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This is a question Road Trip

Gather round the fire and share stories of epic travels. Remember this is about the voyage, not what happened when you got there. Any of that shite and you're going in the fire.

Suggestion by Dr Preference

(, Thu 14 Jul 2011, 22:27)
Pages: Popular, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

This question is now closed.

I got married on June 30th 1998
I don't know why. I don't think anyone will ever explain this one satisfactorily.

By the end of 1998 it was more than clear that this was a doomed relationship so I did the responsible thing, took a three month sabattical from work and fucked off to the USA.

Work was - at that time - as a Lloyds syndicate manager, working with bus and coach companies. I'd started out in insurance working in the bus industry and I have a PCV - bus drivers license.

So it's the busmans holiday. I got a 60 day Greyhound pass and spent those 60 days bouncing about. I worked on the basis that I'd go 24 hours from wherever I was.

In 60 days I got coast to coast twice, ended up in places big and small, found an incredible amount of humanity and saw so much.

Memories in particular are:-

Pheonix - San Diego - across the desert with about 4 people on board

Reno - Las Vegas - I spent this journey talking to an ex USAF pilot who told me things that scared me then and scare me still

Los Angeles - Eugene - Magnificent.

The highlight - possibly sadly - was Louisville (Kentucky) to Charleston (West Virginia). I was sitting at the front chatting to the driver and mentioned that I could drive.

So I ended up driving. Greyhound - the absolute icon of American social and political mobility, with me at the wheel.

Then I went back and we got divorced on June 24th 2004.
(, Sat 16 Jul 2011, 19:06, 11 replies)
The Mongol Rally
For me, it's a shame that this is being asked now instead of in a month or so, as next week Chenobble and I are setting off on the Mongol Rally - a 10,000 mile drive, across inhospitably mountainous and deserty terrain, in a Nissan Micra. With a b3ta sticker on the back, of course.

We predict that it will take us a month and will either be the best of mates or never speak again, by the time it's over.

You can follow our progress (and donate money to an extremely worthy cause) at our blog: www.teamherdingcats.blogspot.com - we intend to update as often as we can. Though the lack of internet cafes in the wildest desert parts of Mongolia means that updates will probably be sporadic.

Sorry this is me spamming our blog, instead of a tale of a past road trip - we'll have plenty of tales to tell when we get back though. Ask again later.
(, Sat 16 Jul 2011, 17:09, 11 replies)
I wanted to have a look at Helsinki
but by the time I got there it was already Finnish.
(, Sat 16 Jul 2011, 16:29, 4 replies)
My lovely ex-hubby and I travelled and worked in a zig zag across across central and eastern Australia for a few years. He has a passion for growing bonsai from seed, so everytime we moved, air travel was not an option.

Our car size and travel was dictated by a couple of milk crates worth of tiny bonsai, strapped in the back seat with seat belts. Would have missed the usual amazing stuff without those plants being needy and demanding tour directors.
(, Sat 16 Jul 2011, 9:56, 7 replies)
Fixed It!
I used to work for a global telecoms company as part of the European Third Line team. The company was massive. Offices in every capital city in the world, offices in most major cities in most countries. 120 000 desktops worldwide - and a shit load of NT4 Servers. Looking after the servers and domains was my teams job. The desktops could go fuck themselves.

The global setup was interesting. There were three call-centres. America - covering North and South America and Caribbean, Asia-Pac, based in Melbourne covering Australasia and Asia and Europe which covered as far as Reykjavik to the West, Moscow to the East, the Middle-East, Europe and all of Africa. If any server went down in the "Europe" area, we were the boys to fix it.

We also had a "follow the Sun" policy where for 8 hours, Europe would be in charge of the global network, 8 hours later, America would take over and 8 hours after that, it was the Ozzies turn.

When I first started there I was quite excited about the scope for global travel. At work, I kept a bag under my desk packed with a weeks worth of clothes and toiletries. In my desk drawer was my passport and my company Amex card. I was fucking dying to use that beauty.

So, the first day I started there I was told that I was on-call for the month. I had to be ready to drop everything and set-off at a moments notice to anywhere in our "Europe" patch. All travel arrangements would be managed by our in-house travel team. They would arrange flights, transfers, visas, hotels etc. All I had to do was grab my kit and head for the door. Very exciting. Very Jet Set.

In my first week, a call came in, server down in Moscow. This was it! I rang a cab and headed for the door. My boss was liaising with travel who'd book the tickets and call me and tell me what flight I was on and text me the rest of the details. I was off.

Moscow!! I couldn't believe it. Red Square. The Kremlin. The Bolshoi Ballet. This was going to be great.

Cab arrived, I jumped in and was off to Heathrow. We were just pulling in to Terminal 1 and my pager went off. This would be the travel details. Scrolling across the pager screen was:

"Fixed It. Come Back"

Tail between my legs I asked the cabbie to take me back to base....Curses!!

The next three weeks were like that. I was called out about 12 times. A couple of times in the middle of the night. I never got further than the bloody airport. Once, we were actually boarding when my pager went off - "Fixed it. Come back..."

The cherry on the cake was a callout to Barcelona. This time I actually made it onto the plane. We took off and landed in sunny Barcelona at about 8pm and I headed to my hotel where I'd meet a local contact and he'd take me to site. At last! Exotic travel in far-flung places. I'd fix the server, do a bit of sight-seeing and stay a couple of nights - had to make sure it didn't fall over again. A bit of vino, a bit of chatting up the local señoritas. This was more like it.

