Monday, December 25, 2023

The last bit


Getting over depression at the "Ken Dodd" exhibition in Liverpool
Ken was a great comedian from Liverpool

Guilty conscience speaking here.

I left the summer trip unfinished. My apologies.

What happened? After this ramble there is the blog post I wrote but didn't publish.

Why? The last 2 years have been amazing, we loved the little motorhome and it had everything we wanted. When it came time to sell we expected another loving owner to snap it up at a reasonable price and we would return to the US happy.

What actually happened? We left ourselves 6 weeks to advertise it and sell it which we thought would be plenty. To get a ballpark value for it we visited a dealer and asked them for an offer. It was very low, which to an extent we expected from a dealer. At least we now had a rock bottom selling price and anything above that was for the better.

How did it go? Well the advert was placed on Facebook Marketplace and we immediately got a call from a very Irish guy who definitely wanted it for his own use and would be happy to pay our full asking price. His brother was in our area and would call us the following day. Next day another very Irish guy called saying he was the brother but his name wasn't what the first guy told us. When I asked about that he said he was the first guys OTHER brother! Could he come see it. we OK'd that but then he said it would be all cash and he offered us half of what we were asking. 

We weren't interested and he got belligerent, I finally just hung up on him.

Next day we got another phone call from another Irishman who wanted it so him and his mother could do some touring, he really liked the pictures and would pay our full asking price. Then he asked if I'd been contacted but the first Irish guy. ???? When I said I had he asked me not to mention his name if the first guy called back again!

Naturally this latest Irishman was going to arrive the next day to look at it and would have cash. But only half of the asking price.

Starting to sound familiar?

We just hung up on subsequent Irish callers!

A few people came and looked, one had to sell his van before he could buy ours, another found some rotten wood that we had never noticed. Another was definitely buying it and would get the deal done when he got back from vacation.

It all fell thru. We stayed with my sister for a week and house sat while she went on a cruise and her kitchen got rebuilt. A few days before we left we went round to the dealer and accepted his offer.

We were pretty crushed for a while. We had considered storing it again and going back again in 2024 to take it across into Europe for another summer, but when we added up the cost of airfares, safety inspections, taxes, insurance etc it would have cost about the same as we would lose just selling it to the dealer.

When we sat back and looked at it from an economic standpoint we did well. What we lost wasn't too bad considering we had it 10 months and used it every day. Last time we did something similar back in 2017 we had a crappy motorhome that broke down all the time. We cut our trip short just to get rid of the thing. After that we worked out that it cost us about $1000 a month for the use of the MH.

This time we had 10 months of fun, saw everything we wanted to see and more and when we added up the cost it came to...... About $1000 a month!

If we had tried to do the same renting a MH it would cost about $1000 A WEEK! Renting a car and staying in hotels would have been about $2000 a week, and we wouldn't have found all the great pubs to camp in either!

So looking back at it 3 months later we realize that we did really well and enjoyed the whole thing. It didn't cost us too much and we are thrilled that we got to do it.

Now back to that blog post I failed to publish, please read on.

We came close to keeping the MH for another year.

Leaving Edinburg.

Beware that you need to buy tickets a year in advance otherwise you wont get in

So what do you do when you have achieved all your ambitions and seen/done everything you wanted to see?

We were puzzled too! We sat and looked at the map book and at the “Wiggly Line” the sketch of our route so far.

We decided that seeing how we’d come up the East coastal route we would go back down on the West coastal route!

Once a fishing port Whitehaven is now a pleasure boating place.

We crossed back into England and followed the coast thru the western edge of the Lake District with the mountains on one side and the Irish Sea on the other.

One place I used to drive thru twice a week when I worked in nearby Barrow in Furness in the early 70’s was the town of Ulverston.

A quiet little town with a famous son, Stan Laurel of the Laurel and Hardy comedy duo was born here and they have a very amusing statue of them in the center of the town.

Stan (left) was born in Ulverston.
We had intended to hug the coast all the way down to the Wirral but the busy major seaside towns of Morecombe and Blackpool were in our way, so we bypassed the traffic and ended up on the motorway.

Of course we stayed back at Arrowe Brooke Farm which has become our go to spot.

We both felt tremendously deflated. We had achieved all our ambitions and seen the places we had wanted to see. It was the end of August and we had timed things to allow 6 weeks to sell the motorhome before we flew out.

