I know a few people who want to tackle Lands End to John O'Groats at the moment, a mate asked for some advice as I had done it before, so I showed him a write up I did. He thought I ought to post it up, after reading it again I realized how much of the journey I had forgotten, which shows how important it is to write about the stuff you do. Read on below or go to my older Lands End to John O'Groats post.
Starting out seemed so simple, what a relief to get going after wanting this for so long, so what if its raining and I've not done a mile yet all stressful thoughts faded away, it's only a journey of what we thought was 850 miles, we had our photo taken next to a sign that said 874 miles, but we ended up doing 900 miles. none of that mattered at that moment after all I have wanted to complete this journey for many years, maybe I have always been a little blase' about it, telling people of my desire to complete a journey from Lands End to John O'Groats by Mountain Bike always seemed to create a reaction, but to then follow it up by saying that I wanted to do it non stop probably made some people wonder of my sanity or at least if I was winding them up.
I started out on my Santa Cruz 4x blur but before too long realised that the drive train was not behaving, throwing the chain off intermitantly, we decided to get it in the van and the boys would have a good look at it while I was travelling, we never got around to this for some reason, time I think was the culprit, so we swapped bikes for the trusty old Cannondale which seemed to be good. But It was a case of having to swap back a few hours later as I had what we thought was going to be the first of many punctures, as it turned out it was the only puncture or mechanical I had apart from basic upkeep and maintenance such as oiling and tweeking the gears and brakes.
The english language also let us down at times, misinterpretation and tiredness played a part, the first time we had a problem with communication was when I suggested that throughout the trip we played a game of leap frog, I overtake them then they overtake me, but I thought they would be better giving me a good start then once they caught me up to pull in at the next opportunity, but Roy thought that he would coincide the leap frog with a food stop a good distance on, which may have been quite a good Idea but I got a puncture. Luckily I had my phone with me so a short call later and after back tracking several miles down the opposite carraigeway, we faced each other only divided by four lanes of traffic and an central barrier.
While they drove back to my position I was able to run with the bike a fair distance trying not to lose much time and got to an easier crossing place,when they got level with me I took the bike over to them got my blur back to the other side and carried on, we later had a food stop and swapped bikes back again, I repeated what was talked of earlier and we carried on, and hoped that Roy never played Leap Frog with his kids, they would never see him again, after that we were more focussed on the task in hand.
On the A30 although I was lit up like a christmas tree day and night, two rear lights and reflective everything, that was when I got closest to being knocked off, firstly when the road was quite narrow around Exeter, by coincidence the offending lorry was run by a company that supplies us with alloy sheeting at work. I was close to the white line at the edge of the road as it was but I could feel the presence of a large vehicle looming down on me and was being sucked into it's path, I instinctively moved over as far as I could up on the grass and close to a hedge brushing the hawthorn with my hand as I rode passed.Good job I did because the lorry not only took up the space where I would have been, but it also had a trailer that squeezed past and swung onto the grass just in front of me,...........lucky.
AUGUST 21st 2008 23:20pm 120 Miles 15.4 Average Raining
The second time was yet again having the same feeling of impending doom, feeling a large vehicle sucking me into its path from behind, I moved over and braced myself, It was an articulated lorry, and it was close, I think that some lorry drivers think its amusing to get as close as possible to cyclists, some don't care and some don't even see you. I only knew it was an articulated lorry because of its noise, but as it passed me I hit a very large pothole in the road, it felt like it could have been a drain with it's cover missing, it was on a section of downhill so I was going fast enough for it not to swallow my wheel, the combination of the side draft from the truck and the hole was enough to have me sideways, airbourne and out of control. It was on a wide section of the A30 and there was the V shaped storm drain at the side of the road which I ended up skating through, the concrete was like greased ice, sideways lock to lock feet out of the pedals, don't know how I did it but I ended up back on the road facing the right way shaking like a leaf, It was hard to know which way up I was during my excursion, one of those times I had to tell myself to get a grip..................It took a while, but the help I've had from Chris at Edison Cycles over the years helped me think my way through that nightmare.