I got a cab to the hotel. Rocked up to reception and asked to check-in when the receptionist handed me a note. I opened it....

"Fixed it. Come back..."

(, Sat 16 Jul 2011, 8:59, 7 replies)
I saw a VW van with Swiss plates
in British Columbia last week. I'll bet they've got some stories.
(, Sat 16 Jul 2011, 4:51, 6 replies)
I drove to Albania
Following a year on Spetses/Spetsai I drove to Albania so that my soon to be second husband could see his mother and sister before we went back to UK together. [It did not work out that way and we married in Albania two weeks later instead. I divorced him ten years later.]

They would not let us on the first ferry so we had to wait for an hour. First stop was at the bank to buy car insurance then we headed north. The second ferry trip was shorter and the third was shorter still, but it did cut down on driving.

They were resurfacing the roads so I ended up driving on a hill of gravel to get to the border, which was closed. We parked up and tried to sleep in the car, a Ford Fiesta that was full to the roof.

The next morning my fiance insisted on going into the passport office first, because he did not have one, as he had walked across the border from Albania to Greece the previous year. They let all the lorries through first and then us. We had to go through it all again with the Albanians.

I had been driving for an hour when a police car pulled us over and when they found out that we had just come from Greece, spent ages trying to find something wrong so that they could give us a fine. All they could come up with was that there was no photo on my driving license. They accepted 200 drx instead of the 2,000 they had demanded as they did not want coins. We were told to pay the remainder in the next town, but we drove on past.

We spent the night in Gjirocaster with friends and then drove to Fier the next day. I desperately needed the toilet so we stopped at more friends first. That was where I was reacquainted with the hole in the ground loos. I hung my jeans on the back of the door and was relieved not to miss.

When I left the bathroom I was bowled over by my sister-in-law to be who told us where to park the car in a locked compound and I drove there, parked up and went to meet my mother-in-law to be.
(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 23:12, 1 reply)
Big/small pearoast
My brother was delivering some metal gates, miles away up the M6 somewhere. He chucked them in the back of his van and set off north.

After a while he noticed that the motorway was now 100 lanes wide, and interestingly, the vehicles travelling on it were the size of Dinky cars.

He thought 'Eh up, summat rum's goin' on!' and pulled over onto the hard shoulder. He suddenly felt violently ill, with a fierce headache, so he wound down the window just in time to chuck up out of it.

After that he got out and sat on the hard shoulder for a bit in the fresh air and soon felt better.
Going back to the van, he smelled something weird so he opened the back doors to investigate. The gates had landed on an aerosol can, piercing it, and the propellant must have leaked out and poisoned him.
Lucky to be alive.
(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 23:08, 2 replies)
London to Mongolia in a Nissan Micra (and a Mark II VW Polo).
Easter 2007 I was stone cold sober in a pub in my home town when a mate of mine from childhood announced he was entering the Mongol Rally, a 10,000 mile drive from London to Ulaanbaatar with the extra bit at the start since he lives in N. Ireland.

"Aye, sounds amazing," I said. "If you get a place and if you need a teammate, just give me a shout." I went back to eating my Tayto Cheese n' Onion and thought no more of it.

A month later I got a phonecall to see if I'd join the team. Much to the chagrin of my soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend I accepted immediately. My parents were somewhat horrified but agreed that since I was 31 years old they couldn't really stop me.

And so we went. And it changed my life. And I want to list all the amazing, mad, spectacular and gobsmackingly nuts things I experienced but I barely know where to begin. I've posted here before about DIY car repairs, writing off a bus in Omsk, pushing a Mini over a mountain, sunrise in the Altai mountains, landslides and hailstorms, Ladas full of Chechens, and bribing Ukrainian policemen. The profound sense of liberation that I felt on the journey I am attributing to the freedom of peeing in the wildnerness.

I flew back to London two months later and had a breakdown in Tesco when I realised I could buy more than one type of noodle.
(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 22:47, 4 replies)
Easy Rider
In the Summer of 1998 I booked a return ferry ticket from Harwich to Gothenburg, on a whim. I had a couple of weeks off work and no real plans, but I wanted to get out of the house for a bit. So I took my motorcycle on a 3,000-mile, two-week trip of Scandinavia. Just because I had nothing better to do. I took the bike in for its scheduled service, made sure it was in tip-top condition for the trip, and went for it.

The ferry crossing to Sweden takes roughly 24 hours, and I had the pleasure of spending much of it in the company of a very friendly and welcoming bunch of people from the Chiltern Motorcycling Club (or possibly Chilton; I forget the exact name). When we arrived they rode off in one direction, to Norway, and I rode another, travelling through the night to Stockholm. I think I killed a goose on the way. At least, I hope I killed it. There was some very thick fog to add to the already dark conditions; without any warning I hit a goose with the toe of my boot, a goose which was standing next to the centre line and was invisible in the fog. I wasn't going particularly quickly, thanks to the fog, but being kicked in the chest by a heavy bike boot wouldn't do any creature much good at any speed. I hope I killed it outright, and quickly, rather than condemning it to a slow, agonizing death from the injuries. There was a car a few hundred yards behind me, and I wasn't wearing any reflective gear, so I did not dare stop to see what I'd done to the poor bird lest the same happen to me.

