Le Tour hi-vis yellow t-shirts, a wedding, and final countdown to le grand depart!

Front view of the new Tandem Quest t-shirts – subtle and understated of course!

Quelle excitement! (see! I am learning the lingo!) I have to admit I am getting uber-excited about Le Grand Depart for our Tour de France et Holland as me, the “old git” and the “old gal” – renamed Team Tandem Ecosse for our Euro adventures – head off from Matildas Rest.

I have actually been finding it difficult to sleep as it is a veritable whirlwind of preparations and packing! And it won’t surprise you to know that the “old git” has drawn up list upon lists – and there is even a list of lists!

The 2017 tour logo

The “old gal” just rolls her eyes and smiles sweetly – knowing it is easier, and far less hassle, than to get in the way! But she has a quiet but firm way of getting her own back – putting her foot down and saying “No, we will do it this way.” And the “old git” has to sheepishly agree, because he knows it makes sense – even tho naturally he is loathe to admit it.

But the “old git” always manages to turn the “old gal” round with the promise of filing up my bidons – water bottles – with wine direct from the vat of wine in one of the many tasting caves along the route! How she smiles at that!

With excitement, it was time for the big unveiling of this year’s tour t-shirts – in electric hi-vis yellow naturellement! – which will certainly get my dynamic crew noticed! Or as the “old git” tells anyone who will listen – the garish t-shirts save us having to wear hi-vis safety tops!

Coming up with an amusing new slogan – which can translate well into French and make people smile – is always a challenge but this year the “old gal” came up trumps again! She certainly had a reputation to live up to. For our first trip in 2014 to Burgundy the design said “Two old farts on a tandem!”. That was followed in 2015 by “Always better when we’re together” – which again attracted considerable attention in France. Last year the slogan was “We’re here for the ride … and the wine!”

Now one of the legs of this year’s Euro tour will be tandeming through the vineyards in the champagne region – to fulfill a bucket list ambition to drink champagne in champagne. So that was the obvious focus for this year’s slogan and the “old gal” came up with “Tandem quest for wine and champagne” – complete with a large tandem logo. The t-shirts are again bi-lingual, with the English version on one side and French on the other!

So after in-depth consultation with the French language experts at Google translation, and a consultation with a friendly linguist, the dynamic duo came up with the phrase: “La quête par tandem pour vin et champagne.”

And rear view – spot the multilingual text! Clever or what!

Wording done, it was then simply a matter of handing over the design artwork to a good friend of the “old gal” called Gill, who along with her husband Kevin run Sprinterz in Perth – who are digital print and embroidery specialists.

The highly professional team at Sprinterz produced stunning eye-catching t-shirts, in that fetching electric yellow colour, made of lightweight Cooltex material. There was even space for the web address for my blog! The arms of the t-shirts have the specially created tour logo on one sleeve, and my dynamic crew’s team names on the other. And on the back they added a Scottish and French flag to mark the “Auld Alliance” between the two countries. Clever guys or what?

Now t-shirts apart it has been a traumatic time for me as this “old lady” has been under the surgeon’s knife in an unscheduled operation! But thanks to amazing 6 star-customer service from John – my personal #tandem bike surgeon at Richards Cycles in Perth City Centre – I am now back on my wheels and ready for Le Grand Depart for Le Tour de France et Holland du Tandem 2017!

My new super strong rear wheel – it was actually painless and I was very well looked after!

It looked like our Euro tour may be in jeopardy when my rear wheel developed an untimely badly cracked rim just two weeks before departure. John said it was no problem and calmed the fears of my dynamic crew – and quickly sourced a new rim from Holland – before undertaking a labour-intensive rebuild of my wheel including resizing my existing super strong spokes to fit … and all to a tight deadline.

After all that, there was a personal home delivery in their fancy van back to my garage! Personal service – and attention to detail – at its best for this “old lady” #tandem. Thanks to all J.M. Richards cycles. My dynamic crew have promised to toast you all as we tour the vineyards of Champagne! Whisper it, but they may even pick up a small thankyou gift along the way!

Now as the final countdown to Le Grand Depart built up speed the “old git” has been getting into the French spirit – literally! And not just le vin!  To help gel with the French and keep the spirit of the Auld Alliance alive between Scotland and France he gamely decided to get his big toe nails painted – one with the Scottish saltire flag and the other with the French tricolour!

The “old git’s” rather eye-catching “Auld Alliance” nails!

A brilliant – and somewhat unusual – job by Louise Raphael Nail Artist  who works with the “old gal” in her hair salon in Auchterarder! And I must admit, although this “old lady” was a bit sceptical the results are quite spectacular and impressive! They will look fab when he has his sandals on when not wearing his cycling shoes.

Wow! What a transformation! On stage as a wedding prop! Could be a whole new career!

Now if that wasn’t enough excitement for the pre departure weekend, then how about this! The “old gal” had fixed up for me to play a starring role at the wedding of Ashley Henderson and Maximilian Glodde at the Church of the Holy Rude then The Albert Halls, Stirling. Seems the happy couple had one of their first ever dates on a tandem – a bit like my dynamic crew – and the bride’s mother thought it would be a hoot to have this “old lady” on the stage as a wedding prop for photos!

Aww shucks! The newly married couple celebrate with a tandem kiss!

It was a fabulous day and I was delighted to be able to share the brilliant occasion with them! My dynamic crew had polished me all up so I was sparkling then the wedding planner added the finishing touches of a basket of flowers and a “just married” sign along with a glittering trail of cans behind me like a car when it leaves a wedding! Oh and if you are wondering the image of the dog is, it’s a lifesize photo of the couple’s dog. There could be a whole new career opening up for me here! And the “old git” is already pondering if I could be rented out to pay for an extra holiday!

It was a very glamorous society wedding with the hall beautifully decorated!

Ashley and Max loved the idea of having a tandem there and everyone crowded round to take photos. Now the story is that Max took his brave pills and took up the rear position! Mind you in the wedding speeches he admitted it was so he could get a good view … of Ashley’s bum!

My dynamic crew had to get in on the photos – even tho they are NOT just married!

My dynamic crew – who both know the bride’s parents – had a brilliant day as well – and managed to forget about the lists for long enough to enjoy a sensational day – including a rather tasty meal and some ceilidh dancing! I was on stage till well after midnight so it was a rather late night before the final packing frenzy.

Caption competition! I thought I would leave the caption here to your imagination!

So Sunday, the day before Le Grand Depart was a flurry of lists and packing and finally it was time for me to be loaded into Matilda Transport! Once I was strapped in, then all the luggage was fitted in! There was just about room for my dynamic crew to squeeze in!

Matilda Transport fully loaded and branded up for our Euro Tour 2017.

It was actually an interesting exercise for Team Matildas Musings after an unscheduled wee prosecco at a post wedding celebration barbecue held at the parents of the bride’s house in Auchterarder. Well they had to be sociable after all, I suppose! And of course I got plenty of comments as to how smart I looked on stage as a photo prop for the happy couple!

Now I know some of my loyal blog readers have sleepless nights wondering about how we all travel! Because I am a classic tandem I go inside the vehicle! My dynamic crew fold down most of the seats, including the front passenger seat, and I can squeeze in comfortably taking up every inch from tailgate to dashboard!

Oh the glamour! The three of us squeezed into Matilda Transport ready to roll!

Now this means that because my crew are so committed to the cause of #tandeming, that they have to sit in tandem during the drive – while one drives, the other occupies the single “back seat” behind the driver! But it is all worth it in the end! And we all feel part of the team  – and it is actually great fun! One can drive, while the other chills and has a snooze in the rear – and they swap over driving duties every two hours to eat up the miles!

