Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

In 1972, my husband joined us a few hours ...

In 1972, my husband joined us a few hours before my Christian College students flew back to New York, ending their bicycle tour. Chub and I then began wandering around Britain. After watching the students’ plane take off from near Glasgow, Scotland, I learned that bicycles were not permitted on the auto route and the only other road was torn up for repair.

Chub followed me past the sign that said, “No Bicycles Permitted.” Several miles later a policeman pulled us over. He was polite but offered no solution to our problem. Suddenly he left and we pedaled on. A half-mile later, a gray-haired officer arrested us again, saying that we were breaking the law. I asked, “How would you get to the Outer Hebrides from here?” The fellow’s eyes twinkled as he whispered, “The road you’ll want is just around that bend, and I won’t look.”

Thus we began 575 miles of surprises. We rode north to Oban, ferried to the isle of Mull, rode on fresh oil for a few miles on our way to Tobermory, and the next day went by boat to South Uist Island. Loch Boisdale was celebrating Regatta Day, and there were no available rooms! We rented an empty house, sight unseen, that was six miles farther along. We climbed its creaky stairs, left our luggage and cycled back to see the sailboat races. We climbed back up those creaky stairs just before dark.

The next morning I discovered three huge things that I called dinosaur vertebrae. They were lightweight and were definitely old bones. When we returned the house key, we learned that they were whale vertebrae that had washed ashore ages ago. We could have had them free, and I wanted to ship them home for lawn seats. But, no. Chub is the practical one.

The next day we rode across Benbecula causeway to Loch Maddy on North Uist. It was an easy 44-mile trip. We saw only four autos all day. There were sheep along the roadsides but no houses, filling stations or trees for rest stops. Of course we had to improvise! I left my bike at the roadside and went behind a bush.

All during the college tour I’d tried, unsuccessfully, to beg or buy license plates for my collection at home and, to my great surprise, I found one behind that lone bush on unfenced sheep pasture! It’s the most treasured one in my collection.

At Loch Maddy, I stopped in a shop to buy Harris tweed yard goods. When I bought the last of a bolt, the elderly Scottish lady said, “You share this pattern with only six other people in the world; as no two Harris patterns are alike.” Then she told of her interesting youth as a missionary and an avid bicyclist. We exchanged Christmas greetings for several years.

We located a hotel one night, showered and changed and were waiting for the call to dinner. Another guest said that we had missed the boisterous Highland Games that day. Suddenly I screamed, “That’s my bike!” A drunk Scot wobbled off on my Peugeot!

As Chub and I dashed out the door yelling, the fellow jumped off, lifted my precious Peugeot high in the air and slammed it to the ground over a fence. In horror, I watched it bounce!

Chub had some “cautious criticism” to share with this guy. The man apologized with hat in hand as he bowed low. Then he leaped over the fence and returned my bike to me graciously. I was thankful that our son, Walt, had insisted that I buy good equipment so it could withstand rough treatment. It did!

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