When we picked our departure date of July 6th over 3 months ago we could reasonably expect decent weather.
Myself, Dave Stead (Stox Motorcycles) and our responsible adult Sarah Brocklesby headed up the Whitby road in heavy rain and dense fog realising the British weather can never be predicted more than a few mintes in advance. The trike had a wee shimmy on standing water and the Z650 dropped a pot. We stopped in Whitby for some breakfast and met the dregs of their community but he did have two lovely Staffy's so that made up for his educational and hygiene deficiancy's.
Continuing on our way we cleared the rain after five miles and had a nice run up the A697 to Coldstream where we stopped to take in the Scottish air before the final leg of our journey to Callander. We pulled into the hallowed ground where I used to camp with my bike 30 years ago.
In the picture on the right Sarah is having difficulty containing her joy at our decision to ignore the no camping signs that were dotted around this hallowed turf. She also expressed concerns at the height of the river, the forecast for heavy overnight rain and the locals preditions of it's certainty to burst it's banks. Dave and I courageously ignored all such omen's and even more courageously ignored Sarah.
Dave introduced himself to his first Haggis supper and it almost immediately began to play havoc with his tender English tummy. It seemed the only way to deal with it was to drown it so he tried this in the nearest pub. It would be fair to say that the locals are not huge fans of The Sex Pistols, Nirvana and Tom Waits so we tried them with "So What" by The Anti Knowhere League. This pretty much ended our friendship with the locals and we were accused of being rowdy and they also seemed convinced that Tom Waits had broken their Jukebox. There was concern expressed for Andy Stewart having to live inside the same machine as Tom and our other selections.
Before leaving Sarah thrashed us both at pool.
The last time I played pool in Callander I ended up in a fight and to be fair I would have preferred a similar outcome to that than being beaten by a girl.
We got up at 6am to beat the predicted flood and hung around while Sarah packed the tents and all the gear away as Dave and I helpfully played in the childrens play area nearby.
We finally got going and leaving Callander we were straight into the beauty of this country, mountains, valleys, waterfalls, streams, it had everything you could ever dream to see. We went via Crianlarich and then headed up into the mountains around Glencoe. As we climbed the wind became a problem with some real strong gusts, much easier for Sarah and I on the trike than Dave on the Z but he managed to lean at crazy angles to keep the bike up. Then we turned a corner at our highest point and came across a random Scotsman on the pipes.
He was brilliant and we hung around and enjoyed his friendly tunes. He waited until we dropped our pennies in his box before playing his English go home favourites.
As buses turned up I estimated that he was on about £180 an hour and for that kind of money I'd put on a skirt and a hairy ball sack pouch too.
We continued on our way but we stopped every few miles to marvel at and get photos of the amazing scenery.
The picture on the right is near Fort Augustus. We stop for a smoke break and work on answers to Dave's latest questions which are, "Does Scotland have the same King as England," and "where is the Great Wall of China?"
It occurs to me that his is a World I would love to live in, where you only need to know what you need to know and everything else is just mind clutter of no value to man nor beast. Then again, if I ever get onto Who Wants To Be A Millionairre do I really want to blow all 3 life lines on the £100 question. It's a tricky balance I guess.
As we head from Inverness to Ullapool we see something amazing. A road stretching for miles with gentle twists every 100 yards. It's like it was built just for motorbikes. The next thing Sarah and I see is Dave at the far end of it before I've even got the trike into top gear. We just headed for the huge grin at the far end of paradise.
Then the police occurred but fortunately a biker coming our way waved and warned us.
We arrive at our 'official' site around tea time and Sarah is much happier and keeps using the word "facilities" for some reason.
We enjoy a drink and a nice meal before heading back to the tents for an improving Hot Chocolate made by the fair hand of a now happy camper. As we sip our drink Dave asks, "how much further would we have to ride to get to the sea?" Sarah and I look at the sea 40 yards away and shake our heads.
I am asleep by 9:30pm but at midnight I awake with an urgency to use the 'facilities'. Fearing that wasting time putting my leg on will lead to a catastrophe of biblical proportions I decide to hop there on my crutches. I get two feet, trip over my tents rope and fall flat on my face. Try breaking a fall with crutches in your hands, it's the nose that breaks the fall and this is never good.
I make it to the toilet block and clean up the blood. When I I wake up next morning I realise the fingers on my clutch hand (left) don't work anymore. I break the news to Dave and Sarah that we are not going to the Isle of Skye on twisty roads which require millions of gear changes, instead we will go to Inverness then down the A9 to Linlithgow, our next nightstop. They take it remarkably well. Not least because I lie to them and tell them the scenery is much better on the A9. To the right we see Sarah and Dave enjoying my 'scenery upgrade'.
On the way we stop to eat and Dave bravely tries Haggis again but as part of a full Scottish breakfast. This is proper Haggis, not chip shop Haggis and he loves it.
We call into Aviemore for Hot Chocolate and to use the toilets, which cost 20p. I take the charge in a less than heroic fashion and leave the Janitor a little surprise in his cleaning cupboard.
The long straight road is good for my hand and I back to full 25% fitness by the time we reach Linlithgow. In some ways coming to Linlithgow is like coming home because this is my home.
Due to a terrible weather forecast we decide to camp in one of my brothers tin tents on our last night of the tour . In this one he keeps vintage vehicles.
After getting the bikes in my brother drives us to The Bonsyde Hotel where we drink and eat our best meal of the tour so far.
We return from the pub by taxi after far too many drinks and Sarah let's herself down by completely losing control of me and Dave as we decide to test the performance of my brothers valuable vintage collection.
We are finally sent to bed without Hot Chocolate.
I spend the whole night sleeping on the concrete floor because my airbed keeps going flat every 20 minutes. This is due to the fact that it had been reversed over by Dave on the trike the previous morning. I am awake most of the night listening to the rain which is still lashing down when we get packed up to head home.
We take the quickest, easiest option for home and head around the Edinburgh bypass onto the A1, and we stay on the A1 to York. We take few breaks and just try to get the final leg of our journey out of the way.
Our first incident of the tour comes when I have to slam all on and am just able to stop two inches short of a car bumper. Our second incident followed 2 seconds later when Dave skidded by me and stopped 1 inch from the car bumper. He always has to one better.
After navigating one thousand miles without losing each other Dave gets lost on the York ring road and we arrive home separately.
I have done many bike trips and they are always great but nothing comes close to this 4 day, 1018 mile Scottish tour.
We ate some good food, some bad food, had some drink and we met some great people on our journey.
It would be impossible to pick a highlight because it was all fantastic, even when we were getting soaked which to be fair was only part of the time.
The bikes ran superbly with no breakdowns though the trike did wee a bit of coolant all over Scotland as it went.
We got home weary and wet but all we wanted to do was climb back on the bikes and do it all again. Next time perhaps we will manage the 'less scenic' route down the West coast and skip the A9.
Thank you Sarah for looking after us. Hoots Mon