Lochs 'n' Trossachs Tour - Fearnan to Fearnan, Day 5, 14 May 2008
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14 May 2008 - Hey ho, let's go

Today is probably my favorite day of the trip. We will be back to the same place that evening, so we only need to take what we need for the day, so some clothes and bike repair things and a few other things. We have a longer route planned with lots of hills, so having very little along today will make that much nicer.

Chickens at Culdees Bunkhouse.

Exploring the farm.

I'm up early in the morning, I wander around outside for a bit, looking over the loch down across the fields, the small working farm, chickens and goats and things like that. The barn is pretty cool. It has like a whole caravan park parked in it and a funky stained glass window made out of old plastic bottles. That seems like a nice use for old 2 litre bottles. And the whole back wall of the barn is open, giving a nice view off over the fields and of the loch in the distance.

The bikes are there in the barn and both my tires are completely full of air. Yes. I have hope, maybe the mechanical difficulties have passed. I tell you, that would be so great, I would be able to love my bike again.

Getting bikes ready for the day.

Stained glass window in the barn made out of recycled plastic bottles.

But breakfast, three pots of porridge made and eaten and then everybody organized and bikes out of the barn and ready to go. Everybody wanders around the farm and takes pictures of the chickens. Or considering the bulk of pictures of them, I assume everybody did.

We have a short ride out to our turn off to head up Glen Lyon. Crispin tells us it is the longest enclosed glen in Scotland, or something like that. This part of it isn't spectacular. It is nice but it is lots of farm land, which can be a bit dull after a while. When it gets hillier and goes along the river, it is a little nicer then. The road is fairly quiet so it is easier to chat with people as we are heading along. And we have a tea stop scheduled just a short distance up the road too.

Through Glen Lyon.

Or do we? Since every tour seems to need a tea stop that isn't a tea stop, well, we had Bridge of Balgie. It looks like a charming post office, very hunting lodge looking, deer antlers and everything, as well is supposed to be a nice tea room. But it is Tuesday, so it is closed. Sigh. That's disappointing. It seems to be fairly common, lots of places are only licensed to trade 5 days a week in Scotland, so they are closed a lot on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I mean who would want to have tea in this out of the way place on a Tuesday late morning. Well, I would but it wasn't going to happen.

Our Bridge of Balgie tea stop that wasn't a tea stop.

Closed tea stop, snacking anyways.

So, we reach into our bags and drag out various bits of food and snack on that instead. Too bad we had our reduced load today, probably on a normal day with normal bags, we could have had a feast. There was a very cute chaffinch wandering around. There were a few different places where fairly tame birds would come near, sing a bit, and even though they weren't anything totally exciting like golden eagles, they were quite cool.

Friendly chaffinch.

Our plans had to alter a bit then. Since there was no snack here, everybody had to head over the pass to the lunch stop in Killin instead of splitting up into short and long groups as we thought we might here. Not that it made so much difference to me, I went on the short ride yesterday so I was totally up for as much as Scotland could throw at me today.

This pass was really fantastic too, the Ben Lawers road. Most of the mornings this week had started out fairly cold and then it heated up later in the afternoon. It was still pleasantly cold, perfect for a hard climb up a pass, and it was misty and foggy and made the mountains look quite beautiful and mysterious. It is fantastic, nothing too steep, just a long way up over barren stark mountain tops. I'm totally in my favorite place here.

Heading off the Ben Lawers road.

It levels out then as we come to the Ben Lawers Dam. The dam makes a perfect picture and I think everybody who goes past got the same one. The granite dam, the pretty lake nestled in the valley covered with a mist. And then we are heading downhill. And hour or so of climbing up to this height and probably less than 10 minutes to coast down. On these downhills all this week, I think a lot about the marvel of cycling. What a cool thing, coasting down a hill, being right out there in the air, balanced on two wheels, and just how it feels zooming down and going around the turns. Just a slight shift of your shoulders, a slight lean can change your direction so much. It is such a cool technical thing going down hills and a perfect way to cap off a long climb up.

