Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Lada Legend: The Colonel Goes West - Part Six

We awoke on the doorstep of the European Union. It wasn't quite the Schengen Zone, but one could assume that if you were let into the EU, you could probably make it all the way to Great Britain. The thought of this scared one of our friends, in particular.

The big question of the morning was: would the clutch work as it had been the last year and a half? We really had no idea what could be wrong with it, so the best we could do was give it a try. Amazingly, it seemed to be working fine when we started the Colonel up. It was one of those "shoulder shrug" moments as we backed out of the parking spot and moved into the narrow Edirne traffic.

Our goal was to get to the border as early as possible to avoid the crowds and heat. Mission accomplished, I would say. We pulled into the Turkish border area and were confronted with a line of about six cars. Not bad, except for the fact that our line wasn't moving, while the other one was. Why do I always pick the wrong line?

As we waited, I couldn't help but notice the needle of the water temperature gauge creeping up. It was one of those situations where you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. Turn the car off and the engine will actually get hotter because there is no fan to cool it. Keep the car on and everytime you rev the engine to inch forward, the engine gets a little bit hotter. Hard to imagine this situation turning out for the better. At least Turkey would be happy to see us go, regardless of the state of our car.

The line finally started to move consistently, but the needle was now approaching dangerous levels. We reached the booth just as the car started to vapour lock and stall out. I tried to keep it going while explaining to the border guard that there weren't in fact three Turkish visas on one page in my passport. Alas, there was nothing more I could do. The Colonel stalled out and refused to start again. None of this seemed to faze the border guard, who handed me back the documents and watched incredulously as I got out of the driver's seat (Amy got in) and started pushing the car forward (with Sarah's help). You really haven't lived until you've pushed a car into or out of a country.

We found a shady spot out of the way of traffic to put the Colonel while we put our plan into action. It was based on some wisdom we had learned. You see, Nation, months ago while Amy was on her way to the mountains in Azerbaijan, the car vapour-locked on a hill. Our Amy was seemingly stranded until a man stopped and asked what the problem was. She explained her plight, to which he quickly and cooly replied, "The solution is easy. Just wrap a piece of cloth around the fuel pump and pour water on it. That will keep the fuel pump cool and prevent it from vapour-locking." It worked so well that we left the cloth on the fuel pump for the next four or five months.

Back to the story...

That man truly has no idea how much he helped us on that one fine July morning at the Turkish-Bulgarian border. Without that knowledge, we probably would've been left for dead in no man's land. We got the fuel pump wrapped up and soaked pretty quickly, so Amy and Sarah headed to the shopping centre at the border complex to see if there was anything interesting going on. While I was waiting with the car, a man came up to me and asked what was wrong in some sort of Turko-Bulgarian dialect. I told him the car was simply overheated and pointed at the fuel pump. He peered at it and and this amazed look came onto his face. I hope whatever he said next was his Turko-Bulgarian dialect's word for "ingenuity".

The Colonel started without fail. I moved forward to collect the girls and then we were ready to face Bulgaria. First up was the passport control booth. There were a couple of officers sitting in there and they were a bit surprised to see us. They asked if we had insurance, which we did not, so they pointed us over to the insurance office. Giggling inside the booth had begun by this time. Surprisingly, they seemed to have nothing against letting our car into the country.

Getting insurance was fairly straighforward. $188 for month-long, EU-wide coverage. We took the document back to the booth, where the officers were more than happy to stamp our passports and wish us well. Could it be that easy? Next stop was customs, but they just waved us along. The final stop was to pay a small disinfection fee. We were now in Bulgaria! Next stop: England.

We meandered through the Bulgarian countryside until we reached the city of Plovdiv. During the left turn off the highway, I noticed that the clutch pedal was sticking again. Not a good sign. We found a restaurant quickly and settled into a delicious lunch. The waiter was pretty thrilled with the Colonel. He remarked that his father had once owned a similar car and had given it to him when he was old enough to drive. After lunch and back in the car, Amy couldn't help but notice that the clutch pedal was flaccid and not working at all. We weren't going anywhere anytime soon.


At 12:10 AM, Blogger tasha_ch said...

'flacid' hahahaaha


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