Friday, 30 September 2016


I am expecting a parcel.  From MSI.  In the Nether Lands.  "Ding and, moreover, dong" sa the doorbell gaily1, and in due course a man from Yodel hands over a package bearing arcane markings indicating it had indeed come from the land of windmills, clogs, tulips and Western Half-Devil Monster Faces.

My suspicions are aroused when, on removing the outer packaging, that which remains is enclosed in a piece of cardboard which, in a previous life, served to contain bags of Haribo Gummi BEARs, or similarly addictive2 crack cocaine-based Confectionery Product:
Haribo: Packaging of Champions!
This, I feel, is not the kind of packaging that would be used by a Mega-Global electronics corporation.  Also, wasn't their wossname being delivered by UPS?

Bah: It is not the parcel I was expecting.

Hurrah: It is instead from my grate frend Jan-Marcel and contains a Team Cygnus T-shaped shirt and - and this is the good bit - two packets of Stroopwafels, which only have a slender chance of surviving until lunchtime.
"You utter GIT, Mr Larrington!" growled Thomas.  "Me an' me honeys was jus' gettin'..."
"TMI!" replied Mr Larrington.  "Now, back in your road atlas if you want any chance at all of going to Captain Cook's Mistake!"
Now, UPS, where TF are you?
  1. This statement may contain Traces of Lie, as I think I neglected to plug it back in after the bell push got stuck down the other day and it started making an irritating noise rather like The Right Honourable Dr Liam Fox MP3 visiting a conveyor belt factory.  Which means that my sign reading
    Ples ring if an rnser is reqird
    is a bit useless.  Hopefully UPS will cnoke instead if I don't remember to jibble it in the approved fashion.
  2. At least, that was what we zeks were told in the Gulag and, being the Stuffs of which gutters are made, we were in no position to argue.
  3. Who contains more then just Traces of Lie.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Day 30: Fort Larrington - Larrington Towers

Travels With a Donkey in the Cevennes Western Half-Devil Monster Face in Leftpondia BRITAIN - Part 1

"Stone me, what a dump!" muttered Thomas.  "Do I really have to spend the next fifty weeks here?  And why have I got a badger on my head?"
"Back in your box road atlas, laddie!" replied Mr Larrington.
But if he behaves himself I might unstaple the bikini-clad lovelies from their backing before I put them on the bookshelf...

Edit: Professor Larrington is starting a period of Professoring Down Under next week.  I wonder whether Thomas would prefer spending a Several of months in Captain Cook's Mistake?  What say Thee Panel?

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Day 29: Ludington MI - Fort Larrington

Travels With a Donkey in the Cevennes Western Half-Devil Monster Face in Leftpondia - Part 7

Leisurely start because, frankly, we have ages to reach O'Hare.  Not to mention the extra hour gained from the the time zone change.  Considering the route goes parallel to the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, and the number of signs to places called Something [Harbor|Port|Landing] it's astonishing how much of the lake is visible.  Yes, this much: 0.  But US-31 is a nice enough rural dual carriageway most of the way (occasionally it's a nasty one that goes through towns) and I got a friendly wave from a chap in a shiny Roush-modified Mustang and the rest areas are nice.  Flower beds and suchlike.  But wait.  What is this?
Welcome to Michigan - twinned with the Sto Plains
Eventually Michigan is left behind, leaving unanswered the question puzzling me since yesterday: what's with the trailers?  Normal USAnian trailers, as in articulated lorry ones, have two axles, but those to be found around road works in Michigan have up to eight.  I aten't seen such beasties elsewhere, but there must be a good reason.  Mustn't there?

We appear to have found ourselves in Indiana, which was an unexpected surprise.

"Another state, another bin!" said Thomas.  "Theatre here I come!"
Also the sun came out.  And stayed out when we crossed into Illinois and got our hour back, and ended up in an humungous queueueueue on I-90 with the overhead signs reading "O'Hare? You're 'avin' a giraffe!1".  Reached the Ratmobile's resting place almost exactly when I intended to, though, albeit minus most remaining fingernails.  Avis Lady scrawls some mystic runes on the Ratmobile's window.  These probably translate to:
  • Needs a bloody good clean inside and out, or
  • The tax expired nearly four weeks ago, or
  • Scrap immediately
As long as they don't want more money.  As near as makes no odds 7500 miles and 29 miles per titchy USAnian gallon, or 34.8 to the Proper BRITISH one, or 8.1 litres per hundred Napoleonic Wossnames.

