A Musings special on Le Tour de New Forest du tandem with Team Bluebird

The self-proclaimed members of the Nutty Tandemers Club ready to ride!

Muchos excitement for Team Matilda as we headed to the south of England for a week’s tandeming in the New Forest! Regular blog readers will remember that a year ago I became ‘best pals’ with another tandem called Bluebird crewed by Jane and John Taylor who live near Southampton in Hampshire. Team Bluebird had travelled north to enjoy a memorable Tour de Perthshire du Tandem and we all enjoyed ourselves so much that we became self-proclaimed members of the Nutty Tandemers Club!

Such was the success of the inaugural tour that an event in John and Jane’s home territory was put into planning immediately after the Perthshire event. You see the crews have so much in common. Firstly Team Bluebird run their own blog called Travels with Bluebird  – but more importantly have the same views as my dynamic crew on not taking tandeming too seriously.

As so much nuttiness and fun tandeming happened during the busy action-packed week, this blog is a kind of Musings photo special – complete with Strava maps and Relive 3D videos – as I recount the best bits of Le Tour de New Forest du Tandem…

TdNF Day 1 – introduction to New Forest and Lepe Loop

Me and my crew arrived at Jane and John’s lovely home in the village of Dibden Purlieu after a long drive south in Matilda Transporter on Sunday. A tasty welcome dinner and toast to the tour made Team Matilda feel very welcome. So Monday – and the first day of the tour – was planned by our hosts as a gentle introduction to the delights of the New Forest.

Check out the details of our Day 1 route by clicking on the Strava map below.

Before the off I had some very fetching laminates attached to my frame featuring the official tour logo – which John had cleverly created. And my crew donned their official tour t-shirts which featured the same design – complete with names on the sleeves – which they are pictured in throughout this blog.

The stylish and very original laminated posters for Le Tour de New Forest.

Now although I had caught up again with my pal Bluebird, the Pino semi-recumbent tandem, our hosts decided to take Henry – the vintage member of their growing tandem collection – out for today’s spin. I can’t say that I was disappointed because as an “old lady” I am a bit of a classic vintage tandem myself and (whisper it) but I hear that Henry is a bit younger than me and has an eye for the ladies! And I have always been attracted to toy-boys! … or should that be toy-tandems?!

We headed off out of the village and within minutes we were tandeming across roads in the New Forest National Park – almost immediately getting our first of what would be regular sightings of the wild ponies on the heath. And the first impressions were that the roads were flat – which meant the “old gal” had a big wide smile on her face!

Cheers! Time for the first prosecco picnic of Le Tour de New Forest at Lepe.

First stop was Lepe beach and time to pop the cork and have the first prosecco picnic of the tour! Although the sun was out, there was a fair breeze blowing off the Solent – but it didn’t stop everyone enjoying their picnics, washed down with fizz, drinking in the views over the Isle of Wight. After the picnic we explored the headland overlooking the beach – part of Lepe Country Park – and found it much more protected from the wind. Temperatures rose and even the “old gal” removed her cycling jacket to bask in the sun for a series of fun photos overlooking the sea with both tandem crews.

The “old git” and “old gal” enjoying the sunshine on headland above Lepe beach.

The “old gal” with an old anchor – honestly my brakes are fine!

Jane and the “old gal” chilling with that charming Henry tandem and me!

John managed to get into one of the pictures – with the “old git” behind the camera!

Pedalling on we cycled out to the point at Calshot Castle – marking the entrance to the deep channel of Southampton water. My crew popped in to see the velodrome at Calshot Activities Centre – built by converting the old Sunderland hangar which used to be part of the RAF Calshot base for seaplanes and flying boats. Fortunately both crews wisely decided that viewing from the spectator gallery would suffice instead of riding the tandems around the track. Which is just as well as it features sweeping 45 degree bends and claims to be the second steepest velodrome banking in the world!

The “old gal” and the “old git” overlooking the steep banks of the Calshot velodrome.

So after examining the velodrome it was time for a coffee and cake stop at the cafe before heading back for showers and dinner. But not before the sampling of our new local surroundings ended at Hythe for a celebratory drink on the balcony of Seashells overlooking the water – and a toast to the fact that tandeming just doesn’t get much better than days like this!

Ahoy there – on the seafront at Hythe overlooking Southampton.

A great first day of the TdNF covering 25.2 miles with the route 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.)

TdNF Day 2 – Independence Day ride to redwoods and vineyards and stay at Filly Inn at Setley Plain

July the 4th and Independence Day and a day with a bit of an American theme naturally! The weather station at John and Jane’s house was promising bright warm sunshine so it was time to slap on the sun cream and pack the panniers for an overnighter at a traditional English Inn deep in the heart of the New Forest – via a visit and tasting at a vineyard.

Check out our Day 2 TdNF route by clicking on the  Strava map below.

I was delighted that Team Bluebird had in fact selected the tandem that bears their name for the two-day trip so I was going to have plenty of company en route! It was already a good bit warmer than recent temperatures back home in Perthshire when we tandemed off – heading across the heath to the picturesque village of Beaulieu – which is home to the National Motor Museum. It hosts the original Bluebird CN7 car in which Donald Campbell set a new World Land Speed Record of 403.10mph in July 1964. Not sure if that’s what John and Jane named their Bluebird after – but if it was, surely it must have been with tongue firmly in cheek! Or maybe its just because Bluebird’s frame is blue!

A quick photo stop at the quaint and picturesque village of Beaulieu.

No time to visit the classic cars however, as Team Matilda and Team Bluebird headed into Brockenhurst for a welcome morning coffee stop – before we had fun filming me and my dynamic crew pedalling through the Watersplash ford, where as the name suggests I got my wheels wet! Whisper it but Jane – who was responsible for taking the video – managed not to record anything the first time so we had to repeat the process for “take 2”!

Here I am getting my wheels wet at the Watersplash ford at Brockenhurst.

After the video shenanigans we pedalled on to the much anticipated Rhinefield Ornamental Drive where we saw the two tallest trees in the forest – a  couple of giant Redwoods. I must say that even though they are a bit smaller than their American cousins in California, it was still an impressive sight. And given that in America, giant Redwoods are known to be up to 3000 years old – these two are mere youngsters being only about 150 years old! Mind you that made me – despite being an “old lady” – feel a right young thing!

Selfie time – Teams Bluebird and Matilda dwarfed by the giant Redwood trees.

Me posing with the “old git” and the “old gal” among the giant trees.

I know I am old, but the giant Redwoods are considerably older!

Selfie time for my crew to try to show perspective of height of trees.

Pedalling back we found a lovely sheltered and deserted spot by the river for the prosecco picnic – which I had carefully carried in my stylish la bouclee bottle carrier.

Prosecco for picnic for tandem crews picnic is safely carried in my la bouclee.

The river at our picnic spot provided a natural way to keep the prosecco chilled!

The “old gal” cleverly used her initiative and found that the river provided a natural way of keeping the prosecco chilled! When it reached the required coolness the cork was duly popped – with Jane given the vital job of having the glasses ready to ensure not a drop was spilled!

Ready, steady, pop! The “old gal” uncorking with Jane making sure not a spot is spilled!

Cheers! A glass of prosecco is a must for any picnic amongst the trees!

After a very tasty alfresco French style meal of bread, hams, cheese and grapes – oh and did I mention the prosecco?! – it was time for one of the daily highlights when John got his extendable tripod out to take some pictures of both teams! This involved two bikes and three riders set up in position with John running in to shot before the ten second timer expired! Which he always did with cool aplomb!

Refreshed and ready for the afternoon cycle – both crews after the picnic lunch.

Me and my friend Bluebird after a picnic stop rest ready for the afternoon cycle.

Me and my dynamic crew crossing the bridge over the river after our picnic stop.

With the tripod safely away for another day, we crossed the bridge and headed onwards enjoying the cycling on flat roads with my crew really enjoying the scenery of the New Forest. The “old git” had to stop when a couple of ponies were on the road – and the “old gal” even quipped that he was obviously looking to get some extra horsepower to drive me on! Well at least I am sure she was joking! …

The “old git” obviously hoping to get some extra horsepower for me from the New Forest ponies!

Next stop was one of the highlights of the week – a visit to Setley Ridge Vineyard. Now as regular readers of my blog will be well aware, me and my dynamic crew are no strangers to visiting vineyards – but until now these have always been in France … in Burgundy, Bordeaux and the Loire Valley. But Team Matilda had never visited a vineyard in the UK, so this was a first.

Jane had arranged for their fellow Pino-owning tandeming friends Pam and Ken to join us as she had kindly fixed up a tour of the vineyard with Paul Girling, the owner. We were all treated to a highly informative and excellent tour of the vines and their on-site winery – and with the sun beating down my dynamic crew could have been forgiven for thinking they were in France!

Vineyard visit – is it France? – no its Setley Ridge in the New Forest.

The “old gal” posing as wine connoisseur!

The tour ended with a tasting of three wines – a refreshing rose, a dry white and my crew’s favourite … an oaked red made from Regent, Rondo and Triomphe grapes. All three were delicious, but my crew chose a bottle of red to take home to add to the wine collection at Matildas Rest! They also made a few purchases from the Farm Shop which was literally groaning with wonderful New Forest produce. Amazingly this included locally produced gin and tonic ice cream – which purely in the interests of research for this blog had to be sampled! Let’s just say that it seems the jury is still out over whether there was any noticeable taste of gin in the “unusual” flavour!

Keeping the alcoholic theme going with some “unusual” gin and tonic ice cream!

Pam and Ken headed home as we tandemed a few hundred yards from the vineyard to our base for the night – The Filly Inn which describes itself as a a forest gem in an enviable scenic location. First task after a friendly welcome was a cooling drink in the gardens – before showers and evening meal.

