Round-and-Round and End-to-End (Swampland to the Highlands) - Lots of photos

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by slartidbartfast, Jun 14, 2008.

  1. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Life is for good friends and great adventures Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2003
    Oddometer:
    13,708
    Location:
    Southern Louisiana or Southern England or ...
    After Kylesku, we passed another couple of hotels that seemed to cater mainly to fly fishermen. We saw several people dressed up in tweed caps and all the traditional garb with fishing rods and nets over their shoulders.

    We passed several sites where the locals cut peat and stack the blocks to dry for winter fuel.
    [​IMG]

    More of the wooly critters in a field by the ocean
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Small showers came and went but the wind got steadily stronger. Our progress was halted again and again by the desire to soak up more of the raw beauty around.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    When we finally reached the north coast, we found the scenery subtly different. Not quite as rugged but equally beautiful.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
  2. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Life is for good friends and great adventures Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2003
    Oddometer:
    13,708
    Location:
    Southern Louisiana or Southern England or ...
    Ok - No shots of brunch but it was not an especially exciting spot. We were the only people in the place. A cuppa was inexpensive and we had some warm food but the cafe was barren, scruffy and freezing cold. The view out the back window was a scenic expanse of an asbestos shed or chicken coop.

    Just down the road, we came to Smoo Cave and, as it was cold and raining and I didn't fancy hiding/covering up my GPS, etc., I didn't go all the way down for a closer look. I'm already regretting it as I've heard about this place so many times and was that close. Ho hum!
    [​IMG]

    The road ducks back inland, tracing the shoreline of Loch Eribol (which is really just a big sea inlet). There were a few more critters on the road too.
    [​IMG]

    Approaching the causeway over the Kyle of Tongue, was another example of a typical highland cemetery, we had seen so many of. Unusual because they are most often not surrounding a church.
    [​IMG]

    Fluffy and cute? or simply a mobile chicane with propensity for leaving slippery surprises on blind corners?
    [​IMG]

    As we approached Bettyhill, the intensity of the showers picked up again and we rounded a corner to find a roadblock in front of us. Hard on the brakes, I pulled up next to a chap in a flourescent green jacket who tells us that the road is closed due to a motorbike accident. Then goes on to say that the only way around is a #%*@-of-a-road and would take us at least an hour and a half longer. However, he assures us that the road will probably be open soon and waves us through saying we might be able to get some food in the town. We're getting soaked at this point... "Sounds ok to me."

    We pull into the village store for another steaming hot cuppa while our bikes get soaked outside. I'm slightly concerned a strong gust might blow them over. The store seems to sell a bit of just about everything, from liquorice logs (Yes!) to fly fishing equipment, groceries and almost anything else imaginable.
    [​IMG]

    Various locals come and go and the talk is all about the wreck and the closed road. It's now been closed for hours and there's no reasonable way around. Several places are suggested to us for lunch and even though we've had brunch and a couple of cups of tea fairly recently, we decide it will kill some time.
    [​IMG]

    There are loads of other bikes parked at the restaurant, all the riders are inside eating, talking about the crash, and waiting for the road to open. DewNmoon has the Haddock again.
    [​IMG]

    When we finally get the word that the road is clear, we are eating desert. Most of the other bikers head for the door and roar off into the distance. We take our time, get finished with our food and take a snapshot of the local church before we get ready to move on.
    [​IMG]

    So much for the road being open. 1/4 mile up the road, we are stopped by another man in a fluorescent green jacket and spend the next 30 mins staring at the back of a police car while they fiddled about with the tow-truck and took photos and measurements.
    [​IMG]

    DewNmoon amused himself photographing the gorse in the hedge and then wandered up and began chatting to the cops. That's when he got the photos of the crashed vehicles and all the info on the crash that everybody else had merely been speculating about.
    [​IMG]
  3. bikerz

    bikerz Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2007
    Oddometer:
    41
    Location:
    sunny portugal
    An excellent ride report...keep it up:clap


