EPIC Roadtrip

Before we begin

Right, this is going to be a long one so buckle in for the ride!  I’m going to try and blog over the next couple of weeks while we travel from Scotland to Austria, stopping at some hopefully interesting places along the way.

Before we begin, it’s probably worth mentioning a few updates related to previous posts.  We now own Lexee!  What, I hear most of you say?  Lexee is the name of our Tesla Model 3 Long Range which we leased from Lex back in 2021.  The lease expired last month, and we had the option to buy her, which we did.  She will be transporting us from Scotland down to London for a day at Wimbledon to watch some tennis, and then down to Dover before catching the ferry across to Calais.  From there we plan to travel through France, Belgium and Germany to Austria, specifically Salzberg to explore some of the places where The Sound of Music was filmed, before heading back through Switzerland (possibly), Luxumberg and France, to catch the ferry back to Dover and then drive home to Scotland.  If that sounds like a long way, it is!  About a 2000 mile round trip, so a good test of the car and passengers.

They will be me, my partner of 22 years and our 11 (soon to be 12) year old daughter.  No dog for this trip, who will be enjoying her own holiday staying with family at Culzean Castle.  So that’s about it.  We’ll be leaving for London on the 5 July and I’ll blog where I can along the way, hopefully with some interesting stories, pictures and video from my new drone.  Wish us luck and enjoy the adventure…

In Bruges

So we’ve already made it to Belgium and this is the first time I’ve found some time to provide an update on our adventure, so perhaps the blog won’t be as EPIC as the road trip!

The drive from down south was fairly uneventful although I think I’m getting too old to be driving between the Scottish and English capitals! We stopped at Tebay Services on the M6 for some lunch and electricity before continuing south. Lexee was suggesting another stop at Keele Services but by the time we got there nobody really needed to stop so we thought we’d crack on. P came up with the great idea of stopping in Stratford-upon-Avon to visit the birthplace of Shakespeare and found a charger at the Morrisons for Lexee. We grabbed some supplies and plugged in the car before wandering into Stratford where we took a few photos and headed back as the heavens opened. Not the first time we’d get wet on this holiday 🌧️

The Premier Inn at Wimbledon was fine and we found an on street charger to plug in Lexee. It wasn’t clear if it was for residents only, but we thought we were ok while the car was charging and I slowed things down to make that longer than required. I got up at 5:20 the next morning and walked up to the All England Lawn Tennis Association aka Wimbledon to join The Queue. I probably need to do a separate blog about the whole experience, but needless to say it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I’d hoped to get a ground ticket before 11am and then head back to the hotel to checkout with P & K before finding somewhere to park and go enjoy the tennis. I was still in a very long queue by 11:20 when P & K found me to switch places so I could check out and sort the car before joining them back at the tennis. It has been a long 5 hours and I was almost ready to go back and just watch films in Lexee, but they did managed to get a ticket fairly shortly after I’d left (well, about another 90 minutes) by which time I’d checked out of the hotel, packed Lexee who hadn’t managed to get a parking ticket and find somewhere to park for the rest of the day. I made it back to Wimbledon and enjoyed some tennis and football before driving down to Dover for a night in the Travelodge before our early morning ferry to Calais.

We stopped in Dunkirk en route to Bruges checking into the Radisson Blu just after 3pm. We were all pretty exhausted and needed a rest before exploring, but the hotel was a big improvement on the previous and cheaper to boot, so we called reception and extended our stay for an extra night giving us a full day to explore Bruges before heading on to Brussels. We did head in for some dinner and caught the end of Belgiums largest flea market before enjoying some food and drinks at Heavenly Pizza after a short walk around the tall spires in Bruges. The next day we headed back for a breakfast of waffles before a short boat trip along the canals. We headed back to the hotel for lunch and to recharge our batteries (Lexee had been topped up again the day before in the car park under the hotel!) before a final walk into Bruges for some dinner at the Frites Bar.

We’d struggled to find a reasonable priced hotel in Brussels for the following day so ended up booking something a little outside. The plan is to visit the Atomium on our way in and then drive into the centre for a few hours. I’ve registered Lexee so she can drive in the ULEZ and we’ll head out to the hotel after a brief visit. No plans beyond that but will provide another update then. This blog might look a bit of a mess for a while as I’ve typed this on my phone using the Jetpack App! It wouldn’t let me edit the Divi blog I’d started the blog with, so I copied and pasted that into here. I’ll sort it out when I have a bit more time to fire up the laptop. I’m sure I’ll have some spelling to fix and can add some links and pictures too!

Charging across Europe

I’m still on the Jetpack App, so excuse the spelling mistakes 😂 We’ve now reached Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Germany 🇩🇪 having passed very briefly through the Netherlands 🇳🇱 stopping for some lunch in Maastricht. Tomorrow we are planning to make it to Salzburg in Austria 🇦🇹 where we will be staying for 3 nights and will give us chance to relax a little from the EPIC road trip.

Not having a plan does offer lots of flexibility, but you also tend to spend a fair amount of downtime planning the next day or two in advance, including driving, accommodation and fuelling the body. Luckily we haven’t had to give too much thought to charging Lexee, which is what is was really referring to in my ‘Charging across Europe’ heading!

