Day -18(minus18) – 20th March 2014 leave 6.00am Miles drove 100 Chelmsford – Oxford

Various people have asked over the last 7 months why a van collected me from my house and took me and the Dakar to Calais, France to start my adventure…

They must have seen I was in no fit state to walk out onto the street but nevertheless they let me.

I could hardly walk down the stairs to the exit, it must have been so obvious. I came out onto the street and couldn’t function properly, my mind was confused and muddled, I walked in the general direction of the car park along the main road paying no attention to anything. I was getting worse and didn’t know how to react with these feelings that I hadn’t experienced before. After 5 minutes I arrived outside the multi-story car park where my car was and called my sister, she would deal with the situation and make sense of everything.

She answered the phone and I couldn’t talk, she instantly realised that her younger brother who is usually positive and in control was not now, she asked me to explain and I tried but for the first time in my life I had a panic attack and couldn’t talk, I couldn’t breath, I was shaking and out of control. She told me to sit down so I laid on the grass. Over the next 20 minutes she was rational and calmed me down, I was not ok. After I went to the car and sat staring at nothing for ages.

It was 6 months earlier that I drove to Oxford on business and week or so after my Transport Manager mailed saying I had been caught speeding by a roadside camera doing 35 in a 30. As I was on 9 points (2 x speeding / talking on mobile) I knew it wasn’t good but in my naivety I thought that as 3 of the points were just about to come off and I was only speeding by 5 mph I couldn’t get banned, could I?

3 of the points were coming off at the start of January so I thought if I delay sending the paperwork back by the time I go to court I’ll be on 6 points and only 5 mph over the limit. I’ll be fine.

As I knew I was going to leave England on the 7th April I thought it prudent to apply for my ‘International Driving Permit’ before the court case, so I did. Unfortunately I lost my UK driving license shorty after so they sent me a new one, both paper & photo card.

In my naivety and manic preparations for the impending trip I put the whole issue to the back of my mind. I now know this was an error of judgement.

The months rolled by and I thought it strange it was taking so long to get a court date and then about 3 weeks before I was due to leave I received the letter telling me to come to court on a date after I was due to leave. It took a few days and many phone calls but I eventually got a date a few days later so I had an early night and left for Oxford at the crack of dawn. In my naivety I wore a pair of jeans and T-Shirt and when I arrived in the courthouse everyone else was in suits accompanied by a solicitor, I realised I should have prepared more than the notes I took as I was driving around the M25 at 6.30am that morning.

I was early for my 10am hearing so went for a coffee and thought ‘how can they ban me, it would be ridiculous’. They called my name and I went into court and the ‘Clerk of the Court’ asked for my driving licence, both parts so I gave him my shinny new ones. There were two Magistrate Judges a man and a women, two prosecutors for the police, other court admin clerks and at least 10 students from what looked like the local university doing some research. The woman judge didn’t say anything throughout the hearing. The police presented their case, I was speeding doing 5 (fucking) mph over the 30 mph speed limited, presented the usual photos etc. The police prosecution took about 2 minutes to present their case.

At no time did I act in any way other than respectfully, concerned, humble and demure.

The judge asked me how I pleaded and as I was ‘bang to rights’ I pleaded guilty. The judge asked me if I wanted to say anything so over the next 10 minutes I described my plight. I told him that (by coincidence) tomorrow was my last day at my job that I had held down for the past 22 years, that I had been planning to travel the world for the past 10 years and in ernest for the past 2. I explained that whilst divorced I wanted to ensure my children were at a point in their life where they could get along fine without the daily nurturing and as they are now 19 & 20 I felt the time was right. I explained that I had no home as I had rented it out and was sleeping on sofas until I leave in 3 weeks. I detailed my situation again, no home, no job, 10 years planning to for fill a lifetime dream and as I stand in the court I only have 6 points on my license and that it would seem very harsh bearing in mind everything I had detailed to ban me from driving for going only 5 mph over the speed limit, if banned I couldn’t ride my motorbike around the world, had no home and no job and wouldn’t know what to do.

It fell ‘on deaf ears’.

He sympathised with my plight but said I had committed a speeding offence. I fully acknowledged this and we went backwards and forwards going over the same points for a while. I knew the situation was now not what I had envisaged and felt foolish that I hadn’t prepared, dressed in a suit and had a solicitor.

I was in a bit of a panic now and as I looked around the court everyone (except the judges) including the police prosecutors looked at me with so much sympathy and I’m sure had they been able to would have said ‘surly you can’t ban him after hearing his plight’.

I knew he was going to ban me and he asked if there was one final thing I wanted to say so I told him that I had been naive and had I been thinking sensibly I wouldn’t have left my job I would have arrived in court today in a suit with a solicitor and my Manager who would have explained that I needed my license for my job as I was a sales rep.

He banned me for 6 months and said I would have to defer my travels for 6 months!

I was distraught and everyone in the court knew that he had just put an end to me realising my dream for the next 6 months. Where would I live? How would I earn money…

They must have seen I was in no fit state to walk out onto the street but nevertheless they let me.

An hour or so after speaking to my sister I found the attendant for the car park, explained my situation and left my car keys with him as someone else would collect the car. I phoned my boss and told him I had ‘a going away present for him’, your car is in a multi story car park in Oxford…

I got the train home and a good friend was there for me that evening, we went to the pub and whilst I couldn’t think straight we talked about my predicament. Thanks Dave.

I was staying at a friends and I stayed in bed until lunchtime the next day feeling sorry for myself and not knowing what to do. By 1pm I told myself to ‘snap out of it’ and starting looking at options. By 5pm I had a plan and nothing was going to stop me following through with it.

My 6 months ban was only effective in the UK so I wasn’t banned in any other country. The problem was that I didn’t have a driving license which is a requirement to drive in all countries.

A week later whilst doing my final packing I found my original drivers license. A few days later the DVLA wrote to me saying that if I found my license I had to send it back. The license wasn’t valid as I had been banned. It goes without saying that I destroyed it straight away…

So, Monday 7th April arrives and I’m waiting for the van to collect me and my bike and deliver us to Calais, France. The van was late but it did turn up and at midnight I was out of the country. I hadn’t committed an offence, I didn’t ride in the UK.

It’s funny that finding the old license it having been missing for so many months…

It’s now November and I’ve ridden just about 20,000 miles (30,000 km) across 25 countries without a driving license. Is this a record? Ha Ha.

I collected my daughter from Bangkok airport yesterday and she gave me my new driving license.

I’m legal again…

6 Responses

  1. I remember that night Dan. You hadn’t told your dilemma before we met but I knew from our conversation before that you were in a serious state. I genuinely thought you were going to tell me you’d met someone and were caught between staying and going! Stupid thought in hindsight as it’s clear that aside from Beth and Ollie, there’s only one love in your life and she has a lovely pair of panniers, a sweet sprocket and gives you a great ride everyday! What more could a man want! Must seem like a lifetime ago eh!

  2. top job,should have got in touch,but 10 miles from oxford in Witney,theres always a welcome here.