Looking across to the snow capped alpine mountains seen from the back seat of a motorcycle

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Sauntering Up To Dumfries

Ride Date Sunday 12 September 2021

By Ren Withnell

Oddly we don't need to rush. 

Today we ride to Dumfries and a Travelodge on the main A75 from Carlisle to Stranraer/Cairnryan. Travelodges are cheap, clean and comfy but not really the sort of place you'd want to hang out in. They're places to sleep and wash, that's all. There'd be little point getting there early unless we plan to make the long walk into Dumfries.

Google informs me our journey is 160 miles and 2 hours 40 minutes. This informs me 160 miles and more like 4 hours if we want pee breaks and a brew at some point. 

This morning Sharon is taking this laid back approach to the extreme. By all means take your time sweetie but by 1300 I'm itching to get going. I know I know! We could leave at 1700 and still be there in good time but this waiting is killing me. I'll be fine once we're on our way, I'll stop flapping and start to enjoy myself. Right now I'm still flapping.

4 bags on the back of Sharon's motorcycle.
Sharon's luggage. Bear in mind we are NOT camping.
A bag and tank bag on Ren's motorcycle
I on the other hand am travelling light(ish(ish))

We are eventually on our way. Sure enough once Sharon's luggage doesn't fall off Tour-A-Plank and my engine doesn't disintegrate in the first 10 miles I start to calm down. By the time we reach Preston I've eased into the saddle as the countryside starts to open up. 

In fact I fear I may be enjoying myself. Dagnammit! The motorway is flowing well, the scenery is improving and while my ass is getting a tad numb it feels so very good to be out, on the road, travelling, doing, moving, being somewhere other than my home.

I did struggle with the first lockdown, more than I care to admit. Subsequent restrictions were a little easier although still unpleasant. I have managed to alter my life and expectations such that I've become comfortable being mostly at home with limited social interactions. I'd argue I've become a little too at ease with going nowhere and doing little.

Before we departed we did discuss this. We have both been nervous of this trip, more than normal for myself and any nerves from Sharon is most unusual. As the miles pass under the tyres I think (shocker!). This simple trip is making us nervous, even though we've had several other small trips, even though we've seen each other most weekends, even though our social life is slowly returning. Imagine then those who've been isolating, those who's world has entirely changed. There's going to be a lot of messed up minds out there. 

Lancaster services provide us with toilets, a stretch of the legs and a quick cuppa from our flasks. The weather is light grey cloud, a light breeze and acceptably warm. We set out with the threat of showers and wearing waterproofs, dare we remove them or is that tempting fate? Bravely, nervously, we remove them and pack them away. Maybe we'll regret that.

After a while the motorway has become tedious so I lead us off somewhere south of Penrith and follow the A6 northbound. Flowing a few bends and navigating roundabouts eases the numbness of miles a little but as we roll into Carlisle I'm more than ready for a break. 

I find a pub, a regular, ordinary local boozer. As we step inside it becomes obvious that it's also a restaurant and we sit at a table. We ponder our options. We could, perhaps should, go to a shop or takeaway and grab some snacks. Seeing another couple and a family eating is too much for Sharon and soon we are ordering our tea. My poor poor credit card. 

To be fair the prices are acceptable, the food, while it won't win a Michelin star is tasty and the young lady serving is friendly and efficient. This is far better than triangle butties sat on the tarmac of a car park. It seems spending money makes life easier and more pleasant. Dagnammit.

Pub food fish and chips in Carlisle
Sharon has fish-n-chips, I've already scoffed my burger.

We fill the tanks at Morrisons then hit the road once again. In my mind Dumfries is just down the road from Carlisle but alas there's 30-odd more miles to cover. It is a pleasure to see the hills and the sign welcoming us to Scotland but with a full belly and a numb bum I'm ready to stop. We roll into the Travelodge around 1800.