Given it was Independence Day, the choice had to be burgers! And what was produced were some of the largest – and tastiest – burgers the crews had ever seen. My dynamic duo both had beef burgers with blue cheese, which looked like a massive tower when they arrived. Team Bluebird’s crew had halloumi ones and they were so big that they said they could have easily shared one! Oh and there were chips in case they weren’t filling enough!

The massive burgers at the Filly Inn – with chips in case not large enough!

An arty sunset shot – taken by Jane – at the Filly Inn.

Obviously no room for dessert – but time for a short post meal walk for both tandem crews in a vain attempt to walk off some of the food! But they did get to experience a wonderfully colourful sunset before a nightcap at the bar brought down our own sunset on what was another fabulous day’s tandeming covering 20.5 miles with sunshine and laughs all the way! Great memories! Check out the Relive 3D video below.

TdNF Day 3 – Return tandem with lots of New Forest ponies and donkeys

Day 3 started with the sun already bright in the sky and it was clearly going to be a scorcher out on the open heath. It was a day for lots of suncream, and a route back home from our overnighter which promised lots of sightings of New Forest ponies and donkeys.

Check out the details of our Day 3 route by clicking on the Strava map below.

After breakfast – which none of Team Bluebird or Team Matilda really needed after last night’s massive burgerfest – it was time to pack up the panniers and take our leave from the highly recommended Filly Inn. It was already so warm that only the light Nutty Tandemers t-shirts, which John and Jane had got printed for the tour, were required. And temperatures were forecast to hit 30C today!

Nutty Tandemers Club tour t-shirts – listing crew members on the sleeves!

The start of our return journey was a lovely forest track which gave a welcome bit of protection from the sun. First stop was at a woodcarvers area with some carved creatures including a crocodile – but the big attraction was a pair of stocks! Now it was obvious who was going to have to have a shot in them – yes, how did you guess … the “old git”! And I am delighted to say after being a good sport he was allowed out again! After all – who was going to be my Captain if he had been left behind?!

Day 3 and the “old git” is where everyone wanted him … in the stocks! But they did let him out!

Back on the saddles we tandemed on to Lymington and cycled down the busy high street before the crews headed on some lovely rural lanes towards East Boldre. Nearly every corner we pedaled round resulted in a view of a thatched cottage – each more beautiful than the next. This really was magnificent fun tandeming – under clear blue skies.

One of the many beautiful thatched cottages – complete with pony design on roofline.

A shot of my dynamic crew – by Jane – enjoying another laugh!

It was laughs a plenty as Team Bluebird and Team Matilda joshed with each other from everything from our average speed to our next refreshment stop to whether lunch would be required after last nights food intake. And as we tandemed along the roads we were deep in wild pony and donkey country. It was both amazing and fascinating how tame they were – happy to be wandering around outside the village shop – and indeed just how inquisitive they were. In fact so nosey that I thought at one stage I was in danger of having my top pannier eaten by one of the ponies!

Mum and pony sauntering along the road – just a few yards from a village shop!

A friendly pony keen to find out what’s for lunch by nosing my pannier!

And finally the “old gal” gets to see some elusive donkeys up close!

As temperatures rose Jane decided it was time to stop and top up our alcohol levels so we diverted into the beer garden of the Turfcutter’s Arms and relaxed under the sun umbrellas while having a nice chilled Crabbies Ginger Beer. And believe it or not – no one had the slightest appetite for food – yes, not even the “old git”!

The “old git” and the “old gal” showing its always better tandeming together!

Team Bluebird – John and Jane – enjoying a cool refreshment at The Turfcutter’s Arms.

The “old gal” taking refuge from the bright sun under a parasol.

Another application of suncream, and back on the road for a mainly downhill dash to Beaulieu – where us tandems were parked up to while our crews took a touristy stroll up the pretty village street, making a few purchases in the shops. The stomachs of my dynamic crew were rumbling at this point and they indulged in a traditional cream tea … well a cream coffee to be exact as they prefer coffee to tea!

To add a few miles to the trip Team Bluebird then led us towards Lyndhurst to a lovely grassy and wooded area where the famous pony sales take place after the New Forest pony drifts – where all the ponies are rounded up. The Beaulieu Road Pony Sales is where the Commoners (owners of the ponies on the New Forest) sell their ponies by auction. It has been the sales centre for semi feral and handled stock for over 60 years.

John got his extendable tripod out again for some more fun team pictures opposite the stockades for the pony sales – before we tandemed back to John and Jane’s via Ipley.

Selfie time! Both crews posing for a self-timer selfie via John’s extendable tripod!

John, the “old git” and the “old gal” looking a bit warm as temperatures soared – but still smiling!

Team Matilda – enjoying the sunshine and the smiles from a fab tandeming trip.

Team Bluebird and Team Matilda in a Nutty Tandemers Group shot in the warm sunshine.

Team Bluebird – John and Jane in tandeming action negotiating a bend.

After returning to base for a welcome shower – both crews shared an even more welcome magnum bottle of nicely chilled Saumur white wine while sitting in the shade in the garden for pre dinner drinks. It disappeared amazingly fast as they recounted the fun, laughs and smiles of the overnight tandeming adventure. And the delicious Saumur wine naturally turned the conversation to Team Bluebird and Team Matilda’s joint desire to one day attend the Anjou Velo Vintage cycling event based right in the heart of Saumur wine country. Now that would be fun!

Showered and sitting in the shade enjoying a magnum of nicely chilled Saumur white wine!

All in all, a brilliant third day of the TdNF covering 24.0 miles – brought to life in our Relive 3D video.

TdNF Day 4 – All aboard on overseas leg to Isle of Wight and lots garlic at garlic farm

The schedule provided by our wonderful hosts (and tour guides!) for day 4 said: “All aboard! Time to don the old sea legs and head overseas to the Isle of Wight for lunch at the Garlic Farm where it’s garlic with everything … including the beer!” What an amazing voyage of discovery it was going to be!

Check out our Day 4 TdNF route by clicking on the Strava map below.

Now today I had yet another new partner tandem – after making another new acquaintance – this time with Siggy who is the most recent purchase of Team Bluebird. You see Siggy is very clever and he has couplings which allow him to be separated into 3 sections – making it much easier to transport. And given that John and Jane are heading to India next February for a tour by tandem, I can see why Siggy was an essential purchase!

Another day where sunscreen was essential as we headed to the local Hythe Pier for the first of three ferries we would be taking each way today. And regular readers of my blog will know how this “old lady” likes ferries – although my experience so far has been limited to the Cal Mac ferry to Millport! But today I was assured I was going on a proper big ferry!

The entrance to Hythe Pier with a plaque for the world’s oldest pier train.

Hythe Pier stretches some 700 yards into the deep channel of Southampton Water.

The “old git” decided that since it was so bright and sunny that this was a day to reveal his much coveted polka dot King of the Mountain jersey (known in France as a maillot a pois) – and all somewhat tongue-in-cheek as it is a replica of the one worn by the best hill climber in the Tour de France! And as you know going up hills are not my dynamic crew’s strong point! But John had promised that today’s route was relatively flat, so the “old git” was sure he could just bask in the attention the eye-catching cycling jersey would bring without having to prove his (lack of) hill climbing prowess!

Ahoy there! Team Bluebird’s crew of John and Jane on the ferry to Southampton.

The “old gal” making sure I have my sea tyres on and not getting sea sick on the ferry!

Mind you the first ferry – from Hythe over to Southampton – was actually smaller than the Millport ferry I am used to. But then we tandemed a few hundred yards to the Red Funnel ferry – the biggest I have ever been on – and it was straight on board with us tandems being locked up on the lorry and freight deck while our crews retired to the passenger decks for morning coffee.

In less than an hour we were on the Isle of Wight – where we had to board our third ferry – called the Floating Chain Bridge which took us from East Cowes to West Cowes. After all the excitement of getting on and off ferries it was nice to get tandeming and the island is an ideal place for cycling.

Almost immediately we were on the Red Squirrel Trail – a wonderfully scenic cycle path which goes right across the island on a disused railway line. We weren’t going that far but my dynamic crew really enjoyed the ride – which was very flat with lots of great views, particularly along the Medina river and through the main town of Newport.

Tootling on a bit further on the cycle path Team Bluebird and Team Matilda soon rolled up to one of the island’s star attractions, The Garlic Farm near Newchurch, which describes itself as “the complete garlic experience”! Our arrival neatly coincided with lunchtime – where the tandem crews had a veritable garlic extravaganza. I am going to leave the pictures and captions to do the talking as they describe the meal to …. well to a clove or two of garlic really!

Arriving at the Garlic Farm – where the abundant smell was, yes, you’ve guessed … garlic!

The “old gal” was ready for a beer – garlic beer naturally!

A garlic mezze sharing platter was the obvious choice of my dynamic crew!

The full blackboard description of the lunch – count the garlic references!

My dynamic crew really had a delicious lunch – even if their breath did stink!

After all that it just had to be black garlic (and chocolate) ice cream for dessert!

After all that divine garlic, the “old git” as Captain sitting up front, warned the “old gal” – who sits very close behind him as Stoker – that there was to be no burping … intentional or otherwise, as he had quite enough garlic flavour of his own in his system! So much in fact that when he re-applied the sunscreen he was sure that his skin was oozing garlic!

It was very warm now on the ride back and the tandem crews decided on a stop for some water and also another of their Nutty Tandemers Club fun photo shoots – which resulted in more laughs and smiles! Last year on the Tour de Perthshire the “old gal” John and Jane took up the role of the three monkeys with an unforgettable image, so naturally the first shot had to be a new version of that!

