Think global, ride local – A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood Part 1

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In the first in a series of diary entries, Sanny contemplates finding adventure in the everyday. In association with Ortlieb

Think global, ride local

Let’s get real, dear reader. There is a lot not to like about the current situation we find ourselves in, what with one thing and another. It would be easy to become overwhelmed with the enormity of it all. There is really only so much home-schooling and being cooped up inside without face to face contact with their friends that kids can reasonably take. Things are definitely sub par. Had you told me before things kicked off that I would have barely any direct contact with friends and family for several months and that I would be unable to go on the many biking adventures that I had planned during possibly the nicest Spring ever, fair to say I would have reacted with a hitherto untapped level of creativity in the effing and jeffing department.

ortlieb lock down diaries
Not far. Not gnarr….but lots of fun!

However, the necessary narrowing of horizons has produced some real positives – being able to spend more time with my family, life now moves at a slower pace and I have come to really appreciate what is on my doorstep as I find new trails in familiar places. In the week before lockdown, my dad and I went to see “A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood” in a completely deserted cinema. Tom Hanks was at his powerhouse best as he portrayed US children’s television entertainer, Fred Rogers. It is a beautifully nuanced, touching and funny film which gave me pause to reflect on finding the good and the joy in the everyday. As lockdown has progressed, I keep finding myself coming back to it and reflecting on the key themes of the film.

ortlieb lockdown diaries
Riding with no real plan…..

With that in mind, with a small easing in lockdown restrictions up here in Scotland, my daughter Julia and I decided to do a bit of neighbourhood exploration ourselves and find some joy in the familiar. Heading out from Sanny HQ, we made our way through some of the grand Victorian sandstone houses that litter the west end of the city. Looking up, you cannot help but marvel at the craftsmanship and skill that went into their construction although as we rightly now re-examine our history, it begs the question of just how many people lost their lives in the name of Empire building for the wealthy merchants who had them built in the first place. 

ortlieb lockdown diaries
Citroen H Van – beautiful to look at, a complete money pit to own!

Rounding a corner, we came across quite possibly the finest example of French automotive design ever – a Citroen H Van. While the 2CV, Light 15 and the DS are arguably more aesthetically pleasing, I have to admit for being a sucker for the angular lines and simple corrugated panel style of the H Van. Resplendent in lime green, it had definitely seen better days and would greatly benefit from a rebuild but boy was it cool; something which my daughter seemed to appreciate. I’ve always been a fan of Citroens, despite having owned several over the years; my last one going down in flames as it decided to give itself a Viking funeral earlier this year. Bitter experience should have taught me by now that an H Van would be a money pit and a VERY bad idea but it doesn’t stop me from still wanting one!

ortlieb lockdown diaries
Spring has sprung.

Heading through leafy, tree lined lanes and cut throughs, we find ourselves on the banks of the canal. As seems to be the case these days, nearly everyone was on bikes which is something of a double edged sword – great to see but it makes you appreciate the previous situation where cycling was often regarded with suspicion and disdain by the general public. Perhaps it is just selfishness on my part but I did prefer it when the trails were quieter. Sometimes you can have too much of a good thing or so it seems. Leaving the masses behind, we cut through the decidedly more tranquil Dawsholm Park and Garscube Estate. Cutting along on hard baked trails that look like they have seen barely any rain in nearly three months, it was lovely to see my daughter enjoying the simple pleasures of riding her bike. One handies, no handies and trackstands were all practiced to a soundtrack of giggles and squeals of delight. At this time of day, she would normally still be at school. The simple pleasure of riding together in the sunshine on a mini adventure was not lost on me. 

ortlieb lockdown diaries
“No, that is definitely a statue of a bear you see!”

