Tuesday, July 18, 2017

July 18, 2017 Second Rest Day Cambridge

Cambridge is a really interesting city. It is set on a really beautiful setting along the banks of the River Cam.  Downtown is filled with wonderful old buildings and colleges dating back to the early 1700’s.  Just walking around downtown is a real treat.
This morning Agnes and I packed up early and took the bus downtown to explore the museums.  There are a total of 12 different museums each representing different fields of study.  Agnes wanted to see the Sedgewick Earth Sciences museum so it was the first stop.  This museum was founded as the Woodwardian Museum in 1728 and renamed after Adam Sedgewick as he was a major contributor to the collection.   This museum has collected major fossil collections and other geological collections to that they now have over 10,000 fossils and over two million rock samples.  One of the very interesting collections on display is the Darwin collection.  It was quite amazing to see Darwin’s actual note books on display.   They had a fossilized sider which was 18 inches across.  Scary.   It was a very interesting museum and by time we had gotten through it we were pretty much museum’ed out. 
Agnes and I had a quick sandwich in the park and then started wandering through the  art galleries.  We bought a very interesting print and a few souvenirs.  By now it was bus time and we walked back to the bus depot and caught a ride home.
Patrick and Jos were just finishing boxing their bikes when we arrived.  Jos headed downtown to attend a religious service in one of the cathedrals.  Patrick and I headed over to the local supermarket and picked up super.
Tomorrow we are off to Gatwick. Jos will drop the three of us so that  we will be poised to jump on the plane home first thing Thursday morning. Jos will then drop the van and head over to Heathrow for his flight.   It seems strange that this huge tour which had so much work put into it is all but over.

Monday, July 17, 2017

July 17, 2017 Rest day Cambridge

Today was a very relaxed day.  Slept in and then sat around drinimg coffee most of the morning.  Jos figured out the finances for the trip and then we settled up.  After filling ourselves with coffee we got busy and washed and cleaned bikes.  I took my bike apart and packed it back into its travel case.  Hopefully the baggage handler gods will be good to Surly.

Surly was pretty happy to have such a big adventure after hanging for the last few years in the garage.  Surly is looking forward to the next big adventure.  He has been listening to the talk about where we are off to next and he is hoping to go to France in 2018 for the War Memorials tour.  This would be a good trip for Surly and I would love to have him along.  The Long Haul Trucker is so comfortable to ride and is a great climber.  Surly isn’t too fast on the flats or downhill but then neither am I.  The steel frame and center pull brakes are kind of old school but they are absolutely bullet proof. 

For supper we headed downtown and found a restaurant on the central canal.  It was great sitting outside as the weather was so nice.   Having a canal side table we were able to watch all the punts being polled up and down.  It was easy to spot the professionals who give tours and the amateurs out showing off in front of girlfriends. The amateurs ram into each other and almost tip over and go for a swim.

After supper we walked through the downtown area and had an ice cream.  The sun was cutting down low and reflecting off the buildings giving get lighting for photos.   It was really pretty.

Tomorrow Agnes and I plan on hitting some of the dozen or more downtown museums and seeing more of Cambridge.  It is a very pretty city with a lot of wonderful cathedrals right downtown.


Sunday, July 16, 2017

July 16 2017 Inver Gordon to Cambridge

Today was the biggest ride of the entire tour at 586 miles (943 kms) and took 10 hours.   We didn’t ride bikes though we drove.

After a wonderful breakfast in our luxury B&B we loaded up the van and headed south in the van.  We got away about 9:00 am which pretty good time was considering nobody was really looking forward to the drive.  

Luckily we never hit any traffic congestion and the trip went quite smoothly.  Agnes and Jos traded driving duties while Patrick and I alternated snoozing and making bad jokes about everything under the sun.   One of the favourites being that we wanted to die in our sleep like the driver.

Jos admitted that today was the furthest that he has ever driven in one day.  For Agnes and I making the trip to and from Phoenix this was something we do on a pretty regular basis. 

On the way back we drove past so many interesting things which we had not seen on the way north, it really drove home the point that you could probably spend a life time visiting all the places. For example, I would have loved to  stopped to see the castle Sterling (see picture above).

