Sunday, 13 August 2017

playing hooky

The bicycle is the best invention in the history of mankind. I know some folk might be labouring under the impression this would be the telephone, but given its disgraceful recent history where everyone under 30 has a relationship with a smart-phone that is somewhere between addiction, compulsion and an incurable disease, the phone contention has lost all credence and can hang its receiver in shame. Despite Lance Armstrong the bike is still a noble beast. And Lance said it wasn't about the bike. Anyway, looks like athletics is the new cycling. Meanwhile.....

Mary (on holidays) described my Tuesday's unpaid sabbatical as playing hooky. Well I suppose it was, albeit with Gordon's blessing. I had asked if it was ok to make use of the splendid forecast to accompany Mary who was giving her new bike the first long spin of its career. (To her credit Mary cycles every day to work.) I say new but it has been gathering dust in our hallway for over a year and with only about 10 miles on the clock. Shameful! It's easy to fall out of love with cycling in Scotland when the wind blows and the rain tips down all too regularly. However Tuesday was a welcome reminder that it can, on occasion, even be comparable to running! No, really!

There was a full moon torching through the curtains recently.

Mary on her "new" bike.

the prom was mostly much busier than this and slowed us down quite a lot

Whitecraig/Carberry Roundabout was in bloom

I felt a bit guilty not calling in at my late dad's place in Cousland but Liz's car was absent and we had not long set off. We wanted to push on with the ride. And also the last time I turned up unannounced, Liz did a double take and let out a surprised yelp and hid behind the door - I am fairly similar in appearance to my dad.

So we pushed on, enjoying the lovely quiet roads and blue skies, to Ormiston. The plan was to head to Haddington then turn North to the coast / Aberlady and back. Something like 35 miles. That was the plan. Hah!

So its a while since we did bikes in preference to running. First thing is it is more difficult to carry a camera. I started with it in a zipped pocket but then experimented carrying it in my right hand, which sort of worked but limits how easily you can operate the front brakes and gears. Luckily no emergency stops were required. 

On the upside the miles flew by - about the slowest you ever go on a bike is about the fastest you ever run. I think Mary (who put her gps off when at rest) measured the average speed at 12mph. We seemed to be zooming along flat roads between 12mph and 22mph. Mary had noted the wind, which was minimal, and that around 1pm it was supposed to change from a westerly to an easterly. So if we got it right we might have a tailwind the whole way. Surprisingly this seemed to be the case. Praise be! 

not so easy to photograph on the fly

There were dozens of small whites crossing the roads we were cycling. I warned Mary that if there was anything more interesting I might be compelled to dismount and take chase across the fields. Initially I was very restrained although I wasn't keen on those tiny little black flies coming off the fields of crops in their thousands. I tried to shake them off rather than sweep them off and smudge them into my white top.

not happy

There was an intriguing war memorial at Ormiston. 
Good sculpting, not sure why naked (with fig leaf). Didn't hang around the read the blurb.

I think this was our first wrong turn, on the road to Pencaitland. Mary had told me she was in charge of nav, although we shared the mistakes equally and regularly. Half the joy of just heading out for a fun run. By this point I was taking panorama photos. At the next junction we turned back onto the Pencaitland road. 

this going into Haddington - the exam preparation or the runner?

I was very pleased to get both of us in this photo at the first attempt.
Mary says she took it but I think she is mistaken.

OK so we should have headed north at Haddington. We didn't and continued out the other side doing a couple of miles familiar from the Half marathon, still heading east. I suggested if we didn't turn soon we'd have a sixty mile day on our hands. Mary had a map in her backpack but by the time we stopped to check, we had travelled beyond the edge of it. I suggested we began to head north and from East Linton we would be able to head to N Berwick or Drem. Mary suspected I was no wiser than herself and reluctant to believe much I said, despite evidence to the contrary. There was no shouting but we had long gone past the point where a cafe stop was required.

A1 shot without stopping

Now while I was impressed with M's ability to climb on the hilly bits I was less impressed with brakes being employed on downhills. That is against the (Buchanan) cycling code of conduct except for all but verticals and drop offs. Hopefully this will not continue beyond the bedding-in period.

We came to a junction where M thought right and I suggested left, which led to another junction and a signpost to NB. M said I just got lucky. Patently I have a better sense of direction, (and am less bossy! Winky smiley face).

As we were pedalling up a long drag I shouted that I'd seen an orange or brown butterfly and maybe, just maybe, it was a Wall (brown.) I jumped off and threw my bike on the verge, scampering about like a fruit loop. I lost sight of the first one over the wall which was unscalable due to nettles, thistles and a couple of yards of unpleasantness both sides. Mary said she'd wait at the top of the hill and left me to it. 2 mins later there was another and it turned out to be a Wall, (hurray!) a species I worried had maybe dropped off the tinct chart, to become ex. First one of the year (second photo of all time,) and a real delight, halfway between the dazzling fritillary and the humble Meadow Brown. I checked on the screen that I had captured a reasonable image and cycled on to catch Mary. Now I knew where they were I could return and get a better set later. When Mary came into view I was celebrating with arms aloft, to let her know. She managed, only just, to contain her joy.

photo Mary

photo Mary

From there we decided to go into N Berwick and raise dangerously low blood sugar levels. I wasn't keen to do one of the high st cafes as we would have to leave the bikes blocking the thin pavements so when we saw the signage for the Steampunk Cafe which has outside seating where you can leave your bike, we opted for that. And the seating and the bike parking was indeed top notch. It's not a place I'd highly recommend and some of the styled hipster aspiration inspires derision. And the prices are higher than the quality. That said, we left feeling much better although Mary's salad was almost entirely bereft of the greenery she was anticipating. Soup was good. Toasties a bit greasy. Free outside tap to fill water bottles. Very tasty carrot cake, if pricey. Onward!

for how long can you keep the teapots?


I was rather dreading the long miles home from NB although by the miracle of the tiny baby jesus the wind had turned and was continuing to aid us along the weary road. We were travelling at a good rate, and no doubt the thin wheels of Mary's bike and all the well lubricated and brand new components were helping match my slow fat tyres but well trained legs. I had done about 5 or 6 weeks of 24miles a day cycling to work recently and knew that had put a tiger in my tank. Mary did a good job of keeping going even though "my minty mcmuffy is red hot and puffy." No idea what that means.

There used to be a powerstation - now you can see Arthur's Seat

Coming along the prom (again v busy) there were a couple of dudes
in what looked like home made hovercrafts.

cyclepaths, now there's a good idea.

My only concession to the festival foot-traffic is that when I cycle down Middle Meadow Walk I don't holler "CYCLEPATH!" like a frothing road-rager at pedestrians violating the designated side. I point to the bike graphics painted thereon and quietly state 'bikes only', as the tourists often have limited english or may be retarded. Many appear to be. Never mind the ones who can't wash their hair but are endeavouring to learn how to slackwire. It used to be unicycles, and before that, juggling. Nothing much changes.


So we went out for just a trial ride of about 35 miles. Ended up doing 58+. I asked if Mary wanted to go round the block and take it up to 60. She declined. Happy to report no lasting damage, and a renewed joie de velo, and the wish to do more of the same. 

Since this trip, we have been conversing with various injured or injury proofing runners expressing an interest in doing activities other than running. So the whole bike ride to a cafe and back may become a thing. Watch this space.

Mary's blog on the outing here


  1. agree with your sentiment about bike being best invention; was even better when I was young, in wartime when no traffic on roads except for the occasional fish lorry, you could relax and wander about in the middle of the road