“But I would tandem 3000 miles
And I would tandem 3000 more!”
Well not quite the lyrics of the chorus of the famous “I’m Gonna be (500 miles) anthem by Scots band The Proclaimers! But you get the idea!
The reason behind the slightly unusual introduction to this blog is that it marks a celebration ride for my dynamic crew as they clock up their 3000th mile on my saddles.
It was an early start on Sunday morning as Team Matilda had decided to head “overseas” to one of their favourite tandeming spots to hit their major landmark – the island of Millport. As regular visitors to the island, and big fans of its charm, the “old git” and the “old gal” decided their beloved “Costa del Millport” would be the ideal destination for their celebrations. The island – officially known as The Isle of Cumbrae – is a cyclists paradise offering a gently undulating 10 mile loop on almost traffic free roads never more than a few yards from the sea.
After a fairly 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 – and your worries – behind.
With the sun out the ferry was busy and it was good to see quite a few other bikes on the crossing – even if there were no other tandems. Despite the sun it was obvious from the choppy water that this was going to be a fairly blustery tandeming day by the seaside!
As we disembarked the ferry the milometer was reading 2980 – so 20 miles to tandem till the big celebrations! We headed clockwise for a gentle 4 mile tandem into the town of Millport – and that is when we encountered our first blast of headwind. So much for the balmy conditions which had been forecast! Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.
On reaching Millport town, the “old gal” decided a coffee stop was a must and my dynamic crew called in to 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 Italian pastry to accompany it!
Crocodeli had an interesting couple of posters in the window – one which was obviously designed for the “old gal’s” love of coffee … while the other seemed to suggest that the much maligned “old git” – aka real name Colin – had been providing the “live entertainment” in one of the local bars two nights before! Me and the “old gal” had a good laugh at that prospect!
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 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 less than 45 minutes. Not bad for a warm-up given the blustery conditions!
After a quick break it was time to start our second circuit – and this would be the one that would see my dynamic crew clock up tandem mile number 3000! Anti clockwise this time and as we pedalled out of town the beach at Kames Bay looked stunning in the sunshine with the island more than living up to its “Costa del Millport” nickname.
As we pedalled on up past the ferry slipway the “old git” started the countdown to the big moment. “Two thousand nine hundred and ninety nine point one … point two …” Then to much parping of my French horn and hooting from my dynamic crew the magic 3000 appeared on my milometer!
Who would have thunk it eh? I know it is a fairly small distance in the grand scheme of things but for my dynamic crew it is quite an achievement. And if someone had suggested when the “old git” and “old gal” first climbed on to my saddles that we would tandem 3000 miles together – they would have been laughed at. But they have achieved it – and for that this “old lady” classic Jack Taylor tandem is rightly proud! And they tell me there are many more miles – and of course the related smiles – to come!
The “old git” pulled in to a viewpoint at the memorial at Tomont End to take in the magnitude of the moment! Well actually it was to allow him to grab a passing cyclist – bemused by all the fuss – to take a photo of my dynamic crew’s big moment!
We tandemed on for another couple of miles till we arrived at our private picnic table – a perfect setting for a prosecco celebration toast to Team Matildas clocking up their 3000th #tandem mile together. Just as well I was faithfully carrying a bottle in my stylish la bouclee wine carrier!
Firstly there were the official “3000 mile” photos of the “old gal” and “the old git” grinning with euphoria as they looked at my milometer after reaching such a landmark achievement.
Then to delay the toast even further the “old git” decided we needed a stylish shot of the picnic table – just to set the scene! I must say with all this faffing about I thought the “old gal” – who was by now in need of some prosecco re-hydration therapy – was going to hit him over the head with the bottle!
Finally the “old git” popped the cork – and the opportunity for my dynamic crew to enjoy a quick quaff (or three!) of the fizz! But naturally the “old git” wasn’t finished yet with the media tasks and decided we need a video to record the 3000 mile toast for posterity! Watch as my Captain waffles on about the achievement – only for the “old gal” taking great delight in pointing out that he doesn’t have the milometer switched on when showing it to the camera!
