Tag Archives: bicycle shop

Leg 21 – to Nairn, via Elgin and Lossiemouth

Reinvigorated and ready for a longish leg.

21 May 2013

It had felt a bit odd sleeping in a real bed again for the first time since Edinburgh, however I did sleep well, and awoke feeling refreshed to a day that held promise weather wise, if still a little chilly due to the north/north westerly wind. Still it was nothing like the wind they’d had over in Oklahoma, where a tornado had ripped through the city. Reading the news it looked pretty horrific and my thoughts are with the victims. We’re fortunate in the UK not to experience such extreme weather too often; 1987 was the last really big storm/hurricane I can remember, which caused widespread damage in the South East, when I still lived there.

I finally managed to get myself out of the comfy bed, showered and had breakfast with Jim, Sue, Joan and Chip; porridge and toast. Wonderful toast made from homemade bread, with marmalade, been ages since I’d had toast and hadn’t realised how much I’d missed it. It’s a bit tricky to toast bread over a stove but maybe I’ll have it try it, or drop into more cafes for breakfast!

I got packed up, with a bit of help from Chip although he was slightly dubious of my tent flapping about (I’d spread it out to dry), and hit the road about 10.45, bidding a warm goodbye to my most excellent hosts. It had been really good to see them after so many years, and I’d really appreciated the bed, food, company and temporary fix to my pannier rack!

View from Anderson household

View from Anderson household – another overcast day but brightish, there was snow on the hills to the right still, but apparently that doesn’t disappear until June usually, so wasn’t too concerned.


I scooted down the hill from Jim’s house, remembering to stop at the Co-op at the bottom to buy more toothpaste, before heading back up to Rothes, and taking the B9015 to Mosstodloch and on to Garmouth. I’d had a really good run up to the coast again, with very little wind, and my legs feeling refreshed. I passed quite a few people fishing in the Spey again. Apparently you can pay upwards from £5,000 a week, per rod, to fish. Seems a bit extortionate to me, especially as I didn’t see a single person catch anything.

At Garmouth I decided to continue on up the Kingston-on-Spey, despite it being a dead end, just to touch base with the coast again before heading West.

Kingston-on-Spey

Kingston-on-Spey


I wanted to go to Elgin for lunch, and to have a look around plus visit a bike shop I’d sourced earlier via the web – Bikes and Bowls. Post a slightly slightly frustrating ride into another headwind, through nice countryside, I made it to the city – it is a city which I didn’t realise, having a cathedral, albeit a ruined one. 

Pleasant country roads

Pleasant country roads


The sun came out in Elgin anyway, and I had a welcome sandwich which was slightly awkward to eat being massive.

Me and Lobster in Elgin

Me and Lobster in Elgin 


Elgin City Centre

Elgin City Centre


I made it to the bike shop, and bought two new back-up inner tubes just in case, although I shouldn’t get too many punctures with these new tyres, touch wood. The owner had a Blackburn low rider front pannier rack but wouldn’t have been able to fit it until later, and I needed to get some miles under my belt. I decided to risk it and carry on – the temp fix seems to be holding very well anyway, and should be okay as long as I don’t go on too may more bumpy routes – will avoid Route 1 off road sections in future, for the sake of my posterior if nothing else. It was good to have a chat with the owner about touring and some of the routes he’d done anyway.

Elgin seemed like a nice small city. On the way out I rode past the cathedral, which was mostly destroyed at some point due to an argument between the rich & powerful and clergy; think it might have been over someone wanting to marry someone. Cathedrals being destroyed seems to be common in Scotland, same for castles.

Elgin Cathedral 1

Elgin Cathedral 1


 

Elgin Cathedral 2

Elgin Cathedral 2


From Elgin I rode up to Lossiemouth, startling a female pheasant with chicks on the way; I had to swerve to avoid the chicks, and the mother flew out at me in defence but then settled down. The chicks looked like big bumble bees but had hidden by the time I got my camera out. 

Female pheasant

Female pheasant

In cycled to Lossiemouth via the B9040, riding through the town via the harbour, and out by the RAF base, another where Dad used to be stationed.

