Tuesday 24 September 2019

Corsica Roadtrip

Jersey to Corsica is quite a drive. I love the way Google maps suggests it is 20 hours by car, 3 days on a bike or 10 days walking. It took me 48 hours followed by a 10 hour boat journey, but I took it leisurely

This has been my first proper road trip with my VW van and my wheels in the back. I have a roll-up mattress, one ring cooker and a Euro bank card

Driving through France was OK but poor weather. I took it easy, stopping loads and crashing in the back. It worked great but I'm not very organised with everything piled in as opposed to a converted sleeper

Arriving in Toulon (ferry port) with most of a day to spare was great with my wheels. Where normally I would be limited to 50m walks, I spent about 5 hours exploring the town and like it a lot
Toulon old town is now separated from the arbour

Like Jersey and a lot of coastal towns Toulon has largely separated itself from it Harbour by building inapproiate blocks of pile-em-high flats. I think this robs the town of its purpose. Moving away from the waterfront the old town is generally charming with twisting alleyways and limestone buildings. The town nestles between the sea and the limestone cliffs like a lot of Mediterranean towns. To me they look achient but I'm sure they aren't

There is good graffiti in Toulon

Toulon is full of interesting doorways:

Finaly the overnight ferry

Friday 15 February 2019

If you find yourself here, don't take the right-hand turning

I don't know why but I've been itching to get to Indian Creek. In Feb last year I made
an attempt to get to this quiet cove in Antigua but chickened out at the 11th hour (see post)

You can see Indian Creek from the Block House up at Shirley Heights. It looks like an Estuary but as there are no rivers in Antigua it isn't
The access is challenging for my wheels. Its a long drive with the final few kilometres on dry rough tracks.

It ends in a steep 50m decent over bare rock, storm cut channels and loose scree

This last section is what stopped me last year but determined, I forged my descent. The lessson learned is that Genny will descend to places it is unable to return from

I'm asking a lot from a mobility aid as I think a land-rover in 4 wheel drive would struggle on this section but finding limits and identifying solutions is how progress is made. I got out of this by dismounting and putting Genny into the Segway riderless balance mode, then guiding, pulling it up, clearing the worst of the rocks from the path. Riderless balance mode is a Segway function that allows you to get the Segway up steps for example but does it in driverless and at limited speed. It requires an exaggerated front to back lean to drive Genny. This is an issue as the foot-plate becomes the limiting factor crashing into anything standing proud on the path in-front. The solution is to weave Genny in a zig-zag path avoiding all obstacles, but it requires a lot of strength and may well be beyond many users caperabilities. A solution could be a folding foot-plate that I notice is used in many of the other Segway powered chairs. You would still need to dismount the chair but I'm sure it would make those difficult off-road situations considerably easier

In this instance the no-entry access chain was down indicating that although the way ahead was open, you weren't welcome. When I did get to the end of the path and onto the beach it was rough loose rocks and not sand, making access to the sea impossible anyway

Saturday 9 February 2019

In the blue

I spend my days in Antigua either swimming or hanging out on the beach. This is not charistically my style as someone compulsively busy but it seems to work here. Moving from too hot in the sun, despite palm tree shade, to the cool blue waters is like coming home. As a race our evolution moved from the safety of the waters to the land and we cary the memory of the liquid womb. For someone with mobility issues, the supporting walm, salty water is a homecoming. Weightless is freedom

I always excelled at swimming just finding my element.  Moving through water is a meditation and warm saltwater is my ally. Antiguan waters are safe from strong currents and warm enough to spend considerable time in. I don't snorkel, I find the breathing laboured, preferring a simple eye mask that doesn't cover the nose, holding my breath

Lost anchor

The more time you spend in the sea the more you see. The anchor was lost from a friends boat and we hope to salvage it over the next few days

I am charmed by the turtles who make a living grazing the intermediate zostera beds. How they are sustained by such meager sustenance surprises me in their passage from egg to adult in this less than stable world

There seem to be several types of rays that visit these warm waters. Reminiscent or creatures from another universe they cruise the bottom to feed

Out beyond the safety of the reef the waters are clearer and the rise in energy supports a different range of species. Fan corals wave in the shallows whilst shoals of brightly coloured fish feed amongst the rocks

Beyond the natural Harbour made by the reef and to the east lies the 'Pilars of Herculese'. These beautiful limestone pilars are formed by the hydrolic action of the sea and are a challenging swim. They can also be reached by path but the best views have got to be from the perspective of the sea

Wednesday 6 February 2019

Down day

Today is overcast skies with intermittent showers. There is not a lot to do except maybe bus it to town but I'll save that pleasure and post some images instead

