With an imminent work trip to the Middle East trip scheduled, I said goodbye to the lovely lady and the kids who were headed north to Shetland for a holiday. Mmmm a few days before I go so I could either work on the showreel, go kitesurfing with Ed or go for a bike ride or two.
Jolene was on the ferry already when she texted to say that Tom was going walking and camping on Arran for a few days. His wife and kid were also on the ferry so it was a case of 2 dads banishing the boredom.
So a plan was hatched catch the 8:40am train from Glasgow to ardossan, get the ferry to Arran and then head north to try and find Tom. Now the thing about Tom is that he is low maintenance – happy to rough it, happy to exercise, happy to change plans. Now there is the rub that he might change his mind and campsite and he doesn’t use a mobile phone so the chances of tracking him down are slim.
Well he is planning to climb Goatfell and the only campsite is in the north of arran at lochranza right opposite the Arran malt distillery…. The distillery was the last bit of temptation I needed and hastily packed. I thought that I didn’t find him I could catch the last ferry home at 8pm after a nice 100km cycle, but if I did find him there was the matter of camping … He had a small tent so should I carry a sleeping bag and try squeeze in to his tent. ‘Mmmm no’ so plan b was hatched that if I found him I would also try get a room nearby and just go out for a drink or two. Arran is also home to the Arran brewery with some very fine ales but more on that later.
So up and packing I realised the time was going past a bit quickly – no time to change the flats over to clipless pedals. I sped out the house down to the station and bought a ticket with just 40 secs to spare .. Whew a bit close that was a bit stupid as the next train was an hour away. This train is great gets you to the harbour (ardrossan) with enough time to wander over to ferry terminal and buy ticket (subsequently found out you can actually buy a joint rail ferry ticket at the train station)
The ferry was fine – loads of French schoolkids and more than a few day-trippers and road cyclists.
Headed north on the road to Lochranza and it was mighty fine. I was on my Klein singlespeed geared 32:14 cruising nicely at 22-25km/h with a camelbak HAWG stuffed to the gills mainly with raincoat and spares for the morning. After 25ish min the road suddenly goes uphill which is all fair but on the singlespeed it felt a bit brutal at times.
Had to stand and stomp pushing so hard that I saw the handlebar flexing. One roadie passed me spinning happily as I neared the top. Over the top the descent back 200m to sea level. Great to blast down this but road surface pretty crappy so glad now not to be on roadbike bu rather my schwalbe big apples (I think they are 1.5 or 1.75).
Got down to Lochranza looked at the castle and the little keelboats marooned at low tide…
Then carried on to find the campsite. ‘you’ve already passed it mate… ‘ so spun back to try locate Tom. ‘yes there is a tall blond chap here .. And yes he does look Norwegian’ so penned a note which the site manager promised to give him then hopeful for accomodation went to the Lochranza hotel. £55 they wanted from me as only a family room left – that was taking the piss so took a number and decided to try my luck further along.
2 miles on came to catacol hotel ….
– basic but clean and let’s face it I would be wearing the same cycling shorts tomorrow.
Left the heavier items from the bag (great I packed a shock pump for an adventure on a rigid bike) then carried on down the west coast of Arran. No midges to worry about and cycled on the road as some paddle boat steamed up the coast.
Stopped for a bite then headed back to hotel for shower but was in such a daze I cycled straight back into Lochranza – divine providence and ended up at the distillery having a mosey and buying a small bottle of malt didn’t want to carry a litre bottle with me back to the ferry.
Got back to hotel had a shower (no en-suite here) then read for a while before heading back to campsite in Lochranza to hunt down Tom.
Was having a bite to eat when ‘woops there he goes’. Heckled him from the door and he seemed hugely surprised. He quickly dropped his kit bit on discovering the crap choice of beer at the local bar/ hotel we proceeded around the corner to my hotel where we had 2,3,4,5,6 err 7 pints of Arran brewery (can’t even remember which one – not Arran blond, dark or witch on) played a few rounds of pool – Tom is even worse at pool than me which is pretty funny.
‘meet you at 7:15am’ for that was when we would meet to cycle back over that hill and to the ferry.
The next morning it was howling and pissing down.
Met up at campsite then headed off to ferry – the Lochranza hill from the north wasn’t so bad – the misery of the rain and wind was quite funny. Over the top and Tom was a few hundred metres behind so decided to wait at the bottom where there was some tree cover .. Tried to coast but the wind was bringing me to a halt (on a downhill) but once on the steep bit I tucked down and tried to get a good speed.
Once down and Tom had caught up came up with a plan to slipstream north… I told him to call speed he was happy with and I would do it and take the wind … He was dealing with panniers, a tent all on a heavy kona smoke bike.
Pretty coast road then ferry and train back to Glasgow …
Tom was looking a bit tired after his Munro climb (or corbett) double bike adventures and said he was going home to sleep. I had football that night but that’s another painful tale to tell……..