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  #1  
Old 09-25-2007, 06:21 AM
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Location: Northumberland, UK
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Italian trip in my SL

My usual trip report following my annual holidays with the SL.

We--wife and I--took a week in Umbria in Italy followed by another week in the Dordogne in France. Splendid and just what the doctor ordered. Total mileage 3,307 in 16days. Maximum speed only 148mph. Apart from a puncture (first in 100k miles and hardly the car's fault--see below) the SL never missed a beat.

2,000miles from our home in Northumberland to Umbria was a bit much even for me, so we took the overnight train from Calais to Nice, the car riding behind. From Nice down to Genoa was hair raising to say the least. Not only was wife driving (or something approximating to driving), but at no time did the Autostrada touch the ground: it was either on a viaduct through the air or in a tunnel and very, very twisty with it. The transition from bright sunshine to dark tunnel was pretty hard on the eye. The Italian driving style is interesting, to say the least. Italian road maintenance is very variable and signage is utterly woeful. In fact, signage is so bad as to make touring seriously difficult.

Our house for the week was lovely, but... it was located up a 3km long mountain track. This took us over the top of a mountain and into a valley otherwise unserved by roads: we had this to ourselves. The track was completely unmetalled and in some places was more suitable for goats than vehicles. We saw only a few people on it but they were wide-eyed to see a British-registered SL powering through the woods up a 1 in 3 gravel incline! Thank goodness it didn't rain.

The back roads were amazing: switchback after switchback, staggering views, in most places well-surfaced (although not very sticky, for the first time ever I felt comfortable opposite-locking the SL). For anyone in the area, I recommend the road from Castel Rigone to Cortona, passing through Mercatale: our track ran off this amazing highway.

From Umbria to the Dordogne: 850miles in one day. Not without adventure. The run back up to Savona was fast, albeit an accident in a tunnel held us up for half an hour. Then it was up the most beautiful motorway in the world, the A6 from Savona to Turin: amazing. This road has something like 140 viaducts and 60 tunnels, and at times each carriageway is several km from the other; at one stage, the southbound carriageway descends a mountain by wrapping itself around it like a helter-skelter. Like a mountain road, only a motorway (officially called the Autostrada Verdemare, unofficially called the Autostrada della Morte). Then Turin to the Alps, through the Frejus Tunnel (13km, ugh) and down into France. Wonderful, deserted Alpine motorways, taken at high speed.

Then disaster: 40km out of Lyon, while travelling at about 120mph, a serious blow out in the rear. The car handled it with aplomb and I drove us 2km to the first exit rather than change the wheel on the shoulder. Fortunately, the 129 has a full-size spare (I was able to purchase a replacement in Bergerac). The rest of the journey was uneventful, albeit fast. The run from Clermont Ferrand to Brive la Galliard is particularly noteworthy: an empty Autoroute across the ceiling of France's Massif Central. After dropping onto the motorway I set the cruise at 95mph and did not drop below that speed (and often whipped up to 125 or so) until the toll booth at the far end! If we saw a dozen cars I'd be surprised. Great stuff; roof down as well.

The total time for the 850miles from Umbria to the Dordogne was 12.5 hours, but that included three fuel stops (ouch), half an hour at a standstill outside of Genoa, and 40mins in the supermarket picking up essentials for the holiday house, not to mention aforesaid punture. Driving time was probably more like 11 hours.

We returned via Paris, staying the night on the left bank. Driving in Paris is very easy, I don't know what people get so worried about. The signage is first rate. Anyway, the SL felt at home parked next to some altogether more glamorous metal on Rue de l'Universite.

On Sunday we hot footed it home. Unfortunately I was stopped for speeding in France, but since it was only 166km/h (a slower car had only just cleared out of the way and I was re-establishing our 200km/h cruising speed when, too late, I saw the Gendame in the bushes about a half mile ahead) it is a simple matter of handing over 90euros to a charming policeman who keeps you waiting long enough for him to finish a cigarette. No receipt was given...

Well, thanks for listening. Here are a few photographs.

