Friday, May 29, 2009


Did not find a place to stay so I stocked up on food and headed out.  See a sign for John 'o Groats and noting it is the tourist route and 170 miles.  My jump off point the Orkney Islands is 20 miles less and I'm taking a ?stort? cut.  Stopping along the road for a break I found midgies or they found me.  I find that my handlebar has come loose so it moves and not the tire.  Tighten the handlebars at top of the next hill and that is a good thing as I hit 40 miles an hour going off the other side.  Only three mile up the road I found a good camping site.  It was a race to setup the tent with the midgies moving in for dinner.  Midgies are the highland version of the no-see-um with the lasses needing a drop of blood for their second round of eggs.  And they are known to show up in large groups.  Wind and rain keep midgies away so I don't know what to hope for.
3 miles
Love & kisses


The rain is still going strong as I leave the ferry on Harris Island.  Head to the south of the island against a head wind.  Visit a nice little 15 century church.  I want to stay there as it is warm and dry.  But I push on. 
Go up the eastern side of the island  that is winding and hilly.  The scenery is great with lots of rock and heather in between.  It was used in 2001 space odyssey movie as Jupiter fly over.  Can't see to far as the clouds are 300' above sea level.
Stop into Tabert and stock up with food as the island keeps the Sabbath and everything closes.  Rain keeps coming down and I push on.  Come to the hill the bikers all talk about.  Takes a while but it's not to bad.  Seek shelter in a covered bus stop during some heavy rain.  Find I am cold and wet so I get moving again to warm up as I have on. my warmest cloths.  Doing down hill the rain feels like hail, but I don't slow down as I am making good time.  Decide to push on to Stornoway rather than go 6 miles down a side road to a warm hostel.  With a few more hills I am on. Lewis part of the island with gentle rolling hills and the rain has stopped.  Coming to the junction and I could head into Stornoway or start my loop around Lewis.  I push on so it will be a shorter day tomorrow.  Get some nice evening shots of the Callanish Standing Stones.  Big stones in rings and lines.   Stop at a hotel at ten till nine and am told they just stopped serving.  Local out front tell me they serve till 9. So my luck ran out there.  Some more miles down the road and I am at another black house hostel.  This is a hostel they put some small sky lights in this one so it is missing some of the dark dreariness of the others, this seems wrong.  This is in a village of black houses.  The other rent for £300+ while the hostel goes for £10. 
72.2 miles
Next morning get a late start as I head a few miles back to a old dun/fort.  It is nice for 2000 year old fort.  Head up to the north end of the island. visiting a few more ancient sites along the way.  Easy going with the tail wind and only light rain.  Nice views of the vast moors and the I come to the jagged north coast.  Heading back the 15 mile the wind is a head wind and bring me to a stop with its gusts.  I finally get to the junction that cuts across the island to Stornoway.  Only 11 miles to go.  I am down to some dried up naan that is causing me to use up the last of my water.  Yes every thing is closed on Sunday.  I push on. 
On each power pole there is a yellow warning sign to keep off as you could be electrocuted.  I asked about it and there is no great tendency to climb these poles in Britain.  So when you lookout across these great boggy  moors with power poles each pole has a sign at eye level warning you off.  Some even have a second at ten feet just in case you missed the first one.  Next the power company will need to ensure all the british people can read the signs.  Stepping off soap box.
Get to Stornoway after traveling through one giant moor and see a Chinese take-away with someone in it.   Step in and the person behind the counter saids we are closed, but we will take you order.  After ordering I glance at the clock it is 10:15 the closing time on the door is 9.  Things are looking up.  Find the hostel were the owner tells me she does not normally take in people after ten.  Then shows me the place in her pajamas and gives me the key and a screw driver to park my bike in the shed.  I need both.  Then I eat and get some much needed sleep.  Luck is better.
63.7 miles
I slept in and do not try for the early ferry.  Good thing as 7 am ferry did not sail as they had problems with the bow closing.  Check back throughout the day and the finally sailed at 4.  Did give a restful day and time to enjoy a pint.
Love & kisses


Pictures will come when I get to a real computer, I am doing this so far from a blackberry.  Shower cut into pub time.  I think I am close to getting a discount if I sit outside in the smokers shed. 

