Trust, Squirt and Beauty

My 100th post apparently, not bad for an occasional blog I suppose?

It may sound a bit of a dubious title, but bear with me.

Trust in this instance is not believing in something or someone, but an anti-oderant which I have used for years. I don’t like having smelly armpits when working hard on the bike so this is a product that really works for me. It allows you to sweat, works for several days and has no aluminium or other harmful ingrediants. Only drawback is when it fades there is little warning. But I am sure my fellow cyclists and other humans appreciate the effect. It comes in a tiny, tiny jar which seems ultra expensive till, after use, you realise it lasts for months.

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Trust – doesn’t seem much but . . . .

Squirt I have written about before. It’s a special dry lube.Our roads are $%£!@(!! round here. They are full of potholes, gravel, mud, puddles, salt in winter etc. etc. So it gives the bike and its components a hard time.

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The road out of our village 2 days ago

Chains usually last about 3,000 mile if I’m lucky. Cassettes and chainrings get a bit of a battering too. For over a year now I’ve been using special dry lube called Squirt. I’ve found it excellent, even in these conditions. I recently changed my chain and found it had done 5,000 miles and wasn’t even fully stretched. No need to change the cassette or chainring either, so it’s win, win. One of the other things is cleaning – just a quick hose down and all the gubbins is washed away, a quick dry off and a lube and that’s it! Means the cassette, stays, derailleurs clean off easy as well. And finally, there’s the smoothness. The chain just seems to run quieter and feel better. So definitely works for me.

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Squirt, works well for me.

Now for the best – beauty. This is supposedly in the eye of the beholder, if so, as I’ve said before, there is so much for to gaze on round here that it becomes a feast. The scenery, the animals, plants & birds, the skyscapes, the weather effects and some of the human structures are there for the joy of the beholder. But enough of waxing lyrical, I’ll leave you with the second hand experience of a selection of photos.

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Amazing clouds at North Berwick

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East Linton sunset

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A curlew

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A patriotic tower, Belhaven

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Looking over Dunbar harbour – not exactly native species!!

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Now a house, used to be an airfield control tower

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Deer in the afternoon

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A wonderful sculpture celebrating the Eyemouth disaster. The figures are tiny.

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A Gardiner Malloy statue in Dunbar, two men to load, one fishwife to carry!

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A ribbon of light along the Biel Burn, flowing under ‘The Bridge to Nowhere’

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Sun and shadows at sunset

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Tree at sunset, up from the village of Spott.

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Dunbar harbour, with a rare Icelandic gull somewhere there.

Version 2

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Mist pouring over Traprain Law

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I didn’t cycle this one up to Lawhead

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Remains of a bike left in the tree for decades as a memorial, there’s a stone nearby

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Cycling past & through brussel sprout leaves

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Another sunset ride – Aberlady church

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Coastguard on the lookout, North Berwick

Why I love my Village

I love living here, despite being a newcomer of only 15 or 16 years.

We are near enough from Edinburgh to be able to get in OK if needed, but far enough away to have loads of things happening.

So what does go on then?

First of all, a quick visit to the shops just down the street can result in a 20 minute or so expedition, chatting to folk on the way, going off to the deli or home with someone you meet, helping out a stranger with something and so on.

The Sweetie Shop

The Chemists

The village is expanding as quantities of new houses have been built and more are being planned, but the village has always been growing. What I dislike is the uniformity of the new houses being built. As the village formed it grew up all higgidly piggildy as there were no planning regulations. Folk added a porch on, an extra floor and another as the fancy took them. In many ways the regulations make things safer, more efficient and environmentally friendly but at the same time the designers/ architects can’t get their heads around the creativity for new buildings that will also fit in an older setting with an acceptable profit margin.

Rant over (for now).

The Flying Scotsman whooshes past the former station

Some of the older houses

The High Street

You can tell the new folk to the village, you meet them, say “Hi, how are you doing” and they give you a look of what appears to be mistrust. Hopefully this will change as they grow into life here.

So what makes it so good? Of course – the folk who live and/ or work here. They keep an eye out for each other but will leave each other alone if needed. When something goes wrong a pot of soup will land on your doorstep, or maybe a jar of jam, dangling in its bag from the door handle, or maybe a book.

The community joins in a lot, old and young. We have a very vital Community Hall, well booked for most of the week. We have a Gala which is well attended, the community choir, a community cinema, Christmas market, scouts, guides, brownies etc., horticultural societies who plant boxes around the village and encourage others to do the same.