Matilda Transport is all branded up with the tour logo so we are finally ready to roll! First bit is to drive to the Port of Hull to catch the P&O Ferries evening sailing to Zeebrugge Port before driving to Amsterdam to start a #tandem tour of the North Holland peninsula. 

The tour will involve three bucket list ticks of eating Edam cheese in Edam-Volendam on the North Holland peninsula leg before enjoying Vins d’Alsace while #tandeming the Alsace a velo before the third and final leg drinking champagne while pedaling through the Champagne-Ardenne, France.

As always when touring abroad Team MatildasMusings  has even been given a temporary nickname of Team Tandem Ecosse for this pre-Brexit tour and my dynamic crew  promise to do as much as we can to boost the entente cordiale with our Euro partners! I am sure the Auld Alliance (or Ancienne Alliance) between Scotland and France will survive no matter what! Well it will as long as there are not too many comments of “elle ne pédale pas”!!

So I hope you enjoy our adventures over a planned 270 miles or so of #tandeming on our Euro tour – and please do get in touch to wish me and my dynamic crew “Bon Voyage” and “Bon Chance!”

“Pedal”!!!

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Supporting Save Millport Pier campaign on Euro tour training ride

The “old gal” and me pictured looking across to the under threat Millport pier.

Team Matilda like getting involved in a good campaign … and recently me and my dynamic crew were invited to join the fight to Save Millport Pier. As regular visitors to the island and big fans of its charm we were naturally delighted to become involved to add a bit of fun to the campaign.

Which is why at 6.30 bright and early on Sunday morning my crew awakened from their slumbers for a busy schedule heading “overseas” for some “warm weather” training to the island of Millport. And the good news was that – as forecast – the sun was already streaming in the window from behind the blind filling my crew with enthusiasm for the day ahead!

The “old git” and the “old gal” had already decided to go to their beloved “Costa del Millport” for one of their final training rides before this year’s Tour de France (including Holland) in mid September. The plan being to do some training laps round the island – officially known as The Isle of Cumbrae – as it is a cyclists paradise offering a virtually flat 10 mile loop on almost traffic free roads never more than a few yards from the coast.

And to add to the excitement Team Matilda is also going to be supporting the petition too help Save Millport Pier. Read on for more details – but I was delighted to be kitted out with a large red and white Save  Millport Pier sign attached to my frame. After a quick 77 mile drive in Matilda Transport to the west coast, I was unpacked in Largs and we tandemed to catch the CalMac ferry. The island is less than a 10 minute trip across the firth of Clyde, but those few minutes make a huge difference as it feels like you are heading to a different world as you leave the mainland behind.

On the ferry to Millport – my crew with King and Queen of the Mountain jerseys!

It would have to be said that my dynamic crew – always shy and reserved! – were attracting a fair bit of attention bedecked in their King and Queen of the Mountain red polka dot Tour de France jerseys … and matching socks! – impressive attention to detail! It was all definitely tongue firmly in cheek (or so the “old git” said) as the route round the island has no steep hills … just a few gradual inclines!

It was good to see so many bikes on the ferry crossing – even if there were no other tandems. As we disembarked the roll on-roll off ferry we headed clockwise for a gentle 4 mile warm-up into the town of Millport. You can check out the route of our tour of Millport training ride below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full date and statistics!

There was a fair head-on breeze blowing as my dynamic crew pedalled from the slipway, so it was obviously going to be a day of battling the winds! But the sun was out and it was going to be a glorious day by the seaside! On arrival in the town of Millport my crew decided it was time for a coffee pit stop at the wonderfully named Crocodeli delicatessen – which combines the deli part with the famous Crocodile Rock landmark. The coffee was just as the “old gal” likes it – nice and strong and my crew couldn’t resist a small pistachio Italian pastry to accompany it!

Time for morning coffee ad pistachio pastry at Crocodeli – oh if you insist!

Time for the first lap and we headed off clockwise quickly pedalling out from the town and enjoying magnificent views across to neighbouring islands of Arran and then Bute. The scenery is breathtakingly beautiful, with numerous deserted beaches and abundant wildlife. In high spirits we identified our usual “private picnic table” and “made a booking” for an hour’s time when on our second lap! In what seemed like no time at all we had completed the first circuit by pedalling back into the town in around 50 minutes. Not bad for a warm-up!

Time to get some photos at Millport Pier and lend our support to the campaign to save the facility. We met up with Mari Wallace, one of the campaign organisers, who explained that the island’s fragile economy would be boosted by the retention of a working pier. The petition aims to draw attention to the community’s fears over the deterioration of the wooden pier which dates from 1833, amid fears over its long term future – with concern it will be demolished if funds are not invested in protecting it.

The old wooden part of Millport pier is now blocked off and unsafe – thus the campaign!

A  well-supported “sit-in” to launch the campaign had been held the day before – attracting coverage on national tv and radio. Amazingly over 7,300 signatures have now been added to the petition – more than five time’s the island’s population of just 1,400.

Mari told us that in 2014 North Ayrshire Council (NAC) took the decision to demolish the wooden part of Millport Pier. It had been neglected for several years prior to this decision being made and since then has fallen even into a worse state of repair, with it now being out of bounds for safety reasons.

The “sit-in” the day before our visit on Millport Pier was well attended. Credit: CRSC

A stay of execution was put in place when NAC were advised by some local people that the pier forms critical flood defence for the town and until other measures are put in place it is vital that it should be maintained or otherwise the town is at risk.

In the recent consultation on Millport Coastal Flood Prevention there was overwhelming support for the retention of Millport Pier and the construction of off shore breakwaters. The sting in the tail however is that even if offshore breakwaters are put in place North Ayrshire Council have ring fenced £0.5m for demolishing the pier and fully intend to do so on the premise that it’s cheaper to demolish than to maintain! Meanwhile the council says it has “no immediate plans” to demolish the pier.

My dynamic crew were directed to a great article with lots of amazing pictures about the history of Millport Pier on the Clyde River Steamer Club website. It records that in its post war heyday Millport welcomed large steamers like the Queen Mary 11, carrying over 2,000 passengers on summer holiday trips “doon the Watter” from Glasgow.

The huge Queen Mary 11 dwarfed Millport Pier back in its postwar heyday. Credit CRSC

There’s still time to sign the petition to Save Millport Pier – so please add your voice to the campaign to keep a key landmark and focal point of Millport’s sea front.

The “old git” at the entrance to the harbour – spot my Save Millport Pier sign!

After Team Matilda did our bit for the campaign, it was now time for our second circuit and this time my crew decided to go anti clockwise – to take in the views from a different direction. Pedalling out past Kames Bay the sun was shining brightly on some yellow flowers – providing an eye-catching photo opportunity for me.

The sun came out and these flowers provided a colourful image overlooking Kames Bay.

We pedalled on up past the ferry slipway and round the top of the island soon arriving at our idyllic quiet picnic tale with stunning views over the white sand and across to Rothesay. The balmy weather provided a perfect environment for one of my dynamic crew’s prosecco picnics!

Lunch table with a view! Our idyllic picnic bench overlooking the beach and over to Isle of Bute.

Now, as you know, prosecco picnics at remote spots are one of the great pleasures of tandeming and my crew are true exponents of the art! Today the food to emerge from their bicycle rider’s luncheon box was smoked salmon and chilli cream cheese on focaccia bread, followed by fresh strawberries and cream, and a square of chocolate. Oh, did I mention the prosecco to wash it all down?! Picnics don’t come much better than this!

