Monday, 4 May 2015

Stoneleigh

Weather looks promising, so opportunity for a run up to the Stoneleigh National Kit Car Motor Show near Warwick today.

Sunday was wet, but today, while cloudy had some bright warm spots too, perfect for a mooch around the stands and club cars & a hog roast sandwich for lunch!

RhoCar stand well attended & met up with some friends from the Scotland road trips as well as a few builders and blog readers.

...My motor still presentable after 8,000 miles and 2 years on the road:

Perhaps the next one? - Lotus Elite (I think) hiding discretely in a corner; or perhaps classic Lotus should only be appreciated from a distance and let others run the expense of keeping them on the road. Pretty Car...

My daydreaming about Lotus ownership shattered by Andy, flown down from Scotland with Stuart, trying to nick my ice-cream and startling the h*ll out of me! :)

Sunday, 26 April 2015

7 Days in Spring

RhoCar Scotland Tour 17th - 23rd April 2015


This years Scotland run trumps the already high bar set by 2014 with similar routes and some of the same drivers.

We enjoyed some stunning new drives through the Dales & Lakes, towards and on Skye, a longer run across the top from Applecross to Inverness & this time bright weather on the southward run through the Cairngorms to Dunfermline.

Great fun; great roads and great company/attitudes from the participants.
Hats off to the route planning - Keith & Andy

The car behaved impeccably & very comfortable; if a little blustery!


The trip badge reads Mallaig - which never actually happened/read Glenelg instead - the route changed here and there depending on time available and the group driving. The bottom line though was the best part of a thousand miles open top driving through some of the most awesome country and roads in the UK.

Blog entries
  Friday 17th Here we go, Goodbye to Kent
  Saturday 18th Heading north: M1 J29a to Helensburgh.html
  Sunday 19th Helensburgh to Skye: Glencoe and the ferry
  Monday

20th

Skye to Inverness 1: Skye
Skye to Inverness 2: Applecross and a breakdown
  Tuesday 21st Inverness to Dunfermline: Sunny Ski Resorts and Whisky
  Wednesday 22nd Heading south: Dunfermline to Boroughbridge
  Thursday 23rd Homeward to Maidstone

Cars - full run
  MK - Keith
  Robin Hoods - Derek, John
  Sylva Riot  - Callum
  Roadrunner SR2 - Terry
  SSC Stylus - Dan
  GBS Zeros - Andy, David, Paul, Me

Cars - met for part runs
  Tiger - ? @ Broadford
  Porsche - Andy's mates with deep pockets :)
  Ferrari - ?
  Robin Hoods - Alantoon & ? @ Keswick
  Zero - ZeroKnowledge
  Blue Seven - ? Waved to us heading north on the last day

Miles
Map milage:
  Fri    186  (To the start)
  Sat    351
  Sun   205
  Mon  Skye loop 121, Mainland 201
  Tue   220
  Wed  280
  Thur 173 (Finish to home)

Above are map miles; 1,833+- miles on the clock in 7 days

Accommodation
The trick with the chain hotels being to book when they lower prices 2-3 months before.
  Mansfield Premier Inn
  Travelodge Seafront Broadford
  Dunollie Broadford
  Inverness East Premier Inn
  Dunfermline Premier Inn
  Retford Travelodge

Fuel Stops
Order of the day is to top up when fuel is available, not wait for an empty tank.
  Newport Pagnell
  Toddington
  Haddon
  Mauchline
  Markham
  Boroughbridge
  Keswick
  Fort william
  Broadford 1
  Broadford 2
  Lochcarron
  Kinlochewe
  Ballater
  Inverness
  Hexam
  Dunfermline
  Boroughbridge
  Huntinngdon

Drinks of choice
  Cider (evening only)
  Orange Juice and lemonade (lunch stops)
  Tea/Coffee - Caffeine hits

Essential Kit
  Eye protection
  Motorcyclist neck warmer
  Windproof Fleece
  Gloves
  Thermal leggings
  Narrow shoes
  Sun tan lotion

Running repairs & issues (roughly in order occurred)
  David - start button circuit
  Dan - oil leak, timing, brake bleeding, 3 cylinders (on run home)
  Keith - overheating head/water rail union issues
  Andy - offside rear tyre puncture
  Terry - cylinder #1 big end - car retired at Torridon
  Me - cracked windscreen, car camera stopped working
  Simon - front mudguard shaken loose
  Stuart - 3 cylinders (on run home)


The Drivers:
Left to right: John, Callum, David, Andy, Paul, Derek, Andrew, Stuart, Dan, Me, Simon
(where are Keith & Terry? can't be far their cars are there...)


