Travel StoriesAn Island And Way Out West
A Successfully Dull Day
Ride Date 10 September 2022
By Ren Withnell
It's time to load up the long suffering bikes for more adventures.
I'm due to meet Sharon at Lancaster services on the M6 at 1000. I'm packed and ready to roll at 0830. If I set off now I'm going to be there far too early, if I stay here I'll drive myself nuts. I manage to hold off until 0845. Well done me.
I crawl along the motorway at 55mph. I know this kind of slow pace would drive Sharon mad, she loves nothing more than hooning down the motorway at the maximum speed she can legally get away with. Personally I find this slow pace relaxing. The engine is gently thrumming beneath me, the screen is working to remove most of the wind blast, I fear not the speed cameras or police cars and this is my Zen time. I'm doing something while doing nothing. I'm moving forward with minimal effort. I'm flowing like a calm stream not fighting like a raging torrent.
And still I arrive at Lancaster services around 0930. I stretch and hover around the bike, fully expecting Sharon to be delayed by some disaster or another and yet at 0950 I hear the distinct "thump thump" of a small single behind me. She is here, early and with a smile upon her face. We take a pee break then head out.
We have over the years settled into an unspoken agreement with regards motorway speeds. She'd like to be pushing 70-something and I'd like to stick at 55-60. As such I maintain on, about or around the 65 mark. At this pace I need more focus as we're overtaking and being overtaken. This works for Sharon as it just about keeps her alert, for myself I find it tiresome after a good while.
What IS she doing? She's out of her usual following position and coming alongside. She can't be overtaking and trying to lead, she can barely find her own elbow let alone know where we're going. Aaah, I see, she needs fuel. Penrith provides a fill up and we're back on the motorway once again.
Morrisons in Carlisle provides another break for a rather disappointing meal. Morrisons' cafes used to be both rather good and affordable. Now, they're just about affordable but the quality seems to be lacking. It's better than nothing and the rest is appreciated. Onwards.
Motorways are boring. Alas and alack if one is to cover around 280 miles in a day and still leave time for actually enjoying oneself then they are a necessary evil. Gretna provides but a mere moment of relief as I gleefully point out the "Welcome to Scotland" sign. There's a few big hills to look at I suppose. This however is work, the business of moving oneself from the place where you live to the place where you want to be.
The M8 is confusing. I'm sure it's fine for an experienced local who knows which blooming lane you need to be in but for me? I wouldn't mind but I've done this route around 10 or more times before and it still catches me out every time. I curse for being in the wrong lane, I grind my teeth when the speed limits are entirely unclear and I seethe at the chaotic reckless driving around me. The relief of seeing the Erskine Bridge is palpable.
Dumbarton provides some expensive petrol and a none-to-cheap Starbucks drink. Once out of Dumbarton my mood changes. We've done it, we've broken the long journey's back. We only have about 40 miles to cover which is great! Experience tells me not to get too excited though, the road alongside the famous and much lauded Loch Lomond is a busy one.
It is busy, as ever. Why yes, there it is, the majesty and wonder and awe and beauty of The Highlands. This sensation is firmly tempered by the lines of cars and campervans and motorhomes and lorries we are trundling along in. It has the pleasure removed with tourist spots complete with cafes, boat trips, tat shops and insufficient parking. We're stuck, 2 inexperienced motorhome drivers cannot work out how to pass each other over this narrow bridge. Pffffft, my ass is already sore enough thank you.
Crianlarich is now bypassed, oooh that's new. Tyndrum is much the same as it ever was and I find tonight's lodgings with ease. Our welcome is warm and professional and soon we are unloading bags into our wooden tent for the night. It's nothing special but it is exactly as expected and more than sufficient for our needs.
We made it!
I'm feeling fine. I could easily have pitched the tent but no, no this was the right choice. We've had a dry day with comfortable temperatures so I try to imagine how I'd feel, how we'd both feel if it had been a wet and windy day. We'd be soaked to the skin, cold, tired and most likely somewhat grumpy. This wooden tent with it's heater and kettle would have been a welcome relief. Putting the tent up in the rain and trying to light the stove would have been truly miserable.
We walk to Tyndrum. We purchase something for breakfast tomorrow and Sharon invests in anti-midge equipment as she's forgotten hers. The Real Food Cafe was once a chippy with seats when I first came here some 17 years ago. Today it's grown, along with it's prices. No... stop it Ren. No it's not cheap but compared to other places the prices are well within specified parameters. Neither of us is starving so we share a portion of "Loaded Meaty Chips". Oh my, oh wow, oh I say! They are perhaps a tad too spicy for us but my goodness they are exquisitely tasty.
Without having to pitch camp then search for and cook food we have time. We have time for a small walk which by sheer happenstance leads us to another campsite near our own. "By The Way" hostel and campsite looks OK and we make a note of it, just in case we need it on our return leg.
Just behind our campsite there's a lovely walk.
This is why we come to The Highlands.
We settle in for the night. The beds are simple plastic covered foam mattresses where you use your own sleeping bag. There's no luxurious bed here complete with sheets and duvet and yet, because I have managed my expectations I'm OK with this.
