The game plan was that we were going to head out to Canterbury for a bit of a dance, then on down to Rye for the long weekend. The guys came and collected me from Camden, and The Navigator (names omitted to protect the guilty) indicated that he'd sorted out the best route possible. I therefore planted myself at the back of the minibus and proceeded to talk bollocks with the lads in the back seat.
For those not familiar with London, there's a biiiiiiiiig motorway that circumnavigates the suburbs, which is called the M25. It's generally accepted to be the boundary of the Greater London Area, and it's popularly known as the London Orbital Carpark. I don't know much about driving in this city, but I do know that it's a good policy to avoid the M25 wherever possible. It's almost like it's more susceptible to stoppages & delays because it connects so many points in the central cockup matrix that is London.
So anyway, we're following this road, and I hear from up the front “Right, M25 – do we want to go East or West ?”. My pulse quickened as I realised what was happening. It turns out that our chosen route is to head north to the M25, then follow it clockwise around to the turnoff for Canterbury*. Not a bad plan, if traffic conditions are favourable. However being London, it's safe to assume that they aren't
Came the answer, “West”. We drove about 400m, and then followed, “Oh no wait, East!”.
Trying to turn about on the M25 is roughly akin to getting onto Adelaide's Southern Expressway South, and then deciding you actually wanted to go North. We got off it as soon as we could – witnessing the massive tailback building in the Easterly direction – and investigated our options. I rang one of the Westminster lads and asked how he'd do it, and he said (as usual when I ask him directions) “Oh I wouldn't start from there”. The Navigator then suggested, in order to avoid getting caught in the tailback, “How about we just keep going West, and come right around the outside ?”.
Sufficed to say, this wasn't the approach we took. We ended up just getting straight back on, heading East, getting stuck in the tailback for a few hours, and not having time to go to Canterbury. So yes, day 8 of the tour was spent on the M25.
When I told this story to someone in the pub on Sunday night, they said “Gawd, if you'd gone anti-clockwise around, you'd probably still be there !”.
* having just checked route planning sites from the AA, RAC, Mappy, Maps24, Michelin and Maporama, not one of them suggests taking the M25. Google Maps freaked out & couldn't come up with an answer, and Microsoft said to go via Trondheim, Norway.