We were off at 8.25am. It was overcast with rain and 47º Fahrenheit. It is fascinating that we could just park in the car park of a hotel. Inside we are really cosy. As the blinds go up we normally leave a bit of air coming in from the top vent (if it is not raining too hard). No one on the outside has any idea that we are actually inside our Earthroamer. It could be parked and left for all they can see. Fortunately when it is raining there are not too many people wandering around car parks asking vehicles to move on.
After a little driving in heavy traffic past Exeter, we joined the M5. What a magnificent motorway. It is as good as anything we have seen in the United States, but driving through the magnificent English countryside.
We have now left Cornwall and are heading through Somerset towards Bristol.
As Australians, we are driving through cities and towns which are reminiscent of the towns we have in Australia – obviously the names have simply been copied. Places like Launceston.
To our right we see signs to Yeovil. That is where the Westland Widgeon was made – the home of the Westland Aircraft Factory which now makes military helicopters.
The weather is so miserable Dick decided that we should call into Bristol and see Don Cameron of Cameron Balloons. We visited Bristol before when ordering the balloon for the across Australia flight. Modern communication is incredible. Using Pip’s mobile we called Australia. Hayley looked up the web for Cameron Balloons and got a number. We dialled the number and spoke to Don Cameron’s secretary. She said to call in by all means and that Don would be in later.
We turned off the M5 just before the Avon River and drove into Bristol. After having keyed the Cameron Balloon Factory’s address into the Garmin GPS, it took us straight there. Opposite was a McDonalds Restaurant so we parked in the car park, and made a purchase to ease our guilty conscience for parking in their area. We then wandered across the road to Cameron Balloons. We were met by Don, and Alan Noble who had assisted with the purchase of the balloon and the flights. We talked for half an hour and reminisced about adventure.
On our way into Bristol it was still raining but the autumn colours were beautiful.
Dick remembered from the original trip to Bristol that there was an excellent Museum park in the old canal area. We drove down, parked, and boarded the SS Great Britain.
What visionaries there have been in modern times! A group of businessmen in the sixties knew that the original SS Great Britain (the world’s first practical steamship with a screw propeller rather than a paddlewheel) existed as a hulk near Stanley in the Falkland Islands. Money was raised, the hulk was lifted off the bottom, put on a barge and brought back to Bristol. It now sits in the original dock where the SS Great Britain was built. It is probably one of the best displays we have seen – all in a totally covered, air conditioned and humidified building. It is amazing that so much of the iron plate is in good condition after about 130 years.
The SS Great Britain was originally built by Brunel in 1843. It operated for 43 years as a ship – originally as a cargo vessel and then as a liner carrying passengers to Australia. It was damaged near the Falklands in 1886 and stayed there as a hulk until 1970.
The display is all part of the Maritime Heritage Centre. The people of Bristol must be very proud.
We then headed west towards the coast, passing the Clifton Suspension Bridge – once again designed by Brunel. He was an extraordinary engineer – sort of the Bill Gates of the early 1800’s.
In 1885 an attractive lady, Sarah Ann Hedley, jumped from the bridge after having an argument with her suitor. Fortunately her voluminous petticoats parachuted her safely to earth and she lived to be 85 – or that is what is claimed.
Because of the difficulty of driving our big Earthroamer in the narrow streets of Bristol, we got to a point where it was difficult to follow the GPS, and we made an error. This put us on a road to the south and we drove all the way down to Westwick before we could join the M5 again, and then north. It was still raining.
The motorways in the UK have fantastic digital signs. One said, “Long delays M5. J2-M6.” We were not sure what this meant but the delays were not too bad and we kept heading north.
The rain stopped and there was a beautiful pink sunset to our left.
We sat on 60 miles per hour and headed past the Gloucester turn off, past Worcester – no doubt where they make Dick’s favourite sauce – and then turned off the M5 as we passed abeam Birmingham. We were on the M54 and just before we reached Telford (the closest town to the famous Iron Bridge historic site) we turned off at Shifnal, at a place called the Telford Service Centre, and parked in the truck’s car park.
It was freezing cold outside, so we went in for a coffee and a doughnut. We cooked dinner in the Earthroamer and relaxed watching British TV – a great improvement on US TV.
We had stopped around 6.30pm and we had a night without any rain.
388kms Today 13,793kms Total