Friday, April 13, 2012

ONE WEEK! (with updates from Friday night's original posting)

Happy Friday the Thirteenth!

Suddenly I'm down to one week to go! In fact, as I type, it's actually LESS than one week. In exactly one week I will have been in the air for over 4 hours on my way HOME!

Weather has been utter crap the last 2 weeks. Rain, cold, wind...but not necessarily in that order. I ALMOST slipped out for a ride yesterday (Thurs) afternoon...but felt guilty as I have actual work going on (training up a new guy to take my place) I stayed. Got out of work at 3:30 and it had just finished hailing! So my guilt saved me from a miserable ride. Every time the sun peeks out I want to jump on my bike...however then I look around and see I'm surrounded by dark clouds...and the sun is just teasing me.

Starting to get QUITE excited to be heading home though...feels like I've been here forever! I still have one last ride I'd like to would probably end up being around 70 miles (and would be by FAR the longest ride this year so far)...but I'm not going to do it if the weather would make me miserable. So I'll wait and see what the weekend actually brings. Ride or not, the bike goes "Back in Box" Sunday afternoon or Monday at the latest. I hope to have it at the post office on Tuesday (note: it will NOT go out thru the British Post Office...I'll be mailing it from the Base post office, which is an APO..thus skipping "Her Majesty's Royal Customs" dept which held it for ransom for a month after shipping it here).

Here are a few pics from my last ride (last Thursday) had snowed on Weds, and there was still a fair bit of snow lying around just a few hundred vertical feet higher than where I work. Certainly I don't get the chance very often (as in NEVER) to ride with snow on the ground. And quite honestly, that's ok by me. So without further adieu, MORE boring pictures of my bike rides.

 Climbing from the base heading towards the Yorkshire Dales. The altitude at this point is probably around 1100'. Back at the base (about 600') there are hardly any traces of the prior days snow left.

 Heading back to the base (this ride was an out and back)...this was taken about 2 hours later in the same general area as the first shot. I just thought it worthy of another picture stop, as I don't think my bike has ever been IN snow before (and hopefully never will be again). With the snow on the side of the road like this, only the middle is open, making any passing cars especially scary (my normal line of riding is about another foot or more to the left).

 I cruised the length of Gouthwaite Reservoir in both directions. It was a lovely day down in this valley...temp around 50F but sunny. I had climbed over a rock wall to get this shot near the bank...and as I returned to the wall to climb back over to my bike, a mallard duck quickly flew out of her nest (which was right next to the wall about 3' from where I came over). She didn't budge nor make a peep when I climbed over, and only got scared and flew out when I came back. All I know is that she sure scared me! There were at least 9 or 10 eggs in there...I would have taken a pic but I felt bad and got away fast so she could return.

This will probably be my LAST post, so there MUST be some beer talk. These are my beers of the last 10 days. I won't bore you with all their reviews as I can still hear the snoring from my LAST attempt. I will however single out three of them. The third from the right end is very interesting. It's a Black Sheep Brewery "Monty Python's Holy Grail" (with the GR x'ed out, so it's now "Holy Ail"). The comment below the GRAIL says "Tempered over Burning Witches". Being as the Holy Grail is one of my all time favorite (albeit STUPID) movies, this beer was worth a try!  I was a bit sad that in the description on the back there was nothing about Llama's, or anybody being "sacked" (note: I learned in my Black Sheep tour that the Pope (not sure which one, tho had to be in the last 20 years) was given a case of this particular beer, though my guide had no idea if he actually drinks beer...but he IS German my guide said).

 OK...being as my trip is almost over, thought I'd do a quick comparative analysis of my ALL TIME FAVORITE BEER's.

To do that we must start with a visit to the town of Masham. Once there, you have two directions to choose from. Right takes you to Theakstons brewery, and left takes you to Black Sheep brewery.

And so...I'll start with Theakstons Brewery. The original. The Theakston family has been brewing beer in THIS VERY BUILDING for over 7 generations.

And here it is.... the reigning champion. No description needed...makes my mouth water just LOOKING at it...a wonderful dark Yorkshire Ale. MMMMMMMMMMMMM!

Next...we then head literally across the street to Black Sheep. It's the underdog...Old Peculiar has been around forever, and has been my favorite for the last 5 years (when I first tasted it). It's now time to meet the contender, but I first must give you a bit of history.

