Friday, August 9, 2019

Cheeky in Tongue

Day: 28 (Bonar Bridge back to Lairg then to Tongue)

Average Speed: 9.5 mph 

Distance: 50.9 miles (including a 4 mile SAG)

Distance Cycled Total: 1,263.9 miles 

Feet climbed: 2,011.2 ; 58,867.6 total

Difficulty level: Moderate
Hostel Art, coincidentally getting both my bike brand and saddle color correct.

I woke up to an impatient rapping at my door this morning. 

“Get up!” my host, Win, called.

My phone’s battery had died, rendering the multiple alarms I’d set useless, and I assumed I had overslept. 

Today's Elevation Profile
“Coming!” I replied, trying to sound fully awake. Win was the kind of lady you don’t want to disappoint. I jumped out of bed and into my only pair of pants in nearly one motion. 

She was in the kitchen, frying bacon and muttering something about her disdain for vegans. The clock on the wall read 6:30, a solid half hour before the 7:00 breakfast time we’d agreed on. But damned if I was going to say anything. I was content to sip a boiling hot cup of coffee and play audience to Win, who was having a one-sided angry discussion with the news channel. The only portion of the broadcast she didn’t seem to have a problem with was the weather prediction, in which the smiling meteorologist discussed the different types of rain we’d be experiencing throughout Scotland today and the intensity at which it would fall hour by hour. 

When I was set to leave, Win watched my bags hawk-eyed from the window when I nonchalantly placed them outside. 

“I don’t think anyone’s going to steal them,” I said. The town of Lairg has a population of approximately four, and they all know one another. 

“Opportunity invites crime,” she said, and she sat there for several minutes while I gathered the rest of my things. Win might be an elderly woman who shuffles rather than walks, but I guarantee if she entered an MMA competition, she’d kick everyone’s ass. 

She called the taxi driver- one of the four locals- and reminded him that he was due to drop
The oddest store combination ever:
1/2 Post Office, 1/2 Bicycle Repair Shop
me at the train station so I could get my bicycle’s tire fixed in Bonar Bridge. He was there shortly afterward. Clearly he didn’t want to cross her either. 

Rather than drop me off, however, he drove past the station, noting how much easier it’d be if he just dropped me off where I needed to be. He didn’t charge me for the extra ten miles. Perhaps he was too entertained at the unease I was showing by sitting on the “wrong side” of the car, and that was payment enough. 

At the Post Office / Bicycle Shop (“We’re the only one in Britain!”) Chris, the owner, examined my shitty rear tire. Something sharp was embedded in the rubber itself, which was causing the punctures. He threw a new tire on, did some casual tune-ups, and I was on my way, re-cycling the ten miles I had ended with the night before and back into Lairg. 

Scene from today's ride
The day can be defined by three words: Cold, Windy, and Wet. And I guess “Ugly” wouldn’t be an inappropriate word to use since any lush green in the barren landscape was unfairly muted by the low, gray sky. It was impossible to get lost as there was only a single-lane road in which to travel, very reminiscent of the United States’ Route 50 (the so-called “Loneliest Road in America”). This Scottish version was just as un-lonely, being heavily travelled by camper vans and RV’s making their way to the northern coast. 

A comically remote inn appeared halfway through the ride, and it was open. The Crask Inn.
Britain's most remote inn
They capitalize on the ridiculousness of their location, and it’s a spot where everybody stops. If there were anytime on this trip to break my “no beer while riding” rule, it was now, and I cozied up to the bar next to a rather snooty and condescending English cyclist who, for the next fifteen minutes, picked at a scone and commented on my slow route and heavy bike. “I’d love to talk all day,” he said as he stood up to go, “but I have places to be.” Tata! 




The rain, the wind, and the cold worsened after that as I slogged my way to Tongue. The midges were there to keep me moving as well. As long as you’re in motion, they won’t bother you, but one stationary minute and you’re the center of their party. To take my mind off of the miserable leg of the journey, I started to come up with “Tongue” puns, which I think is a rather silly name for a town. 

I started off simple:

“What do you call a Debbie Downer at a pub in Tongue?”   A Tongue depressor!

What’s the worst weather event Tongue has ever seen?” A Tongue twister!

What do you call Medieval torture in Tongue?” A Tongue lashing!

Too easy. I came up with better ones:

“What did the citizens of  Tongue do when they entered an American bar?”  
Taste Buds!

“Why was the town Tongue exempt from Prohibition laws?” They had to many liquors!

And my favorite, “What did the Italian Dr. Frankenstein say when he resurrected his Monster in the town of Tongue?  It’s saliva! (say it out loud). 

I’ll stop now. I’m getting too cheeky. 

But that was five miles of entertainment right there. 

Wish you were here!
I found my way to the hostel, where everyone had a story about where they had passed me on the road during the day. One guy, named Chris Williams, had passed me on his motorcycle with a sidecar attachment. He’s a true biker dude, and a fascinating character who is a Scottish history buff. What would normally be a brief small talk conversation turned into a great couple of hours as we discussed the controversial Clearances of Scotland (which happened right here in Tongue) and Chris’s passion for HEMA, the art of historical sword fighting. 

Chris gave me a laminated card with his number on it. 

“If anyone at all gives you shit anywhere in Scotland, call me and I’ll get it taken care of.” 
I’ve got a biker on my side who is a master swordsman. 

Now let’s see if those midges want to fuck with me. 


Purchased my first souvenir of the trip. 
Had to.
There was only one left.


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