Filming at the old mill for Outlander

Building a set for the Drama Group

The VR stands for Queen Victoria (Victoria Regina) so wasn’t fitted yesterday

A cargo bike outside the Community Hall
We also have a good variety of shops, a couple of inns, all sorts of trades folks and so on.

Volunteers run a Christmas Market and this year we (the community cinema group Pix in the Stix) put up an open air screen and showed a couple of films and a show of snowy/ icy photos from her to the Alps and Himalayas. Luckily the weather goddesses were kind. It was above freezing and hardly a breath of wind.

The community choir sings at the Christmas Market

Our Community Cinema puts on some films and a snowy/ icy photo show for the market

The last thing to mention here are the surroundings. We have a river (the Tyne) running through the village, the beach and sea just 10 minutes away by bike, woods, hills and moors, castles, old churches and historic sites and buildings all within easy reach, the joys (mostly) of the weather always changing and a fascinating geology.

All this helps foster a good outdoor community, be it the football team, tennis players or the walkers, runners, canoeists, sailors, skiers and cyclists (like myself).

Phantassie Doocot (a Doo is Scottish for a pigeon)

One of the old gravestones in the graveyard

Giant leeks and onions at the show

A local heron at the Linn (the waterfall)

So if you asked me where I would choose to live if I could stay anywhere – the answer, as you might guess is – here!!

What do you feel? The second bit.

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I wrote the first bit over 2 1/2 years ago and have finally got round to finishing it as I wait for the frost to melt on the roads.

‘Last time it was the physical side, the heat, the cold, the discomfort and the times when everything just felt good.

This time it’s what’s going on in the brain.

The pure joy that just flows through you when all is right in your cycling world. Singing along to yourself, not caring if the world thinks you’re totally mad. Smiling at cows as you pass them, or speaking gently to dogs that pop out to say hello. That grin as you ease yourself off the front of the group to drift back and slot into the rear after a hard go into the wind. These times are precious and I feel I’m lucky to have them on a reasonably regular basis. There’s…

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What do you feel? The second bit.

A wee caution. I hadn’t published this first time, but somehow it was shown as published in 2014 when I finally got round to finishing it. So a wee caution if you’re using older drafts.

I wrote the first bit over 2 1/2 years ago and have finally got round to finishing it as I wait for the frost to melt on the roads. ‘Last time it was the physical side, the heat, the cold, th…

Source: What do you feel? The second bit.

A Wee Bit of a Ride

Early September – it was time for the Tour of Tweeddale again.

Tweeddale is in the Scottish Borders and is a fabulous venue for cycling of all sorts. I’ve done this event for the last five years, since it started. The distance in the past has varied from 85 to 99 miles but this time it was just over the 100 mile mark.

So having done what I hoped was sufficient training, I met up with some cycling pals ready for the off from Peebles. Another couple joined us on the line so a nice group of five were ready to go. I had stayed in the town the night before so had till 7.30 to wake up and get ready. In previous years, it was over an hour to drive down, so usually up at 5.30 to 6 am and I’m not good at mornings.

It was a chilly start, but not desperate and we were soon away and getting warmed up. The first section headed eastwards down beside the River Tweed on the back roads of the Tweed  Way. It was gorgeous, zooming up and mainly down with the wind behind and good views as we sped along. After the first 20 miles we left the Tweed Valley and climbed up and over to descend towards Selkirk.

We bypassed the town and headed for The Swire, otherwise know as the Witchy Knowe, the first real and steepest climb of the day.

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First food stop, bottom of ‘The Swire’

A quick food stop and then on up.

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Ronnie replenishing

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Theo at the bottom of the Swire

A lovely climb, reasonably steep but at a fairly constant gradient, and the countryside looked fabulous in the sun.

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Heading up the Swire from the north

Up and over the cattle grid and a swoop down to the next valley.

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Top of the Witchy Knowe

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Bottom of the Swire

In a wee while came Berrybush, another lovely climb, less steep but extensive forestry at the top.

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A wee break before the climb – the bottom of Berrybush

We hurtled back down and arrived at the Gordon Arms for the next food stop. Ah, the soup – just brilliant. The volunteers were great, the food stops full of lovely stuff and some chat with other riders in the sun, bliss or what.

