Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Crazy Trip Dispatch #4 From Doug Walsh - EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND

He's still at it, and he's far, far afield at this point. If you want to see some tremendous photos, hit the link at the bottom of the post. It's all Doug from this point forward.

August 15th, 2014
Have you ever wondered what happens to a hurricane after it spins its way off the eastern seaboard? Perhaps, like me, you assumed it fizzled out over the cold waters of the northern Atlantic, caught a gyre, and died a frigid death somewhere over Greenland. I can confirm that this is not what happens.

After a month spent visiting our family and friends in New Jersey, culminating in a second teary-eyed farewell party (the hazards of living a bi-coastal life), we were finally launched into the European leg of our trip. Our desire to complete our circumnavigation without the use of air travel meant 8 nights aboard the luxurious Queen Mary 2. With wardrobe by Goodwill, we managed to doll ourselves up for even the most formal evenings on board the liner. Our rags-to-riches interlude had us chatting with Roger McGuinn (The Byrds) and George Takei (the Facebook) during the crossing, the latter of which was overheard telling others about our cycle trip. Oh my, indeed!

We pulled into the port city of Southampton, England and, twelve hours, three trains, and two minor heart attacks later, we alighted in Inverness, Scotland at a decidedly cold 57-degrees North latitude. Pedaling southeast out of Inverness, we rode past the historic Culloden Moor, Cawdor Castle, and up into the Highlands. We struggled on twenty-percent grades, rode through boundless fields of heather, past thousands of sheep, were driven mad by swarming midges, and drank our fair share of Speyside whisky en route to the North Sea coast.

In need of a shower, we decided to camp at the caravan park in Stonehaven. And that’s where we learned the husk of Hurricane Bertha was due to strike in two hours time. This is a good time to mention, for those unfamiliar with the term, that caravan park is, I surmise, Gaelic for “large grassy field without windbreaks.” Four other tents were set up nearby, but most of the campers were staying in small RVs.

The storm arrived on time, forcing a tent-bound evening spent playing cards, reading, and wondering about the integrity of our tent—and those around us. The winds gusted to 50mph, skewing the arch-shaped poles of our tent into italics while the rain beat down with deafening intensity. The alarm watch my wife strings to the ceiling danced up a storm as even the inner tent shuddered and swayed in the ex-hurricane. And so it went all night long. Sleep was impossible. Outside our tent, beyond the roar of the wind and thundering rain, we heard the sounds of people in turmoil. Tent poles were being snapped, gear was becoming projectiles, and rain-soaked campers were fleeing in panic to the safety of the bathhouse. We didn’t get much sleep, but we were dry. And safe. When we woke, there were only two tents left standing: ours and another Hilleberg belonging to two German cyclists. The other tents were smashed, as were the elaborate vinyl front-porch canopies attached to many of the RVs.

Days later, in Edinburgh, we saw this article about the storm. I used to think we overpaid for our Hilleberg, but not anymore. In fact, I think it’s kind of priceless.

Riding On the Left,
Doug Walsh
Two Far Gone

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