Wednesday, 10 October 2007
200k the Scottish Way
We met Lucy and Dick McTaggart online while planning our journey from Farnborough to the start of Paris-Brest-Paris. We met up with them in Evreux and rode together to St. Quentin-en-Yvelines along with Ian, Tom, Francis, and Sheila. Lucy and Dick made the mistake of inviting us to visit them in Scotland. Robin saw that Lucy was organizing a 200km AudaxUK ride so we decided that would be the perfect opportunity but we were a bit late in contacting them so lost out on a free bed. No matter, we made a reservation at a nearby guest house, loaded the bikes, packed some clothes, grabbed the road atlas and headed north to the Scottish Borders. 7 hours later we arrived in Galashiels where we were treated to a great spaghetti dinner chez-McTaggart along with Nigel, Mark, Louise, and the late-arriving George. George is in his 70's and had ridden 200km that day to get to Galashiels. I could tell immediately that George was one of those guys that you may pass early in the ride but in the end, he will have well and truly kicked your butt, which is exactly what happened.
Early Sunday morning we enjoyed porridge, eggs, toast, and tea at the Watson Lodge Guest House before joining the riders at 8am for our day's adventure. We immediately settled in with Lucy and Dick (good strategy there - stick with the organizer and you won't get lost), Nigel, and Louise (Mark was sitting this ride out with a broken arm). The air was wet and misty to start out but soon dried up and it was dry all day long. A bit cloudy but that just added to the drama of the beautiful and mysterious countryside. Every turn brought a new series of sharply rolling hills crisscrossed by stone fences and fields hosting winter wheat and grazing sheep. The sky was full of various shades of grey while the hills were a patchwork of greens from fresh spring green to nearly black. We travelled over very quiet single wide country lanes sprinkled with leaves and tiny, quaint villages. Although we only spent 1 full day in Scotland we felt we got a good view of that area of the country. Our little group consisted of both Scots and English (and us as the token Americans) and we enjoyed their ongoing banter and jabs. Our experience with the Scots we have met to date has left a wonderful impression of friendliness, warmth, humor, and more than a little craziness. I personally could listen to them speak for hours - they have such charming expressions and accents.
Our official time on the brevet is 12 hours. That is the longest 200km I've ever done by at least 2 hours. A killer combination of unrelenting hills, warm and cozy pubs and tea houses, and a broken spoke that had me working against my rear brakes for a time resulted in a longer than expected day out. Regardless of that we enjoyed the company and the ride to the fullest. We ended the ride at the chip shop where we loaded up on fish & chips to take back to Lucy and Dick's place. Warm food and good conversation were quickly followed by sleepiness so we were back to the guest house, showered and in bed very soon after.
Robin was due at work at 2pm on Monday so we were up early again and back on the road. A long drive for a short weekend but well worth it. We will be looking for a chance again to visit Galashiels when we can spend a bit more time. Link here to see a map of the area we covered on the brevet http://www.bikely.com/maps/bike-path/78423 (photo to come shortly)