Category Archives: countryside

I am the Greatest Showman and Fashion?

When I retired I vowed I’d had enough of meetings and I wouldn’t serve on committees again. But, I’ve broken that rule consistently for almost 10 years. The group is a community cinema group – Pix in the Stix. The meetings are brilliant, always a total hoot, with various refreshments and we get things done. We run monthly films for children and adults and we’re open to new ideas. We’ve helped others to set up their own groups, down in England as well has it in Scotland.

We also raise money for charities and have run things like Pink Floyd night complete with its own wall showing ‘The Wall’ film plus a fantastic band.

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Pix in the Stix, Pink Floyd Night

We had an Indian night with three different curries and showed the film ‘Lion’ and raised money for an Indian charity helping street kids in India. Our latest venture was an outdoor cinema event this was fabulous. It was in Dunbar and we showed The Greatest Showman. The venue was in the battery, which was made as a defence when attack was fired from during the American War of Independence. The weather goddesses were in our favour, skies were clear and the moon shone. We sold out for the event in three days and the audience just loved the show. Here are a few pictures from the event.

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The Battery, Dunbar, ready for our film show

The audience arrives

Tha audience arrives

Ready and waiting

Just about to start

Me - doing the intro

Me – doing the intro

On the bike, it’s been an interesting time. I got a new bike cam cam and on the first try two minutes from home I had a car overtake me right next to the traffic island. I reported it to the police but unfortunately the footage wasn’t clear enough to make a prosecution case although although the officer said that they would contact the owner and give him or her a severe talking to.

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Even the police do ‘close passes’ sometimes

I’ve been off the bike a few days recently as wild winds and rain swept through Scotland. But it’s quietened down and it’s been lovely being out with the autumn colours. Club brides have been really good with lots of lovely riders out.

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A scene from “The Birds”?

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Why I love East Lothian

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More loveliness

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A bit of fun, can be slidy though

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About to be overtaken by friendly dogs, didn’t hear them till they came past on either side

I watched a programme on the Beeb (BBC) the other day about worldwide pollution. The research indicated, as I knew already, that coal is the biggest source of pollution in the world.

And what was the second biggest?

Much to my astonishment the answer was fashion!!!

So this led me to look at my use, or lack of use of stuff from the fashion industry.

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Not exactly a fashion icon?

Being a child of the rationing period after the 2nd World War, I’ve embraced the ‘make & mend’ philosophy to some extent. So when the bottom bracket on my old Specialized bike went & I was told it couldn’t be replaced and needed a new frame, with the help of a pal, I managed to rejig a screw-in to fit. When my old cycling bib tights went I repaired them a few times before the material wore away. I prefer old clothes to new ones so can look a bit ‘individual at times. If older technology works for me, no upgrades are needed, though sometimes stuff just won’t work together as things progress. As with all of us I’m not perfect, but try my best.

Since I started this post a couple of months have departed and we’re into winter. So far it’s been relatively warm, with temperatures from -4° to 10°C. So, it’s not been too bad on the roads, with little salt or attendant chemicals. So well happed up and away out does the trick. The light has been great on some days, though a bit blinding at times, but also some misty times as well.

The longer range forecast has been for another ‘Beast from the East’ snowstorm but there’s no sign of it yet, but the skis, snow shovel and sledge are at hand anyway.

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An early morning club ride

Quiet and Tears

Been involved in a lot locally recently.

We’ve had an exhibition of a local artist’s work Robert Noble, who died 100 years ago and is buried in the church yard. He deserves to be much better known. I’ve been helping in compiling slide shows and creating a large introduction board for the show and exhibition. The exhibition seems to be popular, and in the process there have been many paintings that have been discovered. I’ve managed to get to the exhibition a couple of times and it is lovely. Hopefully I’ll get back again before it ends.

