Blog

The following blog entries were originally written day-by-day during the ride on my photo-blog over at Blipfoto. Links to the posts appeared here.

Post-ride, I’ve collected all the posts together in a single text, largely unmodified (though the original entry for day 3 of the ride proper contained a fairly significant copy-and-paste error which I’ve corrected here).

Being part of a photo-a-day blog, each entry originally contained a single photo (often refered to in the text). I’ve subsequently added some additional (smaller) images to the version shown here. For some days, I’ve added some additional notes to the original, shown in italics and marked Addendum. I’ve also added each day’s tweets (the 140 character messages that I sent out on Twitter during the ride) to the end of each day – this was the primary way in which people kept up to date with where I had got to on the ride but it also helped to keep me in touch with family and friends.

The story starts a little before the ride itself, and ends with my summing up and some stats a few days after I arrived back home.

Monday 19 July 2010: LE2JOG

One of the reasons that I have been doing a lot of panoramas on my iPhone recently is that I’ve been hatching a plan to cycle from Land’s End to John O’Groats.

If all goes well I will leave on Sunday morning and arrive in the far north 14 days later. That’s the good news. The bad news is that I appear to have damaged my left knee in some way – I suspect a slight tear to my cartilage but it might be something else. Anyway, I’ve decided to persevere and see what happens – if it gets too bad I’ll just head for the nearest station and get the train home.

This probably sounds a bit mad but there are a couple of reasons why I’m so keen to do it. Firstly, there’s the mid-life crisis effect… I was 50 earlier this year and want to do something big to celebrate. Secondly, I want to do the ride in memory of my former friend and colleague, Rachel, who died more or less exactly a year ago. To that end I intend using the ride to raise money for the hospice in Bristol that helped look after Rachel in her final months- more on that in due course.

So, I’ll necessarily have to travel light – certainly no big SLR. I’ll probably take my small camera but I will only be able to blip from the iPhone, hence the experiments. This text has been typed in on the iPhone – get used to lots of typos.

So the next time you see my bike it will be fully kitted out with mudguards, racks, panniers and so on. I’m filled with a mixture of excitement and trepidation! I will, of course, blog the whole trip here – though I also plan to tweet the route as well.

More tomorrow…

Addendum: It’s important to remember that I this stage I was hugely worried about finishing the ride because of my knee, which was very painful to walk on. Because of that, I didn’t really feel confident about announcing the ride, or about promoting the charity fund-raising aspects of it. I generally had visions of me doing the first day in Cornwall and then having to pull out.

The other thing to note is that this shot is taken on the Bristol Bath Railway Path, the cycle path on which I’d done much of the 2,500 miles that I’d ridden thus far in the year (I’d set myself the challenge of riding 4,000 miles in 2010 at the start of the year). That path is flat… most of the Land’s End to John O’Groats route wasn’t – so although I was generally very fit I probably should have done more hill practice before leaving.

Tuesday 20 July 2010: Preparations

I have 14 Google maps of my Land’s End to John O’Groats route – tediously entered into gmap-pedometer by yours truly based on the instructions supplied as part of the UK CTC YHA route. Now I’m copying the route onto paper maps – the pages from a 2.5 inch to the mile route planner. The finished thing will cover about 30 A4 sheets I think – possibly a bit more (Update: just finished… it’s actually 35).

I’m also now significantly poorer after buying a rear rack, panniers, mud-guards, waterproof clothing and so on for the journey.

Picked up a car bike carrier from a friend yesterday, which will get me and my bike to Land’s End bright and early on Sunday. Was also loaned a good quality lightweight tent by a colleague at work – this would be handy in case any of my chosen YHAs are full but I’m not totally sure I want to carry it (it’s very light but a bit bulky).

God, I hope it is worth it!

My last problem is working out which charity(ies) to support. Well, I’m sure that isn’t my last problem but it is what is occupying me at the moment.

Wednesday 21 July 2010: Bike service

Autostitch panorama of Walcot Street, Bath.

Arghh… so much to do, so little time.

The bike went in to John’s Bikes on Walcot Street for a quick service today. More money invested in this stupid ride! I also picked up all the stuff I bought the other day. Spent the evening fitting the mudguards (very fiddly), rear rack and panniers and the handlebar bag. All done.

