Cross Country Road Trip – Virginia Beach to Paradise

Paradise California

I believe this to be my twelfth cross country road trip in the last year and a half and it is difficult to believe. Nearly two years non stop on the road to date.

Why am I heading cross country yet again? Because my son and his girlfriend are sick of watching my cat. The cat eats plastic bags then runs through the house barfing and they are pretty sick of it and rightly so.

Not that I need much of an excuse to  hit the road. I love to travel and am particularly fond of long haul drives.

Pretty much any excuse to go out on any sort of road trip is good enough for me.

Need help selling your house in Seattle? Have a cool place to stay in Madrid New Mexico? Wanna have drinks in Denver?

Festival in Arizona? I’m on my way. Hiking in Maine? Castle in Scotland? Daring bridge crossing in Norway… I’ll be there.

I do not need a specific reason or destination, the drive alone is pleasure enough. A desolate and beautiful drive in the Scottish Highlands? I’ll do it numerous times. (Lately it seems I’ll do anything in Scotland, any chance I get.)

I do love to venture out and explore on foot. Yet driving to and around any destination is one of the best parts of travel for me. Be it cross country or a road trip to the next town, even in its simplest form,  such travel it is my bliss.

Routes of the Rootless Cross Country

At about noon I headed west on I 64 from Virginia Beach, bound for Lexington Kentucky. Amazingly I made it as far as Dale Indiana, where I spent my first night.

Having done similar cross country road trip sojourns so readily this past year, I opted to take a new route, staying as close as I could to the middle of the country.

I planned not to go too far north due to bad weather. Not that driving in snow bothers me. In fact I quite enjoy driving in the snow, and did so on a similar trip nearly a year ago

Dead Man Pass near Pendleton Oregon 2017

Fog and snow covered Dead Man Pass Oregon
Deadman Pass Pendleton Oregon 2017 Cross Country Road Trip i the snow

being that my plan this time was to get to my destination as quickly as possible, it made sense to avoid possible snow.

Dew the Cat

More commonly when I drive cross country routes I base them on things I wish to see and do. Yet this trip is more focused on quickly releasing my cat Dew, from my sons care.

Dew the barfing cat.
Dew the Cat

Dew the Cat

A sweet cat, Dew is clean, goofy and funny but skittish and sort of… well… dumb. That she does not get along with female cats (of which there are 2 in my sons house) was an issue. As a barf driven in general and has little understanding of boundaries. She also is not fond of the road trip lifestyle, but she is mine, and I love her. So off we go.

My son has been caring for her far longer than ever anticipated. An outrageous amount of unexpected circumstances held me up, including a broken leg that laid me up for over 5 months.

America, the Beautiful Toll Free

The stretch through the West Virginia and Kentucky mountains is phenomenal.

An aesthetically pleasing, as well as enjoyable drive. Rolling pavement brings you up and around beautiful countryside, with steep inclines and descends.

On this cross country passage, I mapped the trip via google maps. For the first time I chose the option to avoid tolls. In result, I ended up on wonderful local small town roads that winded me around the turnpikes and other toll roads. It worked out wonderfully.

Google directed me off of the highway just prior to the toll booth and took me on a few off the beaten path sojourns. Each detour was truly spectacular scenically and roadway wise.

This unexpected bonus only added a few minutes to the entire trip in the end. At on point, I was amused to see myself pull out right in front of the truck with whom I’d been sharing the road for hours, just beyond the clutches of the “pay your toll” booth.

Resting at Rest Stops

I created a cozy little sleeping nook in the back of my Lincoln Aviator.

Rest Stop on my Cross Country Road Trip
Sleeping in the SUV at rest stops on my cross country road trip

It was pretty comfy once I got the sun shade thing situated.

I slept at 3 rest stops along this road trip. Not only did it save me money, but it allowed me to hop back onto the road with little wasted time. I think I prefer this to motels when on a cross country route focused on expediency. over sightseeing.

Cross Country Road Trip Rest Stop Dale Indiana
Dale Indiana Rest Stop

This one in Dale, Indiana was not the most picturesque, but nicely maintained and I felt safe sleeping there.

This strip of highway has quite a few decent rest stops normally, but many were closed on this particular trip. I was extremely glad to find this one open.

Cross Country Road Rest Stop Ogallala Nebraska
Ogallala Nebraska Rest Stop

Good morning Indiana From there I hit a Denny’s for a power breakfast then headed out towards I70 making it as far as Oglala Nebraska.

The Nebraska rest stop was fantastic. Clean with lots of parking. Wide open spaces and lovely views.

Ogallala Nebraska Rest Stop
Good Morning Nebraska

Good morning Nebraska!

For some reason google gps routed me through Nebraska instead of my previously designated plan to follow straight through Kansas and Colorado, yet I enjoyed the I-80 drive passing miles and miles of cattle ranches.

Riding High on Audio Books

As much of this particular drive offers such exquisite views, I tend to revel in the scenery without distraction.

But on long hauls like this, driven alone, various forms of distraction are necessary to staying alert, even if that sounds a bit oxymoronic.

One way I pass time is of course my music. When I’m feeling tired I at times rely on talk radio to keep me going. Yet one of my best allies is Audible.

Listening to lectures or books or whatever wets your noodle, is one the most valuable tools when in the more long haul type of journey. Just make sure you download ahead of time.

Your in Reno? I’m in Reno.

