Tag Archives: nature

Numb bums & not counting the number of cakes

Bags strapped on & legs akimbo we triumphantly set off on the various long and winding roads to the land of free range haggis & whiskey.

Waiting with bated breath in case Nicola Sturgeon put a spanner in the works by changing any of the covid rules we cautiously packed, including the dog eared looking hotel voucher purchased over two years ago. Living in a state of sequential lockdowns has meant that booking anything with certainty is still challenging even with the promise of restrictions lifting.

Ayr at sunset

Numb bums aside we made it fairly uneventfully to Ayr where the air was clear and the sky was a bright shade of blue. Yes I did say blue as all previous visits to Scotland have involved a sky that was various shades of grey (possibly 50 but I didn’t count!) & full of cloud. It was astonishingly warm & the sun glowed upon us making it rather warm in the thick layers of bike gear we had set off in. 

A fab curry at a local restaurant with one of hubby’s former work mates was lovely & we woke to a chorus of seagulls who broadcast the arrival of dawn. I had signed up to take part in a literary experiment in conjunction with Bristol University to test memory & recall of Shakesperian sonnets. I have a memory like a sieve on the best of days but I think it was unfair of the universe to expect me to try memorising a poem while a dozen vintage scooters revved their engines before departing in a cloud of two stroke fumes whilst operating Zoom on a mobile.

From Ayr we headed north to through some truly awesome countryside that included the dice with death along a single track road along the side of Loch Awe to reach Portsonachan Hotel our base for a few days. Thanks to hubby’s excellent bike riding skills & quick reactions the attempts by the various lorries & vans pulling trailers travelling at immense speed towards us failed to dislodge us but only just. This is a plea from the heart for all drivers to please ‘think bike’ at all times as even at slow speed we most undoubtably would have come second.

Undeterred we checked into the lakeside venue & were rewarded with the most spectacular views of the mountains and lake. It amazed me how the light changing over the static view could alter it so dramatically. No wonder artists flock to such places as the source of inspiration would be potentially endless.

The next day we set out to roam around stopping for lunch in Fort William before heading out to Glenfinnan. The monument on the beach marks its connection with Bonnie Prince Charlie & start of the Jacobite rising in 1745. A little further back is the viaduct that is featured in various films including the Harry Potter movies in which the Hogwarts Express thunders across it. Just as we were marvelling at the number of visitors standing in awe of the impressive stone edifice an actual steam train rumbled across. Couldn’t have planned it better I thought recalling level of intricate planning that I’d had to do to catch a ride on the elusive Ghost Train, Ely, Nevada on a different road trip. Sometimes lady luck is on your side.

Best Victoria Sponge Ever

Inveraray turned out to have a tea shop that served the best Victoria sponge ever & we got to visit the goal & find out that you cant buy alcohol before 10am in Scotland!Thankfully I wasn’t the only one so we formed the ‘naughty queue’ in the corner for ten minutes until we could be served.

We had a great morning catching up with some more lovely people, before I indulged in some unashamed camper van & travel sized guitar envy before heading back to the hotel via Oban. We arrived at this quaint sea side town at a time that was too late for lunch & too early for dinner so fish & chips out of a packet on a bench was the obvious solution. It was fantastic to munch hot crispy battered fish & thick chips while watching the world go by. Again the weather was super warm and dry making for a very relaxing trip indeed.

Arriving in Coldstream ( yes where the Coldstream Guards originate from) a small border town that sits on the River Tweed we walked, took some snaps & feasted in the pub we were staying at. The next day found us heading to Berwick which was bathed in glorious sunshine that we soaked up while promenading along the waterfront. After a super lunch with more old friends we returned to walk about to create room to scoff more cake!

Biscoff Cup Cake

Travelling by bike on a hot day at the start of Scottish school holidays has its advantages because the carpark was full but we were allowed to squeeze in. A welcome break to admire the awesome Kelpies that involved a quick photo shoot & an ice cream which enabled us to be back on our ‘metal horse’ & heading for home.

Initial temptations to detour around the Lake District were thwarted by the weather forecast showing more than a 50% chance of rain. Waterproofs getting soaked twice came as no surprise but at least the wind dried us after the first downpour and we were near enough home by the second. Torrential rain aside the week away was really good and for moments you could almost forget the pandemic and associated trials & tribulations. 

As we move closer to the 19th July it will be interesting to see how things progress & if more of the restrictions will be rescinded. In meantime take care & stay safe.

