I Feel it in my Fingers, I Feel it in my Toes

October 11, 2017

Yesterday, enjoying coffee and cake with a friend in a cafe, as an unexpected shower suddenly emptied the High Street, I mentioned how we’d barely had a day all summer when it hadn’t rained at least once. “At least it’s better than those days when it just rains steadily all day,” my friend pointed out. “True,” I said, and then added before anyone could stop me, “We don’t seem to get those so often as we used to.”

park after the rain

Regular readers of this blog will know exactly what happened next. Especially as I was supposed to be spending this afternoon at an event in the Bigtown Park in which the Weather Gods take a particular interest. Although, to be fair, once I’d headed out on the bike sans spare gloves and waterproof trousers on the (as it turned out) flimsy grounds that the forecast was for it to clear up, it went from steady pacing-itself drizzle to steady pacing-itself drizzle interspersed with apocalyptic stairrods. This lasted all the way into Bigtown, and up to the other end of town where I needed to pick up a bike trailer, then cleared up into a glorious sunny autumn afternoon, so that everyone at the event could say ‘and isn’t it lovely that the rain stopped just in time?’ and I could smile through gritted teeth and tried not to let my socks squelch too loudly.

Park after the rain

Bigtown has apparently been found to be the happiest place in Scotland, from which I can only surmise that they were mostly surveying the local ducks.

Park after the rain

That said, the park does scrub up rather nicely when it has been well rinsed. Very, very well rinsed.

bike, trailer and tree

And I can report that the fastest way to tow a bike trailer home, is to concentrate on how wonderful it will be to peel off your sodden socks and sit down with dry feet in front of the fire.

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And the Rain it Raineth Somewhere Else

September 13, 2017

For anyone who has ever thought that ‘this blog is all right, but it really doesn’t ramble on about the joys of rural cycling in Scotland anything like enough’, all two of you, I am on the CamCycle Podcast doing just that.

I have no idea what I said because I just chatted away happily as I am wont to do, and there’s no way I’m listening to my own voice to found out, but I do remember that the opening question was about what I’d seen on my bike that week. The recording was made a couple of weeks ago and I undoubtedly rambled on about blackberries and exciting drainage works, those being pretty much the highlight of the week at the time.

I was reminded of all this today, as I cycled home from Bigtown and found myself riding in the wake of what I’m pretty sure was a merlin, using the hedge as cover as it flew along the road for a couple of hundred yards, before hopping over a hedge and disappearing from view. I can report that, while not as speedy as a peregrine, they can certainly outpace me on a bike, and it was definitely the highlight of my ride home, indeed my week.

Naturally, I didn’t capture any of this because I was barely able to keep the bird in sight, let alone get a photo of it. So you’ll just have to enjoy the equally rare image of the rain raining on someone other than me as I rode into Bigtown at lunchtime …

rain raining somewhere else

Unusually, the weather gods didn’t manage to catch up with me all day


Turning Left in August

August 8, 2017

Now, some of my adventuring efforts have been feeble in the extreme this year, but I think it’s safe to say that Sunday’s foray more than made up for it. Not only did I end up riding 53 miles, but I was in an area so new to me that I had to buy a whole new map, which I think we can say got a suitable baptism…

Did I mention it had been a bit wet this summer at all?

Ride to Durisdeer

Now ordinarily, an afternoon spent pedalling for miles and miles through rain which managed to get steadily worse throughout would be occasion for one long whinge on this blog, and yet strangely I found myself genuinely enjoying the ride, and it wasn’t just because of the ample tea stop in the middle.

Durisdeer Church Tea

(Although that was pretty good – and all hail the Church Tea Ladies of Durisdeer who actually serve decent coffee as well as a fantastic selection of cakes and sandwiches and don’t turn a hair when nine soaking wet cyclists show up in their remote village ready to eat them out of church and home).

It was partly the scenery (what we could see of it) and the empty roads, but it was also the company. I know that some people like riding alone and I’m quite happy to take myself off on an adventure, but what I really like is riding along with someone else, chatting about this and that, on roads or paths quiet enough that I don’t have to worry about traffic. That’s when the miles fall away, and the weather actually becomes a bonus because what could have been a grim ordeal turns into an adventure that you know will grow with the retelling.

riding in the rain

There were some speedy people on Sunday’s ride, and I probably looked a bit out of place in my tweed cap with my cow pannier that probably weighed more than their bikes. But it was my ride and it had been my idea, so I had no compunction in making them wait periodically so us back markers could catch up. And on the way home we let the speedier ones tackle the main road while the rest of us wended our way through more scenery, the rain now stopped, and the euphoria of having done this slightly bonkers thing and survived it setting in. I found myself having a series of rolling conversations with whoever happened to be next to me on the road, picking up and dropping the threads as our configuration changed, and even though my socks were soaking (and they’re still not dry) and I couldn’t take any photographs because if I took my gloves off I’d never get them back on again, it was fine.

September’s adventure is already in the planning stage, and it will likewise involve company and cake, but hopefully not *quite* as much rain. Although that is in the lap of the Weather Gods …


Nattering

August 3, 2017

We have had visitors this last couple of days – my old school pals who brought teabags (they don’t trust me after they ran out tea last time), wine and a mountain of cake, but this year forgot to bring their own sunshine – despite ample warning on the blog that St Swithin was on the warpath.

august weather

This somewhat curtailed our walking activities, although possibly enhanced the talking ones, as we caught up, and commenced setting the world to rights over a period of 24 hours. You know it’s summer in Scotland when you have both the barbecue going and the woodburning stove.

We did take the time to visit some local art.

carved cockerel

Although it wasn’t always clear what part of it was art and what not.

lost hat

A lost hat?

striding fern

A cheeky fern?

lichen covered fingerpost

A fingerpost that was gradually blending itself into the landscape?

