After a few weeks holding up at a fine campground outside of Edinburgh and hunkering down to complete a final draft of my dissertation, we (Steel, Steve, Grumpy (Steve’s 2-wheeled “friend”), and I) set off for Achnasheen (which I affectionately call Afro-sheen), Scotland. Once again, we took a train to begin our cycle explorations. I hated to do it but the 5 & 1/2 hour train trip enabled us to get in the infamous highland area of Scotland given our abbreviated timeframe. I did much better on the train this time – I kept all my cookies in check.
We were killing time cycling around Inverness, Scotland awaiting the last train of the day to Achnasheen -which is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. I struggled with my bike chain as we began the search for a bicycle shop. Almost immediately, we spied a sign for a bicycle rental place. Turn out, it employed a very talented bicycle mechanic, who just happened to have the two bolts that I needed (only because he had taken a similar type crank off a bike earlier in the week). On the spot, he shifted gears to Steel and spent the next 1 1/2 hours dismantling and reassembling his crankshaft until it worked perfectly! Reluctantly, Mr. Wonderful Bike Mechanic only charged me $10 and would not accept me paying more. Wow…so nice! We amazingly made the train. Turns out Achnasheen was pretty much just a rail stop with no businesses to speak of, except the campground/lodge where we stayed.
The fabulous “campground” was located not far from the train. It was the perfect setup, minus the closest grocery store being 10 miles away. The camping pitch was basically the side yard of a beautiful old mansion, which is now being used as a hotel, Ledgowan Lodge. The toilet, shower, and stocked kitchen was in a “bunkhouse” in the back of the yard –all of which was of use for no extra charge to the campers (all this for $5 each). One could access the free wifi and plugs inside the elegant hotel while sitting on the comfy leather couches and chairs with big dopy-eyed deer looking down at you from above the fireplace. Tea, coffee, and food was served all day in the hotel’s restaurant or bar. The property was surrounded on all sides by beautiful hillsides with easily accessible trails…and the 10 mile ride to the nearest place with some modest grocery supplies was stunning.
It took me two weeks longer than my anticipated six months, but I finally submitted what I hope is very close to a final draft of my dissertation a day after arriving in Achnasheen, and I anticipate defending it in October. Thus, Goal One: finish Ph.D. is about done. Also, Goal Two, extended bicycle tour (“honeymoon” with Steel) to test Semester on Cycle concepts is coming to a close. That bringing to an end some big projects. So the big question is…now what??
Achnasheen was the place to begin scheming regarding that question amidst the deer heads and overstuffed couches. Steve’s situation happens to be similarly to mine in that he quit his job before launching on his extended bicycle adventure (www.untraveledworld.com), and now needs to figure out his next move. We took a couple of days and put together a plan of attack including goals and a timeline. I’ll spare you the less exciting details, but one nifty aspect is that we decided we would actually do some cycling in Scotland as we worked on respective “things to do” checklists. I might add that I am now rather gung-ho about launching a fine new academic career (service learning, urban affairs, law, multicultural and international student related stuff are my area of study and interest). If anyone knows anyone who knows anyone, please let me know:)
With micro-plans in place, we are off to finally cycle in Scotland! Hmmm…what a concept – cycling on biking adventure!!