Am slightly worried about shoes. I bought some proper cycling shoes to fit my half-cleated pedals but now realise that to get out of the cleats you have to twist you knee and I’m not sure I want to be doing that too much at the moment. Think I might have to do the whole ride in trainers, which is what I’m used to… so that’s fine… but my trainers are getting pretty smelly so I won’t be mister popular at the youth hostels! Lol 🙂

Anyway… have booked my train home and just about finished my map making. Still need to pre-book a couple more youth hostels I think.

Thursday 22 July 2010: Bag packing

First experimental attempt at packing my new panniers this evening – just to see how much space I have to play with.

Not bad actually – I’m now reasonably confident that I can carry pretty much everything I want to. I know that they look half-empty but they use a roll-top design so you have to leave plenty of space at the top.

I’m recording the kit that I’m taking (well, roughly) on my End to Groats website, which I also finished today. The website includes integration with Virgin Money GivingTwitterFourSquare (so that people can track where I’ve got to) and the blips from here. (I do wish Blipfoto would expose a full-text RSS feed for jobs like this).

I’m getting there…

Friday 23 July 2010: The weakest link

My left knee.

Probably the most bizarre and unappealing blip ever! Apologies to those of you with weak dispositions.

BTW, a massive thank you to the guys at @blipfoto who helped me out on Twitter earlier today, suggesting some accommodation near to Glencoe, which I subsequently booked. Much appreciated. It’s amazing the help that a simple tweet can get you.

Addendum: that particular hotel turned out to be a little problematic later on in the ride. Read on to find out why!

Saturday 24 July 2010: (Preparing the) last supper

Last meal before the ride starts tomorrow. We’re at Sara’s dad’s place at St Neot in Cornwall.

Funny that it took us about two and a half hours to drive here from Bath today and there’ll be another hour(ish) on to Land’s End tomorrow morning but it will take me three and a half days of cycling to get back up to Bristol!

Felt very nervous leaving Bath today – hoping that I hadn’t forgotten anything major.

Keep an eye on my End to Groats website to track progress, though I had forgotten how bad the signal coverage is in these here parts so may not be able to tweet very much.

Addendum: I really did feel nervous at this point – that sort of underlying edgy feeling that you can’t quite put your finger on but that stops you feeling comfortable. With the benefit of hindsight, of course, I realise that there was no reason to feel like that but this was my first big ride and I was carrying the extra worry about my knee.

The day’s tweets

  • final stages of packing at home – paranoid I’m going to forget something important – bike, check #le2jog (13:19)
  • in cornwall at sara’s dad’s place – all set for the start tomorrow – aiming to be at land’s end at 9 for photo next to the signpost #le2jog (19:58)
  • @CameronMclellan @kathtrinder thanks (19:59)

Sunday 25 July 2010: Land’s End to Golant

Crossing he River Fal on the King Harry Ferry.

It was a pretty tough day today – very hilly (much more than I expected) but also very hot. Unfortunately, I didn’t drink enough liquid early enough in the day, which meant that I ended up with a headache after lunch. But, other than that, it was a beautiful ride. And the family came over to meet me this evening and took me for a meal at a pub – which was just what I needed.

I had a slightly late start – partly because of waiting until 9am to have my photo taken in front of the sign at Land’s End but also just because of faffing around getting everything ready. It may be a similar story tomorrow… I wanted to start at 6ish but it turns out that the first ferry I need to catch doesn’t start running until 8 :-(.

Anyway, my knee seems to have survived – though I think tomorrow will be the real test – 80+ miles across Dartmoor.

On that basis, I’m getting an early night… I don’t think I’ll have too much trouble sleeping.

Addendum: I have no idea why I didn’t blip the ‘signpost’ photo for this day (to ‘blip’ means to add a photo-blog entry to the Blipfoto site) – perhaps because it was actually taken by Stan (my youngest) and I still felt some commitment to only blipping shots that I had actually taken myself at that stage? I also remember getting to the Golant YHA and finding that the dorm was up 3 flights of stairs – my knee only just made it up and down all the stairs.

