Category Archives: adventure

Hard, hard: spondoolics worth of high tech, “Hold the Train”

The invite arrived in the electronic post, come and try out the new Specialized road bikes. Seemed churlish to refuse. But, it was at Knockhill race course about 50 miles away, ah well. So I requested a place – I could always get the train back if it all got too much.

The day dawned, the forecast was rubbish, windy with showers and heavy showers. But a simple thing like that wouldn’t stop me. So beans and egg to stoke up for lunch then away. The wind was awful, straight into it for mile after mile. I thought I’d get a wee bit of shelter through Edinburgh, but it was not to be. The wind was funnelling down the cycle ways, so aching legs and only half way there. I battled on, 3 drops of rain fell on me and I thought that’s it, some wetness to add ramp up any misery. Strangely enough my obstinacy gene kicked in and determination overcame any bad thoughts. So hey, on with the show, no more rain drops and the sun came out as I crossed the Forth Road Bridge, with the iconic rail bridge to one side and the building of the new road bridge to the other. At one point a ship crossed at an angle 300 feet below, a very strange feeling similar to when a train pulls away beside your carriage in a station and you feel that you’re going backwards.

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Forth Road Bridge – 300 foot down

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A wee rest & photo session

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A bad shot of the pillar for the newForth Road Bridge

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The old Victorian iconic Forth Rail Bridge

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Ships below

At least the wind was from the rear on the beam for the first time. That didn’t last as I climbed up and up to Knockhill (so well named!), the wind once more was angled towards me as well as sweeping down towards me. But I knew I was closing with my destination so no chance of feeling sorry for myself now.

I arrived to a seemingly deserted race course, with the scream of tuned race cars whizzing round the track. I was directed down a back door into the pits and spotted the Specialized team setting up racks for the bikes.

Enough – I needed a break. After 50 of the hardest miles I’ve ever done, into hard winds almost all the way, the cafe called. I signed in, went into the cafe and just wasn’t impressed. But a large coffee & chocolate muffin later and the legs had recovered slightly.

Then after a quick briefing it was back to the pits, and by now the racing cars had gone and an array of expensive Specialized bikes were on the racks tempting us nicely.

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Temptation

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More temptation

Despite my white beard and ragged looks, plus probably slightly staggering gait I was offered a pick of the crop. After all Bgddyjim had said, it had to be the Venge. What a bike, it exuded fast, fast, fast. It had the deep, deep wheels on it, so I was warned it might be temperamental in the wind. On with the pedals and after a couple of warnings I was off. It was lucky that they had put a chicane at the end of the straight to slow us down cause this just flew. There was a sharp bend at the bottom of the hill and I nearly overcooked it, but the handling was impeccable. Even on the Venge, the steep hill up meant I was way down in the gears, like everyone, as the wind was charging down towards us. We were all panting going up, but then for me it was a zoom down the straight, through the chicane and nailing the corner at the bottom this time. A wonderful bike but totally not for me. We have lots of small twisty country lanes, steep hills, mud, potholes, gravel etc. Even on the smoothish race track I could feel the bum massage would have been horrendous and as for submitting an expensive top notch machine to treatment like that – it would be doing it a total misservice. I can see why Bgddyjim loves this one, but twas not a choice I would make.

Next came the Tarmac, with disk brakes, once again a lovely ride, though not as sensitive as the Venge, but I felt once again a bit too stiff for comfort for my ageing banes!

Then I tried the Ruby, they didn’t have a Roubaix in my size, so this was the women’s version. It had disk brakes, electronic gears and a climbing pod so you could easily change gears going up hills on the bars. This I loved, with it’s Zertz inserts in the forks and forgiving geometry it just felt good, the gears were great and it felt perfect for our area. No slouch either!

So an hour shot past and I was ready for the trip home. Back down the hill it was magic, wind behind, sunshine, a bit of warmth, this was the biz! I retraced my route. Over the Forth Road Bridge and a pleasant chat with a cyclist going the same way, then shooting back into Edinburgh with the wind and sun behind me. I ruminated on my experience and concluded that my faithful Specialized Roubaix was fine for me for now, though it was good to try different stuff. The staff had bee so good as well, taking everything in their stride and being very knowledgeable but not at all pushy, superb.

I stopped to put my super Cree light on the bike and discovered somehow I’d picked up the charger instead of the light – how dumb?

