Monday Long Termer: 17/02/14

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By Nathan Green

Standing water, fallen trees and landslide debris- just a few of the obstacles I had to contend with last week while navigating the tarmacadam transport network around Stroud and the surrounding areas.

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On Thursday, the Met Office imposed a severe weather warning on our fair town, stating that only the most necessary of journeys should be attempted due an increased risk of injury. Am I the only person who saw this as a challenge?

In my opinion, so-called ‘severe weather’ adds an exciting twist to the normally mundane task of driving an 80 horse-power hatchback. Not only does it offer an opportunity to test the limits of the car  but it can also present a challenge to one’s own abilities.

I believe it is of paramount importance that we regularly challenge ourselves. Indeed it is only when we step outside of our comfort zone that our true potential is revealed. Mother Nature threw down the gauntlet and I, armed only with a Vauxhall Corsa and an insatiable hunger for success, decided to accept.

On Wednesday evening, howling winds and sideways rain relentlessly battered the county. In fact, the winds produced by the weather system rotating above us were so strong that both bridges across the river Severn were closed. Luckily, the adjoining M5 motorway between Stroud and Cheltenham was not.

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Despite an unnerving combination of 70mph winds, poor visibility and extensive road works, my friends and I were able to uphold our date with the diving boards at Cheltenham Leisure Centre.

This is a weekly endeavour which, in my opinion, is a non-negotiable social activity. The consequences of not attending could be a severe- holing up in a local pub and drinking ale until our livers fail. Better to get on the road and brave the adverse weather conditions.

So, challenge accepted, friends collected, Met Office advice rejected.
Driving on the motorway is usually a tiresome and uneventful experience; add standing water and ferocious crosswinds to the mix and a 20 mile journey along a straight road becomes a task in of itself.

The Corsa is only a medium-sized hatchback, however the roofline is much higher than on earlier models, making it more susceptible to rocking and rolling when impacted by rampant gusts of storm-charged air.

Motorway driving normally requires minimal steering input. Not on this journey. As the storm raged around us, I kept two hands on the steering wheel, making constant adjustments to counteract the effects of the invisible external forces trying to disturb my dead ahead bearing. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I enjoyed it, but, strangely, I preferred it to the normal yawn fest of straight line driving.

Standing water was another issue we had to contend with and this can lead to serious, high-speed accidents, especially on the motorway. The Corsa actually dealt with this issue without any complaints or disturbing behaviour. The skinny, budget-brand tyres offer limited grip on even the driest of roads, however, their minimal cross-section is a definite advantage in this weather, enabling the car to chop through puddles of water instead of aquaplaning across them, aiding me in maintaining directional control while my passengers quietly prayed that they would escape death in the Corsa Life.

Still alive, we arrived at the leisure centre where we threw ourselves from the boards in a very unsafe manner until injury and/or lack of energy called an end to our shenanigans. Unfortunately, it was I, the driver, who picked up an injury. I’d torn a muscle in my neck meaning I could no longer move my head independently from my body, an action that is frequently required when driving. The 20 mile journey back to Stroud was definitely a challenge and not one I enjoyed at all. It never rains, but it pours.

Mileage- 402
Fuel cost- £40
Repair cost- £0
Repair cost (2014 total)- £809

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