Wednesday, 23 October 2013

A morning on Kinder

 Our family walk up Kinder last Saturday.

A damp but enjoyable amble, marred only by an encounter with an arrogant young chap who, in his inability to correctly interpret an OS map, felt it fine to ride his expensive mountain bike anywhere he liked, regardless of the law. I so dislike such crass disregard for any respect in the outdoor environment.

Snatched weekend in the Howgills

We were on a dash up to the Howgills for Chrissie and Dixie to continue their quest to complete the Dales High Way. She was to be joined by James and Reuben, his staffie.

Having set the backpackers off, Tilly and I found a route up to the top of 605m Green Bell from Ravenstonedale. It was misty and atmospheric.


Me and the chocolate hound then found a place for the night.

The following day we drove to Great Asby, parked the van and set off on the reverse of the backpackers' route to meet up with the hardy souls.

As I said, misty, but also magnificent.

A fine weekend of walking.

Our van's third birthday

At the end of September our lovely van celebrated its third birthday. With a fresh MOT under its belt we're ready for another year of adventures. Shortly we're off to Arran to celebrate my 60th birthday and today, getting to the end of my list of stuff-to-do I found time to make a small modification and add some more "pointless" bling.

First the mod. The Boxer van has a large drain hole in the scuttle ahead of the windscreen; just the other day I found it blocked with leaves. I had to remove the rubber pipe, which exits in the front o/s wheelarch, and flush it out with a hose. It was filled with rotting vegetation! So, today, I found a redundant gauze filter from the funnel we use to top up our freshwater tanks. I cut this down with scissors to fit over the drain hole and found to my surprise that it just wedged into the space. Excellent! I was gonna glue it but it appears that might not be necessary. Result! Just remains to be seen if it stays in place. This is out of sight so you could use any old bit of gauze.

Next, more silly bling. This is a example of the phenomenal power of the internet. On Monday, reading a test of the new Autotrail V Line van conversion I noticed an option was chromed cab door handle covers. "I want some", I thought, and in minutes I'd sourced some on EBay and had 'em ordered for delivery two days later. They arrived today and were fitted in no time at all, thanks to self adhesive strips. I love 'em!

They're actually polished stainless steel and I like that they give the van a hint of luxury car; further belying its commercial origins. I got the set of four (1 o/s, 2 n/s & 1 rear) for £32.95 inc p&p. By the way, if you think they're OTT you should have seen the ones which covered the whole door handle frame with chrome ... yeuk.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Eight wheels on my wagon ... an' I'm just rollin' along

Hands up all those of you who remember the New Christy Minstrels. Those of you who don't, don't worry yourselves about it ... knowledge of this 1960s American "folk" act is not a prerequisite in understanding this post ... only the title.

As if we hadn't already invested enough cash in our beloved van this month, just a couple of days back I took her down to se the nice men at North West Towbars in Stockport where they fitted ... guess what ... a towbar. But, perhaps more importantly, a super towbar mounted cycle rack.

We already have a cycle rack which carries our Fiamma back box, but I removed the cycle rails for the sake of neatness and to use them means removing the box. So it's box or cycles, a decision we didn't want to have to make. Hence this nice bit of kit made by Pendle Engineering. We specified longer arms to keep the bikes clear of the rear doors and the box. Usually, fitted on a car, the handlebars would be accommodated by the sloping rear window but of course the back of our lovely van's vertical. So we actually ordered a four bike carrier (longer supporting arms) with just two cycle carrier systems fitted to it. It came complete with a number plate holder and lights.

As you can see in the pics our two bikes fit neatly on there with room to spare and there's no need to face 'em in opposite directions so we can still easily access the box lid with bikes in place. Also, being nice 'n' low it's really easy to load and unload the bikes unlike the many high positioned carriers out there.

We're off up to Arran soon and plan to try it out then.

Incidentally, we can open the offside back door a short way for ventilation when stopped in warmer weather. The door bottom contacts with the carrier arm so I've padded this bit of the arm with some rubber so as not to cause any damage.

With the carrier fitted the van measures 7m in length.

Now, with a towbar fitted, the next item on my shopping list might well be a trailer to carry MBM ... (my beloved motorcycle ... please keep up dear reader).

By the way, we're indebted to our friends Kim and Hamish for the idea of this cycle carrier. They have one for their Renault-based Devon Monte Carlo; a van conversion not dissimilar to ours.

The fun continues.

Oh ... all you New Christy Minstrel fans out there ... you can put yer hands down now. Thanks.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Me and my dog go camping

I had a bit of a mental aberration last week. For reasons I'm really not clear about I decided to take Tilly on a backpacking trip.

Now, regular readers will know that I normally leave this sort of madness to Chrissie, preferring the home comforts of our lovely van when following silly outdoor pursuits of one kind or another.

Anyoldhow ... can't really explain it.

I'm no stranger to backpacking but most it was done some time back and mostly in the States. So I have the kit ... and the knowledge ... and, it seemed, the motivation. So, me 'n' Tilly packed up last Sunday and, late in the day, Chrissie dropped us off at a secret location in the Dark Peak and we toddled off into a howling gale to a remote wild camp site.

Next morning, having broken camp, me 'n' the dog went off for a long ramble over the length of Kinder Scout, ascending from Ashop Head and descending from the top of Red Brook down the three knolls path.

I've walked this route many times but never before noticed these two stones. How long do you reckon they've bin there, a-causing these two holes?


Oh ... for a simple weather forecast!

We returned from our second long summer trip, having spent all of Chrissie's six week school holiday travelling through the Jura and Vosges regions of eastern France.
Irritatingly we'd been unable to receive any TV programmes. Our telly would pick up stations but then we'd get a "CI module". Research at home proved that, since France went digital, there are no free programmes available. So you'd need to buy a CI module for a provider and then pay a monthly fee to receive their programmes. Add to this the fact that digital TV coverage in the UK really isn't all it's cracked up to be once you start travelling to remoter locations, as we do with our lovely van.

And so it was, having fought long and hard against the idea, that we decided to deal with this issue once and for all. A couple of weeks back I drove to RoadPro's base at Daventry and came back with a flippin great dome on the roof.

I have to confess, when I first saw the thing I thought it might need warning lights for low-flying aircraft, so big did it seem.

We chose this dome system cos the actual satellite dish is hidden inside it meaning it's unaffected by wind, which can be a problem with fold away dishes. Also, it's a fully automated system so no faffing with compasses and satellite finder gadgets and the like.

Here's the control box fitted neatly on my shelf in our locker. That's my flat cap folded above it to give you an idea of scale.

Prior to the installation it became apparent that our existing 10" Avtek TV wasn't HD compatible, so I decided to go the whole hog and upgrade to a 16" Avtek with a built in satellite receiver, thereby negating the need for another separate box. Incidentally, this is now the smallest telly Avtek make; the 10" version being no longer available. As you can see the 16" version fits fine having made a small alteration to the bracket mounting to move it further out from the van's sidewall.

Not only is this telly bigger, making it easier for us to read subtitles on our favourite Scandinavian dramas, but also the sound is louder and of better quality. Who said I'm goin deaf?

So, now we can get a wide variety of telly programmes on our travels right across Europe albeit not always Brit ones. In any event, our desire on long trips is to be able to keep up with world news and, most importantly, weather forecasts ... in any language!

Never say never eh?