Day 5
May 17th, 2005
South Queensferry, Scotland

I slept like a rock last night, I mean I was tired.  I logged over 400 miles on the VFR yesterday, and although it's a comfortable sport-touring bike, long stretches on the motorway are not its forte.  The high speed wind noise and blast wears on a guy use to STs.  Today will be much more suitable for the both of us-twisty roads in the Scottish Highlands.

Breakfast was toast and jam in the motel restaurant.  I was missing my cell phone.  I'm use to just picking it up and calling home or whoever anytime I want, but in the UK it's useless.  There were plenty of pay phones but having the correct change handy is hard.  The few that took credit cards were out of service, and when I DID find a unit that worked I had no idea what numbers to punch.  I mean I didn't even know how to dial information, and I was not able to dial direct, because I didn't know the code for the U.S.  I asked the young lady at the desk-

"hey sweetie, reckon, I can borrow ya phone book?"  I figured it would hold the magic U.S. numbers in the front cover.

" A what?"

"a phone book"

" the telephone is over there"

"I know that, but I need the PHONE BOOK"

I could understand her Scottish brogue ok, but she was having trouble with my southern accent.

"A phone book?"

"yeah, those things with everybody's phone number in it"

 She chuckled and said, "oh you mean the directory"

I found what I needed, but was still absent a working phone.  There were no phones in the rooms.
We went downstairs to load the bikes, a nice sun but  cool temps greeted us.  The rally point to meet David is about 20 miles north on the motorway.

With a little shoe horning I shut the top box on the VFR and fired it up.  We left the parking and headed out to meet David.  The route took us across the Number 4 bridge (that's what they call it) a long, high bridge that starts the trek into the Highlands.  

After crossing the bridge Uncle Phil took an exit.  "What's up?"  "Forgot my vest, gotta go back."  We went back across the bridge to the motel and secured the missing item, and took off again.

Back across the bridge we went, then up the highway till we came to exit number 6, or as they say here, junction 6, at a place called Kinross.  David advised there was a service station located here and he would be waiting.  He brought an extra sweatshirt and glove liners, that I immediately put to use.

We were running late, so it was a quick fill up.  We had a lot of miles to do today and we needed to get started.  
It was a great of David to take a couple of extra days off to show us around Scotland.  There is nothing like having a local show you the best roads.  It saves a lot of time and you're sure to get in the best riding.  I'm convinced this is the best way to tour a country such as the UK.  Besides David is a good friend, and before we left the UK, had bonded with us more than he'd like to admit.

According to the VFR, the temp was 6 c, but I was ok.  The extra clothes I picked up from Uncle Phil and David were working out nicely.  The VFR with its limited wind protection was chilly, but I was making it.

I could see the hills and highlands we would soon be in.  The landscape was green, and traffic was light. 

Nothing at all like England.  Shooting up the motorway at high speed I could see the disadvantage I had on the Viffer.  On a ST 1300 85-90 mph feels like 50.  Dial up the windscreen, and you're in a cocoon of still air and quiet.  But on the VFR it was all I could do to stay on the bike.  The wind blast hit me right in the head.  But drop back down to 70-75 and the bike was fine.

Not seeing a driver on the left car interior was bothering me.  Many times I looked there to make eye contact with the driver, only to have to find him on the right side.

David took us from the motorway to the roads and hills only he knows.  He rides this area often, and is familiar with the ins and outs.  We peeled of on A93 and began to climb in elevation.  The temp gauge on the Viffer began to drop as we moved up.

The road grew twisty and narrow, and we began carving the Hondas in the many twists and curves.  It was fantastic.   Many sections of the road had no markings, you passed when you thought it was safe.  That wasn't a problem because there was very little traffic. 

In Greystone we went to B976 and then took A939.  The Scottish villages were quaint, many nothing more than a few cottages, some sheep, and perhaps a stable.  I found the pace of life much slower in the UK than America, and I'd say that's probably a good thing. 

The large top box on the Viffer made the bike handle squirrelly in the twisties.  It caused the rear to wallow around and was hard to hold in line.  It was way too big for such a small bike.  Despite that, the viffer handled really well.  Clouds were forming around the mountain peaks, but for now it was sunny and the riding was good.

We changed routes often and as a result I was not able to keep up with the different route numbers but I will do the best I can.  

The scenery was nothing short of excellent, and rides like this why we came to Scotland.

