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Fasten your seatbelts it's going to be a fun ride

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Scotland.Wee Bonnie roads and Highland cows.

Reading Time: 15 minutes.

Fresh off the ferry and on to the first sight.
An abbey.
Just about as many of these as castles.

That's me down there with the bright headlights.
I rode with high beams on during the day.
Things were tilted a bit sideways that day.

First Scottish Castle.
The gift shop ladies loved my horns.

There were birds nesting inside.

Zoom into the white dot. 
This was a little baby that just kept pivoting it's head from me to Bob.
It seemed to think...Do you have food?
Do you?
Then look back at you have food?
Then back to you have food?

Gorgeous fireplaces.

And the moat.

Then found a very good restaurant and they had these awesome, 
cheeky dog portraits. 

Oh and fantastic lamb. 
Tomahawks are lamb rack ribs.
This is the meal that Bob swapped with me. 
Because my rack of lamb looked a bit small.

Nice place hun?
Sometimes I wonder if  staff will turn me away.
Wet, dirty motorcycle gear and looking a bit rough.
No, not ever.
Always welcome, 
and friendly somewhat inattentive service.

This is the special edition Mazda MX-5. 
It's really a Miata but now it's called the MX-5. 
Miata was much cuter.

I don't like the new body style because the rear looks like a mudfish.
(don't believe me, look up an image of a mudfish)

The front looks like a BMW Z4 (copy cat).
But somehow in the special edition orange (my favorite color) it was awesome.

Loved how the brakes were orange too!

Although, Bob would say, 4 wheels is 2 wheels too many.

This single tower on the hill is a folly.
It is the lookout tower for a castle.

Zoomed in.

The Argyll palace Inverary.
I call this the rich man cave.
Weapons and plenty of them.

Gorgeous dress.
Worn once by royalty.

The room of drums. 

Lost my camera cap around here somewhere because it was not attached.
If it's not attached, it can be lost.
So I have a lanyard for my keys.
Wear just about everything on me in some strapped on capacity.
I also have a bag specific to each item I need. 
Then I carry doubles of things that I just cannot function without.
Again, different than a 'normal vacation'.

Zoomed in.


Is that blue sky I see?

Another airbnb. 
This was a cute coastal town, close to Islay.
Pronounced eye-la.
I had to correct Bob dozen's of times.
He did it on purpose.

The ridiculous ice cube trays.
As big as my phone. 
Barely big enough for a single gin and tonic.
What utter nonsense.

These were brilliant.
Single use pouches for perfectly poached eggs.
Still haven't found these in the myriad of stores I've looked.

It was a rather cute place. Except...
That's right.
3 flights of stairs.
Spiral staircase no less.

I thought I was going to throw up.
Bob was nice enough to haul up most of the stuff.
Stayed here two nights so it was worth the effort.

The view was worth it.

Did a little loop to the dead end road past our place. 

There's Bob.
Same bike.
Twice the miles.

This was a awesome cemetery on the turbulent sea.

One of the Islay distilleries.

You could just smell the booze in the air.

Curious stone wall construction.
Lot's of restless Scottish boys too?

There wasn't much to see on Islay.
Except perhaps this cemetery with the Kildalton High Cross.

Great cheeky sign.

What's unique about it? It was carved on both sides and fantastically old.

Saw this a number of times as early as the Dingle in Ireland.
In the UK....because, hey they have an arid tropical climate (???).

I discovered in the Lofoten Islands of Norway, they have moderate weather and sometimes even tropical fish because they are on the warm water currents. Guess it is the same thing here.

This was a sad but thoughtful place. 
A WWI and WWII cemetery for the many soldiers that washed ashore because their ship was sunk, on the way to the struggle.

Many that no one could identify.

Islay was not a bikers paradise but it did have beautiful rolling hills and views.

Next, a meal before our ferry home.
I got a little freaked out about the shell.
I had to ask Bob to shell mine.
They were delicious!
First time I had them was in Iceland.
Literally fresh off the boat that day.

