After Cromarty we headed south, powered by the fumes of a fuming Mrs RM.
For a while it looked like we’d run out of fuel before reaching Aviemore, having failed to spot a single service station on the A9 from Inverness down.
But Mrs RM’s spotless directions led me to the BP garage just past the station, and I joined a huge queue for the overpriced diesel.
“Hey, I said, my Beer Guide pub is literally over the road. Can I go and do it while you fill up ? Keep the engine running“.
To be honest, I was jumping over the wall of the Cairngorm Hotel before she had a chance to say “I won’t wait !”.
Aviemore was, as usual, heaving. But as Scotland basked in the sunshine I’d brought north there was no-one inside.
But I guessed my best chance of a 2 minute half (sign-in, payment and mask attachment included) was to sit by the bar and wave at people.
That just about worked, though the order for a half of Cairngorm Stag was relayed to the barman and the half then relayed back to the server before reaching me with a little bill of £2.20 which I then had to wave to pay. Bar service is the devil’s work.
Fortunately the Stag was actually pretty good (NBSS 3), and if I hadn’t been worried about being abandoned in the Scottish equivalent of Center Parcs I’d have had a pint.
I got back to the BP garage just as Mrs RM emerged with a huge haul of chocolate (Cadbury flakes, mainly) with which she hoped to assuage her mood.
“Er, turn left and head for the Pine Marten, please” I instructed in the nature of a polite driving instructor.
Ten minutes into the Cairngorms, just past the water based fun on Lake Moritz and a mile of cars parked both sides of the road, I saw the sign for Tick No. 2.
But we couldn’t. All the car parks full as the entire population of Dundee, Perth and Inverness descended to splash around and eat ice cream.
A minute on, and Mrs RM turned into the Reindeer park.
“I’ll hover, make it quick”
Well, could I find it ? False trips into Youth Hostels, back gardens and campsites followed, before the Pine Marten emerged from the clearings (on the opposite side of the road to their sign).
A holiday park shop selling inflatable crocodiles (or are they alligators ?), ice cream and beer on two handpumps.
Again, an unexpectedly good Stag, perhaps the best beer on the trip (3.5). I cannot lie.
Two Italian tourists sipping cappuccino observed me take the glass, hand over the £2.20 and deck the half, all in about 27 seconds. Perhaps with wonder, perhaps with horror.
Mrs RM had finished her haul when I got back 5 minutes later. I really should have bought her the green crocodile.