The tantalising prospect of a couple of days of luxury in a hotel was replaced with three days of hard biking after a good nights sleep and no repeat of the previous day's digestive failure. This was helped by the relative lie in we treated ourselves to and since we had a short day we tried to make it more time pressured by having a very slack start. I don't in any way want to correlate our increased faffing with the arrival of Steve but I'll let the reader draw their own conclusions. One faff proved to be well worth it, pumping up our tyres but with a difference. Ben is a diving enthusiast and has wired up a pressurised diving tank to a regulator and a bike tyre attachment. Initially we were somewhat unsure about this but when the ease of obtaining 120 psi was demonstrated we were queuing up.
After faffing some more with booking a hotel in Wick we were led out by Ben and Helen who used their local knowledge to follow the cycle paths out of Edinburgh with only two U turns. Obviously they must have heard about our micro navigational ability and made sure they took us all the way to the forth bridge where Ben shared his tit bit of local knowledge that most jumpers from the bridge die when they hit the water, those that don't generally drown in the strong current. On this cheery note we waved goodbye and headed up to the equally uninspiring Kelt village. This seemed to be a rough town where it would be frankly dangerous to own gold teeth; someone commented that it would make a great location for my upcoming stag night. Stamping out such talk I ushered everyone back on the bikes and out of dodge.
Recalling yesterdays frequency of tea shops we managed to hold off for a relatively long time for our first break, Kinross in fact. On our second attempt we found some space in Cafe 98 and waited for what would turn out to be the most expensive lunch on our trip. It did taste good but surely not that good. While we waited we were being teased by the electric bike shop opposite and I can't be alone in wondering how much it would cost for a small motor in the seat post. We also popped into the other bike shop in town looking for some grease for Duncans wheel had been bleeding grease the entire trip, despite (or perhaps because) of the last minute service they had undergone. The owner commented that he often has people pop in with wheel problems which made us wonder if he was responsible for the copious pot holes in the road either side of the village.
We eventually continued on up towards Perth on back roads to avoid the motorway. These had small hills but were well worth the downhills. The weather so far had been threatening but dry, this was rectified with a highly localised downpour which caught us just as we were rolling into Perth. Hiding under some bushes we watched the flood fall out the sky while Hugh crashed into the bush to recover a lost football. Soon it was over and we free wheeled down the hill to the centre where we had another stop at a bike shop, this time for Steve to replace a tyre and Hugh to pick up a free seat to replace his current torture implement. This turned out to be a well worth stop as the owner was very keen to point out a much better route than the A9 which we had marked up. This took us east of the main road and picked it's way along bike paths and some minor roads.
Having enjoyed the challenge of following our given direction we were pleased to see Dunkeld since we had passed up several opportunities to head off in the wrong direction. Here we stopped in a pub for some cheesy chips where there were some very well turned out pipers - not certain that English jokers were going to get a good reception we tried to keep the gags to ourselves. Chips down we set off looking for what our friends in the bike shop in Perth had described as having a 'good surface' - perhaps he was on a quad bike at the time but the rough track we came across didn't live up to our expectations. To brighten things up Hugh pointed out the original Dunkeld Larch tree, which is the daddy of all the millions of Dunkeld Larch's across the country.
The rest of the ride into Pitlochry was a bit of a slog including a 1 in 3 hill and we arrived later than we had hoped. Our accommodation was a classic backpackers hostel where the headline on the customer satisfaction survey is clearly economy and not receptionist efficiency. We had to hand over a five pound deposit for our key so when Steve handed over ten pounds he was slightly confused when he didn't get any change. This was not cleared up at all when he was then told that it was 'five pounds or whatever you want to pay'. With five pounds change duly extracted we locked the bikes up and dashed into the showers. These resembled upright coffins, there was no room to tickle a cat let alone swing it. That said it was hot and more than a bit steamy. We headed out to find some food for the evening and being hungry we were keen to find the curry house quickly. This was not helped by walking the length of the centre in the wrong direction before back tracking and finding it only 50 yards from the hostel. With eyes bigger than stomachs we took bags of food back to the hostel and after eating to capacity we still had some naan bread to save as a treat for the following day.