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Old 09-04-2010, 12:55 PM   #1
MikeO OP
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1st September 2010

It has been a funny year. I have allowed a lot of things to happen that I could have avoided and I am reaching the conclusion that it is time for a change in direction of one sort or another.

So I looked at the weather forecast on the evening of Tuesday 31st August and decided (with a lot of encouragement from my friend Jane) to set off on the bike for a few days to get my thoughts in order.

Or something like that.

As is becoming my habit of late, I prepare poorly, stumbling around the house stuffing things into bags and eventually getting the bike off the driveway at about 11:00.



It is a glorious day, with hardly a cloud in the sky and the temperature nudging 75 F when I set off from the filling station at Tesco's, with 41 litres of Super Unleaded swilling about in the tank...



Although the A47 is quiet, I decide to take the smaller and more interesting (and less well policed) B1145 as far as King's Lynn...



I keep up a very good pace and eventually rejoin the A47 and then the A17 at King's Lynn, heading west towards Boston. Traffic is light and it is an uneventful ride. Just after I turn onto the A16 north, several police cars and an ambulance come the other way at high speed - a motorcyclist I later meet tells me that he saw the police helicopter hovering at low level over a field some way from the road. On the bright side, whatever they are doing down there means they aren't manning speed traps up here...

Onward.



I stop for a cuppa at a roadside cafe and notice that...



...I've managed to lose one of the bolts holding the peak onto my helmet. I do a quick re-think whilst having my tea...



...and decide that I'll drop into Astle's BMW in Grimsby - almost on my way - to see if they are an Arai dealer and have a spare.



I'm soon making tracks north along virtually empty roads...



...and arrive at Astle's ...



...where I eye the selection of bikes whilst waiting for Andy the sales manager to finish a 'phone call. Is it just me, or does the master cylinder on the 800GS...



...look a tad vulnerable?

Andy finishes his call - unfortunately they are not Arai dealers. We ring around a couple of local dealers without success before Andy takes the helmet back into the workshop to see if they can come up with a work around. He comes back with a self-tapping screw - unfortunately the shaft of the (plastic) bolt has broken off in the helmet, so we screw the replacement in and - as a finishing touch...



...Andy fits a white plastic cover over the screw...

Back on the road. I decide to take to the motorway for a while to get some miles done, so head towards Humberside Airport...



...join the M180 at Brigg and then plod along at a steady rate via the M18 and M62 to the A1, where I stop for a restorative bucket of coffee flavoured milk at Wetherby...



I rejoin the A1 and almost immediately realise there is a snag with Bettie - she seems unsure of my position. I have a Homer Simpson moment as I realise I still have my French Alps map-set loaded - I am now (and will be for the rest of the trip) at the mercies of Garmin's notoriously sparsely detailed 'Base Map'.

Hey ho.

After miles of roadworks, all governed by a 50mph average speed camera system...



...I eventually head west on the A66 at Scotch Corner. Quite early on I overtake a very slow convoy of four vehicles - the component parts of a combine harvester. The result of this is having a virtually clear run the whole length of the A66 - which makes it a great ride...



You do seem some odd things though.



The weather is beautiful - in the mid 70s and I have all the vents on my jacket open - perfect.



Pretty soon I'm on finals for Bob & Jane's place. I get a warm welcome - have a shower so I feel like the same species as everyone else, then we pop down to the local for a couple of games of pool...



...where I manage to take the pressure off Jane by being even more hopeless at the game than she is

The sun is setting as we drive home...



...to a family meal which (by way of a change) involves far too much red wine...

Great day.
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Old 09-04-2010, 02:53 PM   #2
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I wake at about 05:30 and can't get back to sleep. I open the curtains and it is a beautiful day already. I decide to try and make a stealthy early departure...



I load the bike, very conscious that the window open on the upper floor by my bike is Bob & Jane's bedroom. Jane later (very graciously) tells me they were awake already...

I ride into the cool morning at 06:50 and get onto the M74 north into Scotland...



...for some reason the Welcome to Scotland sign seems to be moving at high speed...

I stop briefly for some breakfast at Annandale Water then press on towards Glasgow.



Traffic is light and I make good time...



I eventually start running into some traffic as I enter Glasgow and, after filtering (lane-splitting) for a couple of miles, take the A82 signed to Dumbarton, which takes me through some urban roads, then opens up a little...



...and eventually leads me to Loch Lomond...



...looking tranquil and cool.

Turning right at Tarbet, I follow the west edge of the Loch...



...a great road - although there are (unusually) some heavy goods vehicles using it today - they have been diverted here. If I were in a car that would have been a problem - less so on the bike.



...I keep up a good speed...



...but always find time to stop and look...



...who knows when I'll be here again?



With one last look...



...I get back on the Adv and head towards Crianlarich.



I say, that's not cricket, is it?



I stop for tea in Tyndrum, home of the famous Green Welly Stop. I have never understood the popularity of the place, home of cheap and mediocre food. However, perhaps it is driven by the competition, which sounds great "The Real Food Cafe", but which turns out to be a glorified chip shop.

