October 29, 2018

My woodburner

I’ve always regarded my woodburner as being a bit problematic, to be honest, and have always had a bit of a ‘love-hate’ relationship with it. In the very early days I installed its tubular metal flue upside-down and had to take it down again, all six metres or so of it, and reinstall it after gunge from the awful old garden wood that I burnt condensed inside it, began running down and then began exiting through all the joints because they were the wrong way round.

It made a heck of a mess of the outside of the tubes because once it had cooled it turned from a runny liquid into a thick tar-like material that took a lot of cleaning off with turps. And not having learned my lesson, I continued in my ignorance burning old ‘wet’ garden wood that eventually ended up competely blocking the flue necessitating its complete removal for unblocking once again.

I’d found out that the flue was totally blocked after smoke began to fill my living room one evening. I’d then bought a cheap chimney sweeping kit, shoved the brush up into the flue and had one of the rods in the brush set snap on me while it was stuffed into the flue leaving the brush and the remaining broken rod section somewhere up aloft high in the sooty reaches of the chimney.

You could say that the woodburner itself can’t be blamed for all these mishaps which were really more down to my inexperience and/or stupidity and I suppose that if pushed, I’d have to agree with you. However, they did colour my attitude towards it and my subsequent experiences have not helped.

I’ve got fed up with having to clean it out in the morning but that again isn’t the stove’s fault because it comes with the territory and is part-and-parcel of any wood stove. But what has annoyed me the most is that I always seem to have had problems getting it going and latterly have resorted to using a blowlamp to get the kindling and small starter logs hot enough to be able to add bigger logs that would otherwise just fizzle out.

I’ve also, I have to admit, been somewhat disappointed with the heat that it’s chucked out. There have for reasons unknown to me, been some exceptional occasions when it has done really well but these have been few and far between and as a result I’ve stopped burning oak, which should give plenty of heat but hasn’t because it has always burned too slowly, in favour of ‘châtaigne’ which is less efficient but has at least always burnt completely down to ash.

In theory, my wood burner should be really good. It’s a modern design with a lower ‘direct’ air inlet and an upper ‘convected’ air inlet. From what I’ve found on the internet, when the stove gets going, the idea is to close the lower inlet completely and control it using the upper one, but I’ve never been able to do that successfully and have always had to keep the lower one partially open even though I could hear the top one ‘breathing’ as air entered it.

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But something has happened. I noticed over the summer that clinker from the flue was collecting in my woodburner’s fire box and when I decided to get things ready for the cold snap that we’re currently experiencing (a high of only 7 degrees Celsius today falling to 2 degrees by dawn tomorrow) I thought that I’d better clear it out.

There’s a sort of removable curved baffle plate inside the fire box that sits on little pegs on the back wall and is supported on its top edge in clips on the fire box roof so it forms a slanting barrier between the burning logs and the flue outlet. As the clinker had fallen down the flue and past the baffle plate I thought that I’d better remove it, not having done so for a couple of years or so, in case there was any on its top surface.

To say that there was is an understatement. Not only was there a heap of clinker, there was also a pile of brownish soot and taken together, the two materials were effectively forming a plug in the flue outlet hole. I gave the flue itself a few good bangs and even more came down, so when I cleared the whole lot away, the flue had had a pretty good clean out, for which I must really thank the hot summer for having made the flue expand and contract, loosening the clag and allowing it to drop out.

Not thinking too much more about it, I started the woodburner for the first time three evenings ago and have run it every evening since. And I’ve been amazed at the transformation. It has burst into life quicker than you can say, ‘Strike a light, mate’ just by setting a match to a bed of paper under the kindling and light starter logs and has come up to heat quicker than I’ve ever known it to before, allowing large logs, even very large ones, to be added much sooner than I’ve ever imagined.

It has also chucked out so much heat, even with the lower air inlet fully closed, that at times I’ve been unable to sit in front of it. So have I been running it all this time with a semi-blocked flue? I think that I must have been. But in any case, now that I know what’s possible I’ll have to be much more careful in the future – and I’ll also have to get a lot more wood in, because although it’s made my house more toasty warm than I can ever remember, it’s certainly getting through some wood doing so 🙂

October 27, 2018

Kia repair

I have a ‘To-Do’ list that stretches from here to the middle of next year at the moment and I’m trying to keep a lot of balls in the air. One of the priorities is still, of course, my Kia which has been a non-runner since June and has been standing with a broken down engine for a couple of months or so.

