Sunday 30 April 2023

Blackbushe - Apr

The first trip to the Blackbushe meet this year, I was up early to wash Devon off the Stylus & got there before the field was full. As ever at this meet there was a "broad church" of cars from what appeared to be a Model T racer, to a MkI Focus

This AC left the factory looking like the purple one below 

Really not sure which I prefer. I might have to have both

Slightly curious looking from the rear, but not in a bad way


I liked this.

It was found rusted out, chassis broken & the owner has sort of restored it, but with MGB running gear, disc brakes, TR2 front wheels, TR6 rear, IKEA fruit bowls for hub caps. All of it has been changed, but changed to look like it comes from 1938.

Engine bay was very clever, The 1930s fire extinguisher is actually the radiator expansion tank.

There cant be too many old commercial vehicles left in America

And again......

Engine bay was immaculate - sounded like thunder that had gargled with gravel, then got really angry.

Lancia - Unlike the green & Black Morris above which has suicide front doors, normal rear, this had suicide rear doors & normal front, both latched at the roof with no B pillar at all. Took the guy five weeks to get them to shut nicely.

It's the blue one, really nice looking car.

He was about to take it to Spain!

1950s excess.

Rover 110 with an ENORMOUS V8


Big Healey with a removable section of front wing over the carbs - means business.

The epitome of good taste (ahem).

I may need to do something similar (ish) when by bike is restored.

And then this tuned up.

Where do you even buy white tyres??

It is quite, quite mad.

And the more I looked at it, the madder it got.

The brake shoes are on the outside of the drums

Floors are for wimps

Jam On Top Tour - Epilogue

So, what did we learn?

This was the first time we'd all ventured into Devon together & we found the the roads were pretty good as long as you kept off the small ones.

Our B&B, Lasham House was very nice & the cars were well out of the public eye, the proprietor's 13 year old son is a bit of a petrol head & couldn't believe his luck that a bunch of interesting cars had arrived & he could photograph them & sit in them. He was very polite, very careful around the cars & a proper enthusiast. What a shame he'll grow up in a world of bland electric-mobiles.

If planning it again (& a few people have expressed an interest) I would avoid the small roads. In other places we go they break up the duller bits of a route & make a change, in north Devon they were strewn with grass, mud & rocks & really not worth bothering with.

I also learned that Bristol isn't a good place to get lost & that the M4 is not a good way to get home.

On the upside, when the roads were good, they were EPIC, with really steep hills, proper hairpins & little traffic, the coffee stops were all good, especially the Quince Honey Farm, the £3 toll road was very nice (the £2 one wasn't).

So who knows, there may well be a RogueRunners Devon '24

Jam On Top Tour Day 3

 I remember day three as being an unmitigated disaster, but it wasn't, entirely bad. It started badly with some very bad family news which preyed on my mind all day, but we set off from the B&B in sunshine & drove the A39 again in an easterly direction, we kept off the little roads & all went well. We planned to stop at Porlock Weir for a coffee break & as we rolled into the car park, dark clouds were gathering so hoods were rapidly erected & just as the last was going into place, the heavens opened in properly biblical fashion - OK it didn't go on for 40 days & 40 nights, but it was VERY HEAVY. We had a coffee in the posh hotel & as these thing do, it had passed over by the time we left.

The roads got slowly less interesting as we traveled east & by & by we arrived at a petrol stop just the other side of Cheddar. We were all together & it was only a few miles to the coffee stop that marked the end of the route, so we would all have a drink together before going out separate ways.

What could possibly go wrong?

It was only a small petrol station, so as soon as I had fueled up I left. A little old lady in a blue car had driven up to the front of one of our number & seemed put out that her pump was busy, so I squeezed the Stylus past here & found Roger also ready to move on. Graham had already departed heading in the wrong direction. Roger & I drove along & after a while were joined by Graham & we pulled into the cafe. We waited, we waited a bit more. I wandered down the approach road to take pictures of our compatriots arriving. After a few minutes we got bored & sauntered inside. There was nothing on my phone, but one of the others had a message about a car not starting. Information was sparse, but after a while it seemed the car had been persuaded to run & headed straight home, the others were on their way.

