Road trippin’ in the Red BX

I enjoy driving, which is perhaps the most unsurprising statement with which to start a Blog post written by me. I enjoy driving long distance too, and I was itching for a long distance drive. After all, I’m planning to tour Scotland this summer in a car I only bought a couple of weeks ago. It needed a proving run.

So, I pondered where to go and it didn’t take long to realise that visiting my bestest and longest serving friend would be just about perfect. She lives 300 miles away on the opposite side of the UK – Ramsgate. From our house, that’s about 330 miles. Perfect!

For some reason, my wife didn’t fancy the seven hours each way of sitting in a passenger seat staring at motorways. It would be a solo mission. I carried out the necessary pre-flight checks (which mainly involved fitting some enormous rear speakers, though I did also check the fluid levels) and on Saturday morning, I hit the road.

The downside to living somewhere so beautifully remote is that it is beautifully remote. Therefore, the first hour and a half of my mammoth drive was spent getting to Telford, where some motorway happens at last. I shouldn’t complain – traffic levels were quite light, with few trucks about, so I was making good time. The approach to Birmingham was quite surprising though. It went down to 50mph, but no slower. Brilliant!

On I sailed, trying but failing to keep the speed down to an indicated 70mph. The car just felt happier at 80mph, which translates into an actual speed of about 72mph. At one point, I let it get up to an indicated 85mph, at which point the ABS warning light came on. Brilliant. I’ve got a car that likes to tell me when I’ve been naughty.

I pushed on down the M1, but called a very necessary halt for lunch at Newport Pagnell. This cost £7. Ouch. I also filled the car up with fuel. Or rather, having seen that diesel was 155.9p per litre, I sloshed enough in to get me to Kent and no more! Eventually, after what felt like many hours – because it was – I reached Margate, where my friend was working. Here’s an actual picture of the heroic machine.

Margate BX

My trusty steed on the mean streets of Margate

Apart from the ABS light, there had been no drama at all on the journey down. The BX just sailed on and on, sipping fuel and producing hilarious amounts of exhaust smoke when I booted it. Which was often. That’s not to say the car didn’t have faults – there’s something amiss with the suspension, which makes it feel floaty on one side, but not the other. It’s a bit odd. There is also a very worn balljoint which will very soon be replaced, and a slightly worn inner track rod end on the other side. That means the steering lacks precision and it rides bumps with all the grace of a wheelbarrow full of crockery.

The next day, I discovered it was using a fair bit of oil too – hardly surprising as there is a pretty good oil leak down the back of the engine somewhere, as discovered last week. Still, at least it confirmed that the clever electronic oil level display on the dashboard is accurate!

The next day also involved a rather late night. We didn’t get in until 3am, and the BX found itself like many of its siblings once upon a time – on taxi duty. At this point, I’d like to point out that I don’t drink alcohol very often at all. My last alcoholic beverage was consumed on 22 May last year.

That meant that my plan to leave for home early on Monday morning was somewhat thwarted. I eventually managed to get myself on the road before 11am and prepared for another huge slog at the wheel. Again, it was plain sailing really. Not too much traffic, some idiots on the M1 but nowt I couldn’t handle and the miles were soon building up. I stopped for lunch after 127 miles – this time near Luton – then just kept driving, taking the M6 Toll and only stopping for roundabouts and traffic lights. I got back home at about 5pm. That’s a pretty good run.

I was very pleased with the journey. I had a horrible fear that choosing a Bank Holiday weekend would see me stuck in nose-to-tail traffic, but that didn’t happen once  – which is good because the cooling fan is on a manual switch and I was terrified I’d forget that fact. The motorway driving wasn’t too stressful, despite the best efforts of others and I do find real therapy in doing nothing more than piloting a car for hour after hour. It can still be enjoyable, even in this increasingly-crowded land.

The car coped absolutely fine, clocking up its 306,000th mile on the way there. Yes, there are things that need doing and yes, I need to really crack on with them. After all, it looks like we’ll be heading to the south east again before too long!

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