Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Two down, one to go!

It's hard to believe, but I've now been here in England for TWO MONTHS! I flew out on Monday Jan 20th, arrived Tues the 21st, went to work for my first day on Weds. As of TODAY I've been here 8 weeks. Great googly-moogly where does time go?

I recall February being rather miserable (imagine that!)...and also that Her Royal Majesty's Customs-cronies had my bike hostage for OVER A MONTH (however overall it was crappy weather, so not a huge deal in the big scheme). I've had my bike for almost a month (it arrived just before I took off to Scotland for a long weekend). Just checked my first ride was on March 6th, and today was my 8th I'm averaging a ride every other day (which is optimum, especially considering the weather here). Overall it's been cold, windy and wet (or quite possibly I should have said windy, cold and wet). But I'm riding whenever it's in the realm of what I can bear  because this is a limited time offer. I am the original fair-weather cyclist, and I must look quite the sight to the locals as I'm bundled up like it's the middle of winter. But my take is that if I'm not having fun, why do it? If I'm freezing and my toes/hands are numb, then I'm not having much fun. Ditto if the ride time goes over 6 hours (or so) ancient neck injury starts asserting its-self and life begins to spiral quickly into pain and misery. riding in the rain I have found quickly escalates the numb toes/fingers when the temps are at the lower end of what I will ride, and also really makes the bike a mess (causing increased wear and tear on my bike too).

But now I'm actually down to LESS than a I need time to pack the bike (back in box!) and ship it. I fly on Friday April 20th, so I figure that weekend will most likely be my last rides. The time change occurs THIS weekend here, so as of Sunday I gain that critical hour of sunlight in the afternoons. Also I've been allowed (thus far anyway) to set my own working hours, as long as I put in my 40 per week. This week I worked 10's on Mon and Tues (starting at 6am), then today slipped out at 11:30am for a ride (3 hours early, but I"m still one hour ahead of pace). The forecast was actually about the best they've done since my bike got here...they predicted light winds, with a high of 55F. At 11:30 when I started the ride it was only 49F but the winds were indeed light..which is more important than the wind speed (as long as it's not crazy anyway). Ended up with 40 miles in a gigantic loop, which was only possible because of my Garmin GPS. I stayed on small back-roads whenever possible, and quite honestly had NO IDEA what direction I was going most of the time (the roads wind and weave all over the place...add to that the gloomy total cloud coverage (no sun) and my directional sense is totally out of whack. But Little Jeannie (what I call my new Garmin) got me back home just fine!

Of course, Jeannie laughed when I told here I named my GPS after her...cuz she can't find her way out of a paper bag (her quote btw). But aside from that oxymoron, consider that much like Jeannie, little Jeannie is very quiet most of the time, yet constantly keeping track of  a plethora of critical information, and when she has something important to say, she gets my attention (in this case, goes "bleep bleep") and tells me what I NEED to know. And as LJ navigates me across the English countryside, many times I'd SWEAR she is taking me away from the direction I need to go. But that is not the case, it's my totally skewed directional sense. At any time I can either select a city (or just move my little pointer to wherever I want to go), and press the button twice and BAM, LJ has plotted a course for me. She takes me on roads that I don't even know exist quite often, which is really cool!

Anyway...I"m sure I've totally bored you with my blah blah without further adieu, here are some more pictures from my last few rides. This first batch is from Sunday's ride thru the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

 You just have to love that they TELL you the scope of your impending pain.

 Is this a beautiful view or WHAT! This was taken as I climbed out of the valley.
At the top of that last climb sits Pen-y-ghent (actual spelling, but don't ask me how to pronounce it!), one of the high peaks of North Yorkshire. It's listed elevation is 694 meters. Behind me is another of the peaks called Fountains Fell @ 662m. The road goes right over the saddle between the peaks.

 The road descending away from the saddle. I'm really going to miss these roads when I go back to California!

This part of the road goes down and then back up the walls of a valley. Apparently they don't believe in switchbacks here.

This is the climb up the other side of that valley. Yep...some switchbacks would REALLY be appreciated!

The rest of these shots were taken today (Weds) on my loop of all places.
Looking back at Thruscross Reservoir (the road goes right over the dam). Just another ride in the country, ho hum.