    [​IMG]
    and that is a tornado gr7....
  4. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Life is for good friends and great adventures Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2003
    Oddometer:
    13,708
    Location:
    Southern Louisiana or Southern England or ...
    Thanks very much! The tornado bit I eventually figured out but I couldn't find the squadron it belongs to. There's a squadron out of Lossiemouth with a fox as their logo but it's much smaller than the one on the tail of this fighter.
  5. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Life is for good friends and great adventures Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2003
    Oddometer:
    13,708
    Location:
    Southern Louisiana or Southern England or ...
    Earlier in the trip, I had thought it quite exciting to cross the Severn bridge in a high wind - well by mid afternoon the Severn bridge seemed passe. The wind was gusting and tugging from all directions, or so it seemed. The road was changing direction fast, which made things worse.

    When we were waiting for the police, a young chap pulled up on a high mileage 650GS. Chatting with him, he seemed to be a prolific and experienced traveller, yet he had all his gear piled high in waterproof bags on the passenger seat. We followed him for a few miles when we left Bettyhill and he was really struggling. The wind was blowing us around, me worse then DewNmoon because of the greater area of the RT fairing, but I was doing well compared to the 650GS. I thought he was going to leave the road a couple of times. Eventually, he got so slow, we passed him and never saw him again.

    Compared to the morning's incredible landscapes, the beautiful north coast almost seems dull. In reality, it was anything but. However the wind and showers possibly kept us concentrating on our riding and made it harder to enjoy the views. It was getting colder again too.

    It was amusing when we passed through the small coastal town of Thurso and DewNmoon laughed that it was the largest 'city' we had seen for days.

    We decided to detour to Dunnet head, the most northerly point of the British mainland.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We encountered several other bikers at Dunnet Head. Fairly predictably they were either on their way to or from Land's End.
    [​IMG]

    Perching on the wall would be a nerve wracking experience if you were even slightly agoraphobic.
    [​IMG]
  6. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Life is for good friends and great adventures Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2003
    Oddometer:
    13,708
    Location:
    Southern Louisiana or Southern England or ...
    Sticking with our main accommodation theme, we checked into the John o' Groats youth hostel. This one had the dreaded sheet sleeping bags again. It also is not actually at John o' Groats (which is not actually at the northeasternmost point of the British Mainland either) but in the nearby village of Canisbay.

    We received quite a lecture from the proprietor about not waking the neighbors when we leave early. As a result, we ended up parking in front so we could roll our bikes (silently) down through the village in the morning.
    [​IMG]

    There is a very strange monument in front of the youth hostel, like an "organic" signpost, with arms pointing to the Orkney Isles and Shetland one way and to Lands-End the other way.
    [​IMG]

    We had decided to possibly pursue membership in the End-to-End club in order to obtain recognition for our end-to-end plans. We also wanted to do the Iron Butt Association (IBA) End-to-End challenge of completing the ride in under 24 hours. To this end, we needed to get witness forms signed, and for the End-to-End club, they have to be obtained at the John o' Groats hotel. So that's where we headed for food.