Daft as it sounds I hate riding road bikes after experiencing a close call going down Eckington Hill at about 60mph, my new scott road bike which was sponsor supplied when I rode Scott downhill bikes, decided it didn't like going downhill over 50mph, so using my motorcycling knowledge I decided to try to ride it out, I tried all sorts of things to get past the wobble, firstly liftng the wheels off the road a little, but once grounded the wobble still appeared to be there, so I tried going faster to ride past it, putting my weight back, forward, lifting the wheels again, but to no avail. In the end the bike was squirming all over the road and I ended up sitting on the top tube feet down trying to stop the thing just missing cars coming the other way. My riding partner that day was Lee Allen a former British cyclocross champion, he was behind me and could not believe what was happening, when he rode it after me that day had a similar thing happen but he could only get it to 30mph before it misbehaved. When me and Chris had been out on road rides I gave him a demonstration of what the bike was doing, It scared him and he told me to get rid of the bike or it will get rid of you. After that I was understandably steadier downhill on roadbikes, but I had this nagging thought that it was something which had beaten me, so doing this journey was a way of addressing this problem, and that incident on the A30 that night seems looking back to be one of the pivotal moments of the challenge.
AUGUST 22rd 2008 12:30pm 222 Miles 15.3mph Average Sunny
We saw many other cyclists along the way some of which were doing the same thing, one guy I talked to on our first afternoon was doing the journey while on a break from work, he had taked 4 weeks off to do it, at this stage we had covered about 100 miles, he told us that he was on his fourth day but seemed to pull up rather sharp when I told him that we had only set off that dinner, that was the last I saw of him. We met with many people who were on their way to someplace by bicycle, all of which seemed very interested in our journey, one guy who had decided to visit all the people he knew while waiting for a new contract to start zig zagging around the country in a fashion decided on by his friends and when they could fit him into their calendar, he was most envious of our adventure and said that one day he might try it. I saw what I thought was a mirage, three lads going the other way on one bike goodies fashion, they were heavily laden with luggage and looked to be doing a similar journey but in reverse, they did look like they were having fun.
Roy: One afternoon we stopped to video Joe along the way, and ran into some other guys on the same journey, one proclaimed that Joe may have doubtful parentage and the other preceeded it with stupid stupid, shortly after that we saw a guy travelling along the same road who had done it by traction engine over several days, they were interesting people.
There was a couple of lads that I had past enroute that Roy & Karl met and I did not, maybe that was just as well judging by the way they described me on video, I saw many cyclists on the horizon and used it as a very slow game realing them in gradually untill passing them and either talking to them or If they didn't want to talk carry on to the next thing hoping they didn't want to race me and push me harder than I would like to go. One particular time was quite amusing, having passed a couple of riders on a nice section of road I realised that I had joined a road that a time trial was taking place on, I was wondering where the van was, and it just hapened to be parked at the terminus point of the race, all of which seemed to amuse Karl & Roy, they know I like a bit of a race, I managed to pass four riders before I saw them.
During the first evening of riding shortly after a rest stop at about 2.00 pm I was wondering where the boys were, It seemed that it had been a long time since I had overtaken them In a layby. I was just about to get off the A30 and start the next section of road towards Bristol when they caught me up, they had backtracked up and down the road looking for me thinking the worst, where could he have gone? they wondered. I can remember passing them but they had missed me going by, tiredness was creaping in and the rain and constant traffic had an hipnotic effect on them, but the situation brought their concentration back with a rush of adrenalin.
AUGUST 23rd 2008 08:15am 190miles OVERCAST SLIGHT RAIN AT TIMES
One of the hardest riders to shake was a large framed chap on a reasonably priced commuter bike helmetted over jacketted with jeans flat pedals, he was more willing to put up a good pace than most of the other riders I had come across, and as it turned out was on his way to work, a 8 mile journey he did most days. His name was Bob, by the time we parted we knew quite a lot about each other, he was a Policeman who had tried is hand at many other trades, also trying to help young individuals on their way all of which made perfect grounding for his chosen profession, he offered us all a cuppa back at the station, which I accepted bearing in mind that It would take twenty minutes to make one on our stove, I signalled to the guy's in a universal fashion for that of a drink and they followed.
Roy and Karl didn't know of Bob's profession until they followed us into the police station, I think they wondered what I had got them into, but once the had a hot cuppa in their hands and the promise of a well sanitised toilet they were very happy. We had got a portable toilet in the back of the van but Roy & Karl were less than happy to use it, I unfotunately had no choice, finding a toilet in the right place at the right time would Involve impecable timing or luck so the services of a chemical toilet was employed.
