I awoke at 7 a.m. after a very good sleep. My body had adjusted; with food and abuse (lots of exercise) realignment to a new time zone comes quickly. This morning Tracy learned what the second "B" in B&B; meant. He didn't realize the extent of breakfast.
[As I write at 10 p.m., it is as light as 8 p.m. at home at this time of year. I am lying in my tent, propped up by a front pannier which will soon become my pillow. Before me is Tracy's tent and a pretty bank of trees, willows I think. Rain spits briefly and half-heartedly.]
Breakfast this a.m. was truly a fat and cholesterol feast:
"Full English Breakfast."
After saying good-bye to our hosts as they and two of their four young children rushed off to church, and chatting briefly with another guest family from Perth, Scotland, we were on our way. Before starting off, I took "rain precautions" covering each of my four panniers with their bright orange raincovers, and wrapping all of my camping gear in a large dark brown plastic garbage sack.
Pedaling through Inverness, we spotted our "Perth family" again as they strolled along a mall. We had another chance meeting with the Tandem Couple, who were mounted up and pedaling north. A short supply stop at the local Safeway (!!) which, amazingly was open. I had been warned that the whole country of Scotland shuts down on Sunday while everyone goes to church and visits with family. The Safeway was interesting to browse - I love to see what other grocery stores carry! Different cheeses. Vegetables. Fruits. Breads. Deli items. Beverages. I don't like seeing American companies when I am traveling abroad prefering local culture and Mom & Pop businesses. I purchased some cheese, smoked and peppered mackerel, broccoli, the requisite bananas, and carrots - total cost £2+. Again, the battle with British coinage.
[As I write, sheep bleat somewhere close by.]
We were firmly established on Our Route. The trip had begun! A man and woman hiked across a field to my left, swinging their walking sticks, dressed in wool walking trousers, she in a navy wool sweater and he in a gray blazer. Behind them lay the Moray Firth. This was SCOTLAND! I was enchanted, delighted, and slightly disbelieving that this was really happening.
Not far down the road we stopped at the Culloden Battlefield - the last battle fought on British soil, the Scots vs. English, Bonnie Prince Charlie vs. the young son of King George of England. I found the emotional impact negligible, although Scots standing nearby talked of how the site made their necks prickle. Their relatives fought and died in the battle. Similar, I'm sure, to the feelings I would have wandering around our Civil War battlegrounds. Again, we saw our Perth family who said they recognized our distinctively loaded bikes.
"You can't miss those bikes, Laddy."
With our gear, these bikes would be hard to miss. And difficult to steal.
The Nairnside Sheep Dairy and Farm was a short side trip down a country lane lined with tall green trees, their branches canopied high over our heads. The sign caught our attention. "Anyone ever see a sheep dairy?" I asked. Clearly an inspection was in order. Ewes and lambs scattered in all directions as our tires scrunched through the pea gravel parking lot. We weren't interested in touring the farm and dairy, but did sample the bland sheep cheese. The young woman owner talked us into cups of coffee and tea, and a shortbread cake for me. Hard riding requires sustenance. What better excuse for eating?
The strenuous riding began. The hills were rolling - not steep, and I was often downshifting into my lowest granny gear. I dripped sweat. The hills were lively with yellow Scotch broom, a noxious opportunistic weed in California, but stunning in its native land. Pockets of red/orange poppies clumped along the road, some resembling the many-tiered and multi-petaled Iceland poppies.
I was the caboose - riding alone at the end of the pack, seeing Earl's red jacket growing more distant in front of me, and barely able to pick out Tracy's yellow jacket in front of that. I had mean-spirited thoughts about it. Earl didn't want to backtrack or do loops. Tracy wanted to move along.
"Can't see everything."
"Gotta be in Edinburgh by Wednesday night for pizza and jazz."
"For pizza and jazz?!" I thought. "We can do that at home."
I was annoyed because we didn't get to Findhorn, a supposedly captivating place on the coast. Nor did we go to Buckie where some of the movie "Local Hero" was filmed, also an engaging seaside village.
"Well, if I am going to spend all of my time alone, I might as well really be alone and do totally my own thing. What's the point of cycling if you are hurrying along at a car's pace?" I was tired and feeling sorry for myself while also terribly excited and enthusiastic. Where is the fine line between compromising with your companions and bagging them because, "it's my vacation too"? I don't know.
The town of Forres, an ancient and royal burgh (a "royal burgh" has Parliament representation) situated along one long stretch of the High Street, had a wonderful large city park where we stopped to dig out of our panniers our picnic lunch purchased earlier from the Safeway. Cheddar cheese. Bread. Apples. Three young girls were intrigued by Tracy's "cowboy" hat, a large John Wayne style brimmed hat onto which he had begun attaching collectors' pins. They shyly watched from a distance. Eventually I noticed them and said "Hi." With our gentle encouragement, they reluctantly joined us at our picnic table. We talked with them&emdash;they watched American t.v. via satellite, but two of the three never actually had talked with Americans before. The third, a girl named Tracy, had been to Florida Disney World.
"You talk like Americans. We know because we watch 'The Cosby Show.' You're hard to understand though."
I smiled. I was having trouble understanding them! We were all speaking English, and struggling to communicate.
We chatted for quite some time around the lunch table. We giggled about a Tracy boy and a Tracy girl; they told us about their school; the local hotel which one of the family owns; their ski trips into the Scottish mountains, which are very expensive. They then walked us around the colorful flower displays in the park with intricate six foot shrubbery sculptures in the shapes of animals and birds. A gardener with sharp clippers and shears is kept very busy here.
After some route fits and starts and wrong streets, we were again on our way, pedaling south toward the Scotch distillery area of Speyside. En route we came upon a couple clad in neon green jackets and black biking pants pedaling from the opposite direction on our deserted secondary "B" road. In those colors they could only have been Americans. They were from Seattle.
Late in the day, it began to drizzle and rain. The rain was not cold, just discouraging. I was exhausted and we had developed no plan for where to spend the night - we knew only that we were camping. At 6 p.m. in inclement weather on a bicycle, it is hard to be upbeat about the unknown qualities of one's bed.
Signposts for Aberlour, a town with camping facilities, appeared along the road. Six miles further! I mentally calculated, "That's about a half an hour or so." In the rain. With my neon orange pannier covers protecting my gear, only Rufus and I were wet.
We rolled into the Aberlour Garden Caravan Park, bought tent sites, signed the guest book - we were the first Americans this season - pitched our tents, showered and contemplated our campground dinner.
The sky was clearing. A rainbow beckoned us east toward Aberdeen.