Motorways of France

Motorways of France

Day 2 started at a fairly leisurely pace with some breakfast at the Ibis. For Kas, Kev and Ami it had been a restless night with lots of sneezing, coughing and changing of beds. Ami, bless her little heart, had spent half the night getting up to fetch tissues for Kas. In the other camp there had apparently been several hours of sound snoozing, which was only broken by Izzy needing a new nappy and then taking half an hour to settle back down again, during which time she was talking away like a talkie thing.

This time around we learned our lesson from last year and decided that the hotel breakfast was probably a good deal. And so it proved to be. There was a good selection of fruits, cereals, breads, drinks and other goodies. Plenty for all, in fact. I’m still not quite sure why they allow you to pre-pay adult meals but not childrens’, but the kids ate well along with the rest of us and by French standards we all got our money’s worth.

And so quickly upstairs to cram stuff into the overnight bags and clean our teeth, and then down to the Batmobile for a bit of cruising. Kas took the wheel and we quickly discovered that we were more or less on the road Felicity wanted us to be, and also were pointing in the right direction. So we escaped from Rouen very easily and were soon heading along the A13 in the direction of Caen. We had to push hard on the wheel to avoid driving down the A28, which is where you go for La Rochelle. Not that way this time, thank you very much!

Caen Autoroute.jpgThe road towards Caen is fairly uneventful apart from the large quantities of north Europeans heading in the same direction. All the toll stations were heaving and our choice of booth was limited at all of them by the fact that the credit card only lanes have a 1.8m height limit. Nett result of this is that anyone with a caravan, 4×4, people carrier or roofbox can’t pay by credit card. You only realize that far too late in the day and so there’s a large number of cars doing the soft shoe shuffle between lanes at the last second and generally causing confusion. We let in a bloke in a big 4×4 mainly because he opened the window and actually asked us. It wasn’t just because he was English, it was because he was nice about it. Ya Boo Sucks! to the French family in the Volvo who pulled in and nearly took our front bumper off.

The journey to Caen therefore took a bit longer than Felicity predicted and very much in time for an early lunch or late elevenses. We refuelled first, and this, too, took longer than necessary because the pay at pump insisted I put the nozzle back before it would take the credit card. I had put the nozzle in before I noticed the pay at pump option. The Peugeot isn’t the most thirsty of cars but she does have a big tank, so it costs a couple of quid to fill her up from near empty. Last fill up was last Sunday though, so a three quarters of a tank has seen Kas around MK for five days and then driven us to Caen from Milton Keynes.

The Giberville Services can best be described as a fuel station on steroids. French motorway services seem to come in two types – big, well provisioned ones, and over-sized fuel stops. This is a pretty busy motorway on a Saturday in summer and the immediate problem when we parked was the large and ever increasing queue for the toilets. Normal French arrangements apply, meaning that the ladies queue was actually a queue for any of the cubicles regardless of which room they’re in. Kev took Izzy into the gents (the baby change had no toilet and the disabled was locked….) and played the “this is the gents and I’m a gent” card despite carrying a small female. Well, it was that or a damp shirt.

The services did have a small kids play area so the girls got a bit of a run around while the rest of us queued, rotated bicycles and checked football scores, as it were. Having finished the necessary we then did a bit of free-form buying of drinks and biscuits with no particular structure and all ended up outside with a drink and some biscuits. And some smoothies (Fraise & Banane flavour) which Ami managed to knock over on the table. Good job it was an outside table.

So back to the car, with Kev at the helm and granddad translating Felicity and reading the book. We had to negotiate our way round Caen and an enormous queue for one of the junctions (our junction, as it happens) and then on to the A84 towards Avranches. This is a toll free section and hence also queue-free. It was quite busy but kept going all the way and it actually passed away very quickly. Just after Avranches it becomes the N175 and goes single lane for a bit. Not a problem as such except for the near tail-ending when the two lanes suddenly turned into a queue just round a blind corner. Sharp braking ? Hmmm! Just as well we don’t have a very heavy car with six people and a roofbox on top.

