Thursday 30 March 2023

Caching again

Caching again

Everything was ready.

I have three working Mio Digiwalkers. One I use as a TomTom satnav, one with MemoryMap and the third one is a spare. Actually, all three of them can do either TomTom or MemoryMap.

The bike is fettled and ready to go. Brakes, tyres, batteries and panniers, and a very nice holder for the Mio. I have a substantial bike helmet (actually it's a skateboard helmet) and leather gloves. For lighting, I have a powerful headlight that also shows a red light behind my head, so if it gets dark, I'm still visible.

I had solved several puzzles and multis, and the Mio was loaded up with all the info.

So, first I went to pick up a cache near Shardeloes. I'd worked out the coordinates, verified with Geochecker. I had failed with this one before - and I failed again. Not a good start to the day.

Then I drove to the local clinic, parked there and walked to another cache, which I did find. Better!

Then I drove (still with the bike) to Raans Lane, to pick up a Church Micro that I had solved. Parking was easy; there was a restriction of no parking from 11am to 1pm (which stops commuters from using it), but it was 4pm so I was safe to park there. I grabbed the cache, and then unloaded the bike.

To do that, I put the wooden ramp in place, undid the straps holding the bike in place, and wheeled it down the ramp. I connected up the batteries, and I was ready to roll.

Riding a bike is a bit like flying! Instead of plodding from cache to cache, the bike whisked me around in no time, which was a great saving on my energy. And, of course, parking wasn't a problem, you can leave a bike anywhere. Touring round Amersham, I picked up nine more caches, and had one DNF (but the cache owner said that it was gone, and since I'd looked in the right place, I could log it as found). So, altogether I logged eleven finds.

That's small beer compared with what I used to get in a day's outing, but given my current state of unfitness, it was very good.

After the last one, I made straight for Raans Lane, back to the car. Wheeling the bike up the ramp to the bike carrier was no problem. I strapped it on firmly and drove home.

I was really exhausted, but I still had to get the bike off the carrier (no problem) and put the batteries on charge. 

One of the Mios had persistently claimed that it had "very low battery" so I went on to eBay and ordered a new battery for it. I know they're easy to fit.

I also have two Looxes that work well; they have the advantage of using a better screen than the Mio (640 by 480 instead of 320 by 240) and a bigger memory card (16gb instead of 4gb). And those 4gb cards (which mustn't be HC) are hard to find these days, although I have found a source at £20 per card.

Another thing that I have now that I didn't have before, is an iPhone. Before I had a very ordinary Nokia phone, which could make phone calls and (just about) do texts. The iPhone can also run the geocaching app, or MemoryMap, and has a HUGE memory for maps. But it's a lot heavier. I carry it as a "just-in-case" but it's not as good for caching as the Mio. But the iPhone is good for "Adventure caches".

By the way, you can still buy second hand Mios for £23. The 4gb card is £20, a new battery is £11, and I think that gives you the best geocaching handheld that you can buy today.

Tuesday 14 March 2023

Getting ready for caching - the bike, part 2

Getting ready for caching - the bike, part 2

I woke up in the middle of the night, realising that £350 for a Thule Easyfold (new cost £600) would be a great bargain, and I should buy it before someone else does.

Too late. Someone else bought it. I should have decided sooner.

So I rummaged around through eBay, and found a Witter ZX200 for £75 (buy it now).  £75 is a really good price. The ZX200 can tilt (giving access to the car boot) and is lighter than the other similar tow bar carriers at 11 kg (the Thule Easyfold is 18kg). So I bought it, paid via Paypal and today (14 March) I collected it from Aldershot, which is less than an hour away.

There are two locks - one stops anyone stealing the carrier, and the other stops people stealing the bike from the carrier. I doubt if I'll use them. I find it hard to imagine that anyone would steal a bike carrier, and I'm not going to leave a bike on the carrier unattended. 

The ZX200 looks good on the car, and seems to be a well-made and solid carrier.

To get the bike onto the carrier, I have two possibilities. The bike (without battery) is 25kg, which I could lift, but with my hernia I don't want to risk it. So, the first possibility is a wooden ramp, which I'll hook onto the carrier and I'll just push the bike up the ramp. The ramp will be about 20 degrees, so I get a 4:1 advantage, meaning I push 6kg.

The other possibility, is to fit a length of wood onto the roof rack, with the wood sticking out of the back by a meter or so. And I'll attach a hoist to that wood, so I can just winch the bike up, and attach it to the carrier. And if that works, I might replace the hand winch (which cost me £20) with an electric winch for £90.

Monday 13 March 2023

Getting ready for caching - the bike

Getting ready for caching - the bike

The bike that I used to use for caching a few years back, is still in good condition. I oiled the cables to make them run more easily, pumped up the tires, and it works fine.