AUGUST 23rd 2008 11:00am 222 Miles Average 15.4MPH SUNNY
Climbing the road from below the Iron Bridge was a memorable experience and one of the tougher climbs that I experienced, people were stopping for a rest just walking up it. I can remember Bobs fellow officers warning us about this section of road but I just carried on plodding up it using their taunts as inspiration. Some of the things that spurred me on were:- previous journeys made by others I knew, people thinking I would not or could not do it and wanting to prove them wrong, the fact that someone had enough faith in me to back me with a large sum of money as sponsorship for my designated charity, wanting to make my family and friends proud, hopefully along the way to inspire someone else to try something out of the ordinary as I had been by others, and of course I was part of a team by this time so even if I wanted to stop as long as they stood by me I could not let them down, Inspiratonal texts from friends helped me, Craig knew how to press the buttons, something serious would have to go wrong to stop our attempt.
Something serious did go wrong, a vehicle breakdown threw the spanner in the works If you excuse the expression, having to help with bump starting a long wheelbase van in cycling shoes just added another aspect to our challenge, it cost us over a day but we got through it, some may think that putting a day off into the journey may have given us a much needed break but it had the opposite effect, making us more tired in the days to come, extending the time frame we needed to do it in. We were all so upset that we could not do the jouney non stop, we clutched at every straw we could but in the end we did as much as we could in the circumstances.
Karl: We saw Joe go past gave him a ten minutes start and decided to go, but the van was having none of it, what seemed to be a reliable vehicle all of a sudden threw it's hand in without any notice, we were struck on a flatish area between two blind bends, how were we going to do this? Roy sat in the drivers seat while I pushed my heart out, It only just limped into life, what a relief! It took ages to catch Joe up, and when we did we tried to stop and restart the van just to see if it was a one off, but it still didn't start, so Joe helped us bump the van and we decided to try to get as far up country as possible while keeping the van running until we reached a point where it was easy to get back home to swap vehicles without causing disruption to the challenge.
Getting through this required good team work, we got better at it as we went along obviously but we made plenty of mistakes, Karl Burton and Roy Tomlinson the back up crew are special people who stepped up to the challenge and stood along side me in some horrible situations with no reguard for their own comfort, they gave up their time with a passion, I can't thank them enough. Not only did they help me with this journey they also helped me with my 24 hour Mountain Mayhem solo race a month earlier, they also understood what I was trying to achieve in that race, and had the forethought to advise my to stop in that race when I was injured, they knew that if I carried on I would have made my injury worse and it was about the big picture, it was supposed to be a prep race for the Lands End to John O'Groats, I didn't give Mayhem the respect it deserved, maybe next year?
Roy: We carried on with the van in a unknown state, we had no Idea how long it would last but we had to make ground, after a while the thing started showing signs of demise, dials moving on their own, dash lights flashing indicators not working.
It was a tough decision to make but the big brother van was obviously not going to last the journey out, what would we do? the choices were, I carry on with enough food drink tools and money to last me while they went back and swapped the van and got back to me, which could have put the rest of the journey in jeopardy making that section harder than it should be, or we all travel back swap vans and come back to start again from where we stopped, or wait there until we could get a recovery vehicle to help us which could take ages and there was no telling that they would be able to fix the vehicle. We were on a road quite close to the M5 so we decided that we all get in the van and go back and swap. After getting on to the motorway we made good time and got a fair distance up country, but the BB van started playing up again, we were flat out in the fast lane all the power disapeared and we were coasting, at the mercy of all the traffic around us, no power steering no indicators no response from the engine, we bullied our way across three lanes of traffic to the hard shoulder.
It was another one of those head in your hands situations, we had to get the van off the motorway, we got our trusty starter pack out again tie wrapped it to the engine put the crocodile clips the the battery and bunjee'd the bonnet down over the lot, but facing uphill we had to bump start the van in reverse down the hard shoulder of a busy motorway, not something I would advocate! It started and away we went back onto the motorway albeit in a heath robinson fashion, we just about had enough time to talk about whether the van could get us home in that condition when came accross a traffic jam.
Just as we got into the rear of the tailback from hell the BB van started showing signs of being discontent with the amount of juice in the starter pack, the gauges were flapping, engine stalling, lights on the dash flashing and indicators not working we had to make a hasty retreat from the M5 via the hard shoulder as fast as it would travel, shortly we found an off ramp and took it coasting up it and off the first exit and into a layby just between two roundabouts.
Karl: We finally had no choice but to call the RAC, when he finally turned up he seemed to have no interest in what were trying to do or in trying to help us get the van started or back home, he tried to tap and bang parts of the mechanicals to coax them back into life but without success, he eventually decided that he could tow us to the local garage for that make of vehicle were they could probably fix it the next day. That was seen as being our only option so we booked ourselves in to a local campsite. When we asked about our cover for us and our vehicle being transported home he said ''it would cost us £400 to get us home and maybe we ought to take our belongings from the vehicle and set light to it!''