I had trouble keeping David and Phil in sight.  The roads were irregular and it bounced the stiffer suspension VFR all around.  Both are superior sport riders than I, as most of you know, I'm on the conservative side.  I was more interested in taking pictures, and observing.  David rides these hills often, noway I can ride with him, I know my limits.  If I came home with a broken leg Debbie would kill me.

A few times I closed the gap on the STs, only to quickly fall off the pace, the concentration needed in the number 3 spot put me on edge.  Instead, I was looking around at the small rivers, cottages, and hills.  I feared my sightseeing would put me in a curve too hot, so I took it easy. 

I saw a farmer on a lone tractor pulling some kind of wagon up a steep hill, a trail a sheep behind him.  I wondered how he kept so many of them happy, and if he ate them or used them for wool.  

Most of the morning I was poking along about 40 mph on the bumpy, narrow roads, too timid to go any faster.
A police car was situated on the crest of small slope coming out of a right hand curve. The officers were walking about the roadway with spray cans and measuring devices.  Not a good sign.  I slowly slipped by them.  David told me later on, a sport rider was killed there over the weekend, when he ran wide in a curve and hit something.  Not sure if it was a car or he left the road.  The officers were on the scene documenting the facts.
Our first break of the day came at a place called Spittle of Glenshee.  Not sure what that means.  We took the Hondas in after some great riding.

The pub had a wood front with large timbers.  A lazy looking black canine lounged around the door and looked to have the run of the place.  He sniffed us on our way in, and then went about his business.  Inside a large fireplace was host to a nice fire, and I stood in front of it for the longest.  It felt good to knock the chill off.  David told us just a few days ago the area was sunny and warm.
​Morning break, Spittal of Glenshee
I took a diet coke and relaxed on a couch in front of the fire.  A large mural of a Scotsman with some text gives a short account of Scottish history.  It told how Scotland beat back the Romans, Vikings, English kings and whoever that tried to take their freedom.  Now I had more background on the Scots and English, and to why they sometimes have cool relations.  Stuff goes back a long way.

The Romans got tired of dealing with them so built a wall to keep them out of the rest of the empire.  I thought that was funny. 

America had a bloody civil war, but that war united us.  Yes, we still have lots of regionalism, but every southerner will tell you he is American, not southern, and the same is true for the other regions.  The Stars and Stripes flies everywhere.  Businesses, schools, and everything in between.  You can drive through my neighborhood and see the flag flying in the front yards of dozens of homes.  Ride through Prattville and you will see thousands of cars with magnetic flags on display.   You find state flags only on state buildings, but ALWAYS below the Stars and Stripes.  While I was in Scotland, I don't think I saw a single Union Jack, in fact outside of government buildings I saw very few Union Jacks in all of the UK, and I found that odd.

Do the Scots love Scotland more than the UK?  Do the English love England more?  I don't know.  I'm sure they love their country as much as any American loves the USA, they're just more subtle about it I guess.  Everybody knows we have a tendency to go overboard on almost everything, but if patriotism is one, just call us guilty as charged.

A young man walked around in traditional Scottish kilts.  I'm not sure what his function was, but it might have been for tourists, although I couldn't see many tourists making it this far back in the Highlands.

I was reluctant to leave the warmth of the pub, but it was time to get back on the road.  We were gearing up in the parking lot, when it grew dark and started to spit ice and snow.  "Damn, this is bad,"  I thought.  A Scottish girl in a plaid skirt working the shop followed us out, and with a touching accent said, "Oh my, you will be riding today?"  "Yeah baby we are."  "You will be cold?"  And in my best Scot accent I replied, "Undoubtedly."  I walked closer to the landing she was standing on to hear her say, "So where are ye from?"  "Sweetie from a place a few days ago where it was 92 degrees."  She smiled and went back inside.  I don't know if she understood me or not.

I've been on some tough rides, but the next few miles were probably some of the toughest.  I'm not sure, but I think the routes were the A939 and the B970.

The sky had turned decidedly dark and sinister.  The road snaked its way among the hills and followed a stream.  It was now biting cold, and a mix of sleet and snow fell precipitously.  I cursed Uncle Phil when he raised the screen of the ST, blocking the bad stuff.  I cursed the VFR.  I cursed my warm, weatherproof gloves still in Tennessee, I cursed the thinsulated vest left behind, and I cursed this cold, lonely highway in the Scottish Hills.  I nursed the viffer slowly, careful not to do anything stupid on the wet road.

The shield on the Arai fogged up, despite my best attempts to keep it clear, then it began to ICE over.  I couldn't see a damn thing, and when I raised it to get a better  view, I feared the cold wind was going to freeze dry my nose and chin.  

Bending and rolling the road carried me higher.  I slowed to 20 mph.  I alternated flipping the shield up and back down.  I dodged potholes, but a few times I missed, and the VFR bottomed out, bolting and stinging me, and snapping my visor down.

Despite all this, I had to stop for a few pictures.  The scenery was just too good to pass up.  I went to a sideout near a bridge and shut the Viffer down.  A stream rustled over the rocks, and passed under the stone bridge.  I was down in a valley and hills surrounded me.  It was one of the most lovely places I'd ever been in, but the price to get here was high.

I could see a blue sky further head and it made me feel better.
​I was cold when I took this picture somewhere in the 

Temp gauge on the VFR read -1.  I don't know much, but I do know 0 is the freezing point.  I asked myself what in the world was a boy from Alabama doing out in this?

Finally, the sky began to clear as we topped a mountain pass.  A ski resort came and went, now I KNOW how cold it can get here. The temp rose a few points, and I could see again.  We stopped to take a look at a castle in a lower valley.  A great scene. 
A southern boy high in the Scottish Highlands.  Despite
the cold, I'm pretty lucky.       Photo by David Whitley

B970 continued on, and the pace picked up with the better weather.  It was still cool, but at least it wasn't snowing.   I was getting use to the Viffer, and I found it much easier to lean than either of my STs.  On the small, unmarked roads it was more in its element, and I was enjoying it. 
Here you see Uncle Phil after just coming out of the 
snowstorm.  Notice how high that joker has the screen.  Photo by David Whitley

We were careful not to speed through the many small villages we passed through.

In Aviemore, a ski resort town, we stopped for a late lunch at the Mountain Cafe.

It took 2 tries to get a plain hamburger, but they eventually got it right.  Our waitress was apologetic and helpful.  I asked her- "So what's your name?"



  "Yes, and say it again." 

" Courtney. Did I say it wrong?"

  "No, just differently." 

" Ya don't sound like you're from around here baby, where ya from?"

  "South Africa." 

"So how'd ya wind up in these cold ass hills?" 

"I'm a student here, but don't know for how much longer if summer doesn't hurry up."

When lunch was over we took a walk to the store down below.  A outdoor supply kind of place.  Uncle Phil was looking for a fleece shirt to add to his ensemble.  He found one for about 200 dollars, that you can get in Wal Mart back home for 20.  "Don't reckon I'll be gettin a fleece shirt this trip," I heard him say.

David decided at lunch we were going to have to cut off some miles and book south.  Things were slower than he expected.  Our presence was slowing him down and we were stopping often for pictures.

"Lets strike out back to Edinburgh quickest route from here, and then on down to Moffat.  The bed and breakfast there will be waiting for us.  I'm fixing to call and let them know we might be late."

"Dang, didja y'all hear that Uncle Phil?

"what did I say?  Hear what?"

"David said "fixin", ain't he sumptin?"

"yeah he did"

"see what y'all are doing to me?"

"relax, we'll have you speakin properly by the end of the week"

With out tummies full it was time to head back to the A9 and knock down some miles to get back to Edinburgh.   The road was faster, but still scenic as we tore through the Scottish countryside.  Fields of yellow flowers were everywhere and it gave the area a pastel look. 
From A9 we went to A822, and fell into some excellent riding.  Witness the photo below.

We got in some good leans, and found ourselves in sweeping curves, the first I'd experienced in Scotland.  Most of the stuff was tight and the new layout changed up the rhythm.  It was nice.  When were finished playing Ricky racer we stopped at a roadside table for a break.  I took this picture of Uncle Phil.
​"Uncle" Phil Derryberry in Scotland.  
After the photo op we continued onto Edinburgh.

One of the trickiest things for a North American in the UK is moving out to pass a slower vehicle.  It just feels unnatural jumping into the right lane.  I moved out to pass and felt awkward, I wanted to check the wrong lane.

The scent of fresh cut grass hung in the air as we rode south, and smells from nearby farms was a mixed bag.  Sometimes it was sheep, and sometimes it was a flower scent.  You know which one is best.

A few miles north of Edinburgh we jetted by a field of yellow crop flower things, so I stopped for a picture before it was too late.
​These colorful fields were all over the countryside.
Soon the bridges from this morning came into view, and we were back in Edinburgh.  We made it through the city and stopped at a pub in the late afternoon for something to eat.  One thing about Scotland this time of year, the days are looong, not getting dark till almost 11pm.
​The VFR
I wasn't real hungry, so ate light.  They put us in kind of a back room thing, I think they were afraid what the 2 Americans might do next.

It was late when supper was over, after 9pm, but the sun was still out.  David said the ride into Moffat would be good, about 50-60 miles.  We geared back up for the final stretch.

Now begins one of the most memorable rides of all time for me.  I'd been riding some great roads all day today, but there was something about this ride, on this road, at this time, that put it in the Hall of Fame.

We veered off on A701 in the waning light and coolness.  The skies were cloudy again, and the road surface was still wet from a recent rain.  Uncle Phil and David moved far ahead of me, I was too fascinated with my surroundings to think much about riding.  Besides, I wanted to be alone for awhile.
​A misty, cool, and wet road took me into Moffat.  A great

A701 took me deep into the area of Scotland known as the Borders.  The road was lonely in the fading dusk, and the chill I'd been feeling all day was still with me, adding to the magic of the ride.   The Viffer eased along at 45 mph, and I was at last in sync with this fine all around machine.  

The hills around me looked haunting as the highway split them.  Just me, my bike, and my thoughts.  I'm right in the middle of a dream I thought.  A day's ride in Scotland will soon becoming to an end, as I cracked the bottom of the Arai to prevent it from fogging.  How many ever get the chance to do this?  

Descending down a long hill I could see a clusp of small cottages and stables ahead.  A plume of light smoke drifted through the trees, smoothing the outlines of the modest homes.  My nose told me someone was trying to burn wet leaves, and the damp air was holding the scent low.

The highway took a few twists but nothing challenging, certainly not compared to those earlier in the day.  I stopped to soak things up near a cattle gate.  I took a few pictures and looked around.  It was quiet and darkness was only minutes away, but I could still see my breath in the cool damp air.  A few sheep stood frozen to see what I was going to next.  I could hear the VFR's motor popping as it cooled down.  What a terrific ride I kept repeating over and over.  I KNEW I would always remember it.

I figured I better get back on the road before the others missed me.  When I left the shoulder I went through some standing water and I could feel it strike my left boot.

The area was mostly sheep pasture with a few cottages scattered about, it was quiet country.  I saw several signs for Moose and took them seriously.

The temp was holding steady at 3, but somehow I didn't mind the cold.  The lights of the VFR were becoming brighter and brighter as darkness closed in.  My light stream shimmered on the wet asphalt ahead.  The ride reminded me of those in the Blue Ridge, when we leave the steakhouse in Waynesville for the run to the campground, always in the cool evening of a North Carolina fall.  How I wished ALL my riding brothers could be with me on this night.  PeterM, Ron, Don, Sal, Coop, to name but a few, so they too could sample this glorious late evening ride into Moffat.

I went by a cottage situated very close to the road.  I could see the warm glow of the lights inside, and figures walking.  They are home for the evening, their day's work done.  I wanted to pull in for a chat, but knew I couldn't.
​The warm glow of a Scottish cottage on a cool, wet evening.
I wanted to stop for a chat.

A few miles from Moffat, I saw the lone headlight of a ST 1300 moving back down from the hills,  perhaps a mile away.  I knew it was Uncle Phil coming back to check on me.  I waited for him to make a U turn to come back to me after we met. 

"everything ok?"

"yeah just fine, thanks for checking"

Uncle Phil took me up a hill to where David was waiting.  We took a gaze down a steep hillside into small valley.  David told us the Scots use to hide their cattle from the English in the deep depression.  Before we loaded up for the final few miles he warned us of a manhole cover in a long left hand curve, and how to avoid it.  The info came in handy.

I could see the village of Moffat down below, the lights shining like beacons for Long Riders to follow.  We followed David's GPS equipped ST right to the front door of the Nine Oaks Bed and Breakfast.  We would have never found the Nineoaks . without it, it is located on a secluded narrow road that is hard to see.  "I gotta get one of those things and soon."  I mumbled. (A GPS)

We had a great stay at the 9 Oaks, I recommend it.

Mrs. A. Jones, the proprietor, was there waiting for us when we arrived after a 351 mile day.   She was the kind of lady that reminded you of your mother. 

"m'am did we keep you up late?"

"no, no, no trouble."

She showed us to our better than nice room, and I plopped down.  I was in the shower in a flash to knock the chill off.  After I cleaned up the 3 of us gathered in the sitting room for some down time.  We spoke about the ride just ended, and looked forward to more of the same tomorrow.  

What a great day this was, it was hard to let it go, but we had to.

We hit the sheets about 12 and went fast to asleep.

Many thanks to David Whitley who helped recreate the events of the day.