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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Friday, September 02, 2005
    Alternative M6 and future routes
    An epic car journey today, with me driving, Jim navigating and his mate Dave providing colourful commentary on a route they'd done before on Jim's big Kawasaki: Alternative M6, Jim calls it. It's a route which follows the M6 without actually touching it, it's 270 miles to Carlisle and back from here on the tiny tracks of Lancashire and the hilly B-roads beneath the Howgills. It was amazing. The riches of the north-west enjoyed in nine hours at an average of 25mph.

    Highlights included bouncing through the hidden lanes of Bowland; standing above Scorton awed by the sweeping panorama of Morecambe Bay with the military-industrial landmarks of Heysham and Barrow shining in the noon sun, and endless cars and lorries washing the feet of the sixties-iconic tower of Forton Services across the fields beneath us; the wide, rolling perhaps Roman road connecting Penrith to Carlisle high on the west side of the Petterill valley; looking out across a shining Killington Lake towards the service station on its banks.

    But the very best was the bit badly illustrated here - a smoothly-tarmaced farm road running between the two carriageways of the M6, as they divide for quite some distance somewhere beneath The Calf. What a fantastic feeling of open space and freedom standing in the middle of a wide and gorgeous strip of green as car after car, lorry after lorry, whizzed past above and below, unaware of us, unaware of the beautiful route they were bypassing. Jim and Dave weed merrily in the trees while hundreds of northbound drivers ignored them.

    In a layby somewhere off Junction 34, enjoying the bacon and sausage burger served to me by a friendly man-in-a-van, I felt a strangely warm feeling enter my body and begin to rise. It turned out that I'd unwittingly tipped my styrofoam cup of tea into the grass beneath where I was sitting, wetting the seat of my pants. But the whole journey strangely warmed me in a more Wesleyan kind of way. Got me thinking again about the triumph of last Sunday at Greenbelt where Bill Drummond recited that section of his masterwork How to be an Artist which I've quoted enthusiastically before. Drummond's is a passion which I share and his work keeps me thinking how much I'd like to do another epic beside-the-motorway journey someday soon. Not beside-the-M6, however, wonderful though that is. Bill's performance got me thinking again of exploring around that cross-Pennine road which meets it to the south....

    I ... got out of Hull and on to the most alluring, powerful, even magical motorway on our lump of an island. Even saying its name fills me with a longing. The M62. The greatest motorway ever made. Chuck Berry can keep his Route 66. Kerouac his two-lane black top, Paul Simon his New Jersey Turnpike, Billy Bragg his A13. Give me the M62. Driving it east to west is always best, especially at the close of the day into the setting sun....