Rambler chasing Windmills.

A nice day for a ramble on Suzie, and I made the best of it.

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A spin out on Suzie in the countryside.

I know it’s been a while since I have had anything to say here, but a change of career from “semi-retired” back to full time work, has put a stop to my gallop. My company vehicle has four wheels and a requirement to carry lots of the paraphernalia of work with me. During the late Summer and early Autumn, I had commuted to work on Suzie and that gave me the opportunity to ride almost everyday. A change of career direction put a damper on that pleasure for a while, but soon I will rectify that aberration and should have a lot more time to enjoy rambling around on Suzie again. Why do company vehicles invariably have four wheels? I will seriously consider any employment that offers two wheel transport. Two wheel powered transport of course.

Today I decided was a good day to take Suzie to the country. First stop, a visit to a young chap, whose name is IMG_1218 (2)a diminutive of Patrick. Páidí is not big on communicating through any recognisable language, but his approval is offered in relevant sound bites. His version of “Granddad, that’s a fine bike you have” is basically vocal offerings such as “vroom, vroom” and pointing his finger at Suzie and nodding in the affirmative that he recognises true beauty when he sees and hears it. A little climb up on Suzie to see it close up and touch all the bits attached to the handlebars was positively necessary too.

After Páidí had carried out his inspection, I took Suzie up the hills in the local area with a view to getting up close and personal with some windmills. IMG_1232 (2)Yes, I am aware that nowadays they are referred to as wind turbines, but my preference is to call them windmills. I know some people are not impressed with them and consider them a blight on the landscape. I suppose I don’t live near enough to hear them or suffer the “flicker” effect but I actually like them. It has been cold and frosty in recent weeks but today was mild and intermittently sunny, so it was a nice day to enjoy the views on some of the highest agricultural lands in County Wexford. Of course the day had to end with a good wash for Suzie because any sort of off-roading will result in a little muck flying up on Suzie, especially at this time of year. It was worth the trouble after such an enjoyable blast on a great bike.

 

A Weekend in Glenmalure.

Another great Touratech Ireland event organised by the team at Overlanders and AMI.

A great opportunity to meet up with friends in stunning Glenmalure.

Glenmalure was the venue this past weekend for the annual TouIMG_0901 (2)ratech Ireland Travel Event. It’s in it’s third year I believe and Derek, Hazel, David, Craig and Gary and the extended Overlanders and AMI family did themselves proud again. Mrs Rambler and I headed there on Suzie, my Suzuki V-Strom 1000 Adventure bike. The event was excellent, as we have grown to expect, set in a magnificent location in the heart of Wicklow. Glenmalure is a beautiful valley in the mountains, very popular with walkers, climbers and cyclists as well as motorcyclists. The list of events for the weekend was impressive. Ride-outs, off-road skills and presentations about exotic biking locations such as Morocco, Asia and Siberia, for example. The photographs from the trips made exciting viewing. Of course there was a fine selection of exhibitor stands too with bikes, clothing and luggage and all kinds of gear to be examined and IMG_0909 (2)discussed and plenty of bikes to try out. The selection of bikes that AMI had on display in their marquee was magnificent. We thought the numbers attending were even bigger this year with bikers from many countries having travelled to this event as well as a good number of the Hakuna Matata members too. Hakuna Matata is a motorcycling club that Derek is a founding member of. It was nice to meet up with some of the guys again and join the venerable ranks of froth blowers on the picnic benches outside the Lodge in good company.

Glenmalure Lodge had plenty of fine food and bevvies to sample. It is a cosy family run hotel, restaurant and pub. To be fair it has a captive audience in this valley but it is a distinct favourite with explorers in this part of Wicklow, the ‘Garden of Ireland’. It is close to some popular attractions such as Lugnaquilla, a favourite peak to climb in Leinster, that is just south of Dublin; Laragh and Glendalough are close-by and both are also very popular destinations for walkers and others interested in outdoor pursuits; and, The Wicklow Way is very close, as is Avondale House and Avoca. The Lodge is a firm favourite of ours and true to form, the food was top class as usual, both for evening fare and the full breakfast we had the next morning. There was great music in the bar at night and lots of people availed of it for a spot of dancing.

