Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Spoilt rotten

Having enjoyed a luxurious night in a double bed, I allowed myself to be persuaded by Dave Fergusson to drive me and the bike around the little harbours and jetties of North Skye. So instead of an arduous day cycling into the wind across hilly terrain, I was able to gain plenty of miles on my schedule.

Dave (pictured left with partner Heather) took me to Stein (where we stopped for a coffee at the 18th century Stein Inn), Dunvegan, Colbost, Meanish and Neist Point, before returning me to Dunvegan to set off on my way south. Neist Point is Skye's westernmost point and has an old jetty that was once used to supply the lighthouse keepers before automation.

So I was able to return to Sligachan where a plate of haddock and chips awaited me at the hotel. Tonight was supposed to be 'wild camping' at Neist Point, but with two long days scheduled (over 70 miles each), I'm glad to be some 30 miles further on; with luck I'll make Armadale and the ferry to Mallaig tomorrow, although the forecast is grim ('heavy rain').

A whole month has passed since I left Ipswich, which doesn't seem possible. I already have plenty of grteat memories, especially of people I've met, or stayed with.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Blue Skye

It rained for most of the night, and there was a sharp shower at 07.30, but by the time I left an hour later the sun was shining. And it stayed that way, mostly, all day. The first day for ages without rain.

It was lovely to see Skye in all its beauty, especially the Trotternish Peninsula north of Portree. The Old Man of Storr, that strange pinnacle, was attracting lots of walkers, judging by the number of cars parked at the foot of the mountain.

Portree Harbour was as pretty as ever, with its coloured houses lining the quay (much like Tobermory). Having cycled the coast road between Portree and Uig (in the other direction) once before, I had forgotten how hilly it was. Just as well it was a relatively short day, at about 45 miles.

Dave Fergusson came and met me just outside Uig and transported the bike (and me) to his house on the hill, overlooking Uig Bay; he and Heather have made me most welcome, with a lovely meal provided as well as a double bed for the night.

Can't believe I've been on the road for a whole month...

I've uploaded 23 photos to Facebook, the most I've done in a day until now.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Weather dominates yet again

After a night of luxury at the Balmacara Hotel (and a huge breakfast) the day started in pouring rain. This was to be repeated throughout the day, but at least the sun did pop out a few times. 100 mph winds, and snow, were forecast for the top of the Munros (over 3000 feet).

Two huge ascents were needed today, as I wanted to cross to Skye on the Glenelg/Kylerhea ferry. This ferry is community-owned, and provides a valuable service for local people, as well as a different way of getting on or off Skye, rather than using the bridge. It felt great, arriving on Skye. Not sure why, perhaps something to do with the uniqueness that every island seems to have. The photo left was taken from the ferry as it departed from Glenelg.

The two climbs were either side of the ferry. First was Bealach Ratagain at 339 metres (over 1100 feet), which is likely to be the highest on the whole route. The second, Bealach Udal, was 'only' 279 metres, but involved a steep section near the top that almost proved too difficult to push the bike up. I was pleased to be able to cycle most of these climbs, but the really steep sections were beyond me.

I'm camping tonight next to the Sligachan Hotel, where Bundy and I have been on two or three occasions on previous cycling trips. It's a welcome haven in an otherwise remote part of the island. The last three miles from Sconser were cycled in driving rain; it's annoying to arrive at the campsite wet, because there's no time, or facilities, to dry off before setting off the following day.

Tomorrow I'm staying with fellow Geographer Dave Fergusson, who lives in Uig.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Rivers in spate; waterfalls raging torrents. This is Scotland at the end of May. I hear Suffolk had a drop of rain recently. Lucky you. Today was slightly better; persistent rain was replaced by showers. Mind you, a shower up here is one to reckon with. It's almost always worth finding somewhere to shelter, because they're accompanied by high winds.

This is the end of the road over Bealach na Ba (626 metres), from Applecross. Note all the warnings. With freezing temperatures forecast above 2000 feet, I'm certainly glad I missed that one out.

I met Toby Speight as planned at his house in Lochcarron. He kindly drove me the three miles down to North Strome, where prior to the 1970s a ferry ran across to Stromeferry. When the road was constructed on the south side of the loch, the ferry was no longer needed. The slipways on each side are still used by local fishermen.

The planned finish today was Plockton, but having arrived there before 5pm, I decided to continue on to Kyle of Lochalsh, effectively gaining about seven miles on my schedule. Kyle was full - I tried every guest house, hotel and B&B; and there's no camp site, or even a good place for 'wild camping'. The receptionist at the Kyle Hotel kindly phoned ahead to the Balmacara Hotel, four miles down the road; they had one single room left. Phew. After seven nights of camping a bath was a welcome sight.

I'm about to consume a plate of pasta at the hotel bar. Then I will have to go back to the reception area to get a wi-fi connection.

Tomorrow I'll be heading for the Glenelg/Kylerhea ferry and on to the Isle of Skye! I do hope the weather improves: Skye in the sun is a delight; Skye in the rain can be horrendous...

I took quite a few photos today - whenever the sun came out. See them on Facebook now.

Scenery - disappointing

This is Friday's Blog; no signal last night in Shieldaig.

Some 12 years ago I drove between Ullapool and Inverness, via Poolewe, Gairloch and Kinlochewe, as part of a tour of Scottish ports when I was working in the industry. It was wintertime, and snow had been falling hard. I'd stayed the night at the Old Inn at Gairloch. The morning was blue and the snow had been cleared to make the road passable. The drive to Kinlochewe, alongside Loch Maree was simply stunning.

So I was looking forward to cycling the same route, in summer... Well it is the end of May. But you can guess what comes next. It was cloudy, damp and the views were most disappointing. It rained solidly from about 1 pm, so by the time I arrived at Shieldaig, I was totally soaked through.

Astute route-watchers amongst you will realise I have missed out a dead-end ride from Torridon to Lower Diabaig. Having promised at the start of the ride to visit all the harbours on the list, I've let myself down by failing to do so (and not for the first time). But when it's pouring with rain and the winds are gusting to gale force, all you want to do is reach the next camp site.

I've also decided not to go to Applecross. It would have entailed a long day on the bleak coast west of Shieldaig, followed the next day by the assault of the highest maintained road in Britain, Bealach na Ba, at over 2000 feet. Not in this weather. So by missing out Applecross, I can get back on my original schedule. Tomorrow I will meet up again with Toby Speight, who gave me a bed in Leith and who lives in Lochcarron at weekends.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Midge alert!

