The Scally Rally ran from Friday 29th June 2012 until Monday 2nd June 2012, which was a couple of weeks back now. I fully intended to provide an update, but didn’t get around to it. Fear not, for here it is.You can find the details of the planned journey in my previous post.
JASONSLAPHEAD and I headed off for Caernarfon at around 3pm on Friday afternoon. What I didn’t know was that JASONSLAPHEAD had purchased a massive wheel on eBay for his Land Rover and that he intended to pick it up from the seller in Wales on the way up there. I also didn’t know that he also intended to drop something off in Wales which he’d sold on eBay. Fortunately, both places were literally minutes away from each other. JASONSLAPHEAD says that he knew this and that it was planned- I don’t believe him. This meant that we would spend the rest of the trip carrying an extra-large spare wheel around in the boot of the car!
We eventually arrived in Caernarfon at around 11pm. We headed straight to the meeting point but everyone had left- apparently, we’d missed them by about 20 minutes. This wasn’t a problem- we could just check-in the next morning.
We headed to the Travelodge which had been booked-this was a weird place in itself. It was around a corner and up a walkway. Reception was up a flight of stairs and on the first floor.
For reference, we had separate rooms for each night of the trip, just before anyone starts to wonder if we shared a room or even a bed!
Day 1: Caernarfon to Lytham St. Anne’s
The next morning, we went straight to the starting point to check in. I think there were roughly 57 cars/teams there that morning and not all of them finished the rally for one reason or another!
We were given several tasks. Over the next three days, we had a list of animals that we had to take photos of. Also over the next three days, we had to obtain a souvenir from each of the three peaks that we would be passing: Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis. The daily task was to take a photo of a team member playing pooh sticks at a copper mine, to take a photo of a nuclear power station and to take a photo of a specific toll bridge before heading to our final destination of the day; Lytham St. Anne’s.
Rather than just race off and look for all the places in the order that they were listed in, we went and had a coffee. We immediately noticed that each place on the list wasn’t in the order of travel. We set the destinations into the sat-nav and off we headed.
As we travelled to each location, we would see other Scally Rally cars heading in different directions and were feeling smug because we assumed that no one else had actually planned the journey. We got our three photos, bought a souvenir from Snowdon and headed off towards Lytham St. Anne’s.
As we were approaching Blackpool, we saw signs for the zoo. We felt that this would be the ideal place to “collect” our list of animals. We arrived at 5pm, just in time for last admissions. We explained to the woman at the ticket office that we needed to take the photos as part of a challenge and she asked if it had been us who had rung up previously. We told her that it wasn’t us but it appears that other Scally Teams had had the same idea as us. It was all good though, because she felt that 50 or more people all arriving that afternoon or the next morning was good for business and let us in for free.
The only animal we didn’t get a photo of was Sea Lions, because they’d been put away for the night, so we planned on returning in the morning.
We headed to the finish point, checked in and handed in our task sheet for the day. Our smugness quickly disappeared when it was pointed out to us that there were more tasks printed on the back of the sheet. Oops. We didn’t get as many points that day as we could have done!
Another Travelodge was booked for the night, so we headed straight there. It was nice to retire early for a change.
Day 2: Lytham St. Anne’s to Dumfries
First of all, we went to the Sealife Centre to get a picture of an octopus and a shark. We were a little early and had to queue until 10am- by this time, the queue consisted mainly of Scally Rally participants!
The doors opened and we all raced in (we got in for free). We took a picture of a shark but the Sealife Centre only had one octopus- which hadn’t been seen for days and was hiding behind rocks! We took a picture of a starfish instead.
This was fairly straight forward and we managed to get a photo of each place/item on our list. The trickiest bit was to get a picture of ALL team members planking on their own car- we had to stop at a petrol station and ask an older gentleman to take the picture for us. He seemed fairly bewildered by it all and I’m certain we caused him some confusion.
We drove via Scafell Pike to pick up a souvenir as part of the three day challenge. Just before we got there, we had to pull over to take a planking photo- this involved having to pull into a lay-by on a bend, on the other side of the road. I don’t remember which specific photo we needed.