I knew today wouldn't be "fabulous", today was all about the job of getting here into The Highlands. As such it has been successful. We have enjoyed fair weather, an expected level of traffic, sufficient breaks, sufficient pace and Tyndrum has done exactly what I hoped it would do. Not brilliant but successful and I'm more than happy with that.
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Prologue - This Time It Is Up North
Ren has made this kind of trip many times and several trips of much greater magnitude. The bikes are fine and everything is under control. Don't worry dear readers, Ren is worried about having nothing to worry about.
A Successfully Dull Day
The job of the day is simply moving 2 people on 2 motorcycles around 280 miles north. Is it worth the effort?
Speed, Strontian, Showers And Silliness
At last! The Dynamic Muppets finally get into The Highlands properly. There's a couple of things for Ren to moan about, particularly that Sharon is far too happy.
The Ardnamurchan Peninsula - Slowly And Quickly
It's not far from Strontian to The Ardnamurchan Lighthouse... or is it? The weather ain't too bad and there's a lovely bathing belle on the beach that requires Ren's attention
Dangerous Distractions, Draughts And Dapper Drivers
Not all is as perfect as one would wish for today. There's a draught or two and a lairy scary moment. All in all though things seem to be going acceptably well for The Dynamic Muppets.
The Majesty And Magnificence Of Mull
By keeping his expectations in check Ren finds the small island of Mull to be a delight. Apparently it's all about the journey not the destination though.
Spendthrifts And Sumptuous Scenery
Ren's wallet is quivering in fear and loathing as Sharon seeks the comfort of a real bed. Maybe the scintillating scenery will be sufficient to ease Ren's pain?
From The Sublime To The Ridiculous
The day starts well with a full breakfast and good weather. The day goes well too considering the dynamic muppets are back in the throngs of civilisation. Ren's choice of accommodation isn't quite to Sharon's liking though.
Favourable Freeways And A Grotty Grotto
After last night's debacle this time Sharon's choosing the overnight location, making it much more amenable. Ren decides the roads hereabout have much to offer too.
Epilogue - Home And Thoughts
It's the final day of this Scottish trip. With regret Sharon and Ren must return home to their regular lives. Ren reflects on the changes in Scotland and considers his next moves.
Bogger said :-
Go on Ed, fess up. You've not even taken the tent with you?
First day, just ease us in, with some relatively inexpensive accommodation. Then it's onto the expensive Hotels from here on in. Were wise to you tricks meboy.
12/10/2022 13:15:39 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
I agree absolutely about motorways. The only half satisfactory trip on one I can remember was coming down from Penrith to Brum on my Tiger in absolutely torrential rain, when the only thing I wanted was to be home & dry as soon as possible.
That said, why do you both insist on keeping close company when riding which is bound to irritate at least one of you? Why not agree on a rendezvous point and make your own journeys there. That might have the side effect of Sharon having to wait for you instead of the opposite. Personally I've always hated travelling in any sort of convoy.
12/10/2022 13:41:19 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Ahhhh, wee bonny Scotland, it warms your cockles don'it.
I like riding on our own but also enjoy a paceman, you know, a car or bike which is travelling at just the right speed that you happen across once in a Harvest moon.
12/10/2022 17:04:36 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Our convoy travelling might be imperfect in some ways but over the last, let me see, 55,000 miles we've settled into it and it works. There is another point (Sharon's not reading this is she?). "Rendezvous point" Ian - come on. She has (is working on) sat-nav. She has a posh phone with Google maps. And yet it has taken the best part of 9 years for her to find Lancaster Services solo let alone Carlisle Morrisons or Dumbarton Starbucks. Believe me Sharon is considerably happier following me at my slow pace and not getting lost than she would be going fast and getting lost.
Otherwise I do entirely take your point. I have done a great deal of group riding and it is considerably easier to simply provide waypoints rather than actual group riding. The fast can go fast, they can take a detour if they're so much faster. The slow can go slow. The rest can do what they want. It's also much safer - group rides are quite troublesome with people rushing lights and executing outrageous overtakes in a bid to keep the group together.
Bogger - bogger off.
12/10/2022 20:09:13 UTC
nab301 said :-
Ren , lovely looking scenery, although dare I suggest that it looks like you parked in a space reserved for larger vehicles...
15/10/2022 12:24:59 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
It looks like a passing place on a single track road to me. Tourists? Don't get me started....
15/10/2022 12:44:43 UTC
Ross said :-
Ren said; "She is here, early and with a smile upon her face...." I thought we were on for a Mills & Boon moment there, but no..."We take a pee break then head out." Who says romance is dead...!
15/10/2022 14:03:49 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
The parking space as pictured at the top was taken in a large gravel patch at the side of a lane. We were not blocking a passing place, we were not taking up valuable truck layover space and we not knowingly in breach of any traffic regulations!
It's like being on the blumming internet here! God forbid if you knew what we were really up to there. Now shut up because Sharon is running out of disposal sites for those that dare to speak against her.
As for romance being dead Ross, see above.
15/10/2022 16:09:24 UTC
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Travel StoriesAn Island And Way Out West