Friday, 27 June 2014

Lejog 2014 - the awards

As we hurtle back to our homes at a speed that seems quite alien to us, it is time for the Academy of Mid Life Cyclists to announce their winners. Naturally such an event is a black tie event, so rest assured as I am mistyping on the tablet I am adorning a dinner jacket, bow tie and snazzy shoes combo.

On behalf of the academy, here are the winners

King of the hills - Tom
Spotter of the most fish in a loch - Tom
Best rendition of singing on the bike - Ian
King of the comfort - Neil
Ability to eat the most on tour - Ian
Best B&B breakfast - Dumfries
best B&B shower experience - Bristol
Best B&B room - Ardrossan
Best B&B overall - Tiverton
Best day - day 11 drumnadrochit to altnahara
Best random act of kindness - Alison the physio
Best evening meal - fiddlers rest Drumnadrochit
Best serving of Nachos - steakhouse in Oban
Best local beer- Ludlow Gold
Best picnic spot - lock gates on Loch Ascraig

Day 12 Altnahara to John O'Groats

The last day.

You would think that the last day would be the easiest. Adrenaline carrying you through the hills.

We set off slowly with some weary legs, but fuelled by yesterday's random act of kindness of home made chocolate flapjack. First 20 miles seemed quite tough, little inclines but a strong north easterly wind seemed to be biting into us. Progress was slow.

After an age we reached the "main" road just outside bettyhill. We heard at breakfast that it was downhill all the way to bettyhill - which it wasn't!! Upon asking what was it like after, our source just laughed. More on the hills later.

The cove around bettyhill is fabulous. gorgeous, golden sands with some dramatic cliffs, along all of the top of Scotland we were greeted with such views along the pentland firth.

Then there were hills. Not overly high, jiust loads of them. Reminding us of Cornwall with the constant up and down of them. To combat them it was a case of adding up the number of climbs that needed to be done and adopting the "one less" philosophy. It got us to Thurso.

Before thurso we felt we needed to recharge our batteries, what better place than Dounreay, home of the nuclear power plant. Or to be correct the village of Reay.

So with the hills behind us and indeed some the most dense sheep I have ever encountered we navigated through this so with its grid street system not unlike New York. The similarities end there.

Thurso indeed brought us some sunshine, first of the day and only 20 miles to go.

Fatigue was settling in, and we had run out of flapjack. The wind that had been in our face for the last 55 miles was ever strong, but the end was in sight.

Indeed John oGroats happened upon us sooner than we thought. Purely for the reason its not right at the end, but who were we with over900miles in the saddle to start getting picky now.

We rounded the last corner and took the last downhill as we had started. Together.

John o groats gets a bit of a beating as having nothing there, or run down. I found it to be as it should. It wasn't as over commercialised as lands end ( no 4d cinema or Brian Blessad voice over). the hotel stands refurbishes and with eco lodges in the grounds offering stunning views over to Orkney. The place ain't that bad.

So we trundled up to one of the 2 famous posts ( the free one - which I like to think as the original one) to greet us were Sam and Anna, our heroines from Day 10, and some eager photographers.

So we'd finished. We were being congratulated, we had done something epic. True it felt epic, and an achievement. Although none of it would have been possible were it for the support of our partners, Stevie, Anna and Sam. True stars.

So is this the end? Or the beginning?

Day 12 stats

Day 12 miles - 75
Total miles - 962
Number of hills pushed up today - 0
Number of days a week the shop in Bettyhill is open - 8

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Day 11 Drumnadrochit to Altnahara

A long lie.

Breakfast not till 8, so we reaped a long lie. After such a scurry round the village for supplies then a proper repair to the gearing system saw us set off for 10. Oh no was this going to be another late night?

Heading out of Drumnadrochit and past Nessieland (with no sign of Ted Danson). We encountered the biggest hill of the trip. A definite walker, we were even offered some horses to help get us out.

So definitely warmed up after some 2 miles of that, and ready to crack on towards Beauly with some great downhills notching the speed up to 38 mph.