And lamb loin.
Could have had two extra pieces.
But delicious still.

Cages to catch them.
The restaurant is literally in front of the harbor.
This restaurant seemed to be the only open one on the island but very good food.
These little inn's and pubs are so surprising.

Our ferry coming in.
Worried that I got the return time wrong.

William Wallace Monument.

For perspective on size as seen from Stirling Castle.

Stirling Castle.
Got stung by a bee.
Too annoyed to pay, go in and tour.
I'll see it later with Arka.

I took nearly a dozen photos to get one that had the Scottish flag showing. 
Obviously I failed.
This was the best one.

Not staying in hotels.
It's tourist season.
Impossible to get a room at a fair price.
Plus I like to cook and wash clothes.

This was a very nice place. Inside.
Close to Edinburgh.

From the outside, looked like a Russian gulag. 
Still, no one mucked with the bikes.

We both needed new tires. 
Found Jim Allan motorcycles in Falkirk.
I got all they had, Michelin Anakees Adventure.
Vaguely remembered I had these once before and didn't like them.
Quickly remembered why.
Poor overall quality so no matter how many weights to balance the tires, 
the front tire bounces uncomfortably and they stink on gravel or dirt roads.

Michelin says they are well within spec that way. What BS.
Oh well....matched my Michelin man on the bike I guess 
and allowed for 3K miles more riding.

The Tiger without wheels.

L means Learner.
N means New Driver.
P means Passed Test.
D I think is Disabled.
I think they should make R.
R for Rental.
Driving Scotland roads in a rental car was considerably more harrowing that I could ever imagine.
Felt like I should warn others.

That's John standing in the back.
He met me out front of the store as I pulled up, 
like that was his job.
Within minutes looked up my website and quickly saw that I had been to Chicken Alaska and asked me all about it. Then showed me video of him riding to Base Camp to Mt Everest on one very scary road.
Crazy bugger.

And this is the Falkirk Wheel.
Both sons of the store owners work there. 
It's a way to move boats from above or below instead of a typical water channel.
It was amazing.

There is a boat full of people in each cylinder.

On to some pretty countryside.
And the clouds are less ominous.

It still rained, just less. 

Scotland is known for its peat bogs.
And heather. 
Purple flowers that blanket the landscape 
and make a whole mountain look beautiful when the sun hits it.

On to the Glencoe and the epic Ben Nevis.
My little airbnb single room.
It was cozy and I got to wash the bike.

The Ben Nevis viewed from my window.

One of my more comfortable sleeps.

This ferry is the only one like it in the world.
It's a deck that is hand turned to pivot on the hull to line up with the dock.
See the dog? 
He has his own facebook page and the skipper is a woman. 

It was a short but rocky water crossing where we used Bob's extra block of wood to make sure my bike didn't tip over into the new expensive rental car crammed right next to me.

I hate ferries.
But I read about this one and just had to go see it.
Reminded me of the hand pulled ferry I found talking to the Hot Mess last year in Latvia.

Well worth it.

Headed into Skye.
Stopped for lunch.
By the time we finished it was storming.
So we decided to turn around and go back.
The long way.

There were plenty of dogs inside.
Yet no 'wet dog' smell.
I had quite possibly the worst chicken wings ever here.

Wall of bottles.
Sadly, empty.

The weather was too turbulent so missed Skye but saw this awesome castle.
And its fabulous toilets.

This is Mallaig.
The port town that the ferry was cancelled from due to turbulent seas.
More stairs....but there was a pretty view.

Some rooms have things like strong racks, hangers or hooks
sufficient to hang dry all the wet gear.

A lovely view of the harbor.

Pork chop.
Sadly no lamb.
But this will do.

In the Harry Potter movies, 
there is the Jacobite steam train.
It arrived just as I was sidewalk parking.
Ruining the photo op for a bunch of tourists fresh off the train.
That's OK because they also flooded the town, right as we were trying to find parking near our accommodations on a steep, narrow hill and some ding dong just stood there....I'll stop since this rant could be quite long but it did end with me yelling at her to just cross the damn street.

