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"To see a world in a grain of sand, And a heaven in a wild flower; Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour." William Blake

Changing Tires

October 15th, 2006 by sunflowers

PeteOn Sunday Pete (Skip) who I met at one of the Horizons Unlimited meetings in London kindly took a day off work (he is saving to go continue his motorcycle travels) to teach me how to change a tire, adjust my bike chain and some daily maintenance routines.

Pumping up the tubeI decided to ride down to Farnham with my panniers on in order to get some practice before my trip. It wasn’t too bad but I ended up running out of petrol a lot sooner than expected (140 miles instead of 180 miles).

After a visit to Halfords for some motorcycle oil as my bike has a leak that I hadn’t noticed as all the oil is being caught in the engine sump guard I got onto the tire changing (rear wheel as this is much harder than the front one apparently). We broke one side of the bead using the kick stand of another bike and then I used DW40 to break the other side by myself.

Putting it back onFinishedOnce the bead was broken I used the tire levers plus one of Pete’s as it was a lot bigger and easier to use (I think I am going to get another bigger tire level to take along with my smaller ones). As we were changing the whole wheel I took the tire all the way off the rim and put the tire back on after pumping up the tube. For me the hardest bit was putting the tire back on which involved kneeling on the tire which quite hurt – next time I will wear my knee guards before doing this.

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Fitting Panniers

October 14th, 2006 by sunflowers

H&B PanniersMy Hepco and Becker panniers arrived from Motobins while I was working in Netherlands and my mate Ian has kindly offered (or rather agreed to when asked) help me fit them onto my bike as well as accepting the delivery order to his house as he is currently working from home some days.

Me in a dirndlUnfotunately this task wasn’t as straight forward as it seems as we had to go up to Halfords and get some tools before fitting. But after several hours we got them installed. The whole process went a little bit slow due to the major headache I had from going out to celebrate my resignation. Also on Friday night I had gone to see the band I used to manage Music Roll Exchange playing down in Clapham and fell asleep on the night bus waking up in Wood Green so had to get off and wait for a return bus going back to Holloway.

After fitting the panniers it was a rush to get changed into my dirndl and get to the Royal Albert Hall for the Amnesty Secret Policeman’s Ball where we saw Chevy Chase, Dylan Moran, Eddie Izzard, Russell Brand, The Magic Numbers, The Mighty Boosh and The Zutons.

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October 13th, 2006 by sunflowers

Today I handed in my resignation. Quite nerve wracking really. It turns out that there is a whole website dedicated to funny resignation letters (but then what doesn’t have it’s own website). These are some of my favourites.


My company hasn’t given me a sabbatical but have offered to keep my length of service and benefits the same if there is a position for me when I return.

Dear Manager:

As you are aware, earlier in the year I was inspired by the company’s Employee Handbook Work/Life Balance section to apply for a sabbatical in order to raise money for a North London Children’s charity by riding from Argentina to Alaska. Despite the disappointment of having my application rejected I have decided not to be put off, and intend to go ahead with my original plans. Unfortunately, this means that in order to secure enough time in which to complete the trip I have no option but to resign my position at the company.

Therefore, as much as I have enjoyed my role at the company and the opportunities that I have been given, I must hereby give notice that I intend to terminate my employment on the 30th November 2006. Although I am bound by my contract to give only one calendar month’s notice I feel that now I am confident my plans will not change I should (to aid your forward planning) give as early an indication of my intentions as possible.

I appreciate the offer made by the company that on my return I would be reinstated with the benefits and service length that I currently enjoy, should such a position be available at the time. In such circumstances, were I to be seeking a permanent role I would be delighted to return to the company.

Having worked at the company for close to six years with minimal bonuses and pay rises it is slightly disappointing to depart so close to the end of a year in which it looks like a bonus will be paid. However, I feel it would be a lovely gesture for the company to donate all or part of the bonus I would have earned in 2006 towards the Children’s Charity for whom I will be raising money on this trip.

Warm regards,

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October 12th, 2006 by sunflowers

s'HertogenboschUtrecht CanalSeeing as how I had split my trousers I didn’t go back to the client on Thursday and instead did some work at the hotel and then decided to go and do a little sightseeing before heading to the airport. The last time I was in the Netherlands and the train was broken down I ended up chatting to a girl who said that Utrecht was a really pretty historical town. As that isn’t too far from s’Hertogenbosch, where I was working, I went there for a look. Utrecht is the Netherlands fourth largest town with a population of about 280,000 and I think it must have quite a big university as it had a lot of students about.

Dom Tower of UtrechtDom Tower of UtrechtUnfortunately I didn’t have time to do the canal boat tour before heading back to Eindhoven, particularly as every time I have been in Holland their trains have had some major delays.

