They say that when a dream comes true, it will inevitably lead to other dreams. Well, earlier this year, I had a pretty big dream come true, as I crossed the finish line in the Pub2Pub Expedition's TVR, having just completed a 27,000 mile odyssey across 25 countries, from the northernmost bar on the planet, to the southernmost - an adventure you can read more about here.
So, after such an against-the-odds success, what could the next dream be? Well, the answer to that question had formed gradually in my mind during those long days on the road, rolling south. As I progressed, I'd felt a groundswell of enthusiasm for what our doughty Chimaera was achieving, by the end of the trip, there was a definite feeling that people were inspired by this irreverent, pub-based style of adventure. And this got me thinking, given what an incredible experience Pub2Pub had been, why should I have all the fun? Shouldn't everyone have the opportunity to experience their own Pub-based adventures? Of course they should, and it's that idea which led me to dream up The Eagle Rally.
Because let's face it, who wouldn't want to take a road trip to 'The Eagle's Nest' - a beer garden on the summit of a 6,000ft high mountain in deepest Bavaria, which was once the haunt of a certain Mr A. Hitler.
It turns out that a fair few people agreed with us, and so after putting the shout out, it was a 14-strong convoy of sports cars which set off for the Eagle's Nest a few weeks ago. And not just any sports cars - half the convoy was made up of TVRs, while the remainder was an extroverted mixture of Porsches, Jaguars, BMWs, and a turbocharged MX-5 which held its own fantastically against the big boys.
Right from the start, The Eagle Rally benefitted from the high profile which Pub2Pub had built up in the wilds of Latin America. One of the trip's legacies is that the way it's connected with people meant we were able to open doors which would've remained firmly closed to us before the trip. For instance, we decided that Neil Garner Performance Engineering's open day would be an ideal launch venue - a few emails and it was all arranged. Or, how about setting up an en-route afternoon car meet at Gatton Manor house, with Les Edgar and the new TVR Griffith in attendance? A quick call to the good folk at TVR was all it took to make it happen.
And we're glad it did happen, as it was a very proud moment for us to see how far our Pub2Pub dream had come. In just over a year, we'd gone from little more than custodians of an idea and a pretty average Chimaera, to hosting a car meet in a manor house attended by about 60 incredible vehicles, including TVR's hopefully-glorious future - thanks Les!
From Gatton Manor, our convoy headed across the channel, where Sunday lunchtime saw us near Brussels, dining with the Belgian branch of the TVR Car Club - another great moment which we couldn't easily have made happen without the Pub2Pub back-story.
And Brussels marked a stepchange in our European experience, as it heralded the point where the first ripples in the landscape beckoned in the more interesting driving roads of the Ardennes. Behind us, the dull autoroutes of the Low Countries; ahead, a gradual escalation of driving interest as the Alps drew closer.
Our route headed south east from Brussels, the roads gradually becoming more technical as we passed the towns of Huy and Trois-points, before we dropped into Luxembourg, following the river down the border with Germany, where the sunset heralded an overnight stop at the Unesco town of Trier.
Day three saw us take in the largest collection of Formula 1 cars in Europe (at the Auto & Technik museum in Sinsheim - definitely worth a visit if you're passing), and also bore witness to the only breakdown of the trip - one of the Chimaera's alternators decided to go on strike after chasing our resident brace of 911 Turbos down the Autobahn at about 150mph. Fortunately, the TVR community rallied around, and helped us to find a replacement. The Porsches meanwhile, proved themselves to be completely happy bahnstorming along at speeds of up to 190mph.
With half the convoy sporting a TVR badge on their fibreglass noses, our visit to the Porsche factory was always going to be an interesting experience, but in the event, it turned out to be interesting for all the wrong reasons for my globetrotting TVR. Pulling into the museum's underground car park, the enthusiastic generation of patriotic exhaust noise in this bastion of German automotive culture resulted in a bang from under the bonnet, followed by a loud clattering, and pieces of rubber flying out of the bonnet vents. Yep, Kermit's auxiliary belt had self-destructed. Fortunately, it was a five-minute job to swap it for the spare I'd brought along, with the irony of the situation certainly not lost.
We rolled on south, the convoy flowing across the rolling countryside like a dream, snaking left and right, pulling out to overtake slower cars, then tucking in again as one; a dreamlike sensation with sports cars stretching ahead and behind as far as the eye could see. And as we rolled on, the landscape's ripples became more pronounced, until the horizon became a wall of snow-clad mountains - the seemingly impenetrable barrier of the Alps.
The Alps marked the beginning of our drive's main event, for it was there, on the shores of Lake Constance that we picked up the legendary 'Deutsche Alpenstrasse'- a 280 mile stretch of perfect tarmac which snakes its way across southern Germany, almost directly to the Eagle's Nest.
We spent two days barrelling along this grand alpine route, sometimes roaring across farmland dotted with chocolate-box cottages, other times attacking the stacked hairpins which took us from valley to high pass. Our progress was helped by the light traffic, and the only real delay we suffered in our two days on the Alpenstrasse was when the Bavarian Police decided to set up a road block and pull the whole convoy over, before letting us continue about ten minutes later - one of the trip's more surreal moments.
After six days on the road, our destination hoved into view - a 6,000ft high mountain, with the Eagle's Nest perched improbably on its very summit. A bus took us up the steep, singletrack road to a turning point beneath the structure, where a tunnel led 124m into the mountain. Once there, we boarded a 1930s brass elevator which lifted us to the Eagle's Nest, where beers in the sunshine were chinked to another Pub2Pub Adventure successfully completed, and another dream achieved.
So what's the next dream? To find out, keep an eye on Pub2Pub's website.
Photo credits: Rik Lanyi, Nick Aldworth and Ben Coombs