It's been a while since I did a wee update. The weather and being busy with another project (more to come....) plus doing a lot more walking with my wife had cut into riding time. However, there's been a chance for a spot of something just a wee bit different.......
Early last year, some internet friends were doing Land End-John o'Groats and a wee group of us from Edinburgh decided to meet them en route, to keep them company and give them some encouragement. We set off in the morning to accompany them to Pitlochry and then to return to Edinburgh. It was always going to be a long day in the saddle, so we'd taken some good lights with us. On the way back South, we reached Perth in the twilight and stopped off for some food. The next 80km or so would all be in the dark and this was quite a new experience. Heading through Perth was just like commuting. The street lights were the usual mix of orange and white, the car headlights hardly making an impact. As soon as we left Perth, it all changed. This was something quite, quite different and the sensation of whizzing through the quiet countryside was really enjoyable, despite the cold. It occurred to me that, especially as a small group, we were probably more visible than we'd be during the day. The only down-side was that rough road surfaces and pot-holes were a lot less visible and harder to avoid.
Scroll forward to 2011 and here we were making plans for a follow-up. Finally, the evenings were actually dark enough to make it worthwhile and we were going to do a Lockerbie-Edinburgh ride. Were going to do.... It turned out that the rail company wouldn't take a booking for three bikes - two being the maximum - although we might get a third on if the Train Manager thought it wasn't too busy. The option was simply to turn up at Waverley and see if we could get all three on without booking. Just in passing, the call centre person I was talking to then mentioned that even the two spaces weren't guaranteed. We had a brief discussion on the meaning of the word "booked", but it was to no avail and I had to come up with an alternative plan.
Luckily, a call to Virgin Crosscountry got us three bookings on a train to Carlisle. This would be slightly further to ride back but well within our range. I was even happier when another friend was able to book and join us, meaning we were filling the four bike spaces on the train. The only thing to do now was work out what to wear and get the lights charged!
The train trip was pretty uneventful - once we'd got round the fact that our bike bookings weren't visible at the ticket counter and we stocked up on some food and drink on the way. Despite a wee detour getting out of Carlisle, we were soon on the A7 and once past the M6 junction the roads got to be fairly quiet. The promised tailwind seemed to have switched round a bit, but we made good progress to Longtown. From here to Traquair I'd be travelling a road I'd last done as part of my LeJog earlier this year and little landmarks along the way would cause flashbacks. The weather was certainly kinder today and, if anything, I was feeling a little over-dressed with a Windstopper jacket on.
We carried on to Canonbie and then Langholm, with only a couple of less-considerate drivers to deal with before the wet roads enforced a wee stop for overshoes. The B road we now followed to Eskdalemuir is absolutely superb. Much of it has been resurfaced after damage caused by too many timber lorries and there's so little traffic, it should stay in that condition for a long time to come. Reaching the Samye Ling monastery meant it was time for lunch.
Leaving after soup, coffee and cake, it was already a bit chillier and it was clear we'd soon be needing the lights. The section of road which follows has a lovely, wild feel to it and the good tarmac continues for some length. Soon though, we were approaching Tushielaw and just as the road deteriorated, so did the light. The turn off for Yarrow sees a long steep hill ahead of us but we clear it in the gathering gloom and delight in the even longer descent towards the (closed) Gordon Arms. At this point, the extra lumens I'm carrying make themselves felt as I'm able to descend faster than the others, my light picking out the road surface imperfections further ahead.
From here to Innerleithen is another climb and descent and we've become aware that the collection of lights and reflectives were we're packing is confusing the few car drivers we come across. By the time we hit Innerleithen, it's fully dark and we pop into the supermarket for some water. The most surprising here is that, suddenly, we all feel cold. All that exertion has been masking the chill and we set off asap to get back up to temperature again.
The ride from here back to Edinburgh is very familiar to all of us and passes by in a fairly reasonable time, so we're soon hitting the street-lights again through Lasswade and in to Liberton. After saying our various farewells, it just leaves that drag up the Lanark Road for me to get home.
Overall - a lovely trip on some great roads and just given that added little frisson of excitement and intrigue with the dark. To be repeated!
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