Monday 31 May 2021

LEJOG day 9 - what a ride and I arrived at John O'Grotes

I waited long enough to get some sun in the highlands and today despite a spitty windy Ullapool start, Scotland delivered.

I have put in a lazy start as it was only 160 miles today…. but then people wanted to talk bikes, and who am I to not engage on that subject.

Eventually we were off out of Ullapool on the A835…. a perfect twisty road. I’d convinced myself I’d keep riding today and not be stopping taking roads of photos and drone shots…. that didn’t work. Round every bend I found myself saying out loud my my what beauty…. or just wow. Unless you come here yourself, my words will not come anywhere close to describing the scale age and grandness of the Highlands. 

I stopped and stopped flew the drone took some shots drank coffee rode my bike…. why would anyone want much more ? 

Problem is I am struggling to remember what I saw where but one thing will stay with me for a long while ( looking at google street view for location….) I came into what I can only describe as a scoop out of the earth - mountain on my right and a single width road with passing places on the left but a massive glen (valley?) in-between Simply stunning and made all the better by having to stop every now and again in a passing place where I soaked in the views. 

Then it was Keoldale where you can catch a ferry and bus to Cape Wrath  - had a chat with a fella who was basically living out go his van retired early and was loving it. Impromptu chats like this are great, expands the mind and horizons ! 

Over the top on towards  my target destination on plenty of single track roads with everyone being sensible. Some of the beaches on the top are stunning… more stops.

Then the single tracks opened up to normal NSL roads and again the Himalayan swept through them with ease  - keeping the momentum was enjoyable and before I knew it I was heading up to Dunnet head for the furthest point on the mainland of Great Britain. Snaps and chats again  then onto John O’Groats and credit to the Scottish tourist board you can ( I did) ride right up to the sign for end of challenge photograph.

Filled up at John O’Grotes garage …over £1.40 a litre… and found my sumptuous B&B for the penultimate night. The Anchorage B&B - a friendlier place you could not find and the best stay by far of my trip. Gail even offered me an evening meal and beer so I did not have to go back into JOG. 

A cuckoo woke me at 3am !!

So done that …. and I’ve had time to think of other ‘challenges….’ but that's for later.

Tomorrow the longest day of the trip so far when I’ll basically ride from the top to the bottom of Scotland down the east side this time !

Thanks for all the encouragement  - now start planning your adventure !! 

Saturday 29 May 2021

Lejog day 8 rained all day 170 miles of it

My ultra wet Lejog day 8..... but I still enjoyed it.

I was woken at 3am by someone knocking on my door ! Seems someone got confused in the night. I was then woken by my alarm then the rain hitting the hotel room window at 7am…. The rain has not stopped all day  - in my hotel room now in Ullapool and it's still raining. 

Waterproofs on waterproofs and liners in  - Mid May ! 

Whilst the rain was a dampener today it could only give this part of Scotland a different costume to wear, moody grey but still quite stunning in and out of the misty veils.

I had planned two routes one that took my over the Bealach na Ba  - Pass of the cattle to Applecross and one that missed that pass and peninsula out  - As the Beach na Ba is considered a right of passage for motorcyclists I took the pass and wow what an experience. It goes up to over 2,000 feet in 5 miles with switchback and blind bends with passing places ! It was an unforgettable experience and I will do it again when the weather is more forgiving but wind and rain tested me and the bike - but we arrived at the top to misty views all around.

The other jewel on this route was the road around the peninsular a 25 mile up and a dower to Sheildaig, again mainly on single width roads with passing placed. 

Then is got a bit surreal
  - the road A896 goes through what is like a moonscape with massive mountains on each side - very very desolate. I had to stop and send the drone up despite it still raining hard. You can see the rain on the drone video…. sent it up to over 400 feet this time, and it still was being scored on by the mountains. One looked like a volcano with mist hovering over its crown and scree slopes like molten lava. Weirdest thing was there was a small copse of pine trees and there was a cuckoo calling loud and clear ! 

