HEB way packing

Hebway packing and arrival
                Unfortunately, I had a fire fighting course for two days before our departure in Aberdeen I was getting the train up and down departing the Sunday two days in Aberdeen train down the road on Tuesday to get the Wednesday morning departure train for our cycle trip. The boys had been giving me stick on the groupchat on how little I had organised bob had organised the ferries and van transport for the bikes up guy had organised the trains up and down Gary had organised accommodation for every night Ali had organised the transfer from Ullapool to inverness, myself and Tim were bringing ourselves to the party! I had a couple of day after I got home from work to organise the panniers I had bought a cheap set to trial at a bargain price bucking my usual trend of saying buy nice or buy twice this did turn out to be a mistake, I rattled through my packing list and felt I had everything loaded previously to leaving for the fire fighting course I had pumped up the front tyre as it was soft the back was fine when I got back from the course it was soft again still slight pressure but obviously had a very slow puncture I possibly could have got away with it and just pumped up the tyre each day but decide I would be better to change the tube, when I took the tube out I noticed it had a patch on it already so that tyre has done well considering I cannot remember when I patched that tube it must have been two or three years as it was fine for the Irish end to end the previous year, I put in a fresh tube but hadn’t put it in properly a bit of the tube was caught on the outside of the tyre and crushed against the rim I put some weight on it and it burst with a bang, ( oh well good practice I suppose) I was then all sorted and free to go out to the black bull quiz after watching the third last game of thrones and a Vegan haggis and vish supper from my local chippy’s vegan night, not too many drinks though as I had to be out of bed early in the morning to meet Gary and Ali at Polmont station at 07:20

here is what bob had to say on his blog page 

Somewhere back in the mists of time, probably over a few beers on a Thursday night it was suggested that it would be a good idea to cycle the Hebridean way. I can't remember where or when or who first suggested it, but for a group of palls who love the outdoors it was a great idea. It also coincided with the start of a 3 month sabbatical for me so I had no good excuse not to be there. Its very hard to nail down dates for trips like this as everyone is so busy these days and unfortunately a few friends who would have been great company on this trip were unable to make it. However a small crew of 5 were keen and the dates suited so they were penned on the callander. The wheels were in motion.

Kenny, Gary, Ali, Guy and myself have spent many great days either in the hills walking, climbing or skiing but cycling, although not new to us was something we have never done as a group. Kenny is the cyclist in the group having previously cycled solo from Lands End to John o' Groats, and recently cycled the MalMiz on Ireland to name just a couple of the long distance routes he has completed. Myself, I am a keen mountain biker although this is a hobby that I haven't really done much of lately. Around 5 or 6 years ago I cycled the Round the Bridges route with Kenny and immediately went out and bought a touring bike, since then it has hung in my shed😒, but I knew I had bought it for something. Gary, Ali and Guy have all cycled to some degree, but none of the rest of us have ever embarked upon a multi day trip so this is new.

Although not a long cycling route by any standards, at about 185miles from Vastersay to Butt of Lewis is not an easy one to organise logistically. And this has caused quite a few headaches along the way, mostly for Gary. I had to hold my hands up at the start and tell the crew that I was out for organising much of this as I have a far bigger trip to plan right on the back of this cycle. So Gary took top the reigns, studied that maps, worked out the distances and did a sterling job of booking accommodations all the way from Oban to Stornoway. It was vitally important to make sure there is watering hole near where we will be staying each night as cycling is thirsty work and these 5 men all love a pint or 2 after a day on the piste, or a day in the hills so we are pretty sure a day in the saddle will require a similar degree of refreshment afterwards. How successful we are on this front remains to be seen,  booking places to stay was tricky as there's a military exercise on at the same time as our trip and many places were full.

Some new fancy Boardman bikes have been bought by Ali and Gary, my old new bike has been dusted down, Guy has spruced up his mountain bike and fitted road tyres, Kenny's touring bike has had a service and some new drivetrain components fitted. Racks and panniers have been bought, some, budget models from Aldi's, some middle of the road models and one set of Ortliebs for myself, a fine Birthday present from Joyce and the boys (I hope they gather dust like my bike did after this trip). So it will be interesting to see how they all fare, durability wise and keeping out water should we encounter any inclement weather, not unknown on the Hebrides. Clipless pedals have been fitted SPD's bought and a few falls have taken place, none too serious fortunately, punctures have been had, and panniers have fallen   off, all lessons hopefully that we have learned from, there will be more and with a bit of luck the scones will be an equal for the fine examples on offer in Culross.

