I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud…

IMG_1136Like yesterday, I spend some time checking out my route for today. Rather time spent now, than being relegated to motorways because it’s easier than navigating with a flat phone later in the afternoon.

The general plan is to head back to Perth, but rather than heading down either the M6 or A1, to skirt the southern end of Edinburgh, and meander down A roads as far as Nottingham.

This afternoon is almost positively balmy, and I decide to shed my fleece layer as I head out of town. Beyond Perth on the M90, however, I ride into archetypal Scottish weather. Visibility reduces to about 100m, the wind is howling from the West, and the rain is driving.

IMG_1139I do the motorbike thing and stop under a nearby bridge to don my NaxSax wet weather pants (wet weather jacket liner is on). I’m also worried that my fleece, that’s strapped to the outside of the dry bag, will be sopping by now. On the contrary, both the jeans I’m wearing and the fleece on the back of the bike are bone dry. Go Honda, the windshield does its job admirably. Looking behind me, you can clearly see where the front rolls in.

The weather, however, intensifies and I find myself leaning into a 70 mph wind & rain, with just about no viz, crossing the bridge over the Firth, amongst traffic without headlights, all driving a cool 80 mph. It takes all of my confidence and concentration,not to mention some small measure of male genitals, to get across safely.

The drive around the A720 sees the weather clearing, and by the time I stop at the Fordel Petrol Station (on the Dalkeith Road) the rain has dropped to intermittent showers.

Now I drop onto the A68 towards Jedburgh and Coldstream (of the guards fame). This road is exactly what I’m looking for. Hills, dales, sheep strewn fields, forests, glens, little rural towns, twisties and sweepers – just perfect. As I get closer to the border, the frequency of Scottish flags increase, until I reach Jedburgh (with Mary Queen of Scots House), where you couldn’t imagine a more nationalistic display of country.

The irony here is that Scots in the highlands don’t consider anywhere south of Perth to be “really Scottish.”

IMG_1148After Jedburgh, I cross into the Northumberland State Forest  in England, and continue this idyllic ride. Not so many English flags on this side of the border. I may’ve seen just one. Guess the English aren’t expecting an invasion soon.

On Google maps, the A68 looks like it cuts straight down the countryside towards Newcastle, but it really meanders all over the place. Perfect for a motorbike.

IMG_1152Just after crossing into England, as I head into the Northumberland I ride for about 10 minutes with a light drizzle, almost water being blown off the cloud by the strong wind, rather than precipitation. This causes a rainbow about 100m in front of me. Eventually I can’t stand it anymore as I pass a reservoir, and stop behind a Land Rover to take a photo. Next thing I know, I’m recruited into helping a local shepherd get his flock across the road.

Finally the weather clears, and I stop for dinner in a town called Darlington. It takes a little while to find a pub, but there is one with “Bikers welcome” painted on the window. Perfect….

IMG_1155…or not. Bikers are certainly welcome, if viewed by the locals somewhat as a visiting Martian, but the pub doesn’t serve food. Choices are the Indian restaurant two doors down, or the kebab shop next door. I really want to take a break, so opt for the Indian, only to find it totally empty. For the better part of an hour I’m the only customer. Then fortified by a 4/5 Butter Chicken, it’s time to hit the road.

IMG_1160Fuel, windscreen, visor, and back onto the road. But it’s late, so onto the A1(M) for the last 120 miles to Nottingham. After about 67, my butt is hurting too much to sit, and I follow the most convoluted intersection to get to a Services, on the M62.

Once off the bike, I switch on the phone to check the quickest way to Nottingham. This turns out to be the M1, but I miss that turn-off due to ambiguous (and late) signage. Then I do the same with the Nottingham turn-off of the A1(M) and have to resort to turning Google Maps on to navigate me to the hotel.

I finally arrive 374 miles from Dundee, at 23:30 to the Hilton in the centre of Nottingham. Time for a long chat to Lucy, my final alcohol for a month, and a welcome king sized bed.