The day’s tweets

  • up and at ’em – just about to drive down to land’s end #lejog #le2jog (07:42)
  • at land’s end – about to do photo at sign thing #lejog (09:45)
  • le start #lejog (@ Land’s End) http://4sq.com/9j1z6p (09:49)
  • first 10 miles or so done – only 990 to go #leg (@ Penzance) http://4sq.com/9XaaiW (10:54)
  • I’m clearly going to struggle with my hashtags on this journey 🙁 #lejog (10:57)
  • http://tweetphoto.com/34835324 just a house on a rock according to @daisy_doo (11:14)
  • I’m at St Michael’s Mount. http://4sq.com/b3FJ9R (11:15)
  • I’m at porkellis (, ). http://4sq.com/cCjdMK (12:37)
  • hot and bothered – should have guessed that carron down would be at the top of an f’ing great hill #lejog (@ Carron Down) (13:37)
  • so… Cornwall is very hilly – who’d a thunk it?! – first day completed but very hot and hard work #lejog (18:49)
  • trying and failing to blog today’s ride on @blipfoto – mobile signal not good enough – will have to do it from Exeter tomorrow #le2jog (21:54)

The day’s route: 63 miles

Monday 26 July 2010: Golant to Exeter

Halfway across Dartmoor this afternoon.

Second day and it was pretty tough getting out of bed this morning I have to admit. The idea of a second day of heavy hills didn’t exactly fill me with enthusiasm, especially since today’s run was significantly longer than yesterday’s.

The day got worse when I went down to make breakfast early, only to find the kitchen locked. Bang went my early start. I went back to bed and snoozed for a while. Apparently the kitchens don’t open until 7.30 am but I didn’t know that – still learning the YHA ropes!

In the end I got off by about 8 after struggling to eat much breakfast. A quick run down to the Bodinnick Ferry across the Fowey (my second ferry crossing of the trip) followed by a climb up away from the Fowey and over the tops towards Looe. I think I got a bit lost to be honest but got to Looe easily enough… then another climb out of Looe and a long run down to the Torpoint Ferry across to Plymouth (my third, and final crossing).

Then a rather nasty A road treck up to Yelverton, where I bought a pasty for lunch, followed by a bit of a slog up onto Dartmoor. Although it had been a very damp start, the weather cleared and the run across Dartmoor was beautiful. Probably one of my best rides ever with wonderful views – the view here doesn’t really capture it (stupid iPhone camera). Hard work but well worth it.

Then a lovely run down from the moor into Moretenhampstead where I bought a cup of tea and some apple cake with cream – lots of cream. A nice break but I could have done without all the cream to be honest – what I didn’t know was that the biggest hills were still to come – on the Exeter side of Dartmoor.

On the plus side, I met a couple of guys on the top of the moor who were doing the run the other way (JOG to LE) and they said that today was their hilliest day – so I think things should get easier from now on. That’s what I’m telling myself anyway.

Arrived safely at the YHA after stopping at the pub with a couple of other guys who are doing the same trip as me.

All in all, a great day.

Anyway, better go… think my Internet time is about to run out.

Addendum: Interesting (to me at least) that the ‘couple of other guys’ rapidly became ‘Steve and Matt’, a regular feature in the rest of the story.

This was the first of several ‘high moorland’ sections of the CTC YHA route. I loved it, as I did all those sections.

The day’s tweets

  • leaving golant – start of second day – long ride ahead – 80-something miles across dartmoor #le2jog (08:23)
  • in Looe – iPhone not connecting to #4sq for some reason so no check-ins at the moment #le2jog (09:52)
  • on the torpoint ferry – 3rd and final crossing of the trip (11:23)
  • au revoir Cornwall – I’ve loved your hills and valleys (mainly hills) but I’m loving leaving you even more #le2jog (11:28)
  • ah Plymouth, beautiful Plymouth – actually… I didn’t realise you could still buy shell suits #le2jog (12:12)
  • also, I meat to add… the ride down from st Germans to torpoint was beautiful – last in st Germans in about 1982 for the elephant fair (12:13)
  • … have strong memories of siouxsie and the banshees, the cure, and rolling naked in the estuary mud (12:15)
  • buying lunch at yelverton – first sight of dartmoor proper – looks suitably intimidating #le2jog (12:44)
  • @timbuckteeth aye… sorry! (13:17)
  • @glittrgirl don’t think so but possibly – the place names are whizzing by – I wish! #le2jog (13:19)
  • @rdzien thanks – that’s what I was hoping (13:19)
  • lovely pasty from the general stores in yelverton – sitting in field eating it – now just got to convince myself to get back on the bike (13:22)
  • 10 miles from exeter – I can conclusively report that apple cake and clotted cream is not the ideal fuel for hill-climbing #le2jog (16:26)
  • I’m at The Tally Ho. http://4sq.com/bJeU7w (17:57)

