Delightful little jaunt

At last I am able to go out cycling again, after hurting a tendon in early December. Yesterday, I headed out into the Cooleys, and boy, was I overwhelmed with gratitude for the wonderful privilege I have of living where I do.

 

This hill is one of my favourite sights. I can see it from my bedroom window, and usually it’s the most wonderful contrast of dark green against the lighter greens and browns of the mountains behind it. Winter’s brush, however, has added a silvery touch to my hill that made it look contemplative and wise.

I must have posted photos of this path loads of times before, but I just can’t help it, I take a photo everytime I come by here with the camera.

What struck me yesterday was that while the sum of the things to see around me was beautiful,

 

every little separate component was beautiful to me, too.

 

I love – love – looking at damp soil rich with bits of leaves and bark.

I love looking at moss softening the lines of rocks and trees. I just so love everything around me.

How can anyone not love this place? I’m so often asked if I don’t miss South Africa’s sunshine – how can I, if I have this instead?

I stopped for lunch at Ravensdale Park. There’s a small car park there, surrounded by trees, and a few wooden tables with benches. And now I did the first thing that is probably not very serious-cyclist-like: I pulled out my lunch box and, yes, my flask of nice warm tea.

I felt a tiny bit silly when two other cyclists, also on hybrids like Ronan, whirred into the car park. They looked very cycle-ish, and did serious cycley stuff once they’d stopped like drinking water from their water bottles (not tea from a flask) and talking seriously with each other, probably about serious cycling stuff.

Then… well then things got worse. Whirrrrrrrrr-thwack! I heard behind me. A woman on a mountain bike had cycled past, flew onto the tarred surface over the last dip and skidded to a halt. Whirrrrrrrrrr-thwack! another mountain biker, a guy this time, followed and pulled up beside her. They were clad in proper mountain biking gear: mountain bike shorts over winter tights, mountain bike tops, enough logos to cover a sports car between them. They pulled off their full face helmets and started excitedly discussing the route they just did while more of them whirred and thwacked past me until there were eight of them gathered in the little parking lot.

There was enough coolness beside me to power an air conditioning system for the entire Burj Khalifa (Dubai Tower). And I was about to do something really, really terrible. You see, I usually take my netbook along to spend an hour or two writing when I stop for lunch on a cycling trip. This time, I hadn’t felt like it, so I’d grabbed the other project I’m working on at the moment. Yes, I was clad in sort of semi-cool cycling tights. Yes, I wore cycling cleats, which I suppose are also cool, though I’m more concerned about the fact that they’re really practical. But what I was about to indulge in, in sight of these ultra-cool cyclists, would cancel out any coolness I myself might have scraped together. It was worse than the lunchbox. It was worse than the flask of tea. It was…

Yes, I sat in Ravensdale Forest Park and worked on my crochet project. To crown it all, I thought of how ridiculous that was and kept laughing my head off while stitching, so I don’t suppose that made it any better. But most probably the cool mountain bikers didn’t even notice me.

Once my fingers got too cold to keep stitching, I packed everything away and headed home. It felt so good to cycle like this again that I was sorely tempted to go farther than the 30km I had determined I would do. However, that is precisely how I got hurt in the first place, so I disciplined myself to not overdo it.

Stats:

Distance: 31.42km
Average: 19.0km/h
Max: 37.0km/h
Pedalling time: 1h38.41

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Day after Valentine’s with my second-greatest love.

Yippee! Warm weather after a terrible cold snap. I had a good feeling about Sunday, I just knew it was going to be fantastic. And oh, it was. I started out with my leg warmers and a long-sleeved shirt. The leg warmers were the first to go, as it really was quite warm. South African friends, I should qualify: it was around 8’C. This was enough to inspire me to blind passing motorists with the sight of my really, really white winter-legs.

Ronan, my sweet darling, is still the best bike in the world. Second-greatest love after Micky!

I headed into the Cooley mountains, around Ravensdale, where there are numerous little hidden coves of tranquility. Hey ho, I think I was listening to really loud Snow Patrol when I took this photo. God bless the mp3 player.

I really wanted to cross the Windy Gap pass over to O’Meath, but astonishingly, I got lost. Actually, that should not be so astonishing, I make an art form out of getting lost. What is astonishing is that I got lost in a place I have cycled around in loads of times. At any rate, I cycled up a random little obscure tarred road, and lo, I ended up here:

Well. What to do now? The only way to go was here, and I don’t have a mountain bike.

Hmmm. While I thought over my options, I did something about being too hot. Observe, pack taken off, as were gloves and glasses.
Next went the long-sleeved shirt, and yes, now I was clothed in my bra and cycling shorts out in the open. It was hidden from view.
Then, evidence of the first short-sleevedness in almost six months. Of course I had to just aim the camera more or less in the right direction, so the results were a bit random. I think this is a rare nice-looking photo of me.
Micky thinks this one is nicer, and it achieves the aim of showing the short sleeves of the hippie tee shirt I have now had a chance to wear.

I was sooooo tempted. I just wanted, wanted to go up this dreadful trail. But oh, no mountain bike! Nothing but a hybrid, a road bike really. No nice fat tyres that can handle things such as this. It would be madness to go up here:
So, of course, I did.

And I was rewarded with this:

Of course, I had to push Ronan much of the way, and walking through mud with cleats means poor wedges got all mud-caked. I had to scrape it away with a stick before I could clip into the pedals again.
Ronan was also a very dirty boy when we were done with our little adventure.

I finally did find the right way to go, but by then I was really knackered as I’d gone up and down all sorts of interesting-looking nooks and crannies.

I’d had a very, very glorious time, and went home, having done about thirty, thirty-five km. That’s a pathetic distance, but truly, much of it was as steep as what I’d done in Switzerland. I had the most wonderful thrill when, in one place, I got going again after a rest and the front wheel lifted off the ground when I pushed down on the pedal. I’d wanted to do some hill training, and I think that would qualify as steep.

God, I can’t wait to get out there again. I love cycling.

Dundalk/O’Meath/Carlingford trip

I went on a lovely cycling trip today. It was meant to just be a short, leisurely outing, but it turned into something much, much more. To start with, I headed North, in the direction of the Cooley mountains.
I turned toward O’Meath just after the Carrickdale Hotel, on a path that takes me past Flagstaff Viewpoint.


Up near Flagstaff, I sat on a stone wall, enjoyed the amazing view and a snack.

From there I headed for O’Meath, where I had another rest – scandalous, it was hardly around the corner from the previous rest stop.

I went through Carlingford from there. Didn’t feel like taking the big, busy main road from there to Dundalk, so I went along another road which I thought wound its way along the flanks of the mountains to eventually pass Ravensdale Forest Park. Um, I was wrong. I soon realised I was on the wrong road, but with beautiful scenery all around, I didn’t much care.


To my great amusement, I ended up above O’Meath again. Higher up this time, with different views from earlier.

I went back the way I’d come, past Flagstaff Viewpoint, up an utterly brutal hill. At the Carrickdale Hotel, I had a cup of tea. A moment of sentimentality: this is the exact spot where I’d parked my old bike so many times when I cycled along here.

In those days, the Carrickdale used to be my ultimate goal. I’d never have made it the current distances on the ole thing, but it served me the best it could.
Distance: 74.44km
Average: 18.5km/h
Max: 43km/h
Odometer reading: 1 511.2km