Subject: Scotland
Hi Ziners:

I have been buried since we have returned from Scotland a few weeks ago, but I thought I would take a few minutes between crises to share some thoughts.

Driving a right hand drive car on the one lane roads in the Isles of Skye and Mull is exciting. You don't worry so much about in which lane to drive; there is only one. You do worry about the vehicle coming toward you. On the straight it is no problem, but on the curves and hills you quickly relearn old expletives (oh sh*t was common) as you come head on with the oncoming traffic.

Sheep are cute. Sheep are really stupid. Sheep make cows look like rocket scientists. They are all over the road. I now understand why mutton is the abundant dish. We did not hit any, but one morning we were running and came upon a pasture full of sheep; they saw us and stampeded. The cows in the next pasture were curious and came to the fence to see us. After our return from Scotland, we had the opportunity to dine with a Scotsman who lives in Portugal, but who rented a house for two weeks in Vermont. He told us that the sheep were more valuable on the land than Scotsmen (Scotspeople) which led to a mass exodus of Scots to New Zealand and Canada. From our experience, we do not expect the sheep to write any great novels yet.

Internet access is better in the Amazon than it is in the outback of Scotland. Edinburgh was a wealth of free WiFi spots, but that was it. In the hinterlands, libraries and tourist information offices were the only access points. Unfortunately, the former do not allow downloads and the latter are often broken. BT promises better access soon. You can get a free ISP login for all of the UK. Get it. When it works it is great, but you need to tie it to a local number. I had one and had to tell my British friend to simply tell me what the charge was so I could reimburse him.

Small towns have small numbers of restaurants. Reservations are a must even if the locals tell you that reservations are not needed. We were in a small town on a Monday night and thought there was no problem finding a restaurant. Wrong. Finally we called a place at which the chef said that we should simply show up at 7:30 pm. We did only to be turned away. They sat us only after we told the maitre'd that we were from an American travel magazine and were told by the chef that we were to come at 7:30 p.m. We explained to the maitre'd that the owner would be extremely upset to read in an national magazine that we were turned away after making a reservation and would recommend that tourists avoid the place. It worked. We were seated. The food was good, not terrific, and I am still trying to figure out how one can make a fish cake that has no taste whatsoever. While we were waiting to be seated we bought out the inventory of the fish and chip place next door. That was fun. I walked in and asked what they had. It was not much, but I told the storekeeper I would take it all. It cost me $6 USD. They closed the doors after I left.

The Scots speak Gaelic, but they pronounce it Garlic. The Scots do not speak with the same lilt as do the Irish, but they are a wonderfully gracious people. One morning at the end of a run we went into a convenience store to get the Times for our British companions. We asked the proprietor, Do you have the London Times? He replied, You are in Scotland, we have only the Scottish Times. I turned to my companion and said, Good Lord, we have run to far! Quick on his feet, the proprietor said, Don't worry, I'll drive you back.

Tom between crises and cruises in Carlisle