The day’s route: 75 miles

Tuesday 27 July 2010: Exeter to Street

If you ever catch me sounding like a day on this trip is going to be easy tell me to shut up. There are no easy days – let me just type that again… there are no easy days – but if you start off the day thinking that it is going to be easy then your mindset is likely to be all wrong – that’s what happened to me today. I’d convinced myself that all the hills were behind me 🙂

It started well enough … a gentle breakfast followed by a run thru Exeter and out on the road towards Honiton. I stopped at a bike shop to buy some ‘cycling underwear’ (my current pants are rubbing where they are not supposed to rub). The guy looked at me a bit funny and said that cyclists didn’t normally wear any underwear under their cycling shorts! Oh well… live and learn. Anyway, I did buy a day-glow yellow cycling jersey, which will make my family much happier – I think they are worried that I’m not visible enough.

Next stop Honiton, where I should have stopped and bought lunch but I didn’t for some reason best known to myself. Then up the A30 briefly (horrible) and off onto back toads up the Otter Valley. Very pretty but hard work with lots of hills. I must admit that I found this section very hard work and demoralising.

Then back onto the A30 again, this time with a long climb involved. Finally stopped at a pub for lunch – well needed. Had the world’s biggest baked potato with cheese and beans which didn’t exactly set me up for this afternoon’s ride though it did replace a few calories!

Can’t remember much about the afternoon to be honest but it was generally quite flat and ran thru some very pretty country – oh, I did get lost at one point… but not too badly.

Finally got to the YHA in Street at about 5pm though I had it marked in the wrong place on the map which meant I had one extra hill to climb before getting here.

Interesting chalet-style building – shown here – built originally by the Clark family as a rest home for workers at the shoe factory.

Street to Welsh Bicknor (near Monmouth) tomorrow which is a bit further I think:-(

Addendum: I have to say, the first section of A30 on this route (just out of Honiton) felt downright dangerous to me – heavy traffic, cars are travelling very fast and the road really is not wide enough to accommodate cars and bikes. I was very relieved to get off it and back onto the minor roads of the Otter Valley. The later section on the A303 (for me) felt better – mainly because the road was wider and there were less cars – though a couple of other people that I spoke to felt that this section was very bad also.

The day’s tweets

  • day 3 – just leaving – Exeter to Street – expecting it to be easier than yesterday – #le2jog #lejog (09:27)
  • stopped to buy dayglow yellow cycling jersey to keep the family happy – #le2jog (10:03)
  • I’m at Broadclyst (Exeter). http://4sq.com/cxT9VS (10:21)
  • I’m at Honiton. http://4sq.com/af3QGm (12:00)
  • am cycling up the otter valley, which is very nice but seems hard work – humid and lots of flies – think yesterday took it out of me #le2jog (12:51)
  • 2nd long stretch on the A30 just starting – pretty unpleasant but it’s on the route and I can’t see an easy way round it 🙁 #le2jog (13:15)
  • @zootalures actually not too bad today – less busy than I was expecting – 3 miles and I’m off it and back onto minor roads (14:21)
  • having pub lunch at the eagle tavern on the a30 near… err, dunno… ilminster is the nearest big place I guess #le2jog (14:23)
  • feeling tired so giving up on uploading my @blipfoto blog entry for today – network too slow here 🙁 – night all – #le2jog (22:02)

The day’s route: 59 miles

Wednesday 28 July 2010: Street to Welsh Bicknor

OK, here’s one of me…

Much better ride today.

Started early, 7ish, and got past Glastonbury and Wells pretty quickly. Then a longish climb up the Old Bristol Road onto the top of the Mendips. By 9 I was whizzing across the tops in glorious sunshine – it was lovely.

Then down the hill and past Chew Valley Lake to Chew Magna where I stopped for refreshments (a pork pie and banana) and a quick trip to the post office to post some surplus clothes and other stuff back home – I’ve been carrying too much weight.

Then thru Long Ashton where I noticed a St Peter’s Hospice charity shop – one of the organisations I’m raising money for. I popped in, explained what I was doing, and got the woman there to take a photo of me outside the shop. If I’d been the least bit clued up I’d have found out where the actual hospice is in Bristol and called in there instead!

Anyway, next came a bit of a climb to the top of Ashton Court followed by crossing the Clifton Suspension Brisge. Then thru Bristol and out to the old Severn Crossing – there was a massive headwind across the bridge and I had to pedal to get down the downhill ramp on the far side 🙁

Then up thru the Wye Valley which was lovely. I stopped for lunch in the woods at the start if the valley (another pasty), then again at Tintern Abbey (just to take a photo), then slogged it all the way up to Monmouth.

