The headlong rush to Christmas…

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One moment you look and it is late September and the next time you glance at the calendar it is early December. Two weekends have already been lost to ice making it just too slippy for our skill levels on the bikes. That is not to say that there was no one out, we just do not feel lucky enough to stay upright.

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Today we woke to the first snow of winter, so I guess we can put the fingerless gloves into deep storage till late March. That goes for the short sleeve jersey and short shorts. I had forgotten how to turn on the central heating, and had to look it up in the manual. Now every morning begins with bringing the house up to temperature after a night of freezing temperatures.

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We have got used to mild winters. But there is a reason why Scotland is famed for its knitwear. So, out with the chunky knits and what a great idea vests are in combating that trouser shirt interface draught. Overboots, longfinger-deep winter gloves, and a buff are all in constant use now. Cross training is log splitting for the next 4 months.

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I have told you about our new bicycle holiday company business. Well that involves spending hours at a computer at this stage. There are evenings following mysterious roads on Bing Maps ( I only recently found that the most wonderful maps in the world are on this – ordnance survey ).

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In all the rush to get ourselves into companies online brochures for 2018, we did not get time to do our usual high production value Christmas cards. This has in previous years begun as early as June and in the post in the first week of December. We have got a card though.

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It began when we took delivery of a stainless steel exhaust system for our van. I was outside cleaning a bike and the postman shouted down ‘ your silencer is here ‘. But how did he know? Well an exhaust system has a particular shape that no amount of package is ever going to hide. This became the story for the Christmas card.

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So HAPPY CHRISTMAS, and get out and ride your bikes now and in the new year. We would love to see you here next year so add cycling in Scotland to your bucket list with Galloway Cycling Holidays. There, see how much marketing has become part of what we do.

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The last days for summer rides.

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The shorter days are here. Days when light is of a premium, precious and never to be wasted or taken for granted. Your horizons shrink. Short summer rides now repeated have become major treks when you need to be home by 3.00pm. We try to take final rides to places that will be beyond the bike horizon, say goodbye to cafes that shut for winter. Wooden doors that have swung freely all summer now need the attention of a sanding block as they soak up the air moisture.

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We are out every morning, either on bikes or walking and watch the first rays of sun touch the tops of the mountains to the north. Near the coast south of us, Screel Hill faces the rising sun and keeps us waiting for its warmth. Many miles to the north Merrick, the highest mountain in the southern uplands is high enough to already catch the golden light. Already there have been a few days when the light catches the first snowfall there. It looks unlike northern mountains, much less angular, more whale backed.

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We had the first big storm of winter. Winds close to 100mph only held back a little by Ireland being between them and us. I closed the curtains early, lit the woodburner and drank wine. It raged most of the night. Few people slept well and in the morning many trees were down and that was the end of autumn colours for this year.

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The end of this year, but if you look close there is already signs of next. the corvids are back in their trees. They appear to be happy now the branches are bare. They sit high up and rock as the wind catches the branches. At the bottom of the garden we are lucky enough to have a Raven. He, she, it can never be mistaken for a crow. It is a KRAA rather than a Caw. It stops you dead when they call.

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I read recently a description of the world of crows, ravens and the other corvids, and their constant displeasure of any other bird flying in their territory. They just can not leave them alone, not once. They, and the birds of prey live in a constant state of war. More often than not the corvids win, as they are much smarter by far. The birds of prey live lives at a blur of speed and reaction.

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On morning rides now you have to check the outside thermometer, at least two forecasts or even three and pick the best. Wind from the north now and it will be cold, often bitterly so. On with the thermals and overboots and try to find two gloves that match. It is a lazy wind, one that does not bother to go around you.

The winter birds are here. Last of the daylight and we can hear the pink footed geese come in to roost by the castle a mile away. Already the Blackthorn bush in the garden has been stripped of fruit by our local thrushes and visiting Redwings. The hedgerows are bare already and many cut within an inch of their lives by contract mowers in a hurry. Every few feet there are robins, some from as far away as Russia.

