Day 6: The Road to Scotland
We woke up early this morning to get our showers taken care of. This hostel has been good to us as it had the best and warmest showers to date. We headed down for breakfast and had another round of hot tea, beans, eggs, sausage, mushrooms, tomato, toast and that wonderful back bacon! During breakfast, we saw the trio of ewes that roamed the grounds of the hostel out the window as they marched uphill toward the waterfall.
Today will be our longest drive as we head into Scotland towards Oban. Scotland looks very much like the English countryside but with more wind turbines, sheep and clouds as well as more rain and accents closer to that of groundskeeper Willie from The Simpsons. The highway to Scotland has “The North” displayed on signs making me think of both Winterfell and the house of Stark from A Game of Thrones…also Vikings for no apparent reason.
We hit Glasgow, which is the hometown of my TV chef hero Gordon Ramsay, right in time for noon traffic. While waiting in traffic, I imagined what sort of conversation chef Ramsay and I would have if we ever met. I imagine we’d obviously talk about food and how Colorado is land-locked and that restricts me to cooking with beef, chicken, buffalo and pork rather than fish (save for trout.) We’d probably discuss his shows a bit and then I’ll probably get called “DONKEY!” at some point.
By Loch Lomond, we had a minor wreck when a truck took up his lane as well as our lane on a narrow and winding road with lots of blind curves (roads here have no shoulders.) Stephanie tried to avoid the truck and succeeded but not without tagging the stone fence first. When we found a proper stopping place, we noticed a huge gash on the side wall of the tire from the stone fence. Fortunately, we had the spare tire, but the jack was bent at such an angle that lifting the car resulted in several slips of the groove, so a wrecker had to be called. It was in this experience that we learned how nice it was to have mile markers, but since there were no mile markers, we had to “describe our location” which proved very difficult, even with the aid of GPS. I believe that without the GPS, we would have been back to the times when people drew maps like this:
After an hour of waiting, the wrecker arrived with another car loaded onto the back. It turned out that he just rescued some Spaniards that got a double-blowout. When the mechanic told the man from Spain that we were American, he got excited and came over to talk to us. He said he was about to start working in San Diego and joked about how he couldn’t drive on the left side of the road either. Stacey asked the mechanic if he is busy on this road and he replied “aye, it’s a very busy road.” He probably has a lot of job security due to all the damn tourists crashing into walls. Once he got us back up and going, we headed deeper towards the Scottish Highlands towards Oban. (Post Trip Note: We found out weeks after the trip that this was in fact one of the most dangerous roads in the UK…we believe it!)
Oban is a very nice bayside town. Once we found The Backpackers Inn, our next agenda was to find food. We walked around town as it began to rain. We found a nice fish & chips place with delicious food and free Wi-Fi. I had an excellent leek & cheese halibut fish cake, Stacey & Josh both got fish & chips and Stephanie had some beef.
The Backpackers Inn is the most “hostel” feeling place we’ve stayed thus far. There are 6 others in here with us; we only conversed with one whom was an English woman that was biking across the country. Although I prefer the company of my group in our sleeping quarters, the hostel has some real character to it! There are “code names” for our beds with names like “Turkish Delight,” “Chinese Checkers” “French Fries” and so on. I however, got “American Pie;” the woman sleeping across the room from me got “Portuguese Man of War” …a totally badass name…. I wanted “Portuguese Man of War” because “American Pie” is lame! At least on my card they named me “Bred,” which totally sounds like how a Scottish person would pronounce my name…so gotta stick to the small victories!
We decided to tour the Oban Distillery, which is far from the biggest distillery in Scotland, but it’s older than the town itself. For 9 pounds, we got to take the tour, sample some 10 and 14 year old whiskeys and the best part was that we got a tasting glass with the price of our admission. Not a bad way to score a “free” souvenir!
After the tour, I got to photograph another creepy/funny ice cream sign, which is something that I’ve started doing since the trip began…maybe I’ll have to make a “weird ice cream sign” album on Facebook when I post the photos. We explored briefly and then found a pub. Josh, Stephanie and I had a beer and poor Stacey tried to get whiskey mixed with something but her exchange went something like this:
Stacey: “Do you have Whiskey sours?”
Bartender: “Whiskey isn’t sour”
Stacey: “Uh I mean can it be mixed?”
Bartender: “We have some blended whiskeys”
Josh: “He doesn’t know what that is Stacey! It doesn’t exist here!”
Me: “Yeah it’s Scotland, they don’t mix whiskey with anything”
Stacey: “I mean a mixed whiskey drink!”
Bartender: “We have over 80 malts and Whiskeys I don’t know which you want”
Stacey: “Fine, I’ll have a tap water”
Stacey went on a bit about how she thinks a whiskey sour isn’t hard to make and how they should know what she’s talking about. I teased her about her Cherry Vodka Sours which in America, she’s 50/50 on bartenders knowing what she means ( which is only Grenadine, sweet & sour and vodka…usually they just give her cherry flavored vodka)….she really needs to find a new drink, or needs to start drinking beer.
We headed back to the hostel and deemed it too annoying to hang around, so we went to an Irish pub. Stacey didn’t like that plan and felt that the hostel would be a fun place to meet people. Stephanie said she was in “old lady mode” and didn’t want to meet young and loud people. Josh and I felt that the hostel was too annoying also and the pub is where you can meet some real cool Scottish people. I’d rather be friends with someone that sounds like Desmond on Lost rather than someone just on holiday. Our stay in the pub as a quartet lasted all but 15 minutes when Stacey and Stephanie left us to go to bed….at 9:30!! I was initially annoyed since it wasn’t like any of us had work the next day, but I got over it when Josh and I amused ourselves by talking about how we like “aping” the accents over here. I think we enjoy aping other accents because our own accents are boring and bland by comparison to a Scottish accent.
We’ve headed to our hostel after an hour of nachos, live music, a few glasses of Guinness and just general conversing. Most of our room was already in bed even though the lobby was still very alive and annoying. I glared jealously at “Portuguese Man of War,” obviously still jealous of the vastly cooler name than “American Pie.”
Tomorrow we’ll check out Loch Ness and I have some fun planned for it!!