It's very weird to arrive somewhere at 4 o'clock in the morning in the broad daylight. The streets were busy with scantily-dressed clubbers of all genders, who were being turfed out as the venues closed for the night. I made my way to the docks, lay down beside the bike and dozed for a few hours until the ferry offices opened.

On another whim I bought a ticket for that morning's ferry to Turku, Finland, instead of mooching around Stockholm for the day. While strapping down my bike in the ferry's hold I saw another biker securing a Triumph sporting an English number plate. My spirits emboldened, I approached my fellow Brit and expressed delight that I would have someone to share the crossing with. He looked around and, with a strong accent, said, "I'm Finnish. I'm a medical student studying in England. I bought this bike there and I'm bringing it home for the Summer." Finn or Brit, we hit it off and spent the entire crossing of the Baltic on the top deck in the sunshine, drinking beer and putting the world to rights.

When we got to Turku I made ready to hit the road for a blast across to Helsinki, but my companion stopped me. "I've just called my girlfriend. Her parents have a spare bed; you're welcome to spend the night. She'd like to meet you." So off we rode to Tampere instead. My first evening in Finland was spent naked in a sauna with a bloke I'd met only that morning and his girlfriend's brother, whom I'd known for roughly an hour by that point.

The next day I made my farewells and set off. Each day I would pick a place at random on the map, open the guide book to find some accommodation at my destination, and ride there. No fights, no arguments, no hassles, just the bike and me and hardly any traffic at all. I gradually meandered my way northwards, accidentally entering Russia illegally on the way (I only realised when I saw a bunch of bright yellow signs covered in warning symbols and Cyrillic characters, upon which I turned immediately around and scarpered), eventually reaching Rovaniemi, just south of the Arctic Circle.

I don't know if it's due to riding on the other side of the road, or if the culture is so much more relaxed, but I never had any of the hassles which plague my riding in this country. Car drivers always saw me coming and pulled over in plenty of time, instead of hogging the centre line in a testosterone-fuelled attempt to "win" by preventing me from passing. Here you're lucky to get a terse nod from another biker, but over there they wave to each other, with one's cool factor measured by how low one's wave goes. I swear I saw some cruiser riders scrape their gloves on the tarmac. The waving might also be partly due to the left hand's being the clutch hand on most modern bikes, so releasing that hand doesn't cause the throttle to close.

The next day I left the bike at the hostel in Rovaniemi and hopped on a bus to Santa Claus Village, where I sat outside in the blazing sunshine eating reindeer, drinking beer, and listening to Christmas carols... in June. I also got to sit on Father Christmas' knee, and paid handsomely for the photograph of it (though sadly not the negatives). According to the paint on the ground, which couldn't possibly be exaggerated for tourists, Santa Claus Village is directly on the Arctic Circle's line of latitude.

A couple of days later I reached a campsite near Karigasniemi, on the Finno-Norwegian border, and stayed in a log cabin with blackout curtains. I was far north of the Arctic Circle by that point, enduring not just constant daylight but constant sunshine. Even weirder than it being broad daylight at 4 in the morning is to see the sun high above the horizon at 2 o'clock and yet have no idea if it's morning or afternoon. The blackout curtains were essential.

I tried to press on to North Cape, but hadn't banked on the cold. Even in the middle of Summer, when you're that far north it's a wee bit parky, especially at 70MPH in perforated leathers. I did, however, buy the most expensive petrol I've ever bought. In 1998 I paid 13 Norwegian Crowns (£1.30) per litre. I dread to think how much it costs now.

While bimbling through northern Finland after returning from Norway, I noticed something odd. The roads were, in the main, in excellent condition, maintained very well and a lot of fun to ride, especially on the hilly, twisty bits. But every so often the road would become dead straight for a mile or so, and the tree line would retreat a few hundred yards on either side before returning to hug the road. This happened a few times, and eventually I found out why: the roads double as emergency runways. I didn't see any landings, though.

Towards the end of my trip I decided I wanted to spend a couple of days in Helsinki before returning home, as well as visit a friend in Imatra (of The Tightrope Men, by Desmond Bagley, fame), but I was still deep inside the Arctic Circle, roughly 700 miles away from where I wanted to be. With a cavalier disregard for speed limits, I opened the throttle and blasted down the motorway until hitting Reserve an hour or so later. I found a petrol station, paid a bit less than £1.30 per litre for fuel, downed some coffee, and walked back out to the bike, which was sitting rather oddly. The rear tyre was completely flat. Pumping it didn't help; I could hear a loud hiss which I eventually traced to a gaping hole in the centre of the tread. I don't know how I didn't notice it sooner; a flat rear tyre on a bike causes a very distinctive wobble. As I'd been doing 100MPH+ for the previous hour-and-a-bit, this was a tad worrying. Still, I'd had the forethought to arrange European cover with the AA, so I hauled out my mobile phone and made an expensive call back to the UK.

I sat at the petrol station, drinking more coffee, and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

After an hour-and-a-half or so, the proprietor of the petrol station addressed me by name. I thought this odd as I'd paid for everything with cash. I looked up and he held his hand to his ear, thumb and little finger extended in the universal "telephone" gesture. He handed me the telephone, and I found out why I'd been waiting for so long: the AA operator had left out a digit from my telephone number, so they couldn't call me back directly. Thanks to international directory enquiries, they'd managed to track down the number for the petrol station instead.

