May 28: Dover to Luxembourg
Our ship was to sail at 6:30 AM but be had to be at the dock at 5:30 AM. We got up about 4:15 AM since I thought that the earlier we got to the dock, the earlier we would get off the ship on the other side. As it turned out, there were probably 50 cars ahead of us when we got there at 5:00 AM, and it probably didn't make more than 5 minutes difference at the Ostende side.
We all started driving on promptly at 5:30, after having our passports checked. They didn't even ask about our luggage, didn't check on the 50 pound sterling credit restriction - we could have been smuggling almost anything.
The boat left the dock promptly at 6:30. It had rained all night but it had cleared up quite a bit and we got a nice view of the cliffs of Dover. Then rain and fog set in so we went inside and I took a nap while Brenda wrote a letter. The Channel was very smooth and our precaution of Dramamine was unnecessary.
At Ostende, Belgium we drove off the ship and hustled through customs. They checked our passport and insurance green card and that was it. We were on the road out of Ostende at 10:55 after docking at 10:15.
We took the motorway to Brussels and then E40 south to Namur and then Bastogne. It had rained at first but then had cleared and we had nice hot weather. The scenery was nice and green, pleasant though mostly flat and nothing spectacular.
We were through Bastogne and heading south about 4:00 and were priding ourselves on the good time we had made when the engine started coughing and finally quit. I feared fuel pump trouble again but when I looked under the hood, the damper of the carbeurator had come unscrewed and was hanging out. Just at that time a patrol car of the Belgian equivalent of AA drove up. He had some oil to refill the damper dashpot and the engine started and idled nicely. Assuming a complete cure, he drove off, not looking back.
The car would run, but as soon as it was under load, it misfired badly and wouldn't pull. We limped over the hill into Arlon, Belgium to a Shell station. Like the patrolman, they couldn't speak a word of English, and I couldn't speak a word of French. A woman and her daughter were operating the pumps. From our French phrase book we wrote out that we were having car trouble and asking them to call the touring service.
I walked toward the station to deliver the note, noticing that both the woman and her daughter were busy at the pumps. I was met with what was obviously a cussing out in French from the woman. I then noted that there was a man in the station with his head on the desk; later events indicated that he was the husband and that he was drunk.
The girl finally took the note and called at 5:45 PM (Sunday), 15 minutes before the agency closed. She indicated to me that someone would come out. They never did. By notes I asked her where a hotel was - there was one across the street but no English - she didn't know where an English-speaking one was. I gave her a small box of candy and 100f (about $2) for her kindness and we decided to go for broke and try to drive downtown.
Coughing and complaining, the engine carried us to the center of Arlon. Brenda tried to find an English-speaking person and was pointed to a large, expensive looking hotel. We had about decided to spend the night there in a hotel, but we decided to walk down the street and try to find a less luxurious one which might speak English.
Who should we stumble onto just around the corner but the Touring Club patrolman!! He poked around in the engine and found a loose coil wire. The car then ran well, though I was still skeptical since it had run well on idle before. There was no way to communicate this to him since he spoke no English.
We thanked him profusely and drove off toward Luxembourg. To my surprise and great joy the car ran perfectly. We found a campsite near Luxembourg whose proprietor spoke English. We set up the tent, ate supper and went soon to bed.
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