Longest long way home ever

Taking a few detours on my way home

Tuesday 24th July 2012
Word count
Read time
9 mins

My journey home doesn't usually take that long. Once I get out of Norwich it's almost all 50-60 until my house. Once I get to a certain point though I can choose to carry on as normal, or turn off and go a longer way home. It's a bit faster, bit more twisty, and overall a bit more fun.

For those of you that don't know, I drive a 1988 BMW 518i; an old, boxy, '80s 4-door saloon with a 1.8 litre 4 cylinder engine. And I love it. Long story short, my dad had one since before I was born until 2003 when it was written off (and I'll tell you now, a crash at 30 hurts more than you might think). I always liked the car as it was all I ever knew and I had a lot of memories in it. The plan was to hand it down to me when I passed my test and I was looking forward to it, alas, that didn't happen. I remember looking up at the bonnet after the impact, seeing it crumpled up with steam billowing out, and I knew it was dead. I still get a bit of a lump in my chest when I think about it now.

When I passed my test it came down to getting a car; my dad said he'd buy me one and I had a shortlist, one of these being at the top. I didn't expect him to find one as they're not exactly common, but find one he did. At first I didn't really like it which got me down a bit (wasn't sure on the colour) but I quickly bonded with it (think what they do in Avatar with those weird horse and dragon things) and now I wouldn't drive anything else. I love driving it. I like going round fast sweeping bends. I like staying in 3rd or 4th for a longer than I should sometimes to listen to the little growl the engine has at higher revs, as opposed to a fake sound from a large exhaust. It's also great fun in snow. Plus, apart from a few patches of rust on the bodywork, I think it looks better than pretty much anything else I see day-to-day and very often see people taking a second look at it. It's something a bit different, you know? It didn't cost much to buy and although it's not cheap to run, it's nice to keep old cars going while they still can. It has character. We put the leather seats from my dad's car in so at least I'm sat in the seat I would have sat in.

So with this in mind, I drive it as much as I can and I love when i get the chance to drive it on a nice, fast, twisty road. I'm not stupid about it; I keep within the speed limit, don't overtake unnecessarily or dangerously or drive like a maniac. It is possible to drive fast and still be sensible, and if more people in my age bracket in their little hatchbacks realised this then my insurance might be a bit cheaper. But that's another debate for another time.

When it's a nice day, I sometimes go the long way home. Open the sunroof, turn the music up, and drive. On a good day the road will be nice and clear and I'll be able to open the taps a little bit.

Today was not one of these days.

I live in Norfolk. A place where some people have not heard of '5th gear'. A place where people will constantly drive 10-20 mph under the limit. A place where people have no understanding of how average speed cameras work. A place where people will go 40 in a 60 and then 40 in a 30 and then 40 in a 50.

I know this, and usually have at least part of my journey ruined by one such driver.

I split the route up into 3 sort of stages. I still haven't timed myself through each though. That would be a bit much. Maybe.

Anyway, first bit. Bit of a blast to the first village. Today, just after the fabled national speed limit sign, I caught up to a queue of about 7 cars stuck behind a slow car at the front. If there was a single slow car I may have been able to get past, but I'd be stuck behind this lot the whole way.

"Fuck this" I thought.

I turned down the next left junction, hoping to turn left again and then left again, and end up on the road I'd come down a few minutes ago, to then have a second try at this faster bit.

After turning down the first left, I took the next left. And this is when I entered the 4th dimension.

The road just kept going on and on and ooooon. I couldn't undertand it. I thought it must end soon but it kept going, corner after corner, straight after straight. I eventually came to a small crossroads, and figured I may as well turn left again. I did this, and again, the road seemed to go on forever.

After a few minutes I saw a main road approaching (I say main, more main than the one I was on). Thing is I was exactly where I was expecting to come out, I just couldn't figure out how it had taken so long to get there. Having now looked at a map I can see why. Think of the shape of a kite; I'd driven along the two shorter edges along the top, and the detour took me along both of the longer sides; the route I took was pretty much this shape.

However, this longer-than-planned method of turning round meant the slow cars had had plenty of time to clear off. I started along the road again and it was clear pretty much all the way, until I caught up to a convoy of 2 cars stuck behind one slowcoach near the village. But overall I'd had a clear road.


However, there were only so many chances for these 3 cars to turn off before the next stretch. As we went into the 50, none of them had gone.

"Fuck this" I thought.

I knew there was a turning to the right with a little island at the bottom where I could turn round, so I went down there to kill a few minutes. When I came back up and rejoined the main road, it was clear, and this is the bit that's best when it's clear. And it stayed clear right to the end.


I then turn right onto an A road for a little bit of 60 until the last stretch. I reached the junction and turned into it, and caught up to a people carrier. They were going slow and braking miles before a slight corner.

"Fuck this" I thought.

The last two detours had ended up ultimately successful so I thought I'd try and make it three. There was a left turning I knew I could take that would send my back into another little village and lead me back onto the main road I'd just turned off; I could then turn back into the junction and hopefully it'd be clear.

Alas, once I'd got back onto the main road, I missed the junction. I always miss it because I always think there's another one that looks similar, but I never learn, and this time drove past it.

For fuuuuuck's sake.

So now I was going back along the A road in the direction I'd just come from, to go up to the roundabout to turn round. I turned round and went back along the A road in the proper direction for a second time (anyone with a view of that road from their house would wonder what the hell I was doing driving up and down) and turned into the junction again. This time, it was clear, and was clear until right at the end.


I then did the last little bit of the journey back to my house, pulled into the drive, slowly turned the key, and smiled to myself.

Now, you may be thinking all that was a bit much just to get some clear roads, and you might be right. In fact, two of the detours took longer than I had hoped myself.

However, at the end of it, I'd had fun.

Now, if you saw these roads, you probably wouldn't think much of them. And if you look at them on a map, you really wouldn't think anything of them. And I've driven on better in the past but there's not a lot of choice around here. But, some people just drive these roads to get somewhere. Some people don't find them fun to drive. But have a bit of a blast along them, in a nice car, on a nice day, with a clear road, and if you're even a little bit of a petrol head, or even if you're not, you'd get it.

Ultimately, I try and drive my car like it's the last day I'll be driving it. For all I know, the head gasket could go tomorrow. For all I know, it could get nicked by someone and I'd never see it again or they'd write it off. So while I still have it I will make the most of it.

And I would quite happily waste petrol driving around a bit to enable me to have a few minutes of driving pleasure in it.