Well, what do you do after all the mad-cap chaos of Christmas hugh? You have had weeks of anguish trying to work out what to get every one; find the money to pay for it; find the time to go get it; work out what you will need in the way of groceries and the like, and trying to remember every-one you need to send a card to, along with christmas parties, kids concerts, carol singing, making mince pies etc etc etc.
Then, the Christmas Eve crisis. All the house calls to make sure that every one has their presents for Christmas day, trying to find some-where that hasn't sold out of celotape, and that special source your great Aunt Mable kept moaning that you didn't have last year.
Twenty seven attempts to get the kids to bed, and to stay there before one-o'clock in the morning, then the frantic melee to get their presents out of hiding, wrapped and put under the tree for when they come down at some un-earthly hour of the morning, about twenty minutes after you have finished.
Then there is Christmas day itself. An orgy of alcohol & Chocolate, with a dry Turkey and Brussel Sprouts thrown in just to torture you, between children throwing boxes about, loosing the important pieces of their new toys and demanding fresh batteries every twenty minutes.
Boxing day, isn't much better; Cold Turkey sandwiches, while you try to throw off the hang over and the kids decide which of their presents are great and which are a 'load of rubbish'.
And the day after that? Well, normally its "I'm bored! I've got nothing to play with" and "What we going to have for dinner, and don't say 'Turkey' again" So we booked on to Keith's Peaks Run. Booked it up in October actually. Thought it would be a good break in the Christmas programme.
Weezil has been having some problems recently. Back in October she didn't seem to be charging her batteries, but a new alternator seemed to fix that, but on Mat's Leicestershire run before Christmas, the bugbear came back.
It was probably nothing more than a loose wire from driving down waterlogged tracks throwing ice at the engine bay.
Christmas day, saw me with my head under her bonnet, trying to source the problem and rectify it, before trundling over to see the Kids God-Mother, who had to give us a jump start when we left, because it obviously didn't work.
Boxing day, too saw me with my head under the bonnet, this time wiring in an ammeter, to try and find out if the batteries were charging. They were, and after swapping the batteries around and isolating them, I seemed to have a handle on it, and after running her up for twenty minutes the battery was charged enough to work the starter,
So, we reckoned we had it sussed, and would set out as planned. Sandwiches were made, and the 'goodie' box raided for sweats and confections for the days outing.
But then at half past seven, in the morning, she refused to start, and had to be jumped off Bert. "Just the Cold" we said. Deciding it was a combination of freezing temperatures thickening oil and sapping energy from battery electrolyte. And a little late we set of for Buxton, to Meet Keith and the gang.
The journey up was not particularly eventful, except for getting a little lost around Burton, and then having the back end step out on us on an interchange going onto the A50.
I have NEVER heard the kids so silent in the back, as for those few moments as they realised that the landscape was getting closer to them through the side windows!
Even the wife, never said anything, as I steered into the skid, and frantically tried hammering the yellow knob down to let the front wheels haul us back into a straight line.
It was a few moments later, when I had the plot back under control, and my left foot was shaking hard enough that the accelerator pedal was creaking, that she said, over the din from the kids behind "What in ***** name was THAT?!"
"Ice dear. We skidded" And so onto Buxton, otherwise undeterred.
As we neared Buxton, we spotted two police cars parked up, and a sign saying "Police accident". Just round the corner a tow truck was trying to crane a very much shortened hatch back out of a dry stone wall.
"What's happened there?" She says. "Has it been snowing?"
"It IS snowing." I say, wondering if her telling me to be careful implies that she thinks that I am not, or if she just believes me absent minded enough to forget for a few moments!
A few miles on, and there is another one, and the snow is actually settling on the road.
We get into Buxton, and the designated car-park at about quarter to ten. Keith had intended four groups, leaving between Half past nine and five past ten. We had seen a group of 4x4's heading out as we came in and hoped that we could make the last group.
As it was, one of Keith's leaders had let him down, and two groups were still waiting as we arrived. And I apologise. As I came round the roundabout to pull into the car park, a daft old codger in a Ford Focus obviously failed to see two tons of bard door sized Land Rover bearing down on him, and decided that traffic from his right should give way, and let him pull onto the roundabout. So I was still shaking again as I saw the height restriction sign, and how tight the parking spaces were. I crawled under the barrier, with the CB aerial clanging, and just scraping under, and couldn't be bothered to shunt around, so just drove straight in and over the curb & path in the middle to the parking space in front of Keith.
Lifting the bonnet, I also needed oil and clutch fluid, which necessitated a quick run across the road to a conveniently situated motor-factors, while Keith sorted himself out and the children went to relieve themselves in the public conveniences.
Meanwhile, Keith found out that Bertie was a local lad and happy to lead a group round, and set him off on his way, leaving us in Keith's last group of the day, with two Free Landaus and a Frontera I have seen before, I think on the Wayfarer's run.
