The big attraction for a full licence and a 'proper' bike was longer trips. I loved the wee Marauder but it did not have all day comfort, vibrated when flat out and was slow to get up to speed and couldn't get up to speed at all on an incline. A comfier seat or riding position could have been obtained with a different 125 but vibrations and sluggishness come with the learner territory.
The Deauville sorted all these issues in one go. When I got up yesterday morning I had less than 2 hours on the bike. It was time to sort that out...
The destination was Eilean Donan Castle
. It was going to be a long one. My longest ever in fact. My previous best in a day was 320 miles when I took a trip to Campbelltown
. This one would be close to 400. Google Maps said it would take a little over 8 hours. Stoppages would take that up to a little over 11. I knew it would be along day and my biggest concern was that it would be dark and I would be tired by the later stages of the return leg. I also, having never been up there, be completely lost when it came to time keeping. I wouldn't know when I was making good time and when I was being slow. So getting off to rest or wander about might see me miss sundown. As it turns out my biggest problem was trying to not stop to take more pictures.
Normally with ride reports I put all the photos taken in one area together regardless of whether I take them on the way out or way in as it keeps thing tidier. 2 separate, spread out bunches of photos for one thing, eg a loch would make it confusing and harder to find pictures at later dates. However today I'm doing them in chronological order as the stories that come with them wouldn't make much sense otherwise. Most of these are taken straight form my Facebook account which is why they aren't brilliant quality. The handful that have a higher resolution have been deemed worthy to grace my Flickr page
It was an early kick off. The plan was to get up at half 7 and leave by 8. I didn't get as much sleep as I was hoping for so went early. I was out the door by half 7. There was hot chocolate in a flask and a warm fleece both kept in one of my panniers. The fleece kept the flask from bouncing about. Stuck them in the pannier above the exhaust. It might keep the hot chocolate warm for an extra 5 minutes.
Things got off to an inauspicious start when some clown in an Audi (always an Audi) attempted to overtake me after I had moved out to pass a stationary bus at the side of the road. There was oncoming traffic at the time. One of the oncomers flashed their lights and he moved back in. It would have been an uncomfortably tight squeeze if he had gone for it. As it was he tailgaited me until we got to the traffic lights. He then sat in the lane to turn right while I was in the lane on the left (to go straight on). I may be new to bikes but I'm not new to imbeciles and I could tell he was planning on cutting across into my lane. I held back and let him get on with it. Hopefully he doesn't take anyone else with him when the inevitable happens.
The fleece lasted half an hour in the panniers until I reached Callandar. The sky was cloudless but it's still freezing, especially at that time in the morning. The fleece made a world of difference. However I had nothing to hold the flask still in the pannier. Didn't think that one through at all.
Irritatingly I got stuck behind some huge transporter lorry as I left Callander and wouldn't be able to get past it until the northern tip of Loch Lubnaig. It was frustrating. At least I got a chuckle when I looked at the speedo to see 45mph staring back at me.
Once free of long vehicles I started to make good time. The biggest difference in performance with the Deauville is uphill. Coming out of Glen Ogle on the Suzuki I would have to drop it down to 4th gear (or 3rd if it was windy), tuck my head in behind the wind shield (making the wing mirrors useless) and grin and bear it as it struggled with the slope. The Honda breezes up hills as if they weren't there. In fact on the way home I noticed that on a road that I'd previously had to go up and down gears constantly to keep things going, I could now do in 5th gear start to finish. This new bike is great.
I was in Tyndrum way earlier than I would be normally. I was surprised how quickly I had got there. It was a good thing too as my toes were 5 minutes away from falling off. I should have worn thicker socks. Thankfully the Green Welly has an outdoor clothing/equipment store and I bought the thickest, warmest socks they had. Worn over the socks I was already wearing they were great. The problem was solved instantly. The fella selling me the socks had asked where I was off to. When I told him, he told me that I'd be taking a left at Glengarry. This wasn't massively helpful as I had already checked the turnoffs I would be taking on Google maps and had them memorized but I appreciated the sentiment.
The only other bike there was a BMW tourer. It belonged to an older couple who appeared to be in a less than chatty mood. My enthusiastic, "Good morning"" was met with a decidedly unenthusiastic mumble. So they were spared my chit chat. Maybe they recognised me!
The Green Welly:
The plan was to stop as little as possible (unless toes were in danger off falling off) on the way up since as I mentioned earlier, I was wary of the time. Once I had an idea of how long it took to get there, I would be in a better position to work out how often I could stop on the way home and still be back before darkness fell.