The N175 turns into the N176 and gains an extra lane at Pontorson and we breezed through this section and then the final few kms to Le Tronchet, our home for the next two weeks. It proved really easy to find the place, as it was all well signposted.

St_Malo_Gite.jpgThe apartment was ready and the owners were there to welcome us. In particular, they welcomed us with a fridge full of food that was more than enough for lunch. They had very nicely left us some wine as well. Can’t be bad. So we sorted out the sleeping arrangements and unloaded the car and got some lunch and took the roofbox off.

After that, there were two streams of activity. Ami, Izzy and Granddad stayed put and played in the garden. Kev, Kas and Granny went shopping for food in nearby Plerguer. The Supermarche Utile in Plerguer proved adequate for most purposes and we were back fairly soon and unloaded. We then remembered what we had forgotten to buy. Milk. Can’t get Izzy to sleep without milk. So Kas got her swimming kit on to stop Ami from exploding and Kev jumped back in the bus and went back to Plerguer. Didn’t take long though.

Tea involved three types of sausages, potato wedges and salad. Then the kids got a bath and went to bed. Granny and Granddad retired to the studio and Kas and Kev had a glass of wine and contemplated the holiday to come.

We got here fairly easily. Not much crying, not much complaining and not so much time. We made it here without the portable DVD player and without much use of the iPod. In fact, it was quite a pleasant trip down.


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Setting Off for St Malo

Setting Off for St Malo

Bacon Sandwich.jpgSo off we set at around 7:30am, with Granddad Pete volunteering for the first shift. And then we immediately hit problems. J13 looked like non-stop traffic heading south so we went straight on towards Bedford instead. They seem to have started rebuilding the A421 all the way to Bedford, so roadworks there too. But thankfully once past Bedford the roadworks were finished and we were on the new (to us) dual carriageway section running all the way over to the A1. So we maybe lost 30 minutes driving essentially in the wrong direction and then 20 more coming back down again.

Once we got to the M25 all seemed remarkably calm and normal again though. In fact last time around we lost ages queuing for the QE2 Bridge but this time, despite being Friday morning rush hour, we were over the bridge and down to Maidstone Services by 10am. The daughters didn’t have breakfast at home so the stop was also the cue for a round of bacon sandwiches, toast and Costa coffees. Mmmmmmmm! Bacon sandwiches.

QE2_Bridge.jpgAnd so to the tunnel. This time around we arrived a half hour before the final check-in time but weren’t offered and earlier train. Turns out that was because the earlier one was so full they couldn’t fit all the bookings on, never mind move anyone else forwards. So we took a quick break at the terminal building to “check the football scores”, “turn the bikes round” and other such delights. Then it was off through the passport control and into the queue for 25 minutes of dull, dull, dull, and finally much excitement as we pulled onto the high bay carriage and parked up. The high bay carriages are exactly the same as the low bay ones – just on one floor instead of two. Strangely enough, they take the same amount of time to get through the tunnel.

When we arrived in France we made a stop at the first garage to acquire Pringles, drinks and to make another bicycle rotation stop before the drive down to Rouen. The other necessity here, of course, was to switch on Felicity the Sat Nav. It seems Felicity had actually been asleep since August last year, when we returned from La Rochelle.

TunnelLoading.jpgOur destination was the Hotel Ibis in St Sever. Felicity found this nicely except for one bit of misdirection which we think was due to taking the wrong one out of 3 motorway junctions apparently in the same place. So we ended up driving alongside the Seine in the wrong direction. After a quick u-turn we were back on track.

Parking arrangements for the hotel were not listed on the confirmation so we were a bit exposed. We followed signs and ended up staring at an overnight car park under a nearby shopping mall which had a 1.80m height restriction. Yeah, as if ! Just as well we weren’t actually committed to that direction. So we executed a dodgy shuffle in the middle of a busy road (at 5pm on a Friday night) and then another loop around a roundabout before returning where we had been five minutes previously. We parked on the side of a busy road resolving to walk up to the hotel and check out the form. The receptionist offered a spot in the hotel’s underground car park which we again had to decline because it has a 1.95m height restriction. Thankfully the hotel has two (yes, all of two) free roadside spaces right outside the door and we duly parked the trusty Peugeot in one of these, taking care to leave enough room at the front to allow an exit from the space in the morning regardless of whether someone parked behind or not.

