A momentary idea on the Torino-Nice Rally kept on coming back to me for more attention. But an idea is a flimsy thing on its own, it needed some substance. Bike? Check – the Shand Stooshie. ‘Spare’ time? Hmmm, check. Functional body? Well, sometimes, check’ish. Commitment to map obsessing. Oh yes, double check! Imagining a route up the centre of Scotland from my home in Edinburgh to my childhood home near Inverness, the spine of Scotland began to emerge, a foundation and a scaffold around which to build.

I set to work in late September, enticing others to join me or setting off solo. I traumatised Andy P on some 20%+ inclines up grouse shooting tracks in Perthshire; I froze with Gavin on a bright but ice encrusted foray into the Ochils; and I press-ganged the Goddess into some Christmas reccies up North.

There were new wind farm access roads with solid foundations and slick surfaces. Old drove roads and estate tracks, sometimes crude and lumpy, but layered with the history of hooves, boots and tyres. Occasional encounters with others pursuing their rural livelihoods – foresting, game-keeping, or in hospitality, providing welcome warmth, food and fluids. Contrasting landscapes and people brought flesh to the bones of a route.

Contrasts, Alex Heinmann
[Contrasts, Alex Heinmann]

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