The next day was purportedly our “most arduous day in the saddle”. It was 54 miles with an 8-10 mile climb through a mountain pass where Robert the Bruce fought the English. We also were slated to ride passed the oldest tree in the UK… over 2000 years old. Needless to say, we were pretty pumped to get going. When we woke up, however, it was dumping rain and the winds were raging. Cait had brought a raincoat that would help a bit… Naturally, I wasn’t so bright. It would have been a day to stay inside and play Star Wars monopoly except for the fact that we needed to get to the next town as that’s where we had a hotel booked. There was no time to put a stardock on Tatooine nor to go directly to galactic jail! So the decision was made for us and we headed out the door.
The temp was in the 50’s as we walked out into the downpour. I muttered something along the lines of “we need to ride our asses off for the first 15 minutes to warm up and then it’ll be fine” combined with several other choice obscenities. And hard we rode, desperately trying to prevent the teeth-chattering cold from seeping in too far. It was a chore to keep the rubber side down and to keep the bike from flopping in the wind as it was blasting us on the sides and from the front at random intervals. The rain sheeted into our faces. An hour later, we stopped to grab some hot drinks. Tea and hot chocolate helped some but stopping in a warm store made starting out again much worse. We then headed up the large climb that would last somewhere between 8 and 10 miles. It turned us inside out as both of us were fighting with the behemoth tandem trying to will it up the hill. Those things do not like changes in elevation. Finally the climb ended and we bombed down to Loch Tay.
We rounded the loch thinking we were home free but the terrain turned on us as we were faced with 15 miles of stinging climbs that got up to 13% grades. 13% feels like 30% on a loaded down hybrid tandem and, even in the granny gear, I was burning up my matches all over the place trying to get to our final stop in Killin. Cait and I were absolutely ragged when we rolled into Killin. It quite possibly could have been the hardest day I have ever had in the saddle. Despite this, we actually had quite a good day considering the overall nastiness and discomfort of the conditions and the difficulty of the route. We rode well and stayed in good spirits for 99% of the day. A few climbs demoralized us and took us within calories of bonking but we stuck it out and rolled the tandem over the top. Caitlin provided much needed diesel power as I was running on E towards the end.
Gassed, we changed clothes, showered, and headed to what would be a lunch that will not soon be forgotten. I was dead on my feet and my brain felt like it was a scrambled egg. The lunch was the only thing keeping me out of a coma. We took down the following in one very short sitting: 2 baguettes covered in bacon, cranberry sauce and Brie cheese, salads with balsamic vinaigrette, lentil soup, goat cheese tartlets with caramelized onions, multiple chocolate bars, and couple cappuccinos. Then we headed back to the B&B to try to dry our clothes for the next day… ironic and futile as it was going to piss rain all the next day too.
It was a good day.