30 August 2007

EDZ Innershell

I looked at these at my local bike shop a while ago and marvelled at how gossamer thin yet stretchy this material is. How would it work? Then I saw the price and tried to calculate the number of thermals I could buy with £40. Quite a few.

But would they actually be as good as the EDZ Innershell. I doubt it if my experiences are to be believed.

My subscription of Bike magazine was due and so when I saw that new subscribers could choose to have an EDZ Innershell as a free gift I dropped the reminder in the bin and after a few weeks I logged on to the subscriptions website and took out a new one, and ticked the box for the EDZ Innershell.

Although quite portly, the largest size that Bike had listed was XL, and it is quite snug! They obviously don’t expect fat people to sub to their magazine. The EDZ Innershell is available in sizes up to 3XL according to EDZ own website - http://www.edz.biz/edz-windstopper-innershell.html.

I have no idea how it works. Why do I need to? It does. I wore it on Sunday afternoon for the first time, after a long day out in France wearing just a polo shirt and my Joe Rocket Phantom 4.0 vented jacket. Although not winter cold, the wind was whipping through the mesh at speeds of up to 130kph and the EDZ Innershell coped perfectly. I’ve worn it everyday this week to work on my commute from Folkestone to Central London, and in the mornings the air can be quite chilly, I have yet to be cold.

The best test so far was last night on the way back from football at the Emirates when I added a sweatshirt over it to add a bit of bulk under the Phantom. Not cold at all. I arrived home at 2330 amazed by the performance of the garment.

The £40 price tag is still a little daunting but unless you can score one free it, it may be worth that money to keep the wind out.

Photo posed by an actor!!!!

Champions’ League - Aug 29th

According to the song sung by the supporters of our local rivals we are “having a laugh” if we think we can win the Champions League. At least you have to be in it to win it and when they, Tottenham Hotspur, haven’t won the league in England since 1961 not finished in the top four in the Premiership ever, then you can’t help laughing back.

After a second year of finishing 4th in the Premiership we had to again qualify for the CL. As we are a big team from one of the main countries, we are lucky and only have to play in the last round of qualifiers.

The draw could have been tricky as we got Czech Champions Sparta Prague. A fortnight ago we won the first leg 2-0 in Prague, and last night was the home leg at the Emirates.

As I am on the bike this week in preference to the train, I had the luxury of not getting up there too early. In the end I left work at just before six o’clock and by ten past I was parking up in the bike parking space at the foot of Aubert Place and in sight of the stadium. Last time I did this, I was lucky to squeeze on the end, but this time, it was almost empty and I chose my spot – on the end!

Dinner, in the splendid Park Café across the road, of sausage, chips and beans, two slices and a coffee all for £4. Very nice! Not exactly slimming but it filled the spot at the right time.

My brother, Neill, who had eaten some suspect burger from one of the stands that fill the streets, joined me and then we walked across to the ground.

There was no alcohol for sale at the bars as this was a UEFA rule. I wonder if they had the same ban in Prague for the Slavia/Ajax game to name but one.

The game went quite predictably. The Arsenal being two goals up from the first leg seemed to be at 75% energy and probing. Sparta outclassed but trying as hard as they could. Tomas Rosicky, a former Sparta player was given a bit of a kicking but scored the opener.

Then the game was quite boring until the last ten minutes or so when we upped the pace and scored twice more through Fabregas and Eduardo.

The trip home was relatively painless. I have been wearing my Joe Rocket vented jacket all week and my new toy. An EDZ under shirt that is claimed to be windproof. It is, buy one. It wouldn’t be enough on its own over a polo shirt so I had a sweatshirt over it, and wasn’t cold on the way home. Eventually pulling onto the drive at 2330, a full hour and ten minutes before I would have had I been on the train!

The next game for me isn’t until the 22nd unless we play the first CL match at home the week before.

29 August 2007

Bluetooth Revisted

Rather than write up what has happened so far in my Quest to get wireless between GPS and helmet I have copied the article I wrote for the BMW Club "Journal" here and added a few photos.

The original idea behind the search for a Bluetooth solution for my Quest GPS was entirely down to the fact that I kept getting off the bike and the wire between my helmet and the unit kept pinging off. As well as looking a prat (steady at the back!) there was always the paintwork jack plug interface to be avoided!

The options seemed quite limited. There are loads of Bluetooth earpieces available that stick in one ear for phones, but try to get a helmet on with one of them in place! Not going to happen.

So, the solution needed to be more motorcycle oriented. The beginning of a solution came on two fronts; one in a shop and the other on the Suzuki OC Kent Centre run to Ypres at Easter 2007.

The first was when I called into Infinity in Holborn to pick up my Schuberth C2 after a minor repair. I saw that they had an advert for a Bluetooth head set from Cardo called the "Scala". It all looked pretty good in the picture that featured either a full face or an open face helmet. More of that later! At about £70 it was quite pricey just to get to listen to Daisy tell me what to do and where to go, but looked a decent bit of kit.

