31 May 2007

Bluetooth?

blI have been looking at the Cardo "La Scala" bluetooth headsets that are being advertised on the Net and that Ian, a Kent Centre SOC member, has a similar solution on his helmet. I can't afford a set any time soon as the Zegas have to be paid for (!) as well as the Isle of Man trip next week. I might drop into Infinity as they are listed as suppliers but I didn't see them when I was there a few weeks ago to collect the C2. I'm just concerned how they fit to the helmet as it claims there's no glue or screws involved.

The price does seem to have come down a bit and they are now about £65 for each or as a set of two, called a Teamset, you can save a couple of quid. Another option is Interbike and this one is nearer £149 per set. I think this is the one that Ian has.

Whilst these would solve the problem of communicating with my passenger and also give us both the ability to answer our phones, I have an older GPS that has wired output. I have had the Quest for over two years and as it works very well, I don't want to spend more cash in replacing it with a bluetooth enabled system, Zumo or similar. So the hunt is one for a bluetooth transceiver solution to replace the wired option. The units can also be paired with others so that you can in effect have bike-to-bike communication as well as rider-to-pillion. I assume the bluetooth protocol allows for a unit to unit link and that this is encrypted?

Before I put hand in pocket I need to see some more articles on them and see what the consensus is.

30 May 2007

C2 - Needs Work

Since the helmet came back from Oxprod after they repaired the top vent, the forehead lining has been slipping when I am wearing it.

There are two plastic bolt heads that are presumably where the liner is fitted to the outer shell. To hold the forehead liner, a band of padded material in reality, in place there are two round Velcro pads, coincidentally the same diameter as the bolts head. These are glued one side to the bolt head and the other is the "male" type of Velcro, and it's these bits that move.

The first time it looked as though I wore a wig and the glue had run. Luckily I am a baldy-man but the line of glue looked bad!

I have some Velcro I can use from the lot I used to hold the ear speaker for the GPS in place. And that's another job. I still need to ease the ear space so that the speaker fits a little less closely to my ear. I might lose some of the volume but the edges still rub on the ridge of my ear!

29 May 2007

Port Lympne Zoo

It seemed like a good idea at the time. To go to the zoo park up the road in Lympne. It was raining on and off and the car-park was pretty full when we arrived in the afternoon and by the time we came out three hours later, there were two cars; ours and one other.

In the dry and perhaps even warm, the park would be great, but as it rained the entire time we were there, only the gorillas put on much of a show. The park's main work in conservation is with gorillas and black rhino. At least we got to see them!


The gorilla family in the "Palace of the Apes" were hunting through straw bales for snacks and we were told that the dominant male, a big silver back, has six wives and loads of kids. His life looks ideal as he does nothing but lie about all day, eat and have sex. Lucky bugger. Mother and a baby pictured above. I took this through the thick glass!

The park is set in a few acres, okay a lot of acres, and a lot of it on the hillside below Lympne towards the marsh on the lower level. There is a lot of up and down type walking.

The Rhinos have plenty of space to wander about, until the last bit of the trip, they were always too far away for a photo session. We finally came across a female and her huge calf at the top of the hill. The kid peered out under the metal fence and I could have touched his muddy nose. He turned round and decided to have a pee in front of us!

If I had had a damned video camera I'm sure "You've been Framed" or some programme would have paid me £250!

I have uploaded a selection to my Flickr account and some of them are linked above!

20 May 2007

Suffolk for the Day

Thank goodness the weather was good over the weekend, Saturday especially. We had to go up to Suffolk to see Claire's Dad, Victor, in his new home.

We expected the traffic to be awful and so planned to take the bike. Not only is it more economical on the bike but we could sneak past any traffic. In the end the weather was good and there traffic was quite light. A consequence of the cup-final?

The Garmin, Doris, gave us a route that once on the Essex side of the Dartford Tunnel would take us up the A12, to Chelmsford, round the ring road and off to Braintree (didn't see any evidence of it as the drivers were the most moronic I've seen in ages!!) and then towards Haverhill and off right to Clare.