I get back on the bike, mentally crossing the cafe off my list of places to visit and head towards Fort William...



It is now about 80F, without a cloud in the sky and virtually no haze - I feel I can see for ever...



I have spent a lot of time in the West Highlands and I can't remember ever getting better weather than this...



Couple this with empty roads...



...and you've got a pretty perfect day...



I see a few other riders...



...who seem to be enjoying the day as much as I am.



The scenery rolls towards me at about 120 feet per second...



...but thankfully the roads are unpoliced this morning...



In no time I am through Ballachulish, through Fort William (where I briefly stop for fuel) and riding past the Commando Memorial - surrounded by tourists - at Spean Bridge.



It's suddenly cool as I ride in the shade alongside Loch Lochy...



...before arriving at the Invergarry viewpoint. Everyone has to stop here for a picture. I believe it may be the law.

I meet up with Pete and Glen, two riders from Essex who are on a similar quick dash to my own, but are now heading south...



After a brief chat, we head our separate ways...



...the roads are still empty and the Adv is singing along - all's right with the world...



It never ceases to surprise me how easy it is to undo mental knots when all you have to think about is how you are going to tackle the next bend...



...I can feel months of clouded thinking clearing and a new clarity of purpose forming...



...so I decide it's definitely time to stop this introspective bollocks and take some pictures...



Eileen Donan Castle appears, perfectly reflected in the still water of Loch Duich...



I press on and soon arrive at Kyle of Lochalsh...



...and the bridge to the Isle of Skye.

Time for a spot of lunch.



That looks promising.



Fish & chips and mushy peas



Sufficiently re-caloried, I get back on the Adv and head onto Skye...



...and ride a long loop through Portree...



...and head north past the Old Man of Storr...



...and stop for afternoon tea at the Flodigarry Country House Hotel...



...where GSgal & I spent some time several years ago. I email her a picture...



...and ask her how work's going today...



Onward.

#

I notice I have just missed the Adv clocking up 150k miles...



I continue the northern loop, past the ferry terminal at Uig, where I spent many hours waiting for delayed sailings in a former life when I was posted to RAF Benbecula in the 1980s...



The only traffic delay of the day was waiting a few minutes for the convoy vehicle here...



...then it was back to more great, empty roads in perfect weather conditions. Ho hum.



This traditional croft is still inhabited...



The thatch is covered with a layer of chicken wire which in turn is weighted down by rocks - indicating that today's calm conditions are far from the norm hereabouts...



I am soon back on the mainland and at one of my favourite views in the world - the Lochcarron overlook.



It's getting on now. I have been riding for over ten hours and I'm getting tired. I am tempted to ride up over Applecross this evening, but realise this will add at least an hour and a half to my day. I decide to head for my Bed & Breakfast, booked yesterday evening at Bob & Jane's place. I fill up with fuel at Lochcarron and then turn left to Ardeneaskan. I arrive at the Rona B&B - right on the loch side - and am made to feel very welcome by the landlady, Fiona...



...who shows me to my room and points out the three islands just off shore...



...where I should be able to see seals later in the evening.



They even provide binoculars

I unpack my gear and start uploading photos, but the connection is slow and they are not complete before SmugMug (my on line photo album) closes for planned maintenance.

I decide against sitting outside looking for seals, as the West Highland Midge has a fondness for me and I don't react well to its bite. I have a long shower and an early night.

What a great day...

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Old 09-04-2010, 03:43 PM   #3
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Old 09-04-2010, 03:52 PM   #4
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I really wish you hadn't posted this. Now I'm going to have to add Scotland to my bucket list.
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Old 09-04-2010, 05:23 PM   #5
MikeO OP
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3rd September 2010

I sleep very well - 480 miles yesterday, and a good deal of it on fairly challenging roads. Today it is bright and sunny but - significantly - I notice it's looking a little hazy...



It's a little too cool to eat breakfast on the deck, so I wrap myself around Fiona's splendid bacon, eggs, black pudding and tomatoes and feel set for the day...



I pack the bike and set off into the clear morning - 50F showing on the Adv's thermometer...



Lochcarron looks like a millpond...



...I turn left towards Applecross, chasing my shadow up towards Kishorn...



...I decide to go the long way round to Applecross, so that I'll descend the Cattleman's Pass, rather than climb it...



When I stop to take photos I have to keep my visor closed as the heather is alive with midges - what the hell do they live off when I'm not here?



I take a sedate ride around the single track road - there is very little traffic...



...the heather is in full bloom, casting a purple hue over the landscape...



Onward.



Diversification - that's the key to a successful cottage industry...



It's definitely hazy today, though, so I am slightly regretting my decision to leave this circuit until the morning...



...that said, it's not a bad way to spend a morning...



I turn left at Applecross...



...and start the climb towards the Cattleman's Pass...



I crest the rise...



...the view is spectacular...



...and I ride slowly down the series of switchbacks into the valley...



...back towards Kishorn, where I stop at this little cafe...