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I got hold of a replacement engine from near San Sebastian in Spain that I’m trusting will be OK as the supplier, a highly reputable breaker’s yard that has been going since 1994 and has an incredibly impressive operation, said that when removed from the donor vehicle, another automatic Sportage like mine, it was running just fine.

My mechanic has had it at his premises for a couple of weeks and it’s now time to think about getting things moving. The engine had some light external corrosion – the result of salt on the roads my mechanic said which he has often seen in the past – and I went over there on Thursday to clean it up ready for installation.

The light corrosion on the front and rear of the cast iron block was quite easy to deal with. It was just a matter of going over it with a rotating wire brush in an electric drill, blowing off the dust and giving it a coat of satin finish black special metal paint that doesn’t require any undercoat. The corrosion on the aluminium parts such as the inlet manifold and valve and thermostat covers is too bad to bother about and we’ll just swap those and a few other parts with the ones from the existing engine.

Then it was time to think about what else should be replaced. The timing belt that comes as a complete kit with a new water pump was top of the list as we have no information on whether this has been done recently on the replacement engine or not. And although we fitted a replacement accessory driving belt when Victor and I replaced the steering pump when I first acquired my Kia, that was over four years ago and it would be a false economy to re-use it, so I also ordered one of those.

Then, as he’ll be moving over the inlet manifold and valve and thermostat covers from the existing engine, I ordered new gaskets for those, plus new air, oil and fuel filters. My mechanic said that as they’re inaccessible when the engine is mounted and we have no knowledge of their history, the four glow plugs should also be replaced even if the supplier said that the engine was running OK, so I went ahead and ordered them too.

So that was it – for now. He also said that we should replace the thermostat but I can’t see the point of that if it’s working OK – in any case, the existing one was so we can always use that and it’s easy enough to get to when the engine’s in place.

I’m now waiting for the order to arrive which it should do next week. Work on swapping the engines over won’t start straight away as I’m in no immediate hurry and my mechanic has other work which he can fit it in with.

Then when it’s done it’ll be nice to think that the Kia will be at least back to how it was before it went pear-shaped, if not better, which will leave me with the decision as to which of the two vehicles I’ll choose to keep. I’ve already had thoughts about that but I’ll leave sharing them to a later date.

October 26, 2018

Re-roofing time

Here’s a sight that I hoped that I’d never see again. It’s the roof of my wood store laid bare with its weather-proof (supposedly) surface covering totally removed.

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But I was being hopelessly over-optimistic. It’s four years since the store was completed and it’s been leaking, mainly due to my poor design, for the last two of those. I patched it up a bit with some bitumen-based sealer gunge a year or so ago but the last two summers have been just too much for the covering material that I used, which was a rather poor quality (as it turned out) bitumen roofing felt that came in rolls.

So when I checked the roof a few days ago before this year’s rains set in, it was obvious that it wouldn’t do for the winter and would have to be replaced. As well as the leak soaking the wood being stored there was also the risk of the water starting to rot the underlying roofing material causing even more work in the future, so after a rather cool, slightly misty morning, I spent this afternoon stripping it all off.

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I thought after I’d finished the roof that it was unlikely to last but by then it was too late and I made sure that when I did my next one that I used something much better – PVC based and UV resistant – that was more expensive, of course.

I bought a roll of the same material costing 99€ from Leroy Merlin yesterday and now I’ve got to go through the whole rigmarole again of covering the roof with it. There’s an old adage ringing in my ears while I’m typing this – buy cheap, buy twice – and it’s certainly true in this case. Unfortunately 🙁

October 24, 2018

Sunday’s fog

I’d almost forgotten that after I’d returned to Malbec after turning back mid-way during my flight to Ste-Foy-la-Grande on Sunday I took a couple of shots of the fog bank to the south that was the cause of the problem.

The first one gives a general impression of the situation but although it shows the inversion pretty well, it doesn’t actually show the fog bank itself in very much detail.

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The second one though, which I took after zooming in a bit using my little Nikon’s telephoto lens, does a much better job.

