A coffee table book of my Musings and lots of tandeming Christmas gifts!

My new Matildas Musings blog book outlines my latest European tandeming adventures!

Excitement reached fever pitch at Matilda’s Rest on Monday 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 or two 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 he 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 tandeming  tour adventures across Europe during September into a beautiful hard-back coffee-table style book.

My Musings of our European trip turned into a glossy 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 on-line 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 champagnes!

And as a special festive season 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 France et Holland du Tandem

I do hope you enjoy re-reading it all again, as much as me and the “old gal” did!

A bundle of tandeming presents from my good friends John and Jane.

So then it was time to open my presents, and the “old git” and the “old gal” made sure Santa delivered a bundle of presents from my dynamic crew’s tandeming friends – and fellow self-proclaimed founding members of The Nutty Tandemers Club – John and Jane who have their own Travelling in Tandem blog! They have a stable of no less than three tandems – Siggy, Henry and their original Bluebird.

The presents included a fabulous cushion cover which captures the good life my dynamic crew enjoy en France! Perfect! There was also a lovely Matilda sign – ideal for the garage door at Matildas Rest!

The garage at Matildas Rest now proudly bears my nameplate!

The “old git” said that I must have been a “very good girl” as I am reliably informed that only “good girls” get presents from Santa! And there was more in the present from John and Jane! My handlebars now bear a pretty mini vase – especially for bikes!

Tulips from Amsterdam! My new handlebar vase proudly in place!

Regular readers of my blog will remember that Team Matilda enjoyed magnificent hospitality from team Bluebird during Le Tour de New Forest back in July, which followed an equally memorable Le Tour de Perthshire the year before.

So naturally my dynamic crew 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 the New Forest.

Calendar time – our European Tour on the left and Le Tour de New Forest on the right.

Now these two tours have been such a success that Team Bluebird and Team Matilda are already planning a joint Le tour de Hebridean Way in June 2018. This will be an attempt at completing the Hebridean Way  – a simple matter of 185 mile tandem across 10 islands of the Outer Hebrides. I may need some lucky white heather in my new handlebar vase for this trip!

John and Jane are riding Siggy the tandem on this trip – and it looks like the Outer Hebrides won’t ever have seen anything like the two tandems as we will both be carrying that highly sophisticated must-have accessory for tandems – eye-catching and very French La Bouclée wine carriers.

You see my dynamic crew have long been extolling the virtues of  La Bouclée to Team Bluebird – as Scottish ambassadors for the product no less! So they decided that it would make an ideal Christmas present for John and Jane – complete with a bottle of champagne specially selected and brought back from our tour of the Champagne area!

Henry the tandem sporting his new la bouclee wine carrier!

John and Jane were so impressed with the product that they immediately attached it to Henry (Siggy was too dirty it seems!) – well they did after watching the Youtube video how to do it! It’s only easy when you know how!

There were lots of other presents to open with a special one for me from the “old gal”! It was a replacement gel saddle cover for my front saddle as the “old git” had worn thru the previous one!

My new gel saddle cover – a replacement for the “old git” to sit on as Captain!

My dynamic crew even bought each other tandem t-shirts! The “old gal’s” had the wording: “It takes two to tandem” on it while the “old git’s” said: “Complete Tandemonium” They will certainly catch the eye on future trips!

My dynamic crew happily wearing their new tandeming t-shirts!

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.” He was delighted to receive tandem cuff links … but not just any tandem cuff links – specially commissioned hand-made silver cuff links … the only ones in existence!

The “old git’s” very exclusive specially commissioned hand-made silver tandem cuff links!

Another present for the “old git” which he loved were a new pair of trainers to match the “old gal’s”! He had secretly coveted her day-glo orange trainers ever since she bought a new pair for our European tour. And when he delved into his stocking a pair was there for him!

So now my dynamic crew will not only be matching but totally unmissable! I guess he must have been a good Captain throughout the year then!

The “old git” got a pair of day-glo orange trainers to be a match with the “old gal”!

Last but not least was some wonderful soft bamboo silk socks from seriouslysillysocks – complete with bicycle patterns.

Great soft bamboo silk socks with cycling patterns.

Matildas Musings Strava

As the year comes to a close my dynamic Matildas Musings crew have had a great time during 2017 in #tandem! Our Strava app recorded every one of our 43 tandem adventures during the year – which incredibly saw us clock up approaching 1,000 miles.

The nice people at Strava have compiled a little video which pulls together all our statistics which is fun to view. Just click on any on the images below to watch – it only takes 60 seconds!

The blog is great fun to write – and I am delighted to report that over the year that according to host WordPress, my Matildas Musings blog has published 35 new posts which has attracted nearly 5,000 views from nearly 60 different countries around the globe.

The most popular countries are the UK, followed by France then the USA. But my worldwide appeal sees my blogs being red as far afield as the Philippines, Mexico, United Arab Emirates and Indonesia.

So, to everyone who has read a blog post – a huge thank you!

And thanks for all your messages of support – whether that be a comment on my blog, or on my Matildas Musings FacebookTwitter or Youtube feeds. If you want to follow me on social media hit any of the images below to access my pages, and then hit follow or subscribe.

Matildas Musings Facebook feed

Matildas Musings Twitter feed

Matildas Musings Youtube feed

Team Matildas Musings sincerely hope you continue to find the adventures of the UK’s only blogging tandem entertaining – and that it makes you smile – while finding something that you (as non-professional non-lycra-clad fun-loving fellow tandemers) can relate to!

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 Matildas Musings – let me be one of the first to wish you all the best for 2018 … and many happy tandeming miles together for you and your team!

