Cycling Across Britain-Day 21: A routine day?
8 August 2011
Miles: 29.9, Where I slept: Bunkhouse in Evanton
There were no big surprises or even sights today. Maybe that’s inevitable after the wonderful surprise of having a band play in the hostel yesterday. But there were some fun little surprises. One surprise was unpleasant, when I started my day at the youth hostel on Loch Ness.
My bike doesn’t have a good space for handlebar bag, so I made one the night before I left London, essentially by strapping on a couple of metal tubes handlebar. They look like little horns on my handlebar. The metal tubes used to be part of a drying rack, which my landlord was good enough to leave in my flat. I liberated them with a hacksaw. Anyway, the straps came loose yesterday, and I’ve already had the bag come loose while gaining speed down a hill. This morning, I tightened the straps to avoid, or reduce, the risk of the handlebar bag falling off again.
As I worked on it, a cloud of the dreaded Scottish midges formed around me. I expected the little demons to show up, so I sprayed myself down with a heavy dose of DEET, practically looking forward to stopping them. I swear they’ve learned to eat DEET, as a new flavor to go with my flesh. It was more important to get the straps tight than keep some flesh, so all I could do is insult them. It didn’t stop the demons, but I felt slightly better.
One theme of this trip is that the sights I thought were going to be the best were mediocre or less impressive, and others were a lot of fun. One sight I expected to be impressive was the Great Glen you can see on any map of Britain or Scotland. If you want to have a look, click the “Map of Britain” link on the right side of this webpage. Anyway, the Great Glen runs diagonally, SE to NW, across the top 1/3 of Scotland and includes Loc Ness.
I expected this to be one of the highlights of my trip. It is a beautiful area, but there’s only one road in that area, because of the rocky cliffs that are a part of the landscape. One road means lots of traffic, so large tourist buses, campers, and other trucks are always flying by. I did my best to enjoy the sights, but I also looked forward to getting off that road. Sporadic rain made the road even less appearing.
After I was stocked up on groceries, I followed my sat nav for the next few turns, away from busy roads. It told me to make a couple sharp turns. The first turn led to moderate hill; the second turn led to a larger hill, and the third kept the pattern going. I started pushing my bike after the second turn. After the third turn, I saw a young man cycle by me. “Well done” I called out. He said something back about it must be hard cycling with so much gear. I’ve heard that a lot and take it as a complement, since it’s always said with an upbeat tone.
A little while after that, another cyclist past me, with a bike and gear that looked similar to the guy I just saw. And then, a third cyclist past with similar bike and gear. They all made the standard cyclist greeting, “Ay, a’right?” For American readers, that’s roughly translated as “Hey, are you alright?” In American English, a similar phrase is “Hey, how ya do’n?” So, they passed, and I was impressed with their ability to cycle up a challenging hill.
I saw them again a short while later, stopped on the side of the road. I called out “Ay, a’right?” They responded that one of their tents were coming loose, so they stopped to tighten it up. Not surprisingly, they passed me less than a mile later, but this time, the first rider stayed with me for a while to chat. We talked about the trip from Land’s End, my folding bike, and eventually, he told me that his group were raising money for research into kidney cancer, since he was hospitalized for it a few months ago. We also exchanged stories and some laughs, especially after the other two cyclists joined us. We were a group of 4 cyclists for a mile or two. The lead cyclist had completed the End to End route before. This was the first time for his 2 mates, friends in American English. When a large hill came up I told them we would probably part now. We wished each other good luck, and they slowly moved ahead of me.
My plan for the day was to cycle from the youth hostel on Loch Ness to the town of Dingwall, since the hostel manage back at Loch Ness told me “Everything you need will in Dingwall”, hard to beat that. I needed cash, water, and web access to find a place to sleep. She was right. Dingwall was a very cozy town and had a lot shops. The first thing I found was a small town bakery, so I stocked up on much needed treats, and filled up my Camelback and water bottle with water. The manager at the bakery suggested a campsite, in the town of Evanton. It sounded like a good idea, but Evanton wasn’t as far away as I wanted, to reach my mileage goal. She also directed me to the library, in Dingwall. I found it easily enough, and spent about an hour adding some stuff to this website, and looking for a place to stay. It turned out that the bakery manager’s advice was as good as anything I found online. There was one helpful bit of information I found online. The same town the bakery manager suggested, Evanton, also had a bunkhouse. I’ve never stayed in a bunkhouse before, but I was curious to try it out.
When I reached Evanton, I couldn’t find the bunkhouse, so I stopped by a pub and asked. Some guys directed me to the campground, which also had the bunkhouse. I found out that this bunkhouse was essentially a youth hostel under a different name. In this case, though, it was a hostel/bunkhouse where I was the only one there. There was a complete kitchen, dining room, and TV area. Other rooms contained 2 bunk beds each and a portable a portable heater. I set up one room to dry out my shoes and other clothing that was soaked. I put my panniers in another room, where I slept.
It was good having so much space to myself again, something I hadn’t had since Pat let me stay in a trailer a few days before. For the first time in weeks, I also enjoyed another treat I hadn’t seen since I started. A fun episode of Star Trek, Deep Space 9, which I have on my computer. I fell asleep soon after it was over.