Friday, August 24, 2012

Bloody chuffed

Popped my century cherry today on the push bike. 103miles. Under my own steam.
The last 30 were pretty horrid as the rain fell and the wind was into my face.
I didn't take any pictures of my fishcake and chip lunch in Hereford, nor of the roadworks on the A40 which were a contraflow nightmare.
I did snap my Rocky road and coffee break at Tintern Old Station though-

Which was very lovely and very needed. The nice lass there let me fill my water bottle from the tap too.
Next up is somewhere near the fantastically named Bully Hole Bottom. The rain is falling and the yummy rocky road is wearing off at this point.
 Finally home, and 164.5km reading on the odometer. Very pleased with myself.
Now the lovely girlfriend is making a pot of chili and I have bathed, drunk tea and eaten cake and will be wolfing down a vast portion of said chili shortly. Om Nom.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Lovely Hat!

Well I'll admit it, I'm a sucker for hand made goods.
I've been looking for another cycling cap, and imagine my shock to find I could get one made in a funky day of the dead fabric. Thank you Etsy.
The package arrived today.
A closer look revealed...

Yup, embroidered closure on the packet sides. I think this is a first for me and I have to say, I like it.
So, what's inside?
Well I slit the bottom edge as it wasn't sewn and I couldn't bear to disrupt the twee.
One cap, made to spec, a couple of business cards and a very themed Dia de los Muertos postcard with a note from the maker/seller on the back. Very personal.
The cap itself then is how I wanted; black sides, pink bill upper and Dia de los Muertos fabric front, back and on the under bill.
I know the bill looks red in the photos, but trust me, it's bright pink.
Very happy.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A good read

I've mentioned before how I enjoy reading, and books. I don't subscribe to the e-reader model, all the people that want to read whatever smutfest trash disposable novel is trending on facefriend without others knowing can keep to those.
Anyway I've just finished reading One Man and his Bike by Mike Carter freelance travel writer. It was a birthday present from my girlfriend's folks, plucked from the shelves 'because we thought you'd like it'.
Very right they were too.
I won't give too much away but Mike presents himself as a slightly day weary individual unsure if he is running from problems. In that sense it is quite similar to Ted Simon's recollections post-Jupiter's Travels in Riding Home. We don't ever really find the conclusion to Mike's problems, but what we do get are some very close answers. Dipping between the highs and lows of human contact and insect infestation and roaring through sections of countryside maybe under-recognised, the book is really rather good. In fact, and I mean no slight upon Mike here, but if I'd been told it had been written by a travel journalist I probably would have considered it to be filed alongside the dry Lonely Planet guide style books.
Thankfully there is none of that.
For the gear nerds amongst us, the bike spec is left pretty much out of it so don't go expecting an appendix similar to Long Way Round detailing kit types and sources. I would have to say that because of that, and although the bike is a definite constant companion, the focus is always more on the experiences.
Here is a person on a bike with the same general aspirations as any other rider; getting to the end, hopefully without too many hills.
I liked it, it has found it's way into my top 5 I think.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A good day out in Bristol

Had a pleasant pedal over to my mate Al's in Bristol today to go have a nose around the bike show. I managed to avoid all the cycle lanes and find some really lovely lanes around the North of the city reaches. Here is a juxtaposition (oh yeah) of new and old.
Shortly after I got a little lost. Not hugely lost, just not entirely sure if I was where I wanted to be. Turns out I had missed a turning and so although I ended up on the same road in the end, I went via the hilly route. Hey ho.
After arriving at Al's I showered and changed before we whisked into town for a lovely pie lunch from Pieminister Pies,
And then shortly after I got fired into it with my eating irons and it was gone.
Next stop was to grab a pint and then begin to look at the bikes.
Check the funky moped :-) and check the funky flatslide!
 Rather nice slabside, even with antidive in place.
 On a painters stand was this cracking Garelli Tiger and a nice H1 for sale, yours for £4500...
Saving the best until last, this lovely JAP engined Norton sounding fantastic leaving.

 It was a really good day out, thanks to Al for doing the driving and showing me the giddy sights of the bike show.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Canada Part 9b; The Atlantic, Pictou and lobster

After prising me away from the wool shop my girlfriend reminded me that we'd not been in the sea yet. Larry at the B&B had told us of a beach near where he grew up near Caribou. We pointed the truck along some gravel roads and after finding our way barred by a grading team tried another direction. This time we made it along the spit of Caribou Island Road and parked up. To set the scene a little we had been told that the water here was 'the warmest north of the Carolinas' by several people. I duly rolled my trouser legs up and paddled in.