A perfect photo for me after I cropped the annoyed person Bob caught in the photo.

Now this was actually 'unimpressive'. 
The train bridge from the films.

It was a short walk.
Walking is good for you, right?

Lock in Scotland is essentially lake.
Saw plenty of these. 
Sometimes didn't see them because of all the forest growth.

This photo shows the heather a bit better in the forefront.

We eventually got there after the scary, narrow, steep road...and I do mean scary road.
If you watch the clip, the fun starts at 1 min.
This person had a car.
And good weather.

After maintaining my grip of death on the handlebars through the pass, stopped at the famous Applecross Inn for fish and chips.

And....finally. The furry, fluffy, fun highland cows.
Arka called them the rockstar guitarist cows.
Yes, the females have horns too, only smaller.

They were rubbing their hides on the guard rail for a scratch.

Bob kept talking to me in my helmet.
Recommending I don't piss off the big one with the giant horns.
Then promptly said, if I did, he'd be sure to get it on camera.

Many of the stops for the night had farm dogs or working dogs.
This dog was a bit more normal than our host.

Gorgeous big house in the countryside.
Michael, our host does 'energy healing online'. 
We think his wife just humors him and lets him do it to keep him busy.
They also had a parrot that we thought was a screeching baby for the first 10 mins upon our arrival.

My twin room.

Grindle made some friends.

The next day, started the epic North Coast 500.
Bob took these. 
Thanks King Bob.

It was a fun day.
Except I lost something.
You already know how difficult it can be when I lose something.
This time a black silk glove liner.
I need these to make the best use of my heated gloves.
Lost it on a windy day on the west coast.
Went back for it the next day, hoping to find it in the bathroom where I last remembered having it.
Nope. No luck.

But found this sweetie in a dog carrier.
Calm and friendly.

Would you be calm and friendly in a cage on the back of a motorcycle?

Later that day, rode around a bend and heard bagpipes.
There was a group of them performing for a bus load of tourists. 

For you John Wick fans.
Made it to the furthest point of the North Coast 500.
John o'Groats.
The next town is Wick.

What was the big deal?
Not sure.
But did meet this interesting character.
A local Scottish man.
Riding a two stoke motorcycle that looked like a bicycle.
He had about 3 teeth left in his mouth.

Then he went over and looked at our beasts.

Then left for home.

Another pretty castle?

Zoomed out.

This countryside home was nice.
The dogs barked into the night.
However I was handed a terry cloth robe for my shower.
It felt 'too civilized' so I didn't use it but thanked him profusely. 

He had just gotten some hens.
Seems the previous ones had been eaten by a fox.
They were tiny little things but so yummy.
The eggs, not the hens.

They looked more like turkeys.
Saw many wild grouse loitering on the side of the road.
Didn't hit any. 

The next day, we followed our hosts advice and found a 'wee bonnie road' to ride.

Then I found another wee bonnie road. 

And what turned out to be a very old structure.

Then it was the not-so-wee-bonnie road out of there 
with too many cars coming the opposite direction on a single track road.

Gorgeous valleys everywhere.

Stopped for lunch. 
Beautiful white sand beach.
Complete with some very happy dogs and their humans.

Next was a remote train station that had a mini museum inside.
All about that region's peat bogs, describing the environmental importance they have.

Bob said this is not true.

Motorcycles park for free. 

Next Culloden.
It is called the battlefield of Culloden.
I know the history quite well and to me it should be the massacre of Culloden.
Nevertheless it was a dramatic place. 

The heather only grew on the Scottish side of the field and burials.

These clever markers showed the different regiments 
and their exact location in the original formation.

See the silver square on the right bottom corner? That's where this clan stood.

The Scottish burial tombstone markers. 
I lingered at this one for a bit then decided to touch it.
Mind you I was already feeling the sadness of this place.
But when I touched it, my heart clenched in my chest, my eyes teared up and I felt a great weight of sadness overwhelm me unexpectedly and suddenly.

