Graham Laing decided to retire 10 years earlier than planned to enjoy an epic driving tour with his SLC. The plan, inspired by conversations with his Father, was to drive the SLC from the southern most tip of mainland Europe in Spain to the northernmost tip of mainland Europe in Norway.
When he told his children, they said ‘you should write a blog about it’… So that’s exactly what Graham is doing. Graham approached the SLSHOP and asked whether we would be interested in hosting his work, and we were only too happy to share his story. The SLCenic Route was born!
In this episode Graham discovers a Finnish road that nearly Finnished him off.
The SLCenic Route
Episode 24 – Inari (Finland) to Lulea (Sweden) 310 miles
Knew I would cross the arctic circle today so stayed up last night talking, emailing friends and relatives, just to enjoy the experience once more of the midnight sun streaming in through the windows. A day I won’t forget, but not for any good reasons.
I was worried about today’s drive, I had been warned that this part of Finland and Sweden might be boring, just miles of forest. Oh, how I wish it had been.
Chose the quickest route on the SatNav, no need to avoid motorways, there aren’t any round here, and started off in the bright blue sunshine of a Finnish summer.
The first hour was exactly as predicted, long straight empty roads and if you like trees, you were in luck. I like trees, but hour after hour was going to get boring. Reindeer were my only companions, in the first hour I saw half a dozen cars. They were actually all big 4x4s with proper off road tyres, not the Chelsea tractors we see in the UK. I supposed they needed them for the harsh winters. Little did I suspect.
Suddenly and without warning, the road surface changed, gone was the asphalt and now I was driving on a gravel road. It was the same road number (route 955) that I had been on for the last hour and still had 23 miles before the next junction. It will just be temporary, I thought. The road surface got worse and worse, after a few miles, I was down to 20mph and crawling along in 3rd gear straining my eyes, constantly scanning the road surface trying to avoid the biggest pot holes. I stopped. Do I go back and try another route, SatNav gave one other option, but now it was an extra 200 miles and I probably wouldn’t get to next overnight stop till midnight. Or do I carry on, the next junction is about 18 miles away, I think I can manage an hour of this.
An hour and a half later, I get to the junction. Not good news, SatNav says turn left onto route 9552, but it looks just as bad, staying on 955 is the same. After consulting the map, the 9552 is 50 miles to a major looking road, staying on the 955 is a longer total journey but only 40 miles to a major road. Then I notice the road signs, route 955 said 35 miles of what google translated to thaw. The 9552 said it was 21 mile of thaw. What is “thaw”? Which do I choose?
I turned onto the 9552 and prayed thaw meant gravel road. 90 minutes later and I’m still crawling along dodging potholes, not seeing any other traffic and wondering will it ever end. It’s the not knowing that kills you, have I chosen the best route, is it going to finish round the next bend or in 5 miles or 50 miles.
It was the next bend, never been so relieved to see asphalt. It is so underrated; we take it for granted too much, the most beautiful sight of nice smooth asphalt.
Even after a rest it took 2 more hours of driving before I really recovered, and stopped staring at the road surface watching for holes. The 955 and 9552 were not nearly as bad as the one going to Sad Hill Cemetery in Spain, but that was different, I knew it was only a couple of miles and I could turn back without any problems. I will never drive the 955 or 9552 again. Bit of Googling at night and there are 17000 miles of gravel roads in Finland, beware of thinking the SatNav knows best! As for the scenery, I’ve no idea if it was beautiful, non-descript or just boring, I never saw it. And then onto the rest of a mostly boring drive, except a couple of things.
Firstly clocks changed crossing border into Sweden, the lovely old fashioned electric clock in the SLC is changed in a second, at the next stop I check my phone, some of it thinks I’m in the UK, some still in Finland’s time zone and some in Sweden’s times zone – I had to laugh!
Secondly, Sweden is the place to be if you want to sell front spotlights for cars. The rest of the drive was kept interested to see which more common, vehicles with extra spotlights or vehicles was without. Without won, just. I l know Sweden does like rallying, but just under half of them think they are Stig Blomqvist!
A quick note on the SLC, it coped with the gravel road and its car breaking potholes with ease, it still feels as solid and smooth as ever. It doesn’t need any spotlights to “enhance” its beautiful contours.