This blog entry sees me having successfully completed the first stage of my cycling trip, with nothing worse to tell than a mild case of sunburn. Everything got off to a typically smooth start as I was forced to backtrack a mile along the front at Dundee having encountered improvement works on the esplanade. Dad was there to re-wave me off in the opposite direction 10 minutes into my tour with precisely no miles under my belt! Crossing the Tay bridge I stopped for a brief panorama shot and a goodbye to the city for, if all goes well, at least the next 2 months. It was a cold start to the trip, and even though the sun finally broke through the cloud the fleece never came off the whole day. Well I raced on through lovely Cupar then inadvertantly ended up on the A92 through Glenrothes - a delightful dual carraigeway an not the most pleasant cycling moment I was thinking as I wove around the cats eyes that threatened to throw me into the path of speeding juggernauts. Its all part of the tour experience I told myself. Still Kircaldy soon arrived and pushing quickly through I chanced on
the fife coastal cycle path from Kinghorn all the way to the bridges. That was much more enjoyable cycling in the sun with the sea stretching out to edinburgh in the distance on the left and the well tended gardens of fife's well to do on the right. I made a brief excursion onto the Forth road bridge, cue another panorama shot, before hitting the ferry and sailing under the very same bridges, an impressive sight, along with Bell Rock on the way out of the Forth estuary.
Well the ferry was pretty nice, and the reclining seats were really fine, despite being monopolised by a group of german schoolkids. I somehow couldn't quite bring myself to part with £23 for the dinner buffet nor £13 for the breakfast buffet, so made do with ham and mustard sandwiches and you've guessed it ham and mustard sandwiches respectively. Maybe I'll treat myself on the ferry home when I've earned it!
So on to Belgium. The ferry docked right on time, 12 noon, and after briefly being deafened by the revving engines of 100s of bikers I made off the cargo deck along with two other fellow cycle tourers. I
followed the other two briefly in a bid to remind myself which side of the road to cycle on then split along the waterfront to Heist. I'd been here on a cold wet March day two months earlier. The then deserted beach was still deserted however the promenade was fair awash with ice cream devouring retirees out for an afternoon stroll in the sun. I cycled on through some very orderly housing estates where every blade of grass was mowed to perfection (stright away it's plain to see this part of Belgium is very well to do) and stumbled upon the road inland that I'd been aiming for. It seems that pretty much every road has it's own often entirely separate cycle path over here, generally with a good surface too. If you are on the road, cars do strange things like slowing down as they pass! And if you're waiting to cross a road, the cars will actually stop just to let you do so. I briefly forrayed into Holland where if anything things were even better for cyclists. Take the lovely cycle path signs I photoed. In the UK you'd be lucky to find a cycle path more
than 100m long and if you did be sure to know that some little cretin from a local estate will either have ripped down the signs (if you're lucky) or pointed them all in the wrong directions (having said this the Fife coastal route i mentioned earlier was very good and well signed).
I resisted the temptation to snap a photo of the first windmill I saw in Sluis, a cute little dutch town with kids playing in the river, but i'm sure there will be many more opportunities to come over the next week or two. Onwards I pressed through cute town after cute town, all incredibly neat and tidy and pretty much all deserted. I guess normal folk were still at work. The sun was scorching by this point and too late I realised a little suncream might be in order. I'm now sporting fairly pink arms with somewhat unstylish cycle-glove lines at the wrists. Finally I hit a canal that I could see stretched on all the way to the downtown spires of Gent's historic centre. The traffic (by which I mean cyclists) gradually grew as I pulled in the last 10km. The centre was a
bit hectic on my tourer with a turning circle of a small tank. I assumed incorrectly that I'd quickly find my bearings from the previous trip here. However it took slightly longer, and the first hill of the day before I eventually hit upon the area I knew. A couple of turns later and I was at my friend Kat's house. Just in time too, within the hour a huge thunder storm had amassed and the heavens opened!
I'd like to say I wasn't feeling too tired after what had been a fairly easy start to the trip, but the sunshine and cycling had taken it's toll that evening was a fairly relaxed affair. After a shower and pizza for dinner I was happy to listen to Kat and her housemate Annalies performing an impromptu but impressive djembe (african drum) duet, before collapsing in bed and laying down my own rhythmn of snores!
Day 1 - Dundee to Rosyth - 13/5
Dist (miles): 54.88
Ave speed (mph): 12.6
Max speed (mph): 31.0
Time on saddle: 4h20
Day 2 - Zeebrugge to Gent - 14/5
Dist (miles): 43.74
Ave speed (mph): 11.6
Max speed (mph): 22.0
Time on saddle: 3h46
Tot: 0.569s; Tpl: 0.069s; cc: 13; qc: 31; dbt: 0.0202s; 1; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb