Road to nowhere, and back again

As fatigue’s leaden grip slackens on both my feet and my enthusiasm I find myself looking at the weather forecast several times a day. It’s always been my first thought when the vapours rise from my adventurous spirit to be lit once again.
Then I’d have a wee shufty at Geograph to see if anyone’s caught a shot of the unlikely spot where I might stick a tent.

I did all that. but this was for a wee bit of a lesser challenge, we just wanted to get to the mountains, but without having to climb one. Not just yet.
When mountain rescue comes for me I want my explanation to be better than “Sorry, I’m still gubbed, thought I’d be fine though, can you carry me a bit more gently thanks”.

I thought along the roads north, visualizing branches off to either side and the many laybys where we might start our wee adventure. Getting a loop to walk was turning out to be difficult without hilarious distance or actually going over a summit, so then I went for out and backs and a wee trail I’d never set foot on came up.
From the A82 at Loch Ba there’s an unmarked and unfrequented track that leads straight westwards into the West Highland Way not far from Ba Bridge which means it’s a track to the very foot of the mountains.

Wardrobes coordinated, food sorted, we were up and away at a frighteningly early mid morning the next day. Yay for going places.

We missed the track completely and started out day wandering around the heather until I actually looked at the map. Ah, it’s there I said looking up, and indeed it was on the other side of the wee lochan by the road. Reverse gear…
It’s very subtle at the start for such an accessible path but does become more worn into the landscape as you go. It’s Rannock Moor here still, so it’s also very wet in places and it wasn’t long before feet were wet. Didn’t dent those grins one wee bit.

The last glacier was a messy bugger, there are the boulders it dropped everywhere you look. It’s a subtly beautiful landscape and completely empty of people. that’s not something you get much in the hills these days.

The Black Mount is always ahead though, snow flecked ridges that grow closer every minute. I had a little flutter inside as I walked and looked up, oh this is the stuff.
A little cloud started to drift in and catch the tops and ridges. It just gave an added air of drama. I could feel myself standing there, the chill as the mist enveloped me and cut off the sun and check on my ice axe leash on my wrist before I stepped into it.

Before that our own little real life drama was a river crossing of sorts. There was once a bridge here, maybe an access to Ba Cottage if it was still occupied after the old road shot in the 1930’s. Now it’s just fallen timbers and some remarkably intact stonework.
Linda’s not a natural water crosser and these times are always a source of fun, well for me they are. We did it though, and lets face it, feet can only get so wet.

We stopped on the bridge just short of the cottage on the WHW. It was out of the cool breeze and was a brilliant sun trap. We sat on folded out OMM Duomats (55cm, the one they don’t make any more, glad I stocked up, they only make gear for short and skinny folk now apparently) and had soup, cuppas and pieces on cheese and ham.

As moments in time go, this could easy be described as perfect.

We saw people too, tow on mountain bikes, two on foot. As West Highland Way traffic goes, that was very light. It’s not far to Ba Bridge, a familiar place but one I haven’t seen in a long time.
I tried to redo my stitched together photie from the post below, we marveled at the water below and watched the clouds come in heaver as the temperature dropped enough for Linda to hide in her down jacket.
I’m sure my historical lesson about the Telford cobbles that start here and lead on to Inveroran was just as valuable though.

The cottage walls are thick and strong, it looks like it was deroofed rather than it being a victim of natural decay. How much have I seen that in the Highlands.
There’s not much I can find written about Ba Cottage, it seems that it might have been a travelers rest, by design or opportunity taken by the occupants is unknown. There’s plenty flat, short grass round it now, it would be a great camping spot.

It’s sad though. Mind you, I’d probably rather it was like this than the unoccupied holiday home of a wealthy Londoner.

I’ll use my poles to cross the river again. Wait where’s my poles… ? No idea Linda, where did you put them?

1km from the road is where it turned out. That’s a happy ending I think.

We sat down to have the last of our cuppas and see what the sky did. It was threatening some colour as we lost the light but the cloud was thickening and it was definitely getting colder.
The landscape was flattening with the lack of light, we were both tired and I’ll admit sore too, my feet haven’t work this hard in weeks.
It was nice to be in the car with the heater on.

