The city of Nice seen from the surrounding hillside bathed in sunshine

Home Travel StoriesNorth Coast 500 2017

Letting Sleeping Sad Sacks Lie

By Sharon Parker

Scotland NC500 day 1. 250 miles from Merseyside to Ayr. 

I am not a natural morning person but today is a beautiful day so that makes getting out of bed far easier. I collect all my stuff together and begin to load up the bike. The whole Kriega luggage system is still new to me having only used it once before. This morning I just stand bemused clutching one of the bags as my befuddled brain has no recollection of how each bag attaches to the other. I have to go and find the instructions to help me out. As usual as I faff about time is moving on far faster than me. I do not want to be late to Ren's so I begin to get a bit of a sweat on rushing around. 

Time used to be an issue between Ren and I. Ren likes to be on time, well usually early if he can. I however grew up in a family where time was really a vague concept. If we arranged to meet up we would generally give a day and that was it. We would sometimes narrow that down to a morning or an afternoon but no precise times were ever mentioned. So I could never understand why Ren would get so upset if I would not set a time. If I did give a time and I was an hour or so late I would be met with a stony stare and silence. We eventually sat down and talked and I was really quite shocked how my lateness upset him and how much he valued time and punctuality. We both now do our best to compromise. I do my utmost to try and be on time these days and on the most part succeed and Ren does not get upset if I am just a little late. Today I am going to be a little late. I set off 10 minutes later than planned, damn it. 

I simply do not feel prepared for this holiday. I know I am not 100% recovered from my operation yet and I certainly know I am not what I call bike fit. I have not had a chance to put in the miles due to the trip coming so close after my operation to remove my tumour. I can feel myself begin to worry, will my side hurt, will I be up to this trip, what if??? Stop it Sharon you know you need to travel light so just relax and enjoy. Despite wanting to travel light I do wish my luggage to come with me so I check my mirrors every few miles to see if the bags are still firmly attached. It takes a while for me to feel I can trust my new luggage system. 

I arrive at Rens to a cheerful smile and a warm cup of tea. After filling ourselves with tea and the bikes with petrol we hit the motorways, they will be our main mile crunchers today. The adventure begins...

Ren and Sharon's bikes in a car park complete with all the luggage for the forthcoming tripLet the fun begin, ready and fully loaded

I feel just fine riding the bike. We stop of at Tebay services and are kindly given a small portion of free chips by a generous gentleman. This means I have money now to buy cake as well, yum yum. I thought the cake and short rest would boost my energy but the exact opposite happens once back on the bike. I feel suddenly really, really tired. I have to really fight to keep myself awake. I hate this feeling, having to force your eyes open and trying to find interest in your surroundings to stop you nodding off, not too easy on the motorway. Note to self - eat carbs not just sugar in future on a stop off. 

2 bright chrome tea pots, cups, saucers and sweet cakes on the table at Tebay servicesToo much of a sweet thing

The boredom is eventually relieved when we get off the motorway and ride some fantastic roads from Gretna Green to Ayr. Ren is clearly enjoying this A road as he disappears into the distance. I am still learning how my bike feels under a full camping load so I am happy to stay back at my own pace. This is quite a revelation. While I was learning I always though I had something to prove, both to myself and others. I would sometimes ride faster than I felt I was comfortable with in an effort to keep up. Now I realise I am confident enough in my own pace and abilities to be happy to see Ren disappear and not be concerned about it. I like this feeling, I like it a lot.

After around 220 miles I suddenly begin to hurt. My wrist aches and my rib throbs. Yep not being physically fit or bike fit is beginning to tell. Fortunately it is not long now to the campsite. The campsite in Ayr provides a welcome rest for my weary body. I am so tired that as soon as the tent is pitched up I crawl inside for a little nap. At first we are the only campers in the field which surprises me, I thought it would be mad busy with being half term week. However I later learn that it is not half term in Scotland so that explains it. Nice one. Peace and quiet...bliss. Later that evening we are eventually joined by a cyclist. He is a young American who is touring Scotland and Ireland on his bicycle. Wow he must be one fit young man. We chat briefly wishing him well on his adventure. We retire to the onsite bar and receive a warn friendly welcome from the lady serving in the bar. Having a bar on site or even just a room is a godsend  to campers. It gives you somewhere warm and dry to just sit and relax. 