Check in.  Two minutes.  Security.  Two more minutes.  What on earth is going on?  Cheapskates airside only give you 30 minutes free wifi, so after that's gone there's nothing to do except watch the legions of the self-entitled waltz up the desk at the gate and demand whatever it is these people demand.  Look out of the window, you berks!  What is that, at the end of the jetway?  Yes, it's not-an-aeroplane.

Oh wait, they're just parking it now.  I hope they've done let all the arrivals out and filled it with petrol and food and stuff already coz we're supposed to leave in 63 minutes time...

"Hurrah!" cried Thomas.  ""Shiny metal bird take Western Half-Devil Monster Face away from Land of Bad Coffee!"
Uneventful flight and even managed to get some kip despite being sandwiched between a couple of Mr Larrington-sized chaps.  Harmless passage through LHR.  How am I going to replenish my stock of airport horror stories if standards keep slipping like this?  Bus to Woking, taxi to Fort Larrington, end of Automatic Diary 2016.  Any suggestions for 2017 travels welcome.
"England's green and pleasant land at last" said Thomas.  "RADA next, eh?"
A quick hurrah for DJ Random, who compounded the sin of playing Black Sabbath on arrival at the giant cross in Groom TX with cueing up Little Miss Higgins' Liar Liar at the very moment we passed the "Radville" town sign and Raw Power by Detroit's finest, Iggy & The Stooges, as we crossed International Bridge.  Music prize of the trip, though, goes to the University of Toronto, who had AC/DC's Highway To Hell blaring out of the chase car as Vortex set off on yet another run.
  1. Lie

Friday, 23 September 2016

Day 28: Wawa ON - Ludington MI

Travels With a Donkey in the Cevennes Western Half-Devil Monster Face in Leftpondia - Part 6

Late start today following more resetting of Things that Nanny Microsith b0rked in the night, though at least their wretched update worked this time.  It hasn't given me my lost e-mail profiles back though, the terrible ["Uncle Monty" - Ed.].  The first two hundred or so kilometres of today's trip were much the same as 99% of yesterday's but at least there were a few more views of Lake Quadwales.
"On balance" reflected Thomas, "this probably beats sharing the back of a road atlas with twelve bikini-clad models chiz curses wot am i saing?"
"I'm really getting into Samuel Beckett" confessed Thomas.  "What's more, this bin is even BEAR-proof!"
Eventually little clusters of mailboxes start appearing at the end of driveways leading to lakeside cottages and before we know it, we're being led a merry dance by Emily through the streets of Sault Ste Marie, looking for the on-ramp to the International Bridge.  Which looks more like the car park of the offices at the Canadian end rather than anything leading to a major border crossing.
Speed limit sign reads "30 mph" so we must be on the USAnian side
The queueueue to get into Canuckistan stretched well into international airspace while I was second in a queue of, er, two, waiting to enter USAnia.  Therefore:
  • Canuckistan's border control people are more chatty and/or conscientious than USAnia's, or
  • The Canuckistanis have better places to go, or
  • Something
On the other side of the International Bridge lies Sault Ste Marie.  No, really.  It's best known for being the home of Soo Locks, which allow really quite large1 vessels to pass from Lake Superior to Lake Huron, there being a 21' drop from the former to the latter along the formerly rapid-infested St Marys River.  The locks operate 24/7 and the locals have provided a nice viewing platform for gongoozlers:
"Harrumph!" grumbled Thomas.  "The Nieuwe Waterweg's loads better!"
Soo Locks Park also has black tree rats.  In it.  Well, at least one tree rat, one side of which is black:
Actually I did see his other side, and that was black too.

