Sunday, 26 July 2009

Tour d'ecosse - Stage 8, The Homecoming, Tomintoul to Edinburgh

It is the final day, and many miles to go, and a story of carnage lies ahead, so read on in anticipation.

As expected I awoke to precipitation. Tho
ugh to be fair Scotland would not be as lush and beautiful if it were not for the odd deluge. And on the upside at least it keeps the midges at bay.

The route takes me over the hills and past the Lecht ski centre, and as I approach I
enter blanket cloud and visibility drops to 20 metres until I'm over the pass. From here it's longer than I remember it being to Ballater, and as I enter the outskirts the rain goes off and the sun shines as if to welcome me to Royal Deeside. There is a choice to be made at this point whether to take the 'A' road toward Aberdeen or the 'B' on the south shore. The choice however is easy, knowing that the 'B' road will have less traffic. Surprisingly it is a quick road and lined with native woods, and I reach the turnoff for Stonehaven in good time.

12 miles later I'm entering Stonehaven and make my way down toward the town centre. I approach a T-junction at the bottom of Slug Road and negotiate past a small car parked way too close to the junction. As I do so I cross the long white line road marking, and the combination of very wet conditions, heavy bike, steep descent and front brake applied, creates disaster. The front wheel skids due to no grip on the white line and 300 kilos of bike, with me underneath, meets tarmac and slides downhill to a sickening sound of expensive chrome on stone. We both come to a stop inches from the junction with the main road, and within seconds people are around pulling me from under the bike. This was however a walking-pace crash but the damage to the bike is shocking. Lights, brake pedal, footboards, exhausts, tank, mirror, all damaged badly. The engine roll bar is bent out of shape but it is this piece of kit and my Kevlar gear that allowed me to walk away without a scratch.

I wait for two and a half hours for the RAC and while I'm waiting a local biker called Alan appears with sweet tea and a sausage sandwich. I'm moved. My faith in humanity is restored.

The RAC mechanic takes his large hammer to the bike, which is quite comical in ways given how much I look after the bike normally, and manages to get things bent into a driveable position. By 2pm I'm on the road again, albeit a little less glamorously. My knee and ankle are
hurting and I think I've probably pulled some ligaments somewhere. That was a 5mph accident. I try not to think about ten times that speed!

I wish to digress a moment; white lines. In fact all white
roads markings. They are lethal to a motorbike. Every motorcyclist I know, including instructors, say avoid them at all costs. So why hasn't some bright spark come up with a material less dangerous? And why do they place them exactly where a bike needs to go, like on a bend for example!? They do the same with large metal gratings, equally as dangerous and a little harder to spot. Add to that the gravel that gathers on country roads at junctions or in the centre of the road on a corner, and we have the third hazard. There is zero grip on any of these things. Motorcycles account for 5% of road traffic, yet 25% of all traffic fatalities. I'd like to know the percentage related to dangerous markings on the road and why nothing has been done. Or could it be that just like out-of-town shopping developments the world worships the car.

I pay a brief visit to Dunnottar Castle, which some say is the prettiest castle in all of Scotland. It is a ruin set upon a great defensive spit of land poking into the sea. A settlement has existed on the site from as early as 5000BC. The curent castle started off as a site for an early christian church in the 5th century and was gradually added to over the centuries, with the current chapel being built in the 16th century.

From here I head toward Montrose then west to Brechin an
d on to visit two friends, Sheila and Dougie, near Letham. They have a fabulous wee cottage in the middle of farm countryside, with a garden big enough to hold a game of shinty on. I'm feeling pretty rough at this point, and though I'd originally said I'd visit for lunch, because of the accident it has now gone 4pm. I do feel guilty turning down their offer, but my apetite has gone. I did however manage to force myself to eat two chocolate eclairs!

I had originally intended to scurry about little back
roads in Fife on the way home, but instead, after getting across the Tay bridge, I head down the main 'A' roads and then the motorway to Edinburgh. This was the first time in a week I had been on such a fast road, and though I was at the speed limit I seemed to be the only one, with drivers flying past at speeds that should be reserved for salt flats!

So I'm typing this up at home, with my own bed beckoning tonight. Tomorrow I will need to sort out the repairs to Trigger. I'm sure we all feel that tinge of sadness w
hen we return from holiday to the normality of day to day life, but tonight I feel sad. I have had quite an adventure, seen Scotland in all it's glory, good and bad moods, met friends old and some new. The only disappointment was not having longer. I thought before setting out that some of my days were a little too short, but actually they turned out to be perfect. What I would say however is that I'd like to line up most car drivers of the week and give them a communal kick up the arse. They drive too fast with no consideration for anyone else, and on single-track roads do not know the meaning of passing places. However, they matter not to me. I was out there, like a dog with his head out of the car window. I breathed the myriad of smells and felt the rush of the wind as I journeyed along some of the worlds greatest coastline. Thank you for coming along and sharing it with me. Let's do it again some time.


Keith Rennie said...

Glad to hear you are Ok.....enjoyed traveling with you round Scotland! Hope the bike is better soon!

geoff.kitchener said...

Thanks Graham for your facinating trip around Scotland,it must have been great seeing the ferry again.

hope Trigger gets better and hopefully will see you soon.