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Posts by furrygerbil

Clyde Region Explorer Belt – Day 4



Another early start to drop off two teams in Washington and Baltimore.  Turns out that Washington team actually wanted dropped off at Arlington Cemetery which, for anyone who doesn’t know Washington, is right in the centre near the Washington Monument, not the best drive for a Tuesday morning.  The drop off went smoothly but did cost $7 to get out of the car park as for some reason we were considered a commercial vehicle.

Onwards to Baltimore, and Broening Park, nice looking from Google Maps, not so nice looking on the ground.  We found out that it was a very dodgy area of Baltimore but the group were taken in by the local volunteer fire department, fed, watered and driven (in a fire truck) to another station which had accommodation they could use for the night.

On the way home stopped off for a Subway, very exciting, it was just like being at home.

Arriving back in Harpers Ferry to fine one team back already, by all accounts they had left the campsite, managed the first turn OK, the got the second one wrong and walked 4 miles before being spotted by the other bus returning from another drop off which brought them back.  A few hours spend looking at maps and re-planning their routes (and a quick lesson on which is left and which is right) they were then dropped off part way through their first day and told to make the miles up at the end.

The next bit of excitement for the leaders was a Wal-Mart shop without a time limit!  The things you can buy in Wal-Mart is simply astounding, if you think Sainsbury, Tesco and ASDA have started selling lots of things they have a lot of catching up to do yet!

Dinner was a bit of a protein over does after the trip to Wal-Mart.  Steak, sausages and kebabs all on the BBQ for dinner with the normal salads, potato salad and home-made coleslaw.  Sort of stuffed ourselves on it which resulted in a night of vegetating looking at routes for teams before bed.

Clyde Region Explorer Belt – Day 3



Another dodgy night’s sleep, no idea why this time and it was up early(ish) for breakfast to get everyone ready for being picked up for the transfer to Harper Ferry and the KOA campsite before the start of the proper explorer belt expedition.

The buses returned and picked us up at 11am to take us to Wal-Mart for the groups to get final provisions for the trip while the leaders ran around trying to find the correct gas cans for everyone.  Three Wal-Marts later and we sourced enough gas for 2 for each team, coincidentally this was also the total number of gas can the three Wal-Marts had!

The KOA Campsite in Harpers Ferry is very much a Centreparks type place with family activities run all the time. Lunch was in a big barn and was sandwiches, crisps, drink and fruit, it went down very well, even the fruit!

This was to be home to most teams for the night so they were sent off to put up tents and sort out the last of their kit.  For three teams though it was time to leave to be dropped off at their start locations for the next day.   Two teams headed north with Robbie and Paul, almost a 300 mile round trip which Kevin and I too a team south to Luray and stopped for dinner at a pretty awesome new diner called High on the Hog who did an amazing buffet style meal for us with ribs, pulled pork, chicken and fries.

We then took the team up to their drop off point and drove off, ten minutes later finding their minor challenges still in the passenger door pocket, doh!  Drove back up to see if we could find them on the trail hoping they hadn’t got far but after about half an hour of looking I gave up and went back to the car.  The forest is a strange place in the dark, especially knowing there are bears and you don’t have a torch or a map.

As we were already at the beginning of the Skyline Road we took the scenic route back, think small north of Scotland roads.  Well it would have been scenic if it wasn’t getting dark and the cloud wasn’t low enough to totally obscure the road and leaving us to drive by the sat-nav and guess work.  Not the most relaxing drive.

By the time we got back it was quite late and after a quick tour of the camping to see who was still up it was bed time, another long drive in the morning.

Clyde Region Explorer Belt – Day 2



After a somewhat broken night’s sleep, not for any other reason than it was an unusual bed, breakfast was a continental sort of cereal and muffin type affair before getting all the participants ready to go get a group photo at the Washington Monument.   Unfortunately the monument is under renovation and is covered in a cleverly designed scaffold so it still looks like the Washington Monument just slightly wider than usual.

On the way Blair found a vent blowing hot air and decided a Marilyn Monroe impression was required much to the delight of the bus driver behind (Blair assures me he was wearing something under his kilt!)


From here the teams were given lunch money and sent off to do what they pleased with the younger teams having to check in with leaders are locations throughout the day.  First suggested stop, which most groups followed, was the Smithsonian Air and Space museum.  This houses lots of very interesting historical planes, rockets and spacecraft.  Among the exhibits are nuclear missiles, a V2 rocket, full scale replica of a lunar lander, a replica Wright Flyer and complete 747 nose section.


After the first check-in where everyone (eventually) turned up we moved on to the Native American Indian Museum just up the road from the Air and Space Museum where we stopped off for traditional Indian food for lunch, lots of meat in rolls on offer here.   By the time lunch was over it was nearly time for the next check-in which again passed off without losing anyone.  We’re getting good at this now.

Some of the leaders took this opportunity to head back to the youth hostel and sort out dinner on the way while others took a walk to Capitol Building before heading back to meet everyone at 5 for the final check-in.