...for a quick cuppa and a piece of homemade fruit loaf...



I get back on the Adv and head off through Lochcarron...



...passing the small commuter train, chuntering on along the loch side at about 40mph...



A little further along the road, they have been trying to stabilise the rockface...



...but they obviously felt that a short section was too risky and have built an avalanche shelter...



...which has some decoration moulded into the face...



...including a coat of arms, bearing the motto "Fear God and Do Well"



I have another brief stop at the Lochcarron overlook...



...the contrails in the sky perfectly reflected in the glassy surface of the loch...



For some reason I like this sign

Right - time to start heading home. I have a fast ride reciprocating yesterday's route, passing Eileen Donan Castle...



...and pressing along the A87 towards Invergarry...



Where I take another pic...



Compare it with yesterday's to see how much hazier it is this morning...



My Mum has a painting of the Invergarry overlook on the wall of her lounge, so I give her a call and tell her where I am. She tells me to take pictures and bring them next time I visit...



Onward.



I stop for a bite to eat at this woolen mill shop in Fort William. As I park, a coach is disgorging its cargo of pensioners, so I make my way straight to the cafeteria.

A little old chap behind me in the queue asks if I ride a Moto Guzzi - I tell him about the Adv. His wife, who has managed to combine being vastly overweight with looking shrewish looks sharply at him, presumably for speaking without permission. He carries on anyway, telling me of his friend and the problems he'd had with the electrics on his Guzzi. He says "At least you've got good weather", I agree and tell him it's probably the best weather I've ever had in this part of the world.

His wife says "I suppose it's alright until it rains". I nod and she continues "Everything has a down side, doesn't it?". I laugh and say "Yes, if that's the way you want to look at life". The husband suppresses a grin and it illustrates their relationship completely. She bridles and says"That's not how I look at life - it isn't" and turns away. I take my tray to my table and eat my lunch. As I leave, I walk past their table and she says "That's NOT how I look at life"



Time to heads south - across Ballachulish Bridge...



...through Glencoe & Rannoch Moor...



Bloody rush hour...

Soon I'm back at Loch Lomond...



...and heading towards Glasgow...



...where I join the M74 and flog back down to Bob & Jane's place.

I reckon I'm having a better time than the owner of this...



I arrive at Rosley at just after five and, after a much needed shower, join the family for a quiet evening in.

Good day.

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Old 09-04-2010, 05:34 PM   #6
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With a title like that how could I not look at this report and I'm glad I did.
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Old 09-04-2010, 06:16 PM   #7
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4th September 2010

I sleep well and stumble out of bed and into the shower at about 08:30. Bob and Jane cook an heroic fry up for breakfast as I pack the bike. After a lazy breakfast I say my thank-yous and goodbyes and get the bike heading south...



I'm going to head down the M6 for a few junctions and press east over the Yorkshire Dales...



It's another lovely morning. I'm soon heading south on the M6, over Shap summit...



I come off at Junction 37 and start heading east...



The roads are narrow, twisty and edged with dry-stone walls...



My favourite Pub name...



Hmmm...



Actually I'm surprised it's not much worse. I saw several motorcyclists taking completely crazy risks - they were clearly sick the day that Natural Selection was taught in school...



It's a very pretty area though...



There seems to be some mist lying in the valleys ahead...



Pretty soon I'm joining the A1 heading south. Once again I enter an interminable stretch of 50mph roadworks with an average speed check.



Apparently, Military Policemen get to ride 650 Deauvilles.

I turn onto the M62, M18 and M180 before joining the Caistor High Street...



...one of my favourite roads...



I make really good time to Horncastle...



...then continue via Coningsby before joining the A17 at Swineshead and heading east towards Norfolk.



I spot this immaculate old girl just before arriving home - any ideas (apologies for the quality of the pic)?

I get home just before 16:00 - 1535 miles.



My head feels much clearer
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Old 09-05-2010, 05:37 AM   #8
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great stuff Mike!

Cheers

Shane
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Old 09-05-2010, 05:54 AM   #9
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Beautiful and interesting scenery, and man that looks like just perfect weather. Glad you had a good ride

Love the license plate.
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Old 09-05-2010, 07:07 AM   #10
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Consul?

great stuff Mike!

Cheers

Shane
Ford Consul Capri. I think. Looked a bit over-restored, to be honest - I prefer old cars to have some patina...

Mike
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Old 09-05-2010, 07:41 AM   #11
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Ford Consul Capri

Ford Consul Capri





Hello Mike
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Old 09-05-2010, 07:44 AM   #12
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Hello Mike

Hi Rob - how's it going?
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Old 09-05-2010, 11:20 AM   #13
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Old 09-06-2010, 09:40 AM   #14
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There's no such thing as paradise

Great ride Mike! - Why the Midges? - Because there'e no such thing as paradise!
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Old 09-06-2010, 10:43 AM   #15
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Fish and chips and mushy peas... that's just NOT fair!!!

Nice report, though. I'm glad the air was clear and your head feels clearer.
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