Old Gits Logo 3.gif (12598 bytes)2021 Write-Up

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2021 Write-Up
Home Up 2021 Write-Up 2021 Photos A 2021 Photos B

 

Trip Notes by David Mc  ---

Miles travelled: 1878

Before the trip

With COVID cancelling the 2020 trip to Northern Spain we were hopeful that the 2021 trip to Northern Spain would go ahead. However, by March, things were looking dodgy for the Spain trip so a small group of us decided to book an alternative trip to Scotland for the same week as our Plan B.

The bookings were made for 6 of us and a route involving the NC500 plus some extra miles was agreed. The numbers were deliberately kept low as having to manage another trip that may need to be cancelled, with all the pressures and frustrations that entails, and with the continuing uncertainty around COVID restrictions, was something I really didn’t want to do.

Subsequent to the bookings, Brian C confirmed he’d also like to join the trip and Neil M had to back out. That left Roger C, James W, Mark R, Richard S, Brian C and me.

Saturday 12th June

https://www.myrouteapp.com/route/open/4783521

Home to Dumfries

The bike was packed on Friday evening so at 07:30 I started up the bike and headed off towards the meet-up point with Mark near Peterborough. A stop at Cambridge to brim the tank, then meeting Mark (shockingly – he was on time!!!) had us both heading up the A1 to the M62

The sun was shining and itwas warm so perfect for riding a bike. The intercoms were working and the banter/ribbing had already started.

We followed the route off the M62 and into the Tesco petrol station that was the meeting point with Rogerand James. Both were already there and after filling the tanks, we all headed off for the cross country route up to Scotland.

The route over Ilkley Moorand past Barnard Castle was superb. The roads were good and the views superb. A stop for lunch had us consuming what are possibly the biggest baps we’;d ever seen. (My sausage and bacon bap contained 5 sausages and 4 thick rashers of back bacon. I don’t think I needed my side order of chips!) <= /o:p>

The route involved a ?0;dog leg” crossing of the A66. Turning East on the A66 did feel wrong but the near deserted dual carriageway did give us a chance to open up the bikes. Each of us on a full throttle run had us up to … er … 70mph … in super quick time.

A stop in Eggleston for a drink was then followed by a run to Dumfries. The Kawasaki was the bike that was needing fuel first (though only about 5 - 10 miles sooner than the K1300Ss)so I was the one who made the call to fill up just before arrival at Woodland House Hotel and the meet up with Richard and Brian.

After booking in we had a lovely meal in the hotel restaurant and enjoyed the ability to catch up with people we hadn’t seen face-to-face for some considerable time.

Sunday 13th June

 https://www.myrouteapp.com/route/open/4783558

Sunday started dry and bright. We had a breakfast at the hotel where the staff were good to their word from the evening before and provided Richard with a slice of Lorne sausage with his Scottish breakfast.

After breakfast we headed out onto the A76 and north towards Glasgow. The traffic started light but increased as we got further north. On the run in to Glasgow, and with the heavier traffic, we managed to drop Mark R and Richard off the back of the group. Mark was part of our intercom group but Richard was running an antique device that didn’t link to our Packtalk group. The antiquated intercom proved its worth when he was unable to hear Roger's comments concerning the lean angle required to maintain the chosen direction for a GSA when riding in strong side winds later in the trip. Eventually Mark managed to catch us up but Richard, who was less willing to run at the speeds Mark had been running at, was still adrift.

The different sat navs defined different routes through Glasgow to the Erskin Bridge but the 5 of us crossed the bridge and headed for Loch Lomond. Richard sent us his location, which was now about 20 minutes behind the rest of the group so we headed on.

The traffic past Loch Lomond was heavy, as we expected. We were initially content to just sit in the queue, but it wasn’t long before I got bored and we started the process of skipping bits of the endless queue. At Tarbet, the traffic thinned out and by the time we’d past the top of Loch Lomond things were much better and we were able to make progress. However, the weather was looking threatening.<= /span>

At Tyndrum, we stopped fora coffee and a cake. We ordered for Richard and sure enough, just after the coffees/cake arrived, so did Richard.

Back on the road we were again heading north and enjoying the roads. We past a Triumph Rocket rider who tagged onto the group and kept with us, pulling into the petrol station in Glencoe with us. He introduced himself as Jim and asked if we minded him tagging along, which we didn’t. However, the issue was that the radiator on Brian’s KTM was peeing coolant all over the forecourt. After a bit of head scratching it was agreed that Richard and Brian would attempt to repair the radiator with some epoxy “metal” and Radweld. This was going to take some time as the epoxy needed an hour to set so we agreed to leave Richard and Brian and see them at the hotel in Fort William.

