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TDP2021: Day2 – Thiers – Callen – things are getting better

My day starts less then ideal: After yesterday’s cold and rainy marathon drive, I only felt marginally better after a long and hot bath and fell asleep quickly – only to wake up 2 hours later to violent shivering fits and intermittent cold sweating until early morning.

I always try to see the upsides of less than ideal moments: My joint pains from yesterday are much better today … also, according to a few health professionals I asked, a strong response to the vaccine seems to indicate a strong immune system. Both doses have been pretty harsh on me and going from my experience with the first dose, I should be fine by tomorrow. [soldiering-on…]

TW560 has had a much better night – the charge went well and by 7am my pack was at 419V, ready for another >400km of fun.

After a horrible night. This is where Day 2 starts

After a horrible night. This is where Day 2 starts

 

The temperatures are slightly more agreeable today – 15°C – and I am a hard-core TWIKE pilot: Down comes the canopy whilst I put on both my jackets. The first 50km are still the same diet of hills as yesterday until, suddenly, everything flattens out and becomes a beautifully undulating landscape perfect for TWIKEs.

I've finally left the hills behind me

I’ve finally left the hills behind me

 

The only thing I now need is some sun and less vaccine-related symptoms to really enjoy the drive across southwestern France.

Temperatures continue to go up and eventually I was able to shed one of my layers – this more or less coincided with my first patch of blue sky in view! Things were looking up!

Ah! Blue sky ahead!

Ah! Blue sky ahead!

Love these rolling hills in southwestern France

Love these rolling hills in southwestern France

 

I was now driving through this stunningly beautiful countryside complete with huge dark yellow/ochre grain fields and sunflowers. Even though I was on a route nationale to avoid (too) bad road surfaces and the never-ending speed bumps of my usual rural single-lane roads taking me from farm to farm, there was virtually no traffic on the roads.

Big skies in France - stunning!

Big skies in France – stunning!

 

My initial goal for today is to drive direction Bordeaux, recharge somewhere and choose a place to stay during the charge. Thankfully, with Bordeaux still over 350 km away, the signs started to show the way.

400km away, but Bordeaux is already there!

350km away, but Bordeaux is already there!

 

I was starting to feel a bit better – maybe this had to do with the coffee and extremely buttery croissant I had en-route?

Day 2 - 'I was there' pic

Day 2 – ‘I was there’ pic

 

But the picture above does show that I wasn’t at my usual 110%.

With this, I just drove onward until my SOC was around 18%. Weary of my many unsuccessful charging attempts in the past I still went for a commercial charging station first. (for example TDI2019: I tried to charge commercially 6 times of which 4 were completely unsuccessful as there was a technical problem either with the charging station or even more often the embeded IT solution, one was not functional and was not able to be fixed by calling support and last but not least our last candidate that was able to be coaxed into working by another support technician from afar. So much wasted time!)

I connected a cable, whipped out my charging app and tried to start the charge and got “couldn’t start charge: time-out during communication with charging station” AAAARRRRGGHH! Slightly frustrated I was about to pack everything back into my TWIKE and head to a nearby garage when I remembered that I had some physical RFID EV charging network cards with me – I got them out and held the very first one I found in front of the reader … and it worked!

Then I plugged in the cable and flipped the vehicle ready and charge ready switches with the correct timing and – oh! miracle – the charging station agreed that I was allowed to get some electricity – whoo!

Dreifels' Cable works!

Dreifels’ Cable works!

 

I’ve been in touch with Dreifels, the original creators of the TWIKE for a while with regards to the not yet 100% compatibility of our Type2 cables with every charging station out there. It would be too technical to get into what we’re discussing  …as it resembles more voodoo than anything else at this point in time (protocol text interpretation etc.). Essentially, we’re enabling something that wasn’t foreseen nor planned for this standard: get electricity to a ‘normal’ tri-phased plug without all the fuss. I was one of the first to build such a cable from scratch 10 years ago. It was a major pain to get the plugs from China as they were being produced pre-configured and not ready for what we were planning.

Here we are 10 years later and still discussing how to get these cables working reliably! Truly incredible! Dreifels provided me with their newest cable version and I agreed to test it on every commercial charge I would be making.

Today it was Dreifels vs. 10-years ago 1:0

My TWIKE looks all grown-up like this!

My TWIKE looks all grown-up like this!

 

This is how things should look like when I’m fast charging! 150-170km/h (granted, this is on the basis of my already very low consumption, YMMV)

This is fast charging!

This is fast charging!

 

During my stay at the charging station I wrote some emails, uploaded some photos to my blog and found a very nice ‘chambre d’hôtes’ 150km from my current position – I decided against fully charging and driving all the way to Spain today as the place looked amazing.

This is why I love my additional chargers!

This is why I love my additional chargers!

 

After just an hour I had all the energy necessary to get to my place for tonight in good time before sundown.

What a place this turned out to be!

A very old and traditional farm house run by two Parisians who moved here to escape the rat race of the big town.

Just a few minutes after arriving they welcomed me on their multiple-hectare-sized estate in the middle of nowhere about 50km south of Bordeaux.

They welcomed me like one would welcome old friends and before I could take my things to my room, I was already on their porch with a beer and some local cold cuts and involved in longer discourses about what my vehicle was, what my travel plans were and – obviously – their story about how they decided to leave the rat race and how they found this place… and France’s Covid response and current status.

My place for the night

My place for the night

 

I felt immediately at home – as I always try everything and they are people making everything at home, there were a few specialties – such as 3 week old brine cured pork wrapped in local herbs – I’ve never tasted raw meat like this – it’s unbelievable!

We touched also on the inability of any french provider to provide a good mobile signal to the property. The house isn’t connected to any network at all. Super expensive narrow-band internet with atrocious latency is the only connectivity they have as there are only one or two places on their property that works for mobile phones to be used.

[nerd alert]
I checked: We’re talking -126dBm on e-utran 20 with a SINR of <1 (data-only with less than 1 Mbit throughput) for one provider, -110 dBm on utran 8 for the other and -106 dBm with a TA of 19 for EGSM-900 with MCS-4 for the third… in other words: horrible coverage.
[/nerd alert]

After a few more beers and conversations about anything and everything (I’m really glad to be able to speak French passably and the hosts were just marvellous – ) I retired to my room which in itself was a treat:

A beam going though my room

A beam going though my room

 

And indeed, my mobile phone remained quiet for the night. A very unusual sight for someone used to ubiquitous Swiss over-engineered mobile coverage and 5G virtually everywhere…

They weren't lying - the in-house situation

They weren’t lying – the in-house situation on my mobile

 

I was curious: could I get the cellular modem in my laptop with my specially-designed high-gain antennas to get a signal here in this room?

The answer was, after some coaxing and low-level config (don’t ask, I can bore you to death with my explanations): Yes. I really love making cell-edge situations work.

But there was no real magic involved: I barely was able to connect and throughput was sub 1 Mbit. The laptop had to be held in a very specific angle and position. But hey, if you can’t watch YouTube or upload pictures – let alone write an entry, what else is there else to do?

With this satisfying result, it’s time to close the day and entry with the usual stats and GPS track for today.

Day 2 distance covered

Day 2 distance covered

TDP2021-day2 - GPS track

TDP2021-day2 – GPS track