Millport bathed in sunshine!

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The sun shone which made the wine and picnic lunch on the beach a real treat.

I wakened up early on Sunday morning with much excitement as we were heading back for a day trip to Millport – so the “old git” and the “old gal” could get some more miles clocked up under their belts as part of their training regime for this trip they have planned to tour Burgundy in September.

The day before their was some doubt as to us going at all tho as Chief Pilot was suffering from an injury – you see the “old git” that he is, he had been suffering the pain of a  pulled a muscle in his neck for a few days which was restricting his movement. Seems he injured himself using a roller on the new lawns – and wouldn’t listen to the “old gal” when she offered to help or get him to slow down! He knew best, except (as usual) he didn’t. Don’t say I told you so, but …..

However he made a remarkable recovery on Saturday and at 9am sharp on Sunday we were loaded up with the “old gal” driving to Largs and the “old git” substituted down to passenger so he wouldn’t damage himself any more.

Parked up in Largs just after 10am – a quick unload and my panniers clipped on and we were off to the ferry slipway. I must admit I do like the idea of going on a ferry now – even tho this time, there were loads of other bikes! The sunshine had put the same idea into lots of people’s heads and they were heading to the island of Millport for that flat 10.25 mile circumnavigation.

The moment we arrived I noticed some really flash looking bikes all done up in racing kit (and the “old girl” was admiring the young athletic-looking riders in their lycra shorts and tops!). There was a road racing event on which was quite exciting because as we travelled round at our sedate average of 10 miles an hour, these bikes were whizzing round at over 30 mph!

In fact my owners thought they were doing well managing to get round the island in 50 minutes – but these guys were doing it in an amazing time of just 18 minutes. We were all impressed.

It was funny tho with the “old git” and the “old girl” cycling along, crossing the finishing line on me, and everyone clapping and cheering as if we had been racing. And I am pleased to say I got more than a few admiring glances from the professionals – who obviously knew a grand old lady when they see one.

One of the reasons for going was my owners wanted to get a copy of a simple sail boat painting which they had seen in the mouth-wateringly good The Harbour restaurant on a  previous trip to the island (see blog entry “Boot Camp 1”)  Helen, the co-owner, had painted it herself and offered to do one for us if we delivered a canvas.

So that is why on the first four mile stretch from the ferry slipway into Millport the “old gal” gamely had a large square-shaped black bag strapped to her back. She did get a few funny looks – but simply explained it away with a laugh saying she had brought a picnic table along.

So after dropping off the canvas, Chief Pilot and Chief Stoker decided on a non-stop full circle of the island, then on to one of the lovely beaches on the quieter side for our picnic lunch – a total of about 15 miles. I thought it was a bit rash, but have to say was most impressed that they managed it – without any stops – and in just under an hour and a half. And they congratulated themselves as that is the longest distance they have cycled without stopping – so obviously Chief Pilot was (at last) starting to get a feel for the gears!

However it was a bit warm, and “the old git” was quite glad when they spotted the beach as he needed a breather!

Millport Chief Pilot having a breather!

Chief Pilot taking a well-earned breather after a 15 mile non-stop ride.

The duo left me by the side of the road for a rest and went down onto the beach to their private table for two made out of the rocks, before the “old gal” served up some fantastic croissant filled with smoked salmon and also crayfish tales. The “old git” even says she is getting quite good at this picnic business now! And he is not free with his compliments!

And of course the tasty morsels were washed down with a serving of white and rose wine – classily sooked through a straw! The excuse (as if one was needed!) was the heat! Millport was looking splendiferous as we sat in the warm sunshine looking out towards Rothesay.

Millport beach cheers!

Cheers! The “old git” and the “old gal” enjoying their wine during the picnic.

Lunch over and suitable refuelled, we set off again for an afternoon session which included a trip round the top of the island back into Millport, then doubling back for the ferry.

