Archive for the ‘Rogue Run’ Category

Well it has been yet another roller coaster month, we have had to bid farewell to Rogue Run, the Channel swim and quite possibly our beloved van, but it’s not all doom and gloom – mum retired and we had a party (as social convention dictates), I learnt that labels only make you unhappy, I published book 3 of The Dragon Realm Chronicles series, and the husband and I have learnt that while we have our health, good jobs and a fantastic home, patience is a virtue which we are both lacking at the moment.

Bear with me this blog post could be a ‘several parter’!

Rogue Run – Alas finally a weight lifted from my shoulders

silversprint

Rogue Run is the European charity car driving holiday that my business partners and I have run (excuse the pun) for several years. Originally there were six members in the event team but over the years we have settled (unintentionally) upon three directors and periodical outside help. We have learnt over the last two years that as the participant list has grown 3 people in the event team are not enough. Those that volunteer to help us soon realise that the organisation of such an event is not a 5 minute job, and so they then cannot continue, which we don’t blame them for. It sounds pessimistic, but with events such as these you do it for the love, not for what you get out of it.

This year, we had to cancel Rogue Run at the last minute. Understandably we came under scrutiny given that this was our holiday and the event team did not blame anyone for getting upset. However, some actually accused us of not organising the event at all and that is why we cancelled.

This is complete nonsense and I for one became very angry at such an accusation, given that we never warranted such an attack.

We wouldn’t cancel unless there was something serious afoot. Unfortunately, we could only give limited details which did not help our reasoning behind it, but one thing I can confirm is that it had nothing to do with the troublemakers who were clearly trying to get out of the event three weeks beforehand – like I said, we have run this event for years, and we have honestly witnessed every trick in the book as far as participants are concerned.

I am happy to say that the majority of the participants from this year formed their own road trip, so at least they went away and things weren’t completely ruined for them.

Since the cancellation, we have also been questioned as to the amount we charged for the registration fee of the event. The way we have always marketed Rogue Run, is that we organised the campsites and ferries, participants just need to add fuel and food. We are a not-for-profit company, which mean just that, but for the record, here is the difference between a fully fledged event/company and a road-trip among friends:

  • Legal documentation has to be air tight (which they are if I do say so myself).

We have undergone enquiry from other driving holidays, the biggest dispute has been from the event that our event team met on. They tried to take us to court for copyrighting the idea of a road trip. Under UK legislation you cannot copyright an idea, ideas are never absolute or guaranteed that is why they are called ideas. This is the same for discussions floating ideas on forums etc. You also cannot copyright an event theme, you may be the first one to come up with the theme, but you cannot stop others from creating their own variations.

You can be sued for breaching trademark copyright and taking business away from a competitor. The other driving holiday who tried to sue us for taking their participants, even though we could flawlessly prove that none of their participants were involved, nor had any even registered with us.

They then tried to sue us for copyright infringement for their trademarked logo, and of their name because it had the word ‘run’ in it.

Their name wasn’t trademarked so that was thrown out straight away, their logo is trademarked, but there was no similarity between their logo and ours, so that too fell flat on its nose as well!

Legal documentation not only comes into play regarding the company setup, logos, restrictions, registrations but also the obligations under the terms and conditions. For example, the obligations between participants and event team, and also those lovely people that try and get out of the event 3 weeks before it is due to take place and as a result, costs us money!

Now, given that we have in-house people to adhere to our legals, which should they provide their expertise for free?

  • Terms and conditions

These consist of the usual event details, data protection information and safe harbours, our views on anti-social behaviour, and our involvement if participants get themselves into legal trouble abroad. They also clearly list out the agreed obligations of the event team and the participants for the run. Despite the woolly arguments, this year the obligations were met by the event team.

  • Marketing

Yes there is a cost for this no matter how minimal. We also attend several events/car shows per year to raise the profile of the run and the chosen charity all of which have an entry or trading fee.

In between car shows and public appearances we also try and post on social networking sites as often as possible to keep the momentum and enthusiasm going. Most of the time these are free, but it does cost to boost the occasional post.

The final stages of the marketing/information process are to notify participants of what to bring with them in a fully exhaustive information pack. This is standard, but if there is one thing we learnt, the information pack can go into pages and pages of detail however you will still get participants missing things and not reading it properly and with regards to customer services there is only so far you can go.

  • Customer service

Some of the event team members deal with international client services within an industry leader as part of their day job. My concept on client/customer service is that I would always treat people the way I would like to be treated, communication is key, however there is a line. If someone wants something for nothing, if there is risk involved, and if someone is just being plain unreasonable, the customer is not always right.

I in particular have noticed over the years the increase in people wanting something for nothing, or they will want you to do everything because you organised the event, so naturally you have to organise the people of the event. We are not tour guides nor have we ever marketed ourselves this way. We would provide all of the information necessary, and perhaps naturally lead some convoys, but at the same time we would not be there to babysit. There is a reason why we have an 18+ age limit on the run.