Dinner was successfully organised for the Capitol City Brewing Company, a sort of TGI type place, with a set choice of menu and unlimited (non-alcoholic) drinks.

After dinner it was getting late and lots of people headed back to the Hostel for bed as we had another long day ahead of us.

Clyde Region Explorer Belt – Day 1



So today the adventure begins.  After 18 months of planning we are finally leaving on the explorer belt.  7am at the airport means a very early start for some and not so early for others.  For me 6am was early enough, still 30 minutes earlier than a working day!!  Thanks to Louise we didn’t have to catch a bus so that cut some time off the journey and we arrived just after 7 to a mass of scouts in full uniform and some parent looking bewildered.   A quick check-in and a headcount to make sure we had everyone we headed up stairs towards security where we were met by Stuart, the Regional Commissioner, who presented us with our UK neckies before a team photo.  Security passed of relatively easily and everyone arrived airside with everything they started with.

Unlike the flying I’ve become used to of the last year (easyjet/BA domestic flights) this one seemed to have a lot of waiting around for reason I still can’t get my head round.  If they can load luggage onto domestic flights and passengers can get to them in an hour how can’t they do it for long-haul flights?  Anyway, that’s a question for another day. The leaders sat in the bar and had breakfast before sorting out the last of the paperwork for each group, ID tags etc.

The flight to Philadelphia was delayed by about half an hour which meant we had even more time to get to the gate than we needed.  This did not bode well for the connecting flight at the other end which was a problem for later on.

The flight it’s self was like a blast from the 90’s, the food was the standard chicken of pasta dish which had been in the oven for far too long.  I was just about edible and filled a hole but so did the Boots sandwich I bought.  The movie was on a central screen down the aisle of the plane and I have no idea what it was, I think there were 3 of them can’t remember my nose was in a book for the entire flight and my ears were paying attention to my iPod.

What was looking like a quick change in Philadelphia of less than an hour became over two hours and then got stretched even more and then a bit more for good measure.  I have never been so happy to see a delayed notice against a flight.

The confusing thing about arriving in America is that you have to collect your bags, pass through immigration then customs before returning your bag and passing through security, where I got a good searching, to get to your next gate.  Somehow I managed to get through both Glasgow and Philadelphia airports with my small Swiss army knife on my house keys, not going to complain, I quite like having it, it’s now safely stored in my hold luggage for any future flights.

After all the polava of getting through all that lot we started off at one gate, got moved to another then back to the first.  Then for good measure the destination on the gate changed before we had boarded just to confuse us.

In arriving in Washington, slightly late, we picked up our extra scout who flew in from the west coast to meet us and lost a sleeping bag off of the outside of someone’s rucksack, an advert for always packing things inside bags when flying if ever there was one.  It was later found attached to someone else’s bag, it must have come off and some nice baggage handle attached it to a bag which obviously belonged to the same group.

We got picked up by 2 buses and take to our youth hostel in the centre of Washington about 5 blocks from the White House.  After settling into our home for the next couple of nights we went off to explore the area as a group.  A walk past the White House for a group photos opportunity then down past the Vietnam memorial wall, reflecting pool and on to the Lincoln Memorial for some night shots.

The trip back to the youth hostel via a 24 hour McDonalds for a very late dinner before bed was very uneventful.

Overall the evening gave the participants a chance to find out what it was like walking in the temperatures they would have to get used to over the next 12 days and confirmed to the leaders that they are glad they don’t have to walk anywhere.


Life always sneaks up on you


This post was supposed to start with “if you’ve just got your exam results and they weren’t what you were expecting, don’t panic” but it’s taken me so long to get round to writing it that that would be a pointless opening.  Instead you get that rambling.

Life is just one damned thing after another – Elbert Hubbard

And he was totally right, it doesn’t stop because you’re exam results aren’t right.

I’ve never known what I want to do with my life and to be honest I still don’t.  When I was in primary one I apparently didn’t like learning to count, or so my teacher told me in primary 7.  Through school I was never in the top class for anything when they were split that way.  Was never the best at anything, I’m still not.  Somehow I’ve gone from not liking counting to having a Masters Degree in Physics and (soon) a Masters in Power Plant Engineering and have a job working for Doosan Power Systems, a big power engineering company.  Definitely not where I expected to be just before my 26th birthday.

My choices have always been a bit off plan so it were.  I always thought I wanted to do something but the would suddenly change my mind.  In school I wanted to be a forensic scientist so I tool biology in 6th year but couldn’t stand the teacher so dropped it again.   Doing applications for uni I looked at the place which do forensic science and only applied for physics on a whim at the end of the application.  Exam marks came back and I decided that physics was what I wanted to do after that.

End of 4th year of physics and I still had a year to go and no idea what I wanted to do and started to wonder if I made the right decision doing physics, should I have been an engineer?

