I’d booked a few days off work for a trip to Germany that Mian was planning, but then he crashed and couldn’t afford to go. I’ve made a few attempts at getting to Scotland in the past, each scuppered by other plans being made, and I’ve been hankering to have a go at a trip on my own, so it seemed sensible to take the five days to get to John O’Groats and back.
A quick fiddle with Furkot suggested that I had something like 1700 miles to cover in five days, which I rounded to 300 miles per day almost immediately before deciding that 300 miles was a reasonable day’s riding. My rear tyre was awfully squared off, too, so the obvious solution seemed to be blat it up the M1 and M6 past all the lovely National Parks I’ve already seen, then get a new tyre fitted at or near the border. And I might as well do that after work on the Thursday (I’d booked the Friday, Monday and Tuesday off).
So I booked the bike in for a new tyre at a Triumph shop in Carlisle on Friday morning and set about finding somewhere cheap and not-too-bad to stay. I ended up booking at the Travelodge at Kendal which wasn’t really success.
Well, this was the easy bit. I’ve long had a strong aversion to motorways on the grounds that I’m riding a motorbike and not driving a lorry, but a couple of trips (most notably leaving work one evening for Harwich and being in Cologne by about 11 the next day) have convinced me to give them a go.
So I worked from home, left at half four, jumped on the M1 and then the M6 and, aside from a brief error onto the M42 and A5, just made progress listening and dispatched with 250 miles in quite pleasant weather ahead of most of the traffic without once getting distracted by all the fantastic places I was zipping past.
Breakfast was at Tebay services (the farm shop one) where I also bought the bits required to fashion a battery charger for my camera since I’d neither charged the camera nor brought a working charger for it. I paused again at Carlisle to get a new tyre and fawn over the new Tigers, before cracking on up through Gretna Green to Glasgow
I’d noticed by now that I’d forgotten to pack a number of things - I had no fuel bottle for my stove, no chain lube at all and while I’d brought a pot to cook in I had no cup to drink out of and no fork or spoon to eat with, so I paused in Glasgow a little longer than I’d intended to.
Heading out of Glasgow past Dumbarton, up alongside Loch Lomond and over Glen Coe was a fantastic suggestion of what was to come from Scotland:
That last photo’s from when I stopped because the temperature gague had been flashing at me in that way that suggested that something’s gone awfully wrong. It’s a weird place for an engine to overheat - a fast, empty road in a country not really known for its high temperatures. I briefly realised I’d never actually fixed the fan after it broke in Germany last year, and then actually had a look:
That’s not really supposed to do that. A handy local stopped as I was wondering what on earth to bodge that together with - I think he was on an air-cooled BMW but I’ll forgive him.
He said that the petrol station on the way into Glen Coe was about 5 miles away and stocked “basically everything”. I somewhat pointlessly filled the coolant system up out of my camelbak (another good reason to only ever have water in there) and cracked on past some more lovely scenery to fix it.
During the application of Magic Network Rail Tape (I think that’s its technical name) and some jubilee clips I heard the familiar sound of an approaching BMW flat twin. Fortunately, this was a water-cooled one so the rider couldn’t gloat, but he did advise me that the ferry I was hoping to catch first thing in the morning from Mallaig (about an hour and a half away still) to Skye was likely full and that I might end up waiting for hours if I turned up without a crossing booked.
He left on his way once I’d persuaded him that I thought the thing was fixed - I decided I’d see how far I could get towards Mallaig and book the ferry when I was reasonably convinced I’d be able to get onto it. After several scares that were just reminders of how carefully this engine needs its coolant bleeding, as I reached Fort William I decided I’d definitely be able to make the ferry in the morning and I ought to book a ticket.
The earliest available crossing was at 16:20, so I found a campsite nearby instead.