I woke up reasonably early and, having admired the view of the lighthouse in the morning sunshine, went to quality assess the showers (thumbs up) before faffing about plenty and deciding I probably ought to eat some of my variety pack cornflakes (leftovers from a Cub holiday) for breakfast. I managed to steal hot water for coffee, which is always a good thing. Then bikes were prepped, suncream applied, sunnies found, and campsite fees paid up before we waved goodbye to PerkyGirl, who was planning to spend the majority of the day horizontal with a good book recovering from having been unwell but made the extremely generous offer of acting as emergency rescue with the car, should it prove necessary. Ariadne, Crystal Tips, Blueth, GlasgowDave and myself set off continuing clockwise round the island. At least, I'm fairly sure it was clockwise.
*thinks hard, visualises clock and curses the fact that she has the spatial awareness of a jellyfish*
Yes, clockwise. Probably. Anyway, it was a little bit of down and then rather a lot of up and then plenty more of both and unbelievably utterly gorgeous riding, in extremely good company, to get to Blackwaterfoot where we raided the shop for ice creams and fizzy pop and apparently very good pies and a big bottle of water to top up all round. We commandeered a bench with a view and set about consuming comestibles with gusto. The public toilets were a little odd - it seemed that gents could pee for free, but ladies were expected to pay to use the funny automated loo. We decided we were too cheapskate for that, and would run the risk of walking past the urinal. Shocking behaviour. Those who knew about routes and roads and wind directions and stuff discussed the possibilities. I simply smiled and said that I planned to pedal and follow and was happy to do so on whichever route was preferred. Because I'd realised that I didn't really care about headwinds or hills or potholes or whether we didn't have lunch until 3 (this turned out to be A Good Thing) or if we didn't get back to the campsite 'til dark or if we ended up doing far more miles than was strictly speaking sensible or that it was really far too warm for me to be out riding because I'm very much not good at warm - any of that stuff. It was a beautiful day, I had interesting and entertaining company who seemed completely unfussed about my snail-paced twiddling uphill and the roads.... well, they are the kind of roads that make you want to just keep riding, aren't they?
A decision was made to continue round to go and look at some standing stones, so that's what we did - including a mile or two over Machrie Moor of Comedy Off-Roading that the Northallerton Random Pubbe Runne would be proud of - and found several sets. Then back again to the road, and turning at a junction onto a simply splendid road that rose steadily ahead, a vision in silky smooth blacktop. A gap soon developed between myself and the others, but I was pretty confident that, as had happened on most of the mild inclines so far, they would wait for me either at the top or at any junction I needed to know about and, a little further along (after, just possibly, entertaining the local wildlife with some slightly tuneless singing on the way) I was proved to be correct in this assumption when I found the others waiting most chivalrously at a junction, next to a rather fabulous postbox. I was strongly advised to eat something before the next bit of climbing, and had my hand filled with sour cherry sweets to fuel me up the road into the wind.
For the first time all day really we encountered a bit of traffic, but it was very well-mannered traffic. The road went up, but never particularly aggressively. The wind wasn't exactly friendly, but it was a warm day and I'd probably have found it harder without a bit of a breeze. And I was, completely unsurprisingly, the last one to the top. But I never lost sight of the others up ahead of me. It wasn't easy at all, but I ddn't mind at all either. As I later discusses with GlasgowDave - I expect to find hills hard. I know I'm likely to be the slowest and the last one up there. And I fulfilled that expectation admirably! You can't be as overweight as I am and expect anything diffeent and, of course, the niggly elbow restricts me somewhat too at the moment - I can't honk up hills or pull on the bars because it hurts. So change down, change down, change down some more. Twiddle away, and enjoy the view. All the way up where I arrived with yet another cheshire cat grin to find the Blueth, GlasgowDave, Aridane and Crystal Tips sunning themselves on the grass verge and eating crisps. There really are worse ways to spend a Saturday. I think that the general feeling was that it was very much lunchtime and, as GD said, at least it was now downhill all the way to Brodick. "What sort of downhill?" I asked as we set off. "The steeeeeeeeeeeeeep sort!" came the answer, as he dropped like a stone. Mind, I didn't do a bad impersonation of one myself. Didn't manage to catch him, but I wasn't far behind at all! I commented at the bottom that a year ago a descent like that would have left me a gibbering wreck - I'm really rather glad that I've sort of learned to enjoy those bits.
