Tartan Trail January 2001
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THE TARTAN TRAIL 10/11/12 JANUARY 2001
Though we weren't to know it at the time, this was to be the last CoR event before the foot and mouth outbreak put paid to the rest of our calendar for a time yet to be determined.
Scotland had disappeared under a crust of snow the week previous. Snow blocked roads and fallen trees entailed some last minute route alterations which were to come back to haunt us. The reason? The end of our first day is a treasure hunt via moorland roads back to the hotel. The original route had been scrapped due to ice and snow and a new 'transit route' chosen to link the clearer routes still containing the treasure hunt clues. Both ends of the transit route had been checked and proved to be clear but time ran out and the middle was assumed to be fine. You can already tell where this is going can't you?
With fellow Redcoat Keith Bettis at the finish and myself setting people off there was a nice end of day feeling in the freezing air. I gave the last car a 45 minutes start then followed up as sweeper. Ten miles later there was a distinct sinking feeling as my Tonto instincts told me that the tracks I was surveying disappearing into the virgin snow and ice of an uncleared and exceedingly tight, twisting moorland road was, without any doubt, those of my determined and fearless Tartan Trailers. It was now dark and it wasn't a pleasant journey looking for telltale tracks disappearing off the track and ending at a crumpled 4x4, but no, the snowy ruts stayed in perfect unison. Down tight hairpins, back up the other side, when suddenly over a crest there was a little nest of bright lights. The Tartan Trail had come to a perilous and premature halt on an ice covered cambered corner. Were they downhearted or a teeny bit cross that I'd sent them off on a snow goose chase? Not a bit! The Bulldog spirit was flourishing so the decision was made, onwards and upwards we went. John Goss and his new Frontera were first in line to go through this trial by ice and went as front man whilst we watched the others through. Once we were all convoyed up again John had already come to the end of the discernible road. It was lost under a vast expanse of virgin snow with no obvious sign of the roads direction. We never did find the road but where ever it went it was under at least 3 feet of snow as that was the depth I sank to and still hadn't touched bottom. Time to retreat.
What we didn't need at this point was a car blocking the iced tarmac return route and in need of assistance, but naturally that's what we got. The car driver must have been jaw droppingly impressed when, in his hour of need, he got not one 4x4 but eight. It wasn't worth a rope so we pushed him on his way and to safety before continuing on our own icy voyage. We made it back to the Marine Hotel at just after 2100 or around 3 hours late and it has to be said that the evening meal was buzzing as we relived our days off roading and the final sliding descent to clear roads. As good as the following days were none of them quite matched that spontaneous and unplanned part of the event for sheer excitement. That of course leads me to wonder whether all the days of prior planning and lengthy recce's are worth a light really when the only unscripted bit was so universally enjoyed it can be a cruel life.
Everyone was given a bar of Tartan Trail chocolate as their emergency rations for the event. I'm not sure what the emergency was but there was precious little left of it by the next day. Ronnie Dale, whose land we use, gave his inimitable see-saw demonstration for our delight and frustration in equal measure. The latter emotion is simply because I have yet to see anyone else on our events, and especially me, that can even come close to cracking this hugely skillful technique. In case you are wondering what technique, it is the ability to put a 4x4 on a see saw and by clutch control alone rock it back and forth at the point of balance without letting the see saw touch down. Try it at home with pleasure but expect to buy at least one new clutch.
Our last day on the beach was its usual carefree self. Bill Ather took his Tdi 90 on a measured but accurate slalom run that may not have had quite the spectacle of some of the others but had the fastest time, even his daughter Janet couldn't quite beat it and she certainly tried. The Clover Leaf was equally hard fought with sand being thrown up in great rooster tails. Alisdair Norris, or was it Bessie, took their Discovery to top place on that one. Ronnie Dale did a better time with a classic display of one benefit of selectable 4x4. A Frontera in 2wd and a bootful of throttle could spin on its axis, mind you company cars always go faster than privately owned ones. Though Alan Wormald and his G Wagen took top honours on our fun 4x4 challenges it should be remembered that there is more score for the quizzes and navigating than the driving. That goes for John Goss in second place, their respective navigators, and partners in life's rich tapestry were the real power behind the placings! All the challenges are but nothing compared to the experiences we had. A fast rising and dodgy looking ford was bypassed as a bit too risky, and proved to be so when myself and Donald Sutherland went through later to retrieve some letter boards, he was daft enough to do it again for the camera though! Bessie Norris in the Classic Range Rover looking pensive but trusting as she followed me in determined fashion down an ice and snow covered slope. Phill Thomas making a huge bow wave with his mates 90. The relief at seeing those twinkly lights, safe on the extended treasure hunt. The bright sun streaming through the Marine Hotel's picture windows on a bunch of well fed 4x4 drivers as we had our final meal and last laugh before heading home. As Judith Chalmers might have said, 'Wish you were here?'
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