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Urgh. I think I may be drooling. Because now we come to the A939. In the M5. Actually
the first bit from Crathie isn't the A939; it's the B976, but it leads there, then on to the no-
torious Cock Bridge to Tomintoul stretch. This is the bit of road that's always first to get
blocked by snow at the start of a Scottish winter. Sometimes they call it the Lecht road,
after the summit pass, where the Ski Centre is. Dear goodness flipping michtyme, what a
Partly it's the fact it's just such a gloriously clear, brilliantly sunny spring day, and
there's so little traffic - most roads are at their best in these circumstances. Partly, though,
it's the openness, the fact that you can see so far, with no trees, no foliage, no lumps of
landscape in the way to obscure sight lines round corners. This near agoraphobic bright-
sky exposure also lets you make certain there are no sheep preparing to wander across
the road, or oncoming traffic that might prevent the use of the road's full width. Partly
it's the long, rising, undulating, rarely perfectly smooth nature of the road surface itself,
and partly it's just a succession of brilliant bends and just pure plain boffo straights or
near-straights lancing towards the horizon or propped against the sheeny slope of heather,
aimed into a cobalt sky.
This is a truly magnificent, spectacular, spellbinding, addictive road. If I was alone
I'd already be very seriously considering turning around somewhere ahead and coming
back to do the whole thing again in the opposite direction, and then turning once more,
back this way, to resume the route we're on. Les actually says something to this effect
and I laugh and agree, but really it's a petrol-head thing and neither of us think it would
be fair on Ann and Aileen. Just this one-way scoot is enough.
Again, we're not going anything like scarily fast, so the whole process feels smooth,
with no savage braking, mad-boy acceleration or limit-testing cornering, really just a se-
quence of balanced stances the car takes up, pitching forward or back and from side to
side, all of it way, way within its capabilities. It feels strong and safe and secure, as though
it knows exactly what it's doing, and is positively flattering my driving.
We reach the Lecht itself, the emptyish-looking pass where the Ski Centre sits; broad
expanses of pitted asphalt braided with gravel washed off the slopes, a few cars and
trucks, many grey, shed-like buildings of folded steel, and a thin network of ski-tows
straggling off up the hill on both sides. It all appears a bit raw and desolate, already out of
season at a time of year when, at the the end of a long hard winter, the whole place might
still have hundreds of people skiing and boarding. We slow for the deserted-looking com-
plex, treating it as a built-up area, then start the descent. In amongst such skiing territory
(albeit Scottish-type skiing, with, as a rule, the concomitant freezing winds, short steep
narrow slopes and face-stinging sleet), it's hard not to feel you're settling into a sweet,
curvy downhill slalom-like rhythm, carving the tyres from curve to curve. In an old car,
or just something with narrower tyres and less grip, you'd actually feel you were using
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