Last evening at Ullapool, and again this morning, there were a few midges about. The season has started! My Avon 'Skin so Soft' (the accepted best anti-midge cream available) had congealed so I used a little spray product I bought at Cotswold Outdoor. No doubt there will be many more midgy days whilst I'm in the West of Scotland.

During the ride I've met and chatted to a number of cyclists, notably Alexandre. But another cyclist going the same way, has been swopping places with me ever since he overtook me at the top of the pass out of the Kyle of Durness. Today we met again coincidentally. We had both struggled through high winds, freezing cold and driving rain on the A832, where the high point is 323 metres (over 1000 feet). We arrived separately at the Dundonnell Hotel, where the road eventually meets the sea. It was a haven, with a warm fire and excellent food. George, from Darwen in Lancashire, and I stayed there for an hour and a half until we were really warm again.

I'm conscious that the weather seems to dominate most of my blogs. Sorry about that, but it is rather important to us cyclists.

The Poolewe Hotel has a wi-fi connection which I'm using to write this. Two hearty meals today, which I think I needed. I looked in the mirror at the campsite here in Poolewe this evening, and didn't recognise the skeletal image. Gone is the double chin, the pot belly. My jeans have at least an inch of spare room - I'll need to buy a belt at this rate. George says that you burn 100 calories per mile cycled. Not sure if that's correct, but if so it means I'm using 6,000 calories on an average day. No wonder I'm losing weight, despite all the Mars and Twix bars.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

A long day in the saddle

No rain, hardly any wind, so an early (07.30) start to what turned out to be a long, tiring, yet enjoyable day. The Drumbeg circuit is a very pretty coastal route, which avoids the dreary main road to Ullapool. The downside is the hills, of which there are many, and steep at that.

You don't see many, sorry any, signs like this in Suffolk. I was also concerned about my brake pads, which were wearing rather thin. I even walked down a couple of hills because I was concerned about being able to stop or go slow enough.

Sadly, the anticipated scenery was not so good because of the cloudy conditions. It started raining at midday and continued on and off, mostly on, for the rest of the day. After many more hills, I eventually made it to Ullapool at 19.30, twelve hours after I'd started. About 70 miles in total, but many stops for hills, drinks, Mars bars, sandwiches, photos etc. The photos are on Facebook, but are rather dull becuase of the lack of sun today.

When I arrived at Ullapool, I met Alexandre again - the fourth occasion we had camped in the same location. He had all the right tools and very kindly replaced ny brake pads for me. That saves me trying to find a bike repair shop in the morning. He is off to Stornoway on the ferry tomorrow, whilst I'll be heading south towards Aultbea and Poolewe.

Engage low gear and GO!

This is Tuesday evening's Blog, covering the ride from Durness to Scourie. There was no Internet connection at Scourie.

By 10 this morning the sun had made a few sporadic appearances and the wind didn't seem quite as strong as it had been during the night. Tents and camper vans had a light coating of volcanic dust and you could taste it in the air. Time to move on.

The daunting prospect of a 600 ft climb out of the Kyle of Durness was ameliorated by the lure of a pint at the Rhiconich Hotel, 17 miles away. It took nearly three hours to get there, having had to stop three times when there were squalls of rain and hail. The first time I managed to shelter in a roadside culvert; the second under a gorse bush, but the third time I just got cold and wet! That stretch of moorland is very exposed.

After the promised pint I continued via Laxford Bridge (left) to Scourie. Although it was only 3 pm when I arrived there, I decided to call a halt as the wind had become decidedly stronger. At one point, whilst on level ground, the wind literally stopped me in my tracks. Mostly today the wind has been in my face, which whilst arduous, is OK. It's when the wind is coming at me from 90 degrees that I have to be careful.

Scourie has a beautiful bay (and a tiny harbour), as the photos on Facebook will show.

I'm now well behind schedule, but will miss out a loop section tomorrow (Achiltibuie, Old Dornie and Reiff) and aim for Ullapool where the best-ever takeaway fish and chips are sold. That should place me exactly one day behind the planned route.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Still stuck...

Tuesday morning - still at Durness

Avid weather watchers will be aware that there's a bit of a storm up here in Scotland, though I understand that the Central Belt has had it even worse. The forecast today is dire, with winds gusting to over 50 mph. My French pal has set off south already, but I think he's mad, and told him so. I plan to wait at least until lunchtime and see if it eases a little.

My tent survived the night, but others weren't so fortunate. Alexandre's leaked, but two others had near-disasters, with broken poles and scattered belongings. One apparently lost some stuff over the edge and have had to go home.

Don't worry about me; I'll be fine. I'm not going to do anything stupid, and if it means losing another day, then so be it.

Monday, 23 May 2011


Monday morning at Durness

I'm as far away from home as it's possible to drive within mainland Britain. And here in NW Scotland a severe weather warning has been issued. 70 mph gusts are forecast, as well as driving rain. If that's the case, I'm staying put. There's no point in taking risks and, anyway, I want to enjoy the journey, not to have to ride through gritted teeth.

It looks likely that I will have to stay here until Wednesday. It could be a lot worse. At least Durness has facilities - a bar/restaurant and a Spar shop. The campsite is excellent, with a 'campers' kitchen' equipped with gas rings for use free of charge. And it's only £6 a night to stay here. If I'd been wild camping on some remote beach I wouldn't have had any luxuries to fall back on, so I count myself lucky to be here.

Also, my new friend Alexandre (left) and I are attempting to improve our limited knowledge of each other's languages. So we are enjoying the company and will wander over (or be blown over) to the bar for a drink at lunchtime.

During a brief sunny interlude this morning we climbed down to the sheltered beach behind the campsite and took a few photos, which I'll upload to Facebook next.

To anyone who's concerned about my well-being, don't worry; I'm feeling good. I feel fitter (and lighter) than I have been for many a year. The outdoor life is nsuiting me just fine. The tent took a battering last night, and will over the next day or two, but it's holding on well and large rocks have been carefully positioned over the important (windward) pegs. It's cosy inside, though even in my sleeping bag last night I needed double layers of clothing to stay warm.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Sunday bonus

The campsite at Durness is situated on the clifftop. During a lull in the rain I wandered over to the edge with my camera. The wind is now Storm force 10 and it was extremely difficult to stay upright. This lookout point was safe as it was fenced. From there I took photos to the right and left.