There was more actual rather than incidental art to see, but it involved a six-mile walk through some extremely changeable* weather. And even when it wasn’t raining, the vegetation and ground was saturated enough that we got soaked anyway, just by osmosis.

windscreen viewNow that they have gone, the rain has stopped and we have suddenly got another fine evening. They didn’t believe me that on a clear day you can see the English hills from here. They’ll have to come back and experience that for themselves.

* as in changing from ‘wet’ to ‘very wet’


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.


Kill or Cure

October 29, 2016

So we made it home on Thursday despite late-running flights and then hitting rush hour traffic in Glasgow (you’d think the only congestion in the area was caused by the Bearsway Cycle Route but I don’t think anyone’s built a cycle track on the M74 yet, so it must have been something else*). I was hoping that the jet lag wouldn’t be too bad having slept eight hours and waking bang on my normal time on Friday morning, but then it kicked in properly and I couldn’t get to sleep till gone midnight and I woke up groggy and late this morning

Not only that, but someone had stolen our view

Which was annoying as I had a 38 mile round trip to Notso Bigtown for a cycling meeting today which would have been nicer without that sort of mizzle that doesn’t exactly fall on you but which just hangs there in the air until you cycle through it, getting you just as wet as the other kind of rain. Something involving blue skies and sunshine and warm winds, say. Something like Colorado …

Still, here I was in Scotland and what did I expect, so I put on my jacket and hat and gloves and set off. I was meeting up with a couple of folk en route and I set off late enough that I had to ride quite hard to get to the rendezvous on time. And the route was along the Old Military Road and while I know in my head it goes up every unnecessary hill, I hadn’t really taken it on board properly until I found I was having to power up every single one of them if I wasn’t going to be late. And I realised that two weeks of pootling along largely flat river paths in the sunshine and stopping for coffee and treats at frequent intervals, even at altitude, doesn’t really prepare you for an 18 mile hilly ride into a damp mizzling headwind. Also, that I had forgotten to get anything for lunch. It’s one way to burn off all those surplus US calories, I suppose.

One meeting, several biscuits, and an emergency pork pie later I was ready to tackle the homeward route. We decided to avoid the worst hills by taking a slightly longer route, taking in my old papershop run, and all was well until my companions and I parted ways at what used to be Nearest Village. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to ride a tired horse past its stable once its ears have pricked up and it’s realised it’s almost home – but that was how my legs felt as I pedalled reluctantly past our old house. Indeed worse, because my legs knew it was another six miles, almost all uphill, before they and I made it home. Oh, and it was still raining**

autumnal road

Reader, I made it. I may have stopped to take the odd blurry photo here and there and to take a drink and generally have the opportunity to stop pedalling for a few seconds, but I didn’t get off and push even on that last little steep kick up just before our house. Eventually I will even be able to lever myself off the sofa and cook supper, although not perhaps for a while. I’m trying not to think too hard about the fact that I’m signed up to lead a 26 mile extra evening ride tomorrow (not counting the 16 mile round trip into Bigtown and back… ). And I will definitely, DEFINITELY, sleep well tonight.

* possibly – just a wild guess here – TOO MANY CARS? And yes, I’m aware of the fact that we were one of them and thus part of the problem…

** I appreciate that anyone who has spent two weeks posting sunny holiday photos gets zero sympathy here.


101 Uses for a Brompton: (Not Quite) Wimping Out

August 20, 2016

brompton under treeToday was supposed to be the last of our summer rides – and to describe the forecast as not looking promising would be an understatement. For a couple of days it was predicting ‘heavy showers’, but this morning – as I woke to the sound of rain on the skylight – it had settled on just heavy rain from ten in the morning onwards, and by mid morning it had thrown in a couple of yellow weather warnings for good measure. Contemplating the thought of cycling six miles in the pouring rain to spend twenty minutes waiting for people not to show up, followed by six (uphill) miles in the pouring rain home, undoubtedly with a headwind, I took up the other half’s offer of a lift into town with the Brompton, with the hope that nobody would show up for our advertised 11 mile ride.

rain on the river

And come 2pm, when the ride was due to set off, it began to look as if that was indeed what would happen. My fellow ride leader had gone for the folder-in-the-car option too, while another local member had come by largely out of curiousity to see if anyone would turn up. We stood under a tree and watched the rain sheet down so hard that even a dog – a dog in a rain jacket, no less – was refusing to go for a walk in it. And we were just about to call it a day and head home with some relief, when three figures on bikes – mum and two kids – hove into view with waterproofs on and raring to go. The prospect of a cosy ride back in the car evaporated. We were on, every soggy sodden mile of it. We were going to do this family bike ride if it killed us

And you know what? It was great. It was, as someone pointed out, quite warm rain (and tbh only the Scots consider this to be an improvement on the regular kind of rain). I’ve been cycling back and forth on the same road for too long for the past few weeks, so it was good to get out and go somewhere else, just for the hell of it. The older child had a new-to-her bike and was getting used to the gears so we were riding along practising going up and down through the cogs, while her younger brother bombed ahead, his jacket discarded, having decided just to get drenched. And when the inevitable puncture came as we reached our destination, we were near to a shelter and could sit under a roof eating brownies and making helpful comments to the person fixing it, and watching someone else have what was possibly an even worse weather-related afternoon:

bride in the rain

By the time we were back on the road, the rain had briefly passed, the sun had almost come out, and I discovered a new route back to the house, by way of some lovely empty tiny roads. I’m still not sure it was exactly how I would have planned the afternoon – but it just goes to show that no day with a bike ride in it is ever entirely wasted.