We sat twitching our toes as the heat built up inside. Cars flew past at alarming speeds and the the dark clouds occasionally split to reveal beautifully lit lenticular clouds of pink and orange.
That one below, I really should have go out of the car to line the tree up better with the cloud but it was too warm inside to risk it.

This is all on my phone camera too. My proper camera chucked it on the walk in, the lens wants to stay in now. I think it might curtains for it this time. Bummer.

We stopped for some Black Rooster takeaway close to home and sat at home happy after our wee excursion.

I’m definitely improving, I can feel it. Just in the nick of time too, I’ll be testing gear shortly, I’m going to be back in print later in the year. We’ll get to that though.

Linda’s getting very fancy with that phone camera.

Not so fast now, probably not so light either.

I took these two photies in April 2008. I was looking for something else over a cuppa this morning and found them them using my 2022 head I made them into one photie.
I think that was still in the days of borrowed cameras too.

I’ve never had the desire to walk another long distance path, but I’d do the West Highland Way again anytime. I took this photie at Ba Bridge when I walked it over a weekend back in ’08 and even now I can remember the whole route in detail.

I think I’ve only been there in daylight once since. Checks the weather…

Game Boy

One thing that’s kept me sane this past month is Descenders, a video game based around downhill mountain biking. It’s got Fort William in it (kinda) and plenty other venues that folk from the bike world would recognise. As well as handling that feels like the game’s been made by bikers it has the sensations of speed and peril that I’ve never felt in any other game, and I started with Pong over 40 years ago. I’ve shut my eyes when I know I’m going to crash several tiomes. It’s magic.

Still, the sun going down made me look up and run for the camera.

A Stunning Red Head

I was excited and scared. I haven’t set a foot on a hill since what, November? I know I’ve lost fitness, but the lingering tiredness from my bout of covid and also my ragged mental state from what might be the most stressful weeks of my life made the simple and oh so regular task of shooting up the crags feel like an almost impossible task.

I was was encouraged by the brightness of both the day through the window and the words coming at me through my phone, go everything said.
Once I was packing and getting dressed I was focused (a rare state for me at any time) and in the end it was okay getting there and getting out of my old ladies car (I currently have a VW Polo which was mother’s until the truck gets new steering, and various other bits and pieces…), it was when I had to negotiate the groups of unmasked, living breathing people that I stated to waver a little.

Everyone got space, and very few got a nod never mind my usually grinning and uninvited welcome. It was uncomfortable.
I took a right to take the track to the steps, the sun was playing on the crags and splashes of glowing white below the blue sky and ribbons on cloud.
That pulled me on as I started to feel the incline, first in my legs and then my chest. I kept the pace even and low, I breathed in deeply and took in the view behind me many times and I got the the highest point in better nick than I’d expected.

I think maybe anxiety had tightened my chest as much as the weeks of inactivity because from here on I felt better. My head cleared a little as I felt calmer, my legs seemed to be working fine and my lungs took me up the zigzag gully to the crag edge without issue.
On the edge was just glorious. Snow on the peaks, snow in the glens, snow under my feet. Snow up to my ankles actually.

Sometimes you get that fleeting moment of newness, your eyes forget, your brain is working on other business and it feels like the first time all over again, just for a moment before the internal processing catches up and tells you to put on your windshirt and hat because you’ve done this your whole life and you should know better than stand about misty eyed and getting cold.
Well screw you brain, I had my wee moment and I loved it.

It was late when I left and the sun was already low and the light was already colouring the snow gold and pink. I stopped at the far end of the ridge to break out my flask, take some photies and soak it all in.
I must having been feeling myself by then too because I caught two passersby and gave them all the banter I’d been saving during my downtime.
Liam is a local snapper and Lowe Alpine ambassador, and is younger than the Lowe Alpine Mountain Cap I was wearing. He’s in the early days of his adventuring and I could sense his enthusiasm and energy. Be interesting to see where he ends up, good luck young yin.
Jim is a few years ahead of me, another local, long finished his Scottish rounds and now looking to visiting all the islands. We chatted 2m apart about life, engineering and local history as we descended into the evening.
These were joyful meetings, thank you both.

Two things stick with me as I write this on a Saturday morning. Lowe Alpine Mountain Caps are excellent and I’m glad I stopped wearing mine because it’s in mint condition despite being bought I think in ’97 or maybe ’96.
Second is that I am absolutely wrecked today, everything hurts.

