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A Drive On The Meije

Filed under: Cars!,Fun!,Old Things,Travel — Tags: , , , — dave @ 11:17 pm 2011/12/10

That’s pronounced “my-ya” (except the second syllable in Dutch sounds different.) The Meije is the quaint little road that leads to my sister- and brother-in-law’s dairy farm near Bodegraven in The Netherlands. I became very familiar with the road during our visit there in May this year; very beautiful place.

Sorry for the soundless video; I did add a few comments along the way as I drove, but the camera’s mic didn’t pick it up very well. One of these days I’ll take the time to figure out how to add commentary and a soundtrack, but until then the visual aspect is all we get. Use your imagination!

Meije is also the name of a collection of homes, a church, a school, and a coffee shop that could maybe be called “a village” but I’d stop short of that (if you watch through to the end of the video, Meije is where I stopped recording & turned the car around.) But the road is what most people in the area think of when they hear the word. Le Meije also happens to be a peak in the French Alps, but I doubt the folks that live along the Meije in Holland hear much about that one, nor care much about it.

As roads go, the Meije is about as narrow as they get, with barely enough room for one-way traffic, but it still accommodates two-way traffic. Making matters worse more interesting is the fact that many of the houses have hedges & fences right up to the road, and in other places there is a drop-off one one side or the other with water at the bottom; no good-old-fashioned WPA ditches like you find in South Dakota! When another vehicle approaches from the opposite direction, both drivers have to move as far to the right as possible. Often though you’ll find yourself head-to-head with a truck or tractor, and there just isn’t room for both of you; in those cases it’s customary for the smaller of the two vehicles to back up and into a driveway to allow the other to pass by. I had it happen once, but thankfully, most cars are small and there are lots of driveways and several bump-outs along the way to make it a little easier.

This photo features het Potlood, (the Pencil) which is a water tower that services the village and the homes along the Meije. It’s a well-known landmark that can be seen from many miles distant; very unique bit of architecture!

The area is historically a farming community. Most all of the houses along the road were at one time farm houses, but the area is becoming slightly more urban, or bedroom community-ish; with the popularity of the road, many of the houses are no longer occupied by farmers. Even though the working farms are fewer these days, their presence is unmistakable, evidenced by the “dairy farm” odor… There’s no escaping the smell of cows and their, um, byproducts. It’s no wonder when you consider how many head of cattle inhabit the area and how the the farmers deal with the waste from all of them.

From what I gathered, most of the houses along the Meije were built in the early 1900’s, and display similar construction methods; brick exterior, timber roofs with either tile or reed (thatch) roofing. Many of the buildings, while quaint & charming and all that, aren’t much to write home about on the inside. The soil in the area is very soft, and as a result the foundations of many homes aren’t very stable. Dick & Michelle’s house has wall that has settled considerably, and I saw several other buildings along the road that appeared to have off-kilter walls or the whole house was slightly askew. That doesn’t seem to bother the owners though; they keep their places up as would any fastidious Dutchman. Some are definitely nicer than others, and some residents put a great deal of effort into the gardens along the road, which only adds to the enjoyment of the drive. There are few basements, for obvious reasons.

The GPS unit that we borrowed showed that the area was about three meters below sea level. About 27 percent of the Netherlands is below sea level; it’s land that has been reclaimed by the building of dikes to push & hold back the sea. The area around the Meije is part of that reclaimed land, and is about as flat as a pool table. The different properties that line the road are separated by canals rather than fences. Most of the canals I saw were about three meters wide and probably about that deep in the center.

It had been fairly dry in the months preceding our visit, so the water level was down a bit, but there was always plenty of water in the canals and plenty of waterfowl around; ducks, geese, swans and storks. One interesting thing with the canals along the road; on the north side of the road (left in the video) is a larger canal that connects to a small lake, and the water level is several feet higher than the canals on the south side of the road. I suppose the road acted as a levee separating the two. In many places the canal runs right next to the road, which required bridges to be built on many driveways to allow access. Some of the homes even sported drawbridges at the road! How cool is that?

