The Grand Tour: Fife and Beyond

Ramblings of an inveterate cyclist

 Looking like a decent day ahead, lots of ground frost but the skies are clear and the wind nowhere to be seen.

My bag of Happy Beak wild bird feed arrived and I put some in the feeder I made, and some on the ground for ground-feeding birds, so far no takers. I also put a little pile under the holly tree near my front window and almost instantly a male Robin came to feed, this was followed by a Sparrow, then came two rooks. Alas, a Gull that has decided that any picking, were his and his alone, he now remains on sentry duty on the wall and is quick to dive down and chase them off. So my next project will be a Gull prof ground feeder.

(or I could shoot the gull, only joking)

I finished the book ‘A house divided’ nothing startling. It was from our library, the books are changed every month by the local library, (but not at present) but mostly it is books written by women for women. Oh you do get the odd Lee Child or Patterson but they are so old they have hair on, so during this time you are down to reading anything just to pass a few hours, and it was in big print so easy to read.

The boys in here will buy adventure paperbacks, either new or from charity shops and once read will leave them in the library, they do not hang around long and are pretty dog eared by the time they do the rounds. But there seems to be a bit of a famine of late.

I have reached the end of Walden, but that is going nowhere, it will stay with me, for on second or third reading, I’m sure it has much more to revile. The difficulty for me was the language, it used lots of metaphors that was very American, or quoting from methodology, the classics are not my forty, this makes his train of thought sometimes difficult to follow.

The last paragraph for me sums up the man, talking about the authority of government – it is still an impure one: to be strictly just, it must have the sanction and consent of the governed. It can have no pure right over my person and property but what I concede to it. The progress from an absolute to a limited monarchy, from a limited monarchy to a democracy, is a progress toward a true respect for the individual. Even the Chinese philosopher was wise enough to regard the individual as the bases of the empire. Then he asks – Is a democracy, such as we know it, the last improvement possible in government?

A democracy such as we know it here in the UK is a long way off where he believes democracy must be.

Those that have been following my blog will know that it was first set up to keep my friends in touch with me as I toured Europe, starting in the spring of 2020, and before we left the EU and freedom of movement. We all know what happened next. I shall not say that I will never again return to Europe (Scotland still has an opt-out clause if they wish to use it) but the prospects of doing so have diminished greatly.

This year my insurance company informed me that they were increasing my van insurance premium by a further £100.00, even although I have never made a claim against any insurance company for car, van, or motorcycle since a car run up my backside in Glasgow back in 1974, why I ever have a string of no claims bonuses to my name, alas my age makes me, what the insurance man calls, ‘a bad risk’. And when I inquired about insurance for the van that would allow me to travel extensively in Europe, they loaded it down with all sorts of getting out of jail conditions, and excess frees, and I would need a green card and on and on. As for health/travel insurance (since we are no longer in the EU) that would be a no, (from any insurance company) for anyone over 70 years of age. The camper van was dismantled and sold on.

My big success has been my e-bike conversion, it has given me the freedom I once knew when I was fit and able to cycle for days on end. However I still wish to modify it to torque rather than cadence power, making it feel much more like a normal bike but with some power assistance, and still retain throttle control.

Since I intended selling the van and had no intention of buying another van/car, I did have a need for some way of moving goods around, so I made a bicycle trailer and it works well on the back of the e-bike, you would hardly know it was there, even heavy laden, (which could be its Achilles Heel).

I have been experimenting with the solar panels, I removed from the camper van, setting them up and using them to recharge the battery on my e-bike and they work well, even in these short days of winter. This gave me the idea of attaching them to the top of the trailer, like a lid on a box, so they would help recharge the batteries as I cycle along. Now if I can make it work I would have a bicycle that charged itself so could be taken on very long journeys indeed.

This has led me to think about a long touring/camping trip just as soon as they get the coronavirus under control (possibly late summer, early autumn). I would love to tour the Dales once more, and there may still be some members of the Otley cycling club that remember me, and I could catch up with members from the Tricycle Association, or possibly the Mildenhall Rally if it is possible to hold one this autumn.

I knew a lad that had a very small fibreglass car-a-van that folded down to the size of a small trailer to cut down on wind resistance therefore could be pulled by a small car and of course, save on fuel. Now what if I could do something similar, like a fold-away tent, made from Extruded Polystyrene, these foams are used extensively in sign making and the building industry, they are light, easy to work, cheap to buy and insulate you from the cold of the night or heat of the day. It will also stand a fair bit of abuse, since they come with a strong backing and could even be reinforced by 5 mm plywood where necessary. Placed over the trailer box, I could store camping gear and leisure battery below, and my fold away home on top and over all of this, a clear plastic roof would keep everything dry yet still allowing sunlight onto my solar panels. Sort of like a layer cake, the seed has been sown.       

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