Tuesday, 4 January 2011

31 The 7 week wait...

OK folks, it's been 7 weeks since our last post.

Why, you ask. A combination of things realy, laziness, not having anthing to write about and not realy going anywhere except for the trip home.

So what have we been doing since the 16th Nov ?

Well, we witnessed a geriatric sporting event over the weekend, windsurfing to be precise. It was surreal, these people have more energy than most teenagers and watching their perseverance was something to behold. There was about 30 of them and most were pretty good.
This is surreal...
And they can do it too....

We though we would make you all jealous with this pic taken whilst shopping - a place of torture for me you understand.

£4.50 for a bottle of Irish whiskey....nice

The weather was pretty good as Leon can testify to...

Oi, bugger off with that camera....I'm trying to sleep

On Wed 20th we had an ABBA fix and attended the on site bar and showed our age (we are younger than most there - he  he).
Shame we could not hear them over their own music...

We then started to get ourselves ready to make the long journey home. We had a lot to do. During the storm in Barcelona, the wheel spokes on Wallace took a battering and rusted quite badly. Not good for a new bike and I was not impressed. I had to take them all out, 2 at a time and clean them up and varnish them knowing that it would not last long.
The aftermath of the storm in Barcelona
 At the same time, Yamaha agreed to replace them but I decided to get some stainless steel ones made up. Job for when we get back to the UK.
I also had a problem with the trailer (again). The steel mud guard frames appeared a bit loose. On closer inspection I saw that they were completely breaking up and I had caught it just before they snapped off completely. As a temporary measure, I got some large backing washers and some plastic shims to stop the degradation and allow me to at least get it home.
I supplied some photos to the manufacturers and they agreed to replace them free of charge, sending them to Scotland.

I think these would have snapped off on the way home.

Anyway, having sorted out the bike and trailer we were now in a position to load up for the trip back.
Now, knowing the salt that was on the road in the UK I got hold of a can of anti rust spray from a mate in the UK and sprayed the disks and spokes having taken the brake pads out.

In France and Spain they do not have a Halfords of anything similar so buying degreaser and cleaner for motor vehicles is a nightmare. Sometimes the UK is better !

We loaded Wallace onto the trailer, stuffed the push bikes on the back of Lizzy and sold our inadequate tent extention to Dick. We went out for a meal with Dick and a lovely couple called  John and Jackie. This is the second meal they have taken us for and have showed us some fantastic restarants that we would not normally have even thought of. Some people are just plain beautiful, inside and out and these people are just that.

The next day, the 2nd, we set off on the long, 2100km, tedeous trek home. We drove all day and stopped at about 10pm to watch "I'm a Celerbrity, Get me out here". Its quite mad, just pull up, start the generator, flick the sat dish up and watch UK TV. It's a hard life isnt it.
After the break, we set off again and drove into France. It was now starting to get realy cold and started to snow heavilly. A bit of a contrast from the place we had left about 18 hours previously. We had reached an area of France called the "Central Massif", which is a big plateaux about 400km long and about 1200m high. About midnight we were turned off the motorway as it had closed (due to snow) - not good.
As we got to ther bottom of the exit ramp, the police stopped us and asked us what we were doing. After a breif chat we were told to go back onto the motorway and carry on. Apparently it was only closed to lorries. I was a bit concerned as Lizzy is about the same size as a small lorry ! We stoped a short while later at about 1am, in an Aire and got our heads down for a bit.

We set off again at about 7am and the snow was wild.

Short break on the Cebtral Massif

We pressed on gaining height all the time and suddenly we came out of the clouds and the sun started to shine. We assumed we had to go back down the mountain through what we had just come through, but it was nice neverless. We assumed correct !

Ooh look, snowploughs....a lesson for the UK perhaps

I also noticed that we had lost one of our trailer wheel arches. Nice, but not entirely unexpected.
We plugged on and on and made the mistake of arriving in Paris during the rush hour. Bloody hell! I'm glad I wasn't driviving.....

After this we were both seriously stressed out so decided to park up just outside Paris and again watch Celebrity. Sad aren't we.

The next day, the 4th, we made the final push to Calais. The snow had stopped and it was a pleasant but cold day. We parked up within 200m of the town centre (try doing that in the UK with a motorhome) and had a short bimble around the town and then hit the cheap booze supermarket, overloaded poor Lizzy and them headed for the port.

Big mistake. We should have booked the ferry on line. It cost £36 to sail out and this trip back cost £160. Grrrrrrrr

The crossing was undramatic. Can't say the same for the landing. Lizzy was parked up against the sea door and as the door opened there was 2" on snow on the front of the ship and when ther ramps went down we did not think we would get off. It was a white out blizzard. Following a slow and careful drive up and down the elevated roadway we finally cleared customs and exited the port.
The next 90 miles was interesting to say the least. Unlike France, Kent council obviously do not look at weather reports. The A2/M2 was down to 2 wheel tracks and was awful.It obviously had not seen a plough or any salt for a long time.

