Euro trip 2018

Here’s my little Euro road trip from early summer 2018:

Statistics:

  • 19 days
  • 7 countries (France, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Italy, Slovenia)
  • 4300 km driven.
  • 17 border crossings or customs areas.
  • 5 days of kayaking.
  • 1 night slept in car.
  • 1 night slept in hotel.
  • 3 nights slept on a floor.
  • 5 nights spent under canvas.
  • €154 in tolls (approx), including Swiss and Austrian vignettes
  • About 6 fills of diesel or so.

The idea behind the trip was simple enough. That I would drive over to Slovenia with the 3 kayaks of myself, Dave, and John; with any camping gear as necessary for the stay, while I got to visit a few of my people en route.

The journey down to the ferry was uneventful. I had attempted to travel lighter than usual, while still having enough to camp and paddle in relative comfort, as well as living out of bags for the duration of the trip. I managed to get a clear view out of the back window, which turned out to be most useful for autoroute and autobahn driving! On the ferry over, we had a basic cabin – turned out to be the last one available when I booked. I got a little shock when I heard the Captain giving us an arrival time in Roscoff, as I had thought I had booked to Cherbourg. After a quick sanity check and double-check, I realised that yes I had indeed booked to Roscoff, but had booked the return via Cherbourg. The slow sprint across France was warm, pretty, and relatively uneventful as French road trips go, getting to the last unserviced Aire before Mulhouse by midnight, for a slightly uncomfortable sleep in the car for that night – and a promise to use a hotel to sleep in on the way back instead of the car – especially as there were no cheaper cabins left available on the boat on the way back so reserved seats were the order of the return ferry trip.

I dropped Lily off at her brother’s in Zurich, as well as getting to meet him for the first time in over a decade. Meeting the kittehs there as well was good! After a night there, I transferred to the nearby town where my Aunt and family live at their home near Zurich. It was good to spend some time there, as it was my first time seeing them at home in Switzerland. I got a bit of a shock at the prices of things out there, but it was an incentive to see about Swiss employment! After a visit to the Rheinfalls with the aunt and family I got back on the road to Slovenia. En route across Germany I got a quick cup of tea with Flo’s wife Vita and clarified some arrangements for my future visit there again later in the trip. So I continued my trip down to Bovec.

In Bovec, I spent two nights with Dan and gang in the little AirB’n’B studio apartment above the bar beside the little Mercator, getting the Koritnica paddled on the next day. I then transplanted to Kamp Toni for the imminent arrival of the two lads from home, who were flying to Venice and driving up the Soča river valley.

We spent 4 days of paddling the gems of the Soča river getting Serpenica 1 and 2 done a few times as well as a great run on the Koritnica, but the levels were dropping all of the time and it was a pity that the Bunker run was too low to do properly. We also got a a lovely little sightseeing trip to the Soča source and up to the top of the Vršič pass.

After the lads left to fly from Milan, I had another two nights of chilling with the Dan group again. I then drove to Flo’s place for two nights of visiting, after Flo’s recent return from his transalp cycling 400km from Austria to the Adriatic. There was an interesting and amusing trip to Ikea and a building of a shoe cabinet (kudos to the Ikea engineers for improving their furniture assembly to be almost tool-less) for the stairwell. The local church fete was pretty cool as well!

Then came a very long day of driving, from near Munich at 06.30, via an hour for food in Zurich at 09.30, and making it to our Ibis hotel in Le Mans for 19.00 before the thunderstorms hit. There were temperatures of 35.5C seen en route, and we were thankful for the aircon in the Q7. It’s not often that one can drive a full tank of fuel of that size from top to bottom with relatively normal driving..

The next day was a visit to Mont St Michel, a personal favourite of mine. Always good to see the Abbeye, though past the start of July there are definitely more and more people visiting, and it does feel a little cramped when rubbing shoulders all of the time on the narrow streets.

The ferry was late leaving, for whatever reason Irish Ferries didn’t start loading cars until after the sailing time, and we were 80 minutes late casting off, but yet arrived on time in Rosslare the next morning. Tip for those that are using reserved seats, bring a Thermarest and a light sleeping bag and you may be able to use the floor space if there are not too many people in the reserved seating area. At least the aircon works to keep that area feeling fresh..