However last time I was in Glen Coe I had promised myself two photographs. I only got one
of them due to the battery in my camera going. I wasn't going to miss out this time and ducked in at the side of the road to get the photos I'd wanted to get over a month ago.
Leaving Loch Tulla, I was again impressed at getting up the long, winding hill in half the time I was used to. If nothing else, it means I get to look at Glen Coe a lot quicker. It was as always beautiful. It had snowed since I was last up as Buachaile Etive Mor
was half covered. There's something about snow that makes mountains even more attractive. It casts light and shadow where they would ordinarily blend, unseen.
I fought the urge to stop and take photos. Too much time spent messing about down here could have consequences later on. I had a right proper debate inside my helmet. Whether I'm a photo-holic or a Glen Coe-holic I don't know but my resistance did not last. And like anyone with an addiction I had my excuses ready. "I'll stop only if the waterfall is frozen", I reasoned with myself. Of course I'll need to stop and get off to find out if it is. It was frozen. My pictures of that didn't come out but just imagine some ice and you'll pretty much be there. Good thing I took other pictures while I was on my feet.
Not the waterfall:
I got a hundred yards away from the waterfall when I realised I hadn't fastened my chinstrap. This was a real excuse. It's illegal in the UK to ride with it unfastened if nothing else. I pulled into the next car park to sort it. It just so happened that there was a Unimog there. It would have been rude not to take a picture, I think.
I notice two dead deer by the side of the road a mile or so apart. Clearly they'd been hit by vehicles. I'd LOVE to see a stag roaming about up here but really don't want to skelp into one at 60mph. Or even 45mph. I figured they were probably hit at night and that motorbike strikes were rare. I was keeping an eye out regardless. When I got home there was a news report about the numbers of deer and their increasing role in road accidents. Two mangled bikes were shown in the report.
I was quite good after that. In fact it'd be 30 whole miles before I made an unscheduled stop (technically they were all unscheduled). I'd driven past the Commando Memorial
before, last summer en route to Loch Ness but as I was by myself I decided a quick visit was in order.
The site was chosen for the monument as it was on the route that new recruits would have to march across to get from the train station in Spean Bridge to the training centre. If you didn't make it in less than an hour you were turfed straight back out the door.
The Commando Memorial:
The Commandos get quite a view. I'm terrible with names of hills and mountains. Though I'm sure the one on the right of the second picture is Ben Nevis. It's higher than the one on the left, though the photo angle suggests otherwise.
Amusingly, I could now not remember whether the sock man in the Green Welly had said Glengarry or Glen Ross. I haven't seen 'Glengarry Glen Ross' but I don't suppose it's about the struggle of a man trying to decide which left turnoff he's supposed to take. I figure whichever next makes an appearance on a signpost will be the right answer.
The Invergarry area is absolutely stunning. One of Scotland's best, no doubt. From the viewpoint at the top of the hill (I'll refrain from telling you how I was impressed at the Deauville's ability to breeze up there at speed) you can see across into other surrounding glens. I kinda felt this was cheating and a bit unfair on the other glens but it does make for some spectacular views. They could do with trimming the trees back a bit though.
The viewpoint is not a hidden gem
This couple had come from Portsmouth and were doing a tour of Scotland. They were heading to Applecross.
I figured I was stopping too frequently so I was going to get my head down until I got to the castle. As well as making up for lost time, this meant I could enjoy the road a bit more. And it's a hell of a road to enjoy. It really was fantastic. It was helped by the utterly glorious weather that matched the perfect, crisp blue skies of my birthday ride in February. It starts off high in the hills and then runs alongside Loch (George) Cluanie. It doesn't have the same twisting turns that the road beside Loch Lubnaig has, preferring long meandering curves you can just fly though. Moving over to wave past another tailgaiter being the only black spot. I only took two photos of this entire road and that was on the way home. I was enjoying it so much. I can get some next time.
Before I knew where I was I was looking at a sign that said, " Eilean Donan Castle 600 yards". This was a bit of a shock. I hadn't noticed the castle right in front of me!
Then my noticing skills noticed something that I really didn't want to notice. Scaffolding!
Ok so it wasn't the whole castle but enough to know it would be featuring in my photos. I'll need to come back another time. What a hardship. Scaffolding or not the castle is gorgeous. I hadn't realised that it's pretty much a replica, the original having been destroyed by cannon fire.
I briefly considered getting a ticket and going in but again, I had concerns about time. When I'm up here again and based somewhere close by I'll go in. As it was I had a 5 hour ride ahead of me so wanted to get on with it. A quick wander and I was back on the bike and moving.
Eilean Donan Castle:
It was pretty busy with tourists from all over the place. It certainly didn't offer the same peacefulness as Clackmannan Tower did.