We needed gas (LPG) as we had not filled Lizzy whilst abroad due to not having an adapter for European LPG fillers. We pulled into one service area and straight onto an area that had not been used at all. Lizzy gradually slowed to a halt and we were stuck. I got out and was up to my knees in snow. We disconnected the trailer, pushed it back to from where we had come till we met better wheel tracks and then reversed Lizzy back too.  We connected the trailer again and when we got to the petrol pumps, there was no LPG. We drove on and at the next service station where LPG was advertised we drove up the ramp and got stuck again with Lizzy blocking the whole place. We managed to get going again, filled up and eventually got to Harlow at about 9pm. A quick phone call to forewarn Trula to put the kettle on and we dumped Lizzy ouside her flat. Trula and Paige were (apparently) pleased to see us and after a quick cuppa we stole our car, Penny, back and drove to Hertford campsite which was closed for the night. We parked up outside and went to bed.
The next day we booked ourselves in till the 22nd Dec and when I tried to move Lizzy she had a flat tyre and would not budge in the snow. It just gets better.
After digging about in the snow and cold under the rear of Lizzy (where the spare is) I changed the  tyre and eventually got onto plot.
Once settled with the awning and its tent thing up we had time to relax and get ourselves sorted out.

Now with the ability to go shopping (Wallace was still greased up and on the trailer) Karen jumped in the car to do some urgent shopping and came back with some food for us but more for the local wildlife. Big bags of peanuts, monkey nuts, bird seed, fat balls....just about everthing and....a bird feeder tower.

Hours of amusement for Karen

Initially I was a bit skeptical, but once the food tower was up and running it was worth it. The birds and squirrels mobbed it. We had magpies, pheasants,  robins, blue tits, blackbirds, great tits, long  tailed tits, chaffinches, moor hens, nuthatches and Jays. Karen was over the moon and I have to say it kept her amused for weeks - bliss.

One of the nuthatches.

We used the time in Hertford to good effect, the snow having cleared after about 5 days. We took the kids to dinner a couple of times at the Toby carvery in Harlow. On the second visit we exchaged Christmas gifts and generally gad a greeat day.

I managed to get a set of stainless steel spokes made up for Wallace. I fitted them at -5 deg C. Brrrr
Spoke change - easy on this bike - nice and shiny now.

F**king trailer. This made a real mess of Lizzys posterior

We were worried about the pending trip toScotland. There are 2 ways into Karen's parents farm, they are both steep downhill roads. I knew that they were both covered in snow and ice and any slippage would wreck Lizzy as the roads are narrow with stone walls. On top of this, in december, Germany changed the law and now dictate that from November to April, all vehicles must have snow tyres. (We had intended to go there during htis time) I made some enquiries and for £1000 I could have a set of 6. This is, if they had any, which they didn't !
Next option was snow chains. I had left it a bit late and eventually got 2 sets that I later picked up in Warrington on the way up. I needed two sets, one for the front driving wheels and one for the rear as any slippage on the ice of the rear would have taken Lizzy over an edge and rolled her. A bit of a no brainer realy.

Due to the weather and the fact that we did not want to arrive at the farm in the dark, we set off a day early and drove to near Warrington on the 21st. There was no problem at all with the weather and traffic. We stopped at Knutsford service area, intending to spend the night there and go into Warrington the next day to collect the snow chains. Knowing that we had to pay to park I went into the service area and asked how much........10 f**king pounds....Whaaaat.
It is a good job I paid too, I had to type my registration number into a machine to register it and when I was halfway through typing a photo of my number plate popped up with the entry time. Saved myself an £80 ticket.
On top of that we had to park in the area set aside for caravans - right next to the M6. Expensive and noisy - luverly.
After a very difficult nights sleep we set off again and arrived at Dumfries at about noon. Just outside Dumfries we ran out of tarmac and were driving on packed snow. We got some strange looks from the locals driving this monstrous thing along snow covered country lanes.
We got to the Routin Bridge, a beautiful old river bridge with a waterfall underneath it. I decided to put the first set of snow chains on.
First set of chains going on
Looking the other way at the Routin Bridge - more of this later

We then drove carefully to the road leading to the farm with the ice and snow on. Second set of chains on. A quick prayer and a gentle drive off and Lizzy drove safely down the hill, over the frozen ford and up the farm track and into the farm. £230 for 2 sets of chains well spent.

Finally at the farm - drain the water - let it freeze

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