Sunday, 2 November 2014

It's been quiet..!!

It's been a good few weeks since I last posted an entry on this blog. To be honest there has not been too much to write about and I didn't want to end up boring you all with tedious repetition.

Having to stay off the bike over the last eight weeks has been hard, very hard. 
Cycling thousands of miles one year and then hardly any at all the next, has been really difficult...mentally as much as physically.

However, this past week I had a couple of hospital appointments and I am pleased to tell you that I will be getting back on the bike this coming week....
Obviously it will be easy and steady riding to start with and for the first month I only intend to use my indoor training bike, just to be on the safe side.

The Cardiologist at the hospital explained in some depth what the problem with my heart beat was and showed me on my latest ECG the abnormal rhythm that I have been experiencing. 
The good news is that if I can learn to cope with the uneasy feeling this inconsistent rhythm gives me I won't need to have any more treatment at this time or have to take any drugs to control it... 

Moving on to the plans for my 'Big European Tour' and a life on the road......

A couple of weeks ago Anne and I travelled up to Birmingham for a visit to the NEC and the Caravan and Motorhome Show.
We had a good couple of days there and saw some really great bits of kit as well as the very latest caravans and motorhomes ready for 2015.
We did end up spending a chunk of cash on some of the items that I had on my must buy list....

Yesterday we attended the Automotive Leisure social weekend....
AL are the suppliers of the Eriba caravan that we have ordered and it was nice to visit their premises and have a bit to eat and drink in a nice relaxed atmosphere whilst seeing all the latest models and accessories.....
We also had a demonstration of the Reich Motor Mover that we had included as an optional extra to the van that we have ordered...

I've posted a couple of pictures below showing two things that I like so much about the iconic Eriba vans....
First is a stripped down caravan showing the solid metal frame that helps to give these vans their solid structure.... No wood to rot here..!!
Next is a shot of the split front windows....very similar to the look of a split screen VW.

The solid metal frame on a Eriba caravan,

Similar to the iconic look of a split screen VW campervan.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Next Move.....

It must be over a year ago that I first mentioned the plan to move from Purple Towers and head off on a new adventure....
The general idea was to re-locate to the county of Devon and then set off on a UK and European Grand Tour and that is still the plan...but there have been some changes.

First....We WILL be leaving Purple Towers on the 31st March 2015, however up to now we have still not found a place in Devon to re-locate to, but we have decided that we are not going to let that stop us setting off. If a new location isn't found before our tour start date Anne and I will still be heading off on our full timing Grand Tour anyway......
  
In some ways, not having a permanent base for sometime will actually add to our commitment to the tour. We will become proper Nomads...taking a temporary roof over our heads along with us....much in the same way as I have when I've packed my tent and been backpacking and cycletouring.... only this time in a bigger way.

This brings me on to the next change....the roof over our heads...
We had almost made our minds up on a Motorhome.....indeed I even posted a picture of the model we had selected on this blog.
However something held me back from actually placing an order....some level of doubt still kept niggling in my head although I was unsure what it was.

I continued to research all the pros and cons and finally it dawned on me that for the kind of touring Anne and I were planning to do, the motorhome was not ideal. 
If we were planning on constantly moving on every day or two a motorhome would be perfect, however our plan is to base ourselves in places for two or three weeks at a time and for that a touring trailer caravan seemed more suited to our needs.

Unfortunately I tend to think that most traditional touring caravans look a bit like a 'fridge on wheels'. If I was going to go along the caravan route, it would need to be something a little different to most standard caravan designs...

I have always liked the look of the American Airstream trailer caravans, however I don't have a vehicle capable of towing one and have no wish to buy a vehicle that powerful anyway.... 
No, what I needed was something as Iconic as an Airstream but smaller... maybe more European... 
Enter the Hymer Eriba Troll 540........

An ERIBA TROLL 540
 The Eriba range of touring caravans are retro, iconic and quirky...... luckily only three miles from Bournemouth is one of only two suppliers in the UK of new Eriba vans.
One visit had us both hooked and in early summer we placed an order for a brand new 2015 Eriba Troll 540 model to be built with our own list of individual options etc....and to be delivered to us early in 2015..... My Honda CRV 2.2 i-DTEC will also be able to tow it..... a perfect match according to the What Tow Car site...

They are built in Germany (although they used to be made in France) and have developed an almost cult like following......

