Monday, July 28, 2014

Where should Dug go Next

Over the last 9 years Dug has been traveling around the world, where he goes is up to you. Pick where his next destination should be. Take your time you only get one vote and you can NOT change it!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Scotland May June 2014

Everything you are about to read happened just as stated. If you do not believe me all pictures are posted at the bottom!

Day 1 Thursday

Wow, time flies while you are having fun. Though three month have past, it seems like yesterday I
was landing in Ethiopia. While I enjoyed my stay in Ethiopia, compliments of Ethiopian Air. I got a request I can not refuse.

It seems that Margarite and Alli Ludwick got this crazy idea to compete in the Edinburgh Marathon. Yes, Edinburgh, Scotland. You may remember Alli Ludwick the Miami University Track Star that went to the 2012 London Olympics.

Margarite and Alli Ludwick asked me if I would join them, how could I say, no! The one quandary. Does Scotland count as a country I visited. The United Nations does not count Scotland as
an independent country. They consider the United Kingdom as the country. The Scottish consider Scotland as their own country, and in fact in September the Scottish people will be voting on separating from the United Kingdom. Maybe I should wait for that vote before I make my final decision.

Once I arrived in Scotland I found out Alli's family would be joining us, Big Bill Ludwick also known as Mr. Pittsburgh, Theresa Ludwick, and the world famous rapper Dylan Ludwick. From my side I invited "Z" to join us. While I enjoy a good Scotch once in a while, I am nowhere near the Scotch connoisseur "Z" is. I knew he would love a tour of the Scottish Highlands and tasting some of the best Scotches in the world.

Column and Ciaran, picked me up from the Edinburgh airport. Both live in Edinburgh, neither had a very good sense of direction. Unfortunately for them, as we traversed the windy roads of Edinburgh, they spent more time with me than I think they would of liked. Fortunately for
me, I got an extensive tour of the city.

Theresa rented an awesome flat for our stay in Edinburgh. Right in the center of town walking distance to everything. Once we dropped my bags off Margarite, Column, Ciaran and I, went for a quick breakfast and then Column and Ciaran were very gracious and took us to the grocery to stock up for the marathon weekend.

It was Thursday, Margarite had been hanging in Holland, she was able to take a shuttle flight over and meet up with us at the apartment. "Z" flew via Iceland into Glasgow. After trains, planes, and buses, he finally made it to Edinburgh.

We spent the afternoon tour the city the main site we visited was the Nelson Monument. From the top of the tower you got a 360 degree view of the entire city.

It was approaching 7:00 PM we decided to look for a spot for dinner. Margarite had noticed a restaurant CafĂ© Marlayne » Thistle Street in the same building as our flat. We gave it a try and had a fantastic dinner. The service was great, I had a roasted chicken that was just fantastic.

With just the three of us, the apartment was perfect, tomorrow the Ludwick's would be arriving and a single bathroom for 7 people might get tight.

Day 2 Friday

We slept in, had a casual breakfast of hard boiled eggs, though I did an extensive shopping spree, I forget oil to coat the pan for cooking eggs, so boiled was the only choice. Today was a day of sight seeing and picking up our numbers for the race. No, no, I would not be running the marathon, just Maragrite and Alli, Big Bill Ludwick, and I would be running the Half the Marathon.

Once we got going we walked over to the Edinburgh Castle, we had not pre purchased tickets and the
queue was rather long. Instead of the Castle we decided to walk the Royal Mile to check in for the run and visit some sites on the way. As we walked the Royal Mile we loved taking in all the different architecture. We visited several churches and stopped to have some simply delicious fudge.

We retrieved our race numbers had some lunch and walked back to the apartment. It was getting close to 3:00 PM and the Ludwicks would be arriving soon.

On their arrival we learned that Big Bill Ludwick had, had both a heart attack and stroke, on the flight over, both caused by stress. After finding nothing wrong with Big Bill Ludwick, the doctor released him from the hospital, the Doctor made the suggestion he not run the half marathon.

Once everybody was settled in we headed out to try our luck touring the Edinburgh Castle. It was 4:00 p.m. and the line had died down. We pretty much had the castle to ourselves. The highlight was seeing the Crown Jewels. We found out Big Bill Ludwick was a descendent of the Scottish Royal Family, while we were all looking at the Crown Jewels, Big Bill Ludwick was looking at his
family jewels.