Black Sheep Brewery is celebrating it's twentieth birthday this year. Yes, it's just a baby. The building however has been a brewery for much longer. It used to be called Lightfoot Brewery. But long ago the Theakston family bought it and then closed it down. To this day no one knows exactly why. However about 21 years ago the Theakston Brewery was bought out by the Newcastle brewing conglomerate (you've heard of Newcastle Brown Ale? They sell TONS in the US). It's still run by the Theakston family though, just has different owners. But Paul Theakston had a falling out with the family and wasn't happy about that situation. So he worked out the deal and bought the old Lightfoot building and started his own brewery. Twenty years later he's still in charge, and his 2 sons are fast up and coming in the brewing biz. Yes, Black Sheep is ALSO a Theakston family affair.

When Paul opened Black Sheep he had agonized over exactly what beers to brew. Their most popular is the Best Bitter, which is a low alcohol pub beer. But he didn't want to just copy the family beers, but to create his own. He has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams!

Here's the list of Cask Ales "on pump" at the visitor center. They are all nice. VERY nice. However, it's the Riggwelter that has my attention and is my OTHER favorite. It's billed as a "Strong Yorkshire Ale"...a real "wolf in sheep's clothing".

And here it is...the contender. It's similar to Old Peculiar, but different in many subtle ways. It's a bit lighter, and they use different combinations of hops to give it a different taste. The name Riggwelter isn't just a name, it has meaning.  Rygg in Old Norse means "back", and "Velte" means to 'overturn'. "When a sheep is on it's back and cannot get up without help, local dialect says it's rigged, or riggwelted. It's logo is the overturned sheep. And being a strong ale, YES, it can really put you on your back!

I know this is a cop-out, but I can't say which is my favorite. To decide among them is favorite would be the one I have in my hand at that moment.

 There is some good news though as I prepare to head home. Theakstons has begun exporting OP, and it's now available in the US. AND SO IS RIGGWELTER! I learned at the brewery tour that Black Sheep is now exporting it to Europe and North America, however, it's not called Riggwelter. The Export version is called "Monty Python's Holy Grail, only this bottle is sub-titled "Black Knight's Reserve, Dark Yorkshire Ale" (and thankfully it's still tempered over burning witches). That's the export on the left (the right is the UK pale ale version that I showed above).

So, if ever you should see this on the shelves, give it a try. You just might love it like I do. But I must add that NO bottled beer can compare to getting it "off the pump". Cask ales flat out RULE the beer world, and even in the US there are more and more Cask Ales becoming available.

And so....I've now bored you to TEARS talking about beer again...sorry. This is probably my LAST post from the UK. If that's true, then having it end with pictures of my TWO favorite breweries AND beers is a quite suitable ending to this adventure.

And FINALLY. I was hoping to ride today (Sunday as I do this final update) but of course, the weather pattern from the last 2 weeks is still upon us...wind, rain and COLD. By cold, I mean high around 45F, with winds 10-20mph. And it wasn't rain this afternoon, it was more sleet (really cold rain). So in lieu of a bike ride, I gave the steed a good washing (it was filthy) and then took it apart and packed it away in the shipping box.

Here is my steel steed after dis-assembly.  Clean and ready to get stuffed into the hard-case.

 And here it is a mere 2 hours later, ready to close the lid and put on the lock. Yes, the lid actually does close (though the tire on the rim makes it a REALLY tight fit).

And so, my UK Cycling adventure is truly over. I rode a total of 559.2 miles between March 6th and April 5th...that's a good months worth of riding in my book! No flats, no accidents, not a single mechanical issue with the bike...not too shabby! I got PAID to ride lots of great scenic lightly traveled roads in another country...winner winner chicken dinner! No complaints from me.

Have a GREAT weekend!



  1. Beer, bikes, and more Beer! To say I'm envious is an understatement. I'll search around my neighborhood and bring something tasty for you at Davis. Do you have a recommendation for a good beer with PIE ??

    1. That combo actually works either way...because bikes, beer and more bikes is also good! As to what beer goes with pie, I'd say something a bit lighter..maybe a golden ale of some sort...(the stronger dark ales can be a meal in itself). And funny you should mention "PIE"..cuz over here, that's typically pub fare (as in: steak and ale pie, steak and kidney pie...much like our chicken pot pie, only better).

      Though I would imagine they have dessert pie...but I always seem to stop looking as soon as I see the "Sticky toffee pudding" (usually up near the tippy-top of the after-dinner yummies list). And yes, it's as good as it sounds! And it goes great with beer!

  2. Old Peculiar? You may not want to drink too much of that stuff as the olde saying goes "You are what you eat (or drink in this case)" In fact I gave up Dirty Bastard for the same reason....


    1. oohhh...too late I'm afraid...I'm already old AND peculiar. And I've been Riggwelted a time or two...

  3. I can hardly believe that your bike fits in that box!! No idea you could pack it that small.

    Really crazy that you're headed home this week - the time has seemed to fly by. Hopefully it has for you too ;) I'll bet you can't wait to see Jeannie. That is a long way away. I'm also assuming that the babies will smother you upon arrival.