Lossiemouth 1

Lossiemouth 1


Lossiemouth 1

Lossiemouth 2


Lossiemouth 3

Lossiemouth 3

I picked up the coast road and headed west towards the Moray Firth. Several Tornados from the RAF base were circling overhead, either on a training exercise or coming back from patrol, I think they were Tornados anyway. A group of them were coming into land one by one as I rode along, with them flying overhead before circling around and out of sight. I had a  brief moment of feeling a bit like I was Tom Cruise on his motorbike in Top Gun, riding down beside the runway as F16’s took off, but it’s not really the same on a push bike, loaded to the nines, with no cute flight instructoress to go and meet afterwards – just a tent and slightly smelly lobster! I sang along to Danger Zone anyway!

I continued on down the coast road, which dips inland a bit, through Hopeman then Burghead, then all the way down to Kinloss where there’s a big army barracks. I turned up to Findlorn, a slight diversion but wanted to see the village and Findlorn Bay. Findlorn is an attractive little village and marina, with a couple of nice looking pubs. I could have camped there but wanted to get a few more miles done on this leg, and still had plenty of day left.

Hopeman

Hopeman


Findlorn Bay 1

Findlorn Bay 1


Findlorn Bay 2

Findlorn Bay 2


Findlorn Bay 3

Findlorn Bay 3


From Findlorn the terrain continued to be fairly flat, and the wind dropped leading to some easy cycling with no rain! I pedalled down to Fores, then on to Brodie Castle, mostly via back roads although none go that close it the coast. Was following Route 1 again for the most part.

Gorse in bloom

Gorse in bloom


Brodie Castle

Brodie Castle


Moray Firth from Nairn

Moray Firth from Nairn


I arrived in Nairn about 19.00 and picked up a few provisions, including more bananas and breakfast stuff, before heading out to the campsite at Delnies Wood, just outside the town. It’s another Camping and Caravaning site, which I’ve always found good, and welcoming to cycle tourers. Apparently their constitution says they always have to try and find a pitch for backpackers, cycle tourers, and canoeists, which is good to know when you’re feeling shattered at the end of a long day’s riding, and just want to pitch up and go to sleep. Only £5.50 too, despite not being a member. The site is in the woods and red squirrels live in the surrounding forest; I’d seen one earlier but hoped to get a photo or two.

Dinner consisting of a pasta feast, with added onion, cheese and Tabasco, followed by fruit, chocolate and flapjack, the latter making the best sort of trail food in my opinion.

Pasta feast prep

Pasta feast prep


Delnies Wood campsite

Delnies Wood campsite

So a good days ride where I’d managed to get into the zone and ignore the weather, mulling over a few books and wondering where Game of Thrones has got up to in the TV series. Covered about 73.7 miles.

Went to bed looking forward to the following day, which had Fort George, Culloden and Inverness on the agenda, ending in Loch Ness. Fingers crossed weather continues to be okay.

Hope the death toll in Oklahoma isn’t too awful, and people are coping okay, all this considered!

Leg 11 – to Stirling via the Union Canal

11 May 2013

With Noah off to little ninjas club with Meredith, Hugh cooked up a fine cyclists breakfast of sausages, beans and fried potatoes, most excellent fare for a day on the road. I needed to get a few things done to the bike before leaving Edinburgh, and after a few false starts we found a bike shop that stocked what I needed. Hugh printed off a more detailed map with directions to the bike shop, and then on to the Union Canal which I intended to follow to Falkirk.

Bidding goodbye to my excellent hosts, with a snack pack, clean laundry and boosted Star Wars knowledge aded to my inventory, I set off cycling down Princes Street again, seeing the castle, and managed not to get lost or waylaid by Edinburgh drivers or buses, on my way to the shop. Bit of an overcast and dreary day, but no rain as yet.

Edinburgh Castle 1

Edinburgh Castle 1


Edinburgh Castle 2

Edinburgh Castle 2


I found Blackhall Cycles owned and run my Derek Laing, who turned out to be a real whizz on the bike front, as well as being very friendly and helpful. My brake blocks needing replacing before tackling the rest of Scotland, and my tyres had seen better days, so I got them all replaced – got some funky Aztec brake pads, and Schwalbe tyres which are much tougher so should cope with the sometimes rough cycle tracks better. Derek also straightened my wheels which had gone a little out of shape, and tweaked, cleaned and lubed various things, quite an education in bike maintenance. Glad to report everything is running a lot more smoothly again now, with far more responsive brakes which I think I’ll need. Hopefully won’t need to change anything else significant for the rest of the tour, touch wood. Would strongly recommend any tourers passing through Edinburgh stopping in at Blackhall Cycles (15 Marischal Place, Blackhall, Edinburgh)for a bike health check and chat, thanks Derek (and for the donation).