Don't forget, you can click on these photos to make them larger. Click once for the image to re-appear in its own window, then click again for a full screen view.
These two photos don't show the strength of the wind, which was blowing off the shore. The sand on the beach was being whipped up and the waves were curling backwards as they neared the beach.
They do however show the beauty of the area. Durness and the nearby Balnakiel Craft Centre have become a haven for ageing hippies; John Lennon famously came here and there's a memorial to him nearby.

Down to the bare bones

I've called an early halt today - for the sake of my own safety. I reached Durness by lunchtime, as planned, but after scampi and chips at a restaurant I returned to the road to find the weather had taken a turn for the worse. Gale force wind and driving rain. So I've pitched the tent here in Durness. I may have to ride this out for a day or so, because tomorrow's forecast is for heavy rain. It would have been stupid (and dangerous) to have attempted to cycle on to Kinlochbervie, across miles of open moorland with no shelter, into the teeth of a SW gale.

Pity, because after a night of rain, the morning promised much, with the sun making frequent appearances. Even managed a few good photos early on, which I'll load to Facebook soon.

Now I'm so glad to be in my tent. I just hope the pegs hold on. I've a neighbour in the next tent, a pleasant Frenchman who's riding a strange sort of bike where he's effectively lying on his back with the pedals level with his head. Apparently it's great for going downhill, but hopeless going up. So we've been swopping places all day; he was camping at Talmine too last night. He phoned home today (he lives near Grenoble) to be told it's 29 degrees there. Here it's about 8. Not taking any clothes off tonight.

Bare bones? That's partly a reference to my own backside. Any fat I might have had there has long been worn away, and there's just a layer of thin skin between me and the hard leather saddle. Not particularly uncomfortable or sore, provided I change position every now and then.


This is Saturday's Blog. No signal last night.

After a second night in a luxurious double bed, it's back to basic camping tonight. Well, not quite basic, as I'm in a proper campsite, with loos etc, but all pretty spartan. I'm at Talmine, on the North coast.

An uneventful day, spoilt only by the lack of sun, especially in the afternoon. There are such lovely views here, but the camera doesn't do them justice when it's cloudy or raining.

No Internet this evening, so this Blog will have to wait another day before it can be published, when hopefully I'll have a signal at Kinlochbervie.

A cuckoo keeps flying past; it must be desperate for a mate, as it's calling 'cuckoo, cuckoo' every second. That's unusual, as they usually only call once every 10 seconds or so.

On a bike you hear all the birds singing. I wish I knew what they all are. I can recognise curlew and oystercatcher, as well as the more common ones. But there are plenty of unfamiliar sounds too.

I must have been passed by thousands of cars, lorries, buses etc, so I'm in a great position to announce the results of a totally non-scientific study into vehicle behaviour. The best drivers are those in.... Ford Focuses, especially diesel ones, and especially those driven by older people. In joint second place are Vauxhall drivers, Corsas and Vectras. The worst cars are BMWs, especially the large ones (they do own the road, after all). Stagecoach-type buses are generally good, but private coaches are not; they always seem to be in a hurry, leaving little room and cutting in as soon as they pass. Lorries are sometimes good, sometimes bad. Those driven by a company called Steven, in Scotland, are particularly poor.

The worst town for driving in was... Middlesbrough. Everyone drives like maniacs there. I find a lot more courtesy in Scotland, even from local farming types, who often wait at a passing place to let me cycle past.

An early night beckons. I can't load my photos to Facebook either, so that will have to wait until tomorrow, too.

Friday, 20 May 2011

In my element

Elsie and Alastair (see yesterday's blog) invited me to stay for a second night. They kindly agreed to meet me at Thurso and take me back to their house. So today was a leisurely (and pannier-less) jaunt around the coast between Wick and Thurso, visiting no less than 15 harbours!

After a damp start it was a mainly sunny day, although the westerly wind was unrelenting. I got caught in a 'Mey Gob'. This is nothing to do with the dear old Queen Mum's notorious after-dinner habits, but according to the owner of the 'Tea Cosy' shop and cafe, it's a sudden sharp hail shower which is prevalent along this coast. For those who don't know, the Queen Mother used to love coming to the Castle of Mey, her favourite northern haunt.

I met three cyclists who were about to arrive at John O'Groats; they had a support car advertising a JustGiving site. They were raising money for the Meningitis Research Foundation, as I am. We had a good chat and although they had managed to do the route in just 12 days, were suitably impressed that I was going right around the coast.

It's strange, but as you near John O'Groats you seem to see more cyclists than anywhere else, all doing charity rides I suppose. One rider heading south on the A9 deliberately crossed over and stopped in front of me. He seemed very pleasant and was doing some amazing feats, including climbing the Three Peaks (Ben Nevis, Snowdon and Scafell Pike) as well as a return journey back to Lands End. All very fine until he told me that he'd already seen three angels on his trip. 'I'm a Christian' he said, and promptly held out his hand, Jesus style, and prayed for my safety, despite my protestations. Still, if it made him feel happier.

John O'Groats is nothing to write home about. A photographer who wants to take your photo in front of the famous signpost. A gift shop and a harbour. There's also a pub at the top of the hill, where I enjoyed a pint of Scapa real ale, my only link with Orkney, which of course was visible across the white horses of the Pentland Firth. The area is very bleak, with little habitation. But as soon as you turn left and continue a few miles, the scenery improves.

The last ten miles into Thurso were tough, with busy Friday evening traffic paying little attention to a cyclist who was struggling into the headwind. I arrived at Thurso a few minutes late but enjoyed my second bath in two days back at the Frasers'.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Quick to Wick

A great southerly blow has helped me to reach Wick this evening, just a short hop from John O'Groats, where I will turn left along the North Coast. I had been warned about the Berriedale Braes, two severe hills on the A9, down first then up, both at 13%. With the wind behind me, I just managed to climb it.

The day started with a wonderful drive along Loch Fleet. With an early start and the sun still low, it offered many photographic opportunities. Unfortunately I didn't dare spend too much time there, as it would be a 70-mile ride today.