While there has to be customer service in place, we wanted the whole run to have an informal tone, but at the same time if a participant wanted to try and insult us on a public forum, pull out of the event a few weeks beforehand costing us money, threaten us etc we were not going to take it – why should we after all, just because we are proving individuals with an event, does mean we would be at their beck and call 24/7.

  • Booking of campsites and ferries

Unlike other events we booked the campsites and mode of transport to Europe, this was normally in the form of a ferry. The ferry never proved to be the problem it was usually the campsites. We used to get brilliant discounts as a group, but at the same time a lot of campsites did not like big groups there because other driving holidays had spoiled it for the rest of us.

  • Charity obligations

We always associated ourselves with a charity, not because it looked good, but because it is genuinely gratifying when you help underfunded charities continue to help their patrons. We mainly dealt with The Jennifer Trust and the Multi-Sports Club. We also made it so participants could raise money for their own charities so they did not feel obliged to just be tied into ours.

  • Business expenses and accountancy

Luckily one of the directors is an accountant, but still even though we are not-for-profit the books have to be balanced, again paperwork that you wouldn’t normally encounter on an informal road-trip among friends.

With all of this in mind, the amount of work this event takes to organise is actually quite staggering. This year in particular we did get to breaking point, as Rogue Run was scheduled to make its last run in May. We as an event team knew we could not carry this on for much longer, the participant list kept growing every year which was great, but with an event team who has to dedicate at least 250 hours per week on their own jobs, it was hard to keep this going.

Additionally we received some quite serious news that would have a long term effect which I cannot (and will not) go into further details about. So we decided to make this the last run, keep it quiet and go out with a bang and make sure everyone had a great time.

However, this wasn’t going to be the case.

You always get the odd trouble-maker and this is nothing new to us, we have seen it all over the years, but this year we did not need it. You know the type of folks I am talking about, the ones that pick holes in every post you list, try to make it look like a dispute is solely your fault, when let’s face it, in any dispute there are always at least 2 parties involved and there is a certain level of responsibility on both sides. Well we got to the point where we knew for definite that we would be a few extra cars down, this being so close to the run meant a deficit for the event team, so we had to take a long hard look at the pros and cons of keeping the run going and decided that in the end it was cheaper to cancel than continue. So we grudgingly posted the cancellation and gave everyone a refund.

To be more colloquial for a second, this sucked beyond belief, we hoped we would never have to do this, but it seems to be a year of event cancelling, for example 2 events so far this year have cancelled on me, but I have not held it against them being a business owner I know the trials and tribulations of events, however from our cancellation we were expecting two things:

1) Upsetting a lot of people, which we tried our best to ease the burden of, after all it was their holiday we nearly ruined;

2) Our resident trouble-maker would undoubtedly cause more trouble, and they did.

On a brighter note, the run has been taken over by a Rogue Run veteran, and still went ahead in May.

While we do admit this situation could have been handled a bit better by us, there is a very serious element involved, we would not just cancel this event that we have been running for years on a whim, or because someone was being mean to us, we have seen every type of customer scenario and we are all in grown-up jobs and deal with difficult individuals every day.

For the good points, Rogue Run was set up as a not-for-profit venture and that is exactly what we did and we have accomplished several things:

  • Created a road-trip which is cheaper in comparison to others.
  • Created a road-trip that treats both genders equally. Just because you are a female doesn’t mean you can’t love cars exactly the same way as men do, and at the same time Rogue Run was never a ‘lads mag’ type of holiday, women were never expected to be ‘easy’ or drape themselves across bonnets – again unlike some other events out there. Rogue Run would also never include adult entertainment within it’s scheduling.
  • We raised thousands for several different charities namely Multi-Sports Club, Jennifer Trust.
  • We had so many laughs and made many brilliant friends and met some amazing people along the way;
  • We proved that people can do something fun, raise money for charity and not be pushed into corporate sponsorship or commercialised so companies can make a huge profit.

Overall for the event team, it was a great venture to be a part of, but I am also relieved to be moving on.

So what is happening to us in the future, well Rogue Run will be wound up as of June 2015, we will go our separate ways (well except for Jon and I obviously) and get involved in other things.

The world is our oyster again – watch this space!

rogue lineup

Continued from Day 2

Aside from Rogue Run, it has been a very busy time for all of the Event Team. For my partner and I who make up two thirds of the team now, the beginning of 2014 was extremely active, and I for one have found it hard to maintain the energy needed to keep going, particularly with work and training for the 10K swim back in March.

We were uncertain whether Rogue Run should continue following the 2014 run, but we had such a great time that we knew we couldn’t kill it off just yet – but I will detail that further in the latter posts.

However, just when you think you have finished making lemonade with all of your lemons, a bolt of lightning hits the tree above you which in turn forces several more to come crashing down on your head.