Here’s to more adventures in 2018 for Team Matildas Musings as “it’s always better when we’re tandeming together!”

Cheers!

Here I am at Matildas Rest waiting on the weather to improve to get put on some 2018 adventures!

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

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 wine this “old lady” decided it was time to wish readers of my Matildas Musings blog, 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 festive spirit (and wine!) while trying to exert a calming influence!

However my dynamic crew are hoping to squeeze in at least one ride over the festive period – including a potential “blow away the cobwebs” tandem trip to welcome in the New Year in the first couple of days of 2018. So stay tuned for that! Weather and temperature permitting of course as I have to protect my extremities!

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

And thanks for all your messages of support – whether that be a comment on my blog, or on my Matildas Musings Facebook, Twitter or Youtube feeds.

Team Matilda sincerely hope you continue to find the adventures of the UK’s only blogging tandem entertaining – and that it makes you smile – while finding something that you (as non-professional non-lycra-clad fun-loving fellow tandemers) can relate to!

With a bit of luck – and no major mechanicals concerning my ageing frame or the fitness of my dynamic crew – there will be many more rides and Musings during 2018.

This hopefully will include the build-up to – and the day-to-day reports of – an attempt on the Hebridean Way in June – a 185 mile tandem across 10 islands of the Outer Hebrides. The trip is planned to be a joint Le Tour de Hebridean way with fellow self-proclaimed founding members of The Nutty Tandemers Club – John and Jane of  who have their own Travelling in Tandem blog! So special festive greetings to them and thanks again for their magnificent hospitality during the Le Tour de New Forest back in July.

For anyone wondering, the Christmas card front image at the top of this blog post is a snow-sprinkled image of me and my dynamic duo from our Team Tandem Ecosse 2017 Le Tour de France et Holland du Tandem – which included some memorable tandeming along the dykes of Holland and the Alsace vineyards and canals, as well as some unforgettable climbing in the mountains of the Champagne region of France.

As a Christmas treat here’s another chance to see Team Matilda’s musical montage of images from that great tandem trip – split into three parts. Just click on any on the images below to watch.

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 Matilda, Colin and Diane!

Ho! ho! ho!

Matildas carol singing reprise – in dulci jubilo 2

Tra la la! All together now! Make sure the carol singing is in #tandem!

Away on a tandem 
To Tullibardine
To sing carols for Christmas
On a cold winter’s day …. !!! 

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 be 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.

In a reprise of last 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! And I even had the extra addition this year of sporting a pair of Rudolph reindeer antlers and a very fetching flashing red nose!

Spot my eye-catching Rudolph reindeer antlers and flashing red nose!

Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your point of view!) the weather was quite mild so there was much excitement when we woke to get ready for our trip. And to add to the anticipation, this was going to be just the second time ever 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!

Ready to roll! My dynamic crew in full Christmas jumper and Santa cycling hats gear!

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! They particularly liked my Rudolph adornments!

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.

Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

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 (or so they claim!) … 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 our very own song, dubbed Away on a Tandem, which was a stunning rearrangement of that famous carol Away in a Manger!

Not surprisingly this ensured Team Christmas Matilda got noticed!  The “old git” and the “old gal” definitely 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:

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.

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.

My dynamic crew had a brief warm-up of their vocal chords before the service!

Just before the carol service proper started my dynamic duo warmed up their voices with a few verses outside, admired by one of the organisers Allan Perera – a well known local artist and member of the Our Lady of the Perpetual Succour host church – who on his guitar who led the musical accompaniment and the choir. Alan’s wife Sheila led the service itself.

The choir and musical accompaniment which led the carol singing.

So after the practise – and attracting lots of attention from people arriving and lots of “there’s a double bike” comments – 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, festive songs and readings. And encouragingly, it was busy – with a good crowd in the chapel.

It was a real Christmassy atmosphere singng carols by torchlight!

The “old gal” and the old git” enjoying the carols at Tullibardine 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 warm up! My crew tandemed at a rate that Strava later confirmed was their 3rd fastest time on the tough Easthill hill climb section back towards Auchterarder!

The Carols by #tandem trip was a great way of getting Team Matilda into the festive spirit!

A rapid pedal then took us downhill and  we were back at Matilda’s Rest with my dynamic crew immediately having  a warming espresso to heat them up – accompanied by some very tasty sloe gin mince tarts.

Warm coffee and yummy sloe gin mice tarts helped my dynamic crew thaw out!

While thawing the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of 2 gongs … a 2nd bests and a 3rd best.

My dynamic crew tandemed a distance of just 6.2 miles with a moving time of 51.2 minutes – but as always it is the Smiles not the miles that count. Average speed was 7.3 mph and the elevation was 340 feet. The maximum speed was 21.9 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 444 calories and produce an average power output of 129 W. As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

All three of us on Team Christmas Matilda had fun – and felt it was a great way to get into the festive spirit! Talking of which I have just heard  a shout of “Where’s my Christmas gin spirit” from the “old gal” from her bath!

Look out for my Matildas Musings “Merry Christmas” blog post just before the big day! In the meantime I need to go and wrap a few presents and write my final cards! Oh and pour that gin!…

Back at Matildas Rest and a chance to show off my Christmas lights!

Chilly canter to Carnoustie and Christmas lights celebrations with Craig and Gillian

Solo cyclists Gillian and Craig joined my dynamic duo for the ride across the Tay to Carnoustie.