When viewing the area from above, as on Google Maps or Google Earth, you can see that the canals run parallel to one another to form fields in the shape of long rectangles. It was surprising to me to see how many farms & homes were packed along the road; in rural parts of the US there can be pretty large distances between farm places.

The Meije is far from the coast and any sizable dikes, but one day Yvonne & I did trek northward to visit the towns where her mom & dad lived when they were younger. Her mom lived in the town of Andijk, which is pronounced “on-dike” and is very literally built right on — or inside — the dike. I was pretty amazed at the dike; it’s an earthen structure that rises a good 30 feet or more from the road’s surface at its foot, but on the other side the water is only about 10 feet below the crown of the dike.

This is two photos stitched together (rather poorly; the light was very different in the two exposures and I couldn’t get the clouds quite right!) to show the difference between the two sides. The town would be completely submerged if not for the dike. A tremendous degree of confidence in the integrity of the dike is on display in Andijk; there are two 100-plus year old churches within a stone’s throw of the dike as well as several hundred homes.

This is getting a bit long… I started writing the post a month or so after returning, but kept adding a little bit here & there, even though I didn’t intend for it to turn into a travelogue. It really was a great trip, especially our time spent touring Germany. And our day trip to the Swiss Alps… Pretty sure Heaven will look very much like what we saw there! Didn’t enjoy the language problem though; will not be returning to Europe until I know a enough German and Dutch to get by. Will have to post some more photos sometime.

BMWotD — 1995 540i M-Sport

Filed under: BMW Of The Day — Tags: , — dave @ 11:59 am 2011/12/07

It’s been a while since I last posted anything; this car is a great excuse to get back on the horse again.

It’s a 1995 BMW 540i M-Sport. Yes, one of the 200 that not only got the full M package, but it also got the double-overhead cam V8 under the hood, backed up by a 6-speed manual transmission, and lots & lots of other goodies. Over the years, the owners have added a few things to make driving this car a little more fun; here’s the seller’s description from the current eBay ad for it.

Here’s your chance to get into one of the most limited production German super sedans ever.

There were only 200 of these BMW 540i M Sports imported to the US in 1995. One year only. They did not send the 95 M5 to the US, but instead sent the M Sport which is identical to the Euro spec 95 3.8 M5 except that it uses the 4.0 V8 instead of the S3 inline-6 cylinder motor the M5 has.

If you’re looking at my listing you probably know what this car is .

Its Cosmos Black on Black Montana leather. Maple wood trim.

What makes this car a gem compared to other M Sports currently available is that its had almost 5K in recent maintenance done to it. All documented with credit card receipts as well.

In April of this year, the entire front and rear EDS Self Leveling aka Nürburgring suspension got rebuilt to the tune of $3,100.00! Yikes. That hurt, but its now riding on all new springs, spring pads, hydraulic lines, accumulators, Boge OEM self leveling shocks, etc. The ride is simply amazing whether you’re in Comfort mode or Sport Mode. No clunks or thumps whatsoever. As close to the feeling on a new 540i as it gets.

Its also had the cooling system re-done. New water pump, hoses, etc also in April.

In 1999 the problematic Nikasil block was replaced at BMW of Peabody in Massachussetts. The car had 77K on it at the time. So the new Alusil motor has fresher gaskets and appx 53-54K on it and it pulls like a very angry bull !. It had all 4 of BMW’s recalls for this car done at the same shop.

A few years ago the previous owner had Turner Motorsports install the Conforti tune which up’s the stock hp from 282 to 300hp-302 ft tq along with a custom 3in” mandrel bent exhaust which sounds simply glorious at full song ! Very mild and normal below 3500 rpm’s..but once at 4K to the 7K redline it unleashes a sound similar to the V8 German DTM cars that will make the back hair on your neck stand. A very high pitch howl- which is very different than that of the lower toned Supersprint type exhausts.