    Have safe travels back Matt and welcome home!

  4. That was supposed to be "I'll bet you can't wait to see Jeannie. That is a long *time* away :)

    1. It's both a "long way away" (about 6000 miles), AND a "long time away". In some ways time has flown by, and in other respects, it feels like I've been gone for a year. It's always fun to see new places, but as the ol' saying goes: THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME!!!

      As to the bike fitting in that case, it's a special frame (a Ritchey Breakaway). The frame comes apart...and then you just stack the parts in per the directions and hope you didn't mess up (regular frames can't go into a box this small). Mailed it home today...coming here it was $169 with NO insurance, going home it's $81 with full insurance. But the diff is I'm mailing it from an APO here...which means it never leaves US Postal service hands (well, the APO is Armed forces Post Office..but still part of the US Postal System). On the way out it went from US Postal to the Royal Mail Service (RMS), which is where I ran into the famous Ritchey Hostage Crisis of 2012 (back in February). Hopefully smooth sailing all the way home.

      And yes, I'm really hoping for a good smothering of babies!

    2. Safe travel Matt! (for you AND the bike!)


    3. Thanks Rae....getting excited now...the relief crew flew in yesterday...and came to work today to start turnover...finish that tomorrow and I'm scot free! . I'm staying in tonight and packing up, will eat my last dinner that I have left (a frozen pizza and a Riggwelter AND an Old Peculiar beer). Tomorrow night I'll prob go out for a final dinner w/ the gang, maybe go to the place I went on my FIRST night here (Graverly's) and have that ginormous piece of fried cod. Then a 5am taxi pickup on Fri morning and I'm ON MY WAY! Sure gonna be great to get home!

  5. Gonna be a lot of dog kisses when you get back. You're right about the keg/cask thing. Beer was not meant to be bottled, IMHO. But we have to get by with what we got.

    @2VT: I had my first pint of Dirty Bastard last week and now THAT is a beer!

    Matt, safe travels.


    1. Hey're SO RIGHT about doing with what we've got. Thankfully, the US is starting to catch up some on the beer thing...our microbreweries are really doing some great things, and more and more places are putting cask ales out.

      Tonight is my LAST DINNER...we're heading over to the Queens Head Inn, which by an amazing stroke of luck has OP on cask (imagine THAT!). Nice way to end the trip...And you're right..the babies will be very happy that I'm home...I won't be able to take a step without at least 8 extra legs being with me for a while.

      AND, I'm kinda glad it's been raining and gloomy since I shipped the bike would be cruel to have it suddenly become riding weather. Mother nature was very kind to me...she gave me an entire MONTH of pretty decent riding weather. It could have been miserable the entire time I was I'm very thankful. Keep the rubber side down...CHEERS!

  6. I'm HOME!

    Only took a measly 27 hours. That's with NO delays or cancellations. There was a LONG layover in Newark I (almost 6 hours)...and almost 2 in Los Angeles. Sure good to be back...and now it seems like being gone 3 months was only a dream. No weird dilemmas in the car either...I figured I'd be messed up for a few days...but not even a little bit. Very strange...5 years ago when I came back after only being there 6 weeks I was all confused back here. Oh well..I'm glad. Also no real jet-lag either..(though it helps getting home at midnight, as opposed to getting TO the UK around 10am). Tomorrow it's back to the grind. Woo-hoo. NOT! Happy Sunday!

  7. WELCOME HOME!!!! That is one LOOOOOONG trip back. wow. You have to go right back to work tomorrow? No fair.

    Glad to hear you won't be driving around on the wrong side of the road out there. ENJOY being home :)

  8. Stinks that you don't get at least one more day to relax after all that! But welcome home!

    I guess you west coasters were able to enjoy the NBCSports broadcasts of the Fleche Wallonie and Liege-Bastogne-Liege but 1AM is a bit too late for me! I was going to record them at least, just to help give it viewer numbers, but after watching them live online I just didn't bother as it requires unplugging this, plugging in that, blahblahblah. What ever happened to "cyclsm Sundays"?

    Katusha is really on fire right now! I felt so bad for Nibali! And what a disappointing spring so far for BMC--not at all what I had hoped--although the teamwork is definitely there, the closers haven't been able to close. Is it the riders not being on form (as Gilbert admits to) or even more the fault of the team strategy to control the race and burn off the support riders too early?

    The Schlecks did not seem too interested in LBL either -- were they just there for "training"? I had hoped to see more of a presence from RSNT as well. I hope that the team isn't reverting to the "all for the TdF" mode of past Bruyneel/LA teams.