After 18 months waiting it finally arrived, retirement. I’d decided many years ago that I would try to finish work early. I had initially thought as soon as possible as I turned 60 but other factors later came in to play. My employer was looking for efficiency savings so I applied to go and now 18 month after my 60th birthday, the day in April arrived. My feelings? non plussed actually. I’ve been told the first month is like an extended holiday but then the enormity of it will hit me. I’m looking to do many things, I have ideas constantly buzzing around in this big old empty head and we’ll see when I get there, I’m pretty spontaneous in what I do so…. I’ve a few things to get sorted before I finally get on with a new dawn in my life, I’ll get whatever done before the younger Mrs Mhor joins me in a few years time. I’ve done work inside the house and being honest, work would have been a rest compared to this.
My culinary skills to be utilised more (I’m told), my place now as a house-husband is assured (I’m told). Where is that dishcloth? No doubt, I will be writing about some of my adventures as life goes along…….
Back to the normal stuff…
( February/March) Radio…
SOTA chasing.. I caught two ‘visitors’ who had three days planned on the hills around Tarbet (the Loch Lomond one). I was waiting and on time, I worked Geoff NON and Robin TQQ on Cruach Tairbairt at the head of Loch Long, a hill surrounded by higher hills, this was the only hill they did on 2m due to the lack of 2m activity. I listened the following day on the chance that Beinn Bhreac or Tullich Hill would be called from but nothing. If I was to do the former hill I’d choose HF due to the site and poor VHF take off, ces’t la vie. Next in the log was Duncan GOG on Goseland Hill, I’d been out for walk but had carried my handie as Iain WJZ was due on Ben Cruachan later that day(if I extended my wanders as I tend to do), A good contact as the hill was 85 kms from the part of the B788 I was at. I also had a quick word with fellow chaser Brian HMZ. I’d returned home and then worked Iain on Ben Cruachan which is almost LOS(line of sight) to the N of the home QTH, a hill which tempts me.
The following weekend, I’d a text pre-warning me that Neil NCM was activating an Ayrshire hill, Benbeoch. I could have just walked up to the trig point above the golf course but I took the bike and headed up the West Glen Rd out of Kilmacolm and looked for a point where I could have a good run into the hill Neil was on. I’d had a good look on the OS map so I knew roughly my destination but I just drew into a farm gate and called and first call Neil had heard me as he was just setting up, excellent and had a quick QSO before I left Neil on a windy summit and I would freewheel to join the Barochan Rd and head on to Houston and home. First in the log in March was Iain WJZ who was on Cairn Table in East Ayrshire, I’d nipped up to the local trig point, 15 mins away to catch him. Two weeks later,I caught Robin PKT on successive days, first hill was Ben Laga on the Saturday plus I’d caught Jack COX a few minutes earlier on Culter Fell, I’d cycled to Scroggy Bank high above Greenock where I had hoped to catch Robin on the handie and only when I arrived and checked the alerts page I found out Jack was out. Two good contacts distance wise, PKT at 107 and COX at 92 kms. Ben Laga is above Loch Sunart in the Ardnamurchan peninsula. I knew it would be a reach but we got there in the end. I must get a portable lightweight beam built that fits in my pannier bag. Robin PKT was out the following day on Morvern on Sidhean na Raplaich, this time I caught him after heading to old favourite hill, Corlic. I’d got dropped off with Euan and waited at the summit to make the contact, the summit littered with loads of cut cable ties and more strangely a 8 ft section of 4″ plastic down pipe(now removed), strange one.
Looks like SOTAEx may be back on for 2015, watch this space !!
I made my first top band(160m) JT65 contact into EI land plus I’d spent more than a few evenings doing WSPR on this band. I did try some SSTV on 20m , I received the shown image from a Dutch SWL station with an ask for me to verify the reception, a QSL card was soon on its way.
A wee health blip mid march but after a good rest, I was back out on the bike with nothing more than my usual routes and runs through the country roads to the east and south of home. I’m slowly working myself back up to hopefully regain the fitness I had last year. I’d enjoyed myself too much with the tasty, cidery wrong things over the winter months, how can they be wrong if they taste so good?
I got one of these as a farewell pressie from my employers(my choice)
I’m keeping an eye on the download data which runs on ‘Cumulus’ on my computer. I have started it on 1st April to log all the data, we’ll see how the first month goes.. I’m debating whether I should have it north facing or south-facing. I’m running it at the north side of the house.
As a funny.. I saw this when googling for info on the Kenwood TS590SG..
Note the sales description and the quick details…..hilarious or probably lost in translation?
As with all images, click on to embiggen.
Thanks go to Wikipedia, Peakbagger and other sites I have linked to.
I thought I’d bring back my regular monthly radio and other ‘report’ more as a tick over whilst things are quiet at Mhor Towers. I’ll see how each month pans out to see if I have enough content but may just randomly post as and when.
