The day will come when I will die. So the only matter of consequence before me is what I will do with my allotted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar in the breeze.--Richard Bode

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Rain, Rain Go Away

I have been riding in the Scottish Highlands. It is beautiful here, but I have taken very few pictures because it has been raining almost constantly. Everyone says this is the worst and rainiest summer they can remember. I heard the same thing all the time when I was in the Scandinavian countries. It has been cold, and the wind has been vicious. Today, for example, the wind was so strong the rain was coming down sideways. There have been times that I have been riding along leaning way over into the wind, and then, when the wind suddenly stops, I have to quickly get the bike upright, and as I am doing that a sudden gust from the opposite direction will blow me across the road.

The roads here in the Highlands are often single track. If you look at the picture above again, you can see that I am pulled off onto one of the passing places. This works pretty well as long as everyone is well behaved and willing to share the road. Normally they are. Oncoming cars will flash their lights to tell you that they are pulling over into a passing place to let you by. If they don't do that you had better watch out because they are coming and you had better get out of the way.

There are some nice villages down in the valleys where you can meet some really nice people. Everyone is always so curious about me and about where I am from and where I am going. However, up in the windswept moors there is almost nobody. Look at this house. The nearest neighbors must be miles away. 

Can you see all the sheep around that house in the last picture. Those guys are everywhere. There are also some big deer (sorry, but every time I saw one of those big deer rascals it was raining too hard to take a picture). It is little wonder that distilling whiskey would be a good thing to do here in the Highlands. Those distilleries are everywhere (so are castles, but I am absolutely burned out on looking at those things). I am not burned out on distilleries though. I figured I should stop at one and have a wee dram to take the chill out of meself. Maybe you have heard of this one since it is very popular among Scotch Whiskey drinkers in the US.

I learned that a dram is two fingers worth of Scotch in a glass. They gave me a dram of 15 year old Scotch, but I am ashamed to say I only took a sip or two of it. How anybody can drink that stuff is beyond me. I am told it is an acquired taste, but I guess I will never be able to acquire it. For one thing, I think it makes you talk funny. Here is an example: can you read the Scottish language on this sign? Thank goodness everyone has learned to speak English here.

Not everyday has been constant rain, although every day has had rain in it. I drove up to the far north of Britain to John O'Groats, and there I had a rare hour of sunshine.

Mostly it has been very, very wet and rainy here. I have started staying in youth hostels. I have done this many places around the world, and usually they are nice. However, my daughter Jessica and I stayed in one in the Czech Republic last year and it was terrible. I didn't think I wanted to try it again. But a couple of days ago, wet and cold from rain, I passed a hostel and decided that it looked dry and warm. I turned around, went back, asked to see the rooms, and settled on one for 27 dollars. It was a marvelous experience. Everyone in the place was older, like me, or else a member of a family (mom, dad, maybe a couple of young kids). And  everyone was quiet, which is important to me. I don't like bratty and drunken 22 year old boys ruining my experience. Not that there was not some 22 year old boys -- one, from Prague, was on a motorcycle, and he shared a room with me and a sixty year old man (also riding a motorcycle) from Holland.  As long as these hostels remain a positive experience, I think I will not stay in either a rainy campground or an expensive hotel during the rest of my trip.

So now I am at Loch Ness in my third hostel here in Scotland, sitting in a beautiful and clean lounge, typing this blog. There are two other people in here also -- a man and his 14 year old daughter -- both reading quietly. I can look out the large picture window, and it looks like the sky is clearing up. I am hoping for a clear day tomorrow. I think I will ride down the west coast and find a ferry to Ireland.