Morning time in Comrie. We had a nice room in the cottage outside the hotel. Very civilized, a small bottle of sherry and decently comfortable bed. The tour had a wide variety of accommodations, from crowded rooms at hostels, to slightly less crowded rooms in bunkhouses, and a few hotels and B&Bs where we had a private room. So, it was a good nights sleep here then.
We all assembled in the dining room, crowded around a few tables, a few maps going around so everybody could see the route for today. Almost all English breakfasts all around, I did ask to have a few things omitted from mine, sausage mostly gets a bit much after a while, but they forgot and I got it all anyways. Rob had done his daily tire check after breakfast and says that my rear tire is a bit soft. No, no, not the sort of thing I want to hear. Funny, don't tell Rob but after today, Che started doing pre-Rob checks of the tires, mostly of mine, to give a bit of extra time to get things fixed, mostly mine considering how many punctures I had, but luckily after today, my tires stabilized and things were great. But that's the future, things were still bleak now.
So, my timing is thrown all off, I have to rush to get stuff packed and the room cleaned out so that I can get my tire fixed. We wanted to leave on time and didn't really have time for something like this. I am getting good at these by now, even with the fiddly locking hubs. It does appear that this puncture was kind of my fault. The valve wasn't pushed all the way in and there was probably a bit of chaffing on the sides, which caused it. I was more careful with this one, it got pushed in just right and I am getting much quicker at these.
I pump the tire up and whoosh. What? Damn, there is a huge crack in the valve. So, this tire is totally dead and I have to start all over on it. I still don't think this one counts. Yes, that is four punctures so far on the trip, but I only think it should count as 1/2 since it only had about 3 seconds on the wheel. Everybody else wants to leave since this is taking a while. Crispin leaves two spare inner tubes with me, and I had my other two that I had brought on the trip with me, quite patched up by now, and they all head off. I finish up the job pretty quickly after that and we head off.
But my mudguards. Have I ranted about them on this trip yet? Stupid things. Ok, I love them, especially when it is rainy and how nice and dry they keep me, but they are incredibly fussy and anything being slightly out of line, they rub and they are annoying. But then, writing this account almost a month later and having gone through a cracked rear wheel and having to ride 70 miles with that and having really bad rubbing (hard work), I guess I didn't have it so bad here. Could have been worse. But today they rub all day, making annoying noises and Che decides the sound is too annoying and rides off so she doesn't have to hear.
Heading out of Comrie
We don't really have a tea stop planned for this morning. I know, a horrible thought. If there was anything that we had completely down on this tour, it was tea stops and fantastic pieces of cake, but today wasn't going to be one of them. It is slightly hilly and a little bit foresty, and it is pleasant, except for the scrape scrape scrape of my mud guards.
Outside of Crieff, we come to the Famous Grouse Distillery. I had hoped we would convert that into a tea stop, but we just end up in the parking lot, taking pictures of the gigantic metal grouse and of ourselves standing in front of it. My rear tire is still a little soft, hard to get 100 pounds of pressure with a tiny frame pump. John suggests I get it up to full pressure, since it will be easier and also less likely to get a new puncture. I wave him off at first but then on second consideration, I take him up on it. Maybe he is just really strong or he has a really nice pump, but he gets 100 pounds in there in a few seconds. Wow, I want that pump. I must find out what it is.
Famous Grouse distillery.
It sort of becomes an obsession for me the rest of the tour, what pump would work well, is compact, and is easy to use. I like the one I have in terms of getting lots of pressure, you can either set it to high pressure or high volume, which works well, but the way you have to twist it onto the value really sucks since it tends to bend the values. So, the perfect pump must just be pressed on and then have a thumb lever to pull up, no twisting movement. And something that handles 100 pounds without breaking your arm. And a gauge would be nice too, but for the most part, that's probably not as necessary, you just pump until you can't any more and that's usually just kind of almost sort of enough.
But enough technical babble, we head on. There are a few miles on a relatively easy road before the main fun of the day starts. Crispin warns us over and over, very steep pass and an even worse descent into Kenmore. But to get there, we have a pleasant few miles before that. We come across a man and a woman who are in the middle of an end to end ride, or approaching the end. I'm not sure how I feel about those, it seems like it would nice, a great accomplishment but then it also seems like it wouldn't be that fun. But I guess if you took it easy, didn't just try to cram as many miles into every day, it might be pretty good to do. Maybe I'll have to try one some day.
9 miles to pass turnoff.
Starting up road to pass.