JASONSLAPHEAD refused to be in the car when I pulled out of the lay-by because he was scared of the fast-moving traffic. That wasn’t a problem- he managed to cross the road and was waiting for me to pull out, get over and stop for him to get into the car. I managed to pull out of the lay-by safely and as I pulled up to let him back on the car, JASONSLAPHEAD decided to do something monumentally idiotic. He thought it would be funny to jump and roll on to the bonnet, action-style. Ordinarily, this would amuse me and I’d probably do the same. However, I WOULDN’T do it whilst the approaching car was still doing 15-20mph. He confirmed afterwards that he thought I was going slower than I was; he’s even told people that I deliberately ran him over.
I wasn’t too bothered that he hurt his face and his arm. I was more bothered that the impact had caused him to roll up the windscreen, causing it to develop cracks down both sides. This was not good at all and he was lucky that he didn’t come right through the windscreen.
We continued to Dumfries and only had to take two more planking photos- one of us outside a castle and the other one needed was a “freestyle” plank, which had to be original. The most original of the day would be awarded bonus points.
We found a castle 6 miles outside of Dumfries, so we headed there. We took our photo and then JASONSLAPHEAD decided that a freestyle plank should be a naked plank. He was happy to remove his clothes, which he did and we got our freestyle plank. Unfortunately, a groundsman or someone was offended and started to shout, so we had to make a hasty retreat.
We reached our finish point and showed all of our planking photos. We didn’t win the points for the best freestyle plank, although everyone liked our photo. The best freestyle plank points went to another team who had planked in a pond. Ironically, I mentioned to JASONSLAPHEAD that a naked plank in the moat of the castle would have been a sure-fire winner, but he didn’t agree at the time.
Dumfries was the only location that we didn’t book a hotel for and we intended to camp on the night here. In Scotland, you can wild camp so we had a tent- JASONSLAPHEAD would sleep in this and I was going to sleep in the car.
We drove around for several hours as it started to get dark, looking for an ideal location. Eventually, we found a remote track that just led to a vast expanse of absolute nothingness. You had to squint to even see the nearest house lights.
We decided that the car would be best turned around, to make it easier to leave in the morning. I went to start the car but instead of the noise of an engine, there was just a whirring noise instead. There was no point worrying about it at night, as we had to stay there anyway and we suspected it was just a flat battery, so we set up JASONSLAPHEAD’s tent and got a camp fire going (it was a disposable barbecue). The camp fire was only to boil the kettle, which we’d just purchased as we had sufficient sandwiches and other items. With hindsight, putting the kettle on the barbecue before the flames had died down was rather stupid- all of the plastic bits on it melted.
JASONSLAPHEAD settled in his tent and I got comfortable in the front seat of the car- this wasn’t very easy at all, considering that I didn’t actually get comfortable at any point during that night.
Day 3: Dumfries to Oban
That night was the most uncomfortable and coldest nights I have ever experienced! This was despite wearing two jumpers! It’s not like I had a huge amount of time to sleep anyway- JASONSLAPHEAD woke me up at 6am by banging on the car window to make me jump and video the response. This wasn’t a great start to what would turn out to be a bad day.
We tried to start the car again but it was just making the same whirring noise as before, so we pushed it down the track and bump started it. The car ran fine for a couple of miles before starting to make an awful clattering sound and completely losing revs, so we had no choice but to stop.
We called the AA (JASONSLAPHEAD has VERY basic cover) and a patrol turned up pretty quickly. To cut a long story short, part of the starter motor had been getting jammed into the engine for an unknown amount of time- this could have been days, weeks or months. Gradually, bits of rubbing metal were ground down and small filings worked their way into the engine, causing catastrophic damage. The car was dead.
The only option was to find a place to rent a car. The AA man towed the car to a nearby scrapyard, then gave us a lift to the day’s start point. As predicted, we were mocked a little but we confirmed that we would complete the rally.
For today’s task, each team was given a bingo card with 16 different team numbers on it. We had to get pictures of each corresponding team’s car with our own team handbook in the picture too. This was going to be tricky for us, seeing as we still didn’t have a car!
