A List Of Things I Dislike A Lot

Saturday 04 September 2010 at 8:21 pm

I’m often accused of being a grumpy bastard, and that’s probably quite fair.  Here’s an ongoing list (in order of when I thought of them) of stuff that really pisses me off.

  • Football, to include the game itself, footballers, and all the associated flag-waving jingoism and riduculous ‘my team of overpaid delta-minuses are better than your identical team of sub-human missing links’ nonsense.
  • People who describe themselves as ‘wacky’.
  • Old people driving around with their bloody door mirrors folded in.
  • Cheryl Cole
  • The new so-called Mini.  Ghastly horrible travesty, not worthy of the name.  In fact, I’ll go further.  Anyone caught owning a new Mini convertible and putting a private registration plate on it should be summarily shot, and their horrid little car fire-bombed.  Leave your iPhone in the car, love.
  • On the subject of cars (and football), people who have a private registration plate with their favourite football team on it.  There’s several ‘WHU’ plates locally which really narks, especially as I was beaten up by some charming West Ham ‘fans’ in 1987.
  • My f***ing lawnmower.
  • Songs which contain the words ‘crib’ or ‘club’.  Or ‘clerrrb’ as it’s usually pronounced.

Nurburgring Trip Day 6

Thursday 15 July 2010 at 10:35 pm

Monday 12 July
OnRoad Cafe, Germany to home

Mileage start:not sure end:25335 miles travelled:597 (less about 80 on the previous day)

This was it, last day.  To be honest I was ready to go home, having been bombarded with so many new experiences and missing my lot at home.  However I really hadn’t reckoned on the sheer distances involved.

We left the hotel about 8.45 after filling up on the usual German breakfast fare of fresh rolls, cold meats and boiled eggs and were straight into the twisties again.  We dropped John off along the way as he was spending an extra day at the OnRoad.  Roads were fine until Belgium… Trev had warned us that we would be riding the worst road ever and we took it with a pinch of salt, but the reality was just that.  This particular stretch (and I can’t remember exactly where it was), was about 5 miles of the most rutted, pot-holed, crappy tarmac you’ve ever driven on.  It’s like the tanks rolled in in 1939 and they never bothered to fix it.

Soon it became just mile after mile of motorway.  After we’d negotiated the Brussels ring road we pulled into a small town to try for a coffee, and ended up in a McDonalds.  Next stop was Brugge, where we’d arranged to meet up for lunch with some other TDM club members who were on their way home from Brno.  Nice town centre and good chips.

Then it was motorway, motorway and more motorway.  We all had to come up with ways of keeping ourselves alert, mainly involving singing, shouting, waving at car passengers and (Ian’s personal favourite) shooting caravans.

Eventually Calais arrived, and after we’d blown the last of our euros on fuel and snacks we were back on the train to Blighty.  It almost felt like ‘nearly home’, but in reality there was still a good way to ride.  Being back on the left felt natural after a week on the wrong side, but it was clear that European drivers are more courteous than British ones.  After a trouble-free week in the motorsport heartland of Germany, as soon as we were back on the M20 there’s some moron in a car driving up your arse at 85mph.  And after Trev and I left Ian at Ipswich and headed into Lowestoft, we had a child in an N-reg Fiesta who decided his 1100cc engine could burn us off at the lights.  Bloody idiot.

All in all a fantastic time was had by all.  My total mileage from door to door was 1221 and my faithful TDM850 never missed a beat.  I think my riding has improved from all the hairpin practice, and I’d definitely do it all again.  I’d remember my phone and camera chargers next time though.

Nurburgring Trip Day 5

Thursday 15 July 2010 at 7:55 pm

Monday 12 July
Cochem and Burg Eltz

Mileage start:24738 end:forgot to record it miles travelled:not sure - see tomorrow's entry

Sightseeing day - of course someone had to go out for an early-morning play while the rest of us were getting ready...

