AT LAST

AT LAST

AT LAST

Sunday 17 th April and the weather has cooperated today and some of the garden clean up will get
under way and the key will be turned in the workshop door at last! Having recently written on the
subject of Scotland the brain is on fast idle to get a leg over a bike or two!

6 months of inactivity !

Of course prior to that as they have sat since last September it will be the normal rituals of carbs and
fuel and as enthusiasm builds oil changes all round and then the start up and testing……… and this
year as a bit of a first I might just get some practice to refresh tired muscles and aging grey matter.

Yesterday was the “last chance” at the Hollywood for the end of season competition prior to the arrival
of the Snowbirds. Having only had two shots at qualifying and one of those getting the booby prize I
was certainly up against the odds on the last day! I draw one of the best players in the area in round
one in the shape of Brandon. I get off to a good start and Brandon misses a few which lets me back in
to clean up. Round two and I’m up against regular winner Ron who has a very delicate touch. Slip
through this one as well and now I’m playing the only other undefeated player, Angela. This one is for
a place in the final and I have my easiest game to clinch this one. A small delay as the losers battle it
out for third place and who I will meet in the final.

Brandon wins and racks the first game. Perhaps we both have nerves but the cue ball seems to
continually end up in some of the worst spots possible. I get on the black first but there is too much
chance of a scratch so elect a safety. I get another chance and it rattles in the jaws……… crap!
Brandon cleans up for the win.

The second game is very similar except this time I’m coming from behind but I end up with a shot on
the black from a very awkward angle. I can either just touch it and hope I have perfect speed to drop in
the center bag or go long to the corner and risk leaving it in a good position. I take the long option and
it was very close but fails to drop. Never mind two very good games to finish and I have qualified…..
at last!

Some serious leaf bagging required

Not nice

Sunday and the Shade Garden clean up begins. The blanket of leaves is raked back, the raised bed
cleaned out and the fountain runs once more. 4 hours of raking and bagging and the place looks presentable and Mrs Down is happy.

With only a month to go to my first ride time to get in the workshop and prep those bikes. Better get
the RV over to Howard and have the oil seals replaced or we won’t be going anywhere.

TONY DOWN

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ANOTHER DAY ANOTHER DOLLAR

ANOTHER DAY ANOTHER DOLLAR

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER DOLLAR



The 47 seater that goes like the wind

Living in the mountains is often full of surprizes weather wise and strangers in the road of a wildlife
variety. This week has been one of those. On the home front, despite the weather, nature has decided
“its” time and things are pushing through and everything is coming into bud.

The bleeding heart is off again as are the clematis and hops are flourishing at the brewery. With the
snow for the most part gone the river is rising and the grass is now turning green from its dormant
state under the snow and of course the weeds are making the most of the spring sunshine.

For those of us up at the crack of dawn and even the butt crack of dawn in extreme cases to drive the
school bus the temps are pleasantly on the rise. However just so that the “bon ami” is kept in check a
crisp 30 mph wind reminds you of where you are and live. This week was no exception and as senior
driver Karen was away I had Wednesday through Friday driving her bus on the Dolores -Rico route
which is our longest run of the day totalling 182 miles for the combined morning and afternoon runs.

Karen has a 47 seater Bluebird Vision which drives like a sportscar and seems to have unlimited
power. Her run leaves the yard at 0550 with a straight drive to Rico to pick up the first passengers.
Thursday morning and before leaving to do the pre trip inspections its time to check the weather.
Well at 0500 its saying 45 and a 20 mph wind that will pick up to gusting 40 by lunchtime.

Behind the wheel of the sporty little Bluebird

Leaving Dolores at just under 7000′ I set off for Rico at 9000′ and I’m enjoying the super headlights
and empty roads as I drive up the valley. The light begins to change as dawn approaches and it looks
like there has been a light dusting of snow  but nothing on the road. I pass a county snowplow with his
lights on parked beside the road but don’t give it much thought. At about 8500′ the snow starts and
some is now begining to settle on the road. By the time I draw into Rico its coming down hard and the
roads are covered.

Pulling in to the Rico stop in a near white out ! 

Thursday morning in Rico

Gingerly set off down the hill and come out of the storm pocket but within 5 miles I’m into another and
near white out conditions. Pick up some “snowmen” who are more than pleased to see a nice warm
bus. They breed ’em tough up here as some didn’t even have a coat……. such is the fashion of youth!