We decided to take the long route around the Kinlochleven road rather than going over the bridge. What a road! If you’re ever up that way it’s a “must ride” road.

We arrived at the CruachanHotel in Fort William and booked in. We had booked single rooms and these were definitely single rooms. There was certainly no unused space in the room.

After unloading we walked into town and enjoyed the beers at the local brewery outlet before eating at the Chinese restaurant.

Monday 14th June

A full Scottish cooked breakfast was enjoyed by all before we packed the bikes ready to move. The attempted fix on Brian’s radiator had failed so he has calling recovery for his bike and was deciding what he’d do next. The KTM dealer in Perth was the best bet at that time so looked most likely.

The 5 of us then set off, again heading north. The weather was overcast and threatened rain. The light traffic still resulted in the group getting spread out, with Richard losing contact with the other 4 at the time when we turned off the A82, but Mark waited atthe junction and Richard wasn’t far behind.

The run up to Applecross again gave a great variety of roads, ranging from fast, wide and well surfaced to single track with passing places and poor, potholed tarmac. While very different, all of the roads offered great riding with stunning huge vistas.

A stop for coffee and a cake was followed be even more roads with stunning views. The rain threatened enough that waterproofs were put on but there was not enough rain to spoil the fun.

At Ullapool we found the hotel and checked in. The car park at the back of the hotel was packed with bikes. The hotel had definitely seen better days and the single room was even smaller than the one from the night before.

The hotel didn’t have a restaurant so we headed down into the town only to find it closed! There was one pub but it was fully booked so we ended up buying fish and chips and taking them back to the hotel. We could see that we weren’t the only people who had established that the chip shop was the only option.

Tuesday 15th June

The beds in the hotel had been surprisingly comfortable so we’d all had a good night’s sleep when we met for breakfast. The news of Brian’s bike was that the radiator had been ordered and he was waiting in Perth for it to be delivered and fitted.

After breakfast we all packed the bikes and headed north, again we were impressed with the mile after mile of stunning scenery. We had the usual issues with the occasional bit of traffic that didn’t seem to understand the signs at the side of the road that said “Use passing places to allow overtaking” but we did eventually manage to get past those few mobile roadblocks. Most traffic was actually extremely good and pulled over to let the string of bikes pass at the first opportunity. However, Richards’s enthusiasm for a large gap between him and Mark meant it became a standing joke on the intercoms when passing other traffic that 4 of us would get through but Richard would then get caught until the next passing place. The comment of “all through except Richard got caught” was repeated a significant number of times!

A stop for a coffee and cake (you may notice a common theme here!) had us chatting with a couple of ladies who lived locally. One of the ladies warned us about an unmarked police carin the area that had pulled her over and given her a ticket. She told the story in a very funny way, identifying that she’d been lucky as a cyclist had reduced her speed and she would normally have been going significantly faster.

Richard and I had suggested to the others that there was no point in going all the way to John O’ Groats as it was best described as a “shit hole” but, as the others hadn’t been there before, they wanted to tick the box. The last 20+ miles to John O’ Groats is really boring and sure enough, Roger, James and Mark all agreed that John O’ Groats was a “shit hole” best avoided. We’ll know that for next time!

The run south was on pretty uninspiring roads but arrival at The Bridge Hotel in Helmsdale had the proprietor allowing us to park the bikes within the hotels secure car park.The hotel was great with large comfortable rooms. The only two downsides were that it didn’t offer evening meals and, worse, didn’t have a bar! (Note to self: never assume a bar in a hotel.) We therefore made our way to the Bannockburn Inn just up the road for a few beers and a nice meal.

Brian had found sitting and waiting for his bike in Perth, on his own, extremely boring. His radiator had still not arrived so he’d hired a car and met us at Helmsdale

.Wednesday 16th June

Breakfast was again another full Scottish breakfast with the usual choice of tasty but heart clogging dishes. Brian’s radiator was still not expected in Perth so he was also heading to Oban with us. The breakfast discussion was that the ferry from Skye needed to be booked in advance, which we hadn’t done, so it was agreed we’d go to Skye over the bridge then turn around and head to Oban via Fort William.

