Since leaving Nice, the trip has been problem-free and severely lacking in police interaction and indecent proposals.
I left Nice at 0500 on Monday the 9thand skirted the south coats of France and Italy; turning north at Genoa and passing through Italy to Switzerland and Germany.
The original plan was to stop overnight en route to Mannheim, where I was meeting Jenn and some friends., but such was the ease of journey, that I was able to smash through the 700 odd miles in one go and still fit in a few stops along the way.
The great thing about doing a trip like this is t he sheer freedom you have to take a left or right depending on where you want to go. No-one to answer to apart from the fuel gauge or a growling stomach.
So a photo op at the San Siro was an unexpected bonus and lunch in Lake Como, bathed in sunshine, an absolute treat.
And the Focus absolutely nailed the miles without a whimper. In fact, I managed to nurse the car from Nice to Mannheim on 1 tank of gas! Amazing.
Cue a really lovely time with mates and a trip down memory lane in Heidelberg, which we visited about 12 years ago with another set of close friends.
Anyway, blah blah blah.
The end was in sight and Frankfurt / Cologne were the next destinations.
Met up with the DKMS crew in Frankfurt for dinner, which was great. Such a fantastic charity that clearly choose their people very wisely. Although the choice of hotel was somewhat questionable given the red light district backed on to the street!
That was Wednesday so the real finish line was to be crossed the next day in Cologne at DKMS HQ.
And what a welcome!!
They met us on the street with a huge banner and shepherded Jenn and I into the carpark.
We met so many dedicated, friendly and very talented people.
For me, just knowing they have been working so long to improve the chances of all patients in need of a stem cell donor, is motivating and keeps me positive.
We are not alone in this.
The car left DKMS London on the 4thand arrived at DKMS Cologne on the 12th. A poignant and fitting route to take I reckon, with the Crumball thrown in for very good measure!
Then came one of the highlights of the year and a bucket list item very much ticked off…the Nurburgring!
An icon of the motor sports world, it is a 20km long racing circuit with 73 turns and is notorious for is beauty, technicality and unforgiving curves, cambers and corners.
The charity arranged for me to do a lap with a pro in a Porsche GT3, which is one of the most insane experiences I’ve ever had. 20km in under 8 minutes surrounded by trees and other racers.
But if that was not cool enough, we were allowed to take our Focus, that had just navigated motorways, dirt tracks, mountains and the German Autobahns , around the circuit. The best bit being they closed it and allowed us to take to the track as the only car on the tarmac!!
We got a lot of tyre screeching and mildly warm brake pads during the first 10 km, but honestly, as we rounded the second half of the track; the sun was setting over one of the hairpins and we just reined it in to enjoy what was a real once in a lifetime experience. Cruising around the corners and taking the straights at a steady pace; the whole trip just came together and I just grinned from one ear to the other.
As we hit the final straight, we were flanked by 2 of the track safety cars who gave us a salutary flash (or were they just telling us to hurry up?)and sent us back onto the carpark.
What. A. Day.
This trip has delivered so much on a personal level. Not just in visiting so many new places and meeting some fantastic people. Not even because I had the chance to do things I honestly never dreamed of doing.
But because it was, after nearly 2.5 years of playing with cancer, chemo and the NHS, a truly fitting way to say a big thank you to DKMS for all they have done in supporting me and my family.
And I extend that to everyone who has sponsored, donated, registered, shared, liked, talked about stem cell registration or just sent a text to see how things were going.
We destroyed our target of 30’000 registrants (now stands at 32’732) and although I await a final figure, I believe we topped the cash goal of £25’000.
To Rich, Tris and (although he didn’t make it) Andy. You gave up time and energy to make sure the Crumball happened so huge thanks to you all.
To Jenn; you just put up with all my stupid ideas. Every day. They are unlikely to stop here so thank you for persevering.
To the sponsors. Your generosity was above and beyond. I hope you enjoyed the posts and I’ll share the photos, of which there are many, in case you want to use them. I hope we did your brands proud.
This could go on so I apologise for forgetting people, but I want to finish by repeating my appreciation of DKMS and the wider charity sector who have been unwavering in support of my family and the 10’000 donors campaign. Without you there is no 10’000 Donors and there is a lot less hope for all patients in need of a stem cell donor. What you all do is inspiring and gives us all belief, regardless of what the future may have in store for us.
So, that’s it. Crumball done.
Now to start working on a bigger project for 2020.