Train to JOG
You left me in my couchette at the front of the very long train to Edinburgh whilst my bike was at the very back. I slept restlessly as we made our way north, worried about the fate of my bike and generally peed off with Caledonian Sleeper service who had told me that electric bikes would not be carried, hence my purchase of yet another bike from which I can remove the battery and motor with one easy movement, leaving it as a conventional bicycle. In the event nobody queried my electric bike and I’m sure that there would have been no problem with my Specialized either. And now my bike was loaded into a carriage that was heading for Aberdeen. However Sandie, my charming host assured me that she would wake me when we were close to Edinburgh so that I could put my bike in the seated carriage that would be attached to the back of the train to go to Inverness. And good to her word she did so at about 3.30am when I and three other cyclists and several seated passengers had to get off and do the necessary before getting back to bed about 0400. Since one of the reasons for travelling by sleeper was to get some sleep, it rather ruined the intention and I shall be taking it up with management. Anyway I was able to go back to grab a few more hours rest before we arrived in Inverness at about 0815, safe in the knowledge that my bike would be in the same city as me.
I now had to wait at Inverness station until 1041, when the train to Thurso was due to leave, so I sat down and composed Day 2 blog which had been neglected. It was quite pleasant sitting outside Costa Coffee enjoying a sausage sarnie and a cup of cappuccino whilst I tried to compose my thoughts.
Another problem: I save photos to One Drive so that I can easily download them into the blog, but that requires an internet connection and, however hard I tried to connect to the free Scotrail Wifi, I couldn’t do so. My personal data wasn’t up to it either so I had to leave it until I got to Thurso.
The train left on time: it was a journey that I took 2 years ago when I cycled the extremes of Britain and it is a beautiful trip. The line follows the coast for a while before climbing over a hill with the purple heather bright in the morning sunshine. There was virtually no wind and the water was millpond calm giving marvellous reflections which I was unable to capture through a dirty train window. Down the other side and back to the coast where it runs close to the A9 road which I will follow to Inverness on Saturday. We stopped at every station with shoppers getting on and off until Helmsdale, where I stay tomorrow night.
After that the train takes to the hills cutting across the Flow country, peat bogs and tree plantations. The road disappeared and we were totally isolated apart from the odd Halt which nobody made use of. My carriage was entirely empty apart from me and when we finally made it to Thurso, slightly ahead of the projected arrival time of 1424, only six other people got out of the front carriage. Scotrail can’t be making much out of that.
I had already booked to stay at the brand new Premier Inn which is right next door to the station
but was not supposed to book in until after 4pm. However the rather useless girl on reception, after seemingly pressing all the buttons on the computer, eventually managed to find my booking and agreed that Room 225 was cleaned and ready for me; so I dumped panniers and bar bag in the room and took off for John O’Groats, about 20 miles away. This had always been my intention but being able to do it without all the extra weight, including the motor and battery made the bike very spritely and I made very good time into a slight breeze. The roads in the far north of Scotland are straight and undulating which becomes a bit disheartening but I stuck to the task and was standing by the famous signpost at 1618 where I persuaded a kind lady from the Peak District, who is touring the coast with her husband and teenage daughter, to take the snap.
I didn’t hang about but made my way back to Thurso by a slightly different route, which made it a bit more interesting, and was back at the hotel by 1803. About 8 miles from my destination the front mudguard fell off when one of the bolts worked loose but I was able to jam it in the rack and will replace it before I leave tomorrow.
My deal with Premier Inns is Dinner bed and breakfast for under £100 and, although the choice of dinner looks uninspiring, I shall have a large breakfast as my route takes me through the wilderness with not a pub or shop on the way. It’s only 53 miles, predominantly downhill, to Helmsdale so I shan’t leave very early and I will give the bike a bit of attention before I go. At least the bike and I are in the same place.