No-one arrived.

After a bit Robert turned up, just after Roger & Graham left, so I had another drink & eventually ascertained that the remaining two were at a different cafe, possibly next to a different lake.

Robert & I set off, but in an attempt to go directly home I deleted one to many waypoints & the SatNav took me north, the first I knew of this was when we hit the outskirts of Bristol. All this time I had been fretting about the bad family news, but my mind was about to get focused on a new problem - avoiding the Bristol "Clean Air Zone".

Eventually I managed to set the SatNav to "shortest route" to take us east, but stuck in the suburbs of an unfamiliar city, in rush hour traffic, with dozens of signs telling you all the things you're not allowed to do, while lost - quite stressful. Then we saw Linda going the other way!

Then it started raining heavily again.

Then we had to do 125 miles on the M4

Eventually I got home exhausted, but there was no word saying others had arrived, I was worried, but surely bad things couldn't have befallen ALL of them?

At around 10:00 I noticed a tiny tiny message scrolling across the top of my phone saying "emergency calls only" I prodded a few things on the screen & the phone started beeping & pinging & it seemed everyone had got home safe & well.

Not the best day I've had in the Stylus!

Jam On Top Tour Day 2

The centre day of the RogueRunners miniature tour of north Devon, it was a bit of a dull start with rain threatening later, but we headed out of town heading south along some nice roads & after about 30 miles pulled into the quince honey farm, which according to its web site is:- "a working honey farm and a great day out for all the family. From guided tours, soft play and beautiful gardens through to exclusive bee keeping experiences, there’s plenty to keep everyone happy!" Well, it had two car clubs in the car park & cake in the cafe, so it kept us happy. There were TVRs & Austin Sevens, so a bit of a contrast.

After our refreshment stop we continued south on a straightish road (in Devon terms), before turning east onto Exemoor, the weather stayed dry as villages & farms passed on either side - and the engine stopped again.

Initially it looked like the wires were all still attached, so we checked the fuse but that was OK, so I went back to the pump. I stripped back more insulation & bent the black corroded wire into a shepherd's crook & put the nut back on. All the time I was faffing with it the Rogues stood loyally by (in case anything entertaining was going to happen), but the car started & off we went again, but it wasn't a happy car, so I stopped in a car park & put another couple of turns of the connector nut, which seemed to do the trick.

Which was just as well because I'd taken the route onto some very minor roads, this usually results in some "memorable" events, but in north Devon they were potholed, with long grass in the middle & pickups coming towards us quite fast, so I'd have been better sticking to the A & B roads. Oh well.

Then on a road seemingly only as wide as the Stylus, a milk tanker came the other way. What I really wanted to see about now was a white line in the middle of the road. Eventually there was one & we picked up the speed. A shower at a fuel stop made us put the hoods up & soon after that a road closed by the police gave us a detour, but after a spell on a fast trunk road the SatNavs found a way through & we were rewarded after a little more single track with a fantastic road running north into Dunster it was wide enough for two cars, it was very curvy indeed & wound through country very reminiscent of The Shire - no Elves or Hobbits though - and it went on for about 1/2 hour with nothing ahead. Glorious! 

After Dunster we turned right & parked up outside "the Driftwood cafe" right on the coast at a place called Blue Anchor, they had a spectacular Victoria sponge & we were just in time because they were closing as soon as the Government's emergency phone alert went off - no idea why that should be the signal to shut up shop, perhaps it's a Devon thing.