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil – The Three Wise Monkeys 2017 version!

Remote control selfie time again with John’s extendable tripod!

The two team’s Stokers – their (so called) powerhouses – but minus their Captains!

The “old git” pretending he is Number 1 in the King of the Mountains with his polka dot top!

Spangled – the “old gal” playing to the cameras as she feels the heat!

Spangled also – the “old git” having a quick 40 winks in the sun!

Moving on we retraced our tyre tracks and headed back into Newport where both crews unanimously agreed it was time to stop for a liquid refreshment! The huge Bargemans Rest provided the perfect opportunity for a chilled Crabbies Ginger Beer while watching the world go by.

Back into West Cowes and this is where the travel arrangements via three ferries went a bit awry. The Floating Chain Bridge had just pulled away as we arrived and it took longer than normal to return from East Cowes due to  a surprise visitor in the area in the shape of a dolphin – which my crew sadly found impossible to photograph.

Back in East Cowes we raced round the corner only to see the Red Funnel ferry to Southampton pull away from the dock! The next one wasn’t for another hour so it looked like a pub stop to pass the time – but the one at the ferry terminal has seen better days, and my crews decided instead to stock up at the nearby Waitrose for the next day’s picnic!

The “old gal” showing what a wonderful day’s tandeming we all had on the Isle of Wight.

On board the ferry back to Southampton the journey passed while enjoying a welcome glass of wine. Then we realised that there was only a few minutes to get off to catch the small ferry back to Hythe. It was a bit like the start of the Tour de France (well nothing like the start of the Tour de France actually!) as the crews waited for the big ferry to dock. We were allowed to disembark first and cycled round to meet the link to Hythe with just seconds to spare! Phew! It’s hard work catching these ferries!

One steep hill to climb back up from Hythe before showers and a lovely meal made by Jane. The evening saw Team Bluebird and Team Matilda reflecting on a sensational day’s tandeming on our  overseas trip – which was another prime example of tandeming at its very best … great fun with great like-minded friends!

Strava notched up the trip as covering 41.4 miles – but that did include 11.0 “ferry” miles due to operator error – so the official distance tandemed was 30.4 miles. Watch our Relive 3D video below.

TdNF Day 5 – Grand finale Nutty Tandemers Club ride to gin tasting and prosecco picnic before 2000 miles on Matilda celebrations

The schedule for the final day said: “Friday is Nellie night! But to earn a pint in the old pub we will complete one of our well cycled and favourite local routes using quiet lanes.” Ok then, if you insist!

Check out the details of our Day 5 route by clicking on the Strava map below.

All too soon the last day of  Le Tour de New Forest was upon us and both tandem crews were keen to make the most of the sunshine for the final trip. And I was delighted that my good friend Bluebird was the tandem chosen by our hosts John and Jane for today’s outing!

We headed off west with the “old git” determined to start the day with a personal best on the hill climbing out of the street where John and Jane lived! And yes we achieved it! So he was a happy Captain! And my crew were delirious when on the steep downhill section into Beaulieu we hit a new all time Matilda speed record of 34.0 mph! There’s life in this “old lady” yet!

We then followed the route of the river – although the water was not always visible. But when it did appear – at the tourist attraction of Bucklers Hard – it was very scenic. This was a ship building village in times gone by and it seems several of Nelson’s ships were built here using the oak from the forest. There is a museum and some of the houses are open to the public – but the crews just wandered down the grassy slope of a street and took some suitable Nutty Tandemers pictures. Just for a change!

The “old gal” actually said “it’s warm” at the scenic Bucklers Hard!

Lean to starboard! John and Jane countering the slope to the Beaulieu River!

Naturally my dynamic crew had to do likewise in another Nutty Tandemers photo shoot!

Next on the final day’s route was a quick stop at Needs Oar Point, a former WW2 airfield, before hitting the coast again at the bottom of Tanners Lane. Both the temperature and the colours made the “old gal” feel as if she was in the Mediterranean rather than the south of England!

You could be forgiven for thinking this shot was taken on the Med given the shade of blue!

We rode on into Lymington where we wandered round the cobbled streets of the Quayside which were fairly busy with tourists. No time for coffee – as John and Jane had a treat up their sleeve for the “old git” and the “old gal”- a visit to a gin  distillery for some gin tastings! We pedalled round beautiful country lanes towards Pennington Marshes where we found the Dancing Cows distillery which has only recently starting producing artisan gin and describes itself as “the spirit of the New Forest”.

Now my dynamic crew consider themselves to be gin aficionados, so this was right up their street. They tried three – their Lymington Gin, New Forest Gin and Myristica Gin. The last which is infused with vanilla, raspberry and nutmeg was by far their favourite and amazingly a bottle was purchased and just happened to find its way into my panniers!

The range of Dancing Cows gins – the spirit of the new forest!

After that the crews were feeling a bit peckish so picnic beckoned and we stopped at the nature reserve at Pennington Marshes and found a suitable picnic bench where we could sit, eat, open the prosecco I had been faithfully carrying, and …. dance on the table! You see my dynamic crew had picked up a small sign in Lymington which said: “Time to drink prosecco and dance on the table!” And obviously Team Bluebird and Team Matilda were not going to disobey an instruction like that!

Me and my la bouclee – with the prosecco for the final tour picnic!

‘Time to drink prosecco and dance on the table’ said the sign – so naturally we did!

There was no stopping John and Jane once they got started dancing!

Naturally my dynamic crew had to be persuaded to have a shot!

Nutty Tandemers Club are us! The crews having yet another laugh … in tandem of course!

It was an idyllic spot and both crews enjoyed their picnic as the reeds swayed in the breeze, listening to the birds singing, and looking out to sea and the sailing boats in the Solent, with views of nearby Hurst Castle and the Needles on the Isle of Wight. Both team were feeling quite mellow after the prosecco and could have sat there for the afternoon! But there was more tandeming to be done with the return journey to be completed.

It was at this point that the “old git” discovered that I was just 17 miles away from racking up the landmark total of 2000 miles since Team Matilda was formed. He kept a beady eye on the milometer on my handle bars – and guessed that the total would be hit just as we emerged up one of the few steep hills on the tour … a slow grind of a climb out of Beaulieu.

And he was correct so as the climb flattened out he persuaded the “old gal” to pedal and we increased speed so we could break the 2000 mile mark at 20 mph.  Just as we hit the speed the numbers rolled over to 2000 to a much cheering and high fives from my crew!

Photographic evidence – my milometer on my handlebar clocks up over 2000 miles!

Team Bluebird soon caught up with us after my dynamic crew’s euphoric exertion and suggested a celebratory drink so we pulled in to the beer garden of The Glen pub – a whole mile from the finishing line. The crews dutifully toasted the 2000 miles … and the 2000 laughs and smiles along the way!

Cheers! A toast to clocking up the landmark 2000 miles – and more than 2000 laughs along the way!

Awh shucks! My dynamic crew celebrating that its always better when tandeming 2000 miles together!

What a fantastic final day of the TdNF covering 39.8 miles – including two new landmarks … a new best ever top speed of 34 mph for me! Wooo! And then clocking up 2,000 miles in total with my dynamic crew! It just gets better and better! Today’s final route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video below.

So after the drinks it was home, showered and my dynamic crew joined John and Jane for one of their Friday institutions – a visit to the Lord Nelson pub in Hythe – aka The Nellie! – for the tour finale pre dinner drinks! No tandems involved as the crews walked! So I was able to have a good final get together with Bluebird, Siggy and of course, Henry!

Suitably refreshed it was time for the crews to enjoy the grand Tour de New Forest finale – a celebration meal at the Thai Corner restaurant to mark a fantastic week with fantastic company creating fantastic memories. And the Thai food was fantastic too, I am reliably told, as was the wine selected to wash it down!

Naturally there was a toast (or two, or was it three or four!!) to an unforgettable tour! And the good news is that all members of the Nutty Tandemers Club agreed unanimously that we need to meet up for another tour before too long. I don’t know if it was induced by the free flowing wine – but I am told that a suggestion was made for the tandem teams to do a Tour de Western Isles by taking on the Hebridean Way – a trip on the newly established Sustrans Scotland NCR  780  which begins on the Island of Vatersay and ends on the northernmost point at the Butt of Lewis, and takes in 10 islands, six causeways and two ferry crossings! And of course another time, there is the long standing goal of a trip to the Anjou Velo Vintage!

So on behalf of Team Matilda,  it was a real pleasure to be hosted by Team Bluebird to their amazing part of the country and a real privilege to spend a week enjoying the company of  John and Jane – who proved they are real kindred spirits to my dynamic crew!

It really was an utterly fabulous week – a time where you can honestly say that tandeming just doesn’t get much better than this! But don’t just take this “old lady’s” word for it – you can read Team Bluebird’s two-part account of the Tour de New Forest in their Travels with Bluebird blog posts on Facebook here and here.

So to pull this bumper blog post to an end – a comment from Team Bluebird’s crew John and Jane: “A very successful week – only about 150 miles but some of the best for weather, laughs, good company and memorable nuttiness!”

Couldn’t put it better myself! Guess we best start the planning process for the next Nutty Tandemers Club tour then…..! Till the next time! Cheers!

Teams Matilda and Bluebird saluting a memorable Tour de New Forest!

p.s. After returning home, the “old git” pulled together this video – a montage of the pictures of a memorable week on Le Tour de New Forest in July 2017.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Calendar time - Tour de Loire Valley and also Perthshire!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As a Christmas treat here’s a chance to see Team Matilda’s musical montage of images from that great Loire Valley trip – in case you haven’t seen it yet.  (Remember if you are reading this on email, you need to click on the blog first – via the link at the bottom of the email – to view the video.)