Still, I’m thankful to be moving again, there are many that won’t have that chance.

Christmas Behind Bars

I’d spent the best part of two years doing my best. I’ve never feared for myself, but worrying about my daughter and my parents has made me catch my breath many times.

I’d heard Linda struggling for breath on the phone in the early days of lockdown and wondered if this was it, when we were just starting out, had we been fast forwarded to our end by the stupidity and inaction of others?

I’d watched incredulous as the Tories laughed at us, fattening their own and their friends’ wallets as we slipped into chaos, and all the while a large number of this islands’ inhabitants still cheered them on because you know, Brexit.
“Who’s the more foolish? The fool or the fool who follows him?”
I’d like to say that Obi Wan nailed it in ’77, but Boris is no fool, he’s a cynical, devious liar and the only fool in that picture is anyone who voted for him.

I’d got my jags; support band, headliner and encore. Am I now being tracked by Bill Gates, Wee Nicky or MI5? Not any more than I have been since I first signed up for something on the internet and started carrying a smartphone.
This really pisses me off. Conspiracy theorists are dicks. Actually, that’s a little harsh, they’re terrified dicks. Rather than accept that in reality there is uncontrollable chaos waiting at the edge of every choice we make, they invent the “enemy”, the big plan that’s behind it all because that’s easier to understand and gives them something to fight. It’s the adult version of sleeping with the light on.

I wonder if antivaxxers and antimaskers go straight onto the internet rather than see a doctor when they have other medical problems? I mean, “they” might implant a tracking device when they reset that broken wrist, they might be irradiating you when you get that scan, they’re might be an explosive device in that filling…
Idiots.

So my luck finally ran out. A customer pinged me as a close contact and he had omicron no less, back from before it was popular. I had been masked up, I’d been jagged, I waited in and watched the clock for ten days.
With no symptoms and and consistent negative tests I got back to work on the Thursday and Friday.
On the Sunday I didn’t feel so good, on the Monday I booked a PCR test and my temperature didn’t slow down as it headed north of 38.
Within 24 hours I was conformed as positive, and a day or so later so was Holly.

I watched the clock again, not for the days to freedom, but to track the progress of the symptoms in both of us. There were a few rough days but we stayed level and Holly recovered pretty fast but after ten days we were both still testing positive.
The two red lines on a LFT had more of an impact on me that the official results over text, email and phone (oh they really like to keep in touch). It’s somehow more real, it’s right there in your hand: you have Covid 19.

I eventually tested negative on the 23rd, my 53rd birthday, woohoo etc. It meant that we could cautiously actually have Christmas.
Linda was back, we had dinner at my folks and although more than a little nervy being so close to the ones I love again, it was okay.

Holly had already her jag too, her choice, she didn’t even want to talk it over with me. She’s asthmatic and a few years ago I saw her life saved by the NHS after a blue light ambulance ride when she wasn’t breathing.
I don’t need to look hard to find the synergy in those previous points.

The last time I was officially asthmatic was around 13 years ago when mold or dust on a job caused a flare up and reminded me of the weedy, pale, skinny boy of long ago.
Didn’t take any thought for me either when I got my blue letter, let’s keep that wheezing boy in the past. Plus, if it helps stops the spread?

Which is another very important point, despite numerous interactions while I was likely most infectious, not one of my contacts developed covid.
That’s because as well as jagged, I was masked and I kept my distance.
All these easy precautions aren’t for yourself, they’re for others and I don’t think your dumb bastard antimaskers get that. I’ve heard “I’m fine” by the bare faced many times, and that’s just great, but what about your mother, the old boy with COPD on the bus, the asthamtic kid on Morrisons?
Not wearing a mask is just sticking your head in the sand, it’s fingers in yours ears and “la-la-la-not listening”, but worse than that it’s a blatant “I don’t care about anyone else”.

I’m still exhausted, maybe little better every day, but covid has put my on my arse and I’m still only back up on one knee.
We had a lovely Hogmany on the Wee Spark but I haven’t felt joy yet, the future is too uncertain and very much reliant on the conduct of the worst and most stupid amongst us.

So Christmas, December in fact, was spend behind bars, two red bars.
I’m not bitter, those dear to me are currently still safe and there is nothing more important to me.

I think my patience is gone though. I might even be angry when my energy comes back.