Nevada Humane Society
Dropping campfire cats off to be adopted from Nevada Humane Society with FieldHaven Feline Center

Before picking up my cat from my sons house in Portland, I will visit with FieldHaven Feline Center, the group with which I volunteer from afar.

FieldHaven, a long standing cat rescue and shelter in Lincoln California has been working hard to help the thousands of cats affected by the campfire.

Along with the support of Alley Cat Allies, FieldHaven opened 2 temporary shelters; Alley Cat Allies Recovery Center in Marysville and Alley Cat Allies Transfer Station in Paradise. These additional shelters were necessary for the unprecedented amount of cats let injured, lost, homeless or without shelter and food across the burn zone.

Having been invited to stay with Joy Smith, the head of FieldHaven, I remained in touch with her as I headed West. When I told Joy I’d be in Lincoln Friday, she mentioned that she would not return from Reno (where many of the unclaimed campfire are being sent for adoption) and ot back home until 5pm.

Checking my itinerary, it occurred to me that I’d be in Reno by about noon on Friday. In the same time my friend Christine, who I hadn’t seen in years texted me, asking me to stop by when passing through Reno. (Is totally forgotten that she’d moved there)

In the end, I got to stop in Reno, take a much needed shower as well as visit with my good friend Christine, then meet Joy & Rog of FieldHaven, as well as a bunch of campfire cats at Nevada Humane Society then follow them back to Lincoln.

Landing in Paradise

I made it across the US, practically from coast to coast in 4 nights easily.

The expense of the trip was purely gas, breakfast and drinks in the end and it was yet again another fantastic road trip across the US. I GoPro’d every light day of it and will share it, along with my many other recorded journeys, as soon as I am able.

Saturday I was able to visit Alley Cat Allies Transfer Station as well as drive around Paradise to see the devastation first hand. It may seem a grim thing to do. Yet certainly I am not a catastrophe tourist. I’d ridden this area on my motorcycle many years before.  The strange familiarity felt by the awareness of knowledge of this place I had rarely ever been. I felt a unique and intimate understanding of the tragedy that affected so many.

The stories of loss, heartache and then the ultimate satisfaction of reuniting someone with a cat they were sure had perished in the fire. Cognizant of the feeding station and trapping locations as well as if I’d lived there and physically helped. To know the addresses and stories of human, animal and material loss as if it had happened to my friends and neighbors. It is difficult to put into words the sheer devastation of it all and how keenly I was touched by experiencing it first hand, after all of this time.

And am keenly aware of all hard work and dedication that FieldHaven and the many trappers, feeders, rescuers and shelters have put in just to help give a small bit of relief to the people and animals that have lost so very much.

Sadness and Loss

I GoPro’d the devastation but I’m unsure if I shall share it or not. It was heart wrenching to see the depth loss exhibited by these utterly charred neighborhood’s. Businesses mostly gone. Hearth and home obliterated along with the foliage and trees.

The overwhelming emptiness of the place, bereft in its losses it is tangible as if a solid entity.

Paradise California 2019
Rainbow over Paradise

But the cats… so many survived. They escaped locked down burned out houses like little Houdini’s. Thousands of cats so far recovered. More found and trapped every day. Their ability to survive in a burned out world of nothingness is remarkable. This place so long considered a paradise for so many, as in name then to ashes.

It was a magical experience and an added bonus to this cross country drive. If it actually meant anything beyond a rainbow happened to cross my path at the most opportune moment or not, I’ll let you decide that. What I will state, is that my expeditious drive across the US, for me was well worth it if just for that moment.

Hell, I live driving and exploring so much, it was worth it just for the drive alone.

Next Stop Portland

Soon I leave for Portland to pick up Dew. Then I will head out with my friend Laurie, her chihuahua Rudy and my cat to cross the country once more, this time via the most northern route heading from Portland to Rhode Island.

First stop Yellowstone Park.

My Endless US Road Trip

Hells Canyon
Hells Canyon
Road to Hells Canyon

After a year of countless US Road Trip expeditions, on October 2018 I set out to Austin to help out my 93 year old mother.

Mom had fallen and broken her pelvis, so in response to her need, I headed to Austin, Texas to help. This would be my ninth US Road Trip in a single year.

I took a small blogging break through Thanksgiving intending to record my journey back to Virginia and begin writing again.

leg cast 2019
my broken leg after the cast was removed

Three days before I left Austin for my next US Road Trip, I fell and broke my leg. Sadly, I have been nearly silent ever since.

That Road Trip; from Virginia Beach to Austin. This was my 11th drive across the US, that covered over 1000 miles in the last year (2018) (so I am excluding quite a few 600 mile excursions in that number). Since that time, (and after 4 months of healing stuck in Austin on my Mothers couch) I have driven a moving truck from Austin to Raleigh North Carolina, flew back to Austin and drove my SUV back to Raleigh and then onto Virginia Beach. My next US Road Trip adventure starts today.

I have traveled from thousands of drive miles from coast to coast, to coast in the United States (East, West, South). Through deserts, up mountains, across cities, to seashores.

I have flown thousands of miles, then driven thousands of miles beyond these shores of ours.

US Road Trip et al

The 6 month delay created by my broken leg, caused quite a few challenges. Hurdles that I am yet attempting to overcome. One of the key issues was that my son (and his girlfriend) have been stuck with my cat for far longer than ever intended and she’s been causing a bit of havok.  At

Today, I began a US Road Trip sojourn once again. I will cross the US to pick up Dew the cat. leaving Virginia Beach heading to Portland in an hour.  Travel plans are to begin via the middle route and back again through the northern route, then heading West via the Southern route once more, if all goes as planned (and I utilize the road plan loosely, for I am greatly open to enjoyable deviations (even those nt so enjoyable)

On this new US Road Trip, I will be stopping in Butte County so that I may visit those with whom I have been remotely volunteering, FieldHaven since the Campfire. Once retrieving my cat, I shall pick up my friend Laurie and her chihuahua, and together we shall head to Yellowstone Park.

