August 29, 2012, by David Greenaway

The VC’s Life Cycle 2 Blog: Day 5 – Cairndow to Kilmarnock

Another brute of a day: 88 miles, mostly in headwinds, with an exacting start and even more exacting finish.

We stayed at The Stagecoach Inn in Cairndow, only a few miles from the original Loch Fyne Oyster Bar. The other riders and Support Team had dinner there. I stayed at the hotel to write yesterday’s blog. They gave the restaurant rave reviews, so take that as a strong recommendation. I also recommend The Stagecoach Inn, excellent rooms, attentive staff and a fabulous location by Loch Fyne.

For the second successive day we started in rain and wind. Chris R pushed on, Andy, Gavin and Carl followed and the rest of us set off in a string.

First job, climb 900 feet to Rest and Be Thankful, from a standing start. No warming up or developing a rhythm, just get on your bike hit the first slope and start pedalling. It was a gruelling start.

Although wet and misty, the scenery was impressive and at the top we were rewarded with a lovely view of Ben Lomond. The descent on the other side is very fast. (Andy did not tell me what speed he clocked; I am wondering whether he topped his 45mph).

By the time we got to Arrochar at the end of Loch Long the rain was abating. We enjoyed a fine ride down the side of the Loch, though with sudden and surprising climbs. We left Loch Long just above Garelochhead and went down the east side of the Gare Loch, through Rhu and into Helensburgh, our first stop. Ian left us to head back to Nottingham with Sebastian replacing him in Glasgow.

Everyone went to Helensburgh. Chris R then crossed the Clyde at the Erskine Bridge and headed south through Paisley. Andy and Gavin also crossed and took the Ayrshire coast road. The rest of us followed the planned route into Dumbarton, through Clydebank and into Glasgow.

In Glasgow Carl, Nick and Neville left us: Carl to return to Nottingham; Nick and Nevile to take a fast road to Kilmarnock so Nick could meet up with his family.

As always in cities, way finding is tricky, but Chris J and Mike did a great job. I was amazed at the steepness of the climb out of Glasgow. By then we were now down to me, Karen, Kate, Penelope, Mike and Chris J, but we picked up Steve in Carmunnock. Fortunately the van was not far away and and an assortment of crisps, chocolate and bananas offered to keep us going.

The final stretch was over Eaglesham Moor, a long climb to almost 1,000 feet in a really strong headwind. That is energy sapping at the best of times, but when you have 65 miles in your legs it is really tough. It was after 7pm when we got to Dreghorn.  There was only time for a quick clean up, dinner and bed.

So a really demanding day, but for me a trip with great personal resonance.

The Gare Loch was a place I visited regularly as a boy. We were regular visitors to Rhu, courtesy of a paternal Grandfather. He would take me, my brother and sister, and an assortment of others there a couple of times each summer. The routine was always the same: he set us off foraging for mussels and went to the pub; when he returned he retrieved a black cooking pot hidden in a bush; we’d then cook and eat the mussels and head home.

The beach is still there and judging from the broken shells on the road so are the mussels. The pub is still there. I did not going looking for the pot, it would have broken a spell.

In Glasgow we rode along the side of the Clyde in fine conditions. It is now a very different waterfront and emblematic of the city’s extraordinary regeneration. The bike track runs all the way to Glasgow Green, from where we headed to the east end: first Parkhead, where another wave of regeneration is taking place in preparation for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, then in to Shettleston.

I grew up on Chester Street. The tenement where we lived is now gone, though the Shettleston Town football ground and Social Club at the end of the street is still there. So too is Eastbank Academy, where I spent my first year of secondary school before leaving for England.

The visit meant a lot to me and was a perfect reminder of why we are doing this ride.

Yet again no punctures. So, for the third successive day, Mike sports the pink bell. (I have had a few requests for an image of this trophy, so one is included in today’s blog).

Only one mishap. Chris J was so preoccupied with his Garmin in Glasgow that he rode into a kerb full on and flew off. Fortunately his military training kicked in: he executed a very impressive commando roll and was in a combat ready posture before we knew it.

I remain suspicious of Steve’s special cream. So I ran a controlled experiment today. I gave him a head start of 200 yards on four (or was it five?) occasions on hills and reeled him in each time. This is conclusive proof this substance has nothing to do with his nether regions and is a hill climbing aid.

Feat of the day: Andy and Gavin rode 100 miles on their coastal route.

Team of the Day: always tempting to say the Support Team. Sorry guys, today it is the bikers that brunch. I tried to persuade them we should go over the Erskine Bridge because I feared going through the city would stretch the day. They outvoted me and Karen, Kate, Penelope, Chris J and Mike did the full route through Shettleston with me.

Quote of the day: I am spoiled for choice, so we have tie. First, a group of young girls on a council estate just outside Dreghorn helped us find our way. One looked at Kate and told her straight: ‘you look knackered’.

Second, there was a dinner discussion about ways of dealing with the build-up of lactic acid. Those in the know insisted on a cold bath immediately after riding. Sebastian suggested a swim in Loch Lomond.  Gavin’s response: ‘I would be scared of the monster’. Gavin, Loch Ness was the one we cycled along on Sunday.

So another 88 miles gives us 367 miles in total. Another long day tomorrow at over 90 miles, and with yet more climbing through the Southern Uplands. We are hoping it will be dry. 

Professor David Greenaway


Posted in Life Cycle 2