Rear View Part 11 - Adventures of The Peanut

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Skye's the limit

I'm considering changing the title of this series now that I have my own bike, but then I'll still be doing the odd pillion trip so on balance I'll leave it. The preparation for this first trip was a bit of a nail-biter: Having left The Peanut1 in to get a new chain fitted on the Tuesday, it then kept blowing the fuse that controlled the instrument panel. Now speedo and rev counter I could manage without, but not indicators. Dai tried all sorts of elimination techniques to try to isolate the culprit, but all that necessary faffing meant that we didn’t get a chance to try out the new bike-to-bike radios that we’d be using.

So it was with not a little trepidation and anxiety that I got up at 4.30 am on the Thursday morning, and gingerly set off. Very little traffic to worry about at that time of day, and the fuse seemed to be holding and the radios working. Jolly good. Then we got to the ferry terminal at Larne. I handed all my documents to the girl, who gave a ticket to Dai, who then rode round towards the boat, when the girl said 'Hang on a minute…' So I was sat there in neutral gesturing apologetically to the riders behind me about this 'computer says no' situation, while she tried to understand how we’d changed to booking from 2 people on one bike to 2 solo bikes. Once she was satisfied everything was in order, and I got ready to do my first ride onto a slippery boat surface, I noticed that the fuse must have blown – which also meant that I had no way of talking to Dai. Thankfully he was waiting for me and I pointed at my helmet and the instrument panel to indicate the problem. Onto the boat, the crew cheerily did the strapping down of Peanut for me while we found a seat, got some cups of tea, and discussed what our plan of action was.

We had given ourselves an extra day to do the trip, so time pressure was not an issue. Dai had downloaded the location of all BMW dealers, so if we needed to limp to Glasgow for a repair the co-ords were in the GPS. We discussed what may have caused the problem, and reckoned it was something to do with the neutral indicator, so the first part of the action plan was to avoid neutral. Fine by me, it always takes me about 5 minutes to locate it anyway! I rode the bike off the boat flanked by Dai in front and another friend behind, and pulled into the car park at Morrisons to replace the blown fuse, wiggle the offending wire, and hope that this magic repair would work.

It was 11 before we were finally leaving Troon, topped up with fuel, and set off towards the Erskine Bridge. I am a huge fan of bridges, and it was such a thrill to be to take the Peanut over this lovely swoop of steel with views up and down the Clyde. We stopped for tea and McFlurries at Balloch, and then continued up the western shore of Loch Lomond, where I didn’t feel too self-conscious of my slow speeds, as most of the other traffic was either lorries or Belgian tourists doing about 40. A seaplane was landing on the loch as we rode past, and the sun was indeed shining bright on the bonnie bonnie banks.


Coming into Crianlarich, the road approaching the main junction curves sharply to the right, and slopes down from left to right as it goes under a railway bridge. Coming towards us under the bridge was a big artic truck, requiring all the width of the road. The car in front of Dai pulled into the left and started reversing. Dai indicated that he couldn’t really reverse up a hill, and then radioed me to say not to come over to the left as it was thick with gravel. I only caught the end of that message and so started to turn the Peanut's handlebars to the left, but the camber in the road caught me out, and over we went. I jumped off, hit the kill switch, thought there’s no way I can lift this up alone, and did my best helpless female impersonation. The lorry driver was gesticulating wildly at Dai to tell him that I needed assistance, Dai was gesticulating wildly back that it was all his fault, and anyway he couldn’t park on the gravel, so it was a wee bit fraught for a while. Ah well, I was OK, apart from a bruise on my right knee, the bike was OK apart from scratches on the hand guards, and most importantly, the whiskey I was carrying as a suitable first cargo in my panniers had survived!

We stopped at the Good Food café just outside Tyndrum (although apparently the Green Welly on the other side of the road is where all the bikers go), and Dai, as we were in the land where the deep fat fryer is king, had a go at deep fried black pudding. I think he may have regretted this during the afternoon.