Traffic on the A9 could have been a problem, but the road wasn't too busy. I wouldn't have liked to try it in July, though, with all the holiday traffic. Several lorries passed rather close, but overall the road wasn't as scary as I thought it might be. There's no alternative route if you want to keep to the coast.

I had received a wonderful offer of accommodation, near Wick. I met Elsie Fraser on the outskirts of the town and she drove me to her house, where I was welcomed by her husband Alastair and son Euan. After a bath I joined the family for an excellent meal. All my dirty clothes have been washed and dried, so I'll be OK for a few days of camping. Tomorrow Elsie will drop me back in Wick, where she works as a teacher at a primary school.

Every day I find that I'm always hungry. Even after a large bowl of porridge, I'm into Mars and Twix bars by 10.00. Lunch, whether a roll or at a pub, usually comes early, and by mid-afternoon I'm famished again. I guess I'm using up a lot of energy and need to replace the calories somehow. Probably too much junk food, but it doesn't seem to be doing me any harm. On the scales this evening I'm 12 stone 5, which is under 80Kg. I didn't bring a belt (to save weight) but I will need one if I carry on like this. I'd love to get down to 12 stone again, for the first time for more than 25 years.

As mentioned before, I'm not going over to Orkney tomorrow. That should put me back on the original schedule.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Top gear ... bottom gear

This morning was very much 'top gear'. After a stiff climb out of Dingwall, it was east with the wind behind me, all the way to Portmahomack, where I had lunch at the Castle Hotel. I watched the BBC News at One whilst eating a lasagne, and a reporter was standing at Lands End, talking about the Olympic torch relay. The sign showed 'John O'Groats 874 miles'. I've already done that; in fact the whole ride will be about seven times that distance! Just shows how convoluted our coastline is (is that the right word?). At nearly 1200 miles already, I would be well on my way back by now!

After lunch it was a different matter. The eleven miles back to Tain and the Dornoch Bridge were 'bottom gear' stuff. But the weather stayed dry and it was actually quite enjoyable, ploughing along in my own little world. It's strange what comes into your mind when you're cycling alone.

I managed to visit both sides of the Meikle Ferry. There's no ferry now, of course, because of the Dornoch Bridge, opened in 1991 by the Queen. But back in 1809, the ferry left the north side, loaded with people and stock heading for the market at Tain. The vessel was overloaded, and a large wave overturned it. Only 15 people survived and 99 were drowned. There's a plaque at the northern end to commemorate this disaster.

This is my tent; very low and streamlined. So low, in fact, that I can't sit up in it. I have to find various ways of typing on the computer. Any way I try it is uncomfortable, so I have to change positions every ten minutes or so! It's far too cold outside to sit on the grass.

I'm now at Embo, just north of Dornoch. I'm hoping to make it all the way to Wick tomorrow, where I'm being met and taken to a (new) friend's house - thanks to John and Claudia, who have arranged this. The wind is currently just south of west, i.e. WSW. I'm hoping it will back a little to SW, which will help to blow me up the coast tomorrow.

That will put me exactly one day behind schedule, so I've decided, with some reluctance, to miss out the day on Orkney. Perhaps it's not such a bad idea, though, because with these high winds there's every chance that sailings will be cancelled. Getting stuck on Orkney for a few days would be a problem.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Filling in my time

Having woken with a slight headache, I was reminded of the giant hole in my tooth. Here I was in Inverness, the only decent-size town for the next month. I had to get something done. First I phoned my own dentist, who confirmed it was a filling, not a crown. The receptionist thought I might be able manage without having it replaced, but really wasn't too helpful.

So at 09.00 I presented myself at a private dentist in the centre of Inverness. I was very fortunate to be able to wait only 15 minutes before being fitted in with a Mr Fitter. He put in a quick-setting amalgam which he thought should last me for the rest of the ride. That cost me £50, but it was worth it not to have the constant worry that I might get caught in the remotest part of the land with raging toothache.

So it was a late start from Inverness and with a dreadful forecast for late-afternoon, I had already determined that I would just cycle around the beautiful Black Isle and finish at Dingwall, where I knew there was a proper camp site. Having crossed the impressive Kessock Bridge, I rigorously followed cycle route signs and found myself going in a full circle! Those responsible for signage ought to ask an innocent cyclist who doesn't know the area to try and follow a route, pointing out where signs should be added or re-located.

I stopped for a while at Avoch (pronounced 'Och') and renewed an acquaintance with Gwyn Tanner, the Harbour Master, who also runs Dolphin Cruises to see the famous bottle-nosed dolphins in the Moray Firth. I had first met Gwyn about eleven years ago when I visited his harbour following a Trust Ports seminar in Inverness. Gwyn kindly donated £10 to the charities.

Then it was on to Fortrose and Chanonry Point, where dozens of camera-toting watchers were waiting patiently for a sight of a dolphin. I was fortunate and saw one almost as soon as I arrived, so moved on swiftly.

The road along the 'spine' of the Black Isle climbed steeply for several miles, with magnificent views of the Moray Firth. The road then descended steeply into Cromarty, with views this time across the Cromarty Firth to Nigg and Invergordon. I probably spent a little too long at the harbour but the sun came out and I took a few photos.

It was then a long, but mainly level grind into the wind back to Dingwall. At one point I crossed the busy A9 road, where a sign declared 'Perth 124'. It was only a few days ago when I was staying with John and Claudia south of Perth. Over on the hills (mountains?) north of the Cromarty Firth, I could see remnants of snow, a reminder that it's not summer yet (see photo on Facebook).

Tomorrow I shall be heading east, mainly. So for once I hope the westerly wind continues. As I write this at 9pm, the rain is thundering on the roof of the tent.

Monday, 16 May 2011

A better day

With no Internet connection at Findochty, I decided to get to bed early. This was after a meal at the Admirals Inn, next to the camp site. After a bowl of Cullen Skink, a chicken curry and a pint of 80/- (that's 'shillings'), I went to pay the bill. The proprietora asked me if I'd come far. When I told her what I was doing, she promptly handed the £20 note back and said to 'have it on the house'. The camp site warden had also waived his fee, so all in all, Findochty ('Finnechty' for those in the know) was a good place to be.

So a really good night's sleep, albeit with the rain pounding on the tent until about 05.00. I allowed myself an extra hour too, not getting up until 06.30. That seemed to do the trick and today I felt much stronger and less tired. The westerly wind was still in my face; it takes all my strength to keep the bike moving in a straight line, important when there's traffic hurtling past. It's my shoulders that suffer.

