After Christmas with Ma-in-Law in Halifax, it was an early start yesterday morning to drive up to Newtonmore in one go. Aware of a yellow weather warning for Storm Gerrit, I’d been keeping an eye on the forecast for Newtonmore and there was nothing that suggested our journey was ill-advised. The A9 is a major route that receives a lot of winter weather, and it is generally kept clear and open, but in any case, we were scheduled to arrive at our destination some hours before the forecast said it was going to snow.
The first part of the journey was unremarkable, and we arrived at Hamilton services right at lunch time. Making lunch was something of an endeavour; as we weren’t going to be spending a night during our transit north or south this time, we didn’t pack light, so Erica’s rear was well loaded (in hindsight, making some sandwiches before we left and packing a flask would have been a good plan).
It was as we lunched that I received a message from Ali in Newtonmore containing a screenshot of the Drumochter webcam:This didn’t look promising, but we were going to be stopping in Perth for some groceries, so we would review the situation when we got there.
A short while after arriving at the Park & Ride in Perth (no point going to the supermarket and adding more to Erica’s load if we were going to be spending the night) the A9’s woes increased when the section between Dunkeld and Ballinluig was closed due to flooding.
Ignoring the flood issue for the time being, we refreshed the Drumochter webcam page obsessively, even though it only updates every half an hour, and for a while we were convinced the feed wasn’t working, until we realised that the variances in each half hour snap were so subtle that it was like a tricky game of spot the difference. Those vehicles first appeared in front of the webcam in the image at 1029. They were all finally gone at 1654 (at 1629 all bar one had gone), by which time a major incident had been declared (I have no idea what that actually entails, but it sounds like resources have been allocated and attention is being focussed!).
It didn’t take that long for us to decide that we were spending the night in Perth, and thanks to having a bedroom, kitchen, living room and toilet with us, the fact that there were more thwarted motorists than hotel rooms available didn’t affect us.
It’s amazing how much stuff you can cram into Erica’s cab when you need to – it swallowed five crates, one massive food chiller bag, three bags of shoes, a carrier bag of snacks and my knitting bag. That left the back clear for us to move around and to get the bed out.
The bed was out not long after 8. 'Lights out' was just after nine. The only disturbance was at eleven when I peered out to see a truck with orange lights flashing but I couldn’t see what they were doing to create the banging. We woke up just before 6am, when the temperature inside had dropped to a not-quite-comfortable-without-a-hat level, and soon had Erica’s heater making us comfortable again (don’t know how cold it got inside, other than it was low enough to kill the batteries in Erica’s room thermometer).
As we drove away just before 7am, we saw we’d been joined by 7 motorhomes at some point. I wonder if any of them had intended to spend the night there?
McDonalds provided us with a quick breakfast (we had breakfast makings with us, it was just too much effort to retrieve them from the back of a cupboard), over which we established firmly that the A9 was still open. Police Scotland had announced it to be passable at 2030 last night, but Google was still showing it to be closed at Drumochter. Thankfully, the A9 Traffic Info Facebook Group had recent confirmations from real people, and even better, the chaps on the next table had just driven down from Inverness.
The rest of the journey was uneventful. Half the carriageway
was underwater just before Ballinluig, but traffic lights had been set up and
at that hour of morning there was no queue.We arrived in Newtonmore 25 hours after leaving Halifax.
So, an unplanned night in Erica. No hardship to have broken the journey in Perth, but had it been planned we wouldn’t have troubled ourselves to leave Halifax until noon, giving us less time to sit around, listening to the rain drum down, in Perth.