Saturday 18th November

A catastrophically un-tactical visit to the toilets of the Cnoc Hotel, just as discussion turned to write-up duties, finds me sitting at the keyboard. On return to the bar to the news that the unanimous vote was that I had drawn the short straw, correction – had been awarded the short straw, my protestations that, as an irregular attendee, I seem to do a write up every other ride only drew the concession that I was excused further write-up duties for the rest of this year.
Some three hours earlier, an unexpectedly strong head wind meant I nearly didn’t have the pleasure of regaling you with the tale of today’s adventures. Luckily I made it to the roundabout just in time, fully armed this week with tools and tubes. There I found Jim, Ironman Keith, Mary, Innes, Steve, and Alistair, the latter sporting a shiny new pair of mudguards.
The astute amongst you will have gathered that we were headed for the Cnoc, with an ascent of the Leanaig for warm-up. A major traffic-induced split had the lead group making a leisurely ascent, waiting for the others to catch up, with Jim, Alistair and myself managing to string out a fascinating discussion of the vagaries of attaching Raceblades (we’re talking grub screws, cable ties, stay trimming) for almost the whole ascent. (Shame Keith wasn’t there!)
Regrouped, we headed via Beauly and Kirkhill for Strathglass, at first in a relatively informal manner, but with newly appointed Road Captain Jim increasingly deploying the whistle. I have to say he was coping well with the burden of responsibility, but did confess to initial anxieties over issues such as which hand to bear it on, would it compromise his braking, would he still be able to breathe etc. As we progressed up the strath the clouds were lifting and we had some glorious views of snow covered hills in the bright sunshine.
The Cnoc, seemingly under new management, was very welcoming. The scones were deemed acceptable, though the coffee was not the best and the consensus amongst the coffee drinkers was that we both agreed it was instant. As we were departing, El Nuevo Capitan de la Ruta decided to take the matter up with the proprietor. It transpired it was not instant coffee, and the rest of us left him busy digging himself out of the hole.
Eventually we were back on the road, with Jim now keeping a tight discipline, with whistles and calls to keep the pack together as we enjoyed a wind-assisted cruise back down the strath. Such was the discipline there was not even a sprint for the sign!
In Muir of Ord, Keith, Alistair and I turned off homewards, with the remnant of the peleton taking the direct route back. All in all, a grand morning out for the time of year.
Ian

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