A Breath of Fresh Air

How I'm getting back out into the countryside whilst living with MS

Archive for the tag “tandem”

Scottish Highlands and Islands: Part Three – the Outer Hebrides

Welcome back if you’re still with me on this Scottish tandem tour! Now it’s the seriously out-of-the-way stuff! We stayed for several days on Harris, at the bottom of the island of Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides, and went on two totally contrasting rides.

The first was along a side road off a minor road on the east side of Harris. It was a circular route along what was called the Golden Road. We met practically no one on the 12 miles or so, apart from the odd walker, one of whom tried to hitch a lift!

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happy bike in the sunshine

The road wound its way round rocky hillocks covered in heather and passed many baby lochs which makes that part of the island such a watery landscape. It meandered near to the sea and as we twisted and turned we had repeated glimpses of the rocky shore and the inlets that wriggled their way inland.

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houses amongst the rocks

The landscape was dotted with isolated houses and tiny settlements. Otherwise, it was rocks and lochs and heather in all directions.

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bike in the heather

We had mixed weather on that ride. You could see the clouds coming in and the rain dropping down as the clouds came towards you. Then the rain was on you, and then it was gone. And then there were rainbows! Never the same weather for long!

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rainbow!

The second ride was along the western side of the island which is utterly different, with wide white beaches and mountain views looking towards north Harris. This was busier, with camper vans stopping to take photographs of the amazing expanses of beach, and the road, though mainly single track, had been recently improved.

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towards Luskentyre beach and north Harris

The road was also along the route of the West Highland Cycle Way, which goes from Vattersay at the very bottom of the Outer Hebrides, up to the Butt of Lewis. It was good to see a few fellow cyclists on the road and exchange hellos.

We did a there-and-back route from Seilebost down to Northton. It was blue skies, blue seas and white beaches all the way. Again, there were houses dotted in the landscape but there were also some rather fancy highly designed houses with floor-to-ceiling windows making the most of the views. Many had roofs made from natural materials that blended into the surrounding rough grass. Some looked quite hobbity.

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Temple cafe, Northton

We turned off the ‘main’ road at Northton, lured by a rare sign for a cafe and another for a shop. It turned out to be a very good move! The cafe had stunning views up the estuary and towards Scarista beach, and a good selection of cakes! The shop was an open ‘hut’ with an honesty box to pay for an amazing selection of home baked wares, including vegetable curry pasties and frangipane cakes, both of which we can highly recommend!

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Croft 36 shop

We also saw by far our best selection of birdlife of the whole trip that day (which had prior to that been sadly disappointing). We saw oystercatchers, fulmars, a whole flock of lapwings, and my first ever snipe. There was also a bird we couldn’t make out that kept us entertained as we sat on the beach, whilst it turned upside down and back again, over and over, riding the air currents, clearly just for the fun of it.

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towards north Harris

It was a great day in a beautiful part of the world, and there are plenty more cycle routes we can create to bring us back!

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Scottish Highlands and Islands: Part Two – Wester Ross

Onwards and northwards! From Skye, our next stop was to be at Applecross, a settlement by the edge of the sea, the far side of large hills, and with only minor roads to take us there. Despite being back on the mainland, it was harder to reach than Skye! And the journey there is part of the background to our next tandem ride.

As we began our day, the sun was shining warmly. But by the time we were approaching the climb to Applecross, thick cloud had appeared. This climb, over the pass known as the Bealach Na Ba, is not to be messed with. It is 9km long, is very twisty, and reaches 626m. It is also single track all the way (with passing places).

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visibility on the Bealach

Well, it was certainly exciting, and I gather there are good views! Our visibility, however, was just metres ahead, and despite the weather there were plenty of vehicles on the road. Hard work!

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the view from the summit

As we descended the far side, we reached the bottom of the clouds and could see a little way ahead towards the sea. Then solid cloud blocked any further views.

However, before our very eyes, the cloud gradually, gradually receded and islands began to appear, then mountains, and we found we could recognise the shapes. We were looking at the Isle of Raasay from the far side, and the Cuillin of Skye were on the horizon. We had swung right round to the other side from where we had begun our day.

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looking towards Skye and Raasay

And with the cloud lifting, the sun reappeared. It was dazzling. We had to get out into this scenery – as fast as we could!

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the beach

There was a little road heading out of the far side of Applecross and we began to cycle along it, thinking  we would be able to travel a mile or so – we really felt that we were at the end of the world and the path must surely be about to end. But no, it continued above the shoreline, past a few houses that provided the homely smell of peat, an isolated school, a playground with a magnificent view, and a couple of churches. And all lit by this magical evening sun.

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evening sun

It all felt rather glorious and unbelievable after our journey over the pass. Then to top it all, we stopped on a hillside overlooking a little bay, just enjoying the views, when we spotted the bobbing heads of seals below us. They were sliding into the water from a little rocky island that was reducing as the tide came in, and they dived and reappeared before us again and again. Perfection.

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perfect spot for a tandem

Scottish Highlands and Islands: Part One – Isle of Skye

I couldn’t resist writing something – we’ve been wanting to take the tandem to the Scottish highlands for some time and we’ve finally done it! It’s a part of the world that we are repeatedly drawn to. It’s where we first holidayed together and where we spent our honeymoon. It was definitely time to share it with the tandem. At last, we were able to make sufficient time to travel north into the mountains (it’s a long drive!) and enjoy immersing ourselves there.

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Cuillin ridge

We actually made several tandem rides on the trip – too many for one post! So, as my son might say, buckle up, here comes part one (of three – I hope you think it’s a worthwhile journey!).

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tandem by the Cuillin

As soon as we arrived on the Isle of Skye, we wasted no time driving straight from the ferry and making for an old road we had seen on our last visit (it’s only taken four years to carry out this plan!). The road had been abandoned once a faster route had been blasted out of the hillside on the way to Sligachan.

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Cuillin from Loch Ainort

That left the old road all for us. No one was interested in it, potholed and rough as it was. Perfect! The route skirted the shore, providing ever evolving views as we curved round towards Loch Sligachan. We could see the gentle slopes of the Isle of Scalpay, just out to sea, then the beginning of the Isle of Raasay with its small volcanic peak jutting out from a flat skyline. As we rode on we could see north towards the rocky cliffs around Kilt Rock, and on the way back the Red and Black Cuillin dominated.

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north Skye

The bike ride enabled us to feel much more immersed in the island in a way that driving through in a car couldn’t – much more akin to going for a walk. This time though we were doing something new; rather than climbing amongst the Cuillin, we were hugging the coastline, bending as it bent, and watching the tides, seeing the bright orange seaweed blanket the wet, black rocks.

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towards Loch Sligachan

It wasn’t all peace and quiet though … the midges were still out in force when we arrived, as we discovered when we sat down to try and eat our lunch. As soon as we were in one place, they pounced! Especially on Pete! We abandoned trying to eat and hurried back on to our saddles – we could outride them at least! Future stops were very brief and in places where there was a breeze, which successfully thwarted them. Ah well, we were definitely getting the full highland experience!

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midges!

(Fortunately(?) the weather cooled shortly afterwards and the midges departed, causing little bother for the rest of our trip.)

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tranquility

The next day, buoyed by the tranquillity of our first tandem ride (bar the midges), we headed further afield, to the northwestern edge of the island, sure that we would be alone again. We remembered a quiet road that we had discovered many years earlier, and that it had been a most peaceful spot.

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Macleod’s Tables

As we turned off the Dunvegan road shortly before the village we vaguely noticed that we were by no means the only car taking the turning. Hmm. Undeterred, we unloaded the tandem and rode out.

The scenery was definitely as beautiful as we remembered … unfortunately, it was no longer an unknown road at the edge of the island. It was still a single track route with passing places, as most of the island had been once of a day. That’s fine when there’s not much traffic but now it seemed that word had got out that this was a lovely place to explore and, whilst not exactly busy, it wasn’t exactly quiet either.

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Loch Dunvegan

This was when we discovered the particular challenge of a slightly busy single track road on a bike, especially on a hilly road, as that one was. Not only do you need to be aware of where the next passing place ahead is so that you can gauge whether you or the vehicle coming the other way needs to stop and use it, you also need to be aware of traffic coming along behind so that you can stop at a passing place to allow them to overtake. And all the time you lose momentum for climbing the inclines. Most frustrating! When all we wanted was a peaceful time enjoying the views (as did everyone else, obviously!).

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the loch, looking seawards

And so that tandem ride came to a somewhat abrupt end. It was hardly a disaster though – we had our lunch overlooking Dunvegan Loch and the only sound was of the odd car passing. It was all much less frustrating when we weren’t on the road and somehow it didn’t seem so busy after all once we stopped. Peace was restored.