Mrs. Rambler and I stayed in a B&B just a few steps up the road called Coolalinga and it was a quaint little spot that was nice and comfortable. IMG_0915 (2)We received reports from those that stayed next door in The Wilderness Lodge, self catering accommodation and they were equally impressed. The camping area was well populated with probably about fifty camper vans and lots of tenting bikers. I believe there may have been one or two late night parties there, with the occasional barbecue being fired up for a sausage or burger after returning from a little socialising in the Lodge. Pat, a friend of ours, said he had been catching some ZZZs when he heard the rattle of the barbecue and shortly thereafter got the mouth-watering smell of sausages. When he ventured out of his camp he was immediately invited to sample the wares by the friendly camping neighbours and a mini party ensued.

On Sunday I was investigating one of the exhibitor stands where the Royal Enfield retro bikes were on view and fine single cylinder thumpers they are, as well as the great side-car rig on offer. Chris, from Sprocket and Hubs motorcycle shop, was telling Mrs Rambler and I that they are hiring bikes as well as selling the Royal Enfield range in their shop in Adare. I was closely examining the Benelli 502 on display, which is a relatively newcomer to the smaller adventure bike market when Chris invited me to take it for a spin. IMG_0917 (2)I hopped on and took it over the hilly terrain to Laragh and back. A distance of about 30 kilometres I would estimate. After the big Vee (V-Strom 1000) I had to learn pretty quickly not to be shy with the throttle on this 500cc twin, but it’s a fun little bike that’s well planted, with a comfortable seat and a very effective screen. It’s not going to knock any of the big name adventure bikes off their pedestals but at it’s price range it would make a good alternative as a cheap commuter or a weekend traveller. The price in question is 6900 Euros. For an additional 800 euros there is a fantastic set of GIVI luggage, big enough to fit a kitchen table and chairs. It certainly would be a great option as a hire bike for someone visiting here that wanted something to bike tour around the Wild Atlantic Way, at 100 euros a day, which includes the basic insurance deal. Thanks for the spin, Chris. And a particular word of congratulations to the team at Overlanders and AMI for a smashing motorcycling weekend.

 

Suzie gets a facelift.

I eventually gave in and bought a GIVI Airflow.

I have been resisting an after-market screen for my V-Strom.

My Suzuki V-Strom Adventure 1000 brought me very comfortably around Europe in May and June and on my day trips and commutes recently and I have to say I was very happy with the comfort level. Someone had commented on a post of mine that I needed an after-market screen to increase comfort but I had resisted going for one. I felt that it would adversely affect the look of my V-Strom.

There are a number of reasons to consider an after-market screen to add to a motorcycle. It can decrease wind buffeting and also reduce noise. I felt that neither of these issues were particularly intrusive on the V-Strom and that I could do without changing the screen. Then I saw Norman’s GIVI Airflow on his V-Strom at a biking meet recently and I thought it looked good. He assured me it had made a marked difference to the comfort level so I was converted. Craig at the AMI & Overlanders shop in Gorey ordered a GIVI Airflow suitable for my V-Strom. When Craig called me to say it had arrived I rode in to the shop and Conor and I installed it in a matter of minutes. I am glad I was convinced to go for it because there is a noticeable reduction in noise and it has reduced buffeting, even if I didn’t think there was too much in the first place. The screen is easily adjustable and it only takes a few moments to change the height. I set it just below my eyeline and it works great. I don’t think it looks too bad either. The featured image was taken on the quay in Wexford. The image below is a little closer and I hope you will agree that it looks good on Suzie.

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Now is absolutely the time to enjoy it because the weather is glorious. Today it was reading a nice 24 degrees Celsius (75 Fahrenheit) with beautiful sunshine and blue skies. Yes, I know bad weather will test the effectiveness of the screen a lot more but hey, I’ll take the sunshine while it’s here.

Lunch in Luxembourg. Breakfast in Belgium.

Suzie has been so reliable and comfortable on this trip. We move on to Luxembourg city and then Namur in Belgium.

Suzie my Suzuki V-Strom Adventure 1000 takes another few countries in her stride.