Worried about the lack of a restaurant at the YHA, I stopped for shopping at a Lidl in Monmouth – not a great move it has to be said… they only seem to stock food in massive quantities. Anyway, I bought some prawns, chorizo and tomato to go with the left-over pasta from yesterday and pushed on towards the YHA – a lovely route along the river on a cycle path – followed by some steep hills in the run up to the hostel.

I feel like I’ve settled into a routine now – I’m happier travelling very slowly and more comfortable with the fact that I’m going to have to sit on my bike for 10 hours or so every day!

The day’s tweets

  • today, I will be mainly navigating from sheets 9, 10a, 10b, and 11a of my hand-copied route plan (which is about 40 sheets in all) #le2jog (07:06)
  • hopefully passing thru Bristol and over old Severn crossing later today but got to cross the mendips first #le2jog (07:08)
  • long day today so nice early start #le2jog (@ Wells Cathedral) http://4sq.com/5UIvNk (08:05)
  • crossing the mendips – glorious day up here -can see kelston round hill in distance -just near my home – so tempting – sooo tempting #le2jog (09:14)
  • posted a bag of stuff home to myself – too much weight and can live without 2 extra t-shirts, camera and bits and pieces #le2jog (10:17)
  • eating pork pie and banana in sun at chew magna – that’s a balanced sports diet, right? #le2jog (10:18)
  • I’m at Clifton Suspension Bridge (Sion Place, Bristol). http://4sq.com/91bq08 (11:33)
  • omg… massive headwind across Severn bridge – had to pedal down the far side – still, now in Wales (Wye valley) so progressing well #le2jog (14:25)
  • why do people come to places like the Wye valley and then leave their crappy litter everywhere? 🙁 (14:27)
  • @josswinn knees holding up but I’m keeping the manufacturers of ibuprofen in business single-handed (14:31)

The day’s route: 78 miles

Thursday 29 July 2010: Welsh Bicknor to Clun

A nice start to the day today – along a footpath next to the river from the YHA, then across a footbridge over the River Wye. Then a reasonably quick run along to Ross on Wye where I stopped at the public library for 30 minutes or so of free Internet access to upload some pictures to Flickr and update Blipfoto.

The central marketplace in Ross is shown here – Ross looks like a lovely place.

I can’t remember much about the rest of the day except that there was a nasty headwind for most of it and that Leominster looks very nice (the name isn’t pronounced as it is written). I stopped for lunch at a pub and ended up eating a very small potion of meatballs and pasta 🙁 Bit of a rip-off tbh.

I found the afternoon pretty tough and started worrying that I’ve not been eating enough. I know that I probably need to eat something like an extra 3500 calories to take account of the exercise – trouble is, I don’t really know what that means on terms of actual food and I don’t feel like eating much while I’m riding.

Anyway, I’m going to take more trouble to eat more from now on. To that end, I cooked myself a big risotto tonight, with sausages and the chorizo I’d saved from yesterday. Not sure if the chorizo was alright though – I woke up with a dodgy stomach in the middle of the night 🙁

Clun YHA was rather nice, though extremely busy – my dorm was full which made sleeping quite hard. YHA bunk beds seem to have been designed to squeak non-stop.

Addendum: 3500 calories extra per day was a bit of an over-estimate I think. Now that I’ve done the stats I think I was burning about 2500 calories per day, maybe 3000 on the longer/hillier days. Not that it mattered much – I ate what my body told me I needed to eat and got things just about right. Over the whole trip I only lost 4lbs.

The day’s tweets

  • at ross on wye public library – using free internet connection but only have 15 minute slot – need to tidy some stuff up (10:12)
  • lovely ride along the wye valley yesterday btw – but no mobile coverage at the YHA at Welsh Bicknor so off the radar for a while #le2jog (10:13)
  • at viewing point, somewhere near Hereford – struggling to get going this morning – feel totally cream-crackered #le2jog #lejog (11:51)
  • viewing point == top of a hill (obviously) – having energy bar to cheer myself up #le2jog (11:53)
  • @mbonett no need to buy me a meal but it would be lovely to see you – don’t do it if it is too far though?? (11:57)
  • apparently I’m on the Elgar Route – better update my playlist! #le2jog (12:22)

The day’s route: 59 miles

Friday 30 July 2010: Clun to Chester

This is my typical view of the world at the moment. Note that the background isn’t blurred in any way – that’s because I seem to be doing about 8 mph typically :-(. It’s mind-numbingly boring tbh – still I’m nearly half-way overall so shouldn’t moan.