I hope everyone had an enjoyable holiday period over Xmas and New Year and some new toys, radio or otherwise to play with. Let’s make 2015 another year to remember.
Without further adieu…
My SOTA chasing activity has been very quiet due to the extremes of the weather, the early month plagued with wet, windy days whilst the last two weeks have had snow, icy conditions. A right winter mix for the month. The brave ones have been out.
I managed only two chases through the month, first in the 2015 SOTA log was Robin PKT on a new hill for me, Creag Gharbh just south of Loch Tay, I had checked location of this hill and thought ‘Nah’ but listened and managed a new summit chase. Next and last for the month was Iain WJZ on part of the Great Wall of Rannoch (the boundary between the old Pictish Kingdom of Alba to the east and the Dál Riata kingdom of the Scots in the west), Beinn an Dothaidh, a quiet month indeed as the winter has been in and out weather wise.
I thought it was time to reformat my computer as it had not been done 3 years ago since I bought the present tower, I had kept regular ‘cloud’ backups of my log files. both ADIF and my home-made ‘paper’ one (I should really print if it off as I go). I bit the bullet and set out forgetting all the drama of getting everything up and running again, Ham Radio Deluxe (v5) was first loaded followed by both softwares for JT65, I use WSJT-X which gives me both JT65 and JT9 but my go to for JT65 is HB9HQX’s version.
Once installed I had loaded all the drivers needed or so I thought…
I was getting receive but no TX but a quick look at the ZLP website and the light went on as I opened the page and I soon remembered it was FTDI drivers I needed so once installed it was off and running.
I thought after a break I should do more PSK work so I got busy and got all the personalised macros set up and it was back to working with only one day off air.
I was soon busy on the two modes..and an occasional look on RTTY.
Contacts spread over the world with over 80 contacts (eQSL cards exchanged). Africa evaded me but I’m guessing the N/S dipole comes into play.
I’m still hunting those 4 states for WAS….
It has been a while since I mentioned this, eh?
I have an old laptop which had become bloated and slow so I thought ‘Linux’. I had tried Ubuntu before but this time I thought I’d give Linux Mint a trial. It didn’t take long installing and soon I was in strange surroundings. I was wary as Linux is a different kettle of fish. I ‘googled’ (on the laptop) SDR dongle as I had some initial problems using the methods on Windows but not this time, I used the code from HERE (thanks David) to set up my dongle and in minutes I was running Gqrx and I had the short video below made in less than 5 mins on the programme. The station is UK Classic FM on 101.7 FM and as you hear the quality of the received stereo signal is excellent. I had thought of running some familiar Windows SDR progs in Wine but thought no, linux based only.
I have spent some time since working and checking out the controls and hope to soon put my Nooelec Upconverter in line so I can explore the HF bands. I had earlier bought the enclosure kit for the upconverter but it was for the newer V 1.2 so after an email to the US before I bought, I knew I had to fit an USB-B connection to enable a proper fit.
I’ve had email exchanges with Nooelec on both occasions I have bought items and the correspondence has been quick and most helpful.
I notice they have an enclosure now for the dongles which should help screen out RFI, I have bought copper tape for this purpose but will wait until after I have fitted an SMA output port instead of the present MCX fitting. Another mod is in the process, more later…
It is an ongoing part of the hobby and a regular check on Reddit’s subreddit RTLSDR will keep you in the forefront of what is happening. I’ll update on my progress as I go on, Linux SDR is new territory for me..
Its been pretty non-existent due to the snow and ice, a couple of spills in my motorbike days (slow speed) kinda wearies me to not head out, the rain I do not mind as my last run of 21 mile was entirely in the wet. It was a snap decision and I was wary of icy patches, I did meet one woman who had gone down on black ice near Linwood. I was heading out Elderslie way but turned back as I met some large icy stretches but was glad I had gone out after 20 days inactivity. I have been out walking some short 5 mile routes near home just to keep the legs working.
Hopefully this weather will clear and get back to the milder conditions but it is high pressure as I write this looks as if there will be no change in the next five days. A slow start to the year but soon the milder weather will return.
If interested in catching the Northern Lights, check out and keep an eye on this forecast HERE, if you have Twitter it would be worthwhile following @BGSSpaceWeather and @BGSauroraAlert.
Oh and I’m playing with another toy but more on this later..
Part 2 as promised..
No radio this time as I obviously covered it in the previous chapter.
Back to cycling or an ‘oot’ as I tend to refer to them as now…
After earlier visits to the Isles of Great Cumbrae and Bute, where could Bob go next? I did have plans for another island jaunt but logistic problems..
