Well, it is our last morning in the eco village. The whole place was just so well marked, maps of the place in every room, maps of the room you were in, lots of signs about recycling and everything else. It didn't have quite as many signs as Stella's in Bala, but it was pretty close. But since this was the last morning, Gary could take off the tags for the locks. Each of the rooms had an electronic lock on them, and then each of the rooms had a bunch of tags with the secret codes on them that you could wear around your neck, which Gary did every night. Although I'll let you in on a secret, once you crack the code, well, you could break into any room. Room 1 was 1234, room 2, 2345, etc. Pretty complicated, I know. And most of the time, the doors were propped open, so you didn't actually need the code.
This morning was one of great panic for me. In packing things in my bag and cleaning up the room, I couldn't find my glasses case. I went rushing past rationality and reasoning and ran headlong into full total panic and hysteria. Ok, that was probably a bit overboard, I could probably manage without it. It did have my contact lenses in it, so I would be stuck wearing my glasses for the rest of the trip. I did go through the entire few days of the Wild Wales Challenge two years ago without my contacts when they were acting up. It was bearable but it was a little annoying on the days it rained and my glasses were all dripping. But then the whole challenge was a bit much and painful.
But today, I lost my sanity for a bit and was digging through everything, emptying things, thinking back on where they could be. I knew that last night I took my lenses out at the pub just before dinner. After a day on the road, after loads of sunscreen start dripping into your eyes, then taking them out is such a pleasure. I even called the pub to see if they had found them but they weren't very helpful, but considering how they were during dinner, that wasn't a surprise. But I planned to drop by there on the way out, then Linda said she would drive by.
In my state, I didn't help with breakfast and just kind of stuffed down a bit of porridge and got my bike organized. Then Gary comes out, oh here they are, I found them in my handlebar bag. Huh? Wow, how did they get there. But I had them, things were ok then.
Heading along the south side of Loch Tay.
So then we hit the road, and then the road hits back. The south side of the loch is really pretty but the road, it was horrible. The funny thing is that there were lots of sections of the road that had been patched or even repaved, 50 meters of repaving or something like that. But I just couldn't reason out why that section was repaired but not the other parts. Were those repaired sections relally worse than the rest of it that they deserved special attention. Considering how difficult it was dodging potholes and the bumpiness of the rest of the road, I find it hard to believe it could really be any worse in those sections.
Besides the road, it was really a pretty section. There were signs for red squirrels up, this being one of the few places they hang out. I didn't see any on this trip but Che says she saw one later this day. We ride along the south side of Loch Tey for quite some time, it doesn't really have an elevation change but it is fairly hilly, lots of ups and downs. After about 18 miles on this, dodging holes in the road and the hills, I start to lose it a little bit. I'm losing my patience with it all.
A not so bad section of the bumpy road.
We stop on the side of the road on a side road turnoff and snack on a few things. It shouldn't be much longer now, it is just a few miles left to Killin and lunch and it should be mostly downhill to there now. We will be leaving the loch behind now too and I take a few last looks at it before heading on.
Rest stop at the end of the loch and before heading down to Killin.
We are back in Killin again, had lunch there yesterday, and now a tea stop. We come in from a different direction, past the river and over the bridge. The river is incredibly rocky, very mountain stream looking. When we get to the cafe, I'm torn, it is nearly noon, so this could certainly be a lunch break but there is the burger van coming up. I settle for some nice cake instead, I guess I'll save myself.
River outside of Killin
Bridge to Killin.
Lunch stop in Killin.
We head off towards Glen Ogle, major A roads but NCR 7 takes us off road on gravel trails through the woods. It is pretty and a nice way to go, but Sustrans scientist and research labs have been hard at work on this route and it starts to show around here. It is supposed to be one of their showcase routes. It is pretty good but the cattle grids, well, I'll get there later.
And my trauma for the day, I can't remember now if this was before or after the burger van, perhaps my memory has obscured it for my own peace of mind. But we are off road, it is a rail line, very flat, pretty gravely, so I don't really want to go that fast in it and slip on the gravel. But there are four of us riding together, talking a bit, I'm in the back of that. Do you want to go past, no, I'm fine here. Are you sure you don't want to go past, no really, it is fine back here. Then the three of them stop in front of me, surely I must be wrong and wanted to go past. But as it turns out, I really didn't want to and also completely forgot how to get my feet out of my cleats and you know, when everybody stops in front of you and you can't figure out how to get your feet down, well, luckily the side of the road is pretty soft grass and it doesn't hurt too much when I topple over. I'm not hurt but I am decidedly grumpy with everybody for a good 20-30 minutes afterwards.
Onto the gravel NCR 7
Section that reminds me of Vail Pass.
For now, we have a pretty easy climb up, through trees, a little off the busy road. This whole secton reminds me a lot of the cycle trail that goes along I70 from Copper Mountain to Vail. It makes me miss that part of the world a bit but I'm glad to be in something like that here. But then, there is the burger van. We have heard about it for so many days, how can you not be excited.