Cheers! The “old git” toasts the “old gal” for another wonderful prosecco picnic!

After a walk on the beach while enjoying the warm sunshine my crew got back on my saddles to complete the anti clockwise lap with the promise of a coffee and cake stop at the Dancing Midge Cafe. There my crew enjoyed some freshly brewed coffee and yummy carrot cake – de rigeur for tandemers.

After refuelling my crew decided to investigate the giant marquee that has been erected for the following weekend’s Millport Country Music Festival.  Now the island has historically hosted a highly popular country and western music weekend, which started back in 1995.  22 years on the festival has gone from strength to strength, featuring country bands from all over the UK to become one of the most popular on the west coast of Scotland, and one of the biggest Country Music festivals in Scotland. This year will be the biggest ever  with the addition of a huge 3,000 capacity concert marquee.

The marquee which will hold 3000 fans for the Millport Country Music Festival.

The “old git” then decided to finish with a flourish and that the final lap of the day would be an attempt on my dynamic crew’s existing Tour de Millport time for going round the island of 41.28 minutes. After much discussion about which way to go – using arguments and counter arguments and the scientific experiment of sticking a finger in the air to try and establish which way the wind was blowing! – the “old gal” decided on clockwise! And to emphasise the serious nature of this record attempt – she even removed her cycling jacket!

We set off from the harbour and it would need to be said that I was uber-impressed as we fair whizzed along with the “old git” keeping me in high gears most of the time. I was really enjoying myself as this “old lady” doesn’t normally get to experience such speeds.

And I am very proud to report that my dynamic crew excelled themselves with a non-stop circuit of the island in a new personal best time of 40 minutes … give or take  the odd second or two – which means we were tandeming at an average speed of 15 miles an hour! All the more impressive when a check of the weather later revealed Team Matilda were battling a 14 mph headwind. And what’s more it was actually great fun – underlining my crew’s motto of “It’s always better when we’re tandeming together!”

The “old gal” looking fresh as the flowers on the prom after our record breaking lap!

After the exertions of the record breaking lap my crew decided a coffee stop would be very welcome and found a cheery welcome at the recently restored  Garrison House – a historic landmark building on the promenade which was built in 1745. It seems history reports that Millport owes its origins in the 1700s to the people who attempted to smuggle contraband into the Clyde and to those who tried to stop them! The Garrison House was built as the residence of the Captain and officers of the customs ship ‘Royal George’ which played a key role in the ‘hot pursuit’ of smugglers. The cafe was closing but happily produced some coffees which hit the spot!

Tandeming along the promenade we were hailed by Sean who owns bike hire shop On Your Bike Millport in the town. My dynamic crew turned round for a chat and it turns out Sean had seen my classic tandem frame earlier in the day and had admired it before doing some research and catching up with my blog! Sean was very complimentary about my appearance describing me as “a very well kept classic tandem who looks in fine fettle!” He also was full of praise for the “old gal” in her role as chief engineer for keeping me in shape!

Sean told us that he started his business 10 years ago and tandems are now a very important part of his hire trade on the island – with no less than 8 in his stable … although he admitted that none of them had a name like me! Apart from the tandems he runs a fleet of over 200 bikes, including the star attraction of a 7-seater “conference bike”.

He says that visitors to the island often end up having their first ever tandem ride when hiring from his business – and some … like my crew … end up being smitten by riding a bicycle made for two! Sean said: “Everyone should take a tandem ride at least once in their life! I’ve seen their popularity grow year on year. Nowadays many people are creating bucket lists of activities – and a tandem ride seems to be a popular inclusion as it is a lot less scary than a bungee jump or swimming with sharks!”

So after exchanging greetings with Sean – and his promise that he is going to become a regular reader of my blog! – we headed to the Harbour Restaurant for our meal. Regular readers of my blog will know that this is the restaurant of choice for the “old git” and the “old gal” on Millport. The food was brilliant as always – very tasty and originally presented! Both my dynamic crew were fairly hungry and couldn’t see past the burger selection! Just what was needed to restore energy levels.

After the meal it was time for the final pedal – four miles back to the ferry slipway. And after the relaxing meal  the pace was somewhat more sedate than our record lap earlier! While waiting for the ferry back to Largs my dynamic crew had time to check out Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 22 gongs – made up of 8 personal bests, 10 seconds, and 11 thirds. Me and my crew had tandemed a distance of 39.3 miles with a moving time of 3 hours 11 minutes. Average speed was 12.3 mph and the elevation was a 1040  feet. The maximum speed was 21.5 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1906 calories and produce an average power output of 149 W.

The Strava statistics and our route are brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below. It makes for amusing watching due to the laps and change of direction!  (Remember if you are reading this on email, you need to click on the blog first – via the link at the bottom of the email – to view the video.)

Back in Largs a quick few hundred dash saw us back at Matilda Transport and in just over an hour we were all back at Matildas Rest after another fabulous day out full of fun, laughs, sunshine and great tandeming! Which left my dynamic crew wondering if there was a better way to spend a Sunday? As one of the island’s sign’s says: “Millport – in a world of its own!”

Hurricane Gert ride around Loch Leven and burger at Larder

The “old gal” and the “old git” at the viewpoint at Loch Leven … with a special guest!

*WARNING* this blog contains images of a red poncho which some readers may find alarming!

So with the weekend approaching the “old git” – ever the romantic – asked the “old gal” if she fancied going out for something to eat on Saturday evening. He explained that he had heard that there was a summer weekends pop up burger bar at Loch Leven’s Larder – a recommended foodie farm shop-cafe just a few hundred yards from the banks of Loch Leven.

But there’s no flies on the “old gal” – that should be there are no midges on her! – and she got it right away … she was going to have to earn her burger with a 13 mile tandem ride round the loch first!

But gamely she immediately agreed! And that’s why at about 5pm we were cycling away from the car park – right into the full force of the entrails of Hurricane Gert! Let’s just say there was a bit of head wind to start until we got into our stride – or before synchronicity kicked in!

Fortunately the route is relatively flat. Built at a cost of £3 million – it is known as the Loch Leven Heritage Trail – linking 30 natural and cultural heritage sites. You can check out the route of our tour of Loch Katrine on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full date and statistics!

We set off on a clockwise loop and it wasn’t long before my crew encountered the dreaded midges. On a stretch along some stagnant water there were thick swarms of midges everywhere. The “old git” was literally coated in the nasty little blighters as he took the full blast as my Captain! He was muttering something about it was due to the fact that we were going so fast that there were so many on his body! We didn’t believe him of course, but the “old gal” helpfully took a picture of his forehead to show how many midges were about! (after removing his crash helmet, of course!)

Midges everywhere! Fortunately the Smidge worked wonders and meant they didn’t bite!

Fortunately my crew had taken the precaution of spraying themselves from head to foot with Smidge – a highly effective repellent that they knew from previous experiences works a treat in throwing the midges off your scent and stops them biting.

My crew were picking up speed – perhaps to try and leave the midges behind – and we soon we tandemed past the interesting RSPB Loch Leven Nature Reserve at Vane Farm before pedalling up the only real inclines to the viewpoint area battling more strong Hurricane Gert headwinds!

My dynamic crew against a backdrop of blue skies at the viewpoint overlooking scenic Loch Leven.