Onto I-75 for the fifty-odd miles south across Michigan's Upper Peninsula, being the bit of Michigan that doesn't stick up like a sore wossname between Lakes Michigan and Huron.  If a sane person had drawn the map it would probably be part of Wisconsin, but sane cartographers appear to be thin on the ground (see also "the Northwest Angle" and "Point Roberts").  At the other end of the Upper Peninsula lie the Straits of Mackinac, which connect Lakes Michigan and Huron (and are wide enough that some people including, I'm sure, many cartographers) reckon that the said lakes should really be considered as one big one and if you want to work out how many Waleses that is, hey, it's your time you're wasting.  Or your employer's.

"Scenic Overlook" said the sign, so we went to overlook the scenery.
"All I can see are trees!" moaned Thomas.  "I thought you said there was a bridge over there!"
Well, my shiny-headed chum, there is a bridge over there, and it looks like this:
"I'm sorry I doubted you" said Thomas2, apologetically.
After which there was Michigan's Lower Peninsula, which has as little on view to the passing motor-ist as the Upper one.  Thus to Ludington, which is famous for
(Googles frantically)
there's a ferry from here across Lake Michigan to some tongue-twister of a place in Wisconsin.  And it's only about four and a half hours from O'Hare.  And there's a whirlpool bath just over there ←, in which I shall shortly be immersing my aching bod. The clod is much better now though, in case you3 were wondering.

I do not know when this year's Automatic Diary will see its conclusion as even if there is free wifi at the air-o-port I'm not convinced the battery on this machine will last long enough to do everything Babbagey that needs to be done before it appears, like a freshly-hatched porridge fly, on your morning porridge4.  Stay tuned.
  1. I believe the largest lake freighters are actually bigger than any ocean-going vessels ("salties" in the local lingo) to be found on the Lakes as the locks on the St Lawrence Seaway are smaller than those on the lake system.
  2. Do you see what I did there, eh?  EH??
  3. Which no-one except Miss von Brandenburg seems to have been doing (sob).
  4. Offer only open to porridge-eating BRITONS; closes 31st December 1968.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Day 27: Keewatin ON - Wawa ON


Travels With a Donkey in the Cevennes Western Half-Devil Monster Face in Leftpondia - Part 5

Well, I have managed to restore some semblance of order to this laptop though it appears to have eaten my Thunderbird profile, which means that any e-mail I've sent or received in the last four weeks has disappeared into the bit bucket.  Thanks for nothing, Microsith, you useless, feckless cretinous morons.  Some people take their Windows systems travelling, you know, and are thus deprived of the team of support specialists and a second system which you twerps haven't yet broken to repair the damage.  This is why your nanny-state approach to updates in Windows 10 is a deeply fucking stupid idea.  Well, one reason, anyway.

Western Ontario may be more pleasant in the scenery department than the Prairie Provinces of Canada™ but there's still an awful lot of of it.  I don't think I've driven that far in a day since arriving in Battle Mountain for the 2008 event, and it's not something I intend to repeat any time soon.  Western Ontario consists mostly of:

  • Rocks (quite a lot)
  • Water (an elegant sufficiency)
  • Trees (more than you can shake a, er, well, you know)
  • Not traffic congestion because although this bit of the Trans-Canada Highway is only single carriageway it's well found for passing lanes.  Also Canadian truckers seem to have just as cavalier an attitude as their brethren south of the 49th parallel, though the B-Trains can struggle a bit on some of the steeper hills.
Before setting out we went to have a quick shufti at the Lake of the Woods.
"Woo! Scary geese!" squealed Thomas, like a big girl's blouse.
"You scared them off!" retorted Mr Larrington
What was there to see on the way?  Well, in Vermilion there was this chancer trying to hop a lift:
What he was doing outside a piston ring specialist is a mystery to greater minds than mine.  And there was this:
"Yay!" cheered Thomas.  "2D company for meeeee!"
Halfway across a continent to get dumped in a snowplough turnaround in the middle of nowhere.  And if that is typical of the roadside grumble to found in this country then it's little wonder we lost the Empire.  Or something.

And, er, you know when I said we wouldn't have to put up with any more of that time zone malarkey?  Seems I was this: wrong:
"You berk!" jeered Thomas.  "Fancy not noticing something like that!"
And after all that we finally reached the junction to which Emily was referring when she said "In four hundred and twenty-four kilometres, turn left."