By the time we were close to Braintree the yellow light came on and the last bar on the fuel gauge disappeared and as we were wondering how much fuel was left a Tesco hove into view. Odometer showing over 186 miles and I squeezed almost eighteen and half litres in the tank. The scenic run through Sible Hedingham was very pretty and the villages around there all seem very picturesque. I was surprised that on a sunny weekend in May that the Colne Valley Railway was closed.

Once in Clare we were able to park up almost right outside his place and once we'd left our gear, I left her chatting and nipped out to find a bank. Clare seems very nice. Bit short of shops unless you want horse medicine and other pet and animal products, or need your hair styled (ladies only!)

When he went off for his lunch we had a turn down to the pub, The Bell, nicely laid out and menu that was straight out of Gordon Ramsey's cookbook (or some similar celeb chef!) and not really what my wallet wanted to spend on lunch. In the end we went in one door and out another and ended up a little bit up the street at the Clare Cafe. Still not sausage and end chips (pity!) but reasonable with home made food on the menu.

As an adherent of the famous guru, Swami Weight Watcher, I simply can't munch on my favourite stuff, nor without a great deal of self flagellation for a week afterwards. So it was a small lunch time snack followed by a turn around the Clare Castle Country Park.

After another chat with Victor, we togged up and retraced our steps home via my Mum's in Maidstone.

With the Zegas on it made us much wider but the few bikes we encountered all day managed to get past us when they needed to. On the way back we stopped at Tescos and the left one swallowed the shopping with plenty of room to spare.

19 May 2007

Isle of Man TT 2007 - Accommodation!

At last the accommodation is sorted and I have maps to both places. It takes a bit of the strain off me and now I can start to think about having a holiday. I've also had a look on Streetmap to get the GPS locations, except that the coverage of the Isle of Man is crap as best!

The other thing to think about is the BMW Club meeting at Baldrine on the 7th June. The thread on the BMW Club forum has started to take off and hopefully there will be a good turnout. Not bad considering I have been working with a zero budget since I volunteered to act as organiser. I'll report here ASAP.

18 May 2007

Isle of Man TT 2007 - Accommodation!

Have started to get the jitters about the first accommodation on the Island. I'm very careful to file all the bookings I make and thi sone seems to be a bit of a problem I have the notepad where I wrote down the address I was given but can't find the telephone number! Sh*t!

In the end I was browsing on the 'net on the TT Website's forum and have seen another one, better placed for race week in Onchan. It will mean losing the deposit I paid the Ballaugh peple but beggers can't be chosers.

I've dropped Sara Everest a note asking her to get in touch. Two weeks to go and I still have no idea where to go!

Update: Someone suggested looking on the TT Homestay pages and bingo! An email address.

10 May 2007

Commuting by train

What a demoralising experience it really is to travel into London everyday by train.

The alternatives?

Ride the bike. Been there, done that and I may well have the sodding t-shirt. Although with the change back to wet weather in May, sodden may be more apt.

Get a job nearer home? BTDTGTTS too. Not an option. In Kent we are near London, have London prices but low wages. So for now it's grin and bear it.

8 May 2007

Giverny for May Day Weekend

The weekend was in fact just a night away and with Claire’s hairdressing appointment earlier than previously thought it meant we could have lunch before the booked Shuttle train on Saturday.

I had planned routes to the Campanile at Evreux and also from there to Giverny. Claire is less trusting of “Doris” than I am and insisted we take a paper map as well. Not having been to Normandy for years and years meant I didn’t have one, so we left a little early and a stopped in the terminal building to buy one. On the approach there were signs to say that there were delays of up to 30 minutes following an “earlier incident”.

On the auto check-in I chose to go on an earlier train and off we went. In the terminal building they started to call our train s we walked in and I saw the display change from wait to boarding on the monitors. We hurried round and joined the queue of cars, strangely, not sent to a lane of our own, as is the “norm” on the Shuttle, but in the line of cars. Knowing we’d get singled out later and sit alongside the train as they loaded the cars past us. Despite being early we found we had missed the train or it had been cancelled as we were then re-assigned to the one we were booked on anyway!

The weather was dull and overcast and windy. After two or three weeks of sunny biking weather it was back to winter weather. On the French side it was no better and we set off along the A16 towards Abbeville intending to stop at the services at the Baie de Somme services. The weather didn’t improve and got very windy as we approached the toll section after Boulogne.