At the viewpoint the “old git” whipped out his portable extendable tripod and bluetooth camera clicker which allows him to take pictures of both of my dynamic crew together and took  a few arty shots to show the blue sky overlooking the fantastic vista of the loch.

Now today’s trip brought back memories of exactly a year ago when Team Matilda hosted John and Jane of  Team Bluebird to our area for a memorable week long Tour de Perthshire – which included a somewhat wet loop of Loch Leven. As the heavens opened Jane donned some “high fashion” waterproof protection – forever to be known now as “the fetching red poncho!”

Flashback to a year ago – Jane with the fetching red poncho!

So as a friendly wheeze the “old git” decided that Jane would be introduced into our ride as a special guest – courtesy of a large photo of her wearing said fetching red poncho! It was actually a bit windy and the flimsy paper print kept flapping about in the (hurricane force) winds! But my dynamic crew persevered to get the shot … just to show the three of us were thinking of Jane! Oh how we laughed!

The “old gal” saying ‘wish you were here’ to Jane in honour of the red poncho!

The “old gal” had to dissuade the “old git” from attaching the photo of Jane in a plastic wallet to the big round rock at the viewpoint and adding her email in case anyone wanted to buy a similar fashion statement! And after many smiles at the gentle ribbing, and at great memories of tandeming with wonderful friends John and Jane, we pedalled on.

The strong wind was behind us for a bit which offered some relief – but then, as always happens, it turned in direction and blasted us as a viscous side wind. Any as you know, I am a long vehicle so when the wind catches me it can be mildly scary for keeping our balance!

We negotiated a trip off the path through the car park at Kinross Pier, and a wooden boardwalk section, before rejoining the path just in time for a great view of Loch Leven castle  in the middle of the loch – which was the setting for the most traumatic year in the life of Mary Queen of Scots. It was here in 1567 that she was imprisoned and forced to abdicate before her dramatic escape a year later.

The last section took my dynamic crew back into the forest for a final coating of midges before we sped back to Matilda Transport and the end of our loop.  Feeling healthy after the ride – and wiping off  what seemed like hundreds of dead midges – my crew then retired to the sanctuary of Loch Leven’s Larder  and the pop up burger bar to enjoy some decadent pleasures.

Time for a well earned burger and a wee glass of prosecco – in tandem naturally!

While looking over the burger menu there was time to check out Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 9 gongs – 6 personal bests and 3 seconds. Me and my crew had tandemed a distance of 13 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 17 minutes. The elevation was a minimal 252  feet which allowed a healthy average speed of 10.1 mph. The recorded top speed was 38.9 mph but that had to be a Strava glitch  – which makes a change from an ‘operator error!’ – as the old fashioned handlebar speedo recorded a much more realistic top speed of 17.8 mph.  Team Matilda managed to burn up 629 calories and produce an average power output of 121 W.

Cheers! Time for a wee cheeky alfresco prosecco on the decking awaiting the burgers!

Certainly something worth to toast there with the obligatory prosecco – as if my crew needed any excuse! The “old gal” ordered a sharing platter which consisted of a yummy selection of perfectly barbecued burgers – beef, salmon, chicken and portobello mushroom with a giant frankfurter thrown in for good measure.  It was all served with bowls of healthy fresh crunchy salads and tasty dressings and it really hit the spot.

Restaurant with a view! My crew’s table overlooked the nature reserve at Loch Leven.

My crew were really lucky with the weather as the hurricane winds had all but disappeared and the sun was out! It really made it an idyllic spot – with the restaurant decking overlooking the nature reserve at Loch Leven. The “old git” lost count of the number of flights of geese he saw taking off – flying in perfect v formation over the water!

We were lucky with the weather – but clearly it isn’t always sunny!

As I say, my crew were lucky – but clearly the weather isn’t always wonderful however … if the cheeky sign above the exit to the outdoor area is anything to go by … with the wording: Sorry but sometimes the weather here is pants” … written on large pairs of bloomers!

After the burgers there was just enough room it seems for the “old gal” and the “old git” to squeeze in a slice of caramel shortcake with a strong coffee before heading home exercised, fed and watered! Another great #tandem ride to show the amazing scenery of the Perth & Kinross Countryside TrustPerth & Kinross Council and Perth City Centre area! #perthistheplace for cycling!

As always the Strava statistics and our route are brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below. (Remember if you are reading this on email, you need to click on the blog first – via the link at the bottom of the email – to view the video.)

So back at Matildas Rest and I was unpacked into my garage, with my dynamic crew reflecting on yet another memorable ride full of laughs – emphasising that its the Smiles not the miles that count. What better way is there to spend a Saturday evening?!

Tandem King of Mountain ride and music cruise celebration at Loch Katrine

The “old git” and the “old gal” were joined by solo cyclist friends Gillian and Craig.

There’s nothing like tempting fate! In his infinite wisdom (ie questionable!) the “old git” decided we needed to beat our demons and do a trouble free and deluge free tandem trip to Loch Katrine – which nestles in some of Scotland’s most atmospheric, picturesque and historic scenery in the heart of Rob Roy Country and the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.

For those of you unfamiliar with the mechanical breakdowns (which seemed to be put down to my ageing frame) – a quick reminder. Three years ago, in July 2014, my rear gear cog disintegrated and then two years ago the pedal arm sheared clean off my rear pedal crank axle. But we did successfully complete a Beating the demons tandem ride last year – albeit ending up pretty soggy in driving rain.

So it was with somewhat more confidence – hopefully not misplaced – combined with an encouraging weather forecast that we set off from Matildas Rest to meet up with good solo cyclist friends of the “old gal” and “old git” – Gillian and Craig. The “old git” had done his research and discovered there was a music cruise on the historic steamship Sir Walter Scott  later in the afternoon – and booked tickets so my dynamic duo could relax with Gillian and Craig after their exertions!

So at at ten o’clock on Sunday morning we were parked at the head of the beautiful Loch Katrine at Trossachs Pier. As we unpacked it was apparent that we were in midge country – with literally swarms of the nasty little blighters everywhere. Fortunately my crew had taken the precaution of spraying themselves from head to foot with Smidge – a highly effective repellent that they knew from previous experiences works a treat in throwing the midges off your scent and stops them biting.

The itinerary – planned (as usual) with military precision – was for us to tandem the 13 miles down to the bottom of the lock at Stronachlachar, before having a spot of lunch, then cycle the return leg, before the cruise. The distance was a manageable 26 miles – but the terrain is fairly undulating! (“That’s HILLY – not undulating” shouts the “old gal”!) So it was going to be a good test for my dynamic crew’s new found fitness! And that’s why – somewhat tongue in cheek – the “old git” was sporting his red polka dot Tour de France King of the Mountains jersey! Oh and he has matching socks too!

The “old git” was glad he wasn’t doing the hills on this penny farthing!

You can check out the route of our tour of Loch Katrine on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full date and statistics!

In lovely dry conditions we set off tandeming down the loch – with the synchronicity soon kicking in and we picked up a fair pace. The route down the side of the loch is a well maintained private road owned by Scottish Water who use the loch as a reservoir to supply Glasgow. And of course the amazing scenery is real brain food. After about four miles, and the first really tough King of the Mountain hill, we all stopped for a welcome breather and took in the awesome views across the loch.

My dynamic crew hamming up being knackered after the first real hill! Or so they said!

An arty through my handlebars shot showing the moody skies.

