Archive for March, 2007

Here’s the GPS trace from last weekends run – I’ve not managed to get the data working on an embedded map yet, but I’m getting there so keep an eye open. Click on the image to see the large version.

Dartmoor Training Run GPS Trace

Share

Bike ParkingAs I sit here in my plush M&S dressing gown, red wine in one hand, laptop in the other and Northanger Abbey on the TV, I’m hardly the picture of a motorbike adventurer; facing the world with only 600cc and a toothbrush.

Friday night saw me gripping the sides of my toilet in horror as my tummy and I had a severe disagreement over kipper, thinking about it the underdone scrambled eggs may also have been a factor. The upshot of this personal time my toilet and I shared was that the very first Journey To Russia training run was off. I was supposed to meet Patrick and Stace at a Little Chef just north of Guildford at 9am the following morning. Yeah right. My wife Catherine made the dutiful call to announce my illness and subsequent no-show.

By 6am the following morning I was feeling much better, there was nothing else to, well I’ll spare you the details but I was on, I was going on the trip and that was that damn it. I gingerly ate a piece of bread and drank a glass of warm water, only to end up running for the loo yet again.

9am came and went and I sat dejected in my bed, warn out and irritable. Then the phone rang and the wonderful Patrick let me know that Stace was going to be an hour late, he’d tried packing his 2 second tent on the back of his VFR only to find it acted rather like a wing – a 2 foot round tent will do that. So I had a chance – running to the shower I shouted at Catherine to make me some toast and warm Ribena – I was going to Dartmoor whether my tummy liked it or not.

I need food....3 hours later we pulled out from the Guildford Little Chef, ready for the day and fighting to prove we could do this thing. I forgot to fill my bike with petrol, this wasn’t going well, but after filling up at the next available station (evil Esso – I shall never forgive myself) we really were off. The plan – stop every 100 miles, not before, we must make up some time! 50 miles later we gently pulled into another garage on another a-road and had a frank discussion about 50 miles being much more realistic – and this way we could stop and enjoy the journey, take photos, have a chat and cup of tea – who’s idea was the 100 miles anyway?

After yet another long stop at more services (Exeter this time) we got our heads down and arrived in Dartmoor National Park around 6pm, wonderful! We just needed a campsite, or at least somewhere to pitch our freshly bought and untested tents. It was still light, just, so we blasted though the winding roads, slowing to admire the views and take photos, and to try and work out where we could pitch. There were quite a few spots indicated on the map, but obviously they were closed this side of Easter, we decided that we should stop at the next shop or pub and ask for help, the light was fading fast and none of us wanted to be building camp in the dark.

We stopped a further two times, both at pubs and both times none of us could be bothered to get off our bikes and go ask for help, we really are a lazy lot. But as luck would have it, a little further down the road we found a farm who offered a field, a standpipe, and a cold outside loo. Bliss. Tents were erected in record time (2 seconds for Stace, 10 mins for Patrick and I) and the camp kitchen brought together. We were cold, hungry and the last thing we needed was to have to wait 30 minutes for water to boil for tea and to get the potatoes, onions, carrots and gammon on the go. Our Trangia stoves, the stalwart of the Swedish army are fantastic, if you have time to wait. Stace saved the day with his gas stove and we ate a fine meal with plenty of energy and warmth, all in the pitch dark and all by the light of Patrick’s headlamp.

Camp...The evening wasn’t a total disaster but it was cold, uncomfortable and we learnt a lot of lessons. Firstly we needed more than one stove, we also needed stoves that could boil water quicker and cook more than one thing at a time. We also need a little bit of camp discipline, we spread ourselves out a little far and had to stand to pass things to each other, not helpful when all you’re interested in is eating.

The morning dawned after and eventful night of Park Rangers with piercing spot lights, farmers with shotguns and foxes hunting lambs. The rain was moving in and none of us wanted to get the tents wet, camp was broken quickly without the aid of tea and a warm breakfast, we jumped on the bikes and pulled out from the farm. What a mistake. With no warm food or drink inside us we really struggled to pull the bikes up the steep inclines and shallow valleys, every corner was complicated and long, every car an evil star fighter trying to take us out. This was definitely not a good idea. Little Chef once again called and we answered with grateful arms (and worried wallets).

Once warm and fed the rest of the journey home was very pleasant, the weather brightened up, Staces constant supply of Cadburys Fruit and Nut, and the smooth running of our bikes saw us hit Guildford in only 4 ½ hours.

All togetherQuick good byes and a debrief delayed our separation but I was glad to get out on my own. It was only when I got home that I realised that even though I’d only spent 48hrs with the boys, I already missed them and it felt wrong that evening to be at home on my own with only the TV for company.

The dressing gown and red wine are a comfort, but no substitution for a cold night with friends on Dartmoor.

Share

PatrickAs dawn spread over the Little Chef on the A3 Southbound just beyond the M25 three bikes were parked. Laden down with kit to make Charlie and Ewan gulp… Well that was the plan. However in reality I’m amazed we THE JTR team made the trip at all.