The second solution came on the side of a fellow rider's helmet. It was another make but was highly similar looking piece of kit. His was made by Interphone and was bought in from the US. It's similar in appearance to the "Scala" though. It also retails for quite a bit more than the Cardo "Scala".

I went back but Infinity didn't have a test kit available and I felt that I wanted to try something before shelling out, so I emailed Cardo. Okay, they are in the US, but email knows no boundaries. As a surprise they offered to send me a kit free to test. I may have said I was a published journo, which is true! Not just here either.

A few weeks later and before the trip to the Island for TT100, the kit arrived, a "Scala" and mains charger. Great stuff.

Over the years I've assembled an impressive collection of helmets. I have a Caberg J1S that although 3 years old I don't like to chuck away. Similarly, a Nitro N700V that I bought a few years back but found it far too tight round the head above the ears and then I dropped it on the ground on a trip to Belgium. Even "easing" the padding had little effect. Plus of course the Schuberth!

I rushed to fit the clamp for the Bluetooth unit to the C2. Aarggh! The most expensive helmet I have owned since my Eddie Lawson replica Shoei, and the "Scala" mount won't fit as it fouls the mechanism for the flip! Okay. Try it on the Nitro.

A bit of padding pulled off the inside of the shell lets it fit, but the microphone boom wasn't long enough! By then I had run out of time before going to the TT. Everything went back in the box!

Once back home a fortnight later, I searched around in the cupboard for a helmet I bought only 18 months ago to get home from work after some scumbag forced my Givi top box open and stole my go-to-work OGK and my gloves. With a "best" helmet at home I wasn't inclined to spend a fortune on a get-me-home piece of kit. Enter the Caberg Classico, "£40 to you mate". It fits like a washing up bowl, and is probably only slightly sturdier.

The "Scala" fits straight on to it! Fitting the bracket with the clamp and locking screws is a little fiddly as the supplied Allen key is quite small and the hex hole to get it in isn't very deep, so you have to be careful not to round them off. The unit fits on the left side of the helmet about level with the strap on the Classico.
The unit itself clips on and has a locking feature so that once fitted correctly is doesn't fly off! Attached to the bracket is the boom for the mike and a thinner lead that leads on the basic "Scala" to a single earpiece. The earpiece is very slim and after a bit of fiddling you can find a comfortable place as close to your lughole as possible. It is also Velcro backed to let it stick to the lining of the helmet. Excuse my technical terms!

The boom for the microphone is the right length on the Classico. Success. But at what price?

I emailed Cardo to give them my feedback. They said they had a new kit out with a longer boom and they would send me one to try with the Schuberth or J1S. It hasn't arrived yet, but is supposed to have a longer boom and a different fitting for the bracket.

At least I know have the helmet end of the Bluetooth equation sorted, even if it is with a £40 bowl on my head.

But what about getting the Quest to talk to me without wires? The main reason for all this messing about in the first place. This is the really clever bit. After some days of surfing I found several Bluetooth transmitters that have been developed for older mobile phones that don't have Bluetooth as standard. A couple were a little bulky but one immediately jumped off the screen at me. Called the BTA II and made by… you guessed Cardo. Another email and a few days later one arrived FOC to test.

Although it feels rubbery to the touch there are too many openings for the charger jack plus and buttons to make it waterproof for my application. Piggybacked on the back of a non-Bluetooth phone in your pocket would be okay.

Pairing it with the headset was a doddle. I have heard that there have been problems pairing the "Scala" with Garmin Zumos as the four digit numbers it needs vary. As these are both Cardo products they share the coding, and as neither has any way of inputting a different one, then that's a plus!

As the jack plug is smaller than the jack socket on the Garmin OEM cradle's audio output I had to get an adapter. Maplin came up trumps for a few pence.

The BTA II comes with about 6 inches of coiled cable to the jack, and so needs to be sited close to the Quest. For the test I have simply put a square of Velcro on the back of it and another square of the opposite Velcro on the top of the clutch master cylinder on the GS. The coil of wire is long enough to keep it from the left side handlebar switches. Once turned on it has a very bright blue LED to show it is switched on and working. No problem in daylight but at night it can be a little distracting, so the Velcro allows it to be turned away from the rider. In inclement weather I need to find a better solution to protect it from the rain. One joker suggested a condom or better still, a finger cut from a latex glove and secured with a laccy band!

So how does it work? Very easily. Both the "Scala" and BTA II are supposed to have 7 hours continuous use battery life. In reality both units go into standby mode after a few minutes. I've used them in conjunction a few times for short runs and then on a trip to France over August Bank Holiday, where they were used on and off for about 8 hours.

The "Scala" has some trickery in it that increases the volume as you go along but I have the Quest set at 7 out of 7 in any case for motorcycle output. On the French trip and with earplugs, I could still hear the instructions on the autoroute at around 80mph quite clearly, and this is despite the wind rush under the ears on the Classico. A quieter helmet should prove even better.