We found another great restaurant on Thistle Street called Iris Restaurant. We were very impressed the seven of us showed up without reservations, not only did the accommodate us, they treated us like royalty. Everybody enjoyed their meals. I had the stuff aborigine, very tasty and tender, cooked to perfection. I had no idea, this would be my last good meal for some time.

Dylan Ludwick a little jealous of all the attention his father was getting over the stroke / heart attack, decided it was his turn. Though he was smart enough to wait until he completed his meal, somehow he caused his pupils to dilate and then he rolled his eyes back into his head. While the rest of us clearly saw this as a cry for attention, Alli Ludwick actually just laugh hysterically.
Theresa and Big Bill Ludwick freaked out, quickly rushed Dylan back to the apartment.

We later found out this was not Dylan's way to get attention, but a trick the Ludwick's use to get out of paying the restaurant bill. When the waitress saw Dylan and his folks run out of the restaurant with Dylan clearly in distress, the waitress quickly came over to our table and asked if everything was ok. Alli quickly said that Dylan was having a reaction to the food and her folks were going to rush him to the hospital. The shocked waitress returned with the owner, who quickly took care of our complete bill. He even offered to pay the non-existent hospital bill.

Alli Ludwick told us her family does this all the time to get free meals. And I thought I knew all the
tricks. The meal was great and the price even better. When we returned to the apartment Dylan had recovered from his fake episode. Dylan spent the evening teaching us how to dilate our eyes and roll them back into our head. A new talent we have now all mastered.

We later found out that Big Bill Ludwick faked his stroke / heart attack on his flight. He had read that medical emergencies by pass customs and immigrations. He wanted to try it out and it worked. He saved over 2 hours not having to deal with the customs and immigration bureaucracy at Heathrow, by faking a stroke / heart attack on his flight.

Day 3 Saturday

Bill forgot to print his bus passes for the race, we all headed out to find an Internet cafe, we found 3. All three advertised the ability to print. All three had
broken printers. At this point we were close to the race registration, we stopped in and found out you really do not need a ticket and taking the city bus is even better than the race bus.

Since we were right next to Holyrood Park we decided to do some hiking, what a great idea the day before a race. Hiked five mile of steep trails.

After the hike we grabbed some lunch and headed back to the apartment.

We split up for dinner, Margarite, "Z", and I went to Fishers in the City, it was just ok. The Ludwick's went out for Italian, it was what you would expect Italian to be in Scotland. This was the start of our declining quality of eating while in

Big day tomorrow so an early evening.

Day 4 Sunday

I got up at 6:00 a.m. The race start was 8:00 a.m. for the half marathon. Breakfast was three hard boiled eggs and a baked sweet potato. At 7:10 we (Big bill Ludwick, "Z", and I) walked to the start. I dropped my bag off. Since this race is point to point. They offer a service where you give them your bag and they deliver it to you at the finish.

The weather looked threatening, 50 degrees and the sky looked like it would open up at any point and drop buckets of water on us. The start was a few minutes late 8:02 a.m. There were two starts,
London Road and Regents Road. I was at the Regents road start. Big Bill Ludwick was also assigned the Regents Road Start. Bill had forgot that his heart attack / stroke on the plane was all a rouse to by pass customs, he thought it was real. For that reason he decided to take the Doctors advice and not to run the half marathon.

Just before the race start, it started to rain, not heavy, but enough to get you wet. The first mile was a slight down hill, which I covered in 7 minutes 54 seconds, my heart rate was 151 beats per minute (BPM). My goal for the race was one hour 45 minutes which is approximately 8 minute miles. With the first mile being down hill I was happy with the pace. I felt good, the course was not to crowded except for a few spots where the course narrowed.

By mile two the dual starts merged and the course got rather crowded, we were still going down hill. My time was 7 minutes 38 seconds and my heart rate was 159 BMP. I still felt good, besides the crowds all was going great. I had to keep reminding myself I still had 11 miles to go. The course was
starting to level out and I knew part of the reason for my fast times was the first two miles were down hill or flat.

During mile three I was feeling great the course was as flat as a pan cake, fast, the rain had stopped, and the crowds had thinned. I was constantly passing people. My time was 7 minutes 29 second, my heart rate was 160 BPM. I had to look at my watch twice seeing the 7:29 scared me, I was only 3 miles into the race and running a full 30 seconds per mile faster than my goal time. Could my body hold this pace? I took a quick look at my heart rate and that set me at ease, at 160 BPM, I was not stressing my body. I made the decision as long as I felt relaxed I would let my legs do what they wanted to do.

