Backwards to go Forwards

Day 125: Maybole, Scotland to Peterborough England, Tuesday August 22nd

We got out fairly early; too early to say goodbye to Chris and Shaun, who were still sleeping. Julie-Anne helped us with our gear and saw us off.

We needed to get back to Ayr to get a train, but we decided not to go over the mountain on cycle route 7, opting for reasonably quiet “B” roads instead. It was much, much better. It also meant we rode through Alloway, with the Brig 0’Doon, and the birthplace of Robbie Burns.

At the train station, Deb got us tickets. It turned out to be more complicated than we’d hoped, as the train between Edinburgh and Peterborough that we were going to take had no bicycle spots available. We’d have to take an earlier train, which meant going to Glasgow first, then walking to a different station for a train to Edinburgh. These first two trains would have some room for bikes, but you can’t reserve a spot, which made us nervous.

The first leg went smoothly, we were the only bikes, and we got seats right next to them.

We pushed the bikes on the busy Glasgow streets and reached the other station with time to space. The next train came, and this time the only other bicycle was a folding one.

Edinburgh was simple, because we had reserved seats, and reserved spots for the bikes.

It was strange seeing so many places we’d cycled go flying past through the window. The feeling that we were going backwards would not go away until we were in Newcastle. It would have felt much better if there had been a train from Maybole going south, but everything goes out of Glasgow and Edinburgh.

We were very happy to get out of the stuffy, noisy, and rather smelly (a guy ate a tin of fish) train car. It was a ride of only about 2 km to our Airbnb, and we immediately appreciated the warm air.

On the doorstep to greet us was Selma the cat. Hannah, our host, welcomed us and got us settled. Her husband Keith rode home from work not long after we arrived. They were great and we talked for quite awhile. Hannah is Swedish, and had an interesting perspective on the area and England in general. Their house was very nice too, and they made us feel at home.

Distance: 17 km (bike) Lots more by trains

$

A New Plan

Day 124: Maybole, Scotland, Monday August 21st

Chris and Julie-Anne’s place was so great we immediately decided to stay another night and give our legs a break.

We went for a walk and saw a bit of Maybole.

It was the day of the big eclipse in North America; even if there was anything to see in Scotland, it was too cloudy. And there was a lot of rain in the forecast. And even the nice days, like Sunday, felt like a nice day in October. Faced with more cold, wet, and very hilly rides, and in a region that had very few affordable places to stay (Airbnb or campgrounds), we had begun to consider taking a train into England, skipping over the middle bit.

When Shaun told us he was considering going to Peterborough for the Cask Beer Festival, we were intrigued. We looked at the train schedules and made a new plan. It would involve some backtracking, which I hate, but with September coming quickly, we decided it was time to leap ahead.

Distance: 0

$82

Snowball

Day 123: Beith to Maybole, Scotland, Sunday August 20th

After a makeshift breakfast we rode out of Beith and back onto cycle route 7, heading south. It was a fairly nice day and we were on quiet roads in the country.

At Irvine the route hit the coast and we got our first views of the Atlantic ocean since the Orkneys. The path through Troon was all along parks and beaches and golf courses and there were a lot of people out.

 

Shortly after Ayr, the route briefly put us on a rather busy and fast road. I was pleased, at first, when it turned off onto a little single track road with almost no traffic.

Then we hit the Carrick Hills.

It was one of our more arduous climbs, and it was followed by a series of smaller, but still tough foothills, until we finally reached Maybole.

Our Airbnb was a very big, beautiful, old house with a huge garden and some outbuildings. It was a lot of space for our two hosts, Chris and Julie-Anne, and their four cats, so they’d decided to get on Airbnb. They were excellent hosts, and really fascinating people. Julie-Anne had just finished her Masters thesis, and Chris took amazing photographs of abandoned spaces. He’d even been to Chernobyl.

All their cats were fun, but Snowball had a face I could not get enough of.

There were other guests, and we ended up sharing dinner with Shaun (Sean?) from California, who was traveling and working remotely (web consulting). He was really interesting too, and we had excellent dinner conversation over pasta, red wine, and a little rhubarb pie for dessert.

