A descent into madness. Absolute madness. Bona fide, abject misery making madness. But that was still to come, because we awoke early with very little sleep for me once more. I longed for the time when I would sleep through the night, arising from the B&B bed like the monster from the deep for a charged breakfast of sleepless tension and frayed nerves; from everyone.Soon we are squared away and on the road at 8:30am to head up the East once more, to Newcastle and then home for dinner. We are alone in our convoy very early on; Missy needs to stop more and I think Bampa just wanted to get himself home, so he horsed it up the road in record time, leaving us to weave our way slowly up the country. It seemed like a lifetime had passed before the signs for Newcastle began appearing which by this point we were all thoroughly fed up. By tea-time, say 5:30pm, we had made our way up the A68 instead of the usual A697, for a change of scenery. That decision would become the single most objectionable decision of this whole homeward trip, but there were many more decisions that came very close. We carved our way over the Northumberland moors, enjoying very much the vast swathes of pine trees and the setting sun. A few doddery old people in caravans slowed progress but were soon dispatched with efficiency each time there was a safe straight.We hit the stretch of road that would see us welcome the homeland of Scotland and with 1 single solitary bend to go, crested a blind bump in the road to find everyone ahead at a dead stop. By the time we had abruptly halted and sat for a few minutes, more people appeared from their cars and had a wander about to uncover the roots of this delay. After 20 minutes a man was walking back up towards us and I asked him what the skinny was? "Rumour is a biker has been hit, road shut for at least a few hours."At this point there are two things that could have happened. Ok three things. First is we sit and wait it out. That wasn't an option because we had a little red headed girl at tea time starting to get a bit more noisy. Second option, and the one we should have uniformly and unanimously followed was to retreat to the small restaurant a couple of miles back and had dinner, stretched the legs and thought about the general way of life. Needless to say, we went for option 3.I guess retrospectively I'd call this option "The Slow, Steady Unravelling of Daddy to the Point of Pure Hysteria" but let's settle on the sequence of poor choices, because decision after decision that I made was the complete opposite of the right one. In other words, the wrong decision. First one I made was to breeze past that restaurant, despite Mrs saying it looked good. "There'll be another one, I'm sure." There wasn't and we carried on South as I peeked at the satnav to see where we could go. The remaining restaurants were either hotels or really posh looking places that 3 bedraggled and sharp travellers wouldn't really fit in to.Second bad decision was to navigate over to the A697. Well that wasn't really the bad decision, as the A697 would have been fine. It was the route that I decided to go which became the beginning of the unravelling; the B6341. It started as a fairly dubous two-lane road but quickly smooshed into a single track road, almost a farm track by the time we got a decent way into it. As each bend revealed yet more pot-holed, slim tarmac, I became more incensed to the point that I gave up in a blaze of hands and exasperation. I took a moment to compose and started twirling the satnav stick trying to reason my way out of this further unscheduled stop. "We must go back and eat at that restaurant. That'll fix everything."By the time we got back to the A68 and upwards towards the restaurant, which by this point given the number of people on this road now thinking the same, it would have been full anyway. It didn't matter a jot, as the Police had shut the road several miles before we could even sniff the menu. This left us two options; head back to Newcastle or head West to Carlisle. The right decision was Newcastle. The right decision definitely wasn't south west.Not only were we heading south west, but I saw another car heading at a 90° bearing and reasoned in my tired, stupid mind that if he was going that way, it must be the quicker way. I turned right onto the B6320, instead of carrying onwards along the smooth, perfectly adequate and quicker route of the A68 south. The B6320. That's a large number of B, which poked at my side like a chilli tipped thorn every couple of seconds, as I wound myself up internally until I was sweating with indignation at my consistently ridiculous decision making. I'd shake my head in silent protestation and Mrs would tell me to shut up.Eventually we arrived at Hexham where we drove around the town twice, looking for "somewhere" to eat. We both didn't have any appetite and so this decision cause yet more heat and ultimately we ended up at Tesco, where it was 8:30pm on a Saturday night. Fresh, beautifully baked bread was a distant memory and we managed to navigate the tired little miracle through the toy section, picking up some treats for her