Date:Sunday December 19 2010
The Thames Valley Whites had a long and arduous day out on Saturday as the snow finally reached the South of England.
Twenty-nine fans had booked themselves on the supporter`s bus and despite what the weather was about to throw at us it wouldn`t stop us getting to Elland Road.
I am sure we were not alone as we have a large contingent of Leeds followers in the South of England and I am sure they all have similar tales to tell.
Two weeks ago as we travelled to Elland Road we had the relative luxury of seeing no snow until we reached the midlands as the north suffered the brunt of the bad weather.
That day against Crystal Palace, the Elland Road ground staff had done a fantastic job to ensure the game got the go ahead as Leeds was covered in around eight inches of the fluffy white stuff.
The RMC branch sets off from Reading for all home games at 8.30am and this Saturday they were doing so in blizzards as the snow fell heavily.
By the time we had reached Bicester the snow was settling with a good covering across all carriageways.
We picked some fans up at the services and I thought we were picking up yetis as they entered the bus.
Our next pick up was in Banbury and the normally notorious M40 was worse than usual as we plodded our way along.
We were already contemplating missing the kick off as we were already an hour behind and only fifty miles into our journey.
We were now heading across through Coventry and up to Leicester Forest services on the M1 as we had one more pick up to do. It wasn`t looking good as we had a few hairy moments and then struggled to go up a small hill as the traffic really started to slow.
The news was good from contacts further north, our final pick up at Leicester Forest said it was clear and even further north, Des from the vital site was in York having decided to travel up from Hereford on Friday to avoid the bad weather and he was saying it was sunny.
We knew we were in for a bad journey home but at this time all we cared about was being at Elland Road in time for kick off and seeing the mighty whites put the league leaders to the sword.
Amazingly, within a few miles, as we hit the M69 towards the M1 the snow stopped and the roads were nicely clear.
We now knew that baring any incidents further north, we would be there in time for kick off and even more importantly, a quick pint was still on the cards.
The two drivers we had, had already done a sterling job getting us this far and now they breezed through the rest of the journey and had us at Elland Road at 2.25pm and plenty of time for that quick pint in the pavilion.
Leeds had obviously had a small covering of snow as the ground, rooftops and around the ground were white, once again the ground staff had obviously been hard at work to get the pitch clear and looking in pristine condition.
The following two hours the Leeds players put on an exhibition as they cantered to an easy 2-0 win that moved Leeds into second place in the table and kept every fan warm on a freezing cold day.
The crowd were once again amazing as almost 30,000 hardy souls turned up and the atmosphere inside the ground was some of the best I`ve seen for a long time.
Seeing all four sides of the ground going mad for about ten minutes of the game during the second half as scarves were twirled above heads as 'We are the Champions, Champions of Europe` echoed around Elland Road was a sight to behold.
We returned to the coach revelling in the victory and now thoughts were slowly beginning to return to the journey home.
The radio was on and the traffic news came in, it wasn`t good. The same route back as we came looked daunting, the M40 resembled a car park and the A34 was at snails pace according to the reports.
One other option we could take was to go down the A43 near Northampton, that was quickly ruled out as they announced it was closed due to jack-knifed lorries.
These worries were quickly forgotten about as the texts came in that Luciano Becchio had just signed a new three and a half year deal at Elland Road.
Ironically only seconds before the texts came in, I had just finished telling a number of people on the bus that Luciano Becchio would be leaving in January as it was far too quiet on how the negotiations were going, with little coming out of Elland Road.
I became the attention of ridicule as I sank deeper and deeper into my seat wishing someone would bury me under an avalanche of snow.
After a stop at Leicester Forest services and plenty of food taken on board just in case we were spending the night on the road, we decided on taking the same route home as we had come.
Apart from one scary moment on the outskirts of Coventry as we had a little skid we were making good time as we got inside Oxfordshire, we were within three miles of turning off the M40 when we came to a halt.