Having turned left we went north for a bit and managed to miss seeing Thunder Bay entirely because, in spite of being a city with a population of more than 100,000, it has a useful bypass.  And if we hadn't made a strategic detour it would have been possible to miss Lake Superior too, which is good going for something almost four times the size of Wales.  But it's clearly visible from the Terry Fox Memorial:
Lake freighter, or laker, on Lake Superior.  Empty, by the look of her.
"Who Terry Fox", I hear you ask.  Well, you can jolly well look him up on Wikinaccurate as the Internets here are nearly as slow as the Battle Mountain Super 8 and Blogger has already et the first version of this entry.
I heard about him thanks, once again, to the late Phil Llewellin, who passed this way during a truck trip from St Johns to Whitehorse.  While I've been to many of the Leftpondian locations mentioned by Phil in the splendid collection The Road To Muckle Flugga this one seemed to strike a chord.  I got some funny looks when trying to perch Thomas on the fence surrounding the plinth, though, so had to beat a tactical retreat and slip him in surreptitiously.
And that was about all there was to see.  And that was only halfway to Wawa.  Highway 17 runs north and then east around the lake and has lots of trees and rocks and minor lakes and occasional views of what I think is Lake Superior but might not be.
Lake.  Canada. Thursday.
With one thing and another it was dark by the time I got here, "here" being the Mystic Isle Motel.  It's perched on the hillside above Highway 17 and on the other side could be anything - a Mystic Isle, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the council tip.  I will have a look in the morning and report back.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Day 26: Regina SK - Keewatin ON

Travels With a Donkey in the Cevennes Western Half-Devil Monster Face in Leftpondia - Part 4

The front doors to last night's resting place were electrically operated sliding gadgets, something like this:
The thick black lines denote the sliding bits.  I expect they're arranged one on each side so as to help keep out the chill blasts of a Prairie Provinces of Canada™ winter, but part of me wishes it was to entertain the reception staff, allowing them to watch guests become bamboozled when they stand in front of the wrong door or, in extreme cases, walk into it and break their nose.

I'm going to hell for that, aren't I?

Another fascinating discovery today is that if I lean Thomas up against Emily so he can see where we're going, he covers the daylight sensor behind the Ratmobile's windscreen and causes the lights to switch on.  Until we go round a corner and he slides off to the side.  Fortunately there are few corners on this stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway so I didn't have to keep pulling his ears to get him back in place.

As you can imagine, there is not much to see when crossing the  Prairie Provinces of Canada™ except grain silos.  While the grain silos of Illinois looked from a distance like medieval castles, those of Saskatchewan and Manitoba resemble more the self-promoting monuments erected by barking dictators of all political stripes, at least until you get close enough to tell that it's just some piece of machinery sticking out of the top and not a seven-times-life-size statue of Stalin/Ceausescu/Kim Jong Dead/whoever.  Certainly not JustinTrudeau though.  This was a good monument:
"Wait...WHAT!" spluttered Thomas.  "You woke me up for THAT?"
Sorry, mate.

Somewhere in Manitoba is the longitudinal centre of Canada, which makes you realise that:
  • it's a very very big place, and
  • the genius who though of putting the sign on the shoulder of a dual carriageway with nowhere to stop and take a photo wants badly to be sent to the camps for re-education.
This was almost worth a picture too:
"At least this is better than a fibreglass cow" grumbled Thomas.  "But not much!"
Which brought forth the comments:
  • If the fish aren't in the garbage, where are they, and
  • Is the town of Garbage really a fish-free zone?
Thank you Kim and Peter.  That was near Portage la Prairie, by the way.  Manitoba is less predictable in the scenery department than Saskatchewan but every time some woods pop up and make you think "Hurrah!  The end of the endless wheat fields!" they go away again, at least until you get about 40 km east of Winnipeg, when the trees put in what I suspect will be a more-than-fleeting appearance.  Probably from here to the far end of Lake Superior, which is Big.  Also the Trans-Canada Highway suddenly stops being a dual carriageway when you reach Ontario but fortunately it appears to split into different routes east of here so with luck the USAnia-bound traffic will go the other way.