By now the sun had got his hat on & after the alert - and another one in Welsh, the roofs came off & we headed back west along the A39 which was lovely & at Porlock the £3 toll road was lovely, after that I'd taken the route along some small roads which weren't so lovely. Pot holed & rock strewn would be an apt description, but we re-emerged onto the A39 where at Lynmouth I had plotted a route twice round a loop that took in some good hairpins. There had been some trouble with the TYRE routing program not understanding, but other programs had been happy & the SatNav appeared so as well - but not on the day. There was some confusion & I'm sure we ended up going round the wrong bit of the loop in the wrong direction (sigh).

Next was "The Valley of the Rocks" above Lynton, chosen just for it's scenic value, but that road led us to another toll road that I wasn't aware of - £2 was the price for this one & it wasn't worth it, muddy & rock-strewn I was glad to get off it & into  Martin where there was a life size Tamiya Sand Scorcher parked!

Sand Scorcher - on the left

After a few more steep & wining roads we were back in Ilfracombe, where we wandered back into town to dine at the Smugglers again.

Tuesday 25 April 2023

Jam On Top Tour Day 1

The "Jam On Top" Tour has finished - I don't think anyone actually had a cream tea while we were there - a bit remiss of us.

The first day was all about getting there & I nearly didn't. Two came from the north the day before, two (three people, two cars) came from the south coast. Two (again three people, two cars) came from the the south side of the M25 south of London & two from west of London. So getting everyone in the same place at the same time was a challenge. The south coast pair had the longest journey on the day & were up VERY early. Their job was to get to Stockbridge for 08:00. The south of London pair & the westerners had to get to Popham services for 07:40 ready to go on to Stockbridge & the northern pair would meet at the breakfast stop.

What could possibly go wrong? - well, my car for a start. Just off the A303 it just ran out of engine - dead. My first thought was the new fuel pump, in fact it was one of the ring tags taking power to the pump had fatigued off, it felt a little dodgy when I put it on, but as I didn't have another one the right size I thought "it'll be fine".

It wasn't.

But I had tools with me so I sent the others on their way, stripped the wire back & put the nut over the bared end - it didn't look good as the wire was all corroded, but the engine started & I cruised along the A303 to the Haynes Museum, where they weren't doing breakfasts!

Not going well so far then.

Fortunately they were well stocked with cake & refreshed we headed a little further down the A303 to Yeovilton & the Fleet Air Arm Museum. It is one of the very best aircraft museums there is, not only because of the exhibits, but because of the way they are exhibited - and they have three Harriers.

One of our number was so enthralled I had to go back in & drag him out with the promise of going back another day.

There's another version of this plane with an enormous anvil
 underneath (Wiley Coyote joke)

So at this point the trip proper began, we did a little cruising on the A303 & the M5 to get us in the right place, but after that it was all about crossing Exemoor on the windiest roads available. They are pretty good & mostly traffic free, it's a small area, much smaller that we usually visit, but the mix of curly roads, steep hills, coast & quaint villages makes it a good destination for a short trip. But to avoid caravans you have to go early in the year or late, we were there early & we were rained upon - a bit.

We stayed in Illfracombe at a B&B by the name of Laston House, a grand old building about a mile inland from the harbour - & a good 1/4 mile UP from it. It had the advantage of "stealth parking" (the cars couldn't be seen from the road) & we walked into town & found a nice looking restaurant featuring unfeasibly shiny bricks & a wide range of weaponry hanging from the rafters - so we behaved ourselves (ish). "The Smugglers" did us proud, there wasn't a single complaint about any of the food, so we went back the following day. After filling ourselves with food & beer we hardly noticed the climb back up to the B&B (this is a lie).

The FA2 variant of The Finest Aircraft Ever Made.

Tuesday 18 April 2023

Pre-Tour Tour

 Last year I went on a mini tour of north Devon on my way to the Rogue Runners Wales tour in September (subsequently named "The Missing Castle Tour") & was so impressed by the roads I organised a mini-tour for the Rogues (coming soon), then a different group of friends decided to have a house party in south Devon to celebrate a big birthday, which by happenstance coincided with me needing to take my 1978 bike frame (531 double butted, made to measure) in for a refurbishment at a very professional looking frame maker's workshop in Bristol (Argos Racing Cycles).