That I'm wearing a hat, jeans and a thick shirt should tell you how warm the day was at that point. I can also assure you that if the water really is comparable to the Carolinas, then they must be chuffing cold.
Whilst we were observing the sea and trying to make a decision about a dip a local family came by walking their dog. The father paused by us to offer his thoughts; 'warmest water North of the Carolinas they say' he rumbled.
'Of course I fish these waters and can tell you that's nonsense.' He went on.
'Out in the Straight there the coastguard reckon you've got maybe 45 minutes in a full floatation suit and then you're a goner.'
Brilliant. I really wanted to dip in further than my shins now.
'Mind you' he said, 'we'll be swimming in the water over the other side (of the spit) next month.'
Well that was an eye opener.
Grabbing towels and shoes we bade them farewell and walked up and over the spit road to the other side. I managed to gracefully slide down the bank and narrowly miss some large rocks whilst my good lady was already dipping her toes in the water.
'It's far warmer' she exclaimed, and that was it. Clothes off to reveal the bathing suit underneath and she was in.
Obviously someone had to stay on the shore and document all this, and I nobly accepted the task. Trying not to sound too cheerful when I saw a bank of rain coming our way across the water.
'You might want to get out soon!' I informed her.
So that was it. A 2 minute splash and float and the box marked 'swim in the Atlantic' was ticked off.
Back into the truck and after moaning about sand on my feet (it's a bloke thing apparently) we were away again.
Next stop Pictou for Postcards.
We parked up and went firstly into a gifty crafty shop. A few postcards were bought and the rest of the goods were browsed, only to find that a lot of them were marked as made elsewhere...
I then dragged the girlfriend into the Grohmann Knives shop/factory. After a few minutes I realised that I probably couldn't bring back all the lovely knives I wanted so settled for a lovely little rosewood handled folder. The clock was ticking and it was getting close to tea time. We plumped for a pub on the harbour to have a brew and write some postcards.

It was a strange feeling sitting on the jetty patio with the sides down whilst the rain lashed about.
Also this was stuck on the sides and I awaited waitress-based armageddon-
But it was not forthcoming.
On the other side of the walls was the ship Hector and although we were too late to have a look around it, we were still able to snap a couple of pictures.

Something rather bleak and natural about seeing it in the greyness.
Back to the truck and onwards. This time to sort out something to eat. We had been advised that although it was possible to get fresh lobster in the local restaurants, more often than not is was served cold with a hot butter sauce. This did not tickle the tastebuds, so we took the other piece of advice which had been to go to the Sobey's supermarket chain and have them cook one of the fresh local lobsters there and eat it. For the record lobster does not agree with me. I've tried it before and the results weren't great so this one was just for my girlfriend. The lady on the counter was great and showed her how to use the small pincer to pick all the meat out after cracking it for us once steamed.
I drove back through a torrential rain storm with the sounds of satisfaction emanating forth from the other side of the truckpit.
One very happy girlfriend.
Back to Truro as I wanted to try some recommended fish and chips, but we arrived 20 minutes too late as the shop had shut up. 20 minutes that we had to wait for the lobster to cook. Grumble grumble.
A pint and a plate of fish n chips in a pub sufficed instead before we returned back to our comfy bed at the B&B

Canada Part 9a; Tatamagouche, River John

It seems strange that this was so long ago, but this day was probably my favourite sightseeing one of the whole trip.
The weather was nothing special; a lot cooler and overcast compared to the previous day but still we were on holiday. The rough itinerary was to head North to Tatamagouche (3rd funniest place name for men with brains of 8yr old boys after Memramcook and Penobsquis) and we had been told that there was a Maple Syrup farm along the way and also to try the Chowder House in Tatamagouche. My girlfriend was also dying to have a swim in the Atlantic and some lobster.
The drive was indeed a little wetter and as we rumbled along with the wipers going and trying to avoid the roadkill we wondered what the day would hold in store.
First stop was the Sugar Moon Farm to see how maple syrup was made.
Sadly it was shut, so I wandered around anyway and saw the pipes coming from the trees and the large tanks the sap accumulated in. We had been told back in the market that it took 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup. I don't know if that was true or not.
Onward then!
Next up on the magical mystery tour was Tatamagouche. We passed the signs for the Creamery Square heritage centre and so swung down to see what that was all about.
Firstly I was surprised to see a large brick building. So much of the architecture was wood and so a red brick structure really stood out.

Around the other side were a couple of older guys building a boat. When I asked them why their response was; "someone thought it would be a good idea to recreate a French ship, and someone else thought it would be a good idea if we did it."
I think they are still making it.
Inside the Creamery we bought our tickets and had a good look around. The name gives it away a little but the building used to be a Creamery. Now it still has some of the artefacts from it's creamery days but also houses other exhibits. There were interpretive dioramas of the fossils from Brule and after finding out what used to walk and wallow around there we carried on to look at the creamery history.
I was really appreciative of the old fridges, now used as store rooms, and the thought that men used to head out and cut blocks of ice to bring back for cooling all the butter made at the plant.
Those doors are solid wood.
Around the back, in the solid brick building, was the old boiler room, complete with Pepper's Ghost exhibit of Boiler Bob.
Yes the boiler really is on the piss. The information provided suggests that the weight of the boiler caused slow subsidence but the boiler only sank so far. The flue and feed pipes were adapted rather than shoreing up the sinking boiler. Apparently it all worked fine.

