Sunny Sunday sojourn in shorts!

A sunny Sunday - and a selfie to mark the first outing in shorts of 2016!

A sunny Sunday – and a selfie to mark the first outing in shorts of 2016!

The weather in Perthshire had been glorious all week, with bright warm sunshine, but I was stuck in my garage. Work commitments mean the “old git” and the “old gal” really only have a Sunday to take me out for a ride. But I have been promised some outings in the longer Summer evenings – no doubt for the odd picnic tea or for a gin and tonic stop at a nearby hostelry!

Now I need to report that my dynamic duo had been indulging a bit on Saturday evening when they watched the Eurovision Song Contest – one of the “old gal’s” favourite television events – washing down the cheesiness of the spectacle with some nicely chilled Loire valley white wine. The “old git” stressed this was all part of the research for the grand Tour de Loire Valley du Tandem we are embarking on in September – but I have my suspicions!

Anyway after a late evening, I was a bit sceptical about our planned early Sunday morning departure. But Team Matilda were up and about bright and early, with the weather pleasingly doing what was forecast meaning some nice sunshine.

The “old gal” was in buoyant spirits, so much so that as she declared this as a “shorts day”. Now as you know she does feel the cold, but decided that my dynamic duo should discard their thermal leggings and expose their knees for the first time in 2016!

The plan was for a quick cycle round the loop around Gleneagles hotel and round by Blackford before heading home, as family  commitments meant we only had limited time. The idea – well the “old git’s” idea at any rate – was to do the same route as we did back in the middle of March, only do it faster.

Check out the location and route of my Sunny Sunday sojourn in shorts on Strava below – don’t forget to click on the map to get the full data and statistics!

SSS - Strava map

So after fuelling up with a healthy breakfast it was time for the off. And it was most definitely sunglasses required as I emerged from the garage, with Matilda’s Rest bathed in glorious sunshine.

After the obligatory selfie – wearing those sunglasses of course – we cycled off in balmy, calm conditions. Yes I will say that again – balmy, calm conditions. It doesn’t happen too often around here, so we were going to make the best of it. And yes it was warm enough just for shorts!

My dynamic duo pedalled off and were soon in perfect synchronicity (well that’s what the old git likes to believe anyway!) as they pedalled up Auchterarder high street and headed out of the town, continuing up hill towards Gleneagles hotel – the local landmark and playground of the rich and famous!

We headed up the road towards Blackford and Braco with my crew feeling healthy and in good spirits. I was impressed as they completed the long climb past the back entrance to the hotel. I have to say we were actually moving faster and smoother that I expected – as the “old gal” using the gears to help power us along. And all the time we were soaking in the picturesque Perthshire countryside and wonderful fresh air.

We soon picked up speed on a nice downhill stretch and reaching the dizzy heights of 25.9 mph – albeit only for about 200 yards – before resuming standard speed of about 10 mph heading to the next incline.

It was a wonderful day to be out tandeming – proving the old adage that “it’s always better tandeming together!” We soon turned sharply to the left taking the undulating narrow country road to Blackford. In fact the road bounces up and down so much at one part, the stretch is known as  The Red Barron by local cycling enthusiasts on Strava!

Through Blackford we passed the sprawling Highland Spring water factory – home of one of Perthshire’s most iconic brands – before cycling through the village and past the Tullibardine Highland single malt whisky distillery which is expanding its visitor centre.

After negotiating the adrenalin-fuelled dash across the busy A9 dual carriageway – on foot rather than pedalling for safety reasons – we turned into the much quieter and remote road around Bardrill.

The half way mark and time for a quick coffee stop with the “old git” having remembered to pack a flask of freshly brewed coffee.

"Not another photo"! The "old gal" has her coffee stop interrupted for a blog picture!

“Not another photo!” – the “old gal” has her coffee stop interrupted for a blog picture!

It was a lovely place to have a cuppa though, with the coffee welcomed by the “old gal”, even though the “old git” couldn’t resist taking another photo to illustrate my blog!

Mind you I got a chance to relax leaning at a jaunty angle against a gate, looking out towards the Ochil hills. It really is a beautiful part of the country we are lucky enough to live in you know!

Coffee stop! Don't mind me, I am having a rest at jaunty angle against a gate!

Coffee stop! Don’t mind me, I am having a rest at jaunty angle against a gate!

