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Saturday, 18 September 2010

One night in Blackpool

In a hotel in Blackpool right next to one of the biggest roller coasters in the world, this is the view from my hotel window.

Under pressure from someone who's opinion I really care about, I was urged to go on the bloody thing.

Ok I texted back, after I have had a can of strong Danish lager as a source of 'dutch courage'. Duly opened can of 'yes juice', I was prepared to take a ride on by the time I had poured the can of 'go' juice down my gullet and I suddenly realized the near constant noise of this behemoth contraption, had ceased. I enquired of one of the hotel staff, what had changed?

"the ride has closed" I was informed, the sense of relief was palpable.

Got up this morning thinking I had escaped, was startled to hear during breakfast about half nine, the damned contraption start up again.

I had been told by the hotel staff that the ride started at 10:30 in the morning, suits me I thought, not enough time, I escape I thought, with a more relaxed mental state, like the hotel threw you out at 11 not enough time for the flying torture chamber.

But when I heard the thing kick off again, I fell into a moral dilemma the ride was open again (or so I thought), there was no way out, I would have to admit to being a coward or enter a living nightmare.

So I extracted my scooter from the hotel, and set off in the seeking of hell on wheels.

When I arrived at the start of the ride I was horrified to discover a queue, not only was I about to be tortured, but I would have to wait in line for other people to be tortured in front of me.

What had happened was the devils had started the thing up early just to drum up business.  

After a three minute violent turmoil of three dimensional objectification, which led to me feeling slightly abused, I dreamed passionately, of this violent bodily throwing about, to come to an end, to be no longer at the whim of some manic engineer, that considered me, a way for him to empty his testicles and fill his wallet.

The ride lasted for around 3 minutes, not the nicest 3 minutes I have ever spent, but certainly memorable for the worst reasons imaginable.

Imagine how a ragdoll feels and you will understand what one of the biggest roller coasters in the world does to you.

When you innocently in ignorance, throw a little child in the air then catch it, why does it giggle?

I had originally planned to video the ride myself, but when I got to the top the height made me put my camera away and hang on for grim death.

So I will let this brave soul take you around, what I cannot understand is why he is grinning at the end. 


Tuesday, 31 August 2010

6 'u' turns and a flat battery

Set off around 10:00 heading north up the M1 M18 A1M arrived Rothbury Northumberland, after many u turns finally tracked down Nunnykirk caravan site, problem was the - Booking Conformation which I printed out had no post code, so I just typed Rothbury in my satnav like an idiot, thinking 'how easy can it be to hide a caravan site'?

Very easy as it turned out, drove into Rothbury saw a sign with a symbol for a caravan and thought 'yeah a piece of cake' but then saw a sign saying 'Riverside campsite' and with a sinking feeling suspected I had not not found Eldorado.

Went into the Riverside estate office and showed the man my Booking Conformation, "you are in the wrong place mate" he said. "Go out of the gate, turn left on the main road, go past the school, keep going and its on your left, you can't miss it" - yeah, I did go past a school and I kept going and going and going and going, after about 5 miles, started to get gripes of anguish, the countryside was turning into moorland, with nothing that resembled the sort of environment that caravans live in, what I recall of my many years on the road is, if you are going in the wrong direction, the longer you leave it, before a 'u' turn the worse it gets.

Then the thought hit me, perhaps he meant the main road - like the main road that runs through the middle of Rothbury so I did my second u turn, the first being in the Riverside campsite. Drove about 5 miles back to the main road, turned left and after about 2 miles and coming to a place with a different name, realized there was another 'u' turn was coming up, asked a local where the Nunnykirk site was, he said you have to go back to Rothbury and turn right, yeah I thought, that is where I have just come from, back I went, I saw a sign pointing in the opposite direction to the Riverside campsite to a campsite with a different name, headed off in that direction, yeah you guessed it, yet another another 'u' turn.

But a local seemed to really know where the Nunnykirk was, "you have to go past the Riverside site, pass a pub on the left and it is the next on the left" he said with a knowing air.

Away I went, past the pub, but also went past something that looked suspiciously like a caravan site, but thought there was one caravan that looked very derelict, not the sort of thing you would normally see at a Caravan Club site, so carried on. still no sign of anything that looked remotely like a caravan site, carried out yet another 'u' turn and went back to where there was caravans parked, plus the derelict caravan, not a soul in sight I sat and pondered my fate as a caravaneer.