When we reach the turnoff to the pass, Linda is there and waiting. I believe that she had parked on the other side and was already over once and was heading back again. Still no tea or lunch possibilities, so we sit at the side of the road and have some snacks before going on. It seems like a nice and quiet road, so I head on by myself and just enjoy being there. There is a fantastic oyster catcher perched on a stone fence just at the side of the road. Wow, very close up. We look at each other for a little bit and I stop and look. Sadly, it takes off before I have a chance to get my camera out. Oh well, put that in my list of regretted missed photographs, along with that one in January of all the crows perched on each fence post all the way across a field outside of St Andrews. Maybe it would have been a good picture but it is probably better in my mind.
This tour was really good for me in terms of birds. It was when I finally got beyond those few, ok that's a robin, and that's a black bird/crow/raven. Ok, I wasn't that bad, but just about. So, today's lesson is about the difference between swallows and swifts and house martins. House martins look like both of those but they have white bellies, like the ones swarming around this house I see on the way. Those are house martins, yes, well done Kerry.
Ahh, but that was when the climb started too. Right around the corner from that house, I hit switchbacks and the fun started. It was a pretty long climb and I think of the whole week, it had the very steepest sections. It wasn't as relentlessly long as some of the others later in the week, but at on point, I was standing up on the pedals, pushing down hard, and like I was just taking very slow long steps, barely moving at all. So, I take lots of pictures then which gives me something to do. I really hope that they convey the steepness, but somehow they just never do. They always look like a little slope. Oh well, I know.
Glen Quaich wanders past Loch Freuchie,
The top portion was really nice. It was flat and pretty and wound around a little bit between the tops of hills until the real fun started. We were warned, relentlessly steep downhill, be very careful, stop a few times to let your brakes cool off so that you don't melt your rims. It was fun but scary on the way down and mostly I stopped a few times because my hands were hurting from holding my brakes so hard. The second time, I touched my rims and they really were incredibly hot. Unfortunately when I felt the tires, damn it, my front tire now, it was a bit soft. This is getting annoying, that's three punctures today.
Heading down fast.
Kenmore and Loch Tay down at the bottom.
It was nice lookout to stop at and while I cursed at my bike and tires, the rest of them went off around the corner to watch yet another flock of house martins circle around a house there. Slam slam slam, ok, tire fixed, ready to go again. (This is probably about where I lost my odometer, turning my bike over, something I don't notice until a few hours later. Really hating my bike today.) This last part was actually the worst of it too. The entire thing I think was about 500 meters down over a kilometer, but this last section was narrow winding switchbacks. Not something I would want to go very fast on even if I wasn't nervous about my wheels blowing up. The road then takes its toll on Dave W's tire and we sit and watch him changing his tire. That one must have been smoking hot, he did the entire tour on a folding bike and it had really tiny wheels.
Hot tire, and punctured.
Then at the bottom in Kenmore, we wait at the intersection at the side of Loch Tay and wait for the last few stragglers. Finally we have the long delayed lunch stop. I'm a little worried that it is too late that they won't be serving anymore but they have some food left. The ducks wandering around are cute too. We sit in the sun and enjoy.
Ducks at the lunch stop.
This tour is funny. We don't really go anywhere. Ok, we start and end in Stirling. But we also cover the same ground a lot, sort of. We are in Kenmore, on Loch Tay, we head through the Appin of Dull (although we don't go to Dull, even though it is only a 1/4 mile away from our route), all of it that we will be through again in the next few days. We do end up covering like 450 miles over the tour and do 1000s of meters of climbing but we never really get all that far from Stirling, so the tour never really has the epic feel of say riding up the west coast of Scotland or riding from coast to coast.
Ok don't want to go that way.
We all get a bit scattered out on the last leg to Pitlochry. All those who didn't have to fix tires got through lunch quicker and headed off sooner. It is fairly flat and not so difficult. We cross a nice suspension bridge into Pitlochry and then up the steep hill to the hostel. What a nice view of the city. I sit outside and watch the birds in the roofs, get sort of a feeling of the birds eye view. Back in the room, I come back into the room from my shower, oh hi Owen, this is a surprise. After years of trying to convince him to go on a bike tour, he finally relented on this one and then showed up a few days into it as a surprise to everybody. He just took delivery of his new Pearson bike and is ready to try it out. Hopefully he won't have new bike problems, especially since he already had a pedal explode the day he got it.
Coming into Pitlochry
View from the hostel at the top of the hill.
The hostel is pretty much over run by German hikers, so we have to work hard to get our pasta dinner cooked and a few free tables set aside for us. We devour it and lots of wine and I jump up to help make the fruit salad for dessert. The end of a day, 53 miles for me, and a rather frustrating day at that with all the mechanical problems.
Back to pictures Day 4