Saturday, January 26, 2013

Summer Holiday to Spain 2012

Bit late, but just found this draft...

Summer Holiday 2012 - _7043883

For our summer holiday to Spain we took 3 weeks for the first time since 2009! We planned to travel through France as quickly as possible and spend 4 or 5 days touring through Spain before spending 2 weeks in our holiday house. I put plenty of planning into the routes we should take attempting to avoid motorways and explore nearby and interesting places

Our journey through UK was slower than expected, mainly due to regular stoppage due to inability to stay overnight at a service station - we used to pay £10 and sleep at a service station overnight, but we couldn't do this because we were being classified as an HGV through the now computerised parking system. Even after speaking to them by telephone they couldn't do much, so we had to keep moving! We've since subscribed to a campervan wildcamping site and will use that to find places to stay in future.

Summer Holiday 2012 - _6303828

We arrived about an hour early at the Eurotunnel and stayed the night at the Aire du Baie de Somme service station on the A10. We had a long sleep and a late start leaving around 12.

Summer Holiday 2012 - _6303829

We drove for as long as we could targetting Bordeaux; just after midnight we pulled off the motorway to stop at an Aire near Angoulême and as I was driving narrow town roads the street lights clicked off which was a bit spooky, it was 12.30 so it must be a feature! Unfortunately the Aire no longer existed and had been replaced by a campsite. We turned around and rejoined the motorway, we drove to an Aire near Bedenac arriving very late (1 or 2 in the morning).
The following day we set off for the campsite (Baztan) we wanted to stay at in Eratzu, Spain. We cut off the N10 just before the Spanish border and travelled through the mountains crossing the border unexpectedly in the middle of a small French/Spanish village called Dantxaria. I turned left at a mini roundabout and was confronted with a Spanish sign and a Repsol petrol station! Very odd and happened so quickly I never even took a photograph! We arrived at the campsite in the middle of siesta but we were able to find a nice 'parcela' so set up for the evening and night. This was the first time we could try out our new sun canopy.

Pitched with Sun Canopy

Near our pitch there was a barn which somehow reminded me of "The Walking Dead". I did look inside the window :)

Summer Holiday 2012 - _7023839

We discovered another yellow camper van owner who took pictures of our van and his together! We had some wine and decided that rather than trying to tour the Pyrenees, Rioja and staying in Logrono in a few days we'd tour La Mancha for longer instead looking for clues about Don Quixote. The following day we drove directly to Puerto Lapice. We left the campsite just before 12 and stopped at a nearby town to stock up with supplies (and saffron). We then set off on a mainly motorway journey arriving a few kilometres before Puerto Lapice (about 100 miles south of Madrid) in a wild camping area alongside another British camper van conversion late at night.
Our tour through La Mancha was very good, every little town revealed yet more to discover and explore. From the A4 motorway, La Mancha is incredibly flat and boring, the road is incredibly straight deviating only for modern town bypasses. Getting off this road and perhaps 30 or 40 kms away demonstrated what La Mancha has to offer! Sadly I missed an opportunity for cheese tasting - there was a shop open in Ruidera, but I visited a nearby bar instead where we were given complimentary Octopus tapas.

I documented our trip through La Mancha separately.
We arrived at our destination in Malaga and the first few days were very relaxing where I caught up on some reading material and ran through some Lightroom tutorials! We explored some local museums - including a museum about honey; I had absolutely no idea there were so many different types of "pure" honey as it depends on what vegetation the bees feed on!
Unfortunately I had an accident in Colmenar just before setting off for Olvera, lack of local knowledge led me to driving through narrow streets where I clipped someone's bumper, I left my details and received a call from the owner shortly after - another Brit - typical! We exchanged insurance details and finally set off for Olvera for some DIY work. We rendered interior walls, hung curtains, repointed brickwork on the roof terrace and tiled the roof of the stair well. I started early on the roof terrace, but eventually the sun became too warm to work under so Louise had to hold a sombrero to shade me!
We then headed to Benalmadena so we could visit Selwo Marina for Ethan to watch dolphins, this was a very warm day but I think he enjoyed himself! He fell asleep during the penguin feeding session at which point we put him in his pram.

untitled shoot - _7174245

After taking Bruno to the vet for his UK reentry checkup, we visited the beach in Torre Del Mar so Ethan could build sand castles on the beach!

We left Malaga on Thursday to head for the Eurotunnel Sunday morning; this was not the best journey. We left on Thursday around 4pm stopping on the A2 after Guadalajara early in the morning. The following day we left late morning, this journey was mostly okay, but we were definitely falling behind schedule. We spotted what looked like a gum ball rally in Rioja, a large number of Ferraris and Lamborghinis overtook me, but I caught up with them again at a filling station. Every pump was occupied with a very expensive super car - except the one my camper van was at :)

Repsol Gathering

Travelling into France we missed an opportunity for 'Kebabs' and eventually fell back on a McDonalds in Angoulême at 10.30pm. There was a long queue at the drive through and after dinner we left McDonalds just before midnight. The van was also beginning to act odd by not starting properly (whirring noise, but no cranking).

We carried on for another hour stopping near Ruffec.