Then I did something I should have done in the beginning, looked up the postcode, the address on the Booking Conformation was a pile of 'do do'. I had a Caravan Club site book in my caravan, would that have the post code of Nunnykirk in it?

Bingo NE61 4PZ I let my trusty Tomtom take over and arrived at Nunnykirk after a grand total of 6 'u' turns parked up and typed this, no internet in Nunnykirk, so all being well, you will read this when I get to Edinburgh.

A few shots of Nunnykirk it was not just the middle of nowhere, it was in the middle of the middle of nowhere, still having said that, very lush, green and peaceful. Had a couple of beers, watched TV on BBC 4, all about Blackpool and hit the sack.

Broke camp and headed north for 'Auld Reekie' (the Scots nickname for Edinburgh).

Not many people live in in Northumberland

Goodbye England.

Hello Scotland.

Many years ago over thirty years at least, in my days as a truck driver, I worked for a company called Edward Allsop and sons.

I can't for the life of me, remember what the load was, that I set out from Leicester with, or where I took it, but I do remember the load home, it was 20 tons of potatoes, because I had run out of driving hours, I had to find somewhere to park up for the night, in the days of yore, there were no such thing as sleeper cabs for a trucker, so the form was, you found digs.

I ended up with bed and breakfast in a pub, in a small border town called Jedburgh the thing that stuck in my memory, was how scenic this small town was.

I parked car and van, in the same carpark, that I had parked at with truck and potatoes, with this amazing sight of the wall of a ruined abbey.

Getting close to Edinburgh, which lies behind the hill, just visible on the horizon.

Getting closer, the hill mentioned in the last comment, is now on the right-hand side of the picture.

Edinburgh at last, seems like there are lots of churches here, religion in the past must play the same role as advertising does today, like give your dog Twested and you will go to heaven.

Just turning right onto Princes street then immediately left you could see more of this famous Edinburgh street, if I did not have lots of mirrors.

The lovely thing about caravanning, is once you get through the trials and tribulations of getting there, you uncouple, drop the legs and you are home. Here I am at Edinburgh Caravan Club Campsite.

The reason I had bought my scooter is, so I can go and explore Edinburgh, have a couple of pints and not worry about being breathalysed.

The law is, as regards invalidity scooters and alcohol, keep below 4 MPH stay on the pavement and you are considered a pedestrian.

Found this cycle path, that took me from the outskirts of northern Edinburgh into the centre.

The Telford path

Arrived at the centre and went for pint, sausages and mash and got this shot from Princes street of the old town.

I went to Edinburgh kind of on the spur of the moment, I tried to book the caravan site for the Saturday and Sunday but they were fully booked so only managed to get Monday bank holiday and the Tuesday, so did not really get to see any of the Fringe, saw one very long queue for something but it was fully booked, there was Fringe stuff here,

But it was all a bit late, next year I hope to plan everything and explore Edinburgh and the Fringe more.

It was getting a bit late so decided to make my way back to the caravan, about three quarters of the way back, my mini nightmare began to start, my scooter began to go slower and slower and slower, oh no, not enough battery to get me home.

Thing is with my disabilities (COPD + minor stroke) I can walk distances, but with great discomfort and lots of stops to get my breath back, I don't so much get out of breath, but start to fight for breath.

It was about 5 miles from Princes St to my caravan and I estimate I was able to get about 4 miles before the amount of electric in the battery was no longer able to transport me, but there was enough to move the scooter with me walking along side of it, walk a bit, sit down get breath back, walk a bit more, became the routine. I was so glad the last bit was down hill. I finally got back to the caravan at 1 am and estimate that the last mile must have taken me around 2 hours and I arrived totally exhausted, I shall organise things a bit better next year.      

Did not go far Tuesday night just a ride down to the Firth of the Forth which was next to the caravan site.

Got this shot of the Forth rail bridge poking above the trees at sunset.

Wednesday morning strapped wrapped and ready to roll south, homeward bound.

One of the ways I used amuse myself when I was a trucker, was to count the cars on car transporters, going the other way on the motorway, the point being is, because they were passing at a joint speed of over 100 MPH, usually there was not time to count the cars individually, but to take a mental snap shot as I went past and try to concentrate on the mental image and count them that way. On my way up to Scotland, I saw some enormous transporters and could not make up my mind whether they were carrying 10 cars or 11.

As luck would have it one of these enormous wheeled car parks, overtook me.

Having a careful look it seem like this behemoth is carrying 11 cars.

Finally walk into my front door 8 oclock Wednesday evening.