    The hotel at Duncansby head is closed so there is one in John o' Groats that has picked up the task of being the official start/end point for End-to-End travel. I don't remember the meal but the young chap at reception was most helpful and Dew and I were both entranced with the amazing collection of Scotch Whisky behind the bar.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The day's ride...
    [​IMG]
  7. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Life is for good friends and great adventures Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2003
    Oddometer:
    13,708
    Location:
    Southern Louisiana or Southern England or ...
    OK - This is what the trip was all about... or at least why DewNmoon and myself found ourselves in the youth hostel at John o' Groats, preparing for a very early start the following morning.
    • An idea had been kicking around in my head for a long time that it would be fun to ride from Land's End to John o' Groats, or the other way around. With me so far?
    • Then I read on the Iron Butt Association website about UK IBA-sanctioned rides, one of which is the End-to-End in under 24 hours ride, for which you can earn IBA recognition, etc.
    • The small twist I added myself was the idea of doing the whole ride in one DAY (i.e not merely in 24 hours but from sunrise to sunset).
    • It was then a logical extension to actually see the sunrise from one end and the sunset at the other. That meant the trip had to actually start or end at Duncansby Point, the headland marking the true NorthEasternmost spot, just a few miles from John o' Groats.
    • Due to the relative geographic orientation of the farthest points on the British mainland, sunrise would likely be best viewed from the NorthEasternmost point and sunset from the other end in the South West. Therefore, the idea of watching sunrise at John o' Groats and sunset at Land's End was born and the direction of the marathon portion of the escapade was set.
    • Not wanting to make the trip unnecessarily difficult, I had to pick a time when the days would be as long as possible. The midsummer solstice occurs in late June so that set the timeframe - the exact days ended up being determined by when I could get tickets to and from the USA using air miles.
    So that's how it all came about.


    When I announced, almost a year ago, that I was going to do this trip and might stop in at a few interesting places on the way to John o' Groats, several of my motorcycling friends immediately expressed an interest. However, DewNmoon was the only one who actually followed through with a firm commitment. Mrs. DewNmoon was also thinking of participating initially but then insisted that we should have a "lad's trip" while she went off elsewhere with some friends.

    I had a few ideas for the rest of the tour but only really committed to those a month or two prior, when I booked the accommodation and started asking my self "Hmmm... I wonder where we could get to from here?... What might be interesting to try and see on the way?" Some stuff, like visiting Anglesey or Applecross were ideas that just cropped up along the way. I had also originally intended to try and see the National Motorcycle Museum near Birmingham but abandoned that in favour of the scenic Wye Valley.

    Big day tomorrow. Early start, with actual sunrise occurring at 04:20. We would then have until 9:35pm to ride somewhere around 870-odd miles. Depending upon the source, the end-to-end trip by road is variously quoted as 870, 873, 840, etc.

    There were a load of other bikers and cyclists at the youth hostel, all either starting or ending an end-to-end trip of some sort or stopping off on their way to or from the islands. Nobody was planning on doing it on one day, however. They mostly said we were mad but wished us luck anyway.

    Some spoilsport looked up the weather report...
    "It's going to be foggy tomorrow morning... Thick fog!... You won't be able to see the sunrise."

    Ah well! With my saddlebags packed and clothes laid out, I set my alarm for 04:00 and tried to get an early night. DewNmoon, who hardly seems to need any sleep compared with me, stayed up chatting with the other bikers for a while.
  8. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Life is for good friends and great adventures Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2003
    Oddometer:
    13,708
    Location:
    Southern Louisiana or Southern England or ...
    Daa deedle deedle dee... etc. Bach's Fugue in D minor beeped out from my Blackberry. I had slept well but was keyed up and had it shut off before the end of the first refrain.

    It was already light outside and the thin curtains let through plenty enough to see by. In fairly short order, we had our gear on and were sneaking out the door.

    "Good luck!"; "Have fun!" It looks like we woke our room-mates up after all (with the best will in the world, there's no way to handle velcro quietly I guess.)

    We loaded the panniers in silence, only punctuated by DewNmoon reminding me to remove the cable lock from my front wheel. I had been trying to push the bike out of the gravel and fighting with the transmission, thinking it was not in neutral - Maybe I wasn't quite as awake as I thought.

    I heard the Weestrom roar to life and then die a second later. We were supposed to be rolling away, remember? I guess DewNmoon wasn't too awake either :lol3

    It was foggy, as predicted, with cold dampness dripping off everything. At least the wind was not as strong as forecast. By the time we were paddling our bikes silently down the road, the sun was probably technically up but we couldn't see it.

    This was it, the big test for the old Duchess - as if she hadn't been doing fine so far. Fuel taps on, hold the enrichener all the way, touch the button and she fired up instantly. Superb! ...and we're off!