The last stretch saw them both pedalling like mad as they knew a ferry was on its way and they got up a fair head of steam – but just as we rounded the last bend, the ferry door went up and it set off. Thwarted by about 20 seconds. But the good thing is two ferries criss-cross during the summer months and another ferry was there within 15 minutes.

And let it be known that it was even warm enough for the “old gal” to sit on deck during the short crossing! Summer must be here!

Millport ferry Matilda waiting to board

Waiting for the ferry to Largs – still bathed in sunshine.

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Carrot (cake) and the stick!

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The “world-famous” carrot cake at the Birdhouse Bakery in Muthill, as featured on ‘Britain’s Best Bakery’.

Seems to be habit this tandem riding on a Sunday! The “old git” had planned an early wake-up call – much to the displeasure of the “old gal” who wanted some shut-eye after a late Saturday night with friends Ann and Jack during which some red wine had been partaken. But on opening the blinds the weather was not conducive to an early morning departure – there was low cloud and rain.

I was desperate to get out – but the duo decided I would need to wait till the afternoon to get the wind between my spokes as the weather forecast was set to improve.

And so about 2pm, the rain had stopped and the mist had lifted, and we were off. Destination was the village of Muthill, an easy (for me, anyway) 8 mile canter away.

The “old git” was using his persuasive techniques on the “old gal” with the “carrot” of a coffee and some fantastic carrot cake at the coffee shop in the village. (Get it? Carrot cake being the “carrot”?! Well I thought it was quite a funny line – but then I have as weird a sense of humour as the “old git”!) Anyway, the “old gal” went for it like a mouse after cheese and Chief Pilot and Chief Stoker flew along the country roads in grand style.

Only problem was a brief mechanical pit stop when the “old git” changed gears too suddenly – trying to go from 3-6 to 2-2 and my chain sprung off. But Chief Engineer (aka the “old gal”) was on the case and just a few seconds after getting the latex gloves on (ooooh matron!) the chain was back on my cogs and we were off again.

I have to say the “old git” is actually getting much better at using my 18 gears now – and making it much easier for them to pedal – we are usually in “big 2” gears for flat surfaces; moving up to “big 3” gears for downhill stages; and of course using “big 1” gears for uphill.

The old pair are even managing to get up quite steep climbs now – when the “old git” remembers to “throw a gear at it” as the “old gal” is wont to shout at him – and quite often they end up in 1-1 – but it works and they keep the momentum  going – and as the “old git” keeps reminding the “old gal” – it’s all about momentum!

So in just 50 minutes we had covered the 8 miles and arrived in Muthill where they parked me up – looking resplendent if I may say so – outside the Birdhouse Bakery – which is now rather famous as it was a finalist in Britain’s Best Bakery on tv.

Birdhouse Bakery outside

This is me parked up – and looking resplendent – outside the Birdhouse Bakery.

They tell me that the carrot cake is to die for – indeed it is described in the book of the tv series as one of the best in Britain – so I guess it must be good. Anyway my owners polished off a massive big slice each, washed down with a lovely coffee.

They even took a picture of said carrot cake – and told the owner’s about my blog! Fame at last! And my owners are finally promising to tell people about Matildas Musings so their friends can read my scribblings! I will be dead chuffed when people comment and tell me how good a writer I am! Lol!

And what did I get while I waited patiently outside – nothing … not even a drink of water. But I did get a few admiring glances from people as they passed which is always good for my ego as I am a bit of an old gal myself!

So after that refuelling we were off again on the route home – another 8 miles but ending in a  different direction with a long slow climb back into Auchterarder! The “old git” said to the “old gal” that it would be ideal training! I didn’t think they would manage it – but they did and had a great triumphant feeling as a result.

Just as an aside tho – there was one very steep hill just after Kinkell Bridge that they decided to walk up. And I must tell you of a very funny happening. As they took a breather at the top of the hill another cyclist appeared who had pedalled up the hill.

He stopped to admire my frame and said I was looking magnificent – and that I must be fairly old. So the “old git” tried to be funny and said that she was old – about 50 years old … and that meant he was “out with two old girls” in a cheeky reference to Chief Stoker.