Today, we were tail end Charlie on gate duty. On the road, out of Buxton, we became way behind Charlie, as Keith powered along the black top, and up the hills leaving me behind, and despite telling me he'd be on Channel 25, not responding when I let him know over the radio.
Seems some of the others got the message though, because they slowed down for us, until we caught back up. And, so onto the first trails of the day, some gentle quarry tracks as a gentle warm up.
And we bunch up having run into Bertie's group, so jump out and have a natter while we wait for them to get ahead.
When we set off, we were getting used to seeing plenty of distance between us & the Frontera, but this time it was because we had to wait & close the gate, but on the rough stuff the wiezil is in its element and eager to haul them back in.
No, those white flecs in the picture aren't dust on the negative, or scratches on the camera lense - it was SNOWING
Difficult to see the scenery when it is shrouded in snow heavy cloud, but, I think this one works farly well, if you excuse the half a Land Rover door in the shot!
And this one.
Further up the tracks, the going is still fairly light, except for the odd water splash, but the scenery in the changing light diffusing through the snow clouds was simply stunning, as it played on all the colours and textures in the landscape. And all too soon it was time to head for the black top and Keith's scheduled lunch stop.
It was at this point that electrical gremlins hit back again. We had lost the use of the accessory socket on the way up, and I had put it down to a blown fuse of a dodgy contact, but on the drop leg to the lunch stop, the charge warning lamp came on. Either than fan belt had come loose or the wiring from the alternator was playing up again.
We soldiered on to the halt. Turned out that the wiring from the alternator had come loose and touched the exhaust manifold. There the insulation had melted, and eventually the wire had touched metal and short circuited. With 30A straight from the alternator, and no load, it soon got hot and melted the rest of the insulation off the loom.
What I found under the bonnet was not a pretty sight - lots of bare wires and melted plastic. I jury rigged the loose ends back together and wrapped everything in insulation tape. It held, but that's one for the jobs list to be done properly.
Take note though. One of the cable guides on the inside of the engine bay was not helping. Electrolytic corrosion between the aluminium of the wing panel and the steel of the bolt & clip had seen it eat a hole in the aluminium largr enough for the bolt & washer to just pull clean through. The idea occurs that plastic number plate screws may be a better idea for such low stress applications, and perhaps a nylon garden tie instead of the metal clip.
Any way, lunch stop was at a cafe. While I toiled to get the electrics back on line, the kids dug into their sandwiches. Outside, in the snow & sleet!
With no power in the accessory socket, I had to again jury rig the travel kettle into the test socket on the instrument binnacle, but before it boiled, my eldest lad came back from the cafe with a hot steaming mug of frothy coffee for me! Cheers mate!
All four groups rolled in, and it was a site to behold, nearly thirty mud splattered 4x4's filling the parking lot.
Including a 'gen-you-wine - Yoo Ess Are-mee regg-yoo-lay-shun jeep'. Boy it must have been cold in THAT one!
Back out after lunch, and the jury rigging of the alternator cabling is holding up. We hoped. Fully mechanical diesel engine, can run all day without help from the electric's - just as long as you don't stall it!
But it was nice to know that even today, Solihull's finest, still has foibles. See the gold Free-Lander, with the bonnet up? He wasn't topping up the windscreen wash! The K-Series engine seemed to have developed an aversion to water!
Onto more tracks for the rest of the day, with very little black top in between and fewer stops.
The tracks were interesting, and fun to drive, if not hugely demanding, which as the day wore on let us enjoy the scenery more as the snow clouds lifted, but the light got worse, making everything a lot starker.
There were a few steep climbs, one up some natural cobbles that gave the suspension a pounding - the wife likened it to riding a badly loaded washing machine while using a hammer drill. I wont ask what base line she has for that comparison. I think it is better left unasked!
And a brief encounter with the same three ramblers on three occasions. They weren't hostile, but neither were they amused
And that wraps it up for the photo's except for the last one grabbed in the fading light of a group of bikers we kept coming across.
Overall, it was a good run, gremlins aside, and it just goes to show that you can get out and about, even in the midst of winter when all the amusement parks have closed their gates.
As a scenic run, it was a not the non-stop photo opportunity we have had on other runs, but mainly because the weather, while giving beautiful light, also reduced visibility, and when we did spot things worth looking at, it was just too darn cold to go wading about finding the right angle to get the picture from.
But, the daft thing is that it worked. The short day, the ever changing light, and the cold weather conspired to give snippets of just how beautiful the country side round there is. Little brooks, and bridges, snow covered moss on an old stone wall. The patterns in the fields brought into relief by the snow and wind. All interesting and vibrant - it might be winter, and it might be cold, but the landscape is still alive, still changing, moving, shifting.
Definitely beats arguing over who had the last of the Branston Pickle, and watching 'Zulu' for the twenty third time, while trying to figure out how to get the pickled onion of that stupid little fork your Mother in law has, with the springy ejector thing now you have just bent the tines.