Day 9 – Tarbet to Spean Bridge

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Mike:    How can I sum up this morning?  Oh yes, one word – AWESOME!.
The day started grey and misty so we donned our hi-vis gear and set off and followed the north shore of Loch Lomond.  We said to each other that if the road stayed like this for the next 80 miles we’d be happy.  It didn’t.

Once we left the lochside, we started climbing and carried on climbing – up through Crianlarich and Tyndrum, then on and upwards where the views got more and more spectacular.

We paused at Loch Tulla for some photos and a chat with another cyclist, then we did another 400-500 foot climb where I found my off-switch and went non-stop (Sorry Derek – who I think wanted to take a break at the truck stop half way up, but I was already passed that point) to the sign that said “Welcome to the Highlands”.  I almost felt that I had come home.

We cycled along Glencoe, admiring the views and passed The Kings House Hotel at 11.45.  Our original plan was to lunch there but it was way to early and we were feeling full of energy and inspired by the scenery.

Once we finished climbing, it was time for the long descent, and what a descent!  The bike just ran and I split my viewing between the road and the scenery.  Two thirds of the way down I was awe struck by the sight of the mountains and was quite emotional, with even had a tear in my eye (Wife please note – I am not dead inside)

We carried on to Ballachluish for lunch and then followed the A82 around Loch Leven and found ourselves facing a strong head wind (again) all the way to Fort William, then more climbing (a wee bit tired now) and more headwind until reaching Spean Bridge.

Some aching muscles tonight but it was worth it – I cannot imagine a more impressive view than up in those mountains.

One thing I have been meaning to say for a week now is how brain dead we are in the evening (I know some may say “no change there”). I think its the concentration used during the day to navigate, avoid potholes, stay out of the way of traffic (sometimes sucessfully) and adjust the brain every now and then (No, we are not stopping…no, it doesnt really hurt…etc).  So by the time we go to dinner, we are physically tired and mentally incapable of simple arithmetic, or even intelligent conversation…although we can give a good discourse about road surfaces….

Derek: Today was cold, wet and steep. All in all, the perfect recipe for a totally brilliant day!

The ride started really well, with some nice undulating roads along the shore of Loch Lomond. At the time we considered this to be really nice and pretty. As we got higher, we started to get much damper – as we seemed to be driving through clouds. Fortunately, Becky was nearby and happened to drive past just as we were starting to get soaked, so out came the rain-coats (mostly for visibility than water-proofing). On the way down, the ride was so fun that I was actually singing at the top of my voice all the way down – fortunately, I don’t think anyone else could hear me.

The climb to Crianlarich was tough going but great fun – a long steady steep climb. We stopped at Tyndrum and met up with Becky again at the services there for a brief pause before continuing onwards and upwards.

The views all around were fantastic – picturesque, flat and mirrored waters reflecting the hills in the backgrounds – breathtaking!

There were a series of other long steep climbs, the best of which culminated at Glen Coe with our highest ride ever – about 1,473 feet high! The descent from this was also quite fun too! As we descended we were cycling literally between mountains on either side, the tops of which we couldn’t even see due to clouds covering them.

Throughout the ride we were also playing cat and mouse with some other end-to-enders. These 3 guys were riding on bikes with panniers, so weren’t as quick as us, but after we had overtaken them and gone on a bit, we’d have a rest stop, and they’d catch us up, only for us to then overtake them again, and so on. Who knows, maybe we’ll see then at JO’G on Thursday.

Without a doubt, the scenary was the high(!) point of the day – I have never seen anything like it anywhere else.

Becky: Bless! What a day. After an excellent breakfast thanks to Maria at our b and b for the night, it was off for my first day supporting Derek and Mike. Its really quite emotional seeing ‘the boys’ head off for the day and then once I had checked us out of the b & b and messed around with the sat nav, I set off for Glencoe. I drove along the A82 and kept thinking I will see them in a minute, I will see them in a minute…. in the hour since they left they had done a cracking 14 miles! Good on them! Unfortunately, thats when it started to get wet and hilly…. The scenery is nothing short of breathtaking, but that is due to the mountainous terrain, this is also where the boys had to cycle and I know the A82 goes between the mountains but trust me, its still very steep! Every hill I drove up a hill I thought the boys are going to have to cycle this and my heart was in my mouth for them, I really cant explain how it feels, but you feel a mixture of motherly, protective and in awe. They have really impressed me both with their achievement so far and their attitude. Go boys…… only 2 more days!!!

Beer of the day: Calder’s 70 – dark and slightly nutty, which Mike describes as Splendid.

Whisky of the day:  Invergordan.  A very pale, almost clear tipple with a slight citrus tang.  A bit girly really.

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