I blink my eyes and see a field of green. It feels as if we are moving sideways and I am not at all sure what is going on. I stomp hard on the brakes and nothing happens. More than a bit confused at this point I decide to carefully take in my surroundings… Oh, that is right, I had been tired and found a place to park and have a nap; Heart still pounding away I realized we were safe. Or more to the point: The car was still intact. Driving a Saab means the driver and passengers are safe most of the time anyway.
The location is a gasoline station somewhere in Denmark. We are only hours away from our home and final destination. Behind us are more than 10000 km of road and sea. The feeling of having mastered the unknown and the sense of adventure is overwhelming.
We had left Batumi Sunday morning. The day before I had suffered from a fever that burned hotter than 40 degrees Celsius. I had to ask my brother-in-law to fill the car with our luggage as my strength was at an all-time low. We had to reach the port within two days — 2250 km through Turkey and Greece. I had a rough idea what Turkey would be like as there is a limit to how much the roads can change after only three weeks or so. Fortunately they had managed to sort out quite a lot of the roadworks and all those gnarly off-road bits had disappeared. In the end, it took us 27 hours to get to the port.
Near Istanbul I needed a nap and gratefully pulled in at the biggest “P” sign I had seen all trip. Three hours of blissful sleep later and I again start the car. Immediately the backing sensor chirps at me — nothing to be seen in the mirrors. “Oh great” I thought, “now the sensor is acting up…”. Carefully rolling backwards I notice a glimpse of something in the mirrors… We had been sealed in. As it turns out, they had closed off our space and the three adjoining spaces. I guess they wanted to make sure nobody would disturb our sleep. The security guard came running and quickly cleared our path, wishing us a bon voyage. Money? No, he would hear nothing of it! It must have been the safest parking lot on the entire continent.
In Greece I learned another lesson: Do not assume gas stations are open 24 hours. Sure, the signs on the freeway may say “24h”, but in reality they were all closed. I had already driven 50km on the contents of my 5 liter jerrycan when I finally found a gas station open for business. “I just opened” he replied to my inevitable question of ‘when?’. He managed to fill 70 liters in my 9-5 and then went on to refill my jerrycan.
Tuesday was spent on the ferry heading for Venice. The swimming pool looked much bigger in the ads (in reality you would barely be able to dip your feet) and the wi-fi was expensive. At least the food was reasonably priced, but the service announcements throughout the day were annoying. Everybody knows where to find the casino, there really was no need for announcing it — twice.
Wednesday we tried catching up with Till at Hirsch’ dealership in Switzerland. Unfortunately we got there too late and missed Till by a couple of hours. Manfred still gave us the royal tour, including the lab where they tune the engines. We got to see their white 9-5 up close and I was impressed by their rear spoiler and the rear diffuser. The rear spoiler looks so small, yet provides tangible benefits. Especially when combined with the diffuser. Saab’s own rear spoiler is bigger and looks a bit intrusive IMO. The guys at Hirsch gracefully helped me with my washer fluid nozzle that had disappeared earlier on the trip. Getting into the aquarium was much easier than I had anticipated, so I felt a bit embarrassed.
The next day we drove up to RedJ and stayed overnight at his place. RedJ’s lovely wife prepared us a nice dinner and we got to hang out with some of the local Saab nuts. 🙂 As for the rest of the area, I have never seen so many VWs in my life. Had I been better at planning my journey, we should have tried for a bigger Saab-meetup somewhere along the way, but my journey was already complicated enough as it was.
On Friday it was a real joy for me to see a 9-5 SC pull up next to me at the pumps somewhere near Puttgarden. I noticed the license plate holder said “ANA Trollhättan”. This was obviously someone hailing from somewhere close to home. I said “Tjänare!” in passing, and we started talking. Turns out he had worked on the team in charge of making sure the doors and hood fitted exactly to the body of the new 9-5. He pointed to my car and said “yeah, I made that!”. I had encountered one of our good trolls heading home from 7 weeks worth of vacation. Slightly nervous about Monday’s announced meeting, but his mood was still fairly upbeat. “We will fight this” he said, and I found his spirit to be encouraging.
The ferry Puttgarden – Rødby is fast, barely enough time to wolf down a steak for dinner. The sea was a little bit rougher than last time, but my wife held up admirably well. Anna is skeptic towards all things maritime and I was very curious about the outcome. In the end I think she realized that the sea was much more preferable than to suffer my driving through Romania which was, admittedly, a bit on the rough side.
The last few miles home in Sweden were on regular roads. Up until then I had enjoyed four lane motorways all the way from the Georgian/Turkish border. And next week, when I drive into Norway, I will face even worse roads.
So, there you have it. 10000 km in a 9-5. A few lorries tried to squeeze us, but the 9-5 has ample stopping power. I found myself in Sport-mode more often than not, as this made the brakes feel a bit more snappish. The auto-locking feature of the 9-5 nearly damaged the fuel cap lid, but it looks fine now (squeaks a bit though). The problem is that in Eastern Europe, nobody lets the driver anywhere near the fuel pumps. If you walk away from the car, it will lock itself and the attendant might try to force the lid shut.