Tag Archives: East Lothian

The Bad, the Good and the Don’t Understand

‘The Bad’: When I first started this, it felt so good. It was almost balmy at 6°C after -2°C for a wee while, down to 3 layers and beard not freezing. But it just hasn’t been so fine for the last few weeks and it’s been blowing a hooley for the last few days with storms Gertrude & Henry making themselves known and keeping me off the roads with violent winds. I missed the one quiet day in the middle as I’ve been doing the intros & lighting for our local pantomime, ‘Beauty and the Beast’. De-rigging the lights happened on the same day as the calm so ah well!

Beauty & the Beast ELDG Panto

Lighting the Pantomime Dame

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Doing my bit of introduction

Freezing weather with dicy roads, ice, snow, gravel, melt water, mud etc. I think you’ll get the idea.

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Roads a bit uneven!!!

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Snowy hills to be skied up later, roads damp here but not icy

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The Ninja outfit

New brake blocks first, pedal bearing collapsed, back wheel bearings went, replaced chain but one of the rivets came adrift and the chain plate bent back on itself causing a sudden halt but all is sort of back to peace and serenity again. Colin of Belhaven Bikes was superb, went into the shop to see about getting the wheel bearings replaced and he did it just about on the spot, brilliant service. The rest I did myself.

‘The Good’ is I have very much enjoyed my rides recently despite the conditions plus the snow allowed me to get out on skis locally for a couple of hours up in the hills.

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Skiing up – conditions better than it looks

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Wonderful stuff snow.

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Looking towards home, variable under ski

Even this wasn’t without a wee bit of grief though. First of all my collapsible poles decided to collapse when they shouldn’t (new ones have now arrived), then one of the skins on the skis used for climbing uphill decided that the glue holding it on to the ski was a bit old and parted ways a few times. More curses of an inventive nature. Just as well no one else was on the hill with me!! Had a good run down, though the snow was very variable with deep banks of soft stuff, delightful nevee and some solid ice to make life interesting! It was gorgeous scooting along on the lower stretch in the sun with fabby views and the coos keeping their distance.

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After the gate, tractor tracks

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Ready for gliding down

Now the ‘Don’t Understand’ part. Americans on guns, I just  don’t get it! In Britain we have some of the strictest gun laws in the world. Seems to work on some level as we also have some of the lowest gun crime/ murder rate in the world and the majority of our police are not armed. The majority of murders in the USA according to the FBI are by someone know to the victim. Why does an amendment made in the time of flintlock rifles need to apply to a modern situation? What need does a citizen have of semi automatic or worse weapons? Maybe the right to bear arms should apply only to flintlocks? Though it’s probably way too late for that now. I also don’t understand how the American Rifle Association with only just over 3 million members can seem, from my perspective, to dictate to the whole huge population of the States.IMG_3515

known

Figures from the FBI, looks like you’re more likely to be murdered by family or someone you know.

Now I don’t think I want answers to these thoughts, it’s just a highlight of how different two nations can be. Our UK world history has been pretty horrific at times, but I feel we seem to have a better balance these days on the whole. I have travelled in various places around the world and I must admit the country that gave me the most unease was America.

Just don’t get me started on Trump though!

Enough of philosophising, I maybe should have just kept to the biking?

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Our local river in flood, though not too bad this time

 

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The storms bring good sunsets, but turn 90º and it’s all black clouds

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Skis showing the skins attached to the bottom of the skis for climbing up snow slopes plus the ‘freeheel’ bindings. Very marginal snow conditions here though!

Wet, dry, wet, wind, wind, wind, Portugal and still learning

What a turbulent December it has been. The weather has been all over the place. Cycling in negative temperatures, then next day over 12°C. Cruising along on dry roads to be followed by splashing carefully avoiding potholes hidden in flooded byways. All this to be repeated from one day to the next. Makes for interesting bicycling.

Then there’s the wind, today is howling from the south,  two days ago from the south east, but mostly from the south west with occasional notherly blasts just to round things off. Ah the great Scottish climate!December0

The snow arrived locally at the end of November, disappeared for a wee bit then dusted the hills again for a while before the temperatures rose again. On the occasional day it has cleared enough to see the Southern Cairngorms way up north, they seem to have more than a dusting of the white stuff, but the thought of being out in the mountains on skis in this weather is frightening, or seriously not to be contemplated at least. And the snow is forecast for here again tomorrow – ‘plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose’!

