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Old 09-26-2019, 09:42 AM   #1
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UK 2019 Tour

I'm going to start building this here, and return to it as I have time.

I keep a bike in the UK, and return each year to take it out for a ride. This year, the timing was determined by the date of the wedding of my friends Dominic and Caroline in late September. This is later in the year than I have ever come over for the purpose of riding. Usually, I've been there sometime between June and August, and coming in September offered an interesting opportunity. I had never ridden further into Scotland than the area known as the Borders. I have wanted to go to the Highlands before, but my local friends told me that summer time is midge and mosquito season in Scotland, and it can be quite unpleasant, but September can be different. Okay, Scotland it is!

My next step was to try to get some of the usual suspects to come over with me, but as it turns out, no one took the bait, and this became a big solo loop. That may have been for the best.

The next step was to come up with some sort of itinerary, so I dug into my library of maps and guidebooks, and the rough outlines of a route began to form. Head north from England, stop in the Borders at the Buccleuch Arms in Moffat for the night, then launch across the populous band of Scotland between Glasgow and Edinburgh, and head for the Highlands and the Inner Hebrides. I had several goals for the trip; riding the Pass of the Cattle into Applecross, exploring the Isle of Skye, and most importantly, visit the pilgrimage site of Iona.

Ike had it right when he said, "Plans are nothing, planning is everything". The plan didn't come to fruition, but what did was better than I had expected.

I'm going to have to come back to this later. In the meantime, how about a pic of steak and ale pie on the evening of my arrival in my home away from home, Yorkshire?
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Old 09-26-2019, 10:57 AM   #2
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Sounds awesome, I'll tag along on here.
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Old 09-26-2019, 12:16 PM   #3
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Hi John! :hi

Things began to go sideways on the day of my departure. When I got to SFO and dropped my bag, they told me I would have to come back the following day. Apparently, construction at SFO had impacted flight operations so much that I could not make my connection to Manchester. I explained that this would not work due to commitments (e.g., train and other ground transport), and they managed to get me on an Aer Lingus flight. I was going to be late, but this was at least on the right day.

When I got to Manchester (and there were some adventures on the way) I had missed my booked train. In the past, when I've missed my reserved train, I have still been able to get on a later train, but without a reserved seat. This time, they would not honor my ticket, so I had to buy another ticket, but this one full priced. My 21 pound ticket was useless, and I had to replace it with a 51 pound ticket.

That said, my luck began to change. When I got to Leeds to change trains, it was a mob scene. It was evening commute time, and I was jet-lagged all to hell, so I did what you do, I disembarked without my carry-on bag. That's okay, it only included my laptop and camera and all my chargers. I wandered off the train looking for my next platform with only my suitcase. It seemed like I was off the train for a while before I noticed my bag was not with me. OH SHIT!!!11 Fortunately, the train was still there, and I left my suitcase on the platform and rushed onto the train, quickly finding my bag just before the train left. Shit, that was a close one!

Next stop was being met at the train station by Dom and Caroline, and off to the pub for the meal photographed in the first post. Later, they took me off to their new farm, and put me to bed for the night.

The next morning, Dom took me up to my other friend's (Paul Garbutt) place where my trusty Versys had been waiting for me. I love this bike beyond all reason, and am always happy to be reunited with it. After sorting out my luggage, getting the bike loaded, and my gear on, it was time to get going. A quick blast around York, and I headed into the Dales for my first stop a Pately Bridge for England's oldest sweet shop, followed by a stroll across the street to the butcher's shop to pick up a Cornish pasty for lunch for consumption in the car park.

The real riding began by going up the Valley of the Nidd, then to Grassington, then up to Hawes. About this time the weather closed in, and I began feeling like I should have a white cane attached to the front of my bike because visibility was so poor. Still the riding was fun, even if there was a fair bit of crap being washed down on to the road to join the actual crap (sheep manure) that was already there. Still, I had fresh tires, and was happy to be back on the wrong side of the road again, so I continued up over Buttertubs Pass (recommended!), and at that point concluded that discretion was the better part of valor, and it was time to head to the M6 to get to Scotland.

Coming off the motorway into Moffat, an old lady coming the other way flashed her headlights at me. Moments later, it became clear that she'd done me a solid - just around the next bend there was a speed camera van on the side of the road. Now, my bike's California plate seems to keep me immune to speed cameras, but it's still better not to have to test that solution.

The hotel is legendary in the UK. It has secure parking in back, with about 6 individual garages to boot. The hotel itself was built in 1760 as a coach house, and has a funky old feel that can't really be replicated. The owner is from Zimbabwe, and is just nuts about bikes, so he has created a hotel to cater to motorcyclists. The food is great, and so is the service. If you are in the area, I highly recommend it.


Attaching a pic of my beloved Versys.
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Old 09-26-2019, 01:19 PM   #4
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In for some hun fun.
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Old 09-26-2019, 01:22 PM   #5
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Old 09-26-2019, 01:30 PM   #6
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Subscribed. Looking forward to you trip report. Did Silverstone to the Chunnel and 10 day later the Chunnel to Silverstone.* I never got used to riding on the left side of the road and roundabouts going the wrong way.

Have a great trip.


* I am still working on my trip report.
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Old 09-26-2019, 04:33 PM   #7
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The morning was sunny but threatening in Moffat as I was getting saddled up to go. Dave, the proprietor, wandered into the courtyard and asked me about my planned route. I told him, his response was that it sucked, and he would print me out a map for a better one. Alrighty then.

Dave's map took we west from Moffat, then circumvented Glasgow by using a ferry to cross the Firth of Clyde. It then further kept me west of Loch Lomond to avoid Friday evening traffic. It headed me towards Fort William, which I figured would be a good intermediate stop on the way to Applecross.