Queue job applications, applying for engineering jobs because I’ve got transferable skills and that’s what people really look for… no dice, probably mostly cause I didn’t know what I wanted to do.  After a year of working at an outdoor centre I decided to go back to uni and do something to make myself more desirable and 2 days ago I started working for an engineering company in NDT which is primarily physics based, so after all that I’m pretty much back where I started.

So that’s my tale of how I ended up where I am today so don’t worry if you don’t know what you want, something will always come up.  Life is what you make of it.  Enjoy it.

Starting University?


Are you starting university in September?

There are lots of people out there who will try to tell you what it’s like and what to do.  I’m not going to go that far but having been a student for 7 out of the last 8 years I have a few little bits of wisdom to share with you.

Freshers week is for making friends and having fun, make the most of it, go to the bars have a few drink and meet loads of people but don’t forget who they are the next day.   While the bars and night stuff is great don’t forget about the stuff during the day too, join a club, join a sport, take up something new, carry on with something old.  This is your chance to try new things, take them, you never know what you might find.

After freshers the fun doesn’t have to stop, remember to get out and have fun as well as going to classes.

Starting classes is always daunting, especially if it’s in something completely new but most people are in the same boat.  Don’t panic if you don’t know you’re timetable before the classes start so long as you know when and where the first one is the rest will become clear, maybe.  Chances are the lecturer won’t know much more than you about the timetable.

Staff are not scary people, the vast majority are there because they want to be and because they want you to succeed.  If you don’t understand something, ask questions.  If you’re confused, ask questions.

You’ll be assigned an advisor of studies who will help you pick classes and help you through but don’t be afraid to ask other lecturers for help.

Get to know the departmental secretary, no-one knows the department better.  They are the best source of information and can do great favours for you.

A piece of advice I got from a lecturer is second year.

If you’re going to be one of those students who doesn’t turn up to classes at least turn up to the first and last.  The first is where you find out what you will learn and how it is assessed and the last is where I cram in what’s in the exam and I haven’t managed to teach yet.

It might be slightly paraphrased but the general idea is there.  I’m not saying you don’t have to go to classes, you will learn things there which you can’t learn from the books and the enthusiasm of the lecturers won’t be there.

Tutorials are great, don’t get me wrong they can be boring and may seem pointless but they are the best way to learn and you never know what questions might turn up in the exam 😉

Don’t  leave things to the last minute.  This goes for assignments and studying for exams. They are best done early, this gives you time to look over it and make the best of it. It also save a huge amount of stress the night before.

Anyway, get out and enjoy yourselves.

Blair Atholl Jamborette


Had a brilliant weekend at the Blair Atholl Jamborette catching up with a lot of amazing friends.  Really wish I was there for the whole 2 weeks but never mind 2 days will have to do.


Here’s Steph with a giant gummy bear lolly thing, she looks happy 🙂

I got a Job


I’ve finally got a job.  I’m a graduate trainee at Doosan Power Systems, well I will be on the 30th of August.

I get to spend 2 years sampling different bits of the business before deciding where I want to end up.  After 2 more years doing that I will be a, something, “real” employee, not sure, lol.

Other than getting a job, I’m working on my summer placement in the uni.  I’m testing the strength of climbing ropes under different belay conditions.  Just trying to get time in the lab at the moment as someone else has decided to use the same machine and timings are difficult.  It’s interesting stuff though 😛

Hmm, social life? Been ok, pub trips as usual, night out where I realised I definitely made the right decision about something I was second guessing myself over.  Maybe a couple of things I’m not happy with but they’ll be sorted out.

Not been reading much but did go and see MIB3, its really good, just don’t over complicate it by thinking about the time travel to much like I did.



Friends aren’t always the people you see everyday, or every week, or even every month… They are, however the people who are always there and sometimes it’s the friends who come though the strangest circumstances who are the best 🙂

We’re going on a Bear hunt


As some of you may know Bear Grylls in the Chief Scout of the UK and he has made it his mission to visit as many beavers, cubs, scouts, explorers and network as possible in his time as Chief Scout.

A couple of weeks ago it was Scotland’s turn to welcome him with events being run all over the country.  I’ve been on the service team at Fordell Firs for a few years now and after working there for 18months I became a bit disillusioned with it all when I left in September and nearly didn’t go back but Bear’s visit happened to coincide with me finishing my uni assignments and I decided to go back.  So glad I did.

Got the chance to meet Bear, however briefly, and he is a really genuinely nice guy.   He spent about 40min walking round the site meeting with as many people as possibly before having a go on our king swing and bringing a whole new meaning to Bear in the Air.

To top it all off, my mate won tickets to see him live, in Cardiff!!  So a road trip was needed, took the tent and camped in the middle of Cardiff, who’d have thought of a campsite in the middle of the city but thankfully it was.  The show itself was a kinda chat show affair with Gethin Jones hosting.  The stories were brilliant and show how ‘normal’ Bear is, such as the story about sharing the bath with his two kids and a couple of rubber ducks.


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