June 30, 2018

Another bloody disaster!

No apologies for the language, but I’m getting fed up of seemingly every time I set foot outside my door I get another kick in the teeth. Last year was bad enough due to my health problems but this year isn’t shaping up to be much better with my being hit continuously by one setback after another.

I still have plumbing problems in my house. There’s a water pressure reducer behind the kitchen cabinets that I installed some time ago (and have never even got around to finishing for various reasons) that’s leaking. In order to avoid puddles emerging on my floor from under said units I have placed a container under the leak, which I have to periodically empty out, and turn the water off overnight and whenever I go out to avoid its filling up too quickly.

I still fear that the only way that I’ll be able to solve the problem will be by replacing the leaking item and that will I am pretty sure involve ripping the kitchen units out completely. It’s a great thought that, ripping all of the stuff out that I haven’t even finished putting in yet.

I’ve also got a leaky toilet. Some readers will recall that shortly after I moved into my house, I installed a brand new toilet. Like all toilets in France, it soon began to leak water out of its cistern into the toilet bowl which is annoying because as well as wasting water, which is all metered in France, you get a disgusting build up of lime scale in no time at all. Like I say, every toilet in France that I’ve come across is the same and it’s due to the standard design not being effective, unlike in the UK.

But you can live with it, except that pretty soon it got worse and the plastic float valve that controls the level of water in the cistern also began to fail (yes, it also had a standard NF mark on it) and water began to overflow not only into the toilet bowl but also out of the cistern and over the floor. My toilet, which came with a guarantee of course, except the till receipt has faded to pure white (lesson – photocopy all ‘big ticket’ till receipts) so I could and can do nothing about it, is of suspended design concealed behind a wall panel and I had reservations about that when I installed it. However, I had no choice but to rip off the upper part of the panel to obtain (limited) access to the cistern in order to replace the faulty float valve.

But I did it thinking that that would be it. But no. Now it’s happening all over again, but this time much worse, even though the replacement float valve that I fitted had the NF mark on it and was the most expensive one in the store at the time. My conclusion, while the panel in my toilet augments its layer of black mould if I forget to turn off the supply valve whenever I use the toilet, is that French plumbing components are rubbish and there’s no doubt in my mind that when I redo the toilet, as I inevitably will have to, I’ll bring one over from the UK.

But that’s not all, of course, because as well as those problems I still have the damage to my Savannah’s wing slat to deal with that was, admittedly, caused solely by my own bad judgement, not that that makes me feel any better about it. But anyway, I thought of a way to solve it, at least for now, at minimal cost and so it was that last Sunday I was all ready to drive north to pick up a replacement slat that would save me the time, effort and cost of doing the VG conversion that I originally thought might be the only solution.

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My plan was to head north, pick up the slat and return home the same day making for a long day but one that should have been quite manageable. However, it wasn’t to be, and this was the sight that greeted me last Monday evening.

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That’s the Seine at Nanterre, a suburb of Paris, viewed from the window of the Première Classe Hotel there. So what happened, you might ask?

The day was going well and I’d reached the south-western suburbs of Paris quite comfortably but while driving up a slight incline in traffic at only around 60 kmh or so, all hell suddenly broke loose in my engine. Just before I’d noticed that my fuel warning light was on, which I’d found surprising, and thought that I caught a whiff of diesel, when all of a sudden something let go and my engine began emitting such an enormous cloud of thick smoke that I couldn’t see the car behind. At the same time, the engine began to accelerate uncontrollably at which time I slipped the gear into neutral, turned off the ignition and coasted to a halt.

The engine stopped after a short while not to start again and I was left at the side of the road 7 hours from my home with my hazards flashing. Luckily, I have roadside assistance and eventually a break-down truck arrived and loaded my car on board. The driver’s next job is to find a local garage to take the vehicle to, but despite phoning at least 10 (more I think) he couldn’t find one. So that meant taking my car another hour further north to his firm’s depot in the Paris suburbs.