    A couple of minutes later we were on the narrow road winding toward the Duncansby Head lighthouse, a lot of soggy-looking sheep regarding us in a rather alarmed fashion as we chugged past.

    Just as we approached the lighthouse car park, the fog cleared substantially. It was now clear enough for us to plainly see the sunrise (if not the actual sun). And a beautiful sunrise it was too. Maybe the weather is going to be ok after all.
    [​IMG]

    Technically, we weren't actually at Duncansby Head at the instant of sun-rise - but we were here enjoying the sunrise, and as this was my trip, my idea, I make the rules and I say that's ok! :D

    We take a couple of photos to document the historic moment
    [​IMG]

    ...and then photograph our GPS screens to assist with proving that we were, where we were, when we said we were there.
    [​IMG]

    9449 miles on the Weestrom odometer
    [​IMG]

    1744 on the GPS tripmeter
    [​IMG]

    40446 on the Duchess' odometer (although I was fairly convinced at that point that it reads around 10% low)
    [​IMG]

    ...and additional confirmation of exactly where we were and when
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Now we're REALLY off. Next stop Wick, where we need to get fuel receipts as an IBR requirement to document our trip.
  9. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Life is for good friends and great adventures Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2003
    Oddometer:
    13,708
    Location:
    Southern Louisiana or Southern England or ...
    Wick is the nearest large town to John o' Groats and the location of a 24-hour petrol station where we could top off our tanks and obtain a receipt with the time on it as proof of the time we were there.

    Wick is less than twenty miles from Duncansby Head and we were there in just a few minutes, at the Tesco unmanned 24-hour petrol station. The pumps refused our credit cards, insisting first that they could not be read and then that we were entering the wrong PIN. We got almost out the other side of Wick when we realized that perhaps there is only one 24-hour petrol station in Wick.

    We backtracked until we found a bank and after a bit of fiddling, managed to get balance inquiry receipts with dates and hit the road again. Cruising southward towards Inverness on the A-9.

    [​IMG]

    The weather looked as if it was going to be alright, although it was still a bit chilly and the wind had picked up with random gusts causing the Duchess to quiver occasionally. The route hugs the coast for many miles, passing some fabulous cliff-top and ocean scenery. I had my camera round my neck and tried to snap a few shots as we motored past. Dunbeath Castle was another impressive old structure but I couldn't get the camera ready and shoot one-handed before we had passed it.

    A couple of times the road swoops down into deep clefts where a river enters the sea. One of these has a couple of hairpin bends that one would simply not expect to encounter on a road such as this.

    [​IMG]

    I started to worry as the miles rolled on. "What if we can't find fuel anywhere in this part of Scotland at this time in the morning?" We might be scuppered before we go 150 miles. We had calculated that the journey would take around 13 hours of actual riding of which we had not yet done very much. By now it was after 5:30am and we had until 9:35 pm to reach Land's End before sunset. That left us only 3 to 4 hours for fuel stops, traffic and other delays. Here we were only 40 or 50 miles into the trip and already eating into that "spare" time with the possibility of a protracted wait somewhere until a petrol station opened - or worse, running out of fuel in the middle of nowhere.

    The weather continued to be outstanding, however, and when the light and the colors were almost perfect, we even stop to whip our cameras out and try to do the scene justice.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I'm getting worried as the odometer clicks relentlessly around and we pass through one tiny village after another with no petrol stations open. Dew's Weestrom sips fuel at our conservative pace but I'm not really sure how far The Duchess can go on a tank-full. I'm sure there'll be a petrol station open in Inverness but I can't remember how far it is. Maybe She'll run out before I get there.
  10. bikerz

    bikerz Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2007
    Oddometer:
    41
    Location:
    sunny portugal

    yep it's 12 (bomber) squadron out of lossiemouth, just a variation on the fox head.
  11. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Life is for good friends and great adventures Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2003
    Oddometer:
    13,708
    Location:
    Southern Louisiana or Southern England or ...
    Thanks for the information. The jets certainly were impressive.

