USEFUL things learned this weekend:
- The Somerset town of Frome hosts a seemingly very popular agricultural and cheese show each year;
- The fields which host the Frome show can seemingly only be entered through one single gateway, approached by single carriageways with no way for drivers not heading for the show – heaven forbid – to take a fast track round the waiting traffic;
- If Google Maps gives directions which take you anywhere near Bath, ask for an alternative route;
- Drivers in and around Bath rarely get out of second gear.
This was not the sort of valuable information that was the target for a trip down to the head office of Oasis Overland for their open day ahead of the overland Trans-Africa adventure – the first chance to explore one of their trucks (home for much of the next year), meet a few of my fellow travellers and chat about our preparations and what lies ahead. More of that in an upcoming post.
But all those lessons were learned on the 85-mile journey from Gloucester to the rural Somerset and Dorset border.
To be fair, avoiding anywhere near Bath is something that was already known, but given the additional, longer route meant heading down the southbound M5 car park, the decision was made to take the suggested best route which came with a target travel time of two hours five minutes.
Building in a little extra for those Bath problems and a breakfast stop for fuel – both for me and the car – that schedule should have had me rolling into the Oasis car park just about the start time at 11am.
Instead, having travelled around 25 miles in around three hours at one point, it was almost 1pm before the welcome Oasis sign finally hoved into view.
Thankfully, the return journey was much better – the three miles around the Frome show taking five minutes, as opposed to an hour – despite yet another cramp-inducing spell standing on the clutch and the brake negotiating my way around Bath.
But let’s look on the bright side – so many hours sat in my car provided the perfect chance to make major inroads into the C section of my iPod.
Inside a week and a single blog entry, we have rattled off almost a quarter of the C tracks and reached the point where – albeit with a decidedly smaller collection – this iPod challenge ground to a halt when first attempted a few years ago.
From the Boo Radleys’ call to arms to The Von Bondies (track number 1450), the Bs have headed off well into the distance as the miles were logged up via a trip down the west of North America (if not in the west of England).
Starting in the Pacific north west, Oregon’s The Decemberists provided two versions of The Calamity Song to send us over the border to Canada and two versions of Calgary – the original from Bon Iver and a cover by Juliana Richer Daily.
My couple of visits to Calgary have been synonymous with cold. Remember that scene in Cool Runnings when the Jamaican bobsleigh team recoil in shock and pile on all their clothes as they walk through the airport doors to be assailed by the extreme cold?
What they don’t show is the affect that cold – way, way below freezing – has on you, the first being that my nose all but froze itself shut. They also didn’t show passengers being forced to wait for their bags to be unloaded off the plane as the luggage compartment had to be defrosted before they could open it.
We headed back into Calgary from our base in Banff on our second ski trip to the Rockies to watch an ice hockey match, passing a lorry which proudly proclaimed it was refrigerated to -20°C. All a bit pointless when the temperature outside was around -45°C and enough to limit our excursions outside the next day to KFC for breakfast and the bar round the corner for pretty much all our other needs.
It was a fair bit warmer on my, to date, sole trip to California.
That was far too brief a visit – albeit more than enough to position a return visit high on the bucket list – but we had a decent stay in the Golden State musically speaking as John Murry and The Wedding Present (three times apiece), Gomez and Mazzy Star all popped up with songs named California, while Billy Bragg and Wilco teamed up for California Stars among others namechecking the state.
The US road trip was taken on by a variety of other artists – if not in subject matter, but a succession of bands and singers from around the 50 states.
There were three versions of The Breeders’ classic Cannonball (as excellently covered by Courtney Barnett in The AV Club’s always interesting Undercover series), while Kim Deal featured heavily twice more on Caribou by Pixies.
There were also two more appearances from Mark Kozelek, this time in the guise of Sun Kil Moon – both Carissa and Carry Me Ohio strengthening the view that my life was so much poorer without him in it for so long.
Thankfully, my life has had Sufjan Stevens in it for a while – he contributed Casimir S Pulaski Day – while REM (Camera and Can’t Get There From Here) and Ryan Adams (Call Me On Your Way Back Home) have been a big part of it for many a year.
Flying the flag for the Brits were The Clash (Career Opportunities and Card Cheat) and The Sundays with the still wonderful Can’t be Sure.
Which all made sitting in a car for that long just about bearable.