As we tootled into Brodick we perused the eating options along the seafront, soon finding ourselves a spot with a view of the crazy golf (which made me think of Kirst, and wonder how nonn's expotition up NCN 1 was going) and got down to the serious business of getting on the outside of some late lunch and coffee. Then a trip to the co-op to use the cashpoint and get postcards for me and dinner options for the proper campers whi had stoves and pots with them, in case they decided to cook. I made the spontaneous decision to not worry about it, and rely on the campsite shop of the Hotel restaurant to provide and revelled in the incredible luxury of not even having to think about what would be for tea. GlasgowDave bought a large bottle of water to top up everyone's bottles and, lurking outside while Blueth came to the rescue of sme shoppers with a dodgy trolley, I noticed that not only was the red Roberts very red, very shiny, and fairly diminuative it was even sparkly. I think I may have bike lust... and, what with my dreadful soul-destroying pragmatism and all, I normally never really like bikes all that much unless they are in nice sensible don't show the muck colours. Shocking.
Then off we went, out of town and back onto the road up and southwards following the same route as the previous evening. Which meant that I wa prepared, and ina sensibly low gear for the climb - when a chain unshipping incident just in front of me meant a quick stop once more, at almost exactly the same spot. Swiftly sorted and underway again and despite the road being slightly busier the ride was just as lovely on a second visit. At Lamlash Blueth decided to stop for an ice cream, but the rest of us decided to press on towards Kildonan. The others, naturally, were waiting for me at the top but I did point out that I was now on roads that contain dangerous traces of me knowing where I am (quite apart from the fact that I think even I would have to work quite hard at getting lost on the island!) and was absolutely fine with finding my own way if it came to it. Although I did have a bit of a moment on the climb out of Whiting Bay when I was looking at how little water I had left and tryng really quite hard to remember if it was three or four climbs.... however, a few moments later I was passed (safely and politely of course) by the bus which I saw take a turning to the left a little further along the road. Since I knew it went past the campsite I was pretty sure that this would be my junction and indeed it was. The exhilarating drop back down saw me coast into the campsite as happy as Larry just in time to see the rest of the gang heading for the pub, so I joined them to sit outside, drink fuzzy pop and admire the ferries and sailing ships out on the water.
Then a visit to the campsite shop to get my phone plugged in to charge in return for a donation in the charity box, and it was time for a quick shower and to dress for dinner - back at the hotel. It's a very civilised way to camp, I must say. The service was pleasant, the company engaging and the Crabbies went down very nicely alongside a goats cheese salad, a pretty good veggie chilli and a bowl of tablet ice cream following a conversation about no, I really hadn't ever tried it and didn't actually know what tablet was. Scotland's dentists must pay for their pinarellos with the profits it brings them.... good stuff. We retired to the drawing room after dinner. Well, to a collection of tarps and mats on the sheltered side of GlasgowDave and PerkyGirl's tent as it was ever so slighlty breezy. Fleeces, hats, hoods and whisky all made an appearance and I even put a long sleeved jersey on over my t-shirt as we admired the stars and the crescent moon which, to once more steal Butterfly's terribly apt description, had clearly read all the right children's books and knew exactly what it was meant to look like. The conversation was varied with audaxing anecdotes and touring plans and ferry fun and the gender politics of spider infested baths all cropping up. And quite a lot of other stuff too! Then, after a spot of postcard writing (including an emergency email to our man in Nepal when I realised I was short of an address and that he'd probably know it!) I headed for my teeny tiny tent before i was even midnight - a postively early night by my standards...