Tuesday of week two was a travel day. Loads of miles between our campsite in Cornwall and our destination site in Dorset just outside Dorchester.
Now on the long motorway miles we like to amuse ourselves by either playing Camperaderie or listening to old eighties tunes on the radio. Sadly it is pre-season and camper vans are in short supply on the roads just now so you can’t get your score above two or three before you get distracted and start talking about something else.
And our little USB pen drive containing hours and hours of the very best music of the eighties will not recognize the little slot in Daisy’s radio. So Ken Bruce helped a bit but much of the time was silently watching the temperature gauge and getting tense about other drivers.
Now there is amusement in getting tense about other drivers if you come at it from the right angle.
Warning – the following few paragraphs may offend – depending on what car you drive.
To start with I like to suspend reality a bit and imagine myself, my dear wife and my treasured Daisy to be alter-egos.
The Scooby Doo gang fits very well as there are so many villains on the road and we are the only innocent people with top notch driving skills. I am sure you are too.
Daisy is the Mystery Machine, obviously. Our two selves are Fred and Daphne (or Shaggy and Velma depending on how you see us). We could also be Fred and Velma or Shaggy and Daphne – and I am up for opinions if you care to chip in.
No-one is Scooby because he’s at home being looked after by Sabrina the Teenage Witch (all grown up – not).
Now the villains of our story are other drivers. We first look at their crime, work through the clues and then pull off their masks to reveal their true identities.
This fellow is coming up behind me in a supermarket car park. I see a parking spot in the right and move the Mystery Machine over to the right, preparing to swing left in preparation for a reverse park.
Suddenly I hear the roar of two oversized exhaust pipes and the dastardly fellow rips past on my inside causing me to swerve back to the right. I honk the horn and he and his mate are seen laughing at their incredible feat of speed in their Ford Fiesta with blacked out windows.
The two oversized exhaust pipes are clearly indications of sexual inadequacy and he will no doubt turn to surgery in later years and become villain 3 (below).
An inability to understand the rules of the road regarding undertaking – suggesting a younger generation of driver.
The presence of a laughing friend in the car to offer endorsement of the villain’s crime.
The blacked out windows so no young teenage girl can see that they are overweight, quite ugly and far too old to get into a car with.
Yes, it’s Terry the Twenty-Something, apprentice mechanic and boy racer.
On the motorway we come up behind a Dacia Duster travelling at roughly 58 miles per hour. The Mystery Machine is running quite nicely at the moment and this is not quite fast enough for her. Daphne is impressed by my skillful driving and I am keen to show her just what this machine can do. I pull out for the over take.
I kick the speed up to 62 mph and start gaining on the Dacia.
I suddenly seem to be struggling. But wait! The speedometer reads 62 mph.
I give it some more and start gaining again.
Hold on! Again we are struggling. The speedometer reads 65 mph and still no progress.
What on earth is happening?
I put it to the floor and we are neck and neck with the Dacia at 68 mph for ten seconds until finally, with an extra injection of power, we pass it at 70 mph.
The Dacia then drops back and I can hear an evil laugh in the air amongst the roar of the tyres.
It’s a Dacia Duster.
Yes of course. It’s Mr. Fifty-Something-Best-I-can-Afford. This cad does not like to be passed by an old camper van one little bit and suffers an inferiority complex about his car. He has previous convictions for leaving a ridiculous gap in a queue of traffic despite the possibility that someone behind him might need to take a junction in that gap, and for hugging the middle lane on the motorway.
We are on the dual carriageway tootling along at a gently 55 mph. There is hardly a car in sight either in front or behind.
Suddenly a back Audi is on my tail. It just appeared out of no-where and is sitting less than three millimeters from my rear bumper – presumably riding the slipstream. There’s no reason for it being there, the road was clear to overtake.
It pulls out to make the overtake, leaps forward and then pulls in directly in front of me approximately three millimeters from my front bumper. I am able to read the name of the garage who supplied the number plate.
Suddenly the Audi accelerates and it is in the far distance before I can blink.
Daphne gasps with an excitement I will never be able to bring to her. My eyes drop in sadness – a little ashamed of my portly old van.
It’s an Audi
It’s that old villain Dr. Must-be-a-Lawyer-or-Salesman-or-Other-Self-Centred-Dick-Head. He cannot resist the temptation to show off the back of his better-than-mid-priced luxury car to the female in every car he passes. He builds up the tension by hugging the back of his prey, unsettling the driver so he isn’t sure what to do. He then springs forward and shows off his tail feathers to the female sitting unsuspectingly behind.
There were other villains of course, and they would all have got away with it if it wasn’t for us pesky kids!
Now saying all that, our journey went well enough right through to Exeter where we stopped off for a few hours.
Exeter turns out to be a lovely place with loads of interesting history. We looked in at the Cathedral and looked back out again when we saw it would cost us twenty quid to enter. We then rattled round the charity shops and decided to visit the Medieval Tunnels Exhibition.