Actually the Clun to Chester run today went pretty quickly – well 7 hours or so – and I felt like I got some decent speed up, particularly after lunch.

I also discovered the power of the oatcake – which seems to be a great way of getting a slow hit of energy. In terms of food more generally, today’s diet has been as follows:

Breakfast: Muesli, Mini scotch pancakes (x3), Banana

Mid-morning: Pork pie, Apple

Lunch: Baked potato with tuna mayonaise

Evening meal: Curry (hopefully – I need to go and find a curry house shortly)

Sundry: Oatcakes, 75cl high-carbohydrate drink, 150cl water, Cup of tea (x3)

I also always carry extra bananas and energy bars but didn’t need them today.

I’m currently in a guest house in Chester – such luxury to have a room to myself!

The day’s tweets

  • finally got some network coverage – currently at Pontesbury west of Shrewsbury #le2jog (09:51)
  • omg… I’m so bored with my inner voice #le2jog (10:54)
  • @mbonett should be ok – it’s a long ride that day but I hope to start by 6.30 (10:56)
  • just crossed under A5 – as a kid we used to be driven up the A5 every school holiday en route to cottage in north wales #le2jog (11:06)
  • @claireltri yes – not a part of the country I know very well but it is lovely – oh, and flat !! #le2jog (11:08)
  • bollox – lost in the rain near Ellesmere #le2jog (12:27)
  • …and to my left, Wrexham Industrial Estate #le2jog (14:38)
  • making good progress – reckon I must be averaging >13mph since lunch – not much, but better than rest of trip – flat terrain helps #le2jog (14:50)
  • reminder – don’t forget that I’m doing this ride for 2 charities and in memory of Rachel Heery – sponsorship details at http://bit.ly/awiNX1 (15:05)
  • I’m at Mitchells Of Chester Guest House (England) (28 Hough Green, Chester (England)). http://4sq.com/bU2EHL (17:27)
  • @betulapendula Chester is about as close as I get I think (20:13)

The day’s route: 69 miles

Saturday 31 July 2010: Chester to Slaidburn

I’m in Slaidburn. a lovely little Lancashire village on the south-west corner of the Yorkshire Dales (I think I’ve got that right). The water here comes out of the tap tea-coloured… that’s before you even put the tea bag into the cup.

It was about 85 miles to get here I think though, oddly, it seemed a bit shorter than that, and was pretty easy going apart from the last 10 miles or so which included some killer hills, both up and down, to get onto the moor. I have to say that whoever put this route together for the Cycle Touring Club (the route I’m following) must have really liked hills cos he or she keeps using them!

Anyway… I set off from Chester at about 7.30 and arrived here by 5.30 – not bad going actually. The guest house that I stayed at in Chester left me my breakfast on a tray outside my room so I could get an early start.

There’s another long day tomorrow -~80 miles I think.

One of the things that kept me going today was the prospect of meeting with an ex-colleague from when I worked at UKOLN, Monica and her daughter (both shown here) and her husband David (who also used to work at the University of Bath where we were based). It was great to see them all and they insisted on buying me a meal – they’d probably been reading my tweets about not eating enough! Anyway, it was a lovely evening. I asked one of the girls working in the pub to take this photo – she was a bit surprised when I wanted her to stand in the pouring rain while we stood on the pub doorway but she was kind enough to do it anyway – I don’t think she got too wet.

Addendum: Despite the CTC YHA route warning that “getting lost is a possibility” I don’t think I got lost once. I bought lunch at Hall’s Bakery (near Leigh) – see the tweets – and ate it sitting on the curb next to the road a bit further on, along with a can of Dandelion and Burdock which was horrible! After the ride that day I remember Matt and Steve commenting on how deprived the area around Leigh was – I couldn’t remember it other than the (rather nice) bakery. I stopped for tea and cake in Whalley (a very nice town) thinking I was almost at the YHA – actually there was 10 miles of very hilly terrain still to go.

