It started so well.
The van, that had been stuck in a garage for six months since it decided to shoot one of it’s pistons through it’s block for no other reason than the fun of it, was back on the road. Freshly picked up from the garage the day before.
Pootling at a steady pace we drove down to Lisbon to buy the second hand petrol cement mixer we so desperately needed to start work on The Big Build. Having sent the dimensions of the van interior to the seller, we had been assured that it would fit comfortably in the back.
Due to the fact we had scheduled a four hour round trip to Lisbon and back and an hour to pick up the mixer and a couple of loo stops we had confidently left all three dogs inside Custard House as the weather was cold and showery. And besides, setting off at 7am to meet the guy at 9am, we would be back by 1pm at the very latest.
Driving in the van I had totally forgotten about the pain that is paying for the toll roads, having to pull up and grab a ticket and then pull up again and scrabble for change whilst leaning precariously out of your window trying to retrieve tickets and collect change. The car has a Via Verde box thing, automatic payment, you just drive straight on through the green Via Verde line and ‘ker-ching!’ the money was out of your account quicker than a fart out of a baby.
So, with me driving, I had to deal with the toll payments and what nots. For some reason I kept driving into the HGV lane, where the ticket slot was about 2m’s higher than me. Stood on tiptop on the edge of the slightly opened van door I would have to strain to grab the ticket with outstretched finger tips, all the while incredibly aware of the queue of very large HGV’s looming down behind me.
In my rush to get back in the van and get going I shoved the ticket into the teeny tiny door pocket. The teeny tiny door pocket that sits adjacent to the window. And we were off! Chuntering along quite happily until we reached the end of the toll road and drove into the wide funnel like lanes prior to the toll gates. In a fraction of a second I had to pick a lane, get some money out, undo my seat belt in the sure knowledge I would be on tippy toes again and lower the driver’s window…………………………
………………..as the window slowly lowered to the bottom the toll ticket shot out with the gust of wind that flew in and then flew out again. Grappling madly at thin air, I watched it fly across the motorway and surf happily along in the tide of air currents that the oncoming vehicles were providing.
“Keep driving!” Mr M yelled.
“What!?” I yelled back (the window was still open and it was noisy).
“Via Verde! Go green!” He screamed in my ear.
Not really thinking about the repercussions of this action I lurched the van violently across all six lanes and shot through the via verde lane.
That now means we will get a bill through for the entire length of the motorway. Luckily it is not the longest stretch of motorway, but in a van, nevertheless it won’t be cheap.
……………The last time this happened we were on our first ever visit to Portugal, in a tiny poop-poop hire car. Oblivious as only tourists can be we sailed through the via verde as we entered the motorway but then for some reason pulled up at a toll booth as we left it. The light flashed at us to enter the ticket. We suddenly realised our rather large mistake. Speaking no Portuguese at all, we pressed random buttons until we heard a buzzer and a woman’s voice say, “sim?” Terrified, we shot back into our seats and huddled down until we realised the lady was actually sat in the booth and was staring at us through the tinted glass.
Reverting to British type casts we began shouting and gesturing loudly in English, but helpfully Portugised our words.
“No ticketo!” We shouted and gestured at our empty hands whilst helpfully shrugging to show that we had no clue to the whereabouts of the said ticket.
She opened the little window and said something unintelligible. It was definitely a question so we answered with, “No ticketo” again. And pointed to our empty hands whilst grinning manically.
She sighed, nodded and pressed a button. The little till like LED thing that sits by the barrier, that tells you how much you owe lit up – “84.64€”
By this time there was a queue worthy of a AA traffic watch report behind us and we weren’t convinced the midget hire car we were in would even put a dent in the barrier let along break through in a magnificent homage to Thelma and Louise. So we paid and poop pooped on.
………..and so yelling madly at each other over the right and wrongs of our actions we failed to listen to the satnav. And unbeknown to us I missed the exit junction and pootled on down towards the Algarve.
And here ends part one.