"Would you like the good news, or the even better news, sir?"
"Both, please, in that order."
"It took us a while - there aren't many bike places in Finland - but we've found a tyre for you. There's a tyre fitting place which has a tyre which fits your bike. They've only got one in stock; it was an order which wasn't collected."
"And the better news?"
"It's a mile from where you are now. They can come and pick you up, but it'll be a while before they can spare anyone to do it."
"Never mind; I'll ride there, slowly."

Eighty quid and an hour later I was back on the road with a belly full of food, a tank full of petrol, and a tyre full of air. I had intended to be a hero and ride almost the length of Finland, from Karigasniemi to Imatra, in a day, but gave it up as a bad idea and called in at Rovaniemi for a night's kip before pressing on in torrential rain to Imatra, where I had some god-awful blini in a "Russian" restaurant.

I got to see a proper Russian border crossing, on the main road into Russia a couple of miles outside of Imatra. It looked a lot like other border crossings, but a bit more... sinister. The Iron Curtain had fallen by that point, but there was still something menacing about that low-slung concrete bunker, as if something dark and brooding was hidden somewhere beyond it. Much prettier and uplifting to behold was the castle-like Rantasipi Valtionhotelli, sadly outside my budget at the time so I spent the night in a hostel instead.

I ambled back to Helsinki, mindful of my bike's rear tyre and tyre-bursting adventures of the previous year, and spent a lazy couple of days taking in the sights and the museums (free Internet access!) before catching the ferry to Stockholm, riding across to Gothenburg, and catching another ferry back to Harwich.

The crossing to Gothenburg at the start of my trip was as smooth as glass. No wind to speak of, no waves, just a quiet afternoon's boating on a lake somewhere, a lake the size of the North Sea. The two Baltic crossings were, likewise, millponds. The trip back from Gothenburg to Harwich was hellish. I spent almost 24 hours horizontal in my cabin because I couldn't cope with being upright. I tried standing outside, hoping that the cold wind would counter the nausea. I tried standing inside, hoping that the lack of cold wind would counter the nausea. I tried visiting the loo, hoping that the smell of other people's vomit would cause me to follow suit so that I'd feel better. Nothing worked, except lying down. By the time we reached Harwich I was ravenous but too scared to eat in case I got to enjoy unintended seconds. As we docked the captain apologised for the roughness of the crossing; it wasn't his fault, but it was a nice gesture. Apparently he laid on extra steam to get it over with as soon as possible; slowing down would have just dragged out everyone's misery.

The next day I took the bike in for its next scheduled service and was asked if I'd been off-roading. The bike had been freshly serviced and cleaned and was gleaming, and they weren't expecting to see me again for a few months. Just over two weeks later it arrived caked in mud, dust, and road grime, with another 3,000+ miles on the clock.

I learned one lesson that fortnight: don't use one's phone while abroad. The novelty of making telephone calls from Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Estonia, and Latvia (signals from the latter three reached over the water to the ferries I was on) was too much to resist and I got landed with a bill for £250 for my troubles.
(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 22:36, 12 replies)
I drove to Greece
In Crawley, I bought a second hand Ford Fiesta, packed as many of my worldly goods as I could into it, said goodbye to my soon to be ex husband, kissed the cat and drove two streets away before I broke down and cried at the thought of leaving the cat.

First stop was Yorkshire to see my parents, then back south east to Folkestone for the ferry to Belgium. I then drove in a fairly straight line across Europe to Switzerland so I passed through France and Luxembourg and I cannot remember where else without looking at a map.

I stopped off in Montreux to see a friend and stayed for a month and then got lost and went to Germany instead of Italy. I returned to Switzerland and got on the right road and was scared to death of the Italian drivers, so instead of driving all the way to the port in the south I went to the nearest one.

I met a group of rally mechanics and got drunk on Amstell and they did not wait for me when I got off the ferry so continued alone to cross the Corinth canal and down to Costas, as far south as I could go on dry land and put the car in a secure car park and got the ferry to Spetses/Spetsai.

A few days later I went to see the mayor and he gave me permission to bring the car onto the island and I immediately drove it on to a little used road where it stayed till October and the end of the season when I was allowed to drive it.

It was the first time I had ever driven abroad.
(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 22:02, 1 reply)
Driving overland from London to Sdney
In late 1998 I was flicking through my father's copy of Private Eye and spotted an advert, asking for people to join a 4 others driving from London to Sydney.

I was fortunate not to have any real ties, and a supportive family, and some savings which meant that in February 1999 myself, Jimmy, Simon, Lisa and Al set off in a 1987 Land Rover hoping to arrive in Sydney for the millennium celebrations.

The journey took 9 months and we drove 27000 miles visiting 19 countries en-route, including Iran, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Thailand and Laos. The route we chose included 2 sea crossings where the Land Rover was shipped in a container and we flew over - these were between Chennai (then Madras) and Kaula Lumpur (KL) and KL to Perth.

Sadly neither Jimmy or Simon made it to Sydney - for various reasons they both flew home before the end and I have now lost touch with them but would like to see them both again if I could. The vehicle and myself, Lisa and Al all made it though in one piece.

It really was a fantastic trip - we covered a pretty full range of emotions, foods, temperatures, conditions and cultures and if the opportunity where to rise again I would go for it in an instant, despite having a business to look after now.