With the sun deciding it would stay with us, and the temperature rising, the “old gal” was delighted she had made the call to wear shorts. We were soon on the move again, with the three of us enjoying the cycling on the farm roads around Bardrill. This is a good road for practicing gear changes as there are straight stretches followed by downhills and inclines all in quick succession.

The road runs adjacent to the railway line for a bit with a couple of old fashioned humped back bridges which have a weight restriction because of their age.

The “old git” couldn’t resist a photo opportunity pointing to the weight limit while pointing out that we didn’t need to worry any more. You see that Hay Plan food combination eating thing my dynamic duo has certainly been working.

I am very proud to report that Team Matilda has lost a combined 59 lbs between them in just 13 weeks. Very impressive! And I benefit as that means that is the equivalent of nearly 30 bags of sugar that I am no longer having to carry around!

No need to worry about the weight limit as my dynamic duo have lost 50 lbs between them!

No need to worry about the weight limit as my dynamic duo have lost 59 lbs between them!

At the end of the Badrill road, we turned on to the Glendevon road and tandemed through the roundabout featuring an artwork of giant-sized golf clubs to mark the Ryder Cup golf match held at Gleneagles in September 2014 – when Europe famously beat the US.

We passed the grand front entrance to Gleneagles before cycling back downhill into Auchterarder and back to Matilda’s Rest.

Strava officially recorded the ride at a distance of 14.3 miles, covering an elevation of 598 feet. The good news was that the moving time was 1 hour 29 minutes – 23 minutes faster than the same trip back in mid March. And our average speed was 9.6 mph, up from 7.7 mph.

And particularly pleasing was that Team Matilda managed to clock up no less than 5 personal records on the route!  See I told you the weight loss of my dynamic duo would boost our stamina and speed!

The “old git” has even found a function on Strava which calculated that our estimated average power output was 152 w while achieving an energy output of 814 kJ. No idea what that means in real money, but it sounds impressive for an “old lady” like me.

And the final bit of data was that we burned up 907 calories! And not a bit of carrot cake in sight!

So all in all it really was a most satisfying and enjoyable sunny Sunday sojourn in shorts! Roll on the next ride out!

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Matilda’s miles on Millport

Quiet table for two?! Our lovely isolated beach view lunch spot on Millport.

Quiet table for two with a sea view?! Our lovely isolated beach view lunch spot on Millport.

7 am on the Sunday of the early May Bank Holiday weekend and the alarm beeps! The “old gal” has a quick look out the blinds and confirms it is lashing down with rain, and as we say in Scotland – it is blowing  a hooley!

But there is no chance of a duvet day as the “old git” has booked us all on an “overseas” trip for some “warm weather” boot camp training on the “sunshine” island of Millport.

For those unfamiliar with the charms of “Costa del Millport”, the island (officially known as The Isle of Cumbrae) is just 10 minutes by Cal Mac ferry from the mainland at Largs on the firth of Clyde and it offers a virtually flat 10.25 mile loop round the island on almost traffic free roads.

It is a cyclists paradise really and is a favourite destination of those in need of some training practice. Well it is when the sun shines and the wind doesn’t blow! Which is exactly the opposite of the weather conditions when we wakened up.

Despite the “old gal’s” protestations in the parlance of John McEnroe that “You cannot be serious!” we were all soon packed up in Matilda Transport and heading down the A9 and across to the west coast in driving heavy rain to Largs for the ferry.

The “old git” – ever the optimist – was trying his best to convince the “old gal” that there was going to be a weather window later in the day when the sun would shine. It would need to be said that the “old gal” was giving him her best “I don’t believe you look” – but obviously delivered with a smile on her face!

Those annoying motorway signs which were flashing “Warning – surface water” and “Caution – high winds” didn’t really help the “old gal’s” mood. But she knew mutiny was pointless as the bed and breakfast was already booked and the “old git” was a man on a mission.

The “old git” was clearly banking on the fact that Millport – being an island – is well known for its typical “four seasons in a day” Scottish weather. And it can actually change conditions very quickly.

Almost miraculously as we drove down the alpine zig-zag bend-style Haylie Brae overlooking Largs, the rain stopped, the wind died down, and the sun broke through the thick cloud. There obviously is a God!

So we were able to keep to the original plan of leaving Matilda Transport at Largs and cycle round to the ferry – complete with my natty matching (and bulging) panniers!

