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Tuesday, 18 May 2010

And unto us some lambs are born. Plus, a ride on a Velo.

Oops, it's Friday (**actually, it is now the Tuesday after the Friday after the Monday, but never mind**). How did that happen? Last thing I knew it was 4am Monday 10th, and we had just finished in the steading after helping a ewe with her two lambs. Unfortunately, one died within just a few minutes of having hit the ground, but that seems to be a theme this year. Tuesday, well with only 3hrs sleep I felt a little worse for wear, but ploughed on regardless. Had to do a few jobs in the morning, plus make sure all was well with lambie, then it was off to Shorty's to collect his Section's digi projector and laptop, before arriving for tea with Peter & Jane, who live just outside Crieff. As usual, the food and company was good, and I only just had time for my banana and toffee icecream pudding before Big Rab arrived, claxon a-blaring, in his Rab-Mobile, to take us to the meeting in Doune. Why was I going to Doune? Oh keep up! To give a talk about my work as Area Rep of course. It's very hard to convey exactly what I do, after all, the job has no hard and fast description, so I set out some of the aims and tasks I'd like to achieve or have already partly achieved. I can't tell you much about it here, or there would be no point visiting the Clyde Valley Section to give the same talk, but in brief, it's important for an Area Rep to get out and be around. I go to as many shows as is humanly possible, promoting both old bikes and the VMCC. It's not hard to do; all you need is an old bike and a cheery disposition. Youffs are on my target list too. We all know that old bike clubs are made up of a mixture of people, some old-ish, some not so old-ish and yet there are hardly any young ones. Ok, you get the odd exceptions (don't say it) but in general, I think we need to try and encourage more younger people to get involved. To me, it doesn't matter whether they have a vintage, classic or modern bike, Jap, exotic or Brit, I don't care, as long as they're encouraged and welcomed. After all, if I hadn't been made welcome by a certain Mr Hirst, who was Secretary of the Grampian Classic MCC several years ago, I more than likely, wouldn't be Scotland's Area Rep. I only had a Yamaha TDR125 at the time, but he still let me join. Anyway, the talk was fairly interactive; I can't be doing with standing up talking to a wall of blank faces - I like feedback from the audience, and they obliged by commenting on certain topics, coming up with ideas and a couple of points they'd like me to work on. Afterwards I ran a short video / slideshow about some of my trips I'd been on last summer, and because everyone was so nice, I chucked a free entry to either the Plus1 or the Haggis Run into the raffle. Sorted.

The next morning dawned bright, if a little chilly (Mrs BC reported snow on the trees and buildings at Cubbie Towers) but Peter's plan for a blast on the Velos was not to be put off by sub zero temperatures. We were to be accompanied by his neighbour, Ian (although he could be Iain, I'm not sure) on his BSA. We set off shortly after 10.30am and headed for the hills. Through Crieff town centre, avoiding the moronic pedestrians who must have been deaf to miss 3 thumping great old bikes bearing down on them. I confess, I had a minor difficulty with the gear change on the Viper, it being 'upside down', but I did discover that it would pull away in any gear. Ahem. Bounding out of town, along the road to Gilmerton, we took a left there, on the corner, and followed the road out through the hills to Aberdfeldy. The sun popped out once or twice, but on the whole, the higher we climbed, the more it snowed, and hailed and was generally bally cold and windy! We stopped at a viewpoint, clambering off the bikes and the snow that had gathered in the folds of gloves and coats tumbled in lumps to the ground. Brrrrr! The view across to Schiehallion, Cairn Gorm and Cairn Mairg was non-existent so as our various extremities had thawed just a little, we fired the bikes up and sped off down the hill to Aberfeldy.