This Travelodge is the same as all the others. Friendly efficient staff, unremarkable location, functional rather than nice. We do notice that this particular one is tired. The carpets are faded, the windows old and wobbly and signs that many many people have been here before us. It's not bad and at these prices you can't expect perfection, it's just that others we've been to seem "fresher".

The luggage and bike gear spread over the floor of the travelodge in Dumfries
Travelodges, a place to rest and spread out for the night.

First things first. The F1 is on the telly and I watch with interest and a shriek as Max Verstappen's Red Bull attempts to flatten Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes. It's good to see McLaren achieve a 1-2 as well. After that we take a walk to stretch our legs. It seems we're in the car sales area while Sharon comments this one is too expensive, that one is far too big but the other one is quite lovely. All I can think of is the staff watching the CCTV tomorrow, who were these 2 randoms in high viz wandering around their shiny cars at 2145?

Sharon walks among the cars on the pitch at night
No, we are NOT buying a car sweetie.

Bed. Early start tomorrow.

Share your own travels - click here.

The Whyfors Of Our Impending Return Ren unnecessarily tries to justify their return to Northern Ireland. Sharon takes out Ren with a fiscal left hook. Is there any hope?
Sauntering Up To Dumfries It's a slow slow start to this year's Northern Irish adventure. There's no rush and not rushing is something Ren isn't very good at. On the other hand Sharon is so laid back she's horizontal.
Of Work And Holiday Fears In between working far too hard and the fear of middle aged spread Sharon manages to squeeze into her bike gear and change into holiday mode. It's time to try and forget work and enjoy the ride.
A Ferry, Some Mist And Strangers It's time to cross the vast ocean betwixt Scotland and Northern Ireland. What will the Irish weather hold in store and there's some strangers to be met.
Of Mist And Magic With little sleep and the prospect of a ferry Sharon is doing her best to keep calm and concentrate. It's a bit of a mixed kinda day for the motorcycling hobbit.
West Of The Causeway Exploring the coast west of Giant's Causeway turns out to be more interesting than Ren expected. It's all a question of attitude apparently.
So Are The Days Of Our Lives It seems maturity won't let today's less than ideal weather spoil Sharon's day exploring Northern Ireland's northern coastline.
Underwhelmed In The Sperrins It's time to explore some hills, maybe mountains in Northern Ireland. Thing is Ren's not sure they're up to the task in hand.
Dull Grey Day With A Dash Of Orange Sharon is exploring the hinterlands of The Republic Of Ireland. To be honest it appears she's entirely underwhelmed by it all. Oh well, it can't be all wonderful can it.
Captivating Coastlines And Countryside Culture Sharon and Ren are joined by Rob as they take on familiar ground, an easy day's ride in alluring surroundings. There's a little culture shock to round off the last evening.
A Challenging Day In Northern Ireland It's time to leave Northern Ireland but logistics, health and electricity are conspiring against The Dynamic Muppets.
Time To Go Home It's the final day and all that's left to do is ride home. It's also time for Ren to reflect on this excursion.

Reader's Comments

Upt'North ¹ said :-
Was there a Kawasaki under all them bags Ed?
We don't do sauntering too well.
It just ends up taking all day, doing what you could have achieved in half the time.
It is unavoidable at times but I never look forward to it.
This may be the reason of course why day rides have become less enjoyable to myself, you spend all day trying to get back where you started. Although Er'Indoors STill enjoys them.
I think I've been to Dumfries and I also think the town centre is quite nice. I do like Dumfries and Galloway very much and it's so often missed by many as they charge north to the Highlands.

04/10/2021 23:06:05 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Yes Upt', beneath that pile of bags is a Tour-A-Plank and beneath that a Kwakker 250. To be fair to Sharon - because we were not camping she actually struggled to fill the bags! Normally there'd be the sleeping bag, the airbed, several camping utensils and an abundance of warm pyjamas in preparation for a cold night. Without these the load was "lop-sided" and to balance out she took some extra clothing she knew she'd be unlikely to need. It looks a lot but it didn't weigh that much.

