When we woke up this morning, I’d been fully intending to lead Team A down the cycle network path leading from Pitlochry to Inverness. I’d been able to ascertain that it existed, but I didn’t know how long it was. The day started out according to that plan – we followed the back roads for 25 miles before we met Team B at a place where the A9 joined the cycle track. At that stage, the cycle track was nothing but a thin gravel path winding along a few metres away from the A9. Not exactly what I had in mind, then.
Given that it was a lot slower cycling on it, we hopped over the fence and joined the A9 for a while. At which point disaster struck in the form of punctures. First, Dan had one in his rear wheel, then I got one in my front. That put paid to both of our spares. I made the mistake of assuming that surely we couldn’t get another one, and bypassed the place where the backup team were enjoying coffee. Not so – only a mile further down the road, I hit a piece of gravel, and skewered yet another tube. Three down in about 5 miles.
A few minutes later, having waited at the side of the road mending tubes, the ladies of the backup team (and pretty shortly Team B, who were drinking coffee at the same place) turned up and provided us a spare tube (and tyre). After much chastising for going past without stopping.
So, wrists slapped, we stayed on the A9 until Aviemore, intending to pick up the cycle path from there on. After a nutritious lunch of a sandwich, Lucozade, a Mars Refuel milkshake and an energy drink, we headed out that way. But didn’t get very far – instead of a few miles more that we were expecting, it was 42 miles long instead of the 30 it would be via the A9. That’s the difference between a day of 86 and a day of 98 miles. It also said it was a rough off-road track. So we reluctantly decided to take the sensible route and headed back to the A9.
Being this far north has its advantages, though – there’s less traffic than on the main roads down south, and the road was reasonably smooth. And it was quick – in particular the last 20 miles into Inverness, most of which was downhill, and which we dispatched at an average speed of well over 20mph.
Inverness itself is a wonderful place. There are the grungy industrial areas, but there are beautiful parts along the river banks to walk along, and there are a few islands in the river which are linked together with bridges. Each is overgrown with trees, with paths, and funky arty benches and sculptures. The last time we’d been here was winter, and it had been snowing, and it was just a little bit magical. This time, it’s midsummer, and green and lush.
And so, it’s the end of day 10 – only two to go, and both of them are easy from a cycling point of view. No major hills, only 115 miles between the two days, and reasonably quiet roads along the coast. I’m almost sorry it’s coming to an end. Especially with the scenery in Scotland being so spectacular. I’ll now have no rest until I bring the family back for a proper holiday around here.