At last all those storms with silly names seem to have passed and from midweek the excitement was mounting at Matildas Rest as the weather forecast was finally showing a lovely weather window for Sunday – an almost unheard of phenomenon recently … a sunny day with virtually no wind.
At last it seemed I was going to be able to get back out on the road and get some fresh air between my spokes after languishing in my garage. I mean the excitement of my blog being named as a finalist in the UK Blog Awards 2016 was a nice diversion – but as all tandemers know there is nothing like the real think of getting your pedals turning again!
The “old gal” and the “old git” have admittedly missed the regular exercise of outings on me. And whisper it, but they have put on a few extra pounds over the winter – especially the “old git”! – so I am a little worried about the extra weight!
However they tell me they are now on a healthy eating regime to lose weight and to give them energy – known as the Hay Plan – and it seems to be working as in the first two weeks they lost a combined 16 pounds! Phew – just in time!
The “old gal” was also a bit worried about being a bit rusty on the bike and demanded that we start off somewhere flat for the first trip of the year. The “old git” did as he was told – unusually so! – and selected nearby Loch Leven as the destination. It really is a jewel in Perthshire’s crown and the scenery would be enchanting in the February sunshine.
So Sunday morning dawned and excitement reached fever as the blinds were opened to reveal glorious sunshine. The “old git” was deliriously happy and the ski thermals were donned – as it was still going to be cold – before we all found ourselves bundled into Matilda Transporter for the short half hour drive to Kinross pier.
As you can see from the picture, Matildas Transport may not be the most glamorous way to travel for this “old lady” – but it is highly effective. The “old git” an the “old gal” even have to sit in tandem – one driving and the other in the spare passenger seat in the rear – to ensure we all fit in. But fit in we do!
The challenge for the first ride out of 2016 was to complete cycle route round the whole of Loch Leven – an easy 13 miles.
The trail has opened two years ago at a cost of £3 million and is known as the Loch Leven Heritage Trail and it links 30 natural and cultural heritage sites. Take a look at the map of the whole of the Loch Leven route here.
So it was with a little trepidation that we set off – and admittedly we were a bit shaky at first … but my dynamic duo soon got the hang of it again and we got into our stride, settling into a nice easy pace given the first outing of the year.
The “old git” had given his word to the “old gal” that if there was any dangers ahead that he would slow down or come to a stop – so they could walk a bit before getting back on. And he kept to his word.
He even stopped at the couple of right angle bends that there are in the first few miles of the route – as he has now (thankfully) learned that an “old lady” like me doesn’t bend in the middle and tight bends are therefore an extreme hazard!
Another less dangerous hazard was the number of walkers with dogs who were out for the day! The sunshine had brought them out like ants! The “old gal” came up with the idea that as we approached each group from behind, that the “old git” would give a friendly ‘parp’ on my horn to warn them.
This was a success, and there was much friendly exchange of greetings as we cycled past. I have to say, though, the “old gal” was getting a little annoyed at the number of times walkers said to us: “She’s not pedalling on the back” as we cycled past them. A quick retort of “Oh that’s the tenth time I have heard that today” seemed to silence them however!
It was amazing to be out in such beautiful countryside – with hardly a breath of wind. Both the “old git” and the “old gal” had big smiles on their faces as they remembered just how good it was to be tandeming together.
I was in my element of course as everyone turned to look at me as I was the only tandem on the route – and caused quite a stir as I cycled past other groups. A few kids where heard to say to their parents: “Is that a double bike?!”
One of the key attractions of the Loch Leven circular route is the RSPB Loch Leven Nature Reserve which is 7.5 miles round the circuit at Vane Farm so we headed for the RSPB visitor centre which has a lovely appealing cafe overlooking the loch.
The “old git” had one of his (rare) good ideas and suggested some warming soup at the cafe – so the pair enjoyed a steaming bowl of homemade tomato and pepper soup with crusty bread. Very welcoming it was too! And good to see the cafe so busy.
My dynamic due were slightly less than dynamic on the restart – with their legs having seized up a bit over the lunch break. But they soon got into the rhythm again as we headed back to Kinross.
Hats off to all those involved, because the cycle path is very smooth surface. And apart from a few muddy stretches – which can be excused because of the extremely wet weather we have had – it really was a joy to cycle on. Highly recommended.
We were soon back at the start point of Kinross pier and time for a few photos as the loch was looking serenely calm with the sky a very unseasonable shade of blue.
In the middle of the loch is Loch Leven castle 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.
You can see why it was easy to imprison her here as you clearly need a boat to get to the island from the pier. But as it was off-season none were running.
With temperatures beginning to drop I was quickly loaded back into Matilda Transport and we headed off to a nearby Costa to enjoy some welcome hot coffee and reflect on the trip.
The verdict was that my first ride out of 2016 was a resounding success and my dynamic duo had rosy cheeks as a result of their (much needed) exercise. And we all vowed that there would be lots more trips in the weeks ahead.
Finally, an update on the UK Blog Awards 2016. As regular readers will be well aware, Matildas Musings became a finalist in the Most Innovative category of the awards – reaching the final 10 out of over 2000 entries. I am seriously chuffed as not only is my blog achieving UK recognition for being the only blog ‘written’ by a classic tandem, but it is also the only Scottish finalist.
And not just that, but my blog has caught the imagination of the local media – with several big articles appearing in newspapers – including this front page story in the Strathallan Times and also this feature in the Perthshire Advertiser.
The organisers say that judging has taken place – in top secret – and the results will be announced at a glitzy UK Blog Awards 2016 presentation evening at the Park Plaza Hotel in London at the end of April.
So I have my brake cables crossed until then in the hope that I my blog will win the overall award!
In the meantime I am basking in the glory of being able to say I am a UK Blog Awards 2016 finalist!