To give ourselves a lift we called our friends Graham and Ellaine who live near Lincoln and invited ourselves over to visit them for the August Bank Holiday weekend.

We had lunch in another great pub in Lincoln

Barb and Graham at the car show
Gracious hosts as always, they welcome us and proceeded to entertain us each day with car shows and visits to a spectrum of venues in the area. 

Before we knew it we were heading back to Arrowe Brooke Farm.

Liverpool docks, now a recreation area.

We stopped at a couple of large motorhome dealers to get an idea of what the dealers might offer and to our surprise they all came up with exactly the same low offer. There must be some kind of national pricing guide like Kelly Blue Book in the US as all the dealers came up with the same price, including one who made us an offer sight unseen!

We put ads on Facebook Marketplace and on a Swift Owners Club website and waited for the offers to roll in.

Now a really depressing time started. We had all kinds of flakes and chancers calling making ridiculous promises and crazy offers. One messed us around for over a month and we even drove 100 miles for him to see it.

Leasowe Castle on the Wirral

Superb interiors, the castle is now a Hotel.
During this time we went to my sister’s house to house sit while she was on a cruise. She had it all worked out because she had scheduled the rebuild of the kitchen while she was away! Good move Jackie! But thanks for putting up with us.

Living in the rubble while Jackie cruises

We put the rig in storage and rented a car so we could empty the rig and still get around. Eventually all leads on the sale of the rig fell thru and with a week left before we left we sold it to a dealer on the Wirral.

A side trip to the seaside resort of Colwyn Bay in Wales.

Looking at it rationally we had the use of the rig for 2 summers. If we had tried to do the same thing with rental cars and hotels it would have cost way more than we paid for the rig.

In addition we bought it in peak demand (Spring) and sold it in the low demand period (Autumn). We could have stored it for the winter and come back next spring to get the maximum price but we would have had to pay for another set of air fares, a rental car, hotels, insurance, road taxes, safety inspection and any repairs needed for that, plus winter storage.

We calculated that to come to about $6,000. If we added that to the offer the dealer had made we came up with about what we hoped to sell it for in the spring. So while we didn’t come away from it with a lot, it ended up costing us about the same per month as the one we bought 6 years ago when we toured Europe, and this rig was 100 times better than the previous one and it didn’t break down all the time and leak when it rained!

We came to terms with everything and packed our suitcases.

Dinners with friends and relatives filled several days then we left Jackie’s after a final roast dinner with my 2 sisters, a visit Sally and the grandkids and another with Barbara’s brother and sister in law and went off to spend a few days exploring Manchester.

Sally and Alan live on a canal boat.
The swans come pecking at the hull when they want feeding.
They are VERY insistent

Manchester is or was a big manufacturing center abut 40 miles from the Wirral, we were due to fly from there to London and on to Phoenix, and in all the years we lived in England neither of us had ever been there!

Today Manchester has become quite a trendy place and it was full of little restaurants and bars. We did the usual Hop on Hop off bus tour first to find out what we should see and decided to try the Museum of Science and Industry.

That turned out to be a bust! There used to be 3 separate halls but when we got there we found the Air and Space hall had closed years before and a second hall was shut for rebuilding, leaving just the textile hall.

That was quite interesting as it showed the incredible wealth the city had accumulated by importing cotton and exporting woven cloth and manufactured goods as one stop in what is know as “The Cotton Triangle”.

For those that don’t already know, that was the system whereby slaves were bought in Africa, transported to the US and sold. The profits bought cotton which was shipped to Liverpool and Manchester where it was turned into cloth which was shipped to Africa and sold, with the profits buying more slaves.

The rich got richer, especially as they also controlled the factories and shipping companies.

A sad time for mankind but thankfully one that has mostly been eradicated now.

We had some great meals and visited a few nice real ale pubs. Sally had decided to visit our place in Arizona while we were still in UK and we would cross at the airport so we managed a couple of hours at her hotel.

Before we could blink we were getting a taxi to the airport at 6am for the flight to London and the onward segment to Phoenix were we were picked up by our friend Ed and dropped at our place in Casa Grande.

And that as they say was it!

The final complete "Wiggly Line" that everyone seemed to enjoy!

