New Podcast - Kayaking Scandinavian Coastline

This is Eric B Jorgensen, and this podcast is a tale of an epic adventure.

Eric spent the summer kayaking from the northern tip of Norway, where it meets Russia, all the way down the coast, up and around Sweden and the Gulf of Bothnia, to the point where Finland meets Russia.

And he's only been kayaking a few years.

I wrote about Eric when I first recorded a podcast with him in March, about his trip around Denmark in winter. He was then preparing for the big one.

And guess what helps to keep him going? These podcasts. Nice to know they help in some way...

A Good Book as a Christmas Gift for a Cyclist

I read quite a lot of books this year, particularly during our five-week drive around France. Most were on our Kindle, but that's a different story. Two of them stand out as good gifts for the cyclist in your life (partner / sibling / friend). One is old, one is relatively new. Both are available on the links below.
I've just finished Racing Through the Dark: The Fall and Rise of David Millar. I was always of the opinion that doping cheats like Millar should be banned from competition for life. He doesn't attempt excuses (well, not many) but he reveals, from the inside, a team culture that expected its riders to dope, to "be prepared". It was normal. Not doping was the exception.

Now we have 'clean' teams like Sky and others (among the first were Slipstream that Millar helped to start) I'm even more convinced that doping should lead to a life ban on competing or being involved in pro-cycling in any way. However, this book is about much more than doping. It's a revealing insight into the life of a pro-cyclist, much more reveals than others I've read.

The other cycling book is not new, but boy is it good! It's A Race for Madmen: A History of the Tour de France. It's a fantastic account of the history of the Tour de France, amusingly written with all the cracking little anecdotes which bring history to life.

Thank You!

My grateful thanks to everyone who turned up for our two screenings of the new DVD at Paddle '11 this weekend in Perth. Two full houses was a lot more than I expected. And I was utterly thrilled by the positive response to the DVD. Seriously, "thank you". I've just ordered more.

Premier in Perth Tomorrow

Tomorrow is the annual SCA show in Perth - Paddle'11 - where we'll premier the new rescues DVD, Volume 2, Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown.
We have screenings both days and special show prices.
The new DVD will be £18 rather than £19.95
Buy DVD1 and 2 together for £28

DVD Premier on Saturday

As reported in the new Ocean Paddler Magazine, we premier Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown -Volume 2 at Paddle '11 in Perth this coming weekend.

There will be screenings at 11:30 on Saturday and Sunday. And the DVD will be on sale at a specially reduced one-off price.

Issue 28 of Ocean Paddler Magazine is an Expedition Special, and includes an article by me about shooting video of kayaking.

There's also a review of our new DVD with which I'm very pleased.

While a rescues DVD will inevitably cover some material most kayakers will know, most reviewers have found Gordon adds a lot to their understanding and introduces many new things.

Hamish's Kayaking Films - Out Now as Download

I've written about this short film in the past, so I won't say much here. It has some classic footage, from the 1950s and 1960s, of early Scottish sea kayaking.

At 24 minutes long, it is an extended version of an 8 minute insert to Volume 2-Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown. The film on the DVD only covers St Kilda, whereas the download has Hamish's films from Mingulay, Staffa and more.

I have no plans to make it available as a DVD. It's a Download only and is priced £4.99.

I Filled 3 Royal Mail Sacks with New DVDs

If you ordered before 10:30 today, then your DVD is in one of these sacks.

If you were after that time they'll dispatch tomorrow.

Our Post Office chap was a little bemused when Liz and I staggered in with the three boxes of DVDs.

He calmed down when he realised we'd stamped then all and done all the Customs forms for outside the EU.

And was positively delighted when I spent £175 on stamps for the next batch. The postage is free to the buyer but not to me!

So three Royal Mail sacks, sealed and dedicated to the safe carriage of Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown-Volume 2, are on their way to an Inverness sorting office and then to your post box.

I'm going to have to order some more soon...

DVDs Now Shipping

These three big boxes of DVDs will be heading down to our small village Post Office later this morning.

I spent most of yesterday bagging, labelling and sticking on stamps to more than 150 pre-orders and orders placed yesterday as soon as the store opened. Thank goodness for self-adhesive stamps.