Approaching Ben Lawers Dam

Ben Lawers Dam

Back in Killin, we came in the other direction yesterday, so I'm not completely sure of where to go, but I just keep going and eventually it all seems familiar. Back at the cafe, I have to make a choice, the pork burger or the venison one? Luckily I can share with Che and have both, which is the perfect solution. Although the venison seemed a little bit dry and wasn't all I hoped it would be. But maybe the venison burger tomorrow from the burger van (Crispin has been hyping this for a few days, so I'm ready for that one too) will be better.

Brenda has a train to catch back to London this afternoon. Luckily we all study some maps at lunch and she realizes that she had planned on going to the wrong station, since they have the same name. Although we hear later it probably doesn't matter so much since they were not very keen on taking her and her bike. But she has to leave and we all say our goodbyes.

We make our way up Glen Lochay, a bit of up and down. We are heading off the map soon and the road does start to get that feeling. It is slowly decaying as we go, we have to do a bit more weaving to avoid the holes in the road and the puddles. Soon, we hit the end of the road. Well, there is a road up there, not one that is on a map, but we can see it there, or at least the parts of it that are not obscured by switchbacks and that don't quickly disappear up over the hill. But a huge water pipe also heads that direction, if water can flow over it, then we can certainly ride over it.

Setting out up Glen Lochay.

Water pipe heading up the mountain.

The hills and the switchbacks are hard and challenging, but not quite as steep as the parts from a few days ago. On those I could stand up on the pedals and just barely maintain a walking pace. Here I can go just every so slightly faster. I do kind of love those hills though. It is such an accomplishment to see yourself rising up, every time you look behind you the valley is a little further down until you just feel totally impressed by how far up you have come. It might help too that I tend to take lots of pictures as I am riding up steep hills, kind of for the distraction, having something to occupy myself instead of thinking how tired my legs are getting. But I also keep hoping to capture the essence of the steepness and of the hill. I rarely seem to get that though, there is so much that doesn't come across in photographs, the angles, the steepness, and the rest of that. It is a little disappointing, so many of the pictures just look almost indistinguishable from pictures of flat roads.

End of the road, must have to head up now then.

Up over that.

Still climbing.

Pretty much the summit now.

Then again, it is funny how fast you can go down the other side. After like 40 minutes or so of slowly climbing up, the ride down can take just a few minutes, 5-10 at the most. This one is nice because there is no traffic, ok, just one, a Scottish Hydroelectric truck, but nobody else. The road is filled with lots of holes so it does require a bit of care to avoid those. Soon, I'm worried about getting stopped in time to cross the bridge at the bottom and so I can make the turns.

Quick zoom down to the bottom.

Just in time to explore the Northwest Territories. There is a large mound by the side of the road with a cairn marker at the top, so what else can you do, you have to climb to the top of it and sit on it and take pictures. The sign at the bottom said it was some memorial to somebody who explored the Yukon or blah blah blah. The view from the top was nice and it was a nice sunny warm day at this point. The rest of the way down the valley was mostly downhill and we make good time. Past the closed tea stop in Bridge of Balgie, which is still closed, and soon to the Yew Tree Hotel where we sit in the garden and wait for dinner.

Memorial to Northwest territory explorers.

Dinner was rather annoying. Sitting in the garden was really nice, it was sunny and we were tired and it was good to relax, but they were out of the Yew Tree ale and they were a bit snotty with us and the food was kind of mediocre, especially for the price. After a long day and 64 miles, then you put that little tiny bit of food in front of me. Fussy food but not all that great. We had to order extra chips to fill up. And the service sucked. No tip for them. I head back then the few miles to the bunkhouse feeling really annoyed, ready for a shower and bed.

Stop in Fortingall for dinner.

Rob is very tired.

The bunkhouse people had said they were having a bonfire that night in the barn, one of their volunteers was leaving and they were seeing him off with fire and ceremony. I peeked in for a minute or so that evening, but was too tired to stay much longer.

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