Sunday, 26 January 2014

No cycling, just rain...

It's been a tough old time again this past festive period. I've managed to get the head down and keep going with the aim of a weeks annual leave at the end of January. Quelle surprise! It's raining...

Saturday was barely recognisable as a day. The dank cloud never broke and the winter sun failed to peek through the rain. I gave up the idea of a cycle and made plans for Sunday.

Unfortunately, when my alarm went peep-peep at 07:00 this morning, I could also hear a lashing, and very cold, rain beating against the bedroom window. Sunday cycling was cancelled too.
I'll paraphrase Herman Melville, but there is something wonderful waking up in a warm bed on a cold morning. Unfortunately there comes a time when I have to give up the soporific comfort of bed and tend to the gentle hints of Fly and her collie ways. Queequeg has nothing on her. 

It was a morning of getting soaked when walking the dog, then returning home to a malted loaf I had put on to bake earlier. Fresh coffee too, then out to shift a boat engine for Stuart. A couple of beers in good company in the sailing club with the gas heater hissing away and the rain splashing off the gutters. I put a primer layer on the Heron's rudder and I will try hard to get out for some sort of cycle this week if the weather takes a wee break.

Scottish Rain.

Aye, Scottish Rain.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Rain, Sanding, Scraping and very little Cycling.

I should really have been on the Long Haul Trucker for an easy ride of 30 miles or 50km at some point this weekend. But, there are times when rain, the cold, and eventually, routine bites hard, ambitions are low......*

So instead I invested some effort in giving "The Mighty Heron's"  rudder a desperately needed sand down to the bare wood.

The rain lashed down all weekend as I stripped the first layer of ancient paint from even older hardwood. Come Sunday morning, and I was awake early with a cold rain continuing to sap any cycling thoughts.

 Scraping, sanding, dreaming of summer. Meanwhile it's soup, rolls, family, friends. It's January in Scotland. But that's not so bad.

*Some of these words may have been gratuitously borrowed from Ian Curtis, Peter Hook, et al.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

West Fife Cycle Way

Saturday morning and I was back driving the hour or so to Dunfermline to sort out more unnecessary problems. I had hoped to get things tided up by lunch time and so had packed the Long Haul Trucker and my riding kit into the car. Unfortunately it took longer than expected and I didn't manage to get cycling until 2pm so I couldn't go too far before it would be dark.

I had looked up local routes and found that there was an ideal 50km loop using a cycle path along a disused railway line. So first I had to cycle around Dunfermline until I found the start. The big blue signs and the viaduct were a good clue.

The trail looked good and I was soon out of town and into a cold of the winter countryside.

Disused railway lines make great cycle paths as they tend to have only very slight gradients. This of course means that there are bridges and cuttings to keep the track level. A problem with this is that there were lots of sections in cuttings that don't get any sunlight in the winter. Not only was it very cold, I had to very careful of patches of ice.

Despite the risk of rearranging my collar bones, I fair sped along enjoying the smooth tarmac and reveling in the cold crisp air. There was the smell of the mulch of rotting leaves and all along the track blackbirds and dunnocks were foraging for grubs.

An ideal wall for weasels.

Further on and the land began to open out as I entered Clackmananshire. The hills above Alva and Menstrie came into view with a sprinkling of snow on the tops of the old routes over to Glen Devon.

This is the old waiting room at Bogside station, its a shame its been left to rot. Inside there was still the plinth where the heating stove would have sat. Unfortunately the stove itself is long gone.

Shortly after I came to the Bogside signal box which is in only slightly better condition. I also noticed that the front wheel was feeling a bit soft. The path was nearly all ice at this point so I had been cycling on the grass verge at times.

A freezing cold strip down of the front end and the offending thorn was eventually found.

As I happily smeared glue about a passing cyclist tried to stop to see if I needed any help. Unfortunately he didn't see the ice and went down with an awful thump. The visor snapped off his helmet which is preferable to his skull smacking off the ground. He was ok and we chatted for a bit. I didn't get his name but he was training for a Glasgow to Carlyle cycle when the spring comes.

With everything back together and some air in the tyre I carried on past the remains of the Cherryton Brickworks which apparently closed in the 1950's. The kilns and the chimney are still standing and the low winter sun was starting to remind me how far behind schedule I was.

As the cloud rolled in over Clackmannan Tower, I decided to call it a day and turn around. The temperature was dropping again and more frost and ice was forming. I went back to the cycle way got the head down. I pushed hard and managed the 12 miles back to the outskirts of Dunfermline at an average of 14 mph which is pretty good by my standards.

Back in town and I took a wrong turn somewhere and couldn't find the road into the car park where I had left the car. I eventually just got off and pushed the bike through a pedestrian entrance.

A cold cycle but a good one and lots of new sights to see. I must get a new thermos for the coffee this week.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Back on the trucker

Despite an ominous weather forecast, Saturday dawned quite mild with low cloud and best of all, no wind. I made an effort and dragged the Long Haul Trucker from it's gathering cobwebs.

It's over a month since I last went for a longer cycle and it was great to get back into the steady rhythm of pushing the pedals. I headed east past Torness and on to Cockburnspath.

As ever, Cockburnspath seemed asleep so I turned down the cliff track to Cove harbour.

The tunnel leads through the cliffs and on to the little beach.

I parked the bike and went for a wander around the little harbour and tried my best to compose a few photos in the poor light.

The shelter of the cliffs is usually the ideal coffee stop but I have broken another flask. I don't know what I manage to do to these stainless flasks, but I can't keep them for long.

From The Cove I cycled back past Dunbar and on to East Linton. I saw quite a few other cyclists on the road. Several had the hard grinding look of folk who have taken up a keep fit campaign for the new year. Hopefully they will keep it up and will still be pedalling by the end of the month.

On my way past Beltonford I found a dead otter at the side of the road. It's injuries suggest it had been hit by a car. I have heard of otters on the Tyne along by the Knowes, and in the Biel Estate but it's sad to find one killed by traffic.

Back through Belhaven and the effects of the recent storms and the high tide could be seen with the dump road well under water. I just took my time and half pedaled slowly through the flood. It was fine, the only danger being if I strayed from where I thought the path was and went off the edge into the river.

The salt marsh was flooded and the dunes and Spikey were an island again.
A relatively easy 50km without too many aches. I had been a bit worried that I would suffer after so long away from the LHT but it all turned out fine, although I will have to address the coffee carrying issue.