Travelling is not always the beautiful photos you see on your news feed. Often things happen that really throw us off guard and unfortunately can also make us feel differently about a place we are visiting. I tried to make this not the case during our last road trip to the Netherlands. I’m going to tell the story as it happened, but also focus on the positives that came from the tricky situation.
You know one of those stories that starts with the unexpected? This isn’t one of them. I had been saying to Ernie that the tyre looked flat for a while. When we came back from our last road trip, to Germany, we used the Euro Star and a French guy had tapped on our window, within the train, to tell us we had a flat tyre – Ernie decided the tyre was OK. Then, when we left London for this road trip to Belgium and the Netherlands a taxi driver at the petrol station in London had told us that we have a flat tyre – Ernie decided the tyre was OK.
So we make the road trip through Belgium managing to stop at Bruges, Brussels, Mons and Leige, then crossed the border into Maastricht, Netherlands. We spent the morning relaxing in the winter sun outside a coffee house on the main square.
Above is my failed attempt at taking food related photos!
We were now heading towards Eindhoven for the evening. Ernie was driving along the motorway when suddenly the car began to vigorously shake from side to side. In my moment of panic (I’m quite an anxious passenger on a usual drive) I hit the hazard button and Ernie pulled over onto the hard shoulder.
Once the car had stopped we could smell burning rubber and we sat in silence for a few seconds, kind of getting our bearings. The car gently rocked from side to side as each car sped past us on the motorway. Eventually I climbed over Ernie’s seat and we both got out of the van to take a look at the damage.
The rubber had completely come off the tyre and we were driving at 60km/h on the rim, no wonder the car was shaking so much. Ernie was quite fast at remembering to place out the orange triangle and luckily, thanks to his parents, we had hi-vis jackets under our seats that we were able to put on. This meant that we were easily spotted by Holland traffic control who were very quick to come and pick us up and take us to a safe spot away from the motorway.
Fun fact that I didn’t know prior to this, if you are in the Netherlands and break down on the motorway you should call 112, they will automatically send a pick up truck to move you to the nearest, safest space. For us this was a petrol station.
Once at the petrol station Ernie checked for breakdown cover, of course we only had breakdown cover for the UK…. :S So we had to try to figure out how to fix this problem. After a slice of bread and biscuit spread, because energy is needed in situations like this.
It was beginning to get dark whilst we watched Youtube videos on how to change the spare tyre. We changed the tyre and realised it was flat, took it off and pumped in air before trying it again…. Still flat, must have a puncture. It was starting to get late now and we were considering sleeping in the van and seeing what we could do in the morning.
I took one last step to ask someone inside the petrol station if there was anything they thought we could do. We were extremely lucky to meet a young girl working here who said she knew someone who might possibly be able to open a tyre garage and get us a new tyre. After a number of phone calls and translations over the phone we were set to get a new tyre! However the tyre shop was half an hour drive away. The girl was so helpful and said she would kindly drive us there and back. Now we were on a quest to retrieve a tyre! We had a lovely conversation with this girl about her travels to America, Spain and Germany, how she spoke Arabic, Dutch, German, Spanish and English and was studying forensic science at university. Her family were originally from Morocco and she was a little anxious about her mum worrying where she was at this late hour. It’s funny what you can learn from these brief encounters you experience with people. We managed to retreive the tyre and make it back before midnight, to change it for the third time!
From this experience we are now professional tyre changers! We also learnt that we actually work quite well together in sticky situations. We could have been annoyed at one another for not booking breakdown cover, we could have gotten frustrated with each other when we were trying to figure out what to do next, but this wouldn’t have helped the situation. Ultimately, under pressure, we were able to listen and support eachother and I’m pleased we had an experience like this to show us.
I never did get the girls name from the petrol station, but we were extremely grateful for her help that night.
Moral of the story is, always get breakdown cover! But in all seriousness the real moral is embracing the power of human kindness, it is out there despite how it might appear sometimes. Be kind, be understanding of other people’s situations and always check your tyres before a long car journey!