Uist is flat with gently rolling hills.  The road is wide enough for a small car and a bike "normally" with passing places regularly along the road for cars to pass each other.  And traffic is low and friendly.  The island is covered with moors and little lochs with bigger hills in the distance.  Beaches look great and have beautiful sand yet no one. Is using them or swimming.
Stayed in a youth hostel that was a black house.  The new white houses were where livestock and people are separated.  The old black houses didn't.  We were just stacked in there like cattle.  Of coarse no one in the hostel was a youth and most were not even close.  This is good with youth serving drinks in the bar and us getting travel.
52.7 miles
Next day got a mid morning start with easy riding with light breeze at the back.  Seven miles down the rode stopped at a cafe and when it was time to pay found my wallet missing.  A quick trip back to the hostel found my wallet under the bed.  And I got another trip past the lady of the isle statue that sort of divides the islands Protestant north from the Catholic south.  I am trying an experiment to see how much negative reinforcement is need to stop leaving things behind.
Further north the moor became bogs.  Did come across a nice chamber cairn that I crawled in.  Could have slept there as it was nice an dry, but pushed on to the north tip of the island and another black house as a hostel.  Lots of people touring on bikes up the islands.  Also see lots of sea kayak but none on the water.  The kayaks appear to be auto accessory.
69 mile
Next morning wake to rain and a head wind at 6 am as I try to catch the early ferry.  I make it.  The entire 40 minute ride the ferry has to maneuver a narrow route to avoid all the rocks under water while dealing with heavy currents.  Bikers taking a later ferry saw a big whirlpool.
Love & Kisses

Monday, May 25, 2009


Ferry crossing gives me down time to catch up on writing.  Arrived at Barra and get the last bed at the hostel.  The Curry restaurant was fully book and the hotel as also. But the hotel bar could feed us was good as there was only one other place to try.  I like island life as our 14 year old waitresses pulls our beers.  Rule are more relaxed here.   Next morning do a 26 mile ride exploring the Island north to south.  Nice beaches, green hills and rugged coast line.  Love to sea kayak here.  The airport operates at low tide and they get 4 commuter flights a day arrive on the beach. Time to catch another ferry to the next island north Uist.
Love & Kisses

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Late start but the weather is warmer and dryer.  Pick up a ticket to Barra Island that leaves at 3:40.  I head out to see some castles I passed the night before.  Find nice paved bike trail not on the map that connects one castle on a dead end road to another castle.  Life is good and I am making good time.  On the bike trail pulling a hill the chain breaks strange since I left most of the gear at the hostel so I am traveling light.
Why did I hesitate to by the chain tool and extra chain link just because my chain was new.  Fortunately I only hesitated to buy the tools and in ten minute had the chain rebuilt.  Castles are smaller with only a few rooms to explore so I am making good time and push on to a old priory.  Find the priory is just a garden and head back (false advertising on the map.  Make it back to Oban at three and can't find anyone at the hostel were my stuff is locked up lost a bit of time to finding the staff.  The zipped off to the bike shop I heard to pick up a new chain which was quick.  Then down to the ferry which was casting off and I was on the wrong side of the ramp.  The town is only six blocks across where did the time go.  Went off to eat and ten minutes later had a new plan.  Off to Mull and another castle for the afternoon.  And this time I make down the same ramp just before the door closed.  They only take 14 minutes in port to unload and load each ferry.  On Mull I have 2 hours to get to the castle and back before the last ferry for the night.  This time I made it to the nicely repaired castle and back to the ferry with time to spare.  Of coarse I did keep checking the time.  Good thing to as the ferry was ahead of schedule and departed early.
26 miles

The next day I have until one before the ferry.  So I head south to another castle. To get the castle there is a one man ferry operation and catch the 10:30 boat for the quick hope to the island. I ride the rough trail south to the castle.  Just before the castle is a tea shop and the have a sign apologizing that they closed early one day in 2007.  This seems to still bother them.  The castle has a nice view and is perched above some cliffs. With it 11::40 I try a short cut with lead me to have to toss the bike over a fence. Get to the ferry a little after 12 and need to wait till 12:30 for it to cross.  Race back to the hostel to grab a towel I forgot and make it to the ferry to be one of the first to board.  You know those bikers cut in front of the line.
12 miles
Love & kisses

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Great Glen

Cool morning with dark clouds as I head out.  Give Loch Ness one good look for Nessie for the last time. Route this morning follows the canal that connects the lochs.  The there are locks that raise the boats up and down to the different lochs levels. If you understands that then you know we are not talk bagel topping. 