It was on a hot and I mean hot mid June day I set off west towards Gourock and the short ferry trip to Kilcreggan where I’d head westwards through Cove whilst geocaching en-route and in true fashion, I didn’t bag the first one…only two failed me on the first part of this journey, I headed out past Peaton beach to the now very secure area of Coulport, it was more a reminisce than a visit as I’d spent my 21st birthday fishing on the beach but it was another destination I had in mind on this day, I steadily climbed toward the summit of the road east and as a matter of principle I kept going until I summited and then turned back towards my cut off road that would take me down to the west side of the Gareloch and scran break at Garelochhead.
In retrospect I should have stayed on the road out of Coulport as it would have meant missing extra climbing out of Garelochead and joining my intended road just above Whistlefield. Lunch was taken at the usual bench on the loch side, I could see the magnetic micro geocache container still in its hiding place.
A gentle climb out of Garelochhead then it was back to serious business, up and up until the roundabout which would take out the Haul Rd to just south of Luss. I had regularly used this road as it is the drop off point for both Beinns Chaorach and ‘a’Mhanaich but I have never cycled it and later as I dropped down to the A82 I thought ‘Phew! that was an experience!’, I had of course taken a diversion up to Auchengaich reservoir for yes, you guessed it.
The road is a looooooooooong steady climb from Whistlefield and I was down in the ‘granny’ gears getting there slowly, I thought I’m near the top but my head fell at a ‘Slow Low Gear’ sign ahead and I just stopped….I soon found out that I’d stopped just below the summit, Doh!. From there it was up and down like a rollercoaster until the almost flat run down Lomondside.
I suffered badly from the heat and had to stop every so often to take on liquid.
A run down the track beside the river Leven then up over Erskine Bridge, Bishopton and soon I was on Route 75 and home, over 66 ml logged. Over 3,400 ft of ascent….Good.
Blog post HERE
The next trip followed the same start and as I had noticed a trail of geocaches (17 in all) placed along a forestry track in the hills above Kilcreggan towards the high point of Peaton Rd. It was a gamble on the condition of the track.
I left Kilcreggan Pier to find the start to this track and at the entrance car park area, I set about finding the first cache and off I headed upwards on what is a relatively excellent track although on one or two short sections I walked the bike due to what looked like water damage but 99% was doable on the hybrid. I soon rose out of the tree line and on to open countryside and I diverted towards the highest point, Clash MacKenny, apparently the Clash part means ‘large hollow or cavity’..I’m baffled.
There was a rough track out to the trig point and a nearby well-placed picnic bench. A well-earned rest enjoyed before a run mostly downhill to the Peaton Rd before a quick descent. I decided this time I’d head over by Helensburgh for a look-see but before I hit the town centre I started working my way up the side streets before taking the A818 (to the Arden roundabout on Lomond side) then at the high point of the road I nipped on to the parallel cycle path and after I reached Arden I returned the same route as the previous run.
Blog post HERE
The last ‘big’ run ?
The famous ‘Three Ferries’….
This time I was oot with Roddy IOB, we’d threatened to get this done at some point and it took until October to get organised.
The train to Wemyss Bay with Roddy appearing at Branchton and soon it was a rush (as usual) to get a ticket and get on the ferry to Bute. It was familiar ground now(to me) as we left the ferry to head out to Rhubodach, a flat run with a short rise and fall en route to the ferry terminal.
It was a short ferry crossing across the Kyles of Bute, on and off before you knew it and after paying our fare at Colintraive it was off westwards along the Loch Riddon shore road for the scenery, I enjoyed the ups and downs but knew hell(to me) was about to appear and sure enough it was up the B836 we headed on what has been almost a new relaid single track surface, I steadily moved up and after some banter with some drivers, one woman said I should be glad that she was so patient, I replied ”I wasn’t stopping anyway!”, I was that determined to get up non stop.
Finally we drew in and Roddy produced the Jetboil (reminds me I must test mine out!!) and a welcome cuppa drank. I knew the next section was a quick fast drop down into the head of Loch Striven where we rounded past the power station and up a more serious hill, a long slow uphill pull towards our next break which was next to Loch Tarsan’s dam wall and another scran break, this was beginning to be a real rollercoaster as we then decided to later add Glen Masson to our itinerary, ‘Does it have any hilly bits?’ I asked, Roddy mumbled something back….was it another Cruach Ardrain ? …Explanation HERE
A fast sweeping enjoyable descent through Glen Lean towards Clachaig where we met up and headed towards the Holy Loch where we would head left towards Glen Masson.
An interesting ride as it was new ground to me and we stopped next to the Botanical Gardens for a quick water break before we started meeting slight ramps, I’d fallen for it again..but finally we arrived at the end of the tarmac and sat for a break but after the slight haul up it was a sweeping quick reverse run back down the glen, a pattern here, climb up and whizz down, I like that.
Soon we were heading down the Holy Loch and took the shore road to Ardnadam heading towards Dunoon and decided we would be quicker getting the ferry from Hunters Quay so not before long we were heading to Gourock.