It was time to move on from my cottage in the woods in Neunkirchen, Germany, so I packed my gear on my V-Strom and prepared to head into Luxembourg. I haven’t said much about my Suzuki V-Strom Adventure 1000 in my posts about this European trip. Why would I unless I was encountering problems? Apart from refilling the Scott oiler occasionally and a quick check over before another days riding, there was nothing to do but ride. This bike does what it’s supposed to do without a fuss. It’s a big comfortable bike that let’s you eat up the miles with ease. A fill of fuel for a little over twenty euros keeps you going for most days, about 400 kilometres. I found that was enough except for one or two days where I covered extra ground for a particular purpose. Of course if you drive it like you are on a race track you will have to pull in to fill more often. It’s well able for poor roads or even occasionally no roads, as I found when crossing into Hungary, where pools of water and rocky unpaved roads were the surprise order of the day. If you want to tackle canyons, rivers and mud pits, my advice is to buy a scrambler. Or a horse.  If you want the kitchen sink get a 113 cubic inch / 1800cc behemoth American tourer. Or a camper van. For most of what you’ll find on a regular motorcycle tour in Europe this bike is perfect and it doesn’t miss a beat. If I had to criticise it I would say that having come from a silky smooth inline four, I found that the throttle control is a bit “lumpy” at low speed but that’s not unusual for a two cylinder bike.  It’s an excellent all-round bike and I’m delighted to own it and I suspect I will get many kilometres or miles of reliable enjoyment with it.

Luxembourg is both a small country and very wealthy, busy and cosmopolitan city. A serious amount of damage could be done by a shopaholic with a flexible credit card in this city of wide DSC06837 (3)pedestrianised shopping streets. Every top designer brand I have heard of has an outlet close to the centre, and the city has a real air of wealth and history about it that I’m not going to dwell on. I parked Suzie in the shade  with a few companions, as you can see in the featured image, and went to explore. I had lunch under a shady umbrella watching the shoppers with their bags from top dollar designer outlets go by. While the temperatures were still relatively high, there were some ominous looking clouds in the sky. Clouds? I hadn’t seen much of those in recent weeks. At least the temperatures were back down in the twenties even if the humidity was still noticeable. After lunch, I left Luxembourg heading North towards Belgium, in light showers that weren’t going to cause any problems or discomfort.

Namur is a fantastic Belgian city with street dining and beautiful little squares full of cafés and restaurants. It’s most prominent building is a citadel, or fortress, that overlooks the convergence of two rivers that meet at the city. It’s well worth visiting and is a fine viewing point to see this interesting little city. I sat in a leafy square, DSC06903 (2)Place du Marché Aux Légumes, and ordered a glass of wine surrounded by what seemed like hundreds of university students from the university of Namur or the Facultés Universitaires Notre-Dame de la Paix, to give it it’s proper title. The tables were shoved so close together to make room for the big crowd that it was easy to talk to the people next to you. I spoke to some students of medicine and law sitting close by. A pretty young student called Roman, a student of medicine, advised me to go a little tapas restaurant in the next street. I took her advice and had a smashing meal in La Cantina, or rather sitting outside La Cantina, on Rue de la Halle. I strongly recommend it as the food was great.

Namur is well worth a visit. I choose it because it’s not one of those cities that you can take a cheap and cheerful flight to, for a weekend away. When you travel by bike you can stray off the beaten path. DSC07001 (2)It’s got everything. A very cosmopolitan and vibrant feel with interesting and historic places to visit such as the magnificent citadel and beautiful churches, one of which, the renowned Saint Aubin’s Cathedral, has many pieces of art, extraordinary bells, and a belfry dating back to the 12th century. DSC07004 (2)Amazing, considering how badly damaged the city was during both world wars. It is a shopping city of considerable note even if not at the standard of Luxembourg. Sunday morning is market day and many of the streets are full of stalls selling everything from books to clothes and anything else you can imagine. Try to experience Namur yourself if you ever get the opportunity.

Next for Suzie and I will be to continue our journey, from Belgium into France, and up to the coast at the historic and interesting port city of Dieppe, on the English channel at the Eastern end of the Normandy coast.

East to West across Germany.

From Czech Republic across Germany in heavy traffic on the V-Strom.

After Czech Republic it was time to travel across Germany.

