I awoke briefly at 6 a.m., to the sound of vigorous rain and the smells of wet grass and asphalt. No, not more rain!
By 8 a.m. it was merely drizzling.
My quads were quite sore. Today was a rest day. A day to walk Aberdeen.
I settled in in the dining room to read and write until Tracy and Earl returned from their early morning foray to the wholesale fish market. Soon Lionel sat down. I planned writing time until 9:30, so moved to a quiet place to finish a postcard and write in my journal. I wondered, briefly, if I were hurting Lionel's feelings by leaving. My duty wasn't to make him feel better while he was traveling alone, so I dismissed these twinges of guilt.
While Earl lounged at the hostel, Tracy and I left the warm confines of the hostel and into the gray mist to explore Aberdeen - truly the Granite City. Most of the buildings seemed to be gray granite; corporate offices for DEC, Rahway, and others, were grande old granite homes converted into offices. I was protected from the elements in my Christopher Robin raincoat and bright yellow sou'wester, only needing Winnie The Pooh dragging at my side to complete the picture.
We walked for miles. Down Union Street, the main street, and into every knit shop on my quest for another fisherman knit sweater.
We wandered into St. Nicholas Kirk (Church of Scotland - Presbyterian) and inspected the gravestones in the drizzle. Some had been vandalized - smashed against the ground - a real shame.
The anthropology museum in Marischal College captured our attention for an hour. It was a petite, exceedingly well-designed museum for maximum information and minimum boredom, incorporating wit and humor into the exhibits.
At the University of Aberdeen a street sign warned motorists of "elderly people" crossing the road. Novel idea that motorists need to be warned in such manner. Here we bought lunch in a wee market and boldly strode into the restricted university refectory dining room to eat and escape the drizzle. No one batted an eye at us. Sudents and faculty were eating and chatting. One elderly couple snuggled together in a booth sharing the daily newspaper and a cup of coffee.
In Old Aberdeen huge cherry trees with their characteristic peeling charcoal bark, pink blooming hawthorns, and gigantic rhododendron bushes stretched for space along the sidewalk. Our stroll through the Cruickshank Botanical Gardens would have been a flower feast had the weather been sunnier and warmer in the preceding weeks. The gardens overlooked the River Don, one of the two rivers between which the city is situated. (The other is the River Dee.)
Our sightseeing was through a foggy mist, attractive, but a daily diet of this pervasive grayness would surely become depressing. I was having too much fun traveling, seeing, and learning new things to be affected by the weather. When you pedal a bicycle for transportation, weather is what weather is. We have to deal with it and enjoy the trip. Conquering these small miseries gave me a feeling of accomplishment and a wealth of interesting memories. As it was, my clothing was in a constant state of flux - rain gear on, rain gear off, sou'wester on, sou'wester off. And, it was a unending topic of conversation:
"Do you think it'll rain today?"
"Dunno. Look at those clouds. But it looks clear in direction we're going. Maybe later."
Perfect weather would create boringly perfect days. What constitutes perfect biking weather? Not hot sun all day long which could cause dehydration and sunburn.
We walked along the beach. THERE WAS THE NORTH SEA!! I never envisioned myself standing at its shore. I conjured up visions of cold raging gray waves pounding the shore and oil rigs.
Further on was the Footdee area - an unusual few squares (blocks) of interconnected small ramshackle single story "condos" butted one to the next, with small well-defined flower and vegetable gardens delineating the edges of property ownership.
The industrial oil shipping area was along our route. Many U.S. oil companies have major offices here with the ever-present pubs available to shipyard workers. I was glad to be in Tracy's company. Although it was the middle of the afternoon, I wouldn't want to walk this area alone.
We discovered a direct route through the wharf area back to Union Street, investigating more sweater stores en route. Having a "mission" while traveling, I feel, makes the trip more fun. It sharpens my powers of observation, keeps me interested in something other than scenery, and opens conversations as I search.
We arrived back at the hostel in time to do a bit of washbowl laundry and drape layers over all the hot radiators in the bathrooms. Everyone in the hostel seemed to have had the same idea! Downstairs in the common room I brewed up a cup of tea and pored over maps for tomorrow's route.
With sleep under my belt, and a day off from cycling, I was enjoying this. I worried about what I'd do if my bike broke down and I were alone. We three must figure out good contingency plans for "missing" each other...and a "super late" arrival (e.g. me).
I was impressed with how friendly the Scottish people were! When Tracy wandered about in his "John Wayne" hat, he always garnered smiles. The older Scottish men looked stereotypically Scottish with their weather worn faces, friendly eyes and even a tam atop a few balding heads. I don't know why this was typically Scottish to me. (When I return home I must re-see the movie "Local Hero" - we routed past Buckie where the city scenes were filmed.)
After dinner, we walked to the Duthie Botanical Park - where 100,000 (!) rose bushes grow. None were in bloom. The Weather. We arrived at 8:30 p.m. - the doors didn't close 'til 9:30. Late! Enough to time browse - albeit quickly. The park had enormous greenhouses replete with parakeets, cockatiels, terrapins and koi. The botanical displays included: a huge cactus room; rhododendrons; a rock garden - in steep decline; every house plant imaginable. We were enthralled. I am convinced that Tracy's mid-life crisis career change will be to botanicals, away from high tech. We spoke briefly with a white-haired gentleman (in fact, both men working there have beautiful white hair - perhaps that's what gardening does to you - white hair!) He told us that eight full time gardeners are employed to keep the gardens tidy. My guess was that they trimmed roses most of the time.
At 9 p.m. it began to downpour. We got comfortable on a stone bench in the greenhouse yakking about nothing special and everything important, waiting for the rain to let up. It did, just like California rain showers.
Lisa, my roomie from Vancouver, Canada, was hiking the world for a year! She talked about her crash course in packing for her trip. She learned, as have I, the minimalist theory of packing. About three weeks into her venture, she mailed a carton of things home. I can't imagine what all she carried that would have filled a carton, and still left her with the full pack she currently carried.