It wasn’t long before we were cycling along Greenock Esplanade before I struck off to cycle home, yes, another bit of a climb before I finally get off the bike at home. 46 miles and over 2,600 ft ascent. Phew !
Blog post HERE
In the last week, I took my total of cycling miles for ’14 to just over 3,000 in the saddle, 1,200 more than my first year back in the saddle (’13).
2015 has an awful lot to live up to…
and the Island Tours will continue!…
I was talking recently with a friend about what I had did the last two years, my cycling etc and was surprised to hear them say ‘Life begins at 60 after all,eh?’.
Maybe it does…
So watch this space…
Yearly review time again, folks.
Time seems its moving quicker as one gets nearer this year-end.
The blog which started as a diary type chronicling my hill-top and other radio work has taken an almost 180° turn into more a story of my cycling outs mixed with my now occasional SOTA activity in 2014. Car problems earlier in 2014 are now resolved with Mrs Mhor running about in a wee red motor. SOTA activity? I’m stepping it up next year. I did get some hills activated in ’14 so what better than to start than the radio work resumé.
I took ages to get going (May in fact) with the first activation being my now annual yomp across the marshy bogs of Muirshiel Park out to the highest point of the county, the Hill of Stake. It fools you with an excellent track to the old mine area but as you head south, no path nothing but bog and heather until you reach the base of the hill.
An excellent day was had with contacts as far north as Stob Ban, Am Bodach, The Saddle and Aonach air Chrith, as far south as Helvellyn and Bleaberry Fell in the Lakes . a total of 10 STS (summit to summits). An excellent day out. Blog post HERE
That had been the trial run for the biggie of the year, I’d promised myself that I’d stand atop the Buachaille Etive Mor after my 60th birthday in ’13 but a trip to Snowdonia and other family stuff took preference. Finally Euan and I headed north and after a steep haul, we stood at the top of Stob Dearg, was I emotional? yep.
Radio took second place on this one but I soon had the hill activated, it is one of the harder hills I have activated but I got there with six contacts of which four were STS’s. I later caught Iain WJZ and Graeme HLQ when I had arrived on top of Stob na Doire on another part of the ridge walk. A day to remember as we drove home, weary but elated.
I returned to the Lake District for a long weekend in August, the weather forecast was not good and the planned hill got forgotten due to the heavy rain on the Fri but weather windows were to prove handy as I ascended a now familiar Dale Head on Fri evening, working on both 4 and 2m FM. Contacts as far south as Flintshire, Bangor and across to west, Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland. A cracking total of 16 contacts for early evening.
The following day, Great Mell Fell I chose for logistical reasons, a quick ascent etc..
I got to the summit and it poured, it poured harder, it blew and yes, it blew harder.
I’d got three contacts on the handie and had to throw up the beam to activate the hill. 6 contacts hard-fought for.
A drookit Bob was met with laughter as I got to the pick up point, ‘You are soaked’ Mrs Mhor said between howls of laughter. Humiliated I was.
On the last day, its neighbour Little Mell Fell was the choice, the same reasons as for the Great…
The weather decided to mock me as it was excellent as I summited the short ascent, I got 7 contacts that day, excellent views to Ullswater from such a low hill..and a chance to have longer QSOs with
Blog post to cover these activations HERE
That was the total, five hills except for this debacle HERE
I have been busy on HF Data bands, 15, 12 and 10m mostly but occasional trips to the lower bands.
I’m making progress on WAS (Worked All States) with only four to find so if you are in Hawaii, Arkansas, Nevada or North Dakota, I’d like to hear from you.
46 worked, 45 LoTW verified and 46 with LoTW and eQSL verified.
SOTA chasing points were well down in ’14, only 349 to date, I was overtaken on the roll of honour by one of our other bloggers (and gloated at)
Where can I start as ’14 was an epic year for me with ‘oots’ to various places in the surrounding area.
First ‘biggie’ was a run to Largs followed by a Tour de Great Cumbrae.
A mix of road and forest track with a long downhill run over the ‘Old Largs Rd’ from Loch Thom, a quick run around where I stayed in Largs in the early ’70s then a short ferry trip and landing at the ‘Tattie Pier’ or the new styled ‘Cumbrae Slip’ before interspersing a circuit of the island geocaching en route, a fish supper in Largs before an arduous run up the coast road to Greenock and quick rise back over Loch Thom to home. One to repeat. Blog post HERE
The feet got itchy for some new roads and on a May holiday Monday it was a return trip to Largs, this time Route 75 to Linwood before heading down to Kilbirnie on Route 7, a quick off and over the A760 to Largs dropping down the infamous Haylie Brae (did I ever mention about the time I used to shovel salt and sand into a rotating hopper on this very road at all hours of night? No gritting machines then!)
Too early for the traditional fish supper so a scran break on the Esplanade then home via the coast road but then using local knowledge to avoid the main climbs through Greenock..