Germany is a beautiful country but after visiting Český Krumlov, the beautiful old city in the Czech Republic, DSC06754 (2)I wanted to make progress westwards. Ultimately I wanted to be in Northern France for a certain event that happens there every year, but I will give you details of that later. There are so many beautiful cities in Germany but I had to do the hard kilometres in one day to make it back to Neunkirchen in Saarland. And hard kilometres they were. Germany is like one big road works site when you are trying to traverse it on the autobahn. The autobahn itself can be an experience. When I crossed the border into the Bundesrepublik Deutschland it was a little confusing. As you approach the border of course you are hitting ever decreasing speed limits until eventually its down to 30 km/h as you are at the point of crossing. A friendly police officer waved me through and it seems I held no interest for the customs officers either. I was in the Bundesrepublik and keeping a watchful eye on the GPS. It normally let me know what the speed limit was on the road I was travelling. Now it had disappeared and I was at a bit of loss. A truck began overtaking me while I tried to figure out if I was still at 30 km/h for the border crossing, before the penny finally dropped. A lot of the autobahns have no speed limit. I had experienced this many times before and have no idea why it took so long for me to figure it out but of course it’s something every driver wants to experience at least once. Unlimited use of the throttle. I have on occasion, made total use of this and exercised the throttle wrist fully. The novelty wears off quickly though and you have to settle into the rhythm to make the most of the highway system. Boring, but at least it gets you where you want to go efficiently. Or so I thought.  Not this time. Every time I thought I was beginning to make good progress the traffic slowed. Inevitably it was more roadworks and in some cases it caused the traffic to bottleneck for up to half an hour. it seemed evenimg_0300 worse on the east bound side of the autobahn where the traffic was regularly at a complete standstill. Kilometre after kilometre of trucks at a standstill or at best at a crawl. The temperature was well into the thirties (celsius) and I hoped for their sakes the truck drivers had air-conditioning because even I was sweltering when the traffic slowed on my Suzuki V-Strom Adventure 1000cc. It was a long day even though I and the hundreds of other bikers travelling, had the added benefit of being able to filter between lanes in heavy traffic. Eventually though I made it to my little cottage in the woods near Neunkirchen and after a shower I headed to my favourite bar and restaurant called “Zum Landesknecht”, about five minutes walk away. A fine feast and a few beers later to was time to call it a night.

The next day I did a little exploring in the nearby small cities of Homburg and Saarlouis, both of which are well worth a visit. Both are historic cities and marked nowadays by the beautiful little “platz” or squares and streets with shaded café and restaurant seating where you can get a coffee or food while relaxing in the ambience of these little German cities. A feature of both cities is the large number of third level or university students and Saarlouis IMG_0505 (2)in particular has a very lively atmosphere with lots of students gathering in the late evening and early night to socialise, mostly outside the cafés and bars and it gives the place a real buzz. It has changed hands so many times because of war, as it borders Germany and France and this of course increases the degree to which this little city has a cosmopolitan feel to it. The city was originally a hexagonal fortress, built by Louis XIV to defend his empire. Another very interesting aspect of Saarlouis is the old stables and shelters built from red brick in a line, which are now being used as quaint little restaurants and bars. One of it’s famous sons, Marshall Michel Ney IMG_0515 (2)fought with Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. He was executed after Napoleon’s defeat even though he had a chance to save himself but he refused to renounce France in favour of Prussia. He requested and was given the right to command his own firing squad to fire with the following command: “Soldiers, when I give the command to fire, fire straight at my heart. Wait for the order. It will be my last to you. I protest against my condemnation. I have fought a hundred battles for France, and not one against her … Soldiers, fire!” Too much history, I know, but I am just trying to give you a feel for the place.

The next day I was up bright and early and it was time to head north towards Luxembourg on the V-Strom. I topped up the Scott oiler and gave the bike a good check over and set out northwards. Thanks to my friends in Neunkirchen IPA, particularly Thomas and Jürgen, both avid bikers of course. It’s always a pleasure to meet and renew our friendships. I will visit you there again in the future, I have no doubt.

Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic.

The city of Český Krumlov in the Czech Republic is a great treat and definitely worth a visit.

Cesky Krumlov is a fairy tale in the Czech Republic.