I decided to miss out Findhorn (the place I should have reached last night). It's not really a harbour, just a couple of breakwaters that shelter a few yachts. It would have been a six-mile round trip, so probably saved the best part of an hour there.

That brings me to average speed. In training I was managing 11 or 12 miles an hour. The 70 mile training run took a little over six hours. But I wasn't loaded down with nearly 30Kg of luggage. Into a headwind, the panniers act like airbrakes. Going up a hill, they feel like anchors. With all the many stops for food, drink and harbours, I'm only averaging about 7 miles an hour. That means I have to be out for between 10 and 12 hours each day just to maintain the schedule. Perhaps I was a little over-optimistic at the planning stage!

This evening I managed to reach Inverness by 7.30, which pleased me greatly. Not only do I love the city, but it meant that I was now only about 20 miles behind where I should be (at Balblair). I sit here writing this blog in between munching an American Hot in Pizza Express!

Tomorrow it's on to the Black Isle. Not an 'island' of course, but a mainly wooded promontory that looks dark from a distance.


(This is Sunday's blog; I was unable to get a connection yesterday evening)

The 11 miles from Fraserburgh to Pennan (where I was supposed to be staying last night) were very tough; a strong headwind, nagging drizzle and 1 in 5 (20%) hills. This was the most difficult section yet. With several stops for drinks and generally getting my breath back, I didn't leave Pennan until 11.00, despite an 07.00 getaway from Fraserburgh.

Many of the harbours along the North Aberdeenshire and Moray coast are down steep roads. At Pennan, Crovie and Gardenstown I left my bike near the top and walked down. Pushing the bike up any hill steeper than 1 in 7 is exhausting. The two panniers alone weigh 24Kg. Then there's the camping gear and the bar bag...

Today, Day 16, I felt more tired than on any day so far. I even felt worried that I might lose concentration whilst cycling, just like you can when driving a car. My legs were OK; I just felt sleepy. I may not be getting enough sleep. By the time I've sorted and uploaded the day's photos and written the blog, it's often after 11pm. I've been in the habit of getting up at 05.30 and on the road by 7. It's a problem really, because I need to start early if I'm going to maintain my schedule. Either that, or spend less time wandering around all these harbours!

As the afternoon progressed, the wind died down, but the rain increased. Convinced it was set in for the day, I called a halt at Findochty (pronounced 'Finnechty'). I'm now about 30 miles behind schedule, with little hope of catching up. This coast is very 'busy', with many small harbours. It's a pity I won't be seeing them with the sun out, but I have been along this coast before.

This piece of metal (left) came out of my mouth as I was eating lunch. I'm not sure if it's a filling or a crown. I'd been for a check-up at the dentist before I left, too. It doesn't hurt, even with cold air rushing past, but I'm concerned about food getting into the cavity and doing some damage.

Sights, sounds and smells of Scotland

Yellow things - gorse, the occasional daffodil (still), marsh marigold, a yellowhammer, oilseed rape.

The sound of swifts screaming above the rooftops in Dunbar, no doubt borne this far north so early on the southerly winds.

The smell of wild garlic, and the rape (of course).

Larks, oystercatchers, curlew and a red squirrel in Tentsmuir Forest.

Saturday, 14 May 2011


It took ages to get out of Aberdeen, through the charming cobbled streets of Old Aberdeen and the University area. Charming that is if you're on a mountain bike. The pavement is no easier option; the cobbles are just slightly larger. It took over an hour to reach Dyce, near the Airport. I ignored any remaining temptation to jump on an EasyJet plane back to Stansted, and pressed on.

Having faithfully followed NCR1 out of Aberdeen, without using Satmap, I found myself way off the intended coastal route. I made a quick decision to follow 10 miles of old railway line as far as Ellon. As with previous railway lines, it started off well with a good surface, but after a while deteriorated badly. Large stone chippings are not good for my bike and I had to slow to a crawl.

Railway lines are like canals; you're in a different world. You see cars whizzing by on nearby roads. People you meet are always friendly, just like on the canals when waves are exchanged when boats pass each other.

I've been asked a few times how many miles I've done. Must check this out. I reckon it must be a thousand now.

Finished short of my target this evening. A dreadful headwind from Peterhead slowed me down so much I had to call a halt at Fraserburgh, where I'm camping tonight.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Friday 13th...

... but no disasters.

It was another long day. I had to make up the nine extra miles because I'd stopped short at Carnoustie, rather than continuing to Arbroath. So it was a 75-mile day. Followed the National Cycle Route 1 diligently, but had to keep my eyes open for signs as my Satmap ran out of battery power at lunchtime. I must learn to ration its use and only turn it on when there's any doubt over the route. Several rain squalls forced me to run for cover and it's been cold. Had to keep my leggings on as well as three top layers.

There were a number of pleasant stops when the sun was out, at Arbroath, Montrose and Johnshaven. The final stretch between Stonehaven and Aberdeen was frustrating. The direct route along the A90 is about 11 miles, but I wasn't choosing that on Friday 13th (or on any day). The NCR took me up into the hills, then back across the A90 (a dangerous crossing). In all, 22 miles, twice the distance.

Today's photos are on Facebook.

Go cycling and lose weight!

(This is Thursday's blog. The Blogger website was down for maintenance yesterday. It could be viewed, but not edited.)

Today was one of contrasts. After a luxurious breakfast, which included strawberries and porridge, It started when John and Claudia dropped me back on the coast at Guardbridge, saving about five miles of unpleaasant road. The route then took me through the beautiful Tentsmuir Forest. heading north along well-made tracks. Upon reaching Tayport, I turned west into the wind, which had developed into a force 7. From there to Perth, some 30 miles, took me the best part of five hours. There were some nasty hills too.

Climbing to nearly 500 feet out of Perth there were some great views of the Tay Valley. From then on it was plain sailing, with mostly level ground and the wind at my back. I decided to stop a few miles early, at Carnoustie, where I knew there was a camp site. Fee - £7.00; donation to the funds - £5.00. Thank you Woodlands Park Caravan and Camp Site!