The astute among you will realise that the inside shot on the Christmas card is not in France! It was actually taken on a gorgeous sunny day at Lock Katrine on our fantastic Le Tour de Perthshire in August with fellow self-proclaimed founding members of The Nutty Tandemers Club – John and Jane of Team Bluebird! So special festive greetings to them and here’s to our planned Le Tour de New Forest in July 2017.

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

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

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

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

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BLiSSful (but Baltic) Loch Earn Loop

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Picture postcard Loch Earn – with the added attraction of me on a jetty!

Reveille on Sunday morning at 7.30 am. The “old gal” muttered: “You can’t be serious!” But the “old git” was a man on a mission! And despite the gloomy low cloud and drizzle outside at Matildas Rest in Perthshire, the “old gal” was persuaded that it was dry and sunny at today’s venue of Loch Earn.

The route appealed because it is a naturally beautiful area within the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park – with a relatively easy 16 mile loop round the loch – which is only about a 40 minute drive by car through Crieff and Comrie. Despite it being so close, it was new territory for Team Matilda.

Now my dynamic duo – and me – always like new areas. But believe it or not, we were recommended to try it by my good tandem friend Bluebird – and her crew John and Jane, who live almost 500 miles away outside Southampton! How did this happen? Well John and Jane really enjoyed their Travels with Bluebird tandem trip to Loch Earn on a day when Team Matilda couldn’t be with them during our joint Le Tour de Perthshire du Tandem back in August … and said we needed to try it.

Now the “old git” is known to do a bit of research – in fact the “old gal” swears his middle name is google! – but often it pays off. And in his mission to familiarise himself with the new route he discovered the added attraction of a new art trail linking locations within the National Park area.

The unique BLiSS Trail links the villages of Balquidder, Lochearnhead, Strathyre and St Fillans – deep in the heart of Rob Roy Country. The trail – made up of a series of ornamental metal and wood sculptures mostly by various artists – commemorates the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design.

The brainchild of LETi, the local Loch Earn Tourism Information group, the trail is also designed to encourage more visitors to the area – to boost tourism and the local economy. And it certainly worked – in as much it was the added factor to persuade Team Matilda to make a visit.

So I was packed in Matilda Transport and the (infamous) prosecco picnic was packed and off we headed to the scenic village of St Fillans at the top of the loch on the eastern edge of Perthshire. As we parked the car the weather was just starting to dry up – and the “old git’s” research had unearthed an ideal spot for good coffee (and parking) at the St Fillans Village Store.

Great coffee stop! All 3 of us were made welcome at the St Fillans Village Store.

Great coffee stop! All 3 of us were made welcome at the St Fillans Village Store.

It was as good and as friendly as all the recommendations and reviews suggested. And the warmth of the welcome – and the strength of the coffee! – certainly helped heat all three of us up before we started off on our loop in temperatures which were barely touching 6 C.

You can check out the details of our scenic route on the loop round Loch Earn from St Fillans on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full date and statistics! 

loch-earn-strava

Now Loch Earn itself is a freshwater loch and the name is thought to derive from “Loch of Ireland” – from a time when the Gaels were expanding their kingdom eastwards. The loch is the source of the River Earn which starts at St Fillans.

As we tandemed away from St Fillans the “old gal” was heard to exclaim: “It’s Baltic!” To which the “old git” retorted: “No, its Loch Earn!” Oh how he laughed! Lets just say that what was said in the ear piece of his walkie talkie by the “old gal” in response cannot be repeated in a family friendly blog!

Still - Loch Earn's mirror man sculpture.

Still – Loch Earn’s mirror man sculpture at St Fillans.

Although we were only doing the loop of the loch – from St Fillans to Lochearnhead – we were promised that there were plenty of other art installations on the BLiSS Trail to look out for.

But unfortunately the most photographed one at the start – the iconic Bliss – wasn’t there! You see Bliss – more affectionately known as Loch Earn’s mirror man was nowhere to be seen as he had been removed for the winter season from his position lookout standing in the loch just by the jetty at the Four Seasons Hotel.

The larger than life sculpture – by Rob Mullholland – was feared to have been destroyed in 90 mph winds last January which knocked him from his perch. But the half-tonne statue was recovered and underwent substantial repairs – including re-attaching his head (which sounds painful to me being another iconic metal structure!) He returned to the water in June but has been put into hibernation to avoid a repeat this winter.

So that meant that Team Matilda had to make do with another artwork at the start of our tour – called Fish Out of Water situated in the Achray House Hotel garden. This impressive piece of galvanised metal has been sculpted by artist Lynne Schroder into the shape of “a fortune telling fish – like the ones you place in your palm to tell your fortune!”

Fish out of Water - mind you I could have told the fortune-telling miracle fish that the water of Loch Earn looked a tad chilly!

Fish out of Water – I could have told the fortune-telling fish that Loch Earn looked a tad chilly!

Let’s just say that I could have told this fortune-telling fish that Loch Earn looked just a wee bit chilly today! So off we pedalled down the main A85 road towards Lochearnhead.

Since this could be a busy road, the “old gal” ensured Team Matilda could be seen with her flashing red light on the back of her helmet and my very trendy hi-vis flashing light attached to my lollipop which ensures cars have to give us room when they pass.

My dynamic duo soon got into sync and struck up a good pace and we whizzed along the side of the loch – probably in an attempt to keep warm! We were going so fast that we nearly missed two more of the sculptures nestling in the gardens of the beautiful thatched Briar Cottages.

The first was the impressive Stan the Stag who looks out over the loch like a stunning Monarch of the Glen.

The "old git" pretending he is a rutting stag - with me at the artwork at Briar Cottage garden.

The “old git” pretending he is a rutting stag – with me at the artwork at Briar Cottage garden.

The stag structure is an incredibly detailed sculpture by Kev Paxton – and is made of steel flowers, leaves and a thistle.  Over 500 hours went in to making it. And, as the “old git” and “old gal” did,  if you peep inside its flowery body you will find treasure; a humming bird drinking from its heart, a butterfly and a cute-as-anything mouse with a block of cheese!

After making my acquaintance with Stan we then moved a few yards – within the same garden – to see Blawn wi the Wind – a sculpture of giant thistles, which has also been created by Kev Paxton.

Two metal structures together - me and the giant thistle artwork.

Two metal structures together – me and the giant thistle artwork.

A quick pedal on and Team Matilda turned into the Lochearnhead Hotel where we met Bill the Bull – a colourful take on a Highland coo or bull to be exact! In fact Bill the Bull is described on the BLiSS Trail notes as being a “psychedelic party animal who hates to miss out on anything fun!” So naturally the “old git” had to see if he lived up to his reputation!

Bill the Bull and the "old git" getting friendly while I watch on at the Lochearnhead Hotel.

Bill the Bull and the “old git” getting friendly while I watch on at the Lochearnhead Hotel.

We tandemed on and arrived at Lochearnhead at the western end of the loch, which is a popular centre for fishing and a wide range of water sports including sailing, water-skiing, wake-boarding and canoeing.

Continuing our tandem in an anti clockwise direction we turned on to the A84 briefly to take in our final artwork called Dragon Bike – made out of wicker by artist June McEwan. It sits proudly outside the Mansewood Country House which is a popular stop off point for motorcyclists.

Dragon Bike wooden sculpture - and me - at Lochearnhead.

The Dragon Bike willow sculpture – and me – at Mansewood Country House at Lochearnhead.

The Autumn colours were quite spectacular on our travels, none more so than as we rounded the end of Loch Earn to be met with what seemed like a vivid red tree.

Amazing Autumn colours on show at Lochearnhead, half way round our Loch Earn loop.

Amazing Autumn colours on show at Lochearnhead, half way round our Loch Earn loop.

My dynamic duo then continued our loop by turning left along the much quieter single track South Loch Earn Road – complete with passing places. This is actually part of Sustrans Scotland Route 7 and is quite undulating to begin with with a couple of fairly steep hills, which I am pleased to report my dynamic crew conquered due to their new found fitness.

Edinample Castle- with my friend Bluebird..

The first of many points of interest on the narrower road was the spectacular Edinample Castle – which is now a private family home.

The castle has quite a history – originally built by ‘Black’ Duncan Campbell of Glenorchy.  It is built on land acquired by the Campbells after their campaign for proscription and subsequent demise of the MacGregors.

It is said that Black Duncan pushed the castle’s builder off the roof, in part to avoid paying him, but also because he omitted to construct the ramparts that had been requested. It is also said that the ghost of the builder has been seen walking on the roof.

The “old git” was so intent on keeping up the momentum for the next incline that he forgot to stop here so I have borrowed a photo showing my pal Bluebird – and her crew – from their trip around Loch Earn during our recent Tour de Perthshire.

A mile or so on, on a less undulating section, there was time for a selfie – though quite why the “old git” always throws his head back as if wont get in the shot beats me, and the “old gal”!  

Selfie time on the south side of the loch - the "old gal" does look cold!

Selfie time on the south side of the loch – the “old gal” does look cold!

The "old git" - at the ancient woodland - decided it was perhaps foolhardy just to wear shorts

The “old git” at the ancient wood. Whisper it but he decided it was a tad foolhardy to wear shorts!

About three quarters of the way round Team Matilda found a perfect isolated spot for their (infamous) prosecco picnic – right on the banks of the loch with a fabulous view up and down the water.

Cheers! The prosecco picnic on the loch side was a welcome distraction from the cold!

Cheers! The prosecco picnic on the loch side was a welcome distraction from the cold!

My dynamic duo were feeling the cold a bit by now as the “old gal” in her (not very) infinite wisdom had decreed that she and the “old git” wouldn’t need their thermal leggings today! She was wrong!