On Top of the World

The North York Moors always feel like a slightly forgotten area of the country. It really shouldn’t be! It’s an area of beautiful open moorland where your eye can wander for miles, getting lost in the heather or soaring high with the curlews into wide open skies.

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North York Moors

Pete has had a plan for some time to get us back there with the tandem and, now that we had our invaluable bike rack, we had finally made it! There’s an old railway track that cuts high across the moors, above Rosedale and skirting round Farndale. That was our cycle route for the day.

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old railway track, above Farndale

We parked close to the Lion Inn at Blakey, which sits high and lonely, looking across Rosedale, a lone building in a sometimes unforgiving landscape (it’s often cut off by snow in winter). We had tried to stay overnight there but were told that it was booked up until September, weekdays and weekends alike! – it’s right on the Coast to Coast footpath and is a popular stop for tired walkers (we can vouch for its charms after a long day’s walk!).

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looking across Farndale

Enjoying memories of aching feet, limbs, hips … everything (!), we set the bike upright, with panniers slightly fuller than usual, and headed off on a new adventure amongst the moors. Since we were travelling a little further than usual (17 miles there and back) and were in a more isolated landscape than usual, we had packed a very small lightweight tent for emergencies – in case Pete had to leave me and go for assistance. I’m pleased to say there were no emergencies!

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sheep on the track

As we cycled along, the odd grouse bustled out of the heather, looked at us in a startled way, then scuttled off across the path and back into the heather. Above us a group of skylarks swooped and twirled in high spirits. There were layers of moors as far as the eye could see; and the cry of a curlew and the distinctive silhouette of lapwings overhead confirmed that we were definitely out in the wilds.

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western edge of the North York Moors

Our destination was the Ingleby Incline at the western edge of the North York Moors, where the Moors drop away down to the Cleveland Plain. We stopped at Ingleby Top, where the railway line took a steep drop down to the valley below. The line was used from the 1860s to the 1920s to carry locally mined iron ore to the furnaces of Middlesbrough. As wagons containing the iron ore descended the Incline, they pulled up empty wagons, using a wire cable wound round a large drum.

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Ingleby Top

Now nothing of this huge operation remains, save for a few foundations, hidden by nettles, and, of course, the track which is now a bridleway and open to cyclists to use!

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nettles taking over!

We did meet a few cyclists – including one who had just cycled up the Incline! However, the overwhelming feeling was of having these wonderful moors to ourselves. And it was the tandem that got me there, so far from the built-up world; I could nestle amongst the heather and watch the scraggy sheep with their wool coats hanging half on, half off, who stared back at me in a slightly disinterested way. This is living!

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towards Westerdale

Up, Up on to the Moors!

The weather promised dry and clear, so we simply abandoned the house and all those tedious jobs to escape to the hills. It felt long overdue. Mind you, it wasn’t quite so simple for Pete who had to pedal the heavy tandem up steep paths to get there, even with the help of the electric wheel. Respect!

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steep start over tricky terrain

Our journey up through Crimsworth Dean took us through woods flecked with bluebells, and trees stretching skywards out of the steep valley. We climbed steadily until suddenly we could spy the hills up ahead. They were still above us but gradually the path’s gradient eased a little.

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bluebell haze

As Pete toiled in front of me I took time to appreciate just how lucky I was to be able to be travelling like this through the heart of the woods and beyond. I felt like I was in a modern day sedan chair, gliding along above the path, able to take in the woodland flowers, the smells, the sounds; even more so, now that the crank shaft has been adjusted so that my legs move round minimally.

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looking up towards the hills

Then we were beyond the tree line and out on to open fields, empty except for the odd flock of hardy sheep. I heard a curlew and knew we were out in the wild. Magic.

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collecting spring water

We had travelled as lightly as possible – even excluding water – as there was a spring where we could fill our bottle to be able to make some tea using our portable stove (of course that was an essential item!).

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suitably rugged-looking tandem!

We sat sipping our brews and enjoying the views oh, for ages! There was an occasional plaintive cry from a sheep. The curlew circled above, and the sun lit up different parts of the hillside as the clouds came and went.

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enjoying the views

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and in this direction!

Eventually we got back on the tandem and took the now descending, stone-strewn path over what cyclists call a ‘technical’ section. Very hairy, more like! The tyres slipped and slid over the loose stones and we very nearly came a cropper at one point. A bit too exciting!

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escaping sheep!

