Dear Montecito: Tobias Cole

By Stella Haffner   |   December 17, 2020

This week you are being treated to yet another saga from bonnie Scotland –only this time, the story is not from me. Meet Tobias Cole, Montecito native and second year student at the University of St Andrews. 

I met Tobias for the first time in a coffee shop on North Street, St Andrews. And I know, I know. It’s bizarre that we’d managed to avoid each other for so long having both moved from Montecito with a population of just 10,000 to our three-street university town with a student population of 10,000. But only five minutes into the conversation two things were clear to me: First, Tobias is a charming and adventuresome type of person. Second, I had to publish one of those adventures in this column. 

Tobias Cole (left), Montecito native and second year student at the University of St. Andrews, on a cross-country bike excursion in Scotland with Sid

Dear Montecito,

I didn’t learn to ride a bike until sixth grade. I think I grew up feeling as though I needed to catch up with all my friends who had learned to ride back when they were four or five. I used to ride every day to school, and even now I cycle every day here at university. It has become a dream of mine to one day take the Silk Road and cycle from the UK all the way to the coast of China. But for now, it’s just small excursions. Like this trip I took with my buddy Sid

Day 1 

We started in St Andrews with ambitions to make it across the country to the west coast (around Loch Lomond-ish area) on the first day. What was that? Like 50 miles? Piece of cake!Alright, so it was actually closer to 70 miles, but that’s just how these things go.

Day 2

Everything went pretty smoothly on the second day. Sure our camper stove broke, but we’re feeling good rounding out at about another 75 miles and the weather is super mild. 

Well, that second thing didn’t last long and, after two decently dry days, the rain comes back with a vengeance. I mean, it isn’t pouring exactly, but immediately everything is wet. The bikes are wet. The path is wet. Scotland is just wet. 

We’re tired, hungry, and thinking about the instant pasta we’ve brought with us. But, of course, our cooker is broken, so we’re looking at each other like: “Do you really want to be eating dry pasta?” Didn’t think so. Now, we’ve got to look for the most not-wet kindling we can find around out little camping area. Sid and I kind of make a big pile of dryish brush and dump the gas from our broken cooker on top. Yea, so that was a good idea. We’re both standing there when Sid lights a match and the whole thing goes whoosh. Even with a fire going, we cannot, cannot, get the pasta anything more than lukewarm. So, slightly undercooked pasta it is! I can’t say the little bits of ash and twig I found in mine did much for the flavor. 

Day 3 

We get started in the morning and see this sign for a cycle path off the main road. We think: 

“No cars! This’ll be perfect.”

We get going. It’s kind of foggy, kind of not. But there are waterfalls everywhere and it’s just beautiful. Eventually, we arrive at this farm valley, which is when we see them. Highland cattle just standing there on the road.

Now, obviously, we need to use that road, but we don’t want to upset them either because they are big guys. Sid and I rochambeau to decide who has to go first and, well, I lost. I walk up to them real slow, straddling my bike in case we need to make a break for it. And it’s a good thing too, cause right as I am within spitting distance, one of the bulls kicks out with his back legs, and Sid and I take off!

We finally make it into the city, and after 85 miles, we’re ready to eat a horse. (Or, potentially, a highland cow!) What we’d forgotten was that, with the pandemic, all restaurants are closed by 6 pm. There’s exactly one burger place still open. And just as we get our food, it starts raining again, pouring this time. We must’ve looked nuts sitting on the sidewalk in the downpour absolutely devouring our burgers. 

Day 4 

After the last three days, it was time for a break. I’d never done a trip that exceeded more than 50 miles a day before, and even then I didn’t have the extra 60 pounds of gear, so a laidback sightseeing day on the Isle of Mull was just what the doctor ordered. Sid wants to cycle around the island and, knowing it will be a time crunch to make it back before dark, he leaves most of his gear with me. The last ferry of the day leaves at 7 pm, so Sid even strips his outer layer to make sure he can move as fast as possible.

I’m having a pretty sweet day hanging around coffee shops, but it’s getting dark and starting to rain, so I knew it was time to head towards the ferry. But Sid’s still not back. I’m waiting. 6.30 pm. 6.35 pm. Where is he? At this point, I’m near the docks and the rain is really starting to come down, even our waterproof bags have water inside of them. It’s almost 6.50 pm before Sid rocks up completely soaked. We just make it on the ferry back to the mainland.  

Day 5

We had thought we might cycle back to St Andrews, but Sid has a couple deadlines due soon and after a fun but very rainy night camping in our sleeping bags, we’re about ready to get home. 

We decide to take the train back and, despite having to smuggle the bikes onto the carriage with us, the last leg of our trip goes off without a hitch. Sid and I arrive back in St Andrews totally stoked but also totally tired. I probably spent the next two to three days in bed, but it was completely worth it. 



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