A huge 'thank you' to everyone who pre-ordered. Your DVD is in one of these boxes! And it will soon be on its way to you.

The website is now open for business on both sides of the Atlantic.

Some folk still e-mail to ask "how much is the shipping to where I live?" The answer is - nothing.

1st class mail is included in the price of £19.95 or $29.95.

The ideal Christmas present. Here's the trailer again.

Riding Mont Ventoux

Mont Ventoux was one big climb I particularly wanted to do during our riding trip to France.

We were not alone!

My abiding memory of that morning is of the hundreds, yes hundreds of cyclists grinding their way to the summit.

At 7am on a September Saturday morning, the carpark in the main street of Bedoin already looked like the start of a sportive. This is the start of what's reckoned to be the hardest route.

Starting at Sault is meant to be the easiest route, and there's also Malaucene on the other side of the mountain.

The gradient is steep-ish and unrelenting. For the first hour or so, dense pine forest provides shade. Neverthless I was drinking copious amounts of water.

At Chalet Reynad, the Bedoin and Sault routes meet the 'lunar' landscape begins.

So do the photographers. and snap ou struggling up the gradient, looking heroic., handing you a card as you pass.

You then look at their shots online, wondering whether you look like a TdF rider or a gasping fish-on-a-bike.

Then you discover it costs more than a tenner to buy an image! We concluded their prices are steeper than the mountain.

I say 'we' because against my expectations Liz not only decided to attempt the climb, she made it to the summit. I went up in 2hr 20 mins. She was just 25 minutes behind me.

I'd actually started to descend. Passing the memorial to Tom Simpson I saw a familiar figure on a bike and realised it was my wife.

We rode to the summit together.

The summit was a very busy place. If the car-park had looked like the start of a sportive, this looked like the finish of a very, very popular event.

But that wasn't the half of it.

Day time temperatures in Provence were still exceptionally high, so we thought the bulk of the riders would have started around the same time as us. Oh no.

All the way down the mountain, and I do mean all the way... right to the bottom, we saw cyclists pedalling up La Ventoux. I wonder how many of them even made it to Chalet Reynard...

Which is why both of the bike shops in Bedoin sell spuvenir jerseys emblazoned with 'Mont Ventoux'.

Yes I know this is their equivalent of the t-shirts I see in Fort William that proudly proclaim 'I climbed Ben Nevis'.

But I had to have one.

Riding the Col du Galibier. The Cheat's Way?

My attempt to ride Puy de Dome during our road trip around France had been thwarted.

We'd attented a wonderful wedding at Lake Orta in Italy and had planned to drive straight to Provence to tackle the second riding objective, Mont Ventoux.

But we'd had a wonderful time in the Alps, riding spectacular Cols around Annecy and Albertville. So we decided to return there first and extend our trip by a week.

This gave me the chance to add the Col du Galibier to my tick-list.

I had never previously attempted a road climb of such gradient, length or, being brutaly honest, with such an intimidating history. So I cheated. Sort of. I rode the actual climb to the summit, but I started from the village of Valloire.

If you don't know the geography, I'll explain.

Riding from the north, the full starting point feels like it should be Saint Michel de Maurienne, even though the first climb you'd tackle is the Co du Telegraphe.

Start from here, and the Galibier is 34.8km long with 2120m height gain.

Valloire is hammocked between the two Cols.

Start there, as I did, and climb is 18.1km long with 1245m height gain.

It was tough enough, and a superb experience, but next time I'm in the area I'd like to attempt to ride them both. Eithe than or ride the Galibier from the south side, which looks an entirely different proposition.

There are a number of memorials on the mountain. There's one to the creator of the Tour de France, Henri Desgrange.

And there's a new memorial to a legendary rider, Marco Pantani.

I spotted it on the way up and asked another rider (who was snapping shots of his friends) to take my photo next to it on the way down.

Incidentally, that Goretex jacket was very important for the cold, downhill plummet.

If I'd had windproof gloves with fingers I'd have had them on too. High on the descent I was whacking my backside to keep the blood supply in my finger ends.