My dynamic crew were really enjoying the ride – even managing to nail most of the hills that previously required them to get off and push. The route was busy with cyclists – quite a few who were clearly with cycling clubs given their matching lycra kit! A couple of very friendly ones stepped off their pace to chat for a bit and jokingly admired the “old git’s” King of the Mountain jersey and said that the “old gal’s” green one represented the sprint jersey in the Tour de France … making us quite a powerful combination. To which the “old gal” replied that my crew simply had delusions of grandeur!

It was tough going but – in a mark of the new found fitness of the “old git” and the “old gal” – we reached the bottom end in what seemed like no time at all and cycled round to Stronachlachar for a halfway break. Gillian and Craig had already arrived a good few minutes ahead of us, but they videoed our arrival as their stomachs rumbled ready for lunch! (Don’t forget that if you are reading this on email, you need to click on the blog first – via the link at the bottom of the email – to view the video.)

There is a fantastic spot for lunch here – the Pier Cafe which really is a treasure of a find, in a very remote corner of the country. It has new owners and all the food on the refreshed menu is home-made on the premises. After a much-needed reviving chilled drink, extremely tasty paninis were ordered and demolished! Coffee and caramel shortcake followed – to ensure energy levels were topped up for the return journey. Five stars for the service and food – and it was good value too.

The Pier Cafe at Stronalachar offers great food and super views up the loch.

Before heading back my crew noticed a great addition to the car park – the old red phone box had been turned into a defibrillator station. Naturally my crew joked that with the hills it may be needed! – but seriously it is a great place to store such a vital piece of life saving equipment.

The “old gal” laughing that she needed the defibrillator after tackling the hills!

As we hit the first hill it brought back happy memories for the “old gal” and the “old git” – as they reminisced about a day five years go when they visited Loch Katrine on their first proper date together! You see, this spot has a very special place in the hearts of my dynamic duo as without Loch Katrine they may never have teamed up together! It is the very reason they got into tandeming in the first place and it was totally by accident! They had planned a walk along the banks of the loch but as they arrived, they noticed tandems for hire from Katrine Wheelz at Trossachs Pier.

The “old git” and “old gal” on their first ever tandem ride five years ago on their first proper date!

Thinking this would be a fun way to break the ice on the date they set off in an unsteady fashion – but the result was they got hooked on tandeming immediately – despite the constant heavy rain that day and the “old gal” falling off into an unglamorous muddy heap on at least two occasions!

And the rest, as they say, is history – with my crew romantically falling in love with a new hobby … and each other … as a result! And despite my crews unconventional way of starting out, they have gelled as an unbreakable team – having become synchronised with each others foibles … both on and off the saddle. You can read a humorous account of that fateful day here.

Those fifth anniversary memories of their first tandem ride spurred my crew on as they battled the hills on the return journey. And fortunately the weather was much better and they were able to enjoy the fantastic awe inspiring scenery – albeit there was the odd shower of rain.

One of the highlights, about half way back along the route, is a scenic viewpoint at Portnellan which overlooks the burial ground of the Clan MacGregor – which dates back to the 17th century – and has historic links to the legendary Rob Roy MacGregor.

The “old gal” at the viewpoint at Portnellan looking down at the Clan MacGregor burial ground.

On we pedalled up and down hills and spotted a couple of hired tandems coming in the opposite direction. They were crewed by Dutch tourists who insisted on high-fiving my captain on the way past! Team Matilda was happy to do our bit for post-Brexit European relations! My crew had planned a prosecco stop half way back along, but when we arrived at the picnic tables there were swarms of those midges everywhere and that idea was quickly abandoned. It must be one of the few times that my crew have voluntarily given up prosecco – but they did pledge to open it later! The good thing about cycling is that we were travelling too fast for the midges – so it was actually very pleasant … until we stopped! So a final couple of hills before the route finally levels out for the last couple of miles back to Trossachs Pier where you get a great view across to the steamship.

The “old git” on the banks of the loch looking across at the Walter Scott steamship.

On return to Trossachs Pier I was quickly packed back inside Matilda Transport in a futile attempt to thwart the midges! But my dynamic crew were delighted that we had beaten our demons and completed Loch Katrine without a major mechanical incident …. and without getting soaked!

Strava officially recorded the ride as covering an elevation of 1,643 feet – one of the biggest up and down hill rides that my dynamic duo have done. All credit to them – and I would even have to say that the “old git” really deserved to be wearing his King of the Mountains jersey! Whisper it but I think he is going to order the “old gal” one as well!

There was great euphoria when my dynamic crew discovered that Strava had awarded Team Matilda 14 gongs along the way – no less than 12 personal bests … I will repeat that … no less than 12 personal bests!! … and 2 second bests.

We tandemed a distance of 26.3 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 41 minutes, with an average speed of 9.8 mph – which is pretty impressive given the hilly terrain. Top speed was 32.9 mph – and we managed to burn up 1,858 calories and produce an estimated average power output of 172 W.

The “old gal” popping the prosecco cork after 12 personal bests!

If my dynamic crew ever needed an excuse to pop open the prosecco, then those impressive figures provided a great reason. As I rested up, my dynamic duo and Gillian and Craig got changed out of their cycling gear and had a celebration glass of bubbly on the pier. The toast was not only to the PBs – but of course to five fantastic years since that first (fateful) tandem date! Cheers!

Cheers! The “old gal” and the “old git” toast five wonderful years since that first fateful tandem ride!

As always the Strava statistics and our route are brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below. (Remember if you are reading this on email, you need to click on the blog first – via the link at the bottom of the email – to view the video.)

The four cyclists then boarded the Sir Walter Scott for a two hour music cruise on Loch Katrine. It was a wonderful event, sailing on an iconic 115 year old steamship, listening to rock, folk and pop music – along with a good few cheesy tunes – from enthusiastic entertainer Dougie McQ against a backdrop of the stunning mountains and almost mirror-like flat loch which was reflecting the scenery.

The “old gal” pictured beside the calm reflective waters of the loch from the boat.

My dynamic crew clowning around and having lots of fun aboard the steamship.

The “old git” had to be persuaded not to get up to do his “Dad dancing” routine again – well banned by the “old gal” actually! – so he had to make do with singing along to some of his favourites from the 1970s!  The “old gal” had prepared one of her special picnics for my crew to eat while listening to the music as the cruise took us all the way down to the bottom of Loch Katrine and back up again.

The view from a porthole on the steamship underlines the beauty of the loch.

The “old gal” enjoying the view of the spectacular scenery from the front of the boat .

After disembarking my crew bid farewell to Gillian and Craig before Team Matilda headed back to Matildas Rest. All in all another fabulous tandem ride – with no mechanical mishaps – and another day full of fun, laughs, iconic scenery, sunshine, a bit of rain, prosecco, and a fantastic picnic … all shared with good friends!

And that is truly the definition of another great tandem day out for me and my dynamic crew!

All Shook Up after Elvis party on wilderness ride at Loch Rannoch

“Its Now or Never”! Time for prosecco picnic at Loch Rannoch after Elvis party.

So you know how it is when the “old git” gets an idea into his head! Sometimes – did I hear the “old gal” say ‘often’ there! – they seem a bit madcap … but more often than not it would need to be admitted that they turn out to be great days out. Yes sometimes they can go spectacularly awry and today’s plan certainly had that potential – but fortunately it fell into the spectacularly good category.

You see my dynamic crew were invited to a birthday party for the Dad of a friend of the “old gal’s” on the Saturday night in our home town of Auchterarder. And it wasn’t just any birthday party – it was a 60th party with an Elvis theme … with compulsory dressing up in Elvis-era gear as the birthday boy was a huge fan of the King of Rock and Roll. And so bedecked in their teddy boy outfit and rockabilly dress my crew had great fun as they partied the night away till 11.30pm.