Tramway-de-Rouen.jpgWe established a cunning method of extracting bags from the roofbox (open the door and stand on the interior floor) and retired to our two three-berth rooms. The rooms were OK for the price. Not lavish but perfectly functional, each containing one double bed and one single. The only downside was that the two rooms were on different floors, but this turned out just to be because they only had one three-berth room on each floor. So Izzy was to be bunked up with the grandparents and Ami with us. We did a quick turnaround and then decided we would head off into the centre of Rouen for dinner and a bit of an adventure.

The adventure was caused by the choice to travel by tram/metro. There was a stop right outside and the hotel receptionist explained the process very well. Sadly though, she wasn’t aware that the ticket machine doesn’t accept non-French credit cards, and given this was our first day in France we don’t have pockets full of loose change. So we ended up missing at least three trams while we figured that we actually needed some coins, and Granddad walked back to the hotel to beg for some coins, which were given up somewhat reluctantly by all accounts.

RouenCathedral.jpgThe tram itself was fast and efficient. Not sure whether it is a tram or a metro though, because it alternates rapidly between sharing the road with cars, running on rails up the middle and ducking down through tunnels. We boarded at St Sever at road level and got off at Palais de Justice now three escalators underground.

Having found our way back to the surface we then proceeded to do a bit of idle wandering around the streets waiting for someone to blink and decide it was dinner time. It took a little while to do and in the meantime we walked down to the cathedral, found some little horse drawn carriage thingies and then waited for ages until Ami and Izzy finally could be dragged away from the horses. We also did a bit of architectural appreciation. There seem to be quite a few old buildings in the middle of Rouen which are mainly in quite good condition. Obviously the cathedral was surrounded by scaffolding (being cleaned), but the change of colour was dramatic so it’s probably worthwhile. The Palais de Justice appears to have been particularly attractive to the Nazis and its facade looks like fossilized Emmental.

We found a couple of restaurants in a nearby modern square and plumped for the only one which appeared to be open. I guess it was only 6:30pm but the form in France seems to be that places actually shut between lunch and dinner, so when we arrived we were told we had to wait 30 minutes before they could take a food order. Might as well, I suppose, because everyone else here seems to be properly shut.

Leffe.jpgWe got stuck into a nice round of drinks whilst waiting to order and all was going fine until we heard a rather unfortunate cracking noise, closely followed up by a bit of gagging and spitting coming from the general direction of Izzy. Oh God! What has she done ?  She’d got stuck in rather enthusiastically and had bitten right through the side of her glass and ended up with a mouthful of glass with her orange juice. Thankfully none of it stuck, so all was well, but it looks like Izzy is happy to maintain her nickname of KamikIzzy.

Food consisted of a selection of pizzas and pasta washed down with beer. We discovered granddad doesn’t like Leffe.

And so we retired to the Ibis for a good night’s sleep after a fairly long day. Just time on the way in to extract some bedtime pants from Izzy’s case (in the roofbox) and toothbrush (between the back seats).

The car was pretty full on the way down and it was a bit draining, so it was nice to allow a bit of time to explore in Rouen. The following day was to involve more French motorways in a jam-packed car. Best get all the sleep available.


St Malo Next >>

St Malo

St Malo

Wait for the night before saying that the day has been beautiful

Breton Proverb

St Malo 2010

In August 2010 we took a family holiday in St Malo.
We drove down through the Channel Tunnel and stayed over in Rouen on the way.
Granny and Grandad came with us in the car, which made for a fairly packed drive.

