Saturday, 18 July 2015

Day 15 - 17th of July Inverness to Dornoch Firth Bridge

Last night I stayed at the Braeside Guesthouse in Inverness, I had met a Fillipino called Rei, who had studied Arnis de Mano all of his life.  He was 74 yrs old and as hard as rock.   This morning I awoke early about 5:30 am, it was a shared bathroom so I headed straight to it so that I could get in early without causing a queue with the other guests.  The shower was refreshing and a great start to the day, my legs were feeling strong and I had mentally run over the plan for the day.

I had been totally exhausted the night before going to bed early, it had allowed me time to recover and I was now ready for the day but feeling a little dehydrated my room was lovely but too warm!
I drank down a litre of water from one of my bottles and packed away my kit ready to load back on the bike.  I headed downstairs for a coffee and bumped into Rei’s wife who said she would start my breakfast early so I could get off.  I grabbed a coffee and turned on my laptop to check the weather forecast and it wasn’t looking good there were severe weather warnings for this whole area…
I looked outside it was overcast and already starting to drizzle lightly, I got my waterproofs ready and prepared to do battle with the elements… bring it on gods of the wind and rain, I had sleep food and Newts like it wet!

I had noticed my blog was wrong, the days didn’t seem to match up to the photos, try as I might I couldn’t figure out what was wrong, later on in the day (whilst writing this entry) I would realise that in my exhaustion of the previous day I had actually created a whole new day and chopped in photos from before and after….  It just shows what getting too tired can do.  However this really frustrated me and I was not in the best of moods, for the first time in the trip I felt a little stressed.

Breakfast was soon ready, so I took a deep breath and resolved to sort it later when my head was clearer and I was in a better mood, I was still working mentally on how to sort it when I realised I just had to relate my signposts and the auto numbering of the photos with the date and time stamp, a tedious job but not impossible so I pushed any remaining thoughts and stress away so I could concentrate on my breakfast.

I started with Orange Juice, then Muesli with coffee and then my full Scottish breakfast arrived.  There was no cheap sausage or bacon in this house all the food on my plate was quality and I was hungry so enjoyed every minute of it.  Over breakfast another guest struck up a conversation with me and asked about my trip and in turn told me he works in Inverness through the week and goes home at weekends, he was in his 50’s and an electrical fitter on the trains.

He bemoaned the company that had taken over, apparently they were doing no real improvements and hadn’t even bothered supplying new branded uniforms.  They were doing only minimal maintenance and he was despondent about the state of the trains, I suppose as usual it would take an accident and someone high up being culpable before anything would happen then there would be pledges of investment etc…  Despite the downbeat topic he was a really friendly guy and wished me well it was a pleasant conversation for breakfast.

I said a final goodbye to the landlady and Rei, he was an amazing man and I promised to visit again after my trip so that we could train for a day together, I was sure that would be an experience probably painful.

I headed out and into the centre of Inverness where I crossed the bridge I had come across yesterday, there was an acrid smell of burning as I crossed although could not discern it’s source.  I realised this must be the wrong way out of inverness and turned around to follow the river, I noticed an industrial estate and decided to give it one more try to have my broken cleat removed.   Whilst I had no luck with that, I did pop into a printer to replace the sign on the back of my bike and they said they could do it and be ready in about 15 min.

I went around the corner to the V8 café, which is locally well known and has an enormous painted V8 engine outside on wooden decking giving the whole place a motoring theme.  I had a coffee whilst I waited and took some photos of the bike and I next to the engine, 8 pistons v’s number one and number two piston which I had begun to refer to my legs as.

Not for the first time my mind went back to the film the spirit of St Louis where he calculates how many revolutions and millions of explosions each cylinder must do, and I thought of the same for my legs and my knees..

My sign was soon ready and I fitted it to the bike, before heading towards the A9 and a last stop at a massive bike shop there, I needed my wheels checking and I had decided to buy a new pair of waterproof trousers.  The ones I had seemed tight around my thighs when I had liners on and over a long distance seemed to squeeze the muscles, they had a sticky rubber inner that just seemed to grip my legs and impede good movement (they were alturar).  I just wasn’t happy over long distances so I went into the bike shop and they sold me a pair of Madison M-tec which was a bonus because besides being more loose fitting they were only 3 quarter length, I hate full length trousers when cycling, even in the rain so these were a bonus.   (word to the wise, always check they have the security tag removed later in the day I discovered they had left it on!) 

The shop couldn’t help with my wheel as the workshop was full however they said if I was passing through Dingwall there was a good bikeshop there and to speak to Mark the owner who would help me out.

I headed out onto the A9 and towards Cromarty so I could catch the Ferry to Nigg, I was running late because of all the errands and now the wind was really biting and slowing me.  About 5 miles to Nigg, a cylist in the opposite direction flagged me down and asked if I was headed for the ferry, he told me the ferry was no more, they had stopped it.  A quick check on the web showed me it was true which meant a re-route.

