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Entries in Driving (22)


New Orleans to Birmingham

I hadn't been looking forward to today as it was the longest daily drive of our trip. After we'd packed, checked out and loaded the car we set off for the long haul to Birmingham. We'd initially decided on at least two stops during the five and a half hour drive, with maybe my wife taking a turn at the driving, but in the end I did all the driving with just the one stop for something to eat and drink and to refuel the car.

As we'd already paid for a tank of fuel in the rental price I didn't want to return it with a lot of fuel in the tank so we did some calculations and I put in enough to see us back to the rental depot at the airport. After we'd checked in to our hotel in Birmingham we drove to a nearby mall where the women looked at various clothes and cosmetic shops and I bought a Tommy Bahama shirt in Macy's. I'd heard Scott Bourne going on about these shirts being his favourite, and as I'm of similar stature (short and fat) I decided to get one.  

We had our evening meal back at our hotel. This turned out to be a bit of a shambles as it seemed to be a restaurant / catering training establishment. The waitress, although very pleasant and cheerful, didn't really need to tell us she needed a drink and a cigarette break; that the gay chef (her words) was always on her back, etc. The meal was roughly what we'd ordered, with only a few mistakes, but I'll never understand how they managed to ruin a fairly simple rib eye steak.


Isle of Man to Gillamoor

We were up fairly early to get the 09:45 Manannan sailing to Heysham. As it was the end of TT Week there were lots of bikes on the boat, returning to the UK and further afield. Unusually for Manannan Executive members we didn't get boarded until near the end as they were trying to load and stow all of the bikes.

This was our first time on the Isle of Man Steal Packet company's Manannan fast craft but as it was very full I though I'd leave exploring the ship until another time. We made our way up to the Manannan Executive lounge, which was fairly deserted with only about 6 other people in it.

The sea was calm for the crossing and we made good time to Heysham, passing the Ben My Chree en route. We had decided to take the slower but more direct and scenic route to our rented cottages in Gillamoor. Some parts of the route were beginning to look familiar and we soon found ourselves stopping at the Ribblehead viaduct again. We'd made a big detour to see this the last time we were in the UK and hadn't expected to be here again so soon.

Photo: Ribblehead Viaduct with goods train crossing

We had an ice cream at the viaduct and stopped for a coffee and sandwich later on our journey to give me a break from driving. We got to our cottages at Gales Farm, Gillamoor by about 18:00. The cottages were fine; we were in Barley Cottage, which sleeps four, so there was plenty of room for the two of us. My mother was staying in the nearby Swallow Cottage.

Photo: Gales Farm Cottages, Gillamoor

We sat outside in the evening sun for a while and then my wife and I wakeld the short distance to the local pub, the Royal Oak, and had a good meal and some drinks.


Isle of Man to the Tranquil Otter

We were up early this morning to get the boat to Heysham for our Easter break at the Tranquil Otter, which is just outside of Carlisle. We were the first car on an there were only five of us in the Blue Ribband / Mannanin Executive lounge, although the rest of the boat seemed full. We had a smooth crossing and were disembarking in Heysham by 11:45.

We stopped off at the ASDA in Lancaster to buy supplies for the bank holiday weekend. It was packed with shoppers and my wife was nearly an hour in the store. I'd filled up with fuel and with our luggage and shopping the Boxster was packed to the gills.

We drove through Lake District to Kirkstone Pass Inn, which I'd seen on the Britian's Best Drives television programme with Richard Wilson (Victor Meldrew). As it was the Easter holiday weekend the pub was very busy and we'd have to queue for a drink so we decided to carry on to Tranquil Otter. We did stop for a quick coffee and toastie in Pooley Bridge on the way. I managed to get stuck in the outside toilet of the cafe and had to bang on the door until one of the passing young waitresses rescued me.

We were booked into Lodge 8, which used to be the office for the Tranquil Otter. It maybe wasn't as big as the other lodges but it was perfectly adequate for the two of us and I wouldn't hesitate to stay in that lodge again.

We unpacked and explored the lodge and surrounding area and then my wife cooked our evening meal which we washed down with a few glasses of whisky before going to bed. I was a little disappointed that we hadn't used the hot tub yet, but there was plenty of time.

Before turning in I pre booked a taxi (Barry's Taxis 07766 700020) for the following morning to take us into Carlisle.


I received a phone call yesterday, a bit out of the blue, the say that there was now a slot available for me on the Institute of Advanced Motorists training scheme. I'd joined the IAM as an associate back in June 2008 but I think they've been a bit sort of Observers to get trainees onto the scheme any faster.

I took the Boxster out of the garage for the first time since our Scottish weekend and met the group and the agreed place and time. After a few introductions I was paired up with Mike Dunn, chairman of the Isle of Man branch, and we went out for a drive.

I was meant to drive for half and hour and then Mike was to drive the same route in his car and point out my errors but as he seemed fairly happy with my driving I ended up driving for about an hour and a half in total while Mike and I discussed various aspects of advanced driving and also pointing out some of the ludicrous road signs and inexplicable junction markings en route that I must admit I'd not really thought about before.

After the session I returned home to pick up my wife and go out for another drive and have lunch out.

I must swot up on the IAM manual and DVD or next week's lesson.

Burns Night

We had breakfast in the hotel; I had the "The Full Scottish" and my wife had porridge. We drove down to Whithorn and the nearby Isle of Whithorn. I'd heard some horror stories about the A75 from a couple of friends but on that Sunday morning we hardly saw any traffic and maintained a decent speed in the Boxster.

After Whithorn we drove Kirkcudbright and then on to Gretna Green. We had a late lunch at Gretna Green, I had haggis taties and neeps as it was Burns Night. We also bought two bottles of whiskey at a combined cost of £92 both.

Back at Moffat I refuelled the car and gave it another jet wash to get rid of the accumulated road salt. I had another couple of pints of Best bitter in the hotel while surfing on the laptop, sorting photos and trying to find some music I had in my head. We had our evening meal in the hotel and a few more drinks before retiring to our room.

Photo: Sculpture at Gretna Green