A Sunday Jaunt in Scotland
I didn’t think for a minute that I could beat the enjoyment of my run on Thursday, however, today I did that.
I set off at 9am this morning, having tried pretty hard to find a riding buddy for the day. Alas, everyone was busy, so I headed off on my own. Ed was working, and was seriously jealous when he realised where I was going. I rubbed it in slightly (sorry Ed) by giving him updates of where I was.
My first priority was a breakfast stop. I really had no idea where I was going to go, but I did know I was going to go to Castle Stalker Café for brekky. I thought that I might make it a short day, however, the weather look promising, so I followed my nose. In the meantime, the car park at Castle Stalker was too tempting. Time for some slo-mo practice. The last time I was there, Rory asked me to do a figure of 8. I was a tad impolite at the time, so I made the most of it and did some full-lock circles and yes, Rory, some figures of 8’s. I text him (because I am a saddo), and reported in that I had been doing my practice, boss. He replied, “Ye gods, what have I done? I’ve turned you into an AR, like me!!!” Do you know, my reader what that means? I didn’t. Do now! EEK!
Breakfast was outstanding: Bacon, sausages, egg, black pudding all piled up on top of two slices of gluten free toast. The coffee was up to their normal excellent standard. Feeling slightly stuffed, I thanked the counter staff, and asked if they had rooms. I needed a snooze after all that. Now, at home, I am glad I did the huge breakfast, it kept me going all day. I didn’t take a picture. I was embarrassed that I ate such a huge plate of food. Fat bastard would have sprung to mind, even though I have shed over a stone and a half in the last couple of months. I think I worked it off today though!
I headed to Oban, via Connel bridge, having enjoyed the quiet roads through Glencoe. That was cunning, get out early enough to miss the worst of the tourists. Good start. Through Oban and down to Lochgilphead. I have always been really nervous of the road from Oban to Lochgilphead, it’s pretty technical, dangerous and have up to today not been particularly progressive on it. There weren’t many cars, and for that matter, all day, there weren’t many bikes either. I had THE best run. The conditions were perfect, the roads dry and all of a sudden everything clicked.
I’m not an outrageously quick rider, however, the sense of achievement I have after that stretch of road today, I can’t put into words. I know I have been told that all the training I have had over the last 12 months will make a monumental difference to my riding, and it has; however, today was just fantastic. More of that later.
So, I gave Smoggy a rest, and me too at the filling station in Lochgilphead. I needed the loo anyway, and after Thursday’s ‘bursting bladder syndrome’ I didn’t fancy having to squat behind a tree. Really, have you ever had to ‘squat’ with kevlar packed goretex trousers which makes it extremely hard to get your knees apart? No? Hell, you lads have it easy. So, following previous advice of ‘never pass a toilet’, I made the most of it. Too much detail? Tough. If you are reading this, then you know me, so, suck it up, buttercup. A wee juice and a photo of Smoggy.
So, where do I go from here? I know, the road I have never, ever ridden or driven before. Down to Campbeltown. I realised later in the run, that I had been down there before to play Macrihannish Golf Course, many years ago, compliments of our bank manager – those were the days! The days when you got an invite from the Bank Manager for anything, and when I was actually pretty talented at golf. *sigh*. I didn’t however drive there, he did that. It seems my hobby of playing golf has been shelved for motorcycling!
I was totally blown away. The road is just fantastic.I just had to stop to get this photo, after all, my jaw dropped when I saw it! Just stunning, and I had only travelled half a mile from Lochgilphead! There was plenty more eye-candy to come. To start with, there was a bit of traffic through the first twisties, however, it was just glorious with budding rhododendrons surrounding the most lovely road.
I was totally taken aback at the beauty of the whole run. Every corner I turned, there was another spectacular view. I have no idea why I have never been down the road before, rest assured, it won’t be the last time. In many ways, the road reminded me of the run to Stranraer with the little hamlets along the way. It was just glorious riding. The line of sight that you get is amazing and the corners really smooth.
Before I knew it, I was in Campbeltown.