At least I had my tiny emergency light I leave on the handlebar to flash my way through the town roads. It would be no good though once I got to the country roads. It was also getting cold. I was a wee bit (OK quite) tired by now as well, 50 miles of nasty headwinds earlier had taken it out of me. So off to Musselburgh station. As I turned on to the ramp down to the platform I saw all the passengers were piling out of the train & coming up the ramp towards me. I yelled to the train guard “Hold the train – HOLD THE TRAIN”. He acknowledged my strangled cry and I battled my way through the crowds and on to the train. Hurrah, made it, just as well the next one would have been an hour or two away. And how I thanked the guard when he came round for my ticket!

So 86 miles of cycling with over 4,500 feet of climbing, some of the hardest windward pushing I’ve done on a bike, racing round the track and trying to beat the dark.

Was it worth it – well aye!!!!

and . . . . . the ribs were fine as well as the white beard.

(As a postscript, I’ve also suggested to Specialized that our local race track at East Fortune would be a great place to hold the event, just over the hill and down. Not as challenging to get there, but that sounds good to me right now.)

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East Fortune next time – without the motorbikes?

 

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Lethargy and other musings

Some days I’m just content to do very little. Reading, messing around on my iPad or computer or just day dreaming. This morning has been one of those times.
In my early mountaineering days (now over half a century away) we called it festering. Sitting in or out of the tent or bothy, chatting, reading or just absorbing things around us. Sometimes because of the snow, winds or rain, sometimes just too knackered to be bothered.

It’s nowadays a time to contemplate. Think over things that have been, cook up plans for the future that may or may not happen or just meander through my mind, hopefully the better bits of it!

It’s also sometimes good to look over the huge amount of photographs I’ve accumulated, some scanned in, others taken digitally. It’s always good for a giggle or a memory or a touch of sadness.

This afternoon I’ll be busy again. Our community cinema is on so I’ve been tweeting it and will go down to help set up in a wee while.

So where has it all got me? No idea, except for this blog!!

But here’s a few of my memories to invade your life with.
   
Yesterday, cycling below the snowline 

 

The sheep say hi, lined up for my inspection 
  
Near the top of the road

   
Started young! No beard either.


Only 16, just before the beard growth 

    
Winter mountaineering in the Cairngorms- 1970s

 
Soloing Mont Blanc

   
Blasting in blo-karts

  Festering in the French Alps

  
Trapezing on the Forth

 
Dame Rosy Glow – aren’t pantomimes wonderful (oh yes they are, oh no they’re not etc)

   
A wee rescue on the River Tay

 

In the Falls at the Linn of Tummel



   

Telemarking, Glenshee



 

Swiss Alps, Lagginhorn I think

   

Rescue duty, the chimneys were blown up last year

 Local winter cycling 
   

Climbing in Yosemite, a small route, only 600 feet high


  Festering in my bivvied bag on the glacier 

More adventures to come I hope, and lethargy!

Meanderings, Thanks, Diets and other stuff

So here we go again, haven’t posted for a while, just been ruminating on possible topics.

I’ve never set out to gain followers, just wanted to see how or if they accumulated blog, by blog. So I wanted to say a huge, huge thanks to all of you who are following, have commented and\or encouraged me. Also a big thanks to those who’ve enjoyed (?) my comments on their posts.

I’ve also learnt about other cultures, countries, customs, adventures etc. It’s been fun following folk from and to all over the place and the photos have been a delight. I’ve not met anyone for real yet, even though some are to to far away, but maybe sometime? I’m also surprised at how I have concern for people I haven’t met, when hurricanes hit the Phillipines I wonder how Chyrel from ‘Ride All the Way’ is doing & that she is OK. Same when I read others have had accidents or illnesses.

Now, one of my pals asked how I managed to ride so well, was there something special in my veggie diet? I replied I do have a special diet, it’s called The Hill Diet. We are lucky round here in my part of S.E. Scotland. If I go east I can cycle along by the North Sea, if I go north I can do some wee steep hills pass castles and follow the Firth of Forth. To the west I have a slightly more even ride as the glaciers of old carved the landscape east west. Finally head south and I’m into the hills over the Lammermuirs, a glorious upland landscape of ancient hills smoothed down full of sheep, heather, grouse, birds of prey and more plus, yes, lots of hills. So for my hill diet I tend to head south, it’s as simple as that!

And here’s one I climbed yesterday, just outside the village peaking at 18% – aye, a goodie, though short!