The range starts with the 'Puck' which is the smallest (I understand this is no longer made) then comes the 'Familia'...the 'Triton'....and then the largest model the 'Troll'. 
Each of the models is available in various layouts.... they all have a pop up roof or 'Pop Top' as it is often referred to and they are all built with a metal frame similar to the way an airframe is constructed, unlike the traditional 'fridge like' caravans which usually have a timber construction.....
Some of the New and Secondhand Eribas at the dealers compound..
Over the coming months I will tell you more about the Eriba vans and why Anne and I like them so much......

Sunday, 14 September 2014

It's Gone...!!

The more observant regular visitors of this blog will have noticed that my bright orange Mountain Bike is no longer listed on the 'Bike Stable' section of The Purpletraveller...
The reason for this is simple......it's gone......moved on....in actual fact I have sold it.

Now don't get me wrong...it was a very nice bike but I just didn't get on with it...
Like two lovers splitting up "it wasn't her, it was me".

After 50+years of road riding I thought that I should give MTBs a try..... unfortunately to put it bluntly I just didn't enjoy it..... 
If nothing else it has confirmed what I always knew.....I just enjoy road bike riding too much..

I owned it for just over nine months...a personal record as it is the shortest time that I have ever owned a bike... usually when I buy a bike it is with me for many years.

Mind you the bike is not the only thing that has gone recently.....

Anne and I have now set a date for moving out of Purple Towers, that date is the 31st March 2015. We now have just under 7 months to sort out all the things that we have jointly hoarded away over the past years...
Each week now sees us having visits to the municipal tip disposing of all sorts of things...

Due to the type of adventure we are both setting off on next year, it's important for us to almost dismantle our current lives...certainly the lives that we have got used to....

I will share our plans with you in my next post......

Sunday, 7 September 2014

A Mistake.......!!

This time last week I had just set off on the Bournemouth-Holyhead-Bournemouth ride that I have wanted to do for the past three years.... With the benefit of hindsight that WAS a mistake.....

Each time over the past few years whenever a date has been set to attempt this ride, something has always cropped up and prevented the ride taking place.
This year seemed to be no different....

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that just three weeks prior to the start of the ride I was rushed into hospital where I had a heart procedure completed due to a constant racing heartbeat of 155bpm. 
The Doctors had advised that if I didn't suffer too many side effects from the procedure I 'might' be OK to attempt the ride....
That was all I needed to go ahead.....ignoring what were obviously warning signs I gave it a go, only to be forced to abandon the trip half way through the third day........
This is what happened........ 

Peter and I met up as planned at about 0900hrs on the Sunday morning......
We headed north passing through Wimborne and heading towards Blandford....
At about a mile short of Blandford town there was a sound like a pistol crack and I realised at once that my rear tyre had blown....

After removing the wheel and checking the cause, it was obvious that the inner tube had split. This in turn had blown the tyre off the rim. Even though I had stopped almost immediately, with the weight of the panniers the tyre itself had been damaged as well...

Peter and I tried to patch the tyre using tape. We then fitted a new inner tube, but on trying to inflate the tyre it became obvious that the tyre was damaged beyond any form of temporary repair........

We were then forced to phone Peter's son-in-law Chris, who lives in Blandford and kindly drove out to give us some help.... It was decided that Chris would drive Peter back home in order to pick up a used but serviceable tyre that we could use whilst I stayed with the bikes...

In about an hour and a half they were back... the tyre was fitted and inflated...all seemed OK.....Chris went on his way...panniers were loaded back on the bike and then we noticed the tyre had deflated again!! 
We took off all the panniers... removed the tyre... checked out the valve and inner tube etc etc... and we tried two more inner tubes before we found one that actually seemed to hold any air....

To be honest, we should have seen the 'writing on the wall' for the trip at this early stage.....
In total we lost four hours faffing around at the side of the road....but....we did finally arrive at our day's destination at Frome, albeit four hours later than we had planned....

Stuck at the side of the road...
We had phoned Howard to re-arrange meeting up with him as we had been unsure if we were actually going to make it to Frome... The new plan was to meet up with him the next morning....
We arranged to meet up at the 'Live to Ride' bike shop in the town where I had decided to have new tyres and inner tubes fitted just to be on the safe side...

Up until this point I had found the cycling OK and although not as fit as I have been I seemed to be dealing with the various ascents and the loaded bike perfectly well....

We met up with Howard the next morning and after time spent in a cafe with coffee and cake and with a new set of rubber hoops on my bike we set off again to continue our ride....