But, in spite, or maybe because of it all I have managed to rack up the miles, dodging the wild winds behind hedges or hills, choosing the weather window carefully, looking out the lights for a bit of night cycling, meeting up with other daft minded biking companions and other such strategies.

And it’s been so enjoyable, that amazing clarity when the rain clears, the sense of adventure in familiar territory, that joint feeling of accomplishment shared with others, and the craic over coffee & scones halfway through a ride.

Yippee, bring it on!

Thomas Metcalfe found my blog recently, so welcome to him and all the rest of you. Thomas runs a cycling business in the Algarve in Portugal and was really good to me in the Spring. My sister has a significant birthday. We’ll be meeting up there again in the early summer, so I better get my bike booking firmed up. What a transformation it will be from the Scottish winter. I’m not too good with the heat, but loved the smells and sights in the back roads of the Algarve -looking forward to renewing my acquaintance, though not so much the busier main roads. Time to look out some decent maps for the trip as well:

https://fossilcycle.wordpress.com/2015/04/26/portugal-and-hills-hills-hills/

https://www.swiftmomentumsports.com

The other news is that I’m just about finished with my video of the local mini hills part 2, with some odd music, mucky roads and dodgy fords so maybe I’ll get it out before the year end.

You’re never too old to learn? Well I certainly hope so! Over the year I’ve been doing some online short (6 week) courses with Future Learn – https://www.futurelearn.com. I have found the courses to be superb and they are free. So far I’ve taken the following courses:

Introduction to Forensic Science, Web Science: How the web is changing, Kitchen Chemistry (too basic for me though), Explore Filmmaking, Digital Storytelling. I’ve signed up for two more – Explore Animation and Visual Effects for Guerrilla Filmmakers.

The courses are designed by Universities or the National Film & Television School, the standards are very high and the online discussions with other students excellent, with good advice or positive critical response. The range of courses is very broad, so have a look you might find a new interest: https://www.futurelearn.com

So anyway, enough rambling – have a good New Year, and a few recent local photos to finish.

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Some Local Hills and so many stats – aghhhhhhhh!

 

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After the Kippielaw extravaganza ride I was annoyed that I’d messed up sportscamming (?) it. So A couple of days later I went out to film a few local short step ascents. I’ve also discovered that you can map any footage to the Garmin GPS so I thought I’d combine the two to really mess with folks minds. And as for the music!!!

So a wee Christmassy fillum to waste a bit of time on.

Before that a wee greeting for all my virtual followers, I’ve had so much fun seeing your posts and reading and responding to your comments.

Have a great festivity time.

Alastair

The Greeting: http://www.electroniccottage.co.uk/XmasAnim2015.html

The Vid – part 1 (still working on part 2): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXoMPSd2pmE

Once in a while

Every so often I manage a photo that satisfies me. Technically I’m sure this is wrong on so many counts. Taken into the sun, hazy, blotchy etc. But I was pleased with it.

This is on Sunday’s ride, billed as ‘The Kippielaw Extravaganza’, we all met from various localities, climbed a few of the wee steep ascents and after 25 miles landed up here at Kippielaw (law is the Scots word for a hill). I was trying to get my sportscam working, was delayed, looked up and grabbed my old camera slung around my neck.

So glad I did.

Coos, Gravel, Wet Leaves, Fences, Needles and Glaur.

It was another Tuesday ride. We had gathered together outside The Smithy as usual. It was a wee bit blowy, but not too bad and a bit damp underwheel.

“Let’s go over the hills” one of our bright sparks suggested. Two of our number had to be back early, but would come up part of the way, so off we went.

It was wet on the roads and there had been a bit of a blow so it was soggy leaves as well. So taking it easy, especially on the downhills we gradually wended our way upwards.

After a punishing climb up, It was just stunning as ever on the tops with great views and the sheep behaving themselves. Though we were taking care as Ali had come a cropper a few weeks before on one of the steep descents near here, damaging himself badly when a woolly beast ran out in front of him.

Dodging the loose stones, gravel and puddles we made our past the Whiteadder reservoir with it’s short steep climb at the end, then on to the turn off, about 20 miles in. I once got here to find it blocked off as a car rally was being staged. No big deal for a motorist, but a bit of a way out for a cyclist.

