This Guard Stag Is In Charge

Enjoying the sun on the front lawn of the cottage, this well endowed stag looks very much in charge.

Of course I'm talking antlers.

I'm off to Spain today for a week of cycle training in the 'warm weather'.

Yeah, right.

After months of rain and gloom, the west highlands are finally enjoying warm, sunny weather - and I'm leaving!

Even worse, the weather forecast for the part of Spain to which I'm headed is pretty grim. On some days it's going to be warmer at home!

At least Liz is staying here to enjoy the sun. With the stag.

Podcast Teething Troubles?

I think I've sorted most of the teething troubles at the new URL


If anyone finds a missing link on the new site, please send a comment to let me know and I'll get on the case as soon as possible.

On the new system, I'm limited to how much I can post each month. Initially I'll rebuild the Podcasts which sit on the iTunes feed, so the cupboard doesn't look bare. When that's done I'll start recording and publishing new podcasts.

It's happening... slowly.

Scotland's Other 'Alpine' Road Bike Climb

The Bealach na Ba in Applecross, which we rode in October, is often described as 'Scotland's Alpine road bike climb'.

Well, here's another one.

OK it's nowhere near as long as the Galibier or Mont Ventoux, both of which I rode last year.

But within just eight and a half miles, there and back, it packs two thousand feet of ascent.

This is the road from Strontian to Polloch. (The maps starts outside our gate, because I don't ride down to the village first).

Mountain bikers tackle it one-way as part of a superb circuit, up the side of Loch Shiel and around Loch Eil and Loch Linnhe. You'll find that route in several MTB guidebooks.

However, as my training ride I do it twice. I climb it from the Strontian side, whizz down to the wheelie bins in Glen Hurich, then turn around and immediately climb back up and over again.

If you want to make it longer, park free at the Corran Ferry, which is also free to bikes and foot passengers, and ride here to tackle the climb.

Short, sharp and steep.

There's a cafe in Strontian, although I recommend the Cozy Knits cafe in the Ariundle, just before you get into the village. Home baking, nice coffee and excellent food, plus a bunkhouse if you fancy staying to tackle another of the great rides around here.

New Sea Kayak Podcasts.com

SeaKayakPodcasts.com has a new home and a new 'feed'.

The old site is still there at a dreadfully complex Url starting web.mac.com/ Ugh.

It will stay there until June 2012 when Apple discontinues the web hosting service I used to use.

If you want to catch the new podcasts (I hope to record some soon) then go to the new Url and re-subscribe to the new feed.

This is the new feed. And the new url? Why it's SeaKayakPodcasts.com of course.

Shedding Winter Plumage and Other Signs Of Spring

"I think the winter plumage should go", Liz pronounced at the start of the weekend.

So like the sheep sheared for spring, the straggly, thin excuse for facial hair has been removed.

This will avoid a strange tan-free-chin when riding in Spain next week. Sort of.

There are other hints of spring too.

The Corran Ferry was busy on Saturday with visitors heading to holiday homes. Changeover day is back.

Most confusing was the strange yellow disc in the sky. Don't get me wrong; it still rained hard and was blowing strong, a chill wind too coming down from the north west.

But it was sunny. Hopefully that's the start of things to come.

Ocean Currents Visualisation - Video



This visualization shows ocean surface currents around the world during the period from June 2005 through Decmeber 2007. The visualization does not include a narration or annotations; the goal was to use ocean flow data to create a simple, visceral experience.

This visualization was produced using NASA/JPL's computational model called Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean, Phase II or ECCO2.. ECCO2 is high resolution model of the global ocean and sea-ice. ECCO2 attempts to model the oceans and sea ice to increasingly accurate resolutions that begin to resolve ocean eddies and other narrow-current systems which transport heat and carbon in the oceans.The ECCO2 model simulates ocean flows at all depths, but only surface flows are used in this visualization. The dark patterns under the ocean represent the undersea bathymetry. Topographic land exaggeration is 20x and bathymetric exaggeration is 40x.

credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

source: http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/goto?3827

Packing My Bike For Flight

This is my first attempt at packing my road bike for the flight to Spain next week.

