Riders on the Storm

May 29, 2015
river walkway

For information, Escondido, *this* is how you do a river path…

We have returned to Pueblo, Colorado, which is currently on course for record rainfall levels in May.* Unlike Southwest Scotland, though, the rain seems to be concentrated in intense bursts rather than the sort of pacing-itself drizzle we’re used to. So today, although the clouds were building ominously over the mountains, we felt the need to burn off our lunch at Papa Jose’s by cycling to the secondhand bookshop to stave off the danger of running out of things to read.

Flooded bike path

Yup, definitely still closed

We were hopeful that the absence of a path closed sign on the river path meant that the flooding had receded but it quickly turned out that it just meant someone had stolen the sign.

bike path continues

It did look as if we could scramble along the bank some way and rejoin the path downstream, thereby avoiding the Enormous Scary Junction but after I spotted a snake in the undergrowth we decided that tangling with the traffic would be preferable, although in the end we managed to scramble up a bank and avoid the worst bit of the road. We then misread the signs (and by ‘misread the sign’ I mean ‘believed the sign helpfully directing bikes to the river path didn’t involve going over an enormous scary bridge’) and did enough riding in traffic to make tangling with snakes look like the better option. But we arrived at the book shop unscathed by either pickup trucks or snakes, and then found the slightly less scary route back to the coffee shop that gives you 10% if you come by bike where we sat in the welcome shade and had a giant coffee (the ‘small’) and watched the clouds get slightly more ominous as time passed.

Solar Roast coffee

10% off if you come by bike…

Then it was a simple matter of racing the rain home – arriving, very satisfyingly, just as the first drops began to fall.

storm approaching

* If any other drought-struck region would like us to come and visit and bring the weather gods with us to sort out their water table, our rates are very reasonable…


Unfurling

May 15, 2015

We’re off on our holidays on Monday – two weeks of sunshine* in Colorado with a side trip to Southern California.

I had thought that the last few weeks would be a time of catching up with various tasks that had been neglected in the run up to PoP, getting my garden ready, and generally enjoying the delights of spring. I don’t know WHY I thought this, because it seems to be an iron law that you never get less busy, only more so, and besides, a gardener’s work is never done, even if the gardener in question hasn’t ended up with two big freelance work deadlines on top of each other.

I did manage to escape for a run down to the papershop on the bike today, and caught the woods just at the point before the bluebells burst properly into flower.

bluebells not quite in flower

I’ll be quite sad to miss them in their pomp, but I am looking forward to the break… And only another million things to finish before I can go and enjoy it.

* Having said that, I was informed with some satisfaction the other day that Colorado was suffering heavy snow last week (and there’s been heavy rain washing out roads in Pueblo), while I heard on the radio recently that it’s supposed to be an El Nino year this year, which can mean flooding in California. So I’ll be packing the apocalypse-proof jacket just in case…


The Little Chilli that Might

May 2, 2015

chilli plants

One use we’ve decided to put our greenhouse to is growing chillies – not the fearsomely hot ones (I hope) but some of the sweeter, milder ones. Several varieties of seeds were ordered, and they all germinated very nicely, except for the serrano chillies which didn’t come up at all and then, naturally, became the one variety we absolutely had to have. A quick consultation with Professor Google suggested soaking the seeds in warm water overnight, so we split the remaining seeds into two batches and soaked one lot, and planted them all, lovingly spraying them with a mist of water and keeping them warm on the shelf over the Rayburn. Finally, just as we were ready to give up, one sole serrano chilli seedling emerged (out of the unsoaked seeds, if anyone’s interested), looking rather weedy compared to its robuster relatives.

