Well, we set off early this morning (as you do), having been tossed out of the Community Centre we were staying at to make place for the toddler group that uses the hall. Honestly, the youth of today. As could be expected, I had a certain song in my head (especially as I was reminded of it by Brad’s comment in the morning). The words had changed to be more appropriate, though:
Well, I did ride five hundred miles
But I can’t ride five hundred more
Cause John O’Groats from here is only
Three hundred and seventy four
Speaking of music, I’ve found that for some reason, Paul Simon has been a constant companion on the ride. Graceland is a great motivating song, and is easy to change to suit different occasions. This is the one from day 3:
We’re going to Bristol, Bristol, Bristol by the sea
We’re going to Bristol (guitar riff)
The slow boys from Team B, and Dan and me,
We’re all going to Bristol
(Before the grammar sticklers come after me, try cycling for 150 miles first, and then come at me with your me/I rules)
Being in Scotland had an immediate impact on the scenery. Instead of farmlands and low, rolling hills, there were much more well defined hills, with sheep grazing, and far fewer hedges dividing the fields. The road follows a winding route between hills, keeping next to the Esk river all the way up to Hawick. It’s a beautiful way to ride – gentle inclines, the sound of the river, and the bleating of sheep. Later on, some long-horned highland cows, reminding me of our time in the Hebrides a decade ago. Out of Hawick, there’s a long uphill, then a long downhill, then the same thing over again leading down into Galashiels.
It was during those downhills that I started to get really annoyed with the quality of the roads. It’s been an issue on and off over the past week, but today was just terrible. On a road bike, the tyres are inflated to around 7 bar, which means that any bump is jarring. When the road is as rough as gravel, it rattles the bike like an old-time boneshaker. There were two occasions, going down a steep hill, where the change from a smooth road to a rough one at 35 mph nearly tore my bike apart. And my knees. Not great.
But we all survive these little things, and once the last section to Dalkieth just outside Edinburgh was completed, it was fantastic to just relax. Because the place we’d booked to stay at was a pod campsite. Pods are little huts (see the picture), and we had six of these in the forest. Once all the stragglers had arrived, we set up a campfire, burned our meat in the obligatory English fashion, and had a good time laughing at the various antics of people trying to substitute a camping version of a normal everyday activity. Making coffee, roasting marshmallows, cooking sausages on a stick. Good times.
If this all sounds a bit idyllic, it’s probably a good time to do a bit of whinging. While this trip has been great, and I’m thoroughly enjoying the challenge that each day brings, it’s not always as easy as I might have made it sound. I’ve just started developing blisters on the butt, both my knees ache every time I get started, with the pain gradually subsiding after around twenty miles in the morning. Sitting here in the evening, they’ve seized up completely, and I can barely stand up. And then my left achilles tendon has something wrong with it as well, although that usually gives up on sending the pain signals a bit earlier. I’m feeling my age for the first time in a long while.
And so, I’ll close off with a link to the map, after having completed two-thirds of the trip. Four days to go. Tomorrow’s a tough one – around 85 miles or so to Pitlochry, with some 700 ft climbs in store. I’ll certainly be taking it a bit slower than the last two days, which have been on the short side.