Cochem: We took a brilliantly twisty road (see, I'm starting to enjoy it!) which eventually led down into the Mosel valley and the town of Cochem.  Unfortunately a great deal of the route was in the middle of resurfacing, so instead of fast sweeping curves we got miles of loose gravel.  The town of Cochem is very touristy, with its fair share of shops selling crappy gifts, but the town itself is lovely, especially in the bright sunshine we'd again brought with us.  We found a great patisserie and treated ourselved to cake and ice-cream (like a bunch of 8-year-olds).  I also bought John a kid's bicycle bell with compass to install on his ZZR, as an introduction to the technical world of satnav.  Don't think he's fitted it yet...

The plan was then to ride along the banks of the Mosel to get to Burg Eltz castle, but first we went back up the road into town for some photo-opportunities:

Burg Eltz:  following the trusty satnav we found the castle car park, then took the shuttle bus down into the valley to see this spectacular castle.  Pity about the crane & scaffolding...

Then a quick ride back, and John and Ian went out on a second 'Ring lap in the quieter Monday night session.  By this time my camera battery had expired, so there's no more pics from me of that, I'm afraid.

As the hotel kitchen is closed on Mondays, we spent the evening in Adenau, and ended up having a bite to eat with Klasien, the landlady, who was passing.  It was an interesting conversation, with German, French, Dutch and a great deal of translation between them all.  Quick night-ride back to the hotel to finally pack our bags.

Nurburgring Trip Day 4

Thursday 15 July 2010 at 7:37 pm

Sunday 11 July
Lap of the 'Ring day!

Mileage start:24702 end:24738 miles travelled:36

Today was the day!  On Sundays the 'Ring is open all day to the paying public, rather than just evenings lke the rest of the week.  So it's a bit of a free-for-all.  We all went up to the car park to have a nose around at the hardware; the highlight was this DeTomaso Pantera in immaculate condition, right down to the polished diff case.  Don't know if it went on a lap though.

 
 
 

The heat was unbearable again - and no shade in that car park, so Trev and I left the others to it and rode off to the considerably more shady viewing area to wait for their lap.  In the end the track got closed after an accident, so back to the cafe for more currywurst.  After more waiting and closures they eventually lapped about 3 o'clock.  I think I was almost as excited as Ian with the added pressure of getting a good picture through the thick chain-link fence!  In the end I got a full complement of 24 shots of him coming down the hill.

 
 

Nurburg Castle: with that excitement out of the way (to quote Ian's text message: "Oh my f***ing god...Better than sex, no track will ever be like that... I think I let a little bit of wee out... I'm too hyper to go out again now!! I'm shaking"), Trev and I went off to find the tower we'd kept seeing poking out of the forest.  Turned out to be Nurburg Castle, which we manfully struggled up despite the heat.  In fact, only Trev made it to the top of the tower.  I had an attack of vertigo and claustrophobia halfway up!  Nice views though.

 
 
 
 
 

A walk in the country: After re-grouping at the hotel, 3 of us decided we'd see where the path at the right of the hotel led to.  It's only about 3km to the next town, but after a hot day it felt much further.  We had a brief poke around the closed-for-the-night Adenau and headed back as it was barbeque night at the hotel.

Unfortunately we were a bit late:  the football was about to start, and the Dutch landlord wanted to see his team play.  So rather than being waited on, we ended up cooking our own tea.  We ran out of stamina before extra time, so heard the result in the morning.  Spain won 1-0 which meant I had won my work's sweepstake... bonus!

Nurburgring Trip Day 3

Thursday 15 July 2010 at 3:48 pm

Saturday 10 July
Just bimbling about, really

Mileage start:24643 end:24702 miles travelled:59

Finally a good night's sleep.  Slight blip at 2am when I awoke to what sounded like a hard day at the sawmill.  Luckily my earplugs drowned him out.

Exploring the twisty roads:  The morning was spent first visiting the new Nurburgring complex, which was very impressive but there wasn't much going on.  Plus it was about 40degrees so it was cooler on the move.  Some of the bends scared me a lot, as I'm not the most confident rider - lots of tight hairpins.  In fact a set of double hairpins HERE were dubbed the 'Carway Esses' after a bit of a brown-trousers moment!  And every time it looked like a twisty bit was coming up, Ian would come flying past me at Mach 0.9, all knees & elbows, the frickin' psycho.

We had a trundle up to one of the track viewing areas to look at some of the machinery going past, and it was at this point I finally made up my mind not to ride it.  The speed at which some of those cars came by was staggering, and my thoughts turned to my daughter Molly, who had turned 6 months old the day before... priorities!