The “old git” really should know better – because he was gazumped when the very nice gentlemen replied as quick as a flash: “Ah two old girls and one fat bloke!” The “old git” was fuming – but me and the “old gal” both fell about laughing. It really was quite a put down! The “old gal” was even heard muttering “yes!” as we cycled off back home!

But, you know, the pair enjoyed the carrot cake so much that the “old gal” has only gone and got a copy of the recipe from the coffee shop – and is now promising to make her own version of it.

But – as the “old git” pointed out – the big question is … will the “old gal’s” cake be as good as the Birdhouse Bakery’s version …..

Only time will tell!

And how will the “old git” be able to use that as a “carrot” for their next adventure?!

I’m sure he will find a way!

A wee history lesson

Well !!  Here we go ! Another Sunday expedition ……………

The forecast says rain later so – – – –

Out before breakfast the “Old Git” cries !! But the “Old Gal” ain’t so keen on getting wet but he promises it won’t rain 😦

I have to admit that passing the “Kirkstyle” in Dunning without stopping for their usual G&T , is a bit of a wrench , but it’s a bit early – before opening – anyway !!

Forteviot is a further 3.5 miles but well worth the effort .

The houses were rebuilt for the workers of Dupplin Estate in 1927 and are beautifully maintained . A resident called David was kind enough to take our photo and fill us in on a little bit of history about the place.

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Forteviot was a Pictish capital of Scotland and where King Kenneth MacAlpin died in the 9th Century. I must say I was very impressed !

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AND !! after an easy 8 mile ride home , the rain starts to spit –  just as we get the garage door open – so I didn’t get wet !! ( ……and neither did the “Old Gal” !)

 

Boot camp 1

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Westbourne House B&B on Millport – base for Boot Camp 1.

You will remember that in a brave or mad moment the Chief Pilot, aka the “old git” and Chief Stoker, aka the “old gal” decided to book me on a big European holiday adventure in September which will see the three of us touring 150 miles of the Villages and Vineyards of Burgundy over six crazy days back to back during the wine harvest.

So the intrepid duo, sorry my faithful owners, decided that they needed to clock up some miles – and try two consecutive days in the saddle as a kind of trial to improve their fitness. So off we headed to the west coast island of Millport for what has become known as “Boot Camp 1”.

The “old git” and the “old gal” had been to Millport several times before – but each time was before them taking ownership of me, so they rented a tandem for those trips.

And, I need to whisper this, but the “old git” told me recently that Millport features prominently in his relationship with the “old gal”. You see it was during a stay on the island that the “old gal” took all her brave pills at once and asked the “old git” what his intentions were regarding their fledgling relationship, and was he serious about her. Seems there was some coded reference to a question like: “If we had a boudoir, what would it be like?”!

Anyway, whatever happened that night, it worked as they are happily together after the “old git” relocated from his pad in Newton Mearns in Glasgow to Auchterarder, and the pair moved in to a new residence in the town – complete with a large and airy garage for me.

And so it was an early morning drive to Largs to get the short ferry crossing to Millport. The 4×4 was left in Largs and I was uber-excited as we cycled towards the ferry as this was my first overseas trip with my new owners. Naturally the “old git” had some wheeze up his sleeve, and had “won” two free ferry tickets in a VisitScotland competition.

It was a lovely day as we arrived on the island and we immediately set off and completed the first circle of the relatively flat road round the island – 10.25 miles in an hour.

The sun was still shining as they set off on circumnavigation 2 – with the “old gal” trying to fathom out which way the wind was blowing to make it a bit easier on her old legs – forgetting that if the wind is behind her on one side of the island, it has to be blowing in her face (well actually in the “old git’s” face) on the other side!

The “old gal” had packed a lovely picnic so they decided on a nice stop on a secluded beach on the far side of the island – looking across to Rothesay. They had smoked salmon and chilli cream cheese croissants, washed down with a small bottle of wine each.

