>Stormy weather

>DAY 10 – 2nd July 2009

The day began in Drumnadrochit on the banks of Loch Ness. Instead of carrying on up the banks of the Loch to Inverness, I had planned to go the more direct route via the Muir of Ord. this was described in a guide book as being a “steep but punchy” route.

Steep is an understatement. The first 3 miles were the hardest of the ride so far. It was not what I expected! fortunately, I was able to keep breathing when I got to the top of the hill and carried on towards the Muir of Ord. I was not sure if there were more steep hills to come as the route guides I had seen did refer to it being steep over the Muir of Ord, which was 10-15 miles from Drumnadrochit.

Meanwhile, my parents were driving from Fort Augustus to Drumnadrochit to collect my bag from my hotel and heading up to catch me up. Also, my partner Jo and my son Tom were driving up from Nottingham to meet me. where would we meet up? As ever, there was no real plan, to the location, I knew they would eventually pass me and we could then sort out a meeting place.

I got through Dingwall before 10:30 and saw a chip shop open at that time and people coming out with chips at that time in the morning. They say the Scots have chips on their shoulder, its probably because their stomachs are so full of chips there is no other place for them.

I continued on in the baking sun up the A9, eventually stopping in a little place called Alness for a cup of tea. It was so hot that I had to move inside the cafe out of the sun whilst having my tea. I used this stop to arrange to meet my parents and Jo & Tom at Tain for lunch. As I got to Tain, I received texts saying they were still some 15 miles away, so I pushed on, in the now falling rain towards Dornoch for a lunch stop.

Crossing the Dornoch Firth, the rain stopped and the sun came out. I stopped at a garage near Dornoch to meet up with the travelling clan. Text message told me they were miles behind still, so I set off onwards towards Golspie, intending to lunch there. Shortly after restarting, Jo & Tom passed me, and after exchanging pleasantries, and pinching all the water from their car for my water bottles to try to conquer the dehydration I was feeling, I set off to Golspie.

I reached Golspie having done 60 miles and had a late lunch stop – circa 15:30. As usual a massive lunch of a scone and a cup of tea and I set off to do the last 20 or so miles towards Helmsdale.

The last two major hills of the ride were due to be at Helmsdale and a bit further on at Berriedale Brae. If I rode 90 miles, today I would have done both Berriedale and Helmsdale, but there was no where really to stop after Helmsdale. Jo had been requested to find somewhere to stay at or near Helmsdale.

Leaving Golspie, the weather changed and the promised thunder storms arrived. Sadly for my my parents had headed on to Helmsdale and had my bag with my overshoes, arm and leg warmers etc. I was left riding in torrential rain, thunder and lightning with no wet weather kit apart from my shower jacket. There was so much rain that when riding uphill, I had rivers of water to contend with.

At one point whilst riding in the rain, I passed a golf course and saw 2 men playing golf, with one holding the umbrella over his colleague whilst he putted. I remember thinking what mugs they were playing in the rain. I mean who is that devoted to their hobby? Then reality hit me and I remembered what I was doing. Oooops!

As I crossed the bridge into Helmsdale, Jo had come in her car, and told me she had booked us into a hotel up the hill about a mile on the road. I saw the hill through Helmsdale and thought, its no problem if its only 1 mile to the hotel. The infamous Helmsdale hill isn’t that bad i thought. I got up the hill and turned right into the hotel and as I dismounted from my bike I looked behind me and saw a long climb, some 2 – 2.5 miles long! Ooops, I had not climbed up Helmsdale at all and would have to face it tomorrow morning first thing.

The hotel we stayed in was a beautiful place, perched on the edge of the cliff and a really romantic place. Jo had done me proud in finding it. It was a shame that I was too tired from cycling to stay awake beyond about 21:00 and similar for Jo with her having driven 500+ miles that day.

I later learned that the weather in the area had been so bad the police had closed the A9 road I had been riding on. The railway line which ran parallel to the road was hit by lightning and the train service suspended. Yet I have to say I loved riding in the storm. Am I mad? Who said yes….?

Distance: 81.7 miles
Time Taken: 05:41
Average Speed: 14.3 mph
Distance Climbed: 3609 feet

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