Weather conditions were dry but noticeably much colder. Stippled in Dingwall for the obligatory warmer upper of the ride of rolls and square sausage. Delicious.

Route carried on with the scenery really picking up, invershin had some lovely riding around the shin falls, and into Lairg, whereupon the sun was brilliant.

The best leg of the trip was next with Lairg to Altnahara. A gentle incline for 15 miles on some real smooth roads, with clear views across the glen and the mountains around, lovely cycling going through that.

Arriving at our accommodation in good time and staying at the functional lejog cabin, where we fluttered our eyebrows and got the bar meal time extended, we are such tarts.

Good day today. No mechanical problems. No physical problems. We were buoyed on by the news that we have bow reached over 4000 in donations which is amazing.

Day 11 facts
Miles today - 82
Total miles - 887
Number of hills pushed up - 1
Number of shops selling square sausage in Dingwall -1
Day that tattie scones get delivered in Dingwall - Friday

Day 10 Oban to Drumnadrochit

Woke up and looked out of the window to determine the weather, well what else can you do when you are on a budget staying in a youth hostel?

It was chucxkinf it down. Set the expectation for the day really.

So we set off after the usual morning rummaging and packing, which included stripping our own beds and clearing our own plates and separating waste, cutlery and crockery. But it wasn't all bad.

So we set off. 2.9 miles in, first problem. Another broken spoke. We could resolve this as it was "on the right side". Tom our handy mechanic was on hand to help. Whilst performing repair we encountered another set of end2enders. They looked far less bedraggled and stressed than we did. Got chatting and today was day 11. We were made up as today was our day 10. Finally someone doing it slower than us. Nice bunch we wished them well.

So for the first 35 miles there was rain, and low clouds, but TT he views were still spectacular. The lochs we passed were like dark glass, the mountains were moodily set in their cloudy shroud.

We made excellent progress to fort William, although the last 10 miles was a little hairy. Fort William itself was milking the tourist thing real well, with many a gaping visitor to be seen. Having refueled we followed the great glen way. Starting at neptune's staircase and following the Caledonian canal presented yet more fabulous views. The surface was a tad bumpy, but passable. The road veered off and tarmac replaced canal path, once again more splendid views and fantastic houses on the shoreline. With the sun in full pelt, all was well.

Until a niggling problem in the gears was encountered. These bikes have taken quite a pounding, this time gear cable was the fault, with a replacement installed. However thus was hampered by the outer casting which had perishes. Alas we hadn't carried one of these. A fix was attempts, yet the time taken was excessive.

This resulted in going from 8 gears to 4, then over the course of the last 14 miles down to 1.5. Some tlc required there tomorrow.

So we arrived well, and late, shattered and hungry. Some repairs required tomorrow before we set off.

Day 10 stats

Day 10 miles 95
Total mileage 805
Random acts of kindness 1
Hills pushed up 1
Mechanical challenges 2

Monday, 23 June 2014

Day 9 Ardrossan to Oban

Early start today. Tom managed to do the exercise routine, really a beauty to be hold.

Out the door for 6.15 with the smell of burning house in the air. I would like to point out that the building was empty, with no reported injuries, I'm not that heartless that I'd mock a series house fire.

Anyhow to the ferry. We enjoyed the Brodick 7.00 ferry and headed straight for the breakfast. After an irn bru and 2 square sausage sandwiches. The world seemed a better place. Nice wee ferry the ardrossan to brodick ferry.

When we got to Brodick it was shut, it reminded me of the last time I was in Brodick, height of summer. Saturday afternoon, shut.

The truth is you shouldn't venture to Arran if its for anything that you want to be open, but rather embrace the lovely countryside and views across the waters. Most amazing was spotting 2 dear. Not in the distance but barely a few metres away and not phased by our presence,

We faired well of our traversal to Lochranza in time for our next ferry to Clanaig.

Back on the mainland we kept to the main roads, the A82 and A816. Good roads, reasonably quiet.

2nd breakfast was held in Target before a lovely 8 mile stretch up to lochgilphead.

For the first time there was some rain, yes it was the fine rain that soaks right through.

