Friday, 26 September 2008

Heard some very sad news today

It was with great sadness that i received the news today that the young man named Joel Picker-Spence (aged 6) that I mentioned in an earlier blog entry (he was seeking a bone marrow donor) has now been told that he is too ill to receive the life saving treatment that he so desperately needs. Having spoken to his mum Ann this evening it appears that this was to be his only chance of beating the disease...and now he cannot have the treatment, in other words, Joel is losing his brave fight with leukaemia, and,aside from some sort of miracle taking place over the next few weeks he will sadly succumb to the illness.

Ann was astonishingly frank and open about the dire situation that Joel is now in, but after nursing him and being with him for the duration of his battle, spending days, weeks and months either in transit to, or resident in, a large number of hospitals she is now having to accept that her son is slipping away, and I, as the father of a son not much younger than Joel,can only imagine how she must feel at this moment.

It is times like this that I take stock of my own situation, and strangely enough it is seeing the way that valiant youngsters like Joel cope with their personal battles, makes me take strength and hope with my own, for the measure of victory is sometimes not if the battle is won or lost, but more of how hard,courageously and passionately the fight was fought, and souls like Joel are our heroes, our beacons and our inspiration so that we may believe that one day we will conquer Leukaemia and all of the other cancers that blight so many lives.

Ann told me that she is planning to bring Christmas forward this year, to allow Joel to have some downtime and fun in his life. I for one will be delivering a present to the Picker-Spence household, given not so much with sympathy but with respect,awe and a genuine wish that no matter how great the odds are, a brave little boy will have the best Christmas ever.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

When Sciroccos attack!!

I managed to get all the way to Morocco with no incident. Andy hurt his foot, but I got away without injury.....until I got home!

I was parked up at a petrol station on Friday to get some bits and bobs for the house and on getting out of the car I noticed I was parked very close to a high kerb. I made a mental note to be careful on my return to the car as I did not want to damage the paint and went on my merry way to get the supplies I needed.

Of course when I returned I forgot completely about the whole thing and proceeded to open the door and decend into the car as you normally would in one fluid motion. The door hit the kerb with force and bounced back at me with speed, pinning me under the ribs between the car and the corner of the door. Needless to say it hurt a bit and I slumped into the car!

Now at this point damage control was in order, so I did the important stuff first.....looked around to see if anyone had seen and was laughing! No, I had got away with it and was free to wince and groan for a few seconds. Next I got out to check the door for damage. NOT A SCRATCH! So I prceeded home noting that the pain was rather intense for a bruise.

Saturday and Sunday passed and the pain upgraded from ' a bit annoying' to 'I cant breathe or lay on my side'. It wa at this point that my wife stepped in and insisted on a trip to A+E. It was there, after a few hours wait, that I learned I had fractured 2 maybe 3 ribs!

So now Im off work AGAIN feeling sorry for myself and trying not to laugh / move / breathe in case I hurt myself again. At least Ive got some decent pain killers I suppose - Andy didnt have that luxury for his foot in Morocco.....

Saturday, 20 September 2008

The end ?

No way ! :-). After myself and Glen have had some rest we will then get on with the job of sorting through eh hundreds of photographs, and the many hours of video, to bring you a concise report of the whole trip...well the bits we can remember anyway !. I am back at work on the 22nd September and i believe that the same goes for Glen, so you will have to bear with us as we check,label and compile our little "travelogue" to give you an idea of what almost 4000 miles in 8.5 days in a Scirocco (a la trailer) looks like. Stay tuned !
By the way, did you notice subtle change that we have made to our challenge logo ?. We thought that it was only fair to set the record straight as to our final destination at the conclusion of our little adventure.Then again, i think that it has something of a ring to the name.....cushty !:-).
And hot off of the press here is Glen's first taster for our forthcoming blockbuster about our adventure...
Don't you just love YouTube ? :-)

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

The boys (and old girl) are back in town....

Well, Scarlett delivered us back to England safely on Monday afternoon at about 4.45pm UK time and had me back to my house for 5.50pm. My dad was on hand with his video camera to film us arriving at the house and to help us unpack all my stuff into the garage. After a few cups of much needed coffee, Andy set off on the 3 hr journey back to Sleaford on his own and I sat at home with my wife Rachel reliving the last few days of stories and wondering if he would make it home safely. I need not have worried though as he rang from Sleaford at about 10pm to say he was home safe (well at the local takeaway at least!!)