That is, it works fine if I use it from home. But I want to be able to transport the bike to where I'll be caching, and I have a bit of a problem there.

And the batteries are still good.

Although my recovery from cancer is 100%, it's left me with a couple of problems. My fitness is terrible, my back is weak, and I have an abdominal hernia. I consulted a doctor about the hernia, and he advised that I should do nothing about it, except I mustn't lift heavy weights, such as a full suitcase.

But the electric bike weighs 25 kilograms, and that's without the batteries, which can be lifted separately. And 25 kg is too much for the hernia.

I've bought a tow-bar mounted bike carrier, from which the bike will be suspended. But how do I lift the bike up to it? I don't want to try to lift 25 kg.

So I bought a block and tackle. Two blocks with three pulleys each, which gives me a mechanical advantage of 6:1. So I'll only be lifting 4kg. But I need to attach the top block to a pole or something.

I tried a six foot pole, but the problem is that I'm pulling the cord, but then the pole tilts sideways and it's difficult to stop that. So I need two poles, joined at the top, so that it can't tilt from side to side. 

Also, there's a problem using the block and tackle. You have to hold on to the cord, or the bike returns to the ground. And the cord tangles itself. And the bike tilts as I lift it.

So, I've ordered a hoist, the kind that has a ratchet and a handle, so the bike stays up when I let go of the handle. Next, I need to build an A-frame out of two six foot lengths of aluminium plus a strut to hold them together, but the whole thing needs to be not too long so it won't fit in the car. I'm hoping that will  work.

There's also the possibility of getting a 12 volt electric hoist for about £90, so I don't even have to wind a handle.

And there's another possibility; that's to get a tow-bar mounted carrier that the bikes sit on, plus perhaps an inclined plane so I can just wheel them on to the carrier. Normal bikes are around 15 kg, but the electric bike is 25 kg, so it needs a heavy-duty carrier. But those cost £360 for the "Halfords Advanced 2 bike Towbar mounted bike rack" (and it weighs 14 kg), and I'm trying the cheaper option first.


Getting ready for caching - mapping

Getting ready for caching - mapping

I was a serious geocacher, (number one in Europe at one point) but for various reasons I haven't done much for a few years. Now I want to get back. It's a great way to take exercise. Walking is boring, but walking plus geocaching is fun.

 But there are two factors now that weren't a problem a few years back. One is my eyesight. The right eye is good, but the left has glaucoma, and is so fuzzy that I can't read a book with it. This impacts reading a GPS. The other factor is that I have a hernia, more n that in another post.

I used to use a Loox for caching. It has a 640 by 480 screen, but now I find that hard to read. Before that, I used a Mio Digiwalker, with a 320 by 240 screen, which I find a lot easier to read. The Loox will take CF cards, so I can easily put a 16gb card in, which will store everything. But the Loox doesn't have built-in GPS; I have to use a separate device, which I connect with bluetooth. And, of course, getting the two to communicate is often a hassle.

On my Apple iPhone, I have the Geocaching app, but that's lacking in some of the facilities of the Mio. For example, it's not as good when setting caches. And I don't see how to use OS maps. OS maps show footpaths, and the 1:25k shows great detail, such as, which side of the hedge is the footpath. I also have Memory Map on the Iphone, and I've downloaded all my OS maps to that. But again, it lacks many of the features of Memory Map on the Mio (aka Pocket Nav).

One disadvantage of the Mio is the size of the storage card. It won't take SDHC cards, so officially it's limited to 2GB. Unofficially, it can take 4GB SD cards, but they are very difficult to source nowadays. I have four of them, so I'm OK.

To load up the Mio, I can connect it to a Windows box, but that's rather flaky, and often won't connect. But I can also take the SD card out, and use an SD card reader to download mapping and caches to the card. That works reliably. But there was a problem. How do you get the Mio to load up on my latest set of caches?

MM on the Mio lets me backup the cache data ... but there's no restore! My plan was to download the cache data to the SD card, and then restore from that. But there's no restore ... I struggled with this for a short while, then I Googled the problem (that's usually a good idea). And I found the answer. If you copy a .mmo file to the Mio, then if you click on that, it loads it into MM. The explanation I found was very detailed and dated back to 2006. Then I noticed who posted this solution. It was me! So, thank you, me of 17 years ago.

I also have TomTom on a dedicated device. But I decided to install it on the Mio and use the navigation from that. The big advantage is that the clip that attaches the TomTom to the windscreen is difficult to operate, and it usually takes me several minutes to get it to work. But the attachment for the Mio is much simpler to use.

So that's how it's going to work. TomTom on the Mio to navigate the car, the I'll use the same Mio for the bike and for walking (I have a rather good clip to hold it on the bike).

And I have a big battery pack so I'll never run out of battery.