The day’s tweets

  • starting to really dislike bananas 🙁 #le2jog (06:21)
  • the @CTC_Cyclists instructions for today start “this is a tough day” – ok, I’m nervous – 80 miles from Chester to Slaidburn #le2jog (06:33)
  • “aiming to become the UK’s first carbon neutral village” apparently – good for them #le2jog (@ Ashton Hayes) http://4sq.com/aK2YKz (07:58)
  • @mbonett ok, cool – looking forward to it #le2jog (08:23)
  • heading mainly east at the moment – presumably to get across under Liverpool? #rubbishgeography #le2jog (08:26)
  • crossing the M56 and I’m apparently in Warrington – that sounds like ‘the north’ to me – but then I’m just a bloody southerner #le2jog (09:18)
  • there’s a lorra motorways around these parts chuck – crossed the M6 a while back – now crossing the M62 #le2jog (10:22)
  • what’s this I see before me? ah, a pork pie #le2jog (10:57)
  • I’m at Daisy Hill Railway Station (Leigh Road, Westhoughton, Bolton). http://4sq.com/9vp9tE (11:35)
  • Have left Manchester behind me… #le2jog (@ Halls Bakery) http://4sq.com/cLPQZR (12:45)
  • @daizy_doo yeah, going fine and dandy thank you – about 10 miles from the YHA now I think #le2jog (15:45)
  • having tea and cake in Whalley (to which you all have to say “where’s whalley?”) #le2jog (15:49)
  • btw… rumour has it that Clitheroe is the half-way point – I pass there in ~20 minutes (tho I haven’t actually added up the miles) #le2jog (15:52)

The day’s route: 86 miles

Sunday 1 August 2010: Slaidburn to Carlisle

This was taken by Steve, one of two guys who are doing the same route as me. We’re not actually cycling together, cos I want to do the route on my own, but it is really nice to meet up with people every evening who have been thru the same day as I have.

It was taken at the top of our biggest climb yet, about 5 miles out of Slaidburn up to the top of the dales. Really hard work, with a beautiful view at the top, but not exactly the start of an 80 mile plus ride that I would have liked.

Overall it wad a pretty tough day – I got lost a couple of times and it was the first day that I’ve had to listen to music just to keep going. Anyway… it’s done now and tomorrow is another day (as James Bond probably once said).

Will try and write more tomorrow – too knackered now 🙁

Addendum: comments left on the original blog post reminded me that it was actually Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind who said “tomorrow is another day” – I was probably thinking of Die Another Day or somesuch! Lol.

Today was the only day when I willfully ignored the CTC YHA route. My excuse is that I was tired and getting fed up with what I perceived at the time to be “lots of narrow roads with hills on them”. The map indicated a big hill on the minor road north of Sedbergh – I reckoned that bypassing Sedbergh and using the B6256 and B6257 would get me to the A685 quicker and was bound to be flatter – I have no idea why I thought this. I was wrong. Those roads took me up a massive hill just under the M6 – I had to walk part of it and looking across the valley, the CTC route looked to be fairly flat. That was the last (and only) time that I ignored the route.

I did get lost later in the day, taking a left instead of a right in Lazonby I think (the CTC notes contained very little detail for this section), following the wrong minor roads and hitting the A6 well before I should have done. Again, I think this turned out to be a more direct but much hillier route. It also left me riding on the rather busy A6 for much longer than I should have been :-(. However, it did allow me to cover the last 10 miles or so fairly quickly. Every cloud…

The day’s tweets

  • bloody hell – fantastic route across the moor north of slaidburn but absolutely gruelling hill to get up there #le2jog (10:00)
  • @jukesie cheers! (11:48)
  • @RachCrad thanks (11:48)
  • bang underneath the M6 again – somewhere to the east of Kendal #le2jog (11:50)
  • with my love of Arthur Ransome books I probably should have gone thru the lake district but I couldn’t face even more hills 🙁 #le2jog (11:51)
  • arghhh…. today has been well hard – and wet at times – I’m listening to music to cheer myself up – long way still to go #le2jog (15:19)
  • got lost there – too tired – now on A6 on approach to Carlisle – about 8 miles to go I guess – phew #le2jog (16:58)
  • @nckyrnsm thanks (17:00)
  • @CameronMclellan thanks (17:00)
  • @mia_out thanks (17:00)
  • @GeoShore thanks (17:01)
  • two plates of chicken and broad bean risotto – yum – feel better for that #le2jog (20:32)
  • @Kisa mainly youth hostels – I thought about bringing a tent with me but decided against carrying the extra weight #le2jog (20:34)
  • I’m really enjoying the whole YHA experience btw – would like to do more of it #le2jog (20:36)
  • many thanks to @mbonett and family for taking me to the pub at slaidburn last night and buying me a meal – much appreciated #le2jog (21:48)

The day’s route: 80 miles

Monday 2 August 2010: Carlisle to New Lanark

Sorry, a combination of tiredness (I’m usually in bed by 9), long days in the saddle, needing to get an evening meal cooked and lack of 3G network coverage or wifi is making it very hard to find time to blip properly.