Saint_Malo_Flag.png

Setting Off for St Malo

Setting Off for St Malo

We set off at around 7:30am with Granddad Pete volunteering for the first shift. It started going wrong fairly quickly, with there being roadworks apparently everywhere.
Motorways of France

Motorways of France

A long day of driving across northern France, punctuated by a few random stops and ending with some relaxation.
Swimming & St Malo

Swimming & St Malo

Our first full day in St Malo, involving some swimming and an afternoon trip into our host city.
St Malo Aquarium

St Malo Aquarium

Every good holiday in France should involve an aquarium. We've done the fantastic one in La Rochelle, so it was time to try the one in St Malo.
Beaucoup de Rien

Beaucoup de Rien

The traditional day on the holiday where we couldn't really be bothered. We did a bit of shopping, a bit of swimming and a bit of walking, but not a lot else.
Mont St Michel

Mont St Michel

Today we decided to go to Mont St Michel, so we got up at some ungodly hour and jumped into the bus for the 45 minute drive over. It proved to be an interesting day.
Dinan

Dinan

Dinan is one of those really well presented twee little towns that France seems to be full of.
The Pink Granite Coast

The Pink Granite Coast

Some nice geology at the seaside. How could a holiday with kids be better ? Well, it could have been closer to home, I suppose.
The Dinard Donder

The Dinard Donder

A generally slow start to the day with a lack of enthusiasm all round. So we left Granny and Granddad at home and scooted off geocaching.
Pleudihen Fête du Blé

Pleudihen Fête du Blé

Hands up if you know what "blé" is ! We found out when we arrived at a fête that was dedicated to it.
The Norman Conquests

The Norman Conquests

The Bayeux Tapestry - it's not a tapestry and it wasn't made in Bayeux. I'm sure there's laws against that kind of mis-selling.
Hédé and Dinard

Hédé and Dinard

A bit of a walk around some locks on a canal, followed by a total inability to find a parking space in Dinard (again).
Cancale and Dinard

Cancale and Dinard

An afternoon on the beach, followed by a third failure at trying to get a parking space in Dinard.
St Malo & Dinan

St Malo & Dinan

An afternoon of wandering round the town, followed by an inexplicable trip back inland to find a restaurant. It was a good one though.
Rothéneuf Rocks

Rothéneuf Rocks

A visit to some crazy and slightly unnerving rock sculptures on a cliff above the sea, followed by a major battle between us and our luggage.
Going Home

Going Home

More driving than you can fit into a large "driving" container. France is quite big, especially when everyone is trying to drive across it in the same direction.


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iBletchWinspiration

iBletchWinspiration

So instead of packing materials to go on holiday we decided that a bit of caching must be in order. After all, who needs to spend time packing anyway ?

I can’t remember who’s idea it was to go out, but at some point during the day Kas had spent some time reading the clues for iBletchWin Bonus Cache – a previous “unknown” – we’d never quite figured it out. She had a theory, and that theory involved not needing to get the bikes out, so we thought we’d give it a go.

As usual, Kev seemed to be the only one wearing vegetation proof clothing and footwear and he was suitably dispatched into the undergrowth chasing Kas’s theory. She was correct, so the whole job took about 5 minutes. Which meant……

It was far to early to go home, so all agreed we’d go have a quick pop at Super Happy Team Stealth Fun Bench MK in Kingsmead. That’s one heck of a big name for such a small cache. As the owner notes in the text this is in a location that might be regarded as rather conspicuous. What could possibly be seen as suspicious about a group of four people parking up in a housing estate and walking all of 10 yards to sit on a bench for 5 minutes and then leaving again ? Coupled with the gentle background noise of curtains being opened just wide enough to be peered through. Oh, and a small child shouting “muggles” whenever anyone else came into earshot. We might as well have taken a pot of whitewash and written “look here” on the pavement. I hope it’s still there.

The holiday that we weren’t packing for was our two week trip to St Malo.


Breakfast at Tibshelf

Breakfast at Tibshelf

Is it possible to cache whilst on a business trip, wearing a suit and not in possession of a GPS device ?

It is if you check your route on GoogleMaps and pick somewhere easy and obvious.

In this case, the obvious place was Tibshelf Services on the M1. Why ? Because there appeared to be a cache, and that cache appeared to be easily accessible from the car park, and in a location that would not involve muck.

So I found the cache whilst wandering around with a coffee at breakfast time, having left home at 6:30am on a trip to Leeds. The cache in question is, of course, Motorway Mayhem M1 Tibshelf Services. It was exactly where the hint says, and it is possible to find it without a GPS if you read the hint. There are CCTV cameras nearby though.