So that’s a schoolboy error that won’t be repeated on future rides during the rest of the year! Although one good thing was that low temperature meant that the prosecco was nice and cool after being carried in my very fetching red leather la bouclee wine bottle carrier – which of course matches my frame!

Fortitude, endurance, invigoration .... and prosecco!

Tandem riders lunch box – for fortitude, endurance, invigoration …. and prosecco!

The water of Loch Earn was very calm today but the “old git” couldn’t resist recounting the interesting fact that Loch Earn is one very few freshwater bodies of water that has its own seiche – a tidal system which is caused by the action of the prevailing wind blowing along the loch.

This wind pressure on the surface causes the water level to build up at one end of the loch.  This in turn results in oscillation and the water will return to the opposite end of the loch over time. In the case of Loch Earn, this takes around 16 hours and although the effect can be measured, it is difficult to observe. But the resulting currents can create complex turbulence patterns, as higher layers of warmer waters mix with the lower lying colder waters of the loch.

Loch Earn is fairly unique in this – and is illustrious company of a few other bodies of fresh water which experience this seiche effect including the Great Lakes, Lake Garda, and Lake Geneva.

You can see what the “old gal” thought of that piece of information in the cheeky selfie pic below!

Never takes your eyes off your stoker! The cold temperature led the "old gal" to pull a funny face!

Never takes your eyes off your stoker! The cold temperature led the “old gal” to pull a funny face!

Just before we left the picnic spot we uncovered another dark secret of Loch Earn when we discovered an old gravestone at the side of the road, which on closer inspection carried the inscription:

The old gravestone dates from 1660.

“This stone marks the place of interment of Major James Stewart afterwards removed to the family vault at Dundurn died about 1660.”

It seems the chief of the Clan Stewart had made many enemies, but always managed to avoid them.  He died peacefully in bed but his enemies – possibly Grahams or MacGregors – heard of his death and, furious at having been cheated of their revenge, swore to desecrate his body on its way to burial at St Fillans.

The funeral procession, having left the Stewart home at Ardvorlich house further down the road were forewarned and buried their chief in a shallow grave down the hillside close to the loch where he was left for several years until more peaceful times. He was then dug up to be safely buried in the proper place at Dundurn, burial place of the chiefs of the Clan Stewart. The gravestone marks the spot where his body was hidden. So now you know!

Back on the saddles my dynamic duo quickly picked up speed again in a bit to thaw out – but still found time to admire the scenic beauty of rapidly changing Autumnal colours as we tandemed along. The “old gal” even found enough movement in her hands to take a video of the wilderness as  we pedalled along. (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.)

Next time I promise that I will try and get the “old gal” to keep one hand off my handlebars in order to film a downhill stretch so you can see how I can fair pick up speed – well as you know I like being referred to as a “racy old lady!”

We continued along at a fair lick concentrating on pedalling in order to try and avoid looking at the ugly sprawling caravan site near the end of the loch, with the “old git” wondering aloud: “How on earth did the local authority planners allow that to happen at such a beautiful spot?”

Over an old bridge and we rejoined the main A85 for a short sprint back into to St Fillans to complete the route. The sun had decided it would make a belated appearance at this point which allowed my crew the perfect opportunity to take a few more pictures.

Team Matilda after completing the Loch Earn Loop on the bridge over the River Earn.

Team Matilda after completing the Loch Earn Loop on the bridge over the River Earn.

A picture postcard shot looking down Loch Earn from St Fillans.

A beautiful picture postcard shot looking down Loch Earn from the bridge at St Fillans.

Then the “old git” had to get in on the act and while the “old gal” was happily snapping away, he led me down a steep grass banking and on to a slippy wooden jetty out onto the loch! I thought we were going to fall in at one point!

Lets just say that precariously reversing back off the jetty was interesting. The “old gal” couldn’t look! Though she was heard to shout: “If you fall in I’m not coming in after you – its too cold!” But I am sure she was joking!

The "old git" and me precariously balanced on a slippy jetty on the loch.

The “old git” and me precariously balanced on a slippy jetty on the loch.

Anyway we safely negotiated our return to terra firma and Team Matilda returned to the St Fillans Village Store for a reviving coffee in its cosy cafe area. This allowed my crew to have a look at Strava which officially recorded the ride as covering a distance of 15.8 miles with a total moving time of 1 hour 29 minutes, at an average speed of 10.6 mph.

Total elapsed time was just 2 hours 16 minutes due to not hanging about during the picnic! Top speed was 24.4 mph and the elevation covered was 714 feet. We managed to burn up 1,315 calories and produced an estimated average power output of 219 W.

After body temperatures returned to normal I was packed back into Matilda Transport and we took our leave of a beautiful area – with Team Matilda vowing to return.

On return to Matildas Rest – and after I was safely returned to my warm garage – the “old git” put our Strava route around Loch Earn and some pictures of me enjoying the BLiSS Trail on social media. Interestingly my notoriety as a tandem who writes her own blog was almost immediately recognised in a series of tweets from the area including the Rob Roy Country tourist body and Kim Proven, the chair of Leti, the Loch Earn Tourism Information Grouptw-2-loch-earn

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tw-4-loch-earn

tw-1-loch-earnMy personal favourite – as  tandem who just revels in all the publicity! – is the “a blogging bike with taste” comment and the fact that I have got #ScotSpirit (whatever that is!)

So fame indeed! And – according to the tweets – it seems Team Matilda may in fact be invited back soon on a return visit to the Loch Earn area so I can be guided to the other areas of Balquidder and Strathyre.

I will ensure that my dynamic duo are kitted out in their thermals this time! Meantime I am basking in the glory of being “infamous Matilda!”

NEWS UPDATE on BLiSS Trail!  On November 10, LETi – The Loch Earn Tourism Information group, which organised The BLiSS trail of art installations – won the regional Central, Tayside and Fife trophy at Visit Scotland’s Scottish Thistle Awards, for “Working Together for Tourism.” Congratulations! 

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Matildas Clan Gathering on Millport

The “old gal” and the “old git” enjoying the ride on sun-drenched Millport.

The “old gal” and the “old git” enjoying the ride on sun-drenched Millport.

6.30 am on Sunday morning and the alarm awakes Team Matilda from their slumbers! A big day ahead as we are heading on an “overseas trip” for some “warm weather training” before Le Grand Depart for Le Tour de Loire Valley du Tandem in two weeks time!

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

And as added excitement the day was billed as my Clan Gathering on Millport as the “old git” came up with the idea of having a family fun day on the island. So with a variety of complicated logistics the “old gal’s” daughter Kirsty and the “old git’s” son Niall joined us for the day. And to add to all of that, we were all celebrating Niall’s birthday too!

Two of Team Matilda's offspring - Kirsty and Niall - joined us for the day "doon the water"!

Two of Team Matilda’s offspring – Kirsty and Niall – joined us on Millport.

Now before we move on I have to record here that I have been pining for my new best friend Bluebird – the Pino semi-recumbent tandem – who I shared a memorable week during Le Tour de Perthshire du Tandem, I really have been missing the company of my fellow tandem! And I know the “old gal” and the “old git” had a great time with Team Bluebird – John and Jane Taylor – and formed what hopefully will be a lasting friendship among the self-proclaimed founding members of The Nutty Tandemers Club.

Whisper it, but rumour has it that other tandemers are now keen to join after reading about the week’s fun and games on my blog and also on Bluebird’s mini blog Facebook site called ‘Travels with Bluebird’.

Hopefully our antics can be repeated before too long – perhaps on John and Jane’s home turf of the New Forest in Hampshire where we are reliably told (by Team Bluebird!) that there are some fabulous real English pubs!

So back to Millport – and when we arrived Kirsty and Niall jumped on the bus which meets the ferry for the four mile trip to the town of Millport while my dynamic duo enjoyed a brisk ride to join them.

After a much needed coffee pit stop at Crocodeli, Kirsty and Niall hired solo bikes from the famous Mapes, which has over 400 bicycles for hire! Now it would need to be said here that Kirsty hadn’t been on two wheels for quite a few years – but Niall cycles regularly and is rather fit!

So we hit the road and pedalled anti clockwise round the island – enjoying the views over to neighbouring islands of Arran and Rothesay. In less than an hour we all completed the first circuit. You can check out the details of  our route on sun-drenched Millport on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full date and statistics!

Millport Clan Gathering Map

It was now almost balmy as we had a breather back in the town and everyone was feeling euphoric as they had to remove their cycling jackets due to overheating!

Heading off in a clockwise direction, we cycled about half way round the island to our fantastic lunch spot – a picnic table right on the edge of the sea.

Lunch stop at a (prosecco) picnic table on the edge of the beach.

Lunch stop at a (prosecco) picnic table on the edge of the beach.

The “old gal” had excelled herself with a magnificent prosecco picnic spread – including croissant filled with smoked salmon and cream cheese, mini pork pies, cocktail sausages, and cheese. This was followed by fresh fruit and a special “birthday” carrot cake for Niall, complete with candles!

Picnic selfie for the foursome of Kirsty, the "old gal", the "old git" and Niall! Cheers!

Picnic selfie for the foursome of Kirsty, the “old gal”, the “old git” and Niall! Cheers!

After lunch – with the sun now high in the sky and the temperature rising, there was time for a walk on the beach – enjoying the magnificent scenery in ideal conditions.

On the beach with the backdrop of Rothesay in brilliant sunshine showing the island at its best!

On the beach with the backdrop of Rothesay in brilliant sunshine showing the island at its best!

After the picnic we all enjoyed some tandem frolics – with first Niall  then Kirsty having a shot as stoker, replacing the “old gal”!

