Saturday 9th January 2016

Temperature 0 degrees with the forecast saying it feels like -2, no wind and a pleasant winters day, in fact it was a fantastic sunrise looking out from Kilmuir which clouded over by the time I got to the roundabout.  In good time again twice in a row, which is quite a change for me, and not even a New Years resolution.  This gave me time to check out the road surface which as expected was slippy in the extreme.  I walked round past where Angus came a cropper once on the path leading to the crossing (he will know where that is) and yes it was as dangerous now as it was then. I was at the "make your mind up time" do I do a strategic withdrawal to the Caledonian Canal and go by boat where surface ice poses less of a risk, or see who turns up and put it to the committee.  On further checking past the crossing, the main road however was in surprisingly great condition with the salt clearly doing its job............with that in mind and a mental note to give the bike an extra clean with "No Nonsense Industrial Degreaser from Screw Fix" ...........Sarah was asking on Wednesday...........I walked the bike past the treacherous sections and made my way over to the roundabout where Mathew and new Catriona where waiting.  It was the first time I had the pleasure of meeting them, but they had been out a few times before with the club so it was great to see them back, particularly on such a cold day.  We were chewing the fat and Catriona mentioned the last time she was out, the group were descending from Old Evanton Road past the Sports Centre as she was taking it particularly cannily only to be passed at speed by this mad man who was bunny hopping manhole covers on his cycle cross...........at which point Ian MacDonald arrived on the said cycle cross to make us a merry bunch of four.

Decision made, we headed off for Cromarty via Conon Bridge with a plan to keep low and on the main roads. Surfaces were good and we rolled along at a good pace with Ian and I at the front.  By the time we crossed the A9 and were heading up the hill to the junction just before Shoreton, Mathew mentioned that Catriona was getting cold feet and may turn back.  Following discussion with Ian and myself we did our best to reassure her that we would take it easy, keep Ian under control on any descents that might lend themselves to him misbehaving with bunny hops, keep a steady pace and buy her coffee in Cromarty.  Did that make her feel any better...............not a lot, as she really had "cold feet".

We bade farewell to Catriona and Mathew as they headed back towards Evanton and home as the two of us carried on to Cromarty.  Unleash the beast, for someone who genuinely felt wearied from possibly overdoing it Ian was cracking on at a steady 19 - 20 mph  with 24 mph on the flat.  With no wind, the run down the brae past the junction at Resolis was faster than I have been riding for a while, but enjoying it.  Ian and I cracked on into Cromarty and onto the Coopers Creek, where Ian started stripping down to his Calvin Kleins, draping his sweat dripping buffs and base layers over the fire guard, which transformed the room to one in which the Broons family would feel at home. He stopped before he got down to his CK's to retain his modesty as his tall skinny latte and ginger cake arrived. Suitably refreshed, we retraced our route but turned off up the hill to go back along the Killen straight.  At this point, the 18 miles I had put in the day before, inclusive of 5.5 miles of hill reps, was taking its toll. Ian eased back a little and with a Gel and steady effort, we rolled on up the hill and by the scene where Wednesday's group came upon a poor farmer who had had an accident; his tractor and trailer sheep float had some how lost the soft edge of the road and toppled into the ditch.

The tractor was across the road but the trailer float was in the ditch, half full of sheep, some of which were dead and others with legs sticking out through the slatted side.  At an angle of 45 degrees, the float was  leaning against a pole holding high voltage power cables and this was the only thing stopping it from going all the way and landing on its side. This Wednesday saga really lends itself to its own report and telling, but suffice to say Sarah ended up advising oncoming traffic of the road blockage while I was  inside the float with the exhausted farmer, who had already pulled and lifted the seventy or more sheep out of the trailer, many of which had passed us on the road as we came round the corner. Together with his son who was on the roof we managed a chain gang to pull the remaining sixty or so sheep from the trailer lifting them up a height and squeezing them through the gap of the open back trailer door. In the midst of this his son's mobile rings with a message from a neighbor saying his sheep had escaped and were running down the road...........you can imagine the response.

Fortunately neither the farmer nor his son were injured as the whole event happened at slow speed, a small number of the sheep however were less fortunate. It seems that the recent weather and very soft verges over a bank were enough to cowp the trailer. We left as neighbourly reinforcements with heavy lifting equipment were due to arrive, I'm just glad I was able to help, cleats and all, and was not wearing my best Rapha gear.

On Saturday as Ian and I passed "sheep carnage corner" there was no sign of the trailer with the only evidence of the earlier week's drama being deep scarring in the ditch and a big trench gouged as a result of the recovery operation, and thankfully the pole holding the power cable was still standing.

With no further excitement and a steady push through the cold air to home I found my Gortex soft lined hat a lifesaver as frozen vital appendages were protected.

Rabbit

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