I know what you mean about day trips. You can spend an age getting to someplace interesting only to do some/most of the trip in reverse. I try to create a loop if I can but it's not always possible. When you've lived in one area for a long time it gets harder and harder to find interesting new places that aren't 100s of miles away and along roads that you're so familiar with you're bored of them, no matter how good they are.

Regulars know I adore Ullapool. I did consider moving there but... With 1 road south-east to Inverness and 1 road north to Durness, no matter how beautiful, no matter how stunning and remote and lovely etc etc I fear it must grind to ALWAYS be on the same road whenever you're travelling more than 2 miles.

Dumfries and Galloway are, as you state, overlooked. The area isn't as (insert lots and lots of superlatives here) as The Highlands. While it might not be the "...est" in many ways this is to the area's benefit from my point of view. Fewer campervans and tourists and wheelie popping riders and corner-cutting sports cars. It's also a lot easier to get to for myself. Dumfries and the surrounding towns and villages are, again, not the "...est" but perfectly pleasant and enjoyable.

I have plans to return to Dumfries and Galloway. They're not set in stone as yet, but plans none-the-less.
05/10/2021 11:52:57 UTC
nab301 said :-
Ren , move to Ullapool? Sounds a bit drastic , I've been there once in Autumn but I'd imagine it's a bleak place in winter and definitely not great for 2 wheels..
05/10/2021 12:56:42 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Ed, I think we're quite similar, which is both a surprise and a concern. Probably for you, as much as for me.......
The thought of living in some far outpost of Nicola's Kingdom does appeal, Altandhu, Gairloch, Moidart, Sunart, Mull, Bute, but what about getting old in these places? We are fortunate that we could consider such a move but the remoteness would cause issues, sooner or later.
When we first moved to Northumberland we enjoyed the feeling of being away from the madding crowd and we still do to a degree. Our little town/village supports us well enough and they have to be congratulated for their valiant actions to keep us all stocked up over the last eighteen months. No one run out of bog paper here (yes I know no one ran out of bog paper anywhere).
We are about 20 miles from any of your big supermarket shops (not that big here), take your pick, Alnwick, Berwick-upon-the-Tweed or Kelso. Probably around 50 miles from the nearest A and E and hospitals in general. All this at first mattered little, it was all new to us and most journeys were a joy, still are. BUT, that twenty miles got to feel quite a burden after a couple of years and the 50 miles each way for a routine hospital appointment is rarely a joy.
I wouldn't swap where I live for just about anywhere at the moment but somewhere up a one way track like Ullapool would be a step too far for us. Although the upside is you'd be further away from friends and family.
Who'd have thunk it, me and Ed, just alike.......maybe.

05/10/2021 13:36:58 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
nab301 - C'mon, Greater Manchester ain't great for two wheels at any time of the year! I believe, I am told, the idea is that being coastal means it's not *quite* as cold and ice-bound as you may think. Thing is if you need to go elsewhere then yeah, it would be as cold and ice-bound as you may think, if not more so.

Corwall then? Yeah but no but right. Being a peninsula if you wanna go anywhere other than Cornwall then you're going to be on the A30.

Horwich, my home town on the edge of Bolton, Greater Manchester and indeed reason, does have some advantages. My local Aldi is 10 minutes walk away. I have a retail park 30 minutes walk away. I'm on bus routes to Wigan, Bolton and Chorley which all continue around the north west. I can catch trains, direct to Manchester Airport if ever the need arose. I also have The West Pennine Moors which start about 15 minutes walk away and it takes me about 2 hours to walk up and down Rivington Pike. I have motorcycle shops aplenty within 20 miles(except for Honda, dagnammit!).

All this being said of course it would be nice to have a pad in the countryside. As long as there's a supermarket within walking distance. And a good hospital on a bus route. Maybe a handy DIY/Tool shop. Oh and a local motor factors for oil and the like. MOT station nearby where you can leave the car/bike rather than waiting around? Some local pubs is nice. Oooh, a cobblers. All this needs to be nearby but not visible or audible and must not interrupt my tranquil retreat.