This is the SL loaded onto the car train at Calais, in pretty distinguished company:


Filthy with dust and road dirt at the top of the track to our Italian house, Lake Trasimeno in the background:


Ascending the track at night (believe me, it was worse than it looks):


Finally, Mrs Rodger giving it big licks in the Alps (for once doing less than 100mph, although you can tell from the guages she is accelerating hard in fourth; it was pretty nerve-wracking when she went for a top speed run on the long straight up to Turin...):


After all that driving, I am told that next year we are flying. We'll see.
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Last edited by jjrodger; 09-26-2007 at 05:11 AM.
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  #2  
Old 09-25-2007, 06:41 AM
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Nice post...Thanks.
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Old 09-25-2007, 08:06 AM
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I wish we Americans had access to a trip like that. Great write up.
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  #4  
Old 09-25-2007, 10:39 AM
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My wife and I plan to spend 3 weeks in the South of France next spring, can we borrow your car? You can use ours here in Sarasota while we are absent in Italy/France.

Mick McGuiness
1986 560 SL
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  #5  
Old 09-25-2007, 12:09 PM
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Awsome report JJ. I am taking mine on a trip soon down to Houston Texas, which is going to be about a 4500 mile round trip. The scenery won't compare to what you have just experienced, other than being in the car, with the steering wheel on the correct side.
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  #6  
Old 09-25-2007, 01:02 PM
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JJ,
I am jealous. My wife and I lived in Rome for five years (94-99). At the time my fun car was a 1974 BMW 3.0 CSi. A great car, but missing 2 cylinders and a soft top! You have brought back many fine memories of that time.
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  #7  
Old 09-25-2007, 02:28 PM
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Nice looking ride. Also, I've always thought you car was purdy, too.
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Old 09-25-2007, 05:53 PM
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Great post - do have sheepskins or did you sit on the leather the entire way?

Do the hard MB seats hold up on a long ride?

W
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Old 09-25-2007, 06:10 PM
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Great post man!!!



Once again, a great write up about a great car!
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  #10  
Old 09-25-2007, 08:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Winsteadi View Post
Great post - do have sheepskins or did you sit on the leather the entire way?

Do the hard MB seats hold up on a long ride?

W
My Benzes have been the greatest vehicles I have ever traveled in for long distances. I will do 700 to 900 miles a day, and at my age the only car I think I could do it in is a Benz.
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  #11  
Old 09-26-2007, 05:08 AM
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Thanks for all the thanks!

It was a great trip, my ageing and increasingly leggy (141k miles today) SL didn't miss a beat. Even my wife has come to love it out of grudging respect for its abilities: I think when we had the high speed punture it really looked after us.

Mike: we had a side trip to Rome, albeit we took the train not the car (I was rightly concerned about driving in Rome and also wanted to be able to enjoy my lunch). What a city. I read ancient history at college and it was a real thrill to see the sights. We're definitely going back.

Winsteadi: we sit on the leather the whole time. The seats are really comfortable, albeit one needs to spend a bit of time setting up the driving position (obviously memory seats make that a one-off). I have thought about retro-fitting the orthopaedic seat on the driver's side but I can't see the point after this trip, we felt really comfortable.

Mick McGuiness: where are you going in the south of France? If you need any recommendations, let me know as I am quite familiar with the area after years of holidays there. You do need to hire a car, though.

Pete: we expect a full report. Which car from your (pretty impressive) fleet are you taking?
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  #12  
Old 09-26-2007, 12:19 PM
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JJ,
You were right to be concerned about driving in Rome for the first time. Especially with a right hand drive car. I got used to it and actually got pretty good at the techniques used by Roman drivers to get the advantage over others. Of course, it was in my company sedan, not my precious SL!!!

Happy motoring.
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  #13  
Old 09-26-2007, 06:36 PM
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Taking the SL JJ. Weather is still pretty nice here, so I should get some serious top down traveling.
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  #14  
Old 09-26-2007, 06:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Pete Geither View Post
Taking the SL JJ. Weather is still pretty nice here, so I should get some serious top down traveling.
And the weather is always nice in Texas, right? With the windows and draught stop up and 30deg C (86F) heat, we were happy cruising top down at up to 120mph or so.

Back here in Blighty today, it has struggled to break 10deg C: I've just put the car in the garage and am soaked with freezing rain. Roll on next year...
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  #15  
Old 09-26-2007, 08:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by POS View Post
I wish we Americans had access to a trip like that. Great write up.
I'm not too sure we dont. I'm considering a trip to Montana en rout to Bonniville with the M120 560SL next year.

John Roncallo
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