I’d discussed this next one with Euan (and Roddy at one point) but sitting at work one day, next day I said. I’m impulsive as you may have guessed.
It was a train journey to Wemyss Bay and boy, do they give you very little time to get your ticket if you are a cyclist, on-line booking please, Cal Mac?
After a smooth sailing, I was disembarking in Rothesay, checking the wind en route as it can make all the difference on an island circuit. I set off down past Ascog, rising over Mount Stuart. I stopped at the
War Memorial (geocache) and set off down the A844 taking what is breathtaking views towards Arran and beyond, for old times sake, a diversion to Kilchattan Bay (don’t ask) then soon after a trip down to see St Blanes Church past the Airstrip. If over, this is a must and worth the diversion.
Time to head to Ettrick bay for scran, fully fed it was back to meet the A886 and a quick run up to Rhubodach (a reconnaissance run) then off for the ferry back to the mainland. Blog post HERE
Part 2 to follow…………
I thought time to blog again..
to keep it turning over and with lots happening, I thought ‘Let’s go for it!’
The week started with the elusive cheap’n’cheerful Cree T6 LED bike light finally winging its way from Asia…
and could I wait to try it? No…..
Quickly fitted it was off along Route 75 in daylight, my normal jump off places were forgotten as recently as the week before, the puncture fairy visited me two days in a row, the first as I was heading through Brookfield, I pumped up the tyre and headed back but less than a 1/4 mile I had to put in a new inner tube. The following evening as I was heading down the Torr Road into Bridge of Weir, that sinking feeling again. I walked about 100 metres on to the cycle track and tried the earlier days ‘pump’ but this time being 6 mile from home, I headed off and twice I had to inflate (east of Kilmacolm and as I approached the Port), I’d got home…
The next day, I could find no evidence of damage or puncture of the tyre, both punctures were next to each other, a cm at most.
I just threw another tyre on.
Right back to the test run, I reached the bridge(s) over the Locher Water east of Bridge of Weir, it was now almost dark..
I switched on the Cree and headed home testing the four settings. One was good, two was just ideal for the cycle track, three just slightly better and the flashing mode? unbearable but effective. I’ll pass on its flashing mode.
The next night, I left earlier after a half day off work and did a slightly longer route turning back as I passed Brookfield, I made reasonable time but as I approached the Lost Legion XVII sculpture, it went dark…oh boy, had it burnt out? had it broke? I switched on the standby Smart and finished the run home.
I charged the battery pack which took only 4 hours roughly and connected everything together and light!!!! I’d read up on it and the cut off had done its job when I’d been out but I should have really charged the battery when I’d received it.
Whilst all this drama was going on , a space craft landed on an asteroid. This was a technological marvel, the asteroid was travelling towards the sun at 34,500 kms an hour, now that is fast. It has had its problems by bouncing a few times but some of the images are breathtaking. They hope to kickstart the craft which is lying like a drunk with one leg in the air. I hope they do. An achievement no less.
Friday arrived and it was looking good for a run.
I had a call early in the week telling me the first section of the wind turbine going up on the other side of the hill was up and they intended putting the other pieces up from Thursday. I thought over the Green Road for a nosey..
I passed the clubhouse and headed up the rough start of the Green Road and as soon as I hit the bad bend, wheel spins and a sinking feeling (a pattern here?).
I plodded up the track which had the consistency of porridge in bits and Mrs Bob was a bit unhappy with the state of my trainers when I returned home, oops…
I headed down and could see activity up at the pad with strapping around turbine bits. Ignoring the ‘no unauthorised vehicles’ sign I cycled up and stopped well short and spoke with the contractor who is working on the ‘porridge’ track, I’m assured 300 tons of scalpings are being laid once the track dries out. I’d have though much more but..
I hung about for an hour waiting on movement but it was too windy (12 mph is the upper limit to lift)…
Down the track and off west, I stopped at junction with B788 for a quick drink, a cyclist stopped and after exchanging the time of day, I followed him towards Kilmacolm but he had one of those electric bikes and as we approached the hill over Faulds off he whizzed off leaving me peching up the hill, an idea for the future, methinks…
Nothing exciting as I headed down Gateside Rd, turned right on the B786 and up the short, sharp Carruthmuir hill to turn off down the Torr Rd, I headed home.
I thought out in the dark Saturday morning and to some of the back roads, nope, lazy me just headed out and took the A761 road to Linwood, now I keep forgetting to avoid this road but then it was out across the Moss Rd and back to Bridge of Weir and home…
Still only one bit of turbine showing as I passed east of it.
A misty start and a warm sunny finish to one of my most regular outs, the cycle track then an off at Netherwood up past Balrossie and right towards Gateside Rd. Once more up the short, sharp ramp at the foot of Carruthmuir then a quick whiz down the Torr Rd where I tend to estimate what I need so it down and off through Brookfield rejoining the track on the Barochan Rd then homeward bound.
