1997

August - Mid Wales Meander

Lunch stop at one of the many reservoirs in the Mid-Wales hills Our first run with Malcolm Williams of Border Tours. Starting from Knighton on the English/Welsh border - a main point to explore Offa's Dyke - 70 miles of Welsh mountain and hillside roads with the main stopping point of the run at the Elan Valley Reservoir and Nature Reserve. Good country for spotting birds of prey.

July - MGC Day at Bewdley Safari Park

I've never 'C'een so many Hadn't been to the Safari Park since the kids were little. Good weather, we enjoyed it, but opted to ride on the bus through the animal compounds rather than use 'Bee'!

July - The Aston Martin factory and Gaydon with Paul Kile.

From basic chassis ... ... to finished shell ... via hand-beaten panels. Engine parts selected and ready for assembly. Finished engine
complete with builders signature on cam-cover. The finished article - with the emphasis on the word 'art'. Bee 'n me at the Aston Martin factory
from Paul Kile's record of his UK trip While we were in France Paul Kile from California was touring England - we had 'met' on the Internet when he opened the 'MGB-GT V-8s and V-8 Conversions' topic on the MG BBS - Paul has a factory V8, a grey import, and is a member of the Sacremento Valley MG Car Club. The day after our return from France I met up with Paul at the Aston Martin factory where Paul's friend had arranged a tour of the factory and service facilities for us. Very interesting, not least because the new Vantage was in production but had not yet been announced.
Paul Kile and Michael A line up of MGs you will not see anywhere else in the World.  It includes Old Number One,
EX.179,
the 'last of line' MGB GT,
EX_E,
and the first roadster rebodied with a Heritage shell - 'TAXI. Le Mans Rover/BRM turbine car. Drivers-eye view of a turbine car.  Enough gauges for you? The next day saw us at Gaydon with Kelvin Fagan of the MG 'M' Group.

July - The Lot valley in France.

About to board the Hovercraft after torrential rain on the journey down Part of the vineyards at Chateau Latuc 'Bee' drying out at the gite St Cirque Le Popie - said to be France's prettiest village Typical gorge in the Lot The Lot at the town of Fumel Typical Lot village - no meters
yellow lines
wardens ... The Hovercraft for our journey home - a bit drier than when we arrived Spent two days travelling down - the first was a nightmare of torrential rain in England and France, plus a monumental jam around Paris. Arrived at our overnight stop at about 8pm absolutely exhausted, at an hotel on the banks of the Loire. The hotel had a one Michelin star restaurant and a superb meal and wine restored our spirits. Next day was dry and uneventful - but only the French would consider keeping the road through a village open to traffic in the midst of a fair, with stalls both sides of the road and people milling everywhere. Arrived at the gite (barn conversion) at about 5pm - just as the rain started. It then rained non-stop for 24 hours, and to cap it all, we had a power cut and missed the end of the French GP on TV.

The first week was cool and cloudy and rained most days (the gite owner kept saying every day "Soleil demain"), and we half considered coming home a week early. But the second week the sun came out and made it all worth while.

The Lot valley is very beautiful, quieter and more 'natural' (less touristy) than the Dordogne. We did a lot (!) of touring round the area. The bastide (hill-top) villages are amazing - very beautiful, and you can just drive in and park in the main square, no tourists and virtually no traffic, and wander round in the peace and tranquillity. We stayed close to the Chateau Latuc vineyard run by a very nice English couple and selling superb wines. They also have an excellent web site with lots of information on the area.

The journey home was completely straightforward - same overnight stop as before, so we knew to expect a good meal. Completed nearly 2, 500 miles in two weeks and not a beat missed, not even in all that rain, even though quite a lot came in and poor 'Bee' was perpetually damp for the first week.