The “old git” and the “old gal” had invited good solo cycling friends Gillian and Craig to Matildas Rest for a weekend of fun! The plan was to head into Perth on the Saturday for Scotland’s biggest Christmas lights switch-on party before heading for a meal, back home for some zzzzs, then a planned gentle ride to blow away the cobwebs on the Sunday.

And it all worked a treat! I was left behind to entertain the two shiny sleek sporty lightweight racing bikes belonging to our visitors, while the cycling crews headed by bus into Perth city centre.

The cyclists all enjoying themselves watching acts like Alesha Dixon at the Perth Christmas Lights concert.

And the city certainly lived up to its billing as “Scotland’s Christmas capital” as it hosted a massive party, with an estimated 100,000 revellers flocking into the festivities.

Before the big light switch on and fireworks there was the small matter of visiting a gin and chocolate festival on the High Street. Now as you may now my dynamic crew have a bit of a thing for Scottish artisan gins – and Gillian and Craig have a bit of history in this area too – so it was a perfect match! The crew’s eagerly sampled and compared quite a few of the brands on display! It seems that one of the best was a brand new gin from Twin River Distillery based in Banchory, near where the “old gal” was brought up. The Twin Rivers refers to the Dee and the Don and the distillery is one of only three in Scotland to make its own grain neutral spirit, the base for craft spirits, to ensure a completely authentic gin offering. Result – bottle purchased for the gin cupboard at Matildas Rest!

Boyslife blasted out the hits from Boyzone and Westlife.

East 17 sang their 1994 Christmas hit Stay Another Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apart from the gin and chocolate stalls, the city was packed with fairground rides, ice sculptures,  food stalls and street performers. After squeezing our way past all that entertainment the cycling crews made their way to the main stage on Tay Street where an outdoor concert was a major feature to the switch-on celebrations with Mud, Boyzlife  and East 17 providing the musical entertainment.

Alesha Dixon was the headline act – and did not disappoint.

Topping the bill was singer Alesha Dixon, best known for Strictly Come Dancing and her role as judge on Britain’s Got Talent. She vowed the crowds with an entertaining set. Congratulations should go to Perth and Kinross Council and Perth City Centre for putting on such a fantastic and well organised day.

As the temperature dropped my dynamic crew and their friends retired to enjoy a Spanish tapas themed meal at Sante – where I am told the paella was fabulous! After a late night bus trip back to Matildas Rest – everyone was soon asleep dreaming of our pedal the next day!

Beautiful sunny skies met the “old gal” and the “old git” as they got ready to roll!

The bike crews may have been hoping for a long lie but the “old git” had everyone up sharpish – while the “old gal” offered a hearty breakfast for fuel. Fortunately the weather forecast had come up trump with the promised dry sunny day, so it was off in Matilda Transport to the Tay Bridge car park. The route was going to be one of my favourites – a near 13 mile ride across the bridge and onto Sustrans Scotland NCR1 to Carnoustie.

Craig and Gillian took a selfie which was photobombed by my dynamic crew!

As the crews unpacked in the car park opposite Dundee the view across the Tay was clear blue skies which offered the perfect backdrop for the inevitable series of selfie photos – including one where Craig and Gillian were effectively photobombed by my dynamic crew! And then we were ready to roll!

Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

The first part of the trip was crossing the Tay Bridge – which carries the A92 across the Firth of Tay, and is one of the longest road bridges in Europe. Opened in 1966, it celebrated its 50th anniversary last year – making it nearly as old as me, but not quite! Intriguingly the cycle path on the bridge sits in in the middle of the two carriageways for cars, unlike most bridges where the path runs at the side of the bridge. This was a bit odd to begin, creating a feeling of being boxed in and it was slightly disconcerting having the cars driving past at such speed and in close proximity – albeit behind crash barriers.

But it did actually feel very safe and we soon got into our stride and as you will see from this Strava segment called “Hop the Tay” my crew worked up a good speed, averaging 15.3 mph over the 1.3 mile stretch with a time of 5 mins 16 secs – smashing their own previous record of 6 mins 30 secs.

Amazingly the segment also shows up any friends who have done the same route and the “old git” was surprised to see good tandem friends John and Jane – of Travelling in Tandem blog fame – pop up. They recorded a (slower!) time of 6 mins and 02 seconds when they crossed the Tay Bridge in the same direction back in September 2015 during one of their long distance rides from John O Groats.

The new V & A is designed to look like a ship on the Dundee waterfront. Credit V&A

As we got to the end of the bridge my dynamic crew got a great view of the huge new V&A Museum of Design Dundee which is taking shape as it emerges from the construction site – with the building designed to look like ships. When it opens in 2018 it will be an international centre of design for Scotland – the first ever design museum to be built in the UK outside London.

Off the bridge and we followed the well signposted NCR1 through the Dundee port area. It really is a great cycle path, and very flat, which made the “old gal” smile! And because it is a dedicated path – away from roads – it is very popular with cyclists and dog walkers, which makes for lots of sociable greetings along the way! As we tandemed round the bay the charming old fishing town of Broughty Ferry came in to view and with little effort we cycled past the castle and continued along a stretch which hugged the Blue Flag beach.

With the sun out, it was a joy to be tandeming in such a lovely area on such a beautiful day. The route continues to Monifieth where a new stretch of path heads over Barry Links, past a very large Ministry of Defence area on the right known as the Barry Buddon Training Centre. This has high security fencing along its perimeter and rather ominously every 100 yards or so there are warnings signs telling you to keep out as this is a live military firing area!

The spot selected for the picnic was right at the beach and had a wonderful view across the bay.

