Inverness to Glasgow.
It’s a mere 168 miles. Drive time under 4 hours. That’s like driving from New York City to Baltimore, a trip that Top Cat and I have made about a dozen times. 168 miles. Easy, right? Right?
This is what the road looks like between New York City and Baltimore:
OK, so Scotland is not the USA; they don’t make 12-lane turnpikes in Scotland.
So, this is what the road (called the A9) looks like between Inverness and Glasgow:
Well, that’s what one of the roads between Inverness and Glasgow looks like. There’s another road between Inverness and Glasgow, and it looks like this:
This other road is called the A82.
The A82, according to Scotland’s Transport Minister, “sits in one of the most challenging landscapes in Scotland.” “Challenging”? What Fun!
The A82 was laid out in the early 1920s and has not been widened or re-engineered since. Even more Fun!
As a result, the Highlands Transport Partnership, which advises the Scottish government on roads and traffic, has declared that, of the 167-mile length of the A82, only 42 miles of it “can be considered to be of a functioning standard.”
Here’s what the locals have to say about the A82:
It is not scary per se. Most of the hair-pin turns have crash barriers and it is beside a loch, not on a mountainside or up in the forest. [Mountains and forests are scary.] But the A82 is very wiggly, and the camber is not well-fashioned in parts, making it literally stomach-churning.
I actually dislike driving the A82 – portions of it wiggle along lochsides in a stomach-churning way, and you will not be able to average more than 35mph (because of the limitations of the road, the ubiquitous caravans and the tour buses trying to own the highway!)
The road is not up to current design standards, its twisty and narrow and there are many blind bends where you wonder what you’ll encounter when you round the corner. It can be a tense drive especially if raining.
Americans: Have you driven in the UK before, i.e., on the left side?? If not, BEWARE!!! Our Scottish roads are thinner than comparable US roads, by a couple feet. Less margin for error. Not to mention the buses, RVs and lorries coming at you at high speeds!!!
As the major road in the western highlands, the A82 has very heavy truck traffic and, because of the narrowness of the roadbed, there is only a six-inch clearance between the average compact car and certain death in the form of an on-coming 40-ton semi.
If you are driving the average compact car on the A82, you will be gripping the steering wheel in sheer terror, hour after hour, as you continually dodge road-hogging trucks and tour buses. The way you will avoid being killed is by depositing the passenger-side of the car, every mile or so, into the road-side ditch where, more often than not, your car will slam into one or more boulders, or drop into a sickeningly deep pot hole, or hit a hidden stone curb, or smash into some other obstruction or crater that causes the car and the humans inside it to thump and crash in a variety of revolting shudders, convulsions, jitters, jolts, shimmies, shakes, and/or quakes.
If you are the passenger, each of those hundreds of detours into the ditch will give you a mini-heart attack and make you increasingly angry at the driver for not staying in the damn lane for chrissake because all we need now is a flat tire in the middle of traffic on a minuscule two-lane blacktop miles away from any service station on a road that you had to take.
If you are the driver, each of your petrified passenger’s screams will greatly, and ever-increasingly, piss you off because you don’t need more drama as you tensely clutch the steering wheel and, mile after mile, stare down oblivion coming straight at you as you do the best you can to not get killed.
Oh, look, here are some photographs of Look What Happened To My Car on The A82:
In other words, the A82 is a bitch to drive and no one in their right mind would choose it as the way to go from Inverness to Glasgow.
So that’s what we did. We drove 168 miserable miles on the absolute worst road in Scotland.
And, to add to the Fun!, we made sure that it was pouring rain the whole way.
Do you remember, way back at the beginning of this story, back when we were all young and gay, that the estimated drive time (on the A9) between Inverness and Glasgow was about 3 1/2 hours?
On the A82, it took us six hours.
And then we got to Glasgow . . .
. . . and just for the Fun! of it, we drove around and around in circles for an hour there, searching and cursing for the way to get to Wigtown.
Top Cat pulled over a couple of time to ask passers-by for directions, but either the passer-by didn’t speak English, or they didn’t know, or they only snarled at us to get the fook out of the bus lane. But not all Glaswegians were unhelpful.
When Top Cat dashed inside a hotel to ask for directions, he came out with an authentic Glaswegian-drawn map:
Unbelievably, this map got us on to the A77, a bucolic road that meanders south from Glasgow through the scenic countryside of Galloway.
A word about the A77:
In 2007, researchers from The Association for Safe International Road Travel concluded the A77 was the 23rd most dangerous road in the world. That’s right, the world. Within a single decade 30 people died on the A77 and close to 250 people were seriously injured.
So, yeah, the A77 was no picnic, either.
By the time we pulled into Wigtown, ten hours after leaving Inverness, Top Cat and I were barely on speaking terms. We were mentally debilitated, emotionally frazzled, resentful and tired, and feeling both shame-faced by our own actions in concocting the worst road trip ever, and also powerfully victimized by the other’s part in concocting the worst road trip ever.
It was my idea to drive from Inverness to Glasglow. It was Top Cat’s idea to go via the A82. Two equally bad ideas.
Now, here we were in Wigtown, and we can’t stand the sight of each other. Again.
I can’t tell you that we had a happy ending, five days later, as we wrapped up our adventures in Scotland. Nope. It took us two weeks after we got home to process the experience (from Edinburgh, to Orkney, to Inverness, to Glasgow, to Wigtown) and come to a mutual understanding that re-established the love and respect that we have for each other. But, for real, Top Cat and I are good. And on July 11 we are celebrating 15 years of eventful, wonderful, aggravating, delicious, challenging, and life-making marriage.
P.S. The car rental company in Scotland charged us about $200 for a damaged front passenger-side tire and a dented wheel. All those detours into all those ditches added up.
Thank You to all you lovely Dear Readers for volunteering to take the Stromness Rock for a visit to your neck of the American woods. YOU ARE THE BEST!
I will work out an itinerary of its cross-country journey and post it next week. I’m probably going to over-think it and include some sort of “passport” to accompany the rock so that its to-ings and fro-ints will be recorded for posterity, because why not, if you have the chance, to over-complicate things?
And lastly, because you would never believe it unless you had seen it with your own eyes, here’s a book that we got in as a donation to the used book store that I manage here on the north shore of Long Island:
Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. May all your road trips lead you to the land of your dreams, and may you never end up on the A82 of life.