King of Excellent (according to Scaryduck)

Tuesday, August 28

The road to hell

I promised to post about my trip to Devon last week, and will do so in the next few days, but I had to tell you about my trip to hell and back on Friday.

Daccombe is a small hamlet on the outskirts of Torquay. It is a village of no discernible note, not even having a pub, post office or shop. It is also where I like to stay when I am in that neck of the woods, with a friendly, cheap and simple campsite for tents only. It is also 172 miles from my door. So, with the journey home looming on the Friday before a bank holiday weekend, as the tent is packed away, I have the radio on so I can hear the latest traffic reports. It all started so badly...

M5, Junction 24 - 26: Two lanes closed following an accident earlier in the day. Current waiting times are in excess of 40 minutes.

By the time I leave the campsite (11:24am) the traffic is building up just about everywhere. I have a fairly clear run up past Exeter and get a good 30 miles in, before I hit the tailback for the aforementioned problem. Roadsigns have been warning me to leave at Junction 27, but the road is clear there, so I carry on, and just hit traffic within sight of 26. Getting off the motorway, I now crawl along the A38, well, I say crawl. More like sit and wait for 5 minutes, move 2 feet, sit and wait a bit longer. Some 90 minutes later(!), I get to Taunton, a grand total of 6 miles. Now, remember, I am towing a trailer. Towing means two things. You cannot turn round, and you cannot change lane very easily. So I inadvertently end up going into the city centre on a Friday lunchtime. Chaos is not the word.

I get out of town fairly quickly, and the traffic's now flowing quite well (about 20 minutes to do 2 miles) and just as we pass junction 25 (still closed) the traffic stops altogether. I can see about a mile ahead, and nothing is moving. At all. The road looks positively glacial. On top of this, the 200 miles of fuel I have in the car has now gone. I tap into the sat nav to get me out of here, and in true Italian Job fashion, it takes me down a narrow lane. The high hedgerows clatter down both sides of the car as I crawl along so as not to knacker my paintwork, or meet a lunatic with a tractor coming the other way. Eventually the road opens up again, and I find myself some 5 miles further north. I cannot imagine how much time I saved, but 10 minutes of narrow roads must have saved me hours!

I eventually get back onto the M5, some 5 hours since leaving the campsite. 4 hours of which were spent doing the 21 miles between junction 26 and junction 24. The road is heavy but moving, and at a sedate 30 miles an hour I crawl to the services for a splash and dash because I am so low on fuel. We then carry on up watching the traffic get heavier and heavier (it's now rush hour, on a Friday, before bank holiday, and the sun's out) and get to Cribbs Causeway for much needed refreshment and a jimmy. a mad dash around ASDA and we're back on the road crossing back into Wales, only to face more traffic all the way from the bridge to just past Cardiff.
Everything's now quietening down, and things are looking good for arriving home before 7, when a final play was made. 1 lane closed in the 2 lane section of the M4 in Port Talbot. Once again, some 30 minutes from home, I am sat in traffic. I know Port Talbot like the back of my hand, but even my skits down back alleys and through housing estates takes me an hour, and I get back home some 8 hours after leaving. According to the AA routeplanner, even with that route, it should only take me 4 hours. My right leg is in bits, I always suffer with a bad knee when driving for a long time. I can't walk, my head hurts, but I have 3 cold cans of cider in my car fridge.

That's why it's taken me 3 days to recover.