The plan is to US Road Trip across the Northern route ending at Camp Anarchy to attend the festival. From there we head to Rhode Island to try and sell off all of my things. Then we shall pick up my trailer and head West again via the Southern route.

I plan to once again share my travel stories with you. I hope you will follow along my 12th US Road Trip in a year

Check back again to see how far I have gotten.

First stop, Lexington Kentucky.

 

 

Communing with the Coyotes | Idiocy on the Road in New Mexico

RootlessRoutes on Skyline Drive Utah 2018

The night sky is hazy in New Mexico. I turn from I 64 to Highway 550 and head for Madrid, New Mexico… that’s MAD drid, not Ma DRID.

It is getting late and as much as I love to drive, driving late night in unfamiliar, rural territory, yet again, wasn’t my plan. Of course I got side tracked.

Like a gnat in the breeze with only 6 hours to go on my journey to Madrid, I saw the sign from above. ‘Skyline Drive’ and could not keep myself from taking it on.

New Mexico can wait

I knew this would add up to 4 hours to my drive, but give me an exciting road to conquer and there’s no stopping me.

I rode the Lincoln Aviator hard on Skyline Drive. Abusing it as if it were a 4 wheel drive, and not a glorified Ford Explorer, with a big engine, wearing a fancy dress.

A great many of the roads in the yet rather ‘Wild West’ are, well… still quite wild.

Skyline Drive Utah 2018 Rootlessroutes
Dense forestation along the Skyline Drive route

I knew nothing of Skyline Drive before I was unceremoniously drawn into the flame by that sign. It turns out to to be a perfect example of what is left of rustic American roads.

Snaking through, up and down rugged canyons. Alternating from lush green forests to the ragged and rustic arid deserts that dot so much of the American countryside. It is difficult not to imagine a young pioneer’s first experience of America. Long before it was colonized to utter prostration.

Skyline Drive

Skyline Drive winding gravel roads, RootlessRoutes 2018
This was worth the detour before New Mexico

The rough side of Skyline Drive (where I started) is 28 miles of course, winding, scenic roadway that is more like an incredibly rocky and treacherous path in spots with huge holes.

The claims of it being well maintained are naught.

After driving it I read it is not suitable for non 4WD vehicles. Apparently no one told my SUV that!

RootlessRoutes on Skyline Drive 2018 Utah
Skyline Drives winding road of wonder 2018 Utah

The drive wiggles, dips and climbs along the top of the Wasatch Plateau, peaking at just under 11,000 feet.

The views are spectacular.

RootlessRoutes 2018 Skyline Drive Utah
Views from Skyline Drive are magnificent. Utah 2018 RootlessRoutes

With tree filled mountains, flower filled meadows, raucous streams and tranquil lakes. Skyline Drive in Utah is one of the highest elevation roads in America and simply stunning.

Admittedly, driving up and descending this extremely rugged terrain, on partially gravelled, winding roads is not for what my Lincoln Aviator was built. But the vehicle handled being forced into submission like a champ.

Her already worn tires, not so much.

RootlessRoutes Skyline Drive Utah 2018
Skyline Drive Utah, elevation 8000 feet.

According to Dangerous Roads Skyline Drive

” It ranks among the highest elevation roads in America. This dirt road (also known as FR150) provides access to forested mountains, alpine meadows and numerous lakes streams and camping areas.

Although many sections are suitable for passenger cars, high clearance 4 wheel drive vehicles are required for tougher parts.” (Unless you’re a driving maniac in a Lincoln Aviator)

Lincoln Aviator on Skyline Drive 2018 Utah
New Mexico can wait. 

Highway 550 / New Mexico

Cruising Highway 550 late at night is like playing Russian Roulette with a blindfold on.

Unlighted, on a starless night makes it look a bit like a video game. Add to that a full blood moon, drawing the deer to the brink of migration insanity and the edge of the roadway.

Swirling around blind corners in the dark of night is ‘steering wheel gripping’ enough. The threat of deer prancing out onto the roadway, adds to the spine tingling effect. Especially with so little light.

At first I thought it must be me. Maybe the window isn’t clean, my glasses need a wipe. I’m bleary from exhaustion? Perhaps my night vision had become weak suddenly?

Then I realised that oncoming traffic had their high beams blazing too. Some turned them off as they neared out of courtesy, others not. Even the truckers.

High beams screaming across the median offers even greater charm to the hilarity of this steep, windy drive at night. Made a mental note to do it in the day. Likely a great piece of roadway … when you can see.

There I was. The drunks, the truckers and I, hurtling along the black void of this high speed roadway, bargaining with our lives at each turn.

After eating up over 2000 miles of roadway in only a few days, I was once more driving into the wee hours of the night.

But I was almost there.

Then it happened.

BEEEP!

“Warning extremely low tire pressure!”

WTF?

No warning of trouble coming, just the threat of doomsday at hand.

Damn, only 26 miles from Madrid, New Mexico.

This is the point that I must pause and mention that I knew there was a nail in the tire and a slow leak before leaving Portland 2000 miles ago. Apparently, I decided to deal with it as it occurred and then completely pushed it to the back of my mind.

