Megan: Red hair, bloodshot eyes from nights of insomnia, sore left knee from injury
Alex: Beard, glasses, hairy legs that may be concealing a weapon
Finn: Nearly 5yo, batman tshirt, Salomon sneakers, cute glasses, lazy eye, watches cartoons and charms service people into giving him things
Calgary – Halifax (~5 hours)
Halifax – Glasgow (~5.5 hours)
Surprising no-one, we didn’t get much sleep on the way over.
On arrival, the immigration officer asks what we’re doing. We explain.
“You keen cyclists then?” he asks.
“You must be keen to come and ride over here!”
Our plan had been to assemble bikes at the airport and then ride, like in the good old days. But we’re exhausted and there’s now a small child into the equation. After lengthy debate (“Should we just get a taxi?” “Definitely!”) we get a taxi to our air bnb. It’s in Paisley.
I remember the comedian Frankie Boyle having mentioned Paisley… oh yes, he was making fun of how useless the Labor party is: “… like getting lessons in empathy from someone living in Paisley.” Obviously a nice spot then.
We walk about to find some food, and avoid making eye contact with the Glaswegians who look like they’d glass us given the slightest provocation. Trying to talk to people, we struggle to adapt to the Glaswegian accent, and have to keep asking people to repeat themselves.
We ask for lettuce on our hamburgers, and the proprietor questions, “You’re not from round here then?”
Grand plans lead to nothing, we spend most of the day and the following night sleeping. That’s good, we seem to have pushed through extreme sleep deprivation to avoid jetlag altogether.
The next morning we get on our bikes and start to ride off. Alex realises his handlebars are on backwards. I realise my fork has no air. My cables are rubbing. My seat is too low. Eventually we get everything sorted and break the magical 30-metres-away-from-the-house barrier.
We’re headed into the city to catch the train: it’s about 20km of cycle trail, some narrow, overgrown and covered with broken glass, but gradually looking better as we get close to downtown.
Finn has his first boat ride as we catch a tiny ferry across the river. He’s in tears, it’s too noisy. As we get closer to downtown Glasgow there’s a tall ship in the river, the sound of bagpipes, men in kilts, and seagulls (that Finn keeps calling eagles).
Getting bikes onto other forms of transport can be a challenge, and it had taken a bit of debate to let us book the ticket with our 2.5 bikes (“I know bike trailers aren’t allowed, but this isn’t a bike trailer, is a trail-a-bike… it’s a folding bike! It folds up, we promise!”). We approach the train station nervously, tickets in hand. A Scotrail man swoops down on us, and we cower and look apologetic – but he is lovely and helpful, he just wants to know where we’re headed and help us get to exactly the right spot with the minimum of hassle. Brilliant.
In the train carriage there’s a great little nook that fits the bikes nicely. The Streamliner gets folded up and poked into a stripy plastic bag and stowed with the normal luggage.
It’s Finn’s first train ride. He had been worried it would be too noisy, but instead thinks it is wonderful. “I think this is a woosh train Mama…. Trains are even faster than planes. Or helicopters.”
We switch trains in Perth – into a carriage that just has a narrow nook to poke the bikes into, which we manage to get to work… just. It’s not really designed for the ludicrously wide handlebars that come with 29” or 29+” tyres. After a couple more hours we arrive in Inverness, and are greeted with tourists, bagpipes and old buildings.
We pick our way out of town, uphill along the Great Glen Way, and it starts to rain. Then it doesn’t. Then it does again.
After a few hours of this, we’re wet and tired when we start cycling past magical hand painted signs pointing us towards a Walkers Campground & Café. They promise scrambled eggs. And then coffee. Alex begins to suspect that it’s a trap.
We decide to risk it.
We’re greeted by a happy Swedish man who points out a few flat spots that would work for our tent, then brings us tea, coffee and shortbread, and tells us about his recent kayaking trip along the west coast of Canada. He also warns us about the pigs – they’re just wandering about the place, and will eat all our food if we don’t hang it.
We cook dinner, assemble the tent, and hide from the midges. We’ve covered 39km today. It’s 8pm. Time for bed.
Distance: 17km + 21km
Elevation gain: 50m + 360m
Location: Paisley to Glasgow Queen St Station + Inverness station to Abriachan Eco Campsite