Terry is a master 'vanner and expert at getting the van exactly at the right level, even to knowing that the nose needs to be down a tad in order to assist the shower to drain! The Dingwall site was sloping and this meant that he needed to use the ramp under the wheel on the door side of the van. As usual, he saw me off and then set about getting ready for the road. When I met him a couple of hours later, he told me that when he came to move the van off the ramp, he happened to be standing immediately next to the door. What he didn't expect was as the van was rolling off the ramp, the accumulated rain on the flat roof cascaded over the side and give him a thorough drenching! I know the feeling Terry!
The road out of Dingwall takes in the busy single carriageway A9 so there is no pleasure here. Looking over to the East I see the stream of traffic crossing the Cromarty Firth towards Inverness and think to myself that I will travel 250 miles before I am on that same road - more than 80 of these miles today. After leaving Alness, and the A9, things change dramatically along the B9176 and then the A836 to Bonar Bridge and Lairg, one of the few roads I ever travelled where an "A" road is a single track with passing places! The terrain here is unlike any other in the UK. It is beautiful, stark, bleak and largely empty. It is a such a great feeling to be in the open air and part of that.
We stop for coffee at Bonar Bridge and agree to rendezvous for lunch at the Crask Inn, a pub/B&B so remote that it features as a place name on the map! The last time I was there, there were 34 fellow soaked-to-the-skin cyclists crammed into its small bar. Today it is empty. We are greeted warmly however. They probably wont be offended if I say that the Crask isn't exactly the Ritz, but Kier and Mike still were kind enough to make a generous contribution to AOS. It is very humbling to see such kindness and I rejoined efforts towards Bettyhill with renewed vigour.
A late start and a long ride meant that it was really close to nightfall when I rolled in to Bettyhill. As I pass, nothing seems to have changed at the hotel, but the sight of the empty beach and the Pentland Firth gives me "another milestone" feeling. The site is just along from the hotel but is just as bleak as the countryside with a few statics that I note have some very substantial anchors lashing them down! Nevertheless it does have electric power which means we can stay warm without depleting the gas bottle. It is a stormy night and the prospects of the ride to John O'Groats in the morning in gale and rain are not encouraging.