22 December 2010

Road to nowhere

Right from the word go shit was happening.

I only had two things to do on Saturday and somehow snow managed to turn them in to drawn out ordeals. It is fair to say that there was an unusually large amount of snow sitting on my Land Rover roof when I decided to leave, earlier than planned, for the 10 minute drive to Uxbridge. I had washed my down sleeping bag the previous evening and now it needed some time in a laundrette tumble dryer. As I crossed a bridge over the M25 I tried to see how the traffic was flowing, maybe the alarm bells should have started ringing when I couldn’t even see the M25 but it was only midday and there was no rush to get to Wales. A little further along the road, covered with a foot of snow by now, then….. “what’s this, a traffic jam?” then I remembered, the humped back bridge over the Grand Union Canal! On the road leading up to the bridge twenty drivers were patiently waiting in a queue to drive up towards the bridge, wheel spin for a few minutes then turn around. The look on peoples faces when their normally well behaved autos turned in to unwieldy toboggans was interesting. Engaging the diff. lock on my Land Rover I got sweet revenge on all those car drivers who wouldn’t let me out of the slow lane on the motorway. But this level of smugness is bad karma as I found out later.

Now, with a dry sleeping bag and no snow falling I tried to leave Uxbridge and get on the M40, this was not as easy as I hoped when I was quickly stopped by more traffic. I soon worked out that there is only one route West out of Uxbridge without a hill and everyone was now heading for it. Change of plan. When I got to the steepest longest hill out of town people were still trying their luck in the slush, and failing, then amazingly one guy got out and started putting chains on (he was driving a rear wheel drive Beemer so wasn’t out of the woods yet). Any cars with low ground clearance or rear wheel drive were worse off and I saw several Porsches going nowhere fast. Once on the M40 the action really hotted up………….

Carnage everywhere. I glimpsed the M25 as I crossed it again and realised it was going to be a loooong journey as I saw lorries skidded at all angles across the carriageway. Cruising north in the snowy 4x4 only lane things didn’t seem so bad until inevitably all lanes ground to a halt and everyone queued to pass uncontrollable lorries and abandoned sports cars. The worst of the snow was South of Warwick and further North things got a little easier. Fair enough, the UK is not used to snow but I still couldn’t believe how few people had snow chains and I don’t know what the snow ploughs on the motorway were up to, I saw a few gently redistributing the snow, one was even ploughing it off the fast lane and launching across the central reservation on to the other fast lane! The rest of the journey went pretty smoothly apart from walls of dense fog reducing visibility to 10m around the Nesscliffe area, good fun when the white lines are covered by snow. I arrived in Llanberis before midnight, just.

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