Not surprisingly the “old gal” ordered the “old git” to pay heed to the signs and not to veer off course! Pedalling along on the NCR1 we soon came to our picnic destination of Carnoustie – home to the famous championship golf course which was looking at its spectacular best in the sunshine – with lots of golfers out on its links.

Along with Gillian and Craig – who had enjoyed their first time on the route – we selected a brilliant location for our picnic right at the seafront with a fabulous view across the bay. There were some steps at a slipway which providing an interesting photo opportunity for my dynamic crew, with big waves crashing in behind them!

There were some steps at a slipway which provided an interesting backdrop of big waves!

Gillian took a picture of Craig taking a photo of my dynamic crew trying not to get wet!

Naturally Craig and Gillian had to have a shot at beating the waves on the steps – although they looked a bit less comfortable on the “old git’s” shout of “It’s behind you!” as one massive wave crashed in and crept up the steps! I guess it must be his sense of humour!

It’s behind you! Gillian and Craig looking a little unsure as the waves rush in!

After playing dodge the waves my crew were ready for their picnic which today offered a menu of smoked salmon croissants with chilly cream cheese and some fresh seasonal fruit. Another wonderful picnic with another wonderful vista.

Gillian and Craig checking their performance on their phones after the picnic!

The “old gal” fortified by her picnic ready for the return trip back to the Tay Bridge.

Fortified by their picnic lunch it was time to head back on the return trip 13 mile trip back to the Tay Bridge so we would all be back before it started to get dark. As the sun began to drop in the sky so did the temperature – and a check later revealed that the promised 6C was hit … but it masked a “feels like” temperature of minus 1! So it was starting to get a bit chilly around my spokes – and Craig’s legs as he bravely (or perhaps foolhardily!) opted to wear shorts!

Here I am showing off my classic lines basking against the sea vista at Carnoustie.

Half way back the “old gal” – who was starting to get a bit chilly called a coffee break and we had a warming reviving coffee in the welcoming Glass Pavillion in Broughty Ferry. At this point Gillian and Craig bid my dynamic crew farewell as they could cycle faster on their solo bikes.

After tandeming back thru the dockyard, it was time for the return crossing across the Tay Bridge – but firstly we encountered the rather unusual way of accessing the bridge and staying on NCR1 – a lift! But fortunately it is very easy to use. I was thinking that I would have to be lifted unceremoniously into the lift at an awkward angle as there would probably be only room lengthwise for single bikes – but I am delighted to report I could simply be pushed in.

Going up! Unusual way of accessing the Tay Bridge on NCR1 – but happily it was a long lift!

The “old git” was waffling on about breaking another record on the way back across the bridge – but the “old gal” was quick to point out that it was in fact an uphill pedal on the return trip! The “old git” scoffed, but quickly discovered the truth as they pedalled off and were suddenly hit by a head wind!

What should have been a quick cycle back across the bridge turned into a bit of a grind – with Strava showing that the return trip – dubbed The Killer Tay Bridge – took nearly four minutes longer than earlier in the day with a time of 8 minutes 58 seconds with the average speed dropping to 9.1 mph.

A great sunny – if chilly – day for a tandem ride, especially when the sun started to go down.

I was packed back into Matilda Transport and back home in the warmth of Matildas Rest my dynamic crew checked out Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 26 gongs … 18 personal bests … five 2nd bests … and three 3rd bests.

My dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 25.5 miles with a moving time of 2 hours 34 minutes. Average speed was 9.9 mph and the elevation was a fairly flat 505  feet. The maximum speed was 18.3 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1110 calories and produce an average power output of 108 W. As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

So a great sunny – if chilly – day for a tandem ride – made all the better by cycling with good friends. A grand day out really for Matildas Musings!

Hurricane Gert ride around Loch Leven and burger at Larder

The “old gal” and the “old git” at the viewpoint at Loch Leven … with a special guest!

*WARNING* this blog contains images of a red poncho which some readers may find alarming!

So with the weekend approaching the “old git” – ever the romantic – asked the “old gal” if she fancied going out for something to eat on Saturday evening. He explained that he had heard that there was a summer weekends pop up burger bar at Loch Leven’s Larder – a recommended foodie farm shop-cafe just a few hundred yards from the banks of Loch Leven.

But there’s no flies on the “old gal” – that should be there are no midges on her! – and she got it right away … she was going to have to earn her burger with a 13 mile tandem ride round the loch first!

But gamely she immediately agreed! And that’s why at about 5pm we were cycling away from the car park – right into the full force of the entrails of Hurricane Gert! Let’s just say there was a bit of head wind to start until we got into our stride – or before synchronicity kicked in!

Fortunately the route is relatively flat. Built at a cost of £3 million – it is known as the Loch Leven Heritage Trail – linking 30 natural and cultural heritage sites. You can check out the route of our tour of Loch Katrine on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full date and statistics!

We set off on a clockwise loop and it wasn’t long before my crew encountered the dreaded midges. On a stretch along some stagnant water there were thick swarms of midges everywhere. The “old git” was literally coated in the nasty little blighters as he took the full blast as my Captain! He was muttering something about it was due to the fact that we were going so fast that there were so many on his body! We didn’t believe him of course, but the “old gal” helpfully took a picture of his forehead to show how many midges were about! (after removing his crash helmet, of course!)

Midges everywhere! Fortunately the Smidge worked wonders and meant they didn’t bite!

Fortunately my crew had taken the precaution of spraying themselves from head to foot with Smidge – a highly effective repellent that they knew from previous experiences works a treat in throwing the midges off your scent and stops them biting.

