Two Wheels Good

(four wheels also good but my licence is only green)

Hello 2015

Hi again.

We’re back and looking forward to a new bout of summer and another cycle (or 2 or 3). Leeroy saw some action since June last year – in November he rode 65 miles and the other day he managed a wee Pentlands jaunt – but mostly sat idle either strapped up to stairs or leant against a wall in our flat. Excusing a few minor quibbles, he’s been healthy and well and is wearing the same inner tubes and tyres that took us through Glencoe.

pic courtesy of moirbridge

pic courtesy of moirbridge

Now we’re all reacquainted and have caught up on each other’s news and reminisced about the old days we can turn our attention forwards and look to this coming summer, more specifically three particular weeks:

1) May 17th – May 22nd
This plan is sans tandem but v. exciting. James and I are hoping to tackle the Outer Hebrides on normal bikes. There’s still loads to work out but the route looks a bit like this: http://tinyurl.com/p77wlqw
I’ve never been to this area before and there looks to be some incredible roads/beaches/lochs (google Loch Bi for a sweet road) so I’m keen. We spent yesterday afternoon in the library poring over maps of Barra, Uist, Harris, Lewis etc. which last month were all alien names but now obviously you travel from south to north cos of typically strong wind. (Wikipedia on the climate of the Outer Hebrides: ‘Winds are a key feature of the climate and even in summer there are almost constant breezes. According to the writer W. H. Murray, if a visitor asks an islander for a weather forecast “he will not, like a mainlander answer dry, wet or sunny, but quote you a figure from the Beaufort Scale.” There are gales one day in six at the Butt of Lewis and small fish are blown onto the grass on top of 190 metre (620 ft) high cliffs at Barra Head during winter storms.’ … uh oh)

2) June 1st – June 6th
Leeroy’s second biggy. Callum and I are mounting our trusty (lol) steed again for a coastal ride up to Aberdeenshire. That’s all we have to say about that just now cos we’re wary of high expectations and committing ourselves to something which is near doomed to fail but may just be pulled off… If you want to know the route ask us but keep it on the D-L plz, we wanna save face.

3) ???
Some time later on in June, after my brother finishes A-levels, we’re planning on a trip but not at all sure where or exactly when but it’s in the offing.

So there’s the two-wheeled plans for the coming months. Lots to finalise and work out or even start planning but I’m dead excited to see what happens. Readers of last year’s trip will remember that planning is basically a waste of time so who knows how these three things will develop? For now, I’ve got essays due, exams to do and 3rd year to complete🙀 … I’d really rather be riding but that’s got to wait. Here’s a well rad pic of the most recent time we took Leeroy out for the purpose of keeping us going/getting us excited/admiring Jonah’s face:

jkim, me, callum, jonah

jkim, me, callum, jonah ✌

Happy new year! 🌞

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Hi Grandma

This will embarrass her, but it has to be done. Thank you to my Grandma, without whom, the trip would have died a fairly dull death maybe before it even started. She’s a legend among men, an Olympian of kindness. As India would say: ‘whatta gal! 😻💃💃💃’. As Ellen did say: ‘Your grandma is literally the nicest person in the whole wide world. Respect’. As Callum describes her: ‘the Angel of Peebles’. Haha you’re welcome G

Hello Grandma

Hello Grandma

Love you lots

 

 

Story in Photographs

The Road to Fort Bill (pt2)

Ok so part two here we go.

We left off just as Callum and I were sitting in the inn being all like ‘ahh man what do we do?’ and me desperate to complete the ride. The details of what we decided are in that post called A Go for Broke Rescue Mission so I won’t bore with repetition.

Anyway, the scheme worked a treat and Leeroy was looking fine and slim as we looked to head off on the 75 mile road to Fort William. The sun smiled down on us like an encouraging father, all our tyres felt good and the days are long – Glencoe here we come.

Whatta ride. Wodehouse wrote about euphoria, “sitting on top of the world with a rainbow round my shoulder”, but his description is too sedentary. On a bike it’s seated but there’s rush there’s speed there’s movement and crazy spinning; it’s more like a Futurist painting than Bertram Wooster enjoying his bacon and eggs.