Post Blackhall Cycles, and again following Hugh’s map, I made my way through the city to the start of the Union Canal, stopping for a pizza lunch break on the way. The Union Canal runs all the way to the Falkirk Wheel, something I wanted to see, a distance of about 34 miles. I spent quite a few hours chugging along by the canal, passing various towns and villages, including Linlithgow and it’s palace. I passed over several aqueducts, and through some lovely countryside once out of Edinburgh. Unfortunately I still had the headwind from yesterday to contend with, and the track was pretty bumpy and muddy in places so was glad of he new tyres. At least it was flat being a canal track.

Union Canal 1

Union Canal 1


Union Canal 2

Union Canal 2


Union Canal 3

Union Canal 3


Avon Aqueduct

Avon Aqueduct

Also passed through a couple of old and mysterious tunnels, at least one of which was Goblin infested, but made it through unscathed.

Goblin tunnel 1

Goblin tunnel 1


Goblin tunnel 2

Goblin tunnel 2


Goblin tunnel 3

Goblin tunnel 3 – leaking!


There were a lot of other cyclists going the other way, on a charity ride from Glasgow for Guide Dogs for the blind. I stopped and chatted to a few of them who were comprehensively mud splattered, apparently there was a bad stretch near Glasgow but I wasn’t going that far. I helped one mend a puncture as his pump was broken, my good deed for the day, couldn’t help another with a broken pedal though, hope he made it okay.

Swan

Nesting swam


I made it to the Falkirk Wheel about 5ish, and stopped for a look. It’s an amazing piece of engineering, which transports boats from the canal on high down to the next section of the route below, via a huge rotating device. Apparently it’s the only one like it in the world.

Falkirk Wheel 1

Falkirk Wheel 1


Falkirk Wheel 2

Falkirk Wheel 2


Falkirk Wheel 3

Falkirk Wheel 3


Falkirk Wheel 4

Falkirk Wheel 4


Falkirk Wheel 5

Falkirk Wheel 5


From Falkirk I rode north up the A9 to Stirling, passing Bannockburn but not stopping as it was getting late and would be closed. I stopped in Stirling for a bite to eat before heading off to find a place to camp. I’d been roughly tracking the Firth of the Forth all day, so was good to cross the River Forth.

River Forth

River Forth


I rode up past the William Wallace monument, an impressive structure that looks great up on the hilltop, and can be seen for miles, dominating the landscape, I’m sure Mel Gibson William Wallace would approve.

Wallace Monument 1

Wallace Monument 1


Wallace Monument 2

Wallace Monument 2


Rather than wild camp I opted to stay at the Witches Craig campsite. A lovely site although the midges had started to appear so I quickly applied Avon Lady skin so soft which worked a treat, and probably helped my wind chapped face too! A group of fellow campers had just finished their BBQ and had leftovers which they kindly offered me, plus a glass of wine, very kind of them and was great to have a chat. Never going to turn down more food on this tour! They live on the coast so might meet up with them again at some point.

Got to bed late due to starting late, but a great day. As I was settling down, in sight of the Wallace Monument, there were some very loud bangs in the distance. No idea what caused them, a quarry maybe, but seems weird late at night. Suspect more goblin activity!

Going to be a cold night as clear sky, hopefully better weather tomorrow.

Witches Craig

Witches Craig


 

10 days and counting

With 10 days to go until I start my tour this weekend mostly consisted of training, planning, shopping, mild panic, and eating. I still managed to fit in a few beers though – got to maintain a balanced diet after all.