Cool ! I’m on Telly.

By the time I got home, some stretching of legs was in order. I’d spent about 5-6 hours in the car driving to Leeds and back. So off out on the bike for a few more caches – the main target was the cunning Mission Impossible MK8 (see the Mission Impossible Series – Mega Blog Special). There was a side order of anything else achievable on the way home from there.

Obviously, being a puzzle cache, I can’t say where MK8 actually is, but it is somewhere between where I live and where it is shown on the Geocaching website. My chosen route up there was to bike around the Woodhill Prison and onto the North Bucks Way, which Kas told me is “worst at the bottom”. So I was expecting an acceptable quality for biking all the way. I’ll never believe her again. It would be OK when running, but the top end where it joins Oakhill Lane is pretty much of a farm track with deep ruts and lots of overhanging tress. Not too good for the biking. In fact, it’s probably a bit crap for horse riding as well unless you’re a dwarf on a Shetland Pony. I might have been better off going round the roads, especially given the target location. Never mind. the cache itself was right where I calculated, and having checked on Google Maps first I found it without using the GPS.

So to make it into a round trip I headed back down the side of Watling Street with the plan of checking the woods north of Grange Farm, which is one of my potential locations for Kitey’s Cows, Roundabouts and Caches. Having not found it here twice now though, I am beginning to believe that it isn’t there. Maybe this weekend I’ll try the other possible location.

Can’t finish on a failure so it seemed reasonable to scoot over to Crownhill to find TOP OF THE POPS 70’s. This one involves decoding 10 anagrams that are song titles, then finding their highest UK chart position, and then making some coordinates out of the results. All of which can be done using ‘t interweb, but obviously you can’t actually log the cache without going there. The coordinates I calculated looked reasonable and tallied with Geochecker so it should be pretty easy. The only problem was that I was trying to bike and read the GPS at the same time, which is tricky when we don’t have a bike mount for the GPS. Cycling one handed through unknown streets. Anyway, it was right where the hint says.

Overall, I cycled 17 km in a little less than an hour. Less distance than the trip to Kiln Farm earlier in the week but reasonable for a fat lad who’s been cooped up in the car most of the day.


Dinosaur “Roarrrrrrr !”

Dinosaur “Roarrrrrrr !”

Saturday morning, the sun is shining, the wife has got up early to have breakfast after being kicked out of bed by the kids, the kids have followed Kas downstairs, so what does that mean for a sleepy old Daddy ? Get up and go caching, of course.

Mummy’s run was down at Willen Lake, which gives ample opportunity to pick up a couple of caches including the previous failure described in the Willen Wibble.

Firstly though, Kev, Ami and Izzy left Kas at the lake and shot off towards Newlands to track down Walking with Dinosaurs !! . This is at the corner of the Gullivers Land Ecopark / Splash Zone / whatever…..but not actually inside it, which is just as well because they don’t seem to be open this early. There were, however, some muggle employees checking out the perimeter fencing. We made a half-hearted attempt at looking like we were just out for a walk, but it’s difficult here because it isn’t the most scenic bit of MK.

Once the muggles had left the Garmin quickly located GZ and Kev was mooching about and pointing towards the fence when Ami came out with the phrase “I wonder if it’s under here ?” Quickly followed up by “Daddy, I’ve found it”

It seems Ami is developing a Spidey-Sense or something. She found that before I even started looking.

So from there we followed the redways around to the location of TOPS OF THE POPS 60’s. This was a previous failure (see the Willen Wibble) but subsequent emails with the owner confirmed that I was at the right coordinates. For want of a better phrase, I had been barking up the wrong tree. So we tried again based on the owner’s description. The actual location is about 10 feet from where our GPS says it is, and is very much more accessible. It took about 2 minutes for Kev to find it. Signed the log, and shot off.

Just time on the way back to spin round extremely quickly in the net at the playpark before catching up with Kas after her run.

Two more completed in 40 minutes. Can’t be bad. However, it’s going to take more time next time, because we’ll have to drive away from Willen for a start point otherwise we’ll have to walk back before we set off.