While I was in Sydney I wrote three articles that were published on the Bootsnall website and they are still there 12 years on:

(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 20:52, 6 replies)
1978, road trip to scotland
During the break between college and getting a real job, my friend and I decided to go on a road trip from London to the lake district - to see what the countryside was like.
we took tents and just enough money for petrol and beer.
one night after a long drinking session we decided that we were so close to Scotland, we may as well go there for a visit.... sometime around midnight, i started driving up the road and finally crossed the border near Gretna. I passed the wheel over to my friend and promptly lay down in the back to sleep.
I awoke the next day to some magnificent stunning scenery out the car window.... I went out to recycle some lager and realised we were back in lake district.
My friend had decided we would spend too much on petrol if we went touring Scotland, so had promptly turned around and driven us back to the same place we had been drinking the night before.

and that's the only time I have ever been to Scotland..... but TBH, I don't think I'm missing much
(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 20:31, 3 replies)
London to Mongolia in a Fiat Punto
Mentioned this before, of course, but never has it been as relevant as now. We drove 7000 miles in four weeks. Highlights and other memorable events include:

Having a party at Klenova castle in the Czech Republic with 1000 other ralliers, involving battlements, statues, gypsy bands and a lot of free gin.

Getting lost in every city centre we drove into, including L'viv in Ukraine, getting helped out by two lovely English-speaking policemen and then, obviously, driving past them again two minutes later.

Getting into a convoy with two brilliant Dutch guys in a 2CV and two wanky South African guys in a Suzuki Swift, later expanding to include a Vauxhall Corsa, a Daewoo Matiz, and two Skoda Felicias, possibly the least technologically advanced convoy to cross Mongolia since Genghis Khan. But a great group.

Camping in a field in Russia in the middle of a lightning storm and somehow managing to avoid getting struck.

Visiting the quite stunning Volgograd.

Being chased down the road by angry Russians who didn't want us to sleep in their cafe car-park.

Having our salami eaten by wild dogs in the middle of Kazakhstan.

Hitting a rock on the way to Astana, cracking our sump, then getting it fixed between 12 and 2am by a guy who arrived in his dressing-gown, while the tow-truck drivers took us out to dinner. Total cost: £100.

Happening on huge quantities of wild cannabis plants which were not even close to being ready to smoke.

Having a hairy moment at the Russian border when the guard noticed a large quantity of white powder in a Tupperware container. Cue frantic tea-drinking motions and cow noises to indicate powdered milk.

Having all our spare tyres stolen off our roof the night after entering Mongolia.

Driving for six days over rutted dirt roads through some of the most stunning landscapes I've ever seen, and shaking our car to bits.

Laughing at the cheating bastards who'd taken a Land Rover as we passed their broken-down, smoking corpses on the edge of the Gobi Desert.

Breaking down ourselves in the middle of the Gobi Desert the next day.

Nursing the car through the desert over the next couple of days without being able to stop the engine or allow it to rev down below 1000, having lost about 90% of our power.

Passing a camel corpse being eaten by 30 or so vultures while doing this (some had flown off by the time I'd circled round and got the camera out)

Finally getting back onto the sweetest, most beautiful things you will ever see on this rally - tarmac roads.

Having the second, left-behind part of our convoy (including my co-driver) drive into the finish line party half way through, with a yak's head on the front of the 2CV, a flare stuck in the top of the skull, and everyone else hanging off the sides.

Being asked to sing on stage at the finish line in Ulaanbaatar, having the power cut halfway through and finishing our rendition of Tenacious D's Tribute anyway.

Dancing in a chicken suit in a Mongolian club after the finish-line party.

Best month of my life. I highly recommend it to anyone with little sense and a thirst for adventure.
(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 18:29, 14 replies)
gastroenteritis and unnecessarily long taxirides to nowhere......
I spent some time in Morocco a few years back with my then bloke, neither of us spoke Arabic, my French was passable, his was not....
We arrived early evening after a epic bus ride in a small town, having not eaten since breakfast. We picked out a hotel from the guidebook as one does, and (having realised people did not respond well to being spoken to by the female member of the party) my bloke sourced us a taxi, giving them the name of said hotel, which was probably a 5 minute walk away. So we squeezed into the cab with an assortment of other people, all chatting in Arabic. And we drove for about half an hour, at which point I was a little concerned. And then we drove some more. And then we established that our taxi driver didn't really speak French either. And then we drove some more. And then it got dark. And then we drove some more. When we arrived at our "destination", we discovered no-one there spoke French either but miraculously managed to procure somewhere to sleep, and some food from a street vendor (after the obligatory 20 minutes of hand gesturing to communicate that we really weren't interested in cold mint tea, and of course the obligatory drinking of said cold mint tea).
Fortunately, the next day there turned out to be a station within walking distance, from which we could get to Casablanca in a mere 6 hours. Unfortunately I spent those 6 hours with severe diarrhoea.
(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 18:28, 1 reply)
the sting
when i was a child, the only person in the family who could drive was my grandad, so he was the one who would take us on trips out during summer holidays.
one day, we were on our way back from blackpool. we'd stopped off for something to eat and were now back in the car, once more heading home.
sitting in the back seat, doodling away in my colouring book, i heard a noise. it was a kind of humming noise or, more accurately, a buzzing noise. an ANGRY buzzing noise. it seems we'd managed to trap a wasp in the car with us when we'd stopped and it had decided to sit next to me. unfortunately, wasps don't like car journeys and our stripy hitchhiker rapidly became very pissed off.
he was even more pissed off when i shifted in my seat and sat on him. he retaliated in the only way a wasp can.
so, if you were driving along the motorway between blackpool and liverpool during the early '80's and saw a small blonde girl hopping about on the grass verge, clutching her arse and crying, that was me.

length? only about an inch, but it hurt like fuck.
(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 17:49, 5 replies)
Driving from Madison, WI to Chicago, IL
We passed an adult bookstore that had a huge sign out the front proudly stating 'XXXX Magazines, $10 NEW! $5 USED!'