Kenny is fit and training for this trip not really required for him, Ali and Gary had been doing a few training routes and Guy was sneaking out unknown to the rest of us getting in some pretty impressive mileage. Me I was messing about taking my sons Callum and Logan out for wee cycles along the canal and up around Beecraigs.....At around this time I got a WhatsApp from my pall Tim saying he was still sitting on the fence about this one, no surprise there then, Walker brother are well known for late decisions, well it was a bit late in the day anyway as it was all booked. But he did make one crucial suggestion asking about how we were ferrying between the islands, it prompted a wee look at Calmacs ferry timetables and the realisation that a crucial error (putting it politely) had been made........there was NO early morning ferry on the day we had planned to go😳. A few hasty messages were sent around the group to investigate this and see what could be done to salvage the situation, Gary again got on the case and the plan was modified and back on track, not a simple task, it means we will now not spend a night in Oban, the money for that hotel booking is lost, we will now be in Castlebay on the Wednesday night ready for kick of on Thursday and it will probably be for the better anyway. So disaster averted, and right on cue Tim decided he was in, I could almost hear the swearing all the way from Polmont to Linlithgow. But it only took a day for the big fella to calm doon and get on the case (again) and sort out the accommodation for the 6th (and very welcome) member of the team. During all this Tim asked me if I was doing any training or just buying gear and that was what sparked a bit realisation that I better get the finger out and get some mileage in myself, so in some shape or form we have all been getting in the saddle and doing some miles. Its not a long cycle trip but at between 40 and 60'ish miles each day, for 5 consecutive days it could prove testing particularly if the weather doesn't play ball. Around this time also, member no 7 was recruited. Due to issues booking 6 bikes on there train to Oban it was decided we would hire a van and this required a driver, an ex Tesco HGV driver was just the ticket and sure to get us there safely and on good time. Neil, Joyces dad was the very man for this part of the job and was more than happy to assist.

The approximate mileage breakdown looks like this....though it's a bit more than the 185??

day 1 Vatersay to Dalaburh 40 miles......minor ups and downs
day 2 Dalabugh to North Uist 40 miles...mostly flat
day 3 North Uist to Tarbet 52 miles.....hilly!!
day 4 Tarbet to Callanish 40 miles.....hilly
day 5 Callanish to Butt of Lewis 35 miles, followed by 28 miles back to Stornoway.......long day.

And now its almost here, I am just back from a mini adventure with Callum, I need to be home as early as possible after this Hebridean trip so yesterday we headed off north to Ullapool to leave my car at the house of some friends up there. This was Callums first ever night camping and there were a couple of issues along the way. We packed the minimum kit required for an overnight camp, tent, sleeping bags and matts, and stuff for our breakfast and waived goodbye to Joyce and Logan and Grandad at 4pm.....a bit later than I had hoped but ok. This was until we discovered there had been a bad accident on the A9 near Dunkeld and the road was shut, it caused me a bit of concern but to cut the story short, there was a detour along some minor roads which bypassed the accident and we didn't lose too much time, probably 20 minutes tops. Sadly the accident cost someone their life we later found out. We arrived in Ullapool at about 8.15pm and although we had seen some meaty showers on the road up and a minimum temperature of 4'c at Loch Glascarnoch, its was clear by the time we reached Ullapool and soon had our wee tent up in a sheltered spot as it was a bit windy, and the interior furnished with our sleeping kit. Callum was well impressed with our home for the night. We went to The Seaforth for our tea and then phoned our friends to hatch a plan for dropping the car off, we had fun finding their house in the dark. However this we did and had a good old blether for an hour, this meant poor wee Callum didn't get into his bag until 11pm, a bit late for a 4 year old, and I'm not sure the Headmaster of Ullapool High school approved, lol.

We slept well and got up about 7.30 to a lovely morning and had breakfast, packed the tent and kit away and then drove back up then hill to leave the car, leaving us a good 40 minutes or so to enjoy the walk back into town. After a short chat and a look at An Teallach covered in snow Robbie waved us goodbye off we went. We spied some red squirrels playing in a tree on the way down which was cool. The ferry from Stornoway arrived and our city link bus was there and we got on and off we went heading for Inverness, all good. The scenery was great, snow capped hills in May and we had the front seats in the bus, Callum telling the driver he needed to put on his wipers when a few spots of rain had built up on the window. the bus arrived in Inverness bang on time.

This is where the problems started, we wandered around to the train station only to look at the board to see that our planned train was cancelled due to there being a shortage of staff to man the train......what a fabulous train service we have here in Scotland. It was a real pity as I was looking forward to taking the train south over the Pass of Drumochter, a drive I have done hundreds of times in the car. Alas it was not to be. A train replacement bus was being put on, we went back to the bus station to see if there was a City Link bus that would be a better option, but there wasn't so, train replacement bus it was. That would get us as far as Perth, and this bus was full to bursting, but we did get seats together. We chatted to guy beside us who was a pilot on a Boing E-3A awacs plane and was heading down to RAF Coningsby in Lincoln, he reckoned in 3 years of making this journey south he had never yet paid the full price as there is always a delay or cancelation or some problem on this train. Another lady at Perth station also made the same claim. Eventually we made it to Perth and had and hour to wait on a train to get us to Edinburgh, its was nice train journey through Ladybank, Markinch, Inverkeithing and across the Forth Rail Bridge, this was the highlight of the trip for Callum. We continued into Haymarket, met Joyce after her work and finally got home just after 6pm. A bit later than planned.

But, never mind, that's us all set and ready for the Hebway cycle, what can possibly go wrong?? Tomorrow we get the van, Neil is set to ferry some of us and the bikes up to Oban, and Scotrail will hopefully get the rest of the crew there on time on Wednesday. Time will tell. The forecast looks reasonable, but the wind is from the north for the first few days, not ideal but nobody ever said it would be easy. Thats it for now. I will update the blog when possible.

Late update,  We now have the van, it is loaded with 6 well oiled machines, that's bikes, not humans. And Tim is here from Aberdeen. Its all systems go and hopefully by tomorrow evening we will be in position on Barra ready to start cycling on Thursday.