The only niggle is that when Daisy chimes in with a change of direction or whatever; the first millisecond is missed as the BTA II wakes up from standby. E.g. when "she" is saying, "In 1.7 miles keep right", it misses the "In", but any subsequent instructions are perfect, and nothing is missed. I assume this is because both units are no longer in standby mode and this is repeated each time the unit goes to standby. Luckily the unit always gives more than one countdown to a route change. A small price to pay for having the unit save battery life in standby mode and then waking it up.

The goal of getting a non-Bluetooth GPS to talk to me via Bluetooth has been accomplished! Hurrah.

What next? I already have the phone paired with the headset but have only had a few calls and both of them I missed as I was in traffic. To accept a call you need to press the button on the unit and although it is easy to find and big enough to press with a gloved finger, you have to time it right.

The other use of the Cardo "Scala" is that of a bike-to-bike intercom, pairing it with another "Scala" (and I assume any other Bluetooth headset?) and chatting to your hearts content!

Cardo make a two-unit kit called "Teamset" that has everything twice (!) for rider to pillion intercom. This looks a good idea but the problem is that the pillion unit isn't as fully functioned as the rider unit, so no GPS (no problem) but also no phone pairing, which might be! The "Teamset" also has two speakers per helmet.

Oh yes. The BTA II will fit to most MP3 players so I suppose you could listen to your favourite sounds as you ride along, should you want to!

So that's the end of the project, or at least part one of the project. I'm just waiting to get the extra kit for the Schuberth that Cardo were sending me to see if I can get it working with my "best" helmet!

26 August 2007

Jardins de Valloires Day Trip - 26th August

It was initially Nigel’s idea to go to France over the BH Weekend, and originally Monday. Claire and I were the only ones in the Kent Centre that were up for it and we couldn’t do Monday, but could do Sunday.

After a change of plans we arrived together on the 0820 Shuttle to France in company with another trio of bikes and their riders. A nice MV with extra loud pipes and a couple of Guzzis. One being a 1000 Quota, a rarity in every sense!

The plan was to head off down the D940 along the coast and stop for a coffee under Cap Blanc Nez at the Escalles campsite café. Sadly, when we got there after a short ride with perfect views over the Channel to Kent, it was closed until noon. Strange for a weekend in August.

We set off south again and at Wissant I hove right into the village. Ahead the road was closed and we parked up for a walk around a splendid village that we had never been to before. There was a boat festival on and the square was full of tables and chairs gearing up for lunch that appeared to be grilled or fried fish sandwiches! We had our coffee and then had a walk before returning to the bikes with ideas of lunch.

At Wimereux we stopped in the parking we have used before and went to the restaurant opposite the friterie. The friterie is either the best or the only one in town as the queue was always long! Sadly, not a good choice in my opinion. The moules were okay but the juice they were in was a bit insipid. Claire’s steak was supposed to be rare but was well done at least. At least my chips were okay. Nigel says that his moules were insipid as well as the sauce and his chips were soggy!

After a quick walk to the bank ATM to get a bit more cash we set off for the Jardins. I led and my newly fixed Quest led us across country to the N1 and then right to the door, well almost. The Abbaye and the Jardins are on the same site but have two entrances about 400 yards apart!

We spent an hour or so wandering around the gardens following the guide we were given. How did the girl behind the counter know we were English? I took out my camera and found it was all there except for a memory card, so we had to rely on Nigel’s photographic skills…

After another de-rigueur coffee we had to set off pronto to get back for the 1850 Shuttle leaving Nigel and Jane to a more leisurely trip back for a later crossing.

Another good day away. It shows you don’t have to go far to see something different.

25 August 2007

Summer here?

Today I'm off to see the Arsenal play at the Emirates against Manchester City.

Back in the olde days I had a brief flirtation with City. We had moved down to Surrey from Lancashire (You could in those days before the madness overtook the price of houses) and at the time City were doing quite well in League and Cups.

My first trip to Wembley was to see City beat West Brom in the League Cup. In the end the minor infatuation came to an end and I went back to being an Arsenal supporter full time. My Dad supported the Arsenal all his life.

I decided to let the train take the strain but the service (what service) from Sandling of on train an hour is disgusting. Instead I got on myu bike and rode to Ashford. A large and free motorcycle park is right in front of the station entrance. With the bike locked up it was all very painless.

I've left my jacket in one of the Zegas and my old helmet (not worth tempting fate!!) In the box.

On the subject of jacket. Today, "I are mostly wearing a vented jacket".

Let's hope is doesn't rain.

Paul Devall - sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

24 August 2007

Kent Charity Pet-Food Run 2007 - 23rd September 2007

Once again I am organising the annual pet food run on behalf of the Kent Centre SOC, and again this year we are tying up with the local volunteer RSPCA group based in and around Maidstone.

The date is September 23rd.

