Category Archives: Road Trip

Road Trip Day 5

Attention conservation notice: More road trip stuff, mostly a very rambly brain dump.

The road trip has been going well so far, but I’m actually currently at home taking a short rest stop in it – the plan is to continue up north either tomorrow or maybe the day after.

I also changed my plan and added in a London stop. My friend Felix opened a bar a month ago but I’d failed to make it into London to visit since then. I made a joke a few weeks ago that if Trump became president I’d make a beeline for it and do some heavy drinking. Then it actually happened (which honestly I was expecting, mostly in a “expect the worst and that way all your surprised will be pleasant” sort of way), and I decided it wasn’t a joke after all.

The drinking was indeed quite heavy, so the rest stop is extra welcome on that front, but that wasn’t the main reason. The main reason was so that I can remove a lot of stuff from the car.

I think the biggest planning thing I’ve learned about road trips so far is that one of my initial inclinations was completely wrong: I thought that because a car holds a lot of stuff, I had to worry much less about space constraints and I could just bung everything I thought I might need into it and not worry about it.

This turns out not to be true, because the problem is that although a car has a lot of space, as the amount of stuff you have in it goes up your ability to efficiently access the stuff goes way down as everything gets in the way of everything else.

This means that a bunch of things I brought just because they might be useful are in fact actively harmful by their presence.

In particular I brought a bunch of books with me that I’m clearly not actually going to read on this trip, so I’m leaving them behind. I also brought too many spare shoes, some extra towels, some running gear, etc.

I’m also going to leave my laptop behind. Although it’s fairly light I still don’t like carrying it with me, and leaving it in the car makes me nervous even if I hide it well. So once I leave home again there won’t be any further blogging from me until the road trip is over.

One thing that I will not be removing though is my sleeping in the car supplies. I brought my sleeping bag, a blanket and a pillow with me and I’ve already used them once.

It turns out youth hostels are both better than I expected and yet still a bit hit and miss. The youth hostels in Penzance and the Eden Project were both lovely – in Penzance I stayed in a shared room, but the Eden Project youth hostel uses snoozeboxes, and they’re not really the sort of thing that you can comfortably share with strangers. But after the Eden Project I stayed in the Beer (it’s the name of the town. And as far as I can tell they do not brew any beer) youth hostel down in Devon. Or, rather, I didn’t, as I walked into the shared room and was met with a wave of body odour. I don’t think my potential roommates were at fault – it read more like the room was badly ventilated and inadequately cleaned – but whomever was at fault I didn’t really feel like sleeping in there. I have earplugs and a sleep mask, but no nose plugs.

So I set up camp in my car instead. It was still totally worth the money for the youth hostel because it gave me access to a fairly nice lounge and a shower to use in the morning (and I’d only paid about £10) but I’m pretty happy with that decision.

Another thing I’ve learned is that it’s really useful to have a smaller night bag that you can just decant stuff into rather than bringing your full luggage inside. I didn’t have a suitable one with me (my backpack has too many other things for that), so I ended up buying a knock-off Freitag bag when at the Eden Project, made by a Cornish company called Sourced. It’s quite a nice look, and has been serving me well since then.

My plan to get up early every day has been working in the sense that I’ve been getting up early every day, but if anything I’ve been getting up too early. Very few things seem to be open before 9 and most / many things before 10. As a result I’ve shifted my alarm clock an hour later for the rest of the trip.

But that’s really been the only problem I’ve been finding it surprisingly easy to get up despite running on very little sleep though (I think I’m averaging about five hours). The caffeine alarm clock helps a lot here (augmented with theanine). Who knows, I may even keep a schedule like this up when I get home properly.

Other than all that, things have been going well. I’ve been doing lots of enjoyable walking. The trick seems to mostly just look for bits of green that say Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the map and then finding a youth hostel near them. I’ve been quite lucky with the weather for that – there’s been some fairly dicey weather while driving and arriving at places, but the next day the weather has been lovely and given me some good opportunity to explore.

Though it turns out that I’m fairly out of shape for long walking. I’ve only been doing in the region of 2-4 hours per day and it’s left me with fairly sore legs. Some combination of not using those muscles that much (walking on the beach or hills is a lot harder than just normal walking, and I normally don’t do 2-4 hours per day) and my flat feet. Hopefully it’ll get easier once I’ve had a little bit of recovery and then some more practice. This was another reason that I’m relaxing my wake up time a bit – it turns out that daylight still lasts longer than I actually have walking time to fill it, so as long as I get going some time well before about 11 I’m basically not going to run out of time.