A little joy first, let’s see what tomorrow brings.

And don’t be an arsehole, wear a mask.

Any Given Sunday

The sky was blue and clear as our vintage coffee percolator defied the odds once again and gurgled a pot of Taylors Lazy Sunday ground into life.
The sky didn’t change even after the dishes were done but the day was getting old and energy had been low since one eye was reluctantly opened a few hours before to peer from under the duvet.

But ah what the hell. Let’s hit the road, at the very worst we can grab a cuppa and enjoy the view.

As plans go, it’s not complex and there’s only one road to follow, so with music loud and heating up full, we went to see what everyone else had been tweeting about since early doors.

Cuppas, soup, a scone and just a wee walk to get us a bit closer. Yes please.

 

The Bowline

I live in Bowling, a little village lost between the towns of Clydebank and Dumbarton. It’s mostly quiet and uneventful and I have the Kilpatrick Hills at my back door and the River Clyde at my living room window.
Once upon a time it was a hub of industry with shipbuilding, engineering, weaving, distilling, quarrying, mining, pottery and more while by it’s location it served at the western terminus of the Forth and Clyde Canal.
Squeezing through it’s houses it also had two railways and their stations and the only two roads that run up the west coast from Glasgow. The railways brought goods yards and sidings, cranes for filling and emptying wagons and boats and enough infrastructure to define the shape and look of the village to this day.
The harbour was also where the Clyde steamer fleet sheltered the winter, with the Waverley being amongst the vessels so tightly packed in you cold walk across from sea wall to shore from deck to deck.

It looked like this.

By the 60’s decline was set in, tracks were taken up, one railway line shut altogether and the station became a lockup garage and the trackbed a race track for dirtbikes until the cycle track was built and gave access back to the thousands that use it now.
I saw the last of it leave, the pottery, the flue for steam boilers that powered the bridge mechanism were all places we played, the viaduct that bisected the village was a shortcut to the woods and the beach. It was all part of the landscape and decaying, Bowling was forgotten, stuck between tow local authorities and neither was interested in us.

Bowling became a dormitory village. We went from three shops to one, three pubs to one, we lost our post office, our butchers and our Victorian brick railway station building. Buy hey, the plastic bus shelter on the platform keeps the rain off, who needs that coal fire in the wood paneled waiting room.
The only remains of the shipyard are our workshop, the harbour is crumbling after decades of abuse and neglect and Littlemill Distillery is now flats.

This air of neglect is something we’ve learned to live with and when something new comes along the reaction can be varied. Some are happy with the way it is, indeed some folk move here to hide in plain site, away from the world but still near the shopping centres. I have no time for this, my village is not a mausoleum, it needs to thrive to survive.
I do live in fear of housing though, over the years many plans have been put forward and they are still on the table to destroy the waterfront for profit with high value new build garbage boxes between the river and the canal. The canal is the problem though, and the savior to date, it’s acting as a castle moat.
We shall see what the future brings. Locals lying in front of diggers heading for the woods by the river most likely.

When Scottish Canals announced the development of the basin and the viaduct after the reopening of the Forth and Clyde canal there was the usual mix of wailing and gnashing of teeth and guarded optimism. It was ambitious and expensive and it would bring people in, do we want people in the village, spending their money, walking on our pavements etc etc etc
We’d see, work was started and change was on the way.

The viaduct is a series of red concrete arches and three metal bridges. One swing bridge over the canal, one over the railway and one over the road. The arches had always been occupied, usually storage, workshops or garages, but now we would have shops, cafes, they would be clean and dry inside too.
The track bed above used to be open and accessible but over the years trees and bushes had made it all but impassable, these would be c;leared for something new.
The bridges would be taken back to the bare metal and brought back life. This was important to me, so many places have lost their heritage infrastructure and it changes the place, Strathblane and Lochearnhead being two obvious ones who lost their railway bridges and just don’t look, well, right anymore.
If it can be made safe, keep it, use it, incorporate it into current life. The only barrier is imagination. And money.

Before and after?
That black boat with the white stripe, I lived on that for ten years.