On up to Fort William at the foot of Ben Nevis, which is where we’d originally suggested we might stop off. However, we were making good time, the weather was sunny, and anyway there were nasty road-works in the town, and all the BnBs seemed to have a 'no vacancies' sign displayed. So we headed for Glencoe (where I was careful to keep my mouth shut – as a Campbell I’m persona non grata at this site of the massacre of the McDonald clan many moons ago). Stopped at a little community centre/public toilets in Invergarry, which were impressively clean, although the lane down to them was rather pitted and puddly. Our next stop was for fuel at Sheil Bridge, and a cloud of midges descended on us as we lifted our helmets off - we quickly extracted the midge repellent. Avon’s Skin-so-soft is highly recommended by campers, and is widely available in local shops, which is an indicator of how effective it is. Apparently it is also used by the army.

Soon I caught sight of the new(ish) Skye Bridge, which is now free to cross. Did I mention how much I love bridges? I was grinning from ear to ear as I rode over the arch, and lo, we were on the island. Now Dai kept telling me oh it’s just round the corner, even though I kept pointing out that I did have a map you know (sitting very neatly in the pocket on top of my very useful tank bag. Actually, the contents of my tank bag were a bit Penelope Pitstoppy - handbag, water, wetwipes). At this stage I was exhausted, but had to keep telling myself that I was not tired at all, oh no. I was concentrating fiercely on every movement, every gear change and mirror check, every bump in the road and alteration of road surface. On our return journey I was gasping in awe at the Cuillin Hills – but I was so focussed on not making a single mistake that I didn’t even notice them on the way there. At 9 pm we were at last pulling into the steep drive of our friends' house, and I was ready to collapse in a heap on the floor. My neck and shoulder muscles were in agony – probably holding my arms too stiffly in my nervousness. We produced the whiskey with a flourish from my panniers, and Dai produced a bottle of champagne to celebrate my first trip. I’m still going to kill him, though!

We sat around the cosy kitchen table eating spag bol and catching up on gossip, and meeting the family pets. Waternish is the sort of place where people still leave their doors unlocked, there is no mobile phone reception, and the only pub, The Stein, is a mile down the road. We thought it would only be polite to visit it for a few swift halves. And then thought we’d better have the other halves so as not to be lob-sided.

Gay Gordons

On Friday we enjoyed a much-needed lie in, before heading off to Skye’s main town, Portree, for a spot of lunch and a little light shopping. Well, I had empty panniers now, and nature abhors a vacuum. We headed back to our BnB in the late afternoon: the room was beautiful – a large window overlooking the Waternish lough, a little dressing area with loads of space for the bike gear, and an en suite shower room. Owners Graeme and Madelaine were very welcoming, and we felt that all was good with the world. I had a wee lie down under the cosy fake fur blanky, while Dai accompanied the other bikers in our BnB down to the Stein. I joined them a bit later, waving to various groups of bikes as they passed me on the road en route to their campsite. Scampi and chips were ordered and devoured, and our hosts started organising vans and the like to ferry us the couple of miles up the road to the local hall, where a ceilidh was taking place. The place was packed, and it was great to see young and old join in the fun, and make us visitors feel welcome. Emboldened by a few drinks, we had a rather enthusiastic attempt at Strip the Willow, which wouldn’t have scored very highly for technical merit, before merrily crashing our way through the Dashing White Sergeant. Must’ve got a lift home somehow…