Spinning along the side of the River Kelvin, there were a few more folk out than normal but it still had a peaceful vibe to it. I laughed as one hardy soul attempted to swim in the shallow river before getting a first hand lesson, when the romance of wild water swimming meets the frigid, brass monkey reality of a Scottish river in June. Stopping to admire a rather fine piece of chainsaw sculpture, we were in no great hurry. So much of the riding I do has an objective to it – to climb to the summit of a big mountain, to race the sun before it sets, to get to the mountain hut in time for tea. This was refreshingly different and all the better for it. Riding with no real agenda or set plan has an awful lot going for it.

ortlieb lockdown diaries
“Paws” for thought…..Boom! And indeed Tisch!

That said, we were only a few minutes from Papa Franky’s and I had stashed a couple of pannier straps I had forgotten to drop off when I do the weekly essential food shop. 82 years young, Papa Franky has been riding bikes all his life. After much discussion and research, I helped him pick up his first ever e bike earlier in the year courtesy of Dave in Bothy Bikes who pulled out all the stops and managed to find pretty much the last one in the country in his size.

ortlieb lockdown diaries
The legend that is Papa Franky.

Fair to say, it has been a bit of a revelation for him and puts a big smile on his face every time he rides it. With quiet roads, he has been able to go on all manner of socially distanced rides as part of his daily exercise routine and has been exploring old haunts and new, safe in the knowledge that if he gets a bit tired, he has a 500Wh battery at his disposal to get him back home. Our stop was brief but it was good to catch up, something made all the better by a cheeky wee bottle of Ossian Ale that found its way into my bag!

It is like they were made for each other!

A short spin later and we were at my folks house, sitting in the back garden and wondering just when things might get a bit more back to normal. Fair to say, we had no clue but on a positive note, I had just happened to bring my wee wood burning stove and some marshmallows with me for toasting in the off chance that a mid ride opportunity presented itself. It may not be haute cuisine but there is something undeniably hard to resist about caramelized / burnt to a cinder marshmallows.

Living the lockdown dream!

“It’s been years since I did this!” my dad exclaimed, clearly relishing the experience while my mum wasted no time in securing yet another marshmallow to toast. No time to talk when there are sticky balls of gloopy goodness to be consumed! “When did you last do this?”, I enquired, expecting some tale of boy scout tom foolery. He paused for a moment then exclaimed “Never!” with a chuckle.

ortlieb lockdown diaries
A first time for everything! Lockdown haircut model’s own!

It just goes to show that no matter who you are or where you come from, there is always pleasure to be had in trying something new. The old me would barely have registered such a relatively short spin with no agenda or goal as a ride but the world has changed and me with it. I rather like that.

When toasting marshmallows goes wrong……

This article was brought to you in association with Ortlieb.

Sanny, Julia and Frank were using:

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By day, Sanny plies his trade as a Chartered Accountant and Non-Executive Director. By night, however, give him a map and the merest whisper of a trail "that might go" and he'll be off faster than a rat up a drainpipe on some damn fool mission to discover new places to ride. Rarely without his trusty Nikon D5600, he likes nothing better than being in the big mountains, an inappropriately heavy bike on his back, taking pics and soaking up the scenery. He also likes to ride his bike there too although rumours that he is currently working on his next book, "Walks with my bike", are untrue (mostly). Fat biking, gravel riding, bikepacking, road biking, e biking, big mountain adventures - as long as two wheels are involved, you'll find him with a grin on his face as he dives off the side of a mountain, down a narrow lane or into deep undergrowth in search of hidden trails and new adventures. His favourite food is ham and mushroom pizza and he is on a mission to ride all of the Munros, mostly as it allows him to indulge in eating more pizza. He has no five year plan, is a big fan of the writing of Charlie Connelly and reckons that Kermode and Mayo's Film Review Podcast is quite possibly the finest bit of broadcasting around.

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Comments (2)

    A good piece. You don’t always need to travel far to go exploring, sometimes what’s on your doorstep is eye opening.

    Thanks Scott. You are absolutely right. I have ridden trails and discovered new places during lockdown that I had no idea existed. Right from my door too!

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