A week mainly in Spain

Was in Portugal and Spain last week for a ‘wee'(?) cycle tour with a pal, Eric.Spain with Eric 2018

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My old bike packed and ready to go

We travelled lightly to Faro, sharing rooms en route. The weather was considerably warmer than Scotland when we landed and cycled over to the ferry to cross into Spain. En route we managed to detour into some majorly rough country roads, with 2 portuguese punctures and bumpy roads. Changing countries by ferry always seems romantic to  me, especially as continental Europe generally has no barriers between countries. This day was no exception.

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Waiting for the ferry

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Crossing the Border

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Eric surveys the Spanish landing

 After landing in Ayamonte it was a steep ascent up into the town, then a quick descent to pick up our road out. The Spanish roads were so much better, with an introduction to the courteous and considerate Spanish drivers, especially those driving lorries – great all the way through the trip. The smells & views of the vegetation were varied and great. Eventually, after just over 66 miles we arrived at our first destination Punta Umbría, where we met up with our other pals who were based there for a week. Once there we wolfed into a huge meal, showered and enjoyed, after a fashion, a hilarious Spanish karaoke.

Next morning we piled into breakfast, fueling up well for the miles ahead. Then farewells to all and off to the local bike shop for a couple of tubes, finally pointing our wheels northwards. Every so often we stopped for a coffee, lunch or just to explore a town, gradually heading onwards and upwards into the hills.

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Lunch at Beas

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Art Nouveau detail

Some of the architecture was gorgeous with art nouveaux details and buildings and other older Spanish cultures evident.

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Jabugo and its pigs

In another smallish town, Jabugo, the street was full of pork butchers, seemingly every second shop (not to good for a non meat eater) as it was a specialism of the district. As the day went on the temperature rose up to 29ºC, a foretaste of what was to come. I’m not too good at these temperatures and Eric steamed up the hills ahead of me. Luckily I’m OK descending so it we played cat & mouse most of the day. Eventually after 85 miles we arrived at Galaroza, a delightful town with steep cobbled street, fountains and churches.

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First Spanish Hostal at Galaroza

We had located a Hostal, and booked ourselves in for a meal. After freshening up we had a dusk saunter round the place, returning for a delightful meal, with refreshing cervezza (beer).

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Just up from the Hostal

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A famous fountain with 10 taps

Next morning a reasonably early start, we filled our water bottles from the fountain and set off with the temperature a chilly seeming 12ºC. Still heading north it was a series of climbs and exhilarating descents, with the usual stops along the way.

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Fregnal de la Sierra, a cooling trough

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lunch at the centre

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Looking back

This time the heat went up to 38ºC, so plenty of extra water, fresh orange & coffee stops along the way.

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Jerez de Los Caballeros

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Making pals?

After 89 miles we arrived at Badajoz, found ourselves a hostal for the night and after the usual shower and washing cycling gear, roamed out in search of dinner. I found out one thing with today’s temperatures. I had to  fit a screw together bottom bracket as Specialised would not dell me the original cups used for the bearings. A friend had skimmed it a bit to fit. In Scotland it worked fine, and in the mornings in Spain it was also good, but come midday it had been creaking and groaning. I also realised that with the heat it was expanding and not quite as tight a fit as it needed to be. Unfortunately we weren’t near any bike shops at a convenient time, so I learned to just live with the post lunch complaining. Back again and it’s fine again.

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Badajoz

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Outside the music school

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Confirmation Day?

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A mathematician’s dream building

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On the way out

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Looking back

Next morning was a reasonable 14ºC, though it gradually climbed up to 35º. This time we crossed the Spanish plains, into a strong headwind. It was quite morale sapping, similar vistas for miles and often head down to maintain progress. We stopped for quite a while in Mérida, a bonny city with loads of old or unusual buildings and Roman ruins (felt a bit like one myself!)

