Sunday 30 July 2006

Wales bike tour (including a crash!)

Blog Post Embargoed until Mum realises that Andrew is not phoning her from Australia, but is in fact at the front door.

Andrew came back from Oz this weekend and came to visit me. We had planned a 3 day motorbike tour round Wales with young Nons riding pillion on my CB500.

First thing we have to do is go and buy him a new bike helmet as I have enough bike kit to lend him except a spare helmet. So off we set on my and Wendy's bikes to TW Motorcycles in Kidlington to get him a cheap helmet. As we're cycling along the pavement, one moment I'm on the bike, the next I'm doing my best to fracture my wrist, sliding along the pavement. The seat had snapped off! There was one bolt holding the saddle on and it snapped clean through. I was damn lucky not to snap my wrist as I landed on my hand and scraped my elbow, shoulder, foot, ankle, knee (the one that is still sore from climbing fall) and my shoulder - ruining one of my fav t-shirts in the process. Lucky we were going real slow and on the pavement. If we'd been on the roads with one of those Oxford buses following us I would had been squished! I might start wearing a cycle helmet from now on. Also reminds me why I wear full kit on the motorbike. I have pretty sore grazes from that fall and I was only going <10mph!

Anyhow we got a pretty decent helmet for young Master Pea-head (size small - me size XL! lol!). I spend the rest of the morning setting up my new TomTom Rider on the bike and wiring it into the bike battery. Eventually we set off for Wales.

The first day is pretty hot and I think I have programmed the TomTom to take us on a particular route to Tenby. Unfortunately, TomTom outwits me and instead of going on the nice A40 route Brian made up for me (thanks Brian! - No Thanks Rina!), I end up on the M4! That is quite a bit off course!

wrt to the TomTom Rider and my Starcom Intercom, I was happy to find that I managed to get the two working together by plugging the Bluetooth unit into the audio port of the intercom. That way I got all the audio commands. I couldn't speak through the phone (although I could make the calls) so something still needs sorted out though. Starcom did well though and Andy and I were chatting about all things Aussie most of the way round Wales.

This has left me pretty jealous of life in Oz. I can't believe I have never even met so many of our relatives. It sounds like they have such a great life, so one day I will just head there and tell them to "show me everything you showed Andy".

Night 1 in Wales we stayed at the Youth Hostel in Manorbier, near Tenby. The hostel really was in the middle of nowhere. The room was decent, but somebody in there smelt of stale pi$$. Considering Andrew has been staying in hostels for a year, for him to think it stunk, must mean it was bad. Would have been nice if the guy running the place had told us when we booked in that we needed to pre-book breakfast. We had to make a 40min round trip just to get some bacon and rolls to cook!

The next day we rode around the roads between Tenby and Fishguard and saw some quite nice beaches and coves and little villages including Dale, where we had lunch. We also visited St David's cathedral and tried to eat there. Took about 20min in a tiny queue to get served - the place was so badly run. Basically we made our way up the Pembrokeshire coast. The weather was once again quite wet, but it was still fun.

Saturday night we stayed at the Hamilton Backpackers Hostel in Fishguard. The owner was quite sound at first and let me park the bike off road behind a gate and was telling me about his Bandit. He wasn't so sound when we wanted to pay him at 8.30am the next day so we could leave. He seemed pi$$ed off that people might want to A) Pay him, and B) leave. Once again looking to the benchmark Littlest Hobo, Andy said he was about the rudest hostel owner he had stayed with. Ho-hum, I'm sure as long as you don't pay or leave he is a barrel of laughs.

That day's riding had the potential to be great as we were on the roads we had missed by taking the M4, but unfortunately it rained very heavily and we got completely drenched in the morning. However, the roads were great - even in the rain - so that made up for it. This time my TomTom itinery worked fine!

Anyway, was a great ride! The first time I have attempted any type of tour in the UK. I think now I will try to persuade Wendy that she could handle a long ride (oo-err) and attempt to ride round South-West England. Might take more that 3 days that one though!

Picture gallery here.

Thursday 27 July 2006

TomTom Excitement

A picture says a thousand words!

(Thanks Kate!)

Tuesday 25 July 2006

TomTom Rider - Cheap!

Today was an exciting day. Days like these don't come around often.

There were many exciting points about today. These points included things that might seem very mundane to the ordinary man, but when you know what the day holds ahead, even the very mundane things become elevated to exciting things.

Today my TomTom Rider arrived!

When this baby first came out it was priced at £600. Ha! £600? I could get a new bike for that! Much as I salivated over the prospect of owning this little GPS baby for my motorbike, £600 was a little out of my price bracket. When I was in Spain the other day I was on the look-out for cheap GPS units, but I forgot that satellites don't go over Spain so they don't sell GPS.

No worries, when I checked the price on Amazon the other day, I saw it was down to £350.

I used to try and find the cheapest price, until, using I found my beloved TomTom Rider for £320 inc. p&p at I paid for next day delivery, and I am very glad to say it did indeed arrive next day. They even phoned to confirm delivery address, so thumbs up for their service.

Oh how I love the touch sensitive screen. How I love the thought of downloading all the speed cameras onto the thing. How I wish I had had it when I was in Spain!

Uber cute kid

Before I get to the main post tonight, I have to post this video of the cutest (genius) kid in the world. I think she might be Korean and the dialogue is in Japanese. Just look at how happy she is!