We stopped at the bottom by Grain’s Bridge to enjoy a last tranquil stop and look back over the route we had travelled. A couple of lambs stared at us from a safe distance but hurried off behind their mother when we (Pete!) made a sudden movement. We had the place to ourselves again. The only sound was the water flowing below as we dangled our feet over the bridge. Contentment!

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at Grain’s Bridge

Exploring Welsh Lanes

And so the tandem joined us in Wales. It was great to have this option of freedom with us, thanks to the new tandem bike rack – details of which Pete has now had chance to add to the About the Tandem page. The trouble was that we also had our offspring with us – only joking! – of course it was lovely to have them with us. However, they certainly didn’t want to be seen cycling with us – especially on a tandem!

The problem was easily solved with straightforward bribery, and so we abandoned them for the day and escaped!

Criccieth, North Wales

Criccieth, North Wales

We were staying in North Wales, by the sea in Porthmadog, and discovered a cycle route that took us to Criccieth, a little further along the coast. It seemed to hug the edge of the line of hills behind the coast.

We set off enthusiastically and were soon on a lovely country lane, away from the main road. Unfortunately, it then started taking us uphill. And every time we turned round a bend, there was more uphill! Of course, it was fine for me, I just sat on the back looking over the hedges at the sea, trying not to weigh very much! It wasn’t quite so much fun for Pete!

Eventually, the lane flattened out and we knew that the rest of the way had to be downhill – much more acceptable! Before that though, we sat in a field, looking towards the mountains. It was more like the start of the moors than a field and was very peaceful.

peaceful Welsh scenery whilst picnicing

peaceful Welsh scenery whilst picnicing

The way to Criccieth after that was lovely, with lots of downhill and we were now both able to admire the views!

We had travelled more than expected when we got there (over eight miles) and we hatched a plan in the teashop for me to get a taxi back. However, once we eventually tracked down a taxi number, we were put through to an answerphone! Plan B entailed me cycling back with Pete – but this time along the more direct main road.

looking out to sea, Criccieth

looking out to sea, Criccieth

Despite initial misgivings, it worked out fine – we could use a cycle path for part of the way, the route was shorter and the views were still lovely. And I survived! I did an amazing 15 miles that day … and took it quietly the next day!

PS – I can’t resist telling this non-tandem tale of a contrasting day on holiday.

On one day, the rest of the family climbed the fearsome ridge of Crib Goch, to get to Mount Snowdon …

Crib Goch, Snowdon

Crib Goch, Snowdon

… whilst I spent a beautifully peaceful day reading by the shores of the lake at Llanberis.

Lllanberis

Lllanberis

How to keep everyone happy on holiday!

Cycling Along the Pennine Way

Well, it was just four miles each way along the Pennine Way, but still! There I was, on – well, amongst – the Pennine moors, with the wind really blowing on my face. It felt really good!

Pennine moorland

Pennine moorland

This new, exciting route was made possible by our new purchase: a tandem bike rack! We’ve been talking about getting one for ages and finally got round to it. It’s great! More details will follow when Pete is able to update the About the Tandem page, but in the meantime this is a peek of what it looks like.

the new bike rack

the new bike rack

It is going to open up so many more possibilities, not least taking it to Wales on holiday. I’m being distracted: back to the moors!

We had driven to the White House pub at the edge of Blackstone Edge, towards the end of the third day of the Pennine Way if you are walking the whole route. We were able to get on to a wide gravelly path that headed north, winding round to give us a different view of our familiar Calder valley in the distance.

looking across the Calder Valley

looking across the Calder Valley

It never ceases to amaze me how many views there are in this part of the world. The hills and valleys twist and turn so much that there is a new angle and a new view every few minutes. It’s extremely good value!

The path was flat and kind to us except for the several gates which we managed to open and close without either of us dismounting – quite an art! But worth doing as I find it tiring getting on and off, fitting my feet in and out of the pedal covers. We shuffle backwards and forwards with me holding on to the gate and giving it a firm shove once we are safely through – a bit tricky but quite satisfying!

gritstone outcrop

gritstone outcrop

I was very pleased to find a poem engraved on to one of the giant gritstone boulders that are scattered across the landscape. There are several poems dotted across the moors from Marsden to Ilkley as part of the ‘Stanza Poems’ written by local poet, Simon Armitage. I certainly hadn’t expect to be able to get anywhere near any of them! This was ‘Rain’ – apparently inspired by the weather. I’m saying nothing, except, well, it wasn’t raining when I visited!

