Sunday, 26 November 2017

Pimping my wheels

Whilst waiting for my wheels to be repaired I am planning some upgrades

Unless Genny Mobility is salvaged from receivership and production starts again, there will be fewer and fewer replacement parts available for these rather unique hybrid wheelchairs. Except for Genny’s central circuit board and a few sensors, everything is mechanical so could be fabricated if required. The bits that will be difficult to replace are therefore the covers. 
I love my wheels but always fancied a red one. I spent an afternoon a week back checking Genny dealers across Europe, looking for a new set of red covers. Genny in Spain had a set at €795 + postage but that is too much. The 2nd option I found was a set of silver covers from the UK that can be professionally coloured. I have gone for these
This picture is from the Genny Switzerland website

Genny lends itself to a bit of bling but when I was offered covers & wheels in gold - for just a little extra, I recognised my limits

What I do want however is a Segway skid plate. These are available but expensive but an obvious addition to protect the very expensive batteries . They come as an anodised aluminium accessory from Switzerland but are currently out of stock. I have a reminder set to check back in the new year but this is probably an accessory I can make myself out of some 3mm aluminium plate. I would form the simple shape and get someone to do the simple welding that requires equipment I don't have. I also need to get used to the idea that I will have to be making parts myself as the company is in administration

In addition I have ordered a number of stainless steel nuts and bolts to replace the rusting hardware on my wheels, wheelnuts and the like

Another change is on the Segway side of things. The base unit for the Genny wheelchair is the Segway i2 platform. The i2 SE came onto the market in June 2016 replacing the i2. In my communications with Segway UK I understand that replacement parts will  become increasingly difficult to get hold of. I hate the increasing redundancy of life

The good news is my wheels were repaired and have passed testing. The EO24 error could not be replicated but it was recommended that the problem was the pivot unit. This is a set of sensors that translate the right left movement of the handlebar into the turn. I'm now looking forward to the postman

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Autumn 2017

So it's been quite a while since my last post - life goes on and Genny is firmly part of my life now

My last post back in June 2017 was the start of a fantastic summer with lots of memories down at the beach and long wandering trips rediscovering places I have not visited for many year but can now once again explore

At the beach
High tide
Sunday morning swim

More recently my 1000 miles and still smiling has unfortunately turned into 1650 miles and an EO24 error in the little display window. I have also discovered that the international company Gemmy Mobility has gone into administration as I understand it. The effect of this is the UK distributor are unable to offer service or do guarantee work but they may be able to get me some parts

This has been a real quandary for me. These machines are expensive, even with the fantastic price I got, however one year down the road I have a unique machine that when it breaks, cannot be supported by the people that sold it

With investigation I was able to determine the EO24 error in the display is a Segway code for "CU A YAW B FAULT" according this reference list I came across: When this error occurs it initiates a lot of bleeping, shaking and in 10 seconds does an emergency shutdown procedure. It is alarming for everyone within 50m if this happens in a supermarket or other public arena. Although it is reset by switching of/on I don’t like the attention.

Genny chairs are advertised as the only Segway chair supported by Segway, I made some enquiries and discovered the UK Segway dealers are willing to repair the Segway part of things, but didn’t want to be involved in any complicated guarantee issues. I therefore needed to separate the Segway from the rest of the wheelchair

I did not know how integrated the Segway was to the Genny. There are functions where the Genny actions are affected by state of the Segway like: no legs down whilst moving and no legs up if not sufficiently level. To my delight I have discovered that the Genny is a completely separate entity and the integration works by monitoring the LEDs on the central consul display of the Segway rather than some bespoke hack that would render my Segway effectively unsupported

This means that even if the Segway dies completely I could get a replacement and with relative ease, rebuild the powerbase of my chair

I spent a whole day stripping out and packing the core Segway base unit to post off to Segway UK for repair. I await the verdict as to how repairable my unit is and am hopeful that within a week or so, I will have my newly serviced chair back in action and the assurance that at least the Segway can be supported.

