Friday, 8 April 2016


A significant date for me. It was 10 years ago last Saturday, on 2nd April, that I walked away from my deli and coffee shop in Portobello, Edinburgh. It just so happened to also be 25 years to the date that I had opened it, back in 1991.

The past few months have been a recovery period for me since the bicycle crash in Wyoming last July, and so I thought I'd mark the deli anniversaries with my first bicycle road trip in nine months.

As Pauline was a big support in the deli years, and during my stay in hospital in Lander, Wyoming, it seemed only right that both of us went out on the bikes for this mini adventure. The weather had different ideas however, and the planned trip mentioned in last weeks blog to Callander didn't come off. Instead we took the train out of Edinburgh to Dundee.

It was a late start under steel grey skies, and after meeting Pauline's mum and partner for coffee and cake after cycling across the Dundee road bridge (just 2 miles into the cycle!), we continued down the east coast to Tenstmuir Forest, and camped near the beach for the night.

Tents in Tentsmuir!

The forest is a National Nature Reserve covering some 50 square miles, but originally the area was all sand dunes, until the Forestry Commission acquired it in the 1920s. Sadly they now seem to be cutting down large amounts for car parking!

The forest area once saw a 21ft high tsunami hit 7,000 years ago, and even served as a target practice area for Spitfire pilots during WWII.

Supper was a special treat. Whilst cycling across America in 2011, we crossed the narrow panhandle of Idaho, and picked up packets of instant "Idahoan Buttery Homestyle Potatoes". Idaho is the home of potatoes in America, so at the time it seemed appropriate that we indulge. Well, last year before returning home, I bought a couple of packets. OK, so Tentsmuir Forest in drizzly rain is not exactly a twin for Idaho, but nonetheless, it was fun to have that little reminder at supper of the Trans America bicycle trip.

Drizzly rain fell most of the night and well into the morning, making for a late start again. As we made our way along the forest trails we came upon the Ice House. A stone built structure, that when built, in 1852, was on the edge of the sea. Now it lies far from high tide. Locally caught salmon was stored here at one time, and large blocks of ice were dragged in from local ponds to keep the salmon fresh in a primitive deep freeze. Now only Natterer bats use it's dark spaces.

Out of Tentsmuir Forest and past RAF Leuchars, we made good time on the 15 miles to St Andrews for, you guessed it, coffee and cake.

The skies cleared and the sun came out, as we set off on the final stretch of 21 miles across country, from St Andrews to Glenrothes, for the train home.

It was great to be back on the bike, albeit a little apprehensively. On every downhill I found myself reaching for the brakes. Normally I would barrel past Pauline, using my weight advantage to pick up speed, but the thought of that made my stomach churn. I guess it will be a while, if ever, before I pluck up that courage, or foolishness, again.

Originally, this first mini tour was to have been over three days. My backside and quads were very pleased that it was just the two this time round!

It crossed my mind at points that it seems such a very long time ago that I cycled the big tour, right across America, and back home, in the evening, I had a pleasant surprise. A TV programme came on, hosted by Billy Connolly, taking a train journey from Chicago to Seattle. It stopped at many of the place names I remember along the way across "the high line" of the northern states, such as Williston in North Dakota, and Glasgow and Shelby in Montana.

Thus ended the weekend of marking the deli years, and my return to cycle touring, nicely rounded off with that tip-of-the-hat to the greatest cycle tour I've ever done, and all shared with my best friend throughout.


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