It wasn't my intention to take a holiday at the end of August to coincide with my birthday, but it kind of just happened that way. I found myself with almost two weeks off work, with no touring features and no caravan reviews scheduled. After an emotionally draining year (mainly family admin), a holiday seemed to be the way forward. My batteries weren't just drained, they were on the last red reserves and in danger of shutting down. I needed desperately to recharge.
And I knew just the place.
Normally I would go to the Outer Hebrides in the early summer, but the Euro Airstream meeting put the kibosh on that this year. Originally I planned to go there at the end of September after doing a job in Scotland, and it would make no logical sense to hoon up there and come all the way back just for a week away. And I would be spending my birthday all on my own in a remote place.
But while it made no logical sense to make the 1200 mile round trip for a week's zoning out, it simply FELT like the right thing to do. And I have been travelling long enough to know that you follow your instinct, despite the logic. Or lack of.
I booked the late morning ferry from Oban for the Tuesday. Sunday night was spent at the topping Camping and Caravanning Site at Gullivers in MK. Definitely one to go back to when I have the kids in tow:
You know how, when you're trying to get away, and emails keep dripping in that need attention, and you never seem to get clear? Well, that was the kind of day that I was having that Monday. I spent most of the day tearing around Milton Keynes preparing for my trip and tidying up all the loose ends. Tesco car park became my office for the afternoon, and by the time I had filled up with diesel (for the truck), LPG (for the Airstream), and petrol (for the generator), it was 7.30pm when I finally hit the M1 on my journey North.
Pumping the co-ordinates for Oban ferry terminal into the SatNav, it came back with '468 miles, 05:45'.
The fact that it was a six hour journey cheered me. I'd be at Loch Lomond just after midnight to get my head down!
But half an hour later, the SatNav still said 05:45. With a crushing wave of disappointment, I realised that 05:45 was not the duration of the journey. It was the ETA. I was scheduled to do a Roy Orbison, and Drive All Night.
Fuelled by coffee, fresh air, and some good radio, I rolled into a lay-by at Loch Lomond at 5AM, where I caught a 3 hour nap.
It's not big, it's not clever, and it's not recommended to make such a trip in such a timescale. But adrenalin charged by an intense purpose of destination kept me alert.
I got to Oban with an hour to spare, and brewed some coffee in the queue for the ferry. Only once I had driven my rig onto the CalMac ferry mv Lord of the Isles, taken my position on the open deck, and looked out to the town of Oban as we dropped ropes and set sail, did it finally sink in.
I was going back to the Outer Hebrides.
As the adrenaline started to wear off and the experience of the moment finally started to sink in, my Island Journey became truly real and not an imaginary event in the future. In time-honoured tradition, I did what I always do at this point. I stood on the deck and blubbed.
The five hour ferry ride flew by. I hardly touched the magazines I had bought to read on the trip.
On the open deck I made a new friend, Dougal, who was off on his holidays to Barra.
Before too long, the dark peaks of South Uist rose out of the inky black sea.
At this point, there was no doubt in my mind that this reckless, crazy, irresponsible journey was totally and utterly the right thing to do. Sometimes, you do have to cast reason aside and listen to your instinct.