I nipped over the bridge to get a picture from the other side. It was much quieter.
So I was now heading home. I was amazed that I wasn't in any pain and wasn't particularly tired. Maybe the excitement was keeping me going. It's clear though that I can sit on the Deauville for many hours before I start feeling stiff. This is exactly what I was hoping for. I also decided to fill her up here since petrol stations are few and far between in this part of the country. I wasn't sure about the range of the tank but having done nearly 200 miles I couldn't have much more left in it. I should have paid attention when filling her up to work out my mpg. I grabbed a packet of salt and vinegar Pringles from the garage and headed off.
I was coming back that I was reminded of the fact that some roads are better depending on what direction you are heading. Glen Coe is better heading north and the road from Loch Duich to Loch Cluanie is better heading south. I had no idea this was behind me the whole time!
A pleasant surprise:
The two pictures of the amazing road alongside Loch Cluanie are here. They have to be the least interesting pictures you could take on that road. In fact I only took them as I thought they did a good job of showing how cold it was at that point.
Passing by the Glengarry Viewpoint I remembered that on the way up the hill I'd seen a couple of places I thought I could take some nice pictures. Once I came across the viewpoint that need had disappeared but these places maybe offered a chance to get pictures without the trees in the way. Upon pulling in I discovered that I hadn't closed my right pannier properly at the garage. It was wide open, who knows how long for. There was no sign of the Pringles. They were long gone. Probably being munched on by a pack of rabbits. Thankfully the flask was still there, held in place by the internal straps of the pannier. Had that gone, as well as being annoying, it could have hurt somebody. I decide to celebrate the fact that I still have it by drinking some hot chocolate. It's still hot.
The view was good. And it is a hidden gem as you need to walk 20 yards away from the lay by to find it. So it was empty.
Next up was Loch Lochy. When you say Loch Lochy out loud you have to say it with confidence. Anything less than total certainty will likely see you laughed at for lacking the imagination to best a 5 year old in a 'name this loch' competition. It reminds me of Townsville
. It is the Joey Joe Joe Jr Shabadoo
On the way up, I had planned on overtaking a lorry on the straight that I took these pictures on. So I waited patiently rather than do something rash on the twisties. My geography was all wrong though and I was 20 miles too early. Thankfully he turned onto another road while I tried to work out where the hell I was. "It must just be around this corner"
By this stage I was getting tired, hungry and a bit stiff. I had originally thought I could get all the way home without stopping for food but that was looking increasingly unlikely. I would be stopping again at the Green Welly.
My inability to ride past a good looking mountain without stopping to take pictures was getting out of control. I needed to eat and rest my brain for half an hour. Yet here I was in a lay by getting pictures of the mountains. Mountains that I had already photographed earlier in the day! I was 500 yards along the road from the Commando Memorial, taking photos of the same bloody mountain range I'd been taking pictures of 7 hours earlier.
They sure are pretty though.
The pretty mountain range (again, Ben Nevis is on the right..camera angle etc etc):
There were two things happening now. 1) I was seeing views on the way down that I hadn't noticed on the way up. 2) My knees were beginning to get stiff. Deauville or no Deauville I had been riding all day and hadn't stopped for any longer than 20 minutes at a time. Most of these smaller picture stops could be measured in seconds. So by this stage it didn't take much for me to convince myself I should get off and take some more pictures. If you've been reading this thread from the start you'll know I love a good bridge so in this case I feel the stoppage was fully justified.
Bridge over Loch Leven:
I was now riding through an almost deserted Glen Coe. I was hungry, tired, in pain and attempting to get home before it got dark. So I did what anyone else would do in that situation.
I got off and took some photos!
Glen Coe (again):
And that genuinely was the last picture I took yesterday (I'm saying yesterday because I started writing this report 5 hours ago when it was Wednesday). I had a panini at the Green Welly that, while a bit steep at £5, was worth every penny when you're as hungry as I was. It was beginning to be a distraction which is obviously no use. Nothing much happened after that other than a guy pulling out on front of me in Callandar. A blast of the horn woke him up. Couple of hours after I was home and the stiff knees were all fine again. Had they still been sore today I'd be concerned but it's all good.
So it was a pretty epic ride. The weather was stunning. You can see how the blue sky colours the snow and lochs. Once I was all wrapped up properly the cold wasn't an issue either and in some places it was almost warm with the sun on your back. I was knackered when I got in though. I certainly wasn't going to be up til half five in the morning writing a ride report that's for sure.
Anyway that's this one done. Not sure where is next. Won't be nearly as far away as this.