Early morning I load all my stuff into the TWIKE, clear my apartment and hand back the keys and remote control for the garage before driving to the Airport to work from the lounge until my flight leaves later that afternoon.
All is good until I have to slam the breaks due to a distracted driver and the TWIKE does not break as expected – no breaking at the front and virtually no breaking at the back. It seems that the endless cobblestone treatment has gotten to the breaking system and something has broken.
I immediately research some motorbike mechanics in the vicinity of the airport and drive to them – all of them just shake their heads and inform me that they are either fully booked for the week or that they wouldn’t touch the TWIKE. Hm.
Eventually, I decide to drive gingerly to the airport’s car park and sort things when I’m back from Switzerland.
My TWIKE gets the very first parking spot – literally the pole-position to get into the airport. The car park was rather empty – I assumed that this was due to the pandemic and that there were not too many travelers flying.
I was wrong. The airport was packed! Lucky me: with my priority I was able to skip the lines and drop my baggage within 10 minutes. Other flights – especially those to the UK – created lines that snaked around the airport and were >50m and looked like people had been waiting for ever!
Unlike early April 2021 when I last flew back to Zurich from Lisbon and the lounges were all closed – all were open, but not back to normal.
Horrible single-wrapped bread rolls and very reduced service made my stay less enjoyable than usual. The seats, however were as comfortable as always and the reduced occupancy rules meant that every other seat was free – nice.
The flight itself was uneventful except for Zurich Airport approach – the landscape looked very different to what I have been used to for the last month – lots of lush greens! (well, it has been a horrible summer with more rainy than sunny days)
The very next day I had some minutes to spare before my full-day workshop and thought I’d get a croissant and a flat white. What a shock I was in for! Getting used to Lisbon prices is dangerous: €8.50 buys me a soup, main course (with meat or seafood), 0,5 litres of water, dessert and a coffee. This is less than what I paid in Zurich for just a coffee and a croissant! Wow.
My workshop was mere metres away from Zurich’s financial epicentre.
A very constructive and important day – happy and proud to be part of this team!
After the workshop we met with some more colleagues. I was already feeling cold late afternoon…another Portugal-induced thing: I’ve gotten used to the heat! During dinner I felt cold – even with a jacket, whilst others were sitting at the table in their t-shirts!
After a last day full of meetings with partner companies of ours, I took the time to tend to the new normal of international travel: more forms…which don’t get checked at the check-in, boarding or arrival. Same goes for the Covid certificate. Sometimes I think this is just an elaborate scheme to make people travel less.
Friday morning: I’m at the airport – my trusted watermelon is back on the road with me. Even if I’m scheduled to fly mid-day I get to the airport early by joining my wife on her way into town and then continue working at the business centre in one of the lounges.
In Zurich things are much more relaxed – not too many travelers, sub 1 minute wait at security and the lounge is virtually empty … and has a very nice breakfast selection.
The flight to Lisbon was interesting insofar that over Spain, we very slowly ‘overtook’ a TAP flight going to Lisbon.
Overtaking took about 15 minutes and we were flying in absolutely parallel lines. One could say this why one flies Swiss – they give you back time…
Approaching Lisbon, my flight takes me across a few of the places I’ve recently been, either during TDP2021 or earlier this year in April.
First off, the coast of Cascais, at which I was the weekend before. The beaches and Portugal’s westernmost point were visible.
After a loop out over the sea, we returned towards the city via Costa di Caparica – where I stayed for 2 weeks earlier this year. A very nice and local beach dozens of kilometres long dotted with restaurants, eateries and guarded beach segments.
And then, we flew directly over Lisbon – what a beautiful sight.
After landing it took for ever to get my luggage back – I still have 240km to drive today and want to get to Castel Branco before sunset.
Good news is that my TWIKE is still there where I parked it and that all my belongings are still in it.
The not so good news is that my breaks are more or less gone. I only have about 5% left, which is scary. Fortunately, >95% of my drive today will be on the motorway without any traffic signals or other reasons for which I would need to break. Regen still works but as anyone who has driven a TWIKE knows, this is a perfect braking system if you don’t drive fast and don’t need to break abruptly. (I usually drive using >99% regen, which I probably why I’m having problems as the break pads start to crumble due to not being used)
Gingerly, I make my way to the motorway – feeling much better with cruise control engaged.
Only 40 kilometers into my trip Portuguese Police overtake me and direct me to a hard shoulder. The officers are friendly but direct: ‘you shouldn’t be driving on motorways in Portugal with this vehicle!’
I’m sure they just meant well, but the reasons they came up with went from strange to very weird.
First reason: Your vehicle is just too small to drive on the motorway!
No, it’s certainly bigger than a motorbike – also, a Twizzy is also motorway-legal and smaller than a TWIKE.
OK, OK. They go back to their car.
Second reason: You can’t reach the minimum speed required. It would be 60 but when they took me off the motorway, I was doing in excess of 90kph – I asked them to check their telemetry …and yes, it was more than 90.
OK, OK. They go back to their car and continue calling HQ. Come back to the TWIKE and ask me if it was a TWIKE 3 or 5 – Now we’re getting somewhere!
Third reason: ‘Electric vehicles in Portugal have to have at least 4kW propulsion to be allowed on the motorway’ – which is in itself not true for two reasons. This would be the definition of the L2e class vehicle which a TWIKE is not – also, these vehicles have a maximum speed of 50kph. A TWIKE is a L5e-type vehicle which was created before L5e existed. A TWIKE has a Swiss taxation-related power rating of 3kW whilst the main motor has a 9kW peak output with normal software and ~11.5kW output with the so-called racing software. (Think of it like chip tuning in the 90’s). Modern L5e vehicles have a minimum 15kW rating, which the TWIKE does not quite reach…which doesn’t mean the modern ones are in any way more agile: They are typically twice the weight of a TWIKE!
I start to explain this…and the policemen get visibly angry with me as I am clearly well prepared and they just want me off the motorway ASAP. Therefore I start smiling and excuse myself for wasting their time and ask to be escorted off the motorway …with blue lights, nothing less!
Eventually, I wave goodbye and head down the normal road towards Castelo Branco.
The weather is great, roads get emptier the further east I drive and Portugal shows that there is also a flat part to it.
Eventually, i get to Castelo Branco – and in time for my brakes to fade completely. It’s just plain dangerous right now.
Happy to have made it, I meet my friend and his family. We park the TWIKE, agree to take it to the mechanic tomorrow Saturday.
With this we go out for some food, chatting, sightseeing and having fun.
We don’t stay up for too long, as we are going to go for an early run at 7am – speed tourism in Castelo Branco!