Wetter than Wet

July 22, 2017

I was woken this morning by the sound of the rain on the skylight above our bed, a sound which is more soothing when you’ve not got a fun family ride planned for the afternoon. The forecast spent the day varying between ‘apocalyptic’ and ‘plague of frogs’ before settling on thundery showers. But then, as the time came to set off for Bigtown on the bike, the rain had stopped, the wind was at my back and it was all looking very …

storm clouds

… well, threatening, if I’m honest.

rainy riverfront

And by the time I had got to Bigtown it had stopped making threats and was concentrating on fulfilling them.

rainy river

After 20 minute or so sheltering under a tree with the few mad souls who had also shown up, talking about the various interesting ways lightning can kill you and discussing whether the distant patch of brightness off to the east signalled a let up in the rain (it didn’t) the thunder started in earnest and we decided to call it a day. The only problem was, I still had 8 miles of cycling to get home. I could have stopped off for a warming cup of tea with one of my fellow nutters, but the forecast was for more to come and I decided that I’d rather spend the next 40 minutes getting miserably wet and then getting dry, than spend them sitting around in damp things and then having to go out in it anyway.

You know how you think ‘well, at least I can’t get any wetter’ once you’ve been out in the rain? Well I’m here to tell you that you actually can, especially when the roads have become rivers and half the junctions have become giant puddles and nothing – with the exception of your magical Harris tweed cap – is proving properly Waterproof In Scotland. There’s wet, and then there’s the realisation (once you get home and are carting your clothes up to the bathroom to dry off) that you’ve just lugged an additional 3 litres of water up the hill in your socks alone.

There was a moment, as I battered through the water sluicing across the road beneath my wheels, the cows watching me pityingly from under the trees where they had taken shelter, when the thought did occur to me that the ford would be pretty impressive right now. I’m sure a dedicated blogger would have gone and looked.

That blogger is not me.


Happy St Swithin’s Day

July 15, 2017

A friend, whose birthday it is, reminded me that today is St Swithin’s Day

St Swithin’s day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St Swithin’s day if thou be fair
For forty days ‘twill rain nae mare

About that …

harebells in the rain

Today it stopped raining just long enough for our afternoon summer ride but – crucially – not long enough to not drench me on the ride out and the ride back.

Obviously, this is just a legend,* and not weather forecasting – because even up here it never actually rains for 40 days in a row – but it does have a grain of truth in that by mid July the weather does seem to have more or less settled into the pattern that it will follow over the rest of the summer (and here’s a slightly more scientific argument to back me up). Which means we can look forward to another 40 days of hopefully checking the weather forecast for the odd sunny day here and there, while the part of my Twitter timeline that lives down South bangs on about how hot it is.

Speaking of legends, I have now cycled past the spot where gooseberry man was three times, and seen no sign of any gooseberry bushes. I’m beginning to think I made it up. Can you get pop up gooseberry bushes?

* Incidentally, I always thought that the legend came about because St Swithin gave his cloak to a beggar, and then the sun shone for 40 days so he didn’t need it, but I appear to have completely made that up because according to the internet, it was St Martin who went around giving out cloaks, St Swithin was just a bit choosy about where he was buried.


Summer Comes but Once a Year

July 12, 2017

Sometimes Twitter gets it bang on

As is traditional when we get a couple of days’ sunshine, I am currently stuck under a pile of All The Work, so I’ve mostly had to just sit and watch it out of my study window, but I did have an afternoon appointment in town.

summer clouds

You honestly couldn’t pay me to drive on a day like today, because it was my only real chance to enjoy the sunshine.

On my way in I encountered a friend, a photographer, who has started this little project on Facebook. After chatting for a while, she offered to add me to the roster of ‘humans’ and took my photo there and then,* and then we went on our way

It was only as I was riding home again later in the afternoon, that it struck me how fortunate we are to live in a place where one can have a brief photo shoot in the middle of the road, and not be interrupted by a single vehicle, and not even think it remarkable.

summer reflections

It scrubs up quite well when the sun shines, too.

