Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The 2011 Adventure

Only a few weeks to go.

The Lotus is being cleaned with an actual (not proverbial) toothbrush, because Australian quarantine officials are notoriously fussy about cars being shipped in from unclean countries. The same goes for hiking boots, tents, mountain bikes, etc.

Immediately after Easter, it will be pushed into a 40-foot container along with all of the household stuff, and put on a boat towards Australia. That will take about 2 months.

During those 2 months, Karen and I will be travelling slowly back to Australia ... so as not to arrive much before the container ... because our winter clothes will be inside said container.

That journey will take us by train NW across Europe ... by plane to Ireland and UK ... before another flight to Moscow. There's 2 weeks blown away already. In Moscow, we will board the Trans-Siberian Railway ... and trundle across the vast expanse that is Russia and Mongolia ... where we will celebrate Karen's 50th birthday ... before arriving in Beijing. That's another 2 weeks blown away, so we then have to spend 4 weeks wandering around China by train ... before catching a flight

from Singapore to Melbourne to synchronise with the arrival of the above-mentioned container.

If you want to follow the Trans-Siberian Blog, it'll be on ...  ...
www.blackhumourgoeshome.blogspot.com ...

Friday, July 2, 2010

End of this Blog ... and plans for the Next

Thank you all for following our blog ... it was a very exciting trip for us ... and if you managed to enjoy any of the excitement ... then maintaining the blog will also have been worthwhile.

Peter 'n Karen
aka BlackHumour

The Next Blog:

Now that I have become a seasoned blogger (!), I have been granted the opportunity to ghost-write the blog for the adventure of our friends, Clive and Ces.   They are competing in the Peking to Paris Rally (known as P2P to insiders, hence our imitation A2A) through September and October of this year.


Because the trip is very arduous and the internet connectivity very dubious, Clive will leave daily commentaries on my voicemail, and do his best to email/mms/whatever some photos and footage.   Then while Clive and Ces are enduring heat, hardship, lack of sleep, discomfort, I will be doing my part ... dedicatedly updating the blog, while sipping a glass of wine in the comfort of my own balcony.

The itinerary for the P2P makes our trip seem like a Sunday afternoon spin. 

They will be in this 1938 Chevy ... bought and brought from RSA .... and then prepped, and prepped, and prepped ...

Note to Self:  Must the people we hang out with ... because our landlord while we lived in Chicago ... had also competed in the P2P ... in a Citroen 2CV!!!

Anyhow Clive's blog is at http://www.passingplaces.blogspot.com/.   Right now, it only has his previous rallies (beginner stuff like Tunisia to Egypt, and London to Morocco) mostly using a Lotus Cortina.   Oh yeah, he has a twin to our Lotus Elise, identical in yellow ... well, it was until he started tweaking it.

Our Next Blog

The next blog of a serious BlackHumour adventure will probably be of the TranSiberian Railway.   Karen has been planning this for quite some time ... and in 2011, she is scheduled to realise her long-held dream for the two of us to sit on a train all the way from St Petersburg to Beijing ... more of that in due course.

Day 21 - Cross back over the Alps to Home

Another long day in the saddle .... starting with 300 kms on those autobahns ... at our self-limited 160 kph ... hoping that we would meet traffic jams like we could see in the other lane ... it took us 10 minutes at 160 kph to pass the tailback ...

Eventually, we crossed through a little corner of Austria (only about 10 kms) and then into Switzerland, heading for Chur (which is the area where some folk still speak Romansch, the 4th official language in Switzerland).  Just after Chur, we turned South so that we could cross the Alps via the Spl├╝genpass and the Madessimo pass. 

This looks like what we're used to ...

And this is what it's like getting up there ...

This took us into Italy, through the high altitude village of Monte Spluga (1955m and one of my favourites) ...

 A view from my favourite cafe in Monte Spluga (and it has a spectacular cellar next door ... really amazing for a village that's only accessible for 3-4 months of the year) ...

From there, we took the nerve-wracking downhill section ... see the hairpin turns above and below ...

... to Lake Como, along its Western Shore ...

... then over a small hill to Lake Lugano ... and home.

After a quick shower ... the obligatory bottle of bubbles ... courtesy of Andrew and Pam ... complete with home made ribbon ...

and of course, a sunset, something that doesn't really exist up where we'd been in late June ...

Tips for Elise Travel # 4

Baby Wipes :

Actually, this tip must be attributed to my good friend and fellow Elise Co driver, Cecilia. Ces provided me with this tip before we embarked on the 2008 Roma-Italia Ralley, which Clive and Ces won in their Larry Lotus!! And we came 8th out of 40 something cars. Anyway, again, I digress…..