Suzie, my Suzuki V-Strom Adventure 1000cc and I, had crossed from Ireland to Continental Europe in mid May and headed South through the Black Forest and the Alps, East to Slovenia and Austria, and after a quick dip into Hungary, endIMG_0470 (2)ed up in the beautiful city of Gmunden in the North of  Austria. Now it was time to move on to the Czech Republic. To the city of Český Krumlov. Český Krumlov is a small bohemian city in the South of the country set in beautiful surrounding countryside, on the Vltava river. As you take the little winding tree lined road north towards Český Krumlov, you see the river that flows towards the city on your left. Along the banks are rafting and canoeing centres where you can take aDSC06707 ride and enjoy the beautiful views from the river. There are many of these centres as well as camping facilities in the beautiful countryside that is South Bohemia. Cesky Krumlov is most famous for it’s massive castle but is ranked alongside Prague in terms of being a UNESCO world heritage site for it’s old city sector. It is amazing. On the day I arrived there was a music festival on I believe, and there was classical music in the streets, which was a treat. As well as the spectacular little squares and medieval buildings, the city has a vibrant air about it and unfortunately it has really been discovered by international tourism. When  we visited last, almost twenty years ago, it had been by train from Prague. We had enquired there about some interesting places to visit in the Czech Republic and someone had suggested Český Krumlov. I had been on a break from work in Bosnia at the time and was relying on public transport.

We took a train from Prague to České Budějovice and then a narrow gauge train travelling at about 25mph brought us to Krumlov. IMG_0474The return journey cost us the equivalent of two Irish pounds and we practically had the place to ourselves. We were delighted because even back then it was hard to get elbow room in Prague, on Charles Bridge for instance. That is no longer true in Český Krumlov. Now it is packed to the rafters with people wielding selfie sticks and queues in the restaurants are almost a definite. Back then the local food and beer was so cheap and yet of such great quality. I was amazed at the number of people that still chose to shell out three or four pounds for an internationally famous Dutch beer when the Czech beer was gorgeous and a large bottle of the tasty brew was about 50 pence or cents.

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The castle is so massive it’s almost impossible to take an image of it that gives you the sense of it’s size. All of what you see above is part of it. Here is another view that might help to give you  an idea of just how big it really is.

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In the first photo the section above is just the left hand portion of what you see. You can walk right up into the castle and through the maze of passageways and squares that made this a formidable fortress as well as a Palace in the days before it became a museum.

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Enjoy the beautiful town squares and I hope when you visit there are as many bands and musicians for you to listen to. Expect the food to be excellent here in the Czech Republic and local beer is vDSC06811ery good even though it is difficult to find a bar in the traditional sense. I found a restaurant called Papa’s and I was lucky to get what appeared to be the last remaining table on the veranda over-looking the river. The food and wine were fantastic. The dish I had was turkey wrapped in pastry and sitting on a bed of spinach. I highly recommend you give Papa’s a go if you’re ever looking for some place to eat in Český Krumlov. I found a little bar later that served local beer and it was as good as I remembered it to be from the previous visit.

This area is extremely popular with motorcyclists and they were everywhere. I saw a most unusual BMW bike parked near a pension / hotel and I wondered what the motivation for the livery was.  The reason for the popularity withDSC06822 motorcyclists is the challenging roads and the beautiful views as well as good food and beer. I stayed in a great little pension / hotel called The Vlatavin and the couple that own it definitely went above and beyond to make Suzie and I feel secure there. Suzie had her own  covered mesh compound for the night and the accommodation was first class for me too.

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So, having enjoyed Český Krumlov, it’s time for a good sleep because tomorrow is going to be a long day. I intend to cross Germany in one day and it’s a wide country. The weather is holding well with good temperatures so it should be a nice spin.

 

 

In the Summertime When the Weather is Hot.

Great weather in Ireland means biking. Hot weather in Clare brings on a need to visit the picturesque village of Doolin.

High temperatures in May in Ireland definitely means bike time.

