Riding an old BMW home from the baltics, late July 2018

T-minus 30 days

After participating in a rally with two friends we happened to have an old BMW waiting for engine repairs in Riga, Latvia. It didn’t quite make the finish in Hamburg.

The other two had girlfriends and potentially stuff to do, so I got the cheapest return ticket back to Riga 30 days after we were flying out.

Day one

On that faithful day, I flew into Riga airport, met someone from the garage with cash in hand, got the key… and as the guy left on a scooter, time started to tick. I had to make it back to a barbecue in Belgium in a few days time. We had left a tent and some other camping gear in the trunk. This would be a 2 or 3 day trip.

I installed myself and my stuff in the car and pointed my GPS at the nearest store. After filling up on supplies, I tred to make some distance while it was still light out.

I passed the Latvian-Lithuanian border soon. One of the stops we would have made on the original trip, if our engine hadn’t overheated, was the Hill of Crosses. So why not visit?

Definitely worth the stop. Even more with the sun low on the horizon.

No cruise control on this bad boy.
Quick photo stop

I had installed some app to indicate camping spots. It was getting dark, I was pretty damn tired and reached the Lithuanian-Polish border. The indicated camp site may have been suitable for a van, but not for tents. Did I mention this happened in the middle of one of the many heat waves we’ve had lately?

I decided to just park next to this castle and sleep in the trunk.

Day two

A couple of hours later yet barely having slept, it was 4AM. The sky was turning brighter again and I decided the nap would have to do. At least the roads would be empty?

Now I was traversing Poland. In the early hours, some mild case of “fresh breeze” was present. Better than sitting still. The total lack of traffic was pretty great, but this part of Poland didn’t have highways. I kept to the speed limit, slowing down in each town.

Until some dude passed me. I followed in his tracks. That’s until he hit a deer crossing the road. I slowly cruised by while he was cursing the deer, now in more pieces than it was just moments before and kept to the speed limit the rest of the way.

Went to grab morning coffee around 5:30 and met this happy dude

At some point I passed a big city and got stuck in traffic for about an hour. The old inline-six beemer doesn’t like sitting still, it got pretty hot, but with the now-revised cooling system it got through unharmed.

… not that this means the airconditioning performs as you would expect. It blows air which is cooler than the outside air, but I wouldn’t quite say it’s “cold”. After being heat-blasted for hours on end, probably having driven for 14 hours that day, I stopped at a roadside McDonalds for an ice cream and a nap.

The nap was interrupted before it began due to my own sweat pouring down from my chin on the rest of my body. No rest for the weary. More driving.

The German border in sight, I thought that perhaps gas would be cheaper on the Polish side. (spoiler: it wasn’t). I hit the last gas stop I could find. Somehow this one square kilometer of Poland got all of the rain that the rest of Europe wasn’t getting. This, combined with a dip in the highway exit, resulted in me driving through fairly deep standing water. The afore-mentioned hot inline-six created a lot of steam and some components must have cooled quickly. After filling up, it took a bit more effort to crank the engine back into action.

Now, knowing that:

  • We camped in Norway and noticed our alternator was out the next morning, causing us to have to replace it.
  • We were looking for a place to camp in Latvia and noticed the engine wasn’t cooling any longer, making us dump it at a garage and rebuild the engine…

I really wasn’t looking forward to getting stuck in the next camping location (some German forest) with a fucked starter. Didn’t want to order that tow.

I informed my friends that I just drove from Lithuania to Germany, had a full tank of gas and the starter might be giving up on me. I’d be driving until I either run out of gas, I need to sleep or it breaks down. Whichever comes first.

And since it’s the autobahn, it was a good moment to check if the engine revs well.

It revs

Turns out it kept running, the heat was helping me focus, I had plenty of supplies in the car but… peeing was an issue. I didn’t want to shut down the car and for some reason, a ton of people in Germany thought the autobahn stops are the perfect place for a picnic. No pissing in the bushes. Not for the first ten or so stops.

Anyway. One gas stop in the Netherlands later, with the engine running… I know. I arrived back home just before 2AM.

Turns out the starter worked just fine.

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