Another 30 mins battling the whiteout and real thick snow I suddenly burst into daylight and sunshine
on the 3 mile straight into town. Friday comes and the same trip is completed in very different
conditions as today is just bright and cold.

Friday morning at Rico

A cracking little bus, I only hope I get to drive it again.

TONY DOWN

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A SPORTING HOLIDAY IN THE HIGHLANDS

A SPORTING HOLIDAY IN THE HIGHLANDS

A SPORTING HOLIDAY IN THE HIGHLANDS

When the entry forms arrived for the SSDT there was the joke sentiment written at the top of the form….
“A sporting holiday in the Highlands” and indeed for the most part it was. By this time of the year all preparations had been made, new machine tested, final ride prior to the event completed, last few
details to be done, kit to be inspected, tube changes done, with and without the stand, and final
checks of machine, tools and equipment gone over one last time.

As the annual pilgrimage draws near for those lucky riders in this year’s 100th running of the famous
event the excitement will be building for the old hands while the “newbies” will be full of a mixture of overconfidence and self doubt. You may be a superb one day rider at your local events but do you have
the fitness, stamina and mind set to last the week?

Well of course you could have signed up at the gym, could have been out running 5 miles a day,
perhaps been on a diet or have adopted the RAF training regime of 1/2 a pint/section the night before!
…… and with 30 odd sections a day you had better be in good drinking shape. No doubt all of these will
have helped but the one thing that will keep the body going is bike fitness. How often do you ride 200
miles a day across all terrain for six continuous days? Now, as we know, the course is shorter by
about half the distance but none the less arduous even though there are not the long road stages in
the rain and biting cold. For those that make it to the end, then they will have attained the necessary
bike fitness. They will have had the blisters, that have turned to callouses and then rubbed blood
crystals into the palms of their hands. They will have had the nightly “cramps” they will have endured dehydration, minor levels of hypothermia, heat exhaustion, bruises cuts and scratches along with
burns from touching hot items on the bike and of course the abject misery of “trench foot” from todays
less than waterproof riding boots.

The “Will” to finish must be paramount as it is all too easy to give up when body and machine are crying “enough’s enough!” The mental planning is what will get you through. The night before we
would always have our team meeting and discuss where the fuel stops would be and then with
ordanance survey maps everywhere we would go through the route and the more experienced riders
would give their words of advice.

I can remember cresting ridges on those open moors and seeing wheel tracks every which way and
trying to pick out a flag somewhere ahead or a rooster tail from someone in front. The determination to
finish at all costs and trying to keep yourself in check and ride with a little in reserve was hard.

Now where ?

Memories from previous years would suddenly flash through the mind and ways to avoid some of the
worst going clicked through the brain’s archives, in some cases a micro second too late!  The joys of
coming up to a Loch and remembering last night’s briefing you suddenly knew you were going the
right way and were halfway across Hell.  Time to stop and have a refreshing cold drink from the clear
waters. Time to calm down and review either the morning or day’s going over a smoke and drink in
some of the Majesty of the Highlands. A quick check of the steed for broken spokes, chain tension
and anything else that was a known potential problem.

As cooked and distressed riders flailed by time to consult the route card while finishing the nicotine
inject…… and then off again suitably refreshed before the sweat laden clothes started to get cold.
Those 1/2 way rests were invaluable as you overtook many who were now at the end of their personal
tethers and were making bad mistakes losing control on simple tracks or driving straight into
bottomless bogs without the energy or endurance to recover their lost steed.

After hours of riding …….. a track !

Scotland unlike any other trial can make the “Superstar” look like a complete novice when one rolling
rock doesn’t cooperate and as you are all riding together and as there is sure to be “one SS” in your
group this can often be the confidence booster you as the clubman need to keep going when things
are at their worst.

1970 and Mick takes a “5” on his way to his first win

My first Scottish was a bit like that when I was riding with Bill Wilkinson who had won the year before.
I was riding quite well on day 1, apart from the nerves, and as we went through the last group before
lunch at Altnafeadh I lost a couple of 3’s and a dab. There were NO 2’s back then and both my 3’s had
been double prodders and then on the one I dabbed Bill got stuck with the Greeves for a clanging 5 !!
Of course I was pretty cock a’hoop coming into the lunch check……. it didn’t last !