It was all going so well. But just as the “old git” was saying he would get windburn and may have to take his trendy new cycling jacket off, as they started off again the heavens opened. Never have I see rain like it. It was like being in a car wash without a car! We were two miles away from our b&b base, so, with no shelter, there was no alternative but to cycle on.

I must say I have never felt the old pair cycle so quickly in my life – and they arrived at Westbourne House b&b looking like drowned rats. But the owners immediately rushed to help providing them with towels and showing them to their luxurious “Arran Suite” room which had fabulous views across the Clyde. You can read the “old gal’s” review on TripAdvisor here.

Miraculously – as the pair dried out – the sunshine came out again and as I dried out the duo decided to venture out again and valiantly completed the third lap – dodging the big puddles from the monsoon-like rain earlier.

It was good to get going again and everyone was in good spirits as the Chief Pilot and Chief Stoker returned to the b&b to change for their much-anticipated dinner at The Harbour restaurant in Millport town.

But just as we all set off for the 2 mile cycle into town, the storm clouds gathered once more and literally as they pedalled off the rain started again! Again there was no option but to keep going and the pair received some rather funny looks as two drookit tandemers arrived at the eaterie for their dinner.

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The highly recommended The Harbour restaurant in Millport.

The restaurant’s co-owner Helen leapt to the rescue, providing towels for a quick dry off. I am told the food was fabulous – a culinary delight of seafood, and fantastic value with its BYOB policy. In short, if you are in Millport, you MUST book this place. Again you can check out the “old gal’s” TripAdvisor review here.

The journey back to the b&b was uneventful as it was dry and they found a nice private protected garden for me and we all had a fabulous sleep to recharge our batteries.

A brilliant breakfast fuelled the “old git” and the “old gal” for the second day and soon we were whizzing around the island again. This time the lap of the island was completed in an impressive 50 minutes. Two more laps followed during the day – interspersed with a brilliant coffee stop at the new Crododeli and a fab lunch at the Dancing Midge café.

I have to say the last lap was a bit of a trial for everyone – but they pushed on and I was impressed with their commitment to the cause!

So as we ended up at the ferry terminal we had clocked up 65 miles over 6.5 laps of the island. I haven’t had a run out like that for years – but it was great fun although everyone was totally exhausted.

So Boot Camp 1 was a good success – but let me tell you that everyone slept like a log that night when we got back home.

I didn’t burst their bubble of self-congratulatory praise – but they have to do that for six days in a row in France……. c’est la vie!!!

Under repair

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Old style Matilda – before refurb!

Chief Pilot and Chief Stoker have been very kind to me since they became me faithful new owners. And to be honest they have huffed and puffed away while manfully (and womanly) trying to get to grips with my drop down racing-style handlebars on the front, the very cramped handlebars on the back, gears which was like a lottery knowing which one you were in and brakes that worked only if they felt like it (and that wasn’t very often!)

They decided enough was enough and since they had booked me to go on a foreign trip to the Villages and Vineyards of Burgundy – which entails the not insignificant matter of covering 150 miles of French countryside over six days (albeit with regular breaks to sample the local wine) – they decided that this old gal needed a serious upgrade and refurb.

So they packed me in the 4×4 and off we all went to the most capable experts of J M Richards Cycles in Perth. I was most impressed as technician Ally oohed and aahed over me and said he hadn’t seen a tandem like me for many a long time.

He was most taken by my charms, and when the “old git” cheekily asked if it was worth spending money on me – or replacing me with a lighter new tandem – he told him to wash his mouth out as this was a classic old lady – one that was built to last … and that a refurb would give them a fantastic new tandem like no other.

So they had a conference about what new bits I needed and came up with a shopping list which included: new wide straight handlebars on the front and rear with comfort grips; new gear levers (complete with numbers so the “old git” doesn’t need to ask the “old gal” to look down and tell him what gear they are in!); new gear mechanism complete with 3×6 gears instead of my old 3×5; new brake levers (including a brake that actually works on the rear handlebar for the  Chief Stoker instead of the old placebo version!); two flashy new tyres suitable for continental roads; and a repair to my broken rear mudguard.