After a coffee and a look at the ducks and the amazingly tame and large carp in the river, we set off again. Time was getting on and Doris didn’t miss a beat. As petrol can be a problem off motorways on Sundays, we stopped just before Rouen and tanked up. In the station was a battered Fiat 500 on the back of a trailer. He was there when we left. Later on we caught up with him on the road between Rouen and Evreux. Doris’s quicker route planning not quite up to local knowledge! Some of the time loss may have been as we had to sit in a queue of traffic for a while as police and fire crews sorted out a big smash involving a car and a 4WD. I’ve never been a rubbernecker but had a quick glance, but the cars around us seemed to think it was a show for them to goggle at.

The rest of the run to the hotel was uneventful and we arrived at about 1845 local time. Booked in and secured the bike outside the room. Claire was so cold she had a bath and I watched PSG vs. Lyon on the TV. We played with the heating and couldn’t get it to work despite having it “on” and “heat” and the temp to 30°!

And then across to dinner. The Campanile in Evreux is like most of them by industrial park or out of town shopping parks. This one by the Carrefour. We chose the buffet dinner rather than the usual cooked menu. It was very nice but slightly more expensive than I remember. After dinner we watched a bit of TV, CSI New York in French. The dubbed voices not what I would call a match for the characters!

Sunday morning we were up quite early and across to breakfast and due to our (strict) adherence to the teachings of Swami Weight-Watcher we again couldn’t pig out, as we would once have done. Damn!

It was sunny and we wanted to make the most of it. Checking out and off following Doris’s instructions we arrived at Giverny in good time. Parking by the information office where we bought the guidebook. It’s in English and French and it quite good value for the €5.

On the first Sunday of the month the Museum of American Art is free to visitors. We had a long walk through their gardens. Of course, the Monet Foundation also owns this and the gardens are in the same style. Quite formal and arranged by colour of plants. We stopped for a coffee and then set off for the Monet House and Garden. There were so many people about and perhaps 50% were English and the rest a rich mixture of other Europeans and Americans. The pic shows the poppy meadow alongside the Museum.

The queue to get into the house and gardens was about 50 metres long and I got in it whilst Claire had a wander. It moved quite quickly and we were in. The entrance fee is €5.50 for adults.

The gardens are accessed through the shop (good move!) and then they open out in front of you to the rear of the house. We were lucky that the sun was out and quite hot, even if we did have to lug our jackets about. We were also lucky that all the garden plots were filled with colour. The irises were exceptional and the ground cover was perfectly matched by colour.

The famous lily pond is actually on some adjoining land that Monet bought and had the small river diverted to create it. Access is now by a tunnel rather than having to dodge the traffic on the road that separates the two parts of the garden. Unfortunately, although all the other planting was out and glorious it was too early for the lilies. The pond is also a lot larger than I had imagined and more of a small lake!

By now I was suffering from photo fatigue although the counter on the camera said only 105! We had a turn around the shop and then went into the outside world for a sandwich and a drink. After another turn around the Art Museum shop where Claire bought some cards, we went back to the bike and packed up.

I programmed Doris for a return trip and off we went. Another tour around the area to get across the nearest bridge over the Seine we headed north and then towards Beauvais.

At Gisors she took us north towards Dieppe and as we approached the A28 we peeled off onto it and head up towards the coast. I needed petrol so we stopped and hoped to get a coffee. It was quite cold and we both needed the warm java in our bellies, but the services on the A28 just before Abbeville aren’t that wonderful. We ended up having a coffee and a snack back at Baie de Somme before the 60 mile run back to the Shuttle. We arrived an hour before our booked crossing and the computer magnanimous gesture of letting us travel earlier at no extra cost.

We were home just before 7pm after a trip of about 385 miles door to door. Although the weather could have been better, it was sunny when it mattered. Pics to follow!

7 May 2007

First trip with the Zegas

The first trip with the Zegas fitted was a one night stay in France. It was a chance to see how easy it was to fit the panniers and how easy they come off. Plus a chance to use the expensive, but rather nice looking Zega-Bag inner bags.