All was going fairly well, the bigger chilli seedlings had been pricked out into individual modules and were ready to be transferred up to the greenhouse, when disaster struck: our sole precious serrano seedling had got knocked and was looking pretty broken.

broken chilli seedling

After all the effort we’d gone to to germinate it, we couldn’t quite give up on it, so we left it on the kitchen windowsill and the next morning it still wasn’t actually dead yet, and the morning after that it was looking a bit perkier, and after a few days it seemed to be straightening itself out somewhat, although it’s never going to win any prizes, other than for perseverance in the face of adversity, which I’m 100% certain isn’t a category in the village show, although I said that about comedy vegetables last year.

serrano chilli seedling

Not dead yet

The first of its cousins have now been planted out in the greenhouse and are looking pretty good, which is something of a relief as my gardening pal in the village keeps threatening to come up and visit my veg plot. They might just serve to distract him from the state of the rest of my beds, which are suffering from a certain ‘just in time’ management approach to preparation and planting at the moment which is threatening to tip over into ‘just too late’ in some areas (it helps if you remember to actually plant your fennel…). Although, in my defence, we’ve got a yellow warning of snow tonight, which makes planting out my spring onions feel less than urgent… and the fact that I’ve already planted out my salad leaves feel positively foolish.


The Weather Gods Giveth…

April 27, 2015

So you’ve invited several thousand people to Edinburgh on their bikes to tell their politicians they want to see a cycle friendly country. And come Friday evening the forecast is for heavy rain, and on Saturday morning the actuality is heavy rain, and you’re busy rewriting an expectations-managing press release …

and then something odd happens.

The sun came out

The rain stops. And the sun comes out.

bikes at POP on the Royal Mile

And so did all the cyclists.

and now it's snowing

Nothing is free in this world, however. So I suppose I should not have been startled to look up this afternoon and discover that it was snowing.

bamboo on a bike

Oh, and for those wondering how you carry bamboo on a bike? You ask a nice man to do it for you. Either that, or our head marshal is trying out for the Edinburgh University Quidditch team.


Loveliest of Trees the Cherry Now

April 23, 2015

I had a last minute Guardian Bike Blog piece to write yesterday for Pedal on Parliament and was finding it difficult to get started, so there was nothing for it but to get myself onto my bike and hope that the words would come. I do all my best thinking on a bike, or at least that’s how it seems at the time. And besides, it was just too nice to be anywhere but outdoors.

spring trees

I even inveigled the other half along. He’s the tiny red dot, providing a bit of contrast to the first spring leaves of the trees. He’s not much one for riding at the speed of chat.

Blackthorn blossom

No cherries here (I spotted a glorious one in the middle of a wood from a train window this weekend though and have had an AE Houseman earworm ever since), so blackthorn will have to do. But frankly, all trees have a special loveliness when they first flush into leaf. I can’t get enough of that tender green.

And did I find inspiration? Well, it’s not exactly Houseman, but you can judge for yourself here.

More tree-and-cycling related shenanigans tomorrow, if I’m spared.


Life in the Day of a POP Organiser

April 22, 2015

… especially one who has inconveniently got a load of work deadlines right in the middle of the busiest part of organising Pedal on Parliament, and during an unexpected spring heatwave.

5am-6am: Wake up early, for a productive hour spent fretting. Wonder if I can possibly justify going to yoga this morning given the amount I’ve got on. Neck informs me in no uncertain terms that I can’t possibly justify missing yoga either. In the end the neck, and yoga wins. Balance tipped by the fact that the meditation session afterwards offers the chance of a nice nap, thereby cancelling out the hour’s fretting.

6am – 9am Get up, dressed. Check emails. Spend half an hour putting the finishing touches on a press release for POP Scotland. Check more emails. Send emails. Tweet stuff. Realise I’m about to be late and dash around the house trying to find my yoga stuff.

9am – 10am Cycle to Bigtown. Absolutely glorious morning. Shame I am going to spend most of it indoors staring at a screen. Get to yoga and nip into bike shop next door to find out if my front chainring has arrived yet. Get to class to discover Yoga Bunny just pipping me at the post for the coveted corner slot.

10am – 11:30 am Ahhh. And breathe. And I swear to God, it wasn’t me snoring at the end.

11:30 – 12 noon Rush around Bigtown doing a bit of social media stuff for someone else’s viral marketing campaign (a quid pro quo for spreading the word about POP). Discover it’s harder than it looks to hold up a sign and take a photograph of a building at the same time. How is everyone else managing it? Do they have three arms? Are they taking the photo with their nose? In the end I rope in a passer-by who turns out to recognise me because he sees me cycling past in Papershop Village. This being Bigtown, I am not in the least surprised.