1969 winner Bill Wilkinson

Another year, 1972,  I’m with Rastus on Coalasnacoan and he takes a 3 prodder and I sail through for
one of those “Whats the problem ?” cleans. These sort of rare events are what keep you going and do
much to repair battered egos …….. so whether this year is your first or your many …… never give up!

Coalasnacoan in 1972 and Rastus has just had a “3” and I ride through
like a main road………did that feel good or what ?

This year being the 100th I’m sad I’m not there to relive all those experiences and swap a tale or two
with other riders of my era who I’m sure will be on hand to make it a truly memorable event. Perhaps
this year will be the year to break a record or two?

Unlikely that the famous “One Dab” score from Gordon Jackson will either be equalled or ever broken,
and perhaps it shouldn’t ?

The “one dab” week

However, the many current records could all have been broken and many will say that two of the all
time greats in Scottish history, Sammy and Mick,  were both unlucky not to have claimed their sixth win
and as neither are currently competing in the modern event their tied performances are perhaps a
fitting tribute to their Scottish excellence.

Past masters Sammy and Mick with 5 wins a piece

So while we have the new generation of brilliant trials riders, being the 100th, I would still like this one
to be won by the Lampkin family. With nearly all the Lampkins names engraved on that trophy I would
dearly love to see Dougie taking the win and his Sixth, especially after last years bad luck.

My pick for the 100th

I will of course be glued to the results service as it comes in, and wherever you are and whatever your personal aspirations are for the event I wish ALL the competitors the best of luck and as always enjoy your “Sporting Holiday in the Highlands.”  I certainly enjoyed ALL 8 of mine.

TONY DOWN

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  • 4/16/2011 3:39 PM Dave Rhodes wrote:
    Hi Tony – This is a really good article and one I linked to one of our lads who is riding it for the first time next month. – Trying to get his head into the right place – his name is John Dearie and he is a Scotsman now living in Vancouver – he will start #5 – riding with his friend and sponsor Ian Shedden, another rider also from Vancouver is #6 – Guy Smeeth has ridden the event twice before. John starts with a handicap riding a borrowed Scorpa supplied by Ian ( he rides a Beta in Canada) But we will all be cheering for them anyway – Jonathan English from Ontario is the other Canadian rider.
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THERE’S ANOTHER ONE ALONG IN 5 MINUTES TIME

THERE’S ANOTHER ONE ALONG IN 5 MINUTES TIME

THERE’S ANOTHER ONE ALONG IN 5 MINUTES TIME

The title was Father’s phrase to describe women and buses! ….. however, keeping things on an even
keel the subject is buses.

“Never run after women or buses, there’s another one along in 5 minutes
time”

With three months of intensive training and driving I have certainly had an enormous amount of variety.
I doubt that I have driven two buses that are the same and that keeps me on my toes trying to find all
the switches and buttons. I’m reliably assured that the Cortez/Dolores school district is the only one
left in Colorado that operates manual versions of the said school bus. The autos are definitely in the
minority but no doubt as the newer ones replace the vintage manuals then the next batch must surely
be automatics.

Once round the Equator, new engine, and of course manual!

Recently a “demo” model was parked outside the Cortez bus barn and shortly thereafter there was an annoucement that Cortez was acquiring 3 NEW buses. So far two have arrived from Thomas and one
has been put into service already. They tell me the problem with being allocated a new bus is that as
soon as the activity trips begin the new one is whisked away and you end up with a beaten up spare! I
have noted that there are two “tour” buses numbers 49, and 50 which never seem to go anywhere
which I find a bit strange. Perhaps they are for the “chosen few”…….. “one day Glasshopper!”

The TWO new buses arrive

Over at the Dolores barn I was prepping the No 3 spare, the faithful “Turtle”  which nobody likes, when
a gentleman started asking me questions about same. The “Turtle” which is a Genesis flat fronter
with a forward engine and 78 seats is not very popular with the drivers as it doesn’t have  the retarder
system and is a bit down on power. They tell me it fishtails but so far it seems OK to me. It turns out
the said gentleman is the School Superintendent and he is about to buy another bus to replace the
D11 that I often get tasked to drive. I suggested he look at the Bluebird Vision that I frequently drive at
Mancos when senior driver Sharon is away on the long distance activity runs.

The Genesis, yes it’s long, very long !