Outside of this paraphrased metaphor, this year my partner and I found ourselves suddenly vanless in Italy. This was due to something completely unexpected and described as “unnatural”, but I will explain more about that shortly. In the meantime I will take you back to the Swiss Alps on Day 2 of Rogue Run 2014.

We were woken up by Jon (in the Skoda) banging on our van door.

“What is it?” shouted my Jon.

“We are snowed in, we need to leave now,” replied Skoda Jon in a panic.

In a bleary eyed state, I pushed the curtains to one side to see a majestic snow covered landscape outside. We then shared Skoda Jon’s panic and got dressed…. very quickly.

I checked my phone for the time, it was 06.30am. I was not impressed.

“It’s 06.30am!” I yelled in a ‘I’m not at work so why am I up at this time,’ type of voice. “Surely this will be melted in a few hours,” I continued.

My Jon on the other hand wasn’t listening, he instead grabbed the camcorder, and SLR and jumped out of the van’s barn doors shouting “This is amazing!!!!!”

Van in Snow

Down the pathway at the cabin that Chris and his entourage secured, they were attaching sledges to the tailgates of cars and going for rides.

Chris with sledge

Yes, the Event team takes these things very seriously.

Some of the others were at the log cabin we had the BBQ at the night before cooking breakfast, while on a more serious note some of the single manned tents had collapsed in the night due to the weight of the snow…. with people still in them!

Unsurprisingly they were the first to leave the campsite.

Our super duper drive away awning was also partially collapsed. Luckily, we had mentioned to everyone, pack for all weathers so I had my Alaska climbing boots with me which came in handy.

We had been told that not only had the snow come down, which was apparent, but also there had been lightning storms in the night. By this point we were thinking that this part of Switzerland, even though picturesque might not be the best place for Rogue Run campers.

Throughout all of this, there had been no movement from Silversprint who were nicely tucked up in their van, also known as ‘SIL’.

Sil van

As predicted, an hour or so later the snow was beginning to melt, providing us with streams of water flowing down the pathways. By this time everyone had managed to pack up, and we had to assist a few cars (mainly of the rear-wheeled drive ones) to get moving, the Saab did an impressive wheel spin throughout the campsite.

Silversprint had elected to stay behind until more of the snow melted and Chris, Ash and co decided to have a snowball fight, which escalated into them and Skoda Jon decided to pick on my Jon and chase him around the campsite for a bit. I remained in the van with the doors locked being helpful as always by filming the whole thing.

Above the Swiss mountains the snowy clouds had disappeared to reveal blue skies, it was like the snow had never happened. The van was raring to go on its onward journey, with no signs of problems – bear this in mind later, and we were all eager to get to the warmer settings of Italy.

Our route took us through the small Swiss villages, down the mountains, and back up again through the passes to the border of Italy and then on to San Remo.

Some of the others decided to take a longer route and go through Milan and Turin before venturing south west to the campsite. Being a slower vehicle we wanted a more direct route.

On most of the journey, we were joined by the Volvo Vikings and the TVR. The Volvo could not go beyond a certain speed because of a little mechanical problem that wasn’t enough to keep them out of Rogue Run but slowed them down a bit, and the TVR guys were just happy to cruise, after all who would get bored of being in that car.

TVR

Along the journey we decided to play our cheesy music to one another over the CBs, this consisted of Cotton Eye Joe, Right Said Fred, Monty Python and several other auditory awkward melodies one could think of, but this made the 4.5 hour journey fly by.

The scenery was amazing as we took the coastline to the campsites. As we neared the second campsite we were greeted with a blue ocean, a hot sun overhead and colourful Italian towns. It was hard to believe that we had woken up in snow.

Italy

However, disaster struck 21 minutes from the campsite.

Remember I said that the van had no mechanical problems, no strange sounds or anything out of the ordinary, well all of a sudden a loud rickety noise came from under the bonnet. We were 500m from the next services and said to the TVR and Vikings that we would need to pull off. We were on a very busy Italian motorway, which if anyone has driven in Italy they will know how intense their roads can get, it didn’t get any more dangerous this and it certainly was not the place to breakdown.

Guess what happened?

We broke down.

In a matter of minutes, the van had gone from a rickety sound under the bonnet, to an explosion, followed by blue smoke exiting out of the exhaust and the whole engine immobilising itself. For a few seconds we were freewheeling, but luckily the brakes still worked and we were able to slow down, get as near to the crash barrier as possible and stop the van. We then got out, on to the other side of the crash barrier and began going through the breakdown procedures.

Once vacated and on the other side of the crash barrier, I was able to see under the van. Liquid was pouring out of it and it was hard to tell whether it was oil, brake fluid or just washer water.

van on road

We moved away from the van as there were very large lorries passing us and not moving until the last second and we both had visions that our pride and joy would be swept away.

Jon got in touch with the RAC and a few minutes later we were recovered by an Italian motorway recovery vehicle, given we were in an incredibly dangerous spot. We were then taken on a magical mystery tour by a driver that hardly spoke any English.