'Rain' boulder

‘Rain’ boulder

The path follows by the side of two or three small reservoirs cut into the moors. They seem very ‘relaxed’ reservoirs somehow – there is a shoreline rather than a wall at the far side of them and they seem very much part of the landscape.

We were unable to travel further than four miles as the path became a walker’s footpath at that point. However, we were able to see across to Stoodley Pike before turning back – well worth it!

Stoodley Pike

Stoodley Pike

A Sociable Ride

The weather was as wet as the forecast had predicted. It was no day for a bike ride. Unfortunately, we were committed to one!

We had agreed to join the EMpowered People group on a ride that was passing close to our home. So we could hardly back out! We found every piece of waterproof clothing we possessed and waited for the call to inform us that they were on their way so that we could join them.

signs of EMpowered riders!

signs of EMpowered riders!

Unfortunately, there was a slight breakdown in communication so that we could only catch up with the other riders at the cafe stop in our local woods. We tried our best to catch up before then but they were just too fast!

The rain was very sharp and cold against our cheeks. We were soon very much awake! Once in the woods, we were slightly sheltered by the trees and bounded along at a good pace. Before we knew it, we were descending to the stream as it flowed past the mill cafe.

Rachmi loving the hand cycle

Rachmi loving the hand cycle

We knew they were inside from the wide variety of bikes parked outside. It was good to see people again. There were about six EMpowered riders and a good number of support riders. Everyone seemed to be enjoying being out and no one complained about the weather – except to say they were looking forward to a warm shower when they got home!

ready for the return journey

ready for the return journey

It was great to cycle back with the others, being part of a group of riders. It made it all seem livelier and more sociable. In fact, it was all over far too quickly and we had to say goodbye as they continued on their way.

Their total ride was about 15 miles, and we cycled about 5 of them. I have to confess though that I realised that that was quite enough when I got home – I flopped for most of the rest of the day. But it was generally a happy flop (apart from the frustration to not being able to do anything else all day) and we certainly wouldn’t have had our adventure if we hadn’t agreed to go as part of the group. So the commitment definitely paid off!

our tandem is well guarded!

our tandem is well guarded!

EMpowerment

You may remember that last year I took part in a cycle event round Anglesey, organised by a charity called EMpowered people. One of the things they do in order to help people with disabilities to cycle is to arrange Taster Days where you can come along and try out different types of bike and see which is most suitable.

One of these days took place locally at the weekend and I got myself along. Unfortunately, Pete’s (other) knee has been playing up so I went on my own and without the tandem.

spoilt for choice!

spoilt for choice!

It was great to see Simon, who set up the charity, and some of the volunteers who had come along with a couple of vanloads of bikes, as well as some possible new recruits for the next Anglesey trip in May.

There were hand cycles, trikes and even a four-person bike, as well as a bicycle for two where you sat side by side (a bit like a pedalo!). It was also explained to me that one of the hand cycles could be partially dismantled and reattached to another bike so that power and support could be supplied by a second rider. There was some very good kit on display, as well as some lovely helpful people to assist.

... and more!

… and more!

If anyone found a particular bike suitable, they could take it for a turn in the park then out for a little tootle, supported by someone from EMpowered People. Some people simply used an electric bike, or had toe clips fitted to stop their feet from falling off the pedal – that is distinctly a problem I have without a clip.

I spent most of the time chatting! I caught up with people I’d met on last year’s trip and a local chap who is aiming to come this year, having recently obtained a hand cycle through the charity. Look forward to seeing you there, Chris! He loves the bike but is very aware of the extra effort to pedal using his arm muscles rather than his legs.

I had a go on Chris’s bike and struggled even to steer it! I didn’t get chance to appreciate the extra effort needed as I could barely control it. Fortunately for all concerned, I was tightly supervised and, indeed, barely actually steered it since I would have cashed it several times if Richard hadn’t simply moved the steering column for me! There is clearly a knack to riding such a bike, something akin to learning to drive a car using hand controls.

side-by-side cycling

side-by-side cycling

I decided that it was much simpler to sit on the back of the tandem and let Pete and the electric motor do all the hard work! Though, I hasten to add, my legs do go round and round and provide me with quite enough exercise anyway!

It was lovely to be in touch with everyone involved in the charity again and it sounds like there will be at least double the number of EMpowered riders in Anglesey this time. In fact, we are completely taking over the hotel! I can’t wait … I may even have to do some training!

Canalside Cycle

It was cold and the sky was hidden under a solid bank of cloud. But it couldn’t be helped – we were definitely going out on the tandem. I’d not been able to get out properly for what felt like ages. Tedious reasons: Pete’s Knee and a virus. And whilst the snow was pretty (for a day, anyway!), it wasn’t compatible with using the tandem.

icy waters, Rochdale canal

icy waters, Rochdale canal

So, dull weather or not, we were going! We wrapped up well (I had on six layers, and three for my legs!). It was a while since we had made use of the canal and we decided that this flat route would be a good one to get us back out again. I left the car at the station and then we were off.

Signs of the cold spell covered the water – breaking ice stretched over many sections. I felt even colder. Several barges were moored along the path but there was little sign of life, just a few geese padding along the ice. The canal felt asleep, hibernating, but it was still beautiful and restful.

We cycled on, passing the odd group of few walkers. It felt like there were just a few of us who knew of this path. A couple of mountain bikers sped past, covered in mud (as they should be!).

homely barges

homely barges

My layers did a pretty good job of keeping out the cold – it’s a distinct concern when you aren’t expanding lots of energy pedalling. However, I was wearing thin footwear and the cold really got to my feet. It made me very aware I was outdoors, so there was some good out of it (she said desperately!).

But when we had our soup stop I held on to my cup very firmly. I felt the warmth extending down to my poor feet, and acting as a hot water bottle on my hands. Pete insisted on giving me one of his fleeces as he assured me he was warm enough after his exertions (so lovely!). It was the vital seventh layer! I was now perfectly snug and I did a good job of forgetting about my feet, cycling on happily and enjoying the quiet landscape.

canalside soup stop

canalside soup stop

After a tasty lunch in Todmorden we carried on for a couple of miles with the aim of dropping me off at Walsden station to get the train back to the car.

One of the great things about this route is that you get the chance to appreciate lots of Victorian engineering – there are many locks along the way as height is gently gained. You can also spot the old lockkeepers cottages as you pass. Sometimes there’s a little hamlet around the lock, then it’s out into the wilds again.

railway bridge near Walsden

railway bridge near Walsden

Past Todmorden we were able to admire a wonderful Victorian railway bridge complete with turrets, crossing above the canal. And the sun came out!

We had to employ a slight change of plan regarding the train – there was only one train an hour from Walsden (with a long wait until the next one) so we headed back to Todmorden where there were two an hour – and one was almost due! We sorted a ticket out as fast as we could then I turned towards the platform … only to be confronted by a tower of stairs. There was no way I was going to get that train; it would be a very slow haul up the steps, especially after being on the bike.

Then a man who had just got off the train saw me and ran back to the guard to say there was another passenger on the way, and the guard waited the train for me. These kind acts gave me an extra glow to go with my tandem glow!

sunshine!

sunshine!

A Wild Ride

This is a post that requires the use of imagination! There are no pictures to accompany our first outing of the New Year … it should become clear why!

It was New Year’s Day and it felt appropriate to be getting out on the tandem. The only trouble was, the weather looked pretty unappealing. The forecast was for more rain later. As there wasn’t much rain at that moment, just a blustery wind, we thought we’d better get on with it.

Braving the elements

I was about to pack my waterproof over trousers when I began to feel drops of rain. I decided that it would be more sensible to wear them! I was glad I did. Although the rain continued to be light, the wind was cold. In fact, I was glad of all my layers.

We cycled briskly along the path, not stopping at any of the tempting scenic woodland views – not the moss-covered rocks or the crooked, bare branches, or even at the usually compulsory bench stop!

A welcome break

It was a case of pedalling on till we reached the cafe, then falling off and into its warmth. Much, much later, fortified by soup and tea, we braved the elements again, mounted our lovely tandem and headed home.

Goodness, the weather was fresh! A light rain and accompanying sharp wind kept my faculties alert. I reached home feeling much more awake than I’d left. In fact, that was the curious thing about this trip. I’d been anxious about going out at all as my legs had been feeling weak recently, probably due to less use as I’d been laid low with a cold. However, my legs certainly felt no less bad for the outing and my brain felt much more alive! (I even found the energy to write up A Christmas Walk!)

Thank you to the tandem

I am bouncing with energy, well, mental energy, but that’s a good start! And all thanks to the tandem – I couldn’t have stayed outside for as long without it (or had so much fun – yes, honestly!) and I know that the little bit of exercise from turning the pedals has done me a little bit of good too!