So we have two days to rest up and recover before making the flight home.  The plans are to get everything washed up and packed up and then get out and see some of Cambridge.  There are several very nice museums in the area and maybe even a day trip into London. 


Saturday, July 15, 2017

July 15, 2017 Betty Hill to John O Groats

The forecast was for rain starting at 9:00 am and getting harder as the day went on.  Breakfast was not served until 8:00 am so there wasn’t going to be much riding done before the rain started.  I was ready to roll at 8:55 Am and had decided that I was heading straight down the highway to John O Groats.  This would cut 3.5 miles (5 kms) off the official route which took a few back roads and paths and shaved 280 ft (85 m) climb off the official climb of 905 m.   With heavy rain, temperatures of only 13C and winds gusting to 20 mph (32kms) as a quartering head wind every mile was going to be precious.

Right out of the chute we hit the first of five big climbs of 3.2 miles (5kms) and   550 ft (170 m).  At exactly 9:02 the rain started but I wasn’t putting my rain coat on until I got to the summit.  I probably should have stopped a little earlier but I knew that long before I got to John O Groats I would be soaked and frozen any way and getting the first big hill out of the way without a rain coat was the way to go.   My twisted foot/ankle from the other day was a problem in that I could not put any down force on the right pedal.  I could pull up but could not push down as this was too painful.  It  was a significant handicap in the hills and only got worse as the day progressed.  At one point I had to stop and could not pull my foot free of the clip. 

First hill down and four to go and the rain has increased significantly. There was so much water on the road that at times I was riding through water flowing 2 inches (5 cm) deep across the road.  The big hills are all in the first 30 miles (48 kms), so the strategy is to just go for it.   By time I get to the 30 mile mark (48 kms), everything is soaked and stopping would only have resulted in freezing so I blew through lunch and headed for John  O Groats with only 21 miles (34 kms) to go.  With less than a mile to go Agnes passes me and pulls into the John O Groats ferry terminal which is the official end of the road.   Agnes and I sit in the van until Jos and Patrick show up a few minutes later. 

A few pictures in front of the John O Groats sign post, a quick change into dry clothing and into the van. Jos buys a half price tartan tam in the souvenir shop which looks crazy but he pulls it off.  We spray the bikes with cleaner and let the rain clean the bikes as we drive.

We were driving down to Invar Gordon where we are staying in an old Manse, built in 1730 and has been converted into a luxury B&B.   It is pretty deluxe.

Tomorrow is a big drive day into Cambridge where we are staying in condo for two R&R days before flying home. Patrick and I plan on sleeping in the back of the van. 

Today was a pretty hard day in the rain with 51 miles (82kms) and 2700 ft (822 meters) of climb but everyone pulled it off and had a lot of fun.  Today will go down in the annals of biking legend (and no smart remarks about legend in his own mind). 


Friday, July 14, 2017

July 14, 2017 Bonar Bridge to Bettyhill

Generally speaking I try and keep things pretty light and cheery.   Focus on the happy, and step past the rest.  Most days that isn’t too hard to do. 

Today I was off to an early start as I was the only one who came down to the van ready to roll.  So I pushed off. It had been raining earlier but that had cleared off and the head wind had died down somewhat.  When I came to the main intersection in Bonar Bridge the course veered off to the left most unexpected, as the main road and there is only one road to Bettyhill was straight ahead.  Well the course is the course and off I went.  About 6 miles (10kms) down the road the course veered again down a path through the forest.  WHAT?  So I followed it about a 100 yards and it just got worse. Nobody had been down here for years so I turned back to the road.  I could see where I should be but that was the other side of the river.  I talked to a fellow on a mountain bike and he said there was a bridge about 20 minutes down the road.   The road is clearly heading off to the west not north.  I don’t have any larger maps and it is kind of hard to see what is happening on a 1 inch screen.   About 45 minutes later there is no bridge and finally cell service.  Of course no one can tell me where I am as I don’t know.  So my only choose is to ride back to where I started.  My frustration level is well into the red.  Thankfully Agnes came back with the van and got me.  We drove up the road to where Jos and Patrick were. Turns out I needed to go 200 yards down the track where you climbed down 3 sets of stairs and crossed the river on a railway bridge and down another set of stairs to the main road. 

