Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Rotten Cow Muck

Today's post isn't really about Rotten Cow Muck...I just like to say it. I'm STILL chuckling over that sign last week, and the fact that you can actually BUY Rotten Cow Muck. I can't say for SURE what exactly RCM smells like, but I believe I can guess. You see, when I'm out riding around the countryside, quite often I think I smell it (and I mean in a BIG way). Farms and such are EVERYWHERE. And, there's LOTS of water around here. I'd say to best describe it to you, drive to a large cattle holding area, get out of your car and take a big whiff. THEN, imagine that smell augmented by LOTS and LOTS of water...so whatever goo there is lying around is all rotten and goopy, and probably amplified. I smell that all the time here. Frequently it's quite overpowering, and there's no escape.

But actually, I just have MORE pictures to post from my last 3 rides. We had an amazing weather pattern here since Friday, setting record highs in many places including Scotland. To me it's just AWESOME, and I've now had 3 rides in a row with NO toe warmers, arm warmers, leg warmers, wind/rain-jacket, ear warmers, and cold-weather long finger gloves (which all my rides prior have been needing). My arms and legs actually have a bit of color coming back into them I just noticed tonight!

And so, without further adieu, more pictures. The first batch is from Saturday's ride in the Lakes District National Park.

 Just a neat view not long after I began my ride, just after the fog lifted.

 Downtown Windmere, which is also the name of the HUGE lake I'm working my way around.

 Yet ANOTHER stone bridge, church, forest and river....all in one picture!

Not used to seeing horses lying around during broad daylight. The big one is a normal full size horse, the other 2 are some kind of long haired ponies.The white one REALLY needs a haircut to see, and his hair all over his (her?) body was about the same length. The little brown one was just watching me, and they seemed quite relaxed (as if you couldn't tell).

 Ho Hum...a beautiful lake, forest, mountains and a swan. I like to take as few pictures as possible, combining all the elements whenever I can. Saves computer memory that way.

 Framed this shot between the trees  looking up a valley to the west. The Atlantic ocean is probably less than 20 miles away. The peaks around here were pretty large, and made me think of my recent trip to the Highlands of Scotland.

That rock wall slanting up right to left (the one just below the trees) is actually 2 walls, with THE ROAD in-between them. It's actually a rather long and steep climb.

The next batch is from my Sunday ride in the northern portion of the Yorkshire Dales National park.

 As I climbed up out of Leyburn the road crossed a very desolate stretch of land. Turns out it's military, with multiple firing ranges and such. Not far from here is a guard shack where they block the road during firing exercises. Thankfully they don't appear to shoot on Sunday.

Coming off the top of that no-mans-land stretch and down into the town of  Reeth. Looks like a real speed run. Of course, I'll be coming back home this way, so it's a double-edged sword to be sure.

Yep. That's ANOTHER road slanting right up the hill between 2 rock walls. Long and steep. Again.

A few miles before this Inn I was passed by a couple of local guys (I was taking pictures). Caught them on the climb and we started chatting. Here at the top is a quite popular stop for cyclists of all types (both with and without motors). As you can see by the sign, it's Great Britain's HIGHEST Inn. Cool! And I'm sporting my 2012 Fatty colors, with BARE ARMS AND LEGS! Life doesn't get much better than this!

I now have to admit there aren't any more pictuers of a VERY Scenic portion of the ride. That's because of those 2 guys I started riding with.  You know....when there's more than one guy, it's a race. And so the next 15 or so miles was a race with my new friends Rich and David. Actually Rich and I were pretty close, taking turns pulling off the front and trying to gap the others. Poor David wasn't able to hold our wheels very long, but we waited at the top of the climbs and the bottom of the descents. It was a BLAST though, and I really need to get back and get some pictues of the parts I FLEW through. Also there is a road that has a 25% grade that we bypassed, and I MUST go back and try that.

This is the last picture of the Sunday ride (it was about a quarter mile from where I parked, and I had already said my goodbye to Rich and David about 10 miles back). I've been across this river before (though I have no idea how to pronounce it) but not on my bike. You can see how narrow it is. It's strictly a first-come-first-cross as to who goes...if a vehicle coming the other way is already on the bridge, you STOP and wait. Pretty cool bridge!

And finally, here's 3 shots from tonight's after work ride.

 I came up over the other side of this hill on a WICKED climb up out of Lofthouse. The descent you see here was a BLAST! I can't see her in this picture, but not long after I took this a girl on a Cervelo TT bike came flying down the hill. I started riding but she easily caught me. She left the base just after I did but took a different (ie, farther) route to the Lofthouse climb (I only know this as she asked if I left the base about 12:45 which I did...she said she saw me go. I went North and she went West outside the gates). I stayed with her just a bit before I had to back down and let her go, as she was again FLYING! Those Triathletes are pretty fit!

 In case you hadn't noticed, I seem to have a thing for stone bridges. My route went over this one. We just don't have stuff like this back home.

A panarama of my road crossing another no-mans-land. The road dips quite steeply just off to the right to the bottom of this little valley (yes, there is ANOTHER stone bridge, and YES, I DID take a picture...but won't show it as it just wasn't THAT scenic). Then it climbs somewhat steeply. My way turned out to be the straight road, not the one veering off to the right. Thank you Little Jeannie for getting me home from who knows where once again!