    Had another question answered today - by my father.

    The old car we saw back in Devon is a Triumph TR-2. When the bodywork rusted away, it was replaced with a Spartan kit car body, Hence the big red 'S' on the radiator grille.

    [​IMG]
  12. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Life is for good friends and great adventures Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2003
    Oddometer:
    13,708
    Location:
    Southern Louisiana or Southern England or ...
    When we reached the Cromarty Firth, I knew Inverness could not be too far and started to relax a bit.
    [​IMG]

    With a mere 131 miles on the clock, and still short of Inverness, a sign for a 24-hour service station was spotted and we peeled off to fill the tanks. I made a quick check of the rear tyre pressure and we returned to the A-9 and resumed our southward trek.

    The front brake had been misbehaving all day and getting worse. Sometimes I would squeeze and get no brakes, then next time they would work but the lever action was rough and jerky. I'm sure it was putting a lot of side-loading on the piston which could not be good for it, never mind trying to ride with intermittent, crappy brakes.

    We pulled over at a petrol station in Inverness and I took the front brake lever off hoping that I could fix the problem by cleaning and lubing the point of contact with the hydraulic cylinder. Of course, while I was doing this, the rain picked up and the wind was blowing so hard, I might as well not have been under the petrol station canopy.
  13. joedoe

    joedoe Armchair Adventurer!

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2007
    Oddometer:
    88
    Location:
    S.E. Washington State
    There are three things necessary for a nice photo:

    1.) The shot needs to put me there in that spot - not you!
    2.) It must be high def.
    3.) it needs to be beautiful subject matter or panoramic.

    These pics meet all three criteria nicely!
    Beautiful pics and nice report!
  14. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Life is for good friends and great adventures Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2003
    Oddometer:
    13,708
    Location:
    Southern Louisiana or Southern England or ...
    A few minutes of fiddling with the front brake lever, wipe everything off, a dab of oil from the dipstick and all was well. Obviously some grit had got in there from road spray, mixed with a little worn plating from the end of the new master-cylinder piston, it was preventing brake lever from pivoting properly. The brake action was now as smooth as silk although it seemed to be closer to the handlebar than before. ...and another 15 minutes of our reserve was gone.

    We got quickly back on our way out of Inverness and noted that there was now quite a bit of traffic on the roads.

    We started to pass through bands of light rain and the wind got stronger. My camera was still fine, hanging around my neck and out of the elements. Not far south from Inverness the landscape began to get a little more rugged again - we were now in the midst of the Grampian mountains. There was still a touch of snow on the Cairngorms.
    [​IMG]

    The road passes a huge ruined building with the bulk of Cairngorm mountain in the distance behind it. I since found it it is the ruins of Ruthven Barracks, abandoned by the British and burned by retreating Jacobites in 1746.
    [​IMG]

    The 20 or 30 miles from Perth to Stirling winds through a broad valley with a patchwork of crops either side. The road here is a dual carriageway (divided highway), and more-or-less parallels the main East-coast railway line, which it crosses and recrosses several times. The views from this road are pretty but coming in sight of Stirling Castle, perched high on a bluff overlooking the valley was the highlight of that stretch. I remember driving the A9/M9 many times when I lived in Aberdeen and I never failed to enjoy that vista. We couldn't extricate our cameras, however, so it remained unphotographed.

    Passing between Edinburgh and Glasgow requires traveling numerous roads and we quickly dispatched sections of the M-80, A-80, and M-73 before the M-74 carried us away from the city and back into the countryside.

    The temperature stayed in the 50's and the rain bands kept coming. I was fairly comfortable behind the big RT fairing but when we made our next petrol stop in Gretna (the last town in Scotland, heading south), I could tell that DewNmoon was getting cold.