Sunday 23 July 2006


Went paintballing today with the guys from BCF to Delta Force near Reading. Was a great day out. My team lost but I managed to have a fair few decent games and shot quite a few people. Should be going again some time in August.

Yahoo mail isn't working at the moment with is a bit of a pain in the neck as Yahoo messenger doesn't mind telling me that I have 7 messages waiting. They'll all be junk anyway.

Saturday 22 July 2006

Bow wave

I've been waiting for a car to go past so I could get a picture of a bow wave. My knee still hurts - I keep bashing it everytime I jump up to the window to take a picture!

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Oxford Flooded

After a few days of unbearable humidity, the heavens have decided to open. There has been some quite impressively heavy rainfall over the past hour or so. My bike is getting flooded so much that the water is over the back wheel. I'd guess there's been about 6-8 inches of rain in the past hour. Everytime a car goes past my bike it gets covered with a big bow wave!

...and it is still raining heavily. Should make the paintball tomorrow a fairly damp experience!

Sunday 16 July 2006

Two Weeks in Andalucia, Spain

Just got back from a two week holiday in Andalucia, Spain. The first two week holiday I have had in a long, long time and it was very welcome!

We were staying in a villa called Casa Rosina, which is in a fairly remote part of Andalucia in the South of Spain. The nearest village was a place called Periana (map)

This is the first time I had been to Spain. Unfortunately, I barely speak any Spanish. On the other hand, this made me feel like a real British tourist as I could walk around in ignorance just asking things in English, in that annoying, LOUD and SLOW was we do. However, I did find much use for the phrase 'no entiendo'. I think I will try to make more effort to learn some of the lingo before I go next time.

The holiday party was Me, Wendy, my Mum and Dad, my brother Fraser and his girlfriend Lauren.

The villa was really nice and over 200 years old. Mum and Dad took the large double room upstairs, while Fraser and I wrestled (winner - me! Yeah!) then tossed a coin (winner - Fraser. Boo!) to see who would get the other big double room with en suite, or the small double room. We agreed to swap rooms halfway through the holiday, although, amusingly, somone had a little temper tantrum when we actually got round to the big swap! Staying in the small room was the first time I can remember being in pitch dark for a long time. I woke up in the middle of the night and for a second thught I had gone blind as I had no night vision and could not see a single thing - not even my hand in front of my face!

The villa had a small pool, which when we arrived seemed to be the favourite hang out of the local wasps. Fraser and I soon put an end to that, aided by the pool net and a couple of wooden bats. I think between us we must have killed a fair few dozen of the useless insects. In fact the locals were so impressed that they held a party in the street for us a named me '√°guila de la sierra de la cadena', which in Spanish means 'the great warrior who came and saved us from the evil insects using his quite impressive ninja skills'. Fraser, for his part, received the name 'tablero que plancha', which means 'the slightly less impressive warrior who helped the better warrior'. They promised to hold a street festival in our honour each year.

We found a strange insect around the pool. I thought it might be some kind of Rhino beetle, perhaps Dynastidae, but Dad is an expert in insects and assured me that it was a spider.*

In the first week, Wendy and I made a long drive to Cordoba to visit the Mezquita Cordoba Mosque. It's quite impressive - a huge mosque, with a Christian cathedral built within it. How's that for harmony?! ;)

We visited Malaga thinking it would be a bit of a dump, but it was actually quite nice. It has a huge Moorish fort which we didn't bother visiting. (I intend making those photos into a panoramic)

Of course you can't visit Andalucia without visiting the Alhambra. It was incredibly hot there though, which made the day a bit of a struggle.

We took some climbing stuff with us (thanks Rina and N*****K!) as we were reasonably near El Chorro gorge (photo by Wendy), which is one of the world's most famous rock climbing spots. Unfortunately most of the climbs were too difficult for us *insert usual excuses here* so we decided to climb down in Valle de Abdalajís. After an age looking aorund, we eventually found some bolted climbs, including Wish you were here, Spocky, which looked like a reasonable climb. Unfortunately it didn't go so well. As usual I was rubbish and got stuck. I eventually went for the move and managed to get the quickdraw in, but then I fell... I was just about to clip in so was about 2m above the previous bolt, so I guess I fell about 4-5m. I haven't actually ever fallen before when leading and I would have been okay, but my left leg went into a crack so my left knee made contact with the wall first. That hurt. It's about a week since thne as I type and it still hurts a fair bit (I had a bit of trouble walking around for the rest of the holiday!). Poor Wendy had a bit of a weight disadvantage and got pulled up a meter or so through a spiky bush! Nevertheless, she held on well and saved me! So if you're ever looking for a belayer when you are about to lead climb, don't overlook Wendy just because she is 'not experienced' enough. A) She's got to learn somehow and B) she has just proved that she is more than capable of holding a falling climber.

Anyway, I hurt too much so I had to lower off the quickdraw and leave the other one in too, meaning I left two quickdraws for some lucky climbers (who are not as useless as me). Can you spot them?

No trip to Spain is complete without some motorbiking, so Fraser and I got a hold of a couple of bikes and took some action shots.

Here is the full public picture gallery of my holiday pics. (N.B. That's not all the photos. Most of the pics with people in them are not on the website, because one of our number is a little shy - I will put them up in a password spot later)

*For the sake of Dad's sanity, I must point out that I am only joking. Dad knew what type of beetle it was. He really likes his beetles does our Dad. In fact, as soon as that picture was taken, he picked it up, bit its head off and sucked out the insides! We didn't show Dad any more beetles that holiday.