Everyone who started made it to the end!
Frayed nerves at times, but hopefully mostly just good memories from exhilarating drives...

What an incredible way to spend 7 days.

Its ALWAYS sunny [sic] in Scotland -  head north!



Addendum... of course - other weather patterns are available - turns out today, 5-6 days after we were there, The Quiraing looks like this:











(Some pictures courtesy other members of the trip)



Update - All embedded maps now images with links to Google mapping to help with page sizes & site performance

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Homeward to Maidstone

Thursday, The final leg

David is heading south west to Gloucester, and me south to Kent. 
We setoff reasonably early, but timed to miss the rush hour.

The road is now familiar, A1, M11 - from the journey north a week ago, trips to GBS and Kit Car Shows.

Helmet on now to make the miles,

Its strangely quiet, 

No more jostling for position in the convoy, 

No spectacular views, hairpins or rollercoaster roads,

A couple of times I looked in the mirrors and expected to see one or more little Seven style cars but they're all gone now; 

Just the road ahead...      an emotional drive.


Maidstone!
I cross the Queen Elizabeth bridge around 16:30 and home not long after...  

Roughly 1,833 miles travelled - the car still in one piece, a great trip with a great group of people.

All done for another year.

Its so quiet... no engine noise, the ringing in my ears fading, no one home: kids are at school, Wife at work. Peace. Time for a long soak in the bath.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Heading South: Dunfermline to Boroughbridge


Wednesday

Bridges - over the forth road bridge, pylons for a new bridge being built to our right and the famous Forth Rail bridge to our left.

The plan was to drive to the Boroughbridge services and then head our separate ways.

Day 5

Andy drops by around breakfast time to help out with Keith's wiring and see us off..

9am on the road again, a destination in mind now rather than just the drive, coffee and 'wake up' stop at Jedburgh we meet with two RhoCar members, Alantoon and Zeroknowledge, on the road south and push on to the border.


England/Scotland Border

It would be a nice spot, if it were not for the noise from the Kilted bagpipe player and food van generator!

Looking north...

...and south...

The route takes us off the main road through Bellingham and on to Hexam, rolling english countryside taking over from the Scottish heather.


We all meet up for the last time at Boroughbridge services, re-fuel, say good byes and head home. The only remaining drama is avoiding an aluminium ladder dropped on the motorway requiring evasive action.

The Scotland Tour ends here, but my own drive continues with David to an overnight stop near Retford before the final leg home alone tomorrow. Andrew kindly waits and waves us off at the motorway junction.

David and I wrap up the cars for their last overnight.

(Maps are not entirely acurate due to blogger/google maps embedding, some pictures courtesy other members of the trip)

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Inverness to Dunfermline: Sunny Ski Resorts and Whisky

Tuesday

The road south last year was wet, but still the Braemar road was one of my favourites - the second half downhill but great driving. This year - not only clear weather but hot too.

Day 4 - AM - Cairngorms & deserted Ski resorts

First stage along the coast to Elgin, slow and tedious as we hit traffic on the main road left me at least keen to get onto open road again.

After Elgin, the turn inland through now tree lined roads and stop at the Glenfiddich distillery; For a moment the convoy of cars parking up became the main attraction with the arriving coach parties and tourists..



Time for a quiet pot of tea...
I think Whisky distilleries smell of Christmas cake - I'm not a whisky drinker - but that mixture of alcohol, fruit and deep woody smells is fantastic.

Heading south, now the more interesting roads - faster main routes but mostly empty except for us and back into awesome scenery - snow covered peaks in the distance, not as dramatically high as the west coast - but instead wide open vistas and space...

The group split up now, stopping variously to soak up the views, overtake each other and try to capture the feeling on film; passing through the Lecht Ski Centre.