It’s getting close to my big trip in Europe but the weather has been so warm and dry in Ireland DSC05705 (2)that it would be almost impossible to resist a little motorcycling. The Wicklow hills are in my back yard so myself and Mrs. Rambler did a trip to Powerscourt Waterfall. At 400 feet or 121 metres it’s quite impressive. It’s in a mountain valley near Enniskerry about half an hour South of Dublin. It’s a very popular place to visit and particularly when the weather is warm it gets a large number of visitors. We combined it with a visit to some of the quaint villages in the area. Roundwood, Laragh and Glendalough are only a short distance on the V-Strom and we did a quick spin up to Sally gap and Lake Tay which are only a stone’s throw away as well. There’s always something to see in the Wicklow area and lots of people come out to take advantage of it when the weather is good, and why not. We enjoy hill-walking a lot and Wicklow certainly has a lot of possibilities for outdoor pursuits.

Last Monday I was checking my favourite weather app and noticed it was indicating 23 degrees in Clare so I packed the tent and a few other bits and DSC05733 (2)pieces on to the V-Strom and that’s a fairly easy task as it came with panniers and I added a top box. The trip to Doolin in County Clare is about three and a half hours but I stopped a few times for fuel for the Suzuki and fuel in the form of coffee for me. I was delighted that the app was right in relation to temperatures. The readout on the dash showed a steady increase as I went West. By the time I hit Clare it was staying steady at 23 degrees Celsius. It even showed 24 degrees briefly with a blue sky and plenty of sunshine. I rocked up to O’Connor’s Riverside Camping and Caravan site about 4 pm in the evening and set up the tent. DSC05779 (2)I hadn’t done it for a while but I got it up without too much of a problem. I have stayed at this site before and it’s really smashing. The staff are friendly and helpful and I also noticed a new addition in the form of “glamping” yurts. I had never seen these in the flesh before and they definitely made my little tent look far away from glamorous. I couldn’t believe how luxurious they looked inside and had to take a picture to show Mrs. Rambler. If we get a chance later in the summer we might just give them a go.

I spent an hour or so exploring on the V-Strom. It’s only a few minutes to Doolin Pier where you can take a ferry ride to either the island or to view DSC05756 (2)the Cliffs of Moher. I visited some of the little towns nearby too. Lahinch and Lisdoonvarna are only short distances away. When I got back to the tent I parked up the bike and walked up to O’Connor’s pub which was always a great spot for food and music. By now I had built up a good appetite. I was relying on previous experience and was not disappointed. The food was as good as I had hoped. DSC05767 (2)It’s always a good place for seafood and the service is quick and efficient but I was obviously too early for music. Not too worry though because Doolin is a great place for traditional music and after a leisurely walk taking in the beautiful red sunset I visited some of the other pubs. They were all very busy and the music and poetry renditions were great. It is hard to believe that Doolin could be so busy this early in the year. It seemed like there were twice as many visitors from outside Ireland as from within the country. As is usual in these homely places with nice music and lots of visitors, everyone talks to everyone, and it’s a nice way to meet people and have a relaxing evening.

Back to reality the next morning. I realised why I don’t chose to stay in the tent too often. I was a little stiff to say the least of it. It’s nice to do it occasionally but I don’t think I’d like to be crawlingDSC05730 (2) into a tent for a few nights in a row. I folded away the tent and sleeping bag and packed up the bike. I decided to forgo the pleasure of cooking my own breakfast even though the kitchen facilities in the Riverside site are first rate. I stopped not far from Bunratty Castle and  enjoyed a hearty full Irish and then set off for home. It was a nice trip in brilliant weather but now its time to start getting ready for a longer bike adventure, further afield.

As I mentioned earlier, I am taking the ferry to France shortly so today I visited the AMI (Adventure Motorcycles Ireland) shop in Gorey to have someone else throw an eye on the V-Strom before the big adventure. Of course there was no sign of the lads. Gary, Craig and Derek are off working hard investigating routes for future tours or actually guiding a tour at the moment. David had just headed off somewhere before I arrived. It’s amazing how these guys always find somewhere urgent to go on their bikes to somewhere interesting and exotic, like Portugal or Greece or Morocco, where the weather is good. It’s hard work but someone has to do it. Which left Joanna and Conor minding the fort. Which they were doing admirably. Conor had a quick check on the bike and we adjusted a few things, all with a view to satisfying myself that everything was in order for the anticipated high mileage in the next few weeks that I am really looking forward to.