Does the trail end here?

Posted: November 9, 2008 in random
Tags: ,


One of the highlights of my recent holiday in the South of Spain was the day I spent trailbiking in the Andalucian Mountains and foothills. It really was one of the best days out I’ve had in ages. I own a road bike and would consider myself a fairly capable rider but I’ve never really done much off road stuff (unless you count riding round my garden on a scrambler when I was 12).

I booked with an English run company, Andalucian Trailtours and on the day it ended up being me, another English guy and our English guide. We rode for basically the whole day and covered approximately 130km of off road tracks and trails with only small bits of tarmac connecting them. The scenery was fantastic and the experience was made all the more exciting (and tricky) by the flash floods which had affected the area 2 days earlier. For example we arrived at the crossing pictured above and the guide said “…this river isn’t normally here…..I’ve no idea how deep it is……let’s just go for it anyway!”

What amazed me was the extent of access for trailbikes though these mountains. It would be a bit like me turning up to Donard park (Mournes, Newcastle) and riding up to ‘the saddle’.

Which got me thinking. This is a sport I would love to be able to do locally. Sadly there seems to be little opportunity for any extent of trailbiking in Northern Ireland and a general dislike of any off road vehicles. Trailbiking does not seem to be considered to be particularly ‘PC’. Most areas are ‘protected’ and access is restricted to hiking only. Even access for mountainbikers seems poor and lags well behind other European countries.

But why should this be – is what I’m looking for really all that bad? I’m all for protecting the environment but I’m also all for the countryside being accessible to all sorts of groups to enjoy it.  Would it really be such a bad thing to have certain tracks and trails designated for different activities -some for hiking, some for mountain biking and some for motor vehicles – perhaps even for 4x4s so that all those city folk could let their cars stretch their legs. And relatively speaking, I’m talking about a small controlled area. I understand the environmental argument but let’s be realistic – the impact on nature would be minimal and would be outweighed by the benefits – an increase in tourism, potential revenue for local authorities etc and most importantly people having the freedom to enjoy themselves in the great outdoors. Take skiing for example – no-one seems to complain about the environmental impact of this sport. But the continued use of pistes damages the underlying vegetation and disturbs the natural wildlife, and think of all the coal that needs to be burned to create the electricity to power the ski lifts. But who cares?! In the scheme of things it’s on a relatively small scale, it makes excellent use of the land and people love doing it. A trail biking area wouldn’t need to be nearly as big as a ski resort.

The locals in Andalucia seem to totally accept & welcome the trailbikes which if nothing else brings more tourists to the area. Having designated tracks or areas would also be likely to reduce maverick motocrossers who illegally ride on protected land giving the rest of us a bad name.

How amazing would it be to be able to ride up to the Hare’s Gap for example. Unfortunately unless I’m elected first minister I’m unlikely to see it in my lifetime. In the meantime I’ll just need to look into significantly increasing my carbon footprint by travelling to the mainland or across to Europe if I want to satisfy my appetite for my new found hobby. Shame…




Car/phone Whyhouse – Part 2

Posted: October 14, 2008 in random

So now you’ve decided to save yourself some money by buying only used cars, you’ll need something else to spend that money on. May I suggest an iphone…

Having got myself one a few weeks ago, I’ve found myself asking the question: ‘Why does everyone not have one of these?’

The iphone 3G really must be the best gadget ever. It’s probably not the best phone in the world but it’s by far my favourite toy. Here’s my list of top things I can do with my phone:

1. I can use it like a satnav to pin point my position and it will give me directions anywhere I want to go. If I had any friends I could also see where they are at any point in time.

2. Using the GPS system I can use the free app ‘trailguru’ to record distance covered and speed etc in the unlikely event of me going for a run or a hike.

3. I can check the weather for the coming week in any major city in the world (amazingly including Coleraine!)

4. I can find out the name of any song playing on the radio or anywhere within earshot of the iphone using the free app ‘Shazam’. Then I can download it from itunes if I want. (This really is amazing – It hasn’t got it wrong yet!)

5. Using yet another free app ‘Movies’. I can check all the latest films on release, watch a trailer, read a review, then with a push of a button (and the phone determining my position by GPS) get the local cinema times, along with a map of how to get there.

6. I can surf the net at a surprisingly fast speed and unlike e.g. a blackberry can view the web page as you would on a normal PC. Phone numbers are automatically highlighted on web pages and dialled just by touching the number.

7. I can quickly check the latest figures from the stock market with lovely graphs which show me how much money my shares ISA has lost in the past month.

8. The accelerometer is a particularly cool feature. It’s basically an internal gyroscope which senses the phones position. It’s a bit like a Wii controller and there are loads of games which use it. I can practice my golf swing, go bowling, use the phone as a spirit level and my favourite; use it as a lightsaber. I would also recommend Crash Bandicoot Nitrokart which is a racing game where you steer by tilting the phone from side to side -it’s genius!

So there you have it. Conclusive evidence that the iphone will change your life and that yes I really am a nerd.

Ok, so none of the things I’ve mentioned are actually things you need in your life or from a phone.

But I still think everyone should have one! Let me know if you get one and maybe we could meet up to have lightsaber fights….  🙂

Car/phone Whyhouse Part 1

Posted: September 30, 2008 in random
Tags: , ,

Well, it’s been a while! But the obscure ridiculous titles are back. The worst thing about my absence is that anyone who checks on my blog every now and then will have been given the impression that the only event in my life worth blogging about over the past few months has been my eldest son peeing on my youngest son.

