Travel StoriesNorth Coast 500 2017
The End Of The Story Leaves Me Speechless
By Sharon Parker
Day 9 Peebles to home. 215 miles.
The rain is back and so with it comes wind today. It is hard going over Southern Uplands. The wind is strong and its gusts make me wobble on a couple of bends. I know how to ride in the wind, I keep myself relaxed and my grip soft on the bars. I grip with my knees onto the the tank if I feel the need. I let myself move gently with the wind. I know it is best to be flexible than rigid. After all as the sage advice goes -
"A reed before the wind lives on, while mighty oaks do fall' or as the Chinese would say "A tree that is unbending is easily broken".
We stop for a break and something to eat at Moffat. After walking (or rather squelching) away from a few Cafes with over ambitious prices we find a cheaper but strange little cafe down a side street. Apparently you can choose 5 items of your choice from the board for you breakfast. I make my choices and sit patiently for some time waiting for it to appear. I make my usual puddle around me as both my clothes and time drips slowly by. Eventually the breakfast arrives but not the one I ordered. I try to explain this to the waitress but she insists I am the one in the wrong. I really can not be bothered to argue and waste more time waiting so I accept what I am given.
It is another day of mile crunching and motorways eat up the miles. Head winds on the motorways keep buffeting me about and it all gets a bit tiring after a while. I am not as exhausted as yesterday though. My boot leaks again as the rain gives us no reprieve.
More motorways follow and the rain eases off. I bid farewell to Ren at Charnock Richard services. I then turn off the M6 onto the M62 and encounter a car park. Damn it I was hoping for a swift ride home. The cars are going no where. I am not a fan of filtering but as the heavens open once again I decide I am not sitting here going no where and getting drenched. So I hoist up my big girl waterproof pants and filter. I filter for some distance before eventually coming to the head of the queue. The road is closed due to an accident so I have to wait until it re-opens. I hope whom ever is in the accident is ok and I also hope the road opens up soon. I am cold and tired and dreaming of a warm brew and a comfy couch to curl up on.
I finally get home sometime after 6pm. As I reach home the sun comes out and before I snuggle up I give the bike a good rinse over. My Kawasaki Z250SL Envy has preformed perfectly. She never missed a beat. She has proved to be the perfect bike for an adventure around the Scottish Highlands. I could feel her working hard on some steep hills but she happily kept up with the bigger bikes. I learned a lot about my skills and my bike's abilities on this trip. Well done her and well done me. Well done Scotland and well done all the other riders who made up the Noo2.
Before riding the NC500 I would have said it was not a route for beginners but Marina on her L Plates and her scooter proved me wrong. There is no set licence and no set bike that you need to do this route.
The NC500 is an exhilarating but challenging route. It tested all my skills and improved many of them. It seems incredible to think I was going around corners at 50 to 60 mph. Riding a challenging route day in day out really does hone your skills and increase your confidence. I am glad that I never looked at the Applecross Pass in detail before the trip, I would never have thought I could do it. Sometimes it is just best to go and do it and not over think it. I simply loved every day. Riding the NC500 was a truly amazing experience. The vast open spaces, the majestic scenery, the feeling of space to breathe, to live. Plus the pleasure of making new friends.
My total miles for this trip was 1380. I can honestly say it has so far been my most favourite trip on my bike. I had so many WOW moments. So many times that I was left speechless by the beauty that surrounded me.
Travelling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” ~ Ibn Battuta
They say when travelling to remember to always take the scenic route...you could not get much more scenic than the NC500, but do not take my words for it, go yourself and become speechless.
As the sunsets on my final day of this adventure I smile as the memories embed themselves in my soul. My Grandfather Gibb was Scottish and therefore I have Scottish blood in my veins and I always feel so at home and free in Scotland. I hope soon to return. As long as I live Scotland will always call me back.
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?
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.
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?
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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Travel StoriesNorth Coast 500 2017