It Should Have Been Oh, So Easy.

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.”

FUN!!

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 . . .

Stock photo from the internet but this is exactly how Glasgow looks when you are lost.

. . . 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:

 Yes, of course it’s self-published.

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.

 

10 Comments, RSS

  1. mae July 12, 2019 @ 3:49 pm

    Nightmares, your vacation was all nightmares! What is really sad is that mostly when there’s a bad trip you can submerge the bad memories in one or two good vignettes that came out of the endless suffering. Yours didn’t seem to yield any such relief. I’m so sorry you had this happen.

    I’ve been noticing the books that are deposited in the neighbors’ Little Free Libraries — a lot like what is dumped in your shop. A few days ago I saw a pristine volume by Marianne Williamson (that’s the really off-the-wall candidate from the land of Woo running for Democratic Presidential nomination, as you no doubt know). Maybe she’ll do a Trump and I’ll regret that I didn’t take it. Are you getting her masterpieces donated to your shop?

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

  2. Casey July 12, 2019 @ 4:30 pm

    Thank DoG you are here!! I waited all morning because I need to get caught up in vivianWorld!

    Hoo-eeee,,, that was one star-crossed vacation. I’m still laughing at the dreadful and cheese you were served o the Aer Lingus flight to Edinburgh on Day One, what a sign of things to come.

    Thank you for making your misery so amusing. It’s an indication of how good things must be if you can make jokes. Isn’t there a rule in travel writing that the worst trips make for the best stories?

    And Happy Anniversary to you and Top Cat. 15 years!! May you have 15 x 15 more, and may you never ever travel on the A82 of life ever again.

  3. Steve July 14, 2019 @ 7:47 am

    OMG. That sounds miserable. I am re-affirmed in my belief that I should not try driving at all in the UK! (Even when we went to Falkirk we just used public transport.)

    You know what they say….some day you will look back and laugh. Right?

    You gotta give Cassandra points for trying to cash in on the Prosperity Gospel foolishness.

  4. Judy Jennings July 14, 2019 @ 3:50 pm

    Hi Vivian,
    I’m wondering if these scary journeys have intensified with our age? Years ago I wouldn’t have been so bothered, but now…. When ever Beth and I go to Cincinnati we stay on the Indiana/Ohio side of the Ohio River. One of our last trips took us to the Kentucky side (just for fun 😵), and the ravines were so steep and deep right outside the car’s window that I honestly thought I would pass out right there in the car (Beth was driving, and she’s excellent). Our heads were even with tree tops; the trunks were way way way down there just inches from the berm. Was there a berm?
    I grew up a tree-climbing creek-wading girl, and I wasn’t all scaredy cat… Now driving beside water literally terrifies me more than the steep drop-offs. Rain makes it so much worse; you can see nothing.
    Anyway, my dream since childhood reading of castles and kilts has always been to see Scotland. My ex was stationed there in the 60’s but I failed then to go…. Now I think I don’t ever want to go. I am glad that you made in back intact!
    I wish that I had Stromness Rock here before before I travel to Beth’s in Seattle come September and could take; we could kill two birds with one stone.
    I always look forward to Fridays for your latest adventures. And THOUGHTS on everything…
    wishing you a good rest of summer. A cool one. Love, Judy 💕

  5. Kirra July 14, 2019 @ 5:09 pm

    That is an intense road trip on holiday!! Very entertaining though, so thanks for sharing it in such a funny way. I am driving in the UK in August for the first time in a new country, but thankfully I’m from Australia and we drive on the same side of the road. But still, wish me luck!

    You never know if the well planned holiday will be be the best or the last minute one….so many variables that come into play including the weather (rain = yuck).

    Thanks for the cat pics and of course the inspirational stock market book 😉

  6. jeanie July 15, 2019 @ 10:57 am

    And this is why Rick and I chose not to drive when we went to England. It would scare the crap out of me, those roads! I think I’d be OK on the left side if I was driving a US car but with the wheel on the right, it could be overwhelming just in transit, much less in transit on these roads. I’m so very glad that you have finally made up and can…

    CELEBRATE many moons of mostly marital bliss! I’m sorry I’m late to the congratulations party but happy to know that all is well in Vivian-Land now. (And loved today’s sun worshiping cats!

  7. Marilyn July 15, 2019 @ 5:47 pm

    That book is more than I would read. Crazy!
    Now what can I say about your road trip adventure. That sounds like the time we followed the GPS into smaller and smaller trails and ended up in someones farmyard. What adventures travel takes us on. Now you have the wild and crazy adventure for a memory.

  8. Rosamondparrish July 16, 2019 @ 7:41 am

    Vivian Swift’s 1st two books have inspired and delighted me. As a watercolorist and author, I’m in awe of her originality and ability to share her innermost thoughts in such “colorful” ways.

  9. Megan July 16, 2019 @ 6:30 pm

    So happy you added some calming cats at the end of the post. I can well imagine that you started off young and gay and that the gaiety wore off fast. I must say that looking at the photographs we would have taken the same route… it looks so picturesque. I showed my partner and he said yep looks good then I asked him to read the descriptions. You would not imagine that it would be so very dangerous. We drove a camper van to Milford Sound once and that road is narrow and there are lots of large coaches travelling the same road, it is hair-raising, but people drive slowly. That is the key. Got to love the UK a narrow road bordered with hedges which make oncoming traffic invisible and its just about one and a half car widths and a Range Rover comes haring around the corner at breakneck pace. We have very narrow winding roads in Australia but not the volume of traffic and mostly people drive to the conditions and as there are a lot of native animals toddling about so you need to be alert. Bad weather also adds to the drama I expect. Once we drove the Great Ocean Road and it is a bit windy we stopped to let the dogs out of the car for a run on the beach and I had a difficult time getting back in the car, the cliff side was on my side of the car and I was terrifyingly mesmerised looking down seeing how close we got to the edge. I’m so sorry we live so far away as I would love to take the wee blue rock to exciting places. Sorry for the trauma but it makes very compelling reading.

  10. Rachel Scott July 17, 2019 @ 12:01 am

    Vivien, if Stromness Rock has not started on it’s journey and/or it’s itinerary isn’t set in stone (ok, I just couldn’t help myself), I would like to give it a spin in Georgetown, Texas. I know you will need my address, but prefer not to put it here. And, Happy 15th.
    Rachel Scott

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