Not much going on our journey today, no dead badgers like there was outside Dumfries.

And so that was the story of the day, main roads, light drizzle and lovely scenery, before arriving into the pretty town of Oban

After we freshened up we had a lovely act of kindness in the form if a bag of medicine, supplies, supports and other such medicinal aids

Day 9 facts

Day 9 mileage 77 (not including ferry mileage)
Total mileage 714
Random act of kindness 1
Number of hills pushed up 0
Number of highland coos spotted 3

Day 8 dumfries to ardrossan

After being buoyed by the arrival of the Findlay girls, the team felt ready for the off. Breakfast was a doozy, with the best tasting porridge yet.

Sunday in Dumfries was a sombre experience. We scoured looking for an open shop to get us through the first 40 miles. Should point out the night before was parade day and hence why the place was so quiet.

Weather was spot on and the countryside over those 40 miles was pretty spectacular. Hill after hill was reached with the general feeling that they were gentler than we had encountered. Got to a useful public convenience in the middle of nowhere to receive a call that a professional physio had been located and was willing to come out and tend to Tom's ailments.

Much jibes were voiced about the difference between a professional physio and a professional masusse. Indeed another 40 miles of jibes. Nonetheless Tom was primed to get 7 shades knocked out of him to try and relieve some of the immense pain he had been through for the last 200 miles.

Got through the hills and found ourselves on Britain's worst road A713 through to Ayr. A right boneshaker through dalmellington and into Patna.

It was indeed at Patna that we saw today's first random act of kindness. When the boy Graham and the boy Glen appeared to egg us on with hugs, love and words of encouragement,. The lads were indeed impressed with our feat and really did struggle to comprehend that we'd not taken the train at any point. Great to see the lads.

After our wee chat we moved on with Tom having a bit of a headstart. We passed through alloway, past rabbie's cottage (he wasn't in), through Ayr, Prestwick, into Troon and past the old school. Into Irvine, where this young blogger hailed from, before meeting a most remarkable old boy outside Kilwinning. Kilwinning isn't known for remarkable old vboys so you'll see why this if particular interest. The gentleman was cycling through after some 2700 km on the bike over 43 days. We talked for some time before wishing him well and feeling our achievements were small in comparison.

We reached tonights accommodation in good fettle and only 45 minutes left for tea.

Our final random act of kindness came from a visit from Shug, who bought us a beer and raised our spirits.

Before beddy byes we were entertained by the 50 inch tele, Ian attempting tom's exercises and a house fire further down the road.

Day 8 facts

Day 8 mileage 80
Total mileage 637
Random acts of kindness 2
Number of hills pushed today 0
Number of dwellings on fire 1

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Day 7 Kendall to Dumfries

A big day today. Our highest climb, and monumentally we would reach Scotland.

Breakfast was scoffed, with another kind donation from the b&b which showed promise of another day of random acts of kindness.

Set off well. If a little late. Truth be told, each day we are a little later each time.

A couple of miles out of Kendal, in the direction of Shap, before another mechanical problem, which set our rider back to kendal for repairs. As the others both set on the climb over Shap fell. Some blisteringly stunning scenery as we climbed to the summit and a nice downhill section pretty much through into Shap.

The A6 was quiet enough for us to make decision to keep on this to Penrith where we stopped for lunch and our friend with mechanical problems caught. Reunited we joined the C2C route and encountered our first puncture of the trip, a speedy repair was made and ready to go., the route followed the rather busy C2c route encounting many coast2coasters as we headed for Carlisle.

Reaching Carlisle we detected our proximity to the border and pushed on to Gretna. Surreal bit of cycling alongside the A74, by Metal Bridge, before finally arriving into Gretna.

The route undulated towards Annan where we were met by the Findlay girls and a rendition of Spandau Ballets Gold. Great to see them and really boosted our spirits.

We were helped with some of our luggage as we looked to rebalance our weight before heading to Dumfries. Again the direct route.

Day 7 facts

Day 7 mileage 85
Total mileage
Random acts of kindness 3
Number of hills pushed up 0
Number of people Tom saw wearing a kilt 1