The weather forecast looked a bit pants with a swirling rain cloud rotating over Bristol & clearly the sensible option was to default to the tin-top.

Of course I didn't! 😂

Having loaded the the Stylus with my clothes, a very great many alcoholic beverages & mixers AND a bike frame AND got the roof over it all, I headed west. It was a nice enough run & I only drove past the workshop once. The sky was clearing as I left & since I'd had to take the roof of to get the frame out I rolled it up & stowed it.

I had a route that took me onto Exmoor & south along the little roads The SatNav said I would be there just before 6! I was enjoying rumbling along the Devon (possibly Somerset) lanes with 6ft hedges both sides & I was just thinking "nothing's come the other way for miles" when a pick up pulling a caravan followed by a van came into view. Fortunately there was a farmyard entrance in just the right place. Shortly after that was another van driving through a pond where the road should be, but at least I could see how deep the water was & I set off through it.

The next water feature was bigger & had no convenient vehicle to judge it against, yes I should've gone back, but that tends not to be in my nature. Keeping the revs up & the clutch slipping I plunged into the deep - & deep it was - I could see see the bow wave ahead of the car & the water seemingly 1/2 way up the doors, I did have ca camera running, it doesn't really show the full horror, suffice to say it took three days & 200 miles for the car to dry out & there's still quite a lot of Devon clinging to the chassis rails in the engine bay.

Shortly after this I re-set the SatNav & took the big roads, arriving just after 4:00.

The next day dawned bright & clear, so the roof came off the car & hung on the line to dry & we all went for a very pleasant stroll along the coast path & a scramble over the rocks back again. In the evening an Italian couple came & did catering for us with home made starters, pizza, lasagne, breads & lashings of tiramisu. It was pretty spectacular.

Then on the Sunday it was time to head back. Again my route took me the indirect way, across Dartmoor & then home via the A30 which was a very pleasant drive.

The car coped admirably with its dunking, though I have bought it a new fuel pump as the one on it is of unknown provenance & a spare is probably a good idea.

Monday 10 April 2023

Lights! Cameras! Action!

 I'm away in Devon for the next two weekends so a Sunday run posted by GB suggested itself as a suitable "shakedown" run. As the week went on, more and more names were added to the list of runners until it reached the heady total of 14! (mostly Lotuses though).

Another reason for heading out was the camera. I had two GoPro Hero 2s & a Hero along with two wifi backs which over the years had fallen into "graceful degradation" one, then both of the wifi backs failed, a charge connector fell out, the batteries although appearing to charge, weren't running the cameras. I mentioned on a club chat that I was thinking of buying a couple of cheap cameras & two of the Rogue Runners offered me their disused Hero 3s. One from my bestest friend inna world Linda, arrived by post midweek & the other from my bestest friend inna world Roger was handed to me at the meet point, so I again have cameras & re-used ones rather than new ones shipped here from the far east in a smoky diesel bulk carrier. I thought this was a very kind thing until I realised that by giving me the cameras they would still get videos of the road trips - they just wouldn't have to spend hours editing the footage down - cunning! (no - it was a VERY kind thing & I very much appreciate it).

Only the first one was in use on the run, the mounts for the second were sorted out on my return home.

It was pretty dark when I set off just before 06:00, pretty damn cold too, I chose a poor selection of apparel & was freezing almost from the outset. 

Then the traffic lights at the road works close to my house had frozen on red, so after sitting looking at the stationary lights of the car facing me I  took the initiative & drove through

The run started from one of GBs preferred start points on the A23 & the cars made quite an impressive sight. GB asked me to lead out, the Loti followed, with the other two kits taking up the rear.

