The Race to The Finnish Line – Days 11 & 12

Day 11 – Tuesday 12th of March 

Up at 0530 for a wash and hit the road before 0600. My toll box give me a red X when I tested i,so I stop at a garage and get it reactivated while I grab coffee and a French hot dog. Nothing much to report on today fairly boring. I arrive at Port 2000 truck stop near Swiebodzin at 1730 and get the truck washed a top job and only £18 a thousand times better than the dirty water washes in the UK!

Then into the restaurant for the Polish special … pork and potatoes! Then off to bed ready for an early start before loading in the morning.

Day 12 – Wednesday 13th of March 

I think this will be where I finish the diary as I predicted the best is behind me now sadly. 😢

I’m up at 0400 for shower and breakfast and out the door at 0540 my first port of call is the AS24 at Słubice to top off on the cheaper diesel. I arrived at my pick up in Luckau for 0755 just as they’re opening up to load a section of a crane for Sheffield. Another truck arrives to collect another section for the same destination and to my surprise it’s a Cypriot in an ex Waberers unit pulling a Dutch trailer! Makes a nice change from it being a Bulgarian unit stealing the western work I suppose!

I’m booked on the Thursday night boat from the Hook of Holland to Killingholme, so have plenty of time to get there. I call it a day at 1330 at BS-OST autohof on the A2 near Brunswick where I can enjoy a leisurely afternoon with a beer and a truckerpfanne for my tea.

Thank you to everyone who had read he diary hopefully you’ve enjoyed it and thank you to Ben for choosing it to feature on truckblog.co.uk for the past couple of weeks.

TB – Awesome Long Distance Diary Luke. Loved every day, especially the snowy bit! Badge earned.

The Race to The Finnish Line – Day 9

Day 9 – The tourists segment of the diary!

I’m taking my weekly rest in Tallinn I was debating on weather to take it in Helsinki and get a boat Monday morning ive been to here 3 times now but normally I’ve only had time to roll in and get on a boat.
I’m glad I elected for Tallinn now! I had a leisurely start to the day and woke got up and out at 1030 my first stop was the garage outside the port to find out how to pay my vignette for Monday and the cashier showed me how to do it online. Next stop is the Irish bar for a fry up and after that I go for a walk around town. 
This place is incredible it’s so beautiful I’m pretty much walking around everywhere open mouthed catching flies. The old town has been preserved so well to maintain a medieval feel to it with old cobbled street and narrow alleyways. 

Everywhere you go you can smell food coming from an awesome looking restaurant and the bars all look brilliant and even the shops are worth a walk around. If you are planning a mini break with mrs or a weekend on the ale with the lads this place needs to be at the top of your list! I can’t recommend it highly enough. After hours of walking all over Tallinn it’s back to the Irish bar at 1830 for Man Utd vs Arsenal. 

The Race to The Finnish Line – Day 7 Part 3

……Right then it’s out with the snow chains and a shovel I haven’t used chains for nearly 10 years which was during my second week driving class 1’s when I was 21 and everyone was trapped in Tibshelf services by the snow.….. (That was quick, dramatic Ice Road Truckers previous episode recap – TB)


(I was driving the white MAN in 2009)

This was a lot harder than Tibshelf! the chains were a nightmare trying to fit and I couldn’t drape them over the wheel and roll backwards or forwards onto them. I do my best digging up the ice to get back to the road surface, to try and help myself get a bit of traction but it doesn’t work. I actually end up going backwards even more, so I decide to get the jack out and lift the axle to help fit the chains. Once this is done I try again but the chains have now dug away the ice underneath them, but left the inner wheels still spinning on the ice. I’m so tired and feel like throwing in he towel and get in the cab to have a drink and warm my hands up and try to think of what else I can try…..

….Then I remember that letting some air out of the tyres can help so I deflate the inner tyres to 40 psi jump in the cab say a prayer and give it a go. It starts picking up traction and I’m able to rock myself free!! I’m so relieved with and quite proud of myself as well (So you should be! – TB). I’ve never had any advice on what to do in this type of situation, as drivers nowadays would rather mock someone for getting into a situation like this, rather than give advice on what to do if you do end up in my predicament. The only advice I had was from the instruction slip that was in with the chains to tell you how they’re fitted.

So I’m free to take on the last 20kms. I decide to leave the chains on and I’m glad I did as there were some steep hills so probably would have needed the chains on eventually anyway. I arrived at the delivery point at 1819 and 1 minute over my drive time but I can live with that as I’m here! So as I haven’t eaten since breakfast on the boat the stove is straight out and it’s chicken tikka masala for tea and a can of 1664 before bed.