June - Spring-swap for 'Bee'

Since fitting wire wheels, even with conversion hubs, 'Bee' had always tended to rub her tyres on the outer arches, particularly on the left side. Fully laden for Jersey it had been really bad, I had had to take all bends really slowly. With a trip to France coming up I decided I had to do something about it. After a lot of discussion with the owner of D&S Classics at Stratford-upon-Avon (good parts supplier) and looking at a number of combinations he happened to have on his sale cars, I opted for Rubber Bumper roadster springs front and rear. The result was mostly good - the front rode at almost the same height (the new springs were harder but shorter) and the rear was about an inch higher. This stopped the rubbing except when great gusto was employed. Other benefits were reduced body roll, reduced dive on braking, better clearance for the middle silencer, and I could remove the rear wheels with the car jacked at the U-bolts (before it always had to be jacked at the front hanger). I subsequently discovered that the rear had become lighter in the wet - more likely to break-away.

May - Jersey MG Rally

Avebury standing stones
on the way to Poole Lunch at the Grouville Bay Hotel after the auto-test.  It had been raining during the test but just an hour later was glorious sunshine Damp morning at Bonne Nuit Bay Lavender Villa Hotel.  <b>Not</b> chosen because the colour complemented Black Tulip
honest Martello Tower at one of the bays Glorious drive down to Poole in Dorset to pick up the Sea-Cat fast ferry to Jersey - to find that it was only running on three out of its four engines, and instead of arriving in the early evening for a civilised dinner, we would not be arriving until about midnight. To cap that, the ferry company omitted to tell the Jersey MG club when we would be arriving, as asked, so that they could lead us to our individual hotels, so we had to find our own way in the dark. And boy, does it get dark on Jersey. None of these high-intensity sodium street lights that light up the sky. Still we found it OK with only one wrong turn.

Good selection of events organised - concourse, treasure hunt, barbeque, driving test. We had Sunday morning free so decided to go for a mosey round the island. That afternoon was the treasure hunt - and we found ourselves covering almost the same route. We travelled 100 miles that day, not bad for an island 3 miles long and 2 across!.

The weather had suddenly deteriorated, and on the morning of our return a full-scale storm was blowing. Watched the ferry timetables on teletext to see them cancelled one-by-one, until only our Sea-Cat and the big cargo ferry were left. The people at the hotel said they would keep our room for us as they were sure we wouldn't get off the island. We did, but what a crossing. As we left the port I went out on the rear deck to take a few last pictures. When I turned to go back to the cabin we were sailing directly into the wind, which was so powerful I had to haul myself hand-over-hand down the stairs. The vessel was lurching all over the place pitching, rolling and corkscrewing, and every so often we would crest a wave to just free-fall into the trough with an almighty crash. I really feared for 'Bee' as I noticed the crew had only been able to secure her by one front wheel, because the rear wheels were so close to the arches they couldn't get the straps round. All was well though.

May - Scumbags attack 'Vee'

'Vee' was attacked twice in five days while parked under a carport at my home, with a security light at one end and a street lamp at the other. The first time was a shock, the second time it felt personal. All that was stolen was a cheapo Halfords radio minus its front panel, so it wasn't any use to them anyway. I reckon they only considered breaking in because so many lazy gits leave the front panel under the seat or in the glovebox. Fortunately damage was relatively minor, a new windscreen, rubber and trim the first time (on the insurance, 'no-claims discount' unaffected) and half a quarter-light hinge "50 pence to you, sir" the second. However that put paid to my search for a Maestro - my wife put her foot down and refused to "have another car on the drive getting broken into all the time". In the meantime 'Vee' now has an alarm with dual-zone microwave unit, ultrasonics, shock, voltage and perimeter sensing. The dual zones means that anyone who gets too close to the car gets a warning beep and if they get inside they get the full works including an internal 'screamer' siren. The interesting thing is that two days after 'Vee' was back under the carport again (she had been in a neighbours garage until the alarm was fitted) the warning beep went off exactly as if someone had walked up to the car and away again. I went outside but couldn't see anyone. False alarm? Well, it's never happened since.

April - The Kimber Run

Ready for the off Chatsworth House Chose the route that gave Denby Pottery as the main stopping-off point (the Navigator can't resist a pottery). Got the opportunity to make 'his and her' pottery frogs, which sit on the window sill looking at me as I write.