My virtual bike ride the length of Great Britain during these Covid19 times brought me back to memories of Scotland on my around-the-world bike trip in 1991.
Yesterday, the virtual bike ride took me across Hadrian’s Wall. Romans erected this wall of stones, also called The Roman Wall, in AD 122. The wall stretches 73 miles from coast to coast. The Romans built it to defend the south from the wild northern tribes. Today, Scotland lies a few miles north of the wall.
We started our tour of Scotland in July, but it was so cold that we
piled on all the warm clothes we had brought with us for warmth. The big highlights of each day’s cycling were tea breaks with scones or biscuits to warm and fuel our bodies. We averaged fifteen miles per the tea and bread.
The terrain was deceptive. Our bodies had the endurance to ride many miles in a day, but forty miles in Scotland often included numerous hills and strong headwinds. When we stopped to rest, the midges—tiny bugs that swarmed and delivered a nasty bite—attacked any exposed skin, leaving itchy welts that were by no means small.
We had trained as much as we could before the trip on the trails in the mountains above
our house in California. But nothing can completely prepare you for the journey of bicycling every day for miles. We developed new muscles and built stamina on this first leg of our travels across the Scottish Highlands. When we asked a Scot about the terrain up ahead, he answered with “fairly flat.” We learned that this response translated to “hilly” in our language.
I delighted in the ferry rides to the different Hebrides islands.
We cycled across the Isle of Mull to board the ferry for Iona.The island enchanted us as soon as we docked, and my feeling of melancholy from bicycling in the rain the past few days lifted. The mist descended, and turquoise water lapped the pink rocks in the harbor. We wandered down narrow roads with no traffic. Sheep grazed in vibrant fields bordering the lanes.
Tobermory after the storm
Rain pelted us during the entire sixty miles to Tobermory and really brought me down. But the next day when the sun came out, my spirits soared again. I was amazed at how much the weather affected my mood. The Isle of Skye shone a brilliant emerald in the sun as we pulled into the harbor on a ferry.
The Isle of Skye
Another ferry brought us to the Isles of Harris and Lewis. Immediately off the boat, we climbed a steep two thousand feet. Although we were exceptionally tired, we managed to make it to the Callanish Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis. The stones stood silent and empty except for a flock of sheep grazing nearby. I gazed in awe at the solid blocks of stone that had stood for thousands of years. As night began to fall, I pressed my palm to the stone’s rough surface, which still held warmth from the sun. I thought about the history. What rituals took place here? What were the people like who participated? I closed my eyes and listened to the stones in silence.
Callanish Standing Stones
Our environment can affect us deeply. Sometimes we pick up on the vibrations of a place without knowing its history and only later, when we learn more about it, have our feelings confirmed. This happened to me a lot on the trip. Looking back, can you recognize instances when this has happened to you?
Our environment can affect us deeply.
You can read about my life-changing around-the-world bicycle odyssey in my book.
Bicycle Odyssey An Around-the-World Journey of Inner and Outer Discovery