Day 16 + 1

NB. If this is your first visit to my blog then welcome, if it’s a return visit then welcome back. I have two main blog pages and some links to the left. I have used a slideshow for each day which are a wee bit slow to load  if they load all at once, but hopefully are worth the (short) wait…….. Or, if you click on ‘My daily posts’ to the left then you can view one day’s blog and one slide show at a time. Any feedback MOST welcome.

I have had a day to reflect on my 1100 mile, 16 day cycling trip and have come to realise what an important part my family and friends played in this achievement. Firstly it would not have happened it is wasn’t for my wife, Cathie. When I first mentioned my desire to cycle LEJOG I was able to follow this up with a whole lot of mental barriers. This is normal behaviour for me, the trains were too expensive and difficult to book, the weather was unpredictable, some of the roads might be a bit dangerous etc etc. But Cathie offered me loads of encouragement to work round these barriers and helped me get things organised.

Thanks also to everyone else who helped make it happen (you know who you are) and thanks to even Faith for making the rather scary banner picture me for my surprise home-coming party.

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Day 16, Tongue to John O’Groats!!!!!!!!

Oh my goodness, that was a long way!

For the last day the sun shone brightly and the hills were plentiful. The headwind was very strong but so was my desire to reach John O’Groats with a bit of energy left and with a bit of style. My wife and son were waiting for me at JOG and as I rode along I practised in my head how I would do my finish. One hand on the bars while waving? Both hands in the air like the winner does in the Tour De France.  I decided to go with the flow and do what seemed natural at the time.

Somewhat later than expected I passed the final sign which read ‘John O’Groats 1/4 mile’. Wow, this is it. I have been cycling  for sixteen nine hour days and a 1/4 mile was all that was left. I crossed the line (there is a line) with both hands firmly on the bars in case I fell off at this vital moment and saw my wife and son waving and smiling. This was a indeed moment to savour. But is wasn’t a moment of mass celebration with flags and cheering, it was a private moment between us. We knew what had been achieved and that was all that mattered. My new-found cycling fiends arrived a wee while later and there were lots of hand shakes smiles and photos all round. Truly a day to remember.

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Stats and stuff

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/96431716

Day 15, Bonar Bridge to Tongue

 The last page of the map team

These seven people left their houses as three teams of two plus me as a team of one and we have all been doing the LEJOG at the same time. Passing each other, saying hello, texting, stopping together for a chat and over the last few days have struck  up genuine friendships. None of us have posh bikes or fancy gear, just a bit of time and an ambition to cycle the length of the UK. Sitting at home reading this you may think we are all a bit mad and I agree it must be on the scale of madness somewhere. However, I saw a guy yesterday heading south  for Land End pushing a shopping trolley full of his gear, now that’s madder. Yes?

Today I am in Tongue, which is right in the middle of the north coast of Scotland. I have a beautiful 180 degree view of the sea which is very satisfying as I can remember a similar view from Penzance at he opposite end.

Today the views, roads and company have all been fantastic. Tomorrow is the grand finale. I am looking forward to reaching the end stop but at the same time I am a bit sad. Weeks of planning, sixteen days of cycling, friends made and then stop…… Great memories though that will stay with me for ever.

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Stats and stuff

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/96107413

Day 14, Drumnadrochit to Bonar Bridge

What a great way to start the day.

The end is nigh. Tomorrow I arrive at my penultimate destination, Tongue, before I cycle my final day along the North coast to John O’Groats. I have been trying to gather my thoughts on how I will feel during my final half mile or so at John O’Groats. There will be no stadium to enter, no brass bands, no podiums to stand on, just a white painted pole with a £10.00 fee to stand beside it.  My wife and son will hopefully be there to meet me and share my moment which will be nice and is probably all I need in reality.

Also, how will I feel the following morning?  I have been waking up, doing my own Glaswegian version of Tai Chi, which involves crouching down and slowly standing up while swearing out loud as my knees click and my legs realise they are in for another day of it.

Once fed and packed the next notable event is sitting on the saddle for the first time, this usually involves a little more Tai Chi, before heading off along the road for around 9 hours or so. This has been the routine for 14 days now without a break now and it is going to be strange just to stop. A relief possibly but strange all the same.

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The route and stats

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/95887805

Day 13, Spean Bridge to Drumnadrochit

With the Spean Bridge B&B stay almost completed,  also known as mission overnight, I was briefed on the failings of some of the past guests and how they failed to comply. The breakfast was very nice although I don’t remember ticking YES in the box which asked… Garlic in scrambled egg? The proprietor is very efficient and if you like clean, neat and  organised accommodation then it is great. Nothing is left to chance, though you do feel as if you are being watched, possibly due to the presence of  several infra-red CCTV cameras strategically positioned with signs stating images are being recorded.

Today was  spent cycling along the banks of Loch Ness up as far as Drumnadrochit where I will turn off and head directly north tomorrow. For a lot of the trip I went along the Caledonian Canal tow path to escape the traffic.

I accidentally dropped my camera first thing this morning and it stopped working. Then following a strong dunt on the opposite corner it came back on again.  Phew! Imagine if the monster had appeared when my camera wasn’t working.