After a hectic week at work it was really nice to go out Friday evening. A group of us went to the appropriately named Bicycle Shop, a restaurant on St Benedict’s Street (Norwich) that also has a funky bar downstairs; the Bicycle Bar. Several ales were duly consumed whilst commiserating over the English house buying process – you can go all the way through the process, paying for searches, solicitors etc, but before you exchange it means nothing and the seller can just pull out, potentially losing you a lot of money. Happened to a couple of friends and doesn’t seem at all right, I believe the Scottish system is probably a lot fairer. Anyway I’d recommend the Bicycle Shop, and St Benedict’s Street in general for going out; The X Bells serves excellent cocktails!

Also met up with Tom who’s planning on taking his show to the Edinburgh festival this year, and has set up a Kickstarter project to raise funding – well worth a look at their Faileontology trailer. I know the guys would welcome any support so feel free to share the link!

Faileontology

As a consequence of Friday evening’s activity Saturday was a little slower starting than anticipated, however I duly loaded up my bike, which seems to be getting heavier with each outing, and headed out into the glorious sunshine. Still a little cold but fine once you get going, and there were plenty of warming hills to struggle up; please refer to a previous post concerning Norfolk really not being that flat, not when you have a fully loaded touring bike anyway.

A 72 mile training ride through the countryside down into Suffolk ensued, for once without a headwind to speak of, passing through Caistor St Edmunds and the old Roman town there, then on to Saxlingham, Halesworth, and through several more picturesque and decidedly sleepy English villages before reaching Beccles.

I’m not sure what it is about moderately sized Suffolk towns but they seem to make my GPS device (Garmin Edge) go a little senile. As with Bungay it proceeded to send me around in a few circles, attempt to cross a fairly large river where there wasn’t a handy bridge, and send me down a one way street the wrong way. I eventually did make it out of Beccles, but was quite thankful to cross over back into Norfolk where electronic devices seem less prone to randomness.

Nelson's County

Saturday evening consisted of eating pasta, a lot of pasta, and watching the Bourne Legacy which was quite entertaining, however I think they might be stretching out the Bourne thing a little too much now; rarely do sequels impress me more than the first film, with a few notable exceptions – Expendables 2 rocked 😉

Also managed to buy some of the last things I need, aside from food, including the all important Chamois cream and a new outfit – bib and cycling jersey from Northwave which I’m sure will look very ‘fetching’, if you’re into lycra that is. Must update my kit-list page.

Sunday was again good weather so I headed North to Blickling Hall, on a 45 miles route which I’ve done several times now. It takes me up to Reepham, on to Blickling Hall, then back to Norwich via Coltishall and Wroxham, all for the most part on pleasant country roads; aside from the potholes, ruts, debris from tractors, horses, cows etc, and the ‘interesting’ smells associated with pig farms. Can’t complain though, bacon has to come from somewhere and is a vital part of my balanced diet.

Few pictures below, quite a few of churches as Norfolk has a lot of them. I believe all the landowners used to build churches for their tenants. It must have been some kind of competitive status symbol, and obviously to demonstrate ones devotion. They dot the landscape coming in various shapes, sizes, and degrees of embellishment – hence competitiveness. They’re almost as common as pubs, although sadly the latter are prone to closure these days, which is sad considering the fine quality of real ale being produced in the county.

Just after Blickling I had to mend a puncture, which thankfully I haven’t had to do in a while, and hopefully won’t have to do again for a bit. I’m down to one spare inner tube now so best get some more before setting off, although I will try and repair inner tubes where practical. Ended up with very grotty hands for the rest of the ride which reminded me I need to clean my bike before setting off on 01 May.

IMG_0262

Met quite a few really nice people whilst out cycling this weekend, mostly other cyclists, but also people who were in general interested in what I was up to and how far I’d cycled. Really encouraging to have a good chat when you stop for a break.

Last full week of work next week and lots to do, both on the work front and final planning activities before setting off the week after. Best make a list, I have lots of lists, thankfully most of them have lots of ticks on them, hence only mild panic at present.

On a parting note I’m now almost completely addicted to Haribo Tangfastics. Sadly I can’t claim they’re really part of my ‘balanced’ diet, but they really do help when your legs are close to giving up as I’m sure some of those who ran the Virgin London Marathon today would agree – congrats to everyone who took part and great to see it go ahead successfully after the sad events in Boston last weekend.

P.S. Thanks to Norman and Sheila for the Roast Chicken dinner this evening, and the flapjack, and the rejuvenating pint!