The ride went well until the Tuesday morning, when I found that even after the first four miles riding on the flat I was struggling... I seemed to be breathless and lacking any energy at all....... We stopped at a cafe at an M&S store at Cribbs Causeway just north of Bristol and during our coffee stop it became obvious that I was seriously unwell....  my heart rate seemed to be all over the place and it became clear that this was going to be the end of my ride......

I could not even face getting a train back home..... I was just not well enough....
A taxi was called and within half an hour I was being whisked back home....

A visit to the hospital was to show another electrical malfunction of the heart was causing both missed and jumped beats and this in turn meant that insufficient blood/oxygen was being pumped around my body...
Some of the symptoms that can occur are Palpitations.... Feeling tired... Shortness of breath.....
Chest pain and tightness and Dizziness or light-headedness.... none of these are ideal if you want to ride a bike........

Currently I am off the bike for the next seven or eight weeks...... I have an appointment with the Cardiologist at the end of October and I will find out where this is all going to go at that stage.....

To say that I am gutted and depressed is an understatement....!!

Peter and Howard continued with a revised route of the ride and managed to save something from what we had planned......

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Ready to go.....

Earlier this week I took back to the hospital the heart monitor that I had been wearing for six days..... The information will be downloaded and I will find out the results when I next meet with the Cardiologist. As that appointment isn't until October, there is obviously no immediate concern about my current condition. 
With that in mind, tomorrow I head off on my Bournemouth- Holyhead- Bournemouth cycling trip..... I have shown a rough plan of my route below:-


Bournemouth-Holyhead-Bournemouth  (The Rough Route)
The plan is to cycle to Holyhead via Chepstow Shrewsbury and Bets-y-coed. On our return we will take a more direct and diagonal route via the Lon Las Cymru.

I have read some very good reports about this route and I have wanted to ride it for sometime... Over the past few years when ever the plans have been made to tackle this ride something has always cropped up to stop us doing it. That is why I wasn't going to let this heart fiasco of the last couple of weeks stop me having a go at it....

I'm doing the ride with Peter Calcutt a friend from the Backpackers Club. We will be met on the first night stop at Frome in Somerset by Howard Kelly another Backpackers Club friend who will ride with us for the next three or four days before he has to return home to prepare for another trip......
Howard recently rode with me on my South Downs MTB ride......

If all the logistics come together alright we might be joined on the last day of the trip by Jason Boynton-Lee. 
Before I retired, Jason and I used to work together and he also rode with me on the Cherbourg to Santander (ACCR) ride back in 2009.....

Although I have decided not to post daily reports as I go along on this trip.... I will be doing a proper report on the trip on my return home.... 
Following that I will start to tell you about my next 'Big Adventure' which is due to start in seven months time and will mean some major changes to my life..........

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Just Like a Stuck Throttle........

At the end of my last post I mentioned my surprise hospital visit......
If it's of interest this is what happened...

One morning I woke up and immediately felt that something wasn't quite right. It took a minute or two for me to realize what it was...

My heart seemed to be pounding away flat out.
Normally my resting heart rate is about 45bpm particularly on waking up in the morning, but this seemed way way higher. It was as if I had just cycled to the top of an alpine climb..... 
At first I put this high rate down to the possibility of a dream or nightmare that I couldn't remember and I just lay there in bed trying to relax and get the rate down to normal.

After about ten minutes nothing had changed and I don't mind admitting that I was a bit concerned.
If you have ever had the throttle on a car stick wide open, that is what this felt like, but without any means of switching it off....

Anne insisted that I rang  the emergency health line and after answering lots of questions I was told that I should get someone to drive me to the emergency dept of the local hospital within the next hour......
The Royal Bournemouth Hospital
Before long we were at the hospital emergency dept....we spoke to the girl on the reception desk and had hardly sat down before I was called into an initial consultation room by a senior nurse and the next thing I was whisked to the 'Majors' section of the department and being checked over by a couple of Doctors...

I was told it would seem that I had a bit of an electrical short circuit in my heart causing my heat to keep racing along at 155bpm.... I was told that they would try and correct it with the use of a drug which should have the effect of causing my heart to hesitate and hopefully return to it's normal rate.... I was told that I would experience a 'sinking feeling' as the drug was administered.
They tried this twice and I experienced the feeling of dropping through the floor twice, but unfortunately it didn't work....

