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Friday, 23 July 2010

'ear ye, 'ear ye!

I might just be sounding like everyone's mother here, but I've worn ear protection on the bike for open road riding for years, simply because working in heavy industry pre-retirement; it was a sensible habit to maintain.  This was reinforced about 5 years ago when a UK bike magazine tested a range of both cheap and expensive helmets and not one of them was less than 100 dBA at the ear entrance.  Dunno whether things have improved since then but why take the risk?  Most motorcyclists are concerned about safety in terms of buying good quality riding gear, yet a significant number of riders I know do little or nothing to protect their hearing.

I started off by "souveniring" yellow foam plugs from work, as per the picture below.  They were effective but the dense foam pressed hard on the inside of the ear canal and became a distraction on longer journeys.  A different brand were in use at another branch of the company and in the interests of safety research (errr... and comfortable motorcycling), a handful were liberated.  These are the green Max Lite plugs shown on the left of the picture and they work a treat.  Softer than the yellow ones, easier to insert and just as effective as far as I'm concerned.


Of course, foam plugs are supposed to be disposable for sanitary reasons.  For any number of other reasons however, they tend to get used multiple times and it wouldn't be surprising after day one if whole colonies of hostile microscopic life had set up home both on them and in them.  I'm sure I've seen some of my plugs move under their own steam on the garage bench ;-).

The quest for reusable ear protection lead to plugs which are extensively used in the music industry, or so the marketing blurb assured discerning buyers.  Unlike foam plugs, they are supposed to allow the full spectrum of frequencies to pass through, just at lower volumes.  Resembling mutant rubber mushrooms, they're inserted into the ear canal with a short hollow plastic rod.  In the end of each mushroom, there is a removable plastic insert with a small hole. Three sets of these come with the kit, each set having a different diameter hole to allow differing volumes of sound through.  Here they are:

Wasn't all that impressed with them actually and there are probably an awful lot of deaf musicians about if my experience is anything to go by.  The biggest problem was that it wouldn't take long for them to work loose.  My right inner ear must go through a series of U-bends or something because it's a complete bastard (a technical term) to get a plug of any description to stay in.  Foam plugs had to be compressed to a few microns thick and rammed in at the speed of light to have a chance.  The musician's plug had often popped out by the time I'd buckled the helmet up.

Now, in NZ and elsewhere, there are companies that make custom-moulded ear plugs.  They even make ones with MP3 player speakers in them.  Trouble is, being a country hick, it's a long way to reach anyone who provides this service; so a purchase has been on the back burner for a while.  However, when we were on the recent Raglan ride-out, my mate Richard mentioned that the Hamilton Triumph dealer stocked D-I-Y kits for custom-moulded earplugs for NZ$50.  The typical male love of cool stuff prompted a call to the dealer on the Monday morning and the kit arrived in the post next day!

The kit consists of detailed, clear instructions, 2 pots of  silicone, (one with a hardener) plus a carry-bag for the finished articles.  There is sufficient silicone for 3 plugs.  Following the instructions and pictures, I kneaded enough for one plug which took less than a minute, rolled it into a ball and with some trepidations, proceeded to gently work it into my ear canal and also shape a little flap to locate under one of the external ear folds to hold it in place.  The instructions say to leave it for a minimum of 15 minutes to set and I left it for 30.  Didn't have to extract it with pliers or a drill thank goodness, so the process was repeated for the other ear.

The photo below shows the kit and the two finished plugs.  Now I know that from the picture, the plugs resemble something blown into a  handkerchief but the weird shape is the profile of part of the external ear surface and ear canal!  They are perfectly smooth on the outside and look fine. Washable and hypo-allergenic too.



A loud hi-fi test with both plugs inside the house (accompanied by much eye-rolling and sighing by my Chief Executive) revealed a greater noise attenuation than with either the foam or musicians plugs, but how would they be on the bike?  Well, I went for a local open road run to test them out.  Had a bit of difficulty getting them in place first time but it was just a matter of technique and didn't have any subsequent problems.  In terms of noise reduction, they work superbly but interestingly, you appear to be able to hear across the full range of frequencies, just at a significantly reduced level which is great.  One exception is that wind roar seems to have disappeared completely, I don't know why.

