Thursday was a lovely day for a change but I decided to spend it inside a small bar off Leith Walk. It was encouraging to see people waiting outside and a table full of wine, cheese, sausage and bread inside. A very small corner of Edinburgh was En fête. The doors opened late with a disappointed owner who was struggling to get TV reception - a problem I tend to associate only with the decades of my childhood. "who's got a freeview box?" is the twenty first century cry. A group of strangers are given free drink, food and start to chat about tactics on the climb and the crash they heard about before they left the house. Oh - and Sastre is 2 minutes ahead in a break: Topics usually lost on friends.
We wait a quarter of an hour but soon all head to another pub on the corner which changes from it's usual men with whippets and racing posts to 20 cycling enthusiasts. The proprietor is a little thrown by the influx but obviously sees the potential. Soon all 4 screens are showing the strained faces of mountain goats pulling their bikes up the highest climbs in Europe - the screen apparently showing static from the cloud they are cycling through. The picture freezes occasionally - another problem from the eighties I thought we'd have overcome - from the same cloud surrounding the camera motorbikes. It adds to the tension. A few more come in to watch Schlek and Contador stare each other out and a few shouts come out as the two approach the last kilometer. I head back to the Tourmalet with the two Irish fellas I've met as well as Laura and a local, well spoken, soak (of which there are plenty in this town) for post match analysis after Schlek pips the Spaniard to the line and eventually head home satisfied.
Posted by stupot at 01:47 PM Saturday 24 Jul
I can never imagine, in the depths of winter, that I will be sitting with all the windows and doors open trying to break up my day by sporting events. I'm not much of a jock but I'll watch a world cup, I grew up on golf and I'm definitely a cycling fan. I might even watch a tennis match if a set goes to 140 games. At the moment on my monitor I have ITV4 showing Le Tour and BBC2 showing Open golf from Fife. I stopped by Analogue books yesterday to pick up the new copy of Ride and Roleur, as well as some design porn. I also found this of interest. If only the winter was filled up with such delights, it might make it go a bit faster. And help slow down summer.
Posted by stupot at 11:46 AM Friday 16 Jul
Ardvourlie - Garenin
We woke from a great sleep and still the trees whipped about outside. We doubled up on porridge and headed out into the elements and Lewis proper. Feeling slightly guilty we trundled along, off the higher ground of Harris with, our now good friend, the sou' western tail wind. Eventually we go to the left turn which would take us to Garenin and we now had to feel more of the wind than either of us wished - the view south, back to the mountains of Harris was recompense enough though, as we glanced sideways trying to keep the bikes upright.
Berneray - Bowglass
The wind is still battering against the small windows of the blackhouses but sun now lights up the white horses in the green sea. As with the night before we make a dash from our sleeping quarters to the living and eating space situated in the next building. We repack after porridge, swap some advice with the others and head off for the ferry. Despite the terminal being only a mile away it takes an eternity and some skill to keep the bikes upright - the head wind buffeting us and occasionally trying to lift our feather-light front wheels.
Castlebay - Bernaray
Finally we made it to the ferry and at last we were on holiday proper - £29 would get us to Barra, over to Eriskay, from Berneray to Harris and from Lewis to Ullapool. The Lord of the Isles didn't command the harbour as much as I had expected and as soon as we passed Ardnamurchan point and literally hit the Minch, the undersized ferry truly didn't come into its own. The ferry was heaving - in both senses and our place in the bar was fortuitous once we realised that we had fiddles and an accordian in our midst. Unfortunately this didn't stop the sea sickness - I lay down when Chris went for a walk which kept down the lager and pork chop I was struggling with. Others weren't so lucky and as the 6 or so hours passed the toilets were not worth bothering with unless you really had no choice. We later heard some real horror stories about the Friday sailing which by some accounts saw passengers vomiting from smelling the vomit. Not a position you want to find yourself in, especially if you were one of the runners in the 'Barrathon' on Saturday.
Not on the Sabbath
Glasgow - Oban
Having tackled the possibility of a catastrophe that is any dealing with Scotrail - especially if a bicycle is involved and even if you have reserved - we headed north toward Oban. We were expecting more problems after my broken spoke the previous day (resulting in a shady looking pit stop underneath central station) and Chris' forgotten bank card (resulting in not one but two scurries home) but all was well. Our train was one that splits in two which is always quite exciting but the views en-route were much more dramatic - passing slowly as the train pulled itself up and into the highlands.