Giacomo Balla 'Abstract Speed + Sound'

Giacomo Balla ‘Abstract Speed + Sound’

It is euphoric though, ol Pelham Grenville had the word. I’m visualising repeatedly the road as it swept and turned and dipped and rose and rolled on and on for all those miles and I’m trying to find the words so desperately to convey exactly what it was like. Imagine you’re on a bike and it’s sunny and warm but you’ve a constant breeze fanning your body and spirit. You look down and see there’s the road beneath you, the bike, your legs and the pedals whirring (whirring! that’s it!) whirring; you look up and there’s heaven about you like what Kerouac would call a Movie in God’s Universal Mind or the Nirvana Bliss but if you’re feeling less existential or less Buddhist you could call it some other majestic name that nevertheless pictures a landscape of watch-the-landfalls mountains, and streams and waterfalls, and briar with hopes of deer, and Ice Age-cut wilderness practically singing with sounds and wows of prehistory and hallelujah. Riding a bike through this is incomparable, incredible … inarticulable – I cannae do it. My head rings, my eyes water. It was like Handel.

We made it. Fort William. Unbelievable. The speedo said 72 miles distance. We had reached 40.5mph (wowow), my arms and shoulders ached like hell, Callum’s shorts ripped a little (hi bum) but man we were there. Our last 10 miles spent curving the coast in the evening sun, 7 hours since Strathyre, we made it. And here’s the sign as proof:

Callum FW

Hello Callum, hello Fort William

It’s tough to write and encapsulate everything about what made this day o so worth all that led up to it. Some better writer, go and experience and do it justice! I’ll nod and clap and shout out yes!es and amens in wholehearted and complete concurrence.

 

The Road to Fort Bill (pt1)

Those of you up to date on the ol trip will be aware that some minor/major hiccups have jolted the smooth progression of certain tandems Fort William-bound. For those not u to d on the ol t, this picture sums it up:

flat_bicycle_tire

Our break-down count, taken on Thursday, ran thusly: Tuesday – two inner tubes and a tyre; Wednesday – one inner tube and a pedal clip; Thursday – three inner tubes (!). This last needs some explanation.

Thursday was a helluva day. We awoke in Stirling and got Leeroy looking pretty with a fixed toe clip and a new front tyre (for safety and for luck) and were all good and raring to go. Off we go, again. The day is forecast rain and misery but only fulfils these promises later, for now we’re laughing as we roll on out of Stirling, admiring Willy Wallace’s neat monument and the rock-like composure of both our swanky new tyres. We join Route 7 in Callander and begin what became a hellish imbroglio of rain, punctures, midges and despair. The clouds unleashed their torrents just as we reach this nice looking holiday place by Loch Lubnaig and we pulled in for a moment of comfort, warmth and hot chocolate before the next stint up to Killin where we have ambitiously (who’d have thought) booked a room for the night. Leeroy’s back wheel – which deserves a name of its own, if only to curse it efficiently – has other plans. Route 7 has a rough patch which we hit with all full gusto and grit at about 6:30. The cursed tube goes at the foot of a t00-rapidly-descended descent and we shudder to a halt in the home of all the midges that ever lived. Before the niceties were over the midges got intimate and personal, real up close like, kissing us and such, but with teeth like great whites. This is the hardest inner tube change I have ever done. Mentally, however, the next one, 3 minutes later, was perhaps more of a challenge. Reader, I swore.

Nibbled to the bone, wet, cold, exasperated, dejected, disappointed, hopeless, pained, 15 miles from Killin’s bed, and with another damn shark-bug in my ear, we set to work on another inner tube. A minute later, this is also gone. We’re out of tubes, we’re out of town, we’re out of hope. I call my dad.

The next 20 minutes see us trudge, all three of us, into Strathyre – a tiny, one streeted place with a shop and an inn and the nicest people you could ever hope to meet at the end of  day of shattered dreams. I will, for just one second, ambassador for the Inn at Strathyre, who fed us heartily and put us up for the night in fresh and comfy beds, and whose staff are a special breed of kind-hearted wonders. At point of arrival in Strathyre, at least 2 of our wee band of brothers were at point of turning for home. The third was a madman with a crazed dream and eyes only for Fort Bill.

This is where I’ll leave it for now, for the sake of length and tantalising what happens next?ness. The suspense kills; will our three intrepid heroes make it? Tune in next time for part 2.

A Go-For-Broke Rescue Mission

Yesterday was another of em difficult days. I’ll fill you in later. For today we have pressing and oh so critical news we absolutely must prioritise and relate to you now.

Today is the day for our all-or-nothing go-for-broke plan. The scheme runs something  like this: We’re getting our wheel fixed (again, sigh). Grandma, secret hero of this trip, is going to drive to where we are in Strathyre where we will offload excess weight (tent, sleeping stuff etc) and bicycle off to Fort William all in a oner. That’s a trip of near to 80 miles I think. Today’s supposed to be a stunner weather-wise so that’s good.

