It rained heavily last night. What a relief that my tent did not leak! All the seam sealing held up. This was a good sign, considering the weather we were likely to continue to encounter. While Tracy and Earl were "hanging out" in St. Andrews, Tracy's helmet, hung over his bike handlebar, was stolen. This theft slammed our consciousness back into the reality of "civilization."
After breakfast under a sunny sky, we broke camp and headed down the hill. We bought our requisite morning pastry and considered the possibilities for a replacement bike helmet. I was afraid that the town was too small to stock helmets, university notwithstanding. However, the only toy store in town had biking equipment squirreled away in the back. Even helmets. Even the correct size.
Off to see the ruins of the castle of St. Andrews. The castle has gorgeous views up and down the rocky coast, and a spooky mine into which one could descend via a very narrow shaft. Otherwise, it was similar to other castle ruins. Watching the gardener mow the lawn of the nearly 45deg. slope of the castle grounds captivated my interst. With a power mower on a long rope, he let gravity carry it down the slope, pulled it back up, and repositioned it for it's next swath. Ingenious.
Fieldstone houses for faculty and students lined the route from the castle to The Old Course at the St. Andrews Ancient and Royal Golf Course. I had a mission at The Old Course: a towel and ball marker for a golfing friend. From the clubhouse and pro shop, The Old Course looked impressive with the town of St. Andrews on one side and the Bay on the other. In order to play on The Old Course, a golfer needs a letter of introduction from the pro at his/her home course. Not just any Tom, Dick or Jane is allowed to walk on the course, much less lift an iron or wood against a teed-up ball. However, other nearby courses are available to the average golfer. Groundskeepers scurried around in carts while Real Golfers practiced on the highly manicured putting green. Many looked as if they had been golfing for a unusually long time.
Mission accomplished. Ball marker and towel tucked into a pannier.
I stole a few minutes in the St. Andrews Woolen Mill. Kilts. Cashmere and wool sweaters. Bolts of Scottish tartan plaids and solids layered on shelves to the ceiling. No room on the bike for bulky purchases. No time to shop for anything but a wool scarf. No thought to that famous cycle-touring phrase, "Do you ship?"
The weather was looking to close in again. We began our trek down to Edinburgh. Although rain threatened, it never occurred.
We regrouped at the small fishing village of Anstruther, and stumbled into the Anstruther Fish Market - recommended by Let's Go - for fish and chips. Lunch just happened. My meal consisted of banana fritters, chips, and a piece of smoked peppered mackerel purchased from the fish monger next door. Sitting on a chilly marble slab at the wharf, chatting with a family on holiday from Glasgow, we assembled our moveable feast. The man gave us astute bike route advice as he had been a serious cyclist in years past.
The golfing influence of St. Andrews is obvious, as golf courses are EVERYWHERE, predominant in the land masses between the coastal roads and coastal bluffs, giving golfers not only supurb views, but interesting challenges in ball placement. Even today, a Friday, foursomes dotted every fairway.
As we moved out across the countryside, I rounded a bend to the left and in front of me on my right were acres of brilliant red poppies. Horses grazed across the road oblivious to their beauty. It was a scene right out of Wizard of Oz, of Dorothy skipping down the yellow brick road into sleepy oblivion. We told each other about it later when we regrouped. Although we were strung out along the road, with me at least 15 minutes behind, when we got together we tried to talk about things we'd noticed .
Back on some heavily trafficked, nervewracking "A" roads I was using my pannier covers all of the time, enveloped in a reflection of neon orange as I moved along the road, highly visible to overtaking traffic. One car came especially close - I hated it. The spinning of 50 mph tyres not more than two feet away is frightening.
A massive 'round-about funneled us into the cyclonic swirl of traffic circling to the Forth Road Bridge access road for Edinburgh. The bridge approach mimicked a California freeway - I was surprised that bikes were allowed anywhere near these approach roads! Cars and lorries zoomed by at 65 mph while I tried to scribe a straight line with my front tire along the far left edge of the road. Thank God it was sunny rather than rainy. The regroup point, a TI, was on the other side of the road. How on earth to get there? As I approached the bridge itself, Earl was sitting on the ground in a protected area reading and waiting. (He and Tracy both did a considerable amount of readingÉand waiting.) "Odd," I thought, "where's Tracy?" It doesn't take much for my maternal instincts to whet. Suddenly I was concerned. After pondering Tracy's whereabouts, we spotted him on the other side of the road. Hmm. How did he get there?
Tracy had located a safe route to both the bike bridge and the TI, a route which had eluded both Earl and me. Eventually we were all on the same side of the dual carriageway and crossed together.
It was another eight miles into Edinburgh proper. Off on our right, as we entered the city, Edinburgh Castle sat majestically on a high hill, against a blue sky and lit by golden glow of the low evening sun.
To get to the IYH we again had to pedal down one of the major thoroughfares at a high traffic time. Earl liked to do that in cities, and he was navigator. After so much time riding through fishing villages and small towns, the traffic and hassle of a large city was a distressing and depressing contrast.
Our preferred IYH was full, so we found our way through town to the other, Bruntfsfield, where the wardens smoked heavily and kept two large elderly German shepherd dogs behind the counter (well noted in Let's Go). Fortunately, only the lobby was smoky and doggy.
This IYH was located in a pleasant neighborhood with a large park across the street, an easy walk to pubs and to the Royal Mile. I was ensconced in a women's dorm room of 30 beds - pretty noisy. With a room this size, I was careful to make sure I hooked my fanny pack with my money and identification to the inside post of my bunk bed. There were constant rumors of needing to watch your things - I found that some reasonable precautions were all that were necessary. I didn't wear my money in the shower (as some did), but I did carry it with me into the shower area. At night, someone would have had to crawl over my sleeping body to reach my pack. As soundly as I slept, that might have been no problem.
For dinner we again resorted to a Let's Go recommendation for a big meal at Henderson's Salad and Wine Bar. I was served up a plate-filling mound of heart-healthy mousakka. The modest price for this meal, £5.85, included a glass of a light oaky chardonney.
Sauntering back, we stopped at the Burnt Post Pub where I sampled the 80 Shilling Ale, so named due to the higher alcoholic content than, for instance, 70 Shilling Ale. The tax, calculated in a bygone time, was based on alcholic content; it was 80 schillings for the brew that I was drinking.