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Edinburgh 2023

 Long live the No Plan Kids!

We were soon in Edinburgh but parked about 20 miles west of the city near the airport. Luckily that gave us great access to the tram (Trolley) system that goes directly from the airport thru the city center and out to Leith on the Forth River Estuary.

Once settled in the campground we headed into the city. Of course we were here this time last year too with the grandkids.

Last  year with the grand kids
We bought tickets for the “Hop on Hop off” busses and took the circular tour to figure out what we wanted to see while we were here.

Royal Yacht Britannia

Ships Bell
Pretty soon we decided to see the “Royal Yacht Britannia” which was retired from service and made into a tourist attraction. 
Holyrood House (Barb's Picture)
Barbara wanted to see “Holyrood House” which is the Royal Family’s home when they visit Edinburgh.

The worlds first jet airliner and British too.
Soon enough we had those taken care of plus a visit to the “National Aircraft Museum” in East Fortune. A visit to the Jim Clarke Museum was cancelled when we discovered it was closed on the day we wanted to visit (Jim Clarke was a famous Formula 1 Champion in the 1960’s).
Fabulous Edinburgh Castle

So most of this blog will be of the Edinburgh Tattoo which is held in the mighty castle that dominates the whole city.

I had been bragging about how I designed the camera and lighting galleries for the grandstands at the castle but I was dismayed to find out that they had scrapped mine in 2011 and built a new structure! Mine only lasted 40 years, how disappointing.

The grandstand I DIDN'T design!
Pictures tell a better story than I do so here are LOTS of pictures. The marching bands came from UK, USA, Norway, Switzerland and Jamaica plus dance troops from around Scotland.

Ever see a marching band from Switzerland?

With Alpen Horns??
The whole show lasted 90 minutes and was amazing, with light and sound effects and fireworks at the end. Royalty was present with the new Duke of Edinburgh in the Royal Box and taking the salute from the Royal Air Force Band Master.

The Duke of Edinburgh

We eventually got out at about 11.30pm then had to walk down the steep hill from the castle to Prince’s Street for the tram back. By the time we got to bed is was 1.30am. We were tired but entirely satisfied by the experience, so if you ever get the chance go. Be aware that you need to buy tickets a year in advance otherwise you wont get in.

Arizona represented in the light and firework show

Jamaican steel drum marching and dance troops

Thursday, August 17, 2023

East coast wandering

 The “No Plan Kids” Had no plan!

Is this the end of the Dynamic Duo?

Will the World spin off it’s axis?

Tune in next time to find out!

Well we are still here so the World didn’t spin off its axis……

So what were we going to do? We still have tickets for the Edinburgh Tattoo at the beginning of August and that is about 450 miles from Portsmouth, so the obvious thing to do was start heading North!

Still a little confused we decided to head for our old stomping ground on the Wirral – Arrowe Brooke Farm. Trevor who runs it has become a good friend now and had no problem fitting us in.

We stayed 3 nights, had dinner with Stewart and Linda (Barb’s brother and sister in law) then breakfast with our daughter Sally at the Marina where she lives on a canal boat.

The Marina and canal boats
In between we though about where we’d been and we realized that we had never been to the North East coast of England.

And the “No Plan Kids” hit the road again with some generally West then North kind of ideas.

Barbara’s cousin Janet lives in a small seaside town, Filey and as that was on the North East coast we found a campground just a 5 minute walk outside of town.

Good Yorkshire summer weather, pouring rain and blowing a gale!

Unfortunately this area is known for it’s bad weather and true to form it rained almost the whole time we were there. We met up with Janet and walked around the sea front then looked for somewhere to eat. Unfortunately it seems everywhere closes at 3pm! Being Monday was even worse as apparently only 2 restaurants are open on Mondays and one was fully booked.

Even the lobsters were turning blue with the cold!

We managed to get a table in the other one and enjoyed fresh seafood there.

Yum fresh fish and chips

This whole coast is famous for holiday resorts and fishing so there are lots of choices for both usually. We headed further North following the Northumberland Coastal Route with glimpses of the cliffs and a gray cold looking North Sea.

Lindisfarne the "Holy Isle" where Christianity first came to Britain

A stop at the “Holy Isle” Lindisfarne was very enjoyable. The island has a causeway to it from the mainland and the tides are posted everywhere because when the tide comes in the causeway is submerged! Even so we saw later that dome foolish people managed to get stranded.