For the 80 km round trip, they were perfectly comfortable on the inside of the ear but there were a couple of slightly raised bits on the outside of the plugs that the helmet seemed to press on.  This caused a localised pressure point just above the ear lobe.  It was easy to see where a spot on each plug sat slightly proud and was quickly fixed with the aid of a craft knife .  So all in all:  yep, they work well and they'll be progressively tested for comfort over longer distances.  The manufacturers are a Scottish company and this is the link to their website: DIY Ear Plugs.

No more riding or blogging for a couple of weeks as I'm surprising Jennie with a trip to a secret destination to celebrate our 38th wedding anniversary - leaving early next week.  As far as I know, there's no motorcycle or scooter hire there, but it should still be fun!


Thursday, 22 July 2010

A mid-winter outing

There are 5 of us, possibly 6, riding as a group at the Grand Challenge endurance ride in October (see Part 1 and Part 2 ).  Only 2 of us have done the event previously although most have ridden together on day rides and weekends away.  We know and implicitly trust each other's riding styles but as the event approaches, we need to get out for some decent night runs to get used the blackness of the countryside again; not to mention build awareness of nocturnal creatures of all shapes and sizes just waiting to blunder into the path of unfortunate motorcyclists!

For now, however, getting some mid-winter daylight rides under our belts in a wide range of conditions  and getting used to heavy winter riding gear is all part of the toughening-up process.  Actually getting together for ride-outs is a major mission in itself as we live up to 200 km away from each other.  Add the fact that family commitments, weekend duty at work and other competing tasks get in the way; it's a bit like herding cats - nearly impossible!  Three of us, Andy from Auckland, Richard from near Hamilton and me from Coromandel  managed to get together for a back road run last weekend to the small coastal settlement of Raglan. The round trip was a modest 420 km, but that will be ramped up over the coming weeks.  The twisty, unfamiliar backroads were also a good test of my GPS, which rarely gets used on the bike.

 
Coromandel to Raglan - a 420 km round trip

With the temperature below freezing, I leave Coromandel with multiple layers of clothing on.  Take it really easy in the Coromandel high country as the fields are white and there is a band of frost down the centre of the road.  Going down on my arse a few km from home won't get a sympathetic response from my mates! The trip across the Waikato province to the rendezvous point at Woodleigh on SH22 north of Raglan is uneventful and although the frost has largely disappeared, extreme care is required on shaded bends.  It's a beautiful ride and the road running due west from SH1 at Huntly to SH 22 at Woodleigh,  follows a ridge which gives incredible views of the countryside both north and south. Gorgeous farming country at its very best.


View looking north



View looking south

Arriving at the rendezvous point, it is less than a minute before Andy and Richard show up. Andy from the "sophisticated" metropolis of Auckland thinks that Richard and I are inter-bred country boys and the moment he spots the 3-fingered Rain-Off mittens I'm wearing over my winter gloves for added insulation, he reckons they're the perfect accessory for both of us.  We might both live in the rural backblocks, but it's hardly "Deliverance" country and as neither of us can play the banjo, he's got a bloody cheek!  He'll keep....



Andy and Richard rocking up



Richard and Andy having words about 3-fingered gloves

After a quick chat, Richard on his GS 1200 leads off as he knows the Waikato back roads fairly well.  SH22 is a biker's paradise with no straights at all longer than a few tens of metres although how it gets a "State Highway" designation given its narrow width and remote location is beyond me... maybe because it's actually tar sealed, unlike a lot of the other nearby roads.  Richard sets an excellent fast pace although showing a lot of wisdom in riding conservatively in the shaded parts of the road as frost is still evident, even though it's just after 11am.

The main street in the coastal village of Raglan is packed due to school holidays and it being a weekend so we ride straight through and out to the wharf where the Marlin cafe is situated right on the harbour.  There are other riders there already enjoying the winter sun and it's surprisingly warm.  Everyone is chilled out and bikers and non-bikers alike enjoy each others' company.



The Marlin Cafe and Grill, Raglan



Geoff, Richard and Andy eagerly awaiting sustenance

Lunch consists of seafood chowder, John Dory and chips with salad, washed down with great coffee and spiced tomato juice in Andy's case as he's a sophisticated Aucklander ;-).  Unlike our esteemed Canadian bloggers, I don't take photos of the meal but it tastes great! The conversation briefly turns to the big ride in October and how to protect our butts from terminal damage due to hard bike seats over the 1000 miles.  Andy reckons an inflatable haemorrhoid ring might be the way to go.  The conversation then takes a downward spiral with Richard suggesting that a kid's  rubber swimming ring complete with a blow-up duck on the front of it would really fill the bill.  Oh dear......