There’s also the joy of fellow cyclists, I’m lucky to have three local groups I bike with. One is a group of FOSSILs like me, we meet near the village and there’s a mostly compulsory coffee & scone/cake stop along the way, usually covering 40 miles plus, loverly. The other two are mixed groups on a Sunday and I alternate between them, I manage the ‘faster’ group with one and the slower group with the other as the faster riders head for the hills and are too like whippets for me & I feel I’m holding them up (in fact I know am!) So all in all good times. But I do a fair amount of solo riding, just loving being out and I find most of my faster times or PRs on segments are when I’m alone. It also means I can stop and take photos/ look at things without feeling I’m holding folk up again.

Tonight:



Then there’s advice, given and received. I’m fairly sceptical about all the guff I feel is discussed in cycling. For example I do not drink too much on rides under 40 miles, even when pushing hard, unless I’m thirsty which is not often. Yet almost all the advice is drink, drink, drink. And as for some of the ‘rules’, fashionistas etc. Just don’t get me started!

But the best advice for me to myself is to enjoy myself out there.

The weather, in typical British fashion is another influence. It is so changeable, here we are almost into November in Scotland and the shorts were on again. Maybe it will be the winter togs next week and time to get the skis prepped instead of the bike?

So there you are, or rather, there I am, just a couple of recent pics to leave you with as ever.
Enjoy yourselves.

Alastair

An update – as we assembled for our Sunday ride, one of the guys said “I read your blog yesterday”, so now I’ve met a follower – and only 5 miles away! So cheers Craig, long may you read & enjoy.

Also a wee treat for geeks when I manage to get it uploaded. I’ve done a video of one of the Sportives I did in September, but cannot get YouTube to accept it. So back to re-editing and trying again. It may be the music I made up is too like something else that’s in copyright, ah well back to the drawing board – or in this case Garageband.


  

Paddling for a purpose

A couple of weeks ago they demolished the chimneys and turbine hall on a nearby defunct power station at Cockenzie in East Lothian. A pal, his daughter & I paddled out to watch from the sea, take photos and video.

Finally I managed to get it on YouTube. The problem seems to have been using a Police track ‘Can’t Stand Loosing You’. Once I replaced it with a Randy Newman track, away it went. So duly posted: Cockenzie Chimneys Come Down. Look at around 25 seconds in, a strange figure appears from the smoke & dust.

    
Today was a strange ride. I was out for my usual Sunday ride, often about 40+ miles. As I neared home I realised it was just under 70 miles, it’s funny these days of longer rides, not at all intended. And it was so good: Didn’t mean to go this far!

So, there we go.

Wee Adventures & Keeping Going

Wee Adventures

Chyrel from ‘Ride All the Way‘ commented that I don’t share personal stuff often, so maybe a little overdose now?

I blogged a while back that my granddaughter was coming over & adventure was to be the thing whenever we were together. So, what did we get up to? Well she’s nine, going on ten so any activity would have to be appropriate. Once she & her mum arrived it was down to the river to clamber around the rocks & see what was happening. In the big pool was a large salmon, past its best, but still quite a sight.

The 'Auld Brig over the Scottish River Tyne

The ‘Auld Brig over the Scottish River Tyne

Salmon in the Scottish River Tyne

Salmon in the Scottish River Tyne

Then it was off to the sea with more rock hopping and rock pool exploration. A pal had lent us her caravan so it was beach time for a while. While there the biggest thunderstorm we’ve had for years swept across the cove. It was amazing, with multiple strikes and thunderclaps going on for a long, long time. Shiona slept through it all, apparently they are very common in her part of South Africa.

Lightning over the North Sea

Lightning over the North Sea

Lightning over the North Sea

Lightning over the North Sea

Next up a visit to nearby Eyemouth harbour where you can feed fish to the resident seals. The seagulls are way to cheeky and one swooped down and took the bait out of her hand before she could lower it to the waiting seals, ah well, live and learn.

Seal at Eyemouth waiting patiently to be feed

Seal at Eyemouth waiting patiently to be feed

Then a bit more beach combing & rock hopping, with some amazing rocks, including one that was just like a flag. All different kinds of rocks here too, brought down from further inland by the glaciers from past ice ages.

A Flag Stone?

A Flag Stone?

A crag beside the sea

A crag beside the sea

Back home we managed a wee bike ride round our local park – lovely. Then came Jupiter Artland with some pals, an art in the environment project just west of Edinburgh, it includes art you can climb over, ‘The Light Pours Out of Me’ – a crystal lined grotto/ pit and many other strange things.

Jupiter Artland

Jupiter Artland

The quartz pit Jupiter Artland

The quartz pit Jupiter Artland

The lining of the quartz pit Jupiter Artland

The lining of the quartz pit Jupiter Artland

A couple of days later it was rock climbing, abseiling and rock scrambling on volcanic rock then up to the summit of North Berwick Law. There used to be real whale bones here from the town’s whaling past, but now decayed they’ve been replace by fibreglass.