Wow! what a list! I have to say it was a bit scary being left behind at the workshop but I knew I was in good hands and knew my new owners were coming back for me in a week’s time. And the other bikes in the workshop made me feel very welcome. In fact, whisper it, but this old lady is happy to say she can still turn a few heads – there was this brand new ultra sleek and ultra fit racing bike which took a fancy to me. Even tho he was much younger and flashier than me  – I (with all my years of experience) obviously turned his gear lever for him as he took a real fancy to me! It certainly gave my horn a new lease of life!

It wasn’t in the least painful having the replacement parts fitted and it was nice to get rid of the old bits that produced those aches and pains.

And soon I was all shiny and new – a fully refurbished old lady with added sex appeal as everything was in working order again.

In fact one of the best parts of the transformation was when the boys in the workshop took me out for a trial around the paths of the Inches. Then two others took me out, determined to beat their time for going round the park. I have to say I haven’t had a work out like that for a long while – but I loved every minute of it!

I had passed the test with flying colours and soon Chief Pilot and Chief Stoker were phoned to say I was ready for collection.

I was so pleased to see them when they came for me, it almost brought tears to my glass front dynamo light.  They were delighted with my makeover and after paying for my repairs (a not insubstantial amount I may say) it was time to say goodbye to my new friends and go back home to Auchterarder.

The only slight problem was that it was raining and my new handlebars were much wider than the old set and it took a bit of a struggle for them to get me into the vehicle. The “old git” was (as always) losing patience but the “old gal” (the one with the brains) worked out that if they put my back wheel in first, they were on to a winner.

Now everyone can’t wait for the first real test of my new bits when we go to Millport!

new style Matilda

New style Matilda – after refurb!

Back to where to the love of tandeming began…

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The first ever trip on a hired tandem… and the rest is history!

On Easter Monday Chief Pilot and Chief Stoker decided to take me out for the first run of the season – back to where their love of tandeming all began – Loch Katrine. You see the “old git” decided he would suggest something different when the “old gal” suggested the pair of them go away for a day for a picnic – back in the days when they were trying to woo each other and impress each other with crazy ideas! Mind you, I am glad or I wouldn’t be here musing about my life.

You see the “old girl” had said something about going to the Trossachs for the day, and the “old git” googled Loch Katrine to see if they could hire bikes – and discovered they hired tandems at the Trossachs pier where the steamship Walter Scott sails from.

So despite never having been on a tandem before – and not having been on a bike for years – neither of them wanted to lose face, so readily agreed that they would hire a tandem, sail down the loch to Stronachlachar and cycle back the 14  miles along the water board road around the side of the loch. Oh and they would have a picnic as well, and it would be a fun day!

So that is why on a Sunday in July the pair found themselves in charge of a tandem for the day – wheeling it on to the steam ship and enjoying the hour-long cruise down the loch.

I could have told them, but obviously I didn’t know them at that stage. But it was a potential recipe for disaster as the terrain is rather hilly. And it was a fairly wet day!

Which is why they set off with gay abandon, just about keeping their balance for the first 200 yards before they hit the first hill. The old git changed gears to make things easier, only he moved them up the gears and the tandem ground to a halt.

Apparently it was almost the end of a beautiful friendship, but worse was to come. They pushed up the hill and got going again as the rain started. They were just about getting the hang of it before they faced another hill. This time they took the easy option of getting off and pushing up the incline. At the top the “old git” got back on the saddle, and thinking the “old gal” was ready (but without the crucial step of asking) started to pedal off again!

Only the “old gal” hadn’t mounted the bike in time and as the tandem took off she shot off the back, landing in a heap in a big puddle on the wet road!

Well, lets just say words were exchanged!  And the local Dutch tourist who passed had to ask for a translation as the words he heard were not in his holiday phrase book!

