The Wonders of Scotland

Most visitors to the United Kingdom never get past London, and if they do it’s usually only for a short tour or day trip to the English countryside.  In my opinion that’s a tragedy.  For I have found few places on Earth I would rather be than Scotland.

The reasons I love Scotland are plentiful: it has a rugged beauty the closely matches my imagined ideal; it is an out of the way place, leaving it largely unspoiled by the flocks of tourists that migrate to countries like France and Italy annually; and, it has cheap and excellent shortbread, my favorite cookie.

That would be plenty of reasons to love anywhere, but the truth is that above all else I love Scotland for the people who live there.  I could give countless examples, but my recent arrival and the day I had yesterday are a perfect example of what one can expect from Scotland…

Proving yet again that I’m less responsible than a fifth grader, I failed to transfer money into my bank account and thus arrived in Edinburgh needing not only a place to stay but without even a way to pay for food.  Fortunately I met some wonderful Scots in Sevilla earlier this summer who not only gave me a roof over my head, but food, drink and entertainment.  Hence, I awoke well rested yesterday to yet another wonderful meal, this time of Scottish porridge.

Not only does it taste good, but it comes in an amazing box!


After I’d eaten my fill I’d decided to head out on bike for Glasgow, where yet another friend from my travels awaited my arrival.  That plan went smoothly for nearly an hour when the bike path I was following turned into a gravely trail that chewed through my tire tube like a rat through cheese. After about three flats, someone stopped to help me and give me patches, which came as a great relief as I was out of my own.  I then spent a lovely half-an-hour chatting about traveling before I continued forgetting all about my irresponsible behavior.

Unfortunately, my bike wasn’t done throwing fits and I soon had another flat, only this time the valve broke so patches were useless.  All I needed was a spare tube, which of course, I didn’t have.  So after this tragic and completely foreseeable event, I was stranded.  Still, having watched Cast Away, I knew that if Tom Hanks can survive for four years alone on an island; I had no reason to panic.  I was right too, rather than having to do an Edgar Alan Poe imitation and sleep in the gutter; I managed to flag down another kind Scot, this one on a bike.  I asked for a bike store; he asked what I needed.  One free tube and assisted flat change later and I was on my way – to the train station.  There, yet another kind stranger helped me find the train and then let me use his cellphone to text my friend that I would be arriving, most unexpectedly, rather a bit later than planned. Naturally I arrived in Glasgow to find only more warm hospitality from friend and stranger alike.  All in all, it was just an average day in Scotland, except perhaps, for my extremely poor planning.

In New York and many other places in the modern world, we have adopted an every man for himself attitude.  Strangers are met with skepticism, hesitance and even fear.  To be someplace where you’re membership in the human race is enough to entitle you to warmth and kindness makes Scotland someplace truly exceptional and a joy to visit.

This may look like scenic countryside, but it's actually a park within Edinburgh!


Categories: Biking, Journeys, Scotland, Travel, Words | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments


So my time in Madrid had come to an end and it was time to move on.  I decided that for the sake of saving time I’d take a break from torturing myself and ride on the bus.  In the end it turned out to be more of a change in torture techniques.

I rode into Madrid with my friend early in the day and planned on catching the overnight in order to save on lodging.  Everything went according to plan until I arrived at the ticket window.

“Two tickets for Malaga with bikes, please.”

“Are your bikes packed?”


Thus began a very brief and unpleasant explanation of how bikes needed to be boxed. True to Spanish form this did not mean there was a place to box them.

Realizing the situation was bad I called train information, which was kind enough to tell me that the route between Madrid and Malaga doesn’t take bikes – ever.

I was having a bad run in with the dark side of a laid back culture.  Where was German efficiency when I needed it?

I’m sad to admit I almost gave in.  I was prepared to sleep in the station and to try and find a box the next day.  I paced around.  I worried.  I felt anger, frustration and disappointment, but then my muse spoke to me: there are piles of bus companies in Spain, maybe another one would work.

“You take bikes?”

“Yes, if they’re wrapped.” Strike one, off to the next company.

“Do you take bikes?”

“Mmmm…. yeah.”

“I don’t have a box.”

“Well, hmmm….. can you take off the wheels?”

“No problem.  Where do you go south of here?” I wasn’t going to give him time to change his mind.


“Perfect, I’ll take two tickets please.”

Thus tragedy was averted and my day started on the empty streets of Sevilla rather than a dingy bus station floor.  What comes next?  Who knows!

A fine example of traditional Spanish contruction techniques .

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I have reached the end of my 1,000 mile bike trip from London to Madrid.  The end proved harder than the beginning when I realized I’d dropped my wallet at a hostel in Spain.  With no other option I was forced to race back 25km in the rain to the hostel where I’d left it.  Fortunately I recovered my bank card, but unfortunately someone had helped themselves to the cash.  Feeling rather upset I biked the 25km back to where I’d been, only to get a hole in my tire as I biked along the highway.  It’s experiences like these, and not muscular fatigue, that truly test one’s endurance.

These are some lucky bikes....

Still, some lost money and a flat tire is a small price to pay for such an amazing trip.  The views have been spectacular, the people fascinating and the experience truly priceless.  I expect to stay here in Madrid and rest for a few days before continuing to the Balearic Islands and the south of Spain.  It’s time to get off the bike and do some running and swimming!

Photos are a poor substitute for all the amazing views I've seen.

Categories: Biking, France, Ironman, Journeys | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

The Dune of Pyla

Yesterday was an amazing day, even by the high standards of an amazing trip.  After a long day of biking, it was time to find a place to sleep. The sun was starting to set and the small city seemed a poor choice for the night, so we decided to make a break for the coast which also happens to be the home of Europe’s largest sand dune, the Dune of Pyla.

It was a 6km dash and to say we were tired is an understatement.  As we pulled into the park we were greeted by an imposing set of stairs.

They look cool, but running up them wasn't much fun.

Unfortunately there was no time to relax as it looked as if the sun might have already passed below the horizon.  Running up the stairs was a special kind of pain, but was well rewarded by the incredible view.

A better view than any hotel.

So the day ended with sleep on a sand dune overlooking the Atlantic, a view unlike any other and the perfect ending to a challenging day.

Categories: An Out of The Way Place, Biking, France, General | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment


So today I hit 1000km into France, which with my 100 in England brings me to 1100km.  A lot has happen since I last posted and I’m feeling the same inability to keep up with my experiences via blog as I did last year, but I’ll give it a try.

My new biking friend and I have decided to do the Camino de Santiago via bike.  It’ll add a 1000 or so km to our trip, but once you go 1000 what’s a 1000 more?  We’ve slept on beaches, in forests and barns.  The scenery has been as amazing as could be hoped for and the days have been difficult, but thrilling.  I’ll be putting up more and more pictures over the next week, but here’s a peek.

The best things in life are free.

A few more days and I’ll be in Spain.  That means crossing the Pyrenees and lots of pain.  Still the views should be spectacular and the experience one of a kind.  More on that soon.

Categories: Biking, France, Journeys, Travel | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

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