Distance: 65 km

$90

A Cousin in Hamilton

Day 122: Kilbarchen to Beith, Scotland, Saturday August 19th

We were getting a bit weary, and faced another day with afternoon rain in the forecast, so we booked a room above a pub in a town only 20 km farther down the cycle route. This meant we could also linger over breakfast and chat some more with our hosts and their other guests.

There was just a little intermittent spitting rain when we finally got on the cycle path, which was right outside their door. Cycle route 7 here is all on old rail trail: flat and beautiful.

The Saracen Head Hotel had graciously offered to let us check in as early as noon, but with such a short distance to go, we still took our time, stopping frequently for photos.

Beith is just a little ways off the route, but we had no trouble finding the pub and they had a back corridor where we were able to store the bikes. Sadly, the Isle of Skye Brewing cask taps at the bar were no longer in use, but we survived. While we sat enjoying a pint we met John, an older gentleman with family who emigrated to Hamilton. I told him we might be related, but we weren’t able to connect our family trees.

We bought supplies at the local Co-op, and had a simple meal in our room, resting up for a tougher day to come.

Distance: 20 km

$106

Go WEST

Day 121: Bellshill to Kilbarchen, Scotland, Friday August 18th

It rained a lot in the night, and it was windy, a combination that meant there were puddles inside our tent by morning. There was a brief break in the rain when we got up, and even some sun, but it was a trap. We had spread out some of our wet things to dry, only to see them get soaked again when the rain returned. It was not a great start, though I did manage to replace my flat tube, and do a quick clean and oil of our chains.

We found a much better route out of the site, and were quickly on cycle route 75 headed for Glasgow. This took us on many car-free paths through the suburbs, though we had to cross a lot of busy roads. Within a couple of hours we reached the Clyde River, which has great paths all the way into and through the city.

We rode right by the People’s Palace again, but this time stopped at WEST Brewing, which we actually visited many years ago on one of our hiking trips. Still in Glasgow, we hit a cycle shop to buy a new spare tire and a couple of tubes.

As usual, we had only a sketchy idea what our Airbnb would be like, though we got an indication when the hosts offered to make us a reservation at their local pub for dinner. Even so, we were not prepared for the luxury that Mark and Andrea provided.

Our room was huge. Mark helped us with all our crap, and then he brought us beer and chips. Even their adorable daughter helped welcome us. They were so warm and friendly we almost forgot the cold and the wet; their amazing shower took care of the rest.

The pub dinner was excellent, and after returning, we chatted with our hosts and their other guests (two young men from France on a car tour).

We passed out early, though we would’ve liked to have stayed up enjoying the company longer.

Distance: 45 km

$126 + spare tire and 2 tubes

Glassholes

Day 120: Edinburgh to Bellshill, Scotland, Thursday August 17th

We were a bit worried about the uphill ride out of the city, but the route was pretty good and it was too early for the serious Fringe crowds to have formed. Soon we were back on the canals, riding west this time. We were heading back towards Glasgow, mostly on a different route, planning on heading south on the west coast.

We took cycle route 75 this time, and it proved to be scenic, but more challenging than the 754 that we took heading east. There were a lot of dirt paths, and the rain had made them a bit mucky and there were lots of puddles to weave around.

Sadly, there was a lot of glass on the paths near the towns we rode by. Coincidentally, my back tire went flat about halfway through the ride. We swapped in the spare tire and a new tube.

At Airdrie we stopped to get supplies and I exchanged messages with Allison and Aron (the visit seemed so short!).

A little farther on we lost the 75, and instead of backtracking we made a poor decision and let Google Maps guide us the rest of the way to the campsite. These Glasgow suburbs are crisscrossed with very busy roads, plus the big highways. We were struggling to find a safe route when my front tire went flat. As we were only about 3 km from the park, I simply re-inflated and hoped it would hold.

At last we found a way down into the Strathclyde Caravan and Motorhome Park, which has a field for tents. We chose a spot with a tree so we’d have a place to lean our bikes (no picnic tables to be seen), took nice hot showers and set up. We knew rain was coming, but it at least waited until we had eaten.

