United Kingdom 2006

Day 03

August 21


We're all up sort of early getting ready for a good day of riding. From Dave's balcony I get an incredible view of the Firth of Tay as the sun peaks it's head above the horizon.


Moff is in need of a new rear tire so we are on the road early to take care of that bit of business. We cross the Firth and make our way toward Perth on A90, skirt by the city then take A85 to Crieff in Perthshire where Strathearn Tyres is located. It's nice to be in a shop that knows what a ST1100 is and has the tires that go on it in stock as a matter of course. They also have a large truck that does motorcycle racing support and they have great prices on their tires.

  Since we have the time, we walk into the town looking for breakfast. Dave picks out a shop that sounds like my kind of place - Country Kitchen. I have the 'fully cooked' Scottish breakfast which is where I am introduced to black pudding. Black pudding is made from animal blood and it turns out that it is not my favorite. But at least I do try it before I pass judgment on it. The rest of the breakfast is excellent - fried eggs, ham, tomatoes and beans. The beans remind me of what we call pork and beans back home and they are an interesting addition to a breakfast.  

When I was over in 2005 it was lambing time. This time of year it is shearing time, so it is a whole other visual experience as we see lots of sheep in various stages of preparation for this procedure.


When we pass this sheep enclosure, I cannot help but think of the Words Of Jesus when He said -

John 10:1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
The King James Version, (Cambridge: Cambridge) 1769.

The shepherd would herd his flock into such and enclosure then station himself across the narrow opening to protect them. And I am reminded that so does the Lord for His Blessed Sheep.

  After we leave Crieff, we head north on A822 until we come to Amultree. Then we pass through the Glen Quaiach on single track (one lane) roads as they are called. In the States, it would be a recipe for disaster because of the lack of discipline of most drivers. Over here, it's pretty easily sorted out as the first one to a pull out, moves over so the oncoming vehicle can pass. The peaceful countryside is very relaxing to me after the hustle and bustle of the flight over and the crowds of London.  

As we continue to head north, we pop back out on A827 for short time. Then we turn off onto another single track. It takes through Glen Lyon and past a village known as the Bridge of Balgie, famous for the fact that the post office also serves food and sells miscellaneous stuff. As time permits, we pull off to take breaks, enjoy the countryside and each other's company. We stop at the ruins of an old house that must date quite a ways back. Dave is the first one to notice an unusual marking -

"This must be a boundary marker" he tells us.

It is inscribed on what appears to be a cornerstone of the original structure. It triggers my imagination as to who lived here and how important that mark must have been, engraved into the stone like that. Who knows what joys and heartaches took place so very long ago at the very place that we stand.

  The road is narrow but the surface is in fairly good shape for what I would call a country road. Back where I'm from, this would have been an old washboard, creek gravel road at best. The STs are just sitting there, loaded up and ready to explore some more of Scotland.  
  As I look out over the rolling hills, I realize that I could be standing in many places in the USA and seeing a very similar view where the hills just go on forever and the sky reaches down to give them a gentle kiss.  
  Dave and Moff look at the map, figuring out about how much farther we have to go before we meet up with the others. What makes it so nice is that it's a beautiful day and we don't have to be in a hurry at all.  
  Growing from behind a nearby rock, I see a prickly purple thistle. It was adopted as the Emblem of Scotland during the rein of Alexander III in the 1200s and there is an interesting story behind it. Seems as if some Norse invaders pulled off their shoes to sneak up on the Scots in the dark. When they stepped on some of this stuff, their resulting outcry of pain alerted the Scots and the Norse invaders were quickly defeated as they danced about barefooted.  
  Heading south down the road from Bridge of Balgie towards Loch Tay, we see the Lawers Dam and Lochan na Lairige . Water from here drops down in a penstock to a power station on the banks of Loch Tay.  
  As we continue on the single track road, we encounter another Scottish traffic jam. These sheep have just been freshly sheared and freshly released. They obviously feel like they have the right of way instead of that motley crew of motorcyclists.  
  As we get back on A827, we enter into the village of Killin on the edge of the Scottish Highlands where the beautiful Falls of Dochart come down. They are probably one of the most photographed sites in Scotland.  

It is a beautiful place to take a break, and reminds me so much of East Tennessee. The more I experience Scotland, the more I understand why the early settlers from here chose the eastern and middle part of Tennessee as their home in the new world. The terrain is very similar - except for the castles and ruins of castles that dot the countryside.


Soon we pass by Loch Awe on our way to Inveraray, a village resting on the shores of Loch Fyne. Loch Fyne is a sea loch, flowing all the way to the ocean. We stop for a break at a public park at the junction of A819 and A83. I can't help but notice an imposing statue in the park. When I walk up to it, I see the inscription that reads -

"In Memory Of Those Young Loved Lamented Here Who Died In Their Country's Service 1914-1918"

  I can only imagine the the young men that marched off from this area to the 'War To End All Wars', never to see the bonnie hills of Scotland again in this life. Indeed, I believe they were loved and lamented deeply in their passing. Just a short distance down A83 is one of the most phenomenal castles and estates I will see on this trip, the Inverary Castle. It is just like the classic castles that you dream of as kid - and sometimes as an adult - turrets on each corner.  
  As we continue on A83 and then A82, we pass the beautiful Loch Lomond on our right. Over and over again, It just seems almost surreal to be this far from home and yet feel so much like I am at home, with the hills that roll on to the horizon.  

Before long we reach the turnoff to the Beinglas Farm/Campsite near Inverarnan. Some of the other riders like Peter and the lovely Miss Fiona have already set up camp. Thanks to Keith, I will be staying in what is known as a wigwam. This is similar to a KOA shelter back in the states, but each one of these has a special name. The one that I will be sharing with Gareth is called 'Kielhter'. I'll fully understand what that means by in the morning.

  It's a nice campground with decent facilities and plenty of nearby hiking trails, bordering the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. I see several hikers coming in and out of the area when I go to check in. I also have a firsthand introductions to the Scottish midge - a no see'um that has piranha teeth!  

They have a pretty good pub on site, so I order up a burger and some chips (french fries in the States). Before long, 'Mac Bubba' - a 'rottenweiler' about Bubba's size wanders up to me. I get just a little homesick for my beloved baby as I stroke his big ol' head. Of course he enjoys the table tidbits that I slip him, but he is a well mannered dog. Peter and Fi and I talk about the trip last year and the Ireland leg of this trip that Peter will be leading us on later in the week.

  It has been a very good day, riding with my friends, Dave and Moff. Although we only covered 170 miles or so, it was some of the most enjoyable riding that I have done in a while. As the sun descends, so do my eyes, and I head up to the wigwam reserved for me to get some much needed rest.