I now have 6gb of film and photos to sort through which will be fun, but Im going to leave that for a few days I think - right now a day or twos R+R sounds good.

So, the big question - how many miles did we cover? Well, the driven distance was - 3929
Total Distance inc ferry crossing - 3979

I have been saying a few thankyous to people today and was asked on a few occasions "was it difficult?" I think on reflection the hardest part for me was to see the car drive away. Scarlett has been our home, transport and protector for the last 9 days and I must say I miss her already. She never skipped a beat just as in her "Roc-around-the-clock" challenge last year and although her front suspension and bearings were tired and the exhaust noisy on her return, I think I would trust that car to the end of the earth and back for reliability. They really dont make them like that any more.

So big thankyous to Andy for resisting the temptation of getting up in the middle of the night and leaving me behind, Scarlett for getting us there and back and leaving us with some fond memories and of course to our families for putting up with us both for the last 9 months.

Im tired now - Im off for a beer.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Look out UK here we come !

Having spent the night in a campsite in mid France at a place called Chateau Renault, we were up with the lark, or rather the duck as we were next to a river, packed away and all set to hit the road again...except for the fact that the nice lady at the campsite doesn't open the gates until 8am !. Having peeped out of her window and seeing our frustrated faces she must have had taken pity at the rather tired looking pair of Englishmen sat trapped at the exit, so she came out at 7.45 and after a jolly "bon voyage" we were off again and heading for Paris...again !.

Glen has taken the first stint at the wheel, but we will be changing over around Paris and I will be getting us to Calais were we hope to be able to board anything with a P&O logo that is headed back to the UK.

Mileage wise we are hitting the 3500+ mark and we still have around 180 to go before reaching Calais. Car is performing brilliantly and the fuel economy has remained at approx 32-34 MPG during the trip except for the trek over the Pyrenees which hit us harder and dropped the MPG down to around 28.

We are now down to our last 50 euro's and have one Jerry can of fuel in the "No2 Boot" (Trailer !).

Myself and Glen are quite tired after pushing hard for the last 3 days, and my back ache has not improved much since we set off last Saturday,probably due to posture in the car and several nights in a tent and a few in the car also.

We have decided however to apply to the Guinness book of records under the category "Travel (almost) to Morocco and back without the assistance of sunglasses" as it occurred to us today that throughout the whole trip neither of us has worn any form of shades !

Oh, yeah, if anyone is planning a "surprise party" to mark our homecoming, can they ensure that they have either Fish and chips or a Kentucky chicken dinner to hand, as both myself and Glen are starting to suffer signs of withdrawal due to lack of either for well over a week ! :-)

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Goodbye Portugal, hello Spain...Again !

We said goodbye to Portugal this morning, or rather we began to say goodbye to Portugal this morning, but it was quite a long goodbye and by the time we eventually crossed the border into Spain it was 15.35 !. We have now covered a total today of some 540 miles, with another 50 to do before we eventually reach our stop off for the night just north of Valladolid. We had a slight detour earlier around Lisboa when we decided to (unsuccessfully !) try and get a tour of the VW factory at Palmela were they are making the new was closed !.

Today we have spent around 150 Euro's on road tolls, food,drink and fuel, and to be honest we are really hoping that the campsite we are heading for is A) going to be open B) have some room for us and C) be nice and peaceful !.

Graham and his family looked after us well for the last day and a half, and for that we are eternally grateful...especially the fact that he not only booked, but paid for the 2 nights accommodation in Silves....Oh the bliss of having a real bed to lie on :-).

In the morning we will be pushing on to clear Spain, then back into France for the last European leg of our challenge.Should be fun !

Friday, 12 September 2008

Scirocco (almost) to Morocco 2008

Well it was a tough call to make, but after travelling 1908 miles from Sleaford to Gibraltar with the intentiontion of sorting tickets for the crossing we spent around 2 hours trying to broker a deal for a crossing at a reasonable price. The result ? Not good i'm afraid, we were unable to get a quote for the two of us+ car and trailer, return to Any of the ports for less than 500 euro's !.The sailing from Gib was going to be far to late for our planned itinery as it was @ 19.30 hours on the 12th, so the return would have been the next day which was to late to allow for any possible hold ups to be considered.Crossings at Ameria were the same story, either booked solid,too late or more commonly, far too expensive ! :-(.

