Among other things, I’m part Scottish.
My Mom’s maiden name is MacDougall – very kilt and bag pipes.
It seemed fitting to my sister that we should all go on a vacation to Edinburgh for some family bonding & sleuthing on our Scottish bloodline.
“We are going to a wedding in Manchester, England in June and were thinking about going out a week early with Mom to Scotland.” – Was the initial statement over beers in burgers from my sister Lynne.
I’d been to Edinburgh before – 12 years ago as part of a multi country Western European romp.
But, my Mom had not.
I committed to the trip after my Mom heard the plan and got excited.
Now the trip itself was stellar – bonding with my Mom, Lynne and her partner Pat – pulsing along several weekdays in Scotland’s 2nd largest city – Seeing the world’s oldest golf course (St. Andrews).
For the craft beer lover, visiting many, many Pubs.
That’s all great – But, this isn’t a Facebook lifestyle crafting blog….This is Five Bag Fit. Where’s the adventure Man!?
Yeah, Yeah, – on to the topic wise as to why you’re reading.
This was also a chance for me to rent a bike and feel the real energy of a foreign city.
Which also follows the message of my Adventure Defined post last year.
The adventure within the adventure of overseas travel doesn’t have to be big, it just has to be!
Something about getting my heart rate up. Blasting down city streets with the other bike commuters. Going places you’d never see from the windows of a tour bus. Talking to local shop owners. Getting lost and asking, “Where the EFFF is the Promenade?” Finding open space where not only are there no tourists, but no people at all.
Hell yeah, the bike gives you freedom to be local – to be better than “a local” – To be a weirdo biker.
I like that.
The bike is the simple tool to make some adventure type shit happen. No car, no bus with a tour guide…it’s the bike that sets you on a divergent path from tourist to local.
Here’s What I did:
The three ladies planned a trip to North Berwick. Dead East from Edinburgh along the coast. 25 miles.
“We can take the train it’s only ½ an hour.”
Seizing the opportunity, I announced,
“I’m gonna bike out there and meet you.”
An instant classic in the making.
+ Legitimate destination
+ Time deadline (train arrives 11:30)
+ The need to sweat out 20 pub beers
= Me pedaling 50 miles round trip on a rainy Scotland Tuesday.
Oh baby, was this a great decision. The suburban folk were frustratingly inching their way into downtown while I coursed outbound on my rented cross bike.
Just get to the water and the calm quiet will follow.
And I was I heaven pedaling along the water through small communities – watching kids go to school on the way to South Berwick – then witnessing them going back home (some on bikes – yayyy!) on my return to Edinburgh.
Just watching regular life, you know. Just watching people do their thing on an unassuming weekday is the kind of sightseeing I really enjoy.
You don’t get a real feel for life somewhere else watching other tourists in the hotel lobby then talking to local employees whose job it is to talk to tourists.
You gotta get out there and feel the region!
You get that from the bike and I’ll add that this method has never failed me.
I didn’t choose the whole route. Most of it was gifted to me as I was picking up spare tubes at the The Bicycle Works a local shop in Edinburgh.
The above photo is from The Bicycle Works Website
The mechanic there told me about the John Muir Way.
“It starts literally at the bottom of the street out the door here and goes straight into North Berwick.”
He threw in some other details and got me amped up. Initially, I had a vague plan, then suddenly, I had a detailed one.
The guy had done the ride several times and it was fun to feel the energy and enthusiasm of his descriptions. He wanted me to have that freedom and calm, quiet that he gets from a city escape ride.
We connected as bikers which felt pretty cool. Our conversation – me with a nasally, faded Boston accent and him with fluid King’s English was a memorable novelty – especially because the ride turned out so well.
The whole interaction fed my spirit. I’d certainly spill details out to him with wide eyes had he been in Boston on holiday looking for a ride off the beaten path.
It seems trivial. A small errand that led to some local bike knowledge. In your regular life, you take stuff like that for granted. When you travel, that’s a little golden nugget of adventure. A Scot and a Yank bonding over bike talk at 8am on a Tuesday.
Okay, there are some take aways from this post. It’s not just me boasting about a little bike ride.
Here they are:
When you go some place urban and touristy,
Wait for it…..
Get away from the tourists even though you are one.
Pretend that you’re a local – which won’t last long. Real locals always sort out people bumbling along and offer help.
Pick a cozy little town somewhere.
Here’s another take away.
Do something with the locals.
Take a yoga class. Do an intro session at a gym. Meet up with a weekly walking or hiker group – or book club – or dinner club – or wine tasting group…or… or …
You get it.
There’s more to do than see the popular sights.
There’s regular life happening.
Try to experience that.