Raglan harbour and big sky across from the Marlin cafe

After a most enjoyable lunch, it's time to head to our respective homes, with Richard heading just south of Hamilton and Andy and me re-tracing our steps back up SH22.  The road is now frost-free and dry and it's a rapid trip north with Andy setting a cracking pace on his K1200.  The fantastic wail from his 4 into 1 aftermarket can is an added bonus!

Saying goodbye at our morning rendezvous point, I head back to Coromandel across country where there is virtually no traffic - absolute biker heaven.  Riding up the Thames-Coromandel coast, the radar detector pays for itself yet again!  A member of the Highway Patrol is cunningly hidden by some trees to collect revenue from inattentive motorists.  Although I'm not "a lot" above the legal limit, the detector picks up the microwave emissions several hundred metres from his position so the wallet-opening ritual is easily avoided.

Coming into Coromandel,  a thin veil of cloud is moving over the sun, casting a beautiful light over the harbour so I stop to take a couple of shots.

Coromandel Harbour and one minute away from home

Coromandel Harbour as the winter sun sinks

All in all, a wonderful winter ride with treasured friends - no room for the winter blues on a day like this.  In fact, such a day genuinely rejuvenates the soul!




Sunday, 11 July 2010

1000 miles in 24 hours, part 2

Following on from the introduction to what the Grand Challenge involves (see Part 1  ), the following notes are some personal musings about preparation; not in any particular order of importance. Both age and the 7 years elapsed since last taking part in this painful  marathon suggests that it would be wise to do a little planning prior to the event!

Nutrition on the ride
On a couple of the early rides, I ate food that didn't really suit me, at least under those riding conditions.... gas station meat pies of dubious vintage, chocolate bars and caffeine-laden energy drinks . Felt slightly sick, wired and a made a few "close call" unscheduled comfort stops!  My personal preference is for a big bag of scroggin/trail mix, i.e. dried fruit and nuts which give a more linear energy release and you don't feel over-full. That's what I'll be sticking to this time unless any cravings intervene - I do like pies though!

Good hydration is essential for alertness and to keep cramp away.  For me, plain bottled water is sufficient or light sports drinks with any Red Bull or other concentrated caffeine drink strictly held over until the last checkpoint before finishing. Personally, pills are an absolute no-no; apart from the odd mild painkiller if absolutely necessary.
 
Dawn, 1996 event - fried eggs, fried bacon, fried sausages, fried hash browns, fried cholesterol.... ewwwwww....


Clothing
This has been pretty much covered in the earlier post: Wet weather gear but staying warm and dry is essential for such a long distance.  I don't like feeling constricted with thick sweaters and the like, which is why the Icebreaker brand pure merino layer system under riding gear is the clothing of choice.  Just to add a note of levity, I will throw the word "underpants" into the ring!  Whilst trying to avoid this post descending into the gutter, it does have a serious side!  Without being too unseemly, briefs in the shape of minimalist swimwear drove me nuts on the first event.  When they weren't periodically climbing up between the buttocks, the raised seam on the leg cutaways seemed to be pressing right into the flesh and reducing circulation.  I tell you, these seemingly trivial things take on major significance on a long ride and the gymnastics attempting to rectify the problem whilst on the move defy description!  The problem was subsequently solved by riding in the sort of close-fitting stretchy boxers which good-looking young male athletes endorse on billboards and in magazines.  As I'm at the opposite end of the scale on all counts (apart from being a male), keeping quiet on the subject would be preferable but in the interests of comfort, it would be remiss not to reluctantly share the tip with any readers.  You may now snigger :-)

Oh yes... and helmets!  How is it that a helmet which is perfectly comfortable for "normal" riding can develop into something like Chinese Water Torture on long hauls?  I used a Vemar brand helmet on one ride which at around the 1000 km mark, pinched the tip of one ear.  It was really distracting and I almost attacked the lining with a knife.  Fortunately, common sense prevailed and a bit of strategically-placed duct tape solved the problem.  It ain't the big things which normally conspire against you, it's little things like this which can make or break the ride and its enjoyment!


