Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What is a Boat Lift?

The Fallkirk Wheel was mentioned a lot as I researched how to ride from Glasgow to Edinburgh. I knew it was about halfway, and that it was some kind of destination; I imagined a big, old mill of some kind, on a spectacularly large river. Wrong.

The Fallkirk Wheel is a spectacular feat of engineering. Rather than a traditional canal lock, this baby turns. A boat gets in the bottom, the wheel goes around until it's lined up vertically with the top canal, and the boat gets out at the top. We were lucky enough to see this.

Takes about 4 minutes.

This is where the Forth and Clyde Canal meets the Union Canal (the one up above). We rode up on the bike path, which took a little longer. But at the top, the views are also spectacular. And surreal. The canal just ends out in the air.

We followed the canal through a short tunnel, and then up past a couple of small, more traditional locks, and were back on a canal-side trail again. A lumpy, gravelly, sometimes muddy canal-side trail. Apparently this canal was used for horse-drawn barges.

Not much farther along we came to another tunnel. Yay! A respite from the rain, something slightly different, tunnels are usually fun.

This tunnel is really, really long. 690 yards long, and very, very dark. Here's a photo with flash. Caught some ghosts.

The surface of the path in the tunnel is a slimy and uneven cobblestone, with a wooden rail that is not confidence inspiring. With essentially no vision, on a slimy, narrow path, and a curved tunnel wall, it's not exactly a comfortable ride. But it sure was exciting. And so long. Basically looked like this.

Yeah, very exciting.

Also exciting were some of the bridges.

Yup, that's a boat in a canal. Yes, and Joshua, pushing his bike along a narrow, cobblestone path on a bridge. With a canal in it. I imagined this with horses pulling coal barges across. Yikes. Notice the height of the tops of the trees. Here's a bad photo looking down to the stream below.

But you get the idea. Very high up. Canal on bridge. Walk the bikes. It was near this bridge that we saw Arie again. We shared our disbelief at the tunnel, impressiveness of the Falkirk Wheel, and disappointment in the general state of the "bike path". Also, we were all pretty sick of rain. Arie sent us this photo.

We slogged on through the rain, and when we smelled food and saw a cafe near the canal we stopped for lunch and to dry out a bit. We thought Arie would see us on his way by, but he cruised right along. We were all hoping to reach Edinburgh.

And for us the relief of our first night in a bed & breakfast, a hot shower, maybe even laundry, pulled us all the way into town. The rain only increased, and the path got muddier. Large branches were hanging down in our way. We discovered that the best places to ride were often the puddles, because those were the less gravelly spots along the path.

We did make it, however, and soaked, tired, and sore from all that rattling about. The first B&B we found was full, but they pointed us in the direction of a street where we found a whole row of places to stay. We went to a place that said it had vacancies, and they were happy to have us. They even let us park around the back with our bikes - and spray off our bags and bikes with a hose, to limit the amount of mud we brought inside. What should we see in back? A very distinctive bike that could belong to just one person. Later Arie saw our bikes and we found each other again. Amazingly, we were staying in the same B&B in Edinburgh.

Where we did our best to completely take over the room to dry out our gear and ourselves.

- rolling post

No comments: