Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Scotland 2014 Day 6: Mtn Biking Glentress 7Stanes, Lee&Jen's Wedding

Scotland 2014 Day 6: Mtn Biking Glentress 7Stanes, Lee&Jen's Wedding

This morning we were a little rough around the edges, as we got up at jerk-o'-clock (roughly, 8am Greenwich Mean Time) to have breakfast at the B&B and roll out so we could get to the bike shop soon after they opened at 9:30am.

Scotland has 7 legendary mountain biking parks around the South of the country, and we are very close to a few of them here in Dumfries... but after much research it was totally obvious that if I was only getting to one, Glentress was the winner. It was about 1hr 30min drive from Dumfries and we needed to get there, I needed to bike for 4 hours, and then we needed to get back in time to not miss the whole purpose of this Scotland trip: Lee and Jen's wedding. :) And... go!

I dutifully ate breakfast at the B&B and got some veggie "sausages" which appeared somewhat iffy to me this particular morning, and the dude running the place was hilarious. Noticing I was leaving them for the end, he asked if I was "afeared" of the sausages!! Haha such a formal word. He told me not to be concerned and they were mostly potato and were good. I had one and it was actually quite good, but... less food this morning seemed like a better call.

And off to Peebles! WOW the scenery was insane. The weather was truly amazing... it was raining like crazy yesterday on the drive to Dumfries, and my iPhone 2 days ago said it would be cold and THUNDERSTORMING today?!?!?!? Turns out... best day of the whole trip. Just my (epic) luck, the one day I've pre-arranged to go Mountain Biking, it's like a sunny summer day. Incredible. The rolling green hills and bright blue sky with light white clouds was strikingly similar to the classic Windows XP background image (we are such nerds).

I started waking up just before we got there which rocked. We got there, got set up, made sure the bike fit well and they also swapped my brakes to "American style". In the shop (Alpine Bikes) there was a SUPER sweet 7Stanes bike jersey... deeefiinitely coming back for that! And... off I go!

Here's the full 24 min edited GoPro video of my adventure for you visual people in the reading audience. I recommend watching it full-screen and in 1080p HD for the best experience (may be easier to just watch it on the YouTube site at this link:

So... that was definitely one of the very best biking experiences I've ever had. I have a soft spot for Duthie Hill in Issaquah, Washington near Seattle, and I think that will always be my favourite, but this place sure does rock.

Here's a bit of a further explanation of the ride, and some pics from along the way.

First off, my ride. I rented this glorious beast, the Trek Remedy 8.

From the rental website:
The Trek Remedy is revamped and ready for 2014.

Packed full of features such as the exclusive DRCV shock, an Active Braking Pivot and the new 650b/27.5” wheel size it’s no wonder that it’s the staff’s favourite bike this year.
Kitted out with Fox CTD suspension technology, Shimano SLX shifting and Bontrager components means this bike will go up, go down, go anywhere!

Size Available: 18.5” (Medium)

Whew, what a beaut!!!!!! I was also super psyched to ride a 27.5/650b tire again after trying the excellent Santa Cruz Bronson C in Seattle a few months back. Now, let's get it!!!!

First part... whew. Up... and up... and up....

I opted to take the longer climb from the Alpine Bikes Glentress/Cafe all the way up to Buzzard's Nest Parking Lot rather than getting Matt to somehow drop me up there with the car. It turned out that actually this was a pretty solid warmup in the end, but if I go back to Glentress again someday I am gonna drive up that first part because the more fun stuff is further up (and up, and up). The ride up to Buzzard's Nest was maybe 45 min, and I realized when I was almost at the top that my seat should really be a bit higher and my front shocks were NOT locked off!!! Ahh!! No wonder I was finding it so tough, I was putting half my effort into pushing the shocks up and down... whoops. Should have tested that at the shop before rolling. Oh well. Good workout!

Glentress 7Stanes Mountain Bike Park... let's DO THIS!
My chariot for the day
Break time
I continued up for a while (see edited first few minutes of the video above) and then after quite some time got to a nice open view, and took another hill up to the first big run of the day, Betty Blue. It was awesome. This was a great first run and started to get me used to the handling of the bike. MAN 27.5/650b ROCKS! I love it. The one time I rode a 29-er I felt like the bike was just too large for me and it was like driving a boat or a Toyota Camry... too much junk in the trunk! The 27.5 wheel is nice and tight on corners and allows you to maneuver swiftly, but really take some extra opportunities for fun on the trail by giving you a bit more of that bigger-wheel confidence. It rocks.

Glorious views
GoPro + Mud Selfie
I zoomed past 3 older guys and one had a "Happy Birthday" balloon tied to his bike! This was hilarious and I chatted with them for a little bit. They told me I had just missed the "Stane" (each one of the 7Stanes parks has a big "stane", a large stone that is somewhere in the park). I had literally just missed it! So I planned to go around and see it after doing the world-famous Red-level run, Spooky Wood Descent. I was planning to mostly stick to Blue-level routes (the "Moderate" ones), but after some encouragement that "Red - or "Difficult" - routes are not that tough" from the guys I talked to, I decided to just go for it. I said goodbye and told them I hope they would enjoy their cake after the ride, and they said, "We'd already ate it!" haha, that was priceless.

I biked up to a nice open area, and chilled for a bit there, ate a Clif Bar and relaxed for a little.

Like a dream...
At the top of the Upper Loop, Glentress Bike Park
Next up was the Spooky Wood Ascent... and I was so tired from so much uphill and my GoPro camera batteries were getting tired as well, so I did that one quickly and didn't film it. It turns out it was actually quite quick and not a ton of effort, so that was a nice surprise. I walked a few parts though as my legs were pretty keen that I finally do a bunch of downhill and stop going up so much. :) I got to the top and met a nice older French couple. We chatted in a combination of Broken-French and Broken-English, and I sat with them at a picnic bench and fueled up with some trail mix.

Ach aye
At the very top of the Red route, about to do the Spooky Wood Descent
Lots of riders ready to do Spooky Wood Descent
Admiring the view...
I got the GoPro ready again, and BOOM! Onto the legendary Spooky Wood Descent! It did not disappoint... it was WICKED. There were some very steep up-and-down portions that you could really gain some major speed and even some air on. It was really awesome. There were a few crazy table-top sections that I (mostly) skipped, and some HUGE 180 degree berms!! OMG so sick!! This was so awesome, and such an amazing run. There were tons of mud puddles and I aimed right for them on purpose and was just covered in dirt after the ride. Glorious!

I then proceeded, in my adrenalin-endorphin overload, to totally miss the stane AGAIN! I biked RIGHT by it. I biked back along the trail to see it and was surprised it was small and not a massive "standing stone" -- I had somewhat expected something like that so I think that's why I totally missed it! Still pretty friggin' AWESOME though.

The Meteorite Stane
Just looking up this inscription on the stane now... hahahaha it's hilarious. I had assumed this was some phrase in Scots Gaelic... nope. Even better:

So says this website:
The above picture doesn’t show the full inscription on the six ton marble ‘stane’, which is:
Vu’Ha’mo’nganpu’u"a’vaD yuQvam DoQ tlhIngan wo’Mab mub ‘oH naghvam’e’Tugh mapaw, Sanna’llj wlwuqta’
Any Star Trek fan should be able to recognize the inscription is not the ancient Scottish language or even any language of this Earth, but it is indeed Klingon! And the ominous English translation is:
Due to bad management by its current inhabitants, the Klingon Empire claims the right to take this planet for the benefit of the greater universe. This rock is an official legally binding claim marker. We will be arriving soon, your future is assured.
So should we all start learning Klingon and the ways of Kahless to prepare for our subjugation to the Empire? Perhaps not. As it turns out the Meteorite is one of seven different sculptures commissioned by the Scotland Forestry Commission (and partially financed by the EU). In 2008 the "7 Stanes" mountain biking centers opened in southern Scotland and each features a stone sculpture or ‘stane’ (stone in the Scots language). The sculptures were created by artist Gordon Young who has just revealed the truth about the Glentress stane to the Scotsman, saying he chose the Klingon theme as a fun tribute to Star Trek and because he "heard that Scotland was a stronghold of Trekdom".  The apparent gouge created by the meteorite can also be explained as it was artificially created by The Forest Commission to enhance the mystery.
The epicness of Glentress and The Forestry Commission of Scotland continues to amaze and impress me. So great.

Next up was the next Red route, called "Super G", which had a warning up saying to expect mud and potential muddy conditions. No worries, I've got my kneepads on! I saw the French Couple again and they decided to forgo it, but I did it and loved it. The full-suspension really helped "glue" my back wheel to the track. It was great.

The bike has really been excellent. The handling is so great and the brakes have been excellent and incredibly responsive... man I really do love these fancy disc brakes. The back shock was quite a bit "squishier" than the Santa Cruz Bronson I was on back in Seattle. I was wondering if maybe that was a calibration issue (as I did try all three squshiness "settings" on the Santa Cruz's back shock as well)... not sure if this one was better suited to me, or just one of the shops more accurately set the back shock for my weight. In any case, this rocked and was excellently suited to the trail!

