Saturday, July 30, 2011
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
We both woke up in Callander in slightly cranky moods and feeling the miles in our legs. We had too much breakfast and started the ride out bloated and irritable. To make matters more annoying, our saddlebags kept flying off. It happened at least 6 times with no end in sight.
We got a bit lost but started to find our rhythm as we arrived at Loch Katrine. Loch Katrine has one ferry to the other side leaving at 10:30… we missed it by 30 minutes but I was pleased as it meant more biking. We stopped at the ferry point and luckily a bike rental place was stationed right there so we filled the tires and got a garbage bag and stole a spare bit of rope to tie around the bags to keep them from flying loose. Also, they had one of those strange old timey bikes with a giant front wheel and a tiny back wheel. I have never tried one and thought it couldn’t hurt to ask. He gave me the thumbs up so I hopped on… Caitlin said I was an idiot but some small child told everyone who would listen that I should be in the circus… to which Caitlin said, “You have no idea, kid”. Check out some pics of me in action.
The sun was now out in full force, we had each had a Snickers bar, and the bags weren’t budging so we were much happier as we skirted Loch Katrine.
It was amazing and we stopped for a bit at a gravesite of the Gregor Clan, which was on a man made peninsula. We rounded the Loch and got hit full force with a head wind and storm clouds moving in. 5 minutes later we stopped to change into rain gear. On cue, we got hammered with some seriously cold rain.
I promptly steered us in the wrong direction and hammered down a path to nowhere. Caitlin gave the halt command and consulted the map…proving yet again that I am a bit of a meat head when it comes to the bike. I don’t really care where I’m going as long as I am going fast… it resulted in us getting lost very fast multiple times. Props to Caitlin for righting the ship every time. This time was no exception and we were back on track.
We came into the town of Aberfoyle and had some more snacks before we started the tough climbing portion of the route into Drymen. The first pitch was about 12-15% and one of the tougher climbs we have done but it was over pretty quickly. We spent the next 5 miles of rolling terrain discussing whether or not we had done the 2nd and final climb as it was rolling a bit and trending a bit towards climbing. We rounded a bend and the verdict was in: we most certainly were NOT finished climbing. The road pitched up with no end in sight. Usually that isn’t an issue as it wasn’t insanely steep but a long 10% climb on a loaded down tandem was basically a recipe for blowing our legs to shreds. We breathed very hard and I snotted all over my nice bike jersey for the next couple miles and finally hit the top, which marked the start of a nice long descent into Drymen, our stop for the day. We rolled into town very pleased with ourselves and happy to be done with our final big day on the bike.
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Friday, July 15, 2011
We woke to a full Scottish breakfast which is really a special thing.
· Porridge with heavy cream and golden syrup
· Thick Bacon (like a combo of our bacon mixed with Canadian bacon)
· Mushrooms (Sautéed in garlic)
· Two stewed tomatoes
· Scrambled Eggs with loads of cream
· Strong Coffee
Mushrooms for breakfast sounds a bit odd but it is amazing. I am converted and I think I will be bringing that back with me..
We thought we had an easy day of riding on tap as we were riding 24 miles from Killin to Callander. No rain to start off with but 1 mile in we were in the biggest downpour of the trip on single track with mud splattering everywhere. It was awesome. A mile of dryness was enough to warm us up before the onslaught of cold rain so we were fine. We made our way up a very steep 4-mile climb. It felt like we were going backwards but we finally hit the top.
We were then treated to the most phenomenal road I have ever ridden. This is super dorky but it was like riding through the scene in Harry Potter where they are riding on the Hogwarts Express across a massive arched stone bridge. It was halfway up a mountain overlooking an enormous valley with a river running down the center. A Loch was in the distance with mountains on either side. We were blasting down a dirt road surrounded by mossy stones and lush greenery. It was so green it would have made Hulk jealous. Parts were completely exposed and we could see everything. All I have to say is God is good.