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Robert Noble Exhibition – information

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Robert Noble Exhibition

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Another more serious event was our Drama Group’s moving production of “The Women of Lockerbie” by an American playwright Deborah Breevort. It tells the story seven years after the terrorist bombing of the Pan Am flight over Lockerbie. The women of the village tried to stop the clothes and artefacts of the victims from being destroyed so they could wash and return them to the families. They had been kept for that long as forensic evidence. The play is unusual as it is done like a Greek tragedy, with a chorus of women. I was in charge of the lighting for the show and on the last night we had a standing ovation, with many of the audience visibly moved to tears. It was a privilege to be part of it all.

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Women of Lockerbie – set

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Women of Lockerbie – the chorus

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Women of Lockerbie – confrontation

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Women of Lockerbie – the release

The cycling recently has been wonderful, though I find myself full of tears for a different reason. I need to wear specs so cannot wear sports glasses, so I find that at speed my eyes water a great deal. When I get back my eyes are slightly crusted with salt, which isn’t too good. I’ve thought about various solutions – fur fabric round the sides & tops of my specs (may look slightly weird or Groucho Marx like), a visor, safety over specs etc. but haven’t come to any conclusion yet. But I am glad my tear ducts still work well. I’ve been racking up the miles and height this year and enjoying climbing the hills on the bike locally so much. One of the recent highlights was a 52 mile ride with over 6,000 feet of climbing after which I still felt great. I’m gearing up nicely for a much longer overnighter in just over a month’s time.

But there have been other moments too. The other week I had a time when I was going quickly with the wind behind. I reached that magic moment when, for just a wee while, I was going the same speed as the wind. Sitting in this bubble of air everything went quiet. No wind noise, no traffic noise, the hum of the pedals almost muted and smooth tarmac with the tyres smoothly rolling along. To me, on the rare occasions when all this comes together, it just seems a form of Nirvana – the soul seems at rest. As usual, a brief moment and then it’s away. Ah well, here’s to the next time.

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A steep one up ahead

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One of the many hills and a hairpin

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Sheep lie in the road up ahead

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Bog cotton on the tops

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A rare greyish day

Looks like our good weather is going to continue for a while yet, off and on, so it seems the legs will continue getting an airing.

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!

Why I don’t upgrade, a target plus winter is here!

I like old, worn-in stuff, though it is pleasant to get new gear, usually out of necessity. The same applies to my bike. I got it 2nd hand off eBay after much research several years back. It’s a Specialized Roubaix compact, that has undergone a few transformations since I got it.

Why the Roubaix? Comfort!

For those who don’t know it was designed for rough, cobbled road sections in France & Belgium. We have rough, though only a tiny, tiny minute cobbled bit locally. They designed the geometry to be forgiving, put ‘Zetrz’ inserts in the frame and seatpost and gel wrapping on the bars, all to dampen vibration. And it does. As we fly down roads locally I can hear the other bikes clatter and chatter, while mine appears to me to run quieter. The rest complain of jarred arms, while I try not to appear too smug at my comfort.IMG_3433

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The other addition to comfort has been my Brookes Cambrian saddle. It was comfortable for me from the moment I sat on it, and has now done quite a bit of mileage, still a delight to use – I usually forget about it, which must be good?IMG_3432

During this time others have got upgrades, lighter, flashier bikes and delight in them. That’s great, but do I need to climb hills 10 seconds faster? Do I need to be more aerodynamic to gain another 24.34567 seconds advantage? And do I need to up my fashionista cred? I think not!

But, onto my target – I’ve been increasing my mileage year on year, so I made up a target for the year, and I’m now just over 120 99 miles from it. It’s a wee bit hilly round these here parts so I’ve also racked up a bit of height climbed as well. All I have to do now is to hope that December doesn’t become intolerable with the weather, though it should OK if it carries on as it is. And the goal I’m aiming for – you’ll just have to wait and see.

So on to the final bit, Winter has most definitely arrived. A storm is raging outside, though I’m toasty enough inside. The snow on the hills has come and gone and come and gone and come again. It has been raining, flooding, dry, snowing, sun shining, cold, warm, freezing, blowing hard, still etc. So a typical Scottish time of year then, but still cycleable as long as I’m happed up well, though even the shorts have been on at times. Most of all it is absolutely not boring!