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If you look closely, you can see the rays of the sun glinting on the tops of the clouds of fog forming the bank. As I flew in a westerly direction it took the form of a solid layer of ground-hugging cloud that was at least a couple of hundred feet thick and totally hid the surface and as it extended far enough west to cover the airfield at Ste-Foy it would have made landing impossible. It must also have blanketed Bergerac but Ryanair is less inconvenienced by that than I am in the X-Air.

So there you have it. It lingered all day so Gérard, my prospective buyer, didn’t get to see the X-Air yet again. And not only that, although we’ve enjoyed excellent flying weather every day since, the forecast is for the wind strength to increase again this coming week end which may prevent me getting there yet again. We’ll just have to wait and see.

October 21, 2018

And now the X-Air

The possible purchaser of the X-Air who I met a few weeks ago at Ste-Foy-la-Grande is still very interested and keen to see it but I’ve been intent on having it ready for sale only when I’m satisfied with it. Well, that moment has arrived but as I haven’t flown it for some time, I wanted to do a good flight in it to make sure everything was OK and yesterday was the big day.

I did one of my usual ’round the houses’ local flights taking in Condat, Galinat, Sarlat-Domme and Belvès before returning to Malbec giving me a total of five landings to allow myself to get my hand back in, which I always like to do. Here’s the route that I took.

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I did a video that I’ll try to make something of later and took several shots along the way but visibility in a filthy inversion was atrocious with a dirty layer of ground-hugging mist for as far as the eye can see, so the quality of both was very poor. Here’s a shot of the Chateau du Peuch that I took shortly after taking off.

It was sold a couple of years ago to, it’s rumoured, an Englishman domiciled in Monaco who has some sort of involvement in Formula 1. He also bought all of the surrounding houses for reasons best known to himself and now they and the chateau stand empty for almost the whole of the year.

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Her’s a very poor quality shot of the commune of Aubas which is just past Montignac on the way to Condat-sur-Vézère.

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Now a shot of the X-Air at Condat.

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Here’s the X-Air back at Galinat, where it used to live, after a break of many months.

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This is a shot that I took of Sarlat-la-Canéda on my way to Sarlat-Domme.

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I didn’t take any pics at Sarlat-Domme but here’s the X-Air back at Belvès where, again, it hasn’t been for many a long month.

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Finally back at Malbec. I had to go around once and then orbit while Phillipe was warming up his Citius’s engine. While I was leaving my orbit to land I saw Jean-Christophe from Milhac coming in in his Savannah. He landed a few minutes after me and while we conversed I had a chance to show him my Savannah in the hangar. Here are a couple of shots of his aircraft that I took while he was preparing to take off.

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My intention was to fly the X-Air down to Ste-Foy-la-Grande today (Sunday morning) to show it to Gérard, the potential buyer but I’m typing this having had to abort the flight at just over the half-way point and return to Malbec. The reason was a fog bank to the south that became severe to the west of Bergerac that I thought would most likely affect Ste-Foy and having spoken to Gérard after landing it appears that I was right.

I’ve topped the X-Air’s tanks up again and I’m going to give it another go later this afternoon, so we’ll see then how things go. Keep watching this space 😉

FOOTNOTE

Unfortunately it didn’t happen. I messaged Gérard from Malbec at about 3.00 pm and he came back a bit later after going to the airfield at Ste-Foy-la-Grande to say that the fog there was clearing away only slowly. At about 3.30 pm he said that the sun had just broken through but then I had to tell him that by then it was too late for safety.

It’s a flight of about 1 hour each way from Malbec to Ste-Foy and allowing for an hour there, it would have meant my leaving Ste-Foy for home sometime around 6.00 pm. By then the air would be beginning to cool with the chance that the fog could start to return and if it then started to close in at Malbec just as the early dusk was beginning to draw in, it could make a landing there a bit dangerous.

So with safety being the first priority, I had to put our ‘rendez-vous’ off yet again for another week. Who would have thought it. We had clear blue sky at Malbec for most of the day but the fog bank to the south just kept hanging on and hanging on. Such are the vagaries of flying ULMs, especially at this time of the year. Ho hum… 😐

October 17, 2018

A right dog’s dinner!

