Monday, September 24, 2012

What Is It They Say About Italian Electrics?

I sit here with gale force winds blowing outside and a forecast telling me we have a months rain due to fall in the next 24 hours.  Great time to buy a motorbike, hey!?

Not to worry cos Saturday was sunny and I got out first thing to see how the girl rode.

I have noticed a few things;
  1. The low fuel warning light doesn't go out, even when treated to 98ron
  2. The temp gauge needle never moves.  Even when the speedo needle reaches three figures
  3. It makes me smile.  Lots.
I stopped to take a few proper photos too.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Montag Nacht = Nino Nacht


I'm aiming to spend every Monday (where possible) out in the barn/shack working on Nino. Hopefully that, plus available weekends, will see the racecar out on the strip next year. Only money can hold us back ...

Monday's a good night for this kinda thing.  If I've had a good weekend spannering then everything is still fresh, and there's always footy on the radio to keep me entertained. And so on Monday it began, and whilst Newcastle and Everton played out a 2-2 draw I inspected and cleaned up the old windows.

I had it in my head that they were all knackered and would need replacing, but they cleaned up nicely and as it turns out only one or two have serious cracks in them.  You can see what I mean!

I'm hoping to get the chassis blasted real soon and then my Mondays can be spent in the shack building the car back up.

Flying Meercats?

Well hopefully one on its way to me! And that means the 748 is insured! NOW I'm excited!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Should Dreams Ever Become Reality?

Since I first watched World Superbikes with any regularity, probably around 1998, I've been in love with Ducati's, and specifically the 916/996/998 model(s).

I remembered seeing Carl Fogarty wiping the floor with the opposition aboard one, and that unmistakable drone of the Italian V-twin singing to up the limiter.

Nothing else sounds like one and nothing else in the world sounds nearly so wonderful.  And when you match that with a superb chassis and combine it with the most beautiful bodywork you can see why the model completely changed the fortunes of Ducati.

It just oozes character that Japanese bikes can only dream of.

When I had my NC30 I used to look at the dealer ads in MCN and always promised myself one.  I came close once, when I had a bunch of cash promised for my bug but not yet spent, but decided to scratch the Ducati itch later on and concentrate on the car.  This must have been 10 years ago, and that Beetle still isn't finished!

As years have passed prices have fallen, and every once in a while I'd find myself checking prices to see if I could scrape the cash together.  They would always be just out of reach though.

I also found myself looking at the 'little sister', the 748.  A very similar bike with just the engine capacity and rear tyre size being different from the bigger bike.  The more time I spent looking the more I figured the 748 made sense for me.  Yet I was always concerned that I'd be plagued by the 'but its not a 916' thought though.

And then recently I started to find 748's at what I considered crazy prices.  Adverts claiming to be selling immaculate bikes from just £3k, and some gorgeous bikes going on ebay for under £2500!  And so I started looking a bit closer.  I even called the insurance company to see if it was realistically viable.  Many conversations with an old school friend confirmed it was a good idea and so I thank you Rich Gaskin, especially for putting up with me throwing Ducati related questions to you pretty much daily!

I started looking at a few.  I had a nightmare day with Claire the other week which incorporated driving 2 hours each way, the seller being a first-class idiot, the kids 'fun farm'  (stop off on the way home) not being a farm at all, and the Mighty Benz having a rear tyre blow out on the way home.

I tentatively agreed a price of £2400 for a bike on ebay that was 300 miles away the other week, but the guy decided to let the auction run and it sold for £2450.  I had bid a little over the £2400 price we agreed but got pipped at the post.

And then I saw a promising advert on Piston Heads.  A 748 for £2300 that had history, the original books, and a service (incl the all important belts) recently carried out.  A few questions revealed it was even better than the advert said, with the original tool roll still in place and it had only three owners from new plus loads more.  And the current owner had known it for over 10 years as he knew the guy he bought it from.

Thanks to the current economic climate, and him having another kid on the way, I managed to get the price down to £2100.  And so we found ourselves on the M3 on a Sunday afternoon (16/09) travelling down to Poole to check it out.  Assuming it was as honest as it sounded we'd be bringing her home too, as I'd managed to borrow a neighbours fold-up bike trailer.

