Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Diary of a Haggis Hunter - The Bitter End


All good things must come to an end as they say. And that is how it felt for me on my seventh day touring Scotland on my rented S1000XR. The bitter end. The pill you don't want to swallow. The bike you never want to return.

Alas, what must be, must be.

Having had great success in discovering Glen Coe and deciding assuredly that the hub and spoke method of my madness was the perfect fit for the occasion, the last few days of my touring were something of a blur.

I had so much new gear to try out, I had constant on and off again rain, I had brand new hoops to scrub in, a bike that I was slightly familiar with, a broken GPS with no UK maps yet a sense of security that I knew exactly what I was doing. 
A really special bit of road I found
Waking up in a strange country every day, especially one on the other side of the world, in the other hemisphere, in the opposite season and in a completely different timezone can be somewhat discombobulating - if you don't align yourself correctly. With experience under my belt and having been to Scotland and toured on motorcycles on two different occasions I must pat myself on the back for really nailing the experience this time. 

I got there, I unwound, I went away to Spain and sat in the Canary Islands on my arse for seven days, ate, drank, swam and slept myself into bronzed contentment before returning to Scotland well and truly in the zone and ready for the ride. 

These conditions just meant that I didn't waste any time NOT riding... oh hang on a minute, there was that one day, last Sunday if I recall where I drank myself into a coma at a part of the obligatory drinking yourself into oblivion party in Scotland. Lots of fun, good laughs, plenty of booze and such a cracking headache the next day I told myself riding was probably not the best option and just lazed the day away seeping alcohol through every pore..

That Monday I had decided I really needed to scrub these new hoops in for once and all. There is this loop of roundabouts and stretches of nice tar that all join in crazy loopy fashion called the Euro Central in Holytown, that kinda hinges off the back of the M8 and joins back up again in different places, and I thought to myself, that could be a good way to start the day and try and get rid of these chicken strips.

Perfect day for it too, all kitted out in my new Revvit gear (totally not waterproof in other words) and off I went. A mate lead me there with his son's car - a Fiesta ST turbo charged fast four... and man, it was everything I could do to keep up to the thing. It wasn't until it topped out at 140 mph that I could have passed it. The thing flew! 

Now I know a few are out there thinking yeah BS, you coulda whipped it on the XR, which is probably true but considering I didn't know the roads that well, and he did, and I was just following... anyway enough excuses. Did I mention 140mph?

So after I pulled my nuts out of my guts and settled my heart rate slightly I settled into some loops of the Euro Central and practiced power wheelies on every straight. What a bike. What an absolutely fantastic machine it is to wheeelie with nothing but a wrenching of the throttle. I'm shit at wheelies, always have been but in the last twelve months alone there have been two motorcycles that have easily done power wheelies simply snapping the throttle open - the S1000XR and the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto. 
Wanna be a hooligan good and proper? Go get one of those.
Traitor! I had to check out Ducati Glasgow :)

Want a bit of the best of both worlds, sell your kidneys and get a full spec S1000XR (they aren't that dear really). In case you're wondering why I don't have either in my stable, it's actually quite straight forward - I have a plan. 
The plan goes something like this.

I bought the GS Triple Black in 2015 knowing it was a four year bike. I would ride it and ride it and ride it and then, after four years look for the next best thing. Now this is my primary bike and must do all. And it does, in spades. It just so happens that within those four years BMW will also release a new S1000RR engine that is very promising, and unbeknownst to me at the time they have been working on a very exciting 1250cc VVT (variable valve timing) water cooled twin for a brand new model GS.

So by 2019 my Triple Black will probably have 60,000++kms on but still fetch a decent price privately and my only thing to decide upon will be, do I get the new 1250 GS or do I get the next iteration of the S1000XR which by then will have the new 1000cc RR engine in it. 
Exciting decisions!
Good grief, it's Crief!
About the Husky... well at $17,999 it was just too much of a one trick pony. Do I want one? Yes. Would I like one in my shed? Yes. Could I fork out the dollars for a one trick pony (and smiles for days), well sadly - no.

Plus I have certified and approved with the GFC certain other plans that shall be told later. Very exciting, dirty plans. I shall say no more of it.

So back to the S1000XR and my last days atop it. There is this one story I have to share, as I feel as if it deserves sharing as crazy as it sounds.

I did find a B road that was more like a D road into hell as I languished laconically up to Pitlochary in an effort to get to Cairngorms National Park, but found I was running out of time and feeling a bit fatigued I decided that I would cruise along Loch Tummel follwing the B roads back home for the day.

So I got the Maps app set up to tack me from Pitlochry to Tummel Bridge after quizzing a local whilst eating a pie. Little did I know that there are indeed two roads and two ways to get to Tummel Bridge from Pitlochry. One is a road, the other is more like a goat track or a single lane slippery shit burger of something more suited to Mordor than Scotland, and of course that was the one I found myself on that day.
The Mirror Man, Loch Earn

Well and truly 'in' it by the time I decided I was going on the wrong one there was little more to do than slow down and skip, slide and shake like a petrified leaf along the Z road around Loch Tummel.

It took years off my life. It wasn't raining, but it had been, and the road is single laner with a canopy overhead the whole way and leaf litter covered the road with the added wet bonus. I think the most I could muster at any point, was about 20 mph. A cliff wall on my right and a Loch on my left, both inches away made sure I really paid attention. That did wonders for my fatigue.  I tried not to think about Mordor or Wolf Creek as I do when alone and millions of miles from home travelling solo by motorcycle, and pushed on.

It felt like forever but in reality was only 15 miles and I made it, but just before I did...

I was taking my lilly arsed time carefully surveying every inch of road I could make out between the shadowed canopy and the grey looming skies when the canopy opened ahead just a little bit... even a little bit is a relief and as I excitedly sped up a little to enjoy the 10 metres of winding dryness ....

"WHAMMO!!!"  From out of fucking NOWHERE a MOTHERFUCKING AIRPLANE skims seemingly mere metres above my head!

I freaking shat myself (figuratively speaking) it was so totally unexpected and unnannounced it literally jolted me upright and I almost swerved into the Loch to miss the thing. 
It looked so damn close I could see it was a propeller plane that looked military to me. I googled airports later and the closest one was miles away in Dundee so I have no idea why it was A) there and B) so low. 
But it was and quite frankly after I recovered from the shock of it, it was pretty awesome.
The infamous Green Welly
After plane incident and a fuel stop somewhere I meandered my way home and got ready for the trip back to Stirling the next day to return the XR which was a freeway/motorway hike and uneventful so I'll spare you the details.

But in all, wow. What a trip. What a magnificent country to see via motorcycle and I can't wait to go back and do it again. I hear the Cairngorms are incredible, as well as Fort William and I'd still like to see Inverness and do the North Coast 500 too. 
There she goes, dropped off back home. DAMMIT!

Scotland isnt one of those countries that you hear lots of people talking about as an Aussie, sure we have quite a lot of em over hear but poeple talk about visiting England when they hear the UK, going to London and all that carry on. 
Or USA, or Bali... but for me Scotland has really grown on me over the years, the people are so genuine and open and honest with you and make you feel like family. 
The scenery is just out of this world and castles are everywhere. Who doesn't like castles?
I never did see the hairy haggis, I ate something called Haggis and I can confirm it's an acquired taste not for me.
The black lines are the ground I covered in 7 days