August 29, 2011, by Andrew Burden
The VC’s blog: JoGLE Day 3: Inverness to Blair Atholl
What a contrast with Day 2.
Persistent and heavy rain throughout the day combined with high and gusting winds and an A9 transformed. Beyond Inverness it is fast and even on a Sunday, busy and pretty risky in wet conditions with frequent cross-winds.
We set off from Inverness around 0815. Quite quickly the squad broke up with a number of individuals keen to press on. I rode with Kate, Karen, Nick, Chris J. Andy rode with us for the first third and David W for the final third.
The first 25 miles, were mainly on the A9. Three long climbs to around 1,200 feet, getting well and truly soaked and trying to maintain a position as far from the speeding traffic as possible.
First stop was ‘The Old Bakery’ in Carrbridge. It quickly turned in to a changing room as we switched and traded clothes. One of the other patrons saw our shirts and asked what we were doing. It turned out that he was a Nottingham Art History graduate of eight years ago.
For the second stretch from Carrbridge to Newtonmore, we made sure we were on Sustrans route 7, longer than the direct route, but much safer and through some of the most attractive forests and glens in the Cairngorms. By the time we arrived at our second stop, the Raila Café in Newtonmore, we were literally soaked to the skin. In the café we discovered another Nottingham alumnus! Professor Cliff Moughtin our former Head of the Department of Planning was passing through with his wife on vacation.
Our final stretch to Blair Athol was gruelling. It was a fair distance for a final leg (30 mile plus) very wet and the wind chill was taking temperatures to close to zero. When you are already soaked, with every gust you feel chilled to the bone. For the final hour, fingers and toesand had lost all sensation. We were mightily relieved to reach Blair Athol.
That said for all the discomfort of the final hour and a half, the ride through the Pass of Drumtocher and Glen Garry was inspiring. Even in bleak conditions the mountains have real grandeur.
Nick had a bad day; three punctures to add to the one he had on Day 2 and he was shunted off by the same Chris who shunted the other Chris on Day 1. But everyone, including Nick is still smiling.
The support team were real stars, always there or thereabouts to help with running repairs and take wet clothing away.
We did not manage to find somewhere showing Forest V West Ham, which is probably just as well.
So, another 88 miles of our journey completed, making 217 in total for the first three days. Tomorrow we leave Blair Atholl (evidently the only place in the UK where a private army is legal) and head south to Dunfermline.
The weather forecast suggests it will be dry!
David Greenaway, August 28th 2011