The UK maps always fool us because of the scale. Our Rand McNally maps in The US are about 25 miles to the inch but the UK one which is the same physical size as our US map book is only 5 miles to the inch. As a result places that we thonk should be 50 miles away by road run out to be 10!

Before we worked it out we were on the Scottish Border camping at the “Last Pub in England”!

We met another couple who were touring also and had a few pleasant chats with them. We were both leaving the next morning and gave the usual RV’ers farewell. “See you on the road somewhere”.

We had a little difficulty finding another place to stay between there and Edinburgh, this being the height of the summer season (despite all the rain), plus the Edinburgh Festival is on which attracts people from all over the planet.

We eventually found a little “Ayre” with 4 places in a little fishing village called Eyemouth and fortuitously it was the “Herring Festival” with events like a sand castle competition, rowing race and a Miss Herring Fleet competition. A fun Fair was in town and there were fireworks on Saturday evening. 

Picturesque Eyemouth Harbour
The first people we met were the couple we'd bid farewell to that same morning! They were camped next to us! 

Sand castle competiton!
We had so much fun, found all the little local pubs, ate Lobster salad straight out of the fish mongers shop and met a young couple David and Jenna who were on here first ever RV trip in a rented motor home and struggling to find out how to work all the systems. Naturally we were glad to give them some hints and tips!

Tiny harbour entrance

Quaint back streets

Touching memorial to the victims and family
of the 1881 disaster in which 128 fishermen drowned in a storm.

We only had 60 or so miles to go to Edinburgh and decided to take some backroads. Just a few miles outside Eyemouth we stumbled across another knockout little fishing village called St Ebbs. 

St Ebbs Harbour

Fresh off the boat.
The equal of any we visited in Cornwall I think and seemingly carved out of the side of a rock cliff. Places like these are the reason we don’t plan anything. We would miss them if we had to drive from one place directly to another.

Long live the No Plan Kids!

Monday, July 31, 2023

Southampton, the Isle of Wight, Stonehenge

 With all the sights seen and pictures taken it was time to head east towards Southampton and the Isle of Wight

The race helmet of my motorcycle hero Mike Hailwood

Mike's Honda race bike.
It’s not far in terms of miles from Cornwall to Southampton and we took our time. We stopped in Beaulieu at the National Motor Museum. There were lots of very old cars there and many motorcycles. The cars that were built for the TV show Top Gear were on display in their own area, They even had the Reliant Robin that was supposed to have been launched into space and the caravan that James May converted to a balloon for one show.

The Reliant Robin "Space Shuttle" from Top Gear
We had several nice pub stops along the way with excellent food and good beer. We probably had the nicest 3 pub stops in a row between here and the Isle of Wight.

Drop dead gorgeous thatched pub we stayed at.
Barbara’s list of must do’s for this part of the trip have been Cornwall and the Isle of Wight.

Isle of Wight ferry from Southampton
The Island itself lies almost in the center of the south coast of England and is reached by short ferry rides from several ports. As a result of our trip to Llangollen we were on a Facebook conversation among the family and Corrine kindly let us use one of her vouchers for the ferry which knocked $60 off the fare.

The ferry went from Southampton and dropped us in Cowes, which is the main town on the island and seemingly the center for all the world’s sail boats! Major ocean races start in Cowes and “Cowes Week” is a huge festival of sailing with people coming from around the world to attend.

The Classic British Sailboat race off Cowes,
Just outside of the town is a place called “Osbourne House” which is far from a house, as it was Queen Victoria’s favorite retreat for over 40 years.

Queen Victoria liked her comforts

Its now a National Trust property. National Trust manage Manor Houses, Castles and Stately Home all around the country. They were usually obtained when the original owners died and the punishing death duties in UK left the family with no choice but to donate the property to the government to settle the taxes.

The Indian themed dining room.
After Prince Albert died Victoria stopped going there and eventually it was taken over by the National Trust who maintain both the building and the contents and keep it open to the public for a fee.

We decided to drive around the island in a clockwise direction and stopped at a Camping and Caravanning Club site to fill and empty our tanks, shower etc. The site description was “Gently sloping with views of the sea”.

