"Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to cycle and he will realise that fishing is stupid and boring" (Desmond Tutu)
The second day on the saddles bought a much-welcomed feeling of rhythm. Pedalling with a mild sense of direction, but a heightened sense of purpose. Something which both reflected and continued a clumsy but well-intended morning's breakfast in bed. Sule Skerry B&B is an absolute definition of all the wonderful things a bed and breakfast should be. Kate, the undisputed hostess with the mostess, brought a versatile and hearty breakfast to the room, where we promptly dispatched it in bed, along with an admirable John and Yoko impression.
On the road by 9am, we were met with the inevitable: light drizzle. However, far from being a pain, it was a welcome addition to the list of things which might distract us from nicely developing aches and pains. Even when the rain increased it's intensity to the 'spray back to make your bum wet' setting, it was still relatively pleasant. After another encounter with the A9 to take us from Royal Dornoch to Tain, we threw our collected destiny into the hands of the Sustrans gods. Based in Bristol, Sustrans are the UK Cycling Agency. They are, amongst other things, responsible for the sign-posting of National Cycle Routes. In my hometown of Northampton, these sign posts seem to gain a level of sadistic pleasure by picking the un-suspecting cyclist up, toying with them on various surfaces of pavements, roads, glass, and gravel, before spitting them back out into industrial estates, or suburbs no-one's ever heard of. We're delighted to report that NCN1, which we picked up in Tain, did none of the above. Instead, it was a blissfully quiet mix of B roads, and delivered us safely and securely to Dingwall where we promptly stopped for coffee and cake.
Following a slightly busier B road and then an A road, we then made our way up and down, but mostly up, towards the majesty that is Loch Ness. Re-fuelled by caffeine and calories, our collective rhythm intensified, and we were making great strides. Together, we owned several significant hills, and laughed all the way down them. As can be expected, the contours conspired to put us back in our places. On the final downhill towards our fist glimpse of the famous Loch, everything came relatively close to ending. The signs warned of a 15% gradient and advised some kind of red-framed caution. What they didn't warn of was a road surface of questionable flatness. Imagine trying to cycle down a steep hill, weighed down with luggage, on an unknown road, on surface which seemed to resemble cycling on an old carpet layered on top of a few hundred golf balls, that's what it was like. After a top speed of 59.8km/h, and a time frame of less than a minute, we collected our selves, limbs, and thoughts, and pedalled calmly on to Fort Augusts.
We arrived. We showered. We walked. We ate. We both belched. We slept.
Day two in digits...
Kilometers ridden: 117.6 (week so far: 237)
Meters climbed: 1102
Hours pedalling: 5.11
Average speed: 22.7km/h
Top speed: 59.8km/h