My crew were picking up speed – perhaps to try and leave the midges behind – and we soon we tandemed past the interesting RSPB Loch Leven Nature Reserve at Vane Farm before pedalling up the only real inclines to the viewpoint area battling more strong Hurricane Gert headwinds!

My dynamic crew against a backdrop of blue skies at the viewpoint overlooking scenic Loch Leven.

At the viewpoint the “old git” whipped out his portable extendable tripod and bluetooth camera clicker which allows him to take pictures of both of my dynamic crew together and took  a few arty shots to show the blue sky overlooking the fantastic vista of the loch.

Now today’s trip brought back memories of exactly a year ago when Team Matilda hosted John and Jane of  Team Bluebird to our area for a memorable week long Tour de Perthshire – which included a somewhat wet loop of Loch Leven. As the heavens opened Jane donned some “high fashion” waterproof protection – forever to be known now as “the fetching red poncho!”

Flashback to a year ago – Jane with the fetching red poncho!

So as a friendly wheeze the “old git” decided that Jane would be introduced into our ride as a special guest – courtesy of a large photo of her wearing said fetching red poncho! It was actually a bit windy and the flimsy paper print kept flapping about in the (hurricane force) winds! But my dynamic crew persevered to get the shot … just to show the three of us were thinking of Jane! Oh how we laughed!

The “old gal” saying ‘wish you were here’ to Jane in honour of the red poncho!

The “old gal” had to dissuade the “old git” from attaching the photo of Jane in a plastic wallet to the big round rock at the viewpoint and adding her email in case anyone wanted to buy a similar fashion statement! And after many smiles at the gentle ribbing, and at great memories of tandeming with wonderful friends John and Jane, we pedalled on.

The strong wind was behind us for a bit which offered some relief – but then, as always happens, it turned in direction and blasted us as a viscous side wind. Any as you know, I am a long vehicle so when the wind catches me it can be mildly scary for keeping our balance!

We negotiated a trip off the path through the car park at Kinross Pier, and a wooden boardwalk section, before rejoining the path just in time for a great view of Loch Leven castle  in the middle of the loch – which was the setting for the most traumatic year in the life of Mary Queen of Scots. It was here in 1567 that she was imprisoned and forced to abdicate before her dramatic escape a year later.

The last section took my dynamic crew back into the forest for a final coating of midges before we sped back to Matilda Transport and the end of our loop.  Feeling healthy after the ride – and wiping off  what seemed like hundreds of dead midges – my crew then retired to the sanctuary of Loch Leven’s Larder  and the pop up burger bar to enjoy some decadent pleasures.

Time for a well earned burger and a wee glass of prosecco – in tandem naturally!

While looking over the burger menu there was time to check out Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 9 gongs – 6 personal bests and 3 seconds. Me and my crew had tandemed a distance of 13 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 17 minutes. The elevation was a minimal 252  feet which allowed a healthy average speed of 10.1 mph. The recorded top speed was 38.9 mph but that had to be a Strava glitch  – which makes a change from an ‘operator error!’ – as the old fashioned handlebar speedo recorded a much more realistic top speed of 17.8 mph.  Team Matilda managed to burn up 629 calories and produce an average power output of 121 W.

Cheers! Time for a wee cheeky alfresco prosecco on the decking awaiting the burgers!

Certainly something worth to toast there with the obligatory prosecco – as if my crew needed any excuse! The “old gal” ordered a sharing platter which consisted of a yummy selection of perfectly barbecued burgers – beef, salmon, chicken and portobello mushroom with a giant frankfurter thrown in for good measure.  It was all served with bowls of healthy fresh crunchy salads and tasty dressings and it really hit the spot.

Restaurant with a view! My crew’s table overlooked the nature reserve at Loch Leven.

My crew were really lucky with the weather as the hurricane winds had all but disappeared and the sun was out! It really made it an idyllic spot – with the restaurant decking overlooking the nature reserve at Loch Leven. The “old git” lost count of the number of flights of geese he saw taking off – flying in perfect v formation over the water!

We were lucky with the weather – but clearly it isn’t always sunny!

As I say, my crew were lucky – but clearly the weather isn’t always wonderful however … if the cheeky sign above the exit to the outdoor area is anything to go by … with the wording: Sorry but sometimes the weather here is pants” … written on large pairs of bloomers!

After the burgers there was just enough room it seems for the “old gal” and the “old git” to squeeze in a slice of caramel shortcake with a strong coffee before heading home exercised, fed and watered! Another great #tandem ride to show the amazing scenery of the Perth & Kinross Countryside TrustPerth & Kinross Council and Perth City Centre area! #perthistheplace for cycling!

As always the Strava statistics and our route are brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below. (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 back at Matildas Rest and I was unpacked into my garage, with my dynamic crew reflecting on yet another memorable ride full of laughs – emphasising that its the Smiles not the miles that count. What better way is there to spend a Saturday evening?!

All Shook Up after Elvis party on wilderness ride at Loch Rannoch

“Its Now or Never”! Time for prosecco picnic at Loch Rannoch after Elvis party.

So you know how it is when the “old git” gets an idea into his head! Sometimes – did I hear the “old gal” say ‘often’ there! – they seem a bit madcap … but more often than not it would need to be admitted that they turn out to be great days out. Yes sometimes they can go spectacularly awry and today’s plan certainly had that potential – but fortunately it fell into the spectacularly good category.