To begin with I was having a little car trouble, the engine stuttering, especially when coming off a right hand bend. After a while I was thinking I should return home & investigate, when it stopped. I wonder if being in the garage with the temperature fluctuations we've had made moisture condense in the tank & the bends were slooshing it into the tank's sump? Who knows.

The roads were good, quite winding, not too much traffic & we made good progress. 

At one point I rounded a corner to find the road covered with doves & pigeons who didn't seem bothered about getting out of the way (they're a little like cyclists in this regard). I really thought this one had left it too late, but It just missed the screen pillar.

I don't much like being at the front, the camera footage isn't as good & I have to decide on the pace, so when we got to some dual carriageway I stayed on the inside lane so folk could pass if they wished.

Then passing through a village - we'd been stuck behind a car following two cyclists taking up most of the road having a chat, one cyclist turned off allowing the first car past, the Lotus ahead of me did the same but then veered off right & only at the last second did I see the other Lotii parked up for a rest. Rather than swerve I went on, turned round & went back

Having had a break, we set off again, up Ditchling Beacon which was mercifully free of cars & only a couple of bikes & then down to the coast to the east of Brighton & the Roedean cafe where the carpark was a mess of Lotus' going back & forth, getting parked up on the sloping gravel trying not to scrape bits on the ground. No such problems for the Stylus.

But there is a post-script, Richard in one of the kits hadn't arrived. I put a message on the WhatsApp asking if he was OK & got a curt "Yep", a little while later there was another message saying he was in the car park of a closed cafe miles away - it seems he's got his daughter to load the route onto his satnav & she'd posted one with the correct start point, but a different end. Not a good result on Easter Sunday - no bacon for him! On the other hand, Matt who hadn't done the route joined us for breakfast in his black & green MK & he lives not 1/2 mile from my Dad, who I was going to visit on my way home, so I had company on the way back. This will of course stop when the extended London ULEZ prohibits the 40mpg petrol Stylus - meaning I'll be making EXTRA car journeys when I go to see my Dad.

Saturday 1 April 2023

Adding Mass

Yes, not like me I know.

It's been a while since I posted on here because a/ I've been away & b/ it's rained - a lot, so there's not been much chance to get out in the car. It did go out last week over to the very good Silvesters Garage near Guildford for an MoT - all my cars have gone there for the last 30 years & they are both very good at what they do & trustworthy. It passed & the tester was kind enough to say it's the best Stylus he's tested this yea...... WAIT A MINUTE!

The "away" was a trip to Wales with my son & his family, I rented a house between Llangollen & Corwen as none of them had ever been to Wales & that put us closeish to the coast & Snowdonia, so my grandson & I hunted dragons in Conwy castle (there must be one - it's on the flag above the turret!) went on a steam train & a horse drawn boat & looked at sharks in the aquarium (he's not quite three). I loved every minute.

Back to the car. A spur-of -the-moment purchase of a fire extinguisher has added a couple of kg, I've mounted it on the rear parcel shelf so it's out of the way enough, but close to hand if required & I've also installed a sound system (sort of). A £10 purchase on ebay, it's a little gadget that takes a bluetooth signal from a phone (music or phone) & re-transmits it on FM. The inter-car radios we use have a facility to receive FM & mute it when a message comes in or goes out, so I can send music to the headphones from my phone - which is good, but the gadget also has an SD card slot, so carries it's own MP3 supply, it comes on & plays with ignition & a touch of the orange button on the radio plays it through the headphones. So this afternoon's job was to move the radio to somewhere I could reach it from the driver's seat.

This looked like a tricky one until I found a P-clip & made up a bracket to hold the radio on the roll bar. The radio should work better there as it's not in front of a vertical aluminium sheet.

With the first big trip of 2023, a school friends trip to Devon only two weeks away & the first proper road trip (the "Jam On Top" tour) only three weeks away, all this is coming together nicely