haul Back Home: Part One

I’m back to my old neighborhood in Germany again. The trip up this far has gone very smoothly. I arrived here on Saturday evening already and have been mainly seeing friends and old colleagues so far.

The first half of the trip back home. (This link might work and give some additional details.)
Work and drive

Wednesday I still worked from just north of Lisbon in Alverca. I had previously marked two LPG-stations on Google maps that I was hopeful could fill my empty gas bottle so I headed to the closest one first. The place had a few adapters, but not the one for my Finnish bottle. So I went for the next one, but that turned to be in vain too. I decided not to worry too much about it and figured that the rest of the gas in the Finnish bottle should be enough for the last couple of cold nights.

On Wednesday I made it just west of Salamanca in Spain. I spent the night at a rest area that had a nice restaurant next to it. I also worked from there Thursday. The weather was really rainy and quite chilly too but I decided to save the little gas I have left and work with all my warmest clothes on. After the workday I managed to drive another 500 kilometers toward home and ended up in Irun right on the Spanish / French border. The last two hours of the drive were very curvy and I don’t think I’ve ever been through so many tunnels in such a short time. Too bad it was dark and I couldn’t see the scenery.

I went for a pintxos lunch in downtown Irun on Friday. The chilly and rainy weather made the ten minute walk a bit nasty, but the food more than made up for it. The town seemed really pretty too. I might stop there again in the future.

Pintxos for lunch in Irun.
Friday and Saturday – longer drives

After my work week was done it was time to move again. I ran into some heavy traffic close to Bordeaux, but it was 5 PM on a Friday, so that wasn’t really surprising. After that the traffic got really slow and I felt like driving so I kept going almost up to Orleans. I found a peaceful spot to sleep on a library parking area. I got over 600 kilometers closer to home on Friday.

On Saturday morning I woke up quite early and had a little breakfast. After that I started driving and I thought that I might try to do the remaining 750 kilometers to Nordhorn. I took plenty of small breaks during the day for coffee and something quick to eat. The stop I remember the best was a quick stop in Zulte, Belgium. I decided that I want to buy some tasty Belgian beer to take home so I took a random exit from the freeway and found a shop/restaurant called Superette Anneke. I found the beer I was looking for and also an excellent filled baguette for late lunch.

Another visit to Nordhorn and the Grafschaft Bentheim

On Saturday I arrived in Nordhorn around 6:30 and I really wanted to go for a swim to counteract the excessive sitting. But unfortunately the pool had just closed for the day. So I just went for a quick dinner and then visited Hans and Gerlinde, the couple I know since moving to Germany.

For the first night I went to the same caravan area that I spent a few days at in August. I still haven’t used any of the remaining gas and that night was the coldest so far. But I have a thick blanket so the night went without problems. In the morning though I didn’t feel like spending much time in the van. So I just had a quick bite for breakfast and then headed back to the pool for a morning swim.

After the swim I went to Bad Bentheim to visit Michael and Insa. I didn’t meet them on my way down because they were on their honeymoon in California then. It was so nice to see them again. On Sunday we just talked and talked and it really felt good. They wouldn’t let me sleep in Naranja and had their guest bedroom all ready for me. When I left Germany, Michael happened to need a bed for his guest room and there it is still. So I got to sleep in my old bed.

Monday morning I headed back to Nordhorn and visited my old workplace, the Oberschule Deegfeld. All the students I knew have left the school already, but the teacher’s lounge still has plenty of familiar faces. It was nice to see some old colleagues but of course it was really too many people at once and only a few minutes since they still had work to do. I did some shopping during the day and met with a few other people later. The weather wasn’t too nice, but I walked through the Christmas market in the middle of the town too. That hadn’t changed much.

Nordhorn Christmas market in rain.
Pretty butterflies behind the Catholic church.
Winterproofing Naranja

On Sunday morning at the caravan spot in Nordhorn I already emptied all the water from the tanks the best I could. I will have to do a few more things with that at home, but this is a good start at least.

There’s one other very important thing that needs to be sorted out before going further north: Naranja needs winter tires. I thought about this a lot and I was unsure of what the best way of doing this would be. After thinking about it for too long already, on Saturday I asked Michael if he could ask around in tire shops if they have winter tires available. He was a bit skeptical about getting anything at this short notice, but was able to find a place that promised tires for Tuesday.

I just dropped Naranja there and they told me that two of the four tires are already there and two should be coming in the afternoon. Somehow that sounds a bit funky, but we’ll see. They’ll call me when the job is done. I’m getting a bit anxious about hitting the road again.

The plan ahead

Today I’m going to do some time killing in Bad Bentheim. The small town is really pretty and Gerlinde is working at the castle here in town and I promised her I would go for a visit. I lived in the area for nine years, but never actually went inside the castle. I think I’ll head there after it opens around ten. Then I’ll have lunch somewhere and head back to Michael and Insa’s place for maybe a nap and then a shower. I also need to do some planning about the rest of the trip, because I’m still undecided about the route.

I had planned on taking the western route to Finland, but I have started to question that a little the past week. There are three ferries on the western route and they aren’t really that cheap. But on the other hand the route is over 400 kilometers shorter. This morning I found an option that would be a lot cheaper but the ferry from Stockholm to Turku would be during the day and not overnight. Still the ferries cost around 250 Euros so I’m still very much considering the eastern route. It is a lot less hassle (and Euros) with the ferries, but there’s more sitting behind the wheel too. Decisions!

I think it might be a go-with-the-flow kind of decision in the end. I’ll just wing it when I start driving. I’ll let you know in the next post how this turned out.