So, here we go. More details another time, for now I’m writing this to my brother who is proxy-writing this boy for your morning reading. Think of us as you sun yersel this afternoon. Blaze of glory, Ho!

Much Love.

Day 1 // Day 2

Ah man whatta couple of days.

Yesterday was day 1. Bike packed and we’re away, cycle cycle pedal pedal roll, we’re going smooth. The Forth road bridge is in sight just as it happens and bang! whizz squeak the back wheel is flapping like a pancake. Dammit!  This is about 5pm. A few minutes later and Gary the bike man is pulling over and being any help he can (which is little, but great guy nonetheless). I got Gary’s number and he’s offered his garden as a camp spot for night number 1, about 15 miles out of Edinburgh. Woop progress. That’s our backup. Plan A is get in touch with an Edinburgher with a car and a big heart who can nip into a bike shop, grab us a new tyre, and whizz on up to Queensferry and us. Phone call to Luke. ‘Ah hey Luke, how’s it going? you up to anything? do us a favour?’, ‘Got no car mate, wife’s using it innit’ (uncanny impression of Luke by the way), ‘ahh!’ … After we’d shared these thoughts from the bottom of our souls, Luke offered to be our man in the city, and scout around for the Edinburgh car-possessors out there. He does so via facebook and the following status goes out public:

“Anyone in Edinburgh with a car and access to a bike shop want to help Michael and Callum out??!! They’re in South Queensferry, I don’t have a car”

In that, our situation is nutshelled. We’re stuck on Roseberry Avenue, 12 miles from home, with no back tyre. Thankful for a couple of things at this point: 1. it’s sunny; and 2. response is mostly concern rather than mockery (thanks those who called or tried to help). Time is now like 10 to 6. My Grandma is our official superhero, so I call her. She’s in Peebles, you may remember, but is a true champion and cancels an evening of Bridge to get a tyre from Ed and deliver to Queensferry. That’s a long ol way though and we have a few hours to kill. Here’s an excerpt from the diary of a madman (me) from this period:

The flies are moving in they’re all over the place that’s one there on my arm and there’s another! on the map.
Callum’s gone. Don’t know where to. Time is now 7:02. We’ve been here for an hour + a bit.
There’s loads of flies. 

8 o’clock. She’s here! O sweet hope, O loving rescuer! We’re alive! We also get a swanky hot meal – o o no, deprived of cold beans…

Today was day 2. We slept on a green bit in front of a wee car park overlooking the Firth. Getting up at 7am and the toilets aint open til 10 what’s that about? so we go to find a breakfast and a loo.

After breakfast we packed Leeroy up without much confidence and set off across the water. Finally! second day and we’re over the damn bridge. Hey what’s that noise? Oh it’s the wheel. Again the heavy loaded (Callum’s a fatty) back wheel flattens under its burden and we’re left with a punctured inner tube. We went to hide and cry in a covered car park. Callum goes off to the nearest bike shop for repairs and I read On the Road in the rain – go get em Physics vs. heyo book English literature (one of us had to watch the bike; Callum volunteered). He comes back with the wheel shipshape and we wait for what is possibly the most miserable day in history to ease off and give us a break. It doesn’t but we’re sick of car parks by now and dive in.

Wet. O boy so wet. We plough on along winding route 76 through to Stirling with pools of water in our socks and droplets pulling our eyelids off but it’s all worth it for the sake of a few things which I absolutely needed to clarify as we plunged deep into another of those deep deep lakes masquerading as puddles:

One of those things is this time when a bird – it was little, maybe a blue tit – floated next to us in perfect harmony and we felt woah what awe what nature what oneness ahhhhh 🙂 🙂 🙂
Another of those things is when you look down and feel the hum of the road beneath you and the mechanical smoothness of chain and shoes moving round and think how this is great and totally worth it.
The last of my thoughts/justifications is that the fight makes the rest so deserved, so welcome, so warm and comfy.

So. Here we are. On a computer in this hostel in Stirling. We’ve a warm bed upstairs (just the one, double, haha hey Callum) and all our stuff is on a radiator thawing and drying. There was a loony in the stairwell earlier playing panpipes but hey, I’ve got clean socks on.

Concluding word from Callum (concurred and worded by me): thanks to all those who care, we appreciate your texts, calls, smoke signals etc. Even if we can’t spot the latter, keep at it, cheers!