A twelve-hour train trip; the back-up is back,
Armed with fresh tyres (and camera replacement ),
First night out on Skye in a road menders' hut,
The creased fogies rough it, to brothers' amazement.
But parents are hardy on the Isle of Prince Charlie,
Mum's hip-hop head gear and dad's trousers low-slung,
There can't be too many of such vintage stock, who'll sleep on barn floors so awash with cow dung.
A massive surprise shatters dismal grey skies: a long-distance traveller joins in the bike trek,
An ex-messageuse and 6-month canoe tripper is express-delivered direct from Quebec.
The coast roads are ram-jam with Belgians in Peugeots,
As the five brave the foul winds - leaving no place for fuss-pots;
The Cuillins are circled with regular dram-breaks,
Tai-Chi shows in barns,
Talisker in bus stops.
From wet whisky stupour Manager takes charge,
A typical Taurus, he leads them to Kyle;
Back over the water where once drovers crossed, their tethered cows swimming for half of a mile.
The family disbands and it's back to the grindstone,
Princess pushing hard now and taking the strain,
But his crank arm snaps off as they're finding the rhythm: to Inverness, over-night trip on the train.
The settlement's sparse so they've extra supplies, each pannier's loaded well over it's quota,
And bikes weigh like camels so break-downs are frequent, but bike shops are scarce as the coast gets remoter.
The Princess gets back, urgent repairs complete, twenty-five hours lost plus a load of pounds sterling,
Manager meantime is having a ball,
And gets dragged into a spot of haggis hurling,
There's no lycra shorts nor sarongs around here, these big boys wear kilts when they're tossing the caber,
They wave off the bikers with one haggis each, who cook them for supper (they've not lost their flavour).
A night in a fish farm close by Applecross,
Gorge on thick meat paste whilst preparing for battle:
Next morn before breakfast's the much discussed climb: Bealach Na Ba (or the Pass of the Cattle).
For steepness and length and number of hair-pins,
There's no British hill road in quite the same bracket,
Up 2,000 feet in a matter of miles, they used to test cars here to see if they'd hack it.
Tall bikes take it steady and crawl the ascent, at last midday oats at the wind-battered summit,
Almost get blown over, then brake pads heat up on the winding descent as back downhill they plummet.
The rest of the day's spent on knackering tracks, some weaving and heaving: an effort to power on,
It's Lord of the Rings roads round roots of Scotch pines, and Torridon looming - the great Eye of Sauron.
A Sunday lunch drop in, left-overs piled high, there's beef & horse radish and even banoffee,
A fierce wind whips up so they don't get much further: a shed full of antlers,
In spic skylit bothy.
Next, all-day goose chase on local advice; A-road to B-road to U-turns with Z-bends,
Eight miles round a headland on rocky foot path, a valiant slog to Diabaig: dead end.
Gairloch at last, where there's no midge-free campsite, but louts can't expect to be treated like princes,
But sweet talk and Bingo! a dinner is wangled, plus night in a hotel heaving with blue rinses.
There's coach-loads of oldies with WWII stories, of lads on the front line - a different epoque,
Now's Monday night Cabaret, a la carte dining,
Served by teenagers from the Eastern Block.
Ullapool's stewing in mid to high thirties, don't even try riding - just flopping is best,
And anyway, someone is winging their way there, so let's have a drum-roll for the mystery guest:
Long ride from Chalk Farm with tall bike on the train, his pedigree steed has been specially bred,
This kid's no imposter, more, surrogate brother; Micky G now aboard
It's two pinks and a red.
For Achiltibuie the high trio set, clegs lap the fresh sweat and things start to get sordid,
Stac Pollaidh's a mirage (remembered from school trips); for high Scottish temps it's the worst yet recorded.
The tall peleton rides in tight race formation,
And through the heat wave they get faster and faster,
Plus midges close in when legs stop - so they don't -
But make for the house of a kind ex-schoolmaster.
This Point of Stoer home is a snug place for board games and Mendelssohn - it's been a hard days' ride,
A wash is put on but machine door gets jammed, thus stuck in the cottage with clothes locked inside.
An impromptu rest day with lycra held hostage - all stranded because of a few bits of cloth,
At last Micky G cracks the code with long arm,
Click & release, destination: Cape Wrath.
There's no sign of humans, just skuas and bogland,
A twelve-mile track to the distant outpost,
Glimpse vast white sand bays where nobody goes,
So far the most desolate place on the coast.
The boatman is sweetened (once foul-mouthed and fierce),
High tea in a sweet shop rewards perseverance,
As hamlets lie ruined where once these shores thrived, 'til ancestors left on the ships during Clearance.
The stark West Coast landscape has come to an end, for Tall Bike Tour Britain is turning the corner,
Pitch on the white sand
And watching for whales
As well as some other more down-to-earth fauna.
Durness to Thurso is blitzed in eight hours, land flattens so suddenly, distance seems virtual,
While over on Ronaldsay, isles are hopskotched, on strategic causeways constructed by Churchill.
Orcadian folk all have twinkling eyes,
Their fertile fields in the haar look ethereal,
Welcomes abound from workshops and farms, where boys are served breakfast with oatcakes and cereal.
Peedie crofts dwarfed
On the road to Stromness,
The clowns are being silly
And taking it easy,
The Ring of Brodgar stands close by Scara Brae - a village dating back to 3,000 BC.
Neolithic waves mess up mobile phone signals, from extinct people who used no tools but stone,
Boys back on the boat with a new recruit: Ben
Who helps with donations: and well holds his own.
( Perhaps at this stage interjection is needed, in case some are bored by the rhymes and the snaps,
Those who are should try riding each day for six hours, on raisins and "value" oats - just like the chaps ).