By now I felt both tired and breathless and the decision was made for me to undergo a cardiac procedure called a 'Catheter Ablation' .... It was arranged for this to take place in the afternoon and I was taken to a room in the Cardiac Ward where I was wired up to some machines and prepared for my visit to the operating theatre......

In the early afternoon I was wheeled along the corridor and the procedure was completed....
It consisted of me being given sedation to make me drowsy...I was wired up to more machines.... Local anaesthetic was injected into my groin....tubes were then inserted into the main vein of my groin and then long thin wires were passed through the tubes and up into my heart.... X-ray machines were used throughout so that the Doctor could guide the wires to the correct place in my heart and see the heart rhythm disturbance on a computer...

Once the Doctor had located the areas of abnormal electrical activity between the heart valve and a large blood vessel in the top right chamber of my heart, the ablation was performed. 
This is done by applying radiofrequency energy which heated up the tip of one of the wires positioned in my heart.

I was told that I would be awake throughout all of this.....but although I remember the start of the procedure and I remember the end of it.... I don't remember anything from the middle part..... 
Later I was told that I had needed an electric shock to the heart in order to restore its rhythm, so that accounts for me having no memory of a good chunk of all these goings on..... 

Anyway.... my heart was restored to it's normal pace....and after a few hours of further checks and observations I was allowed home in the early evening.
I was told that my heart appeared to be fit and healthy and that it was just a bit of bad luck that this had happened.......

That was about three weeks ago...today I had a heart rate monitoring device fitted to check out my heart rate etc over the next six days.....

In ten days time I hope to be setting out on my Bournemouth-Holyhead-Bournemouth cycle trip..
I am just hoping that my heart continues to run at a nice steady pace.............

Monday, 4 August 2014

Plans....Make 'em Flexible... (part three)

........ The next morning we woke up to the sound of rain on the tents and that was the pattern for most of that day. 
We spent the time sorting things out on the bikes and around camp and just took life easy.... 
We also reflected on our decision to come off the trail and we both agreed that we were pleased not to still be riding the bikes along the track in what was now not the best riding conditions...

A check of the weather forecast was showing us that the next day was going to be a vast improvement and our plan was to take the bikes on a road route to visit Bignor Roman Villa...

The next morning as promised the sun was shining and it was dry....
We set off from our campsite at about 0930hrs and in just over an hour, after a really enjoyable ride along some lovely country roads, we arrived at the site of the villa..

First thing we did on our arrival... was to have coffee and cake...what else..!!


Howard getting his priorities right....

Coffee...Tea....and Cake.
 Bignor Roman Villa is a wonderful archaeological site that has some stunning Roman mosaics etc to see...
We both spent a really enjoyable couple of hours taking in everything that Bignor has to offer....
Throughout most of the year there are lots of School visits made to the site and it offers both fun and education for the children that visit...... (and that includes us)
Some of the stunning scenery surrounding Bignor

Some of the Bignor Mosaic floors.

Another section of mosaic showing the underfloor Roman heating ducts

Some of the Bignor buildings protecting the mosaics...

More Bignor scenery...
 After our visit we headed off to the pub about 2 miles down the road....
We had a good lunch there until eventually we headed off on our return ride back to our campsite.....
That evening we visited another pub about a mile from our campsite and enjoyed a pleasant evening chatting as we ate a very nice meal......with beer of course.... 

Tents packed and ready to head off....
The next morning, which again was bright and sunny, we broke camp and followed a road route we had worked out along country roads and lanes back to Petersfield...
It was a wonderful route, with lovely views and very quiet, in fact we only met one car until we were just a couple of miles from the town itself.......

We settled down at the outside tables of a cafe in the main square for a spot of lunch and then we headed off for the Rail Station and our respective trains home....

We'd had a really good five days out on the bikes....... it wasn't the trip that we had originally planned, but had proved to be so much better because we had decided not to stick stubbornly to our plans and had decided to be 'more flexible.'

My next trip will be my Bournemouth - Holyhead - Bournemouth trip setting off at the end of this month..... 
That will  be an 'easy' road touring trip of about 700 miles over fourteen days....no heroics...no fast pace....no battling against the clock..
Just a nice and steady touring pace with time for lot's of stops for coffee and photos.  
Well that's the plan...... it will be interesting to see how flexible those plans need to be.....!!!

NB: Sorry for my delay in posting this third and final report on the trip.....
         Truth is.... I've just had a bit of a surprise unplanned visit to the hospital....
         I will explain all in the next post