Fitness
Physical and mental fitness both fall into this category. Ride fitness is probably a better description than physical and it definitely helps to have a longish ride or two not too long before the event proper to toughen wrists, backsides and numerous joints.  A practice night ride with your mates is also a smart move to dial in with each other and get mentally used to riding in the dark on unfamiliar, unlit roads.  (Covered in more detail on this previous post: Night riding ).  I'm carrying some old sports injuries to my knees which are becoming more of a problem these days so I'm progressively getting out on a mountain bike to build a bit more stamina whilst minimising joint stresses. This is my token gesture for building fitness apart from riding the Triumph over longer distances as the event draws closer!

Mental fitness is something I don't have any real experience of, apart from possibly questioning the sanity of anyone who enters this event.  However, the sheer distance can overwhelm some participants causing a withdrawal from the ride; normally in the early hours of the morning.  I reckon that it's more about mental toughness that either physical fitness or the type of bike you ride. We've always found it helps to treat the distance between checkpoints as separate rides and reset the mental horizon for each one.  I seem to suffer from anxiety in the small hours before dawn.  I'm not sure whether this is because the body clock is trying to shut down for sleep or what, but a cure has eluded me.  However, having good friends along definitely helps. Swapping the lead at gas refills if travelling in a group also helps with stress levels, allowing time to relax and recover if you're not up front.

Stretching, waving extremities about, standing on the footpegs, all whilst on the move helps a lot.  It also provides amusement for the following riders and probably alarms members of the general public.  A decent saddle is a major reducer of fatigue.  I had a custom one made for the Blackbird with varying density foams to eliminate pressure points and it was literally possible to ride all day without discomfort.  Other long distance regulars use sheepskins, large cell packaging bubble wrap taped to the seat and I'm tempted to experiment with this latter option on the Street Triple. An Airhawk inflatable pad is also on offer from a friend and this will be investigated in the coming weeks.

2003 competitor with sheepskin seat cover.  He also had a camelback for drinking whilst riding


Route planning and riding
With the organisers not disclosing the route until the riders actually arrive the previous evening or on the day of the event, there's little to be done except to transcribe the route onto a large scale map of the north island and discuss various aspects of the route with riding partners to pool any road knowledge (or to panic over some miserable goat track that we have to negotiate at 3 am!).  I've owned a GPS for a few years but have rarely used it on the bike so might give it a go this year, in addition to a back-up paper map which will never misbehave. As we have 3 riders in our group who haven't previously done the event, we'll have to be a bit careful about who leads at what stage.  After all, the purpose is to enjoy the event, not turn it into a nightmare for the first-timers.  Oh yes, and the organisers inspect your bike minutely for defects, even if it does possess a current warrant of fitness sticker. If there's anything even slightly dodgy, it has to be fixed or you don't ride!

Something we did for our first ever Grand Challenge was to make up a simple time/distance chart (see below).  It might seem like overkill but in the middle of the night when you're tired, hurting and under stress, performing mental arithmetic to figure out if you're on schedule takes a bit of nosedive. Looking at the actual time and actual distance covered, then seeing whether you're above or below the line on the chart was a simple means of assessing progress and although we haven't used it on subsequent rides, it might be of use to our newcomers, or if we encounter adverse conditions or any other form of delay.  Clearly the influence of an anal engineer, (who, me?) sigh.......



On the first ride, we stopped for 2 decent breaks for dinner and breakfast which was a mistake on our part.  Getting back on the bike after a good break was tough as we were starting to stiffen up and that affected the mental side of things too. On subsequent events, it was preferable to stop at a checkpoint to register arrival, check on each other, gas up, a quick bite to eat and drink, meet the needs of nature, do some stretches and get going again; all in the space of around 15 minutes.  Looking at it another way, you probably make 6 gas stops on the ride.  6 stops at 15 minutes is 1.5 hours of stationary time.  Adding another 2 + hours just for eating with questionable recovery benefits means that you have to go just that bit harder on the road with all the potential disadvantages and risks. On one previous ride, we covered the 1000 miles in a little under 19 hours but that was mainly resulting from uncharacteristically good weather and 3 experienced riders in phase with each other.  There was certainly no intent to do a fast time and there won't be this time either.