Friday Night Cache-Fest

Friday Night Cache-Fest

A nice looking evening and nothing better to do – no school or work tomorrow, so let’s go caching !

We decided to have a pop at a couple we previously missed (see the Stony Strut). All the targets were part of Wavvy’s Ouse Valley Walk series. First up though is to get some sustenance down the daughters. Ami plumped for McDonald’s. I don’t know why though, because they always have Chicken McNuggets, so we might as well go to KFC. The real reason was soon revealed. You don’t get a toy at KFC. Plus McDonald’s is one of the places where both daughters will reliably eat both protein and carbohydrate (and a fair amount of fat too, I dare say). Seriously though, Ami actually eats the chicken and Izzy eats the chips. They wouldn’t do that at home. Normally they manage a balanced diet between them rather than each. Izzy eats meat, Ami eats carbohydrates. Oh ! And both of them eat Ice Cream, which I think is a whole food type on it’s own. Does Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food count as a source of protein ? The description does say “Chocolate-shaped fish pieces” rather than “Fish-shaped chocolate pieces”. That tends to imply it is a valid source of Omega-3.

So to the caching. We parked up in the little layby at the end of stony High Street and headed roughly East towards Ouse Valley Walk – Pipe dream. This was a previous failure but should be easier with the Garmin to hand. Not so, it seems. Kas was doing the honours but was suffering a bit of helicopter compass syndrome. She was here, there and everywhere. The rest of us were in and out. Izzy kept getting spooked by the nettles. We had an incident involving a poo in the grass, just as some muggles were passing. Good job we’re parents and have cleansing devices and plastic bags handy. However, there’s no hiding a small child with no pants beside the path though. Eventually Kev elbowed in on the action and Kas walked out for a breather. Two minutes later, what’s this under these bits of…..That’ll be the one then. This caused much consternation with Kas who had spent the best part of 15 minutes fruitlessly rooting around in the nettles and brambles. Better let Kas look for the next one as well then.

Which cunningly leads us on to Ouse Valley Walk – Flood Plain. This was one where we spent an age doing tree identification last time and eventually gave up. This time the Garmin identified the relevant vegetation easily and Kas walked up for a nosey. Somehow, this time, the hint took her right there. Don’t know how we missed it last time as it was pretty obvious really. Not the type of cache described in the text, but an easy find. Kev had to reach to get it, which shows how high up it is, but we award that one to Kas. As we were returning to the car we had to delay a bit and then very bravely walk right through the middle of the worryingly large flock of sheep who were moving between fields. It took a while to persuade Ami the sheep were more frightened than she was. Lesson learned – sheep go in groups and they will approach you only if you aren;t looking at them. There’s no such thing as a predatory sheep. So we got back to the car unscathed. The car was also unscathed, which is always reassuring.

And so we decided to try a couple more. We moved to the far (south west) end of the park to the little car park and headed off down the path to find Ouse Valley Walk – Stumpy, which the iPhone now thinks is present. It was. We had the usual tree selection problems and the object seems to have levitated somewhat in comparison to the hint, but it was quite obvious when Kev spotted a suspicious looking arrangement of detritus and then told Ami to take a look under it. Sure enough, there it was.

So the key to success seems to be that you should always look for things that aren’t quite right. What glacial geologists might call an erratic, or film watchers might call an anachronism. Basically, something that has been put like that, or something you wouldn’t normally find in a place like that, but something where the average man or woman in the street wouldn’t notice or just wouldn’t think twice about it. In this case, it was “bits of tree bark don’t normally break off in bits that large, and if they did, they most certainly wouldn’t land like that.” This cache was therefore quite a quick one, despite some muggle activity.

So back to the car park to snaffle Ouse Valley Walk – Convenient Parking. The GPS led Kas to a location and she immediately spotted an erratic and told Izzy to lift it up. There it was. That makes one find each for the evening. Not bad for just over an hour with two kids in tow.

It’s always nice to end on a high. Just time to capture stage one of Historic Town 1 – Stony Stratford by 4OnTheMove. Can’t say what the answer is. Go count them yourself. Still, what should we care. This log is being updated in December and we still haven’t attempted the rest of this cache, so we’re going to have to go back there anyway.