Firstly a sudden stomach bug laid Matthew low and Friday night saw him pulling out of the trip. Stace had problems with his tent and needed to repack his bike prior to departure so he arrived late and as for me I’m lucky I made it there in one piece having seen what got tangled in my rear axle whilst travelling to the meet point.

However despite all of these mishaps at just before midday we set off. Line astern for Devon. The sun was shining and it was a great day for a ride on the bike. My Africa Twin handles weight quite well and spent most of the trip in the middle of the group. This amused Matt – at the back not least because of the need for him to be down wind – as he was kept wondering why one box was smaller than the other.

We settled into the swing of things quite well. The looks of disbelief from the drivers we passed with out camping kit was priceless. We avoided motorways as best we could and made good time. We planned a stop every 100 miles for break and a chat. This helped break
up the ride and kept us fresh.

Towards late afternoon found us passing a sign for the Dartmoor National Park and the hunt was on for a camp site. As the light faded we at last found a sign. The location looked promising as there was a tent in a field near the farm house. Alas however as apart from a few ponies and some sheep no one was about. We had a dilemma do we pitch and run the risk of being turfed off or do we look to free camp? Fortunately as I was away scouting possible free camping locations the farmer returned and for a small fee we could pitch up.

Pitching in the dark was a useful lesson to us all. In hindsight we need to pitch with enough daylight and space our tents better. And what tents to pitch from the flick of a wrist 12 second tent of Stace to Matthews back door special to my mini Sydney Opera house. Between us we have enough covering to store all of out kit indoors!

As for food and camp admin again we need to do a little bit of work. Looking ahead we’re looking at ‘All in’ type of meals as this will be simpler and use less equipment. A stove each man is a must as we can’t cope with just one and it’s also not fair for one person to be left with the job of cooking. That said this is exactly why we’re doing these training runs. We all agreed that is was great to learn all this stuff now rather than later.

And so to bed….Or perhaps not. Matthew was making his way back to the campsite following a visit to the facilities when he was caught in the bean of a high powered lamp. Was it people out lamping? Where using a high powered beam you seek out the light reflecting in the eyes of game and shoot? Luckily for Matthew it was not – especially as being ready for bed he had put on his all in one pyjamas with bunny ears…

It was however more likely to have been a ranger looking for illegal free camp sites – the rules of which ban camping within 100 metres of the road or in site of the road. A disturbing moment for Matt nonetheless.

We settled down to sleep. BANG went the shotgun…. Dam foxes keep the farmers busy at lambing season.

We awoke refreshed. At least I did – it was cold but not unbearable. The day showed a promise of rain so we broke camp quickly and headed off. Again hindsight piped up. We need a breakfast before starting out as stocking up on energy before the off will help stave off tiredness and possible accidents.

Homeward bound and another Little Chef and numerous coffees later we were nearly home, despite my best efforts to get us lost Stace lead us home. A good weekend and a real viable training run completed. We had a range of issues to deal with just like we will on our trip so we’re glad for the opportunity to practice them now rather than on the road to Moscow as that would be a CATASTROPHE…..

Share

The lists are made, we’ve agreed who’s carrying what, and we’ve looked at the weather forecast. We’re ready for the weekend. We’ve deliberatly chosen to do this long run on a weekend when we have to finish work on the Friday, leave for the weekend and then go back to work on the Monday – this way we hope to copy the stresses – or at least some of the stresses that will appear on the journey.

We talked last night about food, tents, and security; we’ve talked so much about so many of these things that now I think we ‘just need to get on with it’.

I’ll be posting to the blog during the trip, as well as uploading photos and tracking – it’s a perfect opportunity to test our tech. I’m expecting a lot of it not to work, but we’ve got quite a long time to get this kind of thing sorted.

Matt, Patrick and Stace

Share

I’ve been playing with a few methods of tracking our route and displaying it on the site whilst we’re on our trip.

Couple of reasons for doing this, but mainly it’s there to show our progress, and if anything goes wrong, where we were at the last upload.

I’m working on a way of pulling out the GPS data from the Tom Tom Rider, converting it to a sensible XML format, then creating a KML file for download (which will contain a GPS position every 60 seconds), and a google maps file (which will contain a GPS point every 4 hours).

I’ve got the KML uploads sussed, now I just need to find some way of stripping out all of the data (except one every 4 hours) and converting it to a google maps format… then I can start working on the upload function… ideas / thoughts… help!? email me

Click image to see larger version

KML File Visualisation

Share

It’s coming up fast – our first training run. We’re heading down to Dartmoor to try our hand at ‘long distance‘ riding with rough camping.

The aim this time is to see what the dynamic between the three of us is like. We’ve ridden with each other before but not actually all three of us together, so that will certainly be interesting.

I think the best thing about this training run is to see how grumpy we get after a wonderfully long hard ride from London, when we’re not fit, not used to the distance, and not used to our bikes being fully loaded.

We’ll also be trailing the technology that will allow you to track us on the big one, not to mention a little podcast and video – if we’ve not killed each other :-)

Share