This frigate bird is hunting fish just over the sea wall from the apartment I'm in
Wheels at Galleon beach
Last night's sunset from the garden
The Copper and the Lumber Store hotel in this mornings rain. I covert a stay in this hotel. It is built in the Nelson's dockyard site in English Harbour, a World Heritage site and full of historic charm, even in the rain

Sunday 3 February 2019

Antigua 2019

It's hard to make these reports real time as life goes on and its currently the evening of my 1st full day in Antigua with 2 large rum and 'Ting's' in me belly. This is the 3rd time my wheels have visited this island in the Carabbean and I'm happy to be back

I had a long day yesterday rising at 4:15 and a taxi to Jersey airport at 5:30. I'm just one of those people who isn't late but traveling with lithium powered machinery by plane requires that extra time

Despite the possibility of snow in Jersey all was clear and flying to Gatwick airport was easy. The check-in staff know me by name and are happy to speed me through security and the boarding process and I was the first passenger on the plane

Gatwick arrival was also fairy easy but you never know what you gonna get from the "special assistance" staff. Sometimes you get "do you need to go to the toilet now Mr Tipping" but most assistants are great. Unfortunately it's the loaders that need to sign off on your wheelchair and the presence of lithium batteries puts fear in their very hearts

I have a set of "Acceptance for Travel Guidelines" that can help with getting lithium powered devices onto planes and into the air. The decision makers are the lead loaders that sign off the cargo as safe to travel. Lithium ion batteries ring many bells with loaders and the designated Genny route via the travel document is to surrender the chair with legs up and infokey removed and to wait 7- 9 mins till the lights go out. Loaders generally don't have the required time to wait that long and every time Genny is moved the clock resets itself again. I have been responsible for several delays and I think this is a big issue with Genny flying. To assist I have equipped my Genny with an additional battery isolation switch that sits under the seat and tricks people into thinking Genny is fully dead and safe to travel. This is great when it works but deviates from the "Acceptance for travel guidelines" which can be a problem in itself

Yesterday in Gatwick airport I had a loader that insisted I remove the lithium batteries. I delivered the guidance docs and proudly demonstrated the isolation switch but he was determined to get the barrettes off and into the cabin. So cornered I pulled out my hidden toolkit - the one stashed in the seat cover that never should have made it through security. Tipping Genny onto its side I attempted to remove the batteries but not having been removed for a while the Allen screws were not going anywhere. It was obvious the batteries were going nowhere and the clock was ticking so I resorted to asking for the captain to make the final shout. Flight Captains 10 mins before departure are busy people but convinced by my magic switch he signed off on the hazardous goods form and we were away

It's a long day flying to the Carabbean but I love it that you leave in the dark worried if the snow will stop the flight - finishing the day swimming in 28°C blue Carabbean waters
Such a beautiful Harbour and so full of posh yachts

Saturday 26 January 2019

Tools for the job

I am always happier when I have the resources to repair whatever task I'm on. In my small zodiac inflatable boat I have tools for the spark plug, a screwdriver, a few spanners and a replacement starter cord. My van also has tools along with roadside assistance insurance. On Genny there is very limited room but I still carry a small but comprehensive toolkit. I researched what I needed and came up with the following solution

With a few alterations this great little tool kit covers most of the things you need to service and maintain your wheels. The Torx bits, the Allen keys and the sockets are great but I dumped the Philips head driver bits and larger Pozidrive  bits replacing them with high quality Snap-on Allen bits sized 1.5, 2.5, 3, 4, 5 & 6mm. This tiny tool kit is only 45 x 35 x 15cm and has room underneath the black insert to stash a couple of stay ties that can hold most things together at a last resort.Instead of carrying this in a backpack i have a tiny bicycle saddle holder that fits the toolkit like a glove
Using the built-in Velcro strap this fits neatly between the Genny side handle and the seat - how neat is that?
I have used this kit many times to remove covers, fix the tiny metal locator lug from the bottom of the lean-steer handle and even change a wheel with the 13mm socket. One thing I would say is don't attempt to use the tiny ratchet when applying force like removing a wheel as it is not up to it and you will bust it. Something I have recently ordered as an addition is some tiny tubeless tire plugs for punctures. These plugs are self-adhesive and vulcanising and will fix a thorn or nail puncture. I think they are also small enough to fit in the base of the toolbox but I will let you know Designed for bikes these plugs are a repair-on-the-road aid, they are very light and compact. I have not tried these yet but I have had issues with punctures and like the idea of this.If you are interested here are links to the various products I have used: ToolkitCaseTyre repair plugs

