The trip down to Bristol was good although Bristol itself is a bit of a challenge for an elderly motorhome. It's very hilly with tight turns, but I found the venue and parked as close as I could. The venue has a lift that was apparently tailor made for my talk and serveal helpers made light work of getting set up. The audience were very interactive, laughing and groaning in the right places. Thanks to having two helpers I could walk up and down the row and talk to everyone which was great. Reloading the van was much easier than unloading as I got two really good helpers. Help is always appreciated but when I happen to get one or two who think like me and can lift heavy things it's great, so by the time I left I was feeling pretty good.
I headed off to Longleat with satnav and guide book to help me I knew that after hours there was a different route into the camping so the site guide was likely to be pretty important. I quickly discovered that a satnav has a talent for picking roads I can't use. It came up with a fair selections or height and width reatrictions, but I read road signs and managed to avoide them all. This did make for a rather longer slower journey than I had expected. About 11.30 I started seeing signs for Longleat. As far as I could tell the book, the satnav and the signs all wanted me to go different ways. Not ideal, and the satelite signal was getiing weak too. I figured that the signs should be pretty reliable. Too many people use them for them to be too bad, so I went for them. Great when there were any, so more driving around in cirles when there was no sign and I trusted the satnav. By now with all the extra milage I was getting low on fuel. Not a problem I was only a few miles from the site and I had a jerry can of fuel. In the morning all the closed petrol stations would be open and I could refuel.
A caravan came out of Longleat as I went in. Odd, they have to be Caravan club people and they don't move their vans at this time of night. I was a little worried but maybe they liked driving at night. I tried to follow the signs and instructions but all I found were ever smaller roads and tighter bends. The second car and van combo I felt really sorry for. They were huge and I was having a bad enough time. They did also worry me, they seemed to be giving up and leaving. Eventually I had to admit defeat. Every route in I could find was blocked by gates or road blockers, I wasn't going to be stopping here. Worse I was now really low on fuel and there was nowhere to pull in, I didn't fancy trying to refuel in the middle of a single track road.
I told the satnav to head for home and hoped I would find a bigger road. When I found a village shop with parking and light I was thrilled. I could try to refuel. Unfortunately the jerry can doesn't have a spout, but I do carry a funnel. The funnel has to be held into the petrol filler with one hand, which leave one hand to lift and pour a 5 gallon jerry can. Sound easy, try it, it isn't. I managed it by standing on one leg and using the knee to push up and tip the can. I did get to wear quite a lot of the petrol but I got some into the van too and headed off again.
Heading for London seemed to be heading for street lights, which was hopeful but the petrol stations were still all closed. The van was rapidly chewing through the fuel I had got into it and I was tired and hungry. It scary when you realise you shouldn't be driving but you can't find somewhere to stop. Eventually the fuel gauge was solidly in the red and I still hadn't found an open petrol station. I found a closed one on a big roundabout and stopped. It looked like it should be busy and I hoped it would open early. It wasn't the best place to spend the night but it better than breaking down on the road. 6am the place opened and I was able to fuel up.
Not the best experience I've had but it did have a couple of upsides. The petrol station I was stuck at was just down the road from Stonehenge, so I went and visited it. It was lovely in the early sun and the scenery getting there was fantastic. There were several patches of amazing mist but nowhere to stop and take pictures. It was really quite wonderful. From there I went and harassed a friend who had complained about me coming to the area and not saying hello in the past. This time she got a breakfast visitor. It was a real bonus having a chance to catch up and have an impromptu fashion show outside her house. I think we comfused a lot of people but we had fun. I did make it to Bournemouth on time too, where we had lunch in a lovely fish restaurant on Mudeford spit.