I’ve crossed deserts. I crossed mountain passes. Hell, I’ve crossed continents. I’ve dragged the bike through bush to cross borders. I’ve dealt with wind, snow, rain, temperatures below zero, temperatures above forty. I’ve travelled along lonely isolated roads, sometimes over 200km between towns. I’ve also negotiated some of the busiest roads, in the biggest cities, with the worst drivers.
But yesterday I met my match: The Tay Bridge:
34,903km of riding around the world, and I was at the end of the line – Dundee. This was the planned end of my trip in the UK, from here I would get a train back to London, and fly home. The weather was shocking when I woke up, high winds, rain, snow, freezing temperatures. The wind was coming directly from the direction I wanted to go in. The only good point was that the snow wasn’t settling, so the roads weren’t icy. Normally I would have gone back to bed, but I needed to reach Dundee that night, to see some friends, and to get on the train I had booked for the next day.
So I struggled along, wearing pretty much the entire sum of my cycling wardrobe, some items coming out for the first time on this leg of the trip. In London I had purchased some new full finger gloves, since my old ones weren’t waterproof. The new ones were supposed to be windproof and waterproof, from a respected brand. Well, whoever put that on the label should be forced to go and do a ride like I did yesterday. A couple of times I had to stop, pull off the gloves, stick my fingers under my arms, try and warm them up, jumping up and down to distract myself from the pain of thawing fingers. Wouldn’t have been so bad if they had stayed numb, it’s when they keep switching between numb and thawing that it hurts.
Some roads were closed, so I had to wind about a bit, to get to the Tay Bridge. Finally I could see Dundee, see my destination. Rolled up to the roundabout just before the bridge, followed the signs for cyclists, around the path, through the carpark, and up to the special footbridge. There was a warning sign up, “Pedestrian and cyclist access will be closed if wind gusts exceed 60mph.” Should be fine then, gusts weren’t over 50 I thought. Rolled around the corner, onto the ramp up to the dedicated pedestrian/cyclist lane down the middle of the bridge…and the gate was shut. Foiled at the last. I could see Dundee, I just couldn’t get there.
Hmmm. What to do? First I went back to the kiosk, for some hot food and a drink. I was just warm enough when riding, but when I stopped, things got cold in a hurry, teeth chattering, near-uncontrollable shivering. Couldn’t stick around there forever. Hung around for a little while, in case there was any sign of the gate opening, or perhaps a friendly truck driver heading over the bridge. Nothing doing. Aha! I could see if I could get hold of Craig, see if he can come and get me.
So went to the nearby village, tried ringing Directory for the number for Bright Solid. No, no listing for that. OK, let’s try Scotland Online, the old name. Ah yes, we have a listing for that, but it’s ex-directory. Eh? But they’re a business that wants people to call them. Try another tack – go to the local Post Office, ask to borrow a phone book. Ah well, this is still Fife, so we only have an old copy of the Dundee phone book. No problem at all – we just need to look up Scotland Online. They had the phone number, it worked, and Craig was able to do me a great favour, and pick me up, and get me over the bridge to Dundee.
Was very nice to be inside a warm car, then inside the office, warming up and chatting to people. Had a nice night out in Dundee, good to catch up with Craig again – it’s been a while since I’ve been up to Dundee. Had changed a bit, they seemed to be building a whole lot of decent-looking student accommodation. Looked far better than what I think is appropriate for students, but I guess they don’t want to live in rat-infested tenements anymore.
A bit of fun with the trains this morning – because of the bad weather, East Coast trains have been cancelled. I thought I was all sorted, with a direct train from Dundee to London Kings Cross, bike reservation made. But my train was cancelled. Shit. The lovely woman at the ticket counter was able to help me though, getting me new tickets, and bike reservation to go across to Glasgow, and come down the West Coast. Will only end up being an hour later into London. Only problem is that Wi-Fi isn’t free on Virgin trains, and to make things worse, it’s not even working at all. Mustn’t complain though, the fact that they normally offer it and have it working is pretty awesome really.
There was a lot of snow on the ground through the Borders, I think I’m very lucky to have got through when I did, it would have been tough riding. It was always a bit of a chance, riding in the UK at this time of the year, but I’ve been very lucky, with really only the one day that was bad. Otherwise it was quite pleasant riding conditions, through the countryside, with spring just starting to peek through.