Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A Wee Camping Trip In The Highlands Part 5 - Losing It In Glasgow

I’ve have more than a few times in my life that I’ve experienced what could be described as a ‘bit of apprehension about the near future’.  The symptoms usually include sleepless and then dreams about horrible outcomes. I had a few of those nights leading up to the day I was to take ‘Whitey the Great’ from Glasgow to the Highlands’. I had found a company called Rockin’ Vans UK online and had leased a mid-sized motorhome from them, thinking that it was only the size of a Sprinter van at home and how hard could it be to drive mostly in the country in a nation of friendly people with a population the size of New York City? My original plan was to rent a Mini Cooper and take a tent. Then I found I could get an old VW campervan, which Rockin' Vans had. I had visions of us cruising through the beautiful backroads of Scotland, when Pam interrupted and said "So, where is the bathroom?" We came up with a compromise, one that involved the smallest vehicle that had a bathroom in it. I had always liked the idea of a Camper that was just big enough, but not too big. As it turned out, it was too small and too big at the same time...
As the trip grew nearer, and I read more on the web about driving on the left and roundabouts, I started getting a wee bit worried. My first day in Glasgow was Easter Sunday. This was in the middle of downtown (or City Centre as they call it), and that downtown was a party town on steroids. To all of my young and old friends that long for an urban setting with pubs and Starbucks for as far as the eye can see in any direction, They would  have seen it as a giant fun spot. What I saw, instead was how heavy the traffic was and how little sense it made to me how it worked. Actually, there was less honking than I would have expected, but I did notice a tendency to speed up to run down pedestrians. The proclivity of Northeastern Americans to stick out a foot in the road to make a car stop, was a trick quickly proved to not be effective there.

If I was a worried about driving on the left and the mere idea that my first time driving would be in a big van with a stick shift on the wrong side, then I really had a sleeping problem when I found out about the blizzard forecast for the day we were to hit the road. I called my company, begging them to hold off for 24 hours. Pam was bundled up, mumbling that there was no way in the world she was going on the road in that van with me driving and another 'Beast From The East' on its way. But the consensus from Rockin' Vans was that the weather was only going to get worse, and I needed to hit the road sooner rather than later. 

My nerves were smoothed quite a bit when we first took our room at the CitizenM Hotel. Every single little thing seemed to have a bit of techiness about it. For example, you get on the elevator, put your room card in the slot and the elevator takes you to the floor of your room. The room itself reminded me very much of a nice cabin on a cruise ship.  It was small but very, very nice. Much is made of the fact that there is a iPad in the room that controls the lights, the TV and the blinds. It definitely was cool, although we did have some moments where Pam was grabbing the iPad from me and trying to work the TV. It is possible that we may request 2 iPads the next time we stay there.

The room was nice, but that wasn't what blew me away. It was the display arranged on the desk when we came in the first time.
Owen, our young man that introduced himself at the beginning, had left us presents. Ponchos, a map and a book with camping hints, along with a letter wishing us well on our adventure. I wondered aloud if these were things for us to purchase, like the booze in a mini fridge in a normal hotel room, but it turned out these really were gifts from Owen. I never felt so welcome in a country before! His letter said that the only thing missing from his pile of gifts was a dram of whiskey, and he hoped we'd raise one on his behalf during our journey...which we did.

Thus it was that around 2pm on a Monday, that Pam and I began getting lost in downtown Glasgow, with large suitcases in tow, backpacks on our backs, and a howling wind blowing, with enough snow to leave footprints on the sidewalk. We were searching for the meetup location that I thought I had down pat. Instead of Google Maps being my friend, it was a local man and woman that pointed out that we had marched 30 minutes in the wrong direction….after an hour of hiking in circles around city blocks and some questionable back alleys. Note to self: when using Maps, don't ask for turn by turn directions when walking in a city.  Some of those streets contained some characters that made me wish I was armed to the teeth, instead of constantly checking my phone for directions.
Yup, this day was already churning up my stomach and I hadn’t even seen the van yet….

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