German food:  there's a petrol station quite near the track entrance with a nice little cafe next to it, so we stopped for lunch under the shade of their parasols.  I thought I'd try something German, and ended up with currywurst - basically sausage with curry sauce and some chips.  Very cosmopolitan!

All done from memory: John had a stint at leading our group for a while, and he's very anti-satnav.  "Just memorise the routes a section at a time" he says.  He then led us down a blind country track on the pretext that he'd seen a performance car go down there.  Then we went to Hoch Acht (which may or may not be some sort of high point) for a bit more panorama action.

On the way back we stopped off at Adenau bridge, another popular track viewing point.

Traffic spotting: there's no finer sport after a hard day's sweating than sitting in the front garden with a cold beer, playing a game of "which make of bike/car's going to come past next".  The sheer variety of vehicles is amazing - anything from MK1 Cortinas to Opel GTs to a DeTomaso Pantera.  The football was on so we watched Germany come third in some cup thing or other whilst eating steak, taking the piss out of each other and drinking quite a lot of German wheat beer (it's my new favourite).  We also examined some of the 'shiny shiny' things lying around in the hotel, and spent a long time extolling the virtues of a beautifully crafted brand-new piston and a crownwheel & pinion from a diff.  Later on John discovered a medal and presented it to me as the 'Captain Slow' award for the slowest rider.  I accepted it with thanks.

During the late evening there was an incredible electrical storm and quite a lot of rain, but by the morning it had dried off.  Oh, and apparently I snore like a dodgy turbo, complete with wastegate noises.

Nurburgring Trip Day 2

Thursday 15 July 2010 at 3:44 pm

Friday 9 July
Saint Quentin to OnRoad Cafe, Germany

 

Mileage start:24419 end:24643 miles travelled:224


An early start for day two (mostly since none of us could sleep), and the weather didn't look good with black clouds and showers.  Fortunately the rain cleared after half an hour on the road, and we were underway.

As the new experiences were coming thick and fast I'm a bit hazy on the route, and I can't remember where I took most of the following pictures.  Of course these don't do justice to the sheer breathtaking-ness of the views that I was seeing for the first time.

Rocroi

Givet

Wellin: during a brief stop to check the sat nav, we had stopped on a street in a small town.  To the right was an infants school, and the kids had a great time waving (and being waved at).  They had an extra treat, too; Trev had started off, but didn't notice Ian's bike wouldn't start.  In the end we had to bump it, much to the amusement of the schoolkids and some people in a shop over the road.  To add a bit more excitement we missed the turn, and ended up meeting up in Wellin, with Trev having rushed through an additional country (Luxembourg) to get back to us.  Nice coffee shop though.

La Roche-en-Ardennes

Into Germany: the roads were now getting properly twisty - and whilst the others were loving it, I'm not the most confident rider and was a bit nervy. But as the week went on, my confidence improved.  Here's one of the first views of Germany:

OnRoad Cafe: soon we had arrived at the OnRoad.  It's a fantastic base for Nurburgring, or even if the 'Ring isn't of any interest to you, the sightseeing in the region is spectacular.  You'll need to be a bit of a petrolhead though - the place is run by a Dutch Ducati owner, and is chock-full of motorsport memorabilia: a brake disc signed by Capirossi; all sorts of engine parts; the bar footrest is made of brake discs and exhaust pipes and there are car and bike posters everywhere.  Rooms are spacious and clean and the food is great (more on that later).  Click on the 'Related Link' below for more info.  They're such nice people, and deserve your business.  And full-sized towels, too!  Clicky the OnRoad's website

There's also a secure garage underneath the hotel, so your bike will be as well looked after as you are.

Cake!:  At teatime John recommended the spare ribs, and an impressive serving it is too! 

And (if you'll excuse the euphemism) the icing on the cake was, well, some cake!  As this year it was both Ian's and my 40th birthdays, Trev (bless) had rung ahead and sorted out a lovely dessert for us (borrowed your pics Trev).