I got back to Buzzard's Nest Parking Lot and would have really loved to bike up again and do more runs, but it was the right plan to just head back down, my legs were really tired and it's always good to stop biking before getting so exhausted that you start making mistakes and potentially wipe out due to tiredness. It turns out those sortof sloggy first 45 min of warm up TOTALLY paid off on the way down. I did 3 or 4 more runs on the way down, Blue Velvet which was flowy and wicked and had a crazy paved berm... Berm Baby Berm which, as I expected, was SO AMAZING and my 2nd favourite run of the day after Spooky Wood Descent, so awesome and flowy, big, long berms and lots of speed - like a roller coaster... then part of Blue Return Route which was solid and fast... and finally Electric Blue which was deep in the forest and an awesome place to be just as it started to rain. After that I bombed it down the last Green section, ready for a nice Cuppa in the cafe!

Best ride ever
This ride was so awesome I would come back just for this! The rain was almost non-existent... since it's the UK of course it needs to rain a little... but it was either nothing at all or just very light. The only time there was any medium-to-significant amount of rain, I was in Electric Blue in the trees and didn't even notice. The rest of the day was glorious sunshine.

It was funny, when I was at the very top of the hill, the French guy said something very poetic about the ominous cloud in front of us: "We are in a difficult time right now, it shall pass" :) It was totally fine, and a little rain at the end totally just washed the mud out of my eyes which was perfect!

Man, my backpack is muddy
Haha so muddy
I dropped off the bike, changed, and then attempted to shower in the shower room they had... and it was £1!!! Dang it!!! I was clean out of coins. So I washed my face in the sink and got changed and headed back to the shop to buy that epic 7Stanes biking jersey. Then, off to the cafe to have a post-bike pot of earl grey and a banana! Great times. I told Matt all about the ride and heard about his morning, wandering around some cool castles.

Back we went to Dumfries along the epic Windows XP-inspired landscapes.

Driving along the Scottish Borderlands
"Man, it looks like Windows XP out there"
Waze's integration with the Google Maps app was quite clear as the GPS took us on some very Waze-y routes... little tiny sideroads that were super fun and we'd never have taken them otherwise.

We got to the hotel and an old lady in the parking lot REALLY wanted to chat. Her husband told us "You'd best be on your way, you still have to shave before your friend's wedding!" I think that was a somewhat subtle British ways of him saying I looked way too scraggily to go to a wedding and we should hurry up. That, and I think he wanted to leave for dinner and his wife was chatting to me about Canada and he just wanted to roll. Haha.

We checked in I showered the legendary amounts of dirt off me and got dressed... and time to roll! We met Jen and Lee down in the lobby and headed out to take photos in the front yard of the hotel.

It's Lee's wedding time!
Bride and Mama!
Classy wedding guests
Mr. Photographer
The wedding ceremony took place at Comlongon Castle, and there was a big fireplace in the room where they lit a fire, super fancy. There were lots of cool crests and weapons on the walls. The only really complicated part of the wedding was that there was a gravel entrance to the castle, and the women had to walk on that in their heels... and then up a winding, very narrow castle staircase... in their heels!

Arriving at the Castle
This appears to be quite Scottish
Awesome photo (thanks Matt!)
Congrats to the happy parents!
More classy wedding guests
Reminder: this is quite clearly happening in Scotland
After the ceremony, we headed back to the hotel and had some tasty, Whisky-influenced beer! The first was called "A Wee Bit" but Williams Brothers in collaboration with Brooklyn Brewing. It was a smoky, peated, dark ale! Very good!

Then came dinner time. Matt ordered the "Cullen Skink", a classic Scottish fish soup. I of course called it "Cullen Skank" and proceeded to probably insult our Scottish hosts. Always classy. :) I got a Salmon pate which was wicked and had an Aberdeenshire Steak with veggies and a very tasty sauce. For dessert I had an Apple Crumble with Custard! Matt got another Scottish Canrachan and we got to try another take of it, this one had more of a Whisky vibe than the one a few days before in Tarbert.

Amazing gift for the wedding party
Beef and bread pudding
Auchentoshan-barrel aged beer. Glorious!
Then we tried a Fraoch Heather Ale, Barrel aged in Auchentoshan Whisky Barrels! Crazy! It was also very excellent, and since it was 11% as you can see from the photo, I nursed mine very slowly. This was also form Williams Brothers and was amazing.

From there, just some chillin'. A long and epic day, and we hung out all together into the late evening. Great, great, great, GREAT times. It was so awesome that Lee and Jen invited me to their wedding and it was so awesome to spend this time all together. What a day!

Cake cutting time
And then this happened.

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