valiant effort to not contribute properly to our unfolding misery. We got a borderline stale cheese loaf thing, some snacks for Missy, pyjamas to hopefully get her sleeping and freshen her wee self up a notch and then headed West some more to Carlisle.The car was quieter now. I think we'd hit our natural exhaustion points and everyone settled into their roles; me driving safely, Mrs resting and Missy sleeping. Soon we hit Carlisle and stopped at a duff fuel station for some diesel and coffee, where another weary traveller was screaming at her child through the toilet door "WHAT ARE YOU ACTUALLY DOING IN THERE FOR GOODNESS SAKE CHILD." I sympathised like I'd never before.We arrived home at 10:40pm after an insignificant expanse of road signs and cat-eyes. By the time we were in, unpacked and bedside it was 1am, a full 17 hours since setting off from Folkstone the day before. Never before have I been so tired and relieved. We had an unspoken agreement just to get in and down as soon as humanly possible and it was just so. To be home was a miracle and our beds were comfortable and familiar. We had made it.Turns out the road was shut, not for a fatality it seemed, but for an injury-free coming together. I felt bad thinking it would have been more acceptable if someone had paid the price for our misfortune but in our twilight car discussions we offset our misery with the joy of breathing and living still, unlike that poor person who had shut the road. That it turned out to not be the case compounded the sense of inconvenience, which is absolutely absurd. Just goes to show what a fully exhausted brain thinks is acceptable. We slept not very much before Missy was raring to go once more, and it's taken the full week so far to equalise from our "journey" for I'm only just writing this now, a week after it all.Let's chalk it down to experience. We are never, ever doing that again.
We packed everything up pretty much last night, so this morning was the last minute bags and final journey bits and bobs. On the road for 8:30am, we took the lead as we headed back up to Reims, through the lovely sweeping roads that see places like Joux-la-Ville, Sainte-Vertu and Yrourre. Barely touching the outskirts of Tonnerre, carrying on to Chaource, a barely worth it stretch on the A5 motorway and onwards north on the A26 to Reims.Once on the motorway I relax; this is the best bit about travelling long distances in France. The behaviour and etiquette on French motorways is some of the best I've seen, in my admittedly little experience of European driving. Three lanes is the standard and people act properly, with lorries on the outside and crazy speeders on the inside. The middle is the sort of safe-zone for overtaking and generally keeping out everyone's way. Anyone that is approaching a car that looks like it's about to overtake a lorry will put the foot down to make sure they don't box that person in; something that makes my blood boil in the UK. It's not long before we've arrived at a quick toilet stop. As soon as I open my door I know there's a fast jet above, so I clumsily get myself half out the car to see it's 2 Eurofighter Typhoons in a low-level flypast. Amazing. Toilets were holes in the ground; not so amazing.Before long we are in Reims and flying around the Leclerc, which is a belter at the size of at least 2 football pitches. We had time to spare but we were all rushing for some reason, perhaps excited at the prospect of getting home. Travelling long distances in cars is always a struggle, but it's a bit more taxing with a small child in tow.Back on the road, it wasn't long before we got ourselves up to Calais and into the Eurotunnel holding place, where we disembarked for a bit of leg stretch, dinner and a walk around the duty free shop. It is basically a one-stop shop for cheap plonk and is obviously geared towards people hopping over and back again, as most of it was the very bargain wine and spirits. Some nice stuff there and loads of perfumes etc, as well as some more opulent wares like foie gras and caviar. We had a nice pizza from the only café in the place, which took a bit of time due to dittering people in front, much to the chagrin of the poor person serving the food. A comedy eye roll or two shared between us was good though, and we soon had two decent pizzas to get through. Grandma went to Burger King for some chips but after 10 minutes hadn't moved in the queue so cut her losses and done without. Soon we were called to our cars and in what seemed like seconds, boarded on the Chunnel and off to the sunny shores of the United Kingdom.The weather had already turned in France and we arrived to more rain in the UK, but we knew we were just up the road to our B&B so didn't really mind. I was looking forward to a decent sleep in cooler climes and made quick work of getting into bed early and watched John Wick 2. Didn't make it all the way through and was off to sleep for what I hoped was a long time. Tomorrow is the long stretch and we're hoping for a good run. We're so used to the fast French motorways that the reality of UK roadworks and etiquette will no doubt be a shock to the system.