Wednesday, 6 May 2009

He Says – The Ever growing list

He Says – The Ever Growing List...Part 1: The Wheels

Wow has it really been since February since I last sat down to this. In many ways time has flown, in many others is it creeping along at a paralysed snail with viral mononucleosis pace.

Much has happened, and yet nothing has happened. Well I will start with the wheels. I always knew that a weak point of the Africa Twin was the longevity of wheels and that one day I would have to replace the rims (at least). Well the “blizzard of 2009” all 4 cm of it was the death knell for the rims. Okay this is unfair, it was actually the 245,135 tons (metric) between 1 January and 16 February 2009 of salt (England only) that the government put down to combat the 4cm of snow (which if it had not washed in to the ground water would have probably much deeper then the snow ever would be).

The salt corrosion meant I could see the inner tube of the front wheel though the rim, so I had to replace it. Well while I am at it: "I mine as well upgrade the rear wheel from a 17” to an 18”. For the bike geeks: 18” tyre is easier to get outside the western world. Well a day on the phone and net, I found a place that was able and willing to do the job for me and better even they were local to me. Central Wheels. The head boss emailed me and said they could do it and the price was reasonable too.

So, I spend the weekend removing the wheels and cutting (yes cutting) out the hubs, on the 14 of March 09 I drop off my hubs to them, talked with the guys at the shop and made it clear what I wanted. They still said they could do it “no problem”. Only down side was that it was going to take two weeks. Okay not great turn-around time but I left a happy boy. Two weeks later I call them to see when I can pick up my wheels “Oh they wont be ready till next week”.. not so happy now but okay. The next week I call them again to see when I can pick up my wheels “Oh they wont be ready till next week”.. very not so happy now but okay.

Later that week, I get message to call them. Happily, I call them expecting to be told to pick them up. WELL NO! Now 4 weeks later they said “’cus the hub is 32 spokes that they can not do it” although I confirmed with them 2 twice now it is an issue. They also told me that I had to go back to 17” and it is going to cost me £100 more then their original quoted price. To add injury to insult it was also going to take upto 3 more weeks.

Confused I asked…”So you cant do what I want you to do and you are going to charge me £100 more to do something that I neither need you or want you to do.. Ahh no thank you”. I told that that I will not require their service and I will get my hubs back as soon as possible. The guy on the phone actually had the nerve to get snappy with me. If some one can please explain to me how this works that would be wonderful, because I cant see how they expected me to be satisfied with this

. …Not the size rims I want, more money, more time, 3 times more expensive then the best brand of rims, rude customer service… Oh I get it!.. no, no? wait that was gas.. nope still at a loss.

My wonderful wife went out that night to get the hubs, and they did not even know where they were. Nothing labelled, in fairness to them they did change the plastic bags I brought them in to them in.. a months work.. not bad… I think that this sums up their work ethic.

If it is true that it cant be done (which I do not ..believe see below), and it is not just a “oh that looks too hard let try and get out of it thing” why did it take them 4 weeks to figure it out. Surly there should be a “to do list and to order list that you look at WELL BEFORE THE JOB SHOULD START. 3 weeks of no bike because of them.

I spent the next day or so on the phone/net and found no one (in the UK), would do the 17 to 18" conversion and was forced to go back to OEM specs. Interestingly two guys in Australia and 4 in the USA would. Cultural difference?

A Italian company called SanRemo never got back to me, although an Italian speaking friend did get a hold of them, but they would never answer his technical questions. Africa Queens suggested that (although they sell them) San Remo rims would not be up to the overland trip. They suggest their rebuilt Honda ones.

I found that Talon Engineering (UK) was the cheapest place to order a set of OEM sized Excel rims and SS spokes. As Excel is known as the best and they were cheaper then the AQ set up I went with it. Talon did not have my preferred colour in stock and so it had to go out for anodizing. By Friday a week later, I had a big box with rims and spokes. The spokes were also labelled as to their position. Wonderful, that was one worry down (I had no idea other wise where they should go).

Saturday morning I sat down to lace them up. Following the directions I read off the net I completely screwed it up. Nothing fit anywhere. It was going horribly wrong.

Had I made a horrible mistake?

Talon would have built them for me?

