I obviously hadn’t learned anything from my outing to Ballantrae with the Pan because midday Saturday saw me heading north with full panniers for a three day ride.
First stop was at a Biker’s Cafe under the Forth Rail Bridge in South Queensferry where this snazzy Indian caught my eye. It’s a bit of a statement – okay for running down the pie-shop – but not my cup of tea.
I would rather photograph the new Forth Road Bridge that is being built just upstream from the existing road bridge.
I was offered a start as a steel erector on the original build back in the day but found they were all on strike when I went to take up my duties. As the saying goes ‘stuff that for a game of soldiers’ and I went elsewhere leaving the boys to build it without me.
One hundred miles from my door on this trip took me to my first overnight stop at my daughter’s place. Then it was on again through the ‘Scotch Mist’ next morning but it soon cleared to give me a view of Ben Ledi just north of Callander.
I’ve climbed that hill a few times – in fair weather and in foul but today I settled for the view. The first gorgeous view of many as the snowcapped mountains were reflected off the still waters of the lochs I skirted on my route by Oban to the remote Island of Luing where my son is building a house.
That’s Luing over there beyond my bike. An Olympic long jumper would almost clear that stretch of water in one bound but I’m no Olympic long jumper and the ferry that’s usually moored by the pier is nowhere to be seen.
It’s Easter Sunday – apparently no ferries running on Easter Sunday – unless that tiny ‘foot passengers only’ dinghy moored on the far-side comes over at three o’clock.
Nobody knows nuthin – only rumours. Not even if the ferries will be back to running normal times on Easter Monday. I would have been happy to find a bed somewhere and cross on the Monday if possible but beds and reliable info were in short supply. About par for the west coast where tourists cash is welcome and even more welcome if they don’t have to bother with the tourists that come with it.
Nothing much has changed on the Western Isles since I had my last episode with the ferries two and half years ago which saw me hospitalised. This is my first ‘big adventure’ since and I won’t let them spoil it even if they do want to keep their boats to themselves. At least the sun was shining this time so I trotted over another dead end road to the hamlet of Easdale for something to do while the ferryman let his lunch settle.
This Suzuki Marauder was happily rusting by the pier there as it waited for a ferry. Apparently it has been waiting patiently for five years which explains the rust. I didn’t want the same thing happening to me and the plastic Pan so I rode back across Seil to the Luing bound ferry ramp where nothing much had changed. Unless you count the two local dogs noisily seeing off a visitor.
Luing is approached by ferry from the neighbouring Island of Seil which is in turn attached to the mainland by this hump backed road bridge claimed to cross over the Atlantic.
The Atlantic appeared to be out when I was there so I took a photo of the Toll Booth instead.
I’d had enough of the vagaries of the west coast ferries by this time and turned in the general direction of home. I could have photographed more lock gates – yachts and ‘yachties’ sipping their G&T’s than I could shake a stick at as I fulfilled a long held dream to visit the Crinan Canal.
But – I was really struggling with the big Pan by this time and didn’t have the energy to get the camera out. To be honest I was having a nightmare ride. For a rider who lives for corners I was struggling to get this big bike round them. The front pushed – it skidded sideways when lent over and tried to run wide on the smoother bends. The rear wasn’t much better and each end had me worried at different times as I came close to losing her.
The Pan is a recent aquisition and the tyres could be ten years old or more for all I know. They are worn flat in a broad band round the centre thereby ‘squaring’ them off as if the bike had never seen a serious corner in it’s life. This means that when I did push it past a point it didn’t like – it told me so in no uncertain terms and I came close to dropping the plot on numerous occasions. I can usually ride round the problems caused by worn tyres and still suspected there was something else amiss.
It was an aching body that rode into Tarbert Loch Fyne that evening after a long day in the saddle on undulating – poorly surfaced roads. I didn’t mess about. I picked the freshest looking hotel on the quayside and didn’t even argue the price. The Pan was parked for the night next to the boats across the road from my window and to be honest – I wasn’t particularly bothered if she was gone in the morning.
A quick shower followed by a wander round the harbour enjoying the evening sun helped the humour.
I even had a look for where I hoped to catch the Cowal Ferry to Portnavadie next day.
We are on high ground now. From somewhere I had found the energy to climb the hill to Robert the Bruce’s castle.
Just as well – next morning the mist was so thick you couldn’t see the end of the pier and the notice board claimed the ferry wouldn’t be running because of ‘technical issues’.
I thought it best to find a petrol station to refuel in case I had to do the two hundred mile road trip home. Tarbert petrol station no longer exists and the nearest one is at Clachan ten miles in the wrong direction. I brimmed her at the pumps only to find she wouldn’t start. The battery was completely flat!
I pushed her away from the pumps and parked by a grass verge and fiddled around for a bit with the few tools in the bike toolkit – as you do. There wasn’t an allen key of any size in the kit so the plastic panels couldn’t be taken off to get at the battery. But – there was a screw driver so I tackled the settings on the rear suspension instead.
My ‘eureka’ moment! I found the damping on the rear shock had been had been set real hard by the numpty previous owner. This mean’t that over the course of a long journey the shock would pump itself lower and lower – shortening the usable length of stroke to almost nuthin. This makes a big difference to the angle of attack when heading into a corner and to the bike’s ability to change direction during the turn.
I twiddled the damping setting to where I thought it should be and then – with all running lights off and more in hope than expectation I thumbed the starter button. The Lord be Praised! The short rest had obviously helped the battery and she fired up!
I kept her running – fixed the seat and other bits back together – pulled on my helmet and gloves – then pointed her on the road for home. Time to givitsum non-stop for the next two hundred and ten miles – being afraid she wouldn’t re-start if I switched her off and unwilling to risk the unreliable ferries for the same reason.
I won’t mention the time taken for the journey home – even I find it hard to believe. What I will say is that the big Pan deserves every accolade going when it comes to mile-munching. A full tank will take her about two hundred and fifty miles and now – with working suspension – she can do it at a rate of knots I’m not going to publish on here.
New battery and tyres will be next on the agenda when funds allow and with the Pan seat proving to be a comfy place for up to three hours or more at 45-55 mpg depending on the right wrist – there’s a fair chance that the plastic rocketship will see a lot more of the road this summer 🙂