The bikes at the Heads Of Ayr campsite being unloaded in the evening skies
Ren can be seen cooking on the stove in the entrance to the tentTime to relax and time for tea.

The evening is mild and at bedtime I am perfectly snug and comfy in my sleeping bag. Sad sack has not put in an appearance today so I assume I crept out of the house this morning quietly and happily enough to not disturb his slumber. I know he can awaken at any time and track me down if he has the whiff of sadness to follow. But tonight I have a big grin on the face to keep him at bay. It has been a fabulous first day. The scenery and that all important feeling of space is working its magic on my soul already. I can already breathe easier. 

Looking out over a field to the sea off the Ayrshire coast on this dry clear eveningFresh air to breathe

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North Coast 500 2017 Prologue Ren looks at the wheres, whys and hows of this year's trip to the North of Scotland. This time they're with a group, kind of, sort of, maybe.
Panicking, Boredom and Pleasure After the pre-departure concerns and a dull stretch of motorway things improve as Sharon and Ren head north on the first leg of their adventure.
Letting Sleeping Sad Sacks Lie It's Sharon's turn to tell her version of the first day's events for this trip. After recently having surgery to remove a tumour is she even fit enough for the forthcoming journey?
The Best Of The Worst Heading into the Highlands brings forth both rain and midges for our travellers. Fear not though as they are both prepared and fortuitous (ready and lucky).
Twisty roads and Twisted Friends Sharon discovers the joy of riding Highland roads is more than enough to blow away the blues even in the rain. Nothing can stop her now.
Muggles at Bealach Na Ba With improving weather and impressive surroundings Sharon has to make a major life changing decision. Will she...won't she...can she...should she...?
A Day Full Of Mystery And Magic Sharon's journey into The Highlands is a mixture of magic, fear, delight, beauty and sheer survival. Can she remain shiny side up over The Applecross Pass?
Into Ullapool While the weather takes a turn for the worst it's not nearly enough to put the dampeners on a group ride. Follow our trekkers along the Highland coastline and into Ren's favourite town, Ullapool.
BEE Happy There's a lot of emotions flowing through Sharon today but they all lead to one conclusion. Life is for living because tomorrow is not a certainty. The Highlands is an excellent space to make the most of life today.
Priceless Scenery And Pies The next part of the NC500 adventure is arguably the most beautiful part. Will the weather hold out and just how expensive can 2 pies be? All this and more besides.
Friends Come In All Shades Of Blue Fabulous scenery along fabulous road put a big smile on Sharon's face. There's friends old and new and some of the new friends are wearing blue. But why?
Stolen Limelight Riding across the very top of the country is always a pleasure even if it's raining. However Ren's day is ruined due to Sharon's fame.
Envy Attracts Envy And Fame Sharon is revelling in the wonders of The Highlands, the delights of meeting fellow travellers and in upsetting Ren by being famous.
Sleeperzzz In The Rain It's a soaking wet day riding from John O'Groats back south. There's the promise of a hearty meal and a proper bed at the end of the day to keep the riders going.
Fairly Dry And Rather Bracing In spite of the awful weather Sharon's making the most of the last day riding the North Coast 500. At least she gets spoiled at the end of the day.
Failure and Reality There is nothing left any more, nothing to look forward to now the adventure is complete. Ren just wants to get home but is that just a little too much to expect?
Thrills And Spills There's a whole heap of miles to be covered for Sharon on her way home. How many can she cover, can she enjoy or endure them and will she survive?
North Coast 500 2017 Epilogue Ren sums up the experience of riding the NC500. It's all about the people, the route just speaks for itself.
The End Of The Story Leaves Me Speechless Sharon rounds off the NC500 adventure with the wrong breakfast, the wrong weather and the wrong traffic. Luckily these are just tiny hiccups on what was a most excellent adventure.

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