After the best road in the world we hit some hairpin switchbacks…these are tough on roadbikes and hellishly dangerous on a tandem. It was a super technical day, mostly off-road and quite rainy in points. The rain kicked up tons of mud and by the time we rolled into Callander, we looked like two hogs covered in slop. Caitlin was in a good mood and sang ‘tryin to catch me ridin dirty’ for miles which, as you can imagine, was a delight. Also when we would hit bumps or come upon little ramps in the road, she would insist on hitting them at top speed and scream “air, air, air!” Getting a tandem to lift off or catch air is completely reckless so I disregarded her jabbering, which she made quite difficult to do.
Once we arrived in Callander we feasted on steak pies and headed off for ice cream and flapjacks. Flapjacks are basically granola bars with 15 times the butter. They are the most delicious little snacks in the world and I am becoming quite picky about my flapjacks. I hunt for them wherever I go and through experimentation I have found that my flapjacks must meet the following criteria:
· Use margarine over normal butter- margarine provides a chewier and moister consistency and butter’s flavor clashes with the sweetness of the golden syrup
· Golden syrup instead of brown sugar- you American swine wouldn’t understand. You’re probably thinking, “Golden syrup? Is that some special seasonal variant of Aunt Jemimah?? LOL!!!!!” No you idiot and stop laughing out loud. Nothing is funny. Golden syrup is the nectar of Gods and has nothing to do with that brown syrupy bilge water you are trying to pass off as a breakfast staple.
· Rolled oats must be pressed together to achieve super dense status. It better not crumble. My flapjacks MUST be neither dry nor crumbly. If I wanted a bullshit granola bar, I would have got one. Nothing is worse than being duped into thinking you are about to indulge in the world’s tastiest snack only to find yourself with a mouthful of dehydrated bat guano and oats that Quaker calls a snack.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
The next day was purportedly our “most arduous day in the saddle”. It was 54 miles with an 8-10 mile climb through a mountain pass where Robert the Bruce fought the English. We also were slated to ride passed the oldest tree in the UK… over 2000 years old. Needless to say, we were pretty pumped to get going. When we woke up, however, it was dumping rain and the winds were raging. Cait had brought a raincoat that would help a bit… Naturally, I wasn’t so bright. It would have been a day to stay inside and play Star Wars monopoly except for the fact that we needed to get to the next town as that’s where we had a hotel booked. There was no time to put a stardock on Tatooine nor to go directly to galactic jail! So the decision was made for us and we headed out the door.
The temp was in the 50’s as we walked out into the downpour. I muttered something along the lines of “we need to ride our asses off for the first 15 minutes to warm up and then it’ll be fine” combined with several other choice obscenities. And hard we rode, desperately trying to prevent the teeth-chattering cold from seeping in too far. It was a chore to keep the rubber side down and to keep the bike from flopping in the wind as it was blasting us on the sides and from the front at random intervals. The rain sheeted into our faces. An hour later, we stopped to grab some hot drinks. Tea and hot chocolate helped some but stopping in a warm store made starting out again much worse. We then headed up the large climb that would last somewhere between 8 and 10 miles. It turned us inside out as both of us were fighting with the behemoth tandem trying to will it up the hill. Those things do not like changes in elevation. Finally the climb ended and we bombed down to Loch Tay.
We rounded the loch thinking we were home free but the terrain turned on us as we were faced with 15 miles of stinging climbs that got up to 13% grades. 13% feels like 30% on a loaded down hybrid tandem and, even in the granny gear, I was burning up my matches all over the place trying to get to our final stop in Killin. Cait and I were absolutely ragged when we rolled into Killin. It quite possibly could have been the hardest day I have ever had in the saddle. Despite this, we actually had quite a good day considering the overall nastiness and discomfort of the conditions and the difficulty of the route. We rode well and stayed in good spirits for 99% of the day. A few climbs demoralized us and took us within calories of bonking but we stuck it out and rolled the tandem over the top. Caitlin provided much needed diesel power as I was running on E towards the end.
Gassed, we changed clothes, showered, and headed to what would be a lunch that will not soon be forgotten. I was dead on my feet and my brain felt like it was a scrambled egg. The lunch was the only thing keeping me out of a coma. We took down the following in one very short sitting: 2 baguettes covered in bacon, cranberry sauce and Brie cheese, salads with balsamic vinaigrette, lentil soup, goat cheese tartlets with caramelized onions, multiple chocolate bars, and couple cappuccinos. Then we headed back to the B&B to try to dry our clothes for the next day… ironic and futile as it was going to piss rain all the next day too.