* As I have to write a few words before it gets put up, I may not be appearing there for a while


Very British Problems

July 5, 2017

So when you’ve told someone that you’re going to be late to a meeting because you’ve got another meeting beforehand and they’re eight miles apart and you are travelling by bike …

… and then your first meeting is effectively cancelled because nobody shows up …

… and it’s pissing down, and has been all day, and your waterproof trousers have proved Not Waterproof in Scotland, and your only spare gloves are your ridiculous winter ones …

path end

Do you a) cycle as quickly as possible to your second meeting and take the opportunity to dry off, because that would be the sensible thing to do?

interesting new signage

Or b) decide to add an extra couple of very wet miles to your route so that you don’t have to show up early having said you’d be late, a decision that appeared to make the most sense to me at the time?

At least option b gave me the opportunity to photograph some new cycling infrastructure…


Call me a Fair Weather Cyclist …

June 14, 2017

… but I cannot deny that my bike becomes a whole lot more appealing means of transport when the rain stops

Fair weather road

June has been a bit too Octoberish for my liking recently, but this afternoon the clouds thinned, the wind dropped, the air warmed up and I even took my gloves off

Add in the fact that the hedgerows are full of birds who haven’t quite taken their L-plates off yet, so are often still fluttering about around me as I pass, and of course the hares, and suddenly spending time on my bike becomes a positive delight, rather than the virtuous chore it can frankly be when it is bucketing it down.

Oddly enough, the sunshine doesn’t just make rural roads more pleasant to ride on. Even my least favourite bits of today’s cycling – getting into the Tesco carpark, the roundabout-of-doom where I swear I will meet my end one day, even the hill home – they all seemed so much more doable somehow, although the last one might have been the tail wind.

As a result, I am rashly planning a little mini adventure on my way up to Embra tomorrow. More anon. If I’m spared …


Hope Springs

June 7, 2017

I’m trying to distract myself from the election, which has gone from a head-in-hands, can’t-watch horrorshow to something much more painful – the faintest dawning glimmer of hope that we might not end up with a Tory landslide on our hands. Obviously, that will just make Friday morning even more crushing so instead I bring you the fruits of a project I’ve been working on in the background for the last few weeks entitled ‘discovering how difficult it is to do a timelapse properly’.

We have a wood on the way to our house which is just lovely, and I’ve been trying to record the way it has been changing over the seasons. Woods generally are very difficult to capture properly, and trying to get a consistent image (never mind the lighting) is harder still, as I think my efforts probably demonstrate. But if you squint a bit and apply your imagination I hope you will catch some feeble reflection of what I was attempting to do.

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Enjoy. You have until Friday morning to feel that sense of springlike optimism pervading your soul.


Turning Left in May

May 26, 2017

As part of our commitment to get out of our comfort zones in our lives, both Back on my Bike and I have been separately trying to go on at least one small adventure a month this year. This month, we hatched a plan that involved meeting her and a fellow cycling pal at the next train station along on the line to Glasgow and cycling with them to their campsite where they were going to take part in Bigtownshire’s biennial cycling fest, the KM Rally.

What’s so adventurous about that, you might ask – for it’s a ride I’ve done a couple of times before so hardly counts as a new adventure. Well, I had a cunning plan:

Rather than rely on my own knowledge of the route, or her phone’s satnav, she was going to have to navigate the old fashioned way.

Dangerous Hill

Admiring the ‘dangerous hill’ sign

Fortunately, I seemed to have left the Scottish weather in Colorado and we have been having some distinctly Colorado weather in Scotland, so there was no hardship in stopping to consult the map from time to time, preferably in a shady spot. Indeed, so unScottish was the weather, that we ran out of water and had to ask a householder on the road to fill them for us. He looked satisfyingly in awe at the distance we were cycling (actually no more than 30 miles with no wrong turnings – despite her protestations, Suzanne proved more than capable of navigating) and not only refilled them but added ice too, which was extremely welcome and went some way towards making up for the only tearoom on the route being firmly shut by the time we arrived at 3:30 pm ready to buy All The Cake. Their loss …

shady road

Other than that, it was just a question of enjoying the quiet back roads, breathing in the heady scent of the hawthorn blossom, exclaiming over the scenery and generally enjoying Bigtownshire cycling at its best.

on the road

On the whole, the area doesn’t do a lot to sell itself as a destination for cycle tourers, or for anything else. We decided that this was because the average Scot, when asked to big up their area, would probably concede that it was ‘awright’. Before adding that ‘it’s no Spain, mind’.

Not Spain

It’s no Spain …

Actually, today, it came fairly close. It wasn’t the fastest ride ever, but it was certainly the most enjoyable day out on the bike that I’ve had for a while. And look!

Achievement unlocked.