You see my dynamic crew were invited to a birthday party for the Dad of a friend of the “old gal’s” on the Saturday night in our home town of Auchterarder. And it wasn’t just any birthday party – it was a 60th party with an Elvis theme … with compulsory dressing up in Elvis-era gear as the birthday boy was a huge fan of the King of Rock and Roll. And so bedecked in their teddy boy outfit and rockabilly dress my crew had great fun as they partied the night away till 11.30pm.

Which is all fine and dandy except the “old git” had decided that the next day Team Matilda would head off to one of our favourite wilderness spots of Loch Rannoch in Highland Perthshire!  And that’s why at 7am the morning after the night before the alarm wakened my crew. A couple of hours later and we were driving up the A9 turning off just after Pitlochry for Tummel Bridge. Amazingly, 75 miles away from base, we were parked up and ready to ride by 11.30am.

What a difference twelve hours can make!

Cool Cats! My crew at Elvis party at 11.30pm on Saturday in Auchterarder.

Tandeming Cats! My crew at 11.30am on Sunday ready to roll (without the rock!) on the banks of scenic Loch Rannoch nearly 75 miles away from Auchterrader. What a difference 12 hours can make! Sunglasses required but not for sore heads!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now sunglasses were required as we set off – but not for reasons of sore heads, but because the sun was shining brightly! Now despite giving the appearance of being bright eyed and bushy tailed it was evident that my crew – or at least the “old git” – did still feel a bit ‘All Shook Up’ as there was an ‘operator error’ with Strava at the first photo stop! Read on for more details!

The “old gal” had suggested we go anti-clockwise round the loch for the first time. Every previous visit had seen us stick to a clockwise rotation of the loch – but the “old gal” is a bit of a rebel and likes a change to freshen things up now and then, so the decision was made. You can check out the details of our route on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to be transferred to Strava to get the full data and statistics!  Oh and apologies in advance for the “operator error” which results in us appearing to tandem on water up the loch! Read on to discover whose fault that was!

The Loch Rannoch folly.

The anti-clockwise circuit started with a nice descent from our parking spot, turning right before crossing the bridge over the River Gaur followed by a steady steep uphill climb for about half a mile. It certainly raised the body temperatures of my dynamic crew! But the climb is worth it with views across the whole length and breadth of the loch. A point of interest is Eilean Nam Faoileag – a small island which was occupied from the middle of the 15th century until the middle of the 17th century and now is home to a tower which is a 19th-century folly. You can’t miss the impressive Rannoch Power Station – part of the Tummel Valley hydro scheme – which has been in operation since 1930 and is currently being renovated to extend its lifespan.

The route on the quieter south side of the lock is amazingly scenic – possibly more so than the (slightly) busier north shore road. The B-class single track road never seems to be more than a couple of yards from the loch itself and there is always lots to catch the eye of Team Matilda.

The “old gal” spotted a (mini) kilted Highlander at the side of the road!

The wilderness factor is underlined as the narrow road winds its way through the magical Black Wood of Rannoch – one of the largest areas of ancient pine forest left in Scotland. It certainly lives up to its Forestry Commission billing as “a living growing monument with some trees thought to be about 400 years old, and is home to a wonderful variety of plants and wildlife, including deer, pine martens and red squirrel.” It is little wonder that it is designated a Special Area of Conservation and was looking magnificent in the sunshine. It was truly a wonderful spot to be out tandeming in and both the “old gal” and the “old git” felt privileged to be there.

The route is gently undulating – and despite their excesses from partying last night (or should that be because of!) – my dynamic crew were really in the zone today and we were pedalling along at an average of over 15-16 mph for long stretches – a good bit faster than our normal.

We soon reached a stony beach area at the top of the loch – which my dynamic crew decided would be a perfect spot for their prosecco picnic. But as he dismounted the “old git” let out a loud “Aaagh” as he made the discovery that Strava had not been recording the ride for 8 miles from the first photo stop! Seems he had stopped the timer so as not to waste valuable seconds when taking some pictures – and then promptly forgot to start it again as we tandemed off! And his pain was made even worse by the fact that we had been fair rattling along! Oh how me and the “old gal” laughed!

Painful moment for the “old git” discovering HIS Strava operator error. Oh how we laughed!

However his pain – or was that embarrassment because the “old gal” is always telling him to just let it auto-pause – was soon forgotten about when the “old git” spied a perfect picnic table for two right at the edge of the loch. He quickly unhooked the bottle of prosecco I had been safely carrying in my la bouclee bottle carrier and plonked it in nature’s fridge that is Loch Rannoch to chill.

Arty shot of the bottle of prosecco in nature’s fridge at Loch Rannoch!

As the “old git” popped open the prosecco cork with a loud pop, a Mum was walking on the beach with her young daughter and says to the girl that there was a couple celebrating! The Mum asked the “old gal” what my crew were celebrating. My stoker replied that we were just celebrating it being Sunday lunchtime! To which she replied as she walked off enviously: “Oh I remember these days, I think!”

Cheers! Perfect prosecco picnic table for two with a view on the edge of the loch.

My dynamic crew toasted another sensational picnic spot with a nicely chilled glass of fizz before enjoying some smoked salmon and chilli cream cheese croissants and some fresh fruit for lunch.

The “old git” did manage to redeem himself a bit in the “old gal’s” critical eye when he brought out his portable tripod extension and set it up, linked to a bluetooth clicker, to be able to take pictures of both of us together. Whisper it but in the photo below,  the “old gal” put on her best smile when he said “ready” – even tho it was being taken from behind and only showed her back view!

I’ve obviously been learning to take pictures of my dynamic crew when they’re not looking!

After enjoying the prosecco picnic – and some amazing views right down the loch in bright sunshine – it was time for my crew to get back on my saddles and pedal across the bridge over the River Tummel and thru Kinloch Rannoch before heading down the north side of the loch.