A quick stop at a new Costa Coffee beside the ferry terminal and we were on board! I really enjoy a ferry trip you know, as you always meet some interesting new bikes – especially some of these sleek young racing bikes! Which is nice eye candy for this “old lady”!

On arrival - the ferry slipway at Costa del Millport - just 10 minutes from the mainland.

On arrival – the ferry slipway at Costa del Millport – just 10 minutes from the mainland.

Ten minutes later and we were in a different world – it is amazing the difference that short journey makes as you make the trip “overseas”!

So after disembarking and a quick photo stop, we headed the anti-clockwise “long way” round – the 6 miles down the quiet side of the island to the town in order to take in the stunning views of nearby islands of Rothesay and Arran and clock up the best part of the first loop.

Check out the location and route of my Tour de Millport du tandem on Strava below – don’t forget to click on the map to get the full data and statistics!

cdm - strava snipBelieve it or not as we passed beautiful remote beaches, with abundant wildlife, the sun was shining and we managed to knock up a fair speed – even with the heavy panniers! In high spirits, we identified our lunch spot for the second loop and continued pedalling into the town.

Next job was to hand our panniers in at the Craigard Guest House – a wonderfully friendly bed and breakfast business – run by the really hospitable Janette and Crawford. We stayed here last year and were all welcomed back like old friends! I was most impressed when Crawford greeted us with “Good to see the three of you again!”

After a quick pit stop we were back on the road, with us all enjoying the tandem up the side of the island which looks out on the mainland. We were whizzing along now and soon completed the first lap as we passed the ferry terminal and on to our lunch stop.

It was now almost balmy round the more protected side of the island and my dynamic duo were feeling euphoric as they had to remove their cycling jackets due to overheating! Or as the “old gal” said: “I will say this only once probably this weekend – but I am too warm!”

The “old git” unpacked the prosecco picnic lunch as they took up seats on their idyllic “quiet table for two with a sea view”!

The "old gal" posing in alfresco fine dining mode!

The “old gal” posing in alfresco fine dining mode!

Now prosecco picnics by tandem at remote quiet sports are one of the great simple pleasures in life, and my dynamic duo take them very seriously with meticulous preparation! Today they had a very healthy Hay Plan menu of caesar salad wraps and fresh fruit – and yes the bubbly is on the approved list! They are obviously taking this eating healthy plan thing seriously (not a diet shouts the “old git” who doesn’t do diets!) as they have now lost 53 pounds between them in 11 weeks. And it has left them feeling so much fitter. And as for me I am equally grateful that I don’t have to carry all that extra weight around on my ageing frame!

A quick walk on the beach to take in the scenery in brilliant sunshine was a bonus – although the views to the snow-capped peak of Goat Fell on Arran was testament to the recent cool temperatures!

The "old git" trying to blend in with the bright yellow gorse at the picnic stop!

The “old git” trying to blend in with the bright yellow gorse at the picnic stop!

Back in the saddles and we were off for again with a couple of quick stops for some photos, including the poignant War Memorial which looks directly out to see and what has been – and still is – the Royal Navy’s training ground for warships.

Paying respects at Millport's War Memorial - a truly peaceful spot.

Paying respects at Millport’s War Memorial – a truly peaceful spot.

We tandemed into Millport town again – and after a quick coffee refuelling stop we set out on the third and final loop of the day! The “old git” decided this would be a non-stop clockwise circuit against the clock! We were soon clocking up an average of over 15 mph on the calmer side of the island before we hit the wind on the ferry side! This slowed progress a bit, but we still managed the complete lap in just over 50 minutes.

Strava officially recorded the day’s cycling at a total distance of 26.5 miles, covering an elevation of 651 feet. The average speed was 9.0 mph and we reached a maximum speed of 19 mph!

Just on cue as we arrived back at Craigard Guest House the rain started, so I was quickly parked up safely in their garden with carrier bags over my saddles and bags as rain protection.

Craigard is now in its third season and Janette and Crawford have rightly established a reputation for a home-from-home stay. So my dynamic duo enjoyed a bit of rest and relaxation before a shower and change for their meal at The Harbour. Regular readers of my blog will know that this is one of the favourite restaurants of the “old git” and the “old gal”. And the offering now includes a cocktail menu – including gin concoctions – so the “old gal” was ecstatic!