My assistance contract provides me with a taxi to take me home if the distance involved is less than 100 kilometres and a hire car if it’s greater but the problem was that by then the hour was getting late. This culminated in my missing a call from Enterprise Car Rental at La Défense in Paris due to my phone battery running low and my having to be put up in a hotel for the night.

The two girls in the office of the ‘dépanneur’ (Ets Péripherique Nord) were angels and insisted on staying until I was safely in a taxi heading for the hotel which meant that instead of closing the office and heading for home and their families at 6.30 pm, they were there until well after 8.00 pm, for which I was truly grateful.

The hotel was ‘cheap and cheerful’ but I didn’t need much more than a clean room, a shower and a bed for the night, all of which it provided as the following pic shows.

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So now what? I’m back in the Dordogne after being provided the next day by my assistance with a nippy little Ford Fiesta from Enterprise Car Rental. However, my own car is still stuck up in the western suburbs of Paris with a few things in its boot, including my tool box, and the board and part of my ladder that was to take the replacement wing slat, still on its roof.

My assistance said tough, but they couldn’t find a local garage that could even look at my car for at least two weeks, let alone repair it, assuming that it is repairable. I refused to accept this. I’m afraid that like many people in France I suspected that they wanted to get away with putting in the minimum effort to solve the problem and therefore decided to see what I could do myself.

I decided to start with the ‘dépanneur’ and see what local contacts they had, and within 5 minutes they’d not only found a local garage but had also arranged for my car to be moved there the following day (Saturday).

In the meantime my kind friend Victor has once again loaned me his 2CV as it’s impossible to live here without a car. Even more generously, he’s offered me his Citroen SUV to head back north again in, which I’m going to do on Monday, a week exactly after the last time. The garage with my car has said that in the meantime, although they probably won’t have had a chance to assess the damage, my things will be safe and that I’ll be able to pick them up in the afternoon.

I’m also planning to continue my journey and pick up the replacement wing slat but until I get back home again on Tuesday (I’m planning to spend the night in the Première Classe hotel at Orléans Ouest) I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed. Then I’ll just be on tenterhooks waiting for news on my car repair 😕

June 22, 2018

Back on the piste again

We had another glorious day today with a clear blue sky all day and warm sunshine but with just enough wind to keep things a bit fresh. So it was a good day to pull the Weedhopper out of the back of the barn and give it a good wash and clean. And it really needed it. I only gave it a cursory clean while I was repairing and renovating it back in 2016 and with its having been stored in the back of the Savannah’s hangar for the whole of last year, it had built up a good coat of grime both inside and out.

Here are a couple of shots of 2/3 of my ‘fleet’ after I’d pulled the X-Air and the Weedhopper out of the barn before I started work.

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And here’s a shot of the Weedhopper just before it got its first dose of clean water for at least three years or so. Not that it stayed clean for very long as soon as I got going with the sponge.

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I took my house broom over to Malbec with me because I wanted to give the wings a good brushing to remove as much dust and other muck as I could before starting on them with the sponge. I’d spotted a lot of ‘debris’ on the left one and when I brushed it off I realised that it consisted of mouse droppings. I don’t know whether they had fallen from the roof or the mice had been spending time on top of the wing but I counted myself fortunate that they didn’t appear to have done any further damage.

It took me between two and three hours to finish off the job as I gave every surface a going over with the sponge and the screen, pod and the interior a further wipe with the wash leather so I didn’t leave any smears behind. But it was well worth the effort and it was a sight for (my) sore eyes to see the Weedhopper eventually glistening in the sunlight back again at the top of Malbec’s runway.

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Even MYRO’s old panel had a good shine on it in the sunlight, although it was practically impossible to take a good picture of the Weed’s interior because of the redness caused by the bright sunlight shining through its Ultralam covers.

