Thursday, May 27, 2010


Well, this one isnít going to be any fun to write, but I feel duty bound to write it.† I feel like I owe it to the faithful followers who have been giving me support as I ramble around the UK.


I got up at 4 this morning to pee, and it was raining and blowing outside, and I knew I didnít want to get on that boat.† I REALLY didnít want to.† It just wasnít worth it to me.† Three ferry trips, and I felt like it would ruin the next four days, worrying about them, not to mention the unpleasantness of seasickness on the actual crossings.† I should have prepared better and had a tested medical solution ready.† By ďtestedĒ, I mean something I had taken, to judge the side effects.† I think that the scopolamine patch would work great, but I had not taken the trouble to get a prescription from my doctor and get some, as I had on one of my Australia trips when I thought I might go out on a boat.† Dramamine does keep me from barfing, but it also makes me so sleepy that I couldnít have driven the distances I would have had to drive after the ferry trips.† I know, excuses, excuses.† I wimped out, pure and simple.† I am embarrassed and ashamed of myself.


Anyway, if I wasnít going, I had a lot of scrambling to do.† I had two B&Bís to cancel in the islands, as well as a birding tour.† I also had to find places to sleep for the next three nights.† Unfortunately, the internet connection at the B&B I was staying at wasnít working.† By putting my laptop on the window sill, I was able to connect to a neighborís unsecured wi-fi network, but it was a very marginal connection.† I was able to do a little research on times and distances, though, and started to formulate optional plans.† It is pretty funny, in hindsight, to see myself crouched over and using the laptop on the windowsill, but I wasnít laughing at the time.† Life can be pretty funny sometimes.


I also could only get a very marginal connection with my mobile phone.† I was able to get through to the place I was supposed to be staying tonight, and I cancelled that, but I couldnít get another call through to the other one in the islands.† By that time, I had decided that my best bet would be to move my Sunday night booking in Fort William to tonight, but since I couldnít use the phone, that had to wait.


When I checked out, my host asked about my plans, and when he heard I couldnít get a signal to call Fort William, he kindly let me use his land line, and I did change the Sunday night booking to tonight, and that is where I am now Ė Fort William.† I had to pay more, as the Sunday night room was a single, and they only had a twin available for tonight, but I took it, so I would at least have a place to go today, where I could get online and make my plans.† They are fully booked for the next several nights, though, so I had to find something else.


Next I went to the ferry place and got a refund of my ferry fares.† Then I called the other island B&B and cancelled that.† Fortunately, neither B&B wanted a cancellation charge, as it is a busy weekend (more on that in a few minutes), and they thought they could rent the rooms anyway.


So, having taken care of that business, I hit the road and drove south to Fort William.† It was a very pretty drive, but it took a lot longer than expected, like all trips over here.† I only made one wrong turn, and it only cost me maybe ten minutes.† The drive was easy, anyway, and I did ok, but in my mind, I was constantly thinking of various possibilities for the next three nights.


The major fly in the ointment is that the upcoming weekend is Whitsunday weekend.† It is both a three day weekend (the kickoff of the summer season, like our Memorial Day) and the start of the week-long mid-term school holiday.† Oops.† A very, very busy time for the tourist industry, so I knew I was in for problems trying to book something.† I was only able to change my booking here in Fort William for Sunday to tonight because they got a cancellation.


I stopped at a cafť/takeaway place in Fort Augustus, to see if I could get something for lunch to take away, but after standing at the counter for 5 or 6 minutes and being totally ignored, I left.† British service is a thing to behold.† A little way down the road there was a little cafť place, and stopped there and had their ďall day breakfastĒ - bacon, sausage, egg, toast, etc. and a cup of coffee to keep me awake.† 13 bucks well spent, and the service was excellent.† A very pleasant place, with a very limited menu, in the middle of nowhere.


So, I checked in to my guest house here in Fort William and immediately got online.† I sent off an email to the bird guide, first thing.† Then I started looking for a place to stay for the next three nights.† My first choice was a town called Oban, from which I could get a short ferry ride (on a sheltered inlet) to the Isle of Mull, and there are wildlife guiding trips that will pick you up at the ferry terminal on Mull and drop you back there.† I did various internet searches, and I called places.† I needed a place with internet access, so I was somewhat limited, but there were still a number to choose from.† I called 7 or 8 places, and all were fully booked for the weekend.† Hmmm.† Just what I was afraid of.† Next I tried Fort William, but had the same results.† I was getting nowhere, and the clock was ticking.