Although, it almost ends in tears. Everybody had venison burgers in mind, but when lots of us line up and start saying, yeah, I want one too, the lady running the stand looks a little worried. She only has like 4 of them left, we might need to share those or find something else to eat. The other guy running the van comes over and saves the day. He has more across the road in their house, he will run over and get them. It takes him a few minutes and in the meantime, she throws all her remaining ones on the grill and serves out those who got there first. They are pretty good, much better than the one I had yesterday. We sit at the picnic tables and eat our food.
The burger van in Glen Ogle.
Then past the burger van, we cross over the busy A road and continue down an old railway line. It heads over a large viaduct, with a great view of the valley, although it is a bit marred by the really busy road running through it. We stop and look and take pictures and John runs up and down the valley to take pictures of the group standing on the viaduct, running back and forth for everybody's cameras. Then the long straight high road turns into winding up and downs. Through it all, I think about Sustrans. This whole route seems to be a trail for all their latest technologies. There are bollards stuck in the middle of the path anywhere it gets vaguely steep. But the thing their research engineers in some secret lab somewhere hidden in Bristol, no doubt, ahh ha, we have come up with the most fiendish cattle grids ever. Let's roll them out to torture riders on NCR 7. I don't know how they did it, cattle grids, one of the most horrible things ever to somebody on a bike, somehow they made the like 200% worse, really narrow and seem even longer than normal. The first few almost get me.
Continuing through Glen Ogle.
Across the old rail viaduct.
We head down a few steep areas to the loch below, one heads straight down, just a few turns and filled with numerous bollards. I guess if you somehow end up going out of control down them, nothing will stop you faster than a gigantic piece of iron stuck in the middle of the path.
In another typical Sustrans routing, the main A road travels maybe 1/2 mile while our route follows quieter roads all the way around two lochs, probably about 12 miles out of the way. Although, it was well worth the diversion. We wander around the churchyard in Balquhidder and see Rob Roy's grave. The grave, well, it is fine and all. I'm not Scottish so I don't have any real feelings one way or the other about Rob Roy. The rest of the churchyard is pretty, a few ruins, enormous yew trees, and nicely set in a bit of rural Scotland, everything you would hope a churchyard could be.
Down into Lochearnhead.
At Rob Roy's grave in Balquhidder
The tea stop just down the road was even better. I got myself a really yummy cheese scone and ate some of Che's piece of chocolate cake, a generous sized one. Owen orders himself a cheese sandwich, they call it a Doorstop. When they bring it out, it is more like a half a loaf of bread with half a cheese wheel stuck between it. He took ages to gnaw his way through part of it and had to save the rest for later.
Tea stop in Balquhidder.
Such a happy sign.
We finish our loop around the lochs and start heading south towards Callander again. We come to another steep section to Loch Lubnaig, this one is a little more picturesque, very tight zig zags through a field of bracken down to the level of the loch. A bit after this, the gravel paths must have finally taken their toll on Owen's new tires. He stops to change a puncture, and as with most punctures, lots of people gather around to watch and really contribute nothing terribly useful to the effort. I headed on, seems like more than enough help there. But I do hear later that once he got it pumped up again, the spare inner tubes he had been given with his brand new bike turned out to be used patched ones, and badly patched at that, he had to then fix the puncture he got seconds later.
Fiendish Sustrans cattle grid.
Down to Loch Lubnaig.
The rest of the way to Callander is much the same, gravel roads, mostly flat, through woods and along a river. It is quite pleasant. For the last part, Crispin sends Gursh to try the mountain bike trail which he enjoys but he does take a fall. We emerge from the trail and the woods just a short distance from the pub and head down there to sample all their different varieties of cattle themed ale. They are quite nice and we empty the taps for at least two of the varieties. It is then only a short distance to the hostel, but they are somewhat tipsy.
Owen and puncture on the new bike.
Falling down house.
What a funny idea for a hostel, or I guess it is technically a bunkhouse, measurement of kitchen space, common space per person, or something like that. There is a bike shop laid out in the front lawn as well as a showroom on the upper level of the building. I'm pretty excited by this, mostly because my rear mudguard was still driving around in the back of Linda's car and even though we had been pretty lucky so far with the weather, six days of no rain in Scotland, totally unheard of, the last thing I wanted was to be caught in a big rainstorm without my mudguard. The mechanic was quite busy selling lots of things to our group and looking after other things, so I couldn't get him to fix them for me. But there were lots of tools and a bike stand and after taking everything apart and putting it back together again, I finally got them back to where they were fine and not rubbing anymore. I was whole and complete now, and still hadn't had mechanical problems for a few days now. Excellent.
Dinner was a mass of Shepard's pie and cabbage and even though there were huge vats of all of it, nothing remained at the end. And there was still room for the crumble, which also didn't remain long. After dinner, we retired to the common room, which was a funny one. It was hexagonal, or some sort of shape like that, and had been set up for a conference with all the chairs up against the walls. Everybody would come in, one by one, look around and pick their seat. The pattern soon became apparent, nobody could sit next to anybody and each new person would pick the quarter of the room with the least amount of people. Every new person figured that out and followed accordingly. Except Che, who didn't want to play the game and ruined it.
We had split ourselves between the two rooms, one all boys and the other with boys and girls and the quiet less noisy ones at that. The bed was fine and it was a good nights sleep. 47 miles for the day and no lasting harm done by the fall.
Back to pictures Day 7