We found out that renting a car in Dumfries on a Sunday was impossible, so hatched a plan. We had always planned to scrap our car in Glasgow and had booked a flight from here back to London City Airport. I rang around a few rental places in Glasgow and found somewhere that would rent us a Renault Clio for £40.00. This was ideal because we could just return it back there on the way to the airport. We just had to make sure that we were there before 4.30pm.
We got a lift to Dumfries station and arrived at 9.30am. A train to Glasgow took 2 hours and tickets were £14.50 each. Perfect. The only downside was that the first train wasn’t due until 2pm, which meant that it would be difficult to get to the rental place in time. Sitting on the station platform for 4 and a half hours was one of the longest waits I’ve ever endured. Don’t forget, we still had that spare wheel with us too, which we were having to roll around!
The train turned up on time and it was nice to be able to sit down on a comfortable chair. JASONSLAPHEAD wanted to try and sleep on the train, but I was doing my best to prevent that as punishment for my earlier rude awakening!
We arrived in Glasgow at just before 4pm and got a cab straight to the car rental place. I can’t remember the name of it now, but they were very helpful- individually, JASONSLAPHEAD and I didn’t have enough documentation to rent a car, but we did collectively. As I had the paper part of my driving licence and JASONSLAPHEAD didn’t, they agreed to rent us the car but only I could drive it. We’d been sharing the driving up until now, but there was no other way around it. We put our stuff in the car (we received strange looks when we folded down the back seats and put that wheel in the back) and headed off to Oban.
We were fortunate because by the time we reached the finish point in Oban, every other team was already there. We simply drove around for an hour, looking through all of the car parks and side streets for the team numbers that we needed- we nearly ended up with a full house!
We headed to the pub where everyone was and showed them our photos from the day. We did pretty well on points!
On this night, we had rooms booked at the Regent Hotel. I’ve only just looked at their website for the first time just now and was slightly confused- the images at the top of the website are those of warm, welcoming rooms. This isn’t anything like the rooms we saw!
The hotel is in dire need of modernisation, there’s no doubt about that- It’s quite grubby and tatty inside. My room was a small, single room. The bed was comfortable and everything in there was clean. The light bulb was missing, so I had to go to reception and ask them to fit a new one. The only member of staff that I saw at reception was a man wearing a chef’s uniform- he obviously had more than one role.
I’d been watching TV and at around 11pm, I was going to have a shower. At around 10.45pm, the lights went out. I looked into the corridor outside my room and all of the other lights were on, so I returned to reception. The chef explained that the hotel received electricity from three separate supplies and that they had been experiencing issues with one of them- apparently a main fuse out in the street kept blowing and the electricity people would only replace it each time, rather than repair the underlying issue. I asked to be moved to a different room which did have electricity, but this wouldn’t be straightforward, as all of the rooms (and showers) run on different electricity supplies, so another room may have working lights but no shower, a working shower but no lights or nothing that works at all!
The chef went searching for another room and returned about an hour later- he’d found one with full electricity! The only downside is that this room was on the 5th floor and that the lift was out of use as it ran on the failed power supply. I’ve had surgery on my leg fairly recently, so traipsing up those stairs wasn’t much fun at all. In fact, I think it may even be the cause of a strained tendon, but that’s a different story entirely.
The new room was grim. It was VERY outdated and it smelt bad. It was exactly like the sort of room you’d find in Fawlty Towers- I’m not exaggerating! It was dull and the bedroom and bathroom windows didn’t even shut completely, so there was always a constant draught!
By now it was around midnight and I just wanted my shower. I unpacked a few bits from my bag and as I was doing so, the lights went off. I took a deep breath and fortunately, the lights came back on after about 5 minutes. I quickly got undressed, ran the shower and got in. After about 60 seconds, the lights went out and the shower turned off. I was wet, it was dark and there was a draught- I really wasn’t very happy. All I could do was stand there and wait patiently. My patience paid off and every thing came back on after about 2 minutes- the sudden cold water as a bit of a shock! I quickly finished my shower, got dried and went to bed.
The only redeeming feature of this hotel was the view from the front. This DID match the images on the website- I’m not sure if I was just lucky on this one night or if this was a regular thing, but it truly was an amazing sight.