Sharon’s Bluebird Vision 71 seater….. a joy to drive

Mancos is in the throws of getting 2 new drivers, one of whom will replace Sara who left around the
end of Feb but to date neither of them has passed the CDL driving test. Good for me as even when
they do get their qualifications I doubt they will be doing many of the activity runs which of course are
normally taken by the senior drivers.  Very much a “pecking order” when it comes to the perks.

Just a few of the 27 routes left to drive and then have a check out in the “new buses” as they have a
few switchery quirks and newbie doesn’t want to be sitting there with lights, bells and whistles all
going off and having no idea how to cancel same!

All the bells and whistles

Mirror, mirror on the wall………

It seems the flatfronter tour buses need an extra course, difficult to know why as they seem to be the
same as the Mancos tour bus I’m already driving. Maybe I’ll get a bye on this one or perhaps I’ll have
to twiddle my thumbs and wait in line to be selected.

The Mancos flat front rear engined pusher tour bus

Cortez 49 & 50…… look the same to me !

The Director tells me there are several routes coming up this year which might be good for
continuity although I think I much prefer the variety and driving all the routes in 3 different districts.
I’m sure I’ll be guided in my decision in the near future.

TONY DOWN

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SPRING BREAK

SPRING BREAK

SPRING BREAK

Never had one of these before so I guess I’ll make the most of it . A full week off for all the schools so
a chance to catch up on some badly needed sleep. Getting up at 0400 on a winter’s morning
eventually catches up with you and as I’ve had the most god awful cough for most of 2011 I’m looking
to really get back to 100%.

Brenda has a whole load of spring plans for this week but there is a nasty cold wind which I don’t
much care for so I’m not sure how much will get done. Seems to me we are a month early! However,
some clean up will gird the loins and perhaps persuade me to get a bike out and start thinking trials
again even if this year doesn’t look like many events will be ridden.

Ready and STILL waiting !

Just a delight to ride

They tell me we are now coming into the “busy season” for school bus driving with a lot of activity runs
and away days but in the meantime I’ll just keep working my way through the 27 different routes that I
need to learn to go with the Mancos four that I’m already familiar with. I still have 6 full runs to complete
and a further 5 afternoon runs as having taken notes on the morning run I’m often dragged away to
drive an afternoon run for someone else while they are off on the activity drive.

A few minor tasks completed and last year’s new bed given it’s once over. That now means the others
out front need to be done along with the shade garden which is a mass of leaves and broken
branches from the self pruning trees. The branches will be broken up and saved for the many evening
fires to come and I envisage about a 20 bagger load of leaves to clear the aea.

What a mess

Serious clean-up required

With a pleasant day forecast another bed was attacked and cleared including all the nasty cooch
grass that was throttling the new tulips and daffs that are all coming through. Thereafter I nodded off
in the sunshine so precious little else got done other than to write a couple of April fool’s stories.

Saturday once more and a forecast of temps cresting the 70 mark before another strange storm
blows through Sunday/Monday. Don’t see too many leaves getting bagged up with 30mph winds
howling but I’ll have to make the effort as I’ve started on that Shade garden. Today’s main project is
to qualify for the Dolores Pool Championship which this year I’ve been in the doldrums for as Brenda normally works Saturdays.  Strangely SHE qualified while I was driving a bus on the Saturday she did
get off !!

Brenda qualifies at the Hollywood

Over at the other local town of Mancos it has been a very different story where they play on a Sunday afternoon. As its her day off I become the designated driver and she gets to play and drink.  So far I
opened up the season with a 3rd and then we had a good family afternoon with her taking 3rd and
me finishing 2nd. Another 2nd a couple of weeks later for me and on our last 2 visits I’ve been in the
winner’s circle with 2 first places. Not so at Dolores where 2 weeks ago when we were both off I lost
both my first two games to get the booby prize (first out) against two less than talented players…..
oh well, thats pool!

Pool is getting to be a bit like trials, you need a lot of practice, you need to think, cue ball control is like
throttle control on a trials bike and then there are some of those risky shots……. do I risk the “scratch”
or take a safety a bit like a planned dab. Today I’ll try the thinking man’s approach.

Time for some “Trials” pool

Tonight a local party with some Brits, and then tomorrow its the Slope Closing up at Telluride and
this year we haven’t even stepped on the slopes either for financial reasons or the fact that the
weather has not played ball when we did fancy going. Last year was fun with all the fancy dress but
this year it seems Security has decided to put a wet blanket on everything… the mind boggles…… not
sure I could deal with overweight heavily armed kill joys on a ski slope……. and for what???……. well
maybe the forecast storm will ruin it anyway.