Parked near a Pyramid & Creeping Around a Crater

Any one who knows me or has been following this will undoubtedly know that both road trips came about because of a desire to see the bands at the iconic Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury, tickets to which, like the Burning Man event are as elusive as quicksilver. So when it was clear our route would take us near a certain lake the other side of the mountains from Black Rock I was overtaken by my sense of irony & routed us past Pyramid Lake.

Running out of daylight & heading to Nixon we were totally unprepared for the splendour of the Lake. A tad concerned we didn’t have a campsite for the night we scoured the place for a suitable spot but ended up driving on through up the side of the Lake realising if we reached Sutcliffe our options were really limited as it wasn’t clear the road was suitable for rental vehicles beyond there & it would be miles to retrace our steps to the next potential town.

However we spied some people in campers near the shore line & they kindly told us where we could obtain the necessary pass at the Ranger Office come shop. Despite the randomness of it the advice was good and later we left with our overnight ticket & some beer. Driving back we spotted a suitable place and pulled in. By now it really was starting to get dark as we sipped beer & watched the sun sink behind the mountains. It was very peaceful but nothing prepared us for the moment when the sky went completely jet black the only light coming from the millions of twinkling stars. My thanks to the Native American upon whose Reservation the Lake is located for making it possible for us to stay there. It truly was one of the most fantastic places on earth that I have ever camped in. The Pyramid is a unusual rock formation in the Lake & as ‘consolation prizes’ go I felt we had really hit the jackpot. Later we set the alarm clock so that we could get up & watch the sun rise.

Sipping tea while sat in deck chairs was amazing & the advantage of rising so early was that we were on our way to Crater Lake before the crowds. Reaching the entrance there were no queues or parking problems & we were once more treated to some spectacular scenery that really the cameras just didn’t really do justice too. The water was so still & the reflections so clear. It put me in mind of the Taekwondo pattern Chon Ji which takes its name from the Heavenly Lake also famed for the clear reflection that is supposed to be representative of both heaven & earth. Walking around we took in the sweet fresh air & headed to the coast where we would pick up the 101 or Scenic Pacific Highway.

Continue reading Parked near a Pyramid & Creeping Around a Crater

Saddling up for Highway 50

Twin Falls was a ‘go to’ place on the map and it didn’t disappoint with the amazing waterfalls that tumble into the gorge along which we happily wandered down the footpath that followed the edge on one side. It was a beautiful hot day & the silence was only disturbed by sequential gunfire. This potentially was a little troubling until we discovered it was the local police firearms practice range. 

The other interesting discovery was that this is where the legendary Evil Kinevil attempted some of his bike stunts. I remember as a child the press in the UK coverage of the various stunts attempted by Evil Kinevil so stumbling across this was an unexpected bonus. Scaling the front of the ramp like a mountain goat I realised to my chagrin that I could have easily nipped up the smooth ramp at the back! 

It was a long drive from here to Ely which involved meandering between state borders to end up in Nevada. We drove into an area where wild fire raged on the hills and the smoke was so thick it blanked out the bright blue sky. It was as fascinating as it was horrific & we did what only British people probably do in the face of such adversity which was to stop & brew some tea!

It was a touch of the ‘ ground hog ‘ day for me in Ely having stayed there earlier in the year with my daughter as we stopped overnight enroute for Bend that had us turning off at Eureka. Sadly this was too brief a visit to dig for Rubies or ride the ghost train but it was a great place to kick start our bid to survive highway 50 or ‘ the loneliest road’

Armed with the booklet & a stamp the following day we pointed the van in search of the towns along the route that counted towards our goal. It meant we stopped in some odd places including a casino which we ventured into. With a self imposed limit of $10 we weren’t likely to bankrupt ourselves & for a few minutes we experienced the heady trill of the machines of chance. I lost all mine but hey it was fun & apart from the near confiscation of my phone all was good. 

Highway 50 is as you can see quite a long & lonely road indeed although to be fair we did travel on some roads that probably could have been considered equally as long & felt a great deal more isolated during our adventure. Still we were on a quest & as the miles rolled we were optimistic that we would get our certificate & badge as planned.

We stopped at one place for a coffee & I was captivated by the small plaque with the John Wayne quote so this was duly purchased & hung in Bertha for the rest of the way. It now adorns my office where I see it daily & it evokes memories of those wide empty spaces.

It was a long old drive that day & we had only had a rough idea of where the wild camp sites would be at the end. As the stamps amounted in the booklet the light was starting to fade & there was maybe a small concern of where we would park up for the night.