Spean Bridge to Strontian Scotland June 19, 2013
Words fail me right now. I don't even know what to say about today. The day started innocently enough with a superb breakfast at the Distant Hills B&B in Spean Bridge. Tres gourmet. I had Scottish hotcakes which were smaller and denser than our pancakes but were delicious just the same. My boy Adam had eggs, sausage, and his new favourite blood pudding which is too revolting to describe here. The forecast called for rain all-day but it was merely cloudy and windy (of course in our face) when we left.
We started riding along roads and then went along a 15-20 km stretch along the Caledonia canal. This canal bore a striking resemblance to the Erie Canal near Rochester. It was pretty but not spectacular compared to what we have seen the last few days. We ended that segment of the ride in the busy little port city of Fort William which is actually a port on the North Sea, so technically, we have made our way coast-to-coast across Scotland, even though our ride does not end until tomorrow. There was a sign for a yacht race in a yacht club we passed enroute that said finish line, so I proudly rode through that, took a few pictures, and went on my way. However, we are far from done with this ride.
We made our way through the town of Fort William and found our way to the ferry dock to catch a 12:20 ferry across Loch Linnhe, a mile wide stretch of sea water that separates two parts of Scotland. After another 25 km stretch along some lovely but not too memorable roads, we had a great picnic lunch by a river. After lunch, we set off for the afternoon's adventure. I didn't know what to expect, but holy shit, was I in for a surprise.
We rode for about 10 minutes when the skies opened up and the wind kicked up fiercely in our face (about 40-50km/hour winds) as we rode along the eastern shore of Loch Shiel, a beautiful loch that looked a lot like the California coast (sans sunshine). It was hilly, windswept and quite pretty. We rode that for what seemed like an eternity when we turned off the road and onto a mountain bike trail.
That is the point in the day where, when describing what we did next, words fail me.
We started riding up a 1,500 foot high mountain, with pitches ranging from 25-30% on loose rocks. I mostly walked/pushed my bike up (I did ride a 25% section though) but our guide Graham and another rider Patrick actually rode a few of the hills/cliffs. We made our way up about 1,000 vertical feet in about 45 minutes when the fun started. The trail we were on ended and became super steep. Our guide Graham then told me that we had to hike up to the top from there.
I suddenly asked myself...was this in the f-ing brochure???? I don't think so! I would have remembered that little bit. But, I really had no choice and had to soldier on upwards. Graham showed my how to carry my bike across my back, using my Camelback to help support the weight of the 40 pound mountain bike and we began trudging our way through the slop, mud, and goo of the mountainside moors (the worst thing in the world to walk on...like you are walking on a wet sponge). Another hour or so of hiking with my mountain bike on my back and we made it to the top of the mountain, all the time looking forward to an exciting downhill run. Sadly, the exciting downhill run was not to be, as the way down was a rocky, sloppy, muddy gooey mess of...you guessed it...moor. It wasn't a ton of fun and was kind of frustrating but our guides Dave and Graham helped us navigate our way down and we made it. Over ten hours of riding/hiking today. Tired??? I think so.
So we just finished drinks and dinner here (I had numerous Macallan shots) and am half in the bag as I write this. I have to say, the food in Scotland has been terrific including tonight's dinner. The owner of the hotel we are in is also named Graham. When I ordered a beer/cider at the bar (one that is made in Ireland) he jokingly asked me...you came to Scotland and ordered an Irish cider?? That's when I told him I would make up for that faux pas by drinking a nice Scotch. A couple of Macallans later, here I am, sitting in Graham's office (because the internet wifi in our room sucks, and Graham said...go ahead...use my office) writing today's blog and downloading pictures and video.
I also have a big surprise for my Harry Potter-loving daughter Lauren if I can get a video to download, so my fingers are crossed. Talk to you all tomorrow as we finish our ride across Scotland.