Baby wipes are very useful and can be stored neatly in the glove tray under the dashboard. The many uses include:

1. Wiping up after a spillage or leakage, ie coffee or leaky strawberry punnet

2. On very wet days, as we had when driving from Lofoten Island to Tromoso, wiping up the door sills due to rain leakage. Elie does leak quite a bit in heavy downpours. And once the door is opened, water will come in.

3. On very hot days, such as our last 2 days from Stockholm to Nueremburg, and Nueremburg to Lugano, wiping your hands after applying copious amounts of sunscreen. Also they can be quite cooling when applied to the face, neck, chest etc on these hot days.

4. Generally keeping the door sills and dashboard clean and shiny…….just like the driver & codriver!!

End of Tips for Elise Travel #4 and final tip.

And we have a properly animated itinerary from everytrail.com again ... since I've created it on the home computer, the earlier difficulty must relate to a revised setting on the travelling netbook.   Must try to create a single trip display for the full 9,000 kms!!

The final tally:

For those of you who must have the statistics, here's the total mileage ...

I'll post one more blog later this evening, which will talk about the likely next blogs, and when they might be ... but that's all for this particular post.

Final Day - Alps to Arctic

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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Day 20 - A day on the autobahn

For those of you who just want to hear the music, click here.

For those of you who also want to hear about driving on the autobahn, continue reading here …

Today was the last silly long distance endurance test. An 8 hour blast down through Germany, almost entirely on the autobahn. As you know, some sections are unrestricted, so it became necessary to establish a real 200 kph, not just an indicated 200 kph like on the way north.

I decided that an indicated 230 kph was adequate, particularly as we were gaining rapidly on some large relatively slow-moving trucks.   The Garmin GPS reported that my indicated 230 kph was a genuine 218 kph (see photo below). 

Note to Jennifer:   Am I permitted to be classified as a real driver again?
There is no video clip of Karen squealing with delight at the new record. That’s because she was asleep at the time. Yes, in a baking hot car, on a carbon seat with negligible upholstery and no recline mechanism, without earplugs considering the windows were open. Impressive eh.

After this run, I decided that continuing at 200 kph for the next 5-6 hours might test even my powers of continuous concentrated driving, so I imposed a restriction on myself ... no more than 160 kph.    The journey might take a little longer, but playing chiken with trucks would be so much calmer and more leisurely at 160.   Don’t you agree?

A new first

I did have a new experience today. No, not the speed - I’ve been there before.   But changing down a gear, when already doing an indicated 200 kph, in order to overtake a "slow-moving" car.   That was a first.  (For your techies like Nicholls:  from 200 kph in 6th gear, the Elise just gains momentum rather than accelerates. Change down and it lands smack in the power band (6,500-8,500 rpm) of 5th gear, so it accelerates quite well.

The madness of the autobahn
While I’m on the topic of autobahn driving, I have to admit that the current situation is really nuts. And that’s coming from a long time petrol-head. It’s especially insane on those 4-lane sections of autobahn (2 lanes each way) that are unrestricted.

Consider this:   the inside (slower) lane has cars, caravans and trucks doing 80 kph, which are constantly being overtaken by other slow lane traffic doing a moderate 100-120 kph.   The outside (quicker) lane has mostly Audis (and the occasional Lotus) doing anything from 180 - 230 kph.   Now to put this into perspective for those Aussies and Yanks who are not accustomed to such high speeds, let's subtract 80 kph (50 mph) from all speeds.

-  slower lane has cars/vans doings 20-40 kph (100-120 less 80 kph) but these are constantly diving out into the fast lane to overtaken stationary trucks and caravans (80 kph less 80 kph)
-  meanwhile, the faster lane has Audis and Lotuses doing 100-150 kph (180-230 kph less 80 kph) constantly diving on the brakes because a 20-40 kph van has suddenly moved into your lane while you're doing 100+ kph.

For Americans and Brits,
- slower lane has cars doing 12-25 mph but these are constantly diving out into the fast lane to overtake stationary trucks etc.
- meanwhile, the fast lane Corvettes doing 60-90 mph are constantly diving on the brakes because a 15 mph van has suddenly moved into their lane.
Let me illustrate a little for the Aussies .... say you're cruising along at 100 kph on the Geelong Road   A bloke in a white van is doing 20 kph, but he simultaneously indicates and swerves from the inside lane into your lane to avoid a truck parked in the middle of the inside lane.   Your foot hovers anxiously over the brake pedal while you check the mirror.  Shit, there's a guy doing 150 kph just behind you and he's madly flashing his lights to encourage you to move into the slow lane out of his way.   It's all legal.