And that wraps up yet another edition of my visual journal of North Yorkshire. Cathy, sure hoping your cousin Gary wakes up soon and fully recovers from his injuries! I'll never ride Foxen Canyon again without thinking about it. Have a GREAT week everybody!


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 ride-log...my first ride was on March 6th, and today was my 8th ride...so 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)...my 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 month...as 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 blah...so 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 coin-jar....it'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.


Sunday, March 11, 2012

The view from 2 wheels

I rode both days this weekend. Saturday was miserable (as in REALLY WINDY), also it didn't stop raining until almost 11am. But I was desperate to ride so went out anyway and did 40 miles in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. I suffered thru 31 miles of 20mph head/cross winds, but the final 9 were down an awesome canyon along a river WITH the wind. Ending a ride like that really helps dull the pain of the rest.

Today I went back out a bit closer to home and did 34 miles. It was windy again (not quite as much as yesterday) but warmer. In fact, I rode without my wind/rain shell for the first time here. And no full neoprene shoe covers, just toe warmers. That's a good sign, spring is coming. I have a ton of pictures from the 2 days, as I try to capture some of the beauty of this area. It's always fun to see someplace new, and 2 wheels is the best way to do that.

Without further adieu, my pics from the weekend.

 This is a view back down the valley. You can clearly see the rounded canyon shape as the entire UK was covered by glaciers during the last ice age. Also you can see the stone walls that are EVERYWHERE. Just a typical view as I ride.

Water water everywhere. Looking up the hillside, springs are flowing over and thru rock walls. Sheep graze most everywhere, but none are in this picture by pure chance.

 And another waterfall. You can also see how overcast and gloomy it is. 
This shot was taken just after it stopped raining.

The sun makes an appearance! Roads are still wet, from the rain, but it's just beautiful here.

Climbing to the top of the plateau (or whatever you'd call it here). The land here in the Dales is rather spartan. The only tree visible is off to the right...it reminds me of the tundra of Alaska up in this part of the country. And it's all mooshy and muddy everywhere off road.

Self portrait, my camera is perched on a stone wall. There is a beautiful stream flowing just behind me, only a small part visible just beyond my bike's rear wheel. Also you can see I have my mt bike rear fender attached for the ride. And I'm wearing my neon red rain/wind shell. If the wind would go down by HALF, it would still be windy (but O- SO MUCH nicer)!

 Another boring view of the landscape. They sure have a LOT of rock walls here. I'm guessing 99 out of every 100 people used to be builders.

 Yet ANOTHER waterfall. This shot captures some of the wind...you can see it's blowing the top off the water as it goes over the edge.

Did I mention they have a lot of rocks here? A beautiful stone bridge, just one of the many dozens that I've seen thus far.

Here's where it gets interesting. I'm at about mile 28, and have to climb out of this valley to get home. Over the top the road then goes to the left and down (WITH the wind). Here the wind is coming across right to left, and the grade where I took this shot is about 10%. There is a sign at the top (for those coming down) that says it's 24%. All I can say is the last quarter mile or more is SO steep that I was delivering papers and STILL could barely make my bike move! (delivering papers is what I call it when I ride back and forth across the road, as it's so steep that I'm not strong enough to just ride straight up).

Here I'm in the final 9 mile descent. There was a few miles where the road follows this stream, and it's just AWESOME! Not to mention the joy of having a tailwind for the first time all day! What a way to end the ride!

 Another view of the stream, there was a bridge a bit back and now I'm on the other side. I love how it's just THERE, no walls, guard rails, nothing. I can't think that I've ever seen any such sight in the US. Did I mention this is DOWNHILL too? Ahhh...doesn't get much better than this!

 And finally, here is a panorama I put together of one of the valleys.

That ends the pictures from Saturdays ride in the Dales. Here are some noteworthy shots from today's ride.

 The view from the side of the road as a stream snakes it's way down to a large reservoir.
 This view is looking down into "How Stean Gorge" (and yes, it's Stean, not Steam). The drop from where I'm standing is probably a good 40 to 50 feet, and the river has cut this gorge thru solid rock.
 The view from the other side of the bridge looking into the gorge.

 I've been seeing lots of lambs out in the pastures this last week. They must be VERY young as they can barely walk. They are OH so cute!
 Didn't catch the name, but this is an Abbey at the top of a hill, and I used it as my turnaround point.

 The view looking back down the road from up near the abbey. You can clearly see the valley I came up, and you can barely make out the blue water of the Gouthwaite Reservoir (about 4 miles away) that the road paralleled for a few miles. It was a beautiful day (mid 60's) and the wind was only about 13mph today. It was a great way to end my weekend.

 Here's a pan I put together showing how hills look. I see this type of view EVERYWHERE I go here, and it still is amazing!

 This is a pan of the reservoir that I rode past (twice).

And finally, another pan of yet ANOTHER hillside. I have to say that pictures do NOT do justice to how beautiful it is here. But I keep trying!

And that's all the pictures I'll bore you with (for now). I have MANY HUNDREDS that I've taken so far on this trip. 

Have a great week! (oh, and don't be shy talking about the bike races...I've seen ZERO over here. It's not on my TV channels that I get in my flat, and I'm working or riding when they are racing. So I haven't seen a lick of racing this year, and I miss it!