That was an abserd statement to make, but made sense of the other things he had said, also his inability to help us or fix our van, we had lost all faith in him, he just wanted to be somewhere else and so did we.
Roy: Then I remembered that I had return to home cover with the AA once I mentioned this to Joe he seemed to perk up, but it seemd to have the opposite effect on the RAC man who quickly left the scene, the AA didn't take too long to arrive, and after we explaned our plight and the behaviour of the RAC man he seemed all the more intersted in getting us on our way, Red Rag To A Bull I think. Joe was laid down in the back of the van getting some much needed rest while drinking and stretching, we were all a bit depressed by the situation just sitting around in the layby, but the AA man suddenly breathed new life into th BB van, it started temporarily which startled us all, immeadiately he had our full attention, proclaiming that he had identified the problem and he would have us on our way soon, how good was that! He fixed the problem and left the van hooked up to his to give it enough charge to see us through, then we went on our merry way.
After a lot of thanking and shaking hands good luck etc we bade farewell to our new friend the AA man and off we went in a bid to find the camp site before it got too late, we tried to call them on their land line but found it impossible to get through, this would be expained in time but we managed to call the farmer on his mobile and tell him we were going to be later than we had first imagined. In and out of country lanes in the dark being led by a sat nav whose dulset tones led us to wrong area after wrong area, in the end we had been led past the entrance to the farm a couple of times, finally we got a glimse of the entrance and huridly reversed, then drove down the lane, a bigger sign could have been a good Idea. We all had a good shower and got straight to bed, the next morning we tried to get remotivated with a big breakfast and a freshen up, on their way to the washrooms K&R heard a phone ringing, Karl asked Roy what coins the shower took, a woman leant out of a caravan and said "it's not a phone duck, it's a parrot, it makes the same noise as a phone", which baffled them both but made perfect sense of why we could not raise a response from the land line the day before, they chose not to comment as the lady had said we can have our camping free of charge due to our charitable efforts, which was nice.
AUGUST 23rd 2008 12:30pm 630 Miles 15.3mph Average Sunny
Being with two other people in this was strange bearing in mind that I did not see too much of them, there were two different journeys taking place, one by some stupid guy on a mountain bike going as fast as he could without blowing up, the other by a pair of friends taking as long as possible stopping every now and then to cook for a passing cyclist and assist him on his way, we would only truly find out about each others journey after we had finished. They were forced to look on at my suffering with mawbid curiosity, and I had to endure their constant disappearing and reappearing in the right place just when you were wondering where the hell they where.
The night time hours were the worst, althought I am used to riding through the night several nights in a row was a different thing. I found all sorts of stuff to get me through the quiet lonely times. Making lists about all sorts of things like: who wanted me to succeed, who wanted me to fail, who would I let down if I failed, who had inspired me and who could it inspire, what would be next, what would it mean if I failed, trying not to think of negatives, for every bad thought try to come up with ten good thoughts, what would it be like to succeed, try not to get too fired up and keep a level head, favourite rides and putting them in order also trying to plan what to do along the ride like food and stops etc.
Pain was strange most of the way, different parts feeling painful coming and going in waves, the only way to describe it is imagine the feeling you would get after going for a 100 mile ride flat out and then carry on for another 800 miles, tablets could not even touch the surface, my hip was in so much pain it locked out in spasm on several occasions, my knee's felt like someone had knobled them and headaches happened with regular occurance. My hands needed constant massage, moving them all around the handlebars, bar ends, shifters trying to find some comfort, I must have found at least fifty different ways to place my hands that I hadn't even dreamed of before. 100 mile rides in the saddle on the road, 150 mile rides off road did not prepare me for how painfull my hands would get, it also did not help when I rode in the wet the skin started to roll around my fingers and get very wrinkly.
I lost a lot af feeling in my feet too, I started writing this months after and still had no feeling in the outer three toe's on each foot, can't say I'm not worried about that but my mate Doc Martin says it will come back eventually, It took about four months and an injury to my thumbs for me to forget about them.
Before the attempt I can remember trying to think of everything I needed and how to equipe myself, I wasn't sure how my nether regions would cope so we packed plenty of sudocream which I ended up using on a regular basis much to the amusement of Karl and Roy, I started out applying it as secretly as possible but ended up just whipping them down and smeering it on, I also didn't know how my nose would cope with the constant blowing and wiping, It ended up being a little saw but vaseline every now and again did the trick, I adapted the bike as best as I could to avoid getting back ache, an adjustable stem helped that to be less of a problem that amongst other things.