In the meantime, I had a couple of text messages from Rory, whose stomping ground this was when he was a lad. Actually, he’s still a lad, young thing that he is! Well, that’s a fact, he’s younger that me. I remember him showing Bobby on the map, a wee road which took you to the knob end of the peninsula. So, I thought to myself, seeing as I was there, I might as well do it. Off I buzz (actually, clatter) to Southend.Just follow the road and you come back via a wee single track road to the main road again. Nice. The smell of cow sh1t wasn’t so good, however, it did give you enough advance notice to watch out for cr@p on the road!
What a scunner, I had to go up that road again to get back to Lochgilphead.
Hang on, another text from Rory, go and visit the Westport beach and have a walk. OK, I was going to do that on the way back. There was the sign, which I had clocked (obviously) on the way down the road. I parked up, stuffed all I could into my top box, and went for a walk. I do as I am told, most of the time!
I was staggered, the most stunning beach. There were people surfing, walking, picnicking, and generally a friendly bunch of folk who all said hello to me. You can’t pay for that kind of therapy. It’s been a tough few weeks in the business, and I have to say, I sat on my bit of drift wood, thought about life and in particular, my Dad. Thank you, Rory, it was just the therapy I needed, and to be honest, until I sat there, watching life, I didn’t know I needed it.
I had to drag myself away. It was so relaxing, refreshing smelling the sea air and just thinking about how fantastic life is, even with its ups and downs.
Back on the bike. Fantastic. It was just the BEST road I have ridden in ages. Thursday’s run was awesome, however, this one took my breath away. On Wednesday night, when Ed and I went to the Lochleven Seafood Cafe, I had one of those nights when my riding wasn’t as flowing as it should be. We all get them, I am sure, where cornering is like a 50p piece and you are not as relaxed as you should be. This was just the most perfect route, no choice but to read the bends and clatter through them.
Why clatter? Smoggy gets his service on Thursday, with a new chain and sprocket thrown in. He has an annoying ‘flat spot’ at the moment, and I hope that some TLC on Thursday will sort it out. My wee BMW sounds like a Ducati right now… you know, that clattering that sounds like a skeleton having a w@nk in a biscuit tin. That’s my wee Smoggy right now. Not good. The only thing that wee Smoggy has in common with a Ducati is the colour and the clattering.
The run back up the road was even better than the run down, and that’s saying something. *sigh*. For those of you who have ridden / driven this road, I don’t think I need any explanations. As much as a riding buddy would have been ace, I was greedy, I loved the solitude, the time to think about my riding, after all, it’s all you can think about when you ride a motorbike. Today, nearly a year on from meeting Rory for my first assessed ride, I knew how far I had come, how much my riding had progressed and I thank all of you who have got me to where I am. I thought of you all today, as I grinned my way to the knob end of Scotland…. and back again.
I pretty much had the road to myself on the way back to Lochgilphead, however, my petrol light came on about 10 mile south. No problem. A good excuse for an ice cream, juice and oh, better not forget the petrol!
In the meantime, Ed is taking another visit to Islay. He’s in my CR-V. When I was leaving after my yummy ice cream and fuel stop, I was sure I had missed him, however, heading towards Inverary, there he was, in my F1 FDR beasty. We both pulled over and had a brief chat and hug. He spotted the grin on my face before anything, it seems, lid open, grin huge, kind of sums it up and it made my day getting a chance to see him before he headed to Islay.
The rest was easy, or was it? I opted not to stop at Inverary, even though there were about 100 bikers there. I needed to get home. I started yawning before Dalmally, however, I had done one or two miles today. I have never had such a superb day, with massive grins on the most MAGNIFICENT roads with the most gob-smackingly-amazing views. Yes, I wish I had had a biking buddy with me, however, I got so much out of it, I’m not bothered. There’s plenty time for biking with pals.
I left at 9am this morning and got home at 6.30pm. 273 miles of smiles, and twisties, and sea air and glorious roads. What more could you want on a day off, to help you switch off? One year ago, when I started this amazing journey, I had 9500 miles on the clock, today, I have 23,187. That’s a staggering 13,867 in under a year. HOLY POOP! Smoggy has already had a service in April. Oh.
Thank you to Andy and Ellen for the glass of wine and the chat. I barely had the energy to ride home, all of the half mile.