We were recovered to the truck’s recovery depot, where they gave the van the rest in peace sign and took it off of the truck. What didn’t go down too well was that the liquid the van had been leaking was the full contents of its oil compartment. It was all over the recovery truck which the driver had to clean up.

Jon and I were at the depot for hours, if we were not on the telephone to the RAC it was to Chris and one of the guys (specifically those who were mechanically minded) to come to our aid.

van in depot

We got in contact with Ash who unfortunately for him was on the way to the beach. By this point tensions were rising and patience was at an all-time low, as we were not only baking in the sun (I have the skin not the head for heat), but we were gaining more and more of an impression that the van could be terminal.

This is something that we did not want to think about, we are car enthusiasts, we put a lot of time, effort and of course money into our vehicles, they turn into our babies and we grow very attached to them, so the thought it not coming back, is very hard to digest. The van is no different, we had just put a brand new bed into it which converted into seats, it had only been slept in twice (the day before), there was a lighting system and several other (approved and legal) modifications so as above a lot of time and effort had gone into the interior of the van. The exterior was a blank canvas still which was due to be worked on in the very near future.

Unfortunately the RAC, despite several conversations, had not grasped the sentimental attachment we had to the van, which is puzzling considering the amount of vehicles/drivers they come in contact with. Therefore uttering the words “Would you like us to scrap it?”, did not go down too well and was greatly unappreciated.

RAC work on your customer service skills a bit please.

By the time Ash had arrived he looked at the van and verified the Italian mechanics’ analysis, the crank had twisted off taking out some fragments of the engine and disconnecting the hose to the oil compartment at great velocity making it terminal, for the rest of the run anyway.

Needless to say, several hours later Facebook and Twitter were showing pictures of the rest of our party either sunning themselves by the pool or beach, or exploring the scenery of Switzerland through to Italy while  our pictures were of the van on the motorway with a triangle behind it, and an Italian depot.

It was 6.30pm and after several discussions/arguments with RAC and the depot mechanics about what was going to happen next, Jon and I loaded our gear (the necessities not the whole contents of the van) into Ash’s and Siona’s cars and we made our way to the second campsite.

Grudgingly we had to leave the van where she was, and while Ash transported back two very emotional event team members, it was very hard to digest what had happened. Even on the short trip to the campsite which was approximately 26 minutes away, Jon was still receiving and making yo-yo telephone calls to and from the RAC who by this point were not our favourite people. Even though they were trying to help, by this point it had been 5 hours, and they still had yet to decide on whether they were going to recover the van back to the UK, even though Jon specifically stated that he was not going to sign off on anything other than that. The idea was to get her back to the UK and then we would decide whether to put her back on the road or switch her off completely.

Tempers were now flaring due to the wasted day and lack of food. It had also dawned on us that we would be seeing the remainder of Rogue Run as passengers on the goodwill of others and then getting back to the UK as foot passengers on the ferry.

The odds of it happening to the van bearing in mind that there were no signs, she was fully serviced, maintained, and work that need to be done was always done, and the fact that it could have been far worse if the wheels had locked – that part wasn’t even worth thinking about.

However we had an event to continue and continue with it we did. For now the van was on life-support and her fate would be determined a few weeks later.

What followed when we reached the campsite was some great and needed food, lots of fun and of course the traditional pranks which kept our minds off of our troubles for a few hours at least…..

Oh, and the pizza and chips I will explain in the next post.

I have been slightly delayed with the Rogue Run entries for this year, this is due to the annual website revamp. We pushed this forward sooner rather than later this year as people were showing interest for the 2015 run.

Cosmetically the website still requires some work, but putting this first meant that anyone who wants to join us in 2015 can register now as opposed to 1 July 2014 which is when we normally open the gates.

Now back to the 2014 run.

The first post was just an introduction of the drivers, so without further ado, let’s move onto the actual run.

At around 18:00 after the milkshakes and American diner food were finished at the launch venue, Chris, Robbie and Juliette made their way to Dover to board an earlier ferry so they could be the first to the Switzerland campsite. However, this plan was foiled by Ash and Danny, but I will go into that later.

In the meantime Team Lego gave me a present for my Blackberry Playbook:

Playbook

I was so happy…

… and by about 20:15 we gathered the horde and made our way to Dover.

For reference if you want to visit the American diner we used here is their address:

The Riverview Diner (by Bybrook Barn Garden Centre)
Canterbury Road, Ashford, Kent, TN24 9JZ

The aim of the launch venue was to give the drivers time to get to know one another, so they could keep in contact on the long drive ahead. It also gave them a chance to get to know us the Event Team, and it gave the Event Team the opportunity to find out how everyone was doing with the charity fund raising and who they were raising money for.

Every year Rogue Run has an event charity, this year it was the Multi Sports Club, but at the same time we do not restrict people to just raising for our chosen charity. We give drivers the chance to raise for their own as well. Alternatively they can split their fundraising across several charities, all we ask is that they raise a minimum of £100.