Day 4: Oban to Fort William
I woke the next morning and was in the middle of getting dressed WHEN THE FIRE ALARM WENT OFF!!!!!! I finished getting dressed, brushed my teeth and then packed my bag as it was only going to be a false alarm and there was no way I was going to come back to that awful room afterwards. We all gathered on the street outside (there was no sign of JASONSLAPHEAD- he’d assumed it was a false alarm so had stayed in bed) and were allowed back in 20 minutes later. A member of staff later told JASONSLAPHEAD that the fire alarm goes off so often that the fire brigade don’t even bother turning up any more. That doesn’t surprise me at all.
I went straight in for breakfast. There was sausage, egg, bacon, black pudding, potato cake and toast. It was all cheap “no frills” stuff and wasn’t that great, but I was hungry. I took a bite of the fried egg and it was cold. The waitress took it away for me and appeared a few minutes later, with exactly the same plate of food as before, only this had been put in the microwave again. Fantastic.
After breakfast, we checked out as fast as we could. Remember, this hotel is called the Regent Hotel, it’s in Oban and it’s part of the Oxford Hotels & Inns chain. It is the WORST hotel I have ever been too- truly appalling. I have never told anyone NOT to go somewhere before, but it’s really necessary on this occasion- do NOT visit Regent Hotel in Oban!!
Our task for today was simple. The final destination, Fort William, was only around 50 miles away. The task was to visit a particular lighthouse near a place called Southend and take a photo of the sign there. Bonus points were awarded if a team member climbed the path down to the lighthouse and took a photo right outside.
The journey to this lighthouse was boring. There’s nothing I can say to make any of it seem interesting- it was just hours of driving along twisty roads, all of the way. The only exciting bits were the contra-flows at roadwork sites. That’s it.
We ended up on the single-lane track that leads to the lighthouse. This track was nearly 6 miles long and as we were going up, it was getting foggier and foggier. A few bits of this part of the journey were hairy, especially when other Scally Rally cars came flying back the other way! The fog became thicker and the track eventually took us to a tiny car park, with room for maybe a dozen cars- nearly all of these spaces had Scally Rally cars in them!
Apparently, a couple of teams did venture down the path to the lighthouse but due to the conditions, it was an hour’s round trip. We decided it wasn’t worth the extra points (plus I couldn’t do it because of my leg), so we took our photo of the sign and headed towards Fort William. This is where we’d get our Ben Nevis souvenir.
We came back through a little town (can’t remember the name) and stopped for lunch. We also found a garage that would separate the tyre from the rim. Did you forget that we still had that?
We had a plan for the wheel. JASONSLAPHEAD was hoping that each part of the wheel weighed less than 23kg on it’s own- 23kg was the maximum weight of checked-in baggage we could take to the airport. We didn’t know what the actual weight of the wheel parts were, but we remained optimistic! Once this was done, we headed straight to the finish point in Fort William. We were able to get to a souvenir shop just before closing time but by the time we actually got to the designated finish point, we’d missed everyone. Instead, we went to the pub that we knew everyone would be at and handed in our final score sheets. We received maximum points for the three peaks part of the challenge, but we’d given up on the animals after day two!
Once that was done, we headed to the Premier Inn (this had been about £80.00 each per night, but it was definitely worth it) checked in and relaxed for a bit before returning to the pub for 9pm, when the speeches would be made, awards given out and photos from the trip shown. It was a great night and JASONSLAPHEAD got pissed! We didn’t win anything, but we were there just for the fun of it!
Day 5: Fort William to Home
The next day went as planned. We got up and drove to Glasgow. JASONSLAPHEAD sat in the back of the car and wrapped the wheel parts. We dropped off the car, got a cab to Glasgow Airport (the driver was a little bemused by the wheel parts) and checked in. I’ve never been on a domestic flight before and was amazed at how easy and quick it all was! They allowed us to check in the wheel parts as outsize luggage and all was good!
We finally arrived at London City Airport, allowed the wheel parts to travel around the carousel a couple of times because people were confused by it and we didn’t want people to know they were ours. Got coffee, travelled on the DLR to Woolwich Arsenal and then got a cab from there to where JASONSLAPHEAD had parked his car on the Thursday morning. Glasgow to my front door took around 3 hours- that’s not bad.
We just need to wait and see where the Scally Rally will be going next year.