Whoever wrote that must have been a real estate sales person! The slight slope was a steep slope and in two directions. As we drove in there were motor homes and caravans at all kinds of wired angles trying to find a way of getting level. Even with out leveling blocks we were still too steep to use the fridge! As for the view of the sea you would need to be about 400 feet in the air to see it!

Antique rail carriages

And an antique engine to pull them
A side trip had us riding a steam train at Haven Street, a treat we have been promising ourselves for some time now, it was very pleasant and they had a good museum and workshop tour too.

Some deep restoration going on
We moved on after 2 nights and enjoyed the coast road along the south side of the island on the way to Yarmouth on the South West corner.

On the extreme west corner is a famous rock formation and lighthouse called “The Needles”. It was a tourist trap but we found a bus to save us the long walk out to the edge of the cliffs, which we appreciated!

One side of the headland and the Needles
For such a beautiful place it was amazingly enough the site of rocket testing in the 1960’s and Britain’s Black Knight guided missile engines were tested while tethered to big concrete test stands. Who ever came up with placing them in such an idyllic place??

Chalk ridges form the Needles with the famous lighthouse at the end.

This area of cliffs is famous for its multi coloured sands.
The little white dot at the top on the right is our motorhome

In Yarmouth we found a parking area on the coast where we could overnight for just $2!! The views were spectacular and we could walk into the old town harbor area in just 5 minutes. One of our favourites now!
Just a public parking lot but what a view

The old part of Yarmouth

Narrow streets

We had our last nights in Cowes at a great pub stop with friendly pub owners and great food. We got chatting to one of the locals and the time flew by.
Another pub stop

They had a folk music event in the beer garden.
That's our motorhome at the back on the left.
A bus took us right into the center of Cowes and we walked thru the shopping areas to the Esplanade on the harbor. The amount of yachts was amazing and some were HUGE. There were boats from Norway, Holland, Germany and the crowds were out in force.
Sailboats everywhere
Someone explained that the “Classic British” sailboat race was happening that day and the Fasnet Ocean race which goes from Cowes to the Fasnet Rock off South West tip of Ireland and back was starting at the weekend.
Ferry back to Portsmouth
Then were back on the ferry and off to see my cousins Liz and Helen in Portsmouth. We stayed at my late Aunt Sheila’s house for a couple of nights and took the cousins out for dinner.

I have wanted to see the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport so we took a cab down to the Portsmouth waterfront and took the chance to go up their local landmark, a sail like tower called the Spinnaker. Great views over the city and the harbour spoiled only by a drizzling rain which soaked us as we walked about a mile to the Submarine Museum.

I have worked on 3 different submarines in my career and so the interest is there. The Museum was well laid out and although it seemed small from the outside it took a long time to see everything. First we toured a WW2 submarine which is now hauled out of the water, the cramped spaces where up to 80 people lived and worked took some negotiating, and there was no crew on board!

HMS Alliance WW2 submarine

Very compact diving station.
They also had the Royal Navy’s first submarine there the “Holland” and a type X midget submarine of the type that attacked the Tirpitz in a Norwegian fiord in WW2.

UK's first submarine HMS Holland
Barbara’s next must see was Stonehenge which is only about 50 miles from Portsmouth so we had a side trip to the D Day museum on our way out of town.

View from the top of the Spinnaker Tower

Looking straight down thru the glass floor

Portsmouth and the surrounding area was the center of all the naval activity for D Day and the months after. All the landing craft loaded here and the escort forces gathered to shepherd them across the Normandy.

The museum was really good with lots of displays of artifacts and memorabilia. It kind of haunted me that my Dad had been here loading his tank on an LCT (Landing Craft Tank). In his photographs was a shot from a landing craft with white cliffs in the background. As far as I knew there were no such chalk cliffs in Normandy so it puzzled me. When we were on the Isle of Wight there were the chalk cliffs! A puzzled solved.


The standing stones

At Stonehenge we spent the morning wandering around the site. You can no longer walk into the ring of stones but it’s still an impressive place.
Usual view at Stonehenge!
We now realized that all the “Must Do’s” for our trip had been done! I think we both felt kind of deflated, for 2 summers we have had things to do and places to visit. Now the “No Plan Kids” had no plan!!

Is this the end of the Dynamic Duo?

Will the World spin off its axis?

Tune in next time to find out!!