We climbed up the road which deteriorated as we went, steeply (yet again), past the hairpin with more gravel, potholes, stones, puddles and glaur. Eventually we made it up to the top and into the forest. The road was a beautiful shade of brown, covered in wet pine needles from the surrounding trees. So cautiously we made our way down to start the relatively easy climb out of the next valley. We passed a few coos (cows) by the side of the road, then more a more till a big herd blocked the road. Peddling slowly Ali led us up to them, shouting and gesturing. Luckily they moved, mainly sauntering off to the side. Then up once more, this time through the Triffids (giant wind turbines) to the last big summit, through mud, cow pats and road works. I always love this section as it usually is deserted and remote, but not so much this day.

From the top it’s a glorious, fast descent, usually at well over 40 mph (65 mph). But not today, the road was wet, covered in mud and slime and just too dicy to contemplate going quickly. Then by the farm at the bottom a closed gate, which I had never even realised was there. Luckily we were creeping down because of the conditions under our wheels. After hoiking our bikes over the gate, more ups and downs, more glaur, more gravel, more potholes. A cyclocross bike might have been a better bet than a road bike.

Eventually we got down to Dunbar, a welcome coffee break with scones and meeting pals accidentally. Then away hame. Altogether an enjoyable ride despite (or because) of the conditions.

On a relevant tack, I never usually recommend stuff, but I’ve been using a chain lube called Squirt, which I’ve mentioned before. It performed wonderfully and despite the bike being plastered with muck at the end of the ride, the chain was clean. It also just needs a quick wipe occasionally, nothing more. It seems to be extending the chain life and makes the chain run so smooth. And I have nothing to do with the product at all, it just works for me.IMG_0685Up onto the Lammermuirs, the road ahead
IMG_0688Ali comes up, with lowland East Lothian spread out below
IMG_0689IMG_0692Johnny emerging from the climb
IMG_0693IMG_0694After Whiteadder the valley before the hill beyond, the Triffids await.
IMG_0695Another top, looking over the Scottish BordersIMG_0698A wee rest for a changeIMG_0700Into the forest and the pine needle road, easy does it!
IMG_0710The “Day of the Triffids” arrives
IMG_0711IMG_0712A glimpse of the sea, our coffee and scones await down there somewhere?
IMG_0713More glaur on what is normally a super fast descent. Torness, a nuclear power station is below usIMG_0716The farm gate I’ve never noticed before and more glaurIMG_0718Yes, muddy again? We had just come out of the hills top right

IMG_0719Dunbar, coffee and scones await

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Should you do this to a bike? Of course, a wee bit of water & all is OK!

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.


  

How much is too much, or too little?

Or is enough, enough?

I’m not very good at posting these days and I’ve been finding it hard to keep up with everyone’s posts. So what’s the solution, if any is required?

Skim reading is OK but then I have to go back and re-read things I know I have overlooked. I usually like pics in posts, but don’t wish to neglect the text. Just going by titles doesn’t always help much either. So I find myself binging on catchups, commenting on stuff that’s a bit out of date. Ah well.

As for my own posts, I like to act on ideas I have, rather than just feeling I have to churn out another post as I haven’t done one for ages. And I usually take a wee bit of time, either on or off the bike. Ah well again!

So just to finish a few pics to give a bit of lightness for the article from some recent rides.


Coming down from the hills & dodging sheep

Autumn leaves

Waiting for the flood?


Lovely local roads


Sun power?


Glorious shafts

  The Haddington Cycle Club head off from the Humbie Hub
Catchup time

  
Away from the rain

All together again

Tour of Britain 2015 – King of the Mountains Stage 4 – a personal view

The Leaders come up Redstone Rigg, Tour of Britain 2015

The Leaders come up Redstone Rigg, Tour of Britain 2015

The Tour of Britain came through our patch this month, so loads of us wound our way up to meet on the hill. It was baltic (i.e. cold), waiting on the windy hillside, but good fun anyway. As  the race appeared in the distance I tried to unfreeze my wooden fingers, without success.

As usual the race was through in a minute or less. I’ve finally managed to sort out the video.

So for your enjoyment: Tour of Britain 2015, Stage 4, King o’ the Mountains section

I recorded the music(?) on a midi guitar so no pianos, harps, synthesisers or other instruments were harmed in the making.

The Challenge – day 3: The Reader’s Wife (or the Naked Truth)

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!

Looking back to the Hopetoun Moument (top left), with a closer-up view

Looking back to the Hopetoun Moument (top left), with a closer-up view

Today I was with the B-Spokes, an assorted group of gentlemen (occasionally), mainly retired, who  met up for a coffee stop, interrupted on either side by a cycle ride, today 40+ miles.