Over the hills

On Saturday, all 6 of us bikers staying in the BnB squished around the breakfast table for bacon and eggs, freshly laid by the chickens who’d been pecking round the yard. We washed it down with more champagne – to celebrate the 24th anniversary of 2 of our number. Dai had let me do a bit of map reading and tourist guide researching, so I lead us to the little port of Uig on Trotternish, the next peninsula up, from where one can catch a ferry to the Hebrides. From Uig we took the road up over the Quirang mountain, which had quite a few switchback corners for me to get my teeth into. Note to car drivers: the space around a tight turn is there because it is needed – it doesn't help if you use it to park and take a few photos. Thanks. Stopped for lunch at Pieces of Ate, where Dai had a haggis sandwich. The sea was eerily calm, like a sheet of goose-grey satin, and the rocky outcrops along that Western side, past the Old Man of Storr, were dramatic and inspiring. Coming into Portree I managed to drop the bike again on a left hand bend on a slope – I’d have been fine if I’d kept moving! I thought I was going to hold onto it – my head was going 'Igottit, Igottit, Igottit....nope, I don’t gottit'. Ah well, at least it now had matching scratches on both sides.

One guy who came to help me lift the bike recognised the name of the garage on the number-plate – turned out he was originally from Lisburn. We went for a restorative cup of tea and then Dai decided he’d like to buy a kilt. He chose a very dashing black one, which will not offend anyone as it’s not a clan tartan, nor was it the 'crafted specially for American tourists' Skye tartan, attractive though that heather and misty green pattern was. Best of all, he could pretend it was an Irish one.

Donald where's yer troosers?

Back in Waternish we dressed for dinner. The black kilt, T-shirt, socks and leather sporran combination certainly looked very striking, and he was undoubtedly the belle of the ball. Of course a few naughty boys had to try capturing an 'up-kilt' shot, but they were not disappointed.

Cheesy disco time, and we all joined in with vigour in YMCA and Swords of 1,000 Men. My good old Crocs survived the ceilidh and disco dancing, as well as the running in and out of the mud outside. Must have got a lift home somehow…

Wake me up afore ye go-go

Sunday morning dawned too soon, and it was hard work to eat breakfast and do the final packing. We’d been aiming to stop at the Green Welly for lunch, but coming into Glencoe we were starting to flag. The heavens opened and we decided it would be better to stop now rather than press on. In the Isles of Glencoe hotel I had a quick 10 minute power nap in the fuzzy warmth of the conservatory, overlooking the beautiful Loch, and so refreshed we set off again. On down through FortWilliam we rode, with not too much delay from the road-works, and gasped anew at all those stunning mountains and lochs. I shuddered at Crianlarich at the site of my first drop, and then we conducted a quick hunt around Balloch for a non-existent petrol station. I should have guessed at this stage that Persephone2 was throwing a bit of a wobbler: she took Dai down a tiny side road which I could tell wasn’t right so I waited at the junction. The road surface was a bit gravely and uneven, and the cars passing on the main road were so numerous that I couldn’t get into a better position. Yup, you’ve guessed it, over the bike went again. There was only Dai and me to lift it this time, which was tough enough, but I think I’ve worked out what I’ve been doing wrong (trying to move off and turn simultaneously…)

The roadworks on the M8 added 10 minutes to our eta, but we made it to the boat terminal for 10 past 7. And then we had to hang around for over an hour as the ferries were running late, due to being full. You’d think they could tell you when you’re checking in, so that you’d know if you had time to go to the loo or not. I looked anxiously at the wet ground, with slicks of diesel floating on the surface water, but actually the ride onto the boat was fine. Maybe I worry too much. I had just settled myself down on a bench for a much needed sleep, when 3 fellas insisted they’d have to sit there as there were no other seats. Never forget – ear-plugs are your friend. I moulded the little cylinders of green foam into my ears and managed to muffle the cacophony of their card-playing to a level where I could at least get half an hours shut eye, before the final leg of the journey, and another 'first' for my bike-riding: night time. We took it nice and easy all the way home, the traffic wasn’t too bad and we were home just after midnight.

What a fabulous first trip for me and The Peanut - 723 miles getting around 100mpg, and only 3 drops!

Rear View Archive


23.08.07 Front Page

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1My bike.2The GPS

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