Think about what I’ve told you. What I’ve done with and where I’ve been with that car.

Yeah, I’m an idiot. You agree. It’s ok.

Flat tire in New Mexico

I drive the car 9 miles to the first gas station in 100 miles. Thankful this New Mexico town was so close at hand at my time of need. Not allowing myself to think about if this had happened earlier on my desolate highway 550 drive. I’d of been communing with the deer.

I hop out of the the car to have a look… and it’s bad. The nail near the sidewalk is hissing air.

Can’t drive another mile level bad.

I’m fucking tired. I know I should call roadside assistance (I have 3) but it’s now only 17 miles to my destination and I’m an idiot.

With much due hesitation I purchase a can of Fixaflat. I know in my heart of hearts this is bound to go badly. Yet I persevere, as idiots so often do.

It seems to hold, so I drive off, fingers crossed. Knowing full well at this point that I’m an idiot.

It’s about 1:10AM now and I’ve been driving nearly 14 hours straight with just a few short breaks.

Interstate 25 is pretty mild compared to 550. More traffic and towns. I’ll make it. I know I’ll make it.

A little voice in the back of my head that is never wrong, said, “You know you won’t”

Oh Google Maps!You’re such a trickster.

Google Maps decided to once again fuck with me. It tends to only do this in the middle of the night. It turns me onto some crazy side road (A54?) to get to 14 and my ultimate destination, Madrid.

Google maps has done this to me before. But that’s for another story.

Desolate, dark, rocky and craggy. The unpaved, unlit farm road had huge holes and was graveled with the same large sharp rocks as Skyline Drive.

It starts out slightly paved, but as I drive out it gets more and more rough.

I’m already 3 miles in. I know that tire seal shit isn’t going to hold. But I hope.

From what little I could see in the pitch black, the road was flanked by endless scrubby plants, rock and sand.

Like every inch of land in New Mexico, it was fenced.

It’s 1:36am now and I know I’m totally fucked.

BEEEP!

RootlessRoutes New Mexico 2018
Communing with the coyotes in New Mexico. Just miles from Madrid 2018

“Warning extremely low tire pressure!”

“Hello? This is roadside assistance! Are you in a safe location?”

 

 

 

 

Driving Scotland | On & Beyond the NC500 & Scottish Highlands

RootlessRoutes A838 Scottish Highlands 2018

Driving Scotland is a distinctive pleasure. Like a gift, you never knew you needed or even existed. A reward you cannot believe you ever lived without. The roads of Scotland wind through the most diverse and breathtaking bits of the United Kingdom.  Rustic, often single track, these roads allow for the thrill of maneuvering along formidable pavement through some of the most alluring scenery on the planet.

It was in the Scottish Highlands that I first fell in love with Scotland. But long before the NC500. Long before ever driving a single mile of Scotland, I was already smitten. Once I got behind the wheel and experienced actually driving through Scotland, Scotland then enmeshed itself in my heart, and embedded into my soul.

I’ve now driven over 5000 miles of Scotland. It was not enough. A month long, solo trip in Autumn. Almost a month with a friend in Spring. I cannot wait to return and do it all over yet again… and then some.

Driving Scotland in Aberdeenshire 2017 RootlessRoutes
Kildrummy / Alford Scotland Aberdeenshire. Unknown sheep road 2017 Driving Scotland RootlessRoutes

England is beautiful with rolling, winding country roads. Ireland lush and exquisite, with some quite notable roadways. But driving Scotland! Have you seen the Bealach Na Ba?

Driving Scotland is pure ecstasy! If you enjoy driving as much as you enjoy visiting castles, learning of history and taking in scenic views, you simply cannot miss out on the joys of driving Scotland.

Scotland is a Land of Remarkable Variety

Even if you know Scotland, live there or have visited it. You cannot appreciate the varied spectrum of characteristics it contains within its borders, until actually driving Scotland. The NC500 carries you along the outer roads of a magnificent coast, but to drive through the depths of the Scottish Highlands is an entirely different and equally spellbinding adventure.

Across the less lauded, yet beautiful Ayrshire. Up the West Coast or through the stirring forests of Argyle. Over the fantastic Churchill causeways to the divinely anomalous Orkneys. The castle strewn, unfairly disparaged Aberdeenshire with its wildly remote sheep filled roads. The ancient, historically rich roads of the quirky Scottish Borders. Through lovely Perth onto the Old Military roads. There are far too many varied places, roads and routes to mention here.

The melange of elements that make up Scotland, become as vivid as the landscape when driving through it. The spectrum of its variety becomes infinitely striking as you roll along the road. Within the 40 miles between Glasgow and Edinburgh, the glaring differences between the two ancient cities and everything in between is palpable. Inverness, only a two hour straight shot from Glencoe on A82. Yet the unique elements of one is nowhere to be seen in the other.

Sheep on A836 while driving Scotland 2018
Northbound sheep on a Southbound drive. Driving Scotland A836 near Tongue Scottish Highlands 2018

A land both abiding and tentative. The Scottish Highlands offer greatly varied and uniquely surreal vistas, megalithic mountains, rolling plains, beautiful beaches and some of the most exhilarating roads in all of Great Britain. The lush and isolated rural roads of Aberdeenshire and the Scottish Borders are equally unique, challenging and sublime. The diversity of the Scottish landscape can make you feel as if you’ve not only driven into another country, but onto another world. Yet the one absolute when driving Scotland today, are the sheep. They have become as enduring a part of the landscape as  the heather and sedges.