Meanwhile, outside, the weather really did worsen as forecast. It was wild! Lashing rain and strong winds hit the windows. I felt, well, I’ll be honest, quite smug! We had been out, been blown about and got safely home, all before the wild weather really began!

And an apology

Sorry that there are no photos – I think they would have been a letdown after this description (!), even if I had been able to stop and take any. Probably the pictures in the mind are better … and, who knows, perhaps more dramatic than the reality!

Swings and Roundabouts

I’ve been swimming again, and it was so lovely. I find it very relaxing to gently make my way up the pool, rest, then gently make my way back down again.

I found myself trying to work out how long it was since I’d last been swimming … how long since I last felt that I had the spare energy to go swimming. It was definitely before my last fatigue-filled relapse in February, and could well have been some time before that as I’d not been on great form for a while.

Anyway, it made me feel doubly pleased to be in the water again as it meant that I was still on an upward direction from that time, I was still improving, and hopefully this energy level was going to remain for a while.

I felt on a high all day and couldn’t wait to go again, though I was waiting for the inevitable collapse the next day … which didn’t really happen! Granted, my legs were reluctant to do much for the rest of the day I did go swimming but I didn’t expect them to and I was just buzzing inside anyway so it didn’t matter!

I think that my body is having a bit of a chance to get its act together because it’s had more time to concentrate on doing that recently instead of holding me together through various significant events that I’ve had this year.

It really has been quite a year – full of fab things! It was such a pain that the severe fatigue relapse kicked in just before it all began.IMG_9323

First, there was my parents’ Golden Wedding celebration in March, which was a wonderful opportunity to chat to people I’d not seen in ages, and to enjoy seeing my parents having the chance to share their day with so many people they’d known for so long.

My sister came over from New Zealand to be part of the celebration, and she stayed with me for a few days too. It was great to catch up. I think that we also both appreciated being around someone else who was in a similar position to the other; we didn’t need to explain, our MS is reasonably similar for each of us. I could take her around my town at my pace which was perfect for both of us. (It actually took us three days to do justice to the shops and, in particular, the cafes!)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A couple of months later, our eldest turned 18. Another lovely occasion, as well as a bit scary!

Then in the autumn it was our turn, with our Silver Wedding and a trip to Scotland in early September and a party at home at the end of the month.

In between, I took part in a tour of Anglesey on our tandem, when I was still feeling somewhat below par, and enjoyed a trip to Scarborough, again using the tandem.

So, it’s no wonder my body hasn’t had the strength to take me swimming as well! It’s taken a quieter few weeks, with no big events to plan on the horizon, to give my body the time to rest.

Even though on the outside it doesn’t look like I’ve had to plan much – just turn up in a suitable dress with my family, consider presents appropriate to mark these significant events, invite friends to our party to celebrate with us  – behind the scenes, I’ve had to do some serious micro planning, especially to manage my energy levels.

Arisaig, Sotland

Arisaig, Sotland

The fact that I’ve had to think so much about these events in advance, and the difference that I’m now beginning to experience now they are over, just goes to show how much nervous energy was taken up with planning anything vaguely significant.

As I say, it’s been a fab year, and I seem to have got safely the other side of the extreme fatigue relapse. It feels like an exchange I can live with to have had all these great events which I was able to fully enjoy, but to have had less energy for swimming, archery, canoing or as much tandem riding as I would have liked. At least, it does now that, as life has quietened down, it looks like I’ll have more energy for some of these activities again – remembering as ever the MS mantra of pacing, pacing, pacing!

my anniversary roses

my anniversary roses

Back in the Saddle

We managed to get ourselves back on the tandem at the weekend – a long-overdue event. It’s funny how things get in the way.

However, just knowing that the tandem is there waiting for us makes all the difference – knowing that we can get out and will get out, that is half the joy of it … though obviously it’s much better to be able to actually get a ride out!IMG_1288

This weekend, we didn’t try anything too adventurous – just our little woodland route. It was beautiful! The weather still hasn’t realised it’s supposed to be thoroughly autumnal and chilly. Instead, the sunshine slanted brightly though the trees and warmed our faces when we stopped to enjoy our surroundings.

On the hillside across from us, the trees looked like softly brushed heads of hair. Vibrant reds snuggled amongst paler browns and greys where the leaves had softly departed – there have been few storms to tear them down this year.

