We awoke to a glorious morning and the sounds of wildfowl outside our window, feeling refreshed and well rested, we had only a short distance of 27 miles today to just outside Abington. Ideally we would have liked to go further and eat into the long ride to Glasgow, but a lack of suitable accommodation close to the route meant that we opted for an easy day, intending to take plenty of leisurely stops along the way. Departing at a laid-back 08.30hrs our route today took us entirely running parallel with the same motorway northwards. The road was relatively quiet though and had the benefit of a cycle lane for the majority of the way. Though beneficial, the trouble with the cycle lanes on the roads here is that they do not tend to be cleared of the debris that accumulates from the main carriageway, again leading to some bumpy and rough going in places, bordering on being unsafe for road bikes especially.
The day soon warmed up and it was not long before we were shedding layers and reapplying suncream. The going on the whole was easy, with a few long inclines where we built up a peddling rhythm and were able to summit relatively easily, this meant that we were eating up the miles at a rapid rate and given that we could not check into our lodgings until 14.00hrs felt we should stop and enjoy the countryside which was now changing from the rolling hills to a more dramatic landscape. Now without wishing to bang on about the different experiences we have had cycling in the Netherlands compared to here, obviously Holland cannot hold a candle to the dramatic scenery here, but what is sadly lacking is the wherewithal to sit and enjoy the picturesque vistas! Not a bench or picnic table for mile upon mile. We ended up pulling off the road and cracking out the foam mats (the camping chairs a luxury deemed too heavy) we sat against the wall of a disused bridge drinking coffee and eating nuts and dates contemplating the peace, broken only be the odd passing vehicle, life, the universe and the fact that we had so far only seen one other cyclist who was obviously packed up for touring. Is it too early in the season, or do the sensible tourers stick to flatter terrain?
Having basked in the sun long enough, we continued on our way. There is always a slight complaint from the derrière and leg muscles when remounting after a break, but they soon ease up and get back into the swing. I have been a little troubled on this journey by my saddle. Having researched the best touring saddles when we were ordering Twolula, all recommendations led to the classic Brooks saddles, which though not cheap, will evidently last a lifetime, moulding to your particular anatomy making them eventually the most comfortable saddle for long hours on the road. The key word here is eventually. It is supposed to take about 500 miles for the saddle to begin to break in, so we have clocked up the miles on day rides out and even a longer 2 day round trip to Bristol and back. Now Mr V has taken to his saddle, bonding with very little discomfort; mine though has proved a little more troublesome. I have the ‘lady’ version of the classic, and initially could not ride it for more than an hour without needing relief, this is despite having the benefit of my ‘thud-buster’ saddle suspension. There has been much adjustment of seat position, and I feel that though we are on course to have a comfortable saddle eventually; I can appreciate where it will give to my shape and provide hammock like support for many comfortable miles. However, I fear we are still a few hundred miles from achieving this. Indeed it has caused me some sleepless nights prior to embarking upon this trip – should I change the Brooks for my old memory foam armchair-like saddle or persevere? Not one to give in easily, I opted to persevere. With the insurance policy of a gel saddle cover. The first few punishing days of this trip were bruising, and I had to resort to the gel cover with it remaining in place ever since. I have felt though as the miles have been traversed that there is a certain ‘bedding-in’. Whether this is due to my derrière hardening up, or the Brooks softening, I was unsure. So given the short ride today I thought I would forego the gel and see how things have progressed. I think we had gone about a mile and a half before the gel was reinstated. Suffice to say I still have an insecure attachment to my Brooks. I shall persevere with, and sincerely hope to survive the bonding process.
Our guide had said that this area of Scotland remains one of the least inhabited, and we found this to be true. Though there has been the constant hum of traffic in the background, there are not a lot of homesteads, the farming here tends towards managed forests and wind; neither of which require constant husbandry. It has been pleasant on the whole though, the traffic hum did not distract from the birdsong that accompanied us on our way, and the verges were full of wild flowers, especially daisies.
The lack of local services though led to the usual difficulties of alfresco bladder relief – those who followed our exploits last year know how it is different for girls. Mr V finds it highly amusing to witness some of my efforts to seek seclusion so as not to frighten passers by. Today I had a quick vault over a gate and enjoyed a lovely view as I crouched. However, I had failed to take account of the metal mesh that was on this side of the gate, meaning I could not get a toe hold to get back over, and lack the stature to heave myself over without it. There ensued a rather ungainly scramble over the gate, seeking leverage from the angled wooden fence. Rather than assist, it entertained Mr V to take pictures of my predicament!
We pressed on, having high hopes for the town of Crawford which boasted local services and being on the Lanarkshire Tourist Route – the View Ranger app promised a cool drink at the Crawford Arms Hotel – alas this looked long abandoned, as did the corner shop. Disappointed we passed through the village, our humour slightly lifted when we spied what was surely a forestry commission joke in the shape of the patch of trees on the hillside overlooking Crawford. We wondered if the fast jet pilots who clearly practice in this area use it as a landmark – “Roger that, turn left at the c*ck and balls and straight on to base.”
Soon after Crawford we came to the town of Abington, our lodgings being just the other side, but being ahead of schedule, we stopped at the welcome and bustling local shop, come post office, come cafe for ice cream and distinctly Scottish refreshment. We had not been there long when up rode what was clearly a team of road cyclists in dire need of refreshment. It transpired that these guys were cycling LEJOG and whereas we were almost upon our stop for the night, they were aimed for beyond Glasgow to Loch Lomond and would be at JOG by Sunday, when we will just be setting out from Glasgow. Hats off to them, they are putting themselves through this extreme challenge to raise money for the charity Help for Heroes. Good luck lads!
Their Just Giving page is here if you want to support them
We made our way to the vicinity of our accommodation, and happened to find a grassy knoll under the shade of tree where we could enjoy the warmth of the day until we could check in. It is forecast that there will be a mini-heatwave tomorrow so we shall be setting off as early as possible to cover as many of the 48 miles to Glasgow whilst the temperature is bearable. We shall be taking a day to explore the city a little in the sunshine of the weekend, whilst the LEJOG guys complete their final leg.