When I started training in early March, I was close on 14 stone. By the time I left on 30 April, I was down to 13 and a half stone. I weighed myself in Hull (Day 5) and I was just over 13. Last night, on Claudia's scales, I was 12 and a half stone. Maybe those scales are wrongly calibrated, but I certainly feel lighter.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Knees up at the harbour

That's me, with shorts hitched up at Elie Harbour, on the Fife coast. You can tell it's been mainly sunny so far. Not that there's been no rain. Several squalls were enough to send me running for cover. And when the rain comes, the temperature drops by about 10 degrees.

Have you ever experienced the optical illusion when you think a road is flat, or even downhill, yet it turns out to be uphill? This happened to me twice today.
I guess it's to do with the lie of the surrounding land. It's a weird sensation, just when you are expecting to be freewheeling, you find yourself having to pedal like mad.

Today was relatively short, with plenty of fine harbours to visit. As the day progressed, the tide ebbed, so that most of the smaller harbours had dried out by the time I got there. That was a pity, because places such as Crail need to be photographed when there's plenty of water. The larger harbours at Anstruther and St Monans were still full of water. Many of these harbours are located at the foot of steep hills. So I have to do twice the distance, often having to push the bike back up the hill!

Some of the houses around these harbours date from the 1600s, and are virtually unspoilt. These houses (left) are at Pittenweem, the only harbour along the Fife coast worthy of its own fish market.

The day ended by meeting former Little Saxham neighbours John and Claudia Pleass, who moved to Scotland eleven years ago. They very kindly met me at St Andrews harbour and drove me and the bike back to their house at Milnathort. After a welcome bath, a fantastic meal was provided and a real bed now awaits me. Tomorrow they will drive me back to the coast. Aren't friends wonderful!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Standing on the pedals

Strange how, most mornings, my legs feel tired. It usually takes until lunchtime to get them working properly again. Today was the same. I had mistakenly thought it would be an 'easy' day, after all you can see Aberdour from Leith, or at least you can see Edinburgh from Aberdour, right across the Forth. Trouble was, I didn't take the simple route across the Forth Road Bridge. Oh no, I would have missed out several important harbours. So I crossed via the bridge at Kincardine.

The morning was tough, especially as I chose to take the 'Almond Walkway', a path alongside the river that flows out into the Forth at Cramond. The cycle sign was clear, indicating its suitability for bikes... I should've taken more notice of the 'Walkway' bit. Halfway along the mile and a half path was a set of steep wooden steps, 80 up and then 70 down. My bike wasn't meant for lifting, so I had to take off the panniers, lift the bike up all the steps, then go back down for the panniers. You know the rest. That wasted at least half an hour and did nothing to improve that early morning tiredness in my legs.

The wind had veered to the south-west, making progress slow. Rain squalls forced me to seek shelter several times; I didn't reach Kincardine until 4pm. But then it was plain sailing. The wind at my back, legs working again, even standing on the pedals to deal with some of the hills (that took a bit of learning, because for the first few days I was so intent on controlling the bike that I hadn't dared to stand on the pedals).

There were several detours to harbours that weren't on the signed cycle route 76, such as Charlestown and North Queensferry, from where this photo was taken. Arrived in Aberdour at 7.30, but couldn't find anywhere to camp, so pressed on to Pettycur, where I knew there was a proper site. Arrived there at 8.45pm, via a take-away pizza in Burntisland - well it is Tuesday (in-house joke).

The site warden wanted £17 for the pitch, but in conversation I told him about the ride and the charities, and he waived the charge completely!

I'm looking forward to tomorrow, visiting the many tiny harbours aling the East Neuk of Fife. Just hope the sun shines, as some, especially Crail, are most picturesque.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Days like this

Up at 05.15 and packed and away by 06.30. Walked down to the charming little harbour at Cove, through the 60m tunnel that leads down to the beach. The tunnel and cellars leading off were once used for storing fish.

Then it was on to Torness Power Station where I particularly wanted to see a jetty that I hadn't listed on my ports website. A path leads round from Skateraw Harbour, which although no longer has a quay, is still shown as a harbour on the maps, and road signs direct you to it. The remains of an old pier can just about be discerned, close to a restored limekiln.

When the nuclear power station was built in the early 1980s, two jetties were constructed to bring in heavy items that would have been difficult to transport by road. The jetties are no longer used, except the southern one, part of which is a base for the local lifeboat.

After Dunbar, the next delight was Seacliff - what a magical place. Not only does it fully merit the title of Britain's smallest harbour, but its location below the imposing Tantallon Castle is quite amazing. The tiny tidal harbour was cut out of the Gegan Rock. It used to have a gate across the entrance, probably operated by the old winch. Across the water is the Bass Rock, home to thousands of gannets and fulmars. Sitting here having lunch, watching the rock martins wheeling overhead, the waves breaking on the shore between the harbour and the castle, and the occasional graceful fulmar gliding effortlessly past, it's a place I could happily stay at all day.

On to North Berwick, where I met Ross Harbison, the Harbour Master, who was keen to show me a YouTube video of a storm last year when the harbour was flooded, damaging dozens of dinghies.

After several more small harbours at Port Seton, Cockenzie and Fisherrow, it was finally on to Leith, where I was very pleased to meet up with Toby Speight, who had kindly offered me accommodation for the night. A welcome shower was followed by a steaming bowl of rice and spicy chinese chicken.

Days like this make me feel the journey is all worthwhile. Glorious weather (mostly), delightful harbours, and a friendly welcome at the end of the day.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

And on the ninth day...

... Bob reached Scotland! At 5pm to be precise. That's nearly nine full days to cycle 660 miles to reach the Border. Over 10% of the route completed already!

It rained heavily all last night. Didn't get much sleep, listening to stair rods hitting the tent and worrying about how I would cope if it rained all day too. It had eased off a bit by 07.30 to risk getting up. Left later than usual, at 9.00, with everything, including me, well covered up. By 11 the rain had stopped and the sun even shone briefly.

Reached Holy Island by lunchtime, after a long haul into the wind across the causeway. But it was worth it, if only to see the tiny fishing harbour that nestles in the lee of Lindisfarne Castle.

The National Cycle Route from there to Berwick consisted of rough gated tracks across marshland, through herds of cattle and over sand dunes. OK for a mountain bike perhaps, but not one such as mine. This section took far too long and, combined with the late start, I was running well behind schedule.