Distance: 80 km

$41

Orwell that Ends Well

Day 119: Edinburgh, Scotland, Wednesday August 16th

We said goodbye to Allison and Aron, as they were off to pick up their rental car and begin the next stage of their Scottish adventure: exploring the Highlands and the Orkneys. Then Deb and I went to a funny show about the surveillance state: “Orwell that Ends Well”.

When the show ended we saw that it was pouring rain; fortunately the venue, the Caves, had draught beer.

We meandered around the Fringe hotspots, taking in the buskers and the crowds.

I always enjoy a good bookstore, so we spent some time in Blackwell’s, and Deb found some postcards for our bathroom wall.

We walked to Leith, and stopped at the Stewart Brewing shop, where a very friendly guy, Ian, served us samples. We lingered and chatted, and finally made our way back to Beaverbank on the very nice “Leith walk”.

Not all Castles are Bouncy

Day 118: Edinburgh, Scotland, Tuesday August 15th

We met again in the student lounge. Al and Aron told me I’d just missed Robert Picardo, the doctor from Star Trek: Voyager, picking up his laundry. He told them he was doing a Fringe show with Sylvester McCoy (the Seventh Doctor Who!).

It was sunny and reasonably warm, so we started with a Detective Rebus walking tour. The guide was good and the tour was well-paced and fun. It included some interesting Edinburgh history and trivia, as well as some readings from the books.

In the afternoon we saw a good show by English comedian Andy Zaltzman.

We experienced some true Fringe madness by having drinks at the Fringe Hub, surrounded by buskers and other Fringers. Then we worked our way through the throng to see a silly show called Goldilock Stock and 3 Smoking Bears.

Deb got a recommendation for a pub to eat at, and it didn’t disappoint. We didn’t have to go far to see our next show, which was a pay-what-you-can performance based on Roleplaying games. The gamemaster chose a party from the audience and they played a mostly improvised adventure, rolling a giant 20 sided die to resolve challenges. It really reminded Deb and I of something we might see on a Jonathan Coulton cruise.

We fit in one more show, again with Andy Zaltzman. This time he was hosting for four standup comics. All were good, and the venue was a cool little underground bar.

Familiar Faces

Day 116: Brightons to Edinburgh, Scotland, Sunday August 13th

It was hard not to ride slowly to enjoy the good weather and the fantastic canal tow path cycle route, but we were anxious to get to the city to see our friends Allison and Aron. They were already in the midst of the Fringe craziness, and we exchanged messages as we drew closer to Beaverbank, the student residence where we all had rooms.

We had to push our bikes across a couple of old aqueducts. Water on one side, the drop on the other, and a narrow, rough, cobbled path between. The Avon, in particular, was a bit harrowing for Deb, as it is very long.

The ride through the city was a bit hectic, but we managed to carefully weave through the crowds.

We checked in, showered, and Deb ducked out to get supplies. Al and Aron arrived while she was out, and Aron, a true gent, gave me a cold beer. We spent some time catching up then went out dinner. The owner (manager?) of the restaurant gave us some Fringe tips.

We walked deeper into the festival area, thinking that we might find a show that interested us, but it was a warmish night, so when Allison spotted some seats outside a bar, we got drinks and enjoyed the people watching.

At 10 pm you can’t have outdoor drinks apparently, so our mini-crawl moved across the street. Then we returned to our rooms, planning some Fringe fun for Monday.

Distance: 50 km

$237

Duke and Baron

Day 115: Brightons, Scotland, Saturday August 12th

Our hosts kindly gave us a lift in the morning, dropping us off in Falkirk at a big park called the Helix. The showpiece of this big green space is the Kelpies. These are massive, yet somehow delicate, stainless steel horse head sculptures. It was a nice day, so we were able to take nice pictures of this stunning art.

It was a long, but good walk back. The guest labrador, Charlie, was there waiting for his owner to pick him up. He kept us company while we blogged and planned.

Later, Charlie went home, but we had puppy Campbell and friendly Evie to keep us company.

Distance: 0

$78