But somehow they endured the remainder of the journey with much laughter and finished in a triumphal mood having dried out in the breeze. And what a hoot they had over the picnic as the Chief Stoker knew the Chief Pilot had a big appetite and was trying to impress him with a freezer box packed full of picnic goodies – including no less than three family-sized packs of sliced chicken – in different flavours no less! Chief Pilot was most impressed, although he ribs the “old gal” about being able to feed 500 every time they pack a picnic!

And as they say, the rest is history, as they not only fell in love with each other, but they fell in love with tandeming and decided at the very least to repeat the exercise.

In fact they did this several times, both at Loch Katrine and on the west coast island of Millport – and after getting the hang of changing the gears, and developing a well-refined system (“Are you ready? ok, 3-2-1-Go”) for starting off, they decided they would like to become the owners of a tandem.

As luck would have it I had been well looked after and well-travelled at the hands of my long-standing owners in the nearby village of Blackford. But I had been languishing in their garage and it was suggested in a conversation in the “old gal’s” hairdressing salon that they might want to purchase me.

And they did. And renamed me Matilda, and so the adventures began.

I tell you, they may be totally mad, but they are very proud owners and very kind “parents” as I am showing my age a bit now compared to some of these new trendy young-thing tandems that you can buy.

But I am glad they purchased me as I get to be where I am happiest – out on the open road again.

So there we were on Easter Monday – my first trip to Loch Katrine any my first trip on the Walter Scott steam ship. A lovely sail down the loch, lunch at the splendid Stronachlachar pier tea room, before a steady cycle back over the 14 miles. And even tho the pair of them were a bit rusty from the winter, they managed it in record time – with no major incidents.

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Cheers! A welcome refreshment stop at a Loch Katrine picnic table.

And the sun even shone and the intrepid duo even managed a stop at a picnic table for a chilled glass of wine – much to the envy of many other passing cyclists.

But they correctly decided that my old-fashioned drop racing handlebars at the front, and my very small rear handle bars were too uncomfortable and making the cycling harder than it should. My gears were slipping and my brakes were not up to scratch – so next stop was a welcome major refurb.

On a bicycle made for two…

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Intrepid tandemers Colin and Diane (and some wine!)

Welcome to Matilda’s Musings.

This is a blog about two crazy 50-somethings who happened to fall in love and bought a tandem to have a “something different” hobby,- and enjoy some fun as the song says on a “bicycle built for two” – for their new life together in Auchterarder in Perthshire. Then, during a bout of madness (or an alcohol induced moment of bravado) they decided to book a tandem cycling holiday to indulge their new hobby and combine it with their pre-existing indulgence for enjoying nice wines!

This is the ups and downs, warts and all, story of the tandemers trying to get synchronised with each other’s foibles while at the same time trying to get fit (and comfortable in  the saddle) to do a tandem tour of the Vineyards and Villages of Burgundy – a route covering 150 miles of French countryside (with plenty of stops to sample the local wine) over six days in September 2014.

The main characters are:

Matildaaka the “old lady”, the classic Jack Taylor British-built tandem, who is also a 50-something and also somewhat overweight as she sports her original steel (not light aluminium) frame and some sexy matching panniers. But once she is wound up, she is a real goer and loves nothing more than the wind whizzing between her spokes!

Chief Stoker – aka Diane Lockhart, the other “old gal” on the team who combines her duties of using her youthful energy to faithfully stoke the power to the pedals with her patience and good humour required to be Chief Engineer. Often heard saying: “Of course I’m pedalling” and “Can we move down a gear, this is supposed to be fun!”

Chief Pilotaka Colin Calder, the “old git” on the team who refuses to let long distance, a big hill, or wet weather get in the way of a good tandem ride and who combines his duties of route planning with a meticulous (and often annoying) attention to fine detail. Often heard saying: “Di – are you pedalling?” and “Di, can you fix this!”

We hope you enjoy Matilda’s Musings as she recounts her adventures, trials and tribulations……