Day 26 - the long drive home

It's Saturday and that means it's time to go home.  We all have things we want to get back to but I don't think anyone really wants the holiday to be over.  I certainly could do more paddling, but I do want to get back to our new house, which we moved in to 2 days before I left for this trip, and I want to visit my horse.  We've all had so much fun and there is plenty more we could still do, but it will have to wait for next year.  We're up and ready, final items packed and leaving the house at 7.40am.  Sat Nav ETA at Calais is 6.28pm, our ferry is at 7.50pm and we have to arrive by 7.10pm to check in.  This doesn't leave much room for rest stops but we usually find the Sat Nav doesn't take the best route and the toll roads are usually quite clear.

Keith and I have to make a stop for fuel as his car didn't get filled up yesterday, but we catch the group up by the time they have their first rest stop and breakfast.  We're keen to keep moving, so we set off again. We manage to cut almost an hour off the Sat Nav time (no speeding required just selecting the right route) and the Sat Nav adds an hour when we turn off by Lille, which we soon loose again and more.  We stop then for a lunch and fuel break using the time we've made up to sit on the grass and stretch out.  Then it's on the road again!

Sam's car has been having a bit of a sensor issue (nothing actually wrong with the car but a sensor is faulty) so her car is struggling to accelerate/rev past a certain point.  The car is fine once it's going though so we just keep that car in the middle of the group so they dont get left behind at any point.  Then Rob's car starts smoking out the exhaust.  It's been smoking a little all week but it's gotten worse on this journey, and the car loses some power.  We stick together and look for the next services but by the time we get there it's improved, so we put the two cars with issues at the front to set the pace and keep chugging along.

One more rest stop before the ferry and a little shuffle of bodies and bags.  We all have to be in the right cars for the ferry, my booking is with Matt so I need to be in his car.  And very quickly we're on the road once again as the car issues have slowed us down.  If we are late for the ferry they will put us on a later one but being tall vehicles there is no guarantee it will be the next one, or that we will all be together.... Let's just hope we make it in time....

We made it! And with plenty of time.  Everyone's mood lifts as we drive in to Calais port and we stand around for a chat by the cars before we are called to load.  There's a small delay on the ferry, but no one minds now, the longest part is over.  We go up to the food court for dinner and people split off here and there to go on deck, to the duty free and so on.  The hardest part of the journey is ahead though.  As our nervous energy drops and we chill out over a meal it's easy to forget there is still around 4 hours driving left to get home.  Night will fall as we go and we have had a long day.  This is one of the biggest reasons we have several drivers for each car, as drivers have swapped and naps taken through the day.

I drive for Matt up to Beaconsfield services once we get to Dover.  He has driven through France and as expected needs a break to snooze.  I've already snoozed a couple of times and so far only been a passenger so it's a nice change for me to drive too.  Sometimes being a passenger on these long journeys is as difficult as driving as it's the same monotonous activity but with nothing to occupy you.  At Beaconsfield the majority of the group are taking a short rest stop and grabbing a drink or food to keep them going and we do the last shuffle of people.  After this point it's every man for himself and we just make it home in our own times.  We've heard from Bill and Ali who are ahead that the M40 has a couple of junctions closed and we decide to use an alternative route, Matt and Trevor stay on the motorway and we hear from them that it has cleared... Bummer.... We're too far along the alternative route to head back now, so we carry on to pick up the M5.

We make it home around 1am so we've made reasonable time even with the detour. We still have to get the bikes off the roof and we have a drink and wind down before we go to bed.  The rest of the unpacking can wait until tomorrow!

And so this is the last of the daily updates. I hope you've enjoyed following the adventure!

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