I did see the turbine cone and blades being attached but the thought of heading down the Green Rd and the muddy consequences were too much. I stopped from a distance to watch and note the turbine wasn’t as prominent as I thought it would be (I think permission being granted on appeal of being a smaller size). I wonder how these are financially viable when you see the preparatory work that goes in to the erection and surrounding works of just one of these although there is a couple of others being placed in the same area. Renewable energy targets being made at a cost?
I must get back to my other regular route out Erskine way…
I had gotten my UTC all mixed up as I thought it was still the 1 hour difference but I hurried home on Sat to find Iain WJZ on Creag MacRanaich, one of the seven I need for top 50 in the GM/SS list and caught Iain later on Meall an-t’Seallaidh… The following day I worked Iain again this time on Meall na Fearna before finally catching Robin PKT on Beinn Leamhain in the Morvern hills.
I’ve been working towards getting LoTW ‘300’ challenge and presently sitting on 277 countries (HF only), hopefully if conditions stay as they have been I’ll realise my goal in 2015.
Oh and at work helped put up two christmas trees in Quarriers Village and Kilmacolm, my last.
A family quandary was had later in the week as my two daughters were graduating on the same day but at different venues, Lora’s graduation in Bachelor of Accounting and Ailsa (now at Uni) picked up her HND in Business but Mum caught one and I the other. Proud parents?, aye!
Finally, congratulations got to fellow blogger Hugh and his family with a new addition Penny May, sleepless nights and all the related things but as you see in the previous sentence, it is certainly all worthwhile.
Have I been lazy?
No blog posts, radio or otherwise..
I’ve certainly been putting in the miles but I haven’t been venturing afar.
Midweek, I get a text ‘Three Ferries Sunday?’
Saturday, I get a text ‘Three Ferries tomorrow?’
Only one answer, ‘Yep!’
I’d preplanned this one by ‘borrowing’ a GPX route from Map My Ride..quickly loaded into the Etrex but folks, no geocaches this time..
Pannier bag packed with the usual paraphernalia, a quick check of all moving parts, me first, of course then the bike with tyres then inflated to correct pressure. Everything was ready, scran and liquid would be ready early the following morning…
An early rise with Katie preparing sandwiches, Camelbak and bidon filled.
The padded shorts etc all on, it was to be a longish ‘oot’ ..
Time to leave, GPS on and off downhill towards the train station..
The first train to Wemyss Bay and a few stops down the line, I could see the flou yellow jacket of my travelling companion, Roddy appearing in the next carriage.
With my flou orange jacket as well were going to be noticed but more on this later.
It was the usual rush to get a ticket and get on to the boat, two trips across this year and only 6 mins to rush and buy a ticket, why not be able to buy online?
Directed to the front of the car deck, it was to park our bikes and head up to the comfort of the lounge, Roddy dined on the breakfast fare available onboard. I looked at the menu but saw no sign of a brekkie, memories of how we had dined well on our Goat Fell trip by having an early morning breakfast on the ferry that day.
We sat and planned other days out (as you do) as the ferry sailed across a near ripple free Firth. The Cowal hills were under mist to low-level but the forecast said it would lift later in the morning.
Soon we were heading off the ferry into Rothesay and a right turn had us cycling towards Port Bannatyne which was built in the 19th century to rival nearby Rothesay where we followed the shore route, amid talk of the excellent ‘home fries’ available at the Ettrick Bay Tea Room (it wasn’t that far away!) but I resisted the temptation and started out towards the ferry terminal at Rhubodach. It wasn’t before long we were waiting on the ferry on what is a short sea journey across the Kyles of Bute. More than a few yachts were making their way down past the ferry terminal in the mid morning. The shortest ferry crossing in the UK apparently.
It was on and off within minutes…
We had to pay our fare as we left the boat…..
A quick resume of GPS devices of which my Endomondo unexpectedly stopped just after we headed out of Colintraive. The choice was to take the lower shore road along the banks of Loch Riddon (B866) before rejoining the main road to Glendaruel but our route today would take us over the rollercoaster B836 (Route 75 of cycle track network).
It was steady uphill from the turn, an average 5% rise in gradient, it doesn’t sound much but on a bike? it is, believe me.
Slowly but surely we made our way upwards and after meeting the odd motorist on the single track sections who kindly waited, one woman rolled down her window and laughingly said ‘Its good I’m patient’, I resisted the ‘I wasn’t stopping anyhoo, dear’, we soon reached the summit of the first climb and just off the road, we parked the bikes against a gate then Roddy produced the Jetboil and a cuppa that was most welcome. The sun had decided to fleetingly appear and the autumnal hues of the surrounding countryside stood out. The browns mixed with the greenery of odd forestry sections still left standing amidst the scarring of recent felling.
The next bit?
