Now, Honey arrived in April, and took a while to fettle her up and get her sills 'done', and we'd hoped to give her her off-road debut driving Stannage in Derbyshire in June..... but the best laid plans and all that meant it didn't happen, and I did the Sibbertoft P&P instead.
That little outing highlighted a few 'niggles' that needed sorting out, then the kids moaned at me that they wanted to come 'off-roading' with me, and pestered me to see if we could do 'something' in the summer holidays.
They were due to come and stay with me the first week of the long break, so I duly made some enquiries on the boards asking if any-one was going to be out and about over the weekend of the 18th & 19th July....
'APPARENTLY'! This was the same weekend that there were a couple of little shows going on, and something of a 'war' between their organisers, that I don't think did either's attendance much good, 'cos an awful lot of people, so pee'd off at the childish bickering, decided to do something else instead....
And ONE such person was Chris, AKA Chunkster on LRO, who jumped at the idea of an outing on Salisbury plain, and immediately offered to organise a 'run', to which a number of the 'Salisbury Suspects', including Mal103, 'Team Frog' & OilyRag & Dawn, quickly subscribed, so it promised to be an interesting excursion... though they were all praying for rain, apparently, as the chalky soil down there means it drains far to quickly for them to get any 'decent' mud......
I was helping Dirty-Girtie, do some work on the brakes of her 90, 'Her Landyship' at the time, so wasn't SO keen on the rain dance the Wiltshire Wanderers were all doing, and Girtie pointed out, IF it rains on St Swithen's day it will rain for forty days and forty nights........ it rained on St Swithen's!
So THAT'S why we are having such a soggy summer! MY FAULT! Inciting the 'Plains People' into a little mud-larking!
Anyway, run arranged by Chunkster, all I had to do was get there, picnic packed, tanks gassed, and kids armed with their cameras.
Rendezvous was at the Countess Services in Amesbury, and I duly plotted a course to get there, before we left, which we had to do EARLY, because meet up was scheduled for 10am, and reckoning the 160 miles to be about a 2 1/2 hr journey, guessed on leaving at about 7am to get there in good time. We made it, at 10.30, having curiously run out of LPG en route, and not had time to stop at either of the two autogas stations we'd passed.
This made things a 'bit' twitchy, as I'd reckoned, a full tank, 90+l of go-gas, should have been good for something like 300miles, even at a 'conservative' 15mpg, which a steady motorway run SHOULD have easily bettered. At that rate, 300+ miles of gas range should have seen us all the way to Amesbury, with pretty much enough to get home on, and a quick top-up at the countess services, should have been plenty for the days adventure......
Using ALL our gas to get there, and only having £20 in paper money, and whatever 'shrapnel' I could find in my pockets, or the various compartments in the car, and NOTHING in the bank until the following morning, worried me..... but what the heck! We were there, we had fuel in the tank, and a bunch of loons ready to go rough-roadin!
Now, I have a new little 'toy', I have acquired Memory Map for the PC and a GPS sender to give it location data. The idea being to get a cheap lap-top and run it in the car, and I had HOPED to have the lap top and be able to try it out on this run. As twas, Lap-Top didn't materialise, so I had to rely on paper-maps and print offs, which was a shame, because IF I'd had the lappy, might not have had some of the problems we did later......
So, after a little financial slight of hand at Countess services, sticking £20 worth of FPF in the tank, and paying with my card, hoping the transaction wouldn't 'hit' until the day after, we were out on the 'run', in convoy, heading for the first lanes of the day.
Described as 'a bit scratchy', Chunkster did ask if I wanted to take the abatement.... But hey, didn't come all THIS far to wimp out at the first hurdle, did I! And it WAS 'scratchy'! And a bit slippy.
I'd brought her down on the Wrangler AT/2's, as Chunk reckoned we wouldn't be doing anything TOO challenging, and I wanted to find out how how much off-road grip these things have.
The day's activity answered that one fairly conclusively, and I HAVE to say that AT/2's aren't that wonderful in really slimy mud!
We got through everything we pointed her at on the plain, and that did include some pretty slimy stuff, but I KNOW the Dakars would have laughed at that. They are 'competent', and while it was 'fun' sliding around on them, they don't have the 'bite' of a full 'AT' when you could do with it.
For me, as a road, come 'summer' tyre, which I can swap out for the muds when I want to go play, they are good enough, and their road manners and contribution to economy is appreciated.
But if I could only have one set of tyres, then it would have to be a full all terrain like the Avon Ranger, or the old Goodridge 'Track Edge'.
Any way, back to this tight & scratchy lane......
It popped out though a hedge, on a blind bend!
So the first 'Halt' was to see us all safely across the road, and took the opportunity to get Rhys to read the warning sign....
Mal, of course took the opportunity to do some mechanics....... leafer's!, eh? Mind you, he wasn't the only one. Oily was making use of any opportunity for running repairs and modifications, too!