This was the plan for Bowling’s viaduct, make it into the Bowline, a liner feature with gardens and viewpoints with industrial history at every step.
The centrepiece is the old swing bridge, where the postcard above was shot, actually from the signal box over the tacks. This was a fantastic thing, it would be saved, even if it would forever remain non operational.
Funny though, me and Jimmy are among the few who still know how it worked, and among the even fewer who could have had a go at fixing it. Well, with a team.

It’s now been a few years in the doing with lockdown slowing the process too and while the arches have thrived and the basins have been attracting even more visitors (including waves of disruptive neds, but that’s not the fault of the works, that’s a whole bigger issue) the works eventually completed above it all and opened a few weeks ago.
Amusingly, Jimmy was cycling for his papers one morning and met the basin staff as they were faffing around the barriers at the village end. “Ah, is it opening today?” said Jimmy. Aye was the reply and the barrier was removed, so Jimmy became the first visitor to cross the Bowline.

There was a low key opening event which I was sorry to miss, but we got there soon after and have been frequent visitors ever since. Dusk is the best time to visit, the views are excellent, the lights are on and the whole place takes on a little air of magic.
There is a wide walkway the whole way and there are plants and trees all along in boxes or beds, there are lights for your feet and also to illuminate the bridges mostly in a rainbow of colours, but it seems to stick a lot now and we get one colour a day, maybe another 50p in the meter?

There’s are viewing platforms and interpretation boars which are amongst the best I’ve seen, good research was done for these are there is good information to go with some excellent photies. Well worth slowing down to read them all.
The beach is just there and hidden in the undergrowth you’ll find wooden tracks for young (and old) to follow and that level of detail can be found all over the Bowline with metal tracks in the surface to reference the past and carvings to examine.
I was pleased to see little things like the painted numbers had survives and here and there scraps of the old steel gantries are still fixed to the concrete, the history is still there if you look.

 

It gives villagers and visitors something new, something different. We can see our homes in a different way, it expands our horizons a little bit and you know what, at the very least it’s taken the bare look off the village.
I think the reaction has been mostly positive and we are all using it, there’s always someone walking a dog or standing on a viewing platform when I’m walking or riding over.

And I just like looking out by back window and seeing the bridge lit up. I love it, I think you will too, come and visit.
But mind and go a little further, there’s the tunnel and old station to see to your north, do that first maybe and come back to the Bowline as the sun goes down, stand on the platform on the swing bridge and watch the sky light up and reflect in the river.

Maybe the restaurant in the old custom house will be open by the time you visit. I remember the last live-in harbour master there, Mr Lee. Still have the leather bound book he gave me when I was wee and lived on the boat in the basin.

History, life, environment, it’s all closer than you realise.

 

 

Chewin’ the fat

It had been nice all day and my last client postponed so I dived home and grabbed some gear with a definite destination in mind.
It was a very different road to last night where some dumb bastard threw a wave over me and the opposing two lanes of the dual carriageway from overtaking me and consequently driving full pelt into a very obvious and very deep flood from the torrential rain we’d had while we were in the studio (single still there to be streamed or purchased at all the usual places @The Violet Signs).
My visibility was instantly gone completely and the car shook around. I just took my foot off the gas, stayed straight and came through it, no idea what the other side did, but I heard no collisions. Mr Stupid legged it, likely a mix of shock and terror.
So aye, the dry tarmac was good.

The sun was low by the time I got to Balmaha and it was a wee bit chilly, but I wanted to get moving so I just put my hands in my pockets and headed for the hill.
In the trees I had my first and strangest meeting of the day. Casually but warmly dressed, this chatty fellow told me to watch for the fallen tree, it was blocking the path, it was dangerous, I had to go around it he said. I was glad at the head’s up if not overly concerned for my safety.
Then he ruined it by asking questions which seemed to me to be seeing if I knew if the Balmaha car park was a good dogging site. Naw. I mean, just gonnae no.
I left him to his musings in the trees.

I next stopped for a blether with a couple on their way down from Conic Hill. They’d done the nice loop right round using the road to Buchanan Smithy and were looking glad to be nearly done before dark. They were happy though, enjoying the sun going down but were worried about me still ascending into the approaching dark.
That concern has been a familiar one over the years.
Bless you all, but I’m good. Double good this time actually, I had two head torches with me because all the batteries are of questionable life expectancy.