Apart from the weather taking a complete change between Friday morning and Saturdau morning, from summy and warm to cold and miserable the trip was a great success.

See "Giverny for May Day Weekend" posting.

4 May 2007

Zega-Bags

After a rather strange exchange of emails with TT Germany where they directed me to TT UK despite ordering for delivery in Germany I had a call from Claire that Rudy has called from Germany to say a Touratech package would be on the overnight truck tonight.

Now need to check that we can get up to Lympne and recover them to use them for the trip to France this weekend!

May Weekend

The Bank Holiday weekend is on us again. It doesn’t seem more than a few days since we had Easter off.

What to do at the weekend was governed by the Arsenal and Chelsea game in Sky Sports 1. In the end could I stand the strain of watching our footballing side play against the new Watford style of the Billionaire’s Toy Team? Nah. Record it on Sky Plus and if we win, then I’ll watch it. Lose and forget it.

The alternative was a Kent Centre run to Sammy Miller’s Museum in the New Forest. An early start and late back. Claire didn’t want to go and so I had decided to go on my own. I’m away next week on the Welsh National Rally, a bike rally, not a Nurnberg style gathering of Plaid Cymru.

So when Claire said she fancied getting away I had to have a look. Firstly having a look at a day in the UK. Then I thought how appalling the traffic always is making it a misery to be out in the car. So bike then? The misery compounded as the weekenders in their cars will be bumping into each other all over the motorways and the back roads will be clagged with foreign trucks that don’t recognise the BH in their neck of the woods, plus all the w*nkers with their caravans. Meltdown.

So abroad? Where? Local? Further afield? One night or two? All weighing on my mind.

One night. Local. Check the hotel websites. Has to be cheap but not tacky. Damn. Too late to get the places I like the look of booked. Too many “desolé” replies.

Okay, further afield it will have to be. As a fair trade agreement how about a garden that Claire might like. She does come to some places that are really “boys’ toys” places like motor museums, railways and bike shows.

Monet’s Garden? It always looks good in the photographs in magazines. Okay, destination sorted. Hotel? Check the websites again. How much? No way!

Onto http://www.louvrehotels.com/en/louvre-hotels.html and have a look at the options. A nice cheap Campanile at Evreux. It’s 27 miles from Giverny. Campaniles have decent rooms and parking, plus all have a restaurant on site that have a good menu choice. Booked for €45.

Next stop on the whistle stop tour of the web to Eurotunnel and book the Shuttle. Out Saturday lunch time and back Sunday evening, £26. Booked.

Now to see what the trip entails. By the time we set wheel on Frog soil it will be about 1534 local time. So to the no doubt disappointment of the “I hate motorway” brigade, we’ll take the A16/A28 option to Rouen and then N roads to Evreux. ViaMichelin reckons it’s 173 miles and 2h 45m duration. So it will be gone 1815 or so by the time we arrive even without a detour through Rouen.

Once home, I had Mapsource started and had a look at a route from the Shuttle to the hotel. Mapsource has the Evreux Campanile in the database and so that was sorted quickly. Of course, Monet’s Garden is in there, so a second route for Sunday morning is created.

All that remains is a day at work before we can get away.

The weekend will also give us the chance to assess how the bike is affected by the Zega panniers. Since having the pannier rails fitted, there's been no chance to take the bike out with them fitted. So this will be "big bang" theory at work.

3 May 2007

Zega-Bags

Okay, I know that it was an extravagance, but the Zega-Bags look so good!

I showed the pic on the TT website to Claire and she liked the look of them so I ordered them on 25th April. I had been expecting them by now as I am sure the website said that they would be despatched in 24 to 48 hours. I'll email TT Germany later and see where they are.

1 May 2007

C2... What a joy!

The ride home from London was so much quieter with the C2 rather than the Caberg. I've noticed that there is still a lot of glare despite wearing my Reactions glasses and so the C2's sunshade is ideal. It could do with being a little longer so it extends further down, but it does the job.

The main wonder is how long it will take to "give". It is quite tight and feels that it is part of my head rather than a bucket covering it!

Later this week, I need to work on the ear recess enlargement to get the GPS speaker in place....

Watch this space.