Caledonia Calling

The following blogpost is a chapter of my book Riding Towards Shadows that will be published this month ….. 

 

“Twenty years this summer.” I thought.

It was twenty years that Rob was dead and I was still crying for him, the pain always there, it would not soften, was as sharp and constant as it had been for so long. It was high time I faced my demons. They’ve had power over me for far too long.

Riding Towards Shadows Nellie Merthe ErkenbachI had to go back to say good-bye properly. Something I never did, and I thought he needed a proper send-off. I needed a proper send-off because in a way I never buried him. It had proved to be impossible to let go without, but I needed to let go and therefore I needed to go north.

No. I needed to ride north, up to Scotland again.

I was standing on a platform waiting for my next train connection. The wind was cold and strong and the smell of rain and chips that was wafting over from some food stall must have reminded me of Glasgow. Why else would I think of Scotland and Rob while I was standing in Cologne train station waiting for my connection that was half an hour late. I was in a bad mood because I didn’t like travelling on a train, especially not on a Saturday evening, when the trains were full of football fans drunk and in any other way as annoying as they possibly could be.

“No, I don’t like your singing. Can I be left in peace? Leave me in peace to think for fuck’s sake!”

“Olé, olé, olé, olé!”

He died on his motorcycle, I lived on for twenty years, riding but never really getting away from him. Maybe I could let him go by going back. I had never really had put my boots down here. I lived here but I had left my heart in Scotland.

Riding Towards Shadows Nellie Merthe Erkenbach

A football supporter two rows in front of me started throwing up, retching, smelling, cheered on by his friends. The odour of sour beer and sick made me sick, too. I got up. This was my lucky day. We were approaching my destination; I could get off this train. I felt sick of it all. Something had to change, I had to sort out my life.

Glasgow it was. I would take twenty days off work to ride back twenty years. It seemed very appropriate.

The Tennent’s advert of those days still stuck in my head: Caledonia. This guy has this epiphanic moment and leaves his successful life in London to come back to his pals in Scotland for a pint and happiness.

Nellie Merthe Erekenbach Riding Towards ShadowsWell, I knew ads worked with dreams, I worked for television. This ad worked with my dream and it worked well even after twenty years.

 

The decision was made, and I had half a year to organise everything.

I made a list: I wanted to do this big send-off trip, I wanted to meet as many of the old crew as possible, I wanted a tattoo and I wanted to live my dream.

Caledonia was calling me, and I was going home.

 

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summertime … and the riding is easy

Shieldaig, Torridon

What is the perfect ride?

Scottish HighlandsMay be many things: a busy rally, a desert trip, a cruise along Sunset Boulevard – there are so many bikers out there, so many different ideas what a perfect ride should be like.

Even my own idea of a pefect run differs occasionally.

But very often, this one song goes through my head as my bike takes me to the horizon: Summertime and the living is easy….

 

chopper dreams

sea and gorseA perfect ride – what does it take?

Fun, for a start. And sun, not to forget. Me and my bike and some breathtaking scenery – that is a perfect ride for me. No breakdowns, no annoying cars, not a soul in sight.

Just summer and the coconut smell of Scottish gorse, a sea breeze and a powerful engine roaring through the wilderness.

….and the riding is easy indeed.

 

With a little treat – a fruit scone, home-made jam and cream when the road takes you back into civilisation.

Perfect!

 

Scotland the brave

 

Suzuki Intruder VS 1400The Scottish Highlands can be ferocious, relentless and dangerous even on a bike. Storms are battering the West coast of this Northern beauty, heavy rainfall and flooding block roads, low temperatures make you freeze even in summer.

Scotland’s for the brave indeed.

But on a day like this it is just breathtakingly beautiful.

Castle Tioram, Highlands, Scotland

Is there a better country to ride a bike in?

Isle of Skye, ScotlandScotland asks you to be brave, you need to be prepared to fight: the roads, the climate, the tourists. Bikers are getting killed every week here in summer and still they come here like hordes seeking the enemy, from England, Germany, France, Holland and Norway, drawn by a magnet of incredible magnitude: the beauty of the wilderness and the strength you draw out of coping with its adversities.

Scotland is a county for heroes, always has been and still is, on the bike.

In a way it is like one of these adventure holidays people book to get the thrill of their live.

On a bike you don’t need to book anything, adventure follows you wherever you go.

When I come back home from a drive through this magnificent part of the world I do feel different, stronger, braver, more self-assured. And any time I am more in love with this country.

Scotland the brave indeed.

Castle Tioram. Highlands, Scotland