Sunday 17 November 2013

Another Encounter with The Sussex Blind Drivers Assc.

Another rather too exciting run out with the SKCC. I’d been feeling lousy with a cold, so at best was 50 / 50 for this run, but I woke at 05:00, so I thought I’d go.

Arriving at Newlands there were already three other cars parked up & waiting, so I ambled past them & reversed into the remaining space. My new reverse lights were noticed but deliberately not mentioned – rats!

After a few minutes SteveRST arrived, & a few minutes after that we were joined By DavidT which meant we were good to go. There was a little deliberation about who should lead, but in the end DavidT pulled out of the car park followed by myself. We trundled as far as Godalming before DavidT put himself in the inside lane behind a tintop at some lights while I opted for the outside lane – so then I was in front. Regular readers will know that this never goes well – I seem incapable of following a SatNav while leading a group of cars, but today I did quite well, getting as far as Petworth before turning the wrong way – the SatNav said to turn left, so I did, then it went odd & requested a right turn up an alley, having turned round it wanted me to turn right - the way I had been going – strangeness. But inevitably I was now at the back of the pack when the excitement started. We were on a dual carriageway rumbling along as you do, the other cars were in the inside lane, I was in the outside. I was just considering speeding up to record the cars as I went past when (rather too late) I noticed the speed camera van.

A glance at the SatNav said I was doing 75, so should by OK – we’ll see. Shortly after this we passed a couple of HGVs & then pulled into a side road. I assumed this was a wee stop until the others gathered round DavidT’s offside front wheel. It seems he had been about to overtake the second artic when a Transit pickup which had been waiting to turn right, pulled back into the fast lane without signalling, leaving our man with a choice of hitting it or going under the artic trailer. He chose to take his chances with the Transit & his offside front wheel came into contact with the pick-up’s nearside rear, the cyclewing had been “re-located” & there were witness marks on the tyre wall. To begin with it seemed the tracking was all over the place, but there was no obvious damage to the wishbone brackets, no lost movement in the steering & sighting along the front wheels onto
the rear suggested things weren’t as bad as we’d thought. The mis-alignment was perhaps an optical illusion caused by the misplaced cyclewing. Anyway, after some prodding & a good hard stare Mr T elected to carry on with caution & we set off again. I kept his lights in my mirrors for some time, but he seemed to be OK. Sure enough he arrived at the café just after us.

So, once again rather more of an adventure than we would ideally like, is this just a bad couple of weeks or are folk really driving about without looking where they’re going?

The video clip of last week's "event" is still getting more than 1 hit per minute - over 12,500 now.

Thursday 14 November 2013

Back Up Lights

Having fitted & been impressed with the Day Running Lights (DRLs), they show up pretty well as you can see in this video still from "Bluephil1978 from the SKCC:-
Though obviously not that well from the Nissan 4x4's point-of-view. It occurred to me that I could use the same thing at the rear as reversing lights. Up until now I've avoided reversing lights as I felt they would unnecessarily clutter the back of the car, they were not required for SVA & aren't an MoT item, though I believe they are now an IVA test point - but I don't need to worry about that.

Anyway - when building the car I put a wire from the dash to the gearbox switch & another from the switch back to the rear lights just in case I found I couldn't live without them.
So here's a photo of the back of the car with the new reversing lights fitted ........

Can't see them can you? Good, that was my plan.

The lights are "light bolts" a thing that's really only been possible with the advent of modern high power LEDs, they are effectively a bolt with the LED in the bolt head & the wires running up the centre of the bolt shank. After the Remembrance Day Blatt, I fished the black & purple wire out from the rear light housing & re-routed it through the existing rear fog / No. plate light wire conduit into the centre of the boot space, fitted some terminals, modified the existing earth & Bob's your uncle.

Here they are working:-

 Yes I've used them to hold the No. plate on (the other bit of light on the "Built Not Bought" sticker is a stray reflection in the camera lens.

Last night I took the dash out & found the coiled up wire at the front & soldered it into the fused supply for the DRLs, so with ignition on & reverse selected they work - hurrah!
Of course I still can't actually see behind me because the harness stops me turning round & the mirrors are next to useless, but that's a problem for another day.

Granted they don't look very bright in this photo - that's because they're fighting with the flash.

But here's a picture with all the garage lights out & the flash turned off. As you can see they're bright enough to illuminate the general clutter at the back of the garage, so I think they'll do the trick.

Invisible reversing lights - what will they think of next?

Speaking of being invisible, the video clip of my "near death experience" has now had 3,500 views in four days - it's gone viral!

Monday 11 November 2013

Remembrance Day Again.