I now feel reassured and am planning trips that take me out into the world again without the worry I'll need to ditch my wheels and hitch 

I will do a blog detailing a step-by-step how to take your Genny wheelchair to pieces and separate the Segway powerbase - Available HERE

Friday, 16 June 2017

Today I found a wallet

Left on a seat along the cycleway to St Helier was the black leather wallet and a plastic comb. I noticed 5 cigarette butts pushed into a pile of blown sand, the type I associate with menthol cigarettes. I searched for a name on a card or maybe a telephone number I could call -

The wallet contained a wad of 1840 Bolivar, mainly in 100 Bolívar notes from the Republican Bolivariana de Venezuela, a number of passport style photographs of an slightly shifty looking late middle-aged man, a small amount of tablets and a few long international telephone numbers in tiny spider like handwriting

Intrigued I checked the currency on my phone and the Venezuelan Bolívar (VEB) is obsolete. It was replaced with the Venezuelan bolívar fuerte (VEF) on January 1, 2008. Apparently the VEF is equivalent to 1000 VEB making the value if still valid £0.14 how curious is that?

I carry a dollar and a 5 Euro note in my wallet mainly to remind me that the world is still out there somewhere but who carries a fat wedge of South American currency that went out of circulation in 2007? Not only the useless money but no cards, no current money and no coins?

Is this a secret stash that maybe a child has lost or a visit from a slightly dodgy time traveller? Maybe it's me materialising artifacts from another time and place?

The wallet is now with the police and is someone else's mystery but wouldn't it make a great start to a novel?

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Genny in the Orchids

Yesterday I visited a beautiful area north of St Ouen's Pond looking at wild orchids

This area is part of a wider wetland area designated as an SSI (site of special interest) and owned and managed by the National Trust for Jersey. I have not been able to visit this site for about 8 years and yesterdays visit was a walk down memory lane

In 1990 I worked for the NT as the first ever countryside ranger in Jersey and managing these areas was my favourite job. It was great to see how the area had changed in the intervening 20+ years. The orchids you can see on either side of the path form a riot of colour every year in May and have increased in abundance through the conservation management I helped to instigate. Where these plants were restricted to a core area with only odd blooms in other parts of the site, the orchids are now spread around the northern perimeter of the pond in an area historically too wet to farm and previously overgrown by the reeds seen in the right of the photo

What a joy to explore these areas again. Tomorrow I will attempt to access the southern side of the site


So I didn't make the southern side - it was behind a gate, a "Do Not Enter" sign and being grazed by a herd of cows. I gave it a miss and instead slipping across the road and onto the adjacent beach and did a long run across the sands. I have always wanted to travel the length of this bay, its number 1 on my tick list for Genny but I may start with a bus to the far end
I crossed about 3 miles of beach avoiding the odd soft sandy patches that labour Genny. I watched the battery indicator drop throughout this journey uncertain of how far I would make. At any point I could have called a taxi or begged a lift but having never actually run Genny completely out of juice I persisted

From where I was in the picture above I continued a further 3 or 4 miles to my home, then messed around till completely flattening the batteries. Genny died 3 meters from my door after a lot of bleeping and flashing of lights on the display. slumping forward onto the footrest it was easy to dismount in a controlled manor

I have seen in the Genny manual that it suggests running batteries out completely if there are issues with the battery level indicator so I was keen to see the outcome. I have since drawn and measured the route I took and have determined it to be 25.5 miles (41 km), not accounting for the vertical element - impressive eh?

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Antiguan Review

Travelling to the Caribbean island of Antigua on my Genny Mobility wheelchair was a fantastic experience. Using it gave me independence and the freedom to do what I wanted

There was an amount of planning required like needing to ensure accommodation was suitable and I had to organise travel to and from the airports but these are things everyone has to do

I had 2 weeks in a ground floor AirBNB apartment that had improvised ramps made to mount the one step access required. I had a garden, terrace, kitchen/lounge area, bedroom and a jetty out onto the Caribbean. With a boat I would have had it all

It was easy to navigate to shops, cafés, beaches and many tourist attractions. Generally I needed to leave my wheels at the door but that works for me. People were delighted to interact with me cruising around on my funky wheels and I was the centre of attention with the local children and many others

The roads and pavements were generally poor so on occasion I needed to backtrack as there was no way off a pavement end. The tropical weather means mega-downpours require storm drains, deep channels and gutters by the sides of the roads. Nights were trickier as judging step heights and avoiding potholes was harder and in addition I felt more vulnerable in the traffic. The local rum consumption, both mine and others probably didn't help