The meeting place is Hein Gericke car-park in Maidstone at 1200 (noon). Hein Gericke GPS co-ordinate is N51.280168 E0.521644

The kennel we will go to is primarily for dogs looking to be re-homed. They are using part of a kennel at Boxley near Maidstone.

Please bring along dog food and your wallets!


Quest! The Final Frontier?

It works. It works.

At the weekend it will get it's proper test on the run to France to visit the Jardins de Valloire.

Fingers crossed.

21 August 2007


After the total system failure that occurred on the trip up to Suffolk that I mistook for simply the van body shielding, and then the performance that could have ruined the trip to Amsterdam, the Quest went back to Garmin in Hampshire and came back yesterday.

Or rather a different one came back yesterday, and that is the problem. It fired up great but cos it is a different unit, it wouldn't let me load any maps. Mapsource works though, I simply can't add maps to the unit and open them.

Garmin have been very quick and today I have a new unlock code to type in and see if that works... Watch this space.

BH Sunday to France

What started off as a suggestion by Nigel Jones, a fellow SOC Kent Centre member, to have a day trip on BH Monday seems to have turned into just Claire and me going over to France for the day, but on BH Sunday!

The weather forecast looks good, so maybe the vented Joe Rocket might be the jacket of choice or perhaps it not, the new Suzuki jacket can be given its first outing as part of Devallwear.

We have some Tesco vouchers left over from the Amsterdam trip and they had to be used by the end of August, so it was only natural that we used them. The sticking point could have been the 14-day restriction on booking on Eurotunnel, but this was smoothed over by Mandy in the reservations at Folkestone,. Thanks Mandy.

So we will be outward on the 0820 on Sunday and back on the 1850. As expected it will be busy in both directions as it is almost the last weekend of the kid's school holidays.

We don't have much of a plan but we'd like to have lunch and perhaps get to the Jardins de Valloire near Crécy in Picardy.

17 August 2007

Kettle Times 3

Out as soon as possible to lay the 30m cable across the drives to the garage and get the battery on charge. Checked the levels and all stacks are above the line. may need to top up with distilled water later to get them back to the top level.

With power on the charger hums and the battery can now heard to be active, lifting it a bit in the holder (strap pinged off on its own but still whole!) and there are bubbles. Hopefully, the charger can recover enough power to get it to start later in the day.

I'll try to drop in to Alford Brothers and pick up some new plugs whilst I am there. They are sure to still have B8ES aren't they! In the meantime, clean the ones already in the engine, gapped okay. Bike out in the open, the tyres a bit flat, pumped up so it moves better pushing it about. Optimism high, why aren't I pessimist!

Dribble a couple of litres of unleaded into the tank, turn to PRI, petrol pissing out of the drain. Switch to ON. Ignition off. Kick over a few times them click the kill button to on. Kick over. Nothing. It doesn't help that the kick start shaft was badly worn and has been for years. No proper purchase.

Nothing. Right plug out, turn over on the electric. No spark. Bugger. Running out of time. Perhaps this should have been started at the start of the week rather than the end.

Wheel bike back in garage until I have more time to have a look and see what the problem is. Maybe drop John Storrie a line and see if he can help.

I hate DIY!

Up this morning and get the first crap job of the day done; the silicone seal round the shower tray in the en-suite!

Yesterday, it took the best part of two hours on my hands and knees (oo-er!) to cut and remove the old seal. I'd not done it that long ago but it was a cheap brand from Aldi and had no nasty chemical shit in it to combat the bathroom's friend: mould.

This morning, I cleaned it all up again and went in with the latex gloves (chalked inside of course) and laid a new seal. Had Bodgit the Builder who built the house managed to get the tiles level at the bottom of the wall, the seal between shower tray and tile would be easier, but instead the gap isn't consistent. Much messing about and it is done. Once try I have a bit of trimming to do.

16 August 2007

Kettle Times 2

Now that there's the will back again, I have to measure how much!

After the years of being condemned to the back of the garage there may be a lot to do to get it running.

The problem I've already mentioned on the Blog, the throttle body being broken (and dangerous!) can be fixed as. I have a spare set of grips, NOS (I think) in my collection of parts.

The main work to get throiugh the MoT looks as though it will revolve around the brakes. The front brakes have been a constant battle and I spent ages before to clean the calipers and fit new gaiters and 'O' rings.

One of the mods that was done to my old GT550A was to fit early GS model brakes. The calipers fit straight on as the models shared the same fork legs. It had to be done to the 550 as it originally came with only a single brake up front and the mounts on the other leg. Changing for a pair of GS brakes improved overall performance by a greater factor than simply adding another GT style caliper.

Oh yeah. Almost forgot. Gotta get the bugger started! May need to invest in a set of new plugs. as well as petrol!
Over the years the cardboard I had under the engine has become soaked in oil. I have no idea where it comes from, but there it is completely soaked through like a trainee firelighter. But under it, not a drop has made the leap from cardboard to concrete floor. I'm almost certain it is 2-stroke oil. I'll check the tank and top it up with Wilkinson's finest...