A lovely trip, much needed relaxation, huge distances driven in comfort, some fun memories, some fond memories, and a desire to do it all again next year!

Alps trip, quick notes

Alps 2017. An interesting 3 weeks, 2 of which were “interesting” in the Chinese Curse meaning of the word.. Photos to be added at another point.

Personal goals and observations from my time away.

  • Climbed Col d’Izoard on the road bike, from Briancon. 2 days after the Col opened for the summer. Highlight of my trip. About 3hr to climb to the top. Many stops, but achieved the goal.
  • Longest distance I’ve personally driven in any 24hr to date: 1144km from leaving Alberto’s campsite 08.30 Sunday to Cote de Nacre shopping centre in Caen on the Monday morning.
  • Longest distance driven solo in one journey, 13hr 764km from ferry to Jugy, and 1112 in 24hr from the ferry to the Briancon campsite including the overnight in the Aire.
  • Hiking up towards the Le Col de Freissinières, above Dormillouse in the Bayaisse valley, was an epic place to be. Hiked from the carpark at 1440m to 2070m. Ended up in complete solitude in the higher valley, no real signs of humanity around. Fabulous.
  • The personal decompression and getting away from it all was so necessary, it wasn’t funny. It was really needed!
  • The new tent worked out to be fantastic, a lovely place to live in relative comfort, thankful for the large porch and the NeoAir Dream mattress. Was still nice to get a bed and a shower on the ferry, but I’ll happily live under those conditions again.
  • The Q7 is surprisingly fuel efficient for what it is. 10.2l/100 from the ferry to the French campsite, including a very spirited drive up through the Romanche Gorges. Maybe about 5.5 tanks of fuel total for the European trip, at the local speed limits for most of it anyway.

As for my review of the ULKC-relevant part of the trip, I’ll complete that at another stage, as it will definitely be a far from glowing review, as it was mostly ill-organised and proven dangerous to the beginners..

Next year, the plans for this time of the year will likely be a little different. I’ll be expecting there to be differing conditions put on the club on how to run a foreign trip after this year’s stupidities in the planning and execution. I know what the ideal would be and I don’t know if the relevant people will want to listen to that.

Overall, I’m glad I went on the 3 weeks away. Definitely some interesting lessons learned from the trip.

First hike with OPC

Last Sunday was a great little amble along part of the Kerry Way with the UL Outdoor Pursuits Club.

I had signed up for another year of membership at the recruitment drive, and got told that the first event for the club this academic year was to be a hike along a 12km portion of the Kerry Way from Glencar to the town of Glenbeigh. The bus collected us all at the Stables at about 9am on the Sunday morning. Travelling down, chatting with old friends and making new ones on the bus, stopping to get the lunch we’d eat en route, and eventually getting to the Climber’s Inn.

There, we changed into the waterproofs and boots as the weather was beginning to close in. Off we all went in our large group traipsing up a rough track, and back onto the side of a small Kerry country road. It was interesting to be on the bank of the Caragh river and not in my kayaking gear at one stage of the hike, seeing bits of the river that I’ve only seen from the water in the past.

We ended up in some of the most atmospheric sections of wooded wilderness that I’ve been in in Ireland, with the mist pushing through the trees, water dripping on us, with a quiet over the group as we walked up and down along the path. Beautiful.

Lunch was sitting in a little patch of forest, with deadfalls, deep moss, treestumpos and the wind picking up. This was a good opportunity to chat with people that were too far away in the line to chat to previously, and it’s great to get to know new people..

Then, it was up the Windy Gap, of which there are a few in Kerry apparently! Very exposed, very windy, but spent the climb chatting while putting one foot in front of the other. The group photo at the top should be interesting with the wind absolutely whipping from our right hand side with horizontal rain! Coming down was fun, with a bit of a wind shadow from the mountain behind us, and a gentle downhill all the way to the Towers hotel in Glenbeigh. We were quite the little group of drowned rats, some were soaked through but all were smiling. My flask of hot ribena went down a treat!

