With my bike refreshed, I felt like my trip was re-energised. That was quickly dampened as I realised that a letter I received from Nationwide was informing me my card was suspected of fraud. A quick call confirmed that online transactions had been halted, but I was able to go and get cash out that day. After that one little errand I thought my woes would be over for a while. Little did I know that over the next two days that wouldn’t be the last of the drama.
Day 7 - Crossing the border
The day was a lovely one, sunny and plenty warm. I set out a bit delayed, but after saying my goodbyes to the dogs I was able to get into Carlisle centre quickly. The tiny city actually seems pretty nice and has some really cool architecture, but as I had a single focus to get cash from the Nationwide and go I had little appreciation at the time.
After that, I headed out for the A7. I wanted to get away from a busy motorway and hopefully any wind if there still was any. Apparently the route was the historic borders route, so it sounded pretty good. I got some fuel in good time and went on my way. It was a nice road, with long straights and long corners, it wasn’t poky and tight like some A roads can be. The views were good and I was able to get some good speed in parts. You didn’t hear it from me but I may have reached three digits on the speed-o. But the majority of the ride was spent very firmly in two digits as I was allowing my tires plenty of time to get settled.
I passed through a lot of really nice looking towns, but as Edinburgh was my goal for the day I didn’t want to stop. If I did stop it was to clear bugs off my visor and windshield. Depending on what the bugs are doing, I find that I don’t need to clean every day if I don’t want to. But on this road I stopped twice to clean my visor and windshield. On one occasion I had ridden less than a mile before hitting a swarm of tiny bugs and then my bike looked gross again covered with the innards of various invertebrates. A few bugs I can handle. When the windshield looks like a massacre I have to draw the line and clean it.
Getting into Edinburgh was pretty easy, but finding parking where I could guarantee no over eager traffic warden would get me was not. Apparently there were plenty of areas where solo bikes could park free in shared parking bays. But this was zone-dependant, and the map of the .gov site was quite confusing, it wasn't until I searched for a separate Edinburgh parking zone map that it become really easy to find a legit place to park. Panic over. I do like parking for free, but I do like to do so legitimately (to date I’ve never payed to park my bike).
Edinburgh was nice. As I hadn’t really planned to go anywhere in particular and it was a stopover, I kind of wandered around initially. I found my way to the castle, and it looked pretty cool but I was actually expecting it to be bigger (sorry Edinburgh). With the sheer number of tourists I didn’t venture inside the grounds and quickly tried to escape the heaving areas surrounding the castle.
I find that generally I’m not a huge city fan. At least not when its a flying visit and with Edinburgh being a capital it has a lot of banal tourist shops and tacky tartan shops. London has the same but a different kind of tacky. I don’t spend much usually, and I don’t have room in my panniers for tat, so I didn’t buy anything.
I did however get some more ice cream, which was caramel scoop with a scoop of raspberry sorbet. Again it was really lovely. As I said to the server; “Ice cream is my one weakness”. Then I headed off to a nearby Wetherspoons. It was actually called “The Standing Order” which gave me flashbacks to my local spoons in Derby of the same name. I had vegetarian wellington and did a spot of writing.
I then escaped the city and made my way along the M9 to Falkirk and then Larbert. The coach house where I was staying was absolutely beautiful. It was extravagant and clean and really a steal considering how much the hosts charge. Pat and Sandra were both so lovely, and kept telling me often to ‘help myself’ and to ‘make myself at home’. They also had a really sweet dog called Buddy, who was a Springer. Their home was a dream really.
Day 8 - Feeling deflated
In the morning I was heading towards a place called Taynuilt near Oban. This was a strike diagonally across Scotland to the the north west. After a bit of a faff finding fuel I was able to get myself onto the M9 to Stirling and start moving. The weather was great and I was fully fuelled.
I was on the A84 when disaster struck. In a town called Callender a passing motorcyclist pointed out my rear tire was flat. I had felt the bike unbalanced shortly before. With a sinking feeling I pulled into the next left which was a small car park next to a cafe. The tire was flat...like my dreams. Just kidding! But I did feel a sense of frustration that I had another setback, and a strong sense of being disconnected from the present moment. I called my rescue via my insurance and I was able to get on the phone with the recovery guy quickly. He said he would be there in the hour (but understanding him took a few tries).
Whilst I waited I got talking to a local, had tea in a cafe and watched dozens of motorbikes roll by on the main road. I was both hopeful a group my spot me and stop, and equally fearful as well. Mercilessly the recovery truck showed up in less time than he quoted, and the bike was quickly on the back.
After the initial difficulty in finding a garage that could fix bike tires (and had capacity to do so), we were set to head to Perth. The ride was a lot of fun. It was interesting having such a high up and commanding view of the road. The recovery drivers name was Grant Steel, and I said he sounded like Iron Man’s sidekick (which got a laugh). He complained that people always asked if it was spelt with an ‘e’ on the end and he always had to say “no, like the metal”.
We spoke about his Spaniel, and cars, and how he wants a motorbike or a quad bike. It was a cool ride. Soon enough we were in Perth by about half 12. The bike was repaired and ready to go by 2:30. Fast work. But it seemed painfully slow to wait. I was just glad to have Garth back again and carry on.
As the tire was so new, I decided to try and post it home (no way I was giving it up!). As post offices were closed, I ended up strapping it to my pannier and heading off down the A85.
I started off steady as I was needing to break in yet another new tire, and as I wasn’t sure how secure the extra tire would be. It turned out it was pretty secure (I was using this extendable cable lock I keep under my seat, so the tire was wrapped up nice). When I get back I'll see if it can be repaired, and if my insurance are cool with that, and if not it could become some kind of decorative feature of Great Escape pt 1.
The views along the road kept getting progressively better. The road was long and flowing, with nice long curves. At one point I joined two bikes who came from a side road, and I was able to follow them for a dozen or so miles, until the trees opened out to reveal Loch Earn (which is a spectacular Loch). I stopped to take some photos before heading on. A little later I encountered Loch Awe, which did look pretty amazing with its water sparkling so beautifully. I also passed Ben Cruachan on the way to Taynuilt, which I was going to try and hike before I got my puncture. In hindsight it was probably a blessing I didn’t, as the mountain is a tall one and would no doubt have exhausted me for Ben Nevis.
I reached my Airbnb in the early evening and my host, Louise, was so charming and funny. Her friend arrived and they invited me out to Oban. I declined as I needed to sort my stuff out and prepare for Ben Nevis. But when they got back later they told lots of funny stories and I couldn’t stop laughing. Good people!
Hopefully this draws to a close the last of the drama I experience.
Keep your dreams inflated, Dan.