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The Roman aqueduct at Merida

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Diana’s Temple

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The Chinese Palace

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A Roman arch

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Basilica a Santa Eulalia

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City Walls

I just wished it had been a bit cooler, but counted myself lucky to be able to see such sights and sites. After an 86 mile day we reached Zafra. I went in to the hotel and asked for the toilet. Unfortunately it was down a dark passage, I still had my shades on and blundered into a heavy glass table with metal edges. So with me blooded and bruised we checked in. We settled in for the night after a wander round the town and a meal.

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After dinner in Zafra

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And another trough

So our 5th day dawned and this time a welcome 11ºC start. After noon up it went again to 33º, a bit wearing.

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Medina de Las Torres

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Beside the motorway . . .

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. . . which takes a short cut

IMG_6432After the usual visits & stops we completed 97 miles, with me a bit frazzled, but still basically OK. We had to ring to get someone to open up the hotel at Pilas, but as usual wheeled the bikes in and settled down to our usual washing cycle gear to get rid of the salt & sweat.

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A pleasant hotel room for the bikes

Then round the town, settle for dinner & sleep. They usually start dinner about 9 pm, so we were seldom settled till late on.

Once again an earlyish start, 11º and a meandering course towards Ayamonte. But . . . . it was cooler – strange as we were right down in the south, with North Africa not too far to the south.

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Horse sculptures on the roundabouts and real horses in the town – Almonte

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Busy streets?

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Crossing the Rio Odiel

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An industrial past remembered?

Once at Ayamonte we had ice creams.

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Ayamonte

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Gutting fish

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My poor creaky bike, but a lovely bench

Then caught the ferry across to Portugal and Vila Real de San Antonio and found a tiny room to squeeze into for the night with amazing bedspreads.

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A ‘different’ translation

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Back to Portugal

The place was really quirky but interesting. So, our last wander round the town, somehow different from the Spanish ones, a gorgeous meal in a pleasant restaurant and back for a night’s kip.

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Room with a view

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Decorated benches

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The bedspread

Next day was a leisurely ride back to Faro as it wasn’t too far at just over 40 miles. We stopped at a lovely town, Tavira, en route. There was a craft type market, a walking event to encourage folk to do some exercise and an excellent local band playing.

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Tavira

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The champion arrives?

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Posing

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Fabby Band

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Faro harbour

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Faro old town

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Turtles in the pool and strange statues

IMG_6510I had another Portuguese puncture though it was soon mended. But eventually  we had to leave for the airport, pack our bikes and catch the flight home.

Despite the afternoon temperatures it was a good trip, with lots of interesting towns and sights and the joy of such excellent driving around us. We had averaged over 80 miles a day till the last day, which was way beyond what I had expected. We’d had some interesting and challenging roads and some lovely landscapes. I can see why Eric likes cycling in mainland Spain so much and will probably be back to try another area.

 

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A Wintery Spring

At last my coughs and feeling of uchhhiness have departed, so I’m looking forward to popping off to Spain near the end of the month. I’m away with a pal to Faro in Portugal, we’re cycling over the border into Spain and then up country for a week’s meandering seeing how far we get and what we can see. The first day should include a wee ferry trip so already it seems like it’ll be interesting and fun.

This Spring has been a bit miserable most of the time with cold, wind & rain, sleet & snow. But despite this I’ve managed to get out quite a bit, though a shortened ride at times.

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One of the nasty dayssnaw Fresh snow againstanes Rough stuff after the second snow melt

potholelevel crossing

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Sunnyside, but cold still

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Frozen at the edges

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I had to wait an extra week before doing my birthday miles as the weather was so rubbish. I try to cover the miles in my age as soon after my birthday as possible  so this year it had to be at least 70.

The last Sunday of the month is usually a club cafe run with the Haddington Cycle Club so it was away up for a welcome bite and a big coffee at the delightful Humbie Hub, up in the hills. A couple of pals Ronnie & Craig (Hi Craig!!) joined me for my attempt. The temperature was forecast to rise to the dizzy heights of 14º and it did! We wooshed down to the coast and headed along with sunshine and a following wind. After a few miles the others were passing their homes so peeled off, thankful for their support. After plenty more quick miles I was near home, but realised I would have to do something to up the mileage a bit so turned east and headed down towards Dunbar, zoomed round the roundabout and headed home. I then realised that I needed a few extra miles so pottered on, on a loop through the village, did a wee dogleg on the way back and managed 70.30 miles. Yippee!!!