(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 17:22, 2 replies)
How my parents managed to drive from Yorkshire all the way to the south of France with four children aged 6-13 singing "We're on the road with Ally's army" all the way without killing someone I'll never know.
(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 17:15, 2 replies)
My company organised a “jailbreak” event for Charity – each team of two people had to get as far away from a designated starting position (Norwich) as possible in 36 hours, WITHOUT spending any money on Transport. My good friend and Colleague Forcey and I blagged seats on a train to London, across London via Underground, onto a Southeast Trains service to Dover, across the Channel to Calais and onto Lilles before spending the night there, then the next day onto a TGV all the way to Marseilles until being frustrated at Marseilles airport about 4 hours before the deadline – all without spending any money on transport. The winning team got to Palma – by getting the local Seat garage to sponsor them 2 plane tickets and laying on the beach for a day before calling their location in. I’d like to think we were the moral victors.
(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 17:09, 1 reply)
Day trip to Florida
I was having dinner with a friend in Toronto who was umming and ahhing about the cost of a flight to a family reunion in Florida. A friend leaned across the table and suggested she 'just drive there'.

On being told, in no uncertain terms, that To/Fla is over 2000km, her friend scoffed and announced that her parents used to drive her family there in hours.

On being shown an atlas, and given a stern lecture in geography, she started to doubt herself and called her mum, who calmly informed her that as children they had been drugged insensible prior to a marathon 30hr journey, and in her late twenties genuinely thought that the other side of the continent was only a couple of hours away...
(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 16:35, 4 replies)
Anyone who's ever gotten the 10a to or from Liverpool will know the kind of characters you can encounter on that bus. I'd just gotten on the 10a and I went and sat down a few seats behind a seemingly harmless
old man. He was sat in the seat nearest the aisle with his arm around the empty window seat. As the bus began to move I noticed the strong smell of lager as the man began to chat away to people
around him. Or so it seemed, I just assumed they weren't answering him because he was clearly drunk.

It was only when we got to Old Swan and the majority of the passengers got off that I realised this man wasn't talking to them, oh no he was talking to the empty bus seat. At first it was just mumbling
and occasionally words but then his invisible companion seemed to offend him.
"FINE!" he yelled,
"If you don't want to be friends any more then you can forget about the tour!.. Oh alright then... It's ok, my mistake we'll carry on" he slurred.
He mumbled for a bit and then when we got near Huyton I started to see what he meant by the tour.
"And this is Huyton.. You don't want to go here"
And he continued like that for the rest of the bus ride talking and occasionally fighting with his invisible companion.

That was until we reached the road leading into St Helens town centre where he serenaded the whole bus with a rendition of some clearly made up on the spot song about women from St Helens
and how he could get cheap drink there. From what I gather this song must have irritated his invisible companion as much as the other passengers because they began to argue and as I got off
the bus I heard a final shout of
before the bus pulled away.
(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 16:34, 3 replies)
The Brean Exotic & Amusing Fruit Festival
One year, during Glastonbury, I was sitting around with the friends who were too skint to go and wondering what the hell to do. So we decided to go the seaside. This is in the west country, and the main seaside resort is not for nothing known as "Weston-Super-Mud" so we decided to go somewhere else. We got out a map and looked along the coast. We picked - for reasons that now escape me - Brean. We thought we'd have a festival of our own and so we packed a guitar and some unusual fruits we'd bought in the supermarket and set off.

At about 10pm at night.

It was my girlfriend's birthday the next day and I didn't want to be to bed dreadfully late, but I agreed anyway. I figured we'd be back by club turning out time, which was fairly usual fare for a weekend.

I was driving. My friend Graham was in the front seat navigating. There are three people behind me skinning up and passing them forward. There is another car behind me, following my tail lights, relying on Graham & I to get them safely to Brean in the pitch dark.

On the map it had looked straightforward. In the dark, considerably the worse for wear, it turned out not to be. I thought it was largely on driving the main roads but shortly after leaving the city Graham cried "turn left" and I did, into a country lane that merited the description "a maze of twisty little passages, all alike".

After nearly an hour of this, I was getting pretty fed up. I wanted to go to the seaside. I wanted to pee. I wanted to make sure I was home by 2am and it was already nearly midnight. I wanted not to be driving a car in what was now a fairly advanced state of cannabis inebriation. I started shouting at Graham.

"Where the fuck are we?"

"We're here" he said, jamming a finger onto the map in an expert fashion. "Quick, turn right, QUICK".

I nearly flipped the car on its roof.

I slammed on the breaks and demanded he show me where we were. And while we were arguing about it, we saw the badger.

It came sniffling out of the dark woods like something out of a Lewis Carroll poem, grunting and burbling as it came, and ambled across the road before our astonished eyes as though we weren't there. Which is probably the case since badgers have bad eyesight and it was unlikely to have been able to smell anything other than the clouds of dope smoke billowing from the open doors of my small car. Having ascended the bank on the other side of the road it turned round and peered at us contemptuously before defecating and vanishing into the bushes. It's the closest I've ever been to a wild animal.

