April 18, 2013
It’s never a good sign when you’re checking in for a ferry and unwarily opening the car door results in it being almost snatched off its hinges by the wind… I have to admit that we sat in the queue to drive on to the Belfast Ferry with some trepidation, not helped by the excellent fried lunch (and extra cake) courtesy of the Tea Pot* on the way.
Fortunately, although the winds were gale force – and the waves were crashing right over the front of the ferry in an alarming way – ferry technology has moved on since I was a kid and the Irish crossings used to be completely awash with vomit. Hard concentration on the horizon meant we got across with our lunch intact. And although it’s been raining on and off since we arrived, it’s also been sunny at the same time which counts as a win in my book, albeit on points and after extra time. I could do without the town’s awesome bi-directional headwinds though: cycling or walking, whichever way you go, it’s always blowing a gale right in your face. How do they do that?
* Highly recommended. It’s basically a shed on the A75 as you drive to Stranraer where they do good if basic nosh plus stupendous home made cakes at below average prices in direct contrast to the depressing lowest common denominator at whatever they think they can get away with that the ferries serve up. Especially now the ferry terminal is out in the middle of nowhere so you’re stuck with their nasty coffee and the substance known as ‘tastes like fresh milk’ which I have objected to before and will object to again every time I encounter it.
January 3, 2012
I was wondering if I was going to get out on the bike this morning, what with today being the day for this week’s gale, and twitter being all of a twitter about 100mph winds without even so much as an amusing hashtag to suggest it wasn’t that serious. The police were warning motorists to stay at home but they didn’t say anything about cyclists so when the rain stopped and the sky cleared, even though it was still (as they say) blowing a hooly, I decided to risk it. I actually quite enjoy cycling through high winds as long as I’m on quiet back roads, and I reasoned that any trees that were thinking of falling over this winter must surely have done so by now. Out I went for an exhilarating and invigorating ride (8mph on the way out, 12.5 on the way back) and came back just as the weather got really grim feeling pretty pleased with myself.
It wasn’t till the other half ventured out to Tesco and returned that we realised that there were three trees down between here and Bigtown. Clearly some of our local trees have been just hanging on and hoping for spring – but couldn’t quite hold out any longer.
I’m beginning to know how they feel.
November 25, 2011
Well, the BBC Terror Centre, as Huttonian (who is back blogging again, go and say hello, he needs cheering up) likes to call it, has been busy these last two days warning us of hurricane strength winds, although in the end delivering a not-quite-hurricane-strength but still-pretty-bloody-stiffish south-westerly. I’m not complaining, mind: it was stiffish enough that I spent most of the ride down to the papershop today giving the indifferent sheep my mime-artist style ‘cyclist attempting not to go backwards even on the downhill stretches’.
On the plus side, this did mean I sailed home on a tailwind – at least until I made the turn out of Nearest Village and into our road and got hit by a gust of crosswind that not only sent me sideways across the road but also gave me the uneasy feeling of my wheels skittering out from under me in the teeth of the blast.
I stayed rubber side down this time, but clearly I’m going to need to take on more ballast for the ride. More cake, maybe?
May 23, 2011
I wasn’t expecting to cycle at all this morning. I knew there was an amber weather alert for gales and high winds* and when we woke up this morning it was beyond grim out there: raining, blowing, visibility down to mere yards at time. But then something odd happened – the wind didn’t drop but the rain stopped and the sun even put in an appearance and I decided to seize the opportunity and nip down for the paper after all.
Well, I say ‘nip’, but with the wind being what it was, ‘battle’ might have been a better word, at least for the outward leg. Coming down to Nearest Village wasn’t too bad, although the road was running with water from all the rain and the tarmac was scattered with debris from the wind (it’s always a shame when we get late spring gales to see the fresh new leaves all shredded on the ground, and coming into the village I also saw the body of a fledgeling rook that had probably been tossed out of its nest). But it was as I left the relative shelter of the village and the road turned directly into the wind that it got interesting. There were a few moments when I did actually grind to a halt, despite pedalling with all my might, and others where the bike skittered sideways in a sudden gust of crosswind and it took all my luck to stay upright and out of the hedge. But even on the way out it was an exhilarating ride. Every overhead wire hummed with its own note as I passed and every tree was in movement, the forests roaring like the sea. With the clouds racing through the sky everything was patterned with fleeting sun and shadows and where the grass had been left to grow long for silage whole hillsides seemed to be alive, rippling like the play of muscles under an animal’s skin.
And then there was the ride back. I’d not put my GPS on the bike so I don’t know what speed I hit, but I’m pretty certain that some records may have been breached when the wind and the downhill sections coincided. There was definitely one point when I felt the wind take me like a boat before a storm and it’s probably fortunate that there wasn’t much else on the road around me because I’m not sure I could have either braked or steered around any sudden obstacle.
Cycling in Manchester over the weekend we were all struck by the ferocity of the headwinds which don’t so much blow there as ambush you round every corner. The Manchester cyclists we were with were united in their dislike of wind, which they considered far worse even than the rain. I’m sure if we had winds like this constantly, or if I had to get anywhere quickly and looking in any way shevelled, I’d probably go off the wind here too. But when it’s just occasionally and coincides with an otherwise sunny-ish day on empty roads, all I can say is it’s an absolute blast.
* I know the weather’s going to get interesting up here when my London friends start emailing me the forecast…