I found an amazing stop; must have stayed here for 20 minutes or more, quiet, only perhaps one or two cars passing from the south...



The panorama starts to give a feel of this place... cold from the altitude - but blue sky and red heather for ever, I think this was my favourite place on the whole trip.

Everyone met again at the fuel stop; The early arrivals having lunched;  A pause for repairs - I think Simon had his front wing welded here & Andrew needed to adjust rear brakes. When we did move off this was the last to be seen of the Scottish contingent. At the  end of the days run they headed home (save Andy came back to Dunfermline in the morning to see us off)

I picked up some packed lunch and sought out a likely spot where the old Braemar road runs next to the new...   T shirt weather now,  waved past Keith, Dan & David en route south.


The new Braemar road can be seen on the hillside to the left, the lay-by I found for lunch overlooking a stream and looks like it was part of the previous road.





















Day 4 - PM - Lowlands into Dunfermline

We were more split up now, Keith, Dan etc re met on the route south for lunch & I re-passed David parked up. We had agreed to meet back at Dunfermline around 7.30pm.

I drove the planned (and set into my satnav) roads Pitlochry, Aberfeldy, Creif & Muckhart. Enjoyable roads with natural pauses in the towns to slow down & receive a few waves form parents & kids coming out of school.


Somewhere on the Pitlochry road I stopped for a photo - more relaxed driving - flatter country, but still huge vistas and clear skies.

The remainder of the group, Me, Dan, Keith, Terry, David, Paul, Simon and Andrew met at Dunfermline Premier Inn;  The last real night - so a few more drinks to facilitate the conversation. & toast the journey. The return to reliable wireless connectivity also meant catching up with Facebook and various messages/confirmation from the Scots who were now safely home.

A very different day from the northward west coast or Skye roads; but great runs none the less; still an opportunity to get the best from the car when the mood took.

(Maps are not entirely acurate due to blogger/google maps embedding, some pictures courtesy other members of the trip)

Monday, 20 April 2015

Skye to Inverness 2: Applecross and a Breakdown

Monday

Day 3 - AM - Applecross Pass

Running with the group to the Skye bridge, they paused again - impatient - I forged ahead and took the original planned route through Plockton and on to Applecross; The road dives into woodland after Plockton then around Loch Carron before ascending to the Bealach na Ba Viewpoint.


Clear roads, around the Loch which I remembered from last year; and another fuel stop at the Lochcarron Garage; I almost expected the group to catch me up at this point - but no sign, so I carried on to the pass.

The last hairpin,  a left turn, I met a large black Mercedes coming down - I stopped when I saw him, invisible to traffic coming up & at that point heard the revs of a seven coming up behind - undoubtedly Andy the lead car from the remaining group.

Hit the horn a couple of times to warn him and then heard him yell 'Richard!' as he realised who it was and avoided driving in the back of me. We ascended without issue to the viewpoint and waited on the others:

I had time to get a good position to see them arrive over the last crest: 
  @19secs:Keith, Terry, John, 
  @37secs: Derek, 
  @45secs: Paul, Callum, David, Andrew
  @1:24: Stuart.


Panorama from the top of the pass to the viewpoint carpark at 2,054' (626m) above sea level.


Andrew followed me on the descent and recorded the enclosed video. The start was reverse brinkmanship - everyone trying to get a clear run. I didn't want to be in front of the speedy Andy in the black and white Zero - once he went though he should clear the path...

The video makes the drive look smooth and controlled - in the cabin its a busy time and totally focused on the road ahead, potential traffic in either direction and as close to the limit as is safe - awesome.

We make our move around 1:38 in.. (no sound)

Applecross Inn
Lunch stop with a view across to the road we will take. Fish dishes their speciality, locally caught ingredients, and the drink of choice for the lunchtime stop is once more Orange juice and lemonade all round.

The onward road can just be seen level above the water, past the white house then through the notch at the tip of the headland.



Day 3 - PM - To Inverness


After all fed and watered, on to the west - the awesome road which winds its way further north this time and towards inverness.

