A new book of my Musings and tandeming Christmas presents galore!

Is it tandem o'clock yet? Perfect present for "old git" from "old gal" - links with gin o'clock!

Is it tandem o’clock yet? Perfect present for the “old git” from the “old gal” – and it links with gin o’clock!

Excitement reached fever pitch at Matilda’s Rest on Sunday when Christmas Day finally arrived! The “old git” – who should really be re-named Santa over the festive period! – made sure everyone had their ‘ho! ho! ho!’ on, whether they wanted to or not!

On Christmas Eve the “old gal” even put on her Christmas jumper to signal she was in the mood for Santa’s arrival! She had whispered to me that I was getting a present all for myself so I could hardly contain myself!

And I knew the “old git” had been planning something with my blog as a present for the “old gal” so it was an exciting time! I could hardly sleep and I am sure I heard Santa’s jingle bells as he and Rudolph delivered his presents around rural Perthshire …. presumably in tandem!

The “old git” was up early on Christmas morning making sure that Santa had arrived – and he certainly delivered filling the “old gal’s” stockings to overflowing … and even dropped a few presents in the “old git’s” stockings too! (Yes he does have some …. weird or what!)

Then it was time for my dynamic duo to tear open their presents. The thing the “old git” had been secretly scheming away about was turning all my Musings about our French tandeming  tour adventures in the Loire Valley during September into a beautiful hard-back coffee table style book.

My daily Musings of our Loire Valley trip turned into a coffee table book!

My daily Musings of our Loire Valley trip turned into a coffee table book!

I must say even I was impressed at the what the “old git” had achieved – and you know I’m not easily impressed! – and as for the “old gal” well she thought it was brilliant! There was even a wee tear in her eye as she read the “old git’s” soppy dedication at the front of the book! Awh shucks!

Each page is in glossy colour and the book is essentially a full record of each day of my blog – including all the photos – as they appeared on my blog! A great permanent record of a fabulous trip! And great fun to flick through and bring back those memories of my dynamic duo’s days in my saddles in warm sunshine … oh and not forgetting those amazing picnics and wines!

And as a special Christmas treat for readers of my blog you can take a look at the complete book (in a pdf version) by clicking on the title of the book here: Le Tour de Vineyards et Chateaux de Loire Valley du Tandem. Hope you enjoy as much as I did re-reading it all again!

My new Matilda key ring and coasters to match my very French la bouclee wine bottle carrier.

My Matilda key ring and coasters to match my la bouclee wine carrier.

So then it was time to open my presents, and the “old git” and the “old gal” made sure Santa delivered a nice new leather key ring – complete with my name imprinted on it – in very fetching racy red to match my eye-catching and very French La Bouclée wine carrier, which of course matches my frame.

And because the very kind people at La Bouclée have made this “old lady” tandem an ambassador for their products in Scotland, they threw in a couple of leather coasters and some very clever matching accessories which are designed to carry my plastic mock cut crystal glasses on my frame to ensure my dynamic duo will always be able to quaff their prosecco in style!

The “old gal” lovingly fitted they keys for my padlock chain to my new keyring and I was suddenly overcome with festive cheer! I mean it is not every tandem that gets a special present all to themselves – and become an ambassador for a luxury French cycling brand at the same time! The “old git” said that it must have been because I was a “good girl” as only “good girls” get presents from Santa!

Perfect present from my friends Team Bluebird - fellow members of the Nutty Tandemers Club.

Perfect present from Team Bluebird – fellow Nutty Tandemers Club members.

There were lots of other presents to open with a special one from my good friend Bluebird and her tandem team. As fellow self-proclaimed members of the Nutty Tandemers Club we all enjoyed a fabulous Le Tour de Perthshire in August – with more than a few bottles prosecco enjoyed! So it was only natural for them to send my team a couple of personalised coasters! I think I can safely say there will be one or two prosecco picnics scheduled for our planned Le Tour de New Forest in July 2017.

Calendar time - Tour de Loire Valley and also Perthshire!

Calendar time – Tour de Loire Valley on left and also Tour de Perthshire on the right.

Naturally by dynamic duo had organised a present on my behalf for Team Bluebird and designed a personalised Nutty Tandemers Club 2017 calendar – with each month having a great memory from our wonderful week together touring Perthshire.

Now you know that my stoker, the “old gal”, has a bit of a quirky sense of humour … well she excelled herself with one of her presents for my captain – the “old git.”

Ever since watching Le Tour de France he has joked that my team should get the distinctive red spotted white cycling jerseys – a maillot a pois rouge – which designate the King of the Mountains rider on the race. This is somewhat ironic given that the spotted jersey obviously identifies the cyclists who is best at hill climbs – and as you know the only hills my dynamic duo really like are flat ones!