Upstairs there were two more exhibitions. The first of which contained artefacts from the Sunrise Trail museum. Picture of a lovely stove for Alex-

 and a shot of a small selection of the artefacts-

which provided a look into the early Mi'k Maq life as well as settlers. There were plenty of old pieces of equipment as well as a few exhibits using QR codes to provide additional interpretive information. Another of the exhibits was covering the life of Anna Haining Bates nee Swan and it was amazing to read about the lady coined the Giantess of Nova Scotia.
After leaving the centre we went and had lunch at the Chowder House on Main Street. It was lovely, and just the job for keeping the cold and wet at bay.
On from Tatamagouche, then.
We headed East towards Pictou and the Atlantic and passing along I spotted signs for the Lismore Sheep farm and wool shop. Well I do love a bit of wool so I said to the girlfriend that if it was open we'd pop in. I think at that point she was couching that it would be shut but to my joy it was open. Hurrah!
We parked up and said hello to the owner in the shop and asked if we might have a nosey around at the livestock. Permission was given and off we went.
As well as around a hundred head of sheep, they also had highland cattle AKA Muckel Kuh's in this household, and a favourite to boot.
After hassling the poor sheep and trying to get the lambs to come for some fuss we returned to the shop. Oh what a treasure trove it was.

I came away with a cracking woolly hat and resisted the urge to buy some great looking woolly socks. All the wool products in the shop were made in the local community from wool from the farm. I know that might sound like the obvious thing to do but how often have you been into a souvenir shop and the label has read "made in China" or similar?
If you are in the area and like wool, go there!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Training Weekend

This weekend the bunch of us that are doing ride in September met up down in my corner of Wales to see how we got on riding as a group. The first day saw us heading out in a hazy warm light towards Usk and Abergavenny.
We had a support mum for the first day, who was meeting us at various points along the way. The first one of which was Llanthony Priory so we could stop for tea and cake.

The photo was taken post tea and cake, you can tell as people are smiling. The ride so far had been steady and the only real mishap had been Mick and Gordon heading off ahead whilst Jay, Aidan and myself had stopped in a P for Piddle bay to relieve ourselves. Jay and Aidan went one way whilst I went the other to see which way they had gone. They were found and we made the Priory fine.
The Priory was significant for me, or rather what came after; Gospel Pass. I had been fretting about how we would get on going up it and as it came up it was actually a relief to get my teeth into it and climb. Going up from the Abergavenny side the climb rises and dips before finally one longer climb takes you up to the highest point.
This is me starting to see the end of the climb-
and then Jay following me up towards the top-
It was utterly rewarding to get to the top, there is then a lovely run slightly down with the wind whistling at you and the bike humming along below. We paused to regroup by the car park and chatted to a paraglider whom had not long landed and was headed back down.
Disappointingly there was no ice cream van there this time. This meant we would have to find ice cream in Hay on Wye. The run down into Hay was steep and fast, we were braking to keep the speeds at around 45mph. A bit of spottage by Aidan meant we popped into Drover Cycles for a browse and a bit of purchasing. A lovely cycle shop and it was good to find they were a Surly dealer as well. Anyway, on to Hay for ice cream!
Shepherd's coffee bar and Ice Cream provided us with great cones full of delicious sheep's milk ice cream. Recommended. (first photo by Jay)
 Refuelled we pressed on, not far to go now.
We had a good ride for the final leg into Talgarth and I think we were all ready for some food and a pint.
After a wander around Talgarth we wound down mixed grills and a few jars of Athletic Ales.
10pm was time for bed.
The next morning we awoke to the rain, a change from the previous day. Still the forecast spoke of it drying up and sure enough by the time we set off at 10am it was beginning to dry out. The ride was an undulating climb up past Llangorse Lake before coming into Bwlch, the road steaming a little as the day warmed up.  (photo by Jay)

We paused in Crickhowell for Mick to revisit the Bear Hotel, a place he had been raving about over the weekend from previous visits. Then along the back roads back towards home. We were pulling together well as a group now and people had found their groove.
Back home in time for an excellent lunch, I would say better than the night before, but then I am biased as my girlfriend cooked it! Total mileage of 85 over the two days. A month to go and a few issues to address and tweak but a great weekend nonetheless.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Quiet Time

A Mid Wales meeting meant I was going to be heading home past Nant yr Arian, probably my favourite trail centre. I had cunningly loaded the bike in the car for the trip up and back and so as I pulled in to the centre I was pleased to see it was still open and I could get a quick short lap in. I had the hills to myself it seemed and with this in mind I had a reasonably gentle pedal around. Last time I visited I managed to launch myself along the scenery at a reasonable rate and had to be patched back up. Gently does it then. The views were still stunning and it was great to be out and in the scenery.

