Thursday, June 13, 2013

Planes, trains, automobiles, buses, taxis, and bikes

Inverness Scotland June 13, 2013

We made it to Scotland today, but we are still on the train to Inverness which is in the northwestern part of the country. The way this ride is organized, we meet the tour leader/guide in Inverness Saturday morning and then we drive back to Aberdeen on the east coast of Scotland to start the cycling westward across the country the same day.

Needless to say, it has been a full day. Actually, it has been a full week or two.

Just over a week ago, The Duchess and I took our kids (including Adam’s girlfriend Jess) to Vegas. We had a great time seeing Santana (awesome), improv superstar Wayne Brady at the Mirage (and yes, his show was one of the best shows I have ever seen in Vegas), as well as the spectacular "O" by Cirque de Soleil at the Bellagio. We hung out in the sports book (where we lost money on the Blue Jays), the pool, the gym/spa, and the casino. We didn’t do too badly gambling and had a great time with the kids.

As soon as we got back Adam and I pressed on with our training the best we could. Adam’s shoulder was quite sore and the weather has been horrible, so our training was limited. We did manage to squeeze our mountain biking lessons in though, which was a good thing. To paraphrase a quote from a movie I love ”...what we don’t know about mountain biking is a lot...” (who can guess the movie?). We signed up for mountain biking lessons with a company called Sacred Rides and our instructor was an incredibly nice/talented guy named Nate Lessnick. He was very patient with us and taught us fundamental mountain biking techniques, many of which are entirely unrelated to road cycling – stuff like the ready position, ratcheting, hopping, and where to keep one’s weight when going uphill, downhill, or on rough terrain. We had no idea how much we did not know about mountain biking technique. It was incredibly helpful and gave us a much needed shot of minimal confidence. We rode all throughout the Bayview ravine which has incredible mountain bike trails, right in the heart of Toronto. We definitely did not do enough training for this trip, but the last week was good for us. It doesn’t matter now though, we can’t train anymore. The die is cast I guess.

In between training, I played golf a couple of times including my first competitive match ever. I lost 5&4 (which in match play means I lost after the 14th hole). I played poorly but at least the guy I played was nice. Then Duchie and I played a mixed match and we lost on the 18th hole when our opponent sunk a 6 foot putt to beat us. Duchie played really well, but I was like an anchor. Too many missed tee shots, and I failed to convert a crucial 5 footer of my own that might have been the difference in the match. The Duchess said something afterwards to the effect that she was tired of carrying something all day during our match, and I don’t think she was referring to her golf bag. I wonder what she meant by that????

I also forgot that my cousin Jenny was in town last week on business so we took her to our favorite Chinese restaurant (Lee Gardens), fed her a lobster in black bean sauce (which she loved) and had a great time. Jenny is a great girl and we had such a nice time with her. Then just this past Sunday, Duchie had the whole family over for a BBQ to celebrate Lauren and Sam’s graduation and to send Adam and I off with a flourish. Way to go Duchie!

So here I am writing this blog on a wifi-less train in Scotland. The weather is sunny and warm here, but we are not optimistic enough to think this will be the weather we’ll see all week. So far, Scotland has been beautiful to look at. Rolling hills, snow-capped mountains, and everything looks charming and old. But...it has been a long day. We left our house yesterday at 4PM, departed Toronto at 7ish, landed at Heathrow at 6:30AM local time, rushed through Heathrow via the buses that schlep you from terminal to terminal like it was 1972 (what a shitty global hub), passed through UK customs/immigration, walked miles through terminal 5 to find our gate/flight to Edinburgh, found that the gate had changed and ended up having to board another f-ing bus to get to our plane. On the bus to that plane (just as we approached the plane) the bus driver hit the brakes so hard that a few passengers almost flew through the windshield. Jesus H. Christ. Oh yeah, on our flight to London just as we were starting to drift off to sleep, the flight attendant first paged “passenger who knows cousin Mohammed please identify yourself”. Then they paged for a doctor. Then they paged to see if anyone on-board spoke Swedish. Seriously, I am not joking. My boy Adam was a little put off by all this so I took a walk to see what the f—k was going on. I couldn’t find anything out (too big a plane), but it turns out that someone opened an overhead compartment and was nearly knocked out by a bag, so they needed a doctor. They actually found one on board but he was Swedish. Just a  little added drama to keep us from relaxing too much in this fab post-9/11 world. Anyway, our connecting flight to Edinburgh was delayed because the flight we were on was supposed to be at the gate our Toronto flight came in on but couldn’t go there because of “a medical emergency” (what are the odds of that – our flight to Edinburgh delayed because of the person who got hit on the head with a bag on our flight from Toronto ???). Then once we got our bags in Edinburgh, we had a 40 minute cab ride into that very cool city (we will spend two days there at the end of our mountain biking trip).


Hence the title for today’s blog post. We’ve been on every form of transportation except donkey at this point today.

Anyway, I am so excited to have this father & son adventure with my boy. I don’t know what to expect but I can tell you I wish I traveled by train more. We are zipping along gazing at the rich ancestral fields of Scotland, a little weary but ready for anything. Next stop is Perth, where we change trains for the last leg into Inverness. Should be there by 3:30PM local time. Our plan tomorrow is to film the Loch Ness Monster Nessie (for those of you that don’t know, Inverness is located at the northern end of Loch Ness), and sell the footage for millions. Failing that, maybe we’ll find a pub and get hammered. Better it be beer than Scotch though. I still haven’t acquired a taste for that yet, but who knows, maybe this week I will.

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