£16.80 well spent.
So, it’s Easter Sunday. The sun is shining and the sky is blue. There’s only one thing for it. Get out on the bikes. My original suggestion was to go to Applecross for lunch. I changed my mind, thinking that actually getting a table for lunch might be an issue. So, I suggested to do a regular route to Inverary – Lochgilphead – Oban – Appin – Glencoe – Kinlochleven Loop and home via our favourite seafood café.
Too easy. Ed suggested going to the Ardnamurchan Lighthouse. Now, I’ve been to the Ardnamurchan peninsula plenty of times but never been to the lighthouse. I jumped at the chance.What was I thinking?
Now, following on from my training trip to Whitley Bay, I was really focusing on positioning and making good, safe progress. I consider myself to be a steady, safe rider and I do overtake as such, however, my homework is nailing the overtakes when it’s safe (and legal) to do so.
So, tank brimmed, Gerbing jacket and gloves attached and switched on, we leave home and it’s 1.5 degrees at 10:15am. Wind chill in Glencoe meant that the Gerbing equipment was a god send and certainly on this cold day put to full use!
Overtaking. The first difference I noticed within 400 yards of leaving the village was not just looking for the view up the hill, but also deliberating the speed of the vehicle in front of me. Not unusual. What was unusual was actually calculating, considering and carrying out the overtake up the hill. That was a first. I would normally just have a wee bimble, take in the scenery, warm me and Smoggy up (as if he really needs it, however, warming tyres up is always a good start… have you seen my drive to the main road?). My brain was fully engaged and immediately that told me the training I had a week or so ago, had made a difference. There was a massive difference in my concentration levels and thinking speed.
If there was an overtaking opportunity, I took it. There was only one overtake chance in the whole day that I didn’t take and could have. Reflecting on it, I know it would have been safe, given the view. Baby steps.I don’t want to do everything totally out of character. Ed might ask, “Where’s Fi gone?”
So, a wee wait on the Corran Ferry. It’s Sunday after all and by all accounts the ferry master was not in a hurry. Once on to the peninsula, we had a lovely run round to a wee coffee shop. It’s off the main road and fairly basic, however, if you ask for strong black coffee, that’s certainly what you get. Ed said that he could feel the chest hairs growing in. I didn’t check mine, but by gum, that was some caffeine hit! No GF goodies for me.
Onwards until we came to the sign to the lighthouse. Now, let’s start with some top tips:
- Don’t venture to the lighthouse on a shit day. It would be shit. Let’s face it, it’s literally the middle of nowhere.
- Don’t go needing petrol; there’s none. Just as well Smoggy has a good reservoir!
- Don’t go if your brakes don’t work.
- Don’t believe just because the sun’s shining it’s warm.
- Don’t think that ‘thinking thin’ will help you squeeze past on-coming cars
- Do ride at a speed you can safely stop in the distance you can see to be clear on your side of the road!
- Do go if the sun’s shining.
- Do go to the lighthouse and take time to read everything in the wee museum that’s dead interesting. I would have read everything, but I needed a pee.
- Do visit the café. It’s basic, however, you will get coffee and a filled roll. Nothing exceptional, but they do have GF cakes and crisps!
- Do allow plenty of time. The direction post says 25 miles. It feels like 80.
Now, there’s single track roads and there’s single track roads. Some of them it’s possible to pass a car whilst still on the move. On parts of the 25 miles to the lighthouse, even motorcycles have to use the passing places. Ok, there’s one woman who’s possibly still traumatised. I kept going, knowing that there was enough room for us both. She, by all accounts judging by the view in my mirror, had a small panic and potentially stalled her car. She was the one that made the choice not to stop! I don’t have a reverse gear…. Don’t know what the fuss was about. Then there was part of the trip that had a moss covered stane dyke on the nearside. Now, my thought process did involve being able to safely stop in the distance I could see to be clear on my side of the road. For that nano-second of consideration it was worth it. I thought,”What if a great big fuck off Range Rover crests this hill?” The answer? I would be able to stop. It was black and definitely following the principle of ‘might has right’. I had to stop. Safely as it transpires. There’s so many times that the biker’s survival instinct kicks in!