Kettle Times

As the week off work draws to a close I decided to get the garage a bit tidied up so I could access the Kettle at the back of the space. Two trips of crap to the tip later and I have a bit of access space. A plan to move stuff to the back along the walls wouldn't work as we have hooks with tools and stuff hanging, but it would have been nice to have both bikes at the front where I can see to work on them.

My garage is in a block and has no power, so I have to run a lead across from the house. Luckily a 30m length does it and goes in a square to stay off the neighbours drives. I'm sure they wouldn't mind it going across but this way they get to park and not trip over!

I've had the battery on charge most of the afternoon so far but it was completely dead. I'm hoping that it will hold a charge after all this time.

Yes, time. It seems to have flown very quickly. The tax disc on the Kettle shows it expiring at the end of July 2002! Yep. Five whole years. As you can imagine, the tank is completely dry, but I'll get some petrol tomorrow in the can and feed it a little. I'll pop the plugs and see what needs doing. I was hoping to get it started at least and get it out in the open. It's been SORNed so long the MoT is history.

It is to my shame that I have left it to rust away at the back of the garage. Although saying that, the Scottoiler has kept the chain very oily and it looks as though it was used only yesterday.

The problem that saw me lay her up wasn't that I simply couldn't be arsed, that's the reason I've done nothing, but that the throttle was sticking open at inconvenient times. I had planned to take it across to John Storrie, but never got dates fixed.

I did discover what the cause was. though. In an accident a few years ago, they had fixed most of the main damage apart from the unobtainables, like the brand new exhaust with a ding in it. The end of the throttle grip was scuffed and although it was MY insurance companies assessor, they refused to pay for a new one. One of the reasons I gave Carol Nash the flick.

On investigation, the problem of sticking open and having to be forced shut was that the end of the throttle that hangs over the end of the bar was damaged and has a spike of plastic pushed through and it was occasionally catching on a burr inside the bar! If the tight b*****d from Carol Nash had authorised and new throttle and grip it would have been okay, and I might not have almost soiled my pants a few times with a stuck and full open throttle. All that for a few quid.

13 August 2007

Rye time!

Sunday, we should have been out with the Kent Centre but no one could make it, so we went to Rye anyway.

Since the last time we went they have modified the entrance to the quayside at the Strand. Not for the better for me on the GS with the Touratechs fitted. The gap seems much narrower!

Why they simply don't open it for the bikes is hard to see.

Okay, in the summer the town is teeming with coach loads of Japanese and other more home made tourists, but the bikes keep the Strand Cafe and Kettle of Fish chippie in business. Some exchange for keeping the cash registers chinging might be in order. It's not going to happen.

Anyway, we had a look in a pine shop that Claire likes. All very modern with a CD instead of a paper catalogue. And then a long walk up the hill to have a look around and a coffee.

The weather was so warm and dry. Good job we had the vented jackets on instead of the heavier jackets.

Paul Devall - sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

New Jacket - Buffalo RIP - Hello Suzuki

First job on Saturday was to get rid of Buffalo Jacket 3.

Michael at Robinson's had ordered me an XXL (okay I'm a porker!) Suzuki jacket from a brand new range that they are bringing out. The photo didn't look too impressive with former British Superbike Champion John Reynolds as the model.

However, in reality it looks pretty good. The Suzuki wording on the sleeves and across the back might not be the best advert for a BMW owner but I do have a Suzuki laid-up in the garage.

The jacket is simply called (on the label!) the 99AGV-JCKT-2XL, a name that rolls off the tongue! It is made of Reissa "Power Skin" material and is breathable, waterproof and windproof. The fit is very good with part elasticated hem to hold it close to your arse.

For added security it comes with Knox armour in the shoulders, elbows and back. Over the next few weeks we'll see how it performs.

It comes with a detachable quilted lining, but I'll never get to test this as I hate them. I take them out of all my jackets and I prefer to wear a sweatshirt or micro fleece underneath instead.

9 August 2007

Amsterdam Weekend - More Random Pix

Here are a few more photographs from the Amsterdam weekend. We seemed to be clicking off all over the place, but haven't that many pics to show for it all! I did delete a load of crap ones though!

West Kerk?

Flower Market from other side of canal

First floating flower shot from tram stop!


Inside the ArenA and the Ajax Graffiti Wall.

Amsterdam Weekend - Random Pix

Just a few photos taken over the weekend in Amsterdam. Captioned but not much of a tale to them!

"Nemo" Museum

Floating Chinese Restaurant

Edge of Gay Pride Area marked by pink balloons

View of the canal from our hotel window

Some Pride fans on the Canal.

Ride to Work!

I had this vague idea that riding to work in the summer holiday would be easier and less stressful than normal days when the commuters are racing to work.

The traffic in August is only marginally lighter, the roadworks on the M25 don't help. You realise that whilst there are some wallies on the road, at least out of the holiday season, they are consistent wallies!