It was a good day.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
The next day was canyoning, which is a combination of scrambling, climbing, and cliff jumping all in a river gorge. It was nuts and very good fun. We flopped all over the riverbed and Cait and I were scrambling and jumping off stuff like baby howler monkeys.
Following canyoning, the meat of our tandem riding began with a 40+ mile ride to the middle of the Scottish moors. The town of Rannoch is little more than a train station and a B&B. I am not sure why it exists actually but the B&B has phenomenal scotch and beer and the cycling was, again, some of the best I have done. Caitlin and I are setting that tandem on fire. It is literally like a 60 pound bike the way we have it loaded down. It’s also an upright tandem. Basically it is made to go slow, but we completely disregarded its intention on being a beach cruiser and we have that thing ripping along the lochs at dangerous speeds. I love it and Caitlin is incredible at providing pure diesel power and making my turning job much easier as she mimics my pedaling perfectly. It is tough to handle a tandem if you have a floppy idiot in the back, but Cait has been magic and it feels like I am riding a single person bike which is ridiculous on a tandem which can just as easily feel like handling a school bus with monster truck tires on ice.
Saturday, July 9, 2011
We stopped in Edinburgh and had learned to book a hotel. It was literally next to the station. We stepped off the train and immediately fell in love with Scotland. We plopped our luggage down and ran back to the streets to wander around. The architecture was incredible. It is exactly as you would imagine, with massive stone buildings that seemingly have been untouched for hundreds of years. Castles and statues are everywhere and our eyes were literally bugging out of our skulls. We stopped in a pub for fish and chips, beer, and steak pie and then headed off to a ghost-tour. It basically took you into the crypts of Edinburgh and told the history of death and other unmentionables throughout the city’s checkered past. We also walked through the cemetery and heard tales of poltergeists. It gave me such a fright that I peed my pants in front of everyone :( .
The next day we were off to a small town called Pitlochery. It makes every euro touristy town in America look like stupid broken down slums. That’s right Holland, Solvang, and Frankenmuth. Step your game up. This place was so picturesque it made me want to vomit with excitement at the charm of it all.
Our bike tour started the next day when we were introduced to our 10-day biking itinerary and had our first 25-mile spin on the tandem. We promptly got lost and turned it into a 50 miler. No worries as it was some of the most brilliant cycling ever with perfect roads and some of the most untouched perfection I have ever seen. I hate to say this but Scotland is a massive stereotype from our experience. I mean that in the best possible way. It is literally like everything could be made into a corny postcard. Everything is lovely and the place is so lush, green, rolling, and quaint you couldn’t possibly comprehend it from one lowly blogger’s ramblings... more to come.
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Our honeymoon started off with a slightly ridiculous upgrade to first class. The seats were like something from the Jetsons. It was like a space pod. They laid completely flat, came with a free toiletry bag with sleep masks, more food than any body has a right to, and the knowledge that others were suffering in coach. All of the prior provided more joy than anticipated. Two naps, a steak, several deserts, and a full breakfast later we were in London. I had mistakenly booked a hotel literally multiple towns over. Idiot. We wandered around London for what seemed like forever. We discovered that the underbelly of London (where we were staying) and the people were, for lack of a better word, unwelcoming.Finally we found our hotel and walked in to find a stinkhole in the middle of a run down and slightly seedy part of town. We flopped down, jetlagged, and napped until 8. We then woke up and wandered for food. We headed to the King’s Cross area desperately searching for platform 9 ¾. If you don’t understand the reference, read a G-D harry potter book already. We didn't find the platform as it was suspiciously under construction... I think it was a ploy to keep harry potter zealots away. However, we did find Lucy Abernethy's apartment building somewhat serendipitously. She lived and worked in London for roughly a semester and it was cool to see her old home. We found some Japanese food and it was excellent. The next day we headed back to King’s Cross and hopped a train to Edinburgh, happy to leave the poorly dressed and surly Londoner’s behind.