Autumn 2022

Having returned from the VINCE trip to Spain I had a visit from my brother Chris and also from Georgina, which was followed by a trip to the UK to visit all the family. This post shows a collection of photos from the visits with some notes on the highlights – the mostly cold and wet UK weather not being one of them !

Parasol mushrooms

Chris was over for a week with the main objective of doing some trail riding on motorbikes, but we did manage to fit in a bit of DIY as well. As a bonus, we foraged some parasol mushrooms on one trip out which were lovely on toast for lunch.

Digging up the drains…

I had been having recurring problems with my drains becoming blocked and had already dug a few holes trying to find the source of the problem. Each time I unblocked the pipe it seemed to get clogged again after a few weeks which was very frustrating. With Chris’ help we managed to pinpoint the blockage and dig yet another hole to get access to the pipe.

Pipe blocked by roots

The “root” cause of the problem turned out to be roots from a Virginia Creeper that used to grow on the North end of the house. It seemed that when the pool was installed, and the builders were putting in a trench to get water and electrical supplies from the house, they had fractured the waste pipe and made a bodged repair. The repair was not fully water tight and over the last twenty years the roots had gradually worked their way inside the pipe. We remade the repair and then encased the pipe in concrete for good measure.

Chris hard at work…

Another job I had been putting off until a rainy day was to cut up a load of scrap wood to make kindling – I now have enough to last all winter and probably the next one too.

Albas beach.

It wasn’t all work though – we did manage to get out on the bikes most days, usually involving a cafe stop en route.

Pont Valentre with Alexander and Chris
Birthday lunch for Georgina

Georgina came over for a week after Chris’ visit on her way to spend Christmas in Canada and it was her birthday while she was here.

Go for it George !
Alexander made a birthday cake…

Having taken George back to the airport it was time for me to set off on my long drive to the UK, stopping off at Alexander’s place in Limoges to drop Hebe off for her holiday.

Limoges sunset..
Tea stop on the Somme…

On the way up North I stopped for a break at a services that overlooks the Somme – it seemed very bleak and deserted.

Calais beach

I had an overnight stay in Calais before catching the train the next day and took the opportunity to go for a run along the beach.

On the beach
Weird beer glass…

I went to an “Au Bureau” for dinner and ordered one of their craft beers which was served in a very odd glass with a special wooden stand.

3D printed parts

Arrived at Chris and Corinne’s smallholding near Newcastle to find Chris had been playing with a new toy – a 3D printer. I suggested he could make a cover for the steering wheel lock on my KTM to replace the scrap of duck tape I’m currently using to stop water getting in – and he obliged. Having now got home I can confirm that it fits and does the job perfectly.

Big boys toys…

The first job on the farm was to empty tons of stones from the big trailer, where they had been dumped since building the extension of the house. Now that the trailer was needed for mucking out the barn they had to be moved. The plan was to use the smaller stones to fill in ruts that had been made by the tractor when taking feed to the animals in the lower fields.

Job done !
Mucking out…

The next job was mucking out the barn ready for calving animals. It had not been done for a while and was a foot deep in places and far too matted and heavy to shift by hand. No problem when you have a tractor with forks.


On my previous visits there seemed to be so much to do we never left the farm to go anywhere else. But this visit coincided with Chris’ birthday and Corinne had arranged to go into Durham for lunch. This was a trip down memory lane as both Chris and I were at University in Durham and have fond memories of the place. We were treated to this view almost daily on the way to and from lectures.


The new barn has a bit of a flooding problem and Chris wanted to install a drainage pipe, which required digging a trench across the floor. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be done with a machine as there is a water pipe running across the floor somewhere and he didn’t want to rupture it and start another flood. This meant we had to dig the trench by hand and the earth floor was so compacted it was like concrete – and we never found the water pipe.

Job done…
It seems they speak a different language Oop North…

The final job for this visit was knocking in some fence posts. A simple job you would think but some of the posts were massive – made from old telegraph poles. Fortunately Chris had a new attachment for the tractor to play with – a hydraulic post knocker with a 350Kg hammer.

Morning run at Ravenside…

From Newcastle I headed over to Preston to spend some time with sister Sara. While my time with Chris seems to involve manual work, getting together with Sara usually involves lots of running and walking.

The morning run – an 8Km route through Avenham park.
Well earned lunch stop
Skye keeping an eye on me.
Grandma duties…

Sara’s eldest daughter Zoe had recently given birth to twins (Rowan and Freya) and it’s a full time job looking after them together with Rory so Grandma Sara (known as GaGa) often steps in to help.