    We decided to to sit inside, warm up a bit and and have a snack and a cup of tea. As we pulled up at the pumps, I saw a familiar bike outside the shop.
  15. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Life is for good friends and great adventures Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2003
    Oddometer:
    13,708
    Location:
    Southern Louisiana or Southern England or ...
    Just a random thought (as my daughter would say)...

    DewNmoon had expressed an interest in distilleries but so far, on our trip, we had only encountered a couple in Oban and Skye (Talisker). However, on the way down through Scotland from John O'groats, it seemed as if there was another sign for a distillery every few miles. If I remember correctly, here are some of the ones we passed, more or less in the order encountered:
    • Pulteney, in Wick
    • Clynelish, in Brora, off the A-9
    • Glenmorangie, at Tain, also off the A-9 north of Inverness
    • Dalmore, not far south off the A-9 from Glenmorangie
    • Dalwhinnie, which I don't think is near the A-9 but is signposted from somewhere in the middle of the Grampians
    • Athol, also off the A-9, north of Perth, and
    • Tulibardine, south of Perth and right by the Gleneagles golf course
    I'm sure there were others but these were the ones I remember. If we wouldn't have been 'on a mission' and it wouldn't have been only 07:00am we might have stopped at Glenmorangie or others :evil
  16. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Life is for good friends and great adventures Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2003
    Oddometer:
    13,708
    Location:
    Southern Louisiana or Southern England or ...
    Back in Bettyhill, while we were waiting for the bike accident to be cleared and the road opened, we had seen several other bikers, including a tall chap, sitting in the back of the restaurant, all dressed up in BMW adventure-touring gear. There had been a loaded 1150GS Adventure parked outside and I guessed this rider belonged to that bike. He kept quietly to himself, however, until we were discussing our End-to-End plans with some other bikers. When we stated our intent to see sunrise at Duncansby Head and sunset at Land's End, he suddenly piped up "That's what I'm doing too!" His GS is hiding behind the RT in the shot below:
    [​IMG]

    We didn't see the big GS at Duncansby Head and I couldn't imagine he had got in and out before us, so I figured he had changed his plans but here he was. We had caught up with him.

    We chatted a while and he was still intent on making Land's End before sunset. We discussed the fact that the weather was supposed to get worse again, especially the wind. We also talked about possible traffic problems around Manchester and Birmingham. We would be hitting that area and the interchange between the M6 and M5 during the evening rush hour. He said he was going to stop in on his daughter in Birmingham, while we were going to press on. We said our good byes and by the time we finished our drinks and got back on our bikes, he was gone.

    According to my quick calculations, our spare time was now down to around an hour-and-a-half, with the potential for the worst delays likely still ahead of us. We had made up our minds that we were not going to ride like maniacs or risk life and limb over this, and I started to seriously wonder if we were going to make it.

    Dew said his fingers were warmed up as the temperatures had climbed into the low 60's and we had not been soaked by a shower for, oh, at least forty miles, so maybe I was being overly pessimistic.
  17. PJay

    PJay Any bike, anywhere

    Joined:
    May 24, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,527
    Location:
    Russell, New Zealand
    And an inmate, too: see the "FF" on the tail...
  18. Howiezowie

    Howiezowie Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2006
    Oddometer:
    112
    Location:
    Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand.
    I have really enjoyed your trip report - pictures and narrative great.

    Interested in your cameras - they certainly produced some nice shots, some of that scenery in North Wales and Scotland is stunning - dare I say it - very much like NZ in places.

    I'm also interested in the Vstrom rental - can you pass-on the rental company details ?
    I gather that renting worked out pretty well fot you - any advice to pass on ?

    Cheers
    H
  19. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Life is for good friends and great adventures Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2003
    Oddometer:
    13,708
    Location:
    Southern Louisiana or Southern England or ...
    Thank you, and all the other respondents, for your positive and encouraging comments. Posting this report has taken much more time than I expected it would and we would not have been able to do so "on the road" even if we had internet access every day (essentially none after the first couple of nights.)

