Escaping Leeds

“May the best team win!”

Given it’s coming up to a year since I took part in the annual Leeds RAG Jailbreak event I thought maybe it would be cool to reminisce a little. Jailbreak is a charity event held by Universities across the country in which teams compete to get as far away from their University town as possible in 48 hours without paying a single penny for transport. I entered with my friend along with two other teams that we knew well. After raising £250 through making lasagne, baking brownies and shamelessly begging we were good to go. The morning came and we made our way to Parkinson steps where the competition would begin.

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The competition was fierce

“It’s starting well…”

The horn blew and we were off. Over ten teams scampered down the steps and headed towards the city centre. We immediately headed for the bus station, hoping to wangle our way onto a free megabus. Unfortunately though the coach companies had been tipped off and, despite almost convincing a bus driver to sneak us on, our bright orange t-shirts signalled the manager and we were escorted out. Our next move was a long shot as we headed towards the nearest University housing in the hope that a student travelling south would be kind enough to give us a lift.After waiting for half an hour it seemed our efforts were futile. We rang our friends and asked them to take us to the nearest motorway service station, perhaps it was cheating but we could think of no other way to get started. Whilst on our way I decided to furiously tweet celebrities and companies in the hope of free tickets to somewhere. Unfortunately, besides a shout-out on BBC Radio 1 (thanks Clara Amfo), we got nowhere with this route. Our friends dropped us off on the motorway and we were left to our own devices to try and find a new ride.

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We were off!

“Hello girls, come on, we’re heading south, jump in!”

I cannot explain our love for Ruth and Dave. After merely 10 minutes stood outside the service station a lovely lady stopped and told us that we were welcome to come with her and her husband who were journeying home. We were so grateful and, after putting our rucksacks in the boot, we were quickly back on the motorway and experiencing our first ever hitchhike. Ruth and Dave could not have been better, in fact in the awards ceremony at the end of the hitch they won the award for best hosts. They chatted away to us, asking about our degrees, our futures and our interests. Ruth even told us about how she had once hitchhiked her way to Glastonbury where she hopped the fence to get in.

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We got treated to a packed lunch too

We decided that our next stop would be Luton Airport where we hoped that maybe some very generous person would take pity on us and purchase a flight to somewhere exotic. Ruth and Dave gave us their email, told us to keep safe and asked that we contact them if we were in any trouble. They even signed up to follow our travels online and donated to our page when the hitch was over. We could not have hoped for better people to share the journey south with and we were sad to leave them.

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Ruth and Dave bid us farewell

“What are we supposed to do now?”

Luton Airport was a bad decision. The airport is so small and the departures area so empty that there was no way we were going to bag ourselves a free flight. It was dark before we decided to call it quits and head outside to try and catch another ride. Luckily Fiona, my team partner, was able to ring her Dad who came to collect us and give us a ride to our friend Nancy’s house in Potters Bar. Technically once again we weren’t cheating however we did feel that our first day had been a bit of a failure. It was however the first time Fi and I had met Nancy’s parents who were wonderful hosts and I was very happy to get steak and chips for dinner as well as a comfy bed whilst our other friends were being escorted by the police at the Dover Docks and having to sleep over in a service station.

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An ideal dinner along with massage chair

In the morning Seamus, Nancy’s Dad, drove us to South Mimms services in the hope that a friendly HGV driver would be able to give us a lift. He and Nancy bid us goodbye and wished us well on our efforts.

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Energised and ready to go

“Come along, I can take you!”

Seamus had been right. Soon we were in the front of a HGV heading towards the tunnel to take us to Europe. Unfortunately though we had had some communication issues as our driver was from the Netherlands and did not speak English. After help from Google Translate we realised that the HGV driver could only take us to the tunnel and no further.We were happy to proceed despite Fi having to sit on the driver’s bed and the driver driving with his knees. Adele even came on and we had all had a lovely singalong. It was a bizarre experience and could only have happened on Jailbreak.

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Riding in the HGV

“I guess we should call it quits…”

Eventually, one more hitch later, we had made it to Stop 24 services. Only a few miles from the ferry crossing, all we had to do was convince somebody to take us across. Unfortunately though we were hitching during the horrendous Belgium terrorist attacks and so nobody was willing to take us with them. We realised that this was the end of the road and decided that it would be best to make our way north to stay with our friend Lil just outside Milton Keynes. In the end we were at the services for seven hours trying our best to catch a break. One man almost took us to Amsterdam however his colleague advised against it and understandably he was very unsure about taking us through Belgium. He did however donate £40 to our cause and so we were very grateful.

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We thought we’d done the hard bit

Eventually it was tobacco buyers who saved us. They had been to Europe for their tri-monthly purchase of tobacco. We didn’t really know how legitimate this was but we had nobody else and the sun was beginning to set. One of the men was very chatty and we were eager to talk to him, the other man could barely speak due to his throat being damaged from years of smoking. It explained the ton of tobacco in the boot. Eventually we parted ways with the two men and, being the hero that he is, Fiona’s Dad once again came to save the day and gave us a lift up to Lil’s House.

“What an adventure”

The 48 hours was up just as Lil served us a full breakfast. Whilst the other teams had slummed it in service stations, ate at fast food restaurants and haggled for rides myself and Fi had lived a life of luxury on our Jailbreak. What we did learn though was that we should learn to appreciate the kindness of strangers. Across the 48 hours Fi and I were driven across the country by six kind people all looking for nothing in return. It really opened our eyes to how helpful people can be. As for our friends and family who helped us out when we were in need we had so much gratitude and could not have done it without them. We may not have gotten the furthest but it was definitely an experience that I will probably not forget in a hurry. Even a year on I can remember it in the greatest clarity. As for our other friends they made it to Tenerife and Germany but hey, its the effort that counts right?

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Time to head home
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