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Scotland, 1300 miles on a 125cc

Blog Date - 09 September 2014

It has been a while since I last updated my blog. Alas far too much fun has been had to recall it in detail dear reader and for that I sincerely apologise.

There is one problem with loving the bike so much. It takes up all my spare time. I have a house to sell and therefore some painting and sprucing up is required. So very reluctantly I have had to take the odd fun day away from my bike and paint instead. So therein lies my excuse for not writing my blog for a while. I have either been doing boring house chores or simply having too much fun out on the bike.

The best time and the most fun I have had yet on the bike was all wrapped up in an amazing trip to Scotland in August I went on with Ren and a couple of smashing friends Jeanette and Rob. Ren is a far more dedicated travel writer than I and he has done a fantastic job of writing up the story. You can read all about the Scottish trip here. CLICK HERE

I can not add any more detail to the trip that Ren has not included other than tell you how it felt for me. A learner on L plates taking a tiny 125cc on a trip of almost 1300 miles to the huge mountains and vast landscapes that is Scotland.

I was incredibly excited by the prospect of this trip. I had been practising some hills and track roads in Wales but I knew this trip would be the biggest test yet for both myself and my bike. Although Zen had so far proved himself non deserving of the supposed crap Chinese label Scotland was a big challenge for any 125cc. Was he up to it, was I up to it ???? Yikes!!

I got to lead the first part of the journey to Settle and joy of joy I was feeling good and confident that day. Zen fell into the twists and turns with ease, gripping the roads and bringing a huge grin to my face. 

That grin just got bigger the further we travelled. Day 2 was a mega 260 mile trip and I loved every second of it. The roads were twisty and best of all fairly quiet. Everyone was on bigger bikes than mine and I did worry about my ability to keep up. We did keep up but to do so my little Keeway had to spend almost the entire 260 miles pushed near to his limit. The rev counter red line on the Keeway is 10,000 it spent most of that day at 9,000. I was pushing the bike so hard that at one point when I smelled smoke I wondered if he had caught fire and was about to explode. Fortunately it turned out to be a farmer burning some wood so we just kept going mile after stunning mile. 

Sharon's Keeway RKS 125 at the Ayrshire coast with a big load of luggage
Time for a stretch and to admire the view.

I find it so hard to put into words the joy that suffused my entire being as I left the hustle and bustle of town life and entered the tranquillity and the space that is Scotland. It is like the leaves on the trees breathe in my worries and cares, transform them and release back to me peace and happiness. It feels like home. I am at home in the wilds, among the forests, the rivers the mountains. It is where I want to be, I want space, I want beauty, I want to be delighted at every twist and turn and as the Scots themselves are often known to declare, I want freedom. Scotland gives me all that and more in abundance. 

The star on top of these majestic tress is that not only did I get to experience all this I got to see it while riding my very own bike. I have said it before but in a car you are more an observer, sealed in within a temperature controlled bubble zone. On a bike you feel the temperature drop when you enter the shade, you feel the sun on your back when it breaks from the clouds. You smell the pine cones and the salty sea. You are part and parcel of all that surrounds you, you are part of nature and boy does that feel good. This is fresh food for my poor tarmacked fed soul.

I guess I am not the only person to feel this way and maybe Pirsig puts in more eloquently than I

 “In a car you're always in a compartment, and because you're used to it you don't realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You're a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame. 
On a cycle the frame is gone. You're completely in contact with it all. You're in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.” 
? Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

CBF 250 and RKS 125 with luggage against a mountainous Scottish vista
Food for the soul.

The miles were long but the scenery and the thrills on the bends kept me alert. I had to tackle lots of firsts on this trip and the first of those was an exit to a very steep awkward car park. I did not like the look of it at all. It was a sharp turn to the right and there was a dip in the road as you left the car park meaning I would be left with feet dangling. So if I was to wobble there would be no saving it. I seriously thought of just refusing to do it and making the bf come to the rescue and do it for me. But then my pride kicked in and my self determination that if I could do it I should. I had to at least try. I tried and succeeded ... wahoo! The next challenge was a  ferry. It was only a small ferry but I was rather nervous about boarding a ferry on the bike. If I dropped it there would be a massive audience to see and more importantly I did not want to bend up Zen. When I saw I had to ride the bike over some metal lumps on a diagonal to get onto the ferry I began to flutter inside. Oh well there was nothing to do but to go for it and hope for the best. It was as with most things easier than it looked and I got to ride my first ferry with my bike, another wahoooo! What a ferry it was as well with a view worthy of a little wobble on the bike.Food for the soul

betty the toy bat on sharon's motorcycle on the ferry across the firth of clyde
Me, Zen and Batty on out first ferry ride together.
hills roll down to the shoreline as we cross the waters to dunoon
See what you can see from the sea. Wow! 