Oh, it must have a big garage workshop. And cost less than 50k. Any suggestions?
05/10/2021 14:51:01 UTC
nab301 said :-
Quote " Any suggestions?"
There's always Southern Ireland (although all the cheap cottages in the middle of nowhere have been bought by the new breed of "work from home types" assuming reliable broadband is available) with the added bonus of no Mot type tests currently required for motorbikes ... Housing anywhere near civilisation though, is generally eye wateringly expensive
Depending on location the weather might be milder in winter but more than likely it'll be even wetter than your own location.
Pre Brexit I would have suggested somewhere in France maybe , if you can handle the bureaucracy? You might have to post your shoes to the cobbler though.


05/10/2021 16:10:18 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
"As long as there's a supermarket within walking distance. And a good hospital on a bus route. Maybe a handy DIY/Tool shop. Oh and a local motor factors for oil and the like. MOT station nearby where you can leave the car/bike rather than waiting around? Some local pubs is nice. Oooh, a cobblers. All this needs to be nearby but not visible or audible and must not interrupt my tranquil retreat."

All that (but not the cobblers) in sunny redditch. But maybe not for 50K......
05/10/2021 16:12:25 UTC
Jim said :-
Ullapool is a genuine prospect for me and TI, retirement beckons in a year or three. But we feel the same as Ren, you’d probably get bored with the same roads, however beautiful. So it’ll probably be somewhere a bit more central for us, somewhere close to the A82 or A85 in the triangle between Crieff, Aberfeldy and Tyndrum. As rural and beautiful as you like and easy enough to get to Glasgow or Perth. And Tesco deliver.
05/10/2021 20:45:28 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Jim, I like your thinkin. At least being in the middle means not only can you have rides anywhere you prefer but also to avoid the West Coast/East Coast weather anomalies. We all know that when the wet sets in the west or the cold in the east you're better on the other coast.
On that note we were up in Moidart for a few days recently, magnificent place but the tourists have found that area as well now. It was the busiest I have ever seen the place and it made the single tracks slow going. Hope you're both enjoying your Autumn rides.
06/10/2021 10:15:50 UTC
Rev. Mick! said :-
The first question to all "where shall we move to" considerations is.
Can you and often more importantly your other half, is, can I live in a very different place moving away from my current friends and family? Move to Ullapool and family are now along way away.

When I qualified the first job I was offered was in the Gilbert Bain Memorial Hospital in Lerwick. I thought amazing. However I was on expeditions all over the world and my father pointed out you would have to add a day plus cost to each trip just to get to London!
I have lived my adult and married life in 2 places Snowdonia and West Kerry 20 years in both. The number of people who move only to move back to (often England) when they miss grand kids is a high percentage.
In 20 years in Snowdonia, my wife who is from West Kerry wanted to go home to her family everyday.
My parents, when retired moved to Snowdonia to be near my kids. We moved my Mother died and he moved back to Bath to be with my sister and her kids.
06/10/2021 11:04:13 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Wise words Minister. Wise words indeed.
That five hour each way drive back to North Staffordshire was becoming extremely tiresome up to before the Pandemic because of my mothers failing health. Ten hours driving in a day is for persons younger than I. Sadly that is no longer an issue but the pull back to base is strong for many.
But then again it's just a house move if you get it wrong and after moving 4 times in a year before settling in Northumberland, that's nothing to be scared of.
Although living out of boxes is overrated.
06/10/2021 11:22:20 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
Nothing to be scared of? We'd lived in the same house in Brum for 35 years before moving here - and haven't regretted it at all. But after more than 18 months still have things to unpack. It depends on your state of mind and I must admit that the scale of some of the things we needed to do was more than anticipated.
06/10/2021 12:19:09 UTC
Jim said :-
Rev. Mick! - you make a good point about grandchildren - we’ve none at present, but when that day comes it’ll be a powerful pull. Then again, our kids might decide to emigrate or the like, and I ain’t going to Australia for anyone. NZ on the other hand….