The "old gal's" hero! Le Captain in full (ironic) King of the Mountain gear!

The “old gal’s” hero! Le Captain in full (ironic) King of the Mountain gear!

But the “old gal” duly ordered one of the official Tour de France jerseys to call the “old git’s” bluff. But they were both as bad as each other as the “old git” had got a pair of skull caps in the King of the Mountains spotted pattern – for wearing under their crash helmets in summer as sun protectors. Oh how they laughed …. simple things and all that!

Apart from the questionable choice in tandem clothing, the “old gal” did excel with other presents – including the stylish tandem clock pictured at the top of this posting. It really looks quite the business and I am chuffed as it means it will always be tandem o’clock – albeit the “old gal” says it has a special secret link to tie it up with the gin o’clock on the kitchen wall! But I am sure she is joking? Right?

The "old git's" new appropriate mobile phone cover.

The “old git’s” new phone cover with rainbow at Loch Rannoch image.

A week before Christmas the “old git” finally came out of the mobile phone dark ages by having his trusty (and very old) Blackberry surgically removed from his grip and replaced with a trendy new Galaxy 7. The “old gal” is quite clever really as she was very persuasive in getting him to upgrade into today’s technology – which means that he can now use Strava to record my rides on his phone so there will be no further opportunities for him to blame “operator error” by my stoker!

The “old git” was duly impressed with a very apt cover for his new phone – with a Keep Calm and Tandem On slogan and a fab rainbow image at one of Team Matilda’s favourite spots, Loch Rannoch.

No excuses about weather now - waterproof helmet covers and winter gloves!

No excuses about weather now – fluerescent waterproof helmet covers and winter gloves!

As a game girl who doesn’t mind getting my spokes wet, I personally was pleased about another present which saw my dynamic crew get fluorescent waterproof helmet covers and also winter gloves. There wiill be no excuses about the weather now … or at least no valid excuses! The “old gal” was particularly pleased with the waterproof helmet covers, reminding anyone who would listen how they would have come in useful during the day of biblical rain during our French trip when my crew ended up wearing those fetching blue ponchos!

My dynamic duo also have some reading material to fuel their ideas for our grand tours – the Africa Solo book by local adventurer Mark Beaumont from nearby Crieff, and the man who broke the record for cycling round the world! Perhaps just a tad on the ambitious side …. but it will be a good read!

Perhaps slightly ambitious reading material for my crew - but a good read!

Perhaps slightly ambitious reading material for my crew – but a good read!

Christmas was spent in a blur of preparing, cooking and then eating and drinking! Just a normal day at Matildas Rest really! Pride of place on the festive table were two bottles of top-of-the-range red wines which my crew had lovingly brought back from our Team Tandem Ecosse Loire Valley trip.

The “old gal” was in seventh heaven when she uncorked them and tasted the contents! The magnificent flavours really did bring back fantastic memories of a fabulous time on Le Loire a Velo … and a toast was made to doing a similar wine-tasting tandeming trip in 2017 – with the Alsace region already earmarked as one potential destination!

With a busy schedule with family and friends, the “old git” and the “old gal” have scheduled a ride for January 2 to blow away the festive cobwebs – and get rid of some of the excesses – so fingers crossed! The scenic wilderness of a tandem ride around Loch Rannoch in Highland Perthshire has already been identified as a potential destination. So look out for a new Musing in the first few days of January.

Then in a few weeks I am going to be making a triumphant return to the Loch earn area after being invited back to blog about tandeming around the final part of the award winning and fascinating cultural outside art #BLiSStrail.

Yes, LETi, the local Loch Earn Tourism Information group, was so impressed with my photo and video blog when I was a guest to see the Balquhidder section of the trail that Team Matilda has been asked back to do another blog on the Strathyre leg of the unique BLiSS trail – this time based at Airlie House bed and breakfast.

LETi chair Kim Proven has had a an exclusive voucher from Santa for a second go as sub stoker.

LETi chair Kim found an exclusive voucher from Santa in her stocking for a second go as sub stoker.

And it seems that Santa left a highly exclusive voucher for a second tandem ride in the stocking of LETi chair Kim Proven, and owner of luxury self-catering Briar Cottages. Regular readers will remember that Kim had a go as substitute stoker when we visited Balquhidder … and was so overcome by the experience that she fancies having another go!

But will the “old git” be as gentle this time as she is no longer a tandem virgin? Or will we be doing tight bends, changing gears and picking up speed? And will Kim show she is a hero and take her hands off the handlebars to wave at the camera this time?! One thing is for certain, I will be Musing about it!

