Category Archives: Scotland

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!!

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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.

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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

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!!

Funny old Spring and bum cream

It’s been a pretty weird Spring this year, hot, cold, windy, still, rain, sun, snow. As I tap the rain is pelting down outside, but the sun is due late on today.

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Hairy gorse out for Spring

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Tulips in the sun

I was cycling up on the hills two days ago with snow around and the week before I was back in shorts a few times. But then variety is the spice of life?

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A 50 miler 2 weeks ago

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Johnny trying not to run me over (me lying on the road!)

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Climbing up Redstone Rigg 2 days ago

My ribs have mostly healed but a couple of weeks ago I forgot I was recovering. I’m involved with the local community cinema (Pix in the Stix). We were putting on ‘Bill’ for the kids film, a comedy about William Shakespeare – great if you haven’t seen it. The adult film was ‘The Lady in the Van’, another terrific one. While setting up for the shows I lifted over the speakers, fairly light and easy. Then I hoiked up the amp in its flight case. Big mistake, I felt something in my ribcage tug and knew I should not have done that! So I was set back a wee bit, but still out on the bike. It was the 25th anniversary of Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’, so we decided to put on the film of Roger Waters, from the band, reflecting on this. He visited his grandfather’s grave from the first world war, and his father’s grave from the second world war, as well as giving a huge performance of The Wall. We also had a band playing, a younger member of Pix played some background music and I sang some old blues numbers. A brilliant night indeed, held in the old village hall at Tyninghame, which at one time was a bakehouse.

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Sound checks

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Setting up Pix in the Stix

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The band before ‘The Wall’

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Special cakes for the Pink Floyd night

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Aghghghghgh

I’ve had some good rides, as usual. I’m lucky as I relish variety in conditions. I’ve been up and down our local hills quite a bit. As regular followers know it’s steep round here, so I’ve needed to take it easyish as standing up peddling has caused discomfort or pain, till the last week or so. I look forward to going out with the groups I ride with, keeps me going pushing with folk a few decades younger than me. And there is good banter along the way or at the cafe too.

One of my favourite cafés is re-opening soon under new management. It’s going to be called The Lanterne Rouge, so it’s obviously going to give a huge welcome to cyclists. For those who are not into racing, the Lanterne Rouge was awarded to the rider who finishes the Tour de France in last place.

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Un Lanterne Rouge

Now the final bit, bum cream. As with all cycling things, eating, drinking, equipment, training etc. there are masses of opinions on what we should be doing and how, where, why etc. One of these is the more delicate parts of our anatomy which connect with the saddle. I am fairly scrupulous about spreading ‘chamois cream’ on my susceptable parts before a longer ride, but recently I forgot (or couldn’t be bothered – for want of a more appropriate word). One of these was an 85 mile jaunt to test bikes. Surprisingly I find few bad effects, so I’ve been experimenting a bit and it sometimes it makes a difference, others not. So I’ve reached totally no conclusion, not for the first time either.

So as ever a few extra pics for your delectation or otherwise:

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Up by the monument looking north to N Berwick Law and the Paps o’ Fife

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Subtle overshoes?

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Deep Spring ploughing locally

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Spring snow in the hills

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The climb ahead up to the tops, a mere 17%er

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At the top of ‘The Rigg’, warmer than it looks!

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Looking back over the Firth of Forth and the hills up north

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The Bass Rock below with the northern mountains behind

Failure will become a Success

Saturday was fun. The cafe at Gifford closed a few months ago, but is starting to be renovated by a new owner. It was a real cyclist hub too. It will be called the Lanterne Rouge, which might be quite appropriate for me at times (for those who don’t know the association “The Lanterne Rouge“). It won’t open till May as they are totally redoing the place, but as the Gifford road race was on they were giving out coffee & cakes and raising money for the local hospice. The helpers and owner were lovely and the cakes superb. Hey had made a special energy bar/ flap jack which was wonderful. I had thought the racing was over, but when I came up the hill to Gifford, the motorbike cavalcade came down the road towards me, lights blazing, then the leaders shot past, followed by the 2nd group and then the peloton. They did a circuit and came past the cafe. I managed to munch and drink and headed off to the finish  to see then come blasting over the line – great.

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The marshals waiting for the next lap

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The breakaway comes through

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Back together the leader crosses the line

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Tired!!

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The pack comes through

Last year I decided to ride my birthday at least. I was 67 so planned a 67 mile route. One of my cycling buddies chummed me and we had a wonderful, but chilly day biking out to Stirling, getting the train back to Edinburgh and then cycling back home. The 67 miles turned, somehow magically, into 95. So a birthday ride+. Yesterday was another year on. Fortunately I don’t set the birthday ride to be on my birthday as the March weather here is fickle, to say the least.

This year my cracked rib has intervened as well. I’m back on the bike and slowly ramping up the miles again, though sore a wee bit, as it’s only a couple of weeks since the accident (“Only when I laugh” as the old joke goes).