I had planned to meet John Aitchison, the Harbour Master at Burnmouth, where I was promised 'coffee and a crab sandwich'. I eventually arrived at 5.30 to a great welcome from John and his wife Heather. Not only was the crab freshly caught, but I was also given a most generous donation of £200 for the two charities from the Burnmouth Harbour Trust. Also, friends of John and Heather, who live nearby, had heard of my exploits, and donated a further £50. Aren't people kind!

I stayed at Burnmouth for an hour and could have stayed much longer. But I still had Eyemouth and St Abbs to visit before finishing the day near Cove. As I neared my destination, I came over the top of a hill to be presented with a fabulous sunset. In the distance were Bass Rock, the Lafarge Cement Works south of Dunbar, Torness Power Station and the Isle of May, all seemingly emerging from an orange mist.

Finally, I couldn't find the camp site, so I've set up the tent in the corner of a field tonight. Thank goodness for Scotland's liberal 'wild camping' laws! Tomorrow I should reach Edinburgh.

Blow the wind southerly, southerly ...

... for the next week, please. (This is Saturday's blog - couldn't get a connection at Craster).

Today has been great - no hills too steep, and the wind at my back. The only downside was an hour and a half of rain. Not serious stuff, but enough to make me stop and get out the black bin bags to cover up the tent, mattress and sleeping bag. A good test though for the heavier version that's bound to come soon.

I discovered (at Seaham) that I'd somehow managed to lose part of my pump. I googled 'bike shop Sunderland' and found one that was right on my route. Darke Cycles sold me a new one (and fitted it), and when I told them what I was doing, gave me a fiver back for the 'funds'.

I've managed to lose (leave behind somewhere?) my toothbrush and toothpaste, so must buy some more. I also left my towel on the rack in the bathroom at Seaham, so that's another purchase needed. Trouble is, tomorrow's Sunday.

Some of the National Cycle Route follows rough tracks along the coast. OK if you have a mountain bike, but not really suitable for a bike such as mine. Still, the scenery's great.

I wandered down to the harbour at Craster (of course), which is about a mile away, in the hope of finding a pub or restaurant. There was a pub, but they only did food at lunchtime. A seafood restaurant, which looked good, was fully booked. Well, it was Saturday evening. Emergency rations were opened and chilli con carne (boiling water on dried food) consumed.

Back at Seaham, over breakfast, I read an advert for a forthcoming wine-tasting event. It read, "...Suzanne will be presenting five different wines from around the world. Sensibly priced and quality assured, Suzanne will explain how to judge a fine wine..." OK, that's Suzanne sorted. But what about the wines?

More tomorrow!

Friday, 6 May 2011

Help. Real hills!

As the North Yorks Moors hit the coast high above the sea, the road makes no allowance for poor cyclists like me, loaded down with two air brakes, otherwise known as panniers. Not ordinary panniers but damn great huge ones, the largest on the market. Yes, I've been forced to walk!. On some occasions yesterday, the gradient was far too steep. Lythe Bank, Boulby Bank, Skinningrove all defeated me. I've had to develop a technique for pushing the bike. It's so heavy and awkward that I push it for 50 steps, rest for 15 seconds, then repeat (at infinitum on some long hills).

Nearly lost my sleeping bag! Whizzing down a hill near Peterlee I heard something drop on the road behind me. The bag had somehow escaped its bungee straps. Thank goodness I heard it. On some noisier stretches, on rough ground, I may not have noticed. My pump has also lost an end - one part has disappeared. I'm planning to buy a new one in Sunderland today, hopefully before I need to use it...

The industrial conglomeration around Teesside is not a pretty sight. But as the main road crosses marshland at Greatham Creek (NZ508254) seals could be seen hauling out across the mud. A great sight, nature being restored amongst the oil terminals.

A big problem has been either the lack or absence of signage. Road and cycleway signs are often missing, rotated, or hidden behind bushes. Many unforced stops to check the map, or on a number of occassions, to ask passers-by.

Satnav ran out of power at Middlesbrough (it had been on for most of two days), so had to rely on memory for the last 20 miles or so. Decided to cross the river on the Transporter Bridge,which was an interesting experience (cost 70p).

Now staying above a Thai restuarant in Seaham. Guess what I had to eat last night! An excellent green curry, washed down by two pints of Worthingtons. Downloaded photos using the camera connector which was awaiting my arrival here. Putting photos on Facebook takes time, which I don't seem to have much of. All I want to do when I arrive anywhere is crash out and sleep!

So a tough first week comes to an end. Over 500 miles under my belt. I'll work out the exact mileage when I get a chance.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

A tale of two railway lines

Breakfast was as good as had been promised and Edith sent me on my way with a bulging bag of cheese and pickle sandwiches. She and Ian have been fantastic hosts. "Take us as you find us", Ian had said. But as it turned out, they were all kindness and generosity.

Today's ride included some 30 miles along old railway tracks, routes closed by Beeching in the 60s. First, from Hull to Hornsea, and towards the end of the day, Scarborough to Robin Hood's Bay. The surface of these old tracks is pretty rough, and I feel as if I've been riding a Boneshaker. Houses have been built across the routes in a number of places, and in Scarborough the start of the trail goes through Sainsbury's car park!

I met a guy coming the other way, near Ravenscar (the summit of the line to Whitby at 631 feet). I passed the comment that his bike was as loaded up as mine. Nonchantly he said, (he has probably said this a thousand times), "I'm doing John O'Groats to Colchester". My rather obvious retort left him somewhat stunned.

Spent (wasted?) rather too much time today at the delightful harbours in Bridlington abd Scarborough. But it didn't matter, because I had a following wind, and made good time, arriving at 7pm.

It has just started raining as I sit here in my tent, which is a pity, because the view across Robin Hood's Bay is stunning. That's the first rain in six days.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Technology back in action

Meant to say that my Satnav is now working fine. The people at Satmap Systems in Leatherhead told me how to 'unfreeze' my unit. I'd mistakenly uploaded all the daily stage maps to the internal memory, rather than to the SD card. That meant that there was no room left for anything else. Once I'd deleted the files from the memory, and reloaded them to the card, it all worked perfectly. Richard Croft will be pleased to hear that, as he's thinking of buying one. This is a good moment to thank Satmap Systems, who very kindly gave me an Active 10 Bike unit, complete with full UK 1:50,000 mapping, at a huge (75%) discount. Well done to them, especially for the after-service.

