Monday, July 28, 2008

Some thoughts on Scotland

It's been about 3 months since I got back from Scotland.

It hasn't stuck with me the way other trips have, and didn't really leave me wanting more. Only now am I starting to get the travel itch again and when I do it's mostly with memories of earlier trips. Perhaps it's because riding from home to a distant point feels like more of a journey, there's a feeling of achievement and adventure which isn't the same when your start point is also your finish line. Maybe it's that riding in the UK doesn't hold the same excitement as setting off across foreign lands and trying to get by in funny languages. (Gaelic doesn't really count) It's helped me figure out a little more about what I like in a tour, which is good.

There were some nice aspects to the tour. The campsites in Scotland are pretty good and it was great to get hot showers and not smell so bad. It's easier to get hold of books in my own language. The scenery was lovely and it was fun staying at hostels and meeting other cyclists. I was even fortunate enough not encounter any haggis, kilts or bagpipes. The weather sucked at times but I was blessed with a few lovely days too. The drivers acted like British drivers, there weren't too many of them but the single track roads make it more of a big deal when you do meet one.

The food situation left a lot to be desired. I really missed the little boulangeries and charcuteries of France, fresh bread, pastries, cheese, fruit & veg in every town, my morning pain au chocolats... In the remote Scottish islands, such shops are rare. Most are Co-ops and general grocery stores with very little in the way of good fresh produce. The only thing Scotland really had going for it foodwise was the excellent local smoked fish.

The Outer Hebrides are quite a popular cycle touring destination. They are very special with some beautiful spots and I'd recommend going just for the experience of going, but they're definitely not among my greatest cycling experiences, and I doubt that would be much different if the wind had been on my back. I'm quite glad I didn't end up cycling on Lewis as apparently there are many miles of boggy flatness.

Gearing down

Those of you who like to store useless information in your brains may remember that I changed my gearing before going on this trip. In my daily cycling at home I found that this really helped with getting up hills. Once fully loaded I found it helped a little but not enough. Unfortunately I would need to change quite a few more bits and pieces to get my gears any lower so it's not likely to happen soon.

Early return

There were a few reasons why I came back earlier than planned and one of them is also the reason that it's taken me so long to write up this trip... our new business.

Dgym and I started our web hosting business back in January and have been working hard at it ever since. There's been quite a lot to work on, while I was away dgym and I often found ourselves talking quite excitedly over the phone about new ideas, making me a little keener than usual to come back home.

So it's been busy and exciting and it's taken me longer than usual to get the travel itch back into my system, but now summer is here it's happening again and I'm hoping to get enough sorted with the business that I can get going again.

One difficult thing about running this kind of business is that once people have signed up they are paying for a constant service and you need to make sure that service is always there for them. The nice thing is that when the service is running, most people are generally happy and don't tend to bother you. With the right setup to alert you if anything goes wrong or anybody does need help, and the tools to put it right wherever you are, things can be pretty sweet. It somewhat messes with my ideal of riding off into the distance and getting away from technology for a few weeks, but if that's a sacrifice that will enable to me tour at all, it's one worth making.


Unknown said...

Ooo, hosting.

Do you host python scripts? I have a need for a site that will talk python and interface with Amazon web services for file storage (S3 etc) and I'm looking for a host.

Hel said...

Yes, it's Linux VPS so python's no problem. Have a look at and drop us a line if you're interested. We're very good, by the way. ;-)

Hope all's well with you!

Anonymous said...

Hi Helen - Your trip sounds more ambitious than my triathlon. Perhaps sometime we can ride together.

Hel said...

Hi Jane. That would be pretty cool! So I heard a rumour that you're headed over this way later in the year?