The Drive Home – contains M25

Our flying visit to Kent meant just one night of something approaching sleep before we headed home. Departure time ended up delayed until mid-afternoon. It had gone 4pm by the time we actually got moving out of Tunbridge Wells.

Road sign Motorway

Traffic levels ok at the moment…

On Monday, we’d sailed around the M25 without hitting any congestion. There’s usually more chance of winning the lottery than getting a clear run around the London Orbital, so I was well chuffed! Lightening doesn’t strike twice they say, so we had no such luck on the way back home.

Congestion M25

Ugh! Everything slows to a crawl

We just about kept moving though, which is good. With a shot engine mount and tired clutch, pulling away smoothly in the BX requires some considerable effort. On the plus side, it seems quite happy to potter along on tickover in second gear, and can pull from barely moving in third. It’s pretty good if things keep moving.

Warning signs greeted us with the good news that there was long delays on the M4 – our route home. They gave us plenty of warning, and the slow traffic meant we had a lot of time to consider our options. We could aim for the M3, then cut up to the M4 later. Or we could cut through Windsor. Lastly, we could go up the M40 and find an entirely different way to get to Wales.

The M3 seemed a logical idea, as Windsor would surely be jammed up. It turned out that the M3 was also jammed up as everyone else had the same idea. We found ourselves sitting stationary in the lane for the M3. This didn’t seem such a good idea. The problem was, the traffic on the M25 had picked up pace, and there was a lot of it. I had to wait for a suitable gap, then absolutely nail it, unleashing the full fury of the BX’s 71bhp. Not something I’d like to do again to be honest, but disaster was averted.

By the time we reached the M4 junction, Sally Traffic on BBC Radio 2 had informed us that the blockage had been cleared, but traffic was taking a while to clear. Sod it. The M25 was now jamming up quite horribly, so that put the M40 plan out of action. We’d opt for the M4. The problem here was the great volume of cars joining the M25 from Heathrow. They were flying down our inside, while the M25 traffic we were in was slowing down. We needed to be in that left-most lane, as it became the M4 exit. I watched the nearside mirror for a gap, while trying not to crash into the general queue of slowing vehicles. I spotted a gap, checked my blind spot and as I did that, the Volkswagen Golf that had just undertaken me, pulled in front of me and stopped dead as it tried to join the main M25 queue. I glanced forward again just in time to swerve into the M4 lane. I was not amused. It was a good job the lane was clear!

Sure enough, the M4 was a bit slow, but as we passed a burnt out lorry, we were glad of our timing. If we’d left earlier as planned, we would have been caught up in a solid traffic jam as the fire was put out.

I was feeling pretty tired by this point, so we pulled over and Rachel took over driving, reporting that she didn’t like the steering or the throttle pedal. The latter is at an uncomfortable angle, the steering is more of a mystery. I suspect some play where there should be none. I shall try and find it.

After an hour or so, we reached the Severn Bridge. Always a good sign!

Severn Bridge. Croeso i Grymru!

Severn Bridge. Croeso i Grymru!

It was a rather splendid evening. We joined the A449 at Newport, and stopped for another driver change. We then drove on into the night, with the BX proving adept at remaining in fifth gear for 99% of the time. It’s surprisingly relaxing to drive on country roads – no need to keep dropping cogs to find the power as I do in the Sirion.

We arrived back in our village at about 9pm and when we turned the engine off at the local hotel (where tea-critical milk was purchased) it was the first break the car had enjoyed since we set off from Tunbridge Wells. We managed to cover 598 miles in total, and 290 on the Tuesday thanks to various potterings in Kent.

The BX more than proved itself capable though. Not bad for a 26-year old motor.

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