Adam Becker University of Edinburgh, Scotland


March 7, 2017

The lonely road is profound on a bike. It takes on a different feeling, a personal feeling. Two lane roads switching to single track every now and then. Yet the switching mattered little based on the few cars that passed over the many miles. The scenery rolled past, propelled by spinning gears. Arresting, stark bald mountains, colored red and green with dormant heather and well watered grasses. Mirror-glassed lochs, betraying the secret patterns of the winds. Dark, magical pine forests with echoing silence. Through these landscapes my two wheels buzzed on the wet pavement, bee-like at a lower pitch.

I had journeyed into Skye alone, not really knowing what to expect. The bike I had purchased off Gumtree was a notch above a beach cruiser, and its slow speeds really forced me to dwell in the journey the whole week. True, that every time I set out on the bike I had a destination in mind, whether that be riding to my bed for the night or some scenic location like the Quiraing. But there is something about needing to put physical effort into your movement that just made every journey seem… more whole. More of a full experience where every piece was part of it.

Add into this that February in the Highlands can be absolutely mad when it wants to be. Days spent with 30-40mph headwinds and eye-stinging rain really change the experience. Add in unexpected changes like a bike breaking down and hitchhiking for the first time. Add in people living vastly different, wonderful lives from the average student I run into. Add in friendly folk and that one creepy, middle aged, hostel man. What did I learn? What does life changing mean anyway?

I don’t know

I don’t know to both. The idea of “be like water” and just flow with whatever events arise had been something I had been thinking about for awhile. I saw some sublime sights and got to really play around with photography for the first time. I met fascinating people who were just traveling the world and had been doing so for months. The inhospitable weather and unexpected nature of everything made this trip one of a kind. I was certainly underprepared, but that made it challenging in a very unique and not displeasing way.

The final day the clouds spat down a mixture of rain and slushy hail, and I resorted to wearing a rain jacket I had made by cutting three holes in a trash bag, having learned earlier in the week that both my rainproof jacket and rainproof coat weren’t all that rainproof. It was the small things like that, making the most of it all. My luggage for the week was stuffed in my school backpack, double bagged in trash bags, and tied onto my bike with twine I had picked up at a Poundsaver. It was a trip of learning how to change plans constantly. Getting to the point where I’d say the majority of things I did were on the fly more so than planned. I’m still digesting the experience, but I tried to capture something of the feeling of each day below.

Saturday- The Train + the Bike

The thunk, clunk of tracks

The rhythm of Ulysses

Lashing bag to bike

Sunday- Via A87

The climb in low gear

Bony peaks break the skyline

Long lochs lay like glass

Monday- Castle Ewen, Fairy Glen, and Photography

Drown in the lush green

The haunting otherworldly

Hills frozen in dance

Tuesday- The Quiraing and the Gale

Eyes wide, feel the speed

Legs flying, heart rate climbing

The monsoon is now

Wednesday: RHA Waterfall

Give the bike a break

Breathe in tea, toast, waterfalls

The rhythm and flow

Thursday: The Scenic Way Back

Bike laying in mist

Thumb out, walking the white line

New Jack Kerouac

Friday: The Hike + the Train

The calm close of it

A last hike in the mountains

The thunk, clunk of tracks 

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