Anyway, that’s all for now. There may be some more non road trip blogging tomorrow, but if not this will be the last piece until I’m back.

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Road Trip Day 2

Attention conservation notice: This is the rarest category of post on this blog – one that’s just “Hey I’m me I did some stuff”. Specifically this is about my current road trip. If you don’t care about what I’m up to, which is really fair enough, you can skip this one.

Well, I seem to have failed to talk myself out of this road trip plan, so here I am in sunny Penzance!

OK, well, here I am in Penzance. It’s quite wet. There are very few pirates, and the WiFi is down where I’m staying so I can’t even torrent things.

The story so far:

Yesterday I drove down from home (near Cambridge) to my aunt and uncle’s place near Reading. On this trip I learned a very important lesson: If you’ve left your sunglasses in your bag and are driving into the setting sun, the correct thing to do is to stop somewhere and get them out. Toughing it out and staring into the sun for two hours as a result is stupid and will result in losing the evening to a splitting headache. Despite that I had a lovely evening catching up with family until the headache finally got the better of me.

I hadn’t actually appreciated this aspect of doing a road trip at this time of the year, but it came into play to a lesser degree this morning; the sun is perpetually very low in the sky, which means that it’s perpetually in my eyes while driving. Fortunately today I did remember my sunglasses.

Still, my inclination had already been that I’d be better off driving after it got dark, arriving at my destination and then doing the actual exploring the next day starting from around sunrise. I think this pretty much cements that as being a good idea.

I decided to take a slightly more scenic route here – when plotting my route Google maps gave me three options. Two were boring motorway driving, the other was still a lot of A roads but swung further south and went through more interesting scenery, taking a bit under an hour longer.

Google maps navigation really doesn’t like it when you do this. About every ten minutes for the first hour the navigation kept saying “We have found a faster route going the way you told us you didn’t want to go. Press accept to use that” (paraphrasing).

I’m reminded of my observation that GPS is basically Revenge of the Turtle Graphics – once we told a little turtle in a computer how to move around on a screen, now the little turtle is telling us how to move around on a map.

The turtle gets very grumpy when the humans don’t follow its advice.

The turtle might also have been right, in that a five hour drive was really a bit too much – I think that might be the longest drive I’ve done in one go (if it’s not it’s certainly close, but the longest I can think of were only about four hours). I’m not destroyed after it, but I’m definitely pretty tired, and at least some of that was from the driving (the rest of it was that going to sleep with a splitting headache that painkillers won’t shake doesn’t lead to a restful night).

This is an interesting demo of my changing relationship with driving – shortly after passing my test I did a three hour drive and ended up absolutely shattered  (the plan had been to continue driving the next day. I left the car where I was and got a train the rest of the way). Back in February I did a three hour drive across Namibia mostly for fun and it was fine but A Big Deal.

These days three hours drives are just things I do sometimes because I needed to. Five hour drives are hard work but basically fine. I guess one consequence of living in the country is grinding driving.

I have decidedly mixed feelings about this. I’m still politically mostly against cars – I will dance on the grave of the internal combustion engine, I think we desperately need more and better public transit, and I think that self driving cars will be life saving  and that’s enough to justify them on their own without all the other benefits – but after spending a lot of time in one I’m starting to have more appreciation for cars too.

On net, I welcome our car-free future. But I’m starting to see that something of value will be lost too. I need to think about this further.

On the driving length front though, I don’t expect that to be a problem on this trip – 5 hours is a lot more than I intend to drive most days – because I’m regarding Land’s End as the real start of the trip, I just wanted to make a beeline down here. I’ll probably be doing more like one or two hour drives most days.

I’m staying at the Penzance Youth Hostel tonight – going to see how the shared rooms go (I have earplugs and a mask). Tomorrow will do a bit of walking around the countryside around Land’s End (I spend about an hour wandering around Penzance itself when I got here and feel like I don’t need to spend more time in the town itself), then tomorrow evening I’m off to the Eden project to stay in the Youth Hostel there. I’ll get a room to myself there! With en suite and everything! This would feel more of a luxury if the room in question weren’t a shipping container. But I’m looking forward to the Eden Project itself, and the rooms are reportedly very nice despite the hipster chic construction material.

(I’m sure I’m being unfair and that using shipping containers for construction actually makes a great deal of practical sense in many contexts, but my association with them is very much Boxpart, which is basically flat-packed hipster gentrification).

That’s pretty much all I have to say for now. I doubt it made much sense given aforementioned tiredness. I’ll post further updates from time to time as I make my way around the country.

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