Mmmmm - Sunday mornings were made for this.
The SKCCs plan was to meet at the amusingly named Pease Pottage ready to leave at 07:40. I looked it up on the route planning software which assured me it would take 28 mins to get there. I woke early & crept about – even had time for a coffee before leaving at 07:00. The weather was forecast dry & the sky was light, but leaves & standing water on the road meant caution was the order of the day. So by 07:30 it was pretty obvious I was going to be late, by 07:40 & still some miles short of the meet point, I was glad to notice the SatNav showing the routes in & out were coinciding,  so at least I would see the club coming the other way - & sure enough, that’s what happened - & what a magnificent sight they made coming towards me – on my side of the road overtaking a tin-top (OK it was ½ mile up the road & quite unlike the “near death experience” I was to encounter a little later).

As the last car passed, a drive made a convenient turning place & I set off in pursuit, so all was well. The greasiness of the roads was amply demonstrated after ten minutes or so when one of our number was a little too heavy on the right foot, as I rounded a roundabout, there he was facing me. We pulled over & as he didn’t appear to be moving, I gallantly went round the rest of the roundabout to check all was well. The rest of the SKCC used this opportunity to scarper. As it turned out, Wingco was fine, but having SatNav issues, so I led & kept a close eye on the mirrors to make sure he was still in touch.

 After a while we arrived at the café & ordered up breakfast while the banter flowed & one of our number collected contributions for the wreath & charity donation, then at the allotted time & after an ad-hoc repair or two (this week’s broken cycle wing count was two – not both on the same car) we assembled for the run into to church. The idea was to rumble along in formation & all arrive together, however a flock of Harley Davidson riders left the café at the same time, got in amongst us & slowed the second half of the pack to a crawl. But no-matter, we had a back-up plan to re-form at a junction just before the church, however (again) I loused up the seemingly simple task of changing my SatNav from night display to day display & in doing so managed to change the route altogether. So when it said “turn right” I turned right, in spite of the cars in front & behind going straight on, this happens sometimes & I thought I would re-join the party at the next junction, fortunately I noticed the ETA on the screen was saying 11:19, which couldn’t be right as we needed to be at the church by 10:45. Having stopped, called up the correct route again& deleted all but the last waypoint, I headed off, arriving just after everyone else had parked & dismounted.
 The venue is in a posh little village. I’m talking proper plum-in-the-mouth POSH & make no mistake these people dress for the occasion. There was some discussion the first year as to whether there’d be problems with a bunch of mud-splattered oiks pitching up uninvited, but nothing could be further from the truth. They seem genuinely delighted that a crowd of brightly coloured, noisy cars come out of no-where once a year and their dishevelled drivers amble up like a bunch of schoolboys to deposit a slightly soiled wreath at the foot of their cross.
After the wreath-laying we disperse, I took the direct route home, but about mid-way I was rumbling along a nice wide A-road with a right hand bend at the bottom of a long hill, speed limit 60, I was in no hurry, doing maybe 55. I rounded the bend to be faced with a Nissan 4x4 OVERTAKING a Discovery pulling a horsebox! I put two wheels on the verge one my side, the Disco put two wheels on the verge the other & the Nissan just got through. It was really VERY close as you can see in the video – yes, for once I had the camera running when something interesting happened. The video's Below:-
It occurred to me later in the day as I pottered in the garage, had there been about a foot less room, the police would’ve found my camera & data-logger among the twisted wreckage & would by then have arrested the driver of S24UTD for causing death by dangerous driving.

I wonder if they realised how lucky they were?

Sunday 10 November 2013

Rememberance Day

Lots to report, but no time to write it in a witty & amusing manner, so I'll just post a couple of atmospheric stills from the rear camera:-

As well as this clip of a near-death experience I had on the way home:-

More later when I have a little more time

Tuesday 5 November 2013

GoPro? Go Overboard More Like

I've been looking at GoPro mounts as I'm getting one for Christmas. A guy in the SKCC makes superb videos & extolls the virtue of alternate camera angles. This is great if you're Top Gear & have a dozen cameras to festoon a car with, I will just have the one, but I thought I might make the most of what I have with some mounts to put the camera in places you might not expect.

To this end I started sketching & through a few iterations & experiments came up with  a mount on the back of the passenger headrest (not that unusual a view), one in the radiator intake & I wanted one low down at the side of the car. After grubbing about in the garage I came up with this.

What it is, is the bottom section of one leg of a tripod, with the screw & foot removed & replaced by a 1/4 Whitworth bolt, which is shortened & has a GoPro tripod mount fitted.
 There are also a couple of brackets made from aluminium off-cuts pop-riveted on (riveted in two planes - the brackets wrap round). just to ensure I retain ownership of the GoPro, the tripod mount is wired to the leg which means that neither the push-in end can fall out, nor the tripod mount can unscrew.