There are things that you need to have with you when atempting this journey, I say this now because a friend of mine has decided he would love to do the very same journey as we did and part of my reason for writing this dribble is to give others an insight into whats needed. Points of contact need looking after the most, a very comfortable saddle, which I might ad was courtesy of my friend Will Longden, and also used because of Iain at Stif Mountain Bikes recommendation, which at first I dismissed because Roy had said he thought they were brilliant only to promptly sell the bike with the best thing since sliced bread attached, Will using them confirmed my direction and on it went, it turned out to be my saviour.
Some comfortable gloves, I had many pairs from the very cheapest to the most expensive, in the end that bloke Roy was in the equation again, a few years ago he gave me some gloves that were too big for him, they were the cheapest things and well worn but better than the all the others, they others felt like they were lined with sand paper in comparison. Shoes needed to be good too, three pairs for rotation regularly along with quality socks, base layers to the tune of six, Buff's! yes, never underestimate the importance of them, they have many uses and in the end they made my cycling a whole lot more comfortable, I had three of them which we alternated, two laid across the heater vents drying out in readyness for their next session. Several pairs of worn in shorts which is something you don't want to skimp on, your bottom will tell you your a cheapskate and repay you in spades. Which once again I would like to thank Chris for at Edison cycles, along with many other tips over the years, a mentor to many and all round good bloke.
Constantly stopping to get changed into fresh clothes took a lot of time up, more than we anticipated, the weather had a lot to do with this, if it rained I had four jackets to chose from all them had a turn, a couple of them had to be dried out and re-waterproofed. And when it was dry we had to change into sweatless clothes, keeping as dry as possible was a key factor. We also used a lot of time up eating and drinking not to mention the need to rest a while and stretch regularly.
Travelling away from Wigan that evening we stopped to rest, stretch and drink at a service station were we also got our book stamped, my customary riding round so that the attendant could see that I was real and it wasn't a con attracted some interest from a local man and his son, his son had a medical condition which the man informed us about, and we spent some time talking to both of them and they thought what we were doing was great, before we parted company he totally astounded us, he insisted that he gave us some money towards our cause, he emptied his pockets of everything and amongst the bits and bobs was some loose change, £3.56, he sorted it and tipped it into Karls hand saying "It's not much I know, but its all I've got and If I had any more you could have that too." We all knew from what we had seen he could ill afford to give money away willy nilly, It touched us all, I had another reason to finish this ride now.
Favourite foods had to be chosen carefully for nutritional value and those which were easiest to digest on the move, Rice Pudding, Soup, Pot Noodles, Energy Bars, Powdered Energy Drink of various varieties, to specific strengths and of course Water. Being careful to have your isotonic drink at just the right strength was so crucial, if I ate or drank the wrong thing at the wrong time it could have been catastrofic, the last thing you want is a jelly belly. Eating energy bars was a regular thing, at around one every other hour, but they do seem a little boring and lacking taste after the first few not to mention the ulcers they caused, I was eating them at such a constant rate that they were scratching the inside of my mouth, which was a bit of a problem towards the end. Water was a valuable thing and also had to be treated with respect, too little and you would dehydrate, too much and you would over hydrate.........what? A strange thing to try to keep on top of, the signs have to be identified or your doomed, for instance sometimes there would be cramps in the muscles which needed an influx of water to wash it out, too much water was taken on at times which had to be soaked up with food such as bread, it's a case of trial and error but luckily we had learned a little of this at the mountain mayhem race in the summer, falling foul of over hydration, not eating correctly and overly strong energy drink, but one thing I am sure of, ignore the signs at your perill, we think we got most of the feeding regime spot on.
Karl: I had been in what we had come to know as the big brother van for too long, I got out of the van to stretch my legs next to a rugby pitch in the lake district it was 6:30 in the morning, breakfast time for Joe forcing some food down to keep him going, I tried to step from the van but my legs didn't agree with my request they gave in and I collapsed in a heep in a puddle next to Roy and his cooking utensils.
People think that doing a ride such as this on the road when I am as used to mountain bikes and rough terrain as I am may be a doddle, think again, the condition of the roads on this splendid isle leave a lot to be desired, they are sometimes smooth, but more akin to a motorcross track on the most part, constant vibration, dodging rougher parts of tarmac, drains, cats eyes not to mension the occasional dead animal, rubbish, hub caps etc. all make for an uncomfotable ride.