I’m referring to my drive down to Spain yesterday to pick up the engine for my Kia Sportage. And it started with so much promise. I got up just before 6.00 am and was on the road and raring to go by 6.45 am, just as I hoped that I would be. But things began working against me almost immediately, mainly because I made a wrong decision.

When I drove down last Friday, I took the longer, quicker route, which sticks to the autoroutes so is quicker even though it involves driving a longer distance. But because you rack up the tolls, it works out to be more expensive than if you take the cross-country route, which is almost toll free. Working against the latter, though, is that the roads have lower speed limits, so progress is much slower, and progress can become very slow indeed if you get stuck behind a stream of heavy goods vehicles.

As usual I was using my satnav which is great for planning a route from A to B but if you want to insert waypoints, problems start to arise because you can only enter latitude/longitude coordinates or ‘city centres’. Obviously the latter are the last thing you need if you are looking for a quick cross-country journey, so if you use them as waypoints, you either have to key in a revised plan as you are approaching them or just find a route yourself that skirts around them.

The trouble with the latter, though, is that the satnav keeps the city centre that you’re trying to avoid in its memory and then becomes hell-bent on getting you there using every available opportunity to do so including keep telling you to turn round, so not ideal. The only way that I know to get around this is to keep entering new destinations into the satnav while you’re driving which is inconvenient but at least works.

When I initially checked the tiny map on my satnav’s screen when I worked out my cross-country route, it appeared to know a route to Mont-de-Marsan in the Landes that I was unaware of, starting from around the Sarlat area, so I headed initially for Sarlat. The route that I would have taken would have been via a roundabout that takes you up to Bergerac airport, except you keep going straight on for Mont-de-Marsan, and you definitely do not get there via Sarlat in any way shape or form.

It turned out that this was the way that the satnav also knew and by the time that I’d caught the morning rush-hour in Sarlat complete with all the school buses turning into the college there I eventually arrived at the said roundabout a good hour later than if I’d just driven directly there myself. So that was error number one.

It then turned out that the Mont-de-Marsan cross country route is much favoured by all the French, Spanish and Portuguese heavy goods vehicles heading for the Iberian peninsula that are in no hurry and want to stay off the autoroutes. This, of course, does no favours for people like me who are in a hurry and after a while it became obvious that with my rate of progress, I’d be unable to get to my destination near San Sebastian before 1.00 pm before the yard closed for two hours for lunch.

So I took the decision to get onto the relevant autoroute in order to beat that deadline with the result that I would then be getting the worst of both worlds – a slow cross-country route PLUS en-route tolls, although really I had no choice. But if that was bad enough, even worse was to come.

The C-Max was performing beautifully just as it had done a few days previously, giving brisk performance with its cruise control and also incredibly good fuel economy. Eventually I arrived at a ‘payage’ at a place called Sames in the French Basque country and pulled up to pay using my bank card as usual. However, on this occasion the C-Max’s engine stopped and after I’d paid and the barrier had risen, it refused to restart.

I paused with my hazard flashers on and tried several more times over a few minutes but without success, leaving me with no choice but to contact the autoroute emergency staff who arranged for a breakdown truck to come and take me off the motorway. I couldn’t believe that I was involved in yet another breakdown nightmare, and to make matters worse, I couldn’t find my mobile phone and thought that I’d left it at home when I’d departed in the early morning.

In fact, I found it hours later in the car where it had flown off the front seat and hidden itself when I’d been forced to brake heavily earlier in the journey, but by then matters had resolved themselves. At the time I felt that I was under attack from all sides and not having my phone with me, as I thought, made me feel even more vulnerable than I already did, with the difficult situation that I was facing.

The breakdown truck arrived after 30 minutes or so and after loading me and the C-Max, we trundled off to a local garage about 30 minutes or so away. After unloading the C-Max he then fiddled around under the bonnet and didn’t do anything really but miracle of miracles, the engine eventually started.

I told him that I had roadside assistance through my insurance company (the same one who’d helped out when the Kia let me down) and after going off armed with the information, he returned with the news that they’d be picking up the transport bill and I had nothing to pay, so I was free to resume my journey.