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As its engine hadn’t been run for a few weeks, I wanted to give the Weed a few fast taxies on Malbec’s runway, which I did with nothing going amiss. A flight, though, was out of the question because although the wind direction would have been basically on the nose for landing, the air would have been very thermic due to the quite intense heat of the day and from time to time there were also some unpredictable powerful gusts of 45kmh (28mph) which could have made things a bit too tricky.

Here are some final shots that I took before taxying the Weedhopper through the airfield entrance and back up to the area in front of the barn.

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Although renewing the yellow varnish on the X-Air is next on my list of jobs, I put it at the back of the barn as I’d like very much if I could to do a bit of flying in the Weedhopper over the week-end. That’s if the weather plays ball, of course, because the hot weather and strong gusting winds are forecast to continue into next week. However, under such conditions, things are usually much more settled in the morning and early evening, so that’s when I plan to go. Now it’ll just be a matter of seeing how things work out.

June 21, 2018

Getting organised – again

As of today, I haven’t flown for over a month, since the day on which I aborted my planned flight to the UK actually. This has mainly been due to the fact that I really haven’t felt well enough. I did do some flights in the Savannah a few weeks ago when I didn’t feel too bad and even took Wim’s family for flights around Montignac from Galinat, but somehow between then and the day of my UK flight, things had crept up on me without my realising it.

This showed itself in a couple of ways – one was a feeling of general malaise, not so much being generally unwell, more of just being some way below par, and the other was constant discomfort in my stomach and chest. I now realise that this was due to the lingering effects of the chemotherapy – I did have 8 months of it which from what I’ve since learnt is quite a lot – and I have been advised that it could still be several more weeks, even months, before the chemicals clear completely out of my system.

I’m prepared to believe it too because I still have tingling and lack of sensation in my little fingers and big toes and ‘chemo nails’ which are much more yellowy than normal with vertical ridges on them. My fingernails also tend to split very easily, for example even if I merely catch them on my duvet cover when making my bed. But in the last couple of weeks things have improved greatly and I can now say that I almost feel completely normal again.

I don’t know whether there’s actually a connection, but a few weeks ago I read somewhere that mangoes contain everything that you need to achieve a balanced digestive system and if you suffer from a constantly upset stomach that you should eat a mango every day. So that’s what I started doing – every morning with my breakfast, not a whole mango but just a large slice – and I thought nothing more of it. However, after a week or so I suddenly realised that I felt well again and my stomach and chest pains had disappeared.

I don’t think that it was due to a placebo effect because I’ve since stopped regularly eating mango and I still not only feel fine but am actually eating normally (ie everything) again and am feeling better by the day. So well in fact, that I’ve been motivated to start working on my aircraft again and not only have I obtained the special varnish and thinner to use on the X-Air so I can get it tidied up and advertised for sale, but also on the Weedhopper.

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The Weedhopper has been in the back of the barn since I moved the X-Air to the front so I could start preparing the wings for varnishing. It’s filthy and I’ll be getting both it and the X-Air out again for a wash and brush up while the weather is so good. I was working on the Weed today, doing what I’ll tell in a moment, and when at the end of the afternoon I went back to my car, which was standing in the shade of the barn, its temperature gauge read 38 degrees Celsius. It fell back when I started the engine but only by a couple of degrees, so today was a real scorcher.

Not the best day then to be working on an aircraft in the back of the barn. But at the end of the day it was well worth the sweat and discomfort, because today I was finishing the Weedhopper off by installing its radio ready for when I next fly it, which will hopefully be this week-end if it’s not too hot and thermic. Unlike in the UK where the mandatory changeover to 8.33kHz is imminent, here in France we have a concession that means it won’t happen until 2021.