That is to come, but finally for the moment, I hope all readers of my Musings had a lovely Christmas and that Santa brought you and your tandems what you wanted! If not then the only explanation is that you were on the “naughty” list!

And if we don’t speak until after the bells – on behalf of Team Matilda let me be one of the first to wish you all the best for 2017 … and many happy tandeming miles together for you and your team!

Just remember it can always be tandem (or gin!) o’clock! Cheers!

May it always be tandem (or gin!) o'clock during 2017!

May it always be tandem (or gin!) o’clock for your team during 2017!

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Christmas wishes to fellow tandemers who know its always better together!

xmas-card-2016-front-preview

Jingle bells, jingle bells
jingle all the way!
Oh what fun
it is to ride
On a tandem made for two …. !!! 

With the big day fast approaching and thoughts turning to turkey and tinsel and mistletoe and (mulled) wine this “old lady” decided it was time to wish readers of my Matildas Musings, and fellow tandemers everywhere, (and even solo cyclists!) a very merry Christmas on behalf of Team Matilda.

The “old git” being a huge fan of the Christmas period is in a festive frenzy – while the “old gal” is enjoying the (mulled) wine while trying to exert a calming influence!

However my dynamic crew are hoping to squeeze in a couple of rides over the festive period – including a “blow away the cobwebs” tandem to welcome in the New Year in the first couple of days of 2017. So stay logged in for that!

In the meantime my dynamic duo – of the “old git” Captain and the “old gal” Stoker – would like to thank you all for reading my Matildas Musings this year and following our adventures!

xmas-card-2016-inside-previewAnd thanks for all your messages of support- whether that be a comment on the blog, a like or share or comment on Facebook or like or re-tweet on Twitter!

Team Matilda sincerely hope you continue to find it entertaining – and that it makes you smile – while finding something that you (as non-professional fun-loving fellow tandemers) can relate to!

With a bit of luck – and no major mechanicals concerning my ageing frame – there will be many more rides and Musings during 2017.

This hopefully will include the build-up to and the day-to-day reports of the annual Team Tandem Ecosse (Team Matilda’s name when in Europe!) Tour de France du Tandem. Whisper it but it may even include a trip in Holland first off – where I am told it is very flat … which is (festive)  music to the “old gal’s” ears!

For anyone wondering, the Christmas card front image is a snow-sprinkled image of me and my dynamic duo from our 2016 Le Tour de Loire Valley du Tandem – which included some memorable tandeming through the vineyards and chateaux surrounding the Loire a Velo in September.

As a Christmas treat here’s a chance to see Team Matilda’s musical montage of images from that great Loire Valley trip – in case you haven’t seen it yet.  (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 astute among you will realise that the inside shot on the Christmas card is not in France! It was actually taken on a gorgeous sunny day at Lock Katrine on our fantastic Le Tour de Perthshire in August with fellow self-proclaimed founding members of The Nutty Tandemers Club – John and Jane of Team Bluebird! So special festive greetings to them and here’s to our planned Le Tour de New Forest in July 2017.

So here’s to a wonderful festive season to all. And on behalf of all captains and stokers everywhere – lets hope Santa fills your Christmas stockings with all the good things you have put on your present list!

Mind you, that does make an assumption that you are on the “good tandemers” list rather than the “naughty tandemers list!”

And remember: It truly is always better when you’re together on a tandem”!!

So have a “twice the fun” Merry Christmas from Colin, Diane … (and of course) Matilda!

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Matilda goes carol singing – in dulci jubilo!

Ho! ho! ho! The "old gal" cunningly disguised the crash helmets as Santa hats!

Ho! ho! ho! The “old gal” cunningly disguised the crash helmets as Santa hats!

With only a week to go till Christmas Day the “old git” – who is something of a Christmas zealot – was encouraging everyone to get into full festive spirit mode! As the “old gal” quipped – it might have been more likely if there was some festive spirit flowing … but he was trying – very trying as the “old gal” said in that droll you-can’t-be-certain-if-she-is-joking-or-not way she has!

Now there is a tradition on the Sunday before Christmas near Matilda’s Rest when the local churches in Auchterarder come together to hold a carol service at Tullibardine Chapel – which dates back to the 15th century. My dynamic crew make a point of going – and it is all quite atmospheric as there is no power in the remote chapel and it is all done by candle light and torches.

This year the “old git” decided it would be a bit of a festive frolic if my crew arrived at the carols by tandem – complete with Santa hats, Christmas jumpers, and my twinkling festive lights!

Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your point of view!) the weather was kind and quite mild so there was much excitement when we woke on Sunday to get ready for our excursion. And to add to the anticipation, it was the first time – believe it or not – that this “old lady” had been to a carol service!

So after an early lunch I was pulled out of the garage to get a few photos at Matildas Rest before we headed off on the short 3 mile ride to Tullibardine. The “old gal” had done some sterling work transforming my duo’s crash helmets into huge Santa hats – courtesy of linking together a couple of Santa hats from the local pound shop!

As we all posed for photos the “old git” realised that a year ago – we  had to abandon our planned tandem run on this same Sunday due to fairly heavy snow!

… and the “old gal” in the snow a year ago in 2015.

What a difference a year makes – the “old gal” in 2016 …

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a right Christmas pudding! The "old git" in full festive mode!

What a right Christmas pudding! The “old git” in full festive mode!

We headed off and it was fun tandeming up the high street which was busy with families out walking and doing some last minute shopping! It would need to be said we got more than a few funny looks from adults (but as the “old git” said that was the point of the exercise) while loads of children gave us excited waves and I tooted my horn back in appreciation!

We then headed out of town onto the rural Perthshire roads which took us to Tullibardine Chapel – and I must admit it was great fun to be back out in the fresh air. You can check out the details of our route on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full data and statistics! 

carol-singing-strava

Team Matilda were in good spirits – so much so that I wasn’t sure if there was any actual spirits partaken before they departed! But the “old gal” and the “old git” are finely tuned athletes … so I am sure it was just my imagination!

In what seemed like no time we were approaching the chapel and the “old git” decided that we needed to arrive in style – singing jingle bells to ensure we got noticed! And guess what – we did! The “old git” and the “old gal” definetly lived up to their status as founding members of the Nutty Tandemers Club with their arrival – which as luck would have it was recorded on video which you can view here. (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 before the carols there was time to explore the history and my dynamic crew discovered that Tullibardine Chapel was founded in 1446 by Sir David Murray of Dumbarton, an ancestor of the Dukes of Atholl. The Murray family home was at Tullibardine Castle. This stood on a site a short distance to the north of the chapel, though nothing now remains of it.

Team Matilda standing outside the entrance to Tullibardine Chapel - almost unchanged since it was built.

Team Matilda at the entrance to Tullibardine Chapel – almost unchanged since it was built.

The chapel stands almost unchanged since an extension in about 1500 – and is one of the few medieval churches to have survived the Reformation unaltered.

The inside of the chapel - clearly showing the medieval history - well before the carols started.

The inside of the chapel – clearly showing the medieval history – well before the carols started.

Just before the carol service proper started my dynamic duo warmed up their voices with a few verses outside, accompanied by one of the organisers Allan Perera – a well known local artist and member of the Our Lady of the Perpetual Succour host church – on his guitar.

Getting into voice - my dynamic crew warming up their vocal chords by singing in tandem!

Getting into voice – my dynamic crew warming up their vocal chords by singing in tandem!

The "old gal" getting into fine voice - accompanied by Alan Pererera's guitar.

The “old gal” getting into fine voice – accompanied by Allan Perera’s guitar.

Don't you think the (large) Santa hats and Crimbo jumpers added to the occasion?!

Don’t you think the (large) Santa hats and Crimbo jumpers added to the occasion?!

So after a warm up – and after attracting lots of attention from interested people arriving – it was time for my duo to go inside the chapel for the carol service. They tell me they thoroughly enjoyed the whole event – a nice mix of Christmas carols and readings. And encouragingly, it was packed – with nearly 200 people crowding into the chapel.

After the carols my dynamic duo emerged to find that they had been somewhat upstaged by someone who had arrived on horseback – as you do in the middle of the Perthshire countryside! So naturally I had to have a photo taken with the horse!

Here I am somewhat overshadowed by a huge white horse outside the chapel.

Here I am somewhat overshadowed by a huge white horse outside the chapel.

My duo had got a bit chilled sitting inside the chapel as the temperature dropped, so after the service we quickly pedalled off in a bid to raise some heat! In fact they tandemed so quickly, Strava later confirmed that they recorded a personal best record time on the Easthill hill climb section back towards Auchterarder! Back into town and there was a stop at the “old gal’s” hair salon to get a few festive photos.

Me and the "old gal" adding a festive touch outside her hair salon.

Me and the “old gal” adding a festive touch outside her hair salon.

Great place for a hair do - I am reliably informed! The "old gal's" salon!

Great place for a hair do – I am reliably informed! The “old gal’s” salon!