    Cameras:

    Between us we had four digital cameras - a pocket camera and a superzoom each. They all seemed to take fairly good shots. I'll let DewNmoon report on his (both Canon's I think).

    Mine are:
    • Nikon Coolpix S4. It's about 2 years old now and pretty beaten up as it lives in my pocket or briefcase continuously. I use it for work and it has taken many thousands of shots in all conditions but still seems to work just fine. I love the twisty body and 10X zoom. 6MP is enough for me and I really like that all the moving elements of the zoom lens are internal. I used this one velcro'd onto a Saeng platform for the rear-facing video. Downsides of this camera are a lack of image stabilization and poor low light capability - both of exacerbated by the long zoom range.<br>
    • Fuji Finefix S700, 7MP (my "big" camera.) I bought it as a cheap ($200), reasonable quality camera for an African safari a year ago, and absolutely love the photos it produces. Like the Nikon, it has taken thousands of photos and shares three favorable features: all moving elements of the 10X zoom are internal, it uses AA batteries, and an SD card. Downsides are (again) lack of image stabilisation (it says it has digital image stab but that is merely an extra-high ISO mode which comes with its own picture quality issues) and low-light capabiliites. I also note that colors don't always seem quite as intense as Dew's Canon which may be due to the auto white balance selecting the wrong modes, and I wonder if it always focuses as sharply as it used to. Mind you, this camera has been severely abused. It has been exposed to massive temp and humidity extremes, part-filled with blowing sand and used in the rain numerous times - including on this trip.
    After having a couple of really great photos spoiled with jpeg compression artifacts on a trip a few years ago, I now operate my cameras in maximum resolution, minimum compression mode all the time. Two years ago, this meant spending a lot of money on "big" memory cards but now memory is so cheap it is not an issue. We did not exactly take a huge number of photos on this trip because of the weather and the fact we were too busy riding most of the time. I had a 1Gb card in the Nikon and a 2Gb in the Fuji and although I backed everything up to an old laptop every day, I did not need to erase the cards.

    IMO, the superzoom-type cameras are the way to go. My father is a freelance horticultural journalist, botanical tour-guide and lecturer. He relies heavily on photography in all aspects of his work, taking photos of plants (including lots of macro work), people, architecture and landscapes. After slowly migrating from carrying both print and slide-film SLR bodies and assorted lenses, to solely digital with a Canon SLR, he has now moved to carrying only a quality superzoom camera for his professional photography (he currently uses a Sony DSC-H9). He says it is a fraction of the size and weight, easier to use and most of the time simply takes better photos. Having used a digital SLR in many situations, the only advantages I see are low light capability and instant shutter response (although all-in-one cameras are closing that gap fast.) Advances in digital technology mean that a new budget superzoom can probably equal the performance of a 2 or 3 year old top digital SLR - That is what I found in Africa where my $200 Fuji took as good as or better wildlife photos than the Canon EOS Rebel I also used. The Nikon was close behind, and my father's Sony outperformed the Canon handsomely.

    I probably doesn't say much about the camera (it IS fun though!) but here's a snapshot I took, through the glass of my father's office window, with his Sony:
    [​IMG]

    Bike Rental:

    At one point, DewNmoon and I had considered buying a second old BMW and selling it again after the trip but when you start to look at potential pitfalls and consider prep time, insurance, etc., etc., it really made more sense to rent for just two weeks. If it had been for a month, the purchase/resell route probably would be best.

    DewNmoon decided he'd save judgement on the rental until we returned the bike. You'll have to hear the details from him but I think he was pleased with both the bike itself and the treatment from the company. There's only one bike rental co. in Bournemouth so you can figure it out easily enough.