AUGUST 24th 2008 6:15AM 450 Miles Average 15.4MPH RainingI wasn't looking forward to going over Shap, a mystical sounding place that had a reputation for being a killer, It just happened to be raining and windy with it, bleak to say the least, K&R knew I wasn't looking forward to it Karl tried to get some overdue sleep in the back of the van but to no avail. When we got to Penrith I knew I'd done it, what a relief, but the reality that we were only half way there was quite sobering, never mind we were counting the miles down. We reached Carlisle and decided to have a food stop, and while I was resting and stretching, Roy was cooking up some rice pudding a motorcycle gingerly overtook us and circled back up the layby to were we where, only to dismount and walk towards us, what are you doing here he said, It was Mike a friend of mine who was one of the main men at Orange Mountain Bikes, once again we got talking and after a short stay off we all went.
We had some reasonable weather for a while and made good time up towards Moffat where we had more rain, riding over The Devils Beef Tubs climb was hard, a ride that I had done before but in a bit more of a hurry than this occasion. After going over the top past the source of the River Tweed I started to speed up for a while until later on when it became so blustery that the wind was sending me all over the road, we decided to have a food and rest break.
Roy: We came into Blyth Bridge and Joe was getting blown all over the road, I persuaded him that he would be better off in the van for a bit, have a rest and see the wind drop, we stayed in the van in a layby and the wind was just blowing us all over the place there seemed no sign of it letting up.
I got up to get dressed after longer than usual break, trying to get ready to ride while the wind blew the van violently from side to side was hard, it was dark I was tired and I couldn't find my clothes in the untidy mess we had created, then suddenly the van lurched to one side, an artic whistled past us sucking us towards it, and disappeared down a tree lined tunnel of an A road, we all swore in unison, all of us were suddenly wide awake and transfixed by the path of the lorry, and full of adrenalin. Once Roy had recovered from the rude awakening he turned to me and said "Don't go out there mate, it's really bad, too dangerous". After a brief pause I decided that if I didn't get out now I may aswell just sit down and pack in. So out I got, much as I disliked the decision, off I went in the pitch black. From there to Edinburgh was the hardest section of all, very blustery wind blew me to a point that made me angry and blood rushed surging me along at a faster speed than I had travelled all of the journey, an average of around 18mph.
When we arrived in Edinburgh we went towards the city centre trying to skirt the busy bits but got drawn in because of the roadworks we came across, not a good time to use a sat nav, but it may have been a good idea to at least have it switched on to give it a chance eh Roy! We arrived in the city centre just in time to see the Will Hoy banner being unfurled "King of the World" it proclaimed, after doing a few too many laps of the city centre we managed to get the wind and the compass in the right direction towards the Forth Road Bridge, once again Roy decided not to let me leap his frog, I played chase with him for several miles along the outskirts of the city getting gradually hungrier and hungrier, talk about carrot on the end of a stick! When he eventually pulled up my wagging finger reminded him of our game of leap frog, and just as it was about to get heated Roy's eyes were drawn to his left, I looked towards the direction of his bemused gaze only to see four cheering old ladies on a break from a coffee morning walking dogs in a park over an old wall, due to the perfectly proportioned van signage advertising our mission, they had decided to cheer us on, all of a sudden we looked at each other smiled and it didn't seem to matter anymore as we waved back in thanks and got back to our mission.
AUGUST 25th 2008 11:00AM 660 Miles Average 15.8MPH RainingI had the bridge in sight, travelling towards it and the goal which had been achieved, we will have one third of the way to go, six hundred miles completed. Then as I got to the last exit ramp on the approach, the sign said "No Cyclists Or Pedestrians On The Bridge", I pulled up wondering what to do, having done so I saw a brand new roll of Bin Liners to the side of the road, They'll be handy I thought and in the pocket they went, a strange desicion but it just pointed out all of the weard things I saw at the side of the road, after a short distance K&R had stopped to the side of the dual carraigeway in a police layby, they had realised that we would be picked up by the police if we carried on, all pedestrians and cyclists were banned due to the excessive side winds. So I had to put the bike in the back of the van and handed over my bin liners, much to the amusement of them both, and went to the other side of the bridge. We were gutted but it was too dangerous to be on the bridge that day, the side winds and rain were quite bad.
