After the Launch Event at Back Lane West and with the route clarified, and stops planned the next thing to do was get the Volvo and arrow to the starting point. Driving back to Northamptonshire from Cornwall was going to be a good test for the Volvo. Eventually taking around 6 hours the car drove flawlessly with the arrow driven up separately in the support vehicle (my partner in our Peugeot Partner). Although my family dont live in Blisworth anymore my Mother lives conveniently nearby in Northampton providing a usefully sized driveway to reattach the arrow, attach the wiring, test everything and prepare for the journey. After arriving in Northampton at about 10pm on Saturday my original plan of leaving at 5.30 on Sunday seemed not such a good idea (understatement) so the journey was re-planned for Monday, giving me a whole day to prep and try and relax before what would be a long day.
Cue one of the hottest ever Bank Holiday Sundays while I was prepping the car and arrow outside in the sun. It however did make me glad to not be driving across the country in a hot un-air conditioned car.
After a small incident involving spilling pink paint on myself and the car and a hasty clean up everything seemed ready. However one final test of the light sequences before a homemade Lasagne and an early night showed up a strange fault with 2 of the lights – on certain sequences (but not all) they wouldn’t turn on when needed. Cue some swearing, a touch of exasperation and a bit of rational problem solving I switched the wiring for the offending lights to different relays and, somewhat to my surprise, everything worked fine and the car was prepped and ready for it’s early start.
Final tests and ready to go in the morning
A short test drive to the starting point just outside the House I grew up in in Blisworth went smoothly and we were finally set to start, leaving the village at around 5.40 similar to the early starts we would have had on our holiday journeys.
At Blisworth, about to start the journey
As I had mentioned in a previous part of these blogs we would have certain places that we would stop at often, either for a toilet break, a drink stop or in the case of places like Avebury just because they were fascinating. The journey was part of the holiday and the route was deliberately more scenic and more ‘enjoyable’ although I think I would have traded it as a child for anything that made it over quicker. Part of the plan to make it more enjoyable for me and my brother (there’s a good story involving him managing to get half-way to our holiday one year with no shoes on and spending the rest of the week in Jelly Shoes) involved filling up seat organisers with things to entertain us. These were the kind that hung over the back of the front seats with various pockets and pouches and would have I-spy books, Trebor Softmints (Softfruits occasionally) or Fruitella and an array of other pocket money bits. Although these did their job of entertaining us it was only quite a lot later in life that I made the link between reading books in the car and being consistently quite car sick, adding to the ordeal of the journey.
Following the route we would have taken we stopped at planned locations and some unplanned such as the duck pond at Devizes that as soon as I saw it I instantly recognised it. It’s amazing how strong some memories can be and how I could recall places perhaps 20 years after having last been there. It made for an emotional journey recalling long stored away memories and especially now being the one in my Father’s seat (he always drove, my mum always the navigator) it made me feel closer to him again and consider how much these holidays meant to him. It also made sense why we had Volvo’s, a car known for their safety which to me as a child were horribly dull – especially when compared to some of the models in I-spy Cars, let alone Cars II. This car was responsible for carrying his family to their weeks utopia in the West, a job it did flawlessly and which it did again on this journey.
I documented the places with an array of cameras (I’ll cover this in another post) including ones I had as a child. choosing to eschew video for the most part to mimic the ‘single image’ memories these would create.
The duck pond at Devizes
I remember a lot of tinfoiled sandwiches in laybys such as this
One popular stop was the community centre in Seend which would, and amazingly still does open for breakfasts on Saturday mornings in the summer to cater for travellers. Despite opening early we would often get here before they had started serving. There were 2 buildings, the more modern one and the older tin clad hall in the second image and none of us can recall which building it was. It’s even possible it was neither as my Aunt (her family would make similar trips) remembers it being on the main road and I cant say the location brought back strong memories for me in the same way other locations did.
The community centre(s) in Seend
Although I used maps for planning the route I also allowed people to track the journey using the GPS on my phone and a link showing my location on Google maps.
On route to Westward Ho! I also called in at some other places we would visit or Holiday in that were along our route and as with other stops memories long forgotten were recalled even down to surprisingly small details.
Finally after approximately 12 hours I arrived, car and arrow in one piece, multiple stops stopped at and many a photo taken I was no longer ‘Westward Ho!’ I had arrived.
It had been a long and unusual day. I had been careful not to overuse the lights while driving to avoid distracting other motorists and gaining unwanted attention from the police. I had set them up with a 12 leisure battery and a convenient toggle switch behind my seat but on the run into Westward Ho! as the sun was fading the lights were fully engaged. The car received some strange looks from the holidaying public and locals often seeming to be a mixture of confusion, intrigue and bemusement but with unavoidable smiles sneaking onto peoples faces at the strange spectacle driving into their town.
In Westward Ho!
I’ll leave you with this video documenting the car as it was parked up on the promenade in Westward Ho! sitting having performed it’s task and getting attention, but frequently not from passers by, still flashing West, still suggesting there’s better ahead and further to go.