Limits, Expectations & Dangers of Driving Scotland

Driving Scotland is an unique experience. Undeniably beautiful to behold. Oddly barren yet lush. At times otherworldly. The roads are narrow, often one track. Largely barely wide enough for even one vehicle, yet considered for two.

The second you see that Welcome to Scotland sign, traffic seems to collectively accelerate.  The speed limit itself does not change, but if you are not driving 80 MPH in the fast lane on an M road (which is on the right BTW). Get the Hell out of the way. There are those speed cameras, but it doesn’t seem that they are much of a deterrent for Scots.

In most of Scotland, especially in the Scottish Highlands, the police are as few and far between as are the toilets, trash bins and AT&T phone signal. I saw a police car in front of the police station on the A838 at the Kinlochbervie turn off. It was after all a police station. There was also a toilet, a red telephone box, a trash bin and low and behold cell phone signal. I pinched myself. Yep, still alive.

With no police, few guardrails and limited places to pull over, maniacal white commercial vans speed your way undaunted. Daring you to make it to a ‘Passing Place’ quickly or lose  your side view wing mirror. Shit head tourists park in said ‘Passing Places’ to take pictures. Suicidal feral goats jump into the road from out of nowhere, at the crux of a blind turn. Right as you begin to contemplate the meaning of the “Feral Goats” sign.  Filicidal sheep graze their newest lambs at the edge of the narrowest, single track, again often right after a blind turn. And I fucking love it!

Don’t Freak Out While Driving Scotland

This may make some people totally freak out. But I don’t get nervous. Not even remotely anxious. I become exhilarated. My senses, innately focused. Honed in on my surroundings, distinctly alert to my driving and everything around me. I guess you could say, I become with one the road “Ohm” Yeah so… you get my point.

RootlessRoutes A836 Tongue Scotland 2018
A836 Kyle of Tongue. Scotland road trip 2018 Driving Scotland

The speed limit on A roads in Scotland is 60 MPH UOI (unless otherwise indicated). I’m talking about miles per hour, not those measly kilometers to which you Europeans are so accustomed. M class roads ( the major motorways) are 70 MPH  UOI. Most roads do NOT have speed limit signs, because you are meant to know this. B roads vary, but for the most part I found them to be 60 MPH.

Transport Scotland manages 95% of the trunk roads in Scotland. Scotland’s trunk road network is as diverse as is its scenery. The trunk road network is 3,507 km (2,179 miles) long, including slip roads and roundabouts. Ranging from the somewhat intimidating 10 lane M8 in Glasgow’s center, to the scrawniest of single track carriageways in the west Highlands. But there are far more roads there than this. God only knows who maintains them.

Police are few, because they are unneeded. Know the rules of the road and the speed limits. Drive courteously and with confidence and care. The lack of police does not mean it is an idiots free for all like in the US.

More to See & Do When Driving Scotland

To visit Scotland means an unfathomable variety of  places to see and things do. Castles, neolithic and historic ruins, the Scots themselves. A county full of rich history, ancient cities and equally ancient pubs. Vast open vistas, monolithic mountains, fairy pools, flags and glens. Azure water beaches, alien like landscapes, the list goes on and on. When driving Scotland you get to add the many grand roads and routes you can experience to this already jam packed list.

There are so many fantastic road trips and routes to take when driving Scotland. I will mention only a few here and as I post about them, I shall connect the information here as well. Let’s start with the mother of all Scottish roads, the Bealach Na Ba!

The Bealach Na Ba / Pass of the Cattle -Applecross Peninsula – Scottish Highlands

An extremely narrow, crazily winding, one track, mountainous road with near 20% gradients, deadly hairpin turns, blind spots and suicidal sheep. The Bealach Na Ba consists of a “High Road” and a “Low Road” to Applecross. Both are exciting, but obviously, the high road is a bit more fun. I had no choice but to take the low road up, due to the Bealach Beag cycling event. I took the High Road down and then headed over to Shieldaig.

Applecross itself is minute, but stunningly beautiful. As is Shieldaig. The drive was absolutely thrilling. Give yourself at least 2 hours and stop off for a bite in Applecross.

If you are not a confident left side of the road driver, do NOT do it. And if you are driving an RV up there, you are an asshole! The speed limit is 60 MPH and the passing places are NOT for stopping for a view or pictures.

“Narrow road – no more than three sheep abreast”

A836 Tongue – Tain  & Tongue – John O Groat – Highlands

Read about driving the A836 here

Considered the most remote category A road in Scotland. A836 narrows to nearly a bike path at some sections and opens up to a dual carriage roadway in others. It runs east west along the North Coast, as part of the NC500. The remotest part of the A836 runs north south. Straight through the middle of the Highlands, is this far less trafficked and wonderful driving route. You can do them both by taking the A9 to A836 all the way around to A9 again.

A838 Tongue – Durness –  Lairg – Tongue – Highlands

Connecting at A836 at Tongue, this wonderful drive that winds through some extremely challenging mountainous and wonderfully scenic road, then on to the gorgeous beach of Durness. Shortly from there it begins to head more south, through Laird and back to A836 where you can head North back to Tongue or South East to Tain on A836. You pass 5 amazing lochs on the A838. There is a rest stop,  at the turn off to Rhiconich.