The C-Max seemed totally unchanged and I had no choice but to rejoin the autoroute as by now time was ticking away. There was now no chance that I’d be able to make the breaker’s yard in Spain before it closed for their lunch break at 1.00 pm and the best that I could hope for was to arrive as they re-opened at 3.00 pm. So with this in mind, I carried on heading south-west and eventually stopped at a pleasant parking area to consume the lunch that I’d prepared and taken with me.

To make matters even worse, the journey up to that point had been dogged by thick patchy fog but by the time I’d stopped, the sun has broken through and the morning was becoming pleasantly warm. It stayed like that from then on as I entered Spain and arrived at the breaker’s yard, Desguaces Vidaurreta SL, almost dead on 3.00 pm. But to add insult to injury, the tolls that I’d incurred for this nightmarish, slow cross country route were higher than I’d paid previously when I did the same journey on the ‘fast’ route a few days before.

Unlike when I was last there, the enormous metal gate into the yard was open and I was amazed at what I saw. I already knew from checking it out on Google Earth that this is not your average local messy car breakers yard. It extends over several hectares, has late model vehicles stacked four high on metal storage racks and is scrupulously clean.

The parts store containing thousands of items is a huge multi-level warehouse and is manned by staff with computer terminals much like any car main dealer’s parts department, except all of the items sold to a steady stream of customers while I was there come off the shelf but are in perfect used condition.

With what I was seeing, I had few reservations from then on about buying the engine for the Kia from them and when my turn came went up to the counter with copies of the engine details, my email correspondence and my proof of payment. I asked if anyone spoke English or French and one guy said that he spoke a little English, so he became my contact. He took my papers and said that he’d go and find out what was happening with the engine and returned after a few minutes saying that there was just one problem. It was still in the donor vehicle.

By then it was getting on for 3.30 pm. He asked if I could come back another time but I said that this was not possible and surely they could get it out in a couple of hours. He agreed, so I said that I’d be back at about 5.30 pm and went off to have a doze in my car. When I returned at about 5.20 pm he said that they’d need another 10 minutes and bought me a coffe, which was very welcome. It was 6.00 pm when we eventually loaded the engine into the back of the C-Max and I was ready to commence my return journey – this time via the ‘long, fast’ route.

Here are some shots that I took of the engine in the C-Max before I left Spain.

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And here are some shots that I took outside my house this morning before I drove over to my mechanic’s premises where we onloaded it without too many problems.

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But this isn’t the end of the story as my trials and tribulations persisted right up until I arrived home again last night at about 11.15 pm. On the way I had to stop at several more ‘payages’ to pay tolls and at one of them the C-Max’s engine stopped again and wouldn’t restart. I switched the hazard flashers on again in deepening despair as this time there was no obvious emergency button to press, although presumably there must have been one somewhere.

Luckily, this time the engine did restart after a few minutes and the C-Max then continued to peform just as before although I felt as though I had egg shells under my throttle foot the whole way home from that point on. I told my mechanic today what had happened and after unloading the Kia engine, he checked to see if the C-Max was showing any fault codes. And indeed it was – low injector pressure, which presumably accounted for the problem.

He said that this is not uncommon with Ford engines and is usually related to a fuel filter problem which is neither expensive nor complicated. I said that I wanted him to give the car a general service in any case having only just acquired it, so hopefully if it keeps going without letting me down he’ll be able to deal with it then.

But what a total dog’s dinner a simple drive down to Spain had become and I have to confess that I’m getting a little bit annoyed and fed up with how even the most simple things keep turning into raging crises. Hopefully as is always the case, in time ‘all things must pass’ but that moment can’t come soon enough for me 🙁

October 13, 2018

Foiled again!

But another interesting experience to savour as I’ll go on to explain. The Spanish seller of the Kia engine did eventually come back and confirm that it was tested before it was removed from the donor vehicle and found to be in good running order, so that was enough for me and I then arranged a direct bank transfer to buy it. However, this then left me with a problem.

I’d already ordered a towbar kit for the C-Max and I’d hoped to fit it last Thursday, albeit without electrics as I’d discovered that it didn’t come with a relay module that the C-Max needs, and then pop down to Spain to pick the engine up on Friday. Then two setbacks occurred. Firstly I found that one of the securing nuts on the C-Max’s rear bumper was tightly seized and the stud that it was on appeared to be turning in the plastic of the bumper. I wanted to remove the rear wheel to get a better look at what was going on but then found that the wrench in the car wouldn’t fit the wheel nuts and that in fact there was no way if I had a puncture on the road that I could take any of the wheels off!