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Snow just visible in the far hills - the Lammermuirs

Snow just visible in the far hills – the Lammermuirs

Took 4 tubes to sort this one - 1 faulty valve, 1 blow out, 1 faulty and it was cold & windy of course

Took 4 tubes to sort this one – 1 faulty valve, 1 blow out, 1 faulty crease with a hole and it was cold & windy of course, Kevin not a happy bunny!

Taken today - another day & night of rain, but warmer

Taken today – another day & night of rain, but warmer

Giving and Getting

What do I give?

I try to give an interesting, maybe sometimes thought provoking, reflection of life around me.

I like to show folk aspects of places and things around me, with maybe too many photos?

I try to reach out to folk, by answering questions, giving suggestions and occasionally disagreement.

I also try to give an older (than who?) persons view of things, sometimes sceptical, but hopefully enthusiastic.

I also try to get over the joy of cycling in its many forms.

And I’m sure many other things.

and . . . What do I get?

So much basically.

I am in contact with folk from around the world, with different cultures, climates, experiences, fauna, flora and environment.

I have been able to participate in discussions about cycling and other topics.

I have been able to connect with other bloggers on Strava and have the privilege of following their cycling progress.

I have learnt stuff and tried out others’ ideas.

I have been given an impetus to try out new projects.

And then there was ‘The Challenge’ from Rachel.

So many, many thanks to all for being participants in this wonderful process.

Finally, me being me, some photos to entertain or otherwise:

Posing beneath the full size metal giraffes in Edinburgh

Posing beneath the full size metal giraffes in Edinburgh, taken by my wonderful granddaughter

Used for weighing grain sacks

Used for weighing grain sacks

A deep gorge between East Lothian and the Scottish Borders with 2 road bridges and a train bridge.

A deep gorge between East Lothian and the Scottish Borders with 2 road bridges and a train bridge.

The famous white cattle at Lennoxlove

The famous white cattle at Lennoxlove

A local cycling hazard

A local cycling hazard, the gate not the state of the road, the cattle grid or the sheep poo!

Another local hazard

Another local hazard

A badger, sad road kill seen on a recent ride.

A badger, sad road kill seen on a recent ride.

A salmon on our local river, resting in a pool after spawning.

A salmon on our local river, resting in a pool after spawning.

Seen recently on our local river.

An art work seen recently on our local river.

Tatties (potatoes) in front of the Doocot (dove cot)

Tatties (potatoes) in front of the Doocot (dove cot)

With a golden cockerel weathervane, Whitekirk  (white church) isn't white, but the original was. A site of pilgrimage for 1000s in Medieval times.

With a golden cockerel weathervane, Whitekirk (white church) isn’t white, but the original was. A site of pilgrimage for 1000s in Medieval times.

An Art Nouveau gravestone in Whitekirk graveyard, lit by the morning sun

An Art Nouveau gravestone in Whitekirk graveyard, lit by the morning sun

6 climbs and a few more

 When I wrote about 6 steep climbs round about here,  Jean (https://cyclewriteblog.wordpress.com/) suggested that some photos would have enhanced the blog. At the same time I was trying out an app called footpath, which is great for working out routes for cycling. I decided that I would link them together in a cycle/ photo bonanza. So I managed it, though some of the photos are a bit dodgy as they were taken on the move with the camera slung around my neck.  The weather was ideal, warm enough for shorts & short sleeve top, cool enough to not become dehydrated easily. What a ride, some of my favourite climbs here, and when the gradient was less than 10% it was a real bonus. First of all the boring bits for some, the route & profile:

   Over 110 feet climbed for every mile

  Quite a few ups and downs?

   

 Hill no. 1: Kippielaw
The first hill, not even a mile away, this is short but with a real lurch into the sky at the end. The hill in the distance is Traprain Law with the remains of an Iron Age fort on the top, complete with hut circles and a magnificent view over the Firth of Forth, north up to the Highland and south to the lowland hills.