Everything was good, the test ride was problem-free, and there's now a big pile of paperwork for me to read through and get in order.  Its certainly been well looked after.  It carries a few scars, there are a few chips and subtle scratches on the front fairing and mirrors, but in some ways I'm happy about that.  It takes a little pressure off, and it also makes me feel a little more comfortable that the bikes honest.

I'm very excited about getting out on it and clocking a few miles on her before winter arrives now.  I've waited for this moment for a long long time and now its just round the corner!  The alarm on it means I can't keep jumping on board just for a sit - unless I have the fob with me of course - so instead I've had the barn door ajar all day.  Its fantastically pleasing to glance to my left as I walk up the garden path and get a sneak at whats tucked up inside.

To finish I have to say the biggest thanks to my darling wife.  Not only did she 'OK' the purchase but she also drove half the way down as well as the entire journey back!  Easily over 200 miles!  Good trucking Baby!

And to anyone travelling up the M3 on Sunday night, you didn't see someone stealing a Ducati - we just hadn't worked out how to get the alarm into 'travel mode' at that point!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Whats Small and Fast and Painted All Over?

Alfie had his first day at pre-school this week.  No dramas, and as expected with that one he ran off to play and make new friends as soon as he set foot inside the building.  I could probably have snuck out and he wouldn't have cared but that's not the way I do things with Alfie.  After about 10 minutes I managed to get him back, explained Esme was tired and I was taking her home, but that we would be back later.  I didn't even get a kiss goodbye!

According to the staff, and indicated to me by the fact his hair returned somewhat multicoloured, he had an absolute ball.  "He's quite a character isn't he!?" were the words offered to me as I collected him after 6 hours of 'school'.  And did he want to come home?  "No, NO WAY!" was bellowed towards me as a little pair of legs made like a blur in the opposite direction.

I'm not sure if they found him tiring but he sure found them tiring!  I managed to get him out of the car still sleeping and let him lay on the sofa.  I wondered what Essie would do at the sight of her brother in the land of nod next to her.  She choose to play with all his toys right under his nose!

And then, which had me in absolute stitches, she investigated why her brother wasn't giving her attention for playing with said toys!

I didn't really have time to miss him - there's too much to do and six hours goes SO fast - but bloody hell the house was quiet!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

And If You Can't Go For A Run?

Last Saturday (8th) we got a surprise family night away down south.  Tash had booked a hotel in Cobham some months ago but it was expected to be used for pre-race prep for a half marathon she had enrolled for on the Sunday.  As life would have it though she developed an injury and the physio said her hip wasn't good enough for her to run on.  Shame that, especially with it being the Speed Trials down on Brighton Seafront that Saturday!

Thankfully the hotel (a Hilton no less!) accepted dogs and so we all loaded into the Mighty Benz and set sail for Brighton early on Saturday morning.  And yes, the dog is the wrong side of the dog guard.

We reached Brighton, found a NCP car park, and voiced numerous expletives at the price for four hours parking.  £18.  Yes, EIGHTEEN pounds!  Still, we figured four hours would be enough and we were 'on holiday' after all.

Brighton was awash with awesome cars and bikes and there was a great atmosphere about the place.  I was especially excited to see a Ducati Demosedici RR.

It would appear this guy has more confidence in his front end than Valentino too!

As we had Harry with us we couldn't go down the pit lane and so opted to walk along the road above to watch the action.  It was a great viewpoint with the piers as a lovely backdrop.

Lunch break was approaching and so we agreed to watch the racing till lunch and then go in search of food.  Alfie was strapped to Tash's back and he was loving it!

There were all manner of cars and bikes being tested over the quarter mile and it was great to see such a variety on display.

With the mornings racing done we took a stroll back down the seafront towards a cool little Hot Dog place we'd seen on the way up.  A drink and a meaty sausage in the sunshine, what could be better!?

Fed and watered Alfie and I toddled down to the waters edge to throw stones (at other children).

Once he had successfully caused a good proportion of bathers to suffer blood loss we all made our way back to the car and then onto the hotel.

Tash and the kids had a swim in the pool, we all grabbed some food and then the entertainment that was bedtime began.  Two adults, two kids and a dog fitting into one double and one single bed.

I'm guessing no-ones gonna be surprised that it ended up a bit like this.

On Sunday we went to the Brooklands museum as it was literally 2 miles from the hotel.  We got there early, we had been up since 5am.