Dilemma - Should I have the Pilot Cocktail or the Stoker Cocktail - or both ..?

Dilemma for the “old gal” – to have the Pilot Cocktail or the Stoker Cocktail – or both ..?

The food was brilliant as always – very tasty and originally presented! The “old gal” for example enjoyed baked camembert followed by a build-your-own burger with blue cheese topping and bacon, finishing off with a chocolate toffee brownie and all washed down with Shiraz wine. Just what was needed to restore energy levels!

So after a great night – full of laughs – it was back to the bed and breakfast for some much needed zzzs ahead of three more tandem laps on the Monday!

Well that was the plan! But someone forgot to send the email to the weather department and we awoke to gale force winds and rain battering the windows. But again the BBC weather app gave hope for sunny spells mid morning – although it was still going to be windy!

A hearty cooked breakfast at Craigard set my dynamic duo up for the day. Over breakfast the rain did stop so we headed back out full of hope for more training!

As we set off anti-clockwise the sun broke through the clouds and all seemed good as we cantered along the ferry side of the island with a nice breeze behind us. There was even time for me to become acquainted with some of the local landmarks on the way round, including Lion Rock – a prehistoric rock formation which (up close) resembles a prowling lion.

Time for a quick photo stop at the landmark of Lion rock.

Time for a quick photo stop at the landmark of Lion rock. Note the “old gal’s” pink ski gloves!

It was significantly colder and more blustery than yesterday so the “old gal” decided to break out the pink ski (sorry stoker) gloves to keep the circulation in her hands.

We were actually enjoying being out on the road, but just after we passed the ferry terminal the first drops of rain started. And as we rounded the headland at the top of the island we were met with a combination of a heavy downpour of a squally shower and the full force of the wind.

With a wind speed of around 30 mph this really was like hitting a brick wall and more or less stopped us in our tracks. No matter how much my dynamic duo huffed and puffed they couldn’t make any significant impact against the wind and our speed slowed down below 5 mph.

They battled on in stony silence passed yesterday’s idyllic lunch spot. It appeared to be a totally different world today and one that they weren’t going to stop at. Nor did we risk stopping for a picture at another of the island’s landmarks for cyclists and walkers – Indian Rock – in case we couldn’t get going again.

Eventually we managed to get to the bottom end of the island and the wind resistance dropped – which gave a welcome chance to breathe and pedal into the town.

The “old git” wisely took the decision that we should abandon any further attempts at training laps and decided on a warming coffee and lunch at the welcoming Dancing Midge Cafe. Here the “old gal” thawed out and joined the “old git” in having a tasty bagel light lunch, followed by a spirit-reviving slice of that staple of cyclists  – home made carrot cake.

As spirits revived the sun broke out again and my dynamic duo decided to venture outside again for a daft photo at the third of the island’s rock landmarks – and the most famous – Crocodile Rock. Over the years it has  attracted many generations of children to have their photograph taken with the Millport Crocodile. So naturally that meant the “old git” – who can be a big kid sometimes – had to have his photo taken there! And the “old gal” got the angle just right!

It was very scary for me at Crocodile Rock - but the "old git" rescued me just in time!

It was very scary for me at Crocodile Rock – but the “old git” rescued me just in time!

With the weather dry the “old gal” wisely decided it was time to make a break for it and tandem the 4 miles back to the ferry slipway. Fortunately we made it to the shelter before the rain started again. Just a quick shower this time fortunately, and we were soon back on the mainland for the journey back to Matilda’s Rest after our  mini break. We maybe didn’t clock up all the planned boot camp training miles – but an enjoyable time was had by all.

To finish this posting, news of the UK Blog Awards 2016. The glitzy awards ceremony was held in London last Friday night – albeit without me (or my dynamic duo) there in person! My Matildas Musings blog didn’t win a prize in the Most Innovative category in which I was shortlisted – but congratulations to all who did.

The judges clearly didn’t think a blog “written” by a classic Jack Taylor tandem was innovative enough to pedal away with the trophy! But it was great fun taking part in the event and I can always use the words “UK Blog Awards finalist” in my future posts!

In time honoured tradition of thank you speeches I would like to thank everyone for their votes and support which got me to the finals in the first place. And who would ever have thought that my blog would have been in the last 10 shortlist out of 2,000 entries – and been the only Scottish blog to reach the finals?

And there’s always 2017!

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