A82 Inverness – Urquhart Castle – Loch Ness – Highlands

This 17 mile route runs along Loch Ness, giving you ample opportunity and well marked verges, at which you can stop and view the lovely loch. I believe it to be a dual carriageway the entire way and a fairly easy drive. A good test of your skills and confidence as huge tour buses speed by at what seems only inches to us more accustomed to wider roads.  The route blooms a bright yellow when the Gorse is in bloom and it has just enough winding and bending bits to offer a wee thrill. You drive right through the village of Loch Ness where you can stop for a bite and Urquhart Castle is well worth a visit for absolutely anyone.

A93 / A939 Perth – Ballater – Aberdeen or Grantown on Spey – Aberdeenshire (OLD MILITARY ROAD)

80 miles of sheer ecstacy to drive. I drove part of this route by accident and freaked out a little. Then went back to do the entire thing. My exaltations on the GoPro are hysterical. An easier, but thrilling ride on a well maintained road

Pick up A93 at Perth and head northeast for Braemer. At Bridge of Cally, your heart will start to race as the road rises. I believe this is where I exclaim to an empty car, “are you f***ing kidding me?” Once past Glenshee Ski Station, it is a jaw dropping ride towards Braemar. Check your fuel, use the toilet now, there isn’t a damned thing around until the next Ski Station at best.

You have a choice at Braemar to head to Aberdeen, which is a nice ride and driving through the rural sheep roads of Aberdeenshire is highly recommended.  Or turn north on A939 and head for Moray. If you follow the A939 and signs to Grantown-on-Spey, the drive becomes even more thrilling. The drop once past the ski station at Lecht is a thrill for cyclists, motorbikers and autos alike. (and for suicidal sheep as shown in the video). Once you think it is over as the scenery begins to dull, there is a short but spectacular drive onto Grantown-on-Spey.

A961 – St Margarets Hope – Churchill Causeways – Kirkwall – Orkney

I landed on Orkney in the wake of hurricane Maria, completely unprepared and ignorant of the Churchill Causeways. This series of four causeways link the mainland to the smaller islands. Built in the 1940s, primarily as naval defences, they now connect A961 to Kirkwall (where I stayed) and Burwick.

I braved the insanely rough seas with my trusty Mitsubishi Outlander Hybrid on the ferry from Scrabster to St Margarets Hope.  The causeway was insane. Huge waves slammed into the car so hard it pushed it from its lane. Through the rain, waves, mist and a wee bit of hysteria, I saw sunken ships within the wake. Of course my GoPro had just timed out.

RootlessRoutes 2017 photo courtesy of Ian Balcomb
How the barriers looked on my first  crossing it. BBC photo by Ian Balcomb

Going back to do it again once I had checked in I found that the weather had greatly calmed. Later I was told the waves often bring rocks with them that dent cars and break windows. Regardless, driving the mainland of Orkney is well worth the drive. I regret having only three days there. I drove every main road and road in between that I could find.

Aberdeenshire The Castle Circle

Rural unmapped farm roads with blind entrances, fearless sheep, gorse so high you cannot see around the bend and in the east, the unexpected view of a red ferrari in the rearview easily exceeding 100 MPH. Please check back for this thorough route. I will attach it here once complete.

Isle of Skye | Scotland Road Trip | Scottish Highlands | NC500 | II

The Fairy Glen, Isle of Skye. Rootless Routes

Scotland Road Trip | Isle of Skye | Part II 

Isle of Skye road trip route itinerary. Total trip time, about 8 hours. Find everything you need to know for your Skye road trip and more, right here. Check out Part 1 here.

Isle of Skye Road Trip Route Itinerary Part 2 / Fairies in the Skye

  1. Skye Bridge
  2. Portree
  3. Fairy Glen
  4. Dunvegan Castle & Gardens
    1. Seal Watching Tours
    2. Guided Tours
  5. Neist Point Lighthouse
  6. Fairy Pools
  7. Skye Bridge

    A Quick Note

    First read Driving On Skye – What To Know Before You Go prior to planning your Isle of Skye road trip.  Splendor on The Isle of Skye Scotland offers important general information about the Island.

    Times are approximate and vary based on individual needs. Both Isle of Skye road trip itineraries can be completed within a day, if you stick with the general timetable offered.

    A map is included at the end of this post. The letters indicated on each location, correspond to those on the map and the written directions.

    Although I did not travel Skye on my own, I am regularly a solo traveler. Everything on the itinerary is appropriate for solo travelers. The Island is friendly and safe (crime wise). It is not a good place to hike along public roads. You should have some sort of transportation planned ahead of time.

    GPS can be dodgy in the Scottish Highlands and even more so on Skye. It really is important to read the above mentioned “Driving On Skye” to help you best prepare and understand the key challenges to visiting and driving on the Island.


8 Fairy Filled Stops on The Isle of Skye

Note: Scheduling this route back to front (starting with The Fairy Pools, works out well too)

A] The Skye Bridge / Drochaid an Eilein Sgitheanaich / A87

Take the Skye Bridge from Lochalsh. Once you’ve crossed the bridge onto the Isle of Skye, remain on A87 by taking the third (3) exit on the roundabout. After 32 miles you take a right onto Bridge Rd / A855.

Photo Alert: The lighthouse on the wee island of Eilean Bàn (White Island) below, is a particularly nice shot, as is the bridge itself. Best time for Skye Bridge photo opportunities is before you get onto the bridge.

Kid Alert: Check out the lighthouse on Eilean Ban as you cross the bridge.