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Stats and route.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/95672813

Day 12, Oban to Spean Bridge via Loch Eil

Take a look at todays route first.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/95501584

The observant amongst you will be wordering why I went all the way round Loch Eil, a distance of about 18 miles, for no apparent reason. I could tell you that I wanted to see Ben Nevis from a different angle or wanted to eat at a very special resaurant. The truth is, poor research, nothing else. Catching the Corran ferry to avoid the heavy A82 traffic is a good idea but it involves a second crossing on a small passanger ferry back over to Fort William at the top on the loch. I needed to know the time of the last ferry up at the top  and asked a woman with a pram in Corran. I usually find a woman with a pram to be a good source of information. Alas, not this time, when I got to the jetty after 10 miles cycling I discovered there were no more  ferries for the rest of the day, the  last one being 16.35. Nothing else for it but to cycle 18 miles right round Loch Eil, it was very nice but I didn’t need it.

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After I booked tonights B&B I looked it up on Trip Advisor and there were lots of hints that suggested the place was full of rules. Not at all, I would call it running a tight ship.

I have filled out my form in indicating exactly what I am going to eat for breakfast.  I have chosen only one kind of cooked egg and I have also selected between 08.15, 08.30 and 08.45 to be seated in the breakfast room.  I have ticked the box agreeing to sit at table 5, it’s simple, you sit at the corresponding table according to your room number. ie room 5 = table 5 , easy!  I have left the form in the hall on the designated table before 19.00 so I am in the clear.

ps. I must remember to collect my shoes from rack in the hall before I leave before 10.00 prompt. Rules indeed, it’s called being organised.

Day 11, Ardrossan to Oban (Oasis)

Do you think they would miss that rubber ring?

 The B&B in Ardrossan was a bit stressful what with the family rottweiler being pregnant and all that. ‘It makes her behave a bit more aggressively when strangers are around’ (this is a B&B remember) The rules were simple, ‘do not open that door or that door and don’t put your hand near the fence when in she is in he garden. She is such a big friendly thing…. usually’ Now, I am no a dog mind reader but one look into that dogs eyes told me all I needed to know. She was hungry, she was eating for seven, and no full English breakfast was going to satisfy her appetite.  Our first impressions told us everything when we first arrived at the house and rang door the bell. The lights were on but there seemed to be nobody in.

The cycling proper began when the ferry arrived  in Brodick and I headed off to down the very hilly road to Lochranza. Then, after waiting nearly an hour for the conecting ferry to Kintyre  it was as late as 2pm before I got started on the main bit of the day up to Oban. Not good planning on my part but with an ample supply of bananas I set off with confidence. The miles were slow to pass and the chilly head wind encouraged me to pedal even harder.  I was looking forward to this leg of the journey so much it seemed a shame to rush it. Anyway, five hours and six bananas later I arrived in Oban, or as it will be known by me from now on, Oasis.  I opted for a Chinese to refuel. It was fine although before I engaged by brain fully when ordering I heard my self say. … ‘a white coffee and banana fritter please’

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The stats

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/95339673

Day 10, St. Johns, Dalry to Ardrossan

Like Father Like Son

What a great family day. We all met up in Troon while I was on my way to Ardrossan for the Arran Ferry in the morning. My dad rode with me as far as Irvine which is ten miles or so. Well done Dad!.

It has been great meeting up and spending time with folk over the past few days. Russell and Chris, (the other LEJOG cyclists). Brian, (my friend and curry researcher) and today my Dad, my sister, my wife and my son. I got a call from my daughter too! Thanks everyone!

On this trip I have obviously spent many hours alone with nothing to to but turn the peddals and point the bike along the road. This leaves lots of time to think and generally go over things. I am not talking about wondering where my next apple pie and custard is coming from here, it’s about deeper stuff.  As Donkey in Shrek said ‘It’s all about layers. There’s  an onion thing going on here!’ Take one layer away and there is another underneath. A bit like my photo galleries.

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stats

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/95105029

Day 9, Carlisle to St Johns, Dalry….. slowly

 

‘Scotland Welcomes You’  and right behind the sign there is a giant log bench, rotten right through and split in two, priceless!

After twenty minutes or so over the border I cycled into Annan, a smart town and they were hosting the British Pipe Band Championship. The air was filled with the wonderful sound of pipes and drums and the smell of chips. There was a nice friendly atmosphere and it was a shame I could not stay longer as I still had a good few miles to do.

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Tomorrow I am meeting up with my family in Troon and hopefully  my dad is going to ride along with me for a few miles which will be great.

Stats and stuff

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/94773871

Day 8, Slaidburn to Carlisle, quickly!

 

Team Carlisle

We all left the Hostel together heading for Carlisle 80 miles away. Lets just say for the record I was not the fastest. During this trip I have made dozens of stopps for photos and snacks and stuff. But Day 8 was a high speed express day. I tried to stop and take some pictures but found my self even furher behing the pack. Hence the pictures of the backs of other cyclists, I took these while on the move which I am sure is not in the HASWC manual (Health and Safety While Cycling). I really enjoyed the change of pace and it worked out well since I had arranged to meet my friend Brian in Carlisle for a beer and a curry in the evening. Brian researched the various curry house options and came up trumps. Cheers Brian!

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Me and Brian with curry on our mind

Stats and stuff

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/94527789

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