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23: A bad hairday

I wake up earlier and with a clearer head than I expected given last night's feasting on a good single malt. I pack most of my stuff before breakfast, enjoy my hosts's cooking skills a last time, and then load everything up on the bike (I'm travelling with stuff in my panniers, a double-height tankbag, a 90l and a 40l luggage roll, and since yesterday a tent was added to that). After saying goodbye and a solumn promise to return, I head for the bridge. The weather fits my mood - even though I still have some stuff on my holiday to-do list, Skye was my main stay and the drowsiness fits my feeling that the end of the trip is coming closer.

The sun stays away and now and it rains quite a bit. The high humidity makes that the cold slowly makes itself felt, and I regret not having bought a replacement for the vest I lost. Just a long-sleeved shirt doesn't cut it with this weather. I am glad though, not for the first time, that I took my winter gloves with me - my thin leather summer gloves are waiting in the tankbag for brighter weather.

When the cold becomes really annoying, I decide to take a break and pull over at some hotel along the road. Just as I get off, an elderly man leaves his car, sees my bike, and immediately starts to recall the time he rode Nortons and BSA's and "all that English crap - we could never afford a BMW". He is staying near the hotel and on the way for his morning drink, so we walk into the bar together and continue chatting about bikes, his time in Germany when in the Army, and so on. When my tea is brought he insists on paying (and the second round as well), and we just keep chatting pleasantly about a lot of stuff. The short break to get warm turns out to a 1.5 hours plaudering session with a total stranger. It seems to be the rule rather than the exception over here that you will not sit alone in a bar or pub, I will discover during the coming days.

After we finish the second round, the sun starts to break through the clouds, I'm completely warmed up from the two pots of tea, so we say goodbye and leave for our respective vehicles. The break did interfere with my scheduled geocache visit along the route, but I decide the cache will likely be there next time as well. The rain stays away, and the sun really tries (but often without much luck) to get through the clouds. Every little bit helps - the sporadic touches of sun keep me from chilling, so the second part of the journey is much more pleasant.

The landscape has changed quite a bit. On my way to Kintyre, more and more woods are to be seen and most of the road doesn't lead through the desolate hills of the northwestern highlands, but though trees and brushes. It is softer and with not as many wide views, but still very beautiful.

I'm making nice progress, when suddenly my front wheel refuses to follow my planned track through a lefthander. Before I know it, I'm sliding with the bike over the other lane (only later I realize how lucky I was that no oncoming lorry interfered with my trajectory). The bike and I softly land at the other side of the road, and I curse a bit. Oh well, I'm alive and apparently not a lot of damage.

After picking up the bike, I notice a hole in my left valve cover. Being an optimized, I prize myself lucky for the dry weather and the fact that my tool tray holds a strip of steel putty, so I ride the bike to the nearest safe spot and start making the necessary repair. When the putty is drying, I walk back to the place of the incident and see confirmed what I expected: I was a bit wide in the curve, and that made me hit a diesel spill. The mirror came off it's stalk during the slide, so I put some more putty in there in an attempt to fix it again, but I decide to ride on without it, because the repair really needs to harden.

After 30 minutes, still shaky, I slowly ride to the next village. A lady from the Royal Mail stopped and said she would inform the police, but I decide to make sure that they get the message about the spill - I was lucky, but the next biker could very well slide into an oncoming lorry. The roads here have a lot more traffic than the north-west highlands. The police station is closed, so I ring the number that is posted. The guy who picks up is not at all surprised, apparently I am not the first victim today of a diesel spill. Probably some truck has left the fuel station without putting the cap back on, leaving a trail of diesel through a large part of Scotland. He promises he is going to call the road authority right away, so I continue the trip.