Here is basically a wide place in the road next to Lake of the Woods, which you can just see from the veranda outside the front door, or at least you could if it wasn't dark.
"Much better than those identikit chain places" said Thomas, approvingly.
We're back in the Central time zone today and no more changes, which is nice, but tomorrow promises to be a long one, which isn't.  Still, the Brewers Inn, and the attached Broken Paddle (coffee roastery and kitchen) are, as Thomas notes, a cut above the usual fodder and the "in-room coffee-making facilities1" come with the only decent coffee I've had since leaving Fort Larrington.  With proper china mugs.  Mugs exactly the right diameter to balance a Stroopwafel on.  And I haven't got any Stroopwafels.  Bah!

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Day 25: Billings MT - Regina SK

Travels With a Donkey in the Cevennes Western Half-Devil Monster Face in Leftpondia - Part 3

I have been asked "Please relay approved manner for tea softening of Stroopwafels".  OK.

You will need a fresh cup of really hot tea.  Or coffee.  Coffee is probably more Dutch anyway, and good luck with finding hot tea in USAnia, as legendary misery-guts and sometime drummer Mr P "Ginger" Baker so eloquently noted on the Masters Of Reality track "T.U.S.A.".  Simply place the stroopwafel on the rim of the cup and let the rising steam soften the stroopwafel until you can't stand the sight of it sitting there begging to be eaten any more.  Then eat it.  Repeat until there are none left which, in my case, was about an hour ago.  You can achieve the same effect by putting the packet in the cupholder of your convertible and driving top-down from Battle Mountain to Bonneville.  If you have a convertible.  And you happen to be going that way.

I wouldn't have enjoyed today's drive very much even if I didn't have a clod and a cough that makes me feel like someone is trying to unscrew the back of my head every time it surfaces.  And a headache.  And I don't think Thomas enjoyed it much either.
"Ha ha, suxx0r!" chortled Thomas.  "You can pack everything while I have an extra forty minutes in bed!"
Two hundred miles of trying to make the "miles to empty" wossname on the Ratmobile's fuel gauge match Emily's distance to the required exit from I-94.  At one point the difference was down to two miles but then it started going back up so I bottled it and bailed early for more motor-spirit.

I-90 and I-94 mostly follow the Yellowstone River for those two hundred odd miles, which does not lead to visual excitement.  The most exciting thing was actually this:
Pompey's Pillar
Pompey's Pillar, as it is known, looks like a chunk of cliff that accidentally wandered across the river and then sat there for millennia waiting to be discovered which, at least as far as the white man is concerned, happened when William Clark (of "Lewis and..." fame) passed this way in the early 19th century.  It bears the only remaining physical evidence of the L&C Expedition as Clark, the terrible pikey, carved his name on it.  Leading inexorably to the occasion when members of the 6:57 Crew were apprehended carving "Pompey Stabbers: Kick To Kill" on Stonehenge.  Thomas stayed in the Ratmobile, because it was raining.

So finally we turned of I-94, or it turned off us and MT-16 took over.  This is less flat than the Yellowstone Valley, but is in most other respects equally drear.
Even the thrill of crossing the Missouri failed to wake Thomas from his slumbers
This is the sort of thing Thomas slept through:
and who can blame him.  Crossing the border into Canuckistan, unsurprisingly, did not change the landscape one iota.  I was expecting the Prairie Provinces of Canada™ to be how they appeared in the New Golden Encyclopedia for Tinies, viz. armies of combine harvesters patrolling fields the size of Salisbury Plain but it was all too lumpy with some kind of geological left-overs for that.  At first, anyway.  Nearer Regina it get much more stereotypical.

We diverted a little off the route to visit Radville, at which revelation Miss von Brandenburg is possibly nodding sagely and the rest of you are scratching your heads and muttering "Where?" into your stroopwafel-crumb-filled tea.  Or coffee.  Here's why:
And here is the famous Long Creek Saloon:
Hot nut machine included
It had been a long day for both of us but fortunately this place popped over the horizon in the nick of time:
"Typical BRITISH toilet humour!" observed Thomas.
"It's only 88 km to Regina" replied Mr Larrington.  "Would you rather walk?"
88 km later and I am here and full of clod and out of stroopwafels.  Can they be sent as an e-mail attachment?