So I cycled up to join the gang for the Sunday ride, ready to push the mileage if I was up to it. The first 35 miles were super, I was in shorts for the 2nd day running (and this is March in Scotland), just 2 layers on top, felt good & had excellent company. I took it relatively easy up the hills so as not to do too much energetic breathing and stopped in one of the towns to meet some folk, one of whom had an amazing looking tri bike. It was much heavier than I thought it would be too.

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Then down from the foothills and a fast cruise along the coast. Just Craig & I now, barrelling along together.

Then I realised that my 68 possible target wasn’t on that day. My chest was grumbling gently at me – there’s always another day sire!

So Craig pottered off, right on his target for the day, while I peeled off, heading for home. But 40+ miles was OK and proved I’m on the way to my birthday ride in the next couple of weeks.

My evening celebration was an a visit to Dunbar to see a lovely Science Festival Light Show projected on to the Town House, with the statue of John Muir (who was born here) being lit up as well, followed by an Italian meal – loverly.

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John Muir as a boy

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(2 days later) A few rides later into the hills & I’m ready for tomorrow. Forecast is good, no winds and not desperately cold. Wish me luck.

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A suspicious looking ‘Heavy’ horse

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It’s mucky in them thare hills!!

‘Go gently into that dark night’

Was late at night, the buzz of a message. “It’s on tonight, are you up for it?” then “Half an hour OK? Meet you at the door”

Finished the stuff I was doing, I’d just had a bath so shrugged off the dressing gown and layered on the clothes, grabbing all the essentials and then headed for the door.

Off we went, up with all the gear, just a mile from the village. As we climbed up the hill we could see the glow. It was going to be a good yin!

Stopped, open the doors and saw the gentle pulsating – YES!!!

It’s not so often this happens in Scotland, but it was a gorgeous, cold, clear night and it was here.

Gloves & hats on first then we quickly set up the gear, tripods, cameras ready.

Yes it was worth getting happen up for, worth being out, surrounded, worth the cold, worth the wooden fingers.

Then just on the stroke of midnight back home, with everything fading – glorious.

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Bike or Ski?

There’s snow on our local hills, so the dilemma arises. I often manage a wee ski trip or two when conditions are right.

I had already managed one very small one this year so yesterday was a bonus. Snow, sunshine, no wind and the hills had looked good on the bike ride the day before. There was no real choice! I had some of the afternoon free so just had to go. And it was glorious. The snow lower down was perfect, though it turned a bit softer higher up.

A quick drive up (it’s only 10 – 15 minutes away), skins on the skis, heel lifts fitted, hop over the gate, say hello to the sheep and away. Got into a loverly rythym going up with occasional brief pauses for photos. Met the secondd gate and managed to hop(?) over it fairly disgracefully, then the undulating climb upwards to the top of the hill. The views on the way up and at the top were wonderful. Above me was Lammerlaw, but not enough time and the snow was getting too soft for the return journey. So, off with the skins and away. Gliding along the ridge and then the speedier descents. The wax on the skis worked well gripping on the flatter sections and gliding nicely on the faster downhill sections.

Lower down the snow was perfect for telemarking and the turns felt good. Though I was back down I was high as a kite. Glorious!!!!!!

For those who don’t know the terminology, skins are attached to the bottom of the skis with releasable glue. The nap of the fabric (it used to be seal skins in the old days) faces backwards and enables the skier to climb up hills. The heel lifts up the heel of the ski boot, this makes the boot level & puts less strain on your leg muscles. The wax, applied to the bottom of the ski, grips when you put pressure on it to go forward, but glides when there’s no pressure. You need different grades of wax for different temperatures – a real black art! A telemark turn is one where one leg slides backwards behind the other and the two skis form effectively one long one.You can only do this on freewheel skis. I also use telescopic poles, adjusted to be longer for pushing uphill but shorter for the downhills to help with the turns.So there you go, a wonderful pursuit when conditions are right.

There’s worse to come though, a cheesy video is in production!

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Almost ready

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Gorgeous snow conditions lower down

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Have to wait for the descent

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More fence icicles

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Strange icicles growing vertically

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Looking east

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Hare and fox tracks

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Over to Fife and the Firth of Forth

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A gulley to the east over the valley

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Another gully to the east

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Follow the hare in reverse

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Gate number 3

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Sun, sun, sun

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Lammerlaw ahead, waits for another day

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As far as I go, skins off & ready to go

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Haddington, down low

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Time to head down

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Starting the ski back

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These specs were clear when I left the car

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Oh so elegant!!

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Ski tips lead the way down

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Trapain Law and the Bass Rock

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Quad bike & ski tracks up

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Gate number 2

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turns in the snow

 

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The car waits at the bottom

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Ski track up and down, put delight

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The sheep & hill at the finish

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The Strava trace of the ski track up & down

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The road home