The car park at the hotel had some pretty deep gravel so we had fun each helping to pull the bikes out, luckily, without incident. After that, it was onto the A9 south for the run down towards Inverness. This bit of the NC500 is pretty uninspiring but we covered the ground quickly enough, stopping to refuel on the way.

We turned off the A9 and started the run west towards Skye. There were a number of roadworks that held us upbut the roads were, in general, open and flowing with not too much traffic. We were all having fun!

Eventually we were headingover the Skye Bridge, turning left towards Kyleakin to admire the small pile of stones that were once part of Caisteal Maol. After a stop for coffee and a cake to warm up, we headed back over the bridge then back towards Fort William. The Kawasaki said it had 38 miles left in the tank with Fort William 43 miles away as we approached what my sat nav said was the last petrol. Both Mark and James came over the intercom saying their sat navs said there was another petrol station in 12 miles so carry on, which I did. After about 8 miles James suddenly twigged that his sat nav was trying to take him to the Skye ferry, thus turn him around, and that the petrol station that had been 12 miles away was actually behind us and was now 20 miles away. That meant that I had the choice of turning around and riding 8 miles in the wrong direction or taking the risk and pushing on to Fort William. I opted to take the risk despite the bikes range still being a few miles less than the distance to the next petrol.

After a gentle ride for the best part of 30 miles I arrived in Fort William with the bike still running. I don’t know what range I still had in the tank as the bike had given up telling me a good 5 miles previously but I suspect there wasn’t much.

After filling the tanks we headed out towards Oban, deciding again to ignore the Loch Leven bridge and instead using the “long cut” of the Kinlochleven Road. This time was even better than the last time. Lots of 2nd and 3rd gear work with some challenging ups and downs as well as some great bends.

Back onto the A828 Oban road we continued to enjoy the great surface and good visibility. That was, until we were stopped by a set of roadworks traffic lights about 4 miles outside Oban. “Your bike is leaking something” James said over the intercom. A quick investigation said it was coolant so while watching the engine temperature like a hawk, I rode the last few miles into Oban and the hotel car park.

Sure enough, when I stopped, my radiator was having a little wee onto the tarmac. Damn! Brian was already at the hotel so his hire car was called into service while we went looking for somewhere to buy Radweld in the hope that it might work this time. There was, after all, nothing to lose other than the cost of a can of Radweld.

Once the bike had cooled Richard provided some more epoxy putty that I pressed into the bit of the radiator where the hole was, central and near the bottom, then I filled the radiator with the Radweld and a little water before running the bike up to temperature. There were a worrying few minutes as the remains of what had already been spilled was boiled off the exhaust and other bits, so lots of steam, but once it was hot, it looked like the fix was holding. The really good news was that the expansion tank contents were increasing as the temperature built showing the system was at least holding some pressure.

Temporary fix complete, I still had a kettle full of water that I’d brought down to replace lost coolant, but that was not needed. A devious plan was hatched and the kettle contents were poured away directly under the rad of Marks bike.

After a couple of beers we headed out to find somewhere for dinner when the puddle under Marks bike was spotted. Mark appeared very casual and simply said he’d look at it inthe morning.

Throughout the meal it was obvious that Mark was worrying, even though he didn’t actually say anything so when we returned to the hotel for a beer, I cracked and told him it was all just a wind up. The mixture of relief and frustration was obvious, but I’m not sure he’ll forgive as any time soon! J

Thursday 17th June

The Great Western Hotel inOban was another hotel that had seen better days, and those better days were some time ago! That said, we all had a comfortable night’s sleep and linedup for the breakfast at 08:00, waiting eagerly for the dining room to open. The organisation from the staff for breakfast was like a scene from Fawlty Towers with people rushing all over but not actually appearing to do very much. The funniest thing of all was discovering that adding extra items to your already substantial cooked breakfast did not add a penny to the cost however, instead of having the full Scottish, ordering the Eggs Benedict which consisted of a poached egg (part of the full Scottish), half a muffin, a slice or two of some plastic looking ham and plus a dollop of yellow sauce masquerading as hollandaise sauce accompanied by a couple of slices of toast (also part of the full Scottish) added 30% to the price of the breakfast! That made the bacon, sausage, black pudding, beans, tomatoes and “tattie scones” also on the full Scottish great value!

We said goodbye to Brian as he made for Perth to get his hire car back in time, then headed out of Oban. Again the roads were great with some stunning views. My radiator fix was holding and we all settled into enjoying the ride.