I'm honestly not too happy with it.

I've used gaffa tape around the pipe lagging to protect the tubes. This isn't re-useable so I might buy some cable ties and use those instead.

However, I am pleased with the way it simply slides into a cardboard bike box.

My excellent local bike shop, Nevis Cycles, regularly pack bikes for some well known cyclists and rated the humble cardboard bike box higher than some of the specialist bike bags out there.

They also me a fork spacer, a protector for the rear mech, and that push-on disc you can see on the front wheel. Hopefully that will stop the hub pushing its way through the cardboard.

"Just be sure to gaffa tape over the staples", I was advised, as well as reinforcing the outside of the box with lots of tape too. Will it survive?

Train In Spain - Cycle Camp At The End Of The Month

A week on saturday I'll be on a flight to Alicante to go cycling with these folk from Train In Spain.

Specifically, I've booked a place on the Sportstest camp with Dr Garry Palmer, riding the hills around the lovely town of Denia.

This is the first time I've ever done anythng like this, so I haven't a clue what to expect. I only hope I'm not the old, slow git at the back...

I know the area exceptionally well.

My parents bought a house near Denia in 1978 and I've visited every year since. The last time was four years ago to sell their old house, after my Mum died, my Father having passed away quite a few years ago.

I will be able to call in on a few old friends, and it will be interestng to see how much has changed in those four years.

Plenty to do then if I am dropped off the back of the group!

UKs Toughest MTB Race On TV Tonight - Video

The Adventure Show is on BBC-2 Scotland tonight at 19:00 - you'll also find it on Sky 990, FreeSat 970 and the iPlayer. It features the Strathpuffer 24, a relentless 24 hour winter mountain bike race. This year we focus on the soloists who cover an extraordinary mileage in 24 hours. I'd like to tell you, but you'll have to watch the show.

I didn't shoot or direct this edition, but I did the principal event edit. I had fantastic material to work with so I promise it will be a great watch, more like a doco than a sports event. Here's how the show opens.







Sea Kayak Podcasts .com - An Update

If you type "SeaKayakPodcasts.com" into your web browser, you'll currently end up on this rather dull page.

This is a good thing. Like the swallows, that are due to arrive soon, we are migrating.

Until now all the podcasts were hosted on an Apple iWeb website, with the snappy url of: http://web.mac.com/simon.willis/SeaKayakRoutes/Podcasts/Podcasts.html

The url Seakayakpodcasts.com simply redirected to that website. Now all the podcasts are being migrated to the real url www.SeaKayakPodcasts.com with no re-direction at all.

Finally, a real home of our own. In fact, by the time you read this, it may have already happened.

I'm in the process of trying to change the iTunes feed... If you want to re-subscribe to the NEW RSS feed, this is it.

Like The Bulbs - I'm Early This Year

Crocus, daffs... all sorts of things are springing up around our garden. Spring is in the air much earlier than last year.

So it is with my cycling. Last year it was May before I tackled our local 'long ride'. This year I did it yesterday.

82 miles in a fairly leisurely 6 hrs 20. That's averaging just 13 mph but there was 3,676 ft of ascent. It's hilly where we live.

Why? I've booked myself on a cycling training camp in Spain at the end of this month. I am slightly worried that I won't be able to keep up with everyone else, or cover the same distances.

Of course there's a good chance everyone else will feel the same. I'll write a little more about where I'm going tomorrow.

Congratulations to Becky Mason - Her Film Beat Ours

Becky Mason's new film Advanced Classic Solo Canoeing beat our entry Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown - Volume 2 to win the Safety & Instruction award at the Waterwalker Film Festival.

The Canadian festival is a tribute to her father, the late Bill Mason, conservationist, canoeist and film maker. So it's fitting her film should win the award.

I'm pleased our offering received an 'honourable mention'.

Her film won also the Safety & Instruction award at the Reel Paddling Festival at which we won Best Sea Kayaking Film.

I haven't seen it, but I'm told her film is lovely, so here's the trailer.