13th June: Monaco – Barcelona
From French Boredom…
Following a 3am finish at Sass, I skipped breakfast and slept in until 9am. A checkpoint had been arranged at Nikki Beach is St Tropez but, as with the day before, we decided to head straight to Barcelona and the public display at the Plaҫa de L’Univers.
Prior to the Rally, having had a tough time with the police on French roads during previous trips, it had become apparent the French police were more than happy to let the Gumballers get out of their country as swiftly as possible. The same, however, could not be said for the Spanish authorities!
Leaving the hotel, we easily made our way out of France with no trouble at all, albeit the four-hour drive was easily the most boring of the Rally. Whilst the roads were in great condition, the scenery was nothing to write home about and, for the first time that week, I found myself bored and yawning whilst driving. This was promptly cured by a fuel stop, a sandwich, crisps and a 7UP. Fortunately the boredom was short lived because it wasn’t long until we were enjoying the stunning Spanish countryside. Unfortunately however it was also not long until we were also enjoying the attention of the Spanish police…
…to Spanish Bureaucracy
At every toll there were police cars pulling Gumballers over and breathalysing them, testing for alcohol and drugs. There were police helicopters and motorbikes ready to pounce on anyone not keeping to the 120kph speed limit. But, let us remind ourselves, this is Gumball 3000 and, more importantly, we needed to get to the public display in time to park the car before heading to the Sofia hotel for check in in advance of dinner. Time needed to be made up…
And we were doing so well……. About an hour outside the city, a police motorbike pulled in front of me from the hard shoulder and beckoned us to pull over to a side road before leading me to an area where two police cars were stationed. This time they were much more matter of fact than the Croatians: “The speed limit is 120kph. You were doing 170kph… documents please!” Having said that, the officer was actually very good about it all. He explained that there were lots of unmarked police cars ahead and we needed to be careful. He also said he would not fine me for not having a front number plate on the car, which was very good of him! So, all in all, it was a €150 fine, an extra half hour to our journey and, rather cheekily, an additional €3 just because we had been taken past a toll booth!
After that slight set back we decided to keep our speed to a more modest 140kph in an effort to evade the police. And it worked (!) meaning that around 4:30pm we arrived at the Plaҫa de L’Univers for the display. Now, it’s important to mention at this point that all drivers and co-drivers are connected via a Whatsapp group, meaning information can be shared instantly with all. During the drive therefore we had found out there were some bureaucrats who, in their infinite wisdom, had decided to close the Plaҫa to the Gumball, meaning we had to find somewhere else to park! This also meant great disappointment for the thousands of fans who had turned up to see all the cars arrive, including the @theprisonlawyer and @eriic.36 as well as a great university friend of mine, Dave, who had come to join in the Gumball fun that evening.
So, after a quick pit stop to say hi to everyone, we were then re-directed to an underground car park 10 minutes’ drive away. All the drivers were very angry on the fans’ behalf about this – it was such a shame because, in many ways, it ruined the spectacle.
Having parked, we were then shuttled to our hotel, where I met Dave and another friend of mine, Vicki, who had flown in with my godson, Will, to join us. Having showered and got ready, we headed poolside for dinner before then hitting the Gumball 3000 x Kappa party at the hotel with two fellow Gumballers, Michael and Todd (another father and son combination we had met on registration day). After many, many drinks we then made our way to the after party at Shoko, eventually finding our way home at 6am… we knew we only had a relatively short (in Gumball language that’s still five hours) drive the following day and so decided to let our hair down!
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