An early start, I stocked up, fuelled up and brewed up in Thurso, then on to John-o-Groats.
A rather strange place, but for the purpose of the trip, our farthest point north.
I chatted to the owner of a burger van, a chap who had been laid off from his Sales job in Manchester and was now enjoying a new life, meeting all kinds of travellers, tourists and nutcases, drawn to this northern Mecca.
He had a photo of Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman, on their “Long Way Down”.
Very impressive, but you really don’t need a £15k BMW GS to have an adventure!
The obligatory pictures were taken and then, “Operation Point Clunk South” began…
Honda C90; Best machine ever built!
I stopped for a kip in a quiet lay-by, looking out to the rigs off the coast of Wick. Pondering where to head next, I saw a sign for Lairg and thought, “Never been there, let’s go!”
There I found thee most fantastic tearoom, “The Crofters”, with the friendliest service I have ever had anywhere! I was told a snippet of Sutherland trivia: It is the largest county in the United Kingdom, with no traffic lights, nor roundabouts. I had ridden 155 miles without either.
The Strath Glass road to Cannich was a leafy tunnel of sunset light. The Clunk felt like it was flying, as we hit speeds approaching 40mph! I decided on the luxury of a campsite and a shower.
Here I met an awesome German couple who had taken 14 weeks off work to walk from Dunnet Head to Lizard Point. Good luck to them _
Invergarry was swamped with Nessie tourists, so I chugged along the loch without stopping, feeling the presence of regular traffic for the first time in days. Morrison’s at Fort William was a pie-stop and then into the rain towards a very soggy and gridlocked Oban. The rain poured in sheets and the 8pm look-for-a-spot-to-sleep time had been and gone. It wasn’t really the best weather to stop at “Rest and be Thankful”, so I sped over the pass, dwarfed by Beinn Ime, somewhere, up there in the clouds.
If you ever go to Honeymoon Bridge, take mosquito nets, otherwise it might be an early divorce!
I saw a gap in the forest at the foot of the pass and dived in. The Clunk was stashed under a tarp (first time we had been more than 6ft away from each other overnight! I realised that I had started referring to the pair of us as “we” to the point that folk I chatted to, were looking around for my pillion!)
Driving rain, sodden ground, muddy and dark forest, swarms of angry midges and a tent that reeked of petrol, (my bargain Jerrican had leaked, everywhere!)
It really was a moment that would not sell such a trip to everyone.
Having cooked my tea, I was unsure how to eat it, as I had been battling off the wee biting midges with a headnet and 5-minutely reapplications of repellent. I somehow ate my tea, underneath my headnet and vowed to get up and off at the crack of dawn.
Kamikaze midges, millions of 'em...
Into Arrochar the next morning for a breakfast cuppa and then along the bonny, bonny banks of Loch Lomond. Now the Erskine Bridge hadn’t been built when my 1962 map was composed, so I just headed south, which of course took me over this high rising structure (luckily with a 40mph limit, so I didn’t have the JCB effect). Glasgow was avoided much more effectively than when we were heading northwards and the riding was fairly undramatic (in contrast to the weather, which had livened up considerably), until I made a wrong turn and ended up on the M6 Southbound…
I rode as fast as I could, until the next exit, where I had a celebratory cuppa at Abington services (celebrating the fact that I hadn’t died or been arrested on the M6).
The downhill miles towards the Borders, England and into Cumbria. Carlisle flew by and I pointed towards Silloth. Even though I was born and brought up in Cumbria, there is a lot of the West Coast that I still don’t know. It was cracking flags in Maryport and I buzzed southwards, gazing out over deserted sandy beaches (I was very tempted just to camp there). Bobbing inland at Gosforth, I rested my weary-but-happy head at Santon Bridge.
A dry and sunny night was a contrast to 24hrs earlier!
Up, off and away early the next day, over Hardknott (claggy) Pass and Wrynose (claggier) Pass.
Clunking on to Wrynose Pass
Coming down the passes with the Clunk’s drum brakes spiced things up a bit!
I then went on a bit of a tour round memory lane, back to places where I lived as a youngster.
It is always interesting to go back to places you used to know and see how they have changed (or not).
The cay became glorious and bright, making the already HUGE smile on my face, even bigger.
Devil’s Bridge (Kirkby Lonsdale, with a silent ‘w’) is a massively popular biker’s jaunt and in normal circumstances it could have been a little intimidating pulling up alongside the Triumps, Ducatis and the rest, until somebody asked where I’d come from (just as it went quiet), “Well, as you ask…”
With the Big Boys at Devil's Bridge
The A65 is now a long parade of speed cameras, but for this piece of Classic Japanese machinery, which loves bobbing along at 35mph, it was a case of flat-out all the way home.
Home, a place I’d left 9 days and 1561 miles ago.
Time for a bath!