Monday, 19 September 2016

Day 24: Idaho Falls ID - Billings MT

Travels With a Donkey in the Cevennes Western Half-Devil Monster Face in Leftpondia - Part 2

The plan for today was originally to:
  • finish at Miles City, and
  • avoid Yellowstone National Park
but then I decided I did want to drive over the Beartooth Highway again after all.  Which means you have to go through Yellowstone or suffer a lengthy detour via Cody.  So east to Jackson WY then north, yes?  Not according to Emily's little electronik brane, which routed me up US-20 to West Yellowstone and then into the park, which was at least a route I hadn't travelled before.  And because National Parks are full of people intent on getting nowhere, and doing it at 20 mph, and because the Beartooth goes over a substantial mountain range, I thought Billings would be far enough.
"Gosh" said Thomas, "that building across the river looks tall enough for me to stand up in!"
It's all agricultural Idaho at first, but the mountains creep ever closer to the east.  Among them are Les Trois Tetons.  Named by 19th century Francophone fur trappers.  "Tetons" means "Breasts".
One can only conclude that the said trappers had been away from home too long.

There's something about driving through USAnian National Parks that releases my inner Clarkson.  Look, I don't care what you've just seen at the roadside.  A ground squirrel, an outsize and hairy cow, the flagship of the Romulan invasion fleet, the crowned heads of Europe doing a vigorous soft-shoe shuffle to the tune of Sousa's "Liberty Bell" while stark bollock naked, anything.  You do not come to a dead stop in the middle of the road.  Find somewhere safe to park your vehicle and get out and walk.  I also learned today that if the Ratmobile actually has ABS, it doesn't work very well.  Or, indeed, at all.  I had to peel Thomas off the windscreen.  Twice.
"I'm not sure you should be getting all close and confidential with Emily like that" chided Mr Larrington.
"Best view in the house, knoworramean" leered Thomas, suggestively.
Yellowstone hav a very interesting history if you are interested in hist. which few boys are, but I left all the bumf the Park Service hand out in the car.  But because it's basically a colossal volcanic caldera sooner or later the whole thing is expected to go "bang".  Big time.  If that happens before climate change, Donald Trump or a disease contracted from a dirty telephone wipes out the human race there will be alarums and excursions over much of western Leftpondia so see it as soon as possible in case it wipes out the nearest major airports.

Gibbon Falls, Yellowstone NP
Gibbon Falls was one of the good bits I hadn't seen before.  Doubly so for the mirthsomeness of the word "gibbon".

Out of the NE entrance ["Eh?" - Ed.] and through Silver Gate and Cooke City to the foot of the Beartooth.  This was actually closed by SNO last month (thanks to Reader Andrij for the tip-off, as well as the advice to "bring a jumper") and I went over it in a blizzard in 2010 but today it was sunny and not actually that cold were it not for the Mighty Rushing Wind that meant Thomas had to stay in the Ratmobile lest he arrive in Canuckistan a day earlier than scheduled.  The views are Dead Good.
"It's certainly different from Amsterdam!" noted Thomas.
"O RLY?" said Mr Larrington.
"Yes.  Yes, it is" replied Thomas
"Look at me, Ma!  Top of the world!" exclaimed Thomas, grimly determined to get at least one movie reference into today's instalment.
Emily says we're 3343 metres above sea level while the locals say:
Sign has been replaced since the last time I was up here in 2011
It's all downhill from here.  Though I suppose there must be a watershed between the tributaries of the Mighty Mississippi and the rivers that fetch up in the Great Lakes.  But we haven't got there yet.  In a more literal sense, we stopped off at Rock Creek Vista Point.
"I've seen what Mr Larrington does to hire cars" said Thomas, nervously.  "If we're going down there I'd like to go back inside my nice cosy road atlas!"
A flat run along the Yellowstone River, which uses the NW entrance to find its way out of the park, to finish the day.  And hopefully the lashings of chilli and garlic on tonight's dinner will see off the clod which is threatening to engulf my nose.  Will they let me into Canuckistan if I have a clod?  And what will become of me if the rest of Team Cygnus discover that I haven't been softening my Stroopwafels in the approved manner, because the diameter of my tea mug exceeds that of my Stroopwafels?