A short pedal and we were back at Matilda’s Rest with my dynamic crew immediately having  a warming espresso to heat them up! But all three of us on Team Matilda had fun – and were feeling even more Christmassy than before!

Look out for my Matildas Musings Christmas wishes blog post just before the big day! In the meantime I need to go and warp a few presents and write my final cards!

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BLiSSful Balquhidder’s brilliant bravura!

Reflections on the BLiSStrail - Team Matilda at the Look Out mirrored cabin at Loch Voil.

Reflections on the BLiSStrail – Team Matilda at the Look Out mirrored cabin at Loch Voil.

What excitement at Matilda’s Rest! I have been hardly been able to sleep since this “old lady” tandem was invited back to the Loch Earn area to do another blog on their fascinating cultural outside art #BLiSStrail. Yes I will say that again, invited back!

It seems that LETi, the local Loch Earn Tourism Information group, was so impressed with my photo and video blog from my trip to see the first section of the art trail at the end of October around the St Fillans and Lochearnhead loop that they asked Team Matilda to come back and do another blog on one of the other two legs of the trail – this time around Balquhidder.

The unique BLiSS trail is named after the four villages it links – Balquhidder, Lochearnhead, Strathyre and St Fillans – deep in the heart of Rob Roy Country within the Loch Lomond and  The Trossachs National Park – where Perthshire meets rural Stirling. The trail is made up of a series of large ornamental metal and wood sculptures and art installations, mostly by various artists, to commemorate the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design.

The brainchild of LETi, the BLiSS trail is also designed to encourage more visitors to the area – to boost tourism and the local economy. And since our first visit it has become an “award winning trail” – receiving the honour of a regional Scottish Thistle Award – recognised as the tourism Oscars – for “Working Together for Tourism.”

The “old git” and the “old gal” were delighted to accept on my behalf.  So on Saturday afternoon I was packed into Matilda Transport and we headed off through St Fillans and down the side of stunning Loch Earn, through Lochearnhead on the A84 to The Golden Larches bed and breakfast – Team Matilda’s base for their mini-weekend adventure.

There my dynamic duo were met by the extremely hospitable owner Alistair Buchan – who showed them the first of the art installations along this section of the BLiSS trail – Sunflowers by Kev Paxton – situated in the car park of The Golden Larches, opposite the old Balquhidder Station.

The first iconic piece of art I got to see was the giant Sunflowers in the car park at The Golden Larches.

The first iconic piece of art I got to see was the giant Sunflowers..

You certainly can’t miss this sculpture as it is 4m high – somewhat larger than the common sunflower! It certainly towered above me, and I am sure the giant sunflowers turn heads and raise a few smiles on the A84. Given that this is a pre festive tour, the next person I was introduced to was “wee Santa” who was on hand to make me feel welcome at my new abode for the evening!

Making my acquaintance with "wee Santa" at the Golden Larches.

Ho! ho! ho! Here I am making my acquaintance with “wee Santa” at The Golden Larches.

Alistair couldn’t have done any more to make my dynamic duo comfortable on what was a somewhat chilly night. They were shown to their lovely, relaxed, warm and welcoming room. He even went the extra mile when the “old gal” suddenly proclaimed that she was in danger of missing her favourite tv show – Strictly Come Dancing – when they went out for dinner.

But Alistair showed his superhero qualities by setting up the large flat screen satellite tv to record the programme – so they could watch it later on catch-up. What a star! And the “old gal” was a happy girl again! I mean if she had missed it, in the words of judge Craig Revel Horwood it would have been “a disaster darling!”

mhor-84-signAfter a bit of relaxation the “old git” and the “old gal” ventured out to sample the dinner menu at the highly recommended MHOR 84  Motel which serves food to satisfy the many cyclists and walkers who pass by.

To fuel up for the ride ahead the next day, my dynamic duo stocked up on a meal which  tantalised their taste buds – scallops, burgers and cheesecake, washed down with the obligatory red wine!

The amazing burgers at MHOR 84!

The amazing burgers at MHOR 84!

The “old gal” was stunned into silence  by the burgers – and given that doesn’t happen very often, they must have been good! The additional toppings of black pudding and blue cheese left her literally lost for words … other than the odd “yum!”

The decor at Mhor 84 is  modern and stylishly shabby with mismatched metal chairs alongside thin, rustic tables that have been rescued from schools and science labs. There’s even three tartan ducks on the wall! Its far from twee, and it works – mhor than living up to its reputation as being “deliciously subversive!”

"Home from home" comforts at the Golden Larches.

“Home from home” comforts at the Golden Larches.