Sweat, brought on by utter panic, running down my face. I decided that I had to strip it out and start again. This time ignoring the directions and going by feel, by instinct, by pure manly know how.

The work was slow, my back ached, my fingers bled.. but it worked, in just over an hour the rear rim was laced. The front rim was even quicker and even easier (so much for always read the directions huh?).

By Saturday afternoon, I was enjoying a barbi and looking at my not very round but laced up wheels. Ahh sweet look of partial success. Sunday I had lots of other things to do and only spent an hour trueing the rear, but I did get the rear 90% done, and the first 45 min or so was trying to figure out how to do it. I was not worried as I assumed that this will be a very slow process and take me a few hours each but I have saved a lot of money (over what Central Wheels where going to charge me) and I have gotten Excel wheels in the colour I wanted.

Well it was not till the following Saturday that I was really able to try and get them true. I started with the rear, and was not getting anywhere. So I gave up. I had a crack at the front. It took me less then half hour. Realising what I had done wrong on the rear I started over (again). This time around in about an hour I had the rim true. By the end of the day, there was rubber on both of them and Anubis had wheels again. It was not all that hard in the end. Yes I made many mistakes, but it was “a learn as you go” process and without any one to teach me I was very happy how easy it really was.

Right! Now I can start on the rest of the list.. there is only 157million things to do on it…. and no time at all to do it.

Part 2 The Ever Growing List.. Everything Else (the non-bike tech part).

Well the list of things to do now contains things from: “Sell everything we own” to “ fix a million things on the bike” to “buy everything we need”, to “organise world peace so Mum stops worrying” . Some of the things are easy like oil change to the far more complex like design and build tank panniers and a tank box, rewire this, fix that, invent a thingamajiggy to do a whatsabob. Every night I think of more things that need to be add to the list.

I have spent literally every weekend day working 12+ hours a day in the shed fixing/ bodging/ building something for the bike. Anubis has spent more time in pieces in 2009 then on the road. I have told my bosses that I will be taking a years worth of saved up holidays at the end of my contract. I was expecting a fight over this but there was nothing. Which knowing this man as I do, worries me, he is either 1) happy to see the back of me, or 2) is up to something. The latter is my fear and guess. So I have a month off! It is still not enough time!!! I have started to re-re-re-design the website…I have painted and polished the tank, built 2 more sets of panniers (I am up to 6 now).. I could continue like this for pages. I finish one job only to find 3 more. The list is truly ever growing.

I am in that stage where there is too much to do and not enough time to do it, and so I am more worried then excited. I cannot even see the trip. I know there is something that we are going to be doing but I cant see what. People are always asking me “Oh you must be so excited?” and to which I cant but truthfully reply. “No, not yet.. too much to do”. I know it look like I am just trying to be “cool” but it is the truth.

Panicked - Do I have time to get it all sorted?

- I ordered X a week ago.. Where is it?.. Will it come in time?.

- Which is the best Y to get to do Z?…

Worried - Have I done something wrong?

- Will Q blow up on us?

Nervous- Have I though of everything I need to do?

THERE Is not enough time!!! Ahahahaha……

Ted Simon once said “I am learning, as I make my way through my first continent, that it is remarkably easy to do things, and much more frightening to contemplate them.” That is exactly what I have been doing.

Deep breath!

Sometimes I can step back look at what we are doing realise that it is supposed to be fun, and if something goes “wrong” (and it is not life or death then) that is the point! It is supposed to be an adventure! It is the unexpected that make the best memories.

This trip has made me do things that are outside my “comfort zone” and we have not even left yet. I have dismantled and rebarrelled a lock cylinder, laced a wheel, designed a website, rewired a motorcycle, quit my career, invent a whosawhatsit, and many other things I never even though about doing! This entire trip is about getting outside our norm, our comfort zone, to see and experience new things. Amazingly, I have done a lot of this already. This is the point of travel to me, but I never realised that it can be part of the preparation as well. In many ways the adventure has already begun. Writing this blog entry I am seeing the trip for what it is I am getting outside the nitty-gritty and I am getting excited. So to those that ask:

“Yes, I am excited, I am nervous, I am everything that everyone who has done anything new is. I cant wait. Lets forget the preparation and just go!”

