By the time we reached the Dunkerque bypass the novelty of being on the ‘wrong' side of the road was past and things on board the minibus returned to the usual travel occupations. Personally I was feeling a bit dozy; we' d been on the go for about twelve hours after all.
“I'm gonna catch forty winks.”
“Lightweight,” Mand teased .
I slipped my shoes off and made myself comfortable.
When I returned to consciousness we were somewhere around Brussels and the bus was much quieter. There was some conversation up at the front, the faint sounds of someone playing a shoot ‘em up and the rustle of a book being read. I checked the time, a bit after seven, the sun, for this side of the Channel was almost cloud free, angled through the left hand windows lighting the dust motes floating about in the bus.
The girls were well out of it so I decided to take advantage and stretch out a bit; hmm-smelly socks by Claire's head are maybe not the best idea. Socks removed I got myself comfortable again and soon drifted off once again.
The next time I woke it was as we pulled into a service area, the deceleration and change of engine tone disturbing my slumber.
"Toilets!" Chris announced.
Good idea. I had a good stretch to remove the kinks in my neck, it was only when the door was opened that the gust of fresher air alerted me to my still naked tootsies. Hmm, socks - I thought I'd stuffed them in my trainers but they were missing now.
"Anyone seen my socks?"
"Wondered what the smell was." Laura piped up.
"Funny ha ha, can you look under your seats?"
The speed at which socks were found was a bit suspect.
"Here you go." Claire dangled said foot coverings in my direction.
I needed to adjust my position to get my feet in the aisle to pull them on.
"Something the matter?" Mand was all innocence.
"What about them Drewbie." Sal almost giggled.
"Painted." I spluttered.
"Hmm, nice colour, where'd you get it?" Laura queried.
"It was too tempting, 'specially when I woke up with your foot in my face," Claire allowed.
"Er soz about that."
"You lot wanting the facilities?" Jemma asked, breaking into our 'conversation'.
"Yeah, just sorting out shoes," Mand replied.
There was hardly anything I could do about the situation right now so I pulled the socks on and shoved my feet in my trainers.
"Nice shoes man." Josh observed when I wandered out of the building a few minutes later.
"Eh?" I allowed before looking at my feet. "Those flippin' girls!"
To be certain I had shoes and socks on, just not my shoes and socks! I recognized the footwear as being Laura's white and pink Skechers and I'm betting the lace trimmed socks were from Manda. This means war!
"Ah think they suit you." Josh went on.
"Gaby may be but she's not here! Just wait until I get hold of Mand, I bet she's behind this."
I scrambled back into the bus; I guess everyone had spotted my footwear by the grins and diverted looks as I made my way to the back.
My tirade was cut off by Steve, " Keep it down back there, you can talk when we arrive, it's only about an hour away."
"I'll get you!" I mouthed at Mand as I passed.
The fuel stop had been near Maastricht in Holland, we'd made good time it was only eight thirty so an hour from here – we'll probably be not far from home. Wonder what the gang are up to, Dad'll be eating dinner, I think Mum's away still. I know, I'll text him. ‘at Aachen, b at hotel 1std. D' , send.
Meanwhile at the front of the bus Caroline was acting as navigator.
“Wish we had a satnav.”
“We've got one, it's called Caroline,” Steve stated.
“So which way at this intersection?”
“Let's see, Aalen - okay, A4 Cologne.”
“We go through Cologne?” Chris enquired.
“No we turn before that, A61 direction Frankfurt, bout forty kilometres.”
“Funny sort of name.” Sal opined as we passed the Aalen Ost turn off.
“I won a crit there* early season, right pile up.”
“Bit more exotic than Cosford airfield on your results sheet,” Laura observed.
“Let's see, Xanten, Stuttgart, Bremen, Hamburg, Trier, Olpe.” I bragged.
“Leave some for other people,” Mand chuckled.
“You've won seven races this year?” Claire enquired.