Anyway after a long period of absence from the blogosphere I pledge to publish at least 2 posts in the next 2 weeks (this one included). This task will be made easier by the fact that I have recently acquired an iphone 3G which immediately gives me endless nerdy material about all the cool stuff I can now do with my phone which I am sure will change my life in ways I can not even begin to imagine…

But back to the intended topic for discussion for this post: ‘part 1’. Basically, new cars….why?

I was pleased to acquire a new vehicle over the summer. The change was probably overdue and was most welcomed by my good wife who regarded my previous mode of transport (an Audi TT) as the embodiment of my (early) mid life crisis. Thankfully this ‘reckless’ period of my life appears to be over and my Volkswagen Passat at less than half the horse (& probably pulling (not that this concerns me 🙂 )) power is a more appropriate and a little less flashy family car.

My ‘new’ car is in fact just over 3 years old, it is an ex-lease hire vehicle and has been fully serviced, and being in good all round condition (& a diesel Volkswagen) should drive well for the next 100,000 miles at least. The price? Just over £4000.

Which leaves me with the question: ‘Why do people buy new cars?’

I genuinely don’t get it. Is it just to enjoy the ‘newness’ and if so is it a price worth paying? A new VW passat of similar spec to mine would cost well over £15k. I cannot imagine that spending an extra £11K on my car would result in any significantly increased satisfaction or other benefits. Maybe it’s a desire for hassle free motoring in terms of maintenance etc. Again £11K would go along way in maintenance bills and modern cars are generally so reliable anyway.

So please enlighten me because it seems to me that if you buy new cars you must have money to burn!

Having said that, if you are in the habit of buying cars new from the showroom, it is important that you continue to do so. A high demand for new cars means there will always be plenty of second hand cars which in turn keeps the market value of used cars low for stingy gits like me.

The downside of this however is that sadly I have as yet been unable to sell my TT. So if you know anyone who might be interested let me know (late 2000 Audi TT 225bhp, denim blue, full leather, 80k miles, FSH, all usual TT extras, excellent condition. First to see will buy! £7000)


Two are better than one

Posted: July 5, 2008 in random

I have a couple of friends who are expecting their second child shortly (including TBYC). Ours are 2 yrs and 6 months, and so I’ve been asked on a few occasions how having two kids compares to one. My reply is usually along the lines of saying: it seems like more than twice the work (for my wife -not for me – obviously!), there’s more potential for lack of sleep, everything takes much longer like eating a meal, getting ready to go out etc. But (and actually it’s a big but) it’s totally great and it feels like a proper wee family.

So I would definitely say two are better than one. There are also things that I’ve experienced that I would have missed out on without a second child. Take for example tonight during bath time (after Daniel had pooed twice in the bath), while I was in the other room, I heard my wife scream at the top of her voice:

“LUKE! You do NOT do a wee-wee on your brother! You do it on the toilet!”

Such fun!

I love living ‘up’ the North Coast. Not only are there fantastic beaches, no traffic and friendly people, but we are privileged to experience the entertainment provided by the areas finest journalists in the local free and delivered to your door newspaper.

So following my last post of headline suggestions, I thought I’d share some top stories from this week’s edition of ‘The Leader’: (Faces have been blanked out to save any embarrassment)

(Click to enlarge)

Ps: Please take special note: Places for the tour of historic sites in Kilraughts are limited. Book now!

Came across this story from the BBC:

Amazing! This is one of those stories where headline writers could have a field day. Here are a few of my suggestions:

‘Canadian mounties get cold feet’

‘6 foot plunder!’

‘Footprints (with feet) in the sand.’

‘Epidemic of Athlete’s feet hits Canada’

‘Dead men definitely not walking’

‘Mystery afloat in Canadian waters’

I’ve alluded in the past to my fascination with blog stats. It may be quite sad, but I do find it interesting to know how randomers happen to come across my online ramblings. WordPress clearly do a great job in representing posts to the search engines and I’ve been monitoring the terms people have used to find my posts. So here are the all time top 3 most frequently searched terms:

1. Eskimo’ or Eskimos. Over 140 people have searched for this. What is the fascination with Eskimos? Is there something exciting going on in the Eskimo world that we’re all missing?

2. Unique questions’. Perhaps the fact over 100 people searched this term points to the fact that it’s in our human nature to be searching for the unique – not just the answers to life and our existence but also the questions (see Hitch hikers Guide to the Galaxy). Of course if you follow through on my logic it’s even more in our human nature to have an interest in eskimos.

3. ‘Obama sin laden’. Interestingly over 30 people searched this specific term – and there’s me thinking I was being original.

Here are some of the less frequently searched but slightly more entertaining/baffling/just plain disturbing terms:

  • Testis jpg
  • Elephant leather Jacket
  • Elephant woman
  • Most clever cover letter I’ve ever read
  • Elephant questions
  • Undressing for the doctor
  • Tips on getting DLA for my 3 year old
  • Beat DLA dr (I wonder whether this means in the ‘being successful over’ sense or in the ‘give physical beating’ sense!)
  • Understanding time infinity
  • Why are sardines oily?
  • Testicle electrode
  • Photos of people being kicked in the testicles
  • Mackerels and sardines ‘difference between’
  • Elephant evolution
  • Things to put up bum
  • Best things to put in your bum

So in an attempt to boost my modest blog stats here’s what you’re all clearly looking for; quite a unique question involving Eskimos:

Qu: How would you sell Ice to an Eskimo?

Ans: Point out that your ice is vitamin and mineral enriched. Also, while still bagged it will stay clean (avoiding the potentially dangerous and well documented problem of eating yellow ice or snow). Furthermore, it comes in ready to use small handy chunks and can be stored either inside or outside (as long as it is next to or in other ice).