Mr and, more often than not, Mrs Vacationer, is far less predictable. Put one of them at the wheel of a car, add a liberal dose of kids and then they weave from lane to lane, mess about with their stereos or whatever it is that means they take their eyes off the road ahead, and generally are a menace.

Only today I had "Mum" (not her real name obviously) at the wheel of an MPV who was unable to actually keep to a consistent speeds, ebbing and flowing in the fairly open reaches of the M20, varying anything between 50 and 70 mph. As I past her she was looking down at her lap for the best part of 15 to 20 seconds... at 70mph... work out how far she had travelled! Around a third of a mile (or say 500 metres) looking down and not at the road. On the phone? Texting? DANGER WILL ROBINSON!

Then there's the summer driver. Usually a man (although we can't let women off the hook too easily), who drives all year round but whose annual mileage hardly exceeds 4000 miles. The summer provides him with his one long journey of the year and he has chosen the same part of France or Germany or wherever as I have. He's also thrifty, his 1990 Escort or more recent Proton is getting old but is in showroom condition. He won't use the toll roads. On the one hand he moans about the state of Britain's roads, but when asked to pay a toll is the first to write to his local paper to complain about road tolls and the iniquity of the use of Road Fund to pay for a few more bullets in Iraq. He has no great idea how to drive for extended periods as his main driving experience is to the station or the supermarket. So he crawls. As he is British he has a right-hand drive car. This makes the autoroute safer in reality, but that inner force that makes sure he never pays a toll means he is sharing the N-roads with you, and he is unable to overtake anything other than the occasional Tour de France wannabe on a cycle. He heads a queue of irate locals without a care in the world. The French can do irate as well as the next man; calm to incandescent in 2 seconds. Except they have another "talent", the ability to overtake in the most ridiculous places, and a lot of that fuelled by being stuck for miles behind Mr Summer Driver!

Worse still, that strange animal, the Human Snail, comes out in the summer. A rare sighting in the winter, once the barometer rises and the calendar gets to June, the roads are increasingly clogged with them; Caravanners. Why? What is there really wrong with a hotel or B&B?

With trucks the next worst thing on the roads and an all year round hazard, as you glide along the motorways of England you see the brake lights coming on and the traffic building into a jam ahead. Quite often, there he is, usually a man but occasionally a woman, their car struggling to meet the legal limit and on the back, their home from home stuck in the middle lane. Unable to get back to the safety of the left lane as the trucks on the inside can't slow down to let him in. And then OMG, there's a big hill ahead for them to crawl up in a deathly rictus! Arrgghh.

Please don't get me started on the old blokes that despite advances in automotive engineering over the last five decades, still wear a hat and coat to drive. For Christ's sake, they have had efficient heaters in even the cheapest car for 40 years! I know your basic Mini or Ford Prefect had no heater and it was colder back in the dark ages, but you have a modern car now. Try reading the manual about how to work the heating and leave the hat and coat for when you get out! Cars have pretty good water sealing, so you don't have to keep an umbrella up in the car when it rains, so why persist with the bloody hat and coat????

Oh well, the holiday season is over for another year soon...

8 August 2007

Amsterdam - Homeward Bound

After a late night on Saturday after the football at the ArenA, we had a late morning and a leisurely breakfast before packing up for the ride back.

At this time we had no idea that by some stroke of luck we had missed the entire closed section of the motorway south of Utrecht on the way up or that it was going to be even hotter than the previous two days.

Is it possible to get sunstroke through your clothes and helmet?

Escaping from Amsterdam was easier said than done. We thought we had retraced our steps back to S108 and the A10 Ring but in fact had gone towards the Centre! I guessed as the Heineken Brewery came into view. A quick ride round the block brought us on the way out, eventually meeting the Ring at S110. Not too bad. Just loads of sitting at traffic lights in the burning sun.

Once on the A10 the A2 wasn't far off and we started to up the pace. Even at 80mph the wind was still warm coming through the top vents of my helmet. As we approached Utrecht there were signs in Dutch that meant very little to us but from the pictographs it looked like motorway closed. We were right as it happens. We followed the detour, that helpfully kept us on the A2 and added 25 miles to the journey to Breda.

Once there we rejoined the original route and we were soon into Belgium. As it was so hot we ended up stopping every 50 miles or so for a drink and a stand in the shade. As my phone wasn't working, Vodafone had put the international bar on (!) I couldn't contact our friends John and Inge to say we were in the area, so instead me went back to the Shuttle. By now it wasn't as hot as it was getting on for 1700 local time.

The trip under the Channel was the usual 35 minutes following ages sitting about, firstly by the big car park and then again alongside the train as they load cars on so that they can stuff us in the last carriage. Does anyone have any idea why we can't be loaded as and when we arrive?

Anyway, all in all a good trip, hot and uncomfortable and not without some niggles. At least the GS ran perfectly the entire trip!

7 August 2007

Quest & Blackberry!!!

