The bed base on which my roommate Ian slept last night was the noisiest I have ever come across. Made of wood, it needed some attention, for it creaked loudly at the slightest movement, and getting up caused a veritable cacophony of sound. I think that Ian was more perturbed by it than me – after a fortnight on the road in hostels, I just found it slightly amusing.
The past few days, I have felt that I have been taking part in a ‘slow’ race, as when you have to drive slowly to eke out the fuel until the next garage. I have increasingly been wondering if I will make it back before the body totally gives out. My left ear started aching during the night, to complement my throat and chest. I only need a blocked head to be able to shout ‘Bingo!’
I was up at 7.40, and away an hour later, having to climb up the steep hill from the hostel. I initially made my way east, in order to pick up the A70, which would take me a good bit of the way today. Unlike the road yesterday, this ‘yellow’ road from my map was relatively quiet.
As yesterday, I had made a list of the places I should be heading for, along with some crucial road junctions. Even with this, I was making regular use of the map app on my phone. The countryside was gently undulating, with neither too long nor too steep a climb before the road levelled off or tilted down. Even so, I would find myself going along quite happily one minute, and then scrabbling about for a low enough gear the next. I had taken co-codamol this morning, so was aware that symptoms were only being masked at best, not alleviated.
I paused at Douglas, and became aware of a ringing in my left ear, cause no doubt by the infection. It was a high D, I think. I would like to think that it will go away with the infection.
The day started off sunny, but as I ventured south, dark clouds loomed ominously. Although there were a few spits of rain a number of times through the day, the clouds weren’t really trying, and it never came to anything.
At a fork in the road after Muirkirk I could have gone right and visited the village of Mauchline, home of the Belles, but the left road was the more direct, so a visit there would have to wait until a future occasion.
At Cumnock I left the A70, intending to cut across country to Girvan. A particularly steep and long hill ensued, triggering my self-made rule about never stopping halfway up a hill, unless you have ‘blown up’, which means that your heart rate has gone off the scale and you can’t breathe quickly enough to get oxygen into the bloodstream. Other than that, it is always preferable to persevere to the top, when a pause can then be enjoyed in the knowledge that the suffering is over!
Having gone through Skares, the next village on my list was Sinclairston. When I approached a junction, I was not best pleased to see that it was the A70, as I had left it, and was supposed to be travelling further south. A glance at my map app confirmed that I had missed a turning. Retracing my steps, I was both pleased and annoyed to find a large sign for Sinclairston just before the junction. There had been no sign of any description coming from Skares.
Back on track, I made my way to Patna, where I stopped by a river to have my sandwiches. A few miles further on I came to the pretty village of Kirkmichael, where I had a coffee and a couple of tray-bakes, including a rocky road made with dark chocolate. It was delicious, and not too sweet. I would have had a second piece, but that one was the last, so had to content myself with a chocolate-topped rice krispie slice, which came in a very poor second.
The road then followed the river Girvan passed Dailly (you can imagine the fun I had, thinking about the local newsagent, baker, church etc.)
The road, quite naturally, came out at Girvan, where I called at the local Asda to get a filled roll and some crisps for tea and a bottle of Coke. This time, I drank a bit of it before putting it in my back pocket, so that it didn’t spew everywhere after being shaken about on the bike.
The last 25 miles along the coastal main road were mostly enjoyable. I knew by now that I would be in plenty of time, and I enjoyed the sun and the freshening wind. On one descent just north of Ballantrae, however, I was passed very close by an articulated lorry from Smyth transport. I fought with the bike as I felt both it and me being sucked towards the side of the lorry. ‘Weigh anchor’, I cried after him, although I may have used the contracted form of that particular saying.
I think the issue was that I was at the time riding just to the left of a solid white line at the side of the road. After this, I purposely stayed on the right of the line, forcing drivers to overtake, and also leaving myself some tarmac to my left onto which to escape if necessary.
I arrived at Cairnryan port just before 5.00pm, with 95 miles done. I charged my phone, and got this written while waiting for the ferry. Once I got my boarding pass, a lady came and sat next to me who had a voice that could strip paint at 50 paces, and she was using it at full volume. Oh, how I have missed the unmistakeable Belfast accent!
On the boat, I sat in the coffee lounge, my logic being that the noisier parts of the boat might be the bars. I had my panniers with me, as the bike had been put in a bike rack, and would not stand up with them on.
In a stroke of luck, I was the first person off the ferry, and with near to pan flat roads, I was home at 10.27, fourteen days, sixteen hours and seventeen minutes after leaving.