The following morning we left again around 10 and should have had a 580km journey to Calais, but it took much longer than expected, by 5pm we were only just approaching Chartres and were redirected due to the Tour de France between Bonneville and Chartres, this probably took an extra hour for us to detour. Looking back the detour was only small and as it happened looking at the map afterwards we were on a direct route to Dreux, but I didn't realise this, turning around and making life very difficult! Given hindsight this would have been an ideal time to simply stop, have dinner and review the paper maps - a lesson learned!

We arrived in Rouen around 7 where our Spanish debit card stopped working this added anxiety to the timing and starter issues as we didn't have enough fuel to get to Calais. I assumed it was the Esso garage, so carried on eventually finding another Carrefour market significantly off route. The card was declined again so we used our UK card and set off - after sunset. At 11pm we passed the Baie du Somme, I was very tired so we stopped for the night - we had a 4.30am start to set off for the hours drive to the tunnel and check in at 6.50am.

The following morning the van failed to start properly on a few occasions and we were worrying about driving off the train. We caught a later than booked train and went through the tunnel. I was really shattered and stopped at the first service station where I repacked the van a little. I then used my phone to connect to the internet and check the spanish bank account to find out why our account wasn't working - turns out Banco Popular limits the amount of transactions that can be made in a month irrespective of whether sufficient funds are available. After a phone call we set off at which point I reversed into a height restriction barrier cracking my roof and bending the bodywork.

We suspect the starting issue was the solenoid not getting enough voltage to engage with the flywheel. I later discovered our Fridge was being connected via our split charging regulator during ignition which would have been a significant power draw, in future we'll switch the fridge off by its switch before starting the engine and replace the camper's starter battery.

It would appear we travelled south in search of Don Quijote, but on return to the UK - we found him… Quite thankful the damage was minimal (though still needs repair), I'm sure it was a combination of the duress of the journey and tiredness.

Next year we need to factor in an extra day on return as mealtimes took much longer than I expected and on average we can only average around 50km/hour over the course of a day.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Kube 2, KHT 2005.3 Subwoofer Buzzing - Solved!

After moving some furniture around in our living room, we had to move our Kube 2 subwoofer to a new location. After re-installation and power up I discovered a buzzing noise. Due to lack of sockets in its old location it hadn't been used in a few months so I was very disappointed. The buzzing only appeared when the input cable from my Onkyo av amplifier was plugged in, however wiggling it about occasionally stopped the buzzing. I initially thought my subwoofer cable was at fault so I swapped it out for another shorter cable and the buzzing returned - both phono sockets on the sub appeared to be affected so it was either something inside the sub, or some kind of grounding problem.

The noise sounded similar to the buzzing I used to get with a pair of turntables if they weren't grounded to my mixing deck, so after doing some searching online I found a few solutions ranging from removing the earth connection from the plug (don't do this), or purchasing a subwoofer cable with included earthing strap (upwards of £30).

To be sure, I connected one of the testing probes of my multimeter to one of the screws on the subwoofer and the other probe to one of the screws on the AV amplifier, the buzzing immediately disappeared.

My old turntable came with crimped terminal spades which attached to a screw earth connector - or in the case of my old amplifier, one of the chassis screws. So I made up a short length of cable with crimped terminal spades on either end and fastened the cable between the two screws.

Problem solved!

I'm guessing wiggling the input cables around occasionally completed a ground circuit between the chassis of the sub and amplifier via the metal phono connectors.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Stargazing LIVE @ Botanic Gardens

I enjoy BBC 2's stargazing live shows and this is their 3rd year. After Tuesday's show I was pleased to discover a BBC Stargazing LIVE event here in Glasgow in Botanic Gardens on Wednesday!

We arrived just before 6pm and obtained tickets for a 'star talk' and 'creating a comet'. The star talk was a 20 minute class on introduction to astronomy and followed the BBC / Open University Star Guide 2013 handout and also closely followed some of the segments on the TV programme. They used an astronomy application called Stallarium which interestingly I had installed on a Linux machine many moons ago (sorry)... This class was unexpected and if this event is held again, I highly recommend attending!

After the star talk we moved nearer the front of the room where they were going to demonstrate what is inside a comet by constructing a model out of water, dry ice, ash, sand and worcester sauce (to simulate biological content). This show was targeted at children and Ethan seemed to really enjoy it! When asked what a comet was made of I prompted Ethan after a few guesses from the audience and he shouted out ice; a little later the same question was asked and completely unexpectedly and unprompted Ethan shouted out the correct answer - he was listening more intently than we thought :). As a bonus we also got to touch some real meteorites which were about 10cm wide!

After these classes we walked around a marquee with various LEGO mindstorms landers. They also had someone dressed as an Astronaut whom I thought was also robotic as she was standing so still - she gave herself away when she suddenly moved out of the way of someone and lifted her visor!

In the Kibble Palace various stands were available about different cosmological studies, these were all aimed at a range of age groups and each very interesting.

Some telescopes were set out for viewing the stars, but sadly it was foggy so I decided not to join the long queue to look through one of them. Shame it wasn't on Tuesday as the skies were incredibly clear and enough for me to spot some of Jupiter's moons through binoculars!

Well done to the team and I hope an event like this is held again in the future!

More details on the BBC Stargazing LIVE website