Although the C-Max has Ford factory alloy wheels, no locking nuts are fitted so obviously they must think that the level of theft is lower in France than in the UK. But that’s another issue. The wheel nuts all have stainless steel metal caps on them that appeared to me to be removable as some were already off the nuts on one of the front wheels and I’d had to crimp them a bit in a vice to get them to clip back on again.

However, even with the caps off, the wrench supplied with the car still didn’t fit and I thought that probably some kind of adapter was needed that had perhaps been lost. I phoned the previous owner who wasn’t much help, as he said that he’d never(!) had to remove a wheel in the 4½ years that he’d owned the car and wheel and tyre changes had always been done by a professional. I couldn’t help but wonder how lucky he’d been not to have a puncture away from home!

But that didn’t help me. By this time I’d had to put the towbar and bumper problems to one side as it was clearly imperative to get to the bottom of how to remove the car’s wheels and Victor and I were looking at the problem together. Victor eventually managed to get through to the nearest Ford dealer at Trelissac who dumbfounded us both by telling us that the caps were never intended to be removable and they and the nuts were only ever sold together as single items.

When we checked, we found that the nuts with caps in good condition accepted an 18mm socket which could then be used to loosen and tighten the wheel nuts in the usual way with the caps left on. This meant that the car’s wheel wrench should also fit over the caps and be able to unscrew the nuts but it was evident that (a) the hexagon of the wrench was grossly over-sized compared to the caps and this was why so many of the caps had become distorted and (b) a goodly proportion of the caps had been so damaged that the 18mm socket would also not fit onto them.

To cut a long story short, we then had to spend an hour or so reshaping and recrimping the damaged caps so that they were then non-removable and would also accept the 18mm socket. This was achieved in the end but it meant that I will have to always carry an 18mm socket and bar in the car in the future in case of a puncture as if I try to use the wrench supplied with the car’s limited tool kit, it will only do the same damage to the caps and wheel nuts all over again.

That still left me with the problem of not being able to fit the new towbar, but what about the second setback? This took the form of an email that I received from the Spanish engine seller saying that Friday 12 October was Hispanic day, one of Spain’s multifarious public holidays, and their yard would be closed. So that seemed to be the end of it, at least for now.

However, I started thinking. Victor had suggested that as time was needed to solve the trailer problem, an alternative would be to drive down and have the seller drop the engine straight into the back of the C-Max. I hadn’t been keen on the idea at all but when I thought about it again it seemed to me to be feasible so long as the interior of the car was fully protected.

That gave me an idea. I had a spare roofing sheet left over from when I built my last garden store which, if cut to size, would make an excellent box in which to place the engine. But not only that. I also thought that if I worked quickly enough, I’d be able to fit it into the car and get away in time to head down to Spain on Friday (yesterday) afternoon, overnight in a convenient hotel and be at the engine seller’s yard when they opened this morning (Saturday) which they were scheduled to do from 9.00 am to 1.00 pm.

And things went like clockwork. The box went together in double-quick time as the following shots show.

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And I drew up at the hotel that I’d managed to book in St-Jean-de-Luz in the bottom left-hand corner of France and, according to my satnav, only a 20 minute drive away from the engine seller’s yard in Hondarribia, just before Reception closed for the night at 9.00 pm.

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The hotel and room were both a cut well above the Premiere Classe establishment that I’d stayed in on my way back from Paris even if the room was a little drab with its dull brown colour scheme. However, it was clean and smart with an excellent bathroom and shower and I slept well despite there being a road outside that I could actually hardly hear a sound from.

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The young Slovenian lady on reception advised me to walk across to the adjacent Courtepaille Grill where I’d be able to get myself a good meal after my afternoon’s drive. This was the first time that I’d been into a Courtepaille restaurant but she was indeed correct. The rumpsteak that I ordered was cooked to perfection by a chef on a flaming grill in the restaurant itself and I enjoyed an excellent demi-pichet (50 cl) of local rosé with my meal for under 8€, which couldn’t be bad.

