Saturday 17th November 2018

Blue skies and sunshine greeted me as I left the house, although there was a decided chill in the air, with the thermometer struggling to reach positive figures. Looking down the hill towards Dingwall, however, told a different story. A thick blanket of fog lay above the river Conon, and as I headed toward the roundabout it felt as if icy fingers had gripped my face and neck, with visibility reduced to just a few feet in places.
News arrived from the Boatman - unhappy with the lack of visibility, he was staying in bed. Arriving first, I was not expecting a big group today - but how wrong I was. News of a rare visit to the UK by the Hammer had clearly spread, and the RRCC members were out in force to witness this. Accompanying the Hammer were Davy, Will, Ali, President Ken, Innis, Steve, Doctor John, Prima Donna and Elvis (hope I haven't missed anybody!) - so packed was the pavement in fact, that when we cleared a path for a passing pedestrian, she thought we had formed a guard of honour. Doctor John, having worn long trousers for much of the summer, had bizarrely chosen shorts for todays sub-zero ride. Even more perplexingly, he proceeded to inform the group that he had needed to scrape a hard frost from his car earlier, to facilitate passage to the roundabout - presumably he had used his last pair of long trousers for the purpose??
Barely able to make out each other's faces in the swirling pea-souper, a route to higher ground was clearly required. The Hammer suggested Alness, but both Donna and Elvis needed to be back early (one to babysit a grandchild and the other to quaff lunchtime cocktails, see if you can guess which one was which...). With only the Doctor, the President and yours truly having done the Cromarty run the previous Saturday, a repeat of that was decided - with Knockbain chosen in place of last week's Mount Eagle ascent.
We set off, and soon rose above the fog to the blue skies of the Black isle. Once again we were without a whistle, so stints on the front were somewhat unequal in length, with changes announced via either shouting or muted whimpers, depending on which end of the peleton they came from.
At the end of the Killen straight, the Hammer made a tactical substitution, allowing Elvis and Madonna to make their own way back. The traffic on the Killen road was incessant, and we resorted to single file to allow the queues of cars to pass. A smooth run followed, up past Lernie, into a light headwind, before the majestic descent into Cromarty with what must be one of the best views in the Highlands. With the coffee stop almost within sight, a miopic car driver pulled out of a side street right into our path, and had his vocabulary expanded courtesy of the Doctor pointing out the error of his ways.
Inside the cafe, the Hammer's brought on his subs - El and Ella Parrot, having missed us at the roundabout due to a wardrobe malfunction, had actually beaten us to Cromarty using a crafty combination of raw power and a shorter route. With the substitutes having already ordered, the waiter immediately announced that he had just one solitary fruit scone remaining - President Ken was the first (and loudest) to shout...
Upon leaving the cafe, for the second time in as many Saturdays, we followed the shore road to Newhall Bridge and then joined the Cullicudden Straight at Resolis. I again left the group as they went via Findon back to the roundabout - what a difference, however, to have a tailwind for the last five solo miles.
Great ride, once again, with a great group.

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