Top Friday night caching action.


Monkston Madness

Monkston Madness

Thursday night. Kev’s scheduled exercise night, but what to do. Run ? Bike ? or go caching ? How about caching on the bike ? Sounds good – some exercise, some caching. Got to be worth a go.

So all that remained was to select a target and load onto the GPS. An excellent little jaunt from our house would seem to be the four Monkston Micros followed by “Don’t Torc Rubbish” – all by Monkston Madgirl. Monkston is about 8 km from our house so looks like a nice out and back job.

So with the girls having tea and getting ready for bed Kev got out the trusty steed and set of in a generally eastward direction through Emerson, Furzton, the Bowl, Bleak Hall, Eaglestone, Woughton-on-the-Green and eventually to Monkston. Nearly 9km by the route chosen, in about 25 minutes.

First up for the evening was Monkston Micros – West (GC19AZ8). This is marked as being right by the redway around the west of the estate. It proved to be the most difficult of the evening, mainly because initially I overshot and ended up 200 meters too far along, and partly because it’s in a bleedin’ tree according to the notes. But which tree ? It took a couple of missed ones but them all of a sudden on the fourth or fifth one there it was, just winking at me. Not so bad after all. Just harder than the evening’s other ones.

So head off round the south side in search of Monkston Micros – South (GC19AYZ). This one is difficult to describe really. It’s round the south of Monkston. If you check the hint, and have the GPS pointing at the right place, it is easy as pie. Signed log, hit the road again.

Now the third one for the evening – Monkston Micros – East (GC19AZ3) – looks from the hint and the Google Maps view that it ought to be a very easy one. Can’t say why without giving the game away, but it doesn’t take a brain the size of a planet to guess where it is from the hint. And sure enough it was there. So that was the first one ever found without any GPS assistance on site, and probably the fastest evr as well. It is a bit muggle strewn round there, though.

The final link in the chain is Monkston Micros – North (GC19AYW). I also had a theory on where this would be from the hint only, and aside from a short detour and delay caused by a cycling muggle parked right at GZ this one was also successfully found without any GPS assistance. This game is getting quite easy.

And so on to Don’t Torc Rubbish (GC19B0A). This can only be found by reading numbers from the logs on the four Monkston micros. Although if you do some schoolboy simultaneous equations and make the perfectly reasonable assumption that the answer must be in Monkston, then there’s actually only a couple of possible sites. Further to this, two of the four don’t need to be found at all because the “in Monkston” restriction binds them to single values. Enough of the maths lessons anyway. The cache itself was the easiest spot of the night. It is in a quiet location and so it can get away with not being hidden. It contains a few little trinkets and the usual log and gubbins. Sorted. Five caches found in double quick order.

Which meant it was probably time to cycle home again. Given my location at the time I decided to progress along H7 and check out Taking the Pea (GC29VJC) by niccademus. The hint gives it away really, and once you find it you can understand the title. Locating the correct piece of highway furniture was the only issue given that I hadn’t loaded the location into the GPS, so i was playing blind. For the second time in the evening I overshot by about 200 metres and had to backtrack. Once I got to GZ it was an easy spot though. It’s just in a very public location. Unless you’re there in the middle of the night you might have to try the very brazen “just sit in the grass and look like you know what you’re doing” technique. there is no way you can find this and sign it without being spotted by a driver. It’s also on the side of the road opposite the redway, so you really have no legitimate reason for being over there.

And that’s all you can say, really. Cycled home by pretty much the same route and got home 105 minutes after setting out, having cycled 19 km in 1 hour while the wristwatch Garmin was running, and having found 6 caches while the hand-held Garmin GPS was running.


Sweet Music

Sweet Music

This was a quick cache and dash whilst Izzy was in gymnastics. It had to be quick for two reasons, firstly I needed to be back before Izzy noticed I wasn’t there and secondly it was raining and I had neither a coat or umbrella and I didn’t want to get too wet.

With the thought that ‘this should be simple’ ringing in my mind off I went in search of Sweet by Wavvy. This one has the potential to be fairly tricky due to the number of muggles around. However as it was chucking it down with rain the muggles were strangely absent, actually, may be that’s not so strange!