   
 Hill no. 2: Up into the Beil Estate

After a fabulous colonnade of yew trees you cycle past rhododendrons till another wee steep ramp leads up to the top. Just after this a deer stopped in the road and gazed at my approach for a while before it sauntered off into the woods 

 Then on and up another a couple of ascents before reaching Pitcox, another good climb (though not one of the chosen) past the water bottling plant. Pitcox is a tiny place, but a couple of 100 years ago it had a religious house where monks from the refectory in Melrose who had misbehaved were sent. 

 The climb up from Pitcox past Findlay’s Water

Then it was past the Witch’s Stone at Spott, which often has coins left on it. I tried to take a photo but had nudged the dial of the camera on to the wrong setting. Just before this a fox had sauntered across the road in front of me, my day for wildlife? 

 Hill no.3: Starvation Brae – a local test piece 

 Then came the climb out of Spott – Starvation Brae, not sure why it is called this though. This one is hard – gradually steepens, then has 3 steep bits to the top. A real heavy breathing one by the top.

Onwards and downwards and upwards and downwards . . . . . . . . 

   
Hill no. 4: The Brunt – east side

Then it was across the ford, luckily dry but the road is a mess, then up The Brunt, another climb leaving you puffing at the top. 

 One of my favourite sections, a gorgeous half mile through a wooded dell, dappled in the sunshine. Then came the big one, over a mile long with an average gradient of 9%+ and several steep ramps double that.

   
  Hill no. 5: Elmscleugh, the first ramp  Hill no. 5: Elmscleugh, looking up to the second steep ramp, climbing at 5-8% here
  Hill no. 5: Elmscleugh, a sight I saw a few times  Hill no. 5: Elmscleugh, getting near the summit
 Hill no. 5: Elmscleugh, the cattle grid at the top usually a good descent now!Hurrah, a lovely swoop back down the other side to look forward to, but:

Roadworks slowed progress, looks like they are putting in a new track for the wind turbines.
   
Some climb? 

Then it was down for a while, this time slowed by gates. After the valley in the distance it would be another undulating climb back over the distant hills.  Up beside Whitadder reservoir dam

I was now on the section of the road that the Tour of Britain will come down in September. should be fun!  

Whitadder Reservoir, not too many cheering crowds this day.

 
  Another great section with lots of undulations over the moors, I would do this section a couple of times this trip. Many sheep, birds including oyster catchers some way from the sea and cows.
  Approaching Redstone Rigg  Hill no. 6: Redstone Rigg, another local test piece
So the last of the 6 hills loomed up. This is one spoken of in awe locally, though Elmscleugh is far harder, but being further away from Edinburgh is cycled less. I’ve already booked my place here for the Tour of Britain, fantastic views of the riders coming up from miles away, unfortunately it will probably be mobbed with other cycling fans.

Bog cotton and a butt for grouse shooting at the top of ‘The Rigg’   

The wonderful descent with Whiteadder Reservoir in the distance. I went down here at 46 mph, but on a good day have manage 55 so what will the Tour riders be doing? They will have to watch out on the cattle grid in the middle of the descent .
  Iron Age Green Castle Fort, with its 3 ring defence
So back down & up & down & up till home, passing a dead badger on the way. Well pleased and satisfied. And for those who still think Central Scotland is flat?

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

Roasting in Majorca: quite a few pics

As I’ve posted before, I’m not a fan of very hot and sunny weather so when a bike trip to Majorca was mooted and I found out that the temperature was usually in the low 20s I thought that this would be great. So bike hired, saddle from my own bike taken off and all packed and ready to go – I was definitely up for it. We arrived at Palma, coached over to Port de Pollensa and had a late lunch and unpacking session before heading for the bike hire. The bike was a Trek Madone and looked ok. I had asked them to put an 11-34 on the back, but an 11-32 was fitted, which was fine. Went for a wee 5 mile tootle in the sun up over 1200 ft to a local 16th century tower with Johnny and then back to the shop to get the rear gears adjusted. After that everything was sorted. But it was still hot. So back to the pool for a relax and beer.

Johnny climbing up into the tower, too dodgy with look cleats!

Johnny climbing up into the tower, too dodgy for me with Look cleats!