Unfortunately the bus wouldn’t compress enough air to get the brakes going, so we warmed up in the Towers for a while. Once the bus was ready to move, we came home, dropping off people at their various places of residence. Me, I went home, cooked food, set a hot fire and then had a most relaxing hot shower and then ended up dozing happily on the couch..

Definitely looking forwards to the next outdoorsey trip!

Project: Lighten the Reign X1 a little bit..

After the biking in Wicklow when I was having a little trouble dragging that bike uphill, I’ve begun a project to lighten the Reign X a little bit, without lightening my wallet too much.

So I’ve upgraded from a coil DHX 3.0 to a secondhand DHX 5.0 air shock that came from the UK, and that lightened the bike by a fair chunk of a kilo, as well as giving me more tweaking possibilities with the setup, and I like my tweaking!

Tyres – I’ve swapped out the 2.5″ DHF/DHR supertacky combination and put back on the 2.25″ ADvantage 60a XC tyres back and front with XC tubes instead of the DH tubes I had in there. It’ll slip a little bit more when riding, but that takes more than another kg or so off the bike and improves the up and across characteristics. Definitely a fair bit faster than with the DH tyres!

The brakes were good but I wanted to upgrade to finned brakes after my experience with the Zees on the V10 in France last summer. A set BNIB of SLX brakes came available, and they went on to the bike with the finned metallic pads. Great feel, servo-wave on the levers and they feel pretty good.

The drivetrain had started slipping and getting a lot harder to change gears recently, so I’ve bit the bullet and swapped all the worn bits out. Given the replacement of the bits like-for-like isn’t that much cheaper than going to singlering front with an extrawide 10-speed range on the rear, so this is the plan. Bits are ordered, and it’ll get done next week at some stage. The 17T goes away, and a 4oT goes in at the top, so it’s about the same range as the top end drivetrains.

  • 40T Hope extender cog.
  • SLX 10-speed clutch mech.
  • SLX 10-speed shifter.
  • 32T front narrow-wide ring
  • XT 11-36 cassette
  • Deore 10 speed chain

Surprisingly much better feel for the changing of gears! Well, 6 years of wear will have its effects. Gone from SRAM/Hayes drivetrain to full SLX and I’m happy with the result. Overall, the bike is now 16.3 kg down from the ~20kg it was and it feels nice to cycle around.

Only options left to lighten things are to go to air forks and a super-light wheelset and I’m not really willing to spend that on the bike.

Zet Director

So, the other pre-Trip purchase this month was a new and shiny Zet Director, ordered from I-Canoe in Dublin. It’s a big behemoth of a boat, all the better to keep my heavy ass afloat in the Alps. 360l of volume, about 20kg or so of weight, and it’s quite comfortable to sit in. Shakedown paddle will probably be Saturday on the Castleconnell, where I’ll try not to scratch the arse out of it on the ~6 to 8 cumec of water that the ESB are letting down this season. At least I know the boat is easy to roll, it’ll be a lot of fun testing it out on the rivers, getting the outfitting just right for me though the first sitting suggests that it’ll be a nice fit expecially with the size of my thighs.

Many thanks to Colm in I-Canoe, and to Jack in ULKC for helping me add my bits to the ULKC summer order.

New DH bike incoming..

So, I’ve bitten the bullet and decided to get a downhill rig for the upcoming trip to Les Gets. I figured I’d get the benefit to having a bike that has more squish and better geometry for battering down mountainsides at speed. This bike – it’s a Santa Cruz V10.4 – has a carbon fibre frame built to be pretty much bulletproof, and it has 8 inches of suspension on the front and 10(!) inches of suspension on the rear. It’s the same bike as was used to win a few UCI World Cup races over the past few years. Hopefully it’ll give me the confidence to progress my learning and allow me to have a bit more fun a bit more safely than I’ve been able to on the ReignX. The ReignX is a very capable bike, but this should make a big difference.
The bike is carbon and alloy, so black and silver. I may repaint at some stage. Forks are Boxxer coils, with J-Tech damping. Shock is a Fox DHX RC4. Brakes are M820 Saints with 200mm discs so should be immense in stopping power. Zee rear mech. Tubeless wheels and decent DH tyres. Total bike weight about 16kg which is epically low for a 10″ DH rig.
Pics to come when it arrives.