Humbie Hub

Sitting in the sun before the descent to the coast

Birthday Miles

Funny game this cycling lark.

My rides have been entertaining as usual, I rarely go out without some sort of wildlife encounter. Deer, pheasant, hares, rabbit and even the occasional crow seem intent on dashing across the road just in front of my wheels, luckily, so far, they have all been just distant enough not to cause harm to themselves or me.

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A daring crow

Pheasant

An even more daring pheasant

I’ve also had a few close encounters of the upsetting kind. The last one was on a sunset ride, just pottering along a back road through one of our local coastal towns, North Berwick. A red sporty car suddenly shot out into the road, blasting his motor. At the last moment he spotted I was there and swerved slightly with what little room there was, his face aghast. I swerved away from him, managed to stay upright and he swept past. My heart was thumping in my chest. A pal pointed out that he had spotted exactly where it was on my route as my heart rate had shot up to a 175 bpm peak and then gone done again. Hopefully this will be the last for a while.

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Spot the Spike

So as it is cold, windy & rainy, sleety & snowy outside I am hoping that the weather improvement happens so I can stay fit enough for a good number of miles (kilometres?) on our trip away.

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A useful stop? – Old school

Septuagerianism & The Beast from the East

But I’ll start with the beast as it arrived first. It was forecast for snow and boy, the forecast didn’t lie. Usually by March in Central Scotland it is rare to have any snow at all, but this time it piled in, driven by big winds, so we stayed put for a couple of days till it blew out.

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The front door

Then it was digging out The Square with our friends & neighbours and getting out the skies again. A couple of lovely wee tours on the boards.

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Out on the boards, heading for the hills

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Just a wee bit o’ snaw!

Then the temperature went up a bit and the roads cleared enough to be out on the bike again. So away off, so happy, despite the gunge, snow melt, gravel, potholes, cough etc.

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The long road up Redstone Rigg with John & Mike ahead.

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Redstone Rigg summit with Mike, I’ve not put on weight – gloves and hat tucked in!

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A rapid down in the Lammermuirs

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Getting the miles in, nearly home

Then my 70th loomed. We booked an away trip to Peebles, in the Scottish Borders.

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On the way down to Peebles

I took my mountain bike too, as there is a renowned trail centre there at Glentress. As my 69th year departed I took the bike out, full of ambition and headed out and up the hill behind the hotel. A few miles in and a few hundred feet up, there came the snow banks. Unfortunately it was fairly soft so I eventually gave up & slid/ cycled back down. Only just over 5 miles in just under the hour, but still fun.

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Got a half a mile further

Then off to the swim, steam room & sauna and a well earned meal.

Next day dawned with me entering a new decade, funny how many cycling bits I got as presents?

So after breakfast off on the bike to Glentress to try my luck. My old steed was misbehaving so in to the bike shop at the foot of the trails to have it sorted. The front derailleur wasn’t selecting bottom gear – absolutely essential for the day’s outing. The managed to bodge it as a normal adjustment wasn’t working, so off I went.

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Glentress trails

On up the forestry roads, once again the drifts of soft snow impeded progress, so it was ride, slither, get off, push and repeat, and repeat . . . . . .

At one point a huge logging lorry came up behind. I stopped, got off and stepped to the side. Unfortunately the snow was softer and deeper than I thought so I went down on to my back, landed upside down with my feet and hands waving in the air, like tumbled over beetle, and my bike splayed out beside me. The driver stopped to ask if I was OK, but I was just lying there laughing at the situation – so I waved him on. I eventually untangled myself, decided enough was enough as the drifts were getting deeper & set off to find a blue trail back.

With some sort of dignity restored I found the trail and set off – guess what more ride, slither, get off, push and repeat, and repeat . . . . . .

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Selfie timelapse, phone resting on gloves

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Still smiling (or is it grimacing?)

