Wheels of Squeal

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Hit the road, Bob

by Bob

So I had a bit of holiday left to take before the end of the year. Ignoring the wife’s hints about weekends in Paris, I had a think about where best to spend a few days away (cub-free). Chip suggested winter sun. But you have to put up with all that airport palaver. Queuing at airport security on your way home does no good to a badger’s blood pressure.

Then Bill started rattling on about his latest greatest holiday, cruising down Route 66 in a 1959 Series 62 convertible. A roadtrip? Now there’s an idea. And after the whole coach trip debacle Madge had little say in where this getaway would take us to.

But there’s no way I’m getting on a plane for 87 hours just to get to some gawdforsaken place in the US of A. We’ve got some pretty damn good roads here thank you very much. So I’ll leave Bill to take Ms Johansson up Route 66. Me and Mrs Bob will get our kicks on the A66.

Not thrilling enough? Well I’ll have you know that this Cumbrian highway has one of the worst safety records of any UK road. Can’t say that line helped persuade Madge. But I promised we’d stay a night in a B&B in Saltburn-by-the-Sea (rather than at the services as planned). Of course, Cumbria was once known as the murder capital of the north too. So while the cull’s on hold seemed the safest time to visit. Thank goodness we got away before all this rain started.

Up at the not quite the crack of dawn, we headed from Saltburn up to the start of the A66. Sunroof down, heater on, we were on our way!

For about 5 miles. Because then you get to the Molten Steel sculpture. No poncy art gallery or park needed, this is proudly plonked smack bang in the middle of a roundabout. We went round about 5 times before deciding stopping could see us soon become roadkill. It was an impressive sight all the same.

 

The next dose of culture wasn’t far away either. Over 180,000 bricks went into this ‘train’ just off the A66 at Darlington – right by the supermarket (where we stocked up on goodies for the trip).

Less than 20 miles and two artworks down. To think people go all the way to Italy to see some statue of a bloke whose arms have fallen off. Ridiculous.

From Darlington, it’s a short detour onto the A66(M) then A1(M) and A1 to rejoin the A66 just west of the A1. The A66(M) is surely one of the shortest motorways in the UK – any factfinders here know for sure?

It wasn’t long till Marge pointed out a little farm/café/shop/playpark/museum/petting zoo for a ‘rest-stop’. Turned out to be a good call, with homemade treats and proper tea served in a proper pot. You know it’s good when the staff are greeting regulars by name.

By mid to late morning we were settling down for a nice little run and I regressed to my childhood hobby of Stobart spotting. Marge chose castle spotting instead. She says she’s always been interested in castles and stately homes. But I blame all those period dramas that are clogging up the Sky box. But for a special treat we stopped at Brough Castle for lunch.

Fuelled up on tea and sandwiches, it was onwards and west-wards to Penrith. Well just past it, over the M6 and to a place called the Rheged Centre. It’s Europe’s largest grass covered building. Unfortunately they filled it with shops, a cinema, and things for kids. Though to be fair it’s one of the nicer complexes I’ve ever been in and we did grab more tea and a cake.

It was on towards Keswick as the heavens opened – getting some practice in and giving us a glimpse of why those roadmarkers and barriers are dotted along the route. It was a shame to be looking out on grey clouds, but as the skies cleared you get some of the most breath-taking views you’d find anywhere in the world. Some (like my dear wife) may disagree, but even the A66 bridge over the River Greta is stunning.

We had a good wander round Keswick, then headed off for Workington – the end of the A66 – in time for fish and chips for a late tea. Then an evening in a local pub, a bed at a local B&B, and a leisurely drive home in the morning. Perfect.

I’m already planning my next UK roadtrip. Thinking of hiring a classic car too – something convertible for the full wind-through-your-fur effect. Not in this weather, mind you. Perhaps we’ll save the A149, known to Norfolk locals as ‘the coast road’, for next summer. Winding from King’s Lynn to Cromer, it takes in some great nature reserves and even Sandringham (where my great great uncle Gilbert was allegedly Chief Yeoman of the Badgers to Queen Vic) on the way.

But if you’ve got any other UK roadtrip suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

Bob

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