Mile four was another flat mile we were running along the coast line, the Firth of Fourth was on our left and a beach community on our right. We were running on a very wide promenade. I was still passing people. My time for mile four was 7 minutes and 21 seconds, my heart rate was 161 BPM. This was two fast, I still had 9 miles to go.

For mile five I forced myself to slow down, I was drinking water at every water stop and I ate one of my two GU's. I covered the fifth mile in 7 minutes and 35 seconds, my heart rate was 163 BPM. I knew with my current pace and heart rate I was going to beat my goal time as long as my legs did not blow up. Now the question was when do I start allowing myself to bring the pace back up. I decided I would hold off on my last GU until mile 9.5. I felt I would be good for another few miles and the last GU would then take me to the finish.

Mile six, 7 minutes 39 seconds heart rate 163. I knew I was doing the right thing even though my body and legs wanted to go faster. I was not even half way through the race I needed to pace myself.

Mile Seven, I was now over halfway done. 7 minutes and 35 seconds heart rate 163 BPM. I had now covered 3 miles at a very consistent pace, my heart rate was very steady and my body very relaxed.
Should I give it some gas, I still had over 6 miles to go.

Mile Eight, I took the governor off a little 7 minutes 31 seconds heart rate 164. Everything felt fine. The course had some rolling hills and the head winds had picked up.

Mile Nine, I had my last GU and turn up the gas a little 7 minutes 22 seconds with a heart rate of 166, still well within my comfort range. Time to shave off some time.

Mile Ten, really started to feel the winds, my time was 7 minutes and 26 seconds my heart rate was 168 BPM. I had officially 3.1 miles to go, but based on my watch I had 3.2 miles to go. I knew I would be close to breaking one hour and forty minutes.

Mile Eleven, at mile 9 we past the finish line soon we would turn and head back the way we came to the finish. I could not wait for that turn around so the wind would be at my back. I was a little disappointed with my time of 7 minutes and 27 seconds especially when I saw my heart rate was 168
BPM. At this point I should be maxing out my body and legs and I was not. The winds were holding me back.

Mile Twelve, finally the wind was to my back, and finally I was pushing myself with my fastest mile at a time of 7 minutes and 12 seconds, my heart rate was up to 170 BPM. I guess I am fitter than I thought. I expected to be closer to my max heart rate.

Mile Thirteen, more gas and a time of 7 minutes and 9 seconds my heart rate reached 173 BPM, I could see the finish.

The last .2 miles I covered in 2 minutes and 2 seconds for a pace of 6 minutes and 56 seconds, my
heart rate was 175 BPM. I was done. Total time one hour 39 minutes and 24 seconds.

The best part I beat "Z" by about an hour and he took the bus. The marathon started at 10:00 which was just a few minutes after I had finished. My hope was to get back out on the course and cheer for Margarite and Alli Ludwick. Unfortunately by the time I met up with "Z" and the Ludwick's, Margarite and Alli had passed us.

They both had fantastic races. Margarite covered the 26.2 miles in 3 hours 16 minutes winning her age group. Alli Ludwick finished in 3 hours 24 minutes for a fantastic first marathon time.

We all had great races. Right after the Alli Ludwick finished the skies opened up so we decided to take the bus back to town and get cleaned up. It had been a long day for everybody, runners and spectators.

Day 5 Monday

The Ludwicks will be heading back to London and we will be heading to the Scottish Highlands.

Margarite, "Z", and I rented a car, I am now very comfortable driving on the wrong side of the road.
Our VW station wagon was comfortable for our tour. Our plan for the day was to drive to St Andrews, Scotland, the birth place of golf. We had no set schedule or reservations. It was early season and we thought finding a place each night would not be a big deal.

We stopped in a small town for lunch called Leven Beach. There was only one restaurant open called the Beachcomber. I am not sure if I would have feed the food we were severed to a pet dog, and I will eat most anything. This was the start of our awful food experience in the Highlands of Scotland.

The next town we stopped at was Fife also along the coast. Here we found a great ice cream parlor with great ice cream. We would find out as the trip continued for as bad as the food was the ice cream was great.

