August 28, 2014, by David Greenaway

The VC’s Life Cycle 4 Blog: Day 13 – Spean Bridge to Strathpeffer

LC4 riders at the Commando MemorialI started with the best breakfast of this trip today at the Spean Bridge Lodge B&B, beautifully served by Glen. Moreover, having pretty well finished Day 12s blog last night, I had time to actually eat it, rather than just cram. The only problem was I had left Marion to order for me last night (whilst I went to the bar). So it was fruit, porridge, and a full Scottish breakfast. It was something else.

Today we were riding for Camilla Hildyard, whose Mother Isabella is a former Member of our University Council and someone I know. Svenja was the designated rider, and this is what she had to say: ‘I feel humbled and privileged to be riding in honour of Camilla. She actually passed away some years ago, and I am struck by the fact that there has been so little change in research funding since then. Brain tumours are the biggest cause of cancer deaths in children. I am inspired by the courage and perseverance that Cammy’s family have brought to bear in both raising funding for, and awareness of, brain tumours’.

Chris J, Karen, Marion, Nieves, Svenja and Susan were, as always, away at 07:30; then Doug, Andy, David W and Steve. Nick waited for me and we left shortly after, followed by Chris R, Penelope and Esteban. There were clear blue skies in Spean Bridge, although it was cold. I did debate whether to put on leg warmers and heavy gloves, and fortunately did so. Quite soon we were in the shadows of the peaks, facing an icy easterly wind; and August or not, I do mean icy. Then we were in heavy cold mist. That lasted all the way across to Fort Augustus. It was not nice. By the time we got there, fingers and toes were frozen.

Mist over Loch LochyOver that first 20 miles or so, we ran into each other several times, as different groups stopped at the Commando Memorial which looks on to Ben Nevis, then to take pictures of a spectacular bank of mist rolling down Loch Lochy.

Pretty well everyone was together for a break in a café by the Caledonian Canal in Fort Augustus. After that, things starting breaking up as different groups opted for different routes. Chris R and Penelope, and Doug, David W and Steve went south of Loch Ness over the old military road. This evidently rises to 1,200 feet and they confirmed afterwards that the spectacular vistas promised were realised.

Three other groups (Chris J, Karen, Marion and Nieves; Susan, Svenja and Esteban; and Nick, Andy and me) all opted for the A82 all the way to Inverness. The first two groups stopped at Drumnadrochit for lunch and to meet friends of Nieves; my group pressed on and had lunch by the river in Inverness. The A82 was busy, but we made rapid progress and were there around 13:30.

We had ridden out the miles at a good pace and decided we would try and fit in a small treat – a visit to the Dalmore distillery in Allness. That meant heading up the A9 and over the Cromarty Firth, straight into a driving north easterly head wind. It was hard going. By the time we got there we had missed the last tour, but Andy (who was first in) persuaded the staff to give us a private tour, led by Shelley. The distillery enjoys a commanding position on the shore of the Firth, and has been producing single malt since the 1880s. It was a very informative tour.

Andy bought me a bottle of ‘The Distillery Exclusive’ for my collection, which was wonderfully generous. (To de-risk the possibility of this being opened when we celebrate at the end, I also bought a bottle of their 15 year old to share!). This little sojourn was the first (and no doubt only) bit of ‘tourism’ on the trip, and a great bit of respite. It lifted the spirits.

Andy taking a napOur injury list continues to grow. Svenja and Susan are still nursing their respective muscle strains; Esteban’s shoulder seized up; and there are hand, knee and thigh problems for Marion, Chris J and Karen. But things are getting patched up, and bedtimes getting earlier.

One of the things that always surprises me is the regularity with which other parts of the group just seem to pop up. David W is renowned for it, he disappears and then unexpectedly reappears somewhere else. (Those who ride most often with him claim these absences are nap breaks). But it also happens with groups. Having separated from the other two groups on the A82 before Drumnadrochit, as Nick, Andy and I came to our first island to leave Inverness, the other groups were disappearing from the other side. And, having taken different routes through the city, we saw them again on the bridge over the Firth!

It also happened with our leg rider for the next three days, Bob Bayman (former President of the SU and former University Council Member) when Chris R ran into him three miles outside of Strathpeffer. Bob joined us for dinner, as did David R.

Some Shocks of the Day:

First, Svenja has lost one of her purple fingernails. The search is on for a nail bar in Ullapool (which hopefully will do Life Cycle 4 colours).

Paul in calendar poseSecond, in lobbing clothing over the shower doors into the sink tonight, I missed twice (one shirt and one sock). I obviously am tired!

A few Quotes of the Day:

First, Karen to Helen, ‘Thanks for the drugs and strappings’. No comment.

Second, at the bar, Paul said to the assistant ‘This is the gentleman in room one’; the assistant replied, ‘Your shower must be leaking; we have had an overflow down here’. I confessed to allowing the water to build to up in the tray so I could tread wash my cycling clothes. ‘Why did you that, I would have washed them for you!’ Too late sadly.

We continue to be overwhelmed by spontaneous generosity. Pretty well everywhere we stop people ask us what we are doing and why, then invariably make a contribution.

Finally, I am overwhelmed by images of riders sleeping all over the place; Andy wins today. I am also receiving an increasing number of entries for the Life Cycle calendar, and Paul is the pick for today.

We passed another milestone today; we have all ridden more than Life Cycle 3. So we are all in new territory. A further 80 miles today takes us to 1,175 miles in total.

Having had an amazing run of weather, it is finally due to break tomorrow. So heavy duty wet weather gear for the run to Inchnadamph.

Professor Sir David Greenaway

Posted in Life Cycle 4