Downhill and fast…. not before long we swept round to the bridge over the Balliemoor Burn at top of Loch Striven and up past the power station at the bottom of the next long slow climb towards the west end of Loch Tarsan, everywhere in this area we could see pheasants and at one point, about 30 young birds crossed the road in front of us and scattered in all directions as we passed. Onwards and upwards on what was an excellent surface, tbh most of it has been recently relaid. A stop to take on some liquid then it was off downhill (again), there is a pattern here as it really is a rollercoaster road, sweeping downhill it took through Glen Lean then slipping past the hamlet of Clachaig, Roddy took the opportunity to head off and fill his water bottle whilst yer man kept heading on and soon we were at the top of the Holy Loch.
A discussion on ‘Where next?’ and Roddy suggested the Glen Masson road, ‘Has it any hills? I asked, I never got an answer so I fell for it….
The single track rises very slowly through the glen and the River Masson follows the road and although the water was low, I thought ‘Must be an excellent spate river’. We stopped to look at the ‘Golden Gates’ of the Younger Botanical Gardens, this looked totally out of character with the local countryside, there looks as if there is ongoing landscaping work and fence work at this entrance. The gates do look surreal in their locale. We cycled past the Arboretum looking at the various trees on the hillside.
Heading toward the end of the tarmac track, I met a short, steep ramp (it was steep to me) but not before long we reached the point where we would turn and head back down the Glen, it was my first time in this area and I enjoyed it especially the run back down. A just under 10 miles run.
Time to head to Dunoon and the ferry home riding past what was once the USN housing estate in the 70s, ‘Eagle Court’ then and now Sandhaven…
It was down the shore road to Ardnadam, can you see a pattern here?
A stop at Ardnadam Pier, the longest on the Clyde (a sign says so) before heading down past Hunter’s Quay and our intended ferry was approaching Dunoon Pier, a quick confab and a return to the Western Ferries terminal where we would catch the ‘Sound of Soay’ which would take us to McInroy Point in Gourock. This would add to my intended journey home but an hours wait in Dunoon? no, it was off up towards home using the shared pavement (Route 75) and with a short stretch of road then a quick walk through Gourock station, Roddy decided to head to the east end of Greenock Esplanade so I had company part of the way.
We said goodbye and I headed home, I reached the Victoria Harbour and it was an almost 500 ft climb to home vis the same Route 75 but gradual thankfully, the only blip is a 40% ramp out of Devol Glen but this meant I just over a mile from home.
I was just over 46 mile road work for the day, an excellent run with tough uphill sections but an enjoyable day…
My queries of ‘Are we there yet?’ ‘Are we there yet?’ ‘Are we there yet?’ and ‘Are there any hills?’ funnily got no response…..
I’ve mentioned the nearby lochs Riddon and Striven which we passed enroute, these lochs were the scene of top secret naval testing during the Second World War, it was here that the midget submarines(X Craft)would train which would later take part in the sinking of the Tirpitz, more on these HERE
Bouncing Bomb test(Dambusters) HERE
The Holy Loch?
A well kent US Navy base during the 60s until the early 90s more HERE
I’m sure there is much more info around the web.
First thing was to freshen up, I heard my son coming in the front door with Alison…
‘Were you on the Western Ferry not long ago? Did your pal have on a flou yellow jacket?’….remember my comment earlier on being ‘noticed’ ?.
They had been passing as we were leaving the ferry…they never stopped.
‘You would have only wanted a lift’…..my son said…
Thanks go to Roddy for bearing with me, my granny gear hill climbs, my rotten pun jokes and anything else.
Cal Mac and Western Ferries for not making me swim..
and Katie for the excellent scran.
Thanksgo to Wikipedia, Secret Scotland and the other websites I have linked to.
To embiggen an image, just click for full size.
Where next? watch this space, folks.
The weather had been excellent, hot and breezy..
so it was time again to think about another day ‘out’ on the bike, the previous journey via the Haul Rd had been cycled on what was probably the warmest day in June. I had decided after that if I was going ‘abroad’ it would be done in much cooler times.
Work was busy and with the occasional jaunt along my now well-worn routes throughout mid Renfrewshire being done most weekends. It was time to head ‘abroad’ again.
I thought of another trip across to the Roseneath peninsula although this time I’d take in a forestry track diversion over the top of the lower peninsula starting from Kilcreggan.
I had recently bought the Ram Mount for my bike and the dedicated holder for my Etrex so I could log the geocache information and I would have it visible on the handlebar instead of my old method of listening for the beep which let me know I was in the immediate area of a cache. This proved a worthwhile buy as I had tested it out on a previous ‘out’.
15 caches preloaded and it was off to catch the Kilcreggan ferry from Gourock pier, I cycled the 7 miles from home to the pier but I did collect one cache en route as I had arrived early, a quick sign of the log and back to its hiding place and then I headed the last half mile to the pier.
The ferry this time was more busy as we sailed across a slight swell towards Kilcreggan Pier, I was getting used to this now.
