United Kingdom 2005
Today our body clocks are a little more adjusted to the time difference. I am looking forward to getting away from the cities and out into the Scottish country side. Poor Guy seems lost without a phone stuck to his ear, but I'm sure he'll get over it. I traveled so much in my former career and worked such long hours, that Sharyn and I never got in the habit of having to speak with each other 2 or 3 times a day. We have perfect trust in each other, so we know if there's a problem, they'll be a call. Guy pesters the dear lady behind the desk for a phone directory, which is beyond me – there's no phone in the room. Giving up on getting his phone fix, he finally comes downstairs as I am finishing the packing of my ST. It's a little cool, but I've got the gear for it so I'm fine. We head out to meet David in Kinross across the Firth of Forth Bridge in the light morning traffic. In the breeze coming off of the water, I realize I have left my vest back in the room. I pull off at the first exit.
“What's up?” he asks me.
“Dummy me, I left my vest. Gotta to go back for it” I say.
I hate for other folks to have to wait on me and this morning is no exception. I guide us straight back to the motel, bound upstairs to snag the item and we're finally off again. I make a mental note to resume my hyper-paranoia room search routine from now on. Just as David said, he's waiting for us a junction 6 at Kinross.
“I was afraid something was wrong'' he said.
“No, I just forgot my head and had to go back after it” I tell him.
Fortunately, David has kindly brought an extra sweat shirt and some glove liners so Guy won't freeze completely to death. I guess we can start calling him ‘Uncle' Dave since he has now officially come to Guy's rescue also. We've got a lot of miles to do, so we gas up quickly and are on the road to the hills of Scotland. There is nothing to compare with riding with someone local to an area – they know the roads, they know the places, and they know the sights. David is not originally from Scotland, but he has spent enough time here to be as well versed as a local. We experience a totally different ride in Scotland from our riding in England at this point. Lots of greenery and rural settings surround us and I think of home where I grew up in the hills of Tennessee. I begin to see why so many of the folks from here settled in the hills of Tennessee – just toss in a few castles and a lake or two and it would look very familiar.
David takes us up into the hills away from Edinburgh and the roads take on a twisty familiarity to me. The temperature drops a bit, but I've come prepared so it is actually a bit welcomed. I'd much rather ride a little cool than a little warm – especially when I've got to concentrate on staying on the proper side of the road. I enjoy following David in a spirited manner across the ever changing landscape. Guy is bringing up the rear and doing a little sightseeing, so I'm just cranking the wick a bit and rolling along. As we come to a hill, we spot a police car sitting on the crest of a right hander. They are out doing a survey, with measuring tapes and paint cans, so I figure someone must have gone down there in a bad way. We all three ease around them and arrive at our first destination – the Spittal of Glenshee -
I ask David, “What was going on back there where the police were pulled off?”
“A sport rider was killed over the weekend and they are sorting it out” he replies.
I can mentally see what happened – too hot over a rise and then missed the right hander. It just reaffirms my determination not to ride past what I can see. We doff our gear and I pet the puppy dog lazily lying at the door. As it turns out, they have several and you can take them for a walk if you like. I decide to pass for now cause the current specimen sure looks like he's pretty happy where he is.|
This is just the sort of place you would expect out in the Scottish countryside – rough hewn timbers, rustic furniture, and a big fireplace going at it. Guy huddles near the fire to try to soak up as much of it as he can. There's an interesting mural painted on the wall that speaks of the struggles that the men of Scotland have endured over the centuries with those who would try to take their freedom from them. It reminds me of an old saying that was drilled into my head early on –
“I'll share most anything I have, but don't try to take anything from me unless you want a fight!”
There are a gent or two walking about in the traditional kilt, but I can tell by the accent they ‘aren't from around here'. My guess is they are from South Africa, but definitely not from Scotland. I figure they are just props for the occasional tourist that should pop in. It's getting time to go, and Guy is looking longingly at the fire as if he could take some it with him. And to make matters worse, when we step back outside, it gets dark and starts spitting ice and snow.
I just put on a little more gear and hope that Guy has enough borrowed stuff to keep him out of trouble. You never know what the vulgarities of the road will be on any given day, so I prepare for the worse and hope for the best. The rain and snow continues to fall but none sticks, for which we are grateful. I let Guy run between me and David so I can keep I eye on him.
The weather eases up a bit and David senses that I would like to let the ST1300 stretch her legs out, so he motions me on up ahead of him. The road is deserted with no one in front of me, so I can put her through some paces. I crank on for a while, enjoying the freedom and the scenery. I finally pull over beside a beautiful lake or Loch as they are called here so we can get back together, knowing Guy is struggling on the VFR.
David pulls up –
“You ride these roads like you've ridden them all of your life” David tells me.
“I have” I say with a big grin, “Just over on the other side of the pond.”
A cold and not-too cheery Guy finally pulls up, looking the worse for wear. We head together again and finally cross a mountain pass where the sky clears up to a beautiful blue again. Down in the valley is a classic Scottish castle that begs to be photographed and we oblige.
We pick our way carefully through the various villages until we come to a town called Aviermore, a ski resort of sorts. There's a beautiful snow covered mountain in the distance.
And more important, there's a café upstairs called the Mountain Café which is open for lunch. I'm amused as Guy tries to order a plain hamburger from Courtney, our server. I will observe over and over again on this trip that folks seem to have a much harder time understanding what Guy says but seem to hear me just fine - though we are both from the southern states. As we eat our lunch, I ask David –
“Reckon how high that snow covered mountain is over there?”