Lytham St Annes

We went out for the day with Rory to the seaside at Lytham (where all the rich people retire).


We had a few trips out to Rivington – a moor near Chorley, and spent some time trying to find a memorial of a Wellington bomber crash that happened during the war as well as the usual exploring of the abandoned house and gardens.

Dog walking in the hills.

I spent a weekend with Felicity and family in Manchester and took the opportunity to help out with a bit of DIY. The main job was to redecorate Peter’s room – new flooring, new bed, repainted and new curtains.

Amy and Nicola helping with the painting.
Job done…

It was now time to head south to visit Lucy and Family in Horsham and pop in to see Nanna. I stopped off at a biker’s cafe near Box Hill in Surrey.

Ryka’s Cafe Box Hill
Hot pastie

As the cafe was closing one of the staff came out and offered me a hot pastie for free, which I was delighted to accept.

Warnham Church

From my hotel in Horsham I was able to get out for a run each morning around Warnham village and deer park.

Back home with Hebe in her snuggly bed.
Autumn dawn.

After a month away it now feels very Autumnal here and a lot colder than I would like – time to plan my winter trip to Portugal and Morocco…

Post VINCE 2022

For our post-VINCE trail riding this year we were joined by Dougie’s daughter Millie, so we called the first part of our adventure the “Millie Mondo” – until she had to head off to Barcelona to fly back to the UK. The second part was just Doug and myself on our Honda CRFs which we called the “Honda Mondo”.

For the VINCE we were based in Casa Lecina, which was near the main resort that Austin had booked but was right at the edge of the trail network he had established. So for the Millie Mondo we moved to a small hotel (Casa Custodio) in La Roda de Isabena. Some of our friends from the VINCE had the same idea are were staying at a nearby campsite and were able to join in some of the rides. This was much more leisurely and about exploring the area so I’ll let the pictures and captions speak for themselves…

Out running before sunrise at Casa Lecina
Casa Lecina and the village of Palo, viewed from the valley below.
Feet up with a cup of tea after the VINCE
I think this tyre has seen better days…
Mille leading our morning exercise class…
Coffee stop in Campo en route to Isabena.
Campo Church
Near Isabena – Dougie and Millie went for a swim in the river
Another medieval bridge, near Graus this time
Proper breakfast at Casa Custodio (no English spoken though)
View from the tower at Fantova
Fantova tower from the church.
Inside the ruined church of San Martin
Doug, Millie and Eva make up the congregation.
Picnic lunch at San Isidra (with Nigel)
CP704 On top of the world

After the Millie Mondo, Doug and I moved on again to the catalan region (we had been in Aragon) and headed for Oliana. Our idea was to park the vans at Hotel Cal Petit and set off on the bikes for a few days, staying at different places along the way. After a few days we would return to the vans, load up and head back home via Andorra, where Dougie wanted to do some shopping…

Jeboil tea stop en route to Oliana
Google Maps must think I’m still on my dirt bike if it expects me to drive up this…
Nearly there… This monument is from 2009 when the Tour de France came through here.
View from our first stop in Cambrils – that table is solid stone !
Trditional carafe of wine in the restaurant.
Massive toast for breakfast.
On the trail…
Amazing views everywhere.
View of Pedraforca from our casa rurale – Rustic Vilella
The Gaudi building…
Inside the refuge, next to the Gaudi Building
Plenty of room to bed down for the night.
Pedraforca in the morning light
Repsol garage coffee stop.
Small hill top village
Back to Cal Petit and loaded up…
Into Andorra – 1 deg and snow !
Dougie shopping for moon boots…
Big beers in Andorra
..and a big breakfast !

There was no food in the house when we got back so we went into Cahors to find something to eat..

River Lot reflections
Gambetta sunset.
This makes a change from the very meaty Spanish diet…

So that’s it for the Spanish trip this year. Next on the agenda is some trail riding in the UK in October (Dorset), a December trip with the bike to Morocco and then my annual migration to Portugal in Jan/Feb…

VINCE 2022 #2

The previous post described this event and the preparation work :

As I had recently purchased my own van we went down to Spain in a two van convoy this year, rather than trying to squeeze everything into Dougie’s van.