Climbing the slab on Berwick Law

Climbing the slab on Berwick Law

Maybe slightly tilted?

Maybe slightly tilted?

The summit 'Whale Bones' on North Berwick Law

The summit ‘Whale Bones’ on North Berwick Law

This led us to Yellowcraigs for a spot of tree climbing and more rock pooling. The Scots pines here have been twisted by the winds into strange contorted shapes, great to play around on, if done gently.

Yellowcraigs - twisted pines

Yellowcraigs – twisted pines

So the end came at last with a visit to ruined Innerwick Castle, built on a sandstone outcrop and another victim of Oliver Cromwell’s army on their trip to Scotland. We clambered around the ruins and over the sandstone for a while before leaving for the nearby coast and the limestone outcrops of Skateraw. We managed to find several fossils in the limestone pavement.

Remains of the tower at Innerwick Castle

Remains of the tower at Innerwick Castle

The entrance to Innerwick Castle

The entrance to Innerwick Castle

Clambering over the sandstone at Innerwick Castle

Clambering over the sandstone at Innerwick Castle

Coming back from Innerwick Castle

Coming back from Innerwick Castle

Limestone pavement, Skateraw

Limestone pavement, Skateraw

Fossils at Skateraw

Fossils at Skateraw

Far to soon the skies beckoned and a sad farewell for another year.

Keeping Going

Once they had departed I had a bit more time for cycling again. For some reason I’ve been going strongly recently with some quick (for me) rides. Why I’m not sure. I don’t do specific training and I did have a couple of weeks off the bike with a bad cough, aches etc. But maybe time climbing steep hills in Herefordshire, cycling in Portugal and Majorca have given me a boost.One ride at 19 mph+ for 15+ miles and a few longer ones at over 18 mph. I’m supposed to get slower as I get older, luckily it doesn’t seem to be working that way for me. But more importantly I am still loving being out on the bike, slow or fast.

Yippee! AlastairIMG_0483 IMG_0484 IMG_0482

The Challenge Day 5: Adventures

Rachel (RachelSquirrel) has challenged me, not a cycling challenge as such but a photograph and writing one.

The rules of the Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge are:

1) Post a photo each day for five consecutive days.
2) Attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or a short paragraph. It’s entirely up to the individual.
3) Nominate another blogger to carry on the challenge. Your nominee is free to accept or decline the invitation. This is fun, not a command performance!

The beach at Tyninghame

The beach at Tyninghame

I don’t usually put stuff on about our family but I had not realised when I took on this challenge that the last day coincided with the 3rd year since my stepson’s death. I knew him since he was young and he was a son to me. Before he died he made me promise that I would always have ‘adventures’ with his daughter. The photo is of the beach where we scattered his ashes, taken this morning.

She comes over from South Africa soon, so what have I got planned for her? My granddaughter is an adventurous soul, though still young. The list includes a choice cycling (of course), rock climbing, body boarding, canoeing, skiing or sledging at the snow dome, gorge walking, coasteering, exploring caves etc. etc. plus general galavanting. I don’t see her often and she brings so much joy. I’m sure we’ll all have a fabulous time together.

I am going to nominate Chyrel from Ride All the Way for the challenge as she may have feared I might. She takes some interesting and unusual stories, has a fund of tales in her part of the world and is a mean cyclist.

Sometimes Magicke

I thought I would try out an app on the iPhone/iPad to devise cycling routes. From somewhere Footpath appeared. I sometimes think that this sort of app is modern magic. Once the app kicks off, all you do is touch the draw button, then draw a vague line along a part of the route you want to take, the app then joins up the roads. You can also fill in the route manually for off road stuff. Clicking on the gradient box at the top shows the profiles and amount of climbing to look forward to(?) Clicking on the distance box changes the display from miles & feet to km & metres. All very simple, plus you can save the route to upload to your GPS or other mapping apps.

In my last blog I outlined some of the steep ascents round about and and Jean (https://cyclewriteblog.wordpress.com/) suggested that photographs would have enhanced the blog. So, the idea came to link them all and photograph them all as I went round. I have mapped the route, with just a tiny bit of climbing? And as I said before some folk think central Scotland is flat. So next time I have the inclination and the weather it will be time to pack some goodies and document a special ride. The link for the app is: https://footpathapp.com

And – here’s the proposed route