We had a bit of a disturbed night last night; Irene was disturbed by the car headlights as they passed us by (I didn’t hear or see a thing!) but I was awoken at 4am with Dexter crying to go out. It’s not like him to behave this way so he must be desperate. Irene got to him first and sure enough, he went to the toilet as soon as he was outside. Even after that the dogs weren’t really settled and as the dawn broke a couple of cars pulled in to where we had parked for the night and some walkers got out, tripod in hand, so obviously intending to photograph nearby. We were up then which was quite early for us (now that we’re retired) so we had a brew and got ourselves ready to leave. Gary took some photos this morning as the view of the peaks with the rising sun looked pretty spectacular and not as shrouded in mist as last evening.
We set off with our intention to stop at Fort William for breakfast and fuel. Passing through Glen Coe reminded me of when we came up here touring on our Pan European Motorbike. With Irene on the pillion and the panniers and tank bag stuffed with clothes and provisions we sailed along at quite a lick following our friend, Al Goold, on his Fireblade. This time we were travelling at a more sedate speed and able to take in the views, which were as stunning as I remember.
The trip along the lochside on the way to Fort William was quite challenging for a 3.5tonne Motorhome and not as much fun as the motorbike, but still enjoyable just the same!
It is now midday. We are suitably breakfasted, walked the dogs, done a bit of shopping and now going to have a cup of tea and try and get some shut eye before venturing off to Inverness in about an hours time.
Well, what an eventful day it has been, or is that an understatement?! Our ‘first’ event occurred at Morrisons, Fort William where we intended to re-fuel before the off. Gary topped up the van fine but when Irene tried to put petrol in the Granny the fuel p****d all over the place coming out from the hose as much as the nozzle. Help was called and whilst Irene awaited the attendant to come, Gary went off to pay. Whilst at the kiosk I mentioned the fuel issue for Irene and the lady behind the glass raised her eyes saying, “it happened earlier today but when she checked it she said the pump was okay”. I said, “well it isn’t now. Perhaps she didn’t check it properly earlier. I’m glad you’re not a Garage as I would wonder what to expect if I had had a repair done!” The lady just rolled her eyes. I mentioned the previous incident to the attendant and she said, “yes, that’s right, there was nothing wrong “. When I said “it doesn’t look like it was okay does it?” She got all shirty! Hmmm, you can’t get the staff these days.
After re-fuelling we left Fort William around 1pm as expected and made our way up the A82 towards Inverness. The journey was relatively smooth for about 45 mins when Gary started to look for somewhere to stop for a short while. He found a bit of forestry where we could run the dogs off the lead for a while. As Sod’s law would have it, just at the same time another vehicle pulled in and out stepped the driver with two dogs. Instead of having the place to ourselves we had to endure the growling and barking that occurs when dogs are on leads. Fortunately the other owners went off in a different direction and the dogs had a good run for a while. Even that wasn’t without incident as Lucy followed Dexter into the shallow river but she chose a spot where she couldn’t get out again. When I went down to get her she was holding her right paw as if it was injured, and no amount of coaxing and calling could persuade her to move. It wasn’t until I got right down to the waters edge that I saw she had somehow managed to get her leg caught in her Halti head collar! Only Lucy could do that I’m sure.
We started off again and eventually got to Inverness and seeing the signs for a long stay lorry park, I made my way through Inverness in the said direction, eventually ending up at the V8 cafe on the North Road Industrail Estate. We were just in time for a cuppa as it was now 3.55pm and the cafe closed at 4. However the staff were very accommodating and quickly brewed us some tea that we could enjoy out on the patio. The weather, fortunately was much more conducive than it had been and we made contact with John for some directions to their cottage. Whilst waiting for messages to appear via Messenger we enquiried of the staff for somewhere to park up for the night. We declined their offer to stay on the cafe Car Park at £12 per night, but rather wanted somewhere we could get some peace and quiet for the night. The young man directed us to Loch Garve just off the A9 and pretty we soon set off en route, hoping to be well settled by 5pm. We stopped for a short telephone call with John who gave us some general directions but, as the mobile signal wasn’t brilliant, I asked John to message/text me the details, which he agreed to do. We headed up the A9 and then the A835 towards our night halt when, at a village called Contin, the rear offside tyre of the van blew out with a very loud bang! Fortunately Gary’s years of driving and Police training meant he kept control and very quickly pulled into an entrance to the SSE Renewable Generation Site Office in Contin, with enough room for Irene to pull alongside. A very helpful couple in a car behind stopped and offered their services to change the wheel, but when the one-legged man got out to assist it did not bode well. To be fair to them they did stop and offer but it became clear pretty soon that Gary was not going to get the wheel off as he couldn’t even undo one wheel nut, so we had no option but to call on our Breakdown Insurance through the Camping & Caravanning Club. The call handler at the other end was sweet enough but you could tell she was reading from a script and, despite using the phonetic alphabet, it took a while to explain where we were and what was required. An elderly gentleman named John MacPhail and his lady from across the road heard the noise and also came out to give assistance, and offered us refreshments and to keep warm if the rescue was likely be long. However, once again we declined as the Granny was all kitted out for day camping and it wasn’t long before Irene had a hot cup of chocolate to keep the cold at bay whilst Gary tried in vain to undo the nuts or access the spare. We were given the ‘within the hour’ message but when we received the confirmation text shortly after it gave us an eta of 18.56 and it wasn’t quite 17.30 at the time!! Fortunately the recovery/rescue garage called Bannermans rang us and gave us a much better estimate saying he should be here by 18.30, which he was. It didn’t take us long to jack the van up and get the wheel off and it was then we saw this gaping split on the inside wall of the tyre. There was no obvious reason for it to fail in this way and the mechanic could not offer an explanation either except the age of the tyre perhaps. With the van jacked up we could now also get at the spare and to my dismay, despite checking and inflating the spare a few months ago, it was very soon obvious there was very little air left in the tyre.! I started inflating it and the gauge read 10psi down from 65psi. Was this another bad omen? Well after quite a long time the tyre was inflated to the correct pressure and appeared to be holding it, so it was put on the van and everything was packed away. By now it was 7.45pm and it was dark, but once again our gentleman friend and his wife came to our rescue by pointing us in the direction of a suitable overnight parking spot less than 200 yards up the road!! Thanking them profusely we got to our spot amongst the trees by 8pm so we gave the dogs some ‘wee’ time, and I fed them whilst Irene warmed up some soup for our supper. It is now 9.45pm, we are warm and cosy and about to get ready for bed. We have informed John and Helen of our ‘event’ and that we would probably be delayed whilst we source a new spare tyre for the van tomorrow. It was a good job we had the Granny with us as this event could have been worse if we had had the Aygo in tow at the time. Another good result is that when Gary took all the paraphernalia out of the battery compartment to find the jack handle, out popped the missing part of the compartment lock, which was promptly fixed and re-secured. Quite an eventful day. I wonder what tomorrow will bring?