Going really hard is physically and mentally fatiguing, even with the benefit of a big screen or a fairing. Our personal preference is to cruise a "wee bit" above the legal speed limit which also reduces the risk of getting pinged for serious speeding and coming to a grinding halt whilst summary justice is administered.  Besides, I'm the only one with a radar detector and I'm definitely not going up front for the whole ride!  On a previous ride, two of the entrants spent an hour hiding behind some shops whilst evading the Highway Patrol for excessive speeds in the dark.  That's not a good position to get yourself into although we had a good laugh at their expense!

I previously lived only 160km from the start/finish of the Grand Challenge so I would ride from home directly to the event and then home again straight afterward, covering close to 2000 km in a touch over 24 hours. Now living about 350km away and 7 years older, it might be a smart idea to spend the 2 evenings either side of the event somewhere a bit closer!

 
 1997 - Minutes before departure and no smiling now!

Well, that's probably covered off all the basics.  All we need to do now is organise some decent rides in all weathers to start mental and physical conditioning without leaving it until the last minute!  More on this in future posts.....

Update:  2010 Grand Challenge ride report and photos:  2010 Grand Challenge

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Classic British bikes

I took the following photos at a classic bike ride-in a few years back.  The emphasis was on a ride-in rather than drive 'em in on a trailer and ride them the last few hundred metres; some of them coming over over pretty long distances.  All were beautifully restored but they certainly weren't show ponies and on the open road section of the ride-in, some were being pushed along at a fair old pace!  These photos are just a small selection but it's wonderful that so many older bikes not only exist, but are used quite regularly:

 1963 AJS CSR 650

 1956 Triumph Tiger 110 650

 1960's Royal Enfield Constellation 700 - not all that reliable but nice-looking!


 1960's Norton Atlas 750


 Late 1950's Velocette Venom 500 (capable of a genuine 100 mph)


The following two pictures are of me, my BMW K100RS and some friends whilst at the classic bike weekend.  The Beemer is hardly a classic but the scenery in Taranaki province is really nice!   The first photo has Mt Taranaki, a 2500 metre high dormant volcano as a backdrop.  The second photo is with the same friends, parked up on an old timber stagecoach road bridge a few km from the classic meeting.  It was noteworthy in that it had been closed to traffic for some years due to rotten timbers but we managed to squeeze the bikes through the bollards and carefully ride them onto the bridge!




If there was one great thing about 1960's British bikes and earlier, it was that the seat heights were perfect for vertically-challenged people - nothing over 800mm.  At 5'8", many modern bikes rule themselves out of my consideration on seat height alone!

Sunday, 4 July 2010

1000 miles in 24 hours, part 1

1997 - 7 friends about to enter a world of pain

Many Kiwi riders know all about the the reputation, pain and anxiety that is the annual Rusty Nuts Grand Challenge, but comparatively few are inclined to take part.  Internationally; it probably isn't that well-known other than to a few other long haul specialists dotted around the Globe. 

What is it anyway?
NZ's equivalent of a U.S Iron Butt event.  Sounds pretty straightforward if you say it quickly. Cover 1000 miles (1600km) within 24 hours, an average speed of 41.67 mph or 66.67 km/hr.  Surely not that difficult, is it? 

Now let's add a bit of context...........

It's held annually in October when NZ weather can be quite variable. (In fact, the 1996 event was a nightmare of almost continuous rain and gales, with quite a few other GC's having being run in less than pleasant weather too).

It starts and finishes at Turangi in the central north island but the actual route through manned checkpoints changes each year and is only disclosed the evening before the event to keep it a surprise.  The organisers are sadists and much of the route (especially in the middle of the night) is on unlit, poorly-marked twisty back-roads miles from anywhere.  In NZ, there are no motorways or freeways as such apart from through a couple of major cities so nearly all the event is on 2 lane sealed roads, mainly twisty and of variable quality.  That's one heck of an obstacle, particularly with respect to both fatigue levels and keeping to the schedule.

The event starts mid-afternoon on a Saturday which only gives around 4 hours of daylight riding, then  11 hours or thereabouts of darkness before finishing in daylight sometime the following day. A hundred or so riders start the event, being sent off in bunches a few minutes apart to spread them out on the road.