We spent 1 hour going through the Spain>Gib border crossing, sweating profusely in the 38 degree temperatures (No aircon remember!), popped into Morrisons supermarket (yes there is a morrisons there also !), had food and drink, spent more time attempting to source the elusive crossing, and then at around 16.30 we made the descision to call off the crossing and spent another hour waiting to clear the Gib>Spain border.

It was whilst we were being pulled over and searched that i had my little accident with the trailer. No not a crash, but unfortunately i decided to unhitch it after the search and allow Glen to reverse back before refitting it to the car.Good idea, except that whilst reattaching it i dropped the towing arm onto my left foot (isn't that a film title ?), resulting in what was believed to be a broken big toe and a very bloody and sore fourth one :-(. Up to this point myself and Glen had been considering one last attempt to seek a crossing at Algesera, but after my little accident, with copious amounts of blood and gunge filling my trainer we decided that maybe this was a sign to accept the inevitable and conclude the Scirocco 2 Morocco outward journey in Gibraltar.

As you can probably appreciate we felt a little deflated at this point, almost as upsetting as when Glen suddenly realised that he had accidentally left his best tripod on the roadside somewhere in the Pyrenees mountains !, but after having a chat in a lay by just after the Spanish border control, we concluded that what the hell, we only missed our intended finish point by around 17 miles i.e the ferry crossing to either Ceuta or Tangier, and that in terms of REAL mileage i.e driving onto the ferry, and back off the other side and visa versa, we were probably only going to be actually driving the car around one more mile anyway !....for 500 euro's...we thought not !.

After getting back on the road again we pointed the car North and headed for Sevilla, then Northwest to Portugal and then to Silves in the Algarve were a good friend of mine (Ex RAF and the best man at Teresa and I's wedding 20 years ago) now lives with his family.Obviously the condition of my foot (which by now was well swollen!) meant that i was in no fit state to help with the driving, so Glen did the 291 miles from Gib to Silves on his own...good man !.

Yoda (our TomTom 910 satnav) has been a little temperamental at times, and has on occasion caused more trouble than good (wrong info,out of date maps, kept shutting down due to a faulty recharging connection on the cradle), but proved invaluable in getting us to Portugal and avoiding having to plan the route on a normal map, which saved a lot of extra bother.

We arrived at approx 20.30 hours (Spanish time) 19.30 hours local, and were met at the local petrol station by Graham who had only just finished work a little earlier.

A possible problem with the clutch cable which was noted on the way to Malaga appears to have got no worse, but we have noticed a leak/blow from the front of the exhaust over the last few hundred miles.

We are now planning to set off from Silves tomorrow morning at around 08.00 and then push North up to the top of Portugal and from there, over the next couple of days, across the west of France with the intention of being in Calais around the 16th September.

We apologies for the lack of detailed info that we have posted, but this was due to technical problems regarding the frequent lack ,whilst on the move, of signal for the Internet, and also the fact that we could only use the Laptop for 40 mins a day on battery due to it only lasting that long !.

We must just say at this point, a great big thanks to all the English,Spanish,French and Portuguese people who have made this trip so much fun, and especially those who waved, beeped and gave us the thumbs up along the way.....really appreciated and gave us the lift we needed when things got tough.

Myself and Glen would like to say also a great big thank you to our families who have been so supportive of our challenge and have kept in touch constantly with us over the last 2250 miles.

We are both now looking forward to getting home...just a small matter of approx 1650 miles before that goal is reached, and this time we will make the crossing as the ferry is already booked courtesy of those fine people at P&O...why can't all ferry companies be so good ?

Oh yes.Just a quick message to young Joel Picker-Spence.How are you doing mate ? Hope you are keeping ok. Take care mate, keep you always seem to anyway !:-) Andy and Glen.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Toledo to Marbella

Hi All.
Today we have travelled from Toledo to Marbella. We visited a VW dealership in Toledo and dished out some stickers but unfortunatly they only spoke Spanish. They did however recognise the fact that it was a Scirocco and directed us to Madrid. We could not afford the time so took a photo and headed towards Malaga. We managed to find a campsite - Bulganvilla just outside Marbella.
We have had plenty of interest in the car and challenge from the locals including net who runs a bar called De-ja vu in alveria. I could go on, but battery power forbids me. Either me or Andy will update tomorrow when we hope to either cross to Morocco or hear for home via Andy's friend Graham in Portugul.
Thanks for following our progress.

