Monday 12 September 2011

Been There, Done That, Got The Tee Shirt

It was dark when I set off, I mean DARK. 04:00 in mid September is generally dark. I’d been checking the car over only 12 hours before & found a water leak from the pump, what to do? Abort? No – fill the passenger footwell with water bottles & hope there was enough to get me between fuel stops, for this was the big one. The re-running of the rained off trip to Land’s End for breakfast. The forcast didn’t look too good for this attempt either, we WERE going to get wet at some point.
I aimed the car west heading for Popham services on the A303, the meeting point. I’d only been there a couple of minutes, when a Caterham pulled in, this was Callum – he wasn’t even going to Land’s End, but had come to see us off & accompany us on the first leg. After another ten minutes Greenwoo, Nash & 2kwik (&son) emerged from the gloom & we entertained the services other customers – “you’re going WHERE for breakfast??” while greenwoo puffed on another cig & we all had one last trip to the loo.
Then with a cheery cry of the club motto “WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG” we belted up & headed into the night. We soon found out, as within five miles the hazards came on on the Greenwoo-mobile & it pulled into a side turning running lumpily on three cylinders (running on three it still has 50BHP more than mine running on four, but that’s not the point). We poked & prodded, wiggled important looking things & even gave the engine a collective “hard stare”, but it wasn’t to be, & the RAC was called. All this time a pair of dogs in the house opposite where we had stopped were having a rare old time barking their heads off – I hope they woke their owners up, several times.
The decision was made & waving goodbye to our downed companion (badly injured pride) the remaining four set off again. The plan had been to stop for fuel after only thirty miles as that made the 100 miles between fuel stops work better at the far western end, but our new leader had refuelled at Popham & assumed that the route going via a side road with a petrol station in it was a mistake, so as I refuelled, I saw him come back down the side road, out onto the A303 & race off in the mistaken assumption that I’d gone straight on, his wingman saw me waving from the forecourt & raced off to retrieve him, but that just spurred him on to greater efforts in the persuit. I paid for my petrol & Callum & I headed after them. By the time we hit Exeter it was pretty clear we weren’t going to catch them & Callum turned for home having exhausted his time available for blatting.

I drove on. It started to rain. I drove on. It got foggy. This was the worst bit of the whole day, driving alone, with rain building up on the inside of the screen, dripping into my seat, covering the mirror. But as I dropped down off of Bodmin moor the fog lifted, the rain ceased, & the roads got twistier & more interesting. Then, not far before Land’s end I spied a metallic blue seven at the side of the road – I'd caught up with them – but it wasn’t 2Kwik & son, it wasn’t even a Tiger. So I drove on.
I reached Land’s End about 09:30, still feeling remarkably fresh, but in dire need of a coffee. I asked the guy on the gate if I could take the car down to the famous signpost, he asked me if I was doing the “end to end”, I replied “something like that” & he let me park for free. Shortly after that the blue seven I’d seen pitched up. This it turned out, was a member of the “Locost Builders Forum” (LCB) who’d heard of our expedition & had come to see if it was true. We chatted while we waited for news of the others – and we waited – and we waited.
Around 10:00 my phone rang, it was Greenwoo, calling from Land’s End Airfield, he’d made it! The RAC man had cured his car by doing nothing-at-all (he thought it was a heat related issue) & he’d managed to catch up. Within ten minutes the other to re-appeared & we were all back together. Hoorah!
We took all five cars (the SKCC expeditionary force & Mr LCB) down to the sign post where we, the official photographer & a couple of dozen trippers from a variety of countries snapped away, then we headed to the airfield café for breakfast – the whole point of the trip after all.
Breakfast was served & devoured in proper SKCC style, generous potions washed down with hot drinks, & after a pleasant banter 2Kwik & son headed for home along the A30 / 303 & therefore missed out on the best part of the trip. The rest of us (now four) turned the other way & headed for the coast road, I’d driven this a couple of years before in the family personel carrier while on holiday & it was beautifully twisty & scenic. Mr LCB asked if we would be doing it as it was locally known as the Cornish Nordschief (Nurburgring). In the Fury it was 9 miles of utter bliss. By this time the sun had come out & we made the absolute most of it as the video hopefully shows, the road goes from just about nowhere to St.Ives so there was very little traffic & what there was either turned off pretty smartly, or pulled in to let us past – excellent.
I was enjoying myself so much I didn’t notice that only I & Mr LCB were there as we pulled into St. Ives, we chatted about the road, and we waited – and we waited (getting used to it now), then the phone rang. Yes it was greenwoo again, somehow further along the route again. He was already in Hayle, but Nash had suffered a breakdown & was awaiting the RAC. Mr LCB & I patrolled St. Ives in the hope of finding him, but we didn’t & met up with Greenwoo on the other side of town.
At this point we bid farewell to Mr LCB as he turned for home & the remaining two SKCCers headed east. We detoured along the coast again to the east of Newquay. I had intended to stop at Porth to rest up for the journey home, in the event neither of us felt we needed a rest, so we stopped briefly so I could check the water level – it hadn’t lost a teaspoonful – strange. While I was doing this a pair of hippy chicks engaged Greenwoo in conversation & took photos of the cars, then we were gone.
The rest of the journey home was uneventful except for the Greenwoo-mobiles bizarre ailment returning periodically. When this happened we pulled into a roadside hostelry & topped up our caffeine levels while it cooled. Never known a car fault cured by coffee before.
And then it was over. I got home about 19:30, just in time to miss tea.
The car averaged 30 MPG which considering how it was driven & the fact that it has a 35 year old engine fed by two huge Dellorto carbs, I was quite pleased with.
564 miles.

Get yourself a coffee before you hit the triangle, there's 15 min of it.

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