To any passing motorist it must have looked like I was whipping myself to go faster.

Next, La Ventoux.

Not Riding the Puy de Dome

As I think you can clearly see - the closed road was something of a disappointment.

The lava dome of Puy de Dome is a classic climb of the Tour de France and we'd driven to the Auvergne to ride it.

Our guidebook said it was open to cyclists Wednesdays and Sundays; they had to start between 07:00 and 09:00 and be down by 11:00.

Fortunately we checked it out the day before and found the road to the summit shut while a railway was being constructed.

In hindsight we might have been able to sneak past and ride it anyway. But if we'd been turned around it would be a wasted day.

So we headed back the way we had come, used the map to work out a route for the morning, and ended up riding a much nicer route. It didn't have the history behind it, but it was our introduction to green pastures, cow bells and cuckoo-clock architecture.

My Garmin seems to have eaten the actual route, so I can't reproduce the map.

We started at Chambon-sur-Lac, we rode up-and-over a Col to the ski town of Le Mont Dore, and then climbed Col de la Croix Morand which offered good views across the Auvergne.

I'd definitely go back to this area, as it was like a scaled-down Alps.

But I'd want to spend time seeking out some more good, quite roads first.

PAL DVDs Will Dispatch on 17th October

A huge "thank you" to everyone who has pre-ordered a copy of Volume 2-Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown. Yours will be the first dispatched on 17th October, one week from today.

We're attempting a certain amount of international co-ordination this time around based around the dates of our Premier. Much to my amazement, some of it looks like working!

* Web orders for NTSC versions of the DVD have been shipping from TW-Media in Colorado since Thursday (earlier than planned). If you pre-ordered, your copy might even arrive today. Rob, our US distributor, has also shipped to American stores, so they should have them on their shelves soon. Our Canadian distributor Joe will have them in stores there before 1st November.

* Web-orders for PAL versions will ship one week from today, Monday 17th October. Our priority, and first to go, will be the pre-orders. "Thank you" again.

* The Premier, around which much of the release is timed, will be at the SCA Paddle '11 show in Perth on 22 & 23 October, with screenings both days at 11:30am. We might even offer a special show price.

* That same weekend is the National Sea Kayak Symposium in Australia. Mark at Expedition Kayaks will launch our DVD over there. (If Parcelforce get their skates on!)

So the pre-orders will go out first. Of the 1000 PAL DVDs in the first batch, 400 are already spoken for. The rest we'll take to Perth.

Now I reckon that enough chat about DVDs for this week.

Over the next few days I'll write more about our cycling trip to France. Was it only one month ago, to the day, that we rode Mont Ventoux? That seems so long ago...

Hamish's Kayaking Kilms Showing at Edinburgh Mtn Film Fest

A spin off film from our DVD, called Hamish's Kayaking Films will be screened tomorrow morning at 10:30 at the Edinburgh Mountain Film Festival. (Video preview below)

It's in great company, with 50 Years in the M0untains, Chimaera and The Pinnacle also being screened.

I can't be there and nether can the producer/director of The Pinnacle, because we're both going to be on a Hebridean Island making an hour-long programme for BBC-2 Scotland about the Tiree Wave Classic.

Sharing a cottage for a week. With other blokes. That'll be fun then.

Our voyage in Volume 2-Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown takes us around St Kilda, and includes an 8 minute feature with Hamish Gow, a pioneer of Scottish sea kayaking. Hamish and Anne Gow were the first people to kayak to St Kilda, and Hamish allowed me to use his home movies in our production.

There was no room for excellent material from other islands, like Staffa and Mingulay. So I went back to Hamish, did some more filming, and produced a stand-alone 24 minute film about his adventures. It's classic stuff. All I had to do was shuffle it into an order and put Hamish's words with his pictures.

So if you enjoy the 8 minute version in the DVD, then you might be interested in the full 24 minute film, which will be available as a download towards the end of October.

Another Great Review for the DVD

Bryan Hansel posted a review of Volume 2- Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown, and I'm delighted with his reaction.

One of the comments we received after Volume 1 was, "it's great, but we want more". So that's what we've supplied.