I've wanted to go to Brooklands for years.  Its one of those places that was pivotal in the the development of motorsport during its early years, and Malcolm Campbell had his famous "Q Shed" within Brooklands' premises.

Brooklands is also home to John Cobb's awesome Napier Railton.

Alfie and I even managed to get up on the famous banked track where those mighty leviathons would have once raced.

As well as automotive there is loads of aero stuff at Brooklands.  A large section is devoted to Concorde, and their collection includes one of the original test planes, the simulator used to train pilots, and even sections of the fatigue test airframe!

We opted to board a post-war RAF bomber training plane instead though.  I absolutely loved it, and the volunteer on board was so clued up on what he was talking about as he guided us through the craft.

Everywhere you look at Brooklands it seems that theres some treasure hidden under a tarp.

Or left nestled under some listing tree or other.

We found ourself round by the Bus museum which was also fantastic.  A bus chassis with no body on it looks bloody enormous!  Alfie thought the buses were especially great!

There was even one from closer to home!

With the Bus museum visited all that was left was for us to negotiate the souvenir shop.  Alfie spent many many minutes trying to decide over a plane, car or bus.  He chose plane.

And with that we renegotiated the London Orbital and were home in time for dinner.  Quite simply an amazing weekend.

All my photos from the weekend can be found here.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Can Anything Top The Olympics?

The Olympics were phenomenal.  I came away having spent time in the best company, and occasions with family and friends had left me with the most precious memories.

And after a short break to catch our breath it was onto the Paralympics.  To be honest I wasn't really up for it as much as I had been the Olympics.  I suspect this was in part due to them being 'post-Gathering' and so I wasn't staying up till gone 1am every night presenting me the opportunity to watch endless TV.

I guess with all these things it just needs a hook.  Something to catch me.  And reading Motor Sport Retro that Alex Zanardi, the ex F1 driver who lost his legs in a horrendous Indy Cart accident, would be competing in the hand cycle events immediately had me tuning in and once more on the hunt for tickets.

September 5 - Time Trial

The Time Trial was first up, and as with all the Paralympics 'road' events it was to be help at Brands Hatch.  Tickets sorted for me, the kids and my 'official olympics buddy' Claire and after the most ridiculous and enormous diversion around the venue we met up at Brands mid morning.

Wicker cyclists were there to greet us, with riders already tackling the famous Kent venue in the background.

Considering in the glory days of Fogarty and WSB Brands used to hold over 100,000 people I never thought the hand cycling would sell out.  But it did.  Which confused me.  Upon arrival it all became clear - only a small part of the track was visable for viewing, with the athletes themselves leaving the track to incorporate local roads as well as a section of the famous venue.

I think I've posted before about the Gamesmakers with the loudspeakers sat upon lifeguards chairs.  Those chaps are great, and I've been eyeing up getting Alfie into one of those seats since we first arrived at Greenwich.  Arriving that bit later at Brands meant one such Gamesmaker had vacated his position which presented an opportunity I was NOT about to miss.  

We grabbed some food and set about enjoying the day.  There were a number of classes running, your chosen machine often decided by your disability.  These included modified bicycles, tandems, hand cycles and tricycles.

With some food inside us we took a wander, and headed in the direction of the grandstand to see what our seats were like.  En route we stopped to grab a coffee.  The queue wasn't massive, but the wait sure was!  Claire queued for no less than 835 minutes!

OK, maybe it wasn't quite that long, but is was certainly so long that Alfie decided he could enjoy a sly ice cream without any risk of having to share it!

When we reached the stand it turned out we could sit wherever we liked.  Sarah Storey had just won Gold for GB and it seemed an ideal time to get a good view of the podium.  Sadly all seats were pretty poor and the scoreboard was all that we saw of the medal ceremony!

We opted instead to search for a better position close to the barriers.  We got lucky, bagged our space, and bedded down for an afternoon of 'lmpics!

 We were situated just after the final bend, with a little over 200 metres to the finish line.

As with the Olympics, the crowd wasn't all British.

 Alfie spent some time watching with Claire.

Alex Zanardi set off at 3:15pm and it wasn't long till he completed his first 8km lap and came flying past us.

Zanardi's hand bike was designed by himself, and I guess all competitors must have bespoke vehicles depending on their needs and abilities.  I was blown away by how different the cycles were and many were real works of art.

