Before I get onto today's ride to Golspie, I'd better fill you in about yesterday evening.
Phyllis, the landlady at Carey's asked if she could take a photo of me and Chopper, I suggested that we could do it in the morning when I was set up and ready to go. Later she asked me if I minded if she got in touch with the local paper - Caithness Courier (?) - I may be wrong - I said ok, and soon after she knocked on my door and handed me her mobile phone and I went through a telephone interview! We concluded by swapping email addresses and I sent him my picture at JOG with a link to this blog. Hopefully, I'll be publicised.
Later, I wandered down to Wetherspoons as it was Curry Thursday, and I had a couple of beers and a Beef Madras. Yum.
This morning started early.
I was awake at 05:30 and began preps for my ride to Gospie. John had said that it would be ok for me to get to Chopper and sort my stuff, so after washing and dressing, I was outside to the garage and back yard to begin. It would be the first time that all my stuff would be in one place, so I had a bit of a job moving things from box to pannier and back again. Eventually, all was sorted, and Phyllis suggested she get on with my breakfast. It was 6.45am and I didn't say no!
During the evening, a chap turned up on a bike, riding all around the Scottish coast. He's come up from Helmsdale and was on his way via JOG and west. We chatted down in the back yard, and also over breakfast too. We swapped cycling stories endlessly, but the road to Golspie was calling. I checked out of the B+B, said my goodbyes, and was gone.
I managed all of 10 yards.
The chain fell off as I pedalled away! I must've moved the gear controls during my packing and arranging, and when I back-pedalled to get my feet in position, the chain de-railed. Two minutes later, with some embarrassment, I was off and gone properly south into the southerly breeze, but sunny and fine. I was told that the weather forecast wasn't good, but not to take too much notice of it. It seems they get it wrong more than the get it right so far north.
The miles piled up.
Slowly, I must admit, but they piled up nonetheless.
I carried on almost non-stop to Latheron. This is a junction where the A99 ends and joins the A9 from Thurso. This road is the one I will follow in one way or another, all the way to Perth.
The road followed the coast in the bright sunshine. The wind from yesterday had abated and turned a bit to the east, so I had an easier time of it. Dunbeath was a problem as it's one of those hills that gets steeper the further up you go. Awful, but I managed it.
At 12:00, in bright sunshine, I pulled over and took a break. I also changed out of my warm tights and double layer of top, and put on a thinner, but long-sleeved top. I was wearing my shorts under my tights, so there was no display of bare bum etc!!!!
At about the half way point to Golspie, the Berriedale Breas raised their ugly heads. This valley sends shivvers down the spines of E2E cyclists. Steep both sides!
I was informed by the cyclist at Carey's that there had been an accident at Berriedale and to expect traffic lights. I went down the northern side holding my brakes. Not just because of the expected traffic lights, but because the hill is steep and has hairpin bends. I couldn't honestly say that I could stop if I was shifting along down that hill and pulled repeatedly on the levers to lose speed all the time. I took a bit of movie footage and pulled over into a layby at the top of the steep bit and took some more movie. I carried on to the bottom and took another bit, then threequarters up the other side, took the last bit.
I was horrified to hear the story. I learned later from where I'm staying here at Golspie, that it only happened a week ago and they were kids from Orkney - 36 of them - and ambulances were roaring up from the south one after the other. It leaves me pale and dithery just thinking about it. Anyone reading this who knows that bend will understand the horror of a vehicle going over. It's a good job that the barrier held.
Any road up, on a lighter note, I carried on south. The road climbed up over the Ord of Caithness and dropped down through Navidale and along the new bit of road that cuts a huge corner off, and dropped down into Helmsdale. I touched nearly 40mph down there!
Through Helmsdale and on to Portgower and another hill. Very steep but thankfully not too long. Then ups and downs to Brora for a call of nature and only 5 miles to go.
I'd snacked enroute with cereal bars and cashew nuts, and I got through a whole 750ml of water and then another half of the same size. The weather wasn't hot, but I was sweating quite well.
At 14:30, I turned Chopper into the carpark of the Ben Bhragghie Hotel and rode round to the rear. I entered the bar and ordered a beer. I needed it, I deserved it, and I was going to have it! As it was being poured, I introduced myself, was welcomed, and my beer went on the tab.
I'm staying in a pub, the bar is open all day, they do food, they have WiFi - I thought I'd died and gone to heaven!
Soon after, I was shown to my room, Chopper was wheeled into the function room - (no less!) - and I was showered and changed and downstairs for another beer and Meatballs and Noodles - wonderful and very welcome. Soon after that I was typing this out in the bar.
Tomorrow is another day, and 64 miles of it too, but there shouldn't be any horrors in store for me. My fingers are crossed for continued good weather and and favourable winds.
It took me from 07:45 to 14:15 - 6.5 hours, and I consumed 4895 calories - no wonder I was hungry! I averaged 9.8 mph whilst riding; including stops, this drops to 8.1 mph.
Thanks for reading,
More tomorrow at Inverness, providing I can get connected.
Regards to all,