The whole trip was relatively easy right the way from Jersey through to Antigua. My journey started carrying a backpack hooked to the back of the chair seat and a small but heavy suitcase on my lap. I need to cross a short rough track to where the taxi collected me - destination airport

Leaving Genny at the airport gate I can board the plane and recover my chair in Gatwick for the next leg. I had arranged a lift at Antigua airport involving a pickup truck (see earlier post) but I could have managed with a local taxi although I would have needed to rally some strong assistance and done some tipping

Genny met all of the challenges I gave it including soft sand, seriously steep hills, rough tracks and load carrying - shopping, beach trips etc. I had no breakages, flat tyres, or mechanical faults, my only issues were loosing a wheel-nut and the allen screws on the seat back coming loose. Both of these issues I was able to sort locally

I will retain many treasured memories of this trip particularly swimming with the turtles, the beautiful scenery and hanging out with my children and other friends

The airports need convincing that Genny is air-worthy and I have developed a travel kit that include: laminated printed instructions; a pair of inserts that stop the legs from deploying accidentally and a small see-through box that protects the switches from being tampered with (see following image)

I am in discussions with Genny UK about reducing the period of time the switches take to turn off as loading crews will not put anything ‘live' in an aircraft hold. This has previously resulted in me delaying a flight and I see no advantage to these lights staying on for the quoted 7 mins. I imagine a firmware update could do the trick to everyone's advantage

Using this machine in a culture where disability is more apparent (less oppressed) was extremely enlightening for me. Everyone was interested in both me and my funky wheels and within 24 hours I was on first name basis with many ‘less able’ people, various street vendors and all the local characters. In Antigua I am less of an invalid just someone else coping with the issues of life, at least with the Antiguans. I was brave to do this trip but bigger and bolder because of it

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Antiguan Bungalows

Like some parts of India the basic unit of accommodation in Antigua is the bungalow. They are often small and brightly painted, can be made from wood or blocks and normally have a small veranda. They are usually topped with a tin roof

There is something very appealing about the design of these houses and many are charming in there uniqueness. In the warmer climate the veranda is used like a conservatory might be on a European house and is often a hangout in the heat of the day

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Galleon Beach

Galleon Beach is my favorite hangout in Antigua. It formes part of the English Harbour area that is UNESCO listed and a National Park. It's a stunning little bay in the south of the island and mostly deserted at the moment although there is a tasty looking resort right on the beach

I park my wheels at the entrance to the bay and it's less than 25m to the sea

As the crow flies it's 1.5km from where I am staying but the actual trip is quite extreme and ends in a hill that is the limit of what I feel comfortable with on Genny. As with anywhere hot and sunny tarmac melts and cracks. The final descent is about 500m of dead steep white-knuckle terror. Maybe that is what keeps the crowds at bay. The obvious approach would be by water taxi

Over the last couple of days on every swim I have encountered Green turtles. These lovely creatures feed on the sea grass that grows throughout the bay. They seem happy to ignore me as long as I keep a distance and I can get quite close when they surface to breathe.

I feel I have an affinity with these animals ever since I read 'Turtle Diary' by Russell Hoban

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Today we went sailing

Today I abandoned Genny on the dock to set sail on the "J" class yacht "Hanuman"

Hanuman is a 2009 recreation of the 1937 classic Endeavour II. These yachts were originally built for America's cup racing and she will be racing again in the 35th cup races in Bermuda May 2017

Shirley Heights

Shirley Heights is a restored military lookout and gun battery. Fantastic views over English and Falmouth Harbours. Once again great loos - what has this blog become?

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Nelson's Dockyard

Nelson's Dockyard is the poshest bit of English Harbour. It is also by far the most charming

As with all the marinas it is gated but there are shops and restaurants so everyone who looks like they gonna spend money are welcome

The area is a large inlet capable of sheltering many boats and surrounded by mangroves. Nelson chose this area as the main hub for the British during there "exploit the Carrabean" phase

This LINK should show you a map of the area

This is where all the beautiful people are - great loos though :-)