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The Gordon Arms, 2nd food stop

Then back on the bikes to trundle down to Moffat, except for one thing. The wind was head on and mush stronger than expected, having been forecast to come up later. So it was a bit of a gruelling ride down with us swapping leads while the others sheltered behind. But, as compensation, the scenery was fabulous, with the gentle border hills vivid green in the sun, St. Marys Loch glinting and outlining the sailing boats busy out racing and the occasional bursts of chat when a lull in the wind allowed.

We rattled through Moffat, just stopping at road junctions, before heading for the last real climb of the day – The Devil’s Beeftub. This was the long one, 6 1/2 miles of climbing ascending just over 1000 feet, but not too steep and highly enjoyable, especially with the wind behind us now. After the climb it was a rapid descent for over 25 miles back to Peebles, going so well we even ignored the food stop on the way.

So at the end of the trip a great ride together.

ps. I am working on the video – you have been warned!!

Lang Time Away

It’s been quite a while since I posted. An event happened that has thrown me for a while. I’ve also been away to weddings, visits, swimming with newts, cycling etc.

The event that upset me was the death of a former colleague and sometime partner in skiing, mountaineering, climbing, canoeing etc. over the years.

He fell off a descending a 4,000 metre peak in the Alps, which I had also climbed some years back.  He was a well respected mountaineer, known over the world and was usually a very safe pair of hands in the hills. We taught Outdoor Education in similar schools in Edinburgh in areas of multiple deprivation so had much in common in our outlook on life and education.

His commemoration was packed, with folk outside, me included, listening on a loudspeaker relay.  It was very, very moving.

There was an irony which he would have loved. Des was a keen cyclist and the family had asked for a cortège to accompany him on his final journey. About 40 of us gathered at the undertakers, along with a police escort. The wickerwork coffin was to be carried on a cycle tandem with a side car type arrangement. When it was placed on top the tyre was flat. The undertakers didn’t have a pump. They asked us for one and out of all of us only two of us had one. As the undertakers finished pumping up the tyre, one of Edinburgh’s tourist buses stopped opposite with the banner Majestic Tours on the side. All in all a real send-off which Des would have really chuckled at.

I was very much affected by his death and miss seeing his posts of adventures round the world, online banter and very occasional meetings.

Life goes on – I think I’m getting to the age where folk will pass away more often but it doesn’t make it any easier.

Coming up at the weekend is the Tour of Tweeddale sportive. This is a lovely, laid back event in the Scottish Borders which I’ve taken part in for the last 5 years. The long route, which I’m doing is just over 100 miles this year, the forecast so far is reasonable, there are some some good hills and I’ll be together with some good companions. It looks like the usual superb day out, if a longish one.

Finally, as usual, some recent pics from our part of the country.

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Harvest time around the village

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The London train passes the former station

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Up in the hills, the coos & sheep

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One of our rougher hill roads, this is one of the better sections

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Up high in the Scottish Borders

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After the deluge – heading for Sunny Dunny (Dunbar)

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A wee coo at peace with the world, ignoring the cyclist passing

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On a local walk

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Fa’side Castle, a great sight on a ride

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Mending our old bridge, been there several hundred years already

Fast (for me) riding, Portugal and back again

I’m not usually a quick rider, except downhill, but one evening just under a month ago, I just felt great and pushed up the heart rate.

It was misty but I kept pushing those pedals and just whistled along. Just over 25 miles and with 1000 feet of climbing  and lots of twists, turns and road junctions I managed just over 17 mph with an average heart rate of 145 bpm.

So, well chuffed and I felt good at the end.

But enough of stats!

Four days later I was in Portugal. I had arranged bike hire with from the same hirer I had used last year. There was a bit of a hitch that time, and another this time. The hirer had not read my email properly with my change of mobile number, so at the prearranged time at 9 am, no call, no bike. I managed to finally get in touch and the bike eventually got to me at 3 pm. Being from northern climes it was still way too hot to contemplate going out. Later that evening the temperature had cooled down a bit and it was time to go. A short 15 mile ride, with temperature averaging 23º. I went up into the local town of Alvor.

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Trying to get up the High Street, Alvor

I managed to get a bit(?) mislaid, but landed up down at the sea front.

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Alvor – at the lagoon

I decided to head back along the boardwalk, an interesting choice rattling and bumping along on 23mm tyres, so a wee bit of an adventure for several miles.