It really did me good. I never tire of this route – it is always different and there are always other people looking equally happy to be out.IMG_1286

I’d forgotten how the sight of the tandem always brings a smile to people’s faces, as well as provoking some very poor jokes questioning whether I’m pulling my weight on the back (actually, no I’m not!). Children enjoy pointing out the strange bike with two riders and parents enjoy naming it for them. This trip we experienced a new first – the tandem had its photo taken! (I have to admit, it was looking particularly photogenic, leaning against a tree!)

The Tandem Goes to the Seaside

 

Now that the tandem is part of the family, we decided to take it with us on holiday to Scarborough. It was too heavy to manoeuvre it on to a roof rack but could be fitted on to a rack on the back of the car once the wheels had been removed. It was still a bit of a challenge but one that Pete was up for!

the tandem at South Bay, Scarborough

the tandem at South Bay, Scarborough

The bike was able to take us on trips from one end of the bay to the other; too far to have wanted to travel using the wheelchair and, of course, much more fun!  On a couple of days when we’d persuaded the teenagers to do their own thing (I’m not sure how much persuading was actually needed!) we headed to the spa at the bottom end of South Bay and found a quiet, sunny spot to enjoy the views before sauntering along to the restored Victorian cafe (or brasserie) with its spacious proportions – all high ceilings and relaxing atmosphere.

We then cycled the entire length of the bay, past the South Bay beach, with its colour and bustle, along Marine Drive (very bumpy over the cobbles!), past North Bay and its surfers, and as far as Scalby Mills. There, the heat of the sun forced me to hide inside a pub for a refreshing drink!

at Scalby Mills

at Scalby Mills

We took the high road back, stopping at Blenheim Terrace, off Castle Road, to survey the fine views. We were able to look down on the route we’d just taken and across at the splendid castle, standing firm on its ancient rock. There were plenty of helpfully placed benches to use and we sat happily on one for some time, enjoying the beautiful blue sky and glistening sea.

The journey was about four miles in all but exceedingly good value for the distance! We had hoped to do some more adventurous rides: along the old railway line outside Scarborough that goes north to Whitby, and along a bridleway in the North York Moors. However, I wasn’t up for such escapades this time (heat and fatigue, I think). They will just have to wait for another occasion … and we didn’t really miss not doing them!

above Marine Drive

above Marine Drive

Le Tour is Coming to Yorkshire!

Yes, the Tour de France … in Yorkshire! The Grand Depart takes place here on 5th and 6th July. It’s a crazy idea … but fab!

book shop, Hebden Bridge

book shop, Hebden Bridge

There have been subtle signs over recent months that something is happening, such as the increasing number of cyclists to be seen climbing the steep hills round here (and, slightly disconcertingly, more of them have been wearing lycra: this is not necessary!).

As Le Tour draws near, towns are being decorated in yellow or covered in polka dots, and yellow bikes are appearing in shop windows. In Hebden Bridge, the decorations are fun and varied.

organic vegetable shop

organic vegetable shop

People have been discussing where they will be watching the peloton and, more importantly, how they will get to the point where they can watch … and what time they need to get there. (Frustratingly, this will require more thought for me with having mobility issues, but we are hoping to arrange something vaguely complicated involving the tandem … I will report back after the event!)

hairdressers

hairdressers

I was very excited recently to see Chris Froome and other members of Team Sky whizz past through Hebden Bridge as they test rode the route. Well, I think it was them – I saw four skinny blokes flash by in light blue lycra! A glimpse of what it will be like on race day I fear, though without the amazing atmosphere I’m expecting.

library

library

Earlier in the year our two local television news presenters from Look North, Harry and Amy, rode the entire route over a week on a tandem to raise money for Sport Relief. I went along to cheer them – how could I not support fellow tandem riders?! I saw them battle their way to the top of Cragg Vale (at 5.5 miles, the longest continuous gradient in England, as anyone round here will tell you!). It was an early taste of the rising excitement that the event is generating.

florists

florists

At my work next week there are various bike-related activities, including a time trial up Cragg Vale … I think I’ll be cheering people along rather than participating in that! I might be able to take part in the Wear it Yellow day. That is, if I can find something yellow to wear!

jewellers

jewellers

I’m going to see what else I can find connected to the Tour between now and next weekend. I’ve got to make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime event on my doorstep. I know the riders will go past in a flash, but it’s the buzz around it that is just as exciting!

shoe shop

shoe shop

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