On return to The Golden Larches my crew reveled in what the “old git” described as “home from home” comforts – and give his exacting standards of what makes home comforts that is praise indeed. And after Alistair’s heroics with the tv set box, my dynamic duo were able to be very decadent and (whisper it) watch Strictly in bed! Then it was time for some zzzzs before an early alarm call to hit the BLiSS trail.

So Sunday dawned and my crew were up before dawn to have a very tasty breakfast, home cooked by Alistair, before I was set up for the day’s tandeming ahead.

Before we headed off I was very honoured to get to meet Kim Proven, the livewire chair of LETi  and owner of luxury self-catering Briar Cottages at nearby Lochearnhead. And she even brought along the Scottish Thistle Award the BLiSS trail won recently as a prop for photos.

Here I am posing along with Kim Proven and the Scottish Thistle tourism award.

Two livewire ladies – me posing with Kim and the BLiSS trail Scottish Thistle tourism award.

Kim uses every opportunity to publicise the area to get people to come and see the natural beauty of the area for themselves. And that’s probably one of the reasons the trail got noticed by the Thistle Award judges in the first place!

Kim scrubbed up well to receive the award from STV's Jennifer Reoch.

The “scrubbed up” version of Kim receiving the ScottishThistle award from STV’s Jennifer Reoch.

As Kim said at the glitzy awards dinner: “LETi has proved that a small group can carry out an effective tourism campaign on a shoestring through local people’s skills, energy and enthusiasm.”

The BLiSS trail is designed to encourage visitors to smile, stop and spend time in the villages – and all the installations are near cafes and restaurants.

Now for those of you who haven’t looked up the dictionary to find out what bravura in my headline for this post means – let me explain. It is used as in “a display of great bravura” which really means a display of great technical skill, brilliance and daring. And this “old lady” thought that it summed up the outdoor cultural BLiSS trail brilliantly!

And naturally Kim agreed! The “old gal” did some filming, so watch this video clip where Kim tells my Matildas Musings blog the background to the bravura BLiSS trail – and watch out for some exciting exclusive advance news of plans to revamp the trail for 2017. (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.)

Because it was only three weeks till Christmas, the “old git” – who is a real Crimbo lover – decided that a few festive shots had to be taken – complete with fetching Santa hats! I must say I thought that Kim really suited the “old gal’s” animal print trimmed one!

The "old git" and Kim from LETi along with "wee Santa" and me!

The “old git” and Kim getting into the Christmas spirit along with “wee Santa” and me!

Kim from LETi, the "old git" and Alistair - mine host at The Golden Larches.

Here I am with Kim from LETi, the “old git” and Alistair – mine host at The Golden Larches.

The “old gal” was being kept busy in her role as my blog photographer and – despite the freezing temperature – there was time for a quick shot with the “old git”Kim and Alistair before we left The Golden Arches, full of praise for our stay.

Now Kim, who is a self-confessed tandem virgin, and who has actually had very little experience of riding a  bike at all – gamely accepted the “old git’s” challenge to take a shot as temporary substitute stoker – while the “old gal” gave up her back seat role (and crash helmet!) to film the attempt.

So can you guess what happens next ….. Did Kim manage to put her faith in the “old git” as Captain and hand over control – or did it end in disaster?!

Click on the video to find out! (And 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.)

So it was a success! Congratulations to Kim! This “old lady” says she was a natural – although the “old git” is telling anyone who will listen (and there are not many!) that he is a good teacher and was very gentle with Kim being a newbie and that he didn’t change my gears and avoided any tight corners! But he is asking why she didn’t take her hand off my handlebars to wave to the camera!

As for Kim, she was delighted with her first ride on a tandem and – believe it or not – wants to have a second go on me! Maybe she and her husband will become tandemers!

Team Matilda bid fond farewell to Kim armed with a detailed map of where to find each art installation and feature along the way. You can check out the details of our scenic route on the BLiSStrail around Balquhidder on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full data and statistics! 

balq-bliss-strava

The Cockerel.

Firstly we headed back about a mile on Sustrans Scotland Route 7 to see The Cockerel – a Sustrans Millennium Mile Marker. Four artists were commissioned by Sustrans to create distinctive mile markers for each part of the UK. Scottish sculptor Ian McColl created Scotland’s design – known as The Cockerel.

We tandemed back on ourselves on the well surfaced and safe off-road cycle path and found what must be one of the most scenic spots for a National Cycle Route identification sign in Scotland. As the “old git” somewhat confusingly said: “It’s so quiet you can almost hear the silence!”

The scenic Sustrans Scotland route marker on National Cycle Route 7.

The scenic Sustrans Scotland route marker on National Cycle Route 7.