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About to head off again

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Eventually I got to The Buzzard’s Nest, no chance of trying out the fun park today. A quick chat with some sensible fat bikers the off down. It was a brilliant descent swooping along, dodging the snow banks on the berms and over the wooden humpback bridge. Suddenly I thought, this seems another level up from the blue I’d been following. I had strayed onto the red/ black run. Ah well, just have to concentrate a bit harder and take care till the bottom.

Then it was back along the cycle path.

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Castle & brooding skies on the way back

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That castle again

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Subterranean cycling

This was followed by a repeat of swim, steam room & sauna. Altogether a slightly adventurous way of spending a birthday.

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And . . . . relax!!

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Peebles museum – hydro therapy as it used to be!

Next day back home and out on the road bike again. No snow on the roads, no falling over but not as much giggling and guffawing!!

A Friday Bike?

There used to an expression for cars – a Friday car was supposedly one built lat on a Friday, just before the weekend when folk just wanted home. So it was prone to mechanical problems.

I think my bike seems to fall into this category.

Almost a year ago I bought a new Specialized Roubaix, with the front suspension.

I had got it home, been out a couple of times and found the gear change a bit tight. When I turned the bike over to clean it I saw the cable had been routed over the casing instead of through it. The shop I bought it from is away in Fife so I arranged with them to have it sorted at my local bike shop. Job done, bike running smoothly again.

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Crossed cable, should be down in the grooves

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How it should be

The next thing I spotted were cables rubbing where they entered the frame. A wee patch did the trick this time.

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preventing cable rub

Next, a couple of months down the line, the seat tube has an insert of rubbery stuff to dampen vibrations. I saw it looked like a wee mouse had been having a nibble at it and quite a nibble at that. So back on the email to the Fife shop. They got in touch with Specialized and a new seat tube came winging my way.

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The mice have been nibbling?

The rear derailleur design by Shimano seems a bit dodgy as cables tend to wear quickly, more annoying than anything else.

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Not too good design by Shimano?

Then, just before Christmas, I heard the front suspension unit making funny grinding type noises. On close inspection the rubber boot surrounding the unit had developed some small holes and the salt & road chemicals had got in and rusted the unit. I got in touch with Specialized and they said I would have to buy a new unit, despite this being a manufacturing fault. However, the Fife shop came up trumps and managed to get Specializd to send them one and posted it to me. However, before it arrived I took the bike in for a service at my local and Colin said the headset bearings were exuding brown gunge as well. So tried to get new ones, but guess what? They’re a special size because of the suspension units and they were out of them, so just waiting for them to arrive as well.

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Just a wee hole?

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Lit up and rusty

So, what next?

Now, after all of this, would I buy another Roubaix? Despite all this carry on would I buy another one. The answer is yes. I love riding it. The roads round here are full of holes, gravel, farm muck, stones etc and the bike is so comfortable despite it all, it climbs well and we have steep ascents round here plus it just feels good. After well over 7,000 miles in less than a year on it, it does the job.

On a different note, as usual, I’ve been involved with our drama group in the village. I’ve given up acting as I’ve always found learning line bad and it’s getting worse. So I’ve been involved on the techie side with sound, lighting etc. This time it was lighting, so wheeking up & down ladders, mounting and setting lights, helping to programme the lighting board etc. Unfortunately for me it was a kid’s panto with 45 taking part. It was a huge, sold out success but . . . . several of the cast had coughs etc. and guess who succumbed? Yup, yours faithful. I was off the bike for 10 days, still not back to full strength after 2 1/2 weeks but gradually improving, though well over 300 miles behind my mileage last year. As I sometime say, “Ah Well!!”.

And here’s what makes it all worth it.

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Winter sunset ride

Infamy, Infamy, the Deer have Got it InForMe!! 🦌🦌🦌

For those not accustomed to British Humour, this is a misuse of a quote from the Carry On film ‘Carry on Cleo’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvs4bOMv5Xw.

It’s felt a bit like this locally. First the ice and snow, then the deer started leaping out in front of me.