“Oh, probably about 1200 feet or so” he replies.
I make a mental note that snow that low an altitude means a pretty cool average temperature.
“What are the chances of us making to Loch Ness today?”
“Not much, We're still 50 miles or so away. At the rate we are traveling, we will have to start heading south so we can get to Moffat at a reasonable hour” he replies.
As much as I would like to see that particular famous Loch, I know I will have to wait for another day. I trust David and his good sense, since he knows where we've got to be and when we've got to be there. He adds
"Lets strike out back to Edinburgh quickest route from here, and then on down to Moffat. The bed and breakfast there will be waiting for us. I'm fixing to call and let them know we might be late."
Guy pipes in as we both smile -"Dang, didja y'all hear that Uncle Phil?
"What did I say? Hear what?" asked David.
"David said "fixin", ain't he sumptin?"
"Yeah he sure did" I reply.
"See what y'all are doing to me?" David replies
"Relax, we'll have you speakin properly by the end of the week" offers Guy.
Figuring the temps could be getting colder, I wander downstairs to see if I can add a fleece pullover to my wardrobe. With a price of $200 USD for something I could buy at Wal-Mart for $20, I said
“I don't reckon I'll be gettin a fleece shirt this trip."
With our plans sorted out, we head back with a quickened pace on A9 toward Edinburgh. When we come to A822, David guides us onto another road less traveled with great sweepers. After a while, we pull off for a short break and to take some pictures. It's lambing time in the mountains of Scotland and the babies are everywhere we look.|
David wants us to take a run to the top of hill and let him get some shots of us as we round the bend. I am more than pleased to oblige and he gets a shot of me in my best ‘road racer' form.
As we enjoy the scenery, we come upon field after field of yellow flowers. I figure it must be a cash crop of some sort since it appears to be cultivated. It is so yellow that it almost shocks the eyes and colors the entire landscape.|
I have to believe that farming for these folks is just as challenging as it is for the folks back home and I do not envy them. I've never found any part of farming that was not just plain old hard work that paid little more than the satisfaction of working with your hands. As we ease back into Edinburgh, we cross the same massive bridges across the Firth of Forth that we came out on this morning. I manage to capture a shot of David lined up between the uprights in the midst of the traffic.
David brings us to a place in town for supper called the Cramond Brig.
I asked him, “Are we going to jail for supper or what?”
He just laughs and gives no answer one way or the other. Once we're inside, they offer us a quiet place back in the back, which works fine for me. It's obviously a local gathering place, given the many stares that these two funny talking folks get when we walk in. The food is good but it's late – almost 9 PM – and we still have 50 miles or so to get to Moffat.|
We still have a good bit of daylight, so David guides us back and on toward A701 to get to NineOaks, the bed and breakfast where we will be staying. The dampness and the chill we have been fleeing all day have finally caught us. But it only adds to the peacefulness of the moment as we must slow down to enjoy the ride. We spread out into our own thoughts as if by some prearranged signal. As we split the hills on the narrow ribbons of pavement, I consider what a day it has been. We have seen landscapes and vistas that even most folks in the UK have never seen. And I have to wonder how many folks from my little southern home town could ever imagine riding the back roads of Scotland on a motorcycle? For that matter, how riders do I know would ever dare it? This sort of adventure does not take a special talent. Just a little money, a little time, and a willingness to experience life as it comes to you. It is and will be an expensive outing, but does it matter how much money you leave behind when you go? You definitely will leave all of it – whether great or small. I come from a family that possesses a tradition of postponing present enjoyment for the future. Many of them never realized the fruits of their labors, dying at early ages, so I have determined to learn from their experience. I want to enjoy what time I have left – be it much or little – as time and finances permit, but not in a frivolous, wasteful or useless way. Good common sense is always in fashion, and I don't plan on giving up mine, but I do plan on seeing some things along the way. Visiting Scotland is something I have always wanted to do and here am I – submersed in the sights, smells and sounds of place unlike any other place in the world. And yet I feel strangely at home and it all seems familiar as if this is where I belong. As I meander along at an easy pace, it suddenly hits me that there are no headlights behind me, even in the distance. I remember Guy's trouble with getting so cold he was almost nonfunctioning, so I figure I'd better go back and check on him. This is not the place to go stupid and run off the road, for you could lay in the ditch a long time before you are discovered. I turn the old ST1300 and slowly head away from Moffat, being painfully aware that the road is posted for large game and it is dark. I finally see the lone headlight of the VFR and ease by him so I make a U-turn and bring up the rear.
"Everything OK?" I ask Guy.
"Yeah just fine, thanks for checking" he tells me.
We pick up the pace and finally come to the hill where David is patiently waiting for us. Off to the side, David points out that this is where the Scots hid their cattle from the encroaching Englishmen when need be. We move along and finally arrive in Moffat. Without David's help, it would have been pretty hard to spot NineOaks.
Mrs. Jones, the proprietor, is there waiting for us, just like you would expect your mother to be waiting.
"Ma'am did we keep you up late?" Guy asks.
"No, no, no trouble" she responds.
She takes us to our rooms, which are very nice and very welcome after our ride of 350+ miles. She inquires about our breakfast wishes so she an have them ready in the morning. As always I say with a grin –
“A fully cooked breakfast, please ma'am.”
Guy settles for his usual fair of bread and such. We wander back to the room and Guy jumps into the shower to defrost. I just ease in between the sheets, looking forward to another great day of riding with my friends, and strike up the snoring music.|