I sat up on a rock on the top below the top that folk think is the summit but isn’t. It was cold and the wind cut through my windshirt so I pulled on my down jacket and watched the sun, the horizon and the ever darker hills. That includes Ben Lomond which was just peaking over the rust coloured sprawl that stretches along the east bank on the loch between us.
It’s a great spot, worthy a visit and you get way better views than you deserve from the effort put in to get here.

The term passerby doesn’t really apply for me, I will stop you and I will talk to you. So when Paul (as I soon found him to be named) wandered down the ridge path, he had no chance of escape.
We had some good banter, compared notes on stuff and found to our surprise that we were being silently and rather tentatively menaced by cows. Time to leave.

We took the rather nice ridge path which feels pretty steep at the last descent and gives magic views before you lose it all and head back into the trees.
The chat smoothed the way down and time passed quick, even at the er, dangerous tree crossing.
It was getting to the limit of walking without a torch when we got to the car park, the nights really are drawing in now.
Then I got the call, it was mother “Holly’s here from school, you want to bring in a McDonalds…”.
So from lovely view to drive thru it was to be…

Nice wee quickie. Conic Hill is always a good bet for maximum fun from minimum time and the banter just made it even better.

It feels like a Sunday

I’d been out on the bike on Friday and I’d had mixed results. I’d spend hours through the week fannying about with the bike trying to get my obsolete brakes working properly so I didn’t have to buy anything new and I finally seemed to have got things looking and feeling about right after a complete strip down.
I think going for a ride as darkness fell when I was a bit tired was more about testing the brakes and light batteries (which I hadn’t recharged) that for the joy of it and I could feel it as my chest struggled to supply the power to my legs to get me up to speed.
I cut my route short and turned round and found myself pushing against the storm that was to cause so much drama elsewhere in the next few hours. But then I was in the trees and sheltered and found a something of my grin again on the riverside trail by torchlight.
I was glad to be home though, shower, food and telly with the girls.

So it was a long lie the next morning after a welcome chunk of undisturbed sleep. But I’d seen snow the day before on Ben Lomond and beyond and we wanted to get out and find more.
We did go out eventually, obviously it was late when we left but that just gets you the best of the day.

The banks of Loch Lomond were dark, the colours were deep but the sky was somehow bright. The clouds were dark but the sky through the gaps was a luminous pale ice blue that shone.
As the sun sank the pleasant peach bloom in the cloud burned a deep red just as we reached the lochside again. The water was choppy and it was the only sound where we stood and watched other than distant laughter from families playing with each other or their dogs as they made their way back out to the main road and the streetlights.

Back at the car it was night and we had no enthusiasm for cooking so we set a course for the chippy. Which was magic.
I suppose my Monday to Friday burn out had given us a wee unexpected but joyful diversion.



Monday Part #2

I had intended to have a spin on the bike at tea time to test my newly found lights. It had been in my head that “kitchen” was somehow relevant to my lights which I hadn’t seen in years, and actually quite a few of those. I went into all the jars on high shelves, tins, kelly kettles, looked in baking trays, the back of the cutlery drawer and found nothing.
On Sunday morning I decided it was do or die, find the lights today or I was going to have to make alternative arrangements, and given the current cost of direct replacements, it was looking like zip tying candles onto the handlebars.

Sitting cross legged on the kitchen floor, pulling stuff out the back of cupboards I soon shook an old tub of Celebrations that had been hidden under a pile of Holly’s art stuff, and aye, that feels like paint tubes. I cracked the lid and peered in, posted paints and my Exposure Maxx D and Joystick. Oh my goodness.

I’d had the chargers ready to go as they were easy to find in the mighty box of all known chargers (good luck dear visitor) all along so I plugged them in and they lit up as they always did for a charging cycle. These are ten or eleven year old lithium ion batteries, would they go on fire, would they just not charge?
I was cooking round at my folks for family dinner and dominoes night, I’d see how it went later.

I prepped all my dinner stuff and kitted up, I’d get an hour, maybe and hour and a half and the last half of that would be in the dark. Stretch the legs, see how the lights fared, work up and appetite and properly enjoy my dinner.

It was pretty dull, grey with a a hint of warmth from the low sun but it didn’t look like it was going anywhere. Still, I packed a camera in case I could get bike light nonsense later.

I took the riverside trails to the Saltings by which time the clouds were beginning to light up. Oh.

Pack off, camera fished out and hung round my neck. Where will I go? Back to the riverside, I jumped back on the saddle.

