Traa dy liooar
The next day Kid and Miss Kid turned up and I turned into their surrogate child. They were supposed to have a little time together from home, yet they completely went out of their collective way to make me feel well and let me be part of their little holiday. It was great; I didn’t have to think about where to go, what to drink and eat, and what time tea was, because it was all decided for me. One thing that I did need to do is lead the way pretty much everywhere, because appartenlty I’m the best informed foreigner when the Manx roads are considered. We were on what we called “Island Time”and took everything as and when, no rush; Traa dy liooar.
Miss Kid hadn’t been out on the bike much before TT and with me clearing the track and the Kid keeping an eye on the other end, we gave her a crashcourse in real-world roadriding and she went from tippy-toeing the first day to having me to speed up through the Cronck-y-Voddy section within a week. We also got her to sign on for the Ramsey Sprint and she ended up getting third in class and fastest woman of the day. We’ll leave the bit where she was the sole lady entered out, it makes for a better story..
The weather, the racing and the atmosphere on the Island were all very good, but I did have a funny feeling during the entire time I was there; something wasn’t right. It was as if everybody on the road had left his/her sense of self preservation at home, because there were some (actually quite a lot) UTTER dickheads out, and as mentioned before; the Mountain was shut more often than it was open. The three of us got on the Mountain to have it ticked off and when I came down at the Creg and stopped for the others to get there, there was zero traffic behind me, nothing.
I parked up and waited, checked my phone and waited some more. Worried now.. Strolled up to the policeofficer there and asked if there had been an accident; “Yes mate” My heart sank. “Do you know what bike it was?” “It was a Suzuki sportsbike, mate”, said the copper. Ok, that didn’t make it much better, as both were on Suzuki sportsbikes. “Right, were they red or blue?” “No mate, yellow”, he said. That was a bit of a relief; any accident on the TT course is bad, and you’ll feel bad about it, but it’s better when you know it’s not one of your friends.
After a few more minutes I got a message from the Kid; he was stopped at Brandywell and turned the other way. A guy on a Thou had come in too hot very close in front of him and Brandywell is a slight left, and then a tight left which you can’t really see, so if you don’t know, you’ll get yourself into trouble, as this man obviously did. He was fine in the end; few busted bones, busted ego and his bike ready for the scrapper.
Miss Kid was stopped at the Bungalow, and this meant they would come off the side of Snaefell on completely different places. We agreed to meet in the paddock and get something to eat. Knowing your way around in a busy place like this can help you get away from the endless queues, loud people and antisocial seagulls; cue The Bowling Green. Only the locals know about it, so it’s a bit like a tranquil hideout for us “from Across”. Good coffee, tea and food; if you’re ever over, make a point of going there.
The rest of the week was spent watching some sensational practicesessions, sad moments with Dan (and Adam) coming off and Steve’s accident that followed it, but yet more recordbreaking racing that followed in the days after. It’s the way the TT works, and I can’t really explain it. Outside of racing, the Wheelies and myself sat in the sun, went go-karting (I won), ate icecream, visited a few proper landmarks and talked, a lot. With me having my head not really straight, my company made sure I was able to vent all that I wanted to get off my chest, without me feeling like I was just there, ruining the vibe.
Having suggested a little meeting on our forum, I found myself in Peel the last night I was on the IOM, meeting up with a bunch of fellow OSS’ers for some good food and taking shit, and by chance, a 3rd EFE turned up; total photomoment. Gave the guy riding it a bunch of stickers and suggested he’d sign up. Not sure if he did, I’d need to check. Stories were shared and bikes were categorically picked apart, right up until the food was served; then everyone went quiet.
A good, but for myself a bit premature end to the TT; I never missed Senior Raceday in the time that I’ve been coming, so it when I was packing my gear the next day, it all felt a bit unfinished. Still, the prospect of going up North and getting to see new things, was a very good one, so I just got on with the job. Said goodbye to Jo and shot of down Poortown Road for the last time. The roads round Peel are “our” roads. There’s few that are faster there than those that visit John and Jo over TT down Poortown Road, the A1 out of St John’s and the Peel Coast Road and it’s all the more funny that I pass people on a bike that most don’t really know what it is, and with a foreign plate. It freaks them out.