So that is all folks till I make my next trip, either Amsterdam for a week, or Berlin and Poland, hopefully two separate trips to both.

Any constructive criticism about this blog gratefully received.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Sitting in a pub in Edinburgh

Well I'm here and having a pint, heading  towards the centre on my scooter, lots to write and lots of pics, but I've not got my laptop with me

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Blogging the Fringe

I have written before about the joys of taking my scooter in my car on my travels.

When I had bought my ramps I had a try going somewhere with it, a nightmare getting the scooter in and out of the car because it was so heavy. Then I discovered how to take the scooter seat off, suddenly things were far more doable.

Ramps ready, tiller dropped, seat removed and I'm ready to put the wheels in my wagon.

Scooter in car ready to roll for northern parts

At the moment parked up beside the A6 about 3 miles south of Loughborough  at Procters caravansite and I will go out at 18:10 and get a shot of the A6.

 The biggest problem with this site is the noise from the A6, as the vehicles stream past, with an occasional loud roar as some young nutter flits past at about 150 miles an hour, on their two wheeled crotch-rocket.

Well I did start out ok, the laptop now seems to not want to connect to the internet via my n900, so I am typing this directly on the n900, a somewhat  long winded process.

To all those expecting more from me today, I appologise.

Nite all

Monday, 23 August 2010

True mobile blogging

Here I sit, typing this live at a local beauty spot called Shady Lane having managed to tether my laptop to the n900.

Many people come here to walk their dogs.

I have taken some photos, but will upload them at home because of bandwidth issues.

Driving along Shady lane

I have booked my caravan onto a site in Edinburgh for the 30/8/10 and 31/8/10, so I will catch the last night of the fringe and of course blog about it.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Leicester to Sweden and back

One of the things that has been with me since I was a child is an interest in civil engineering.

I watched this TV program about a road link between Denmark and Sweden called  the Oresund Bridge a film showing Building it  so I decided that I was going to cross this link because it was there.

To drive from the Leicester to Malmo via Dover is far too much in one go, so I decided to stay at Amsterdam to split the journey.

I left Leicester towing my caravan on Wednesday 4/8/10 in the early afternoon, my ferry was actually booked for 8 the next morning, so I decided to park-up close to the terminal and found a very pleasant campsite at Folkestone.

Boarded the ferry no problems, made friends with a lady from Essex who was going camping for a month with her two young sons, who knows? I gave her my email address - if she writes I most certainly will write back.

My original plan was to park-up at Zeeburg having had a very pleasant stay there once before, but when I got there it was full, serves me right I should have booked :(

So after a degree of rigmarole, I ended up on a campsite in the middle of nowhere, at a place called Uitdam, around 12 km from Amsterdam which turned out to be ok and very peaceful and beautiful 'coz at night you could clearly see the stars in the sky, unlike in most cities 'coz of light pollution.

I was involved in the complicated process of extracting my invalidity scooter from my car and this Polish girl turned up with her German boyfriend an offered to help, which was gratefully received, they said after helping me, "that they would be on the beach drinking wine later on" this I took note of (not literally).

Went for a lonely meal of spaghetti bollock naked, where the waitress did not have a clue, I ask you? She expected me to eat my spaghetti bolognese with a knife and fork! She did not know that one eats spaghetti bolognese with a spoon and fork.

Having filled my belly with enough spaghetti bolognese as it could comfortably accommodate, I set off for the beach.

At this point, I can sense the disappointment at no photos of my adventure, well here is my first of this trip.

Some explanation is obviously in order, the dog, a very big poodle did not want to enter the water 'coz it was cold, this is very funny 'coz poodles are bred to be water dogs, the kid in the water was teasing the dog, if I had really known what I was doing I would have videoed it.

The dog kept barking but would not enter the water 'coz he knew it was cold, the kid knew this, so worked the point and demonstrated to the dog he was more of a man, than the dog was (don't you just love mixed metaphors?).

Had a drink and an interesting conversation with the couple who had helped me extract the scooter from  my car then went to bed.

My original plan for the next day was to ride into Amsterdam on my scooter and visit some of my old haunts last visited in 1973 (I lived in the 'Dam for six months then) but because I could not park the caravan at Zeeburg but felt 12 km was a bit of a push on an invalidity scooter, I went into the Uitdam caravan site office, to find out what was around to visit, the very nice lady, suggested I visit Volendam via Marken, the easy route from Marken to Volendam is via a small passenger ferry.