We arrived in St Andrews in the late afternoon only to find all the bed and breakfasts' were booked. We drove just a few miles out or town and found a darling place to stay, The Hawthorne House. Just up the road (walking distance) was a great restaurant (based on the Scottish Highlands standards) called The Tavern at Strathkinness. Strathkinness is a little village just a few miles outside of St Andrews. The Tavern sits on the top of a hill which on a clear day you can see St. Andrews.

Day 6 Tuesday

Today we would tour St. Andrews the birthplace of golf. There were two main historical sites in St. Andrews besides the Links. The first was the St Andrews Cathedral. Though now more of a ruins
than a Cathedral, you could see that this area was a major religious center at one time.

The second sight was the St Andrews Castle. While the castle had both a moat and high walls, the enemies tried to take the castle over by digging tunnels under the moat and walls. Their plan was discovered and defensive tunnels were dug and the enemy was repelled. Before leaving St Andrews we visited the St Andrews Links, the home of golf. It looked more like a beach with grass growing on it.

We continued on our way north discovering what the highlands had to offer. As we rounded a bend we saw a sign for The Edradour Distillery, it was billed as the smallest distillery in Scotland. We thought, might as well start our tour of Scottish distilleries with the smallest one.

We took that tour which was very enlighten. One thing I learned is that Scotch can only be made in
Scotland. It makes sense, but I never knew it. The tour guide did a very nice job of explaining the process of making scotch. She was also very proud that the Edradour Distillery is the smallest and one of the only privately owned distillery in all of Scotland.

It was getting late so we decided to stay in Pitlochry for the night. A nice little Scottish village. We found a bed and breakfast that looked over the town called Ardvane B&B. Scotland has a fairly high latitude and since it was late May the sun stayed up late. We decided to take a walk into town and get some dinner. The owner of the Ardvane B&B had recommended The Auld Smiddy Inn for dinner. The service and atmosphere were great, the food was just ok. At this point my food standards were dropping rapidly.

It was now 8:00 PM, though the sun was still high in the sky. With nothing better to do we decided to
get some ice-cream. As bad as the food was the ice-cream was great. There is a river with a hydro electric dam that runs along the village. We walked a loop that took us over the dam and down the river and back over a pedestrian bridge. It was beautiful night. We had been warned that we would hit a lot of overcast and rainy days. So far we had a few overcast days, overall the weather had been very pleasant.

Day 7 Wednesday

We would be heading to Inverness today. On our way out of town we stopped that Blair Castle. Not only was the castle magnificent, it had some beautiful gardens attached. After several hours of tour the castle and gardens we were on the road

Our next stop was the Cairngorm Mountain while a very beautiful mountain, it had only been a few months since Maragrite's bout with Altitude Sickness on Mount Kilimanjaro, just looking at a mountain was making her nauseous. While we did not take the train to the top we did enjoy a short hike.

We arrived in Inverness just after 5:00 p.m. What we found was an industrial town. We decided this was not the place for us so we headed east to a small village called Nairn. We ended up staying in Nairn for two nights. It was a pleasant village with a great biking / running trail that connected it to other small villages.

Day 8 Thursday

We headed out to tour the Cawdor Castle and Gardens. Another delightful castle but not up to the The Aberlour Distillery. Unfortunately the distillery was closed for tours, though they still allowed "Z" to taste their scotch. They suggested we take a tour of the town of Aberlour. Named after the founder of the distillery. They had set up a nice path that took you through town and back up through the local woods, by a water fall that supplied water to the distillery. Are you seeing a theme for this tour of the highlands, Castles and Distilleries.
same standards as the Blair Castle we had visited the day before. We continued our tour of the highlands with another distillery,

Oh, wait our next stop is the Speyside Cooperage, not a castle or distillery. Most barrels / casks used to make scotch are made from wood imported from the United States. Speyside is the largest Cooperage in Scotland. It was amazing watching how fast they could build or repair a barrel. We still need to get a distillery tour in before the day was up.

Glenfiddich, yep a distillery, with Maragite and I being teetotalers, "Z" was not only tasting his scotch, but he also got ours. After two different distillery's he had a fairly good buzz.

We headed back to Nairn to let "Z" sober up. The night before we had a decent meal at a restaurant called The Classroom. The restaurant occupied and old school house. With my food standards dropping the food was ok. We all decided it had been to long since we had real lettuce and some veggies. In Scotland the only veggie it seems they serve in restaurants are chips (French Fries). We went to the local grocery and bought the fixings for a salad and Smoke Scottish Salmon. One of the best meals we had, had since leaving Edinburgh.

