Stick in the Mud

May 31, 2015

The other half had important things to do that involved spending the morning in a darkened basement and so I, conscious that I’ll be heading home soon, decided to go for a little bike ride and birdwatching expedition on my own. I wasn’t intending to go far – just to the point where the path is flooded out – but as I was pottering along trying to identify which of the seventeen-hundred subtly different American sparrows I might be looking at, I was passed by a woman on a whizzy looking mountain bike (and as an aside, I find the American habit of shouting ‘on your left’ as they cycle up behind you extremely disconcerting. I can’t help interpreting it as an order, rather than a warning, with unintended consequences. What’s wrong with just having a bell or failing that saying hello?). Shortly afterwards, the sparrow still unidentified, I saw her coming back the other way.

‘Cycle path still closed then?’ I asked her.

‘Oh no, you can get through, it’s just a bit muddy,’ she said cheerily.

Now, I don’t know if she meant ‘you can get through if you scramble up a bank and get onto the road’ or whether Americans have got better at their deadpan humour and she was having me on, but I can report that the cycle path is still closed, as in ‘has a river running over it’ closed, and also that if you cycle through thick enough mud towards the bit where the river is running over it like a complete idiot because you’ve believed someone that the path is not closed, then your bike will come to a standstill with its wheels completely jammed solid and you will have to carry it back across several yards of mud and then scrape it down with a stick before you can so much as turn a pedal

mud jammed wheel

I suppose it should have occurred to me that if it was just a bit muddy then she wouldn’t have turned back on her fancy mountain bike, but she did look quite nicely turned out and I thought maybe she didn’t want to get her lycra all clarted up with mud. Although what then is the point of having a fancy mountain bike, I wasn’t entirely sure…

barrier across path

Nothing daunted, we headed out again this afternoon and did the scrambling up a bank thing, and then attempted to get back onto the river path on the other side of town. After a bit of hunting about for the way down – obviously the only bridge which has bike lanes on it only has steps down to the river – we encountered this path which seemed to lead down quite nicely. OK, so it had a barrier across it, but we’re used to cycling in the UK where the National Cycling Network is full of barriers apparently designed to stop you cycling on it, so we dodged round that and realised that perhaps the barrier was there because when we turned the corner the path ended like this:

path ends

No wonder Americans like their mountain bikes so much: they’re the only way on and off the cycle path… Or, you know, you could load your bikes onto the back of your pickup truck like normal people.

However. There’s no such thing as a bad bike ride… and after riding out to the Nature Center and doing a bit of birdwatching and being disappointed in a park where the cafe does not serve cake or even donuts, and diverting around another bit of flooding (where some teenagers were happily ‘fishing’ enormous carp out of what was effectively a puddle, and a rapidly drying puddle at that) and tackling another scary road (the other half’s idea of subjective safety is different from mine) we finally managed to make it to Nick’s Dairy Creme, which must surely be a contender for the most American thing ever:

Nick's Dairy Creme Drive Thru

And I had a hot fudge brownie sundae. With extra nuts. Because cycling may be its own reward but sometimes you need a little bonus

Hot fudge brownie sundae

And no, I couldn’t eat it all…


Got a Shiny 4×4?

February 3, 2012

…and want to make it a bit less shiny? After all, nobody wants to look as if they only use their Chelsea Tractor in Chelsea, do they? But then again, actual off-roading might not be safe: just because your All-Terrain Global Warmer looks like a block of flats on wheels and handles like the Costa Concordia doesn’t mean that it can deal with proper soft going and boggy fields. You wouldn’t want to end up having to be towed out of a ditch by an amused yokel with a tractor would you?

Fortunately our enterprising local farmers have come up with a solution:

We call it ‘on-roading’. There’s tarmac under that lot somewhere, honest.

This actually represents an improvement – last night as we were driving home we could barely get our little Peugot over the worst bits as the accumulated mud and associated ruts had got so deep. Someone appears to have come along with something and scraped a few inches off the top before I could get my camera and get a picture. Such is the power of the blog…

Walk a Mile in my Shoes

May 12, 2009

I was helping repair a footpath yesterday, which boiled down to mostly walking back and forth along the unrepaired footpath in a pair of wellies*. The result, if the generalised ache in my legs is anything to go by, was not just a nice repaired footpath, but a superb lower-body workout of the sort you normally have to pay some anorexic shrimp in lycra to force you to do to nasty music in a room full of other anorexic shrimps in lycra who can tell their lefts from their rights and who generally don’t appreciate exercising in a class with someone who can’t**

So I was wondering whether there’s any mileage in flogging an expensive line of ill-fitting clumpy boots and maybe an optional tray of clagging sucking mud for walking in them in – working title ‘Muddy Bloody Wellies’ or MBWs for short – to city-bound office workers who can’t get out into the wilds of Scotland to experience the real thing.

And then I came to my senses and realised that nobody would pay obscene amounts of money for ugly footwear that was deliberately difficult to walk in, even if it did do wonders for their rear view. I mean, would you?

* This wasn’t how we were repairing it, in case you’re wondering (it’s more how it got broken in the first place), but someone had to ferry all the stuff around and that person turned out to be me…

** not, ahem, that I would know this from experience. At all.