I did not take any photos on the journey between the campsite and Marken ,because in some ways it was not visually interesting. I'm new at travel journalism so perhaps total narrative type photos might work okay, comments would be nice.

An example of a narrative photograph. (queuing for the ferry at Marken bound for Volendam)

 Marken disappearing into the background, (no I don't know who she was, she just crept into shot somehow)

Had a ride around Volendam looking for a mobile phone shop, my idea being to buy a Dutch Vodafone sim card, thinking it would work the same as a Brit Vodafone sim card ie 50 pence for 24 hours surfing the 'net flat fee, apparently Dutch Vodafone don't work the same as Brit Vodafone, so still a problem accessing the 'net without going to an internet cafe.

A sight you would probably not see in an English town a heron sitting beside a canal.

Went for a beer on the waterfront till about 6:30 and decided to catch the ferry back to Marken as I had bought a return ticket, alas I had missed the last ferry, if you look at the map here you can see the road distance I had to travel to return to Uitdam.

Another narrative photo - the road out of Volendam.

I was a bit concerned with whether there were enough charge in the scooter's battery to take it that distance - no problem, it still had loads of charge left when I got back to Uitdam after about one and a half hours trundling through the Dutch country side, quite pleasant really.

Left Uitdam Saturday morning and headed north bound for Copenhagen.

There are hills in Holland here is proof.

There are lots of windmills in Germany.

This bridge crosses this channel

I reach Puttgarden the little ferry port that is the border between Germany and Denmark and sit patently waiting to board the ferry. Got chatting with the guy in front of me, queuing for the ferry , he was driving all the way to Oslo.

He was from Switzerland and was a retired truck driver like me (to those that do not know me I'm in the red C4.)

Boarded the Scandlines ferry which crosses the 18 km strait, to the Danish island of Lolland.

I used ferry crossings from the UK to the continent for many years when I was a truck driver and one enormous difference looms between Scandlines and the four ferry companies that operate out of Dover with Scandlines  you do not need to book, you just turn up and join the queue.

All they would need at Dover, is four electronic boards displayed at the entrance, one for each ferry company operating out of Dover, on the board would be displayed the length of the queue and the cost of the crossing.

The ferry I boarded was also a train ferry and it was a somewhat peculiar sight, to see the train leaving the ferry at the same time as I was.

Spent my first night in Denmark on Saturday 7/8 in this layby.

Arriving in Copenhagen.

Found the campsite using my trusty Tomtom, it turned out to be a disused fort to protect the port of Copenhagen called Charlottenlund.

My caravan is in the middle of the shot, at the front.

One of the reasons I wanted to visit Copenhagen is to visit Christiania
bit of a disaster really due to the weather, it rained heavily for the whole time I was in Copenhagen, so there was no exploring on my scooter. Perhaps I will revisit one day.

Saw this church which had an interesting spire.

Had a look round Christiania,  looked a bit grim probably due to the rain.

Made some friends can't remember the ladies name, but his name was 'John the pom' from Australia he had started work as a Truck driver then became a dentist! presumably because it paid a bit better.

  Going into 

Entering the tunnel, between Denmark and Sweden.

Out of the tunnel now over the bridge!

Found the campsite at Malmo parked the caravan, extracted the scooter.

Took a photo of the bridge from the Swedish side.

Met a German one man band named Bernd, interesting guy, a true troubadour at 66 years old, he actually lived in Italy, but when I asked him how much of the time he was there, he said he was only in Italy for two months of the year, the rest of the time he toured Europe on his motorbike, with his tent, base drum and guitar, strapped to the back of his motorcycle.

Here he is on youtube

Got a shot of the Oresund link at sunset.

 Last photo of the trip, parked up for the night in a service station near Munster.

My original plan was to spend Tuesday night in Amsterdam, but Malmo to Amsterdam is a long way, which would have put me in the 'Dam early evening, by the time I had set up everything going into the centre, would have hardly been worth it seeing as I would be leaving the next morning for the ferry at Dunkirk.

Reached Dunkirk early Wednesday evening, my ferry was actually booked for Thursday morning, but because of having to book in (unlike the Scandline ferry and Oresund link) They made me pay an extra £17 to get an earlier ferry, which was a scam, because there was lots of space to spare on the ferry, which  meant they had to leave nothing off, to give me space, in other words it cost them virtually nothing more, to get me on board and bound for home.

Finally arrived home at around 3:00 Thursday morning, tired - but with a sense of accomplishment.