As we wound our way along I was thinking of the tale I could spin. I passed & photographed the tower – the Hopetoun Monument, which was  “erected to the memory of the Great and Good John, Fourth Earl of Hopetoun by his affectionate and grateful tenantry in East Lothian” (oh yeh?) as it says on the plaque on the side. You can climb up a fabby spiral worn stone staircase to the top with amazing views from the hill to the sea and the Southern Highlands on a good day.

We then popped into the Bothy in Aberlady for our obligatory coffee stop (with a chocolate brownie in my case). On our way out of the village we passed the gate above and I stopped to take the photo. I was reminded of a strange incident from many years back.

I had been training for the ’70 Wild Miles’, an event up near Glencoe in the Highlands. It consisted of a cycle ride of 47 hilly miles down to Taynault on Loch Etive, a sea canoe for 10 miles to the head of the Loch and a run of 13 miles, with 1,000 feet of ascent back up to the head of Glencoe. Running is not my strong point so I obviously needed to get some miles in.

The night before there had been a programme on the gogglebox about ‘Reader’s Wives’. For those not in the know the girly magazines used to have a feature showing photos of ‘ordinary’ married women divesting themselves of clothing and appearing in prrint.

It was a wild, chilly November evening and I was dropped off at that gate to run the few miles back home (it was early in my training plan). I set off up the path running along the field edge, seeing the tower behind gradually getting larger on the horizon. About a mile or so in, I spotted a couple some way ahead in the field just a wee bit off the path. As I got fairly near I realised it was a man and a woman. I also realised the man had a camera on a tripod aimed at the woman with the tower in the background. I suddenly realised that the lady(?) was naked. So advance or retreat? I had been spotted so I carried on past them, gave a cheery wave and a greeting and continued on my way. As I ran I ruminated on this strange meeting, the symbolism of the priapic tower not being totally lost on me, the fact that I seldom saw folk on these runs, plus such a chilly, windy evening to be baring all, so a triple surprise.

Were they influenced by the programme the night before or was it just chance? Anyway, as they say down south “nowt so strange as folk”.

The Challenge

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!

So how could I possibly refuse. I’m starting today as I have a photo:

Regrouping beside the blacksmiths at Saltoun

Regrouping beside the blacksmiths at Saltoun

So here’s the photo, taken this morning. We’ve had a glorious few days with temperatures up to 19ºC and hardly any wind. Then yesterday the grey skies arrived again and this morning the rain had set in and the temperature was down to 5º, it’s approaching midsummer, a Scottish midsummer so winter had arrived again! So donning a modicum of clothing, but still a bit foolishly I ventured out to join the Haddington Cycle Club. After a damp ride the few miles up to the town and then a wee loop as I knew I was early, I approached Samson on his pillar on top of the fountain. No-one was there, so I set off on another mini loop, just in an attempt to keep warm. When I arrived back folk were gathering. There were a couple of new folk so it was great to meet them and welcome them. It always gladdens my heart when newcomers turn up for a ride.

Now we assembled, a complete dozen, and set off  into the wind and rain down the way I had just come up, ah well. We squelched our way up past the wild ponies on Traprain Law, a local volcanic laccolith of Phonolitic trachyte (a kind of volcanic boil which hadn’t been lanced, there was a Roman silver hoard found there as well, but no chance of a sighting today). Then came the steeper climbs up to Whittinghame and Gifford. Despite, or maybe because of the rain everything looked just superb, vibrant greens and browns.

Eventually we had a slightly longer stop than the usual catchups, at Saltoun, to munch a bit of sustenance. Saltoun is a lovely wee village, with a three angel statue, an unusual church with a spire on top of its tower and a blacksmith’s forge with a huge pile of old horseshoes outside. It’s brilliant on the rare occasions I’ve cycled past and a horse is being shod, with the forge roaring away, all red and gold flames. Today it was silent though, but the temperature had risen to a balmy 6º and the rain had stopped. The village was the first place in Scotland to have a barley mill  in the early 1700s as well.

After refreshment and chat we were off again, with chilly damp feet cooling nicely on the hurl down the hill. We got back to Haddington and I signed up, metaphorically, for an extra loop especially as it passed my house. So up the 6º climb out of the toon, and the temperature rose to faintingly hot 12º with glimpses of sun, before I arrived back home after a somewhat damp 44 miles and bid farewell to the group on the loop.

So history, geology, statistics, meteorology, equines, pain and suffering as well as joy, what more could you want in a story?

And tomorrow, hopefully, two wheel adventures of a different kind!