I have to also add that on the way up I passed the stunning Llyn Clywedog and had to stop to admire the view.

The mountain road was also worth the drive.

Llanthony Show

A nice afternoon out at the Llanthony Valley and District Show and Sports on Saturday. Despite not feeling the best I managed to enjoy a couple of halves of cider, a great steak roll and some delicious date slices.
So, gastronomical delights aside what else was there?
Well there was sheep shearing-
Cider scratting and pressing-
A produce show-
Several cake competitions-
and celebratory floats to commemorate this being the 50th anniversary of the show-
All in it was a great afternoon out, definitely a good show to get to.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Canada Part 8b- Cobequid Bay North Coast

Where were we? Ah yes, driving out and about.
After leaving the rather lovely Antiquities and tat shops we pressed on. It was one of those really rather lovely days when you have no schedule and the sun is shining.
Oh and you have a big black truck to go pretty much wherever. This means that when you spot a road sign stating the road off to the left is 'Beach Point' then you can flick the indicator on and potter on down the road and see if it goes to the beach.
I will admit, I did enjoy driving down these graded roads, and wished I had the Tenere in the back to pull out and blast long on. In it's absence though, 2 tons of Hemi powered blackness sufficed.
Sometimes the roads ended up going to a smaller trail that became someone's drive. Not somewhere we'd planned on going so reversing back out was needed.
Other times we found our way to the end of the road and to a beautiful vista.
Wandering down to the shore beyond the 'Road Closed' sign and we were rewarded with lovely views across the bay.
The rocks on the left form the bank defences, and the truck was parked up on top. This is the view from up there looking out.
We had a few cautious prods with our feet along the shore to see if we could walk out to the grass sections, but the mud was way too soft so it wasn't going to happen. Still, it was lovely to just sit there and soak up the breeze.
On from that point then. I think we managed maybe 5 miles before spotting another sign that looked inviting. Another left turn, and another graded dirt road to enjoy before we came out at Thomas' Cove. We parked up, sprayed ourselves liberally with bug repellent (Ahh Deet, the scent of summer in Canada) and checked out the map. Not wanting to do a long trek we plumped for the 600m trail that finished at the beach. First attempt heading through the forest resulted in (luckily) me nearly standing on a brown snake that slithered across the trail in front of me. The reason it was lucky is that my girlfriend has an intense phobia of snakes. So much so that when she asked why I had just exclaimed I had to reply that I had almost trod on a lizard. Even this was enough to prompt an about turn and for us to try the other way.
That we did and we were shortly on the shoreline again. This time instead of rocks we found plenty of washed up trees. Long perished and now slowly being turned into firewood by enterprising campers.
Another short walk back and forth and again time to soak up the susurrus before heading back up to the truck.
Hmm getting pretty hungry so it was decided we should press on for lunch as it was now getting close to 2pm. We decided on Diane's Clam Restaurant and after a short drive we were there.
I was getting really hungry now and ordered the largest hamburger with all the toppings and fries. My girlfriend was getting tires of fries (weirdo!) so ordered a flounder burger with mash and gravy. It was good, possibly the cheapest lunch we had, and delicious. Ok, we didn't have clams.
The clock was now at 3pm and we had to press back towards Truro to the garage to pick our fixed tyre up. Pulling in to the garage and we find out that the tyre is irrepairable. Bugger. Several plugs have been tried, but the cords within the tyre are damaged and the air is just whistling past.
So how much for a new one?
'Any part worns?' I ask hopefully, 'not here but I can call someone for you' comes Rods reply. After a short phone call we are heading out of town to a salvage yard where they have a tyre. We hand over the cash and throw the tyre back in the truck and head back to the garage. I've got to say at this point it's 5pm, and the garage closes at 5pm.
Back to the garage and the tyre is swapped over and holds air, hurrah. I back the truck up and the wheel is swapped over.

That's me being everso helpful sat on the spare.
By the time we were all wrapped up and done it was around 5:45. A massive thanks to Rod for staying open longer, finding a part worn and seeing us right.
We call by the liquor store and wander round for ages before deciding on a bottle of wine for the girlfriend and a couple of ales for me. Tonight we dine alfresco on pizza and booze sat upon our balcony.
We get the pizza from downtown Truro and in the car park is this lovely classic
I'm guessing it's a Studebaker, but could be wrong. There were no other markings for me to go from, but it was a lovely two door coupe.
So, greasy pizza and beer finish off the day.