Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Fraternity

All it took was three days. Having started the tour as a novice bicycle tourist, and a non-conformist novice at that, the third day saw conversations at bars and breakfast tables where I more than held my own in talk of routes, paniers, kilometre to rest-stop ratios and the like. Many people we met were curious about mine and Emily's decision to go on road bikes, and some obviously impressed with our minimalistic packing methods. It was all good, and along with waving, nodding, and even saluting passing cyclists, felt like it inducted us into some two-wheeled fraternity. The bulk of todays episode in this journeys series of ups and downs was on and off National Cycle Route 78. It runs from Oban to Fort William, and represented our first chance to meet other JOGLE-ists and LEJOG-ers, hence all the waving and saluting. 

Having stayed in a hostel last night, we felt guilty for setting an alarm for 07.15. Breakfast was served from 07.30, and we wanted to get an early start. Nicely, our guilt was mis-guided as all hostel-stayers in the Highlands were up at the same time in order to hike, cycle, kayak, or drive. Such is the beautiful hive of blissful outdoors and human activity we find ourselves in. This did mean that we had to queue for luke-warm beans on toast, cereal, and tea. Fuelled by the beans, much to Em's horror, we were on the road for 9am somewhat un-sure where that hour and a half went.

The A82, which had been such a persistent friend yesterday, served us again for the first half of todays route. We neglected the appropriately named Great Glen Way for rumours of sharp gravel, and therefore risk of punctures. The A82 rose and slipped away, and repeated that pattern all along Loch Lochy, all under clear blue skies and the kind of sunshine which leaves embarrassing tan lines for lycra-clad cyclists. Undeterred by all of these, we made it to the town of Fort William and Cafe 115 for the mornings coffee and cake break, and for the first time, didn't share. Scone and jam for the lady, carrot cake for the gentleman.

Morning's A82 became the afternoon's A828, and views of Loch Lochy were replaced by views of Loch Linnhe. Needless to say in these southern Highlands, the road rose and dropped in a consistent fashion. A fashion which paved the way for aches and pains that only much older people should be subject to. By the time we stopped for lunch, my sympathies for mum and her arthritis had increased ten-fold. For food enthusiasts, or the plain nosey, lunch was a shared platter of ham sandwiches, salad, and crisps on a plate. Merrily washed down with a gin and tonic for her, and a pint of Tennants for me. Being sat on the deck in blazing sunshine, and a stones throw from the waters edge, the alcohol seemed a wise call at the time. Yes, this is a cycling challenge, but it's also a holiday! An hour later, and progress had slowed back on the wheels. It reminded me of the time I helped a friend and his garden decking business for the summer. Where we had a couple of lunchtime beers, and promptly fell asleep in the garden. There could be no sleeping yet though, we had a hotel reservation 35miles away.

Winding down those final digits on rare roadside sign posts, the confusion between miles and kilometers kept getting the better of me. Taynuilt was reticent to reveal itself. Some more climbs, a couple of bridges with epic views and lorries passing inches away, some more climbs, and then a final gentle decent, and the view of the brilliant white Taynuilt Hotel appeared.

Mark, this evenings General Manager, kindly locked our bikes up in the wine cellar of all places, we can only hope they have a restful night and take it easy, we've all got another big day tomorrow.

So, day three in numbers...

Kilometers ridden: 128.1 (total so far: 374.4)
Meters climbed: 1997
Top speed: 49.7km/h
Average speed: 21.5km/h
Calories burned: 3418 (approx)



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