Edit: Thomas' Road Trip now has its own flickr album.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Day 23: Battle Mountain NV - Idaho Falls ID

Travels With a Donkey in the Cevennes Western Half-Devil Monster Face in Leftpondia - Part 1

Our hero watches everyone load up and head out from the safety of room 234 of the Super 8
Long practice in the Art of Dealing With TPsOC1 sees us swiftly packed, coffee absorbed and copious farewells said before restocking supplies of cash, tabs and motor-spirit.  Two pumps over were Mr and Mrs Hanks Senior; in between a BRITISH couple who had been in town by chance and spectated last night.  I was pleased to inform them of the important results.  Then east on I-80, which mostly follows the valley of the Humboldt River.  Early stop at Beowawe rest area.
"Crikey", said Thomas.  "These BRITONS don't get very far before having to stop for a ciggie!"
We left the interstate at Wells to head roughly due north for Idaho and Bridges.  Just south of Jackpot was a fine bridge, and a rest area with our new chums Kylie (7) and Ginger (7).  In it.
Ginger is the one with the tail, BTW
"I'm hoping to get the part of Nagg in the Battle Mountain Players' production of Endgame" quipped Thomas
Idaho starts just north of Jackpot and looks much the same as Nevada to start with, but pretty soon we're over the hills, out of the Great Basin and onto the Snake River plain.  The said river does a huge loop through southern Idaho thus, having encountered it near Twin Falls, we find it just across the street from the hotel here.  It's a proper river, which ultimately finds it way to the sea like wot rivers oughter, instead of fecklessly wandering about the desert willy-nilly, then giving up and disappearing just because there's a range of mountains in the way.  Has a good gorge around the Twin Falls area too.
The Snake River at the bottom of a big hole
Decent supplies of water means agriculture rather than desert and the vehicle dealers are more likely to sell tractors than Hyundais with a $99 deposit and low monthly payments.  Probably.  By Idaho Falls I was falling asleep and could not be bothered to go out to forage for food, but Stroopwafels have saved the day.  View from the front door of my room (before the neighbours parked a Hummer H2 there):
It's the local Mormon Temple, I think.  They also have a pretty imposing church about two blocks south of that ^^^^ pile.  Much still to do before lights-out, though, including making use of the in-room jacuzzi:
"How the other half lives!" grumbled Thomas.  "I have to travel between the pages of a road atlas and Mr Larrington gets this!"

  1. Teetering Piles Of Crap

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Day 22: Battle Mountain NV

Just in from the awards bash.  New multi-track record for Gareth Hanks: 73.95 mph.  Improved Japanese record by Ryohei Komori: 82.03 mph.  New and Improved world record by Todd Reichert: 89.59 mph!

Sadly for we BRITONS Ken stacked ARION2 for reasons as yet unknown, but possibly to do with wind.  He's OK and the bike wasn't too bad but bad enough to deny Yasmin a chance to run, which is a chiz coz some of the team reckoned she was in with a shout of surpassing Barbara Buatois' world mark.

Nice People George and Carole Leone gave me one of two Launch Area Appreciation Awards and I've been promoted to Official Member of Team Cygnus which means two packets of Stroopwafels1.  And the boys have entrusted me with the care and feeding of the 2D version of Western Half-Devil Monster Face van Schaik for the rest of the trip.

I'll do a proper update by this time tomorrow but because slow internets, general knackerdom and a long drive into a different time zone tomorrow I aten't doing no more tonight.  Soz.

Well, it's now tomorrow night and the internets here is not performing like a drugged-up snail and I have uploaded the rest of Saturday's pictures, such as they are, in glorious full-definition Technicolor so let us, as some literary berk once said, return to the beginning.  Of Saturday, obv.  Not the Big Bang.  If you want Professor B Cox try Yellowstone National Park, where there are mountains for him to sit on and adequate space for his big helichopter.

With Friday night having been, to coin as phrase, a bit of a stonker, most of the fast girls and boys elected to stay in bed before indulging in a little light bike-polishing.  Natch most of them did not see fit to inform the Organisators, who were left standing on the start line pondering the whereabouts of $TEAM.  Which is dashed rude and most unBRITISH.  Obviously my chaps at Team Cygnus had told everyone they were not coming out to play, because they are Gentlemen.  Most runs, then, were composed largely of Vortex being ridden by various Toronto Oaves, with Alexei Kristaev making two runs in Tetiva 4, Larry Lem, and Greg and Peter in the DF velomobile.

