It is surreal to be at the end of our journey through England, Wales, and Scotland as the UK and world mourn and pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth II.
Announcement of Queen Elizabeth II’s death came just 24 hours after we celebrated the end of our bike journey. The end of our trip in the highlands of Scotland is not far from Balmorel, in Aberdeen, Scotland, where the Queen finished her 70 year reign. Her grace, resilience and equanimity during her lifetime of leadership is truly extraordinary.
We finish this trip on a remarkable week: the Queen’s historic reign ending, King Charles III’s reign beginning, and new Prime Minister Liz Truss confirmed by the Queen just a few days ago. Long love the Queen …and long live the King.
Standing in John O’Groats, a tiny village at the tip of Scotland, looking across the pounding North Sea on a day when headwinds gusted to 25mph, we felt enormous humility and gratitude. So many wonderful people. So much rugged beauty. So much history.
We pedaled 1,100 miles, climbed 72,688 feet, and saw just as many sheep.
This trip was full of laughter, massive amounts of calories, more ups than downs (literally), and friendship. But as with every story, there are at least two sides. Barb, Jo, Kathy, and Cindy may have something to say about that.
On the second day of this journey in the south of England, I stopped for the umpteenth time and stared at the sign posts pointing down winding lanes to names of villages I didn’t recognize. The tiny lanes zigged and zagged between tall hedges. A woman, taking a break on her porch, cigarette in hand, called out in response to my “good morning and we are lost!: “Dear, this isn’t Route 66, you know!” and she was right. We haven’t had a straight road in about 1000 miles—until today! Our penultimate day, we pulled out of Lairg (a town about 50 miles from the north coast), pointed our bikes north on a single lane path, and besides pulling over for the occasional car, truck, and motorcycle and work crew, we enjoyed wide open vistas for nearly 45 miles and didn’t turn again until shortly before we reached our inn, located on the dunes of the North Sea.
One more day pedaling along the north coast to our final destination in John O’Groats. Happiness is seeing this part of the world (and straight roads).
Cycling through Scotland is to be surrounded by shades of green and alternating blue, gray, and violet sky. From the lakes (lochs), we biked up into the mountains to a pass with the lovely name, “Rest and be thankful.” We were especially thankful that the highway maintenance crew held traffic so we could safely ride up the pass on the single lane without cars whizzing past.
A surprise sunny day in Glasgow earlier this week where a friendly Scotsman took our photo on one of many eclectic bridges crossing the River Clyde. We miss Kathy who is on the mend after an unpleasant fall injured her ribs. As she would likely point out, it also resulted in an early release from the hills of Scotland. She is healing, but of course, not resting, as she is preparing for another bike trip in Nova Scotia taking the high road again! Thank you Michele Obama (was she thinking about The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond?).
We entered Scotland on Monday night looking for a proper pub with music. No luck. Music is on Thursday’s in the “wee bonnie tooon” (town) of Moffat. We though we would settle for a green salad after our bread- and chocolate-fueled days. We ordered prawn salads. Here is the recipe: Scoop a “wee bit” of mayo- say two cups per serving -and add a generous fistful of tiny prawns. Coat until you cannot find the prawns. Mound on top of a few pieces of lettuce and decorate with two beet slices. Then take a “wee bit” of mayo – at least two more cups – and stir in some shredded cabbage. If you can see anything that resembles shredded cabbage, add more mayo. Mound onto the “salad” ensuring you leave a tiny green center. Raise your glass of local beer or hard ciderwith a hearty wish of Ith gu leòir! (Scottish Gaelic for bon appetit!)
At our Scottish breakfast this week, we asked Kiernan, our teenage waiter to explain an item on the menu new to us. We asked, “What are oat cakes?” Kiernan replied, well… oatcakes are… well…oatcakes.” Cindy queried, “So, are they pancakes”…”No. They are not pancakes.” “So, are they good?” (Conversation was flagging at this point…) Kiernan conceded, “They are not particularly popular.” I ordered them. They were two round discs with the consistency – and taste – of a cardboard bike box. I will not order these again!
Cindy stopped to ask these blokes (Buddy and Billy) for directions. She came back with a wee bottle of Glenlevit scotch. They obviously thought she needed a lot more than directions to finish this trip.
Food, glorious food (and drink)! Definitely not gruel.
* Thanks to Lionel Bart, British creator and composer of Oliver!