Which is all fine and dandy except the “old git” had decided that the next day Team Matilda would head off to one of our favourite wilderness spots of Loch Rannoch in Highland Perthshire!  And that’s why at 7am the morning after the night before the alarm wakened my crew. A couple of hours later and we were driving up the A9 turning off just after Pitlochry for Tummel Bridge. Amazingly, 75 miles away from base, we were parked up and ready to ride by 11.30am.

What a difference twelve hours can make!

Cool Cats! My crew at Elvis party at 11.30pm on Saturday in Auchterarder.

Tandeming Cats! My crew at 11.30am on Sunday ready to roll (without the rock!) on the banks of scenic Loch Rannoch nearly 75 miles away from Auchterrader. What a difference 12 hours can make! Sunglasses required but not for sore heads!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now sunglasses were required as we set off – but not for reasons of sore heads, but because the sun was shining brightly! Now despite giving the appearance of being bright eyed and bushy tailed it was evident that my crew – or at least the “old git” – did still feel a bit ‘All Shook Up’ as there was an ‘operator error’ with Strava at the first photo stop! Read on for more details!

The “old gal” had suggested we go anti-clockwise round the loch for the first time. Every previous visit had seen us stick to a clockwise rotation of the loch – but the “old gal” is a bit of a rebel and likes a change to freshen things up now and then, so the decision was made. You can check out the details of our route on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to be transferred to Strava to get the full data and statistics!  Oh and apologies in advance for the “operator error” which results in us appearing to tandem on water up the loch! Read on to discover whose fault that was!

The Loch Rannoch folly.

The anti-clockwise circuit started with a nice descent from our parking spot, turning right before crossing the bridge over the River Gaur followed by a steady steep uphill climb for about half a mile. It certainly raised the body temperatures of my dynamic crew! But the climb is worth it with views across the whole length and breadth of the loch. A point of interest is Eilean Nam Faoileag – a small island which was occupied from the middle of the 15th century until the middle of the 17th century and now is home to a tower which is a 19th-century folly. You can’t miss the impressive Rannoch Power Station – part of the Tummel Valley hydro scheme – which has been in operation since 1930 and is currently being renovated to extend its lifespan.

The route on the quieter south side of the lock is amazingly scenic – possibly more so than the (slightly) busier north shore road. The B-class single track road never seems to be more than a couple of yards from the loch itself and there is always lots to catch the eye of Team Matilda.

The “old gal” spotted a (mini) kilted Highlander at the side of the road!

The wilderness factor is underlined as the narrow road winds its way through the magical Black Wood of Rannoch – one of the largest areas of ancient pine forest left in Scotland. It certainly lives up to its Forestry Commission billing as “a living growing monument with some trees thought to be about 400 years old, and is home to a wonderful variety of plants and wildlife, including deer, pine martens and red squirrel.” It is little wonder that it is designated a Special Area of Conservation and was looking magnificent in the sunshine. It was truly a wonderful spot to be out tandeming in and both the “old gal” and the “old git” felt privileged to be there.

The route is gently undulating – and despite their excesses from partying last night (or should that be because of!) – my dynamic crew were really in the zone today and we were pedalling along at an average of over 15-16 mph for long stretches – a good bit faster than our normal.

We soon reached a stony beach area at the top of the loch – which my dynamic crew decided would be a perfect spot for their prosecco picnic. But as he dismounted the “old git” let out a loud “Aaagh” as he made the discovery that Strava had not been recording the ride for 8 miles from the first photo stop! Seems he had stopped the timer so as not to waste valuable seconds when taking some pictures – and then promptly forgot to start it again as we tandemed off! And his pain was made even worse by the fact that we had been fair rattling along! Oh how me and the “old gal” laughed!

Painful moment for the “old git” discovering HIS Strava operator error. Oh how we laughed!

However his pain – or was that embarrassment because the “old gal” is always telling him to just let it auto-pause – was soon forgotten about when the “old git” spied a perfect picnic table for two right at the edge of the loch. He quickly unhooked the bottle of prosecco I had been safely carrying in my la bouclee bottle carrier and plonked it in nature’s fridge that is Loch Rannoch to chill.

Arty shot of the bottle of prosecco in nature’s fridge at Loch Rannoch!

As the “old git” popped open the prosecco cork with a loud pop, a Mum was walking on the beach with her young daughter and says to the girl that there was a couple celebrating! The Mum asked the “old gal” what my crew were celebrating. My stoker replied that we were just celebrating it being Sunday lunchtime! To which she replied as she walked off enviously: “Oh I remember these days, I think!”

Cheers! Perfect prosecco picnic table for two with a view on the edge of the loch.

My dynamic crew toasted another sensational picnic spot with a nicely chilled glass of fizz before enjoying some smoked salmon and chilli cream cheese croissants and some fresh fruit for lunch.

The “old git” did manage to redeem himself a bit in the “old gal’s” critical eye when he brought out his portable tripod extension and set it up, linked to a bluetooth clicker, to be able to take pictures of both of us together. Whisper it but in the photo below,  the “old gal” put on her best smile when he said “ready” – even tho it was being taken from behind and only showed her back view!

I’ve obviously been learning to take pictures of my dynamic crew when they’re not looking!

After enjoying the prosecco picnic – and some amazing views right down the loch in bright sunshine – it was time for my crew to get back on my saddles and pedal across the bridge over the River Tummel and thru Kinloch Rannoch before heading down the north side of the loch.

The “old gal” decided a quick stop was required at the wild camping area about a third of the way back down the loch – which offers a perfect viewpoint for pictures with the majesty of the perfectly conical shape of Schiehallion – one of Scotland’s most recognisable mountains – in the background. This area provides easy access to rocky beach and the loch which was looking beautiful despite the clouds darkening and the imminent prospect of rain. Unfortunately those clouds had “stolen” the top of Schiehallion which wasn’t visible in the photos!

Here I am at the wild camping site on the north side – but where is Schiehallion hiding?!

It’s up there under the cloud! The “old gal” pointing to where Schiehallion’s iconic conical top should be.

My crew didn’t stop for long as it appeared the forecast rain was due to arrive soon. And just short of three miles from the end it started – fortunately just light rain as we climbed a steep hill towards the end of the loch before a rapid downhill to Bridge of Gaur and the mile or so back to our parking spot.

After a quick hi five to celebrate completing the circuit, and with the rain getting heavier, I was quickly packed away in Matilda Transport and my crew drove the 5 miles to the end of the road and the wonderfully remote Rannoch railway station where there is a favourite coffee and cake spot for the “old git” and the “old gal” – the amazing Rannoch Station Tearoom.

It really is a truly fabulous hidden gem – and must get the vote for being not only the most remote tearoom in Scotland – but the most welcoming and friendly. Run by the uber-hospitable Bill and Jenny Anderson it offers cyclists, walkers and railway passengers an amazing oasis of home made tasty coffees, cakes and light meals. You can even have a wine or a beer while sitting on the station platform watching the live theatre that is the natural wilderness of Rannoch Moor.

The duo’s customer service ethic has no bounds – and even runs to delivering phone orders of bacon butties to train passengers travelling up and down the Glasgow to Fort William route. In my crew’s case it extends to happily reserving a couple of scones (via Facebook) to ensure they didn’t run out! What service!  So it was delicious home made fruit scones with clotted cream and jam followed by gigantic slices of seriously yummy carrot cake and lemon mascarpone cake, washed down with a cafetiere of wonderfully strong freshly brewed coffee.