The only distracting feature was the hideous 1980’s decor, as you can see from the shot that I took after my meal while waiting for my coffee. Such a shame, although I don’t know if all of the Courtepaille chain are fitted out in the same way!

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So then on to today. I tapped the address of the seller into my satnav, which it recognised immediately, so as it was only a 20 minute drive away, what could possibly go wrong? I whizzed over the border into Spain and turned off as proposed by the satnav only to be confronted immediately by a Spanish toll booth! No big deal, it wasn’t much and I was eager to press on to find the engine seller’s yard.

I was then surprised to be taken off the main road and into a gorgeously forested park which evidently covered quite a large area. And it was what I can only describe as a millionaires’ housing estate, as here and there among the trees were dotted the most splendid of houses, all with fine big gardens and security gates. Nevertheless, my satnav led me confidently on until it eventually exclaimed that I’d reached my destination outside one of the fine properties.

This meant that either one of the wealthy property owners was running a breaker’s yard in his back garden, which I thought unlikely, or my satnav, not for the first time, was hopelessly confused. The latter was obviously the case and that left me with the problem of finding the yard’s real location with my almost non-existent Spanish. I learnt Spanish for two years when I was in my mid-twenties and have not used it since, so little or nothing of it remains.

What didn’t help was that not unexpectedly for such an area, there was nobody around who might be able to help me. I had a phone number for the yard but knew that as they couldn’t speak English, phoning them wouldn’t be much help in terms of obtaining directions. So what to do? As I drove back through the wooded parkland, I then happened to spot a chap jogging. With nothing to lose, I waved him to stop and asked if he could speak English, which he couldn’t.

I showed him the address that I was looking for, which meant nothing to him, but he said that actually Hondarribia was some way away from where we were and tried to explain in Spanish how to get there. I’d already entered ‘Hondarribia city centre’ into my satnav, so that was an option that I had in order to try to get closer to the engine seller. But then, by a stroke of luck, he spotted the seller’s name on my sheet of paper and amazingly, that did the trick.

He began to explain that if I carried on down the road through the parkland that we were on and then headed in the opposite direction from Hondarribia towards San Sebastain but kept off the motorway, I’d eventually see the establishment on my right. He even then said to follow him as he jogged back the way he had already come so he could show me what he meant. And he was right. I did what he suggested and sure enough within two or three minutes there was a large sign advertising the engine seller’s yard.

It seemed that not only had I managed to find someone who could help me but that I’d probably also stumbled across the only person who knew the exact location that I was trying to find. Amazing or what and I don’t know how I’d have managed without him.

But sadly my troubles didn’t end there. Victor had suggested that with Friday (yesterday) being a Spanish public holiday, there was a good chance that the yard would remain closed today. And he was right. I wasn’t the only one caught out though, because while I waited for an hour to see if it might open up, several locals also drove up and then left. Unfortunately however, I’d come much further than they had and now I’d have to drive all the way back without what I’d come for.

The only saving feature was that I had to fill up with fuel before heading back and I guessed, quite rightly as it turned out, that I’d be sure to find a garage if I continued on towards San Sebastian. The big surpise for me was that whereas the price of diesel has rocketed in France from around 1€/litre at the turn of the year to around 1.50€ now, in Spain it’s still going for only 1.375€, quite a difference!

I then selected my home as my destination from my satnav’s history and turned back to start heading there. Or so I’d thought. Unbeknown to me, it hadn’t accepted it and had retained my previous entry, namely ‘Hondarribia city centre’! As I drove I thought that the route was a bit weird especially when I realised that my satnav was taking me around the wrong side of a large bay and a beautiful beach. Once I’d realised what had happened, it was too late and although the view from the hillside above it, that was swarming with walkers, joggers and cyclists, was superb in the morning sunshine, it was time to correct my satnav entry and really head for home. But for anyone interested, I found Hondarribia itself to be a really lovely place 😉

On the way back I stopped at a garage to buy a snack and while sitting in my car, I spotted what is shown in the following pics.

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I don’t know much about electric cars and am not a big fan of them, actually, mainly because of their limited range as much as their cost. I’m also not in touch with what’s happening about charging points in the UK but read an interesting article last weekend about a lady writer who wanted to drive her Nissan Leaf from London to a book signing in Scotland. She had to eventually abandon it en-route when it ran out of charge and had to be recovered, due to limited charging points along the way and some of those that were there being out of service.