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We live on the edge of a Dark Sky Area and have almost no light pollution. Vivid and crisp milky way stretching across the sky is normal. But then there are the 10% nights of total clarity when the number of stars doubles. We try to get out for a walk on these nights just around the lanes near home. Five minutes and we are in another world. ” Look at that! “, and I had time to turn around and focus on the second best shooting star of my life. Horizontal to the horizon and visible for what could have been 10 seconds.

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So, what have we been doing these last few months? Well busy times, very busy. Our new cycling holiday business needed a website and we had to learn our patch. This is hard, as it is 200 miles long by 100 wide. We need to know every quiet road, every cafe and every comfy B&B and where the hidden things are.

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We kept on seeing great routes on the maps that involved running on tarmac, then off road and then along farm tracks, before returning to the road. So we bought two gravel bikes. Wide-tyred, drop handlebar go most places dream machines called Diverge by the makers Specialised. We love them.

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I bought our first bikepacking saddle bag to keep clothes and the camera safe and out of harms way. We have no bike handling skills, so the bikes are far beyond our ability. That said, you do just have to point them and pedal. We have been exploring the hills that these bikes open up for us, and will be offering this gravel experience as part of our trips.

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The whole planning a company I find difficult. I don’t like to over think things, preferring to trust in luck or instinct most of the time. I concluded that planning to ride around the world was counter productive. You have to do some planning to get visas and make sure you are not setting out into a 3,000 mile ride into a brutal headwind. But beyond that, planning is only there to calm your nerves. Too much just becomes part of the mass that holds you back, part of the inertia. If you look at too many guidebooks you will end up where everyone else goes. The world is not a bad place and you will not starve to death.

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The starting a business thing does actually require a lot of planning. Luckily Esther is genetically inclined towards planning, thanks to her being German. She has gone on a file and A4 divider buying feeding frenzy. And thank goodness one of us did. Our new website is up running and looks fantastic. We also have a Facebook page, where we post bike stuff about this area and the rides we do. It is an outlet for creativity that does not come with the weight of expectations that writing a blog here holds – it is 100% fun.

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You must not be scared!

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Sything shapes of Swallow and House Martin cut up and down the main street through our village and they sound permanently slightly angry. The curve of the season has reached its apogee and now just a few days after midsummer the sunset is a little earlier. Not a bad thing, the amount of light this far north can wear you out.

We are trying to speed-learn our new home area. Build a catalogue of routes that tick every box, cover every wish list. It has been great fun and the area is stunning. Every day we try to find a new gem or a way of linking things together in the most perfect way.

Scrolling through Facebook yesterday I came across an old interview with Steve Jobs, always worth a few seconds, so I let it run. ” Whenever you start a company you must never be scared of failure “. I played that bit again. It was back when Steve looked less groomed, less slick more geek.

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I thought about what Steve said as we rode out this morning. We try to ride early every morning or at least take a long walk just to remind ourselves why we live here. Like every day the ride confirmed what we know, this area is just perfect. Rush hour and the first 40 minutes we had just 2 cars.

I don’t think Steve ever took on a bike holiday company. I think he knew he was destined to win even if his first logos were rubbish and the computers looked agricultural. On this mornings ride we just kept on shouting ” WOW! ” which is a good thing I think Steve would agree. We know we are in the perfect place.

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We are putting together a wonderful new website for Galloway Cycling Holidays. Every ride I carry a camera and try to get the peach of an image for the company. But that is not enough. We have a Facebook company account and it is VERY PUSHY. The world wants a moving image, films and they had better be good. So now Zuckerberg is having a go at us.

I am not sure Steve had to put up with this sort of pressure, but we have done it anyway. Two films, both 1 min 20 in length that try to put across what we are about. Trying to condense all the joy we have ever got from pedalling a bike and all the sheer WOW of this area.

So, here they are. They may not quite be Citizen Kane, but we are more than happy. What do you think?

Then we went for the big production. Drone, stormy sky and a remote location.