All too soon we were back on the A82 and looking for a petrol stop in Dumbarton. Our Highland Fling was complete, although we still had the run through the lowlands and the overnight stay in England.

While the ride through Glasgow on the M8 was as expected - boring, the run down to the borders using the back roads proved to be good fun. Another stop for coffee and a cake at a Costa with outside tables in one of the towns we went through had us enjoying the sunshine that had been missing for most of the trip.

Finally, having crossed the border into England, we arrived at the Clennell Hall Country House hotel. This really was located in the middle of nowhere, with no mobile phone signal, but wonderful rooms and great, friendly staff.

Dinner was something of a lucky dip but no less enjoyable as a consequence: James and Richard ordered the Steak and Ale pie, and Roger and Mark opted for the double burger. I went for thecod and chips. The advertised pie was “off” and so Game Pie was offered as an alternative – an option on a different scrap of paper masquerading as a menu.  The double burgerswere just that: two “industrial patties” with some yellow plastic cheese place between bread handles.   Notwithstanding that, the waitress – a spry 60-something who appeared to be helping out as part of a bet – was very entertaining, so much so that when James idly expressed a desire for some cheese she disappeared only to return with a large platter including some, rather good, Stilton and two varieties of Wensleydale.  Most importantly, all the cheese was at room temperature unlike the vin rouge being drunk by Richard and James, which had been hoiked out of a cold cellar with zero ceremony and served in what were almost tankards, with jolly village scenes screen printed on their side.

After the meal, with its associated entertainment value, and a few beers we all settled onto our huge rooms for a good night’s sleep.

Friday 18th June

Over breakfast (a full English this time) we all discussed our plans for the return journey. We were brought up to date by Richard that Brian was still awaiting his radiator (KTM had somehow lost it!) but was heading for home on Saturday, regardless. Richard was intending to visit some friends and James was going to Leicester to stay over with some of his friends. Roger was planning to go to Wales to see his Mum before heading back home in time to watch the England Scotland football game.

Both Mark and I planned tojust take the quickest route home, which was straight down the A1. The weather forecast was for torrential rain so we were going to get wet!

James joined Mark and me as we headed south. Unfortunately, due to a mix up in lane positioning and some heavy traffic Mark missed the slip road that James and I took to get petrol so we were separated and didn’t manage to reconnect for the rest of the journey.

Sure enough, after an houror so, the rain arrived and it was extremely heavy. That was it for the rest of the run home, wet! James peeled off to go to Leicester and I carried on through the rain.

Home at last, another Old Gits trip complete. It was not what was originally planned and involved considerably fewer people than recent Old Gits trips. However, it was great to catch up with both Richard and Brian, who I hadn’t seen since the 2016 trip. I hope they join another trip soon.

It was also good to be riding with Roger, James and Mark. Missing the 2020 trip completely, and then the worries around the Northern Spain trip in 2021 had made things frustrating for everyone but, finally, we had all been able to enjoy some great roads and some great company.

If you’ve not done the NC500 then I can recommend it as a “must do” route. Scottish weather will always be a challenge but the scenery is stunning and the roads are extremely enjoyable. Just try to avoid the midges!

Addendum by Richard S

I wandered somewhat aimlessly to my friends near York via the North York Moors arriving mid afternoon.   He then headed south on the A1(M) and suffered only moderate rain but a great many drivers showing no lights despite the significant reduction in visibility as a result of the spray.

Addendum by Brian C

To add some detail to my return, I arrived back in Perth on the Thursday. The KTM dealer explained that the radiator was still ' at large' so rather than waiting in the hope it would arrive, I arranged the pretty reasonable cost of 200 for the bike tobe shipped and set about getting myself back home.

My first option was to extend the car hire to a one-way, with it being dropped off near home. Europcar had said that should be no problem but when I subsequently asked them for it, they said the car was booked out. A quick ring around a couple of other providers told me that cars were generally in short supply, but led me to Enterprise, who I called to confirm availability. They said they could accommodate the 1-way hire but, due to COVID, couldn't pick me up. So I set about the 40 minute walk to their depot. When I'd got halfway, I received a call from the local branch, who said they didn't have availability! I then set off back to the Station area.

Looking for an alternative, I found that the coaches weren't running until Sunday. Trains were all very busy, due to the football, and mainly full so I had to admit defeat and get a hotel (it was about 3pm by now). Fortunately, I was able to get an off-peak ticket for the next morning, which was 98 rather than 260. Suffice to say, it was a proper ballache, and I got home on Friday.