Upt’ - did you take the Beast?
06/10/2021 15:44:51 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Jim, it was touch and go but as we were based for the 4 days we went car and hiking boots. No regrets.
West Coast, you need it for a few days every now and again. Sorry about the blatant car trip photo Ed.
Posted Image
06/10/2021 16:55:59 UTC
Jim said :-
That’s a great pic, Upt’. It’s got me beat as to location though. We’re heading North soon, Perthshire for a few nights (lodge with hot-tub, anniversary present from the kids) then up to Garve for a few more. Will be visiting Ullapool, Applecross, Lochinver, Durness etc, hopefully on the Tiger, but TI will be driving the car up as well, then we’ll have a choice if the weather’s poor. Here’s a gratuitous pic from our trip in May.
Posted Image
06/10/2021 18:20:19 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
It's a funny old world ain't it. We (or at least I) spend some of my time hankering after a residence in a nice place and a garage. Yet the wisdom of ages steers me to think that the grass ain't always greener on the other side. To quote Sheryl Crow "It's not having what you want, it's wanting what you have".

So in spite of my tin shed and my ramshackle house I will state that I consider myself lucky. I have food in my belly, plenty of hot tea, 2 motorcycles that I think are fabulous, a roof over my head and a computer which allows me to run this 'ere blog so you lot can say rude things about me. I ain't rich and life ain't perfect but I reckon it ain't so bad.

While hankering to the point of depressing oneself is a pointless exercise I do believe having a few desires is not a bad thing. Wanting "things" at a sensible level can be a motivation to get out there or be creative. It may be as simple as me wanting to explore Scotland more or wanting warmer hands leading myself to the creation of my wonderful and much lauded hand guards. I know Bogger really appreciates my skills.

Like many things it's a balance, and a personal balance at that.

06/10/2021 20:59:00 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Contentment Ed, it's priceless. Many strive to find it without success.
06/10/2021 23:38:55 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
It's a walk between Glenuig and Smirisary on Moidart it goes out to somewhere called White Sands that you can only reach on foot or boat, or I suppose helicopter. We chose feet.
This is White Sands.

Posted Image
06/10/2021 23:45:32 UTC
Jim said :-
A beautiful part of the world, Upt’. Spent a night at Acharacle last September with TI and her brother (who rides a GS, but we don’t mind). Here we are just up from Glenuig on the road to Lochailort.
Posted Image
07/10/2021 08:02:05 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Argh! You folks with ya fab pix. Lovely lovely lovely.
07/10/2021 14:08:36 UTC
pocketpete said :-
Ah A75 dumfries been along there a few times to the docks. You would have seen 'criffel' on you way down there it's a small mountain which I see from my bedroom window.

If I had known you were passing I could have waved you down for a butty.

I'm currently still in plaster but I'm assured my foot is finally healing up and the bones are now 90% fused. So maybe light at the end of the healing tunnel.

Still plenty of metal work to set off the airport alarms.

Posted Image
17/10/2021 22:36:09 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Bit of double sided sticky tape and a loo roll inner, that foot would have been right as rain. I've had a gander on Google Maps and Street View and yeah, I think I know which one Criffel is from the A75 coming out of Gretna and Annan. I am planning a winter trip to this bit of Scotland so beware - you may yet get that visitor. As for airport alarms - I've not been through any airports but I did jury service a long while back. The metal detectors there gave nary a beep when I wandered through them which leads me to wonder if they work?
18/10/2021 08:58:31 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
My replacement knee always sets the airport alrms off so I expect (if I ever get on a plane again) I'll get a double beep from the hip. Which, since you (didn't) ask, is doing very well - 5 weeks in, threw the crutches away a week ago, walked half a mile yesterday. But getting very tired so in no great rush to get back on the bike at the moment. My experience seems to be better than many and much better than PP's although obviously very different issues....
18/10/2021 10:15:32 UTC

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