Niall taking to the role as my new temporary stoker with great ease!

Niall taking to the role as my new temporary stoker with great ease!

Niall was very confident – and don’t tell the “old gal” but the “old git” really felt a difference when he was pedalling due to his youthful enthusiasm! The “old gal” meanwhile took up her role to shoot a couple of short videos, firstly of Niall. (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.)

Next to take to my rear saddle was Kirsty – who was perhaps a little more nervous to begin with. But she soon got into her stride – although admitted it did feel a bit odd not being able to steer!

Kirst!y enjoying taking up her new role as temporary stoker

Kirsty enjoying taking up her new role as my temporary stoker!

As you can see from this short video, Kirsty did remember to pedal and didn’t try to sit with her feet up! (Remember to click onto the blog to view the video.)

After resuming our original positions we continued clockwise to complete the second full lap of the island. It was great to see it so busy – being such a beautiful day – and also good to see so many people out cycling.

I then had the pleasure of being greeted like a long lost friend – when I heard someone shout: “There’s Matilda!” It was Crawford and Janette who run the most hospitable Craigard Guest House on the island where Team Matilda have bedded down for the night when staying over on the island! It was good to see them again and we promised we would be back for an overnight stay soon!

After ice creams and much needed cold drinks on our return to the town, there was still plenty of time left so the “old git” and the “old gal” decided they had to get a photo at the island’s famous Crocodile Rock landmark – which has been given a fresh lick of paint for the summer!

Posing at Crocodile Rock - the famous landmark on Millport, complete with fresh paint job.

Posing at Crocodile Rock – the famous landmark on Millport, complete with fresh paint job.

Then, in their questionable wisdom my dynamic duo decided they would do one final “speed lap” – a non-stop round the island whizz. Kirsty retired at this point due to a sore rear end, but Niall decided he would power off and do a lap on his own. Impressively he returned back to Millport in a time of just 34.5 minutes – which means he clocked an average speed of nearly 18mph.

As for us, we started well and we were flying along for the first few miles – but then this turned out to be the hottest part of the day and in the warm sunshine it would need to be said that Team Matilda “hit the wall” at the top end of the island!

Our progress down the quieter side was somewhat slower than usual with stoney silence between my duo – who were decidedly less than dynamic at this point! The non-stop plan was abandoned as they were forced to stop for water – before a final push to get back to the town. And hats off to them (sunhats obviously!) they still completed the 10.25 mile circuit in under the hour – at 56 minutes!

Happy faces enjoying the sunshine on Costa del Millport!

Happy faces enjoying the warm sunshine and blue skies on Costa del Millport!

So after my dynamic duo “ran out of juice” on the final lap it was time to replenish liquids at the Harbour restaurant where a table was booked for a birthday meal for Niall. First up were the celebratory Millport French kiss cocktails – an intoxicating mix of gin, prosecco and lime juice – which went down a treat after the exertions!

Regular readers of my blog will know this is one of the favourite restaurants of the “old git” and the “old gal” and once again it lived up to it’s previous reputations. The food was brilliant and tasty as always – and originally presented. The “old git” for example had chilli prawns followed by a build-your-own burger with blue cheese topping! Just what was need to restore energy levels!

One of the funniest parts of the trip – which encapsulated the enjoyment of the whole day – was on the ride back to the ferry. Niall and Kirsty jumped on the bus while the “old git” and the “old gal” had to pedal the four miles to the ferry slipway. But after a lovely relaxing meal progress was a little slower than usual.

Because the road hugs the coast the arrival of the ferry is clearly visible and given that they only operate every half hour they didn’t want to miss it. The final mile is an open stretch known as the “sprint to the ferry” and I now know why! With the minutes ticking away to the 7.30 departure – and all the vehicles loaded – we were still a good half mile or so away.

The "old gal" and the "old git" on the last stretch known as "sprint to the ferry" - and it was!

The “old gal” and the “old git” on the last stretch known as “sprint to the ferry” – and it was!

It looked like we were going to miss the sailing by seconds – until the “old git” demanded one final push from the “old gal”. “Give it some wellie!” he urged and we powered along the final straight in the evening sunlight. We could see all the passengers on deck and the crew ready to depart, and Niall and Kirsty dutifully waiting for us. As we turned on to the slipway the passengers and crew all applauded as we had made it by the skin of our teeth!

I have to say it was quite an arrival – I am not used to such applause so it was a bit embarrassing – but the very second I was pushed on deck the roll on-roll off door was lifted and the engines started and we were off.

Just over five minutes later we arrived back in Largs and a quick pedal back to Matildas Transport and time to reflect on a super day before the journey home with a backdrop of a magnificent sunset over Millport.

Perfect sunset over Millport after a super family day of tandem frolics.

Perfect sunset over Millport after a super family day of tandem frolics.

Strava officially recorded the ride as covering a distance of 38.7 miles with a total moving time of 4 hours 01 minutes, with an average speed of 9.6 mph. Top speed was 20.6 mph due to the island being so flat and a lack of downhill stretches and therefore the elevation covered was just 878 feet. We managed to burn up 2,745 calories and produce an estimated average power output of 170 W.

And astonishingly Strava awarded us no less than 21 records – I will repeat that … no less than 21 records!  This included an amazing 10 personal bests – one of Team Matilda’s best ever performances on a ride! To be honest I guess that the fact that we were effectively doing laps – 4 in total – meant we kept breaking the time on the previous lap! And obviously one of them was in that final race to the ferry!But it’s still an impressive tally and one I am very proud of as an “old lady”!

The “old git” tells me to inform my readers to ignore the bit on the Strava map where it looks like we are tandeming across water! This I am reliably told was an “operator error” by the “old gal” who was so overcome with the sprint to the ferry that she forgot to switch the device off! So it looks as if we were actually pedalling over the sea back to the mainland!

All in all a five-star day of family fun filled tandem frolics on a beautiful corner of Scotland! Quite a place for a clan gathering!

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Tour de Perthshire du Tandem – Team Matilda welcomes Team Bluebird!

Here I am with my new "best pal" Bluebird - the semi-recumnent tandem!

Here I am with my new “best pal” Bluebird – a semi-recumbent tandem.

TDP wine 5 x 7I have been uber excited over the past week or so as I have made a new friend! I am now ‘best pals’ with another tandem – called Bluebird – who kept me company on some rides and with whom I had lots of chats and fun!

You see Team Matilda – made up of the “old git” and the “old gal” – welcomed Team Bluebird to Perthshire – made up of two fellow tandemers, Jane and John Taylor who live near Southampton in Hampshire. They brought their unusual Pino semi-recumbent tandem,  who has her own mini blog called ‘Travels with Bluebird’.

Now for background Jane and John certainly seemed to have much in common with my dynamic duo – such as not enjoying hills and definitely enjoying wine! In fact both Team Bluebird and Team Matilda seemed to have the same views on not taking tandeming too seriously. Therefore, prior to arrival,  they all decided they would become self-proclaimed founding members of the Nutty Tandemers Club! And that definitely set the tone for the week – and gave us all a crazy reputation to live up to! And I can say that over the week all four tandemers more than passed the test to be life long members of the Nutty Tandemers Club!

Given that so much happened during the action-packed week, this blog is a kind of photo special as I recount the best bits of Le Tour de Perthshire du Tandem ….

Monday 15 August – The Big Meet up … and Loch Rannoch!

Thumbs up from Team Matilda and Team Bluebird in Le Tour de Perthshire du Tandem t-shirts!

Thumbs up from Team Matilda and Team Bluebird in Le Tour de Perthshire du Tandem t-shirts!

Monday morning and Matildas Rest was a hive of activity as the “old git” and the “old gal” were up early to prepare to welcome Team Bluebird! Given that my dynamic duo had only become friends with them electronically via the UK Tandem Club Facebook page – the “old gal” said it was a bit like preparing for a blind date!  Obviously they had “seen” each other via Skype calls – but this was the first meet up! And I was keen with anticipation to meet Bluebird too, as I had heard so much about her!

John and Jane and Bluebird had arrived in Perthshire on Saturday following the UK Tandem Rally in Northumberland – and brought their car (aka Bertie!) and their caravan (aka Buzz!) to Crieff. My team were down in London for a wedding that weekend – but left a bag of Perthshire-themed food and drink items to make them feel welcome and get them into the mood (and training) for Le Tour! They also had team t-shirts created using the tour logo – complete with names of stokers and pilots on the sleeves – and made up some laminated posters and saltire flags for us tandems.

But all nervousness disappeared the moment the door bell went and John and Jane greeted my dynamic duo like long term friends. Over a quick coffee everyone quickly gelled and we all knew at that moment it was going to be a memorable week!

We headed up the A9 in convoy, with warm sunshine promised, to one of my favourite places for a ride – Loch Rannoch in Highland Perthshire. As we parked up at the western end of the loch at Bridge of Gaur, right on cue the sun broke through the clouds just as both us tandems were being unloaded. And as the two crews got their equipment sorted, I got the chance to make my acquaintance with Bluebird. And despite the fact that I am an “old lady” and she is just a newbie in comparison, we had lots in common and I felt great to have a new tandem pal!

Aren't Bluebird and I looking resplendent with our tour posters and saltires?

Aren’t Bluebird and I looking resplendent with our tour posters and saltires?

Team Bluebird - Pilot John and Stoker Jane ready to roll at Loch Rannoch.

Team Bluebird – Pilot John and Stoker Jane ready to roll at Loch Rannoch.

Off we pedalled on the 25 mile loop to take in the scenic beauty of the wilderness area of Loch Rannoch. You can check out the route of our inaugural Tour de Perthshire adventure at Loch Rannoch on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full date and statistics!