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The boardwalk

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Under the boardwalk, still a bit of a way to the cliffs

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Rock Coves, Prianhia

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Beaches at Prianhia

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Algarve sunset

I tootled around, on the back roads as much as I could, doing around 30 miles a day for the next 7 days. It was my sister’s 70th and the family had gathered to celebrate so I could only get out early in the morning. Reasonably cool first thing but the temperatures rose later in the morning, reaching 33º on my last ride.

The riding was very varied, the main roads, when I couldn’t avoid them, were busy but the drivers were mostly good though there were one or two hairy moments. The country roads were brilliant, mostly well surfaced with a couple of exceptions. Down by the coast it was very dry & dusty, quite a parched landscape. In the foothills there were orange groves then higher up eucalyptus plantations and some native woodlands, much cooler to cycle through out of the blaze of the sun.

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A colourful water tower, well lit at night

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Mont Fóia creating its own weather

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I manage to get mislaid in Portamao, my track looking like a heap of spaghetti, but the next day I managed to thread my way through more successfully.

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Portimao

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Portimao marina

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Them be pirates, argh

The ride to Silves was a bit hurried, but some of the wee hills on the route were good fun, despite problems with the lower gears. I adjusted them later and all was OK after that.

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Up above Silves

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Silver castle and cathedral

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The white bridge at Silves

The last day of cycling  was the best. Up to the top of the highest hill in the Algarve, Mont Fóia. I had been up here last year and was looking forward to renewing the acquaintance. The summit is at 902 metres (2,959 ft) and you climb up from the sea to the top, with little respite. The time before it was happed (shrouded) in mist and I didn’t see much. This time it was clear, but that meant hot, hot, hot by the time I got up there. The main climb of over 2,500 feet  is 12.5 miles long at an average gradient of 4% average, but with steep ramps up to 14%. The views got better and better as I climbed, with Storks & their young perched on telegraph poles, snakes roadkill beneath my tyres but very few riders, mainly folk going to work or shopping on their ‘sit up and beg’ bikes.

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One of the many storks, with young

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Snake road kill

So I climbed to Monchique, the village below the mountain. I didn’t stop there but carried on up the final 4.5 mile summit climb. It had steepened up too. Then I heard a puffing sound & a creaking gradually getting nearer. It was a young English guy on a slightly battered mountain bike. We eventually seemed to be going at a similar speed so teamed up and worked our way up the hill, mainly into the wind. At the top the view was spectacular in every direction, apart from the mess of masts and military establishments on the summit as well as a grotty looking cafe.

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A well earned summit rest

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My companion up the final slopes

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South to the Atlantic

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Military occupation of Mont Fóia

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Coming down off Mont Fóia looking north

My companion on the last bit of the climb had descended before me, so after a wee break for water and a bite it was time to go. Except for a brief time in Monchique I didn’t go under 20 mph all the way down, reaching almost 40 mph at one point. It was so exhilarating. By the time I reached Portamao the temperature had rocketed and the traffic increased so I made my way circumspectly back to base. An excellent 47 miles of riding with just that short break up high.

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The road to Mont Fóia (kms)

So a good 8 days of riding, despite the unwelcome (for me) heat.

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I thought this tree was wonderful

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Sunset by the sea

After much merriment, good company, food and drink it was back home to 10º average for the next ride, but it was welcome. At least I could dress up for it and not have to smother myself with factor 50 and be laden with water bottles. The next biggish ride was a 60 miler down into the Scottish borders. Still coldish, and it totally poured down at Duns, but warmed up a tiny bit on the way back. A strange thing happened, the Garmin stopped recording the height gain, while still totting up the mileage. At the end of the ride my Garmin had read just over 4,000 feet of ascent while the other saw over 5,400. One of my pals said he had read that there’s a wee hole in the bottom of the Garmin that allows the barometer to sense the pressure. When it is such wet weather this can block and stops the sensor from registering the height properly. Sure enough, when I got home & took the cover off a stream of water poured out from it – problem solved. Strava kindly corrected the data for me at the click of a button and it went up to over 5,400. My Garmin has been fine since.

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Back home to the mist & murk

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A wet Duns – Statue commemorating Wojtek the bear https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wojtek_(bear)

Since then it has warmed up to a reasonable 16º C so shorts again and some varied riding, with a 50 miler two days ago with the older yoofs retiree gang.

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Our local volcanic hill, Traprain Law (Law is Scots for hill)

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Faside Castle, yet another one visited by Mary Queen of Scots

And I thought that I wrote I would hold back on the stats!! I hope the pics make up for it!