Near the tower above Port de Pollensa

Near the tower above Port de Pollensa

In the town

In the town

Looking over the beach to the tower

Looking over the beach to the tower

Day two the group pottered about getting first day things sorted and as we set off the heat started to build up. We climbed over the first col, I felt a real drouth, despite drinking loads. Slapping on even more suncream we carried on to a monastery where shade, huge fresh pressed orange drinks and coffees were indulged in and even in the shade it was hot, hot hot. I’d had to leave my bike in the sun & the Garmin went up to 47°C – ouch, more suncream.

Map reading time again

Map reading time again

Lunch at the monastry

Lunch at the monastry

Coming down from the col

Coming down from the col

Some of the crew on the road

Some of the crew on the road

Next ride was a ‘flat’ day! We were mainly in the central plains area. Being lower down it was even hotter. All the cliches about heat became true for me. It was good to be mainly on the wee roads again and the traffic was great, giving us wide berths when passing and slowing down when appropriate. Goats, sheep with deep clanging sheep bells occasional cows or bulls and loads of twittery birds in the trees and bushes. After a bit Pete & I became ‘detached’ from the main group. They hadn’t waited at a particular point and we went a different route. So, up into the village square and a coffee and orange while we waited for them. Unfortunately they had waited at the bottom of the village while we were at the top. Eventually we carried on without them, going through some pretty towns and villages on the way.

San Pablos, a lovely town

San Pablos, a lovely town

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San Pablos Square

Looking back

Looking back

Pete had been to a cafe in Petra almost a year before to the day so we went there for lunch, it had been mentioned as a place we would aim for and sure enough there, in one of the squares, were the others. After a bit of chat they went off for lunch and Pete & I demolished another Zumo (giant fresh pressed orange) and coffee. The cafe was totally geared up for cyclists (ho ho?), fresh orange segments were served to us, water bottles filled with ‘go fast’ natural, osmosis filtered spring water for free and ice cubes put into water bottles. Plus we had pleasant banter with the family owning the cafe in a mixture of Spanish and English – just superb.

Petra Square, just a few cyclists

Petra Square, just a few cyclists?

Then it was the hot road back. I lost my cool a bit at the others dithering over route choice for the umpteenth time and just made my own way back eventually. At least I choose a route with a slightly cooling sea breeze. Because it was a ‘flat’ day we only climbed just over 2000 feet.

Tree roots through sandstone by the road

Tree roots through sandstone by the road

One of the many lovely churches

One of the many lovely churches

Good sign?

Good sign?

Another day and guess what? Yes, it was hot, hot, hot again. Pete & I left early to catch the cool. We went up to Lucc, this time by the shady route, which was magic. Once over the col we switchedbacked our way over to the highlight of the day, Sa Calobra. This is a must for cyclists to the area. First you climb up to a wee pass, then you go down to the deep turquoise sea . The descent is fabulous, over one of europe’s few spiral bridges and down a multitude of hairpins. After whooping with delight a lot you reach the bottom, knowing “The Only Way is Up” as the group used to sing. But first, yes, coffee, zumo and a trip through the tunnels to the local ‘Torrente’.

Pots but no pans, one broken, one stapled together

Pots but no pans, one broken, one stapled together

Pete finishing a long, hot climb

Pete finishing a long, hot climb

Under the aqueduct, now defunct

Under the aqueduct, now defunct

Sa Calobra, far busier than it looked

Sa Calobra, far busier than it looks

The tunnel to the Torrente

The tunnel to the Torrente

The rugged limestone cliffs on the coast

The rugged limestone cliffs on the coast

Then back up, 7+ miles at 7+% in the heat. So slowly, slowly spinning my way up with spectacular views, smiles and a sense of wonder at this amazing road. Plenty of time to look at everything, with wee stops for photies and a derailed chain. Just over an hour later – the top and this time a fanta, just for a change. The whole team were together again and we flew along, relatively speaking, to the fantastic descent to Pollenta, oh I love going quick and this had it all, glorious, sinuous curves, occasional sharp bends or hairpins, straight smooth bits and scenery to match, bliss!

Squeeze past?