TDP Strava Loch Rannoch

Now although Team Bluebird’s crew do a bit more miles on average than we do, they also agree with my dynamic duo’s philosophy that it is the sMiles and not the miles that is crucial! We were all rolling along at a good pace and  John and Jane were drinking in the amazing views across the loch to the mountains. The “old gal” decided a quick stop was required at a wild camping area about two-thirds of the way up the loch – which offers a perfect opportunity for pictures with the majesty of the perfectly conical shape of Schiehallion – one of Scotland’s most recognisable mountains – in the background.

All four self-proclaimed members of the Nutty Tandemers Club with Schiehallion

All four self-proclaimed members of the Nutty Tandemers Club with a backdrop of Schiehallion.

The two stokers - the "old gal" and Jane - together on the bans of an calm and sunny Loch Rannoch.

The two stokers – the “old gal” and Jane – together on the banks of a calm and sunny Loch Rannoch.

My dynamic duo in warm sunny day pose - spot the earpiece and headsets!

My dynamic duo in warm sunny day pose – spot the earpiece and headsets!

During the photo stop, us two tandems stayed in the shade and had a good chat!

During the photo stop, us two tandems stayed in the shade and had a good chat!

Conditions were so perfect that the “old gal” decided to shoot a video of Team Bluebird and Team Matilda enjoying the delightful scenery of Loch Rannoch. (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.)

Tandeming on we soon arrived in the town of Kinloch Rannoch where the “old gal” had “booked” one of the most spectacular tables for lunch you could imagine – a picnic bench looking on to a waterfall. This was the venue for my dynamic due to introduce Team Bluebird into the benefits of their (in)famous prosecco picnics – the first of the tour!

Cheers! The first of the famous prosecco picnics of Le Tour de Perthshire!

Cheers! The first of the famous prosecco picnics of Le Tour de Perthshire!

A perfect combination for a lunchtime picnic - prosecco with an Irn Bru chaser!

A perfect combination for a lunchtime picnic – prosecco with an Irn Bru chaser!

After a most enjoyable picnic we set off down the quieter south side of the loch – which if anything is even more scenic than the north shore. The B-class single track road never seems to be more than a couple of yards from the loch itself, and the wilderness factor is underlined as it 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 so special that Team Bluebird agreed with Team Matilda that it feels like an honour to be able to cycle through it – truly getting as close as possible to nature. Little wonder then that it is designated a Special Area of Conservation.

All smiles - taking in the sunshine on the south side of Loch Rannoch!

All smiles – taking in the warm sunshine on the south side of a very calm Loch Rannoch!

We stopped a couple of times to bask in the warm sunshine before one of those moments when I am impressed with my dynamic duo. There is a fairly steep double hill towards the bottom of the loch – a section the “old git” and the “old gal” have had to walk in the past. But I am thrilled to report they managed to ride the whole way and enjoyed the feeling of satisfaction and achievement.

Back to the cars and both tandems were packed away before a short 6 mile drive to the end of the road and the wonderfully remote Rannoch railway station. Because we had enjoyed being out in the sunshine the amazing Rannoch Station tearoom was closed for the day and we had to make do with looking longingly through the windows of the beautifully converted station waiting room. But the tandem crews did explore the station itself with the display showing the story of its construction in such a remote location and got to play with an old set of signals!

The tandem crews got to play with an old set of signals.

The tandem crews got to play with an old set of signals.

Trainspotting! Rannoch Station - surely one of the remotest stations in Scotland.

Trainspotting! Rannoch Station – surely one of the remotest stations in Scotland.

The final stop for the day was to walk across the road from the station to be met by Scott and Steph, mine hosts at the oasis which is Moor of Rannoch Hotel. It is hard to describe this hotel to fully justify what it offers but essentially it is probably best summed up in the four headline words they use on their website – Retreat, Relax, Unwind, Escape.

Moor of Rannoch hotel with its constantly changing natural vista of Rannoch Moor.

Moor of Rannoch hotel with its constantly changing natural vista of Rannoch Moor.

The hotel’s major selling point – apart from the gin bar (obviously!) is that there is no tv signal and no wifi. You are quite literally cut off from the modern world. But that is a huge benefit, and the scenery provides the stimulating brain food as it looks out over the wilderness of Rannoch Moor to the Glencoe mountains.

Which is exactly the view that the tandem crews enjoyed as they enjoyed a perfect end to the day with a celebratory gin and a superb meal – presenting Highland Perthshire’s larder at its very best! And right on cue,  just as we were set to depart, the “stag party” arrived – with the friendly herd of deer coming down off the hill for their evening meal. As we set off for home, the moon was shining brightly over the mountains and we all enjoyed its sparkling reflection on the loch. A truly memorable day!

Tuesday 16 August – Buzz’s first entertaining!

The artistically designed Nutty Tandemers club membership cards.

The artistically designed Nutty Tandemers club membership cards.

Tuesday saw my dynamic duo have to go to work, so Team Bluebird ventured out for a short early afternoon 9 mile loop from their caravan site in Crieff which took in Drummond Castle and a trip on the first phase of the new Muthill to Crieff off road cycle path.

Tuesday evening saw a big event – with my dynamic duo being guinea pigs as they had the honour of being the first people entertained for a meal in Team Bluebird’s new caravan called Buzz! But to get in to the caravan my crew had to show their special membership cards for the Nutty Tandemers Club which John had cleverly created.

And before the meal there was the obligatory toast to the Nutty Tandemers! But it was a special toast as John and Jane had procured a special bottle of Veuve Amiot fizz – appropriately from the Loire Valley given our Tour de France destination of the Loire in September! And even more appropriately it was branded Tandem, as they had acquired it in May 2013 during the 25th International Tandem Rally in Saumur in France. My dynamic duo felt honoured – and it was delicious!

The toast to the Nutty Tandemers with the special "Tandem" fizz!

The toast to the Nutty Tandemers with the special “Tandem” fizz!

The meal that followed – cooked by Jane – of spinach pasta bake followed by fresh berries was very tasty and it was a great night of laughter and chat as the Nutty Tandemers cemented their friendship – with Buzz providing a very hospitable venue for entertaining! My crew were more than happy to be the guinea pigs!

Wednesday 17 August – Sun-kissed Loch Katrine!

The Tour de Perthshire Nutty Tandemers team shirts had the names on the sleeves.

The Tour de Perthshire Nutty Tandemers team shirts complete with names on the sleeves.

Today’s destination for the Nutty Tandemers was a favourite of the “old git” and the “old gal” – Loch Katrine – which nestles in some of Scotland’s most atmospheric, picturesque and historic scenery.

The area – in the heart of the Trossachs within Scotland’s first National Park – is clearly not strictly in Perthshire but it has a special place in the hearts of my dynamic duo as without Loch Katrine they may never have teamed up together! You see it is the very reason they got into tandeming in the first place, and it was totally by accident as they decided to hire a tandem on what was their first proper date together. And the rest as they say is history! You can read a humorous account of that day here.

Team Bluebird had heard all about the romantic story – and more importantly the wonderful scenery  – so were keen to see the beauty of  Loch Katrine for themselves. So we drove in convoy to Trossachs Pier and bought tickets for the historic steamship Sir Walter Scott.

It was very exciting as both Bluebird and I were lifted on board the boat and conditions could hardly have been better for a morning sail down the loch. Certainly no need for my sea sickness tablets! The “old git” even managed to persuade the boat’s staff to get the Captain to give Team Bluebird a special welcome over the ship’s tannoy!

Two "old ladies" together - here I am on the Walter Scott steamship.

Two “old ladies” together – here I am on the Walter Scott steamship.

Ahoy there! Team Bluebird enjoying the scenic sail on Loch Katrine.

Ahoy there! Team Bluebird enjoying the scenic sail on Loch Katrine.

An hour later we disembarked at Stronachlacher Pier and decided to firstly tandem west towards Loch Lomond and the famous Inversnaid Bunkhouse popular with walkers on the West Highland Way. You can check out the route of our the Nutty Tandemers Club sun-kissed sail and ride at Loch Katrine on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full date and statistics!

Tdp Strava Loch Katrine

We decided to avoid the steep decent to – and therefore steep climb back from – Inversnaid itself and returned along what is called the Old Military Road to Stronachlachar – drinking in the scenery looking at its best in the glorious sunshine.

The "old git" and a Highland coo - the coo is on the left!

The “old git” and a Highland coo – the coo is the one on the left of the picture!

The “old gal” decided it would be an ideal time for a pit stop and Team Bluebird and Team Matilda enjoyed some welcome coffee and cake at the Pier Cafe – right on Stronachlacher pier which the boats dock at when taking passengers up and down the loch. As Jane remarked, the cafe’s picnic tables offer what has to be one of the best views in Scotland for a coffee stop. And with the sun beating down it was so warm that everyone had to apply some sun screen before getting back on the saddles!

Ready for the hilly Loch Katrine challenge from Stonachlachar Pier back to Trossachs Pier.

Ready for the hilly Loch Katrine challenge from Stonachlachar Pier back to Trossachs Pier.

So refuelled and refreshed we headed off on the 13 mile route back up the side of the loch. It is a joy to tandem on as it is a well maintained private road owned by Scottish Water who use the loch as a reservoir to supply Glasgow. But the terrain is fairly undulating! (“That’s HILLY – not undulating” shouts the “old gal”!) John and Jane – aka Team Bluebird – are more used to hills and that pushed my dynamic duo on – managing to nail most of the hills that previously required them to get off and push. Amazingly this included gaining a Strava personal best on a category 3 climb at Invergyle!

The "old git" and the "old gal" smiling - despite having just climbed a steep hill!

The “old git” and the “old gal” smiling – despite having just climbed a category 3 hill!