Met up with my fellow sailors and home we went. Packed the van back up, went to Davecara to pick up some bits, blag some pizza and tea and after a few hours, I was on my merry way to Scotland. When driving passed the turnoff to Dumfries, I had a few happy memories from sitting in the Roundhouse all those years ago. Those that know, know. I ended up at the Manglers residence a bit late, but Leigh still managed to get me fed and watered before shooting off to bed herself. Midnight chili is the best chili, even when you’re sober.
The next day we got the bikes out, loaded up and got going up from Edinburgh to Crieff to meet up with Kraptanaman who would lead the way up from there. Since we overshot the road into his shop, we just stood on the side of the road like a few lost tourists until our guide for the day turned up. Just the 60 or so miles, half of which was motorway, from Manglers to there, had already made a big impression on me; Scotland is just verything different from what I’m used to. Round mine, everything is flat and dead-straight, bends don’t really exist, we just have 90 degree corners for the most part. The Scottish motorway had been more of a laugh than my usual sunday blast has been for years.
From Crieff we went toward the Green Welly stop, on the edge of Glencoe. We filled up and I was asked if I was ready for it. I didn’t really knew what that meant, so I basically just said “Yes”. For this holiday, I had turned into a Yes-man; I ate stuff that I’d never eaten before, went to places I never went to and I was pretty much up for anything. Good thing nobody asked me to go bungeejumping..
Pulling out of the petrolstation, we were off and a few miles down the road we were on a steady climb out of a very long (and pretty shit) left hand bend; I did this road 3 or 4 times in the next few days, and I couldn’t get it right, for whatever reason. After climbing to the top, you find yourself in the Glencoe Pass and it’s downright breathtaking. Problem was, our average speed was hardly fit to happily be taking in the scenery, so I just got my head down trying to keep up with the 2 locals showing me the way. This trip was supposed to be about the riding and the Scottish roads, so I’d just leave the touristy bit for some time later.
Up from Glencoe, through Fort Bill and up to the A87 next to Loch Cluanie is where Kraptanaman left us to turn back home himself. We said our thankyous and goodbyes and Katanamangler and myself carried on further up the road heading for Skye only to turn right a few miles before it, to make the climb to our first stop for the night at The Wee Campsite in Lochcarron. Tent put up and midgiespray sprayed, we strolled into town. Well, I say town, It’s basically a lakeside road with bunch of B&B’s next to it, with a pub, a cafe and a tiny grocerystore, that was really it.
We ended up on the outside terrace of the cafe being served the best fish and chips I’ve ever eaten, and even my fellow traveller was impressed, so it really must’ve been good. after food we went for a wander down the road and naturally we ended up in the pub, who’d ‘ve thought? I went for my go-to drink for this trip; Shandy. I can’t drink for shit; if you’re out on the piss with me, I’m a cheap guy to have around. For your 3 pints, I might do 1. The Kid got me introduced to it and it completely sorted the issue, because all of a sudden, I could actually keep up, and not have to worry about a massive hangover the next day. Favorite new thing, really.
The next day we left packing up a bit later to get ourself up and over the Applecross Road. It had been mentioned by Deeds, who we were supposed to meet later that day, as a must-do while you’re there. He hadn’t really mentioned why to Katanamangler; insanely fast road, mindblowing views, sheer impressiveness, it could’ve been any. When we scaled the mountain and got to the top, one thing was very clear, it wasn’t because it was a insanely fast road. The roadsuface to the top was below average, at best and with all the cyclists making their way to the summit, we’d hardly get out of 2nd gear.
But, when we did finally make it to the top and took in the place the way you’re supposed to, fuck me, it’s impressive. I have no idea how high up we were and how far our view reached, but I just stood there for a few minutes. I’m a sucker for stuff like this, but for whatever reason, the trip being about what it was and my mind in the place where it was, it all landed a bit harder than normal, so to speak.