Approximate time: 3 minutes

Toilet Alert: Main Rd, Broadford, Skye (about 10 minutes after the bridge) on A87 after the Cooperative, across from parking lot, next to church on right

Next Destination: Portree – Drive Time: 45 minutes


B] Village of Portree / Port Righ

Portree. An adorable fishing village. The ‘Capital’ of Skye. Portree is the only actual village on the Island. It can get very busy. Be prepared for that. It is difficult to find a sit down meal if you have not booked ahead here or anywhere on the Island. There are supermarkets, shops, petrol stations and restaurants. Portree is a lovely spot for photographs. The Visit Scotland visitor center is easy to locate.

Don’t dawdle. Enjoy it, but be on your way. You can come back later if you wish, it is not a huge detour on your way back after the Fairy Pools.

Photo Alert: About 15 minutes after Portree is where you will find some of the best views  (and shots) of the ‘Old Man of Storr” if you wish to get some decent pics along the way. Once past that point, you may not be able to see it well until you have hiked up to it., which is included in this route. Isle of Skye | Scotland Road Trip | Scottish Highlands | NC500 | I

Toilet Alert: 1) Bridge Road behind Somerland Square, across from courthouse 2) Off A87 at the Aros Center. You’ll find no toilets for a bit, so make haste and be smart.

Approximate Time: 30 minutes – Total Trip Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Next Destination: The Fairy Glen – Drive Time: 25 Minutes


C] The Fairy Glen / Gleann nan Sìthichean 

I adore the Fairy Glen . I spent two (2) hours romping about the alien like terrain, covered in a sea of vivid green grass and foliage. The Fairy Glen seems exactly the sort of magical landscape in which any respectable fairy would choose to dwell.

A land rife with superstition, folklore and legend. Located so near Dunvegan Castle, where an ancient “Fairy” flag is displayed with pride. It is ironic that the “Fairy Glen” is little connected with lore or superstition. It is no doubt magical to behold.

Tourists have mucked it up a bit with ridiculous stone circles, that local volunteers eradicate regularly. If you are moving rocks about in places like this, you are an asshole and the locals do not appreciate it. Neither do the visitors that are NOT assholes.

Great spot to picnic. No facilities, but there are some benches about.

Please do not utilize the Fairy Glen as your personal potty. The locals are really sick of it. Plan your bathroom breaks like a grown up ahead of time. Or give me your address and I’ll come pee on your lawn, see how you feel about it.

Photo Alert: Everything is fantastic opportunity for great photos at The Fairy Glen, but sweeping views from the top come out extraordinarily well.

Sheep Alert: Sheep roam freely on this road and during lambing season April – June. little sheep inexperienced with roads and frightened by cars are unpredictable. The sheep with horns get very protective when there are  lambs around.

Toilet Alert: There are public toilets at the Ferry terminal in Uig

Parking Alert: Parking is a pain. There are a couple of broad laybys on the way and a very rough small bit of extremely rocky spot of dirt right after the little pond on the left. Beyond that, it is difficult to park when the lot fills. If you are up for a little walk, you can park in Uig. 

Pothole Alert: Large jagged rocks and rough spots abound

Kid Alert: Kids will either love it or not care at all. There is a lot of space for them to run about. The hills are steep but rolling enough that there is not really any treacherous cliffs. This would be a great place to picnic and run off some steam, before locking them down in the car again.

Additional Information: If you pass the Fairy Glen (on your right) there is really nowhere to go but to turn around. You end up at a private croft. Please do not park anywhere but the obvious locations or in Uig. Do not use passing places as parking space.

Approximate Time: 1 hour – Total Trip Time: 2 hours 45 minutes

Next Destination: Dunvegan Castle & Gardens Drive Time: 45 Minutes


D] Dunvegan Castle & Gardens  <–Click for website

 Dunvegan Castle. A privately run, magnificently beautiful destination. Full of history, lore, remarkable gardens and outstanding views. The McLeods have lived in this castle for centuries and continue to do so to this very day. Within the castle walls hangs the “Fairy Flag”

Chock full of history, Dunvegan Castle and Gardens still stands today. The McLeods chose to stay out of the last Jacobite Rebellion and in so doing, kept their amazing home. Ironically they ended up connected to Flora MacDonald and have items belonging to the Bonnie Prince. If such history is in your interest, it is really cool stuff to see.

This beautifully maintained castle is extremely significant when it comes to key points in Highland history. I found the place enthralling. The Gardens vast, diverse and extremely well tended. Loved every minute of my visit here.

Photo Alert: Photo opportunities everywhere. Check out the gardens and walk behind the castle to the edge of the waterfront. Fantastic photo opportunities. Mostly outside.

Sheep Alert: N/A

Toilet Alert: to the left just before you get the the actual castle (I believe there may also be toilets in the parking lot)

Parking Alert: Large, paved, well marked parking lot. Kinda comes up suddenly on your right. There is a gift shop and toilets in the parking area

Kid Alert: Some kids will find the castle boring. Lots of stuff not to touch. There is a special kids tour offered at the castle. I’d call ahead.

Approximate time: 40 minutes castle 40 gardens – Total Trip Time: 4 hours 50 minutes

Next Destination: Neist Point Lighthouse – Drive Time: 35 minutes


E] Neist Point Lighthouse (Glendale)

Neist Point . Stunning and picturesque. A remarkable location. If you enjoy remarkably scenic views, amazing photo opportunities, hiking, wildlife and/ or lighthouses, Neist Point is not to be missed. It is a bit out of the way and only offers views. It can get crazy busy there. You must be the  judge if it is worth it based on your desires. Fantastic photo opportunities.