I did not even realise how very tired I was until we finally got off the bikes once we reached our accommodation. I felt so proud that my little bike had not missed a beat all day but had just kept trying on and on and on. I gave him a grateful little pat as I left him parked up for the night. I could not quite believe that I had come back to this wonderful place under my own horsepower. I had experienced some new things that day and I was thrilled to bits.

The next day saw more mountains and glorious scenery to lift the soul. But I was stupid enough to let the scenery distract me. I peered down a side road that the car in front of me had took to see where it may lead. As I switched my gaze back to the road I was right upon a sharp bend with a wall right before my eyes. Holy shit .... what do I do, what do I do ??? I considered jamming on the brakes and just stopping but the other bikes were right behind me. Nope I was just going to have to throw the bike into the bend and do it QUICK!!!.... phew that shook me up, lesson learned ... keep my eyes on the road in front of me. Once I settled down I begin to enjoy myself again and I was surprised that I did manage to settle down so quickly. In the past a mess up like that would have put me off all day but that day I managed not to dwell on my mistake. I learned from it that was for sure and that is what we need to do, dwelling helps no one. Maybe just maybe I am beginning to learn to stop being so harsh on myself.

The roads leading to Glen Coe were awesome and Ren rightly pointed out that those on faster bikes might want to open up their bikes and go ahead for awhile. So as the faster bikes roared into the distance I was left behind stuck behind a bloody stupid caravan. All over Scotland signs advise that frustration can cause accidents so allow overtaking. Now ok it is only a 125 but it was faster than the caravan plodding in front of me. The driver was however damned if he was going to give me room to overtake. I cursed away in my helmet but today was not a good die to die, it was a beautiful one to be alive in, so I stayed behind and crawled for some time. At last I saw a chance for an overtake and zoomed past, only to come to the end of this lovely twisty gem of a road 2 seconds later. Haaa oh well. The great thing with Scotland  is that the road now led onto another twisty awesome road, this time with no one in front of me, yeeehaaa .... lets have some fun!! I pushed myself a little bit, enough to give myself the odd little flutter in my tummy but not so bad as to scare myself silly and put myself off.

We had all agreed to meet up at a petrol station and though I was worried I might have left the others waiting for an age for me to catch up they assured me that they had only been waiting a short time. Maybe they were just being nice to me and my little bike but I don't think we put ourselves too much to shame me and Zen. Then it was on to Glencoe itself. I have travelled on this route a couple of times as a pillion. Now I got to ride it. I was both excited and nervous by the prospect. No one hangs about on this road. It is twisty but the pace is usually fast. Would I be able to handle it? Yes I handled it and I was so happy to find myself parking my own bike at the Glencoe I felt a little giddy. 

Sharon's keeway RKS 125 set against the steep rocky slopes of Glencoe
That is my bike that I rode parked next to Glencoe... how cool is that.

I was enjoying myself so much I felt I could burst. I was with great friends, a gorgeous boyfriend and I was riding the most amazing twisty roads. I was also surrounded by nature at her best. Life just does not get better than that.

Ren and Sharon hug with clear skies and Glencoe mountains as a background
Quick Ren grab me before I float off over the mountain's in my bubble of joy.

The following day brought some light drizzle but I had learnt the hard way in France that rain does not stop play. So with waterproofs on I was up for today's adventure which was to be a slow ride around a loch. So far on this trip I had been up early every morning. The prospect of riding actually made me get up ... for those who know me this is amazing!  It was lovely just to bimble that day after all the hard riding over the previous days. The roads were so empty we get to go as slow as we like without  holding up anyone. My little heart skipped for joy as we rolled past little tiny beaches nestled beside the loch. It was so peaceful, so serene, so incredibly beautiful. This is as far as I am concerned a little piece of heaven right here on earth. I was at total peace here with just Ren ,the views and my little bike. The bike was happy to go slowly to allow me time to stare at all that passes me by in grateful wonder.     

  “The test of the machine is the satisfaction it gives you. There isn't any other test. If the machine produces tranquility it's right. If it disturbs you it's wrong until either the machine or your mind is changed.” 
? Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

We spied a sign for a campsite and the bf decides to go have a look. I followed and then regretted it. Oh my those were some big stones down that track and whoa the bike was like slip sliding all over the place. I stopped and declared that I did not like this one bit. Just relax was the bf's advice, the bike will be able to handle the rocks and in reality it wont be sliding anywhere as near as bad as it feels. Ok with big breaths I tell myself here is to new adventures and more learning. Once I relaxed my grip on the handlebars the bike handled much better over the slippery rocky road and I found I was actually enjoying it then. God I love this bike and the fact it takes me where I want to go and takes what I throw at it. I was deep inside the woods on a rocky road in the middle of bloody nowhere on a bike.... totally brilliant!!