Saturday 5 January 2019

Tyre troubles

For a while now I have had a slow leak on one of my wheels. Over Christmas things got a whole lot worse so I took the wheel into a local tyre service centre.
When they removed the wheel we discovered the tyre has a leak from the patch repaired in Antigue (see this post)

Unfortunately there was also an internal split (see above photo) which stopped the tyre shop from repairing the wheel leaving me with a one wheeled Genny for Christmas. They refused on safety grounds which is understandable

I hunted all the local tyre shops but they had nothing suitable directing me to motorbike shops. They were all closed so I wasted a whole day looking for a new tyre. In the end I got a bike tyre repair kit and made the repair myself - see above

I found replacement tyres on ebay at a great price so ordered a set that arrived yesterday. I fitted the new tyres to the rims and today will inflate at a garage and pray all works

I removed the old tyres using a few spanner handles as tyre levers. The new tyres are exactly the same tread and design but made by a different company. The size is 80/80-14 which is width (mm), height (mm as a % of tyre width) and rim diameter in inches. I later considered looking for slightly wider tyres which I think would protect the rims better as they are easily damaged. When refitting the wheels/tyres I will check if there is room for a wider tyre. Wider tyres are available but will not fit within the tight Segway mudguards
I also made a fibreglass repair to the Genny mudguard that got busted a while back

I'm aware this is turning into a "how to maintain your wheelchair" blog, but things will change soon as I am off to Antigua again next month for some sunshine

Tuesday 18 December 2018

Breaking News

Genny Mobility is up and running again

I Just spoke to someone in Switzerland who tells me the Genny company is working again. I was told that they are in the early stages of service training but that sales and service will resume shortly.

The company website is now working here: Genny Mobility

I think the factory is closed over the Christmas period but I have left an enquiry to include me on a Genny training course. I will update you when I hear back

Sunday 28 October 2018

Ireland Oct 2018

I had a road-trip to Ireland planned for a while with my car and wheels in the back however as my van came together in time and I got Jersey registered and plated, I changed the booking and I'm now in Ireland with the VW

Jersey to Ireland is quite a trip with 2 ferries and a substantial drive. It is not unusual to get caught out with the weather and I have had some previous epics. As expected the second ferry from Pembroke to Rosslare got cancelled due to the tail end of some storm so I had an  additional night where I stayed with my sister in Oxford. The following days ferry was on time and with only a bit of smashed glass

Sunday 21 October 2018

Project Van

I have long been excited about travelling with my wheels. In previous posts I have made various trips flying BA which work really well but I want the freedom to go off the beaten trail. I can use my current car to move my wheels about but it involves rolling it up ramps and takes up the entire back of the vehicle with the two back seats folded down. I have been planning a project for a while now to broader my horizons so let me introduce my new go anywhere, do anything van


VW's in Jersey are like gold dust. There is a big surfing and travelling community and a lot of tradesmen use Transporters. I have searched the various local classified pages as well as autotrader.uk but nothing grabbed me. I liked the idea of a basic automatic transmission van with a wheelchair lift but am used to parking sensors, Bluetooth phone connection and other options that are hard to live without nowadays

I came across one wheelchair adapted VW (WAV) for sale locally at a good price but it had a lowered floor and a massive unfolding ramp that took up most of the back of the van.
Van with ramp and lowered floor

Adapted vehicles seem to be jinxed and their value is lowered on the general market which says a lot about the perception of disability I think. You can get a WAV van, strip out the adaptions and have a well priced van. From the disabled customer perspective however new adapted vehicles can cost a fortune. Anything "special" is about ten times what you would expect to pay

Working on the principle that if you can't get 100% what you want, 90% is worth considering, I found a 2013 VW Caravelle for sale on an auction site in Preston. It was actually the executive model with leather seats, electric doors and all the trimmings. Unfortunately it has a rear unfolding lift taking up about 50cm at the very back of the van and was missing the front passenger seat being built for wheelchair upfront but hey? I had a UK contact that traded from auctions and so now I am the owner of a beautiful all-singing and dancing metallic toffee coloured spaceship of a van

My van with current fold out lift

My van currently has a fold out lift which works well but takes up loads of room in the back. My mission is to fit one of these neat cassette type lifts that are mounted underneath the van giving easy discreet access at the push of a button. Some are so small you need less than 1m access space at the side of the vehicle making it easy to use in variable parking situations. They also don't take up any space being mounted below the vehicle. I quizzed the Uk dealers but was told they were unable to sell there lifts outside mainland Britain because of the service liability. When I pretended to be a UK customer I was quoted over £10,000 to supply and fit with a 6 month waiting list. This is for a device I could pick-up second hand on eBay for £400

Planned cassette style lift mounted underneath the van