That means that my trusty little Vertex VXA-220 (not to mention the Icom in my Savannah) still has another couple of years of life in it, so it’s worth my while copying the same kit installation that I have in the X-Air over into the Weedhopper so the set-up can just be switched over at will. The Velcro pads that attached the kit to MYRO’s panel are still in the Weedhopper so it was just a matter of rigging up a PTT button and connection and as I already had a suitable miniature button and some cable, I just had to order a couple of twin pole Binder connectors (giving me a spare, just in case) and a suitable handlebar grip to go onto the Weedhopper’s control column.

I made up the Binder connection a couple of days ago so today was just about drilling the control column for the PTT cable and fitting the button. The Weed came to me with just a bare control column tube with no rubber grip on it, but I solved that problem by mounting the new PTT button on a plastic washer of the same diameter as the column, placing the washer and button on its top and then sliding a handlebar grip, into which I’d already cut a suitable size hole, down over it to keep everything in place. I also took the precaution of routing the PTT cable through a length of small bore transparent fuel tubing to protect it where it emerges through the hole I’d drilled in the column.

I was well pleased with the final result which is quite neat and tidy and much better I think than the horrible wooden handles on the control columns in the X-Air, as the following pics show. And although it was too hot and turbulent today for any ULMs to be flying, when I tuned in I did pick up an English-speaking pilot, possibly a Ryanair flight going into Bergerac, communicating with the regional Aquitaine frequency, so I know that the system works OK.

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And by the way, a cautionary note for everyone who uses fuel containing alcohol, as I do in the Weedhopper and the X-Air. Wim and I were thinking about flying our Weedhoppers up to the Charente last week-end, to Club Aero-Focus where we enjoyed a fantastic Fête de la St Jean evening during our west coast tour back in 2015. We decided not to go after all and just as well that we did, because this week the new rubber primer bulb that I fitted to the Weedhopper only two years ago failed.

It had actually perished at each end where the connections are and one end failed completely and split with fuel gushing out of it. If this had happened in the air, not only would I have suffered engine failure due to fuel starvation with all that that entails (forced landing etc) but while it was happening, I’d also have had fuel gushing into the cabin and over my left leg. The consequences of this hardly bear thinking about, so from now on, I’ll be replacing the new one that I also fitted this week every two years, or a bit less probably, to be on the safe side.

It’s forecast to be sunny but cooler tomorrow so probably a good day to get both the Weedhopper and the X-Air out into the open for a good clean-up. I’ve also got news on the Savannah. I’ve found a way to effect the repair to its right wing slat at quite a low cost without going to the extent of fitting the VG kit, which is quite expensive but would also be quite a time-consuming business when I have other things that I need to do. But more about that later when I come to do it 😉

June 8, 2018

Bit of fun

I’ve had a bit of time on my hands for the past few evenings and while idly browsing through My Trike, I realised that I’d let a few areas slip, not the main body of the blog but peripheral ones. Up in the top right hand corner of the home page there are several links, one of which is entitled ‘Jigsaw Puzzles’.

I added this page quite a while ago just as a bit of fun really having found solving on-line jigsaw puzzles quite addictive. However, with other priorities taking up my attention, after a bright start I allowed the page to fall somewhat into decline, which I think is a bit of a pity.

So I decided to do something about it and after dipping into my ever expanding library of photographs, have added half a dozen more jigsaw puzzles to the page content, as shown by the following image.

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Whereas I started with puzzles having only a hundred pieces or so that could be finished in 15 to 20 minutes, the new ones have more and are more challenging. When I did the most recent one of the Savannah that has 180 pieces it took me half an hour or so and I found that it was good fun to do as well.

So if you fancy a bit of fun and are into on-line games, give my new jigsaw puzzles a try by clicking on THIS LINK.

Incidentally, I also found that after making a good start I’d allowed my gallery of aircraft photographs to slip into a state of decline. So I’ve also taken action to address that problem and have added some decent shots of G-MYRO, my old UK Cyclone AX3, together with completely new sections on my French Weedhopper and X-Air. Take a look if you have the time by clicking HERE.