Monday, May 14, 2018

A Wee Camping Trip In The Highlands: Part 18 - The Coven Confrontation

Wow. I finally found the easy driving in Scotland. I was on the most feared M3, which I had been comparing in my mind to I-4 at home. In Orlando, I would do anything in the world to avoid driving on I-4, but the M3 was a nice big friendly freeway, with people smiling while they only passed on the left when it was safe, and nobody was driving as if they were checking their facebook status while accelerating. It was almost peaceful, but it did cross my mind that the week and a half of the driving I had done so far was good preparation. We were considering a long trek to Glasgow and trying find what could possibly be left of the Snodgrass village, when Pam saw an exit for a castle. That chance stop is the kind of thing that makes our trips together special.

What we didn't know, was the whole Atholl area where we stopped was a bit of a tourist destination. The first bit was the Blair castle, which I must say, was finally what I truly expected to see for a castle. It was surrounded by a large estate and a small village that was either built from the original buildings, or remade to look like really old buildings. From what I saw at first glance, a town full of people could have had jobs just maintaining the grounds, forget about the castle. Then there was the largest campground I've ever seen right next to that, and it was busy, even in this off season of cold that we were travelling through. Instead of pulling up to a small hut with an old man and his wife running the place, we pulled up to a clubhouse, that looked more like the inside of an airport, with well dressed attendants inquiring if we were 'boooked'. We decided right there that the Snodgrass village could wait, and we had to find out more about this place. We got ourselves a 'pitch' and got to figuring out how much time we had for a castle tour and finding somewhere really cool to eat. Before any of that fun stuff, I had to find one more emergency, and that was we needed to change propane tanks. I was already an old hand at this, having practiced in the snow with a horse watching and all, so even though there was a light rain, I didn't expect much trouble. There would not have been any trouble except that my new van was so new, that somebody forgot to put a wrench in there for changing bottles. There I was again, with that certain knowledge that there was nowhere nearby that would have the giant crescent wrench you need to change a propane tank, and it was plenty cold, and I wanted to cook. So, I started worrying and Pam started with 'why don't you go ask for help?' I looked back incredulously, as if I would ever stoop to such a thing, but in the end I did. The only problem is that no one in Scotland knows what a 'crescent wrench' is. However, they did send an old timer over in his van to my 'pitch' and after a little back and forth with me talking very slowly and listening very carefully, I got that what I needed was a 'spanner'! Not only that, I needed one that was made from an anti-spark material, so I didn't accidentally get an explosion (at this point I started having some retroactive worrying from the times I had used a regular wrench). I really liked that old guy, even more when I got a glance inside his old minivan (and by the way, we don't really have mini vans in the states, we have slightly smaller vans, Scotland has MINIvans) and that thing was loaded with tools, blackened with age and in no particular order that I could tell. He and my dad would have been best of friends from just looking at that mess. But, he found that anti-spark spanner pretty quick and got us in business. At home, that would have shown up as a $50 extra fee on my bill, but here they were just being neighborly. I thought, this was why the English were moving up to the highlands. 

Propane worries being over, the next item on the agenda was finding food. Pam had her mind set on this huge old mini-castle that was supposed to be a hotel and restaurant. We headed there, and this was a place that normally we could have walked to, but the weather was so up and down, we decided we needed our home on wheels nearby. My way of doing things is to nail down the place you want and go for it, once committed. Pam is more like, let's go halfway in the door, and stand there looking at the menu, not really sure if you are going in or not. All of this while well-dressed people inside were making me feel that this was not the place that campers frequented. A bit more alarming than Pam's indecision over the menu, was the cast of characters I started noticing about. As I may have mentioned before, sometimes I can be a little slow processing large groups of people. At first I thought, there is something similar about these folks, is it a wedding?

Then I started realizing that I was feeling more and more like I was at the haunted mansion at Disney World and these people were dressed like characters from Horror movies, witches, a Harry Potter convention, or something. Finally I saw something I recognized; Cousin It from the Addams Family TV show. They were very busy in there, standing in small groups with drinks in hand, and I didn't want to take the chance that this wasn't some fun get together and instead we had run into the real thing, and perhaps all they were lacking was a couple of tourists for the bonfire later in the evening. I quickly grabbed Pam and headed for Plan B: the local pub, where I already knew what I would be ordering. Unfortunately, it turned out that this was drinking night, or else we were not the only ones avoiding the witch convention. The pub was packed, including a waiting line of vultures waiting for patrons to either leave or pass out. We had this part down pat. I hang back innocently while Pam goes in, finds a table that looks like it might be empty, or empty soon.

She has me plop down on the bench, while she pushes her way to the bar, to get to ordering fish and a 1/2 pint, If I'm lucky. The mystery always was what she was going to order, and the interesting people she met while doing that. The food was great and I was really getting that feeling that there was much more I wanted to do and our time was running out...I made a break for the van, hoping that we would not be noticed by the growing crowd of creepy covenfolk. Meanwhile, Pam ran back to get photos while I sat in the van with the engine running... 

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