This item can be attached to the car by two existing bolts holding the rear of the driver's side pod on. I did think of fitting it to the passenger side, to get dramatic footage of exhaust & undergrowth rushing past, but thought better of it when I realised just how close the undergrowth would be.

So here it is installed. All I need now is a camera to put in the case. Roll on January.

Saturday 2 November 2013

The GoPro & The Yogurt Pot

With the “graceful degradation” of the BlattCam, I’d been considering my options & had kind of decided on a GoPro as a combined Christmas & birthday present but as ever with me, there were complications. The current GoPro Hero3 is all fine & dandy, but uses the micro SD cards. Nothing wrong with that as such, but they are fiddly to change & easy to lose. The previous generation GoPro Hero 2 uses the postage-stamp sized cards which I already had a number of.

My conundrum was decided when a barely used Hero2 appeared for sale with the WiFi remote in nearby Weybridge. I put in an offer, the owner accepted it, he saved on PayPal fees, I saved on price.

The GoPro is undoubtedly an excellent piece of kit, but there’s one or two aspects that don’t work terribly well when used on a road trip. The principle one being the need to get a power wire & mic line into the waterproof case, which naturally renders it – not waterproof at all.
The “proof” bit of waterproof wasn’t too important, if the car gets submerged, having footage of the event won’t be my principle concern, but I was bothered that rain would enter through the holes drilled for wires & accumulate in the case. Which would prove expensive. I’d seen instructions on the interweb for modifying a USB lead such that it fitted within the case, the wires themselves could then come out via a hole in the removable door. Swapping to an alternative door would make the case watertight again.
Excellent! I tried it, it didn't work.

The only alternative was a large hole in the side of the case, but all was not lost, as a second-hand case with a scratched lens came up on Ebay, which I bought for £not-much-at-all. I could cut this one about & keep the watertight one for scuba diving off the Maldives (one can but hope).
I was still concerned that rain would enter the case though & looked at various ways of making a shield, including gluing a 35mm film pot to the side. After a few options were dismissed, I hit upon the following.

This is a yogurt pot. Being the preferred variety of my elder daughter, it is of course the expensive type. You can tell by the sturdy nature of the pot. No cheap polystyrene & foil lid here.


This is the part I cut out of the pot, compared to an unmolested pot.........

......... and this is what it looks like selotaped to the case. When I drill the case for the wiring, I’ll attach the shield with double sided foam “servo tape”, which should be strong enough to keep it attached at Oh – 70mph, & seal well enough that any rain gets carried past the opening in the side.

The only down-side I can see at the moment is that the "skins" available for the GoPro will no longer fit - though I may have a plan for that to

Friday 1 November 2013


Little's been happening in Furyville. I went out on an SKCC blatt last weekend, there were two planned, the weather looked better for the Saturday one, so I picked that.


It was drizzling as I stepped out of the house, but the forecast had been for dryness, so it must just be the last of a shower passing over yes?


I'd looked at the route the night before & it began at one of our regular haunts, then came towards Guildford, so I elected to give the neighbours a lie in & meet the route in Shalford. Except that I woke early so I set off. I got as far as Dunsfold parked up & sent a text to say I'd meet the others there. Then the drizzle started again, so I sent another text to say I'd amble along the route to keep the wet at bay. Just before I got to Bramley my phone beeped, "ah" I thought "confirmation". I pulled over & read the message, it said "I think you may have the wrong No." I'd sent the messages to "GB", I should've sent it to "GB SKCC".


Sorry 'bout that GB.
Shortly after that, the other two of today's runners passed the layby I was laying-by, so off we went. After a few miles our leader's SatNav went a little odd, so I took the lead - generally when I'm leading something goes awry, usually I go off piste & end up at the back again, today it was a rainstorm, a real, proper hurling it down type rainstorm. After a while I pulled into a petrol station to take cover under the canopy. Only here did I think to remove the rear facing camera - then I put the roof up anyway.

The rest of our jaunt was conducted with tops erect (unusually all the cars on this run were equipped with screens & hoods) & by & by we arrived at "the chalet", where we breakfasted & bantered.

On arriving home I mopped a decent amount of water out of the car & took the roof & all the blatt gadgets into the house to dry. The rear camera had not fared well.

Water ran out of it.

I believe that expert opinion suggests that this is "not a good thing" for a camera.

I took the covers off each end & laid it to rest on a radiator. A couple of days later it was still not responding to prodding. It was only £14, so not a huge blow & now I have my GoPro (or will have come Christmas) so the failing BlattCam would be called to rear-facing duty.

BUT, now almost a week after it's dunking, the rear camera has come back to life - hurrah!

Next outing is the rememberance day run, so fingers are crosser for better weather for that.