Our idyllic quiet picnic table had stunning views over the white sand and across to Rothesay. The food which emerged from the ‘bicycle rider’s luncheon box’ was delicious smoked salmon and spinach wraps followed by fruit salad. Oh, did I happen to mention the prosecco to wash it all down?! Oh I did, sorry! But quite simply picnics don’t come much better than this!
After a walk on the beach my dynamic crew got back on my saddles to complete the anti clockwise lap with the promise of a coffee and cake stop at another favourite stop – the ultra friendly Dancing Midge Cafe. There my crew enjoyed some freshly brewed coffee and yummy carrot cake – de rigueur for tandemers. The welcoming coffee shop has a wonderful view looking out on to the colourful promenade – looking quite tropical with its palm trees – and the sea beyond.
Before our planned final speed lap my dynamic crew decided to have a look at the pier area in the town which is currently subject to a high profile community fight to Save Millport Pier. Regular readers of my blog will remember that on a visit last September Team Matilda joined the campaign to save the facility. The campaign is drawing 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.
Neglected since 2014 the pier is now out of bounds for safety reasons. And that means there is currently nowhere in Millport to safely tie up a boat – with the ferry slipway only usable by by roll on/ roll off ferries. As an island community, campaigners are battling to show the economy and resilience of the island is being compromised – and persuade North Ayrshire Council to repair the pier. Let’s hope the campaign has some good news to report soon.
Meanwhile on the pier head the “old git” found evidence that the island was living up to one of its advertising slogans: “Millport – in a world of its own!” All the clock faces at the weigh bridge were showing different times! But then the good thing is that noone seemed remotely bothered!
So the carrot cake was to provide the fuel for the planned ‘finish with a flourish’ – where Team Matilda’s last complete lap would be an attempt on our own Tour de Millport record time for going round the island of 38 minutes dead. But although this was a record breaking day in achieving the 3000th tandem mile landmark, it would need to be said that Team Matilda were not hopeful of hitting another record given the wind conditions encountered on the two laps earlier in the day.
But my dynamic crew gamely decided to give it a go. With the changeable conditions there was 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! Finally the “old gal” decided on clockwise! And to emphasise the serious nature of this new personal best attempt – she even removed her cycling jacket!
We set off from the Royal George Hotel at the pier and I was uber-impressed as we fair whizzed along with the “old git” keeping me in high gears most of the time. The tail wind certainly helped progress for the first half of the island, and the record attempt was certainly on track.
But then approaching the top end of the island we hit the wind – quite literally! The second half was a bit of a struggle against firstly a fierce crosswind, then head on! My dynamic crew bravely battled on … but the clock was ticking down into the red as we pedalled back into the town.
Crossing the finishing line back at the Royal George the clock said 42 minutes 39 seconds – which meant an average speed of 14.1 mph. This was well over 4 minutes behind our previous best – but blame the wind as on the day we set the personal best, conditions were much calmer and the average achieved that day was 15.8 mph. Still, it was a respectable time so the “old git” and “old gal” were pleased despite not making it a double record breaking day.
After a much needed refreshment my dynamic crew headed to the Harbour Restaurant for a meal. Fans of Matildas Musings 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! 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 amazingly – and quite surprisingly – the wind which had been blowing all day had disappeared which resulted in Team Matilda recording their fastest times of the day on the ride to catch the ferry!
On the short crossing back to the mainland the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 12 gongs – 2 personal bests; 4 second bests; and 6 third bests. Given the changeable wind conditions my dynamic crew were pretty pleased with that outcome!
The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 38.9 miles with a moving time of 3 hours 03 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.7 mph (given the wind!) while the elevation was 1044 feet. The maximum speed was 20.8 mph – due to no steep downhill stretches – and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1887 calories and produce an average power output of 153 W.
Back in Largs a quick pedal of a few hundred yards from the ferry terminal 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 (albeit with a bit of wind!) and great tandeming!
Which left my dynamic crew pondering that there can’t be many better ways and places to chalk up their 3000th tandem mile landmark.
Roll on the 4000th mile – and smile – celebrations is what I say!