As I may have mentioned in one of the entries about our weekend in Amsterdam, the Quest, dear old Doris, had a complete and utter failure. It wasn't my weekend for gadgets!

Firstly, I found that after all the hassle I'd had on the Isle of Man when Vodafone hadn't done as instructed and taken the international bar off my phone, and the subsequent emails and phone calls that supposedly had it sorted; it was Novodafone weekend again. Apparently, some dickhead at Vodafone had put the bar back on. Who said to do it will never be known. Life's like that!

Secondly, Doris went tits-up and couldn't find any of the satellites that are in geo-stationery orbit around the globe to help travellers navigate their way on land, sea and air! As we had planned a quick and dirty autobahn route to Amsterdam it wasn't too much of a problem.

Doris dithering "acquiring satellites" for 200 plus miles was getting to me. Luckily again, I had printed out a route from Via Michelin and also the "how to find the hotel" instructions off the Hilton website. So Claire was able to talk us through the final approaches.

Not so lucky was the scenic route back, island hopping across Zeeland had to be shelved as the route was securely locked in Doris' memory, but she had no idea where we were. I gave her a try and she failed again, so in the end she was confined to the top box in disgrace.

I mentioned earlier about the route up was a little problematic as I took the Rotterdam/Den Haag route upwards. Good job. As going south when we arrived at Utrecht, the motorway south to Gorinchem and eventually Breda was closed. The kind Cloggies eventually gave us a route to follow that took us on two side of a long triangle via 's-Hertogenbosch! So instead of a 74 mile motorway jaunt we had a 99 mile journey!

The weather was much hotter than the trip up and even the days we had spent in the city. Even the wind coming through the top vent on my helmet was hot, even at 80mph.

I digress. A third gadget, and the cheapest, was the mirror I bought. It is designed to go on top of car mirrors to give a wider angle than the OEM ones. I mounted one on the left hand hand guard so I had a bit more view of what was happening behind me when I needed to pull out to overtake. It proved useful and well worth the massive expense! All £3.95 of it!

The upshot of all this was more phone calls to get roaming back in my phone, how will I know?

As for Doris; her days are numbered. After exchanging several emails with Garmin, doing the data reset they suggested (and leaving it in my back garden for 7 hours still unable to find a satellite but thinking she is back at Garmin HQ in the USA!!!) they then said I needed to send it back for their engineers to look at. As with most things, there's a set repair fee and Garmin UK have that set at £86.40. Don't ask how they work that out!

For that, I can have mine fixed or the first suggestion was that they would simply exchange it for a new one. As the emails went on into a second day, they back tracked a bit on that and I might get my own back suitably repaired or a new one. Either way there's a new 12 month warranty.

It's all packed up and ready to go recorded delivery tomorrow. Let's see how the further adventures of the "Doris' Quest" go.

Amsterdam Weekend - Day 2

We were up and breakfasted by 9.30 and out. This time we took Tram #16 instead for some variety and jumped off at Spui as Claire wanted to see the flower market and to buy some bulbs for the garden. On the other side of the road was a Gay Pride banner, penny not yet dropped.

We did the flower market, bought a touristy ceramic clog and bulbs for our next door neighbour who fed the cats for us whilst we were away, and three packs of bulbs for us and Claire's sister. Then we felt we needed a drink.

At the first bar we didn't see hide or hair of the waiting staff and so gave up. Not gay enough? The canal banks were lined with people and anyone that owned a boat was out soaking up the sun.

As well as this there were boats overloaded with people enjoying the Gay Pride day.... dressed up in strange (to us) concoctions and some "ladies" that looked like rugby players in drag.

We had a long walk around and a coffee in Rembrandtplein, once again the service was sloooowwww. Some wandering found us a the Waterlooplein market before we headed back to Centraal Station through more gay pride areas and then China Town.

Dam Square was chocked with people and also those guys that dress up and act like statues. Mimes? Whatever. They were all pretty good and getting a load of attention. In that heat they must have been boiling to death in their costumes. Or perhaps the silver reflected the sun! I took a few pics, although the guys were reluctant to pose and kept turning away. Had they posed they may have been the colour of my money. It's a trade guys!

Tram #2 was the tram of choice this afternoon. It was so hot that we had to have a lie down with a cold tin of beer before the evening at the soccer....

Amsterdam Weekend - Part 1

Phew. What a scorcha!
We were lucky with the weather. When we arrived at the tunnel there was a Harley and two Vespas in front of us in the queue. The Harley guy was wearing an Arsenal scarf but heading to Belgium for a Harley rally, we weren't wearing any Arsenal gear but were heading for Amsterdam. Partly for a weekend away, and partly to go to the ArenA for the LG Tournament (see elsewhere on the Blog).

By the time we got into Belgium my odometer was showing 60 miles since fuel. I needed a drink as I hadn't had any breakfast so we pulled into the new services after Veurne. I filled up and we had coffee. We were in no real hurry. The route I had planned for the GPS was scrapped as for some reason the Quest was on the fritz again. Unable to find satellites. I persevered for most of the journey to Amsterdam and it wheezed into life a couple of times. Maybe for 3 miles in 230 travelled each way!