Canal house in s'HertogenboschI have included a picture of one of the bicycle racks as most people in the Netherlands bicycle everywhere. Maybe that is because their trains are always breaking down. The other pictures are of a house along the canal as I was walking in from the hotel in Vught (an adjacent town to s’Hertogenbosch that I was staying in as there was no accommodation available in s’Hertogenbosch). The s’Hertogenbosch train station. The Dom Tower of Utrecht and the archway under it. And a view of one of the canals in Utrecht.

You can read more about Utrecht on Wikipedia by clicking here.Bicycles in Utrecht

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Ryan Air

October 11th, 2006 by sunflowers

This has nothing to do with my motorcycling from Argentina to Alaska. I just want to have a whinge about the new airport restrictions. Ok, for a start, thinking that a bomb can be made out of my lip gloss, toothpaste and deodorant is just a bit far fetched to me but I never did chemistry at school so I will give them that one. But the cabin luggage size restriction! What’s with that? What bomb making device can fit into a case over 20cm wide but not one under 20cm? Just bloody annoying.

Plus there is the slightly suspect timing that this restriction comes in just as Ryan Air starts charging £5 pounds extra return for 1 bag in the hold luggage or £3.50 one way. If you haven’t included it in your booking then it is a £15 charge at the airport. And an additional £13 if you have used webcheck in and need to get the boarding card reissued. But if you have paid for the extra charge but then no longer decide to check in a bag and instead are going makeup, deodorant and toothpasteless there is no facility to give you a refund on your prepaid bag.

RegineThis morning it was another four o’clock start to fly to the Netherlands with, you guessed it Ryan Air. Now I am in a hotel where the only rooms left where on the ground floor with no wireless so I have to go up and sit on the steps on the first floor to post this and send all my emails that I have been working on this evening so you can picture me barefoot (not getting back into my heels) in my suit sitting on the steps surrounded by the seventies brightly coloured but faded striped wall paper at 01:30 in the morning. Oh and the other funny thing that happened to me was I got to the clients and realised that my trousers had split on the inner thigh seam – I don’t think it is too noticable but I did have to do a mincing walk for the rest of the day.

Nothing related to my motorcycle trip or Ryan Air the picture is of Regine the Austrian who kindly took all my liquids (perfume, face cream etc) so I could make my flight to Salzburg on the weekend as I went to pick them up off her last night after work.

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The Planet's Ecological Overdraft

October 10th, 2006 by sunflowers

Apparently yesterday we used up the year’s supply of global resources (based on over use at 23% and we now have 23% of the year left). Though if we have used more than a year every year then we went into over draft ages ago. Here are a couple links to articles marking the day. news.independent.co.uk/environment/article1822171.ece and environment.guardian.co.uk/climatechange/story/0,,1890953,00.html

Birthday SunflowersHere is a list of suggestions how we can use the 83 remaining days of the year to reduce our footprint. globalfootprint.blogspot.com/2006/10/thoughts-on-day-planet-tips-into.html

Here is another cool site with tips that you can do to help the planet http://www.tiptheplanet.com. I also signed up recently to freecycle.org/ which is a network of local communities around the world that give and get stuff for free. I am hoping someone rich in my area puts an expensive sound system or a better bike out on it 😉

ps. The picture is of the sunflowers that my flatmate really sweetly left on my desk last night for my birthday.

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Picking Panniers

October 9th, 2006 by sunflowers

I have been researching panniers for a while. The two main contenders within my budget came down to Touratech or Hepco & Becker. Peter at Motobins have kindly offered me a twenty percent discount on a set of Hepco Becker Panniers so that was that decision made. H&Bs make some Gobi plastic panniers that are suppose to be pretty tough but considering the number of times I have already dropped my bike I decided it was better to go with the standard aluminium panniers. I am getting the 37 litre one on the left and the 43 litre one on the right. I am a bit worried about the size of the bike. Mmm, will be interesting riding it with the panniers on. I am also going to get an Ortlieb roll bag with a PacSafe around it.

When I first started looking into luggage I wanted to just sling a couple of soft cases over the back but I figure if I am travelling by myself it is better that I can leave the bike by itself with the luggage still on rather than having to always take it with me even if I am just popping into the loos.

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The Beauty of the Bavarian Alps

October 8th, 2006 by sunflowers

View from Fortress

View from the Salzburg Fortress

Mirabell GardensSalzburgAfter a rainy Saturday, Sunday dawned with a beautiful bright blue sky. In the morning we went up to the Salzburg Fortress (Festung Hohensalzburg) and did multimedia tour, listened to the fortress organ, climbed on a cow (when Salzburg was under siege the residents paraded their last ox in front of the enemy then the next day painted it a different colour and paraded it again convincing the enemy that they had enough supplies so the army left). But most of the day was taken in just admiring the amazing views of the Alps and the fairy tale architecture.

We had a yummy lunch of weinersnitchel or Vienna snitchel) and sauerkraut at the bio food festival sitting under the big tents with oompa bands and traditionally dressed men in lederhosen and women in dirndls, we fell asleep in the Maribell gardens.