The “old gal” decided a quick stop was required at the wild camping area about a third of the way back down the loch – which offers a perfect viewpoint for pictures with the majesty of the perfectly conical shape of Schiehallion – one of Scotland’s most recognisable mountains – in the background. This area provides easy access to rocky beach and the loch which was looking beautiful despite the clouds darkening and the imminent prospect of rain. Unfortunately those clouds had “stolen” the top of Schiehallion which wasn’t visible in the photos!

Here I am at the wild camping site on the north side – but where is Schiehallion hiding?!

It’s up there under the cloud! The “old gal” pointing to where Schiehallion’s iconic conical top should be.

My crew didn’t stop for long as it appeared the forecast rain was due to arrive soon. And just short of three miles from the end it started – fortunately just light rain as we climbed a steep hill towards the end of the loch before a rapid downhill to Bridge of Gaur and the mile or so back to our parking spot.

After a quick hi five to celebrate completing the circuit, and with the rain getting heavier, I was quickly packed away in Matilda Transport and my crew drove the 5 miles to the end of the road and the wonderfully remote Rannoch railway station where there is a favourite coffee and cake spot for the “old git” and the “old gal” – the amazing Rannoch Station Tearoom.

It really is a truly fabulous hidden gem – and must get the vote for being not only the most remote tearoom in Scotland – but the most welcoming and friendly. Run by the uber-hospitable Bill and Jenny Anderson it offers cyclists, walkers and railway passengers an amazing oasis of home made tasty coffees, cakes and light meals. You can even have a wine or a beer while sitting on the station platform watching the live theatre that is the natural wilderness of Rannoch Moor.

The duo’s customer service ethic has no bounds – and even runs to delivering phone orders of bacon butties to train passengers travelling up and down the Glasgow to Fort William route. In my crew’s case it extends to happily reserving a couple of scones (via Facebook) to ensure they didn’t run out! What service!  So it was delicious home made fruit scones with clotted cream and jam followed by gigantic slices of seriously yummy carrot cake and lemon mascarpone cake, washed down with a cafetiere of wonderfully strong freshly brewed coffee.

Finger lickin good clotted cream scones, fab cakes and strong coffee! Yum!

According to my dynamic crew the tearoom more than lived up to its five star Trip Advisor certificate of excellence award. And if the look of satisfaction on the “old gal’s” face as she sampled the goodies was anything to go by, I think if she could have awarded six stars, it would have been more than earned!

Bill and Jenny were excitedly getting ready for a visit from a tv crew filming for the new series of the Channel 4 show Village of the Year with actress Penelope Keith. Over this summer the programme has been visiting villages across the UK to determine the winner of this brand new competition, with a £10,000 prize to be spent on a worthwhile community project. Kinloch Rannoch has been one of the villages nominated for filming for the 2017 series which aims to celebrate all that is great about our rural communities. Certainly if breathtaking wilderness scenery is anything to go by, the village should be an outright winner! My crew will be watching progress.

The uber hospitable Bill and Jenny who take service standards to new highs at Rannoch Station Tearoom.

As my dynamic crew were leaving  a nice gentleman introduced himself – after recognising them by their hi-viz yellow t-shirts emblazoned with my blog – as being Steve from Dial a Bike Rannoch who said he was an avid reader of my blog posts! Steve runs a cycle rental service in the Rannoch Moor, Kinloch Rannoch and Tummel Bridge area. So if you happen to be staying in the area and need some bikes to get around then Steve is your man! He even has a couple of those electric bikes – for those that want to cheat! But he has yet to introduce a tandem to his stable of bikes – although my crew did their best to persuade him that he should!

Replete and refreshed after their afternoon tea, it was time to head back out of the Tummel Valley and back to base. The weather had deteriorated to heavy rain, leaving Team Matilda feeling lucky that we had such an enjoyable – and mainly dry – ride round the loch. Back at Matildas Rest – and with internet connection restored – a check of Strava revealed that we didn’t record any gongs on our route … but this was because it was the first time that we had done the Loch Rannoch loop anti-clockwise!

Now due to that unfortunate incident – which the “old git” refers to as “operator error” when it was really his own silly fault! – Strava officially recorded the ride as covering a distance of only 15.8 miles at an average speed of 12.2 mph, and a top speed of 31.1 mph. However the old-fashioned speedometer thingy on my handlebars, which is not prone to “operator error”! – recorded me and my dynamic crew covering 24.7 miles and an average speed of 13.6 mph and a maximum of 32.1 mph. The traveling time was 1 hour 49 minutes and we managed to burn up 1,441 calories.

As always the Strava statistics and our route are brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below. Oh and I will apologies again for the Strava “operator error” which results in us appearing to tandem on water up loch on the video! (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.)

It has certainly been an action packed 24 hours for my dynamic crew – from arriving at the Elvis party to arriving back at Matildas Rest after another memorable tandeming trip full of laughs and fun.

Next up the “old git” tells me we are doing another loch trip on Sunday when we return to Loch Katrine in the heart of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park and Rob Roy Country – the scene of some previous “interesting” trips which have included some fairly serious mechanical problems of my rear gear cog disintegrating and then the pedal arm sheared clean off my rear pedal crank axle. My spokes are crossed there is no repeat this time – and also for some much needed summer sunshine!

Busting a Gask(et!) on country roads ride to outskirts of Perth

After tandeming thru Gask our destination was Gloagburn at Tibbermore on outskirts of Perth.