As we approached Breda (with Amsterdam not on any road signs) I took the straight on option towards Rotterdam and Den Haag rather than the loop over the top pt Utrecht. By fluke not a bad mistake as was revealed on the way back (more of that later!)

With the GPS belly-up, we were lucky that I had printed off the Via Michelin route to the hotel and the hotel's own info sheet, so Claire was able to navigate off the motorway ring road. We checked in and changed into civvies.

We then discovered that we had booked into the same hotel as the Arsenal team - the Hilton. As we went down in the lift we shared it with Nicholas Bendtner, (he is very tall!) and one of the kit men. We ran into players all the time and never when Claire had the phone-camera turned ON! No darned pics!

We found the two nearest tram stops and took #2 into the centre and then checked out how to get a strippen card to hop on and off the trams and metro. It's all done by folding the 15-trip card in the right place and sticking in a machine. Once stamped you have an hour to get where you want. How you work out how many zones seems like a lottery as Emmastraat seemed inside the yellow line on the map showing it to be in the Central zone, the same as Centraal Station, but they bipped it twice when there was a guard/ticket seller on the train!

After sorting the tram tickets out, we decided to have a cruise along the canals and the harbour area. We chose Holland International (http://www.hir.nl/) for cruise. It was €11 each, but had the most comfy looking seats! The cruise takes about an hour and is indeed a rondvaart!

After the cruise we decided to head back to the hotel. We had got our bearings for the next full day of sightseeing! We retraced our steps on the #2 tram. Stopping for a beer (our first!) at a bar by the Emmastraat tram stop. A bit upmarket with some "beautiful people" (or plonkers!) drinking wine in such an affected way of holding the stem you wanted to slap them. Especially the blond version of Llewellyn-Bowen in the white blazer.

After nap and change we rubbed shoulders with Cesc and Alex Hleb who were larking about in the foyer. Sadly, we didn't have the camera with us (!) and Claire's phone was turned off! Too late! Later, as we ate. Mr Wenger and Pat Rice came past as we sat outside a nearby Italian restaurant.

LG Amsterdam Tournament 2007

Another bit of pre-season silverware for the Arsenal to add to the trophy cabinet.

We arrived halfway through the 2nd half of the early game in time to see three quick goals from Athletico and Lazio. Athletico Madrid running out winners in the end, 3-1.

The Arsenal supporters were crammed in the away supporters area, surrounded by perspex walls and toothed razor topping! You can see it in the picture on the left!
Our seats were already occupied and we were told it was a case of "sit anywhere". So we sat a few rows up. Then the ticket holders arrived and forced us to move. Nice to see some Arsenal supporters are so understanding.

We went down and almost reclaimed our seats, sitting one to the left of where we should have been! The knobheads dancing and shouting right by us eventually sat down so we could see.

The game went off okay, us in control and them kicking us up in the air all the time. Some dubious tackles on Robin van Persie, the "sporting" whistles when one of our players was fouled, and then the brutal tacking on RvP once he had scored our winner.

As soon as the whistle went we were off to the Metro and after a short wait we got away, two tram changes later we were back at the hotel, the Hilton. In the foyer was Arsenal keeper Jens Lehmann! We had left the ground before the trophy presentation and hurried back! Perhaps we should have asked for a lift in the Arsenal coach!!!!



I changed the Buffalo Jacket on Thursday. Rode home from Canterbury. Friday rode to Amsterdam. Maybe opened and closed the flap three of four times at most.

Hung jacket in the hotel wardrobe, not using it again until 11am or so when checking out of the hotel. Then I noticed the bloody pop stud had torn out again. How can it be?

This is three jackets since April! All gone the same way. Once was a pain and perhaps duff manufacture. Twice? But three times!

It might all seem a joke to some people, but it's £100 of my money invested in the jacket. On top of that a 36 mile round trip to change it each time @ 50mpg? Say 108 miles, so 10 litres of petrol, so at today's prices I'm also out of pocket to about £9 in petrol! Plus the time wasted!

Looks like a refund this time or change for another design. I have emailed Michael Robinson at Robinsons Foundry to see about another exchange!

2 August 2007

Travel money?

What to do? The money pages are full of rip-off tales from the banks whether you use a Switch card in the ATM's or fron credit card purchaes.

So for the Amsterdam trip I've had a look at various options and ended up with pre-purchasing ciurrency on the Travalex website, to be collected at Eurotunnel terminal. They had the best rate and no commission.
Paul Devall - sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device


New jacket collected today. Top marks to Robinsons at Canterbury - no quibble at all.

Let's see how we get on with this one. At the end of the day it's not been that bad; one damp pocket. That may of course be down to me being a fair weather biker and not out in the worst of it. It also means that in three months I've had a new jacket every month.

Amsterdam tomorrow.

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

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