It looks from the above that France is making a concerted effort that’s jointly funded by EU money to deal with that problem. I’d be interested to know whether the same is happening in the UK… why is it that somehow I doubt it?

And talking about range, I had an extremely pleasant surprise concerning the C-Max. As well as being comfortable with its 2 litre engine and brisk performance, it also proved to be what I consider incredibly economical. Over the roughly 500 mile/800 km round trip, it averaged 5.5 litres/100 km compared to nearly twice that (about 10.9 litres/100 km) for the Kia. This meant that I got to San Sebastian and back for under 65€ which I regard as very acceptable.

The downside was that tolls etc added 41.95€ to that (including the 0.95€ just to enter Spain) which would have been slightly higher had I not turned off the autoroute between Bordeaux and Périgueux in order to enjoy a splendid drive through the wine country with its autumnal shades and colours.

Mind you, doing so immediately added well over an hour to my driving time which shows why paying the tolls compared to driving on untolled roads on long journeys is a matter of Hobson’s Choice. Such are the pleasures and pains of living and driving in France 😉

October 5, 2018

X-Air? Done!

Not sold, but now ready to be so. In an earlier post I mentioned that even though the X-Air hadn’t been flown for several months, its engine started up and ran very sweetly. The problem, though was that it wouldn’t idle properly and its tickover wouldn’t fall below 2000 rpm.

I suspected that its carburettor inlet rubbers might be perished and that one or more might be letting in air. But this wasn’t the case and it didn’t take too long to home in on the culprit when I removed the carbs to check on their cables, how clean they were internally and replace a couple of split cable boots.

I found that although the fuel in them had evaporated during the summer, there was no goo or any other form of residue inside them. In fact they were both spotless. And neither had the inlet rubbers perished – they were still like new.

The problem was that one strand of one carb’s throttle cable had snapped some way away fom the carburettor itself, where the cables fom both carbs meet actually and join with the single cable coming up from the throttle lever, but although it was the whole length of the cable away fom the carb, something like 80 cms, the strand had loosened itself down the whole cable’s length until at the carb slide end, it was fouling the cable outer enough to prevent the slide from fully closing.

So all I had to do was replace the split cable boots while the carbs were off and then fit two new cable inners. After cleaning their exteriors, replacing one primer rubber cap that had split and refitting them, the job was done and idling was back to normal.

The other main job that I had to do was repaint the propeller tips yellow. Although the aircraft has hardly been flown since I last did it, while the propeller was inside its black plastic cover, the heat of the summer had caused the yellow paint to blister and then dry out leaving parts of the paint looking like the surface of the moon.

It didn’t take too much to rub it down and make it smooth again before giving it a flash coat of universal primer yesterday and a fresh coat of yellow today. Then I pumped up its tyres and after a few minutes work cleaning the cabin interior and screen, the X-Air will be ready to fly across to Ste Foy la Grande to show the prospective purchaser.

If the wind doesn’t pick up too much, as it’s forecast to do unfortunately, I hope to do a flight test tomorrow and the flight to Ste Foy on Sunday, so it’ll just be a matter of waiting to see how things turn out.

There have also been some developments on the car front. It appears that my thinking that my Kia might have to be written off and sold for peanuts may be far too pessimistic. A thorough internet search has revealed an ample supply of second-hand engines right across Europe, some at quite attractive prices. I’ve especially found one near to San Sebastian in Spain, which is only five hours drive away, removed from another automatic Sportage, at a very attractive price indeed.

It is being offered by the breaker with a one year warranty and I’ve now been chasing them for two or three days saying that if they can confirm that it is in good running order, suffering from just the usual wear for its age and not making any nasty knocking or other noises, I’ll pay them straight away and be down with my trailer next week to pick it up.

But can I get a sensible reply out of them? Can I heck! I just don’t understand how these people stay in business if they are that unbothered about selling stuff. In the meantime, my next-door-neighbour has told me about a French web site that specialises in searching for second-hand engines and having registered last night, I’ve been receiving a steady stream of offers today.

However, none tick as many boxes as the Spanish engine does so I just wish that the seller of the latter would do his job and get back to me with the information that I need. After all, it’s not rocket science, is it 😐