168 – Reader’s Road Trip – John and Ruth Garrett

For this edition, we join John and Ruth and their adventures in Spain.

Back in 2007 my Wife Ruth and I embarked on our
first major foreign jaunt in our Type 2 that we’d
owned since 1993. We had previously visited many
parts of the UK but decided that now was the time
to be more adventurous.
The ‘van had been reliable other than a very
occasional hot start problem, but that always
resolved itself after a few minutes, but we still felt we
needed breakdown cover for this trip abroad. Once
arranged, we booked the Portsmouth-Bilbao ferry
and in mid-July headed off.
We had a fairly loose itinerary but had arranged
to be in Madrid to meet up with Spanish friends
for a couple of days. Having successfully achieved
that, we decided to head to Cuenca, of the famous
‘hanging houses’ and La Ciudad Encantada fame.
We had earmarked a site in advance and found it
readily enough. It was a scorching hot day and so
we parked in the shade of an enormous tree outside
reception, while Ruth walked onto the site to have
a look at the facilities before we committed to stay.
She came back and said it looked good, very good
in fact and so she went back to book us in while I
fired up the van. It wouldn’t start! “Aha” I thought,
I‘ll just leave it for a few minutes and all will be well…
It wasn’t. It refused to offer any signs of life. After
an hour or so of trying, leaving it and trying
again we realised that it was not going to start.
What to do now? We decided that we had to call for
breakdown assistance.


At that time the breakdown cover was with Europ
Assistance, so there was an English speaking
number to call. They passed on our difficulty to a
local garage and a further hour went by before a
flatbed ‘relay’ type truck appeared. Panic. We did
not want the van to be taken away. Ruth speaks
some Spanish and explained as best she could that
we needed the van for our holiday to continue. He
seemed to understand so we relaxed a little.
His first act was to get under the FRONT of the van
before hauling himself out looking a bit sheepish.
Under the back he went, fiddled about, presumably
looking for the starter motor (I wasn’t sure that he
found it) and after several minutes he surfaced and
with a faint smile and went to his cab. He started to
reverse his truck to the van, at which point much
flapping of our arms and shouts of ‘no’ took place.
He stopped just short of the front, raised the flatbed
of the truck and then proceeded to winch our van
onto it.
By now we were beside ourselves but, with a shrug
of the shoulders he clambered up into our van, put
it in gear and let the handbrake off. We looked on in
horror as it very quickly rolled backwards down the
ramp with the tailpipe missing the pebbly ground
by no more than half an inch, before he let up the
clutch and it started. He had been oblivious of how
close to wrecking the engine it had got, but all was
well it seemed. Our van was now running but what
if it happened again?
A brief discussion took place and the gist of it
was that a new starter motor was needed. He
couldn’t provide one and all he could offer was
‘to was always park on a slope’. Now us seasoned
campers know that flat surfaces are best, but for
the rest of that holiday we were the only campers
looking for sloping pitches. Did we have any repeat
performances? Yes we did, but fortunately not too
often. Usually it started when cold without any
difficultly, but petrol stations were an issue as that
would almost always be a stop when the engine
was hot and then it didn’t always want to start. Ruth
became very good at pushing after several such
occasions, much to the amusement of onlookers.
We did however complete our intended holiday and
once back home had a new starter motor fitted.
At this point the van was 34 years old, had done
100k and had the original engine and ancillaries so I
thought I’d write to VW UK and ‘complain’ about the
poor quality components. This was firmly tongue in
cheek and I expected a humorous reply, but to my
disappointment the joke wasn’t spotted.
We still have the van and have since taken it on
several trips through France and Spain.


Post Covid we hope to be able to do it again, but
probably not this year