Then I had the best luck of the trip…. rode off after packing up and about a mile down the road I suddenly could not remember putting my phone back in my jacket…. frantic jacket tapping - no phone. I stopped and the phone was still on the top of the right hand pannier lid !! I suspect capillary attraction has ‘stuck it there’ I did say a little thank you !

Then onto the A832 with a stop at Loch Maree for coffee and food…. The weather then got mean with more rain, the sort you hear hitting your visor and wind…. for some reason the wind picked up and made riding hard …. I didn’t enjoy the section and only when I dropped away from the coast in ever heavier rain did the wind ease and the roads got super curvy  - the sort of curvy the Himalayan at 50-60 throbbed along at - I got behind a Jag XJR ( I think ) he was keeping to the speed limits but gunning it every now and again - lovely sound.

Arrived in Ullapool to the most expensive hotel of the trip - lovely sea views, just watched the ferry come in
  - but I’m worth it, better I spend it now than the care homes get it later ! 

Rain in the morning then hopefully should brighten up as I get to the other end of Britain…. not looked at that route yet but it’s pretty prescribed.

Another 175 miles today rained every one of them but still brilliant …. Struggling for internet again... may get this one video up. .... I was worried about midges not storms ! 

Sunday 23 May 2021

Lejog day 7 Turntable ferry !

My LEJOG day 7 - what a day, getting close to if not the best day I've had on a bike and I’ve had a few in my 43 years of riding. 

Started damp and cold with a visit to the Rest and be thankful - a better name for a place I could not imagine. 

Shame the old military road was closed - I recon I could have ridden it .... Then onto some great roads matched only by the landscape they wind their way through and the best bit - so little traffic. The Himalayan is spot on at 50-60 sweeping through the bends and for miles and miles there was nothing in front or behind - a sort of motorcycling nirvana. 

I can't really describe how I was feeling, it just felt so good, so right, it was almost a spiritual experience in such beauty with the beat of the Himalayan accompanying the view forward of curving strips of tarmac encased in natures Sunday best. 

Loch Long, then the other side of Loch Fyne ( a route I did with a good friend Les Bishop a few years ago) then up and round the very aptly names Loch Awe. A leg stretch under the bridge at Loch Creran then on to Fort William via the A828 hugging Loch Linnhe. 

I re-acquainted myself with Ben Nevis ( Climbed it twice as part of the three Peaks  - best time 23 hours 11 minutes !!) Had a break and sent the drone up ....

I was contacted by Rhys Davies who has an excellent Ben Nevis web page which I have provided a link to below. 

Then off on more roads than I can recall ( glad I have the route saved)  When I turned left at Invergarry onto the A87 it literally took my breath away as the landscape changes to mountains tall and mighty which makes you feel so insignificant in size and time - these landscapes have seen so much and existed for so long in their unaltered beauty, I could be nothing but humbled by their might. 

Then I took the 'mountain' route to the Glenrig ferry. Views, gravel, passing places, switchbacks, drops ! The Himalayan almost purred its way up the track/road. 

Then the ferry, what an experience, watching it ride the tide between the mainland and Skye got me wondering if I had made the right decision, but again on a Himalayan you can make these decisions and it turned out nothing like the log flume ride it seemed from the land. Up and down the other side was as exhilarating as on the mainland but this time I had the Mountain views of Skye to temp me to look at while picking my way thru bits of gravel and patched tarmac.... what a ride, what an experience.

If you can you should make whatever effort is needed in your life to get up to the west coast of Scotland on your bike - ideally your Himalayan. Im finding it so comfortable, so capable and so frugal it takes you to these places in comfort and safety then buys you your beer at the end of the day in fuel saved.

A few more pics today as the internet in my Hotel (Dunollie Hotel Skye) is much better... and I have a bath again  - perfect.

Tomorrow is the penultimate day to Ullapool - a bit of route tweaking tonight