The wind is just howling out of the north and the temperature is only 55 F (13C).  Patrick has had enough and loads his bike with mine on the van.   Jos wants to do his EFI and rides on.

Along the way I want to take a picture so Agnes pulls the van over and I step out of the van.  The ground is terribly uneven and my foot goes between two rocks and I twist my foot/ankle as I go down. 

So here we are at the Bettyhill hotel.  The place reminds me of the place in the Hitch Hikers Guide to Galaxy.  Arthur Dent and Ford Perfect are in the restaurant at the End of the Universe.  I am in the hotel. 

Ending on a positive note;  The shower has lots of hot water.


Thursday, July 13, 2017

July 13, 2017 Inverness to Bonar’s Bridge

After a wonderful breakfast we were already to get going.  It looked like it was going to be a fabulous day. The forecast was calling for temperatures in the  around 64 F (18 C) and sunny skies with a favourable winds out of the SW.  When I got my bike out of the storage garage I found a flat on the front tire. This is the same one I had a flat on yesterday.  A coincidence?  Upon pulling the tube out I found the same fault as yesterday where the stem had separated from the tube.  Upon reflection when I was getting Surly ready for the trip I dug out all my stuff and these tubes were probably from my Paris to Istanbul trip 7 years ago.  So these tubes have probably been sitting around all wrapped up and the rubber has hardened. 

After fixing the tire I rolled around the front to join the rest of the crew only to find panic out there. Jos has left his good sun glasses in the restaurant last night.  It was decided I would roll, Jos would phone the restaurant and he and Patrick would catch me, with Agnes going to pick up the glasses when someone got to the restaurant.  Well off to a later start than planned but off. 

I crossed the Inverness Bridge which is called the Kessock Bridge which was opened Aug 6 1982 by Queen Elizabeth.  It is a huge suspension bridge but of an unusual design in that the suspension towers are really masts rather than towers.  This gives it a very modern appearance even though it is now 35 years old.  It is 3464 feet (1056 m) and crosses the Beauly Firth.   As the day was great the views off the bridge were stunning.  

After crossing the bridge I was right into the first climb of the day which while not really hard was about 7 miles (11.3kms) long and 500 ft (152 m).  After a very nice roller coaster back to sea level the second hill of the day was up but at only 1.5 miles (2.4 kms) and 370 ft (112m) of climb making it a much tough hill.  By now I have my arm warmers off and just having a ton of fun riding the hills and enjoying what is now a very nice tail wind.   We were to meet Agnes at this little town but as she was delayed retrieving Jos’ glasses I was well ahead of her.  There was no way I was missing out on what is a very nice tail wind so I pedalled on.  The third hill was soon up and it was a long and winding affair which a lot of stair steps over 17 miles (27 kms) and about the same climb as the second climb. However with the great tail wind and very nice quiet roads I hardly noticed the climb.   Taking pictures, of the beautiful country side, I even took a couple of selfies.  I came over a steep little bridge and around a corner and put the run on a bunch of sheep by barking.  I spotted a totally out of place flag, but you can see my tail wind.

By 12:30 I was in a quaint little town of Tain.  As rolled through it I spotted a bakery called the William Grant Bakery established 1876.  The aroma wafting out of the door caused my bike to come to a screeching halt.  Once inside there was no doubt in my mind I was going for one of beef steak Scotch Pies.  It was so delicious that I had to go back in for a second pie.  On the wall was a huge display of all of the awards they had won for their Scotch Pies.   I was so full it was hard to swing my leg over the bike. 

Back on the road my friendly tail wind picked me up and I was just flying along.  I passed the Glenmorangie distillery and while I have drank several of the bottles and was sorely tempted to go in I just couldn’t leave the tail wind I was enjoying.  I was not even pedalling and was flying along at 20 mph (32 kms).   Sometimes it is all about the bike.  

It wasn’t long and I was into Bonar’s Bridge and got to the B&B just a couple of minutes before Agnes. 

What a great day sailing along in beautiful sun shine with a friendly tail wind.