Squeeze past?

Looking back at the last bit of a wonderful 2,00+ foot climb.

Looking back at the last bit of a wonderful 2,000+ foot climb.

The spiral bridge, where the road crosses itself

The spiral bridge, where the road crosses itself

We needed an easy next time so it was  off to the Cap Formentor. I just missed the others setting off so pushed hard up the first hill to meet them. This just knackered me for the trip out. I tried to film the decent, another smooth but curly road, but the sportscam switched off for some reason. The route was spectacular with huge sea cliffs, shady roads, a tunnel and wonderful views. Coffee and orange at the Cap with hundreds of tourists and cyclists milling about. The way back was scary, hire cars coming round blind bends half way across the road, others trying to scrape past or blowing their horns and on one blind bend downhill a woman walked out in front of me without looking, that one was so close, so close. Eventually back to the hotel shaking my head a bit as almost all the other days had been so different.

Tunnel on the road to Cap Formentor

Tunnel on the road to Cap Formentor

Cap Formentor, amazing scenery but cycle early otherwise busy and dangerous

Cap Formentor, amazing scenery but cycle early otherwise busy and dangerous

Coming back from Cap Formentor

Coming back from Cap Formentor

The morning after saw us all take off together to wander around the lower foothills and onto the plains again, just for a change it was hot.

A huge ladslide

A huge ladslide

One of the many round-a-bout sculptures, a touch of Miro?

One of the many round-a-bout sculptures, a touch of Miro?

Love the tiles

Love the tiles

Pete rcovers

Pete recovers

I fancied a mainly solo day for my last ride , so initially Johnny & I pottered  over to Cala de Sant Vincenc for morning coffee by the sea. It was gorgeous, steep limestone cliffs dropping into the bay, with vivid turquoise water. We pottered round the bay and made our way back up towards Pollenta. Johnny left to go back & I did my last climb up to the Col de Femenia via lovely back roads and some rough stoney paths. The descent from the Col was fantastic, speeding down, it was great to have my Garmin map highlighting the approaching tight turns and hairpins.

Cana de Vincenc restaurant for coffee

Cana de Vincenc restaurant for coffee

A cove at Cana de Vincenc

A cove at Cana de Vincenc

The hire bike and a rustic gate

The hire bike and a rustic gate

A restored donkey powered grinding mill with wooden gears

A restored donkey powered grinding mill with wooden gears

Strange limestone scenery

Strange limestone scenery

An egret (I think) in the meadow

An egret (I think) in the meadow

Sensible donkey?

Sensible donkey?

So that was it, 7 days of sun, sun, sun.  Over 300 miles and 20,000 feet of ascent travelled.

And what did I think? The landscape, the villages and the roads were lovely and in places spectacular, but for me the heat was a real problem, one day the average temperature was 29.5ºC. Just too much, I felt permanently thirsty, with a searing throat, though this may have have more about my developing cough. The road users were mainly delightful and except for the Formentor day, very courteous and patient. It was wonderful to see cyclists everywhere and some of the climbs were like something out of a fantasy world – especially Sa Calobra with its twists and turns and the amazing spiral at the top. Would I go back -possibly if cooler, but dry weather and a certain lack of lurgi could be guaranteed. So for your delight, here are a couple of local gravestones as a finisher for the article.

A happy gravestone?

A happy gravestone?

Hope she's got her suncream?

Hope she’s got her suncream?

Portugal and hills, hills, hills

Been away a wee bit for a holiday, meeting up with some of my family. I’m not a great fan of the sun, with my freckles and originally red hair, but enjoy the heat. Nice to be able to wander around in shorts and suncream for a while after the coldish Scottish winter.

Coffee time - again!!

Coffee time – again!!

Family joy

Family joy

I managed some cycling too. I tried to hire a road bike but could only get a mountain bike for the first few days with a road bike later, but that turned out well. Around where we are staying are these interesting bike paths along the clifftops and also the towns with their cobbled streets.

Coast by Prianha

Coast by Prianha, I cycled this one

Interesting paths, I walked this one!

More interesting paths, I walked this one!