I pulled into a little café for coffee number two and using free wi-fi I plotted a route that would take me through to Dingwall via the A9.  (if I am stealing wifi I at least like to support the local economy and buy a coffee)

It was a straightforward ride to Dingwall, however on the last section it is a huge downhill that meant a rest for my legs but it was the A9 and I felt in danger the whole time with gusts of wind threatening to overbalance me, but sure enough things levelled out and I pedalled the short distance left to dingwall

I pushed on and eventually came to Dingwall, after asking the locals I managed to find the bike shop and asked to see Mark (he was the owner), mark agreed a check would be good and got his bike technician to check over the bike.

Unfortunately the workshop was in a loft above with some wooden stairs through a hatch, I had to unload my bike and the technician weighed less than my bike, he insisted on carrying the bike up on his own though so full marks for tenacity, at the top I could see his face was purple and his knuckles were white, I asked him to check the tyre pressure as well as the ride down to Dingwall had shown me that they were both low, after a while you can tell this just from the way stones feel and deflect under you.  

Whilst waiting for my bike to be done, I watched as the owner endured a lady telling him the bike he had sold two weeks ago was faulty because her daughters tyres were soft.. He explained that you have to pump them up regularly and that all tyres go down.  She said that they shouldn’t go down so quickly on a new bike??  I stepped in and said out loud that I am travelling about and I have to check my tyre pressures sometimes daily and then I told the lady she should buy a pump and teach her daughter how to use it, surprisingly she agreed when a 3rd party had backed up the owner.

The bike wheels were fine and didn’t really need any truing, he did note however that my tyres were both only at 60 psi, I had known this and he had put them up to 100 psi my preferred running pressure.  To be honest although they were pleasant I did feel a bit ripped off when he charged me £10.00 for each wheel to check them and he didn’t even have to adjust anything, so I give them 10/10 for customer service but Zero for value for money.

I was now seriously behind time, so I made one of my silly pacts between the sensible and stupid sides of my brain, resolving not to stop pedalling until I got to Alness, which I didn’t as I followed the A9 over the Conor Bridge and then joined the B817 just so I could get off the A9 for a while, going through Invergordon which I really liked and then through Saltburn, these two villages are literally next to each other and seem like they should be one.

As I travelled along the Cromarty Firth I could see rigs and pipelines and eventually the gap where the Cromarty and Nig Ferry should have run.  I had discovered online that the jetty had been condemned so the ferry company pulled out.  I couldn’s help wondering how much those rigs were generating in profit and why a little couldn’t be spent on a decent jetty for the ferry… Big business no heart…

I followed the A9 and briefly considered going to Nigg for the hell of it, the weather had turned nice and I was enjoying the sun, however it was getting later and I decided that there was not likely anything worth visiting.  Instead I cycled on towards Tain.

Before reaching Tain I came to the Glenmorange distiliary of Single Malt Whiskies, it is in a beautiful setting, I was too late for the shop there, I had promised to send Rosana a whisky glass from Scotland so she could give it as a present to a cousin in Brasil.   Despite the place offially being closed  wandered around taking photograhs of everything in their orange livery including a massive American car from the 60’s era on display outside.

I rode down to the shore through a stone bridge and looked out over the Cromarty Firth before heading back out through the distilliary.  One thing  I should say is that the air was heavy with the a delicious aroma of whisky in a way that was pleasant and intoxicating without being overpowering.
I headed back out on the road to Tain and on the way there spotted a medical centre where  I decided to fulfil my promise to get a blood pressure check.  I spoke to the nurse and explained my situation as well as the fact that part of my nail had turned a funny colour where I had banged it and carmy recurring dry heel problem.

A doctor agreed to see me, it turns out he was a local guide and a keen cyclist and he spoke to me for ages giving me local information drawing maps from his head which I have kept and he gave me a great tip for Ireland where there are 3 small islands: the Arran isles where they make jumpers, he told me to visit them as there is a small ferry between each and it cuts out a rather sprawling city, I resolved to adjust my route as that sounded far more exciting.

He checked my blood pressure and it was ok then he took a look at my feet, I had already bought heel balm and he agreed that I should be using this daily.  He looked at the nail and said it may also be ingrowing and as a precaution gave me a course of antibiotics with instruction to only take them if it becomes infected and I am out in the highlands with no doctor.

He wished me well and I left by the back entrance as the rest of the staff had long gone, I had intended to ride over the bonor bridge and wild camp, however it was getting late and  I needed food so I succumbed to a local caravan site which offered free wi fi!

I paid my £8.00 and pitched up, treating myself to a chicken  curry and chicken stir fry cooked on my whisperlite stove.   I then tidies up went for a shower and then headed for the laundry room where there was a chair a washing machine to use as a desk and free power.   Unfortunately the Wi-Fi signal didn’t reach so I will have to upload this later on in the trip… which brings me right up to know.. yep now as I am typing in realtime this…

Saying G

Outside the V8 Cafe Inverness
V8 v's Vtwin (number one and two leg pistons)

The V8 Cafe

At the Sign Maker
fed up of being asked about trip!

Now I have a sign!

Petrol stop to fill up my stove
56p worth!

One for Barbie (an old travian friend)

Quick stop at doctors to get my foot checked and
blood pressure taken! great doctor

Glen Morangie an amazing aroma

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