Salzburg ViewMozart BridgeOn the way back to the YHA (really friendly hostel that played the Sound of Music every night at eight) that we were staying in I made the mistake of going into a shop that specialised in traditional Bavarian clothing as often I have bought traditional outfits to wear in the countries I have visited and ended up walking out with my own dirndl. A friend isn’t able to go to the Amnesty Secret Policeman’s Ball, a comedy show at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday night so I might wear it to that. I think it is also because I have always thought if I was reincarnated that in a previous life I would have been a serving wench or Red Sonia (or Xena Princess warrior – I am not fussy).

But the best thing of all about a wonderful weekend was the people, the enjoyable company of Vicki, Cherie, Mariella and Kath.

The pictures are a panoramic view from the fortress. A picture looking out over the city from the Nonnberg Abbey. Mozarts bridge and Mirabell Gardens.

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The Sound of Music

October 7th, 2006 by sunflowers

Sound of Music LocationsOn Saturday morning we went on the Sound of Music tour (1964 musical starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer) tour and saw quite a few of the locations that were used for the movie. The houses that were used for the Trapp Mansion. Sound of Music LocationsThe trees that the children climb in wearing their play clothes made out of the curtains. The gazebo Liesl and Ralph sing ‘Sixteen going on seventeen’ to each other. The church yard that inspired the final church escape scene at the end of the movie. Nonnberg Abbey Gates (oldest convent in the German speaking part of Europe) where the children beg Maria to come back. We also drove into the Lake District to a Alpine Lake town Mondsee (meaning Moon Lake) to see the cathedral that wedding scene was shot in.

A few interesting facts about the movie are that the end scenes were shot before the start of the movie and Liesl had to stand on a box to maintain the same height ratio to the younger children as they grew faster than her. GazeboChristopher Plummer apparently disliked children and only took on the movie as he wanted a singing part but was eventually sound dubbed as he wasn’t able to match Julia Andrews. Julia Andrews had a 18th month daughter when shooting on location in Salzburg so wasn’t able to go out with the other cast members partying.

Nonnberg Abbey GatesThe film itself is based on a true story. Born in Vienna, Maria von Kutschera was living as a novice candidate at the Benedictine Convent on Nonnberg in Salzburg when she was sent by her Mother Superior as a governess to the household of Baron Georg Ritter von Trapp to look after his seven children, left motherless after the death of his wife. In 1927 apparently the Mother Superior had to persuade Maria to become the Baron’s wife. The Baron who had been an admiral in the Austrian Navy when it had included parts of present day Croatia was called up to serve under the Third Reich and the family escaped to America. Arriving in the US with ten children and no money the family started touring as the “The Trapp Family Singers”. They then set up a charity and raised money to send back to Austria to provide clothes and supplies after the war. The family toured for almost twenty years and then went on to purchase a farm in Stowe,Vermont.Mondsee Cathedral

Sound of Music LocationsWe had an excellent tour guide who told us this extremely bad Sound of Music joke. The Hill family decides to go on holiday and their car breaks down late at night. Mr. Hill asks at the closet residence if it would be possible for the family to stay the night so that they may fix their car in the morning. As it happens Dracula lives there and allows them to stay but as they are asleep he bites their necks and sucks out all their blood. Full of energy from the fresh blood Dracula sits down at the organ and starts to play. Surprised he looks up to see the entire Hill family standing in front of him. Enquiring as to why they are not deceased Mr. Hill replies ‘The Hills are alive with the sound of music’.

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Salzburg, Austria

October 6th, 2006 by sunflowers

MozartA friend of mine that I see rarely (but wished I saw more) organised a group of her friends to go to Salzburg for the weekend. When I bought the ticket to Salzburg I did not realise how little I would have saved for the bike trip or how much preparation I would still need to do. But having always wanted to go to Salzburg I decided to go ahead with my prearranged plans. I actually thought that Salzburg was in Germany until Regine (the girl I shared the taxi with as the Stanstead Express had stopped running just as I got to Tottenham Hale) said on finding out that I was going to Salzburg that she was from Austria (so the Germany Lonely Plant book I had, turned out to be a bit of dead weight on this trip). I just made the flight as there was road works on the way to the airport and I was going to have to check in my bag but Regine, the nice Austrian girl offered to temporary keep all my liquids (perfume, face cream and makeup) with her so that I could go straight through to the boarding gate.

Mozart's BirthplaceAustria is a land locked country for 8 million. Surrounded by Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy and Switzerland, Vienna is the capital. Salzburg is near the German boarder on the central north side of Austria and is famous for being the birthplace of Mozart and the setting for both the movie the Sound of Music and the original story of the Trapp Family singers whom the movie is based on. Salzburg means Salt Castle and is absolutely gorgeous being on the northern boundary of the Alps and Austrian Lake District with a population of 150,000 they get more than two million visitors a year.

The pictures are of Mozart’s birthplace and one of the two statues dedicated to him in Salzburg.

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