All loaded and ready to go…

Austin had booked an entire hotel complex (The Liguerre Resort) for this year’s event as it was the biggest he has ever organised with over 130 competitors and the event being run over 3 days. However, we decided to sort out our own AirBnB nearby to give us more flexibility – we both hate the breakfast scrum in the morning, when you have to queue to get your food and are in a hurry to get going (start time is 8am). The journey down to Spain over the Pyrenees was very pleasant and we had time for a few stops on the way to admire the views.

This could be Windows XP, apart from the white van…

The place we stayed was very comfortable with a great view and space to fettle the bikes.

View from Casa Lecina in Palo
Pre-VINCE bike faffing…

Although it was bright and sunny on our arrival at Casa Lecina we knew that the forecast for the event was pretty grim with heavy rain and thunderstorms expected. We were using GPS so didn’t have to worry about getting maps wet, but were concerned about the water tightness of our phones and electrical connections. I had a small tank bag on my bike (see pic above) which has a transparent map pocket that I was able to use to insert the checkpoint (CP) sheets – these are the sheets that provide additional details and a photo of the exact location of the CP, plus telling you which digits/characters you need to record. Dougie had a “map board” on his bike with two phones and his running order/control sheet. He managed to “waterproof” this arrangement with a plastic bag that slid over the top.

Our usual method of working, based on previous events is that I take the lead and completely focus on following the route and finding the CP. Once found I get off the bike and find the necessary information and then give this to Dougie when he arrives so that he can record it on his running sheet. This gives Dougie more time to take a wider view and consider our overall strategy and options – he records the arrival time at each CP and compares that to the plan so that we have a running delta on whether we are ahead or behind schedule. He can then work out whether we should drop some CPs, reroute or even add extra ones. Having this information to hand is essential to being competitive but requires a great deal of preparation and planning in the weeks leading up to the event.

As we are totally focussed on keeping moving and accumulating as many points as possible we never have time to look at the view. On our post-VINCE trail riding covering the same area we have a running joke – Dougie will say to me “Do you remember this trail, with the ruined church just over there” and I’ll say “Never seen it before, but I know there is a CP behind that signpost over there!”.

Our original plan was to run for 3 x 10 hour days, which is less than the 12 hours allowed but would give us more time for bike prep, getting something to eat and getting to bed at a reasonable time before doing it all again the next day. Of course this meant we were not seriously expecting to win, but wanted to achieve as much as possible of our plan. As it turned out we quickly fell behind, partly due to the conditions – it was wet and quite muddy and slippery in places, but also due to the trails being more difficult than in previous years so our average speed was lower than planned.

Missing CP !

The picture above shows a very distinctive ruined building which was supposed to have a sign on the tree, but it was missing. The photo was to provide eveidence that we had visited the correct spot.

Still smiling in spite of the conditions, just picked up a CP behind the sign post.

The bikes ran perfectly throughout but I did have some failures of the bits I had bolted on. The first one was the Quad Lock mount that I use to hold the phone on the bike – it snapped !

Snapped phone mount.

Fortunately the phone was OK and I was carrying a spare mount and allen key to replace it, so not much time lost.

The second failure was the charging system – I had rigged up a USB port powered by the bike battery, but this packed up. Fortunately I had also prepared for this eventuality and was carrying a power pack in my tank bag and was able to power the phone from that.

The third and final failure was the phone itself which just died – possibly due to water ingress, or maybe the shock of being jettisoned from the bike when the mount snapped? Again I was prepared as I was carrying a spare phone.

On top of the world at CP 704.
Dougie Digging Deep to get to CP 751.

Over the three days we ran for a total of 31 hours (compared to the 36 allowed) and covered 720Km of the 850 we had originally planned.

There was a prize-giving dinner in the evening and we were awarded second prize in the GPS class (doing a quick pro-rata calculation showed that we would have won if we had run for the full 12 hours each day!).

Prize-giving dinner at the Liguerre Resort.

As this was his biggest ever event and may not be repeated on this scale, Austin had arranged a live band for the evening…

VINCE 2022 Live Band

So that’s it for another year – what does the future hold ?

Well we can argue that we won the map class last year (but were disqualified) and on a pro-rata basis we “won” the GPS class this year(!), the only class remaining that we haven’t yet tried is the “Twin Shock Trailfinder” – this has to be done with maps and using a bike with twin shocks, which effectively means it will be a bike from the 70s. I can’t help feeling that machine reliability might be an issue in this class. Dougie already has his bike – a Kawasaki KLX250 trail bike, but I will need to find one – all part of the fun !

After the VINCE we stayed on in Spain for some more leisurely trail riding which I’ll cover in another post.