Finger lickin good clotted cream scones, fab cakes and strong coffee! Yum!

According to my dynamic crew the tearoom more than lived up to its five star Trip Advisor certificate of excellence award. And if the look of satisfaction on the “old gal’s” face as she sampled the goodies was anything to go by, I think if she could have awarded six stars, it would have been more than earned!

Bill and Jenny were excitedly getting ready for a visit from a tv crew filming for the new series of the Channel 4 show Village of the Year with actress Penelope Keith. Over this summer the programme has been visiting villages across the UK to determine the winner of this brand new competition, with a £10,000 prize to be spent on a worthwhile community project. Kinloch Rannoch has been one of the villages nominated for filming for the 2017 series which aims to celebrate all that is great about our rural communities. Certainly if breathtaking wilderness scenery is anything to go by, the village should be an outright winner! My crew will be watching progress.

The uber hospitable Bill and Jenny who take service standards to new highs at Rannoch Station Tearoom.

As my dynamic crew were leaving  a nice gentleman introduced himself – after recognising them by their hi-viz yellow t-shirts emblazoned with my blog – as being Steve from Dial a Bike Rannoch who said he was an avid reader of my blog posts! Steve runs a cycle rental service in the Rannoch Moor, Kinloch Rannoch and Tummel Bridge area. So if you happen to be staying in the area and need some bikes to get around then Steve is your man! He even has a couple of those electric bikes – for those that want to cheat! But he has yet to introduce a tandem to his stable of bikes – although my crew did their best to persuade him that he should!

Replete and refreshed after their afternoon tea, it was time to head back out of the Tummel Valley and back to base. The weather had deteriorated to heavy rain, leaving Team Matilda feeling lucky that we had such an enjoyable – and mainly dry – ride round the loch. Back at Matildas Rest – and with internet connection restored – a check of Strava revealed that we didn’t record any gongs on our route … but this was because it was the first time that we had done the Loch Rannoch loop anti-clockwise!

Now due to that unfortunate incident – which the “old git” refers to as “operator error” when it was really his own silly fault! – Strava officially recorded the ride as covering a distance of only 15.8 miles at an average speed of 12.2 mph, and a top speed of 31.1 mph. However the old-fashioned speedometer thingy on my handlebars, which is not prone to “operator error”! – recorded me and my dynamic crew covering 24.7 miles and an average speed of 13.6 mph and a maximum of 32.1 mph. The traveling time was 1 hour 49 minutes and we managed to burn up 1,441 calories.

As always the Strava statistics and our route are brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below. Oh and I will apologies again for the Strava “operator error” which results in us appearing to tandem on water up loch on the video! (Remember if you are reading this on email, you need to click on the blog first – via the link at the bottom of the email – to view the video.)

It has certainly been an action packed 24 hours for my dynamic crew – from arriving at the Elvis party to arriving back at Matildas Rest after another memorable tandeming trip full of laughs and fun.

Next up the “old git” tells me we are doing another loch trip on Sunday when we return to Loch Katrine in the heart of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park and Rob Roy Country – the scene of some previous “interesting” trips which have included some fairly serious mechanical problems of my rear gear cog disintegrating and then the pedal arm sheared clean off my rear pedal crank axle. My spokes are crossed there is no repeat this time – and also for some much needed summer sunshine!

Busting a Gask(et!) on country roads ride to outskirts of Perth

After tandeming thru Gask our destination was Gloagburn at Tibbermore on outskirts of Perth.

My crew are always impressed at the rich history they find right on Team Matildas own doorstep. And our recent tandem trip was no exception – as they discovered while pedaling along on the rural Perthshire roads around Gask that it was the site of one of the earliest Roman settlements in Scotland. And it is even more interesting when you come across this history almost by accident.

The “old gal” had identified a new route, exploring a network of country roads in the general direction of Perth that had previously been unexplored by my dynamic crew. Not sure why – but tandeming along is a great way to see your local area that you would otherwise never see when driving a car.

So we were full of enthusiasm as we headed off from Matildas Rest on our adventure at 10.30 am – with the forecast promising a sunny weather window from the recent heavy rain … although whisper it … but it seemed likely we would be hit by the odd shower when we were out. You can check out the details of our route on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to be transferred to Strava to get the full data and statistics! 

The great thing about living in Auchterarder is that we are out in the glorious Perthshire countryside, pedaling on quiet rural roads, in less than two minutes from starting. We soon were crossing our first point of interest  – the historic Kinkell Bridge which is a grand four-arched bridge over the River Earn and dates from 1793. It gives great views over one of Perthshire’s top salmon beats.

The scenic Kinkell Bridge spans the River Earn and dates from 1793.

A sharp right turn saw us heading along a wonderful gently undulating well surfaced road – ideal for tandeming – as we headed to Trinity Gask Parish Church. The original building traces its history back to 1770 and has a 19th-century bellcote which houses a bell bearing the date 1838. The area immediately opposite the church offers fantastic views overlooking the valley towards the landmark Craig Rossie hill, part of the Ochils.

The “old gal” overlooking the valley from near Trinity Gask Parish Church which dates from 1770.

We had perhaps been lulled into a false sense of complacency by the warm sun and the relatively flat roads. But on leaving Trinity Gask reality struck in the form of a sharp steep hill which appeared from nowhere round a corner. It certainly felt like my crew were busting a Gask…et (see what I did there!) on that climb!

As we reached the plateau my crew realised why the area is known as Gask Ridge Frontier  which the “old git” discovered was the earliest Roman land frontier in Britain – built in the 70’s or 80’s AD, 40 years before Hadrian’s Wall and 60 years before the Antonine Wall.

Nearby there are remains associated with the Gask Ridge frontier – a term describing a chain of Roman watchtowers and forts built to monitor movement between the Highland massif and Fife. We came across a sign for Kirkhill Watchtower –  one of the best preserved remaining sites which would have housed a timber watchtower as an observation point overlooking the clear view to the south.

The site of the Kirkhill Watchtower – with its clear view to the south.

After the history lesson Team Matilda turned right and fair zoomed along a nice flat stretch of just over 5 miles to our half way spot of Gloagburn Farm Shop at Tibbermore on the outskirts of Perth. No picnic today due to the likelihood of rain showers, but my dynamic crew were pleased to see that they had recorded the near 14 mile distance in a very respectable time of 1 hour and 01 minute – meaning they felt they deserved a coffee and cake break!

Here I am at the entrance to Gloagburn Farm Shop – our half way coffee stop!

My crew enjoyed a freshly baked cherry and almond scone before sharing a slice of carrot cake – de rigueur for tandemers – with a nice strong coffee. But guess what? The “old git” forgot to take a photo until after it was all scoffed!

Blink and you’ll miss it! The “old gal” looking like she ate all the scones and cakes!

Gloagburn has an interesting shop – which apart from selling lots of local produce from Perthshire’s larder, has a gift section. The “old git” couldn’t resist a joke photo when he found some copies of the Out of Africa book by record breaking endurance cyclist Mark Beaumont who lives in nearby Crieff. Mark is currently cycling across Australia on the second leg of his bid to cycle around the world in 80 days! So naturally the “old git” had to get a photo with signed copies of Mark’s books kidding on he was researching and planning for a future trip …. just like Mark! Oh how the “old gal” laughed!

Planning for a future trip like record breaker Mark Beaumont?! Aye rite!