Look up you don't know what you're missing

#GetDumfriesTalking Thank you random stranger who turned out not to be a complete stranger after all…

12 -1pm Pedal home. Still glorious. And at least I get an hour or so of cycling in the sunshine

1-2pm Eat lunch on the bench having dealt with the gazillion emails that have accumulated in my absence. Other half has learned that when I go in to fetch something I will not come out again because I have picked up my phone and am tapping away at it, having completely forgotten what it is I came in for.

2-3:30 pm Work. Realise how behind I am. Work some more. Check emails. Aargh. Workity work work. Emails. Work.

3:30 – 4pm Coffee on the bench. There’s vitamin D to be synthesised, you know, and we’re all deficient after a long winter.

4-5 pm Workity work work.

5pm Can’t stand it any longer. Toast on the bench in the last of the sunshine before the sun moves behind the house.

5:30 – 7:30 pm Work. Emails. Work. Emails. Facebook (it’s all POP stuff, promise). Twitter. Panic. Work.

7:30 – 8:30 pm cook dinner, phone in hand, checking emails and tweeting. Panic mildly about meeting deadline.

8:30 – 10pm – just as supper is ready, old friend rings for a chat. Haven’t spoken in ages. Fortunately she doesn’t mind me chewing in her ear as we catch up.

10pm – 11pm Work. Eyes propped up by matchsticks, but thank goodness for the yoga nap. Ahem. meditation. Finish work. Bed

5am Wake up fretting …


Vengeance is Theirs…

April 12, 2015

The ‘Friends’ of Bigtown’s park are a lovely bunch. Enthusiastic, committed volunteers who only want to see their newly refurbished park used and loved by everyone in the town, supported by a similarly enthusiastic and proactive coonsil officer. They are also, clearly, terrible sinners in the eyes of the Weather Gods; I am, by comparison, their ewe lamb.*

Exhibit one: Easter last year. The opening of the newly refurbished park. All week, the sun shines. Then, on the day of the actual festivities, for which we had arranged a family ride among other events, the heavens open and it rains all day, until all chance of fun has evaporated and then the sun comes out and the evening is rather gorgeous

Coincidence? Perhaps. But then, Exhibit two: the Christmas fun day in the park. Lots of activities planned including our cycling Santa and Christmas bike ride, for which many reindeer heads had been created. OK, so a weekend in December is always going to be a bit of of a gamble, but we weren’t expecting rain, hail, sleet and horizontal snow – right up to the moment when the decision was taken to cancel, upon which it naturally cheered up.

And then today. Exhibit three. Another Easter fun day with a bike treasure hunt planned. I have to say, my expectations for the day were fairly well managed by now, although we’ve had almost a week of glorious weather, The forecast was for heavy showers, which can mean anything. This morning the Met Office had moderated that to ‘light rain’ which sounded like an improvement until I realised this was just the Met Office averaging out ‘heavy rain’ and ‘no rain’ over the course of the day, which is not the same thing at all. But never mind, we had a gazebo to shelter under, while should any kids actually turn up, they could be out in the rain hunting hidden bike parts. The rain duly started as I was preparing to set off so I packed spare gloves and dry socks and donned my rain gear. And then the rain started to look a bit funny. A bit like snow. A lot like snow, actually. Snow AND rain. Rather hard icy painful sort of snow, as I discovered as I pedalled doggedly into Bigtown, arriving just in time to learn that the event had been called off.

Well, I say called off. Postponed to next week, in fact, although I’m not sure we will be joining them this time around. Not unless they’re planning some serious whisky libations to the Weather Gods, possibly backed up with a goat sacrifice or three. Otherwise who knows what weather we might have to endure.

wet cycling kit

Still, at least my kit might have dried off by then. Oh and the minute I got home? It stopped snowing and the sun came out.

* Actually come to think of it, that enthusiastic coonsil official may be the problem – can’t have the natural order of things turned on its head like that…


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