I was a little worried about how things might work across Europe having not tried it before and knowing that the UK isn’t as easy to navigate as North America, which we’d done on a road trip around the New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Toronto, Montreal and Boston last year. I neednt have been as we’ve been fortunate enough to find destination chargers at most of the places we’ve stopped for the night, and there’s been plenty of Tesla Superchargers and other destination charges enroute. We’ve not needed to go out of our way once, and the only real challenge has been the multitude of new Apps I’ve needed to install, accounts to create and payments to make. Some of them have been toward the prices I’d normally drive away from in the UK, but the approach has been to charge to full when we can overnight and start each day at 💯%

The Tesla chargers have all been super fast (some pushing the 250kWh max), the cheapest (around €0.33 or £0.28) and easiest to use (simply connect and you’re off). The destination chargers have been a bit more complicated, more often than not requiring an app to be downloaded and an account created to use. Some just require payment on a webpage, some using Apple Pay which is probably the easiest. There was only one that wouldn’t work with either method (after frustratingly downloading the app and creating an account) but the hotel had a RFID card that could be used instead. That also happened to be the most expensive, almost completing with gasoline ⛽️, at €0.71! I’m sure we’d have found a Tesla charger, but the convenience of starting the day with ‘a full tank’ was worth the extra cost, and was probably only about £7-8 in the context of a £?000 trip!

I’ll try and pull together some more detailed stats once we’ve made it back home. I have a Teslamate account connected to Lexee which tracks her every move, and a Grafana Docker container where I can access lots of wonderful information about trips, charging, costs, efficiency, etc. When I eventually get some time with a laptop rather than a mobile phone I’ll add some screenshots with some details.

Anyway, that will do for now. We’re about to go and eat at a traditional German restaurant, which I’m not sure my Daughter will approve, but we had take away pizza last night watching the Netherlands v England EURO2024 semi final as my parter wasn’t feeling too good. It’s great to see lots of the world on a road trip, but it does take it out of you! A new country for all of us tomorrow though and a few days in the same place so should get some time to relax a little….

Another New Drone

Well, so much for blogging every month!  I’m only a few days late, but there’s still no blog for May.  Part of the problem was knowing what to blog about, as I was all out of ideas.  At least, I was until I took my new drone out for a test flight over the weekend. Then, I remembered I’d blogged about another new drone some years ago.

I’ve always loved playing around with remote-controlled things (search ‘remote’ if you want to find out more about them), and I bought my first outdoor drone back in 2019.  My sister had bought me a tiny indoor drone as a birthday present, and I bought myself a Millennium Falcon drone, which again was more of an indoor toy.  I didn’t want to spend too much money, so I ended up with a MJX Bugs 4W drone, which I blogged about here, and used it quite a bit for about 6 months.

Toward the end of 2019, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) introduced the Drone and Model Aircraft Code, which pretty much changed the game regarding flying Drones in the UK.  Anything other than a ‘toy’ drone required the user to have an Operator ID, which was pretty straightforward to apply online, although it requires annual renewal for a small fee.  Anything over 250g also requires a Flyer ID, which is an online test to ensure you are familiar with and understand the Code.

At the time, I obtained both, which wasn’t all that difficult, but the rules and regulations about when and where you can fly a drone over 250g (the Bugs 4W was over 600g) were quite restrictive.  I flew it a little during lockdown in 2020-21, but for the last few years, it has been in the carry case and not flown.

I watched a Captain Drone YouTube video last month, something I’d not done for a while, and he was reviewing a Holy Stone HS900 drone, which is under 250g and has a 4K camera, for around $250.  I followed the Amazon link, and I could get one the next day for £219, so I was far too easily seduced and clicked the buy-now button!  When it arrived the next day, I realised I’d actually bought an HS 720, which is an older model and not quite as good as the HS900 reviewed.  It never made it out of the box, and I was straight back on Amazon looking for other options when I came across the DJI Mini 4K.  This was £50 more expensive, but with the DJI pedigree and comes with a claimed 10k range (I’d never fly it that far!) and a 4K camera with 3-axis gimble.  I ordered it and returned the HS 720, and I’ve been waiting for a chance to take it out for a test flight.

That happened at the weekend after dropping my daughter at Guide Camp and taking my dog for a walk.  It happened to be where I’d filmed the original Bugs drone all those years ago.  I’m sure you can tell; the footage is in a completely different league, and I’m sure I’ll be taking this little drone out much more frequently.  In fact, I’m hoping to get it out next weekend around Linlithgow Palace and the newly refurbished St Michael Church spire.

I was hoping to post the video footage here, but I need to investigate some WordPress settings.  Even scaled down to 720p, I’ve not been able to upload to my site.  I’ll post a picture instead, and uploaded to YouTube for the timebeing.  Remember to watch in 4K for the best quality!

Tesla Test Drive

We’ve been talking about buying a new electric car ever since my 2008 Ford Mondeo broke down on the way to my Grandma’s funeral. Everything worked out in the end, but we spent a long journey home from Washington Service on the back of a flat loader which was the spark for yesterday’s Tesla Test Drive

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