Refuelled Team Matilda set off on the return trip and amazingly immediately started to pedal into a head wind! This seems to happen on almost every recent ride! But we soon built up a good speed again and the “old gal” decided we would take a different loop home to add a bit of variety. So we pedaled past the road end that would have taken us back to Trinity Gask, heading towards Madderty and turning left to the picturesque village of St Davids. Another steep climb before we picked up speed on a nice descent back to Kinkell Bridge.

Back at Kinkell Bridge – the “old gal” at the entrance to what was the toll house.

My dynamic crew again took a different loop to end, powering on up the slow steady grind of Easthill, before a welcome fast downhill finish through Auchterarder town centre and ending back at Matildas Rest. And the timing couldn’t have been better, as having avoided the showers all during the ride, as soon as I was safely back in my comfy garage the heavens opened with a heavy downpour!

Time for a quick congratulatory selfie after a great fun ride – before the rain!

Safely inside, a check of Strava revealed that this “old lady” registered three gongs on the ride – two personal bests and one Queen of the Mountain award – which is rather good considering most of the route was being travelled on for the first time.

Strava officially recorded the ride as a distance of 28.5 miles at an average speed of 11.7 mph, with a top speed of 31.1 mph. The traveling time was 2 hours 25 minutes and the elevation covered was a not insubstantial 1,163 feet. We managed to burn up 1,633 calories, and produced an estimated average power output of 168 W.

As always the Strava statistics and our route are brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below. (Remember if you are reading this on email, you need to click on the blog first – via the link at the bottom of the email – to view the video.)

So yet another great days tandeming – with lots of laughs and fun and a bit of fascinating local history thrown in along the way. I feel certain that we will be exploring some of the other network of roads around today’s route soon!

Matilda the media star – on television, radio, and captured in art form!

The image of our favourite picnic spot at Loch Voil which caught the attention of Landward.

Well its been a bit of a media whirlwind for this “old lady” the past few weeks! You know how me and my dynamic crew like to live a quiet unassuming life and hate any stardom (not!) Well it seems that more and more people have been noticing my adventures as a blogging tandem and been amused at my humorous tales of the antics Team Matilda get up to on a bicycle made for two!

The number of people reading my blog has jumped – and at the same time my social media presence has been attracting attention with lots of new followers signing up to my MatildasMusings presence on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.

And if that wasn’t enough – then believe it or not my tandem frame and blog (and obviously the “old gal” and the “old git”) have been featured on national television and radio in recent weeks – and I have even been captured for posterity in action by an artist.

First up was my grand television appearance where me & my dynamic crew featured on the Landward programme on BBC1 Scotland. The show was researching material for  a a new mini feature called “my favourite picnic spot”. One of the producers spotted a photo on Facebook of one of Team Matilda’s famous prosecco picnics and got in touch. It was a picture taken at Loch Voil in Robroycountry and the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park.

Landward liked the eye catching prosecco picnic spot at Loch Voil.

The Landward production team wanted to know exactly were the photo was taken and asked my crew to send in a few original photos. The show then decided that they would send presenter Dougie Vipond and a film crew to Loch Voil to film the feature on location.

And fortunately they got a wonderful sunny day for the filming which showed the area off at its scenic best. And I was so excited when Dougie Vipond mentioned on national tv that I am a blogging tandem!

You can watch my two minutes of fame by clicking play below. (Remember if you are reading this on email, you need to click on the blog first – via the link at the bottom of the email – to view the video.)

Just a week or so after basking in the glory of lots of people saying that they had seen me on tv, it was time for me to feature on national radio!

This time it was the Out of Doors programme on BBC Radio Scotland  which is broadcast at breakfast time on a Saturday morning. The “old git” had been doing a couple of work-related pieces with the production crew and casually mentioned that they should do a feature on tandeming.

They jumped at the idea and one sunny Wednesday evening Team Matilda met up with presenter Mark Stephen at Loch Leven to record an interview. Nothing formal or stuffy about this however. It turned out to be a real fun off-the-cuff chat with my dynamic crew promoting the joys of tandeming.

The “old git” deep in conversation with Mark Stephen from Out of Doors.

The wide-ranging feature covered topics like why its always better when my crew are tandeming together, being founder members of the Nutty Tandemers Club, the pleasure in sampling Scotland’s food and drink larder by tandem, and some of our crazy experiences on a bicycle made for two!

Oh and Mark might just have happened to mention my blog several times in the feature! Woo! There was also a good mention for Tandem Club UK and also Team Matilda’s likeing for tandeming in our home Perth & Kinross Council,  Perth & Kinross Countryside TrustPerthCityCentre and Perth2021 area – giving a boost to the fact that #perthistheplace for #tandeming and cycling!

Presenter Mark Stephen even teamed up with my Captain  for an on-air shot as Stoker. Lets just say it didn’t all go swimmingly for Mark! Not sure it was really his thing really – and as you can hear he felt a bit out of his comfort zone!

But the general opinion was that the “old gal” and the “old git” came across as real enthusiasts, if perhaps enthusiastic nutters! The “old git” wants to stress at this point that he was hamming up the madness thing to make good radio, but I’m not so sure that it wasn’t his natural state! But the production team obviously liked it as the result of all the madcap chat was that the feature filled nearly 15 minutes of the programme.

So take a listen to the broadcast by clicking play below. (Remember if you are reading this on email, you need to click on the blog first – via the link at the bottom of the email – to view the video.)

The final part of my recent media blitz saw me being captured in a fantastic drawing – showing me and my dynamic crew in action tandeming along.

This came about through the wonderful world of social media where I was discovered by an artist called Jo Sunshine Art on Twitter. She had been drawing a few pictures of some of the eyecatching BLiSStrail installations after linking up with Kim Proven –  the enthusiastic chair of LETi and owner of Briar Cottages at Lochearnhead.

Now regular readers of my blog (and followers on social media) will know that Kim is a fan of my Musings – and has even had a couple of shots on my saddle as substitute stoker! So through the connections and links that social media bring – Jo Sunshine Art saw a few photos of me on the RobRoyCountry Twitter feed and decided to draw a picture of me!

The original crayon drawing of me by Jo Sunshine Art on the BLiSStrail.

Wow! Me and my dynamic crew were very impressed at the artwork – and even more so when we discovered that Jo is registered blind and draws with only partial sight in one eye. She produces brilliant colourful works of art in neon wax crayons, with fabulous attention to detail.

And an added attraction is that the drawing is of Team Matilda tandeming at one of our favourite spots – on the BLiSStrail on Sustrans Scotland NCR7 in Rob Roy Country beside the impressive wooden Soaring Eagle near the Broch Cafe in Strathyre.

The bright colours of the wax drawing looks fantastic in a frame.

The “old gal” and the “old git” were so taken with the drawing that they had to buy the artwork – which is now looking very smart in a frame which now has pride of place in the hall at Matildas Rest. It all really underlines that it can be amazing the connections you make on social media!

Jo Sunshine Art also has a Facebook page – which is well worth looking at to see some of her drawings – and she also sells her work on Etsy.

The tandem artwork now has pride of place in the hall at Matildas Rest.

All this media activity has actually been a lot of fun – and the good thing is that Team Matilda gets to push tandeming as an activity and the Tandem Club UK as well as all the blog self promotion!

But one thing is certain, I won’t let all this fame won’t go to my handlebars – although I must admit it – this “old lady” does like a bit of recognition! And whisper it, but I get the impression that the “old git” and the “old gal” quite like it too!

So what next? Form an orderly queue with these offers of supermarket openings!