Greetings from Sunny ((ish) Spain !

Hi People.Sorry for the lack of updates on the blog, but we have been pushing on to get as far into Espania as possible over the last few days since leaving France via those big rock type things called the Pyrenees mountains !.

We stayed in a campsite last night called El Greco in a City called Toledo.This was absolute bliss as it was the fist time since we stayed at the hotel in Le Volcane that we have not had to spend a night couped up in the car...and believe me there is not much room in a Scirocco even with most of the gear in the trailer !.
Food wise we have been living on whatever comes along.Garlic sausage from France,Spanish sandwiches (?) and Erm....Spam and new potatoes from Sainsbury's.

We are currently in a lay by about 99 miles from Malaga, and when there we will decide if it is good to push on to Gibraltar to sort the ferry.
Regarding the ferry, we have had to make new arrangements due to time/sailing to morocco, and even now the challenge is very much uncertain due to this being a very busy period for ferry crossings, and the nightmare of trying to arrange the crossing whilst on the the fact that our Spanish is what you may term......rubbish !.

The scenery has been fantastic, it has however rained for most of the trip today so we feel right at home with that :-).

We have uploaded some pictures now, and will hopefully get more sorted soon.
If you would like to Text us call : 07900492460 (Text only as this is the laptop number) Ta!
Keep watching for more updates.Andy and glen

Sunday, 7 September 2008

650 miles not out.....

Hi all, just thought we would update you with some information on our trip so far.

Day 1 from Sleaford went without any problems. We had a good send-off from Bill Giles and even had a surprise appearance from Cpl Nauyokas who came down to see us off too.

Day 2 has seen us cover a total of 650 miles so far! We will update more info tomorrow.....battery is going flat.
Glen and Andy

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Back pain,rain and staying sane !

Wow, it's now officially the 6th Sept (well 12.29 am anyway), and what a day the 5th was.
It was the day that i cleaned,loaded and prepped the car...well that was until i pulled a muscle in my back early in the morning (trying to lift a rather heavy 5 year old out of his bed !).The result was that i was in rather a lot of pain for the whole day, and as a result of that the plans for completing all the outstanding "things to do" went out of the window :-(.
Having attempted to overdose myself on painkillers (hint...always read the dose instuctions BEFORE you swallow the tablets, not just as you are digesting them !), took 2 ibuprofen EXTRA Strong at once...supposed to be 3 a day..oooppps !.I popped down to Pitstop for them to fit the new front brake pads and the air filter (thanks again fellas !), attempted to pack clothes,update the 2 laptops, set up the usb dongle sent via Vodafone (thanks Vodafone !) and ensure that all the required documents were safely packed...not easy when it is impossible to do little more than shuffle along at snail pace !.
Anyway, i have had a bath, put on a wheaty bag and hopefully when i wake later this morning i will feel a lot better...i hope !.
Glen and Rachel are staying just up the road in Grantham, and will be meeting me at the show around 9..ish.
Off to bed for me now, goodnight !

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Another busy day at the office !

Wow.Phone calls, emails and letters are coming in by the bucket full at the mo, and yet there still seems to be a multitude of things that still need to be tied up.
Yesterday saw the car in the workshop at the Pitstop garage (Sleaford) having an oil change and fuel filter change....and she has to go back on Friday for new front brake pads (well spotted Pitstop!) and an air filter.
Today my new insurance documents arrived via email, i had a call from Darren at Vodafone, setting up the mobile broadband account that they have so generously donated to allow myself and Glen to keep in touch during our little excursion, and i printed off the details sent to me by those luvvly people at P&O ferries, who have allowed us a free return trip to France ....and back ...amazing :-)
I spoke to Paul from the Lincolnshire CO-OP yesterday, who has arranged to get a cheque for £200 sent over to us to pay towards the cost of the Morocco crossing......nice one !
Just need to write out a "proper" list now of all the things we will require during our trip..although i know that i am bound to forget something, forgetfulness is an attribute of mine...
For those that would like to track our progress, simply log on to this site and we will attempt to keep you informed of each days proceedings with a daily dairy...sorry diary..oopss !