The small 'hills' that underneath have mass graves are easily noticeable.
Except to ignorant, idiots who walk over them to get the next stupid photo.

This was the outer wall of the visitor center. 
The wall has raised blocks of stone that represent the number of fallen.
The Scottish side.

This short section was the English fallen.
It was a stark and disturbing visual of the profound loss of life. 

I've had friends visit places like Auschwitz and describe the same feeling of deep sorrow. 
I did not imagine this would happen.
I believe I felt the sadness pass through time to me. 

On to happier moments. 
I saw these gin bottles in the gift shop.
I can't fit anything on the motorcycle so I never buy anything. 
However, it's still fun to look.
They had interesting flavors so I found their distillery and it is just outside Edinburgh. 
Arka and I tried to make it fit into our schedule but it was not meant to be.
Doesn't mean there aren't two happy, well insulated bottles in my suitcase, ready to go home.

There is never a motorcycle trip without motorcycle drama.
The tire change was easy and expected.
The heated grip controller on my bike shorting out from the rain wasn't.
I have Raynauds as many of you know so this was bad news.
Fortunately I pack spare heated gloves. 
Now with a missing silk glove liner. 

So we stopped in this 'hardware' store to try and find a switch.
Finally. Got to have my hardware store visit.
A bit disappointing. It was more of a homegoods store.
No switch.

There are many small, very funny moments that happen on motorcycle rides.
Somewhere along the east coast of Scotland, I saw a small black gloves on a pole sticking up out of a wall as though waving to people going by and exclaimed "There is my missing glove from the west coast from yesterday saying hello!". 

Next castle....

Yep, had to walk to it.

A lot of farming goes on here.
Mostly wheat.
The wheat is cut and then rolled into what I call 'Green Giant Marshmallows".
Finally saw the machine that does that.
The marshmallow maker. 

Next airbnb was....another farmhouse!
Complete with a cat that could sit up on its hind-legs like a meerkat.
This happened because a young girl rode her horse in the field opposite...and it just baffled and scared the cat a bit. It was hysterical. 
No photo unfortunately. 
Just the memory of a good laugh. 

A bit of a dark photo but see the rack in the ceiling? 
It was a drying rack for clothes that was set up on a pully.
Wish I would have gotten a photo with it crammed with our drying clothes.

Next on to Queensferry and it's impressive bridges. 
The old bridge.

The new bridge. 

I didn't get a photo of the bridge I really wanted to capture. 
It's a train cantilever structure that is quite famous. 
Oh well.

Rosslyn Chapel.
Was in the DaVinci Code movie.
No photos on inside.
You just have to see it to believe it.

There was a 'talk' at noon. 
It was a woman, "speaking English with a Scottish accent". To which I said, Bravo!

Melrose Abbey.
I had the most amazingly good salad in a cafe nearby.

These sheep were very vocal.

This one in particular.

Next stop. 
Loved this place.
Old barn converted to restaurant.

Quite possibly the best lamb shank ever.

This place, like our Irish stone house airbnb, was quite special.
We stayed a second night.
Farmhouse. Our hosts were very interesting free spirits themselves who did have a strong opinion on what privacy meant and even wrote about it in their rules to the point of scaring us a bit.
Everything was fine. We even had a couple gin and tonics once we found where the freezer was...under the staircase of course! (where else would it be)

Including parking for the bikes out of the rain!

Lovely wood fireplace.

The dog house.
For those, behaving poorly.

My room was very 'Nancy'. 
Dark red walls.
Black out curtains.
Soft lighting and bed.

Cool curios.

Found this awesome valley.
Beautiful damns.
Three of them.

Had to stop and get a photo next to this van.
What a great business name!

And no trip to Scotland would be complete without the Michelin Man in a kilt.
See my little orange Michelin Man on the back of the bike?
I fell in love with these in South America where all the truckers have them on their side mirrors or in Scotland I saw a few on the light bar above the cab. 

Next on to Wales as the ride comes to an end.