We carried on through misty lonely moors. The heather on the hills made me think of my daughters and this brought a smile to my face. It was rugged and lonesome here but that brought it's own special attraction. Although one would not like to find oneself without transport around here for it would be a long lonely walk to find some help.. Just as well trusty Zen kept on going.

a misty empty lane lane leads across the remote Rannoch Moors
Misty and mysterious ... no need to let rain stop play.

More fun with vast open twisty roads over the next couple of days all helped my confidence grow. I felt good on the bike and in control. Did I say control well errr hmm I was in control most of the time. Well apart from the time I hit that dreaded unexpected stretch of gravel. The one that waits for you on a downhill bend and you dare not brake, so you just have to surf it, wobble all over the place and hold on and laugh like a manic nutter. Bloody hell that was interesting to say the least. The bf let out a big wahooo when my bikes tyres finally found some traction again and we kept giggling about it for ages. He was terrified I would panic and pull on the brakes and therefore end up throwing myself under his front tyre. I mean he might have had to clean his bike the mess I would have made ;-) . 

But I am so very proud to say I was in control for the switch back from Hades itself. The one that was like as tight as you could possibly get and as you came inching slowly around the bend you discovered a downhill drop that would do a roller coaster proud. I was scared I admit that but I kept the bike steady and in control and for that I will give myself praise for once. I still seem to prefer downhill to up. I so enjoyed some downhill stretches across the mountains that I would put my legs in the air and let out a big whoop as I hurtled down. Maybe this is because a 125cc has to work so hard to get to the top and sometimes slows down so much that you will be damned if you applying the brakes on the way down. 

All too soon it was time to head home and another test was given in the form of the most horrendous thunder storm while riding over the mountain tops. Complete with forked lightening, rain so hard it hurt even through all my layers and winds that blew my bike all over the place. But thanks to the mileage and the experience gained on this trip although this was indeed a challenge to ride through it was also exhilarating. Yes it was scary but I felt like I really was taking on nature. I was wet through to my knickers (fine time for two sets of waterproofs to give up together) but I could not stop smiling. It was the most stupid, scary, silly, fun. Getting blown around is scary stuff but I have learned that being more relaxed actually helps the bike to move around better in the wind. I guess it is like a branch bending in the breeze. If it is stiff and rigid it will snap. So on the bike if you are stiff there is probably more chance of you sliding and falling off. By letting the wind push you slightly to and fro the bikes moves around more easily. It is hard work though and I think if some of those gusts had got even harder I might have found my tipping point.  

batty the cuddly toy bat looks forlorn and soaked attached to Sharon's motorcycle
Batty doing an impression of a drowned rat just like me. 

As home gets ever nearer my spirits begin to flag. This has been the most amazing holiday ever. I have loved every tiny second of it. I cannot put into words the pleasure I get from my bike but I hope by reading this you get an inkling of how it makes me feel. As always it will be good to hug my girls when home, they are all I really miss. But other than that I could just keep on travelling, I want to keep travelling and never stop. I want to open my eyes to a new vista each day. I want to feel the joy I feel on the road all the time. But this fun comes with a price and that price has to be payed for and that means work. Pfft.

   “Sometimes it's a little better to travel than to arrive” 
? Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

Sharon in the distance riding across a long vast open moor in the sun

Reader's Comments

JDV said :-
Great read Shar.................it really goes to show that a relaxed rider is a better rider

:)


1/1/2000 UTC
kath brooks said :-
Really enjoyed reading this Sharon, a great achievement.
1/1/2000 UTC
Sharon said :-
Thanks JDV and Kath it really was the best adventure I have ever had. Loved it soooo much. Kath I am so looking forward to riding with you soon. :-)
1/1/2000 UTC
Sally said :-
I have been reading through your blog and this is lovely. Having travelled around Scotland with my husband it brought back so many memories. He has now passed and among many other things I miss our journeys.

I have been considering trying to ride myself but it seems such a daunting prospect. Enjoy your adventures Sharon.
1/1/2000 UTC
Sharon said :-
Hi Sally,

I am glad you have enjoyed reading my blog and that it brought back good memories for you.

I am so sorry to hear of your loss. I can appreciate that the loss is indeed two fold, not only that of your husband but as you say your journeys also.

We must ultimately all decide for ourselves which path we choose to follow but I would really encourage you to give riding for yourself a try. It may not be for you but then again it may be the beginning of a whole new wonderful adventure.

For myself a can not truly express how much joy my little bike has given me and I just suspect that a bike of your own might bring you great joy also.

If you do decide riding yourself is not for you there is still options available that can allow you to continue to enjoy biking. There are groups around that are for pillions and riders so people can meet up and ride together.

If you would like to talk to me some more about the prospect of riding yourself or just to chat please feel free to contact me anytime either on here or privately via our email which you can find on the contact page, it would be lovely to hear from you again.




1/1/2000 UTC

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