 Be careful what you wish for. 
As I was riding along, I had JUST thought to myself, "you know, it's sure hard to find high quality Rotten Cow Muck anymore". And lo and behold like a lightening bolt from heaven, I ride past this.

In case you didn't know just what "Rotten Cow Muck" looks like. Above the Bags-o-Muck (BM for short) tied to the tree is the little's an honor system. Just who in their right mind would run off with Rotten Cow Muck without paying is what I'm asking? I'm betting that this little side-business is a real gold mine! I wonder if they're looking for investors?

Now THIS is something you don't see in the good Ol' US of A. A sign letting you KNOW the bridge is weak. But the real question is "how much do they pad their estimate (or DO THEY?) Apparently they don't have NEARLY as many lawyers over here as we do.

 The ruins of Fountains Abbey.

 Close to Fountains Abbey was THIS house. Boy, they just don't build-em like this any more. I'm betting a snazzy joint like this goes for at LEAST 15 to 20 thousand dollars! Or more likely, 15 to 20 MILLION dollars.

 Ruins of a church on a hill, and I couldn't even find a name. There's ruins and such like this EVERYWHERE.

 Just thought this was a rather interesting tree. It's HUGE. If it could talk, I bet it would have lots of great stories of times past.

And this is my final artsy-bit. You can sure see which way the wind usually blows around here.

With that I wrap up another edition of "Matt's photo pictorial representation and essay of North Yorkshire, UK as seen from 2 wheels". And yes, I'm working on a somewhat shorter (and somewhat catchier) title. Maybe after a TASTY beer I'll have some inspiration. Then again, maybe not. Tonight's beer selection with my dinner is an awesome Yorkshire Stout from a local brewery. Rather than go to the pubs, I've found I a truly amazing selection of English beer at the ASDA grocery store right here in town Harrogate.

Have a GREAT week! And by the way: enjoy all that non-stop Primary Election 24/7 round the clock reporting! You know, the stuff I'm NOT getting? Yep...I'm thinking there might be some tiny advantage to staying here until, well..... lets say off the top of my head: November 3rd. There does appear to be some things I DO NOT miss.



  1. Rotten Cow Muck? Bag O Muck? And 1.5 pounds per bag even.

    1. @ $1.62 to the pound, that's $2.43 for each BM! Such a deal!! Want me to bring you back some? (uhm, no, that odor wasn't's my carry-on...sorry).

  2. nice pics- but I know you made up the stuff about the crazy steep grades and photoshopped the insane grade signs- right! cause no one in their right mind would build roads that steep intentionally!

    1. Considering that these roads have been here WAY longer than motor-vehicles, can you imagine making horses take a wagon up these grades? They'd go on strike and sit down (or just die trying). And going DOWN these grades in your wagon...THAT would be frightening! It would be like the Grinch and his sled going down Mt. Crumpet...looks back and his 'reindeer' is on the back of the sled!

  3. Hoping that Gary continues to make positive progress each day, Cathy. It is just incredible that he was able to survive that. My best to him and all of your family during recovery. It really is unbelievable how rude and dangerous drivers here can be. I've felt the same things about SUVs that you describe, Rae. I've literally been scared off of the roads and stick to trails now....a shame.

    I LOVED the bags of rotten cow muck! How do you tell when its rotten? Does it smell worse or better?? And is it just me or does one of those bags say Calf Rearing Pencils? What?!?

    Beautiful scenery and photos Matt! Lovely place to ride. Sorry our weather isn't heading your direction. It continues to be CRAZY here. We're usually in the 40s and 50s now with snow on the ground and windy/rainy days. We've now had @ 7-8 days of temps in the 80s!!! My May flowers are all blooming, which is lovely, but all of the fruit trees are blooming, asparagus is up, etc. If we have a hard freeze now - which is definitely not unusual for this time of year - there is going to be some MAJOR damage to food crops (and my garden)! Out of whack weather for sure.

    OH, Happy Birthday Greg! (a little late:)

    LOTS and LOTS of cycling this weekend! Hooray!

    Enjoy your last few weeks there Matt!