At a pace that resembles a tortoise with lead in his shell we slowly moved along, thirty minutes turned into an hour, one hour turned into two, two into three and there was still no sight of the turn off for the A34.
Despite the problems the bus was buzzing, two characters, Mark Andrews and Pete Cooke were as entertaining as usual and kept the spirits up.
A Ranger Rover pulled up alongside us with Manchester United badges on the registration plates and it quickly became the target of much stick as chants of 'January the 3rd, remember the date` belted out across the motorway and despite about eight inches of snow lying in the outside lane it quickly moved on to avoid anymore.
The motorway resembled something out of a movie as cars and lorries lay abandoned wherever they grinded to an halt.
As you can imagine a bunch of grown up men on a bus was always going to end up in one thing and a few couldn`t help but throw a few snowballs.
A CD suddenly appeared of Leeds songs and Marching On Together, Leeds United Calypso and the ballad of Billy Bremner was sung loud and proud.
By the time we turned off, we were already in the early hours of the morning and we finally got around to dropping off the Bicester contingent of fans as we finally pulled off the M40.
We now just had the A34 and M4 roads left to negotiate to get the rest of us home and thankfully, the A34 was flowing quite freely.
We still had one scary moment to come, instead of dropping off one fan at the bottom of a slip road the driver decided to turn off and after a few skids and a very slow climb up a hill that never looked like happening we finally got him to his destination.
With just the fans left to be dropped off at Didcot and Reading, all was going well.
Griff who runs the branch and me were both getting off at Didcot and to help, we decided to jump off on the slip road into Didcot and get a taxi to take us the three miles into the town centre.
Unfortunately, our best-laid plans were kicked into touch when the main road into Didcot was closed due to another jack-knifed lorry.
So we set off on foot in the freezing cold conditions and deep snow.
It quickly went by as we discussed the day, lack of tickets for our members for Arsenal (ok that was me still whinging that I hadn`t got a ticket) and the fact that we were never in danger of deciding not to make this journey today (or should I say yesterday as it had now turned 2am).
Isn`t it funny, if we were due to visit the in-laws who live five miles away in weather like we had seen on Saturday, we would have said to her indoors, 'travel in this, you must be mad to go out in this, we will stay in`.
Now when they asked us at 8am on Saturday morning, 'are you still going?`, our response would all have been similar, 'yes of course we are, it will be ok`.
Despite the fact that it is a four hundred mile round trip for us all.
Griff was first to get home and after around fifteen minutes of clearing and defrosting my vehicle I finally got on my way to drive the final mile to my house.
Whilst clearing my vehicle I managed to get most of the snow off my doors somehow onto my driver`s seat.
I eventually walked through my door shortly before 3am after almost 18 hours on the road.
Everyone got home safe and a special mention must be given to the two drivers who got us up and down the country in one piece.
The day was made much easier by a few key factors. First, we just don`t want to miss a Leeds game, we travelled home after a good win (imagine if this had been after Preston or Cardiff), the great news about Luciano Becchio and also the fact that we have a great bunch of regulars who travel with the Thames Valley Whites.
Would we all do it again next week if the conditions were the same? Of course we would.
If you are interested in travelling to Elland Road with the Thames Valley Whites then the contact details are at the bottom.
The price is usually a very reasonable £25 per person.
Pick-ups are Reading Train Station, Wallingford, Didcot, Abingdon, Oxford,
Kidlington, Bicester and Brackley. Other pick-ups will be considered.
Travel is usually a 31 seater bus or by a large mini-bus (ungoverned), and when demand meets then by a 49-seater coach.
Arrival at Elland Rd is generally by 1pm. Return travel is straight after the game with last drop offs usually by 9.00pm.
There is usually one stop at Leicester Forest Services on the M1 motorway.
Membership is currently free on completing an application form.
Contact the Branch by email. firstname.lastname@example.org
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Date:Sunday December 19 2010
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