Oily-Rag, was doing this bit of crafty fabrication was being done in the car-park at Countess Services while they were all waiting for me to arrive, and the idea was it was to stop mud and water blasting in through the radiator grill..... Trouble was, he forgot to put it down before tackling this section, where mud and water getting through the radiator was the LAST problem Dawn was worried about...... apparently it all came in through the floor, the transmission tunnel, the doors seals, the roof.... well, everywhere, really!
But plugging on, we did some more trails, which according to the map included a few fords along Nine Mile River;
A quick comfort stop, to take on water, or vica-verca....
Then back on the trails, to the 'Bomb-Hole'
and this particular picture deserves particular prominence!
Yes, that's Mal, in the Red Series, showing that Diesels AREN'T impervious to water, not 'quite' following us through there in Honey. Folk thought I was VERY brave, putting a V8 through that hole, but good girl she is, Honey made it through to the other side. Though I DID have to sit there for five or ten minutes, tickling the throttle to keep her alive and dry off the electrics! Unfortunately Mal was NOT so lucky. He has a 2.5NAD in that from a Sherpa van. A common 1990's conversion, every-one saying that they are the 'same' engine as the LR90, and drop straight into a Series with virtually no modification. Not strictly true. The timing pump on the LR90 version of the engine is re-located, so to fit a Sherpa engine you have to mugger about with the battery tray. And the Sherpa-engines timing cover, isn't sealed. In fact, it has a ruddy great vent-hole in it. So when Mal ploughed in here.... slime filled the timing compartment, and the engine stopped. It was later revealed that the slime had lifted the timing belt off the pulleys letting it 'slip' causing untold damage inside the engine!
Chunks to the Rescue, hauling Mals soggy bum out the water. But then having been the hero....
Decided, while mal poked under the bonnet of the SIII, to wade into the vacant hole....... and got stuck! But hey, at least the snorkel, worked, Eh, Chunks! Meanwhile....... Children will be children!
I have a feeling Rhys might have been the one that egged the rest on to get so wet!
And the only difference twix men and boys........
Now I shouldn't really have parked quite right where I did, should I?
So break for lunch, while Mal messes with his motor, Dawn making every-one hungry, billying up bacon on Fred's tail-gate, up-wind of every-one!
Then off for some 'Scenic' trails
After Chunk drags Mal and the Series back to black-top to await an AA truck!
And as the afternoon sun dips towards the horizon, Scenic it was!
And that concluded the days off-roading! But the adventure had not ended! Heading back on to black-top, the frogs had to give us a jump-start when Honey decided to conk out! I presume, aggrieved, because I didn't put her through the last big puddle of the day! Cantankerous bloomin V8's!
However, that sorted, we turned tail and started back-tracking our way home, hoping to catch some LPG at the station we'd passed on the way in. The £20 worth of Unleaded had done us proud all day, but it had not pushed the needle very far up the gauge, and the red-lamp had started glowing ominously quite a while ago!
So, we headed back towards Warmnister, remembering that there were two LPG stations on the A36, having scratched together £11.99 from the change in my pockets and variously scattered around the cubby box, ash-tray and oddment trays! Quite remarkeable how many 20p pieces you can find, and how they all add up, actually! It was something of a forlorn hope, but that £30 could 3/4 fill the gas tank, and 'maybe' get us close to home...
Except.... the police closed the A36....... No diversion signs or anything, just a road block.... Kids were asleep, so not to alarm them, I drove on..... Lost.... Looking for a sign.... ANY sign...... But one that said 'Autogas' would have been good...... Failing that, one that said 'M4' pretty helpful!
I have NO idea where I went, but following my nose, I passed three petrol stations, the needle on the dread gauge getting ever closer to the stop, the red 'panic' light, now glowing ominously...... I spotted a sight that said M4, 4miles, and ahead of it, a petrol station.
I decided, at that point, I needed fuel, of ANY sort, and pulled in. It was a card only petrol station! I HAD to drive on..... 4 miles later, I reached the M4. There was a services sign, I drove round the roundabout, and discovered it was to a 'local' services, was a mile away, and said 'HGV ONLY'..... I drove onto the motorway, with trepidation...... And was greeted by a sign saying 'Services 1 mile'... I uttered a little prayer of thanks, and coasted into the slip....
No LPG, but I thought to try the card or cash trick again..... Sloshed in £20 worth of FPF..... Handed attendant the card.... he handed it back, saying "We only take raised numbers"
What followed, as he pointed me at one of those tariff charging all-brand cash points at the back, while immediately serving the next customer, COULD have started a riot, because the rectum had NO manners, and didn't listen. I'd asked him which way up to put the card, and he'd just looked at me as though I was stupid and said 'CHIP'.... Like I KNOW it has a chip, does it go in chip up, or chip down..... obtaining a slightly more emphasised 'CHIP!' in reply!