So it was fun razing around the place, despite bashing my head on occasional branches and sore wrists (I get this on my own mountain bike as well).

Interesting track along the dyke

Interesting track along the dyke above the estuary for a few kilometres

Across the estuary, Mount Foia in the far distance

Across the estuary, Mount Foia in the far distance waiting for another day

Sardine fishermen

Sardine fishermen

There was also the joys of hoopoes hoping across the path in front of me, Iberian (azure) jackdaws flashing through the trees, the flamingos and egrets out in the bay, the smiles and waves of passers by, the sounds of the sea, wind and so on and so on.

A lurking hoopoe

A lurking hoopoe

An Iberian Jackdaw

An Iberian Jackdaw

You had to watch out on some of the paths as there were big, really big (20m deep holes) with only sketchy fences round them. If I fell down one of those my remains could have stayed there for a long, long time. Also the cliff paths were a bit dodgy at times, so walking in places seemed a good option.

Best to stop right now?

Best to stop right now?

One of the big, big holes.

One of the big, big holes.

By day four though, enough was enough. Luckily I had the nice road bike for the next three days. So even more sun cream and the joy of a decent road bike underneath me. The mountain bike had only done one ride, this one was brand new, so I was really spoilt. The owner was an ex-pro rider Tomas Swift Metcalfe (https://www.swiftmomentumsports.com/) and he spent ages setting up the machines and swapping stories, routes & places to go or not go and hints about the area. We had a bit of a hiccup at first as he’d had a delivery of new bikes, but they hadn’t put the wheels in, so he’d been hunting around Portugal trying to find wheels for clients for the week.  He was meant to be delivering the bike the evening before the hire, but we arranged for the delivery early the next morning.

The road bike at the villa

The road bike at the villa

It was great to be freewheeling on a road bike again, though there were still those steep cobbled streets to contend with, much less comfortable than the mountain bike. The western Algarve is a strange area for cycling. Some fast roads being the only routes in places, but mostly reasonable drivers despite the accident record of the country. Then head away from the coast a little and it’s mainly excellent quiet country roads, with fruit and olive trees, vines old houses, cattle with their cow bells clanging. I spent some time getting mislaid, as I foolishly hadn’t loaded up the right maps on my Garmin, but navigating by the sun or wind a bit I managed to sort things out. I cycled up to Silves, a lovely old town. As I went past the Cathedral a group of about 40 cyclists, a club outing, went past the road end. I followed them up, overtaking a few, then reached the main group who were waiting for the stragglers. We exchanged cheery waves and holas and I carried on my way.

Silves Cathedral

Silves Cathedral

A Square in Silves

A Square in Silves

Next day I managed a climb up to Foia, the Algarve’s highest point at just under 3,000 feet. With 55 miles and over 4,000 feet of climbing altogether it was four hours well spent, even though I didn’t see much at the top as it was shrouded in mist. 20 miles up at 4% average and 6% for the last 6 miles with some much steeper ramps made an interesting climb. The road down from the summit was fast with mainly sweeping turns and a real joy. I heard a plasticy clang on the way down after going over a bump, looked down and back but couldn’t see anything obvious. It was only when I got back I realised that the spare water bottle had jumped out and must have rolled off the road.

Route Profile for Mont Foia

Route Profile for Mont Foia

The mist at the Foia summit clearing slightly

The mist at the Foia summit clearing slightly

Colourful Portugal

Colourful Portugal

My last ride was a quiet saunter up into the foothills through some small sleepy villages, only marred by a puncture, ah well can’t have everything! I had a first experience on the way – a strip club!! I’ve always liked abandoned buildings, so I had a look inside. Even abandoned it looked very seedy and out of character in that rural background.

Abandoned strip club

Abandoned strip club

Seedy interior

Sleazy interior

The area was interesting with orchards full of oranges, apricots and other fruits plus the vineyards. There were many spring flowers dotting the pastures around as well.

Up country, house(?) for sale but the horse?

Up country, house(?) for sale but the horse?