Typical of the more interesting drives - few pictures to show, due to no stopping; along the way though the road dives and swerves between water, along hillside dropping away to the sea and past some large highland cattle with apparently docile nature (luckily considering the size of their headgear)


For a while I was following Dan with a small group; and the pace he set was enough to keep me occupied & get the best out of the road at the same time; one dip through a tree lined section lead to instant 'fly strike' over the windscreen.

Mountains both sides towering over the road... love it, as the road straightens I got a chance to glance left and right at the view; this is one of my favourite runs on the trip last year and this.

Kinlochewe
The fuel stop is the so called Tipsy Laird at Kinlochewe and the first major trip issue;

Terry's SR2 making loud, across the carpark loud, knocking noises which is put down to big end failure - probably on cylinder #1. Ultimately Dan and he decide to limp into Inverness on the straight route, but in the end have to call GreenFlag to take his undriveable car homeward.

To his credit Terry kept a positive outlook, he had driven some of the most memorable roads already and was to travel with Dan and Keith for the rest of the trip. Small consolation as passenger for the remainder was able to take in the awesome views (and drinking opportunities).

The remainder of us continue en-route; the order changing round as tiredness on this long day taking its toll; at one point I was trying to keep up with Callums bike engined car, then taking the front running myself before pausing at the junction of the A382, heading east, and the A835 heading south into Inverness. 

In front takes its toll - no marker car to show where the road goes next or give a clue to oncoming traffic. I didn't even get out at this stop; happy to close my eyes for 30 seconds in the sun... 


The remaining run into Inverness is more sedate/all cruising now and ready for an evening meal to share stories of the day, followed by overnight rest - before the final Scottish legs through the Cairngorms.

(Maps are not entirely acurate due to blogger/google maps embedding, some pictures courtesy other members of the trip)

Skye to Inverness 1: Skye

Monday

The original plan was a drive around Skye early & before breakfast; returning to the fuel stop in Broadford before going back to the mainland. This plan changed - all cars running well except Andy's in search of a new tyre - so early off after breakfast for the circular run around Skye.

Day 3 - AM - Skye & The Quiraing

Heading up to Struan, Uig then across to Staffin via the Quiraig; The Quiraig being the star of the route & unexpected for me (although planned by Keith & Andy)

(I dont recall if we went all the way to Dunvegan or cut back towards Uig from Struan)


The morning was clear again time for a quick walk along the pier just outside the hotel while cars were uncovered and checked; There was talk of a seal in the bay, but I didn't see it.

Then on to the fuel stop next door with Andy away in search of a new tyre & we head off in loose convoy.

A pause at Struan on the west coast.
Some calls to check on Andy's progress and where he would meet us, & Dan checks on brakes/oil situation.

Words not required, even the pictures capture some of the stunning scenery, in real life these vistas go on for ever.

Some short discussion on whether that trawler, right of the Island, is moonlighting and picking up his catch direct from the fish farms...


At the next stop I split from the main group - a little alone time on an open road required - so agreed with Keith to meet up later at the Broadford garage for fuel.

The Quiraing
The road over the Quiraing was the star of the run, taking the turn after Uig towards Staffin. I drove without pause right across the top, hairpins on the way down and past the cemetery (a sort of warning for those too speedy) on the right at the bottom. Long fast road down with great visibility and a clear drive; I don't think I met another vehicle all the way.

These pictures courtesy of the other group which paused here


The signature picture of the trip - an Englishman , Irishman and a  Scot with a flag atop an outcrop. (There is a joke there somewhere, but I can't think of an appropriate punchline)


Staffin Bay and South:
My journey continued alone north as the pass road met with the A855; and a rest stop overlooking Staffin Bay, its namesake island and the mainland far on the horizon.

The road beckons south...
The main A87 road - but views over water to the left, and Skye's mountains to the right some looking like they have been torn apart & cracked over hundreds of thousands of years.

We meet up again at the Broadford garage, fill-up after the 100 odd mile jaunt & I'm reunited with my spare tyre. Andy lucked out and found a single replacement racing tyre at the local garage. 

All set to move on again towards the Applecross Pass & lunch at the Inn which takes the same name.



(Maps are not entirely acurate due to blogger/google maps embedding, some pictures courtesy other members of the trip)