Ok, so there it is, I’m headed South again. Did I give up? Not at all. I did exactly what I wanted to do, and that was experience a bit of freedom on a bike. The trip isn’t over, I’ve got at least one more destination planned, and perhaps more, but after a bit of thought this morning I decided to set off South again.
To be honest, the deciding factor was the weather. It has been atrocious since I set off, and it’s really not nice riding in a downpour. Nicer than being at home, or work, but a bit unpleasant nonetheless, and the forecast for the coming few days is for even more nasty weather. I didn’t fancy going even further North in the rain, because my success at finding campsites at the last minute when I arrive somewhere has been 0%, and staying in hotels every night is just not something I bargained for.
What a day I’ve had though!
The roads were still damp, but without the standing water I felt a lot more confident on the bike. The sky was almost blue, and the bits that weren’t were just picturesque wisps clinging to mountain tops.
Having spent a restless night overheating due to having the heating in the cabin on full in an effort to dry my kit, I set off from Kinlochleven this morning straight after a mighty “highland feast” breakfast at the McDonald Hotel. Kinlochleven is, unsurprisingly, at the end of Loch Leven, and there’s only one road running through it, which loops around the loch so you can exit the village via either side of the loch. I chose the south side for my departure, and the scenery instantly exploded into a moving watercolour masterpiece.
The riding was awesome. The fairly dry road, and the 600 miles I’ve clocked up so far, gave me the confidence to keep the revs high through all the gears, and a new fluidity was found in my riding as I rolled the bike from corner to corner. I was enjoying the adventure of the previous days, but today, I was simply enjoying the riding. I’m beginning to see why so many blokes get drawn to these 180mph crotch rockets! (note to mother; I’m not one of those blokes, honest).
Lets not kid anybody here, it’s a 125cc four stroke bike, and it’s not by any stretch of the imagination I fast bike. With my tiny frame, it can sit at 65mph on the flat though, and a touch more downhill, and a 65mph crash is not something to take lightly. It may not have 130bhp, but it could still kill you if you get a bit too cocky. I was reminded of this as I passed through Glen Coe. It’s a bit of an accident hotspot along that road. Something about the openness of the landscape and the seemingly straight roads lure unsuspecting drivers in to driving fast, and some delusional drivers behind them are lured further in to overtaking. The thing is, these are not race tracks, they are more like road rally stages with the bumps and cambers, and if you’re stupid enough to drive at 90mph on them, then you better bloody well be a good driver. The driver of the car I passed by the roadside wasn’t, and the obtuse attitude of his car, and the accompanying flashing blue lights were testament to his (or her) over confidence.
I didn’t think that as I passed though. I was enjoying myself far too much, and the above paragraph was reduced to simple thinking “silly bugger” as the Suzuki motored past like a poorly doodle bug at 40mph.
It was time to stop for a cup of tea, and as I descended from the mountain pass in to Tyndrum I saw a sign that said “Amazing food, 1 mile”. Well, that is a bold statement indeed, and I wondered if their brewing prowess was on the same sort of level so I pulled in at “The real food cafe”. It always puzzles me, that sort of marketing. What other sort of food would it be? I’m have a pet hate about pubs, restaurant, and cafes advertising “home cooked…”. No, it’s not, it’s cooked on a commercial premises for commercial consumption. Don’t try to con me that your mum made it, because she didn’t; Jimmy the chef did.
Anyway, I digress. The brew was good, but not amazing. The service was quite remarkable though. The chefs were singing and the waiting staff were chirpy and full of life. I mentioned that I was heading to Dunoon, and they said I’d be better turning around and taking another route. Do I trust what I absolutely know my route to be correct because I planned it this morning, or do I go out on a limb and trust these guys? Hey, it’s an adventure right, so I turned the bike around and departed in the direction I came.
Some more miles of blissful riding later, I was dropping down from another mountain pass and in to Inverary. There’s an interesting sign as you enter the town “Inverary jail. Open all year” as if to serve as a gentle reminder to behave yourself. Once clear of the village I open up the throttle again, and regain my steady cruising speed of 50mph. As I’ve mentioned, the bike will go faster, but these roads were rather twisty, and 50mph meant a smooth uninterrupted passage without having to use the brakes. Any faster, and I’d have had to mess about with brakes and gears, and quite honestly, I was enjoying myself far too much for that nonsense.
I passed the locally famous Loch Fyne Oyster Bar and thought about stopping for some Oysters, but then realised I can’t stand them so didn’t bother.
I’d been on the road for a good few hours now, and I was getting a bit tired. The miles to Dunoon on the road signs weren’t dropping very quickly at all. I stopped for a breather and kicked myself for wishing away the miles. I’m in the Argyll Forest, on beautiful open roads, with not a care in the world, and I’m wishing it away. Poor form Nathan, poor form.
I got back on the bike with a renewed energy, but as I descended towards Dunoon the glorious October weather offered a surprise bout of fog. Whack! I hit a wall of moisture that just totally my vision in an instant. At first I thought it was incredibly dense fog, but I later realised, upon running a glove over my visor, that it was fog stuck to the outside of the helmet. The gloving continued every minute or so until I arrived at Dunoon.
The fog was causing the ferry a bit of trouble, and the timetable had been thrown in to disorder. In the end, I’d been delayed by nearly two hours, and with the clocks jumping back an hour the night before in order to once again match GMT, I was three hours short of riding time before it got dark. Riding in the dark wasn’t a concern, but finding a camp site in the pitch black was. As I got off the ferry a Gourock, I resolved to there only being one option; keep going.
Now back on less that interesting A roads, the miles slowly ebbed away. First I passed Largs, then I picked up signs for Kilmarnock. Once at Kilmarnock, I altered course for Dumfries, “only” 60 miles away. 60 miles in a car, on a motorway, is nothing at all, but on a 125cc bike in the cooling evening, it’s quite laborious. An hour later it was pitch black on the unlit roads that spanned South West Scotland, and the dark wilderness was only occasionally broken by a small town passing by. I began to want the towns to arrive. Their street lights had the effect of making me feel a bit warmer. Nonsense, of course, but apparent nonetheless.
It took an age to reach Dumfries, especially as my speed was now down to a steady 40mph owing to the tiny headlight on the Suzuki. Not being able to see far enough ahead to react at speed, I’d slowed right down. Even hitting something as common as road kill, could throw me off on a corner. I didn’t fancy coming off, not least at night with very few cars around.
I kept by eye out for camp sites, or more accurately, somewhere reasonable to wild camp,but nothing appeared. By the time I’d left Dumfries I was cold and rather tired. I’d left Kinlochleven at early morning and apart from a couple of short stops I’d been plugging at the miles ever since. I just wanted to pitch my tent, warm up, and rest for the evening. No camp sites though.
I followed the signs towards Carlisle, but soon noticed it was 33 miles away. 33 miles, and I still don’t know where a camp site will be. “Aaargh, damn it” I continued. Then it appeared. The thing I wanted to avoid the most, but couldn’t help but turn off for. Like a recovering drug addict I needed just one more hit, just one more bed for the night.
So here I am, in a Premier Bin for the night. Annoyingly, not only is it the worst hotel I’ve stayed in so far, it’s the most expensive at £57 (excluding breakfast!).
Anyway, onwards tomorrow, back to the lakes. The trip has not ended yet.