Thursday, 30 June 2011

how i got the best hitch ever

so, finally it's coast to coast time. we start off in corran, or at least we do when we get there, having had a fine old night previously in a wee b&b some miles down the coast. naturally it's raining, it's the west coast. in scotland. in summer. but not just raining, no, that would be simple. this is more like some godawful torrent, a deluge.

no matter, i'm up for it, the bike's ready and so am i. but first a wee stop in glenelg to see the brochs neither of which t has ever seen but which i've been at on and off for the last twenty years, nothing at all really compared to the amount of time they've been here

it's all sorts of lovely in the pouring rain. i do notice that the waterfall down the glen is more in spate than i've ever seen it. it doesn't register. it should.

and off to corran, along a wee road i've never been and again scenery tha somehow suits the conditions - misty islands, inlets, an otter runs across the road until there's just me and my bike and it's time to go. t is working so she's away down the road. this isn't our normal routine and neither of us like it. like a disturbance in the force....

the good times, along with the 'trail' last all of a couple of hundred metres, then i'm into a rutted wood, knee depp in water where the river's flooded. a veritable tourette's is launched. i put that down to the towniness coming out of me and press on. the track becomes a landrover track and then suddenly it seems someone has built a wall. except it isn;t a wall but the track so steep it looks like a wall. okay then....

and then i reach the first burn. or should i say torrent. i gingerly make my way over, dump my pack and then back for the bike.this routine is about to become depressingly common. normally it would just be wet and a pain but as i'm on my own it has that element of stupidity and danger. and of course t's away down the road by this point so it's not like there's a turning back.

on and on i go, all the time the sound of water in my ears. and lots of lovely wee dippers zipping about, more than i've ever seen in one place. i get up to the lochans and the water is battering down off the dam like something demented. i'm glad i don;t have to cross that i think.

the instructions in the route guide are clear. follow the pylons. nothing about a river crossing. except the pylons cross the river. maybe normally you wouldn't get your feet wet. only now it's waist deep and fairly flying down the glen. again the tourette's and casting up and down the river until i finally find an island and manage to get across. i know i have two significant river crossings the following day and already i'm thinking there's no chance i'm risking that.

but anyway, onwards and upwards and a word about tyre choice. normally i'd be on some stubbly mtb tyre. but, as there's a bit of road to come, i've chosen some semi slicks. when you're cycling up a stream filled with slidey granite stones this isn't a good idea. at least i've got a mudguard. then i remember i haven't got any spare brake pads. right around this time i crash.

and again a tourettesian tirade as i've managed to land right on my left knee. what is the deal with this day. but i suck it up. no signal, no easy out so that's all there is to it. my bars are a wee bit bent so i pick the bike up, fix that and then go to roll off. except the bike won't move, the rear wheel jammed up against the frame. i go to get the quick release and then remember, it's rohloff, i don;t have a quick release. and then i see the securing bolt has slipped off the drop out. and right then i realise that despite having a tool to do every job on a regular bike i don't have a 14mm spanner for this bolt. this time i proper lose it.

but just for a second because really, what's the use. i contemplate leaving the bike but it's a long, long way to the nearest road and i won;t get a signal until i reach the end of it by which time t will be long gone. only one thing for it - i shoulder the bike and hike it out. it's a killer. i'm no lover of walking (see the ben nevis post) so i know this is going to take it out of me. and it does. but i make it.

i see a house. i knock the door. eventually a person appears, looks at me, then goes into another room, completely ignoring me. i hope, i say, you have a heart attack and carry my bike down to the next house where, even if i'm not greeted with the 'highland hospitality' (or maybe i am) at least they have a spanner. no cup of tea or other aid which, in their position i surely would've offered but hey ho, my bike's fixed and off i go. straight into the climb.

it's 15% up glenelg and only a little less into loch hourn. after the walk my legs feel cooked. and not in a good way. i check the bike. the tyres should be well pumped up. can it be, really, can it be that the rear is losing air? i hate cycling my mtb on the road but i really hate it when the presures are down in tyres, twice the effort for half the distance. but worrying about it isn;t going to get me where i want to go. and off up the hill.

and then the wind starts. there's a big low blowing in from the west so obviously for me far from being at my back it's hitting me in the face. i'm too done to care. do your worst i say, i can take it, getting my head down and working out the shortest route to the hostel. it's while i'm doing this i cycle through a puddle. innocuous you might think but enough to kick the chain off and into the bottom bracket. which is where it stays.

i spend around half an hour trying to fix it but it won't release and by this time i realise how cold i'm getting. i get my warm gear out. I'm going to have to walk it out i think, a good twenty miles in cycling shoes. great. but nevertheless it is what it is. i get my long fingered gloves on. a brief ray of sunshine breaks through. thanks for that, i smile. it's taken me three hours to go some fifteen miles

and i've taken all of three steps when i hear a car. i stick my thumb out. the car pulls over. have you broken down asks the german girl inside. yes i have i say. this is not a problem, she says, you can put the bike on my bike rack. brilliant i say. where are you going she asks. for augustus i say. but this is excellent she says, i am going to fort augustus. were it not inappropriate i could have kissed her there and then and told her of my belief in a higher power. the best hitch i have ever had.

i'n very cold by the time i get to the hostel but they have one of those skin scorching showers that hammers the heat right into your bones and i emerge refreshed and hungry. legs hurt but hey, t is coming up to get me, way above the call of duty in my opinion, so i can get a new bike and get going again the following day.

which sees me zipping around the xc friendly trails of aviemore. i'm staying at the cairngorm lodge where they feed me like a king. it's great. well almost great if it wasn't for the fact i'm sharing with the king of snorers. but i'm woken early enough to see the bats going to roost and get out to the loch for a day that starts like this

of course i think it'll be okay if i put in a 100k day off road after less than three hours sleep. that sounds like a fine idea. and if the weather holds i'll get off in the boat. first off i do an extended round the back of loch garten and then back in via ryvoan bothy

then the plan is glen einich and finish on the road bike up to the ski station which is around about where it all went wrong. first i got a twinge in one of the hamstring tendons behind my left knee and then all of a sudden it felt like someone had punched me in the right buttock. punched me and then set it on fire. and all of a sudden my trip was down.

in fact not only was my trip done but so was i. comedy scenes at my physio today as i creak onto the couch. i've got a race next week i say. hmm she says and wires into me with some sort of vibrating club thing which she later lets me take away. spend the rest of the day in a haze of ibuprofen, paracetamol and codeine with an ice pack intermittently stuck to my bum. it's not an endearing sight.

so it wasn't a coast to coast. i didn't even do the routes i wanted. but what a journey! sometimes the end point is not the one i thought it was and then it becomes all about how i got there. and that first day? that's an epic that will only get better with the telling!


Marion McCready said...

an epic?? more like a horror story. lol. can't get over how rude those folk were, rather liked the curse you bestowed upon them, but seeing an otter running across the road - wow! you really are a masochist, aren't you?

swiss said...

it wasn't the jolliest at the time! lol and i'm still kind of staggered by the reactions of some people! ut it just made my rescue, when it came, all the sweeter!