The location was about two minutes walk away and then I just needed to find it. Unlike others I wasn’t going to sit down as that would have resulted in a soggy bum so I knelt down and pretended to re-tie my trainer lace. Not there, so move 10 foot and re-tie the other lace. Bingo! It was that simple.

Signed the log and headed back to Bletchley Leisure Centre. I’d only been out 10 minutes and the little one hadn’t even noticed mummy wasn’t there. A great result all round.


Pre-Pub Pootle

Pre-Pub Pootle

Ah ! Childcare available courtesy of Grandad Dennis and Nana Linda. What better way to relax than to bike to the pub. Well, biking to a load of caches and then biking to the pub, obviously.

Our pub of choice was, as ever, the Old Beams in Shenley Lodge. It does good food and good beer, it’s only 10 non-caching minutes from home by bike and it has a very pleasant beer garden. What more could you need.

And so to the caching. First up was 7SL by Urban Cacher. Can’t say what this is all about because it is a puzzle, but it is in Westcroft and it involves a bridge. Not saying which one….. It proved to be a cunning little beggar because bridges can always involve altitude issues. This proved no different. We started at the bottom and it wasn’t there. So we went up top, and it wasn’t there either. So we went back to the bottom and tried to get an exact fix on GZ – always difficult when standing under a bridge, but we eventually confirmed that GZ was definitely right here, in the middle of the path underneath the bridge. So we tried the bushes to the side but not with any great heart – they seemed too far away. And then, with a sudden flash of inspiration, Kev thought to look upwards and saw it straight away. All we then had to do was to go back to the top and figure out how to get at it. This is a nice cunning little cache. It’s been there for a while and we pass this spot but hadn’t noticed it before, but now we know it is there we now feel that it seems obvious and wonder how we could never have seen it before. I think it is one of those suspension-of-reality things. Your brain just fails to register it.

Next up was Mission Impossible MK2: Shenley Brook End by Kitey. Further details are given in the Mission Impossible Mega-Blog but this one involves decode a chunk of text to reveal the coordinates. The powers of the internet mean this is one of the easier ones of the series. It also proved fairly easy to find once on site. A few muggles around but nothing too bad. Cool. Two finds in 15 minutes.

East Green by Wavvy is the closest cache to the Old Beams. We had previously made a drive-by visit to pick up the required information. Calculating GZ was easy and the only problem is figuring out how to actually access that location from anywhere in Shenley Lodge. It’s fair to say it isn’t a high traffic area, and also fair to say that it isn’t easy to get a bike there. We parked up and walked the last 30 yards or so, but it proved to be a fairly easy find once there.

All of which meant we had done 3 caches and it was still quite early. We therefore decided to push for a few more before retiring for drinks.

Shenley Church End has a number of caches and convenient from where we were, so the die was cast.

First was Dry Stream ? by Candy Mook. However, the iPhone couldn’t decide whether it was there or not and after a few minutes of mucking about we moved on. We would have been well advised to have a look. Kev returned solo on a different day and found it within seconds.

Next was Kids n Dogs by Candy Mook. The coordinates place this in the middle of a pathway a long way from anything you could hide a cache in. Kas did find it eventually but it was absolutely nowhere near the coordinates. At least 20 yards away, I would say.

Next up was Top Field SCE by Candy Mook. This proved a little more troublesome. It is within trees and we spent quite some time mooching about and trying to avoid suspicion due to high muggle count before we eventually concluded we would not find it. We moved on.

We couldn’t possibly end on a failure so we went for a pop at Toot! Toot! by Wavvy. Erm ! Kas wasn’t dressed really for this one as it involved a muddy bit of field full of cow poo. We did, however, both get in there and get to it. It took a little while but eventually after some squelching, much checking of the GPS and a bit of spidey sense, we came up with the goods.

After that one we had to give up because it was getting distinctly dark, and we were getting distinctly thirsty.

So not a bad night, all in all. We obviously spent a good few hours at the pub quenching our thirst before scooting home. The kids were fine, the grandparents were fine, and all was generally well with the world.