As we relaxed after the “all you can eat” barbeque, it was amusing to watch people gingerly rising from their seats and meandering, cowboy-style around the room. A hard day in the saddle had taken its toll and weary limbs were making their presence known. Bed was calling.
Day 1 of Ride the North had been successfully negotiated, 89.8 miles down, 81.5 miles to go.
The day had begun with a clumsy walk across Inverness to the starting point at Eden Court Theatre. The decision to make the trip on foot rather than in a taxi turned out to be environmentally friendly, and cost efficient but naïve. Concerns of traffic congestion proved to be unfounded. The large volume of luggage, including a bike bag and two bicycles, was unwieldy resulting in slow progress. The walk was however mercifully short and dry.
Nerves at the start line were compounded by a late bike delivery from Aberdeen. Fortunately for us, the rogue trucks arrived around 15 minutes before our allotted start time and we were able to get away on schedule.
Logistics and luggage concerns quickly left our minds as we meandered out of Inverness, climbing out of town towards Culloden. In fact, we should have paid more attention to thoughts of logistics and luggage as we failed to think ahead sufficiently…
A local pack of Cub Scouts had kindly agreed to erect our tents on behalf of the Ride the North participants in advance of our arrival in Elgin. Unfortunately, our tents were safely hidden in our bags, where they’d be when we arrived at the finish, adding a further minor challenge to our day; tent erection… Joy!
The ride had a tough start. It was a relief to reach the first refreshment stop. We had only done 27 miles, but they were tough miles and the variety of tasty snacks, energy boosters and drinks were extremely well received. It definitely wasn’t a time to be watching the waistline!
The route was fantastic; taking us through some of the best scenery Scotland has to offer. It was matched only by the warmness of the welcomes from the communities we visited during the trip. The applause from the small crowd in Boat of Garten as we rolled in for lunch was enough to warm the heart before the “fine” soup warmed our bellies.
By lunchtime, anyone who had underestimated the scale of the challenge they’d taken on may well have been regretting it. A cheeky headwind across the moor had ensured we earned our food.
The afternoon drifted by. We were in a rhythm. I was starting to become accustomed to switching my mind off and following the wheel in front, or tracking cyclists further down the road. When separated from our group, the ride was broken up by brief conversations as people drifted passed… a major part of the experience. Variable paces meant it was common to pass / be passed by the same people on multiple occasions during the day.
We eventually arrived at the Glen Moray Distillery to, again, be greeted by a warm welcome both for ourselves and our bikes. Weary and hungry, all that stood between us and the barbeque was the small matter of pitching the tents.
As it turned out, tents are a lot simpler than they used to be. Fortunately! The biggest threat to our wellbeing wasn’t a lack of shelter, but the bane of many a Scottish tourists existence… midges!
Tip: Insect repellent, then tent. Not the other way around!
Still dressed in my cycling kit, I have a line just above my knee where the bites start and continue to the ground.
Things could have been a lot worse… we’d safely completed the ride, we had somewhere to sleep, food was being cooked and we’d managed to stay dry all day. Definitely time for a beer!