MSC logo

By the time we were lining up for the ferry it was more than just raining, it was like a monsoon.

rain at port

The picture does not do it justice.

So everyone opted to stay in their cars and communicate via CB. In previous years, we have continued the banter outside of the cars.

Of course it is times like this that you remember the things you have forgotten, for example I had forgotten to pack my waterproofs! This was also the one of the main items I kept reminding people to pack! Don’t you just love irony.

To get onto the ferry we removed the CB aerial from our roof. Given that a Transporter is a tall vehicle in any event, we learnt one year when boarding the ferry that if you kept said aerial attached, it would fold to 90 degrees by hitting the roof. This then encourages the fear of it breaking and us having no communication for the entire run (which means we have to talk to one another) or it pinging off with velocity and taking out several cars.

Without an aerial this meant that we could hear everything being said on the CB but could not respond, which the others thought was great. We didn’t mind though, having a virtual mobile home, we put a film on and sat in our yet to be tested out rock ‘n’ roll bed.

Now given that there are a lot of anxious excited folk ready to begin their holiday, Jon and I are no different, even though we have done this for several years now, so when Mad Max on the screen was not doing it, we turned to the games on our mobile phones just to pass the time quicker.

At the same time, we also recorded the pranks the others were planning on us, namely Team Lego – again as we had no aerial on our roof the guys naturally thought we could not hear them.

Beware, the Event Team hears all!

At around 10:25pm we boarded a slightly delayed ferry. Everyone ate, drank and relaxed, some even slept, I however ended up sitting with several teams, some of which had verbal diarrhoea (namely Team Lego), so sleep was not going to happen for me. But I’m not complaining, all of the drivers were amazing!

The next stage after reaching Dunkirk was to drive through the night to Switzerland to Camping Des Glaciers which was around 575 miles away. In true Rogue tradition, there was a mass exodus where everyone left the ferry port at Dunkirk and set off either on the recommended route or their own route.

There is also a risk at this point that a few cars veer off in the wrong direction and end up going east instead of west, however this year everyone set off in the right direction either by themselves or in groups.

Chris, Robbie and Juliette were still 2 hours ahead of us.

Skoda Jon and Becky, Team Lego and a solitary Siona in the Astra went the indirect route which I believe took them through Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg as well as any other country they could fit in.

Jon and I took the team van the most direct route, given that we did not have speed on our side and we also wanted to rendezvous with Chris at the campsite as soon as possible to get some sleep and then start the BBQ.

Driving through the night is not something to do on Rogue if you have never done it before. Rogue Run is an endurance road trip as well as a driving holiday and while we do not plot the routes so they are incredibly difficult achieve, drivers can get a little ambitious by seeing how much they can fit in in a short amount of time. This in turn be dangerous if you are not used to driving for that amount of time without rest.

The nap can attack anyone at any moment.

By the time we reached Dunkirk it was nearly 1.30am local time. The Event Team already had prior knowledge of this, but when leaving the ferry we were greeted with pitch black roads. This can be a little daunting, not only because it was dark but also because you are driving on the other side of the road.

Jon had managed to get some sleep on the ferry I got some in the van, when we changed over. There is always a point on this first night where you just want to stop, curl up and go to sleep. For me it is an hour or so before the sun begins to rise. When I can see the sun coming up then I am ok to continue again. I unfortunately cannot drink energy drinks I have a kind of intolerance for them, so I have to find other means like snacking. I write-off my diet and exercise routines on Rogue, 5 days won’t hurt after all.

As we travelled south through France we could feel the temperature getting hotter, and we were relived too have left those rain clouds in the UK. However judging by the webcam we had been monitoring of the Swiss campsite…

Webcam

…we knew that when we left France and began our ascent up the Swiss mountains the hot weather would only last so long.

By the time we got to the campsite it was 12:30pm.

You remember I mentioned earlier that Chris had a 2 hour head start, well Ash and Danny were the first to the campsite, only by minutes mind, but it was enough.

Ash and danny make it first

This post continues in “Rogue Run 2014: Day 2 – Dunkirk to Swiss Alps – The long way round, rest and BBQ

It is that time of year again. A charity event like no other, the ultimate driving holiday for petrol heads and driving enthusiasts alike, it is time for Rogue Run 2014.

Rogue Run 2014 took place on 21 May 2014 – 26 May 2014.

Like every other year, once you get past the first day of driving which is definitely a test of endurance; the rest of the run tends to go in the blink of an eye. Some things never change though, and one that we as the event team are very happy to report, is that for another year everyone enjoyed themselves…despite some breakdowns and mechanical issues along the way, but I will come to that in later posts.

The launch venue this year was slightly more up market than the Tesco in Dover which was our starting point last year. As there were more drivers this year, we wanted to make a good impression, so we all met at the American Diner in Ashford (Bybrook Barn). Not only did it give the surroundings more of an automotive theme, but everyone likes a good milkshake – well unless they are intolerant to milk of course.