My crew are always impressed at the rich history they find right on Team Matildas own doorstep. And our recent tandem trip was no exception – as they discovered while pedaling along on the rural Perthshire roads around Gask that it was the site of one of the earliest Roman settlements in Scotland. And it is even more interesting when you come across this history almost by accident.

The “old gal” had identified a new route, exploring a network of country roads in the general direction of Perth that had previously been unexplored by my dynamic crew. Not sure why – but tandeming along is a great way to see your local area that you would otherwise never see when driving a car.

So we were full of enthusiasm as we headed off from Matildas Rest on our adventure at 10.30 am – with the forecast promising a sunny weather window from the recent heavy rain … although whisper it … but it seemed likely we would be hit by the odd shower when we were out. You can check out the details of our route on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to be transferred to Strava to get the full data and statistics! 

The great thing about living in Auchterarder is that we are out in the glorious Perthshire countryside, pedaling on quiet rural roads, in less than two minutes from starting. We soon were crossing our first point of interest  – the historic Kinkell Bridge which is a grand four-arched bridge over the River Earn and dates from 1793. It gives great views over one of Perthshire’s top salmon beats.

The scenic Kinkell Bridge spans the River Earn and dates from 1793.

A sharp right turn saw us heading along a wonderful gently undulating well surfaced road – ideal for tandeming – as we headed to Trinity Gask Parish Church. The original building traces its history back to 1770 and has a 19th-century bellcote which houses a bell bearing the date 1838. The area immediately opposite the church offers fantastic views overlooking the valley towards the landmark Craig Rossie hill, part of the Ochils.

The “old gal” overlooking the valley from near Trinity Gask Parish Church which dates from 1770.

We had perhaps been lulled into a false sense of complacency by the warm sun and the relatively flat roads. But on leaving Trinity Gask reality struck in the form of a sharp steep hill which appeared from nowhere round a corner. It certainly felt like my crew were busting a Gask…et (see what I did there!) on that climb!

As we reached the plateau my crew realised why the area is known as Gask Ridge Frontier  which the “old git” discovered was the earliest Roman land frontier in Britain – built in the 70’s or 80’s AD, 40 years before Hadrian’s Wall and 60 years before the Antonine Wall.

Nearby there are remains associated with the Gask Ridge frontier – a term describing a chain of Roman watchtowers and forts built to monitor movement between the Highland massif and Fife. We came across a sign for Kirkhill Watchtower –  one of the best preserved remaining sites which would have housed a timber watchtower as an observation point overlooking the clear view to the south.

The site of the Kirkhill Watchtower – with its clear view to the south.

After the history lesson Team Matilda turned right and fair zoomed along a nice flat stretch of just over 5 miles to our half way spot of Gloagburn Farm Shop at Tibbermore on the outskirts of Perth. No picnic today due to the likelihood of rain showers, but my dynamic crew were pleased to see that they had recorded the near 14 mile distance in a very respectable time of 1 hour and 01 minute – meaning they felt they deserved a coffee and cake break!

Here I am at the entrance to Gloagburn Farm Shop – our half way coffee stop!

My crew enjoyed a freshly baked cherry and almond scone before sharing a slice of carrot cake – de rigueur for tandemers – with a nice strong coffee. But guess what? The “old git” forgot to take a photo until after it was all scoffed!

Blink and you’ll miss it! The “old gal” looking like she ate all the scones and cakes!

Gloagburn has an interesting shop – which apart from selling lots of local produce from Perthshire’s larder, has a gift section. The “old git” couldn’t resist a joke photo when he found some copies of the Out of Africa book by record breaking endurance cyclist Mark Beaumont who lives in nearby Crieff. Mark is currently cycling across Australia on the second leg of his bid to cycle around the world in 80 days! So naturally the “old git” had to get a photo with signed copies of Mark’s books kidding on he was researching and planning for a future trip …. just like Mark! Oh how the “old gal” laughed!

Planning for a future trip like record breaker Mark Beaumont?! Aye rite!

Refuelled Team Matilda set off on the return trip and amazingly immediately started to pedal into a head wind! This seems to happen on almost every recent ride! But we soon built up a good speed again and the “old gal” decided we would take a different loop home to add a bit of variety. So we pedaled past the road end that would have taken us back to Trinity Gask, heading towards Madderty and turning left to the picturesque village of St Davids. Another steep climb before we picked up speed on a nice descent back to Kinkell Bridge.

Back at Kinkell Bridge – the “old gal” at the entrance to what was the toll house.

My dynamic crew again took a different loop to end, powering on up the slow steady grind of Easthill, before a welcome fast downhill finish through Auchterarder town centre and ending back at Matildas Rest. And the timing couldn’t have been better, as having avoided the showers all during the ride, as soon as I was safely back in my comfy garage the heavens opened with a heavy downpour!

Time for a quick congratulatory selfie after a great fun ride – before the rain!

Safely inside, a check of Strava revealed that this “old lady” registered three gongs on the ride – two personal bests and one Queen of the Mountain award – which is rather good considering most of the route was being travelled on for the first time.

Strava officially recorded the ride as a distance of 28.5 miles at an average speed of 11.7 mph, with a top speed of 31.1 mph. The traveling time was 2 hours 25 minutes and the elevation covered was a not insubstantial 1,163 feet. We managed to burn up 1,633 calories, and produced an estimated average power output of 168 W.

As always the Strava statistics and our route are brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below. (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 yet another great days tandeming – with lots of laughs and fun and a bit of fascinating local history thrown in along the way. I feel certain that we will be exploring some of the other network of roads around today’s route soon!