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FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 5, 2003
When last we left our intrepid hero (i.e. me), he was staying in the posh Loch Torridon Country House Hotel and had gone to bed after a dinner of Sea Trout at 10:30pm. This is his story:
Woke up. Just flat out couldn't sleep.
Called Beth, Erin & Benny. It was 7:30pm (the previous day) their time, so I finally got a chance to talk to the kids, who had just finished their first day back at school. (Erin in 4th grade, Benny in 1st.) After that, I tried the TV and reading. Finally slept again, on and off.
Woke up, very tired. Showered. This shower was okay, but still not great. The nozzle was difficult to adjust.
Breakfast at the Hotel. Orange & Tomato Juice. Toast, Cornflakes, Oatmeal Porridge with Brown Sugar & Cream.
After taking a few pictures around the gorgeous and gorgeously situated hotel -- and once again putting up with the car alarm -- we were back on the road. This was the first day we weren't simultaneously en route to our next hotel. We were staying a second night in Annat at the Loch Torridon.
We drove from Annat to (the southern) Shieldaig to take a loop from Tornapress to Applecross to Fearnmore to Kenmore and back to Shieldag. That was the plan anyway. But we wound up making a wrong turn. We were still on the loop, but we wound up going in the opposite direction from our original intent. It wound up working out well, if not better. We passed by Kenmore and Fearnmore, driving the high coastal cliffs of the peninsula overlooking the Inner Sound and the Isles of Rona and Raasay. We stopped to take some pictures, and an older couple in a mobile home (coming from the opposite direction, as we had originally planned) pulled over beside us. The man got out and took one of the few pictures we got of the two of us together. He was incredibly nice, with great stories about his distant relatives in America. But the thing that struck me the most was his voice. He had great timber, and an even greater accent. A real Scottish brogue, but perfectly understandable. Very rich. (He was, incidentally, from just outside Edinburgh.) The voice director in me wanted to get him into a recording booth immediately. He warned us that the road ahead was steep quite steep with a number of sharp turns. He said had he known, he'd have never had taken his mobile home there. It didn't have the engine to carry the weight and there were moments when the wind felt like it was going to carry him over the side. He also recommended that we stop in Applecross for fresh baked bread. It sounded really appealing, but the truth was we had just had breakfast. I would like to go back though and have lunch there sometime.
The views on route to and coming out of Applecross were just spectacular. And he hadn't been kidding about the steep winding and very windy roads of the Bealach-na-Ba which rises to 2,053 feet with many hairpin turns. Bealach-na-Ba means "Pass of the Cattle" in Gaelic, and it is an old drover's trail for taking cattle to market. It was a little intimidating even in our little round Beetle. But man... gorgeous. Generally, on the whole trip we had extremely cooperative weather. And today was no exception. We never really got rained on. But the day was a touch misty over the ocean, and from an altitude standpoint, we were pretty high up. It might have been nice to really have a clear day to see forever, but still and all, I have nothing to complain about. And there's something right about the mist and the wind, the sharp, grey day. We stopped a couple times for more pictures.
We completed our loop, again passing Tornapress without ever actually seeing Tornapress. Passed Shieldaig again, stopped for gas and then returned briefly to the hotel. I had another apple in my room. Then we drove northeast on the A896 along Glen Torridon, passing as usual the ubiquitous sheep that move with impugnity around the country. I also spotted a raptor of some sort, almost literally hovering in one place in the strong wind. My dad commented that considering how many sheep were all around, there was surprisingly little lamb on the menus. I don't like lamb, but I tried to come up with some explanation. My favorite was that all the sheep we were passing were pets.
But we also considered the possibility that lamb on the plate ONLY comes from literal lambs, i.e. baby sheep. Maybe these sheep were all too old at this point.