Suitably awed by our brush with mother nature we got back into the car and carried on our merry way. Except it wasn't merry for long. I still didn't know where we were. I was still driving down country lanes. I still wanted a pee, and the smell of the salt air, and to be home by 2am and not to be driving. None of these things were forthcoming. I got very angry.

Since everyone in the car was stoned, things rapidly assumed a bad-trip like atmosphere. Everything looked threatening. The terrifying trees looming close outside the window, the impenetrable inky blackness that surrounded us and which the headlight beams could barely pierce. We'd all fucking had enough. Everyone started yelling at Graham who was perfectly calm and assured us we'd get there soon.

And amazingly, we did.

We sat on the clifftops, taking it turns to demonstrate our ineptitude with the guitar and eating strange fruits. And in the relative calm that had descended I turned to Graham and asked him:

"You really didn't have a clue where we were, did you?"

"Oh, I knew exactly where we were the whole time" he replied. "I just decided it would be more interesting to see if we could go the whole way on the back roads".

I left the fucker there to hitch hike his own way back in the morning.
(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 16:33, 3 replies)
Rooooad triiip
Valencia - Zaragoza - Madrid. Spent the entire journey sweating like a paedo in a creche and avoiding manic Spanish drivers, and narrowly avoiding multiple pile-ups three times (one serious accident occurring at least once on each leg of the journey, proper Dukes Of Hazzard style cars flying into fields stuff)

Macedonia : Skopje - Tirana - Belgrade (Macedonia-Albania-Serbia). Packs of wild dogs, sex-trafficking shake-downs at customs, hair-raising mountain-range driving, ball-hair close head-on collision avoidance and Sunburn. It was great.

Africa : Johannesburg-Pretoria-Ellis Ras (near border with Zimbabwe). Mental. Just mental. Baboons, lions, townships and random people selling very random stuff in the middle of road junctions miles from anywhere. Loads of places to buy fresh Biltong on the way though, usually in a brown bag sold out of a tin-shack, and swimming in water as warm as your bath while sipping nice cold beers.
(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 15:39, 1 reply)
Time for a little pearoast....
A friend of mine told me this one....

She was on a long drive home with her baby son in the car. The expected happened and she ended up stuck in a long tail back, traffic moving very, very slowly. Fortunately her baby had just been fed and was sleeping soundly.

Unfortunately she was desperate for a pee.

She tried thinking of other things.
She tried listening to the radio.
She tried singing along with songs.
She tried crossing her legs (no mean feat when you're trying to drive).
Eventually she gave in.
Grabbing the baby's changing bag she retrieved a clean nappy...opened it up....slipped it under her skirt, knickers aside and began to pee....

Babies nappies are designed for baby amounts of pee.
She attempted to stop the flow....
The baby was still very young and she hadn't been as diligent with her pelvic floor muscles as she should have been.

It cost £40 to get the car valeted.
(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 15:32, 6 replies)
Arms smuggling
On a school trip to the south of France when I was 13, we were all very excited to discover that some of the local shops sold a variety of semi-dangerous weapons at fully-affordable prices. Even better was the fact that they had no qualms about selling to us youngsters. I bought a knuckle-duster, a butterfly knife and a ninja star for the equivalent of around fourteen quid. Score. Not that I had any use for these items of course, I wasn’t a trouble-maker nor part of any gang. Butterfly knives, knuckle dusters and ninja stars are cool however, so I wanted them.
The only issue now was how to get them back to good old England. Quite a few others had made similar purchases, so as well as taking back fond memories of a delightful trip to France, we were also taking back our own mini arms cache. We were travelling by coach of course, so no problems with airport security, though we knew there would still be border checkpoint patrols. I hid my knuckle duster and knife in a section of my pillow that I’d hollowed out, and the ninja star fitted neatly inside a half-empty bottle of sun lotion. The others used similar ingenious methods and away we went.
The shit-up moment came when the border checkpoint policeman and his gigantic fucking revolver decided to get on our coach and slowly walk up and down the bus, looking each and every one of us in the eye for signs of guilt. In my young mind, I was convinced that should we be caught, we would no doubt be spending the rest of our childhoods in a filthy French prison, being frequently sodomised by cheese-stinking guards like in a Gallic version of Sleepers. Luckily though we all managed to hold it together for what seemed like an eternity until Mr french policeman exited the bus. The communal sigh of relief was so loud it must almost have aroused the suspicion of the teachers.
Many hours and a long sleep later we were back home in London. Eager to show my older brother the contraband I had smuggled back, I hurriedly reached for my pillow and sun lotion bottle. But they were both empty. One of my swine classmates had managed to rob me blind while I was sleeping after we’d gotten over the border. The absolute cunt. Despite narrowing it down to the 3 or 4 people who knew the locations that I'd hidden my goods in, I never did find out who it was.
(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 15:23, 14 replies)
It was early one summer's morning.
The sky larks tweeted, invisible in the azure sky, and the sound of someone banging on my front door was not doing my hangover any favours.

Wearily I dragged my stinking corpse out of bed, and opened the door.

It was my mate Rob.

I grunted, turned, and he followed me in.

"Get the kettle on" I grumbled, and started to roll a cigarette.