After topping up at the petrol station, I headed out of town on Dave's route, and it was brilliant - until it began raining. At that point I looked back east towards my intended/sucky route, and the sun was out over that way. Adios, Dave! Big mistake.

Not only did the rain eventually catch up with me anyway, my path took me right into the black hole that is Glasgow traffic. It's got a gravitational pull you can't escape! It was a tough slog, but I eventually made it to the turn off for Loch Lomond, and Dave was right again, long lines of traffic on narrow, two-lane roads.

This route eventually gets to Glen Coe, and I think it's pretty spectacular, but the rain was still chasing me, and I was not inclined to hang around, and kept going to Fort William.

Rolling into Fort William - which is quite the outdoor sports destination town - every B&B I saw had a No Vacancies sign up. Oh, this was not looking positive. There were a number of events happening that weekend, including a big triathlon, so most stuff was booked. I pulled up in a parking area in the center of town to feel sorry for myself, and after a bit of internal whining, I decided to keep looking. After going about a half block, I saw a B&B sign that showed vacancies. I quickly inquired and found they had a single with a bathroom down the hall available, and I snapped it up immediately.

This was the first of my mistaken identity experiences. The proprietor asked where I was from, and when I answered he said, "Oh, I thought you were English." Maybe it's because I was married to a Brit for many years, but my accent often throws Brits off. I don't do an English accent, but people frequently say they didn't realize that I am American. It's pretty amusing.

After unloading the bike I walked the two blocks or so back to the high street to look for food. That's when I found the Model T sculpture below. It commemorates a local who drove one to the top of Ben Nevis and back in something like 1912. When I strolled up there were about a half dozen Northern Irish riders standing around admiring it, and one of them pointed out the Dunlop imprint on the side of tires on the sculpture, saying that anything called Dunlop had to be good. When I responded that I had been a big fan of Joey and Robert, it was like we were long lost brothers. When I let on that I knew that Peter Hickman had broken the lap record at the Ulster again, they couldn't get over that a Yank was aware of Peter Hickman. I wish it had dawned on me to take a picture of them. You'll have to settle for the sculpture. Check out the pub sign next to it.
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Old 09-26-2019, 07:29 PM   #8
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Great read so far. Looking forward to the next installments!
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Old 09-26-2019, 09:05 PM   #9
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Peter Hickman, TT badass
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Old 09-27-2019, 04:38 PM   #10
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I hope you rode the Devil's Beeftub out of Moffat.
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Old 09-29-2019, 06:09 PM   #11
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I hope you rode the Devil's Beeftub out of Moffat.
I have before, but not this time.

When I woke up on Saturday morning a tropical storm was in the process of blowing itself out over northern Scotland, just dumping outside. No vacancies at the B&B for that night, so after a chatty breakfast (this place assigns you to a table with another guest if you're alone) with Paul from Dublin, I figured my best bet was to - in the words of Monty Python - run away! Run away!

I rolled north from Fort William before heading east at Speann Bridge, and ultimately south. If I thought I was miserable, the triathletes were on their bicycle leg, and getting the snot knocked out of them from the wind and rain. Eventually I wandered into a Highland village called Dalwhinnie, and there was a sign in front of the community center saying they were serving tea, coffee, and cakes on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Hey, when would I be back in Dalwhinnie again?

The place was empty when I wandered in, and the service and conversation was top notch. We set the world to rights before I continued. In the meantime, they picked up about a dozen more customers. The road eventually connected with the A9, a main north-south thoroughfare in the top half of Scotland. One word: don't. Nice road, but heavily trafficked, and burdened with wall to wall speed cameras, particularly the evil average-speed variety. Now, I'm immune to speed cameras, but it forces most folks to drive at exactly the same speed, making traffic tedious.

By the time I got to Perth, I was out of the rain, but it was still heavily overcast. I figured I'd head towards the North Sea and turned towards Dundee. When I arrived I saw a Tesco Extra that carries electronics, and since I had cleverly broken my UK adapter plug the evening before, it looked like a good opportunity to find a replacement. The clerk in the electronics section tried to help, but all they had were the adapter plugs needed by UK folks who were going abroad, and nothing for klutzy foreigners. While I was considering my options, the clerk was messing with her phone. I thought she was just being distracted, but what she had done was find a local store (not a Tesco) that had them in stock! Now that's service!

I rode into central Dundee to find the store, but I could not find a place to park except in a lot that charges for bikes (bikes park free in most UK lots). On about my 4th trip around the block, a man out walking with his family waved me down and asked me if I was looking for motorcycle parking. He told me to ride around the block again, and he would meet me on the other side, and as promised, he did, directing me to rock star parking right at the door of the store I needed. And free. Man, I love the Scots!

I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the local region, and trying to find a place I saw a road sign for called Battledykes. Man, I wanted to steal that sign! In the end, I didn't find the place, but I had a couple of great chats with locals, and ended up heading to a place called Montrose to look for a hotel. I knew I had found the right one when I pulled into the car park, and a vintage Italian motorcycle club was unloading. Pics follow. Or not... Crap.

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If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
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- Dalai Lama

Last edited by flying_hun; 09-30-2019 at 08:55 AM.. Reason: trying to fix the pics
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Old 09-29-2019, 06:43 PM   #12
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pics fail to load^^^
grrrr.....computers
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Old 09-29-2019, 07:14 PM   #13
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Yeah, it wouldn't let me attach or embed. Even after resizing. Not sure what's going on.
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Old 09-29-2019, 07:45 PM   #14
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.... Now, I'm immune to speed cameras
So riding like your invisible works in Scotland too.

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Old 09-29-2019, 08:25 PM   #15
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Very entertaining thus far, Kurt. Looking forward to more installments!
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