Larry in Super 8 makes a clean getaway
No launch worries for Peter in his DF
Alexei makes his second run of the morning
Unlike last night the wind was feeling frisky and only Rossdan Craig's first run in Vortex was OK on that front.

Back to the Civic Center for the final debrief and slot-choosing meeting of the week, followed by the traditional photo shoot out front.

We have a gatecrasher!
"Uncle Sam" is Florida-based Russian Nikita Vatin who, I seem to recall, once gained notoriety in European HPV circles when, during a practical vehicle competition, lightened his load by eating the bread being carried as "shopping".
Radio Goddess Marieke Ligtvoet dressed up for the occasion!
Marieke and husband Arnold (formerly one-man band recumbent builder Raptobike) returned after a three year absence to dispense good sense, herd cats and be generally teh Aces, in which functions they far exceeded all expectations.  Oh, them funny bikes, yes:
Most of the machines and riders.  Dave Sianez and the Plymouth team had already left; Adam Ince was hiding somewhere
No excuse needed to include another picture of Scout, overall winner of the drag races and everyone's new BFF
Proceeding were interrupted by the appearance of this vintage BEER truck:
which b0rked down under the strain of delivering Mikey's lunch.

After all that nonse was over Team Cygnus went down the road for their own photo session:
Pic by Jonathan with my camera.  Ta matey!
The boys then went to the Ming Dynasty for lunch.  No surprise there, then.  I went back to the Super 8 and fell asleep, waking in time for the Grand Finale, and you know what happened there already, except that because Yasmin couldn't run Alexei got to make his third run of the day and came away with a wind-legal 65 mph run and a new Hat.  To no-one's particular surprise Jun (day job: professor at the University of Toronto) let Thomas Ulph (day job: Penniless Student Oaf at the University of Toronto) make an unscheduled final run in Vortex (day job: streamlined bicycle at the, er, University of Toronto) which just happened to be Vortex' 100th run on 305:
100 km/h on the 100th run: a happy Thomas Ulph
Waiting for the inevitable delays caused by Ken's crash we were entertained by Diego:
Diego (centre) chatting up one of he Delft/Amsterdam team
Diego, who is 8, asked far more sensible questions than the average Filthy Lying Journalist Scum, moved away from the road when asked (unlike many a Penniless Student Oaf) and became only the third person evvah to sit in VeloX 6.  Get 'em young...

Back to town for the results & awards bash.  Al Krause also dressed up for the occasion:
Noes!  Invaded by a refugee from M.A.S.H
In fact quite a lot of people did, as Marieke worked the room persuading people to try a Team Cygnus T-shaped shirt.
Marieke had no trouble persuading AurĂ©lien to model the latest fashion
Nosh was variations on the theme of pasta.  Our table - the van Vugts, the Ligvoets and Team Cygnus - let the Italians on the next table try it first.  When the pronounced it "OK" we felt it safe to eat rather than, say, nip round the corner to The Scottish Restaurant.  The Annecy team were forgiven their earlier transgressions when, after someone who was almost certainly Frank Lem started humming La Marseillaise, they performed a lusty vocal rendition worthy of the Parc des Princes:
Aux armes, citoyens!  Et vive la France!
There were some results, both for Saturday evening's runs and overall so Yay! for Todd Reichert, Yasmin Tredell, Sarah Piercy, Gareth Hanks, Florian Kowalik and Scout.  You'd think that:
  • because they've got real jobs now, and
  • to give everyone else a chance
the Aerovelo team might like to give next year a miss but both Todd and evil genius Cameron Robertson indicated otherwise.  As one of the Scousers said, we'd like to hate them but they're too damn'2 nice.  Cam also reckoned that aiming for a mere 90 mph would setting their sights too low...

I then went to bed.
  1. Lie.  They gave me two last year as well, but Jan-Marcel says he'll send me a T-shaped shirt when they get home.
  2. A more pungent adjective may have been used