"No time for that" he said, "We're hitching to Wales."


"We're hitching to Wales. I've got an ounce to deliver for my Uncle Jim, so we're hitching up there."

"Oh for fuck's sake" I moaned. "Can't we do it tomorrow?"

"No time like the present, and it's not as if we've got jobs to go to."

"Oh for fuck's sake" I moaned again, "I'm having a shower first."

"You can have a shower at his. Come on - we're going."

I grabbed my bag and off we went.


The trip into Bristol was easy enough, and it seemed around then that a pint was in order.

We walked to the other side of town, and tried to work out how to get onto the Severn Bridge.

A few false starts and we picked up a lift with - unsurprisingly - a travelling salesman, who was going to Cardiff. He was an easy-going chap, and soon we were hotboxing his little Metro and we were having a grand old time. On arrival in Cardiff we gave him a blim as thanks, and tried to get our shit together enough to figure out the next part of our route.

Jim lived in Glyn, which is just outside Bumblefuck, due north of Wherethefuck.

It was about 3pm, and it looked like aiming for Abergaveny was our best bet.

"So what's your uncle called, Rob?" I asked.

"Jim." he replied.

"Jim what, though?"

"I dunno. I last met him when I was seven."

We got four miles north of Cardiff, and then there was a significant lull in the traffic. Another joint, and we managed to flag down a posh lady in a Range Rover who took pity on the two gangly, red-eyed youths with their silly mohicans and leather jackets. "My son's into all that" she said, "He's an idiot as well".

She asked whether or not our parents knew the state we were in, "They do worry about you, you know - whatever they might tell you". She told us about how she'd been at Woodstock, and, impressed, we asked her if she fancied a smoke. "What sort of hashish is it?" she asked, "I understand it's quite strong these days."

We told her it was just a bit of block, and Rob skinned up.

"Gosh" she said, mellow-wise as she drove, "I haven't smoked for years ... wait until I tell the girls I was smoking with a couple of handsome young lads from Bristol - they'll be so jealous! Don't tell my husband, though!"

She dropped us off near Llandridnod (I apologise if my Welsh is off, but it's your own fault for not discovering vowels early enough), and by about 7 I was starting to wonder what the fuck I was thinking that morning.

Via another salesman, a half-hour hike to the horizon, and a farmer called Pelé (yes), at Midnight, we'd managed to get to Glyn, which, as far as I understand to this day, consists of a pub, drizzle, and an orange street lamp.

The lights were still on in the pub, and Rob thought we should give it a try.

We walked in through the door - two young, dirty, English upstarts, travel-weary and cold, into a warm, smoke-filled room full of farmers talking Welsh. As the door creaked and slammed shut, silence fell. If a record had been playing, it would have scratched to a halt.

Understandably, they were staring at us like we were about to ask for their daughters' hands in marriage.

"Hello" said Rob, "Do any of you know Jim?"

"Jim?" replied one, "You've just missed him, lads."

"Ah" said Rob, casual, like, "How far away does he live?"

"I'll take you there in a bit if you like" said Mr Farmer, "I'm going that way meself after my beer."

"In that case" said Rob, "Can I buy you a pint?"

We got to Jim's, a bit pissed, at about half past two.

"Rob!" he cried happily, "How are you?! Great to see you!"

We spent a week there. He's got a double hammock in the garden with a mattress in it, that hangs over a tiny little trickling stream. He's got wind chimes, and a magnificent climbing tree. He built his house himself - he's a builder by trade, and his son has a fish tank built into the end of his bed.

Jim water-divines in his spare time, he showed me what to do, I had a crack and it worked.

A great place is Wales.
(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 15:07, 17 replies)

When I was a kid we used to go back 'home' to the Outer Hebrides at every opportunity. This always followed the same pattern. We’d pack a day or so before, my dad would get home from work on Friday have something to eat. Then he’d drive for 11-12 hours, arriving in Ullapool in time for the morning ferry. The only stops on the way were for petrol. Invariably it seemed to always start raining on the A1, and with the windshield wipers slapping time my brother and mum would fall asleep. I’d stay awake all night with my dad, too excited by the prospect of the 3-4 weeks of fishing, shooting and freedom that awaited us. My old man played his Country and Western tapes, and would briefly wake those sleeping with a rebel yell when we passed the “Welcome to Scotland” sign. As a child I was fascinated by the stories and emotions in the music. When Johnny Cash sung about a Ring of Fire I was getting a glimpse of a grown up world that I didn’t yet understand. I felt admiration and pity for Big John and would probably have put Ruby in the ground myself given the chance.

In a few weeks time I’ll be arriving home from work a little early on a Friday and will drive the sleeping Lovely Mrs Ring of Fire and offspring all night to get the morning ferry. The only differences will be in the details, 600 miles without a petrol stop and no C & W tapes. It’s an SD card loaded with both sorts of music. Yeeeeeeehaaaa!
(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 14:56, 4 replies)
T'was easy in the olden days
Two families travelling from Essex to summer hols in Norfolk. Four adults, three smallish kids, one 1960 Ford Popular, easy! Adult at each corner, kid in the middle at the back, another on a rear seat passenger's lap, and me proudly astride the handbrake on a cushion in between the front seats. Not especially epic, but started with a steady 60 mph up the A12, great journey. Now when we run out of seat belts I am told I have to stop loading.
(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 14:52, 1 reply)

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