At the other side of the Forth Bridge I followed the van into a service station where we all used the Toilets for a much needed wash and brush up, when I came out the way I was walking made it look like I had not quite made it to the toilet in time. We got back on the road and after a few different changes of direction or being slightly lost as its more popularly known we got back on track towards Perth. Shortly after a rest stop at the first layby on the A9 I was overtaken by a van pipping its horn enthusiastically, he pulled into a layby up the road in front of me and got out looking back down the road towards me, what had I done? I was amazed as I got closer to him, I actually recognised him, an old school friend who had moved to the area years before, he had seen my van and gone back to ask K&R where I was, they informed him and off he went to chase me down.
We chatted for a while and went on our merry way vowing to get in touch at a later date.
Karl: I got out to have a stretch at layby Number 59 on the A9 and decided to have a ride on the spare bike, at first I was quite enthusiastic, Joe asked me not to ride too quickly as he could not carry that sort of pace especially not as we were riding into the wind at that time, it was a nice evening we saw deer on the hills as the sun set, after the stint I did the tables turned, it was cold and dark I was hungry and tiring and Joe was going well, he'd ridden over 600 miles and I couldn't keep up with him, I decided to get back in the van and joe rode on for another 40 miles until the next stop for food and rest.
Roy was getting bored and decided I needed cheering up, while filming me out of the van window he was looking back towards me shouting enthusiastically when his sunglasses got blown off right into the path of my front wheel, they were hard to avoid and didn't come out of it too well. On other occasions drive by cheer me ups had me near to falling from my steed, these usually included the use of duct tape, toilet paper and other props, I would not normally mind but they usually chose a hard climb to inflict a comedic moment on me, just when I needed it the least. It got to a point when Karl started to join in with the pranks, so I decided to give as good as I got, this involved Roy getting very wet and from then on they were less inclined to use the same tac tic to catch me out or cheer me up.
While we were in Scotland saw a father and daughter doing the journey in the opposite direction, we seemed to know when met people on the road by their dimeaner that they have been daft enough to take on the same route, most of the cyclists thought that it was a strange thing for us to want to do, a cyclist Karl and Roy saw made them think of me as perfectly sane, he had what seemed to be all his world packed onto his bike how it moved was beyond belief, everything from a cuddly toy to the kitchen sink, literally.
I started to see the signs for John O'Groats after Inverness, one of which was on the Black Isle and K&R had got to it first, we had figured that we had at that stage 100 miles to go, but the sign read 114 miles, K&R realised that this would effect my morale and duck taped over the numbers and told me to take no notice. The signs did start to get to me, the 13 mile marker at one of the last junctions felt like a punch in the stomach, normally I would have waited patiently at the junction but tiredness took over and cutting the corner in front of oncoming traffic seemed to be a good Idea, shortening the course never felt so right any saving in distance was worth it. When someone tells you that this is the last hill and then along comes another, you feel like someone is taking the mick, Warth Hill was at the end and a killer after nearly 900 miles.
The end was in sight the biggest part of me could not wait to finish, the closer I got to the start/finish the smaller that part got, It was a bit of a strange moment, this journey had been the focus of my attention for so long that I almost didn't want it to finish, what should I do just turn around and cycle back! I crossed the finish line, and it was hard to comprehend that we had just done such a journey, it was also a bit of an anticlimax in a way, maybe it was because we finished at John O'Groats and not somewhere more glamourous, it is a bit of a empty place, just a line on the ground with START one side and FINISH the other next to a delapadated old hotel much in need of renovation. Anyway It didn't stop us from popping the champers and a bag of Maltesers. There were a few others hanging around the finish having completed the journey, two other cyclists very proud to have done it in 12 days on a pair of really nice bikes, they seemed quite bemused that we had done the journey in five days and four hours on a four cross bike and a twenty year old mountain bike...............so am I now.
Karl and I went to the Gift Shop where we were needed to get our proof form signed to assure anyone that we had completed the trip in the time we said, this was one of the extra things we all did on our road trip at fifty mile intervals and turned out to be harder than we thought it would be, finding an establishment enroute that had a rubber stamp and staff willing to use it on our wrinkly proof form was quite a task.
While we did this a Motorcyclist was called Rob asked Roy to take a picture of him at the finish line and as it turned out was quite surprised to see our van in the background, on explaining himself Roy said you had better have a word with Joe, as it turned out not only did he arrive two minutes after us but he had set off the same day, he was also from Worksop, his chosen charity was the same as ours, and he had been into Whitakers Signs to buy stickers and signs from us, some sort of hare and the tourtoise thing. After we finished shopping for all sorts of obscure memorabilia, tartan fudge and the like, we had a strip wash in the J-O' toilets and for a small fee we turned out to be the last customers that day, a good job too, if anyone walked in on us they would have wondered what the hell was happening. We were all refreshed in our new clothes and ready for the long way down.