Terrraclean was also on hand to give some engines a clean before the actual event, and in good English spirit the rain decided to come and bid us farewell too.

So who took part this year – introducing the drivers:

  • Chris Savage (Event Team) joined by Robbie as co-driver – Ford Escort Cabriolet “Juliette” – the face of Rogue Run since its incorporation;
  • Kelly Foxhall- Ridgeway and Jon Ridgeway – (Event Team) – VW T4 Transporter and Clio Estate (I will explain that later);
  • Jon and Becky – Skoda Octavia VRS;
  • Team Lego – Honda Civic;
  • Volvo Vikings – guess what car they had;
  • Prancing Mouse – Saab 900;
  • Ash and Danny (AWM Motors) – Lexus IS200;
  • James – Mercedes C220;
  • Siona and Stuart – Vauxhall Astra;
  • Team Silversprint – VW LT 350;
  • Pete and Neil – TVR;
  • Dan and James – Subaru Outback; and
  • David and Paul – Ford Focus.

At this point we would like to give a special mention to Adrian, Matt, Adrian and Stuart who had to cancel at the last minute, we hope to see them again for Rogue Run 2015.

This year we knew we would be in for some amazing roads, drastic changes in weather, and navigational discrepancies, but as always there are some things that will keep you guessing, like what vehicles/teams will make it back to the UK. Be prepared for another 6 blogs that contain all of the above, pranks, top tips and some sad sad times.

Here are the blog headings to look out for:

Rogue Run 2014 – Day 1 – Dunkirk to Swiss Alps – Who will be the first to arrive?

Rogue Run 2014: Day 2 – Dunkirk to Swiss Alps – The long way round, rest and BBQ

Rogue Run 2014: Day 3 – Swiss Alps – San Remo (Italy) – It’s official, RIP old buddy…. and chips on pizza?

Rogue Run 2014: Day 4 – San Remo (Italy) – Valence (French Riveria) Exciting roads, amazing scenery and hire cars

Rogue Run 2014: Day 5 – Valence (French Riveria) – Le Man – Another one bites the dust and rain, lots and lots of RAIN!

Rogue Run 2014: Day 6 – Le Man – Dover – Homeward bound, digest, reflect commiserate and what’s in store for 2015

RR 2014 1

This is a topic that comes up every year, unsurprisingly when we are about to commence Rogue Run. I posted the following on the Rogue Run Facebook group the other day:

“Some Rogue Trivia for you. Approximately 166 countries drive on the right side of the road. 74 countries drive on the left. The UK has to be different of course to its neighbouring countries, so who is the closest country to us that also drives on the left side of the road???”

There were a few answers such as Wales, Ireland and Malta. At the time I did not realise that I had actually created a riddle so after a bit of research I posted the following answer:

“Ok, with this I actually created a riddle without even knowing it. I said in my question the country closest to the UK. The UK is Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, so it won’t be any of those. However within the British Islands there is the UK (the four countries already mentioned), Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey. Also within the British Isles you have the UK, British Islands AND Ireland (island) and Ireland (state) – so which one outside of the UK is it? Well depending on where you are in the UK it could be Isle of Man, Guernsey or Ireland (not northern of course). Personally I think it’s the Isle of Man as that seems to be the closest overall, but there is not much in it.”

For more info (and a nifty visual representation) about what side of the road you should be driving on, click here: http://whatsideoftheroad.com/

Rogue Run 2014 is open for registration. If you are interested in joining this European charity car drive, please visit the website: www.roguerun.co.uk.

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Juliette night shot

So the end is near, and I am hoping you are all still with me.

It is the last day of Rogue Run 2013, Monday 27th May 2013. Today we would be heading home via Bruges, Belgium, but first we would have to grin and bear the early morning after the night before.

Waking up in Amsterdam and keep in mind that we had had some early mornings so I just wanted to sleep which I think that’s all Jon wanted to do as well. However, that was short-lived when Chris kept banging on the van door because we forgot we had the shower tokens in it.

Jon and I were careful not to leave the van unattended that morning as we knew some form of revenge was coming our way, it was the last day so it had to be today. We thought we had done a good job but we were wrong!

I will get to that part later.

We all set off from the campsite and hit the motorway on the way using up our prank supplies because for once out of the whole trip we had some amazing sunshine, which meant Chris had the top down on the cabbie.

Therefore it was only fair to perform a joint attack on Juliette and her drivers.

Last year I invested in a battery operated super soaker where the water is shot out so powerfully whether you are on the move or stationary you very rarely miss the target.

We began with the silly string, which is very hard in moving traffic, so we moved to the super soaker.

water pistol

Yes that is Doug going into the crash position so Chris gets hit.

Now there are some of you out there who will be thinking safety and contemplating the dangers of super soaking a fellow driver on the motorway, but when doing pranks such as this, it is controlled and the aim is never at the driver, just the passengers.

The Volvo guys then joined in with hurling a few water bombs in the form of a water bottle without the lid on. They then threw a packet of crisps which exploded quite spectacularly upon contact with the interior of the cab.