Anyway, we drove along the Glen to Kinlochewe (a town I could never figure out how to pronounce). There we took the A832 north. It wound around the coast of Wester Ross passing near Loch Maree, the more northerly Shieldaig and Loch Gairloch. We passed through Charlestown, Gairloch and Poolewe. Drove along Loch Ewe to Aultbea and Laide. Drove around Gruinard Bay and crossed over to Little Loch Broom, before turning south through the stunning Dundonnell Forest.
We took the A835 north, planning to stop at Corrieshalloch Gorge and the Falls of Measach, but we passed the pull off before we could react. And since we were coming back the same way later, we decided to press on.
We stopped at Ullapool on Loch Broom. We had lunch at the Calley Inn. Tomato Soup and Mussels (again). The food was good. It started to rain a bit, while we were inside. (It had rained some nights, both while we slept or while we dined, and we had driven few small showers here and there along our route, but we had literally never been rained on. My dad never used his umbrella the whole trip.) Walking back through Ullapool, I put on my hat due to the very light rain, but it ended soon enough.
I stopped at a local knitting store that didn't look too touristy and bought Beth a sweater. (I should say, it was really amazing of her not to balk or squalk about this trip. It was not a great time for me to be going. She's a teacher, and she had to spend the week prepping her classrom for this week's start of school. The kids, on the other hand, were off until Thursday. My mom pitched in. But it was still a lot for Beth to cover.) Anyway, I picked out a wool sweater in colors I knew Beth would like. There was no medium available, so I chose a large, knowing that Beth liked loose-fitting clothes over tight. The saleslady, however, really tried to talk me into the small, saying that she thought the large was too big. I was pretty confident I was right, but she really started to make me paranoid about my choice. I stuck to my guns, and the woman surrendered reluctantly, telling me I could come back and exchange the sweater if Beth didn't like it. I thought that would be a nice trick. Though a tad expensive.
We had had some vague thoughts of heading further north, perhaps to Achiltibuie or even Lochinver. But it was already getting late, and we didn't want to push our luck. So we headed "home".
We backtracked to the Corrieschalloch Gorge and the Measach falls. The midges were out in force. Though we had been warned about them, they hadn't been a problem before now. So although I had bug repellant, I had left it at the hotel -- along with our other rolls of film. We got one picture of the Gorge from the swaying suspension bridge that spanned it. But that was it for the day, as the roll was used up. (This hadn't been an issue before, as every other day we were driving from one hotel to another, so we always had ALL of our stuff with us in the car. But today we were returning to the same hotel, so we had brought almost nothing with us.) Anyway, as with everything, the Gorge and falls were truly beautiful. But the back of my neck was getting eaten alive, so we beat a hasty retreat back to the car.
We headed south now, staying on the A835 past the Loch Glascarnoch Dam, the Black Water River and the Strathgrave Forest. Somewhere around here we finished "The Zebra-Striped Hearse". We had both enjoyed it immensely. Ed Asner's last scene as Colonel Blackwell had really been great.
We headed west on the A832 past Lochluichart, Achnasheen and Glenn Docherty, where we ran into a bit of construction on the one-lane road that caused some extremely minor delays. We rejoined the A896 at Kinlochewe and drove back through Glen Torridon to Loch Torridon, Annat and our hotel. I had another Shortbread cookie in my room.
Dinner brought Cheese souffle appetizers, like the little cheese crumpets in "The Great Mouse Detective". Another little teacup of soup, this time Mulagawtany. I ordered Mushroom Soup and Roast Beef with potatos and broccoli. Desert was Apple Pie and berries.
Later in my room, I returned a couple of business calls and talked for awhile with Duane Capizzi (my friend and the writing producer/story editor of such shows as "Men In Black" and "Jackie Chan"). He has a new series at Warner Brothers and was offering me some freelance scripts. I said yes. I don't know whether the project is confidential or not, so I won't say anymore about it at this point.
I talked to Beth and went to bed around 11:30pm.
TUNE IN MONDAY for more adventure. *Here's a preview: "The River Ness" "StoneQuest" "Birnam Wood" "The Famous Grouse" "McDonalds"*