We cycled on to the Balquhidder turn off from the A84 where there are two features almost side-by-side. The first is a recently restored cast iron Victorian signpost – with one arm pointing to Rob Roy’s Grave 2 miles away and the other to destinations including Oban.

They don't make them like they used to! The "old gal" and me at the Victorian sign.

They don’t make them like they used to! The “old gal” and me at the Victorian sign.

Opposite the signpost is the iconic red phone box – which still works! It has been used, and photographed, by many a cyclist, walker and visitor to the area.

Who you gonna call? The "old git" holding on the line at the iconic red phone box!

Who you gonna call? The “old git” holding on the line at the iconic red phone box!

On we tandemed towards Balquhidder, but you can’t visit here without stopping at Rob Roy’s Grave for a photo opportunity!  As you enter the village from the east, a spur leads to the village kirkyard. Here you find Balquhidder’s Parish Church, the ruins of the Old Church it replaced, and the grave of Rob Roy MacGregor. Alongside him lie his wife and two of their sons.

The "old git" and me at Rob Roy's Grave in Balquhidder for the obligatory photo.

The “old git” and me at Rob Roy’s Grave in Balquhidder for the obligatory photo.

A few hundred yards of pedalling saw Team Matilda stop by the village hall to take a look at the Grooming Stag made of willow by sculptor June McEwan from nearby Crieff. It is an eye-catching symbol of the hall – a real social hub being the venue for social gatherings and community activities

The "old gal" with the Grooming Stag - a feature at Balquhidder village hall.

The “old gal” with the Grooming Stag – a feature at Balquhidder village hall.

The “old gal” then noticed an additional interesting feature beside the village hall – another of the iconic red phone boxes … but this one has been turned into a book exchange for the local community. What a wonderful idea!

The "old gal" taking time out to flick thru the pages of a book at the book exchange - hope we don't need to put out an SOS!

The “old gal” flicking thru the pages of a book at the exchange – hope we don’t need to put out an SOS!

Our map then took us about half a mile off our main route, along the road to Strathyre, to find one of the most unusual artworks on the trail – the Half Way Totem Pole.

The Half Way Totem Pole serves a local traffic rule.

The Half Way Totem Pole serves as a market for a local traffic rule.

Now it would need to be said that my dynamic crew were looking for a high totem pole and almost missed this feature. But they are glad they didn’t! The mini totem pole has been created by Balquhidder local Edward Chadfield. The unconventional traffic sign serves a purpose on the single track road it sits beside. When meeting a vehicle coming towards you, the local rule is that whoever is furthest from the half way point does the reversing! Fortunately I didn’t have to reverse and my crew had plenty of time to get a good photo.

Selfie time for my dynamic duo looking towards the vista of Loch Voil.

Selfie time for my dynamic duo looking towards the vista of Loch Voil.

The “old git” and the “old gal” took a few moments here to take in the magnificent vista – as they were almost mesmerised by the beauty of the views. As the “old git” said: “This is real brain food!”

The remote beauty of Loch Voil through my handlebars.

The remote beauty of Loch Voil through my handlebars.

We retraced our steps back to the main route – with four miles to go till our lunch break at the end of the loch. This ride was one of the best Team Matilda have had the pleasure of experiencing – gently undulating single track roads with the most wonderful views across Loch Voil. And with hardly a whisper of wind, the loch’s surface was like a mirror, reflecting the surrounding hills. Just magnificent!

The "old gal" and me on the edge of the flat calm and reflective Loch Voil.

The “old gal” and me on the edge of the flat calm and reflective Loch Voil.

We pedalled on looking for more of the art installations. The Look Out, situated just at the end of Loch Voil before the neighbouring Loch Doine, was Team Matilda’s favourite on the BLiSS trail.

The Look Out was my dynamic duo's favourite piece of art on the cultural BLiSStrail.

The Look Out was my dynamic duo’s favourite on the cultural BLiSStrail.

It is essentially a mirrored cube which blends into the surrounding backdrop. In fact it is so well situated that my dynamic crew really had to look to find it in the middle of a field!

The "old gal" in reflective mood at the atmospheric Look Out installation.

The “old gal” in reflective mood at the atmospheric Look Out installation.

The Look Out was created by Daniel Tyler and Angus Richie as part of their final year thesis project while studying for their Masters of Architecture at the University of Strathclyde.

It provides “a place of contemplation framing views of Loch Doine and Loch Voil whilst disappearing into the backdrop of the surrounding glen.” It also provided my crew with the opportunity for a few fun photographs, and I even got in on the act with the mirrors making me even  longer than I actually am!

The "old git" on one of the seats which amplifies distant waterfalls and bird calls.