Now do that for several hours and hundreds of kilometres.  It's obviously a lot easier on a 3-lane road, where the only problem is the buffeting that your car receives when another overtakes at a speed 100 kph greater than yours (imagine you're stationary and a car passes really close to you at 100 kph;  now imagine you're already doing 100 kph and you're carefully threading a needle between a truck and a barrier when the Audi goes by at 200 kph;  are you sweating yet?

While we're on the question of Audi's, this is a question for Kenny to put to Nicholls.    See the photo.  Note the V12 badge.   V10 Audi, yes, but V12????   BTW, it was very fast on the autobahn.

PS:  Note to Tim Noel, although Tim is likely to be snoring by this point in the motorhead drivel.   Tim, see the food bag.   Still giving sterling service at coffee break and lunch.

Is it appropriate that we spend our final night in N├╝rnberg?   Some 60+ years ago, another group of people were awaiting their final night here.   But today, it's a beautiful town with vibrant old walled centre (reconstructed of course because it was flattened around the mid 40's).

For us, our journey tomorrow is back across the Alps to the Italian quarter of Switzerland.

Ciao ciao

Day 20 - Alps to Arctic

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day 19 - Investigate Viking Culture in Ribe, Denmark

For those of you who didn't realise it, the Danes, the Norwegians and the Swedes all share a Viking history ... ie. they were great sailors who raided other countries very successfully between about 700 AD and 1100 AD.

They did not wear helmets with horns in them, as legend would have it, but they did travel as far away as Greenland, Ireland, Southern Europe and Turkey.

Of course, Ireland was a one of those countries invaded by the Norwegian Vikings.   Dublin was founded by the Vikings and it was ruled by Norse kings from 839 - 1171 AD.  Likewise Scotland, but England was more influenced by Danish Vikings than by Norse Vikings and many of the place names in England reflect this.

Anyhow, this sets the scene for today's BlackHumour activities.  

You remember this early-model Lotus zapping across continents at high speed ...

Well, today we are in Ribe, which is the oldest city in Denmark (dates from 854 AD) and one that was very popular with the Vikings, so we had to visit their Viking Centre.   This is more than a museum;  it's an entire working village/farm where original methods are practiced and shown by way of historical pageant.

So first you see Peter out trying to fetch some lunch for us ...

... And as you can see, he was quite successful ... succulent venison being cooked right now

Then it was the time of the up and coming Danes to get to grips with being true Vikings ... and instructions were on hand from a genuinely scary Dane ...

I think BlackHumour nephews Mike and Louie would love to participate in this particulr schooling ... don't you think, Therese and Debbie??

Monday, June 28, 2010

Day 18 - Arrived back in continental Europe where ...

... speeds are much higher ... traffic is much heavier ... and where buying wine does not need a Govt permit ... it can be bought in a supermarket!!

The trip was an uneventful 940 kms starting at 6:50am ... with no stops apart from petrol and a swig or two from the incar coffee flask.  Me thinks I'll apply to be a support driver for some 24-hour race ... I may not be the quickest, but I can maintain a decent pace for more hours than most humans.

"But what happened to Day 17?"  .... demanded the virtual crowd.  

Well, Day 17 was a day of rest and sightseeing for Team BlackHumour.   That means that the Keeper of The Blog also had a day off.

He did try to file a dispatch  ... as you can see ...

But he had to abandon the dispatch so that he could negotiate the release of the Keeper of the Roadbook from the Royal Military Police ... because of activities considered typical of a non-viking wine buyer ... see below ...

Day 18 of Alps to Arctic

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Day 16 - This day intentionally left blank ...

… due to lack of excitement.

It was an 8-hour drive through pretty but unchanging country …

 it's guaranteed to put anyone to sleep ... as it did both us ... but especially the driver as you can see below ...

... until we encountered two 2CV’s towing caravans … just as we neared Stockholm.    That brightened up our day.

PS #1:   Here's some incar footage to give you more entertainment than we had in the entire drive  ...

PS #2:   This evening's entertainment:
This evening is in a classic out-of-town Ibis, and our neighbours are 2-3 families of Jaysus Howya types from Kildare and Wicklow … travelling is big dual-cab tradie trucks … complete with equipment in the back. Hmmmmm.

Tomorrow is another rest day … to see the sights of Stockholm … but to be denied wine for the 3rd day in a row … yesterday was a red day (no sale of wine, although you can buy beer!!) … today is an even redder day … and tomorrow is Sunday. Jaysus.

Day 16 - Alps to Arctic

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