I’ve started recording my rides with my sports cam and there’s been some interesting footage. It has also reminded me (as if I needed it?) how beautiful and exciting our wee part of the world is. On the downside it has also shown how inconsiderate some motorists can be. First the beauty bit: Ride6Jan 18-00003Screen Shot 2018-01-15 at 19.50.56Screen Shot 2018-01-15 at 19.53.03Ride19Jan 18-00001Ride19Jan 18-00002Didn’t go this way that day!!

Ride20Jan 18-00003Ride20Jan 18-00004Ride21Jan 18-00005Blizzard, worse than it looks here

Ride1Feb 18-00001A friendly smile

Ride2Jan 18-00004Ride05Feb 18-00002Ride05Feb 18-00004Screen Shot 2018-02-06 at 16.00.30Now for a couple of exciting bits

Deer3 weeUp in the hills, 2 deer (looks better in a new window)Ride13Jan 18-00005

Deer2 weeJust out of the village 3 deer, just one crossing (looks better in a new window)Ride1Feb 18-00009

And some of the nasties

Ride13Jan 18-00003Not as bad as it looks

Ride18Jan 18-00002Why wait for oncoming cars – close too!

Ride18Jan 18-00003Yup, save a few seconds

Ride18Jan 18-00004Close again

Ride18Jan 18-00005Another can’t wait!!

A Wee Ride with the Occasional Hill?

It was the club’s Sunday ride, up to the Humbie Hub, a delightful local cafe, post office, general store etc. I think 25 of us assembled beside the fountain with Samson, of biblical fame, on top. I had the day free of obligations so was determined to venture a bit further.

After stoking up on an egg roll, scone with jam and coffee, I set off with 3 companions with a vague route in mind, depending on how I felt. It was chilly (average 5°C), but I had just enough on to keep the chill away.

The colours were beautiful, a superb, sunny autumn day with the trees changing to brown and the odd carpet of leaves 🍁 🍁 🍁 to woosh through and scatter.

A few miles in, we went down to 3 of us and the first serious hill loomed into view – The Rigg. Luckily it was a northerly wind so we were ably assisted by the weather up to the moors!

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Up on the moors, East Lothian spread out below

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Terry arrives

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John makes it up

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The way forward, love the wee walker at the bottom of the signpost

At the top the others departed for a shorter route, I was feeling good and went onwards over the switchback hills bathed in sunshine and shadows into the Scottish Borders. I was warmed up on the ascents and then chilled on the speedy downhills, but still felt good. I reached the turning after 8 miles so onto a wee road across, a meeting with a couple of glorious brilliant looking peacocks and then some more steep ascents and descents. A quick dodge down the main road and then guess what?

Yes, more climbing and hurtling down with the pull of gravity, seems this was today’s theme. It was now into the wind as well, just to add to the determination.

This time nearing a summit I realised I had that empty feeling, I think this was about 40 miles in. So a stop, an Aldi paleo bar later and some slurps of water too, I was refreshed. I don’t feel the need to drink much water on rides, especially when it’s cold and I had drunk a large coffee at the Hub, so felt fine.

Another 20 miles on after bumpy back roads and many more ups & downs I was beginning to feel it a bit, but the sight of the sea and the feeling of getting near home territory, plus another slurp or two of water revived me for a good finish.

The North Sea

Looking down to the sea, Torness Nuclear Power Station mars the view

All in all, a glorious day’s cycling, grabbed from near the end of the October days.

Today was cold again, but a bracing walk in Dunbar cleared away the cobwebs.

Mirror light

An art installation at Dunbar Battery

Sometimes . . . .

The other week I woke up, which is not a bad thing.

It was a nice morning.

I stayed in bed and read a wonderful book I had been gradually working my way through, as I kept dipping into it too late at night when I went to bed. It was ‘Day’ by A. L. Kennedy, which I think is superb, though not an easy read by any means.

Breakfast appeared and I was still encased in sheets and duvet with propped up pillows. Scrumptious, munching between turning pages.

Eventually I got to the last page then upped and dressed.

The weather had done a downer. So, an easy day for me.

I haven’t done this for ages and ages. It was a real joy and a wind down.

Now I’ll have to wait for another excellent tome and that utter luxurious feeling of just being locked away in my mind between the pages.

📖 📖 📖 📖