After a long wait, Mesh arrives with my spare key-fob. He works two jobs and has been working since 9am. He’s shattered and I really appreciate what he’s done. The Ape doesn’t though! After disarming the immobilizer, I discover the Futura has a flat battery and won’t start! No-one in the Police Station has jump leads, so I am actually going to have to call recovery now!
Recovery say they’ll be at least an hour, so more waiting for me. Mesh sticks around for a while but has to leave to get home and sleep – he has work again tomorrow.
After spending 12hrs stranded in Dunfermline, the recovery van arrives and brings the Futura back to life. The sun is starting to come up and I’m exhausted but I need to put some miles on the bike, to make sure the battery is okay and get the hell out of Dodge if I want to find somewhere to set up camp and get some shut eye…
There’s a short spell on A-roads and motorways as I cross the Forth Road Bridge and circumnavigate Glasgow and Edinburgh. At 4am there’s virtually no traffic, so it’s actually quite a pleasant experience.
To my left I can see the sun rising and those pre-dawn pastel hues are making the sky look amazing. I’ve been wanting to get some nice, misty morning shots this whole trip, maybe this is my chance, I’d better find somewhere to stop soon though!
I get some nice shots of the sunrise but I needn’t have worried about missing out on misty mornings, there’s plenty of that in store for me! I have no idea which roads I’m on, I just follow the Sat-Nav and try to keep my eyes open. The morning is great and I stop frequently to take pictures and to give myself a rest from driving.
There’s no sign of anywhere to camp, almost all of the land is obviously farmland – full of sheep and cows etc – and it’s freezing cold. I’m willing the sun to get higher and actually burn off some of this mist so I can warm up!
Things take a turn for the worse however; the road leads down into the valleys where the sun is taking it’s merry time creeping over the hills, so the mist is thick and freezing. It’s kind of fitting I tell myself, like poetry: Day 1 was blighted by mountain fog and poor visibility and now, the final day is spent amongst valley mists with even poorer visibility! I’m grateful for the Zumo giving me directions and showing me what the road is up to.
After a while, I realise that this route is another of the modifications I made to the Bike8; although I don’t recognize it right now, this is the A6088, a road I know and love, I added it for that reason, but I don’t get to enjoy it this morning! At least it means I’m getting closer to home.
Finally I climb above the mists just before I reach Carter Bar, the border between Scotland and England, a look back at the A68 route that the official Bike8 follows tells me that it would have been the same experience, so I’m no worse off for my modifications.
I’ve gone through the wall of tiredness now, I’m feeling much more alert and awake; the sunshine is helping in that regard too! This next stretch is another one of my all-time favourite roads: the route down the A68 from Carter Bar joining the A696, this is a road I ride any chance I can get, I’m looking forward to it.
I’m taken aback then, when the Sat-Nav tells me to make a left and stay on the A68 rather than take the better, shorter route home down the A696! Literally just after that turn (assuming you don’t take it) is the most perfect stretch of recently resurfaced tarmac on this side of the border. I stop to photograph it for you guys and then think, what the heck, it’s only a half mile or so long, I’ll ride it back and forth for a bit before sticking to the official route!
With a big grin on my face, I carry on down the A68. I’m not sure why I’m doing this, just stubbornness I guess, I already know that this section of the old military road is straight and undulating, like a roller coaster – boring under normal circumstances, hellish on this knackered suspension. The Garmin directs me down another right turn down the A6079 though (getting further and further from home now!).
I don’t know how I ever missed this road, it’s another great one! I didn’t expect to be discovering great new roads on my home turf but this is the third time now that the Bike8 has delivered a treat. I’m already figuring out how to add this road into my weekend ride, when it spits me out on the A69; that’s the figure 8 completed and now I’m on the fast roads home.
My tiredness comes back quickly on this major A-road, they’re just so dull! By the time I reach home, I’m exhausted and all I want to do is sleep. However, I have to get back to the Hartside Cafe to get the keys I left behind on Day 6! It’s still early though, only 8am, so I resolve to have a 4hr snooze then head back out!
Technically, that’s the Bike8 done with. I’ve completed the route and this trip back through Alston could have been avoided if I’d just asked them to post the keys to my address. But it’s Saturday, the sun is blazing and the bike has been disrobed of all all it’s excess luggage (well, everything except the top-box, that’s why I need those keys!). I would be riding up to Hartside anyway on a day like this, so it’s nice to have a reason!
The ride seems a lot shorter than I’m used to! I’m much more confident having spent the last 10-days on the bike and, now it’s lighter, the coil problems are having less of an impact, this is great fun! I’m used to being on the bike for hours on end now, so when I reach Hartside Cafe after such a short ride, I deliberately pass it and carry on into Penrith. Maybe I should keep going and hit the Lake District again!
I’d best not, it’s pushing 4pm and I want to catch the cafe open. I turn around and head back up the pass. The same pretty girl who distracted me in the first place hands over my keys and I treat myself to a celebratory meal (chilli-con-carne and chips with rice). I’m the last to be served before they announce the kitchen is closed, much to the disappointment of the line of other bikers who’ve tipped up on this sunny Saturday!
I’m feeling lucky (and full) as I leave and I don’t want to stop riding, so I shoot back down through Alston, find the A69, jump over to that newly discovered road – the A6079 – and join up with the A696 just where I left it this morning. Finally, I get to enjoy this fantastic road! Coming down past Kielder, I have to stop and take a picture; it’s not the best viewpoint from the road but the water is like glass perfectly reflecting the landscape.
If you ever do the Bike8, I urge you to digress down the A696, even just a little, you can turn round and head back at any point and I promise you, you won’t regret it!
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the ride-report at least half as much as I enjoyed the ride!
Over and Out.