Looking at my maps, I decided maybe it was time to leave Scotland, since it seemed to be fully booked up for the next three days.† I started looking around the Lake District, in northern England.† Eventually, I found a ďcountry house hotelĒ, and I booked a room there for three nights, starting tomorrow night.† It will mean a 5 or 6 hour drive tomorrow, but I would have had to make most of that drive anyway, eventually.† It will be my last long day of driving, I think.


I donít know what I will do there for two full days, but I might spend one day driving around the Lake District, which is a very beautiful place.† There are also some birding sites in that general area, and maybe I will visit some of them.† It isnít far from the west coast, either, and maybe there are places there I would enjoy.† For me, the most important thing is that now I am set for the busy three day weekend, and I can just hole up in the hotel, with internet access in my room, if I have to.† I am sure there will be places to visit from there, though.† The hotel has a bar that serves bar meals in the evening, so maybe I can get away from my grazing dinners, too.† Steak and kidney pie sounds good, or bangers and mash (sausage and mashed potatoes).† Those are typical bar meals, so they might offer them.† If I want to spend 30 bucks or more for a dinner, they have a restaurant, too.† In my process of finding a place, I checked out Travelodge, but the last minute prices for a holiday weekend were outrageous, for what it is.† I am paying about $100 a night for my country hotel room, and Travelodge would have been more than that.† For a Motel 6 clone.† No thanks.† It will be interesting to see how I like my country hotel.† Maybe I will wish I was in a Travelodge, we will see.


So, a little while ago I walked down the hill and a few more blocks to a big grocery store, maybe a 7 or 8† minute walk each way, and picked up some chicken pasta salad and some grilled chicken, and I will enjoy one of my cheap grazing meals in a little while.† I have some fruit jam tarts, too, and I love those.† Beer, whisky, chicken pasta salad, chicken breast, and jam tarts.† A real feast for the old rambler.† It really is a funny old life, isnít it?


The weather today was showery.† We would have sunshine for a while, then a rain or hail shower for a while.† Sometimes it just bucketed down, and sometimes it was glorious.† It is forecasted to be similar over the next few days. †We will see.† Iím not counting on anything, as the forecasts here so far have been pretty useless.


So, I feel really lousy to have wimped out on the Outer Hebrides.† Embarrassed and ashamed, as I said.† It was poor planning on my part, to have scheduled long ferry trips at this time of the year, without planning for some medical seasickness solution.† On the other hand, I have absolutely no regrets about the decisions I made today.† I did not want to get on that boat, and I am very glad that I didnít.† It was a big hassle today, for about three hours, to make alternate arrangements, but I feel pretty good with what I ended up with.† I will miss about 5 to 7 species, I figure, that I would have seen in the islands with a guide, but that is the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.† I think I made the point before that my comfort and convenience comes ahead of my bird species count.


On that subject, I had a sighting today, and I am still trying to decide whether to count it.† A very large raptor flew up in front of me and across the road, and I only got a very brief look.† It was massive, though, and the only two birds it could possibly have been are a Buzzard or a Golden Eagle.† It seemed more massive than a buzzard, and I thought it had a distinct golden tinge to it.† Very dark, but with a gold tinge.† It sure didnít look like a buzzard to me, although I am not very familiar with the buzzards over here, especially up close.† In the States, there is no other bird it could have been except a Golden Eagle or an immature Bald Eagle.† It was near Ullapool, which is possible for Golden Eagle, although maybe not very likely.† Anyway, it is not in my book yet, but I am leaning toward calling it a Golden Eagle.† I believe that it likely was, but I am struggling with whether that is good enough for my standards.† I pulled over as soon as I could, but didnít see it again.† Iím still pondering it.


So, that is my report for today.† I think it is sad, funny, and encouraging, as well as being embarrassing.† Sometimes life is like that, and one just has to roll with the punches.† Would anyone like to berate me or offer me sympathy?


Respectfully submitted.


The Old Rambler