Regarded the finest viewing point on Skye for dolphins, whales and even sharks. The area is a treasure trove for bird watching. If you are a birder check this out.

An fairly easy 15 minute walk from the car park, but the stairs down & back up to the point are pretty steep.

Photo Alert: Endless photo opportunities. If you head to the first hill to the right of the parking lot, you can quickly get good shots of the lighthouse without trecking out to the point.

Kid Alert: Good place for a picnic or snack.

Kid Warning: There are many steep drops and ungated cliffs. The sheep can be garrulous, especially in lamb season. Keep an eye on your kids.

Parking Alert: Parking is plentiful, but the car park fills up

Pothole Alert: If the lot is full, the extended area can be a bit rough for parking

Approximate time: 1 hour – Total Trip Time: 5 hours 25 minutes

Next Destination: Fairy Pools – Drive Time: 1 hour 5 minutes


F] The Fairy Pools

The Fairy Pools are magical and  lauded place for hiking and wild swimming. This collection of naturally occuring watersheds, fed by a myriad of springs and waterfalls is  exceptional.

Located at the base of the Black Cuillins in Glen Brittle, near Carbost, Isle of Skye.

The site is well marked (well at least comparably) and more established for visitors. Fairy Pools “Glumagan na Sithichean” The extremely rough and rocky car park fills up quickly. There is no barrier to keep from backing up over the steep edge. At least there is signage.

Rootless Routes 2018 Isle of Skye road trip II
Glumagan na Sithichean Fairy Pools sign Isle of skye

Unlike the Fairy Glen, The Fairy Pools have a long history of Norse and / or Celtic fused Scottish lore connected to them. The mineral rich waters have been long known for their healing abilities. Similar to Clootie Well lore, the Fairy Pools luckily are not littered with offerings. No rotting rags hanging about.

The Fairy Pool, Isle of Skye. Rootless Routes. Scotland 2018 by Elizabeth Whitener
Vibrant green pool of The Fairy Pools f Glen Brittle

Sadly most of the legends of the area were passed down through word of mouth in Gaelic and are either lost or not available for public consumption. None of my research brought forth any actual tales.

The hike down is easy enough for most. After a very long day the mildly steep incline at the very end with the sun beating down on me was kind of a bitch and there is nowhere to sit or get away from the sun to take a break. But for the most part anybody with average mobility can do the 40 minute walk there and back with relative ease

Photo Alert: Photo opportunities everywhere.

Sheep Alert: Sheep hop out from everywhere and tend to graze along the hiking trail. No, they are not tame, nor do they like being approached.

Toilet Alert:  (Pee before you get there)

Parking Alert: Fairly large car park / parking lot, graveled with large jagged rocks. The lot gets busy, people park randomly and at the very end of the lot, it is difficult to see where the land ends, so be careful. Use your parking break and skew your wheels.

Kid Alert: I think this much for real small kids, but a solid walker can do it. It does take an average adult 20 minutes to make it to the first pool and 20 minutes more to get to the last one.

Approximate time: 2 hours  Total Trip Time: 7 hours 30 minutes

Next Destination: Sky Bridge – Drive Time: 35 minutes


G] The Skye Bridge / Drochaid an Eilein Sgitheanaich / A87

You’ve been here before. This road trip is complete.

Next Destination: Done – Drive Time: 8 hours 5 minutes


Useful Information:

  1. Southwest of the bridge is Balmacara, where you can find petrol and a well stocked Spar (convenience store / small grocer).
  2. Balmacara Hotel has a nice little pub like restaurant in the back (I did not eat there)
  3. The Clachan and The Dornie Hotel both serve great food, just a few minutes beyond Balmacara, in Dornie. Dornie is right across the way from the Eilean Donan Castle. Check their hours. Call ahead if you can. The Clachan serves food later and both places get packed at times.
  4. Eilean Donan Castle is just 15 minutes SW of the Skye Bridge. The castle is extremely photogenic with fantastic photo opportunities from the outside. When the castle is closed you can get great shots and the gate (although it looks locked) is often unlocked allowing visitors to cross the walkway to the castle.
  5. Dornie  is 15 minutes SW of the Skye Bridge. It’s a great but miniscule little village. There are a couple of shops  and restaurants there. Eilean Donan Castle is across the way.
  6. Plockton is about 18 minutes from the bridge and is a fantastic little village with gorgeous views and a few shops, pubs, inns and restaurants. It is a heckofa crazy one track road drive (I loved driving it). Itis a romantic spot. Well worth the visit! Note: The locals are impatient with slow drivers.

 

A] Sky Bridge

B] Portree

C] The Fairy Glen

D] Dunvegan Castle

E] Neist Point Lighthouse

F] Fairy Pools

 G] Sky Bridge

Skye Tours & Alternative Transportation  / (Scot owned and Scotland based)

Chas MacDonald of Spirit of Scotland offers various private and small group tours with a focus in Clan history, Clan gatherings, wildlife viewing, photography as well as personally curated themes of your choice. He also offers tours by More Gay the Gordon. A unique perspective with a like minded guide that delves into history of gay Scotland as well as LGBT exclusive tours.

Rabbie’s is a highly regarded small tour operator in business for over 20 years, that has maintained their top reputation even after becoming a rather large company.

You can find information on bus services to and on Skye here

Cycling routes and bike maps, in and around Skye.

Hiking routes maps and trails on Skye.

Traveling with kids?

Gay centric tours of Skye.