Thursday, 17 October 2013

Day 3 Part 2: Romford to Capel St Mary

Stagecoach 486 to Brentwood
Picture this. Romford (Essex), rain and misery. We jump off the 86 bus and go to check our next connection, which is the 498 to Brentwood. We are OK for the next 20 minutes, but as we check the times and stop a 498 departs. “Don’t worry, that is the one before ours”, Michael says. “OK – lets get something to eat!” says me. Well, you have to grab these things as you can!

Our troubles start with not grabbing that bus as we could… though to be fair we didn’t know it was there and we had only just turned up. But that there was the key (as it turns out after much analysis). We went off to grab lunch: Big Mac for me and a salad (seriously) for Michael. Trouble was I don’t think they sell many salads in Romford… the lady came over with two sachets for Michael; “I don’t know what they are, we have never sold them before!

Anyway, with little time to spare, we packed up said salad, Big Mac and drinks and ran through the rain to catch our bus.

First Bus 351 to Chelmsford
Oh dear! Traffic. However, at the end we were in time for our next connection, First 351 to Chelmsford. Trouble was, it was late getting to us (traffic) and we then lost time en route. We checked watches – not such a tight connection but we were 10 minutes late. Then we queued. At the end, we were so late that we had missed the connecting First 71 to Colchester… the one that gave us 50 minutes of leeway at the end to catch the last bus to Ipswich. Our margins were shrinking. The next 71 to Colchester should still be fine getting in at 1744 giving 11 minutes before the last bus to Ipswich at 1755. 

Traffic had been an issue all day. It was wet, which doesn’t help, but even so everywhere seemed so slow.  The driver for the 1615 departure to Colchester arrived at 1615…boarded the passengers and left 4 minutes late.  11 minute connection down to 7…. But not to is a long journey he may make some time. 

First Bus 71 to Colchester
Michael had the forethought to get hold of a timetable so we could check timing points and maintain a close eye on what was occurring! Now, this is always a mistake. I remember when I first had access to a sats monitor for Cariad (it’s a machine that tells you oxygen saturation and heart rate). It is mesmerising! Every few minutes it was checked… any difference from normal discussed and worried over (and this went on for months!) Same with a bus timetable. Michael and I passed it between ourselves and worried!

The 71 serves all the towns and villages that used to be on the A12 until they were bypassed. So Hatfield Peverell, Witham, Kelvedon and Marks Tey all had a chance to show us what having a by pass meant….. which seemed to be continual traffic queues.  Where were the traffic free roads of Days 1 & 2?  5 minutes late turned into 10, then 15, then….hmmm what is plan B?  The problem was the bus we wanted to catch was the last bus to Ipswich….we had our bed booked in Ipswich… we were meeting people that evening in Ipswich….and it looked like we were not going to make it as we hit Marks Tey 20 minutes late and another traffic jam.   So what to do…. We took the phone a friend option. As we were only going to be a bit over, why not call Carter’s – the connecting service operator – and see if they could hold the bus on stand for a minute or two. “Jez – why don’t you call them”… True it was a good idea, but I knew someone who may actually know the guys at Carter’s… Dean Robbie.

X93 to Capel St Mary
Dean liaised with Carters. By the time we were ‘nearly’ at our Colchester destination we were some 25 minutes late – holding a bus was a silly idea by that time… what else was there to do. Michael, the scheduler had a solution.

In the end, we were 31 minutes late. Carters 93 service long gone. Last bus to Ipswich of the day. Buuuut. There was an X93 service. It didn’t go to Ipswich – only as far as Capel St Mary (about 8 miles outside of Ipswich). However, it started up from the same location in the morning (at 06:27) into Ipswich… so it was doable. Apparantly the key to travelling on buses is to be prepared to change things and to not get defeated… or so Michael says. However, it is also helpful to have a Dean Robbie on hand. Aware of the situation Carters also offered to help.  As we had to get to Ipswich for our beds they said that once the X93 got to Capel St Mary they would run us into Ipswich. FIrst problem solved and big thanks to Steve, its driver.

So, the next phase was how to get back to Capel St. Mary to restart our trip to ensure it was an unbroken journey.  That was something to discussed over dinner and a pint with our Ipswich Buses Support Team. Whilst it was amusing at first to watch their faces as we asked how we could make the 06:27 at Capel St Mary, they quickly made a few phone calls and we were sorted… we would be escorted back to where we left off in the morning, in the back of an engineers van, or maybe even a bus.

So, modifications to the LEJOG schedules made, we enjoyed an evening of beer and curry (and I have to mention them as they were great) at Kashwi’s restaurant, Zaika… thanks Kashwi; your food and company were brilliant.

The plan… sorted? Well, lets see how we do. There is a fishy connection on Thursday too… Michael is working on that as we speak!

Oh. By the way. The feeling of being in a damp Colchester with the light failing and plan A in tatters. I think I laughed and phoned Cariad and Dionne. Michael… well, I bet he wished he had a Big Mac too! But the thought of skipping bits – or treating certain bits as optional would not be considered: Michael couldn’t live with himself in any case! Schedulers… such a blessing!

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