Whales and dolphins of the Moray Firth, Day 9, 8 June 2008
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8 June 2008 - Going off the rails on a crazy train - Day 9

Ok, last day, I promise. Even I'm getting tired of traveling and being out and I'm ready to be home. Peterhead isn't exciting and a lot of the ride closer to Peterhead yesterday wasn't that great. I asked for breakfast at 8:30, hoping to leave by 9. I have a 1510 train in Aberdeen, hopefully that's enough time. Considering yesterday, I don't know. But a full English breakfast, I should be pretty stoked up now and ready for a lot of miles.

Past the Peterhead harbor.

Packing up my bike outside, I spent a bit of time trying to figure out what the rubbing sound is I was hearing yesterday. Every time my rear wheel spins around, it is hitting the mud guard. That's annoying. And then I notice a big crack in the rim around one of the spokes. Now that's really not good. It all makes sense now. There is no tension in that spoke, so the wheel was bulging and uneven. The spoke wasn't broken, at least not yet. You can ride with one broken spoke, maybe even two, but it isn't a very good idea, especially having heavy luggage on the back and knowing there might be bumpy rocky roads ahead. And if the rim is cracking, maybe there will be some sharp edges and a puncture would really kill a lot of needed time. So, I spend most of the day in a state of slight panic. Not to mention that the rubbing mud guard is a lot of hard work, like riding with the brake on all day.

The awful cracked rear wheel.

The B&B guy seemed totally taken by Slains Castle and also the Bullers of Buchan and said I needed to go there. There were both pretty much on the way, so yeah, that's seems ok. I don't bother with quiet roads for a bit, I take the A road out of Peterhead and head south. Traffic isn't horrible here and it is right along the coast so it is pretty too. The road is smoother too, since I was going to spend the entire day worried that my wheel was going to fall apart.

Short break on the side of the road to look at the coast.

I get to the Bullers of Buchan quicker than I thought I would and it is only a few minute walk off the main road. It actually was really cool, probably my favorite thing of the day. They think it used to be a sea cave but the roof had collapsed in. Now it looks like a crater with a bit of water in the bottom and a door at the front to let the ocean in and out. The cliffs are covered with kittiwakes and their echos are funny in the crater. Then the cliffs beyond on the ocean side have guillemots and a few nice nesting shags. It is very cool and I spent a lot of time just sitting on the cliffs watching everything.

Going to see Bullers o' Buchan.

Echos of kittiwakes.

On the coast.

Shag nests.

Nesting guillemot.


Shag nest.

Rushing again, mustn't lose track of time, can't miss my train. Slains Castle is just down the road then, maybe a mile away. The path to it is dirt and rocky and I walk it to not strain my wheel anymore. It is slightly disappointing though. The B&B guy seemed so taken by it, saying it was the most spectacular ruined castle in Scotland. It is the castle that inspired the writing of Dracula, but I'm just not that into it. Really, there is no castle quite as spectacular as Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland, so maybe I'm a little jaded. It is pretty nice though. My favorite thing was as I walked up, there was a barn own perched in one of the windows. Unfortunately it took off before I could get my binoculars out, but that did seem kind of perfect for Dracula's castle. A quick walk around and back on the road then.

Rocky road to Slains Castle.

Slains Castle.

Slains Castle way off in the distance.

Since it is about noon now and I'm not even half way there, I panic even more. Really have to make time now. I've been debating about going to see Forvie Reserve all day but it seems apparent now that doing that isn't wise. Yeah, tire worries again. And I'm running a bit behind and there is no point in rushing in and trying to see something like that in 15 minutes. I should just rush and get to Aberdeen and make sure my return ticket is all sorted out. It is sad going past the turnoff to Forvie, but then I've seen loads of birds in the last week, I'll survive.

Forvie Reserve behind the dunes.

Past Forvie, I get back on the A90 and it is sheer hell. I get off at the very first next road even if I do have to go a mile or so out of my way. It was just crazy being on there. Then a lot more rushing on country roads, through some industrial parks in Aberdeen, and then a bit of the main roads, I cut off to the beach front and catch my breath and call home. The beach looks kind of nice, even though the water is covered with oil vessels. No time for a swim or anything, I still need to rush. But at least at this point if my wheel blows up, I can walk and still make it.

Aberdeen from the sea side.

Beach at Aberdeen.

Back at the station, I make sure my return ticket is sorted out. When I booked it originally, I booked really early and had to call back a few times as seats came into the window where they could actually reserve them. The ticket I had seemed a bit weird and I wanted to make sure. Sure enough, they had only sent me a bike reservation and not a seat, so that sorted out, I had just enough time to catch my train but no time to pick up food.

My coach on the train to Edinburgh was quite filled with stag/hen party people. In other words, lots of women with pink cowboy hats. A guy is seated where the bike rack is and gets really crabby when I ask him if I can put my bike on the rack. Ahh, a sigh of relief though, all the trauma should be over now. I made my train, I just have to hope I have some time in Edinburgh to pick up some food before my connecting train. I rush around there, do get some food, although it turns out that I actually have plenty of time. The train is 20 minutes late arriving. And too late, I realize I'm basically out of water and once I'm on the train, well, there isn't any catering until maybe Newcastle. I take small sips then.

I sit across the aisle from some guy whining into his mobile phone. He starts the conversation by saying, oh I'm on a train, I shouldn't really talk here, and then spends 20 minutes whining about everything. Really, no wonder she hates you, you are a total crybaby and I hate you and I've only been near you for 20 minutes. Ok, I'm a little grumpy at this point, but please, why do people do that.

Well, Newcastle comes and goes, and still no catering, so I have no water by then. Then we are stopped in York and the conductor comes on to tell us the train is terminating there. I'm especially inspired by National Express when he says it was a surprise to him, that he found out from a passenger. Great, so have to lug my luggage around, get my bike off the train, onto the new one, and then sit and wait for a long time until we can go. After we do go, then we crawl along the tracks for ages and our estimated time of arrival keeps slipping and everybody on the train with connections starts going a little nuts, what you mean we will get to London after the Tube stops running, and how am I to get to Cambridge, or all that. I am happy that I have my bike and I just have to get home after I get to London, I won't be at the mercy of the rail system after that.

The conductor comes around and hands everybody a claim form. Since we are going to be more than an hour late, hopefully I'll get a 100% refund for my fare. It seems like the least I deserve for a rather bad rail journey home. I slowly ride home then, in a daze, but happy to be getting closer. Something then like 40 miles for the day and my own bed at the end of it. Glorious. It is sad to no longer be in Gardenstown, but my bed, if we could just move that up there, I might never leave.