As the organisers quite properly state, it's not a race and there are no prizes for finishing first.  In fact, all you get is a badge a certificate and a large feed on completion. All that's irrelevant as the reward (perhaps not the best choice of word!) is simply taking part and if you're fortunate; finishing safely within 24 hours. The real battle is with what's inside your own head as completing the ride has more to do with your mental and physical fortitude than the bike you're riding.  In fact, some entrants ride scooters, 50cc motorcycles and so on, just to make things really difficult, bless 'em!


Why would you do it to yourself?
Hmmmm...  good question and there's probably no single answer.  Maybe the closest to a common response is the reasons we all ride - the thrill, enjoyment and challenge in extending ourselves. Doing it tough in comparison with our normally comfortable and relatively soft lives, perhaps.  You certainly find out quite a bit about yourself, that's for sure!  In my case, I saw a magazine article at the end of 1995 where a journalist entered and ended up hallucinating with pain. If memory still functions, he missed the time limit by just over an hour.  Some friends and I talked it over and decided to enter for the 1996 event as it sounded like something which would stretch us (a magnificent understatement, uttered by idiots).  As already mentioned, the weather was appalling for most of the ride, we were in a bit of a state (another understatement) at the end but the sense of accomplishment on finishing with 45 minutes left on the clock was indescribable.

The aftermath of that first event was memorable too, for all the wrong reasons:  Almost unable to hold utensils when eating a meal after I got home.  Laying in the bath nodding off, with Jennie sitting on the side to make sure I didn't slide beneath the waves (the outcome might be different now with decent retirement funds and insurance so I'll stick to a hot shower in case she's tempted to hold me under). Going to bed early and waking up in the small hours with severe cramp, screaming my head off and colliding with bedroom furniture in the pitch blackness in a futile attempt to straighten a leg.  Going to the bathroom in the early hours and shaking with fatigue so badly that the aim was..... well.....ummmm... you get the picture.

I guess that the atrocious weather in combination with not knowing what to expect magnified the memories of that first event.  Subsequent Grand Challenges have all still been a real test but I don't remember being in quite such bad shape at the end of them.

 Grand Challenge '99. 2am and looking a lot better than we feel


 Grand Challenge '97 finish, just having a wee lie-down

1997 - Bladder control problems and there's always a mate with a camera...

1996 - Steve, feigning death at a gas station to avoid any more riding

Three more Grand Challenges have been completed since the first in '96, the last one being in 2003 and I thought it would be the last.  However, since then, I've blinked and moved well past 60, changed from the faired Blackbird to a naked Street Triple and stupidly got to wondering whether it was still possible to successfully complete another one.  A half-hearted email was sent out to my riding partners, half hoping that the answer was to get stuffed.  However, a close friend who has done the previous GC's with me was keen to have another go, together with 2 other good mates who haven't previously done it (suckers) plus a relative of one of the other lads.  So here we are, entries having been accepted and due to start at 3.03pm on Saturday October 16th; 2 days before my 63rd birthday!  An eclectic range of bikes amongst us - Triumph Street Triple, Kawasaki 500, Kawasaki ZX10R (fool!), BMW K1200S and a BMW R1200 GS.

Fellow NZ blogger Bandit Rider (Andrew) will also be doing the event for the umpteenth time so it will be great to meet him in person at long last. Hopefully, he'll blog his involvement too.
 
Because of increasing age and being currently less fit than for previous GC's, I thought I'd try and be a bit more systematic in the preparations this time rather than being too casual about it. Reporting the preparations (or lack thereof), thoughts, apprehension, blind panic and everything in between might provide some light amusement at my expense; so more reports to follow at odd intervals over the coming  weeks......

 2003 - Apprehension and not long from getting underway

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Some wonderful bikes!

There are some interesting bikes popping up in NZ at present on TradeMe (the equivalent of eBay). The first is a 1987 Triumph Tiger still in its original crate!  Just sold for NZ $30000.  Here's the link: 1987 Triumph Tiger and a photo:


This is what a Tiger 750 looks like out of the crate:



How about this for a fabulous bit of engineering?  A replica of an 1896 Roper steam motorcycle built from scratch by a guy not far to the south of us here in NZ.  Link is here: Steam bike for sale with 20 photos.

I'd buy it myself except that I have this nagging feeling that death at the hands of a loved one might follow shortly thereafter.  Just the thing for fellow blogger Bobscoot to buy though as he seems to acquire farkles on an unrestricted basis!





So many toys, so little permission.  Sigh.......