A long drive back from Ironbridge yesterday. Stuck in the back of the car with a sleeping toddler who, when awake, has worked out how to unbuckle himself and get into the front of the moving car with mummy, daddy and lots of exciting dials and knobs. Which is why I'm sitting in the back, watching and waiting.
So I took to reading the road atlas. It's compelling reading. Perhaps slightly less eagerly anticipated than "Go set a watchman" (they do annual updates - a road atlas that had been locked in a safety deposit box for 60 years might be of interest, but would be scarcely practical) but nonetheless saitsfying. It's quite unstructured, in narrative terms. You can dip in and out at any stage, and come away satisfied. And, perhaps, lost.
So, roads. Wherever we go, at the moment, we seem to come across the A38. There is is, running along the Severn Estuary in Gloucestershire. There it is again as we try to naviagate our way around Worcester. And again, as we try (in vain) to escape the scrum of traffic around Birmingham. Circumnavigating Birmingham can bring nothing but regret. It almost makes you regret you left home in the first place.
The A38 also features in my earlier life, in the South West, before 911, George Bush and the worst of Blair, but that's another story. We can go back to Cornwall and Devon, but we can never go back to 1999.
So I thought about cycling at A38, which seems like a pretty bad idea given how much of it is trunk road. It takes in some interesting spots, mind you, starting in Bodmin, ending in Mansfield. It is 292 miles (470 km) long, making it the longest 2-digit A road in England, says DECCipedia. My mind drifted to the A12, the road of my childhood, which takes you from London to Great Yarmouth, or at A1, running up the spine of the country.
Then, in idle query, I turned to the A5, which I only really know as Edgware Road, London, and vaguely as passing odd places like Dunstable and Daventry. Imagine my surprise and delight, therefore (imagine the surprise and delight of anyone reading a road atlas) when I discovered that it doesn't end up in Manchester (nothing wrong with Manchester) but in fact crosses Snowdonia and ends up in Holyhead and is, for large chunks of its length, single carriageway. Now here is a road of exploring. At great slowness.