We managed to get up close again with the silly string, along with Issy and Lee with their water pistol from the other side. By this point Doug and Chris were feeling a bit unloved and so starting holding up handwritten signs.

To us “I love [heart] you”

To the Volvo boys. “It’s not rape if I agree….”

We pulled over shortly afterwards where the cabbie could refuel and Ash and the Volvo boys could also refuel (on McDonalds).

Jon took the opportunity to pull up alongside the cab, empty a can of silly string on to Doug, which missed, then throw confetti, which also missed, and while he proceeded to pick up said sparkly stars and string I got them with the super soaker which of course made the shards of paper stick even better when Jon re-launched them. Super soakers never miss by the way, even in high speed traffic.

We pulled up in the carpark at the services, where the Volvo boys showed some more love by throwing the odd chip at Doug…

One of which contained mayonnaise….

doug with hair

Poor Dougie…. and then we headed off to Belgium.

We felt very proud of ourselves…

Amsterdam-20130527-00287

But as I said earlier, by the end of that day we would find out that our smugness was to be squashed like a grape.

It was only a short stay in Belgium to have some lunch, grab some beer and of course chocolate, on the way back from there Jon and I parted ways with Issy and Lee as they were heading to Calais to take the train back and we continued on to Dunkirk.

Now the snag here is that Jon and I have taken trips via the ferry outside of the Rogue season and when travelling from Dunkirk back home we are always given the wrong post code and end up in the village as opposed to the actual docks. The same of course happened this time too.

Due to the hot weather we needed to stop again for a drink and to top up the van with Diesel as it was debatable how far we would make it once back in the UK, so by the time we had left the services we didn’t have that long before we needed to be at the docks.

However we discovered a minor problem.

Amsterdam-20130527-00288

Spot the deliberate mistake in this photo.

I’ll give you a few minutes.

Look at the registration plate.

It appears that even though our devotion to the van was true, Chris still managed to outsmart us and get his revenge.

On the way to the port, Jon looked back at the photos to establish when it had all gone a little topsy turvy. It was definitely at the Amsterdam campsite, which meant we had been driving around all day with our registration plate on upside down.

When we neared the docks we were still having problems finding it, we knew Chris was checking in and so Jon rang him to ask for the post code, and state that if we got stopped going through the terminals which would inevitably mean us missing the ferry, his end would not be swift nor quick.

With only 10 minutes to spare, we managed to get through the terminal check-in process, passport control and everything else and were greeted at the waiting area queue by fits of laughter.

Ash kindly rectified the registration plate, while Jon emptied yet another can of silly string  into the purple cab, with Doug in the passenger seat again (you think he would have learnt by this point). Ash when driving past in the other queue also got super soaked (for being an accomplice), then it was boarding the ferry and back to England we go.

So there you have it, I think I have summarised all of the parts I can summarise, but there was of course a lot more to it than that.

The trip back on the ferry gave us the opportunity to discuss Rogue Run 2014, and the general consensus is that we will be heading south next year rather than east, mainly because the weather was so bad this year.

The 2014 route (subject to change) has just literally been posted on our Facebook page with a view to the website being updated on 5 June 2013.

All that is left to say is, if you wish to join us please do, all information can be found on the website. The trip itself is a fantastic holiday for any petrol-head. It is not expensive, it gives you the chance to travel either with friends or as part of a couple and you will have some great laughs and meet some new people. In addition you also get to do something else that is amazing, and raise money for your chosen charity.

A point worth noting here is that there will be some changes taking place for 2014, so don’t rely on the website completely for the most accurate up to date information until 6 June 2013.

And the final word is that the super soaking didn’t end in France, Young Dougie got it as he made his way back to Juliette when we docked in the UK. Jon decided to shoot him in the backside with the super soaker, he turned around and then got shot in the crutch too. Doug retreated to the car and locked himself in, while the other ferry passengers returning to their cars reduced into fits of laughter.

Poor Dougie!

The date was Sunday 27 May 2013 and I am happy to say that Young Dougie made it through the night without any visitors of the military persuasion, though Chris was looking kind of smug the next morning. This was short lived when he realised that he had run out of clean/dry clothes.

Now you may remember from the previous posts that Chris had forgotten a towel, so he had been using t-shirts and other clothes to dry himself when showering. After visiting the Mercedes-Benz Museum he managed to find a store which sold anything from towels to…well…body-stockings (why he was looking at them I don’t know), it also was next to a 24 hour mattress shop… why you would have a 24 hour mattress shop did provide eventful conversation the previous night as well but we won’t go into that here.

That day we were unfortunately losing Silversprint as they had to go home earlier, and with that news the weather on route back down and slightly east to Germany had also taken a turn for the worst, and it began to rain. Again!