AUGUST 26th 2008 5:00pm 900 Miles Average 14.2MPH OvercastWe travelled back from the end of the world that night reliving all of the strange moments of the road to hell, the funny the hard and the strange. It took us longer to travel back than we imagined, later that night we got into Inverness and went to a kebab house, were a local asked us about our trip, he was so overwhelmed by our journey he bought supper for all of us, kebabs all round and very nice too, but food always tastes better when its free or someone elses. From there we made our way out back on to the A9, we were all finding it hard to keep awake once adrenalin had slowed in our veins and it was gettting late so we decided to get our heads down in Layby 168 just north of Aviemore. When we awoke early the next morning we cooked a hearty breakfast from our extensive larder, of what was leftover, it was nice to think that we had no need to rush around anymore, all we had to do was a short leisurely drive home. We soon became aware of the length of the A9, did we really drive and ride all this? or had we dreamt it, we made very good progress but it still took absolutely ages to get back to Edinburgh and then on to sunny Worksop, driving back along the route in the opposite direction brought home the magnitude of what we had acheived.
When the riding had finished walking had become a difficult task, my gait was one of a John Wayne type, but the next day I was back to work as usual, all be it a little stif in places. I can remember forgetting myself and breaking into a double step run up the stairs which lasted to half way up only to carry on in a slow plod. We were a day late back to work according to the note we left on the door due to the unforseen break down of the van, Lynne knew we were going to be late and nipped into work to adjust the date accordingly, little did we know that it would be too late back for a lady customer of ours, bless her! We redirected our deliveries to a good friend and customer in the unit over the way who agreed to help us, little did we know that the explanation on the door would not be enough for her and she would also be redirected across the way.
Both barrels were recieved by a very surprised friend on our behalf, and on expanation of what we were trying to do, the little lady decided to tell him that she hoped that I got knocked of my bike, which he thought was less than graceful, as it turned out the complaint was about a job which was ready and waiting just the other side of our locked front door and not due until two weeks later, this was explained to her the day we arrived back, she was in less of a complaining mood once explained.
One thing that I am sure of and proud of out of all this is that I am my mothers son, she was bloody minded and determined to do what she thought was right and would not stop until she achieved it, I hope I made her proud, and I hope I made my family and friends proud, how good was that cuddle off Lynne, Paige and Ross when I got home, so many times I thought that moment was so far away, I'm sure they felt that way but first and foremost they were really happy to see me back safe and sound.
About a two weeks after we got back we got a letter of congratulations from Bob the policeman with
a donation cheque included, I tried to call the station to thank him but he was on leave, a couple of weeks after that he called me at work, what a nice surprise, he asked about how we'd done and I went on and on, he asked if we were going to do the return leg? No! I replied in an assured voice, which Bob was pleased about because he was involved in picking up what remained of a 47 year old charity cyclist who was on his return leg, their for the grace of god! it sent a shudder up my spine.
It is sometimes surprising to me how much some people understand of what we have achieved over the years under the umbrella of the Mountain Bike Challenge Fund, when we plan our challenges we try to do things that we have an element of risk attached, things that in some cases may have been done before but with an additional twist to make it different or harder, everything we have completed has been hard in its own way, this one was the hardest to date. Some people have an appreciation of it others just seem to dismiss it, just half interested, you know the sort.. in one ear and out of the other.
There are occasions when the thanks for what you have achieved for a particular cause is overwhelming, as well as the appreciation of what you have achieved, one time was when we did something for just one person, it was more personal, and meant so much more, not just a cheque to be swallowed up by a large organisation, but a way of making a difference for someone, that is why I do it, because we can make a difference, and we do and will continue to do so.
This ride put what I thought was going to be the cap on a very hard year, we raised £10,000 over three challenges all within a year, we all went out to celebrate the fact, all of the mountain bike crew with girlfriends and wives, we had avery nice night. They are all great people and as I explained on the night deserved a big slap on the back for all their efforts throughout the year, they have all also helped me and my family this year in difficult times, which both Lynne and myself would have struggled without their support. But the people who I would like to thank especially are Roy and Karl, without their assistance on this journey, It would not have happened, nor would it have happened if they had not helped with other parts of the preparation. I cannot thank them enough.