Day 9 Friday

Today we will be heading for the Isle of Skye. Our first stop was Fort George. Actually we stopped at a pig farm before Fort George. Fort George is largest military fort in Scotland, it is still in full
operation today. Of course no day is complete with out a tour of a distillery.

On the way to the Isle of Skye was the Glen Ord Distillery. We decided not to take the tour, but "Z" did enjoy his triple tasting of Glen Ord Scotch.

Tonight we will be staying in Portree , which is the largest town on the Isle of Skye. We found a nice B&B just a few blocks walk to town, Sandra Campbell Bed & Breakfast. The accommodations were nice, but the owner smoked. If she had the door open between the main house and the B&B you would get the odor of Cigarette smoke, not good!

Once we arrived in Portree we took a walk through the town. The dock area was fantastic, each building painted a different pastel color. We decided to have dinner at the Pier Hotel Restaurants. The food was actual ok, I think after 7 days of awful food, our taste buds were starting to revolt.

Day 10 Saturday

We decided we would be staying in Portree for only 2 nights. This gives us one full day to tour the Isle of Skye. We thought let's circumnavigate the island. Our first stop you got it! A distillery. Talisker, the only distillery on the Isle of Skye. After the distillery we continue our circumnavigation going clockwise around the Isle. The coast line was beautiful with amazing cliffs. The sky was clear and as blue as could be. From what we heard it was rare to have such a blue sky on Skye. We ended the day at Kilt Rock. Kilt rock is known for the water fall where the water appears to come right out of the cliffs edge and falls into the sea. Dinner that night was salad and smoked salmon bought at the local grocery.

Day 11 Sunday

Today we will be leaving the Isle of Skye, but first a tour by sea. We choose to go out on the MV
Stardust. Seeing the Isle of Skye from the sea gave us a different perspective. The caves in the sides of the cliffs as well as the Sea Eagles nesting on the cliffs edge.

We finished the tour about 1:00 PM and decided to head back towards Glasgow which will be our final destination. "Z" noticed there was a ferry at Ardvasar, which is on the South East corner of the Isle of Skye. Taking this ferry will cut a lot of driving for us as well as allow us to see some sites we had not planned to visit. Not like we had a plan.

While waiting for the ferry, we ran into a family that suggested we stay in Fort Williams for the night.
Fort Williams was a delightful town near the base of Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in all of Scotland. Also home to the Ben Nevis Distillery which we had to visit of course. We also visited the some castles that were more like ruins. What was shocking, is some of these castles had been used and lived in up until the 1960's, just 54 years ago.

Day 12 Monday

After our night in Fort Williams we headed to Oban. Why? you might ask, of course to visit the Oban Distillery. Oban is a village right on the water. One of the original founders of the town hired local stone masons to build a tower at the top of the hill side. The purpose was to make sure that local stone masons always had work. If commercial Raniven Guest House while in Oban. A guest house seems to be an upscale Bed and Breakfast.
work slowed, they could always work on the tower. The tower is called McCaig Tower, it was a splendid walk both up to the tower and down. You could see the entire town from the hill side as well as the harbor. We stayed at the

Day 13 Tuesday

After our day in Oban it was off to the final stage of our trip Glasgow. We rented a great flat in Glasgow on the 14th floor of a newly built high rise. Located on the river only a few blocks from the town center. We arrived late in the day, and needed to stretch our legs. The weather was fantastic, 75
degrees and sunny, unheard of in Glasgow. We walk through town visited the historic cemetery and got the lay of the land. Having an apartment was a huge plus when it came to eating. We visited the local grocery and stocked the kitchen with food for the next few days.

Day 14 Wednesday

After a morning run along the river, we decided we would take the hop on hop off bus tour. This would allow to quickly get a good understanding of Glasgow. Glasgow was far more modern and metropolitan than Edinburgh. Two of the highlights were the Glasgow Botanical Garden and the River Side Museum. I would describe the riverside museum as a transportation museum. They had all
types of exhibits of transportation that was used through out the history of Glasgow.

As nice was the weather was the day before today it was just poured all day. Outside the Museum was an ice cream stand. With the weather the way it was, there were not many people buying ice cream. For us ice cream was the only food worth eating in Scotland, so we had to have some. Tomorrow we would be leaving.

Day 15 Thursday

Heading some where, not sure where!

That is it from Scotland.