This was great fun for six quid each. The tunnels were built in the 14th century to hold the water pipes for the Cathedral (yes only the religious people got fresh water). The tour takes you right under the city inside the narrow tunnels and you really do feel like an adventurer for a few minutes. You even get your knees dirty if you want, as the tunnels are less than a metre high at one point.
Exeter has lots more to offer than we had a chance to see. Lovely looking restaurants and olde worlde pubs. We had to keep on the road though.
A mistake we made was popping into Honiton on the basis that the internet said it was the antique capital of the South. It should have said it is the antique of the South. It’s better named Horroton.
The antique shops were all closed, despite declaring they were open. And all the other shops, allegedly modern retailers, had more dust on the stock than the antique shops did.
It seems no one buys anything in Honiton. I reckon the antique shops are just the modern shops of some bygone time that have transitioned into antique shops. They start as ‘The Latest Gadgets Sold Here’ to ‘Last Year’s Stock to Go’ to ‘Memorabilia’ to ‘Antiques’.
If you open a shop in Honiton you will need a three hundred year lease in order to clear your first stock.
After that we endured one of the worst traffic diversions we have ever suffered in Daisy.
Now driving Daisy is not a one man (or woman) affair. It’s requires the skills and knowledge of two, the cooperation of the vehicle and the love of God to boot. Her gearing system, for example, is variable depending on the atmospheric conditions and luck. To ensure a successful journey the engine must remain cool enough to not burst a pipe, but warm enough to maintain good engine compression. Road conditions play a huge part and therefore a navigator’s skill is essential. Sybil, our satnav has been made completely redundant and the more finely tuned skills of my dear wife have taken over. She drives Daisy too you see – only from the passenger seat.
When a diversion takes you through every small town in Dorset and its neighbouring shires, the constant stopping and starting plays havoc with Daisy. The gears start to change like the starways at Hogwarts and you have to be agile to ensure you can keep on the right track. The fan kicks in every few minutes and the coolant begins to boil. She needs to be rested every so often and our own temperatures begin to rise.
Nonetheless we made it into Dorchester a little late and suffered the attitude and arrogance of a camp site manager who felt it beneath him to come out of his office an hour later than anticipated to check us in. I noted his Audi parked out back.
But checked in we were, next to the toilets with a view of the waste sluice.
It’s only one night.
We ate well this day. A light lunch with cream tea in Exeter at Shauls Bakery and dinner at the Junction Pub in Dorchester. Fine fare and we liked that it was the second pub with the same name this trip.
Wednesday was another long travel day. It’s heading home time so this is how it will be from now on. We stopped at Bere Regis though because it has a funny name and because there’s a large reclamation yard with loads of stuff you don’t really need but can’t help wanting anyway.
We didn’t need two stone Griffins for the garden and a dragon shaped gargoyle thing that will become the top of a bird table. The dragon will either provide our little feathered friends with protection from our large ginger Tom cat or scare the living daylights out of them. Either way we will enjoy seeing it in the garden.
I do love a good haggle so we knocked forty quid off the ticket prices and felt good about our achievements before setting off, five stone heavier, for Hereford.
Because of navigation errors for which only one person can be blamed – me – we took most of the day to reach Hereford. But we chanced upon a great little roadside café called the Den outside Shepton Mallet where we had a late breakfast/early lunch.
We knew the name but could not put our finger on why we knew it until we came through the town. Shepton Mallet is not, as my wife mischievously suggested, where they make big hammers – it is the home of Somerset Cider and the closest town to Glastonbury Festival were some it is drunk.
We then searched in vain for North and found it by heading South first, turning back and then going in the opposite direction. It’s actually a failsafe method of finding North and only adds a few miles on the motorway that you could do without.
Anyway we got to Hereford at the back of three and decided to check in at the campsite first before making out way into the city. We weren’t going to get the sights of Hereford now and I only really came here for one thing anyway.
Or rather, the Beefy Boys burger restaurant.
We prepared our pitch, went for some light exercise to stretch the stomach, and took Daisy back out onto the open road.
We were lucky to get in to the Beefy Boys which is famous in the region for its exceptional burgers. And they ARE exceptional. Best I have had in the UK.
I had the classic Beefy Boy Burger and my lady companion had the Mexican Burger (it’s got chilli, guacamole and stuff in it).
With a single side of fries between us and two cokes it was a bargain at twenty four quid. A tenner less than Byron and a better burger.
Sadly you have to go to Hereford for it. And Hereford not really close to anywhere. It’s kind of to the right before you get to Bristol, another place you aren’t really likely to go to.
Our journey comes to a close in the next two days and I do not foresee much more than travelling with a short stopover in Kendal. I plan to visit the Lomo kayak shop in Glasgow on the way back but there won’t be much of interest to you there.
So this will be my last entry before I start up again on the New Orleans trip in September.