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

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

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

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

The 2017 tour logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Pedal”!!!

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Supporting Save Millport Pier campaign on Euro tour training ride

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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