Then having the card chucked back at me, and vague order to use the cash-point, and the next customer ushered in front of me, before I'd even picked it up, I found rather, err.... ignorant. And when I DIDN'T rattle humbly to the cash point, the sphincter stared at me, rattled off his missive about not accepting 'smooth' cards, and telling me to use the cash point....again...
Oblivious to the fact I was waving cash money at him.....
And When he repeated YET AGAIN, that he didn't take 'smooth' cards, and told me he'd 'explained' THREE times.... I kind of lost it with him; told him I didn't WANT to use the cash point, or be spoken to like an idiot, and would rather like to walk out without paying AT ALL, if he didn't answer the question I had been attempting to interrupt his repeated 'explanations with'.... "Do you take CASH?!"
He looked stunned, and for a nano-second, silent.... so I chucked the four fivers at him, so he had to scrabble to grab them, and walked out!
I felt a moments remorse as I walked across the forecourt, wondering whether I had been a little harsh, being stressed at having so little fuel, and so far to go..... decided I possibly had been..... but then countered it by the fact he had still been an ill-mannered ignorant ignoramus and deserved it all, and I was only surprised I had not sworn at him!
Mentioning the mater on the forum, a couple of the South-West members, named the service station, a couple actually described the attendant, one actually provided his name! apparently they are not renowned for their manners there!
Anyway, back on the motorway! Red light not showing, but the fuel gauge still not out of the red zone, I looked for signs which gave me SOME clue where we were.... NOT that I particularly cared much, at this point, but what the heck! Seemed we were was some-where near Bath.... perhaps, but more usefully, 25 miles from Bristol....
As I crawled along, at roughly 55 per, refusing to allow the tacho needle over 2000rpm, or my right boot to move more than 1/2", I did the mental mathematics.... went something like this: Bristol is about 115 miles from home.... 115 + 25 = 140. £20 @ £1.04 per litre is just under 20l.... perhaps 4 gallons.... Whats the 'Best' a 3.9 Rangie can get on full prive fuel...... book says 15mpg..... Hmmmmm 60 miles then, plus some fumes......That's BARELY half way home.....
I tried to remember the M5 service stations, and KNEW Michael Wood didn't have LPG, and the next services after that was Worcester, which was DEFINITELY more than 60 miles away.........I drove on..... delicately balancing the throttle to 'just' keep the torque converter locked up in top..... 55mph..... the 'double nickel' 1mph less than the speed all 'economy' figures used to be rated at..... The kids were asleep..... I left them that way!
Bristol came and went.... Caravans over took.... Motor homes towing Smart-cars on bits of string over took..... TRACTION ENGINE'S over took! OK so that one was on the back of a low loader, but still..... I was CRAWLING trying to keep that drink problem under control!
I crawled past Glaucester a little before 9mp, my eyes starting to go blurry, remembering I'd only had five hours sleep before setting out that morning, and had been pretty much in the driving seat since.... I wanted to pull off at a junction and let my eyes rest up, but knew if I did, the kids would wake up, and in the dark, in the middle of know where, would start panicking...... Then I spotted a sign for Strentham services, nine miles away..... I told myself that was only ten minutes, I could last another ten minutes......
Quarter of an hour later, I spotted the exit slip, and coasted down it into the car-park. The kids woke up. I told then I needed a rest, and some fuel.....
THEY HAD AUTO-GAS!
It was 65 miles from where I'd filled up on the M4!
I ejected my daughter from the back seat, curled up and grabbed some shut eye. An hour later, she woke me, tired, hungry and wanted to be at home...... I looked round the car-park. It had filled up with Chav's for some reason, and my fugged eyes were more fugged by the mud on the windows....
I decided NOT to back out of the parking space and drove over the pavement reservation! And round to the petrol station, where I amused the attendant, counting out pennies to pay for the £10.66p worth of go-gas.. (I didn't DARE go over, and those buttons are NOT the easiest thing to use to fill to a value!)
We set off again, my mind pondering the arithmetic once more...... £10.66 @ £0.54 per litter, is roughly 20l, perhaps another 4 gallons, and MAYBE another 60 miles...... I MIGHT make it back on that...... And...... well, counting land-marks, and doing a lot of mental maths, along the way, we did...
Rolling onto my drive at just after mid-night, and falling pretty much straight into bed!
It is AMAZING how far you can stretch a gallon of fuel if you REALLY have to! Though its the converse that's probably the greater warning; when you DON'T worry about your MPG, THEN you use a LOT more than you need to! That run down at nearer 80 than 60, consumed about a third more fuel than estimated!
Meanwhile, I am pondering some mild water-proofing of V8 ignition components....... Given that she's a V8, and COMPLETELY unprepared for wet-work, I think she did pretty darn good, all told..... Other ponder point is those tyres. Came down on the AT/2's as I wanted to see how well they worked in the slimy stuff!
Think I now know..... they are DEFINITELY 'summer' rubber! But, it was fun, having her slide about a bit! But 'NEXT' time, I think I'll stick the Dakars on!
But, hey, we had an adventure.