I have to say look, I’m getting a bit carried away by the romance! You have shown you have that pioneering spirit of a proper Old Skool driver. No doubt you would have made it as a Middle East Driver back in the day. It’s exactly that “never give up” attitude that drivers had to have to get through to there destinations back in the 1960’s and 70’s. Well done!!!

The Race to The Finnish Line – Day 7 Part 2

…….60 kms later and my moment comes time to turn right! My initial thought is “bloody hell that doesn’t look like I should go down there!” I’ve got very limited experience of driving in heavy snow, as for the last 10 years I’ve been driving trucks I’ve always happened to be on a job in warm climates whenever there seem to be a big snow dump, so this is new ground for me quite literally!

I start heading up the road keeping it nice and smooth and at a steady 60kph everything feels ok. Eventually I come to a t-junction and that’s where the fun starts. As I’m approaching the junction I see a car coming that is about to turn left onto the road I’m coming up and I make the school error of stopping and giving way to him. Sure enough when I try to get going again I begin to slide to the side. I put on the brakes and the truck keeps sliding….. I’m just a passenger heading for the bank and then I’m in it!!

Right then it’s out with the snow chains and a shovel. I haven’t used chains for nearly 10 years! That was during my second week driving class 1’s, when I was 21 and everyone was trapped in Tibshelf services by the snow……….

The Race to The Finnish Line – Day 3

Monday the 4th of March 

I checked out of my hotel at midday and walked back to my truck to be greeted by the Douane’s who ask to take a look in my cab and the back of the trailer and to check my CMR’s. They’re satisfied and leave me, they go and start knocking on other doors even though the curtains are drawn and the drivers could have been driving all night for all they know. 

I take a walk back over the road to get some provisions for the week at the supermarket and head back to the truck to count down the remaining 7 hours of my 45 hour break! I call my uncle and business partner Mark to check how he’s getting on today as he’s the one bringing the Finnish load over to meet and swap over with me.

1915hrs and I’m finally allowed to put my card in and I’m chomping at the bit to get a move on now!

Me and Mark were originally going to meet in Calais to swap trailers but due to the delays I suffered on Saturday in Barcelona we will now be meeting in a routiers in Cambrai. I do my walk around checks, grab a coffee and set off into the night.

I made it to Cambrai at 0415hrs and me and Mark swap trucks. I am now swapping from my new Mercedes-Benz Actros into my old DAF XF as the trailer that I have hired from Karl Skilton is a standard height trailer and I don’t have a dual height 5th wheel fitted to my new truck yet. 

Once my break is finished I set off towards Mons in Belgium to get the maximum out of a 10 hour drive for the day. I had originally planned to drive through Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to get to Finland but I’ve been over and over it and there’s no way I’ll make the delivery on time thanks to the hold up on Saturday (loafing in Barcelona) so I’ve booked the boat from Rostock to Hanko which I’m not looking forward to as I loath sitting on the boats for 30 hours but it has to be done to stick to the delivery schedule. I’ve eventually parked up In Aire de Says at 0730hrs on 9.59hrs driving so hopefully will makes Rostock tomorrow in one shift. Now all that’s left for me to do is have something to eat and get some sleep.

The Only Way is Full Tilt! – Part 3

Tip right next to the Corinth Canal on Tuesday. Another full strip out but hopefully not another new phone required! Young Matt did say that although it was only 15’c he was still breaking a sweat so just imagine the full Middle East heat that the haulage elders had to put up with! Unloading went without a hitch and it was straight back to the boat to Italy as now the pressure is on to get home before the weekend.

Back on the boat once empty and head up to Modena to load the dreaded tiles. As it is Matt does have a pressing engagement that he has to get home for. On and off the boat on Wednesday, back into Ancona and up the road a little to Rimini for Wednesday night supper. A true retro job like this wouldn’t be complete without a little bribery and corruption. This came in the form of an over confident parking attendant at Rimini Nord trying to charge Matt €10 for the pleasure of free parking. To save any injuries or hospital visits Matt settled on €5 to get a quiet night!

So into Modena on Thursday morning for what turned out to be a quick load up of tiles for three drops in the south east of England. The rates on times have always been horrendous whether they are from Italy or Spain but as with most backloads they serve a purpose and get you home with diesel paid for. In this case as tilts of a certain age aren’t necessarily the driest then a load of tiles was a safe bet and there are plenty of loads available. Once again open up both sides of the tilt, this is a lot easier as tile pallets are low so you only need to pull the TIR cord, open either up half way up and then drop the sides. I’d still give most of us a quick workout and a moist brow but simple enough for an experienced hand.