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

She Says - Time Running Out…

We’re really feeling the pressure right now. I worked out yesterday that we basically have 10 weeks left and not that many free weekends! We had a long weekend, which was very productive. Xander has done loads more on the bike, in fact it’s actually back together again but needs some more work before it gets on the road. He’s also completely finished and installed the tool box. I spent all Saturday getting everything that can be sold at this point in time into the lounge, and all Sunday pricing it! We went to our first car boot sale on Monday, but unfortunately the weather was really bad and it may not have been advertised well, so few stalls actually set up and few buyers made their way there. We were home by 9am after arriving just before 7am! Still, they didn’t charge us the £5 pitch fee and we made £14!!! That’s nearly half a day’s travel!!! (we’re working on £30 these days due to the world economic state). Hopefully the next car boot will be on a better day, but we have few weekends to get out there selling stuff before we have to sell the car. And we have so much tat to get rid of!! It’s amazing how much stuff we can actually pack into our little car – even the king of packing thought it wouldn’t all fit! I have to get a photo to show what’s there, as it’s all sitting in the lounge waiting for the next sale.

Xander has now told his bosses that he’s taking all of June off, and has somehow managed to avoid the expected trouble that would bring, due to how he wrote his letter we guess. So he’s down to 4 weeks left at work, while I have 5. My boss and I are in a bit of a panic about getting everything sorted out before I go, but there’s not much we can do except get on with it! I feel really unready to leave work – I thought I had all the time in the world to get everything done but most days I feel like I’m going nowhere. I lost half a day last week to just trying to put my lists in order and work out what exactly needed doing and what will have to go onto the new person’s list! I lost another day going to a meeting for my boss, which was timed most inconveniently for the middle of the day in Birmingham, meaning I tried to work on the train and afterwards but not so successfully! At least it gave Xander and I the excuse to go see the X-Men: Wolverine movie but I cringed at the cost of movie plus food – nearly a day’s travel in the end!!!! I’m being super-stingy on money, but accept you need to have a little fun every now and then…

My biggest dilemma lately has been hair washing! I’ve been working on new methods since we decided to travel. First was to reduce the amount of shampoo I use by adding some water before applying. However, my long hair needs a fair bit of conditioner and there’s little I can do about that. I discovered that Lush makes solid shampoos and conditioner (yes, only one for some strange reason!) plus 2-in-1 blocks. I’ve never had much luck with 2-in-1 washing, but thought it was worth a try. All seemed good to start with, but the more I used it the drier and itchier my head got. Using the solid conditioner helped, but of course was not ideal. Another problem is that the solid conditioner smells of patchouli, which I don’t notice strongly, especially by the end of the day, but Xander despises!! So I’ve been hunting to find a spray leave-in conditioner, something not so strange back home but rare as hen’s teeth here, and when I finally found one (in fact, two!) it was Aussie brand. How weird?! So I’ve found that normal shampoo followed by either solid or spray-in conditioner works fine. I’m also testing a solid shampoo from Lush in place of the 2-in-1 (first time today so no results yet!). I’ve told Xander he may just have to put up with me using the patchouli-smelling stuff every second day as a compromise…But what a hassle! You may be asking yourself by now ‘what’s the big deal?’ At this point, every bit of space and weight counts and we simply don’t have room to carry large bottles of shampoo and conditioner. On our backpacking trip, we carried small bottles that only had to be topped up a few times, but this time is much longer. Do I buy whole bottles of product only to waste most because it doesn’t fit in my small bottle? Do I end up with really cheap stuff that makes my hair horrible? The whole idea of small solid products is brilliant (especially when they are supposed to last 80 washes!!) and so much more convenient – for application, transport, even fits better in the toiletry bag! Definitely worth it in my opinion.

I’ve also been hit by the depressing realisation that I’m never going to see a friend get married! My friend Morgan is getting married in August, just after we leave, and my best friend just got engaged! I know there’s no way she’ll wait till I come home and I honestly wouldn’t expect her to. I’m now missing a work colleague’s wedding this weekend as we are going to London to talk to friends who work with a large conservation organisation who we might be able to do volunteer work with in Africa. We’ve been trying to set that meeting up for months so couldn’t say no! I hit the same situation in 1996 when I went to the subantarctic. Two of my high school friends got married while I was away. There hasn’t been another wedding since and now I’m leaving again, up they come! Maybe one day…