    I am planning a bike trip to New Zealand (S. Island) for early 2010 so would love to correspond with you about bike rental and "must-see" places/roads, etc.
  20. slartidbartfast

    slartidbartfast Life is for good friends and great adventures Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2003
    Oddometer:
    13,708
    Location:
    Southern Louisiana or Southern England or ...
    We continued South, now on the M-6 motorway and back in England. Passing the Lake District and Yorkshire moors there is not much development near the route and we were treated to pleasing views of the landscape, although after the wilds of Scotland it seemed pretty tame. As someone else pointed out, the total lack of advertising billboards compared to roads through many parts of the US is a blessing.

    The temperature started to rise a little also but the gusty wind was now an unflagging strong 3/4 headwind with heavy gusts continuously shaking us about (as it had been most of the way, only worse!) and the increased traffic density required more attention and focus on safe riding. My shoulders were beginning to hurt, despite having taken a naproxen with my coffee at our first petrol stop and I decided I needed another one.

    The improved weather we thought we were getting was merely a cruel joke and we passed through several more bands of increasingly heavy rain. As we approached Manchester, traffic started to get pretty heavy and (what a surprise!) it started to rain even harder.

    [I had discovered on this trip that light rain blows clean over the RT fairing so, as long as I'm moving, only the edges of my forearms, toes and shins are exposed to any water. My GPS is not waterproof but is tucked well in behind the fairing and normally stays dry too. When the rain gets harder, however, drops start to blow back behind the fairing and things begin to get quite soggy. The rain also runs down my sleeves into my gloves. Poor DewNmoon just got wet, no matter how light/heavy the rain, although when we slowed to a crawl or stopped, things were equal. Dew's jacket seemed to be more waterproof than my brand new Joe Rocket (which let water into the sleeves and pockets - grrr!) and he was wearing waterproof overpants which I was not, but I had the additional advantage of heated grips and jacket liner.]

    Anyhow, stuck in traffic, we were both getting pretty wet. Suddenly, a couple of bikes flashed past us in-between the slow-moving lanes. "Duh! - I keep forgetting I can do that over here." I set off in pursuit, watching DewNmoon carefully in my mirrors the whole time. The Veestrom's bags are SOOO wide, it made it difficult for him to keep up at times. Being on a rented bike and not having done it (lane splitting) before, certainly made him more cautious too. After just a couple of miles, we passed a motorway interchange where some traffic diverted and we picked up a tiny bit more speed but then it really started to rain hard. A sign for a service station was spotted and we ducked in - riding straight through to the fueling canopy to get out of the most direct precipitation.

    We refueled and pulled our bikes up to the shop, still under the canopy. A couple of other bikes had parked there to do the same thing. DewNmoon was obviously getting cold and when he suggested he might like a bite to eat (something he rarely does when in "travelling mode"), I figured it must be pretty bad. We secured the bikes, stuffing our GPS's in our pockets, and braved the rain from the canopy to the food court area. We found a cafeteria upstairs and sat down for some food.
    [​IMG]

    While DewNmoon was updating his fuel-log and trip notes, I was mentally doing the math on our travel time. It was now mid-day (Good grief!, we've been travelling for over 10-1/2 hours already - no wonder my shoulders are aching.) and we had now basically blown almost all of our reserve time with heavy, slow, traffic still outside. Furthermore, if the horrible weather continued, I was extremely worried that Dew was going to get dangerously cold. I pulled out my GPS to check it's remaining drive-time prediction only to be met with a blank, dark screen. Obviously the excessive moisture had finally got to something vital inside it and I noted that, although it was actually working, the backlight appeared to have failed so it was nearly impossible to read.

    DewNmoon quickly seemed to warm up with a hot meal and cup of tea inside him, and soon suggested we should get going. If he had said otherwise, I would happily have blown off any idea of making it to Land's End.

    When we pulled back onto the motorway, the rain had eased somewhat but the wind was stronger than ever and traffic was almost at a standstill. Sunset at Land's End was not looking very likely.