One other woman – yes, that’s three so far, had no perception of what a centre line is, never mind a hazard line. She couldn’t have given a rat’s ass about the red bike heading towards her as she straddled the central hazard line. Just as well I moved in plenty time, Smoggy would have lost more than a hand guard if we’d hit her. I even managed to eye-ball her and she still didn’t move.
It seemed to take forever to get even close to the lighthouse. It was after 1:30pm when we got there. It didn’t matter though, it was all about the journey and amazing scenery. It was Scotland in its glory, that’s for sure. There were a couple of spots where I should have stopped and taken photos, however, I didn’t. I still haven’t got my memory card back in my GoPro camera either. I think I’ve lost it. The card and my memory!!*rolls eyes*
It’s a road that you don’t want to have a lapse in concentration, that’s for sure. It’s a road to practice your slow-mo work, trying to judge an oncoming vehicle, the passing place and the spot at which you will pass each other, all whilst trying not to put a foot down. Mostly it worked, on occasions it didn’t. It was great fun challenge and after all great practice.
So, after our snack and blether to some locals at the lighthouse, the plan was to go to Fort William for some groceries. Ed, however, wanted to stop in at the Ardnamurchan distillery. I wasn’t interested, so in typical Ed style, he said to me to carry on.
I had a lovely ride, however, what a long way! 25 miles to the road end took 50 minutes. No, I didn’t walk! Then it took another hour to get to Fort William. Bloody hell, we could have gone to Applecross quicker. I was needing a rest by the time we got to Marks & Spencers. A coffee was needed! We were heading to Aldi, however, it’s not open yet. Major road reconstruction around the area in Fort William. It’s obviously a long time since I was there. It must have been chaos getting that all sorted out. We filled Ed’s panniers with M&S treats.
By the time we got home, it was 7:15pm! How did that happen? The run through Glencoe was busy with traffic, however, we had great fun nipping in and out of the traffic. What was even better, Ed commented that he normally leaves me behind. Not today he didn’t! Woohoo! I had great fun. It was progressive, safe and felt that the learning curve I’d had a couple of weeks ago had wakened me up and I’m thinking faster and working Smoggy harder. See, £16.80 well spent.
A winter conversation topic is always weather, however, there’s been another this year: Pot holes. Yep, plenty of them. However, that’s when target fixation, which is normally a cardinal sin on a bike, comes in handy for all the right reasons. On a motorbike, you can focus on the best way round or through them. Picking the smoothest, safest line. Car drivers, however, I have been watching with amazement. When they don’t see them, there’s that moment of panic. It has astonished me to see so many swerve over to the off-side of the road, not taking into consideration if there are any on-coming vehicles. It’s that moment of, “god, no, surely not?” The holes are that bad between Crianlarich and Tyndrum (filled at least twice so far this winter – didn’t last long) the road department have put warning signs, 30mph restriction signs and beacons on top of red and white cones. The powers of observation of (some) car drivers is obviously limited. So, take care out there! It’s not so much the pot holes, it’s the on-coming cars swerving over the road.
Pot hole update: It’s ok, the boys have been out with their buckets and spades and I’m sure just pressing it down with a whacker plate will work dandy. No. It doesn’t. I may not be a road engineer, however, even with my common sense, that will never work! Now there are patches of road being closed, properly, so they can resurface. Crianlarich was a total hazard for weeks with a ‘temporary surface’. It wasn’t pretty. I know, they have a lot of work to do, however, every year it’s the same, it just seems this year the holes are worse than last year. It’ll soon be warmer weather, honest. Then the fixes hopefully will last longer!
In the meantime, ride safe. Smoggy it seems has become a ‘thirsty boy’, and now a tank of petrol lasts me to Edinburgh and back…. just and no more!