Three miles into the ride the rain started.  The riding was along a canal so it was flat and easy going.  Then I was at the Lochs and the road and trails were up and down through the hills next to the  loch.  Regularly there were nice waterfalls come down the hills.  On the back of bike I have a drying sack for the cloths I washed out the night before there we're 6 rise cycle due the rain for the cloths.  Glasses need wipers as the rain is making them hard to see out of them.  Only found a few places to stop and get out of the heavy rain.  So I continued with 'Plan A' which is: it is going to rain and I am going to ride in it.  'Plan B': it is raining hard out there and don't you have the common sense to come out the rain.  With no place to hide I continue with plan A.  At one of the few stops out of the rain I leave my glasses on the back of the bike.  A little while later down the trail I find that my problems with the glasses has been solved.  Made it to Fort William around 5 and decided to continue on as Oban which was 42 miles further and I want to cut down the distance for the next day.  Could not find the ferry to the other side of the loch so I headed down the main highway.  Yes narrow roads with no shoulders and big trucks.  I decided not to have a review mirror as I could not do anything about what is behind me until I was on the bonnet (hood) anyway.  As it was getting dark and I was tired I started looking for a place to pitch my tent, but was not having any luck.  Then I see a sign 10 miles to Oban.  So I pushed on.  Roads are better at night with less cars.  .
Sit under a light and check the direction the hostel.  When I see no one around I short cut a small circle the wrong way.  Cops are on me before I get 50 feet from the circle and I get warned and followed to the hostel while I am still try to figure out where they were hiding.  Pull in to the hostel at 10:30.  Feel a little burned out.
77.2 miles in the rain.
Love & kisses

Beginning of the Great Glen

Finally had some time too write.

Another day with a few hour sleep and I am off from Edinburgh.  Wish I had gotten there earlier so I could talk to any of the other occupants of the room as they were five girls.  But I need to catch a train so no time to socialize.  Did stop into another hostel to reserve a room for my return.  Waiting for the train found that were additional bolt to adjust the brake and was able to fix the rear brakes so they fit.  This not my first time biking in Scotland.  Last time was many years ago on a five speed with rear brakes.  When the rear rack came down on the brakes and kept me from stopping on nice downhill I ended up splitting a ten foot wooden gate in two.    Gate cost 15£ and I got 5£ for the remains of the bike from the same place.
In Inverness I arrive at one and am ready to go.  I plan to stop by a store at the edge of town so I. pass by the store near the train station.  Pick up the Great Glen trail right off.  The trail    does wonder down a few stairs and across mowed lawns.  Of coarse if you look in the right direction as you pass you can see markers showing the next turn.  Then the trail climbs straight up out of town and I am a little thirsty as I did not find any stores.  The Great Glen trail go through the hills above Loch Ness while the road goes along the edge of Loch.  It is a forested trail with big trees and then it opens up into heather covered moors.  The Scottish thistle is in full yellow bloom with lots of wildflowers about.  Fifteen miles along I reach a marker noting the highest point on the trail and 9 kilometers to Urquhart Castle and water.  I am now pondering the advantages of not having water as motivation to push on and there is less weight to carry.  The bike and gear bag on the airport scale was 92lbs minus 5lbs for the bike box. Plus then there was my carry on of a pannier and that was not light.  With me weighing 14 stone the bike is fully loaded.  As I zip down towards to loch I remember reading it was a mountain bike route.  The mountain bike trail becomes more evident and only once had the back tire leave the ground on a 50 degree slope.  Only needed to walk once when a farmer diverted the route down a steep hillside with large loose rocks.  This was because it was lambing season. Where are the. coyotes when you need one.  Into the town of Drumnadrochit by Urquhart Castle for food and drink.  Decided to push on to Fort Augustus. Took to the main road to make better time and look for Nessie along the way.  At eight pull into Fort Augustus an found the hostel fairly easily.  Staff their provided wine and life was good. But no sign of Nessie.
38.6 miles
Love & kisses

Monday, May 18, 2009

Travels Begin

The start was uneventful being at the gate a hour early. Then I notice that I did not have my jacket. As Scotland is a bit cold I headed back to the truck. Waiting for the bus to long term parking I remembered I put the key is in checked luggage and with any good tool for breaking into the truck. I did have mechanical pencil. Ripping the little metal clip off side off the pencil I had my tool. It took ten second in camper shell lock for it to open and I had access to my spare key. Thanks Bill for showing me years ago the camper shell locks are worthless and almost any key can open them. Got back to security and there was a full queue and a very long wait. Tried the north security line and there was no queue. So I made it as they were boarding my group. Dallas I had to run across the airport to get my connection and made it for the last call for boarding. OJ taught us how to get through airport when the planes are late 30 years ago and nothinghas changed.
My worries of luggage and bike making it there were unfounded. Only took a hour to put all the parts back on the frame. Found that the rear disc brakes no longer line up with tire. So I pulled them as the frame may have been bent. Two brakes is such a luxury any way.I did keep on trying to use them as I rode into Edinburgh at sunset. Kept loosing the bike route and my way. Got on a main road finally and followed it to the city center. Spotted the castle on hill and I had found my way. Police stopped me three blocks from the hostel for not having a headlight.
I walked as I could not remember where any of my lights were in my gear. Hostel had no good place to put my bike even though they advertised on bike touring web site. It is 3:30 am and someone is sing New York, New York. May have not picked the best hostel as the singer has picked up backup singers.
12.5 mile day
Love & kisses

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Scotland Bound

On the road again with a new bike and a little training.