Not this year!

Back to driving on Monday and my Training Officer, Lena, wants the day off so I’m on the D11 run
again with the old faithful spare of the Genesis Turtle. Another 0500 get up but the bus barn is only 2
miles away. Lena’s normal bus has been sick for over 2 months with a computer problem that locks
the transmission (auto) in 3rd gear when it downshifts coming to a stop. Only way  to reset it is by
turning off the ignition and starting up again. It was in the shop for many weeks but its now outside in
the too difficult area. The replacement bus arrived having been round the globe with 280,000 miles
on it, no chains, no retarder, a new engine, but the suspension seems about shot to me despite new shocks. This one lasted about a month and then it started jumping out of 4th and we haven’t seen it
since. So everyone’s favorite the Genesis is out there like the energizer bunny and it just keeps on
keeping on!

The Reserve keeps playing on the main team

TONY DOWN

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TIMES THEY ARE A’ CHANGING

TIMES THEY ARE A’ CHANGING

TIMES THEY ARE A’ CHANGING

Having recently purchased a NEW watch as my Rolex had decided it needed to rest when I went to
bed I was surprized to find that my new all singing and dancing Seiko comes equipped with the new
timing system that comes into effect next year when the Mayan calendar runs out.

All it will need is a face plate change and a reset

The new system will go fully DECIMAL on 12/12/12 and there will be 10 hours in a decimal day, 100
minutes in a decimal hour and of course 100 seconds in the decimal minute. The final plan when it
comes in will be to have only 10 decimal months in the year and February and June have been
chosen to be deleted from the calendar.

Manufacturers are busy producing the new watches and clocks and of course replacement faces
will soon be available to be fitted at your local dealership or jeweler to reflect the 10 hour presentation
on the analogue face. Those on purely digital watches will be able to buy the new battery chip which
will automatically adjust to the changes.

Just a chip change on this one, no PM of course

Lets have a quick look at what the new decimal watch and clocks will look like. Personally for us
(old timers) I think the digital presentation will be easier to understand and less confusing but the
younger generation that can use a phone for everything except calling home will most likely just
take it all in their stride.

A simple Military version, new minutes on the outside and new hours on
the inner dial. The time is 1.83

An elegant titanium dress watch

These I like with a clever new presentation. Big dots show the hour,
horizontal squares in banks of ten show minutes and the little dots are seconds

The general purpose Gov/office/school/railway station wall clock

January 1st 2012 will be the start of the trial period when timings will be given in either old hours and
new minutes or new hours and old minutes. Correction tables should be available everywhere
including gas stations so the populace should have plenty of (time!) to adjust to the new system. Then
phase II of the transition will begin with all times duplicated in the two systems so that latecomers can
adjust and understand the interaction between the old and new. This will ensure that travellers can
stay “on time” as both times will be constantly on display at airports and train and bus terminals……
should be like Canadian military bases where everything is duplicated in English and French.

They say it won’t be necessary to change household appliances as they can continue to use the old
system until they are eventually phased out. From 2013 all car speedos will show the new and old calibrations similar to those now showing KPH/MPH and also the rev counters or tachometers will
show both scales in RPM old and new.

One of the interesting aspects is there will be No Summer Time, so “Spring Forward” and “Fall Back”
will be a thing of the past. Fortunately for me Greenwich stays as the datum for all this nonsense so
“Zulu” and “GMT” times remain unchanged. It will be interesting to see what they do with the face of
“Big Ben” and all the church clocks all over the world but no doubt the “Gnomes” of Zurich or wherever
else this lunacy started have it all figured out.

A “test piece” chronograph  from Greenwich with the 10 hour system combined with the current am/pm 24

I wonder how much they will make out of this especially as most watch movements are Swiss ?

TONY DOWN

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  • 4/1/2011 2:18 AM Marc wrote:
    Ah the joys of April 1, two mails as well!Take care.
    Marc
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  • 4/1/2011 6:47 AM Jim Crain wrote:
    Very cute! Should be easier for lots of things.By the way, do you know of a good source for alloy tanks? How about a low cost shipment method from the UK to the US? Thanks for the blog. Jim
    Reply to this

    1. 4/4/2011 7:13 AM John Holbrook wrote:
      Jim, if you find a source for alloy tanks let me know I need one as well.
      Reply to this
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