Nurburgring Trip Day 1

Thursday 15 July 2010 at 3:32 pm

EDIT: 27 April 2011.  Just heard from Trev that John was sadly killed yesterday in a crash on his Hayabusa.  These holiday memories become all the more poignant and are dedicated to him.  R.I.P. John Blackman.

Thursday 8 July
Home to Saint Quentin, France
Mileage start:24114  end:24419  miles travelled:305

Ride to Trev's:  left my house at 7am, via petrol station and arrive at Trev's for a quick coffee, exchange of spare keys and off we go!


Meet Ian at Ipswich:  bear in mind that the furthest I've ever ridden my bike is to Coventry (from Lowestoft), and I'd never driven outside the UK, let alone ridden a bike, I was a bit daunted by the upcoming trip.  I'm the kind of person who gets excited when I cross the Orwell Bridge, as it seems like a long way from home!

Dartford Crossing:  after a quick bacon roll our southward journey was fine until Dartford - Trev and I went through the toll barrier together, but Ian suddenly disappeared.  It was a baking hot day and in the long queue all our bikes were getting warm, and we worried that he'd overheated.  We slowed for a stretch, waiting for him to catch up but it turned out he'd found a free tollbooth and buggered off!  Thanks to the wonder of mobile phones, we were reunited and it was on to Dover.

Meet up with John at Eurotunnel:  at Dover we met up with the fourth member of our group, seasoned 'Ring rider and ex-military children's entertainer John (ZZR-1100).  For me this was when the excitement really ramped up, and I was staggered to be riding my bike onto a train!

 

Wrong side of the road:  so here we were at Calais, in actual French France!  A quick fillup of l'essence sans plombe and we were away on the wrong side of the road.  Veteran european tourist John in the lead got a bit impatient and decided he'd accelerate my rider training by making me filter through traffic in a strange country on the opposite side of the road.  Thanks John!

Stop off in Chambrai:  a mainly motorway-based spell of riding followed, and we stopped off in the town of Chambrai for a coffee.  From there it was not far to our final destination for the night.

 
 

Hotel at Saint Quentin:  the hotel was a late choice by trip organiser Trev, after our first choice was full.  It was booked unseen so we didn't know what to expect.  As I stepped into the room I was due to share with Ian, I could only see one bed!  But no, there it was, on what I can only describe as a shelf on the wall.

When Ian was packing for the trip, he'd chatted to Trev who'd said, 'no, you won't need a towel, the hotels supply them'.  This particular hotel's towels were a little on the small side, about the size of a small tea-towel, and nowhere near big enough to fit round a full-grown human being.  Mind you, it was so hot that showering was a pretty pointless excercise as you'd be sweating again immediately afterwards.  With 'Towelgate' behind us, we locked up the bikes and went to the restaurant next door.

Restaurant:  This was a very pleasant place, and as the only one who could remember any schoolboy French I tried (poorly) to translate the menu for us.  All went well until the coffees, when maybe the couple of beers we'd had kicked in, and it all went a bit wrong.  John's language skills mostly consisted of saying what he wanted in English, but with ze French accent.  It was like a bad episode (is there any other type?) of Allo Allo.  "I want coffee like zees weeth no creme..."

And so to bed.  On a shelf.  In the middle of an 24-hour industrial area.  In a sauna.  With the tiniest pillows designed for Hobbit-children.  Night night...

Fuji S200EXR shutter release self build

Saturday 10 July 2010 at 6:51 pm
circuit diagram

I built a shutter release switch for my Fuji S200EXR out of an old mouse.  This is the circuit diagram.  The idea came from this website www.trafficshaper.com, where there’s a view of the inside of the RR-80.  As it’s only 3 resistors and a couple of switches it was pretty straightforward to build, although it’s impossible to find a 2-stage shutter button switch without actually dismantling a camera!

The other difficult bit is getting the Mini-B USB plug.  I got mine as a solderable one from Maplin, but it only connects to the standard 4 USB pins.  The 5th pin is what’s required here, so I had to modify the plug, too.

So on my otherwise standard-looking mouse left-click is focus, right-click is shoot.  More details and pictures available if anyone’s interested.  Here’s a pic of it in action to take a self-portrait with some burly bikers!

 
The next plan is to build in a timer circuit so I can do unattended time-lapse photography.  Watch this space, probably won’t happen for months!