We were originally going to go to Nurburgring on the first day of the trip straight from the ferry, but found out a few weeks beforehand (when we were double and triple checking the plans) that it was closed. So we decided to go when staying in Luxembourg as if you look at it on a map it is only a little bit out of the way, so it made more sense to go when we were en route back north rather than try and go back on ourselves when we were still heading south. Not only that but from a safety aspect we preferred the drivers to go around the ring (if they chose to) when they were rested rather than following a long drive through the night.

Nurburgring map

All of the drivers had been given in-depth information regarding the Nurburgring rules, safety, the emergency numbers, prices and so on, the question was who was going to go around the ring?

The weather did restrict who could go out on the ring and who couldn’t and in the end it was only Ash who was brave and probably the most skilled at handling a car at top speed in the wet.

The famous Nurburgring is a circuit in Germany that anyone with a road worthy car can pay to drive around. The track opens at 0800 hours and for around 40 Euros will get you a lap of the track, a sticker and a burger and chips soft drink meal. To drive a rental Toyota GT 86 around the track, this will set you back around 140 Euros.

As the ring is technically still a road, drivers will need to drive on the right side and the Highway Code and Road Traffic Licensing Regulations apply. In addition, the Nordschleife can be blocked short-term at any time owing to unforeseen circumstances. This may mean changing the opening hours or it may be a wait to get in/on the track. I wish we had remembered this when Lee, Issy and I were standing at one of the viewpoints in the pouring rain trying to get the best picture.

Trying to find the correct entrance to the track is a bit of a maze. Lee and Jon went around Nurburgring on their motorbikes 4 years ago so they were trying to remember the correct way in. We tried contacting Chris who we knew was nearby, but all we got in response was silence. Thinking that he either had music up loud or he was reliving the previous years’ ambitious movement of driving with the top down, when he finally did answer we heard in the background the unmistakable sound of an audiobook we knew he owned – 50 Shades of Grey.

Nurburgring on route Cabby

Aside from educating Young Dougie on what is involved in very mild S&M narrated by some really annoying American accents, I don’t honestly know what else was going on in that vehicle, all we did know is that between Chris and the Volvo boys, Dougie was running out of vehicles he could change over to.

Ash ordered four laps but decided to keep it to two only because the weather was really bad. The proof was on the second lap when he went into a 180 degree spin and came to a stop before having to pull away really quickly due to the blind bends of the track.

Ash on ring

Watching him it made me want to book up a separate drive later on in the year and bring the Beema over to Germany – I have been promising the Beema a drive around the ring for years so I think I just might! 😉

After playing at Nurgburg we then had around four hours to drive up to Amsterdam where we will set up camp at an old favourite Gaasper Camping Amsterdam. Before we got there we had a few blasts down the derestricted roads, stopped off at a service station to purchase a much needed German oversized pretzels (highly recommended with butter), and unfortunately for us have a mini breakdown.

It wasn’t anything fatal, the van just needed some water, but we did scratch an itch that I could see was irritating a lot of the drivers over the previous days.

Our bonnet had been consistently sprinkling Monopoly money over the roads due to the bad weather in Germany. Because we were missing the vinyl wrap we were only relying on the bonnets professional lacquer job which eroded in the rain. So Issy, Jon and I tried to pick off the remaining notes from the bonnet. We even found some in Issy and Lee’s grill from where they had been driving behind us.

bonnet

After pitching the tents we headed off to Amsterdam town centre for some end-of-trip celebrations as well as discuss some possible points for Rogue Run 2014.

Amsterdam does have something for everyone. It is not just the particularly coloured streets and certain legalised substances that people got there for, far from it, I go there for the beer. Belgium and The Netherlands are home to some of my favourite beers, and it is great to sample them on their home turf. There are also some great steakhouses too.

On more racier notes, there are very interesting museums there, as well as the opportunity to indulge in other things, whether you are single or as a couple.

doug and adrian

We have found that everyone tends to go off and do their own thing in Amsterdam, which is fine, but we do encourage respect between the drivers, if you don’t want to do something then you don’t do it, and vice versa, but you certainly do not force anyone into anything. This is the same for if people feel uncomfortable about particular subjects, we ask that you pick your conversations and listeners accordingly.

We go back to Gaasper camping for another reason also, and that is because it is at the end of the metro line. You can purchase the train tickets at the campsite, get on the metro line where the town centre is at the end of the line, and on the way back the campsite is also at the end of the line – so it is idiot proof.

Lee, Issy, Jon and I decided to group off to go to one of the steakhouses Jon and I knew. There it gave us a chance to chat about the run so far, but also have some great food and beer at the same time.

Jon and I went out on the town for a bit afterwards.

Jon and I knew that Chris was going to seek his revenge on us because frankly we had been winding him up for most of the trip. So when we got back to the campsite at 1.30am (which was before Chris), we checked the van over, knowing that he could only do something to the outside of the van, Issy and Lee moved Doug’s tent due to proximity issues and then we went to bed.

The following day would be the last, it would be homeward bound prequelled by silly string revenge, confetti and an upside down registration plate.