And a rear view shot of my dynamic duo in action with scenic views of Loch Katrine.

And a rear view shot of my dynamic duo in action with amazing views of Loch Katrine.

It was a fabulous day to be out tandeming – and Bluebird and I were in our element – even if our crews were suffering a little in the heat! One of the highlights, about half way along the route, is a scenic viewpoint at Portnellan which overlooks the burial ground of the Clan MacGregor – which dates back to the 17th century – and has historic links to the legendary Rob Roy MacGregor.

The "old gal" posing at the picturesque archway at Portnellan.

The “old gal” posing at the picturesque archway at Portnellan.

John and Jane - aka Team Bluebird - enjoying the views and the sunshine!

John and Jane – aka Team Bluebird – in a romantic pose in the sunshine!

My dynamic duo having another memorable moment on the banks of Loch Katrine.

My dynamic duo having another memorable fun moment on the banks of Loch Katrine.

We tandemed on before taking a little diversionary track – cutting out one of the steepest hills – which the “old git” happened to remember had a couple of picnic tables right on the edge of the loch with an idyllic view. Time for today’s prosecco picnic – with Team Bluebird and Team Matilda lapping up the ice cold fizz!

Cheers! Team Bluebird and Team Matilda striking a celebratory pose during another prosecco picnic!

Cheers! Team Bluebird and Team Matilda striking a celebratory pose during another prosecco picnic!

Prosecco picnic carnage! A joke photo to show the remains of the picnic lunch!

Prosecco picnic carnage! A joke photo to show the remains of the picnic lunch!

See no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil - the Three Stoogies!

See no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil – the Three Wise Monkeys on the picnic bench!

And a "normal" photo of Jane, John and the "old gal" enjoying some post picnic shade.

And a “normal” photo of Jane, John and the “old gal” enjoying some post picnic shade.

Only a couple of climbs more and a few miles and we were back at the top of the loch where Jane and the “old gal” took videos of one another as us tandems cycled along!  This was actually more difficult that it seemed as there were a few “technical issues” (ie the cameras not being switched on properly by their operators!) which meant we were on the third take before it worked!

Well to a certain extent! The footage has been given the professional treatment by the video experts at the “old git’s” work and transformed into something that is actually worth watching!

Back in the car park the “old gal” decided it would be fun to spice things up a bit and swap the pilots and stokers around a bit! So Jane replaced the “old gal” in my stoker’s position for a ride around the car park with the “old git.” Unusually for him, he was very diplomatic in his answer when asked by the “old gal” if he felt the difference in power from the new stoker!

Then the “old git” replaced Jane in her role as stoker on the front of Bluebird! An experience which he tells me he found a little odd – given the fairly exposed seating position out front! And of course he wasn’t in control of the brakes, gears or steering – so he was a tad nervous! But the swapping certainly produced lots more laughs as you can see from the video!

The "old git" taking up the role of stoker on Bluebird - with John looking a tad worried!

The “old git” taking up the role of stoker on Bluebird – with John looking a tad worried!

After all the shenanigans Team Bluebird and Team Matilda made the mistake of  going into the Brenachoile Cafe in the car park at Trossachs Pier for much needed refeshments. Big mistake! From the moment we entered the staff were off putting and it was an awful experience – the kind of damaging hospitality image which the “old git” thought had been removed from the Scottish tourism scene. It was so bad that the “old git” wrote a scathing review of their experience on TripAdvisor which you can read here – and couldn’t help but notice that other reviewers had the same message of “avoid at all costs.”

Tandems packed back in the vehicles, a quick change and a short drive saw us in the nearby tourist town of Callander. Team Bluebird liked the look of the Old Rectory Inn which had a big front garden and we bagged a picnic-style table. Celebration drinks were duly ordered before a gorgeous bar supper meal was enjoyed in the warm early evening sunshine.

Both Team Bluebird and Team Matilda headed home tired but agreeing that tandeming simply doesn’t get much better than today!

Thursday 18 August – Bluebird’s day at The Kelpies (getting lost!)

My dynamic duo had to work again today – and work late – so Team Bluebird were on their own. I am told they ventured to the Kelpies and the Falkirk Wheel. The plan was to do the circular signed cycle route but Team Bluebird found it virtually impossible to follow – just like we did a couple of weeks ago! For the full story and pictures read the Travels with Bluebird blog entry of the day here.

Friday 19 August – Rain stops ride but prosecco pizza prevails!

While Team Matilda were working, Team Bluebird ventured out on a highly impressive 42 mile jaunt from Crieff to Lochearnhead! Whisper it but I am actually quite glad my dynamic duo were working as it looked a tad on the hilly side for this “old lady”! You can read details of their trip – and see a couple of pictures here.

The “old git” and the  “old gal” had planned to show Team Bluebird the route around Loch Leven tonight – with a prosecco picnic tea along the way. But heavy rain forced the cancellation of that idea.

Spot the rain! But it was nice and cozy for a prosecco pizza night in Buzz!

Spot the rain! But it was nice and cozy for a prosecco pizza night in Buzz!

So the “old gal” came up with the inspired suggestion that we have a prosecco pizza night instead! So they ordered pizzas and drove to Crieff to enjoy another great night of food and drink in the very comfortable surroundings of Buzz!

Saturday 20 August – Finale at Loch Leven and end of Tour de Perthshire du Tandem dinner!

The plans for the big finale of Le Tour de Perthshire du Tandem was for the Nutty Tandemers do do a quick 12 mile lap of Loch Leven in late afternoon, before a celebratory end of tour dinner at Matildas Rest. The hope was to tandem in the same glorious sunshine as we had all experienced earlier in the week – but it was too good to last!

The weather gods decided to tease us and sent lots of cloud and rain – but it stopped the moment we pulled into the car park at Kinross pier. So,  despite some unsettled conditions, Team Bluebird and Team Matilda decided to risk the elements for one last hurrah!

Early on in the ride Jane even managed to catch my dynamic duo in action on video – which just underlines their slogan of “it’s always better together” … even in heavy cloud with rain threatening.

The trail has opened around two years ago at a cost of £3 million and is known as the Loch Leven Heritage Trail – linking 30 natural and cultural heritage sites. You can check out the route of the finale of the Nutty Tandemers Club Tour de Perthshire ride at Loch Leven on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full date and statistics!

TDP Strava Loch Leven

We set off on a clockwise loop just about getting a clear 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. As we tandemed past the RSPB Loch Leven Nature Reserve – about 7.5 miles round the circuit at Vane Farm – the heavens opened again.

At the rain drenched viewpoint at Loch Leven - some fetching outfits on display!

At the rain drenched viewpoint at Loch Leven – still trying to show Tour t-shirts!

Team Bluebird stoker Jane in her "fetching" cape to fight off the rain!

Team Bluebird stoker Jane in her “fetching” cape to fight off the rain!

A brief stop for a couple of pictures at the viewpoint – where we had planned to have Friday night’s prosecco picnic tea – and we headed off to complete the loop. Both Bluebird and I remarked on how mucky the other was after the ride, and the fact that we would probably be getting a good wash as a result!

Despite the rain the ride was enjoyed by all – and feeling duly energised we headed back home to regroup at Matildas Rest for the end of tour dinner! The “old git” has a bit of a reputation for his mixology talents and the celebratory toast to the tour was a rather intoxicating cocktail of Cremant de Bordeaux mixed with some cherry brandy. It certainly made the evening go with a swing!

The “old gal” had prepared some seared tuna, washed down with some Entre-deux-Mers crisp white wine, which was followed by some of her legendary Strawberry Pimm’s Gateaux – with a chaser of Strawberry Pimms obviously!

A cheeseboard was accompanied by a Team Matilda gin cocktail (what else?!) – while the “old gal” got everyone into the spirit (literally) of the evening with some “Tandem Games”! I have to say that although I was safely tucked back in my nice cosy garage, I heard the loud laughs as Team Matilda and Team Bluebird took part in a somewhat chaotic game of “Pin the Pannier on the Tandem”! This was followed by a “quick draw” event where the tandem teams were mixed up and had to draw each other with hilarious results. The final game was story telling where each crew member had to take turns in adding a sentence which had to include the words Bluebird or Matilda  – which predictably produced some suitably ludicrous scenarios!

With tears literally pouring down our cheeks the final part of the evening was the Nutty Tandemers Club prize giving and awarding of certificates for completing Le Tour de Perthshire!

Smiles and Tour certificates for all founding members of the Nutty Tandemers Club.

Smiles and Tour certificates for all founding members of the Nutty Tandemers Club.

TDP wine 5 x 7And the good news is that all members of the Nutty Tandemers Club agreed unanimously that we need to meet up for another tour in the future.

So on behalf of Team Matilda,  it was a real pleasure to welcome Team Bluebird to our neck of the woods and a real privilege to meet John and Jane and forge a lasting friendship with what are real kindred spirits to my dynamic duo! We enjoyed your company and are delighted to have shared some great memories – and the “Pin the Pannier on the Tandem” images will live on for ever!!! I am already pining as I am missing my pal Bluebird – and I for one can’t wait to do it all again! Cheers guys!

To end this bumper blog posting – a final comment from Team Bluebird’s crew John and Jane:

Perthshire has been just wonderful – the scenery beautiful and dramatic whatever the weather. But we were so fortunate to have the glorious sunshine especially at Lochs Katrine and Rannoch. So many of the villages we passed through had the most wonderful and decorative floral displays and the people have been so friendly and welcoming.

Thank you Perthshire but special thanks must go to Colin and Di, our fellow Nutty Tandemers, for all they did to make sure that we had a wonderful time on Le Tour de Perthshire du Tandem.

 Until next time guys! Cheers!

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