An old water wheel

An old water wheel

Orange trees

Orange trees

The other great way thing was that my sister, niece and respective families were out, so I had a magical time being a Grunkle and playing lots, both in and out of the water and the sea caves. So an interesting time with some good roads and tracks and some great views over the ocean and hills. Not sure if I would like to spend more time in the area on a road bike though as there seem to be few rural roads away from the coast in that area.

Snail House

Snail House

An older lady in Lagos

An older lady in Lagos

Spotted in the bakers

Spotted in the bakers

After a while away at 20º I was back home in Scotland and had signed up for the Tour de Lauder (http://www.tourdelauder.co.uk/). This is a tough Sportive round the Scottish Borders of 89 miles (140+km) and 6,000 feet (2,000m) of climbing. It was a hard day as well and a contrast from Portugal. Not long after we set off in the pouring rain we climbed out of Lauder. The temperature dropped to 0º and the snow arrived. Dropping down a bit it was back to the cold rain, which eventually died away. By the end of the day the temperature on the tops had gone up to 14º, typical Scottish weather!! The route was difficult, not for the major climbs, but the great number of energy sapping ups and downs throughout, and especially toward the finish. The wind turned gradually during the day as well so most of the time we had a head wind, which we luckily worked together. Quite a challenge altogether but well worth doing.

Route Profile for Tour de Lauder 2015

Route Profile for Tour de Lauder 2015

The steep climb snakes up from the bottom of the hill, just visible to the Witchy Knowe.

The steep climb snakes up from the bottom of the hill, just about visible top left, to the Witchy Knowe.

Johnny reaching the top.

Johnny glad to be reaching the top.

Captured by RM Photography

Captured by RM Photography

So a quiet week, then off to Mallorca with some cycling buddies for some more sun dodging and sleeveless cycling.

What do you feel? The second bit.

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 also that satisfaction when all your physical bits are just working together in harmony.

November 2016  - Out with the gang

November 2016 – Out with the gang

November 2016  - Autumn decline?

November 2016 – Autumn decline?

November 2016  - gorgeous Autumn hedges

November 2016 – gorgeous Autumn hedges

But (and why is there always a but?) the downside is the those days when you just feel rubbish, at least for some of the ride.  Those aching legs, arms, torso, head throat, feet etc (just choose what’s appropriate) cause you to grit your teeth and brings out the patience to continue knowing that good times will surely come again. Early on in the winter I had some sort of virus which I thought had gone. It’s effects seemed to remain for a couple of months, make me feel like I was really ageing. I was a bit down, but kept going through the gloomy times hoping it would improve. Even then it was not constant. Some days better than others, but not as good as usual. Out with various groups I cycle with I’d be struggling to keep up, feeling down with the effort involved. Then one day I just flew, for no reason. I didn’t even think I was going that fast but just felt good again. Thoughts of age were dropped again and I felt a wash of pleasure run over me.’

November 2016  - A rare pic of me, dressed for winter

November 2016 – A rare pic of me, dressed for winter

November 2016  - The colours of Autumn

November 2016 – The colours of Autumn

November 2016  - biking sunset

November 2016 – biking sunset

November 2016  - night cycling, my favourite Art Nouveaux gravestone locally

November 2016 – night cycling, my favourite Art Nouveaux gravestone locally

So – many miles and experiences more and where am I? Still loving being out, come rain, sun, snow, wind or calm. Still loving being turning the pedals, short rides or long. Still enjoying strilingual for Strava PRs some days, others just meandering. Still having good times with the groups I cycle with or my solo ventures. Can’t be bad.

November 2016  - a vandalised cycleway sign in Edinburgh

November 2016 – a vandalised cycleway sign in Edinburgh

November 2016  - the ooper super dooper moon?

November 2016 – the ooper super dooper moon?

November 2016  - the day after the supermoon

November 2016 – the day after the supermoon

November 2016  - night cycling

November 2016 – night cycling

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November 2016  – One of our local castles at Kingston

And mostly much healthier, so many compensations in this journey through life.’

November 2016 flats again, thorns from hedge cutting

November 2016 – flats again, thorns from hedge cutting