In no time at all I was walking the bike up the pier where I took stock, loaded up the GPS and followed my route to the start point higher up in Kilcreggan, I had pre checked the forest track on Google Maps and further on Google Earth.
I started up the track and logged the first cache then slowly made my was up the ‘Timber Haul Rd’ pausing when I heard the beep informing me another cache. The rise was constant and the track was in better fettle than I thought although on a few sections downhill I dismounted as the track got rougher with water damage in places. I finally topped out and headed along the track to what looks like a radio relay station just south of Clach MacKenny summit trig point.
It was time to take on scran and water, I sat at the picnic bench and took in the views which were surprisingly excellent in all directions, Clach MacKenny’s summit sits at 662 ft ASL, I find it isn’t always the highest hills who have outstanding views but like others, Scroggy Bank and Lurg Moor trig both above Greenock, areas like this are worth finding.
I found that my camera SD card was full, typical eh? but I’d taken the images I wanted as the run would soon be back on previously travelled roads except this time I was heading down past Faslane and heading home via Helensburgh..
I headed back down to join the track and head north along what was a very well-kept forestry track, a bit undulating at this time but soon I could see my exit point on to the Peaton Rd where I would turn right and head quickly down to join the B833 towards Garelochhead. I’d bagged 13 caches en route so that had obviously taken more than a couple of hours of searching although I did miss out 2 as DNF(did not find), one was down a steep banking which I wasn’t taking the risk to fall down and the other, I was attacked by clegs so I high tailed it.
The downhill track covered in no time and soon I exited the side gate on to Peaton Rd. It was back to welcome tarmac as I whizzed down and soon headed north towards Garelochhead.
I soon turned the top of the loch and sat at my now usual spot at the old Pier site, a bench looking down the loch. I sat for 15 mins before it was down roads previous driven down passing Faslane base, it was a slow climb and I joined a cycle path until I entered Rhu, the promenade towards Helensburgh was busy with others enjoying the fine but breezy weather. The Met Office had said WNW winds but no I seemed to meet them at every turn into my face, it made life slightly slower.
I intended heading up through Helensburgh’s Sinclair St which would take me past Glen Fruin and familiar territory of Ben Bowie. I had cut out the bottom busy section as I had taken a slight detour through the upper part of the town but I would soon join the relentless slog up the A818, after what seemed like a never-ending rise I topped and crossed to join an excellent cycle track which takes you to join the Lomond Cycle track at Arden, I passed the summit and passed the entrance to Bannachra woods which is the start point to walk Ben Bowie but not today. One more rise brings you to the ‘Cross Key’ junction. I met a few cyclists heading my way but quiet for me as I quickly arrived at the Arden roundabout, if you have read my earlier runs up this way.
Duck Bay, Lomond Shores and into Balloch where I would head down the excellent path along the River Leven, a quick chat with a couple of anglers who were struggling in the low water and sunny conditions. I did see one fish moving through a submerged weir and with a quick swish of its tail and it moved quickly upstream, its destination? one of the many rivers which fill Loch Lomond if it can get past those angling for it..
I stopped at Bonhill Bridge for another liquid take on, I had my usual fizzy drink which even the pros have in their musettes, a cold Irn Bru…the sugar would give some energy, honest! I thought of the pros climbing towards the finish of the day’s stage in the Vuelta in temps approaching 40c. Phew!
The lower half of the path was now busy as it was past mid afternoon, I stooped as I approached Dumbarton for some more water and off up on to the main road briefly before taking the turn which would eventually take me to the cycle track, I must some day find the proper track but this gets me there. I was soon back on the dedicated cycle path passing whisky bonds, kennels at Milton and the last stretch before turning into Bowling Harbour. A track which is well worth visiting if only to do a return journey to eg Balloch.
The last stretch of track along the canal before heading into Old Kilpatrick, another shop stop for water, fizzy juice and my now go to cycling energy sweet, ‘Jelly Tots’ . Soon I was heading up the glen to the east side of the Erskine Bridge, my phone rang..It was Katie asking if I fancied Chinese for tea…’Eh, I’m the other side of Erskine, dear’..it looked like Chef Beko had my tea waiting…but for the first time, I could feel the wind at my back and as I dropped off the bridge, I headed west towards Bishopton along a familiar road and soon I was through Bishie and heading over to Houston, I was deciding whether to treat myself to a cold pint but I passed through Houston out toward Bridge of Weir and was soon back on Route 75, six and half mile to go….
The miles passed quickly even after the distance travelled and soon rode the last wee ramp before home.
61 mile and 13 geocaches logged, a good day out.
I would have been more suited after ‘doing’ the forest track possibly dropping down left to Coulport and returning past Cove to Kilcreggan, ferry home then cycle home BUT as usual, I never listen to myself.
The next morning?
I felt good, really good and much better than I expected and when it was time to get going at work, no problem..