The “old git” on one of the seats which amplifies distant waterfalls and bird calls.

To infinity and beyond! Clones of the "old gal" and the "old git" in the mirrors!

To infinity and beyond! Clones of the “old gal” and the “old git” in the mirrors!

Here I am longer than ever thanks to the effects of the mirrors at the Look Out!

Here I am longer than ever thanks to the effects of the mirrors at the Look Out!

Team Matilda forced themselves away from the sanctuary of the Look Out and found the next two cultural features within the grounds of the stylish boutique Monachyle Mhor hotel.

The Cave is right at the entrance – made of Oriented Strand Board – a material often used in the construction industry but rarely shown off. A group of MHOR micro project students created a hand sculpted installation which just demands to be explored and photographed inside and out.

the-cave

The Sheiling is also based within the grounds of the hotel and part of the same project as The Cave. It is based on the concept of a traditional Scottish shepherd hut. Slatted wood enables a unique view of the landscape and the ever changing light creates interesting ladder shadows.

The Sheiling is based on a traditional Scottish shepherd hut.

The Sheiling is based on a traditional Scottish shepherd hut.

Perfect for an "old lady" like me - parked at the boutique Monachyle Mhor.

Perfect for an “old lady” like me – parked at the boutique Monachyle Mhor hotel.

After exploring these installations it was time for some much needed sustenance at Monachyle Mhor. As my dynamic crew walked in, one of the staff who had clearly been watching the unusual occurrence of a blogging tandem investigating their art installations, pointed to my fetching red la buclee wine carrier and said: “I like that – very classy!”

Oh I was so pleased, as I do like compliments you know! The “old gal” and the “old git” were welcomed in like old friends and immediately made to feel comfortable despite being kitted out in cycling gear!

They took a seat in the small and cosy snug bar – with its trendy new bar amazingly fitting in to the old fashioned surroundings including an old metal fireplace with a healthy fire glowing away!

Perfect tandemers lunch! Soup, sarnies and prosecco! What could be better?

Perfect tandemers lunch! Soup, sarnies and prosecco! What could be better?

My dynamic duo then enjoyed some most welcome hot soup and sandwiches – along with a reviving glass of prosecco! I mean it would have been rude of them not to!

The “old git” had a bit of a job persuading the “old gal” to done their jackets and go back out into the cold – me thinks she could have easily stayed there all afternoon! In fact she was dragged away saying: “Mhor, mhor mhor!”!

As the temperature started to drop my dynamic crew decided to pick up the pace in a bid to keep warm and tandemed back towards Balquhidder in double quick time. I was most impressed as they still have that fitness built up for our summer trip – and easily nailed some hilly terrain.

But Team Matilda still found time to admire the raw scenic beauty of a very calm Loch Voil as we tandemed along. Despite tandeming at a fair speed the “old gal” managed to film a short video as we pedalled along. Watch out for the bumps! (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.)

 We tandemed through Balquhidder and back up to the junction with the A84 where the “old gal” decided my crew needed to thaw out and have the traditional cyclists treat of coffee and cake at Mhor 84. And that allowed me to be introduced to the Mhor Coo, the last of our features on the BLiSS trail. It seems the popular local coo moooves around (get it?!) at the motel. But I easily found it beside the Christmas tree at the front door!

As the last feature of our BLiSStrail trip I got to meet the Mhor Coo!

As the last feature of our BLiSStrail trip I got to meet the Mhor Coo!

Over a warming coffee, the “old git” and the “old gal” reflected on what a marvellous idea the BLiSS trail is and how it offers the perfect opportunity for some culture and cycling!

No wonder it won the regional Scottish Thistle Award! And of course Team Matilda wishes the LETi team the best of luck in the national finals in March next year.

Before then I am delighted to say that I have already been invited back to complete the third and final leg of the BLiSStrail – this time around Strathyre. The plan is to do that in January or February. I for one can’t wait and I know my dynamic crew are looking forward to it too!

As dusk fell, and the temperature fell well below zero, the “old git” suggested one final photo – a festive shot with my Christmas lights lit up and my crew donning Santa hats! Then it was a rapid last mile back to the warmth of Matilda Transport and back to Matilda’s Rest.

All in all it certainly had been a BLiSSful and brilliant bravura in Balquhidder!

Ho! ho! ho! The "old git" and "old gal" decided to don Santa hats for the last photo of the trip.

The “old git” and “old gal” decided to don Santa hats for the last photo of the trip.

Thanks to all at LETi for their help, bed and breakfast and sustenance offered to allow Team Matilda to complete their tour of the Balquhidder leg of the BLiSS trail.

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