Over the Bealach na Ba with Bill

(Saturday 18th April 2015)

My “wee” brother and I went on another trip. He has sold his Hyosung GV250 and bought a scooter!! Some Kawasaki job. I think this is it – Brave New World An innovative urban transport solution, the J300 seamlessly blends sport, control, comfort and convenience, and wraps it all in a distinctive design that makes it instantly recognisable as a Kawasaki. The result is a package that will appeal to sports-minded riders looking for daily dose of fun from their commute.

My,oh my, old age is a bad thing! How the mighty fall! But, I have to confess, I have been repairing a Chinese scooter, which may get an MOT this year. Watch this space. I have to say that it was more than capable and more than reliable! We waited, or should I say, I waited till the forecast was good. I hate getting wet on motor bike trips so I just don’t go if the forecast is bad. We got a wonderful day.

 Bill came down from Dornoch just after 10.00. We left just after 10.20. The day was warming a little and we headed by the Old Evanton Road to Dingwall arriving at Tesco about 10.40. We went in to get the nutritious food needed to sustain us for the day – pork pies and banana milk. There is nothing like them. I don’t know does Bill feel the same but he likes to follow his wise older brother. And I am so wise now having hit that awful 60! I’m just so old. Bill filled up with petrol. It’s far cheaper than last year.

We got away about 11.05 heading to Strathpeffer, Garve and followed the Ullapool road. We stopped by Loch Glascarnoch to take photos. It was so still. What a wonderful country we have.

A little bit further along we branched onto the Gairloch road and stopped at the car park for the Corrieshalloch Gorge. They now charge you to park! What are we coming to. Whether we paid or not is another story. We walked to the gorge and took photos. It was a bit of a climb back with our gear on. Got just a little warmed up.

And here is a selfie of two old men.

Primroses are out – they are beautiful flowers.

We then pushed along the Gairloch road and stopped at Ardessie about 12.45 for a spot of luncheon. Not in the hotel but sitting on a bench eating the pork pies and banana milk.

We then just after 1.20 headed on and now comes the first of many problems. My old Yamaha started misfiring, then lost more an more power and finally ground to a halt about a minute later. I wasted a good three quarters of an hour (from 1.22 to 2.30 by the GPS track I was recording) trying to get the wretched thing going. Sorry Bill! I am losing faith in my old bike. It used to be dependable but since a couple of years ago has been going downhill. It had no spark. Checked plugs and connections. Just cooling seemed to be what got it going. This is not good. Coil? Ignition pick up? Magnet to activate pick up? Connectors? TCI unit? Who knows? Eventually it got going and ran quite well for a while. Here we are stopped, just after pulling apart and putting back together.

My hands were like a coalman’s after all that so we headed to Aultbea to the public loo, getting there at 2.35. I got cleaned up a bit but your never really clean till you get the tub of Swarfega.

Then we targeted getting to Gairloch. We stopped just outside at 3.05 for photos as Skye was coming into view. Quite a day. We stopped for 25 minutes and had a bit more to eat.

This is a nonchalant selfie. Not even looking at the camera! But here’s another thing about getting old. How does the skin and fat round your neck get so loose that it can bunch up under your ears? That’s just awful!!

It was then the lovely run along beside Loch Marie to Kinlochewe. We stopped beside Loch Marie to get a photo of Slioch.

I had to stop at Kinlochewe for petrol. We reached here just after 4.00. The custom tank has a poor range – about 140 miles. I have bought a very expensive rusty old tank from the States. It cost $20. Then I had to spend about £70 on carriage and about £25 on customs charges. It needs done up yet.

There was a whole lot of sports cars belting along these roads at suicide speeds. We just let them pass but kept coming across them. We even saw one broken down so its not just old Yamahas. After Kinlochewe we went onto the Torridon road, through Glen Torridon. This is spectacular. We had to get photos of Liathach and Beinn Eighe.

And then onto Shieldaig which is bypassed. There is a viewpoint halfway along which we stopped at. It looks back to the Torridon hills getting a great view of Beinn Alligin.

Liathach is not so impressive from this side.

Saggy Breeks has new trousers. They still seem a bit saggy. I think its just me – I can’t carry off the wearing of clothes to look cool! Bill can. He was always the smooth well dressed brother, from when he was a wee boy.

Just beyond Shieldaig you branch onto the single track road to Applecros. This is an amazing road for bikes. Bill went ahead. He is a much better driver than I am and he made some speed. I could not have gone as fast on my own into blind bends. He reads the road and reacts. I was able to hang onto his tail. We stopped to get the stunning views out to Skye.

Lewis, Harris and North Uist are just showing on the horizon here.

We didn’t go into Applecross but cut up over the Bealach na Ba the target of our day. I love taking the bike over the Bealach. I think this is the fourth time on the XS650. I’ve done it on all my other bikes. It always thrills.

We stopped at 5.50 on the top for a sandwich and something to eat. There were a couple who had done it on a push bike. We passed them going up. Bill took a photo for them. My advice was to do it with a bike with an engine. The views out to Skye and it’s satellite islands was stunning. I think we are seeing the island of Rum to the left just over the edge of Skye. It must be Scalpay in front of Skye and to it’s right Raasay. Quite a view!

We left this nice spot at 6.10. The road then drops to Kishorn and onto Lochcarron. I stopped a wee bit down to video Bill coming down. This has to be video of the year! Maybe the century! Ewan and Charlie eat your heart out!

We stopped in Lochcarron at 6.35 hoping for chips but no joy. We got petrol out of the strangest automated pump. I could have made it back bit its better to be safe. Good to have full tanks. And we got a loo near the war memorial. Left at 7.05.

It was then onto Achnasheen by Achnashellach. There is a little single track road left but then it becomes double track and is really a fast road. It was getting cold. The old Yamaha kept misfiring and losing power but I kept her going. We stopped beyond Achnaseen in a spot of sunlight but the sun was going and by the time we left we were in shadow.

I really wanted to get my pile of junk, or my motorbike home. It was getting rougher and rougher. We got to Garve, then onto Contin and Strathpeffer. Finally arriving in Dingwall about 8.15 it conked out once again. Right at the top of the High Street. I had to push it onto the pavement. How humiliating. We got a poke of chips and let the Yamaha cool. Good to break down across from a chip shop.

The light was going out of the day. The bike did start and we got away about 8.35. So we pushed homewards by the Old Evanton Road. I would normally try going a bit of the way further with Bill but was content to nurse my bike back to my garage.

Another great day spoiled by the unreliability of my 34 year old bike. But deep down I love it. Bill’s scooter did this with no complaint and no effort. I drove it for a short while between Loch Glascarnoch and the Rogie Falls. How can a single cylinder 300 cc engine produce so much power? It was most comfortable as well. But even doing most of the driving on the Yamaha I had no saddle soreness. Must try and put effort in to get it running properly. Home at 8.55. 230 miles. Bill did a good bit more.