I arrived in Luton on the A6, and it all seemed pretty clear. I congratulated myself on making it that far, and decided that maybe this time around it'd be easy to get home. I was feeling a bit peckish, so I pulled over to a row of shops on the outskirts of the town and picked up something to eat. I forgot to buy anything to drink, but figured I'd just stop a bit further in to Luton.
But then, somehow it all went wrong. I was carefully following signs towards the M1. I got into Luton itself and it was all flyovers and seemed pretty grungy and not a very nice place to be. I decided I didn't really need to stop anywhere, I could just wait until I stopped at some services on the M1, or at worst, until I got home.
Suddenly, the signs stopped being so regular, and roadworks started appearing. There was a big sign with a whole bunch of information on that we passed pretty quickly. It said that there were diversions to get to the M1. Ok, I thought, and I followed the diversion signs. After travelling all over Luton (possibly twice), and out to the airport, and back again, I found myself on a road with a pretty bumpy surface. There kept being signs up telling me that speed cameras were in force, but never any signs to tell me what the speed limit was. I stuck to 30, given the state of the road, and that I was trying to follow the somewhat irregular diversion signs.
Then the was a 'End of Diversion' sign, and we were spat out onto a roundabout. I actually went around it at least twice, trying to get my bearings. I found I had the following options; M1 North, or a dark unappealing road to Harpenden. I couldn't even take the road I'd come on, because it didn't seem to exist going back in the other direction. Since I definitely didn't want to go North on the M1, I decided I was off to Harpenden!
It was a dark, winding, country road, and not particularly pleasant to drive along. I found myself following an AA patrol van, and I considered flashing my lights and indicating to try to get them to pull over and help me work out exactly where I was, but decided that given that it was pitch black outside, and I was in the middle of nowhere, I should just continue driving until I came to civilisation again!
I eventually reached Harpenden. I was getting really thirsty by now, and I realised I needed to stop and look at the map, so I pulled into a petrol station and stopped. I looked at the map, and also rang home to tell them I was lost, but that I thought I'd be ok. They reminded me that my cousin Emma lives in Harpenden, and told me her address, so that if I happened to spot that road I could call in and see her. I went in to the petrol station, got myself a drink and queued up to buy it. I said to the guy behind the counter that I was trying to get to London and had lost the M1. I asked if I continued on this road whether I'd be heading in the right direction. (I could see on the map that if I went towards St Albans that would be the right way. The man behind the counter looked at me although I'd escaped from the nearest loony bin (after all, I guess not many people wander in there saying they've lost the M1, and could he please direct them towards London, but not even mention the M1 whatsoever, or else!). He agreed that yes, I should just continue along that road.
As I continued that way I spotted the road my cousin lives in, and decided to take a quick detour. After finding somewhere to park, I knocked on her door. There was no answer, so I got her number from my parents and tried to call her. There was no answer, so I left a rather convoluted message on her answer phone and headed on my way again. (She texted me later that night to let me know she'd been out at the student bar, and hadn't taken her phone with her. If I'm ever in that area again I'll try to visit again, since I know now where she is. I can't say I ever want to be in that area again though!)
I got back in my car and headed on my way. I knew that I had to head towards St Albans, and I did. I was doing ok until I got there, and there were no useful signs. I was cold and tired and slightly overemotional. I was literally about to burst into tears when I saw a sign towards the M25 (the big motorway that goes round London). I think I may actually have clapped or waved my arms or shouted or something (much to the amusement of the people on the pavement outside - since I was sat in a traffic queue at the time!). Once I found that sign the drive home was pretty simple.
Well, kinda. I stopped off in Enfield because I was feeling really in need of a hug, and I knew that a group of folk from church were meeting a a pub there. I stopped in the car park and tried to give them a call, except neither of the girls I tried to call were answering. I went into the pub to try to find them, but they weren't there. That was the last straw. I headed home, feeling a fairly unhappy bunny, arriving there 3 1/2 hours after I left Bedford. But once I got home I took out my feelings about the M1 on my blog and on facebook, and that helped a lot.