I've been able to use card readers at both Richard's and Ian's, so my photos are now safely on the computer. The next task, probably on Friday when I'm staying at a B&B in Seaham, is to upload them to Facebook.

Whenever I can, I have to charge four devices: camera, netbook, phone and satnav. That's OK when I'm staying with friends; at other times I'll have to ask at a friendly pub.

Kindness everywhere

Yesterday it was Richard Croft who provided overnight accommodation, as well as excellent company for some 70 miles of the ride. Today it was Ian Sykes, who not only warned me well in advance that the Boothferry Bridge would be closed for repairs (which would have necessitated a 20+ mile detour via Selby), but also arranged for a friend of his (John) to meet me at the south side of the bridge, and transport me and the bike across the M62.

Ian and John were waiting for me as planned and deposited me safely on the north side. I then followed the river bank, under the M62, as far as the Port of Howden.

Just before that, I'd had a phone call from the Times - the Goole and Selby Times, that is - who wanted a photo of me. I met the photographer at Goole Docks, eventually. When she phoned and asked me where I was. I said, on the A161, just south of Goole. She replied, "I don't know where that is; we don't use road numbers round here". My response isn't printable.

Ian had also offered me accommodation, in Hull. The astute amongst my 'followers' will realise I should have finished up today at Withernsea, on the east coast. But that's not essential, as there's no harbour there, and anyway, the campsite I tried to contact had never replied. So tomorrow it's over to Hornsea, along the old railway line from Hull (another Beeching axed line).

Arriving at Ian's house I found my 'smellies' already washed and ironed and laid out on the bed. Thank you Edith! After a hot bath, a wonderful meal was laid out, which the three of us enjoyed. Tomorrow, I'm assured, there'll be a cooked breakfast. What a wonderful camaraderie there is amongst Geograph members!

Today was mainly about the Trent Wharves, King's Ferry, Flixborough, Neap House, Grove Wharf, Gunness, Althorpe and Keadby. Photos soon on Facebook, hopefully!

A shorter day than planned

Day 4 was always going to be tough. At 105 miles it waqs the longest day of the whole route. Mainly flat, I had hoped that it would be attainable. It started as planned, leaving Fishtoft at 08.00, I was due to meet up with fellow Geographer Richard Croft at Mablethorpe, some 30 miles ahead. But ploughing eastwards into the headwind, as well as losing the route several times, meant that I soon fell behind schedule. Eventually I met Richard at Chapel St Leonards, after he had cycled 10 miles south to meet me. At this point I was an hour and a half behind schedule. Burton-upon-Stather was already looking unlikely as the night's destination.

With the wind more or less behind us, we headed north, making Mablethorpe for lunch. Then Richard had a bright idea. Why not ride as far as the Humber Bridge, and then come back to his house for the night? He was going to Hull the next day, so could drop me off to restart my journey. He had already arranged for his daughter to pick him up at Nurton-upon-Stather, so the change wouldn't be a problem.

So we ended up at 8pm at the Humber Bridge, having travelled about 90 miles instead of the 105. Richard's daughter was waiting, so we put the bikes on the rack and back to Richard's house near Lincoln. After a hot bath, pizza and a great night's sleep, we're about to set off again in the morning. Richard will take me to Burton-upon-Stather, rather than the Bridge, as there are no ports or harbours between the two. Feel a bit guilty about missing out that stretch, but hey, needs must.

Managwd to download my photos, thanks to Richard's card reader, so hopefully I'll get time tonight to upload these to Facebook.

Monday, 2 May 2011

A good day for harbours

Yesterday - Day 3 - was great for picturesque harbours, especially those along the North Norfolk coast. Things started well, with a following wind, making King's Lynn for lunch. But then I took the advice of a 'keen cyclist', who suggested I should btake National Cycle Route 1 to Boiston. What he didn't tell me wasjavascript:void(0) that it went via Wisbech. Being without a map or Satnav, I've tried to commit the route to memory. Stupidly, I didn't follow my own memorised map, but took his advice. Too late, I chickened out and headed off the signed route towards Sutton Bridge. Probably did an extra ten miles, making yesterday's route more like 96 miles!

Arrived as planned in Fishtoft, but left it late - it was nearly 8pm and the sun would soon be setting.

The wind is getting to me. Three days of unrelenting near-gale. It seemed to be coming at me every time the twisting route headed towards The Wash. Perhaps it will veer to the south-east and help me up the Lincolnshire coast today (some hope).

Cooked a great pasta and bacon last night, downed with a free cup of coffee from the camp site owner. Now it's 06.30 on Day 4 and time for porridge!

A really long day today at 105 miles, the longest on my route. It's mainly flat, so the winbd is the only problem. Feeling good with no aches or pains, just a little leg-weary.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Me v. The Bike

Training on a bike with no panniers is one thing. Trying to ride it with two huge panniers, plus associated gear on the back is something different. It's much harder to steer and even the slightest hill seems like a mountain. Trying to wipe your nose whilst riding along is extremely dangerous; you need both hands firmly gripping the handlebars to maintain full control.

On Day 1 the weight of the panniers meant that the bike had to be unloaded before getting on to the two passenger ferries at Bawdsey and Butley River. More hassle and time lost.

Anyway, arrived safely in Blakeney at 6.30 yesterday evening. After a meal and ONE pint at the King's Arms, got back to the tent and was too tired to blog. It's now 6.30 on Day 3 and after my bowl of porridge and a coffee I plan to set off early.

I seem to have forgotten to bring the connector that enables photos to be downloaded to the computer from the camera. So no photos for the time being. I'll try and get this sent on to my first B&B in Seaham.

Soutthwold - eventually

What a bugger - a north-easterly gale all day. Ploughing into a strong headwind certainly wasn't on my agenda. Anyway, finally got to Southwold at 7pm after taking the wrong route twice (Satnav isn't working, that's my excuse) and an enforced diversion becaue the coastal path from Dunwich to Walberswick is under repair. So probably 70 miles in total. Then couldn't connect to the Internet last night, so I'm writing this on Sunday morning.

Had a great chilli con carne at the Harbour Inn on Southwold Harbour last evening - and TWO pints of Adnams.

So it's off to Blakeney today. I';ll be looking forward to turning westwards after Great Yarmouth and have that dreaded wind behind me!

Hope to upload some photos to Facebook tonight.