Me and John woke about 5am. I was thinking that would be my last sleep before the end. I’ve known a few riders to make it non-stop to Tyndrum from here. That was my intention as well. I didn’t let John know my plan, just yet.
John got right back on it right from the off his Duracell batteries well and truly re-charged. I on the other hand was empty. I even pushed up Torridon and walked most of the descent. Usually I’d ride most of it but I just wasn’t feeling it. I had missed two decent evening meals in the last two days. I’m not me when I’m hungry (not my slogan). A big fry up on the other hand, and maybe a snickers or two, would sort me out right now. I knew we’d be passing Strathcarron Hotel and campsite soon so that was the target for breakfast. I even told John food was on the horizon, don’t think he’lll ever believe anything I say ever again. We arrived at Strathcarron Hotel where a bloke was outside having a brew and a smoke. As we tried to enter he apologised and told us “don’t open until lunch, not worth it any earlier”. It was 7.45am, where else could we get food right now. Dornie was another 3 hours away. Whilst we were discussing the where and whatnots of food the bloke chirped up “I can get you a brew and some crisps if you’d like”. Two cups of tea and two packets of crisps and we were on our way. When I’m next about the area I’ll be popping in for a slap up meal and a camping pitch or two.
From Strathcarron Hotel we hit the tarmac for a few miles with one hell of a steep climb, not long but steep. I know its steep, because a) its hard and b) every time I ride up it cars slow down and cheer as they pass or beep horns or even wind down the window and wish me luck, every time. As we turned off the road onto double track my pedal went wobbly (technical term). John had gone on ahead by this time so I investigated the wobbliness. First check was the pedal axle but as I moved the pedal the whole crank arm wobbled, bugger. Nevermind, I tightened it up using the multitool, torqueing it to ‘nearly snapping multitool’ torque setting. Cracking on I knew John would be long gone so I was just soft pedalling being wary of my cranks sudden I jumped out of my skin “hiya mate”. “Crapping hell John you shit me up then”. John had carried straight on instead of turning off the main track and gone to the top of a steep hill before realising. John moved on ahead whilst I continued to have crank issues. On the way into Dornie I pondered how to stop the crank bolt coming loose. There’s no bike shops or hardware stores that I know off in Dornie. I just needed to stop the bolt coming loose. Loctite could be the answer, or superglue.
I arrived in Dornie, seeing John filling his face on the bench near the shop. Off I went in buying everything insight to get me through the next 20 hours or so, oh and superglue. I probably look like I’d been sniffing the stuff for the last week but the lady still served me anyway, win. Outside I spreaded my banquet out across the bench, I might have gone overboard. John remarked that I’d never eat all that. Challenged accepted. During the stuffing my face challenge I glued my bolt into my crank hoping it would last until the end. Here’s to hoping.
Leaving Dornie we headed to Morvich before continuing towards Glen Affric. It was hot and I had a craving for two things, an ice cream and a toilet in no particular order. There appeared the caravan club site, win. Went into the site shop and bought an ice cream to butter up the stop assistant before asking to use the toilet. I was told “no sorry, only members can use the toilet”. I cheekily said that I’d just bought an ice cream so doesn’t that include a membership fee for toilet usage. “No sorry”. I was really desperate I told her “really could I use the toilet? If not I’ll have to do a poo just outside the gates and I’m sure members wouldn’t want to see that”. Fair credit to her she held firm, I kept my end of the bargain and travelled a little way up the lane before going (not quite just outside the gates as promised). I think my social filter had failed after many days of living in a bubble but it was all done in friendly manner.
On the positive note my crank hadn’t fallen off and I plodded my way up the hike-a-bike towards Glen Affric. On the flip side my legs were swelling up and becoming quite painful so I took 20 minutes out to elevate my legs at Camban bothy. It was now about 5pm. I had enough food to get me to Fort William but I really fancied a meal at the pub in Tomich or if they weren’t serving a Pizza in Fort Augustus. I basically wanted a nice evening meal, something I hadn’t managed for the past few days. I arrived in Tomich with the pub closed. I asked a bloke doing some gardening what time it opens. Unfortunately he informed me that it’s another pub that has closed down. I spent a few minutes chatting about the Strathpuffer and comparing the different levels of stupid of doing that or the Highland Trail, as you do. He was due to race it the following January. I asked if I could borrow some water from his outside time, ensuring I’d return it later. I didn’t.
So I had less than 4 hours to get to Fort Augustus in time for Pizza, head down arse up. I arrived with 10 minutes to spare buzzing from the full-on sprint down General Wade’s road and straight into order ham and mushroom pizza. As I entered guess who was there but my mate John. He was just leaving so I hadn’t lost too much time with my legs and other issues, happy days. Pizza, chips and two cans of coke destroyed I set about catching John. Onto the Great Glen Way and I immediately caught James. Think he was having a moment and I quickly left him behind. Just before arriving in Fort William the route takes a little detour from the road onto the shores of Loch Lochy, twisting in and out of pine trees. Normally without racing on the mind this would be lovely but it just feels unnecessary, even more so as my crank has finally worked loose again. I tighten it up as the rain was coming down pretty hard so thought I’d leave it until Fort William to get the glue back out.
Arriving at Fort William a little before 2am I headed straight to a bus shelter to strip down my cranks and re-glue them in place. The strip down went well. I laid the parts across the bus shelter floor and then placed some glue on the threads. I thumbled about putting the crank in position then tried to screw it in. I couldn’t. The glue had set. I tried to thread it for about 30 minutes until I was too cold to continue. What next? 24 hour garage! I walked the mile or so to the 24 hour garage wondering what would be my next trick. Dumping my bike outside the garage I wondered into to the shop. Looking around the cosmetics and toiletries section. I couldn’t find what I was looking for. The attendant came out of the back room “excuse me mate have you got any nail varnish remover?”. Apparently he didn’t speak a word of English. I asked if he had any tools, no comprende! Nothing for it, large coffee and a pot noodle. I sat on the floor in the shop drinking my pot noodle. Eventually the garage attendant wanted me out so started to mop the floor, can’t blame him really. After I went outside to continue repairing my bike he rang his mate and proceeded to talk about me. I understood his every word, bastard. On reflection asking for nail varnish at 2.30am may have come over a bit strange but I thought it would remove the glue, allowing me to refit the crank. Logical in context, well in my mind at least.
The repair wasn’t happening. I had two options, walk or wait for the bike shop to open. My legs were like water-logged tree stumps so I wandered back to the bike shop to wait. I sat bolt upright in my quilt and sleeping bag leaning against the shutter door and waited for the morning to arrive.