Mechanically the car is bulletproof with everything from belts to brakes done in the last 14 months. AC blows ice cold, the Heater works almost instantly. It has the optional front heated seats as well. Seat functions on both sides work 100%.

This car always starts, has zero leaks and has no sensor issues.

All power functions work except the driver side rear window. It needs a new switch I believe.

There is also a built in K40 radar detector.

Tires are still great with about 85% tread remaining. Yokohama S drives 235 45 17’s.

In 6th gear I noticed about 23-24 mpg on a recent drive to New Jersey. The car drives like a BMW M car should. Very high sense of visual and aural pleasure. There’s no disconnect like there is in today’s cars. True the car’s of today have more features, stunning interior appointments, but they’ve somehow gotten the driver less involved. In this M Sport you know you’re driving something. I love the aim and shoot quality of this car. You think apex and you’re there. Exit speeds on long bends are nothing short of breathtaking!

You can tell this was designed and tested at the infamous Nürburgring !!!!!!!

The body of the car is very clean for a car over 15 yrs old. The entire driver side was resprayed 2 yrs ago due to a run in with a deer which put a small dent on the hood and ruined the front airdam. A new OEM airdam was sourced and the paint job is very good. Its stated on the Carfax as accident with animal as well. I can provide pictures provided by that owner. You can clearly see that it wasn’t that bad. No breach into the radiator or anything. All the gaps on the hood and the doors line up exactly as the OEM settings. Hood closes very smooth as do the doors. You have to look really hard to see its not factory paint. The passenger side is still OEM paint and has some scratches and one quarter size dent on the rear door. Its got some very small areas of surface rust along the door bottoms, as well as a small section of the very bottom of the trunk….but nothing that’s too bad and again, you have to look real close to see them. Nothing through the metal.

Please email me other questions you may have. Also go to Youtube.com as I will be posting some videos of the car. Search under Vernacular M Sport on the Youtube Search box.

The title is clear and is in my possession signed over already. I can also arrange for good low priced shipping with Steve King Transport. I do a lot of business with him . Usual NY to California rates are about 1100.00. NY where the car is located to the middle of the country is about 7-750.00 . Usually gets delivered 7-9 days after the appt is set.

VIN: WBAHE5322SGA65473
Mileage: 123,600 miles
Title: Clear
Body type: Sedan
Engine: 8 – Cylinder
Transmission: Manual
Exterior color: Black
Interior color: Black

This car would be a blast to own. Powerful and fast enough to humble many of those uppity Porsche miscreants, yet roomy enough to haul four adults around comfortably. It would even be up to the task of playing the part of a poor-man’s ‘Ring Taxi; I’m no Sabine Schmitz, and I don’t have the Nürburgring as a playground, but I’m pretty sure I could make a drive, um, somewhat entertaining!

It’s not a perfect car; it’s been driven, and probably driven hard, has some wear on it and even a few little spots of rust, but it is a rare car, has had few owners who took pride in keeping it up and kept decent maintenance records for it. All that goes a long way to inspiring confidence that this car won’t turn into a money pit. And the non-VANOS M60 V8 under the hood won’t have the high-dollar maintenance requirements the S38, yet it’ll still put out around 300HP

The auction ended with no bids/offers on it; $6,100 starting bid on it there. The seller is also a member on mye28.com and posted an ad there as well with an asking price of $7,150. A few days back he dropped the bombshell that the car isn’t equipped with catalytic converters in the exhaust, which forces an “off road only” classification in many states; that seriously limits his purchasing public. Thankfully, there’s no requirement for an emissions test in the state of South Dakota… I smell a bargain & think this car is fated to come live with me; now I just need to convince Yvonne that having a winter car and a summer car is a good idea. On second thought, maybe that’s a roadblock I smell.