The day started out by jumping on a ferry to cross the river. Once on the other side it was a simple matter of following the road to Ayr.
It turned out that the road between Glasgow and Ayris fairly busy. Thankfully there is a Sustrans route that follows the coast and leads to Ayr (and beyond) as well.
Once I reached Ayr I met up with my wife, mom, and aunt, who had just completed walking the Cataran Trail near Perth. We all settled in for a nice day of rest and relaxation.
Ayr turned out to be a nice little coastal resort town. We had some nice walks along the beach and had a bit of extra sleep. We also learned that Ayr is full of some very nice restaraunts and a wonderful whiskey shop.
For the past week I had been climbing up and down large mountains and hills with all of my camping gear. This gear included the tent, sleeping bag, therm-a-rest, cooking pots, gas canisters, and cooker. All of this added quite a bit of weight to the bike and made the climbing all the harder. Since my knees had started to hurt and part of that was due to the amout of weight that I was carrying, I decided to stop camping and leave all of that camping gear with my wife for her to take back to our house. The rest of the trip I’ll be staying at hotels and B&Bs.
This was a nice, short day that came about because of my inability to remember my planned route, forgetfulness that caused me to leave the printout of the itinerary in Tongue, and then complete lack of any mental faculties such that I spaced on the fact that I had posted that very same itinerary on this very blog. In the end yesterday was longer than planned and today was shorter.
I put the short day to good use by stopping at an inn’s bar to get out of the rain for a while. There I had a great conversation with an older man who turned out to have emigrated from Calgary in the late 60s. I also talked with the bar tender a bit. She came from New Zealand and had only been there for a month and a half by that point. She is in the country on a Working Holiday visa and plans to keep travelling around.
Started the day fearing the rain, and then spent most of the day in that state. This was, of course, for no reason and so I just ended up cycling around 60 miles before I worked up the courage to take off my rain gear.
When I got to Inverary it turned out that I had just missed the Highland Games, which were opened by the Duke of Argyll, no less. I decided to stay at the hostel in the hopes of drying everything out a little.
At the hostel I met another cyclist who is working her way from Campbeltown to Aberdeen over a period of just 3 days! She’ll finish it off with a 90 mile run through the Great Glen and then fall down dead at the door of her destination. We had a great talk about all sorts of topics ranging from computers to children going to university. One of the greatest things about these trips is the people you meet.
The day started and ended with rain. This caused me to think that the defining feature of Scotland is rain. Later in the day I met midges. Now I know that midges really are the defining feature.
The day actually turned out really well. I met a few other riders along the way and discovered that an uncle and nephew pair were going the same way as me. We saw eachother at the hostel in Tongue and then later in the day at the Crask Inn. About an hour or two later we both, independently had the same idea of seeking shelter from the rain in a roadside attraction for a cup of coffee.
I discovered that the nephew lives in Germany, in Ingolstadt, and wants to get into software development! Talk about coincidences! He asked about other tours that I have done and we talked a bit about different attitude towards education and software development in England/USA and Germany. After watching the salmon try to get up a waterfall for a bit I joined up with them for the final 10 miles of their day and then continued on for another 15 miles to reach Evanton.
That final 15 miles included the longest climb yet. Not incredibly steep but it last around 3 miles. During that climb is when I notice that if I drop below 7 miles an hour I get a trailing contingent of flies. If I fall below 6 miles per hour they start to swarm around me. Very strong motivation to keep pushing!
I did get this track uploaded to Garmin Connect, but gave up trying to get it made public after wasting several megs of data transfer trying to get it up and open to the world. The site is great for a desktop browser, but is really horrible for a mobile one (very heavy pages and too flashy of display). I might give up trying to get them up for now.
The day started with a lot of rain and ended with a lot of rain. The in between part was nice and dry with a lot of really good scenery.
I left John O’Groats at about 9:30, which means that I missed out on getting my name in the register. I suppose this blog will be my personal register that I did it. 🙂 Along the way I made a detour to Dunnet head to see the most northerly point on the island and then quickly turned around and continued on to Tongue.
The first 50 miles of the journey was fairly flat and easy. After that, though, the terrain started to change from coastal lowland to coastal mountains and most of my time was spent climbing. After a while I started cursing the gearing on my bike and wished for a yet lower gear. I think that if I had ridden any slow, I would have just toppled right on over, so not having that lower gear was probably a good thing.
It looks like I might have to add an extra day to my time in the highlands. Not because the scenery is unmissable (although it is) but because the hills are taking a bigger toll than I had hoped. Tomorrow will be the day that determines one way or the other.
Tomorrow I cut straight south from Tongue to Alness. I found a topo map that showed the road and it looks like it might to be too bad of climbing, but I need to be ready to stop early if I have to.
P.S. Looks like I get no record of my journey today since my Garmin has mysteriously decided to forget everything (including all of my settings in it).
This morning I transfered at Inverness to the train to Wick. It turns out that the reason that it takes so long to get to Wick (>4 hours) is because you get a nice sightseeing tour of roughly half of the Highlands.
After getting off the train at Wick, I started up the GPS and so the first result of this trip are available for your viewing pleasure. The ride was uneventful, but the landscape was amazing. I tried to take a picture of the coastline, but I don’t think my camera did it justice.
At the campground right next to the start/end point of the End to End I met a man who had just finished his journey. He had walked the entire stretch in 66 days. That is determination!
Tomorrow I set off for Tongue. I might have to skip getting my name in the register of people doing the End to End because the cafe where I have to do that doesn’t open until 10am.
Right now I’m sitting in the lounge car of the Caledonian Sleeper to Inverness. I had no problems getting to the station other than my normal inability to navigate London. Once I got there it was simple to lock up my bike and get settled in my berth. Then I found the lounge and found a seat to occupy until it is time to sleep.
I’m looking forward to the riding, but after taking a look at the weather today I’m dreading the constant rain that seems to be coming. It looks like my first day or two will involve packing up a wet tent, but clear riding during the day (maybe some wind). After than it looks like I might have constant rain to deal with. Looks like I’ll have some more practice putting away a tent and sleeping bag during rain. Always a fun intellectual exercise to figure out how to take apart a tent from the inside to minimize the amount of soakage.