VINCE 2022

Regular readers will be familar with the VINCE by now – an event I have participated in for the last three years. It is run by Austin VINCE and takes place in the Spanish Pyrenees and is a bit like an off road treasure hunt on motorbikes. Austin and his team place a number of small metal tags with numbers and characters at obscure locations all across the region. This preparation usually takes place in the two years prior to the event itself. A couple of months before the event Austin then issues competitors with the essential information to be able to find the tags, located at what are called CheckPoints (CPs). It is then up to each team to try to plan an optimum route to visit as many of the CPs as possible and record the required information from the tags. The CPs score different values depending on how far away they are, or how difficult to access. The event is normally run over two days from 8am to 8 pm – that is 2 x 12 hour days in the saddle so endurance is required as well as good preparation. Competitors are only allowed to use the maps provided by Austin and a compass to navigate the trails and find the CPs – no mobile phones or GPS allowed.

In the 2020 event I teamed up with my mate Dougie and we finished second in the map class and were awarded the runner-up trophy. Last year (2021) we actually won the event but were disqualified for not correctly completing the CP booklet – we have entered this year as “Team Disqualified”.

For the 2022 event, Austin is using a new area in the Aragon region which is so large and has so many trails he has made it a 3 day event (3 x 12 hour days). Dougie and I have spent the last few weeks preparing our routes and have decided to forego the maps and compass approach and enter the “anything goes” class so we will be using GPS. This means we won’t get lost but will not be eligible for the winners cup. This video provides a glimpse of the detail of preparing the route…

VINCE 2022 Route Planning

Our final planned routes cover over 850 Km of mostly off road riding over the 3 days. As the distances are so large we have also had to plan fuel stops, which was not easy as there are only six filling stations in the whole area. Here are the routes:

VINCE 2022 Routes

The final factor which we can’t control is the weather and the forecast is looking pretty grim for next week with torrential rain and thunderstorms. We had a lot of rain last year and it made everything much more difficult, including making some of the tricky sections virtually impassable. Riding around soaking wet on the top of a mountain is probably not the best idea if there is lightning in the vicinity, but it’s sure to be exciting !

Forecast for the VINCE 13-15 September 2022

We’ll be setting off for Spain on Sunday 11th, wish us luck !

Mondo Film School

In June this year I attended a film school for trail riders run by Austin VINCE and based in the Spanish Pyrenees. I knew Austin quite well from the various events we have attended in Spain and knew he was a qualified maths teacher, but better known for being one of the first people to ride around the world on a motorbike. What I didn’t realise was that he was also an accomplished film maker and music creator. He had run a few one-day film making courses in the UK, but this was the first time he had offered a full one-week course which would involve trail riding to shoot some material and then editing to create some videos. He had rented a villa near La Seu d’Urgell which is just the other side of Andorra and managed to get a group of six people together to participate. We were given detailed instructions on what equipment to bring, what software to pre-load onto our laptops, etc.

What followed was a very intense week of hard work, starting at 8.30 in the morning and frequently going on until after midnight. The balance between time spent filming and time spent editing was initailly billed as 50/50 but it turned out we were so slow at getting to grips with the editing tools that the final ratio was more like 5/95 – a few minutes worth of material was enough to keep us busy for hours. I have created a few simple films in the past to try to convey something of what I’ve been up to, but I realised these were of rather mediocre quality and was keen to do better. So for me the course was a huge success and I learnt a massive amount is a very short time. The rest of the group had come over from the UK and were a bit disappointed at the lack of trail riding, but it didn’t bother me as I can ride anytime at home.

The end result of our week’s efforts was that we each created three videos, which became progressively more complex as the week went on. And here they are…

The first one was a short so-called “pop video”. This is a series of film sequences set to music intended to create an overall impression…

Motorbikes in the Mountains

For the second video we were told to create a promotional video for the villa we were staying in. This again involved some film sequences and music but also had to include some “pieces to camera” which were filmed and directed by Austin.

La Vinya De Sant Pere

For the final video we were given free reign. Austin took us to an abandoned village and we had to create our own story line, film scenes in the village, select some appropriate music and include some pieces to camera.

The Abandoned Village of Nabiners

Once back in France I realised I would not be using the editing software often enough to continue paying for the monthly subscription so I tried out another open source editing program and used it to create an additional video, trying to make use of some of the skills I had learnt on the course. The video is just a bit of fun and shows Austin demonstrating how to get a particular shot.

Austin Got The Shot