Zanardi went on to win gold for Italy.  He won it by nearly 30 seconds, people like that really are an inspiration.  On crossing the finish line he jumped out of his bike and lifted it above his head.  Reading that paints a picture in your mind, or at least it did with me when I heard it, but I never imagined he did this!

I'm guessing that hand cycle is pretty light then!

With the day drawing to a close we went in search of Pizza.  Claire asked if she could wear Essie - I'm saying nothing about chickens, eggs, or being broody here - and the fun of the day finally caught up with my dear boy.


And with that we headed for home.  The kids slept the whole way - the day had been that much fun!

September 7 - Wheelchair Basketball

My quest for Olympic Park tickets continued.  There wasn't a lot else that really interested me apart from the athletics.  That was until I caught a few minutes of wheelchair basketball one evening on Channel 4.  Wheelchair basketball is awesome, far far better than that stupid 'legged' version!  Proper end to end stuff, amazing talent on show, and its a real 'contact' no contact sport.  You may have gathered I have absolutely no idea on the rules.

Anyway, you can probably see where this is going, tickets became available and so I bought them.  I then rang Claire and said something along the lines of "cancel whatever plans you have, you need to come to the O2 with me to help me look after the kids".  Actually I think I pitched it a little better than that, something a little closer to "are you free tomorrow, I have tickets to the wheelchair basketball at the O2 which is going to be totally A.May.Zing!"

Claire had to work the morning, but she decided to sacrifice her afternoon nap in the spirit of the Paralympics and we agreed to meet at the O2 once she'd ridden across after work.  And so I negotiated the trains. And tube. And London.  On my own.  In rush hour.  It wasn't too bad actually, my hatred of double buggies paid dividends and using a single+sling approach work out nicely.

Upon reaching the O2 - sorry, I mean North Greenwich Arena - I figured I'd better get a photo of us.  I've got pretty capable at those 'stick your arm out, point camera roughly at your face, hit button' type photos.  This was not one of my finest moments though.

Our tickets were for the upper tier, but were not seat specific and so we found ourselves some space to spread out.  There were four games to be played during the day - we missed the first but the second was about to start.  This was the womens match between China and Canada.

The game was fantastic and it really ebbed and flowed from one side to the other.  A late comeback from Canada really had the crowd on their feet but China ended up worthy winners.  Alfie really enjoyed it, especially the cheering and shouting bits.  Esme preferred to practice her walking in the steepest stand I've sat in for a long while!

With the game over we headed out to grab a drink and some chicken wings whilst Esme enjoyed some shut eye in the sling.

The balcony that you come out to overlooked the entrance within the O2 and so we kept a watchful eye out for Claire to arrive, hoping she might make it before the next game started.

She arrived shortly after tip-off and we ventured round to the opposite side of the arena to catch the action from a different view point.

I don't remember so much of that game, this is most likely because my daughter was once again doing her best to launch herself down flights of stairs and my son determined to launch open bottles of water over my back.

During the game we came to the conclusion that due to the stewards not checking tickets and there being numerous empty seats we could probably get downstairs for the last game of the day.  We made our move, found an entrance we liked the look of and made a break for few empty pews amongst a large section of reserved seats.  No-one cared though and we got a cracking view of the action for the Spain vs Turkey group game.

It meant I could actually get some half decent shots of the action too.

Alfie loved it!

Our day ended before the game had finished.  The kids were clearly tired and in an attempt to miss rush hour we headed for the exit at about 4pm.  I got lucky on the way home - Alfie and Esme slept pretty much the whole way and I hit every connection perfectly with no waiting for tubes or trains.

Another great end to another great Paralympic day!

The Paralympics were unquestionably the most successful of all time, and many would argue a much greater event than the Olympics themselves.  Part of this is due to the Athletes, their stories, and the incredible strength they have shown to get where they are today.  Although I have always meant to, I have never actually read Alex Zanardi's autobiography but its something I'm determined to make sure I do.  Check out his website here and dig out some of the stories that can be found on there.  Its a perfect example of what makes these people so special.

I bought a London 2012 poster before the Paralympics started.  Little did I realise the words would sum up what I felt on so many occasions during the days of the Paralympics.

All my photos from the Paralympics can be found here.