This is where pull ons with horizontal zipped chest pockets are perfect, my old Buffalo windshirt being the choice for the ride. I dropped the camera in the pocket and half zipped it, safe and sound and most importantly, handy.

Under the Erskine Bridge the sky was warm and the colour was deepening as the sun slipped down into the thinner cloud at the horizon.
The river was dark and rippling along the black rocks at the banks. I was grinning the entire time, I’m pretty sure I giggled too, I just love this.

It wasn’t far to the old oil terminal, after a wee bit of dog dodging. That’s a point actually, I’ve noticed two things while I’ve been back out on wheels.
The first is that the other cyclists I meet are by and large miserable po−faced bastards. These trails and views are making me smile, but apparently I’m likely the only one on two wheels around here seeing it that way.

Second is dog walkers and there’s a 50/50 split here. I fitted a wee bell as you are supposed to do because i’m on the canal towpath and old railway for a good bit and it’s the right thing to do to keep everyone including me right and safe.
So, there’s a lot of dogs being pulled in with smiles and “thanks” being exchanged which is nice, our brief meeting leaves us both better for the experience.
But there’s a few dicks who will completely ignore the bell and and look me in the eye while their dogs run around on a long lead or free and they themselves stand right in the way.
It’s interesting, since I’ve been away attitudes seem to have hardened for some. I ride by smiling and say thanks anyway.
A more obliging and generally cheerful soul you will rarely find than myself but I’m only half of the equation and I can see potential for incident here. Bummer.

We have to try to get on people.

The oil terminal was maybe not the best viewing spot for the sunset itself with a kinda plain southern bank being my foreground, but I don’t think I have mych cause to complain with the lightshow that unfolded above me. And you if you were oot.

It was glorious in the other direction too, looking away from the sun the clouds were streaked with pink. I actually said “It’s behind you!” to absolutely no one but the ghost of the hundreds of years of forgotten industry that have been and gone where I was standing.

So many birds, flying and calling, it’s as if they’d been rattled by the unexpected display. Here, maybe it was me that upset them? Oops.
They looked nice against the sky, so thanks anyway.



The old jetty has had holes cut in it, likely to test it’s construction for strength as the site is in the early stages of redevelopment. It does mean you have to watch your feet and wheels though, especially when looking at the view.

I probably should have rode around looking for different viewpoints but I just stood and watched. It got colder pretty fast too but it was fine, I knew I’d heat up fast once I got back on the bike.

I wonder if that hotel would pay for a print of this?

The wee submarine clouds from earlier were still there too. Trapped between a psychedelic roof and Boden Boo woodland. Not a bad place to be.

It all faded as quickly as it appeared and I got back on the bike and headed towards Clydebank for a while before turning for home with my lights on.
This was it, would they have a meltdown, would they switch off just as I got that narrow gap in the trees?

960 lumens is rubbish by current standards for a bike light but it was just fine for me and my old legs. I was riding with a wee bit of confidence and I could see the line despite everything being covered in a thick coat of freshly shed leaves. It’s such a lot of fun.
I’ve been riding these trails for over 40 years, biking has always been a thing for me. I was down here in the 70s on my steel singlespeed Curry and I hope I don’t let it slide again like I have these past few years. The bike feeds my soul as much as any of the many things I love but just as importantly it build my fitness and there’s a winter coming to the mountains that I intend to enjoy.

My camera was packed again so I took a few phone photies on the riverside trail. It looks magic, I’ll need to go back. Wednesday probably. Yay.

When I got to the beach back home I had to get the camera back out. It was beautiful with the sky, the distant lights and the dark beach.
So obviously I spoiled all that with messing a round with lights and a 10 second timer.

Ah the fun of it.

The old railway was deserted on the short run home. People really do disappear this time of year and that’s probably a shame, partly because it gives me less folk to grin at and say hello but mostly because the dark months are full of beauty and magic if you take the time to find them, and that’s not hard, just wrap up warm and stay out a little longer.

Thank you autumn, I will miss you. But hello winter, what you planning for us this time around?

 

Monday Part #1

I just don’t remember enjoying an autumn as much as this one for a very long time. It’s lasted so long and we’ve taken every chance we could to be in amongst it.
The hard frost we had overnight feels like the end of it though. The lying leaves are all brown, the trees are so bare and the sun is low, it’s a winter sun now.