Home to the Black Watch monument and General Wade's Bridge, Aberfeldy has a busy history stretching back to the early 1700s. Robert Adam's Pa, William, was the designer of the bridge over the Tay, and not a penny was spared when it came to the construction - £4000 is what it cost! Mind you, you wouldn't get 5 glorious stone arches, ornate parapets and four apparently pointless spikes, one at each corner, for much less back then. Iain and Peter argued over the purpose of two stubby little protrusions that looked like canon to me. They seemed to think they were something to do with drainage, and I suspect they might be right, but I prefer the canon idea. Originally, the bridge was built as part of General Wade's network of military roads said to have been built to 'improve communications' with the Highlanders. If you want to know more, google the Jacobite Risings. Nowadays, the bridge is resplendent with traffic lights, something I doubt the Highlanders would have paid much heed to, but being only wide enough for one car, they are rather necessary today. And an interesting fact for you, the monument that was erected to commemorate the first muster in 1740 was split in half by lightning in 1910. Bet you didn't know that!

Guess what? I can start a Velo, nah nah nee nah nah. Ok, so Peter started it most of the time, probably for his convenience, but I had a crack at it, and it's easy, what are you all on about? Just wind the lever fully down, then up, then find compression, then ease it over compression using the little lever on the 'bars, then all the way back up and wallop, give it a big kick and away you go. Well I think it was something like that. Up to the bridge, we sat at the lights until they changed to green, roared over and off we went to Fortingall. The sun had managed to break through by now, and at the lower levels, conditions were good. With Ian in the lead, GBC second and Peter acting as sweeper, we were nipping along at a comfortable pace, making the most of the dry tarmac. The 350cc Viper proved an ideal bike for these roads, where you don't need out and out power to blast from one bend to the next, but instead, each twist of the road can be savoured in a smooth manner. Once I got the hang of those gears, riding along repeating "up for down and down for up", I began to thoroughly enjoy the experience.

There doesn't seem to be much in Fortingall, but what there is, is of interest. In a corner of the churchyard stands the oldest living tree in Europe, aka The Fortingall Yew. They say it could be around 5000 years old, and they say, that in 1769, it's girth measured - wait for it - a massive FIFTY SIX FEET!!! 56feet? That's, er, huge. Sadly there isn't much left of it these days, thanks to kids setting fire to it, and people nicking bits of it as souvenirs, so a wall had to be built around it to protect it. There is also a short row of thatched cottages, and back in the churchyard, there is a plaque that proclaims Pontius Pilate was born in that very hamlet.
Moving hurriedly on from the car park before a woman-driver had a chance to flatten us all, we sped along through Glen Lyon (I think?) on our way to lunch at Bridge of Balgie. The road became quite narrow, lined on each side in the foot of the valley with paddocks full of lambs, who didn't quite appreciate the Velo thump-thump-thump as much as I did. A loose coo on the side of the road seemed quite appalled by it too. Into a tree lined section, the road became very narrow and twisty, with a steep drop to the river on our left, and a high hillside covered in beech trees on the right, and the sun, now a pretty permanent feature, creating a dappled summery sort of effect everywhere. These are the kind of roads where you don't hurry, although it is fun to try and keep up with someone who obviously knows the route like the back of his hand, and the little Velo did everything I asked of it. By the time we arrived at the Post Office / Tea Room at the Bridge, Ian and I were chilled to the core (despite that lovely sunshine) yet Peter wanted to sit outside to eat. Two against one, we won. Mind you, a hot bowl of soup followed by healthy fruit scones and jam soon revived us. I won't mention the generous helping of cream Peter consumed...

With time pressing on, we decided to cut the return route short, and headed over the tiny bridge and out towards I don't know where. There are only so many twisty roads and place names one can remember! Part of the route took us up high across moorland, alongside Lochan Na Lairige reservoir, and along even smaller winding roads, the kind where sheep feel happy to just wander across and lambs are oblivious to the sounds of oncoming traffic. Ah yes, I know where we are now, we've descended into the town of Killin. Quite a nice place, but no time to stop for a look around. It's pedal to the metal all the way back to Peter's, well, as much as you can on old bikes, and soon we were nipping along through Glenogle. Me, me, me, there are some good curves along that road, and it's fairly traffic free, probably 'cos it's midweek. Into Lochearnhead and a sharp left at the main junction. I've been to Lochearnhead once before, on a camping weekend with the Jampot Club, some years ago. Consisting mostly of men, they all slept either in the converted station building, or I seem to recall there were some cabins of some sort for those wishing a little more privacy. Anyway, being the only girl, I pitched my tent on the grass and they all thought I was mad. The road along the loch is tasty too, my one memory of that is from a few years ago when I was coming back from a trip to the west coast (where I feasted upon campfire porridge and watched the sun rise) and my travelling companion was riding one of those R1 things, think they're some sort of sports bike, but well, an MZ Skorpy is faster through the bends. Ah, I also remember poor old Skorpy blew the main fuse after that!