I have no doubt that once load MJC was off and into a foot down Friday although it’s still early Thursday. The old DAF would have been puffing a bit up through the mountains but once down and into France it’s a straight run back to the UK.

Yet another good trip for the man from Delmonte Essex. For those wanting to run your own truck then there is a huge element of making your own luck. Put the hard work in and with the right contacts it can be a very enjoyable way of life. With a supportive and understanding family behind you, the only restriction is how long you are happy to be away for and those who know, this too is in the hands of the rates and your customers.

Hopefully a new long distance diary to come next week as I have a new volunteer. I say volunteer as I didn’t pester for it like I do with Matt and Marshy!

The Only Way is Hellas – Part 2

When we left Mr Matthew Campbell of MJC European fame, he was parking up at Modena Sud for a dinner last Tuesday evening. We pick up the Essex Express Wednesday morning leaving Modena Sud around 7am for Ancona. A nice little 250km wander down through the Italian countryside on a grey Wednesday morning, arriving in Ancona around 10am. Ancona Port hasn’t hosted MJC for 5 years or so, but Matt found the right place to be and got himself booked on the Anek Lines sailing, luckily Matt managed to get his own cabin away from all the pesky kids off on their holibobs. With time to spare there’s time to pop into Ancona town for a wander. Tough old job this international driving!

Off the ferry around 0930hrs Thursday morning in Igoumenitsa and then southbound and down towards Preveza. It makes a change to take some of the smaller routes or national routes as opposed to always banging out the big KM’s on the autoroutes. Coming out of Igoumenitsa Matt picks up the 18 and points the big DAF to Preveza. See the map I’ve crudely added in below. Nothing like Trucking International’s Long Distance diary maps that’s for sure!!

From Preveza our perma-tanned driver carries on through a newly built tunnel, out and round the airport just south of Preveza, over a dodgy metal bridge and into Lefkada. Having made it this far, it’s further south still and the roads are a little smaller and the towns a little tighter. Then after Lefkada it’s again down a coast road to the tiny port of Nydri. All these coast roads must be much the same as the many Saturday nights our man in the pilots seat has spent cruising up and down Southend seafront. Preveza down to the island of Meganisi is only 50km or so but there’s plenty to take in and plenty to keep even the most experienced European driver on their twinkle toes. As you can imagine the ferry (if you can call it that) from Nydri to Meganisi is barely more than a motor boat with a ramp, it makes the Woolwich ferry look like a cruise liner! Encouraged onto the boat by the crew Matt, has to empty all the air out of the suspension on both truck and trailer to fit on, even then the roof of the trailer grazes the lights in boats roof. In the UK I think most drivers call this snug. A snug fit is enough!

Once arrived on Meganisi it’s off the ferry, turn left and then follow pretty well the only main road, main unmade road for a kilometre or so to the building site destination. All in a days work for Essex’s best. I’m sure we’ve all had that feeling when you’ve gone so far and are virtually at the delivery point but you still have that feeling things could go wrong, with roads/tracks like this I’m sure Matt had the same thought just around the next bend below!

Arriving on site, things slowly start to happen. The crane lorry arrives to help with the unloading. As you can imagine in this part of the world there was no hurry and luckily no health and safety to worry about. Some 2700km from door to door and as you’d expect the cargo was in immaculate condition and although slower than some would like unloading went without a hitch. A few hours later and with an empty trailer it was time to head back to the little port to wait for the ferry back to Nydri. One small problem, Matt wasn’t expecting to have to put in some decent reversing practice……

You can hear them now; “we’ve had bigger than that down here driver!” – no you haven’t, we all know that. Unable to turn round it was a 1.5km reverse out of site and most of the way back to town before MJC could turn around. Now international driving is a thankless task in most cases but having a cream little job like this definitely makes a change and also epitomises both the “can-do” attitude and exploratory instinct of one of the UK’s best. We bred drivers like Mr Campbell constantly during the pioneering years of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s but these days they are few and far between. I can see the sat-nav RDC drivers having a minor coronary when they can’t find Meganisi in their “regular destinations” list, but a true international truck driver just loads up and gets on with it. Nicely done MJC, but as we all know the sun never sets on a long distance lorry driver, back to Italia to load back to the UK.