There’s still flashes of colour, like paint splashes on overalls. They catch the eye, but not for long, the nights are drawing in.

We walked through it for our lunch break, the morning’s blue sky now washed away by a high blanket of thin cloud. There were lone clouds skittering about underneath it like fluffy submarines, trapped out of the sun, they just seemed to be heading for Glasgow.

The light was golden at times, but soft, and the woods remained dark but for the scattering of leaves that who took that light and threw it back out as far as they could into the gloom.

I was happy as we left if a little melancholy, I have loved this autumn and I am so very sorry it’s going. The frost had welcome, the chill, the scraping of glass, the thoughts of days away when the snow… Aye, we’ll see.

However, the day was not over.

It was like a whole other day

Third time on the bike this week. This time though Linda was joining in so we set our sights on a favourite spot and we dusted off my bike rack that hasn’t seen any adventure in a long time.
Yesterday’s glorious sun was gone and although the weather said cloud and a breeze, we just got rain in various degrees. To be honest that was fine, we were kitted up and had a flask of hot cuppa and the lunch of kings with us.

The trees by Loch Katrine were either bursting with autumn goodness or swirling in mist as we spun down the road. it was pleasant and straightforward riding and the occasional view to the far bank was a bonus, it was perfect just as it was.
We’ve been here many times on foot, we even became a couple here some two and a bit years ago and it was nice to see it a little differently and also with a soundtrack, with Wheeeeeee!!!!!! and Woop Woop Woop accompanying most downhill stretches from behind the basket (oh yes) and handlebars of the wee blue bike behind me.

With light fading we turned and stopped at Brenachoile Point to eat and take out our phones to take some photies. I was careful, but my speaker still has water in it now. Black Sabbath will be gurgling me to sleep tonight.
It is a lovely spot, we even saw the far bank at one point, but I mainly got fixed on the black boulders that stuck out of the crystal clear water.
It was all so grey too, but quite lovely,

The rain stepped up the pace and we got back to the car park in the dark and just in time to here some typical Scottish tourist skills at play. Someone had just arrived to stay in one of the little camping pods just round the corner by the lochside and was asking for some help from the office. In the empty quite car park the advice was plainly heard in it’s tone if not the exact words “Oh piss off, I can’t be arsed helping you, i’m going home”.
I have long despaired at the way visitors from home and further afield can treated here, it seems I need to still be worried.

We left in the dark and the rain, The Stranglers new album on nice and loud and the road almost to ourselves until be got near to Drymen.
Hot showers, hot cuppas and comfy slippers were all that were left to achieve.
Weekend done.

Ach.

A series of captions

On the road to the west stood an old dead tree. A landmark, a gateway, a point of no return, because there was no other McDonalds until Fort William.

 

The whole area was a volcanic landscape scoured deeply by the last glacier in Scotland over ten thousand years ago. Fossils emerged, even neolithic tools, but this? This would change everything.

 

The waters are rising with the heavy rain. What will we do when it’s permanent.
That’s excellent DWR is that, I may cover my vintage Gore Tex in leaves.
Fresh water waves rippled and popped around the flooded trees as we walked the bonnie banks.
One, two, buckle my shoe…
I’m sure we can get these shadows so that we look the same height. What? It’s fine, it’s fine.
He felt sorry for everyone who had climbed Ben Lomond that day to find the summit locked in cloud.
I can’t remember an autumn as glorious as this one. The colours seem brighter, it’s lasting longer that I could have hoped and just being out in it has brought me such joy. Oh, for some hard frost and fog before the leaves are all brown or gone. But I won’t bitch if I don’t get it, I mean how could I.

 

I mean, I could have flipped it upside down.
Next day, the dawn was a brilliant fiery red and I wandered though the weird and lurid landscape of another planet; for the vegetation which gives Mars its red appearance had taken root on Earth. As Man had succumbed to the Martians, so our land now succumbed to the Red Weed…
The light was going and as the trail took us into the single remaining beam as it cut through the woods there was something other than the trees and bracken sparking in the autumn glow.
It was a tunnel of spider webs, from our feet to the setting sun. We’d never have seen it in normal light. Lovely.
Nature makes very well, but when it brakes it often does it with just as much flair.