The coaching sessions in Volume 2 run longer than the whole of Volume 1! And it's good, good material, most of which will be new to many kayakers.

Which explains why Bryan says it includes...

"so much information that other instructional DVDs that I own now feel pretty thin. In fact, I wasn't able to absorb it all in one sitting. ...All in all this is a must have video for all sea kayakers."

Cycling in France This Summer

This summer we loaded up the campervan, not with sea kayaks for a change, but with road bikes.

We were away from home for five weeks, and spent most of that time in France.

There are four 'classic' climbs of Tour de France fame, Puy de Dome, Col du Tourmalet, Col du Galibier and Mont Ventoux.

I had no idea if we had the legs for any of them, but I wanted to attempt Puy de Dome and La Ventoux, so our driving route was designed around them.

And a wedding in Italy, but that's a different story.

Things didn't work out quite as planned, but we had some utterly superb rides.

We completely fell in love with the area between Annecy and Albertville.

The tourist office has a fantastic, free map-pack which grades all the climbs to the Cols in the area, over 100 of them.

These photos are after climbing the fairly easy introductory climb of Col de Leschaux, we kept on going up the back side of Le Semnoz, over 1600m.

Liz discovered she's pretty tough on a bike too. More rides in coming days.

Bye. And thanks.

Pay to View - Assisted Rescues Coaching Session

A few weeks ago I made one 7 minute Coaching Session from our new sea kayak 'rescues' DVD, Volume 2-Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown, available as a pretty cheap pay-to-view. It seemed to be a good way to allow you to view more than just the trailer before deciding whether or not to buy the DVD.

Priced under £3 ($4.50 - has to be in dollars as it's a US system) this innovation has proved amazingly popular. So here's another coaching session, and at nine minutes, this one is even longer. There's also a free preview.

I've no plans to make any more Coaching Sessions available online after this one.

Applecross Peninsula Circuit Ride

With mist curling out of the high corrie like smoke from a distant campfire, this was a spectacular start to a bike ride.

The Bealach na Ba is Scotland's classic hill climb, with the greates
t ascent of any road climb in the UK.

Most cyclists tackle the 'Pass of the Cattle' as part of a circuit of the Applecross Peninsula, and indeed it features in a well known sportive.

We rode from Shieldaig, and while I'd like to report our total mileage and ascent, I can't because my Garmin 305 stopped recording twice.

The climb seemed far less tough, and a lot shorter, than I expected. (Bear in mind we've just had a few weeks in France riding some Alpine climbs - more about those soon).

Nevertheless, there was just one really steep section, just before the switchbacks at the head of the corrie.

The descent was absolutely amazing.

At one point a huge stag trotted alongside Liz and, as she slowed, cut across the road infront of her.

Good job she wasn't going flat out.

And we weren't alone. We met two other riders on the summit and again in the village.

It was too early to head to the pub, so we hit the cafe at the campsite. We then rode south down the peninsula to the end of the road at Toscaig.

By the time we returned we decided it was definietly lunchtime, so we could allow ourselves more food - this time an amazing bowl of seafood chowder at the acclaimed Applecross Inn.

As you can see in the photo below, coupled with a massive plate of chips, this was hearty, tasty grub.

On the way out of the village we found yet another excellent place to eat - the Walled Garden Cafe/Restaurant. We had a stroll around the walled garden but couldn't justify stuffing our faces yet more food.

How come Applecross has such superb places to eat? On the way up we'd had an awfully disappointing meal at the Kishorn Seafood Bar, which has a decent reputation but failed to live up to it on the day we visited, with the worst Cullen skink I've ever tasted.

If you ever do this circuit, don't think Applecross is the end of the climbing. There is still a long way to go, and a surprising amount of it is up.

The ride around the 'flat' coast road is anything but, with a series of stings in the tail as you near Sheldaig.

So top up the water bottles. Save some energy. And maybe go easy on the chips...

Finally, here's the GPS track. We didn't sprout wings and fly two of the sections. The program just draws a line between places where the Garmin switches off and back on.

It was supposed to be on auto-start, so I don't know what happened here.