Somehow, riding on a wet road after a lowsider is no fun at all. I keep staring at the tarmac for possible signs of diesel, with the obvious result that a couple of times I have trouble getting the bike through a corner. For more than half an hour I'm constantly talking to myself: "stay a bit in the middle, less change of diesel", "now, don't look at the road, look where you're going", etcetera. My good mood hasn't really been affected, but I'm just shaky. However, after three quarters of an hour or so, I'm starting to do better and dare to corner with regular speeds again, although I resolve to take it easy for the rest of the trip. In the next village, I pick up some epoxy glue so I can better fix the mirror later today.

Wham. Another left-hander, another lowside. I remember looking at the road surface and half a second later "oooh shit...". We land again at the other side of the road and again I'm lucky that there's no traffic to waltz over me when doing my "look ma, no hands" thing with the bike. When I get up and look around, I see oil streaks all over the place but I'm not sure whether they're caused by my slide or whether it's another diesel spill - it looks like the latter, but it might just as well be that I was still shakier than I thought and simply messed up this bend, which turned out to be sharper than I anticipated (but not so sharp that I'd normally have a problem). Whatever the cause, this is lowside #2 for a single day. It's getting a bit of influence on my good mood...

When I pick the bike up I do feel bad - now there are two gaping holes in the valve cover (my previous repair has come off clean), and the clutch grip is dangling from the handlebar in a funny angle - the lower plate that holds the screw the grip rotates around, has somehow managed to break off. Also, my left pannier is somewhere out on the road in two parts, but that's because it was damaged beyond repair even before I went on holiday (some natural blonde decided that that was a good place to park her car - good for me, because I now will get 2 brand new touring cases from here insurance company).

Not wanting to ride on with dirt in the valve cover, I freewheel downhill and move the bike to a safe spot. Again, I feel lucky that the weather holds, although I'm a bit worried about the clutch. I take of the valve cover, wash it with fuel, and apply the remaining amount of putty. It is barely enough, but should do until I find a source for more of the stuff or get back home where I have JB Weld that should be able to fix any remaining leaks.

With the steel epoxy mass setting, I concentrate on the clutch. The plate has broken off cleanly, and as the load of the clutch handle turning pushes straight on to the break, I figure that the epoxy glue might come a long way into fixing this. Just to be sure, I add tie-wraps to immobiliz the plate - my clutch now looks like Japanese bondage art, but the plate seems to sit still when I pull the clutch handle, so I use the remaning epoxy for the mirror repair and pack everything back on the bike (when traveling, it'd be nice if the tool tray were accessible from the side as well - having to all the bags before being able to lift the seat is not very practical.

The bike smokes horribly when I start half an hour later and doesn't really want to rev up - I'm not sure whether something is seriously wrong, or that it just laid down long enough to get oil into the left cylinder head. I decide just to try it, and after a couple of minutes the smoke is gone and the bike appears to run normally. I guess the bike laid longer on its side than I reminded, and I'd figure that some oil could seep past the rings in these circumstances.

Now being very shaky I get to my destination riding like a geriatric who has fallen asleep. No amount of talking can bring me back to my regular riding style, so I decide that what I need now is the bit of Talisker left in the bottle. In Tarbet (of Kintyre - there are four places in Scotland I think that are called the same) the camping turns out to be not really the place to be for me (just lots of small holiday chalets and even though there is place for tents, no-one is using it), so I check in at a hotel, fill the bath, fill a glass with the rest of the Talisker, ignore the hotel rules by lighting a sigar in the bath room, and step into the hot water. The Talisker doesn't stand a chance against the memory of today's events, so it's quickly gone. I stay in the bath until it's cold, dress, and walk down to the hotel bar to see what's going on there.

Shortly after receiving my first Guinness, the guy next to me at the bar starts chatting with me. He's a lorry driver for some brewery, and we talk about Islay (my goal for tomorrow), brewery pricing policies, and whatnot. It's great to chitchat and drink lots of Guinness, but I'm (for a change) glad when the "last round" sounds - I take the last round, finish it, and walk upstairs. Soon after my head hits the bed, I'm fast asleep.


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