Day 9 – Nairn to Dunfermline (165.2 miles)

I’m woken by the sound of someone urging their dog to stay away from the weirdo in the hammock (see, I told you it would happen). The birds have been chirping away for hours but I’m used to them now. The sun is pretty high in the sky, I check my phone and discover it’s already after 10am!
The problem with blogging on the road is that, when I camp in a spot with a good 3G connection, I stay up late updating the blog, then I end up sleeping late and I miss the best time of the day for making pictures; pre-sunrise.

It looks like I’m deep in the woods but there’s a new-build suburb not far away

It’s too late now though, this is my last day on the road and, in any case, it’s more important to be well rested before a long drive. For some reason, I’m not expecting much from this final leg of the ride. I guess because, down South the best roads were in the West, and the roads in the North West have been amazing, so I doubt that the North East will be able to top it.

When I’ve read other travel blogs, the writers always seem to talk about becoming more focussed on the destination than the journey when they enter the home straight. It seems to be happening the other way round for me; I found myself too focussed on getting to Cardiff, Kendal and Dornie because I was worried I hadn’t set aside enough time for the entire trip. Now that I know I can easily complete it before I go back to work on Sunday, I’m in no hurry to do so! It’s like the closer I get to home, the less focussed I am on getting there.

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View from the hammock

Still, I can’t stay here annoying the local canines, I’d better pack up and head out. The road doesn’t go as far East as Elgin after all, it picks up the Highland Tourist Trail through the Ciarngorns, the A939. This road is absolutely perfect. It goes on and on, offering endless flowing bends of differing intensity combined with panoramic vistas and views of distant snow-capped mountains. Clearly I was wrong to expect so little from this leg, this ride is sheer joy! I stop in Braemar for fuel and food but don’t hang around for long, I don’t want this road to end.

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These are the sorts of views you can expect to see on the A939 through the Cairngorns
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Look at that road winding it’s way up into the mountains. Mmmm….

Those distant mountains have been getting closer and closer and, as I enter Perth & Kinross, I witness the first signs of bad weather since Day 1. The mountains are shrouded in cloud and mist, making for ominous views but it’s still warm and the road is still good.
Eventually, the road ends; the A939 joining the A93 in Blairgowrie. I feel sorry for this town, everywhere else in the UK must be experiencing a beautiful, bright sunny day but not here, the mist has enveloped Blairgowrie too. I don’t stop for long.

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Ominous views but I’m not worried, the sun is shining on the other side
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These mountains have a firm grip on the clouds, anchoring them over Blairgowrie

Perth, on the other hand, is basking in the heat and looks beautiful. I have a friend who used to live here, it’s a shame he isn’t still here because I’d welcome the excuse to stop and delay my arrival at home and the end of this trip. I keep going, however, avoiding the motorway and taking a circuitous route from Perth via Muckhart, Powmill and Knockhill into Dunfermline.
It’s about 3.30pm and I’m peckish by the time I reach Dunfermline. I spot a Co-Op, so I give in to my desire to procrastinate and stop for a final round of tinned Mackerel and Pepsi-Max. There’s a spot of grass nearby and I settle down to eat and enjoy the sun. I kind of wish I’d stopped in Perth though, Dunfermline doesn’t seem as pretty.

Satisfied, I head back to the bike but can’t find the key-fob in my pocket to disarm the immobilizer. That’s odd, I never keep it anywhere else… It must be here somewhere though. I check all my pockets, the tank bag, under the bike. I go back into the Co-Op but it’s not there. Suddenly I remember feeling something hit my leg earlier on in the ride. I assumed it was just a pine cone, or the drinking tube of the Camelbak but now I realize it was the key-fob falling out of my pocket!
I can visualise where it happened but I have no idea how far back it was and, in any case, it’ll probably have been crushed by cars by now.

Could this be the end? Am I going to have to call recovery? I really don’t want the trip to end like this, there must be something I can do. I call my auto-electrician to see if there’s a way to by-pass the immobilizer but that’s a dead end. I try to call my flatmate, Mesh, to see if he’d run my spare fob up for me, but he doesn’t answer – he must be at work.
I give up and call recovery. The breakdown cover that came with my insurance is useless unless you’re within a ten-mile radius of home, so I bought a separate policy from Drive24-7. It turns out, however, that they don’t cover ‘key-related’ issues and a lost fob is classed as a key-related issue causing the breakdown. If I want recovered, I’m looking to stump up over £180!

I recently built a website for a local scrap metal merchant, who also does recovery, so I call him to see if I can get a better quote. Alas, it turns out his wagon is getting the prop-shaft replaced and he can’t get me either. It looks like I’m actually stranded in Dunfermline!
In a last-ditch, desperate attempt, I put on my helmet and stand by the side of the road flagging down passing bikers.
A guy named Gary on a Suzuki GSF1200 stops and agrees to run me back up the route to the last settlement matching my description of where I think I dropped the key-fob (Powmill). It’s great fun riding pillion, I haven’t done it in years and the best part is getting to experience the A939 the way a local would ride it. When touring, fully loaded on roads you don’t know, you can’t enjoy a road the same way you can on home turf. This pillion ride allows me to see just how much more fun this road – indeed any of the roads on the Bike8 – would be if I knew it well.
Unfortunately, there’s no sign of the key-fob; I don’t even think this was the place, it could be another 100 miles back for all I know. Gary runs me back to my bike and I offer to refill his tank but he politely declines.

Just as I’m beginning to stress, Mesh replies to one of my texts, he says he’d be happy to help out but he’s working til midnight and won’t be able to get to me til 2.30/3am. Right now, he’s my only option – and it does mean I get to finish the route myself – so I graciously accept his offer.
Fortunately, there’s a great 3G signal round here, so I wheel the bike round to a private car park (in front of a residential home) behind the Co-Op and start editing pictures and updating the blog with yesterdays events.

By 9.30pm I’m starting to get really cold and I’m thinking of breaking my diet and getting some warm food from the chippie over the road. Just then, a Police car pulls up – I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner, to be honest. They check my details, listen to my story and tell me that they’re happy to put me up in the waiting room if I can push my bike round to the station.
Warmth! Electricity! I’ll take it. I hadn’t planned on spending my night in a police station – and I’ve been instructed not to fall asleep – but it’s all part of the adventure!

Google Maps Screen Grab
This is where I’m spending the night. No, it’s not a camp spot, it’s a police station!

I can’t say ‘Goodnight’ tonight, so I guess I’ll say; stay tuned!

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