“Erm twelve no thirteen I think, I forgot about Neuweid. Oh and me an' Ron won a two up as well.”
“Shit.” Gethin blurted having overheard.
“You saw some of Dad's video.” I reminded them.
“Didn't realise they were all this season,” Sal noted.
“Yeah, well he didn't get the camera until January.”
“Fourteen wins?” Geth repeated.
“He is the German champion like,” Josh pointed out.
“Who won fourteen?” Mark asked as the conversation spread up the bus.
“Drew.” Geth advised him.
“Impressive; any sprints, all of mine are sprints.” He was obviously trying to bolster his own standing in light of the release of my win stats.
Attention switched back to me.
“Six full on and a couple of one on ones,” I tried to sound casual .
“I've been in a few o' them, bloody hairy like!” Josh added.
“We saw the vid of that one Drew crashed in**.” Mand mentioned.
“Forced off.” Josh stated with some venom, “Hans bloody Braubecker.”
“Josh was second.” I told our audience.
“Braubecker? Big kid, short blond hair?” Cav enquired.
“Yeah, you ridden against him?”
“If it's the same one, he had me in the barriers last year in Strasbourg.”
By now we were on a very familiar bit of autobahn.
“Hey, if you take the next turn off here you end up at my school.”
“You live near here? I thought you lived by the Rhine,” Mand stated.
“It's not far away, I live in the Ahrtal. Wonder where we're staying.”
“Next junction Steve, it should be signposted Bad Neuenahr.” Caro read from her instructions.
“It's just up ahead, looks like we're a bit earlier than we thought.”
“I am not sorry about that.” Jemma allowed with a stretch.
“You missed half the drive,” Caro observed.
“Looks like we're staying at yours,” Laura suggested when Steve turned the bus off of the southbound motorway onto the Ahrtal link road.
This is just too weird for words; I mean of all the places they could've picked to stop we end up less than ten K from my home! It got even freakier when we turned towards Dernau at the bottom of the motorway, I was prevented from a major freak out when we took the Silverberg exit which deposited us outside Silverberg Gymnasium, the last place I expected.
“Looks a bit big for a keep fit place.” Sal suggested.
“Keep fit? Oh gymnasium, no it's a sort of school, er mine actually,” I admitted. Now I really am confused.
A car tooted behind us before passing and pulling in in front of where Steve had stopped in the bus bay. A car with bike racks on the roof and a very familiar cream and blue paint job, what the hell is going on? I couldn't really see much from the back; Caro got down and went, I presume to talk to the car's occupants.
When the side door opened a minute later a very familiar head poked into the gap.
“Hi everyone, wotcha kiddo!”
“Dad! What are you doing here?”
“Well that's nice I must say. Hi Josh.”
“Evening Mr Bond.”
“I know you're all tired,” Caro addressed everyone, “Mr Bond has arranged tonight's accommodation for us, to save time we'll eat first, the restaurant is expecting us. Drew, you want to ride with your dad?”
“Not many!” I agreed already halfway to the door.
“How come they asked you to do stuff?” I enquired sliding into the interior of the C Klasse estate Dad was driving.
“Caro asked, what do you reckon to the wheels?”
“I got a deal from the dealer, George came up with some funds for the racks.”
“I still miss the Saab.”
“Well it wasn't the best way to change a car.”
By now we were heading into Ahrweiler centre, I had a feeling I knew where we were headed, Der Mühle just off the square behind the Rathaus. My guess was confirmed when we pulled into the small car parking area behind the restaurant in question.
“Thought you were being 100% Drew at BC?” Dad queried as we waited for the rest to get out of the bus.
“Sugar, I never got my stuff back!”
“Should I ask?”
“The girls decided to have some fun in Belgium.”
“Which involved you wearing girl's shoes?”
“Something like that,” I conceded.
* Chapter 7.19
** Chapter 8.30
to be continued....
© Maddy Bell 07.06.13