    1. Hey JD (and Cathy)...also sending thoughts to Gary and his speedy (and FULL) recovery. On my Tues after work ride this week (ok,ok.. DURING work ride), I had my FIRST scare w/ a car here. I was tooling along, minding my own business (this was just minutes after the Cow Muck place, not that it has anything to do with it)...hugging the left shoulder as only a guy terrified of cars can do...slight climbing grade, maybe 2 or 3%...(ie: un-noticable as a grade...around here when it goes DOWN under 10% you feel relieved!)

      Anyway, I vaguely notice a car coming towards me in his lane, getting fairly close....when suddenly I hear the terrifying sound of a car RIGHT behind me locked up on the brakes...squeal, chatter, wheels jumping over the rough pavement in a skid...didn't even get a chance to peer into my tiny mirror it happened so fast (there was nowhere to go even if I did get a look...what with the stone wall about a foot away on my left)...but he didn't hit me...the car coming at me passed and this guy in some business-type car (had the murals all over the side advertising whatever business it is) mashes on the gas and blows by me, cell phone still in hand and glued to his ear...That sound took a few years off my life I'm quite sure. I guess when it's your time, it's your time. Whether on a bike, walking, in a car...things happen in a blink and you don't get to choose. Just have to live life to the fullest. And on that note, think I'll go back and get me some muck. Tho actually, I think I could have filled a bag for them out of my drawers.

  4. I think our intrepid cycling investigative reporter needs to get on the trail of these calf raising pencils and get the truth! Do these pencils really raise calves or are they just leaky ballpoints pretending to be honest hard working implements? And why do they hang out in bags anyway? The world wants to know!


    1. That was the first thing I noticed in that picture too! So of course I had to google it! You FEED them to calves beginning at 5 weeks - they are mostly "crude protein" and fibre (must have been a British article I found). At 12 weeks they go on Beef Finishing Pencils. Then they... forget it, you do NOT want to read about it if you are a vegetarian!

      Beautiful pictures, Matt - what a wonderful place to ride! Except for those 16%ers...


  5. OMG! The weekend forecast is SIXTY DEGREES F BOTH DAYS, with wind UNDER 10MPH! (considering what I've been riding in, 60 would be like 80!) Oh PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE be right!!

  6. Cathy, I had to go back and read the comments from the last post to find out who Gary is... adding my best wishes and positive vibes for your cousin - it's so easy to forget how dangerous our sport can be! But they don't call him IRONMAN for nothing!


  7. Matt, your travelogue is just priceless! I never have to go to England now - I've been there vicariously through you!

    Gary still hasn't woken up. He's already missed Gent-Wevelgem. I'm going to see him tonight to remind him that Tour of Flanders is on Sunday with Paris-Roubaix close behind.

    The scans are starting to show more brain injury that previously seen (why is that? why does it seem to change?) and it's quite impossible to know when he'll wake up. It's him own schedule. However, he has a trache put in to ween him off the ventilator and he is breathing well over the top of the vent. He's had the probe removed from his head that monitored brain swelling. He does respond to pain, like an injection, and he has opened his eyes on command at least once, plus wiggled a toe. He's from Memphis so they are trying to get him to a place where they can transport him home, possibly next week. The accident was almost two weeks ago now. He has had all his ortho surgeries - they've loaded him up with rods, plates and pins. It's such a waiting game, but only his own time clock can do the work now, I guess.

    Thanks for all of your good wishes! I hope his Ironman history serves him well in this chapter of his life.

  8. Cathy, I am so sorry to hear that there was severe brain injury too. This is my area of specialty--if there is any way that I can assist you, just with maybe understanding what is going on, please don't be shy about messaging me.
    If the nurses say that he follows commands, that is an EXTRAORDINARILY good sign.

    and, yes, his good fitness will stand him in good stead. This will be an marathon.


  9. Am happy to report that my cousin Gary is being flown to Memphis today where he will be a patient at The Med which, I hear, is an excellent trauma center. His employer Fed Ex came through for the money - either by getting the insurance to pay or paying it themselves - not sure which. At any rate, he should be halfway home by now. And yesterday he had his eyes open for about 10 minutes, which is a first. And when his sister told him to close them if he could hear her, he did. But then opened them again to continue looking around. This was really new! And his coloring and all look so good - he just looked like he was peacefully sleeping when he was lying there. Rae, I might do a piece on him for a tri magazine, depending on how this all works out, so I might indeed have questions for you! Thanks for the offer.