We pulled up in Crieff with about 5 minutes to spare before I had to leave, so I hopped off the bike, collected my bags, did a quick change and was back on the road before you could say boo. I have to say, despite the biting cold, and snowy showers, and bits of ice inside my visor, the day was most enjoyable. The 350cc Velo was right up my street - not too physically challenging (I could get toes down on both sides), and very easy to ride. The clutch was lighter than I expected, and easy to play riding through town. Gear selection proved a bit of an issue, but only because I'm used to the Triumph way, and after a while, it soon became second nature, I even found neutral. Talking such things, there were no false ones in the 'box, and gear selection was positive and reassuring. Third is probably the most useful cog, and it only really became necessary to change up to top at speeds over 40-45mph. The only small negative point I can come up with - and I have to find something or it wouldn't be a valid test, was that the brakes weren't overly responsive, but again, after a few miles of settling in, I began to get used to it, although my little size 6 boot kept missing the rear brake lever, so maybe that's why it felt a bit weak! Not only was the bike fun and easy to ride, but the company, roads and scenery were also superb. Thanks to Peter for entrusting me with the Viper and thanks to Jane for splendid food and hospitality, and thanks to Iain – or Ian for coming along for the trip.

And just for fun, what's the connection between these three prizes just the glory of getting it right.....mind you, this is only going to work if the 'comments' thing has been fixed....


sfb said...

Nice write up GBC (as usual)and great pics.
Ewe, yew, yew! :-)

Anonymous said...

Great write-up GBC. How I envy you, (yew or ewe) those biking roads. Sounds like the perfect day out to me.

I think YEW is the common factor in the pictures, they could be yew berries and foliage behind the EWE although they look more like rowan to me. Also YEW on the number plate and on the sign on the wall.

Stuart :-)

The Chief Bodger said...

Sounds like a nice ride even though it was a little cool for the time of year. Much chance the Haggis Run will get like that?

Looks like you got on with the Velo as well. Another addition to Cubbie Towers in the future??

Greenbat said...

Thanks for the comment on younger old knacker riders. So far my bantams and honda 400/4 have been well accepted, except for steam rallies where I was snootily told it might be a bit modern. Though it'll probably turn up to a few this year as the hens keep breaking!
I have a similar gearbox problem, but on a much less glamarous bike-the honda CG125. Mine is a slightly unusual chinese market (but japanese made!) one, with a 4 down box. I use it during the winter to try and save the 400 from salt-this results in a week of changing down instead of up followed by much cussing! Of course, the best way to prevent the confusion is ride the bike regularly :D

kawa said...

Great wee route you went on with the Velo, ideal for a nice wee bit of bimbling, got me in the mood for a run up there soon.


Gorgeous Biker Chick said...

Thanks for the comments, it's about time I did a decent write up with pics for you guys!

YEW / EWE would all be right of course. Funny how something crops up and then you suddenly realise the connections are all around you.

Don't worry Bodge, it might be a little cooler than you're used to, but I don't think it will snow at the Haggis....I hope not anyway!
Wouldn't mind a Velo in the future, it's not really a bike I've ever considered, but now I've tried one...

The Chief Bodger said...

Not worried about the cold, in fact looking forward to it. Love the cold weather, not a big fan of the heat.

So why live in Texas you ask??? Keep wondering that meself. My mate Arthur Itis thinks it's good for him. :P


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