We made our way back down, stopping at virtually every bend to take yet more pictures because every 50 yards or so, the place looked totally different. Back at the tent, packed up and off to Kyle of Lochalsh for breakfast. This too was amazing, 3 out of 3 meals in Scotland and they were all superb. The next 3 days, this continued, I’m happy to report. After breakfast, we nipped over the Skyebridge for me to be able to say I’d been on the Isle of Skye, and turned back at the roundabout on the other side. The day would consist of riding back to the Green Welly Stop where we would be meeting up with Deeds, or Captain Progress, as I would get to know him.
Doing about 170 miles in a day after you’ve done 300+ the day before, messes with your rhythm a bit and we made a point of stopping more often than we normally would, because otherwise we would end up at our destination 4 hours early. This day would prove to be a bit more about taking in the sights I hadn’t had time for the day before racing the other way, so I was suprised by loads of things that I totally missed earlier; complete castles and Lochs hadn’t reached my occipital lobe at all so even though I had ridden down this road only yesterday, it was as if I’d never been there.
Back where we properly started the day before, we made out way to our cabin for the night, to be greeted by the most aggressive midgies I’d ever experienced. After Deeds had turned up and we had had dinner (proper Scottish, haggis and all) we got back to the cabin but the little creatures were in such numbers that sitting outside was no option. We went inside, got the map out and started planning out next day, all the while enjoying my next shandy.
It was decided that we’d go through Glencoe again, but this time all the way up to Inverness, cross the bridge to Ullapool and come back round to Inverness the other way, after which we’d find a place for the night a bit further east; no midgies. Within minutes I found myself doing speeds up from even the first day with Kraptanaman. Remember, I’m on a utterly unfit bike for touring, loaded up with gear for a weeks worth of living out of a bag, and no real clue of where I’m going. I need to keep up. This is where the “Cpt Progress” moniker Deeds has, comes from; making progress. I think we averaged an easy 85mph to Inverness and the next bit to Ullapool was even more mad. All on closed private roads officer.
On the run upto Ullapool, we came across about 12 dutch H%nda Goldwings doing 30mph; I think we were doing 130 coming up to the back of them, so when we overtook them, it could’ve suprised them a little bit. A day of fast roadriding when you’re in the zone, it doesn’t really matter how many miles you do, because you get so shut off of anything from the outside and it will be just you and the bit of road you can see, everything after of before is irrelevant. We managed to clock up 308 miles that day, and the EFE and Katana didn’t skip a beat. They did use a bit of oil though, but we’ll forgive ’em for that.
We found a place to stay in Kinloss, another cabin. In hindsight, if we would’ve taken a cabin for the first night as well, we’d have been a lot lighter packed, but that’s something for next time. Fire was made and shandies were drunk (by myself) and we found the place perfect to do an OSS do there, so that might be a good one for the future. While discussing the day to come, Deeds mentioned something about a road going from very fast, to slow, complicated and technical in seconds. I didn’t really process this as I continued to play with my phone and be generaly distracted by whatever thoughts were running through my head at the time.
The following morning I was last to wake up and be moderately productive. This was my final day out in Scotland, so I really wasn’t in a hurry to get going. Starting early meant ending early and I basically didn’t want it to end. Deeds and Katanamangler were ready to go when I was still brushing my teeth; must be the puberty-thing I have yet to shake. When I was finally ready to go, I’d wasted (or won, depending how you look at it) another hour. I hadn’t made a plan yet what to do when we came back to where we started, so I just dragged it out as long as I possibly could.
From Kinloss, we turned off through Forres and straight into the Cairngorms National Park and through the Glenshee pass. Fucking Skilifts! Pardon me for my ignorance, but I really didn’t know Scotland had skislopes, I thought that was a thing just for the Alps. This bit was also the part of road Deeds had been talking about; I realised this after having overtaken Katanamangler at 145 miles an hour down a straight, to be greeted by what only can be called a public Supermoto track not half a mile further down the road. (A83 Old Millitary Road, go there, it’s awesome) I was screaming inside my helmet, looking at Deeds dissapearing in the distance and myself and Katanamangler scratching pegs and knees to get round a few of the bends, on our old bronto-bikes and having the best time doing so.
Continued in next article here