This is the first house across the border into Scotland, which I crossed early today at Gretna. This is traditionally the place that English couples elope to to get married though I’m not sure why – perhaps the marriage laws were/are easier in Scotland?

I asked on Twitter if anyone wanted ho marry me but didn’t get any offers (even from my current partner – she says she’s given up asking!). Oh well.

Most of the day was a long cycle up an old A road, now classed as a B road (since the motorway was built) from Carlisle to near Lanark. This made it easy to cover a lot of miles – I stopped for refreshments at Lockerbie – though some of the road surface left a lot to be desired. Much of it was very hard on the wrists.

I’m staying at New Lanark SYHA, which is part of a world heritage site – a renovated cotton mill with all the workers cottages and so on beautifully restored.

Shorter ride up to Stirling tomorrow.

Addendum: in general, the road surfaces in Scotland were worse than in England. However, the general attitude to cyclists by drivers (particularly lorry drivers) seemed much better to me – they were nearly always willing to wait behind you for an opportunity to overtake safely.

The day’s tweets

  • day 9 – leaving carlisle – this time last week I was in Devon – this time next week I’ll be on the train home #le2jog (08:30)
  • put up blog posts for the last two days – strongly suspect that my posts all sound much the same – hills… blah… hard… blah… #le2jog (08:47)
  • I’m in Gretna in Scotland – anyone want to marry me? terms and conditions apply #le2jog http://tweetphoto.com/36385390 (09:24)
  • having a tea-break in Lockerbie – nice flat road so far 🙂 #le2jog (11:22)
  • @GeoShore send a photo of your solicitor and I’ll consider it ! 🙂 (11:25)
  • @kathtrinder no, not a single offer – I’m disappointed – but I’ve moved on now… both metaphorically and geographically! #le2jog (11:27)
  • wish this weather would make up it’s mind – got togged up for rain just now – now the sun’s come out – taking it all off again #le2jog (12:27)
  • bloody nice chicken salad wholemeal roll from the bakery in Lockerbie – yum – also got a potato cake thingy which was horrible #le2jog (13:47)
  • been trying work out the number of pedal rotations on this trip – does half a million sound about right? done in head so prob wrong #le2jog (13:50)

The day’s route: 78 miles

Tuesday 3 August 2010: New Lanark to Stirling

This is Steve and Matt, who I met in the first YHA, way back in Golant, and who have been in the same youth hostels as me pretty much every night of the trip. Here, they are just leaving New Lanark (heading up the hill) after a fairly leisurely start this morning. We’re not doing the rides together as such – but we usually cross paths once or twice each day and it is great to have someone regular to talk to or go for a drink with at each stop – basically, these guys are keeping me sane!

I had my first YHA cooked breakfast and packed lunch today – both very good – a really nice surprise for myself when I checked in last night. I’d forgotten I’d ordered them when I booked online a couple of weeks ago.

It’s been a funny day’s riding. The morning went thru some rather rundown areas on the east side of Motherwell/Glasgow – not particularly pleasant and the route was quite tedious to follow. I had to concentrate quite hard not to get lost and had to keep getting my iPhone out to double-check where i was.

But the afternoon took me up and over the Kilsyth Hills between Glasgow and Edinburgh. It was a bit of a climb to get up there but, once done, the views were amazing – a bit like being on top of Dartmoor again. And that was followed by a 5 mile downhill section to get into Stirling – freewheeling all the way.

I stopped off in the centre of Stirling to pick up some hi-energy sports drink mixes for the rest of the trip. The centre of the shopping area didn’t feel safe enough to leave my panniers and stuff unattended so I had to take my bike right into the shop while I nipped upstairs to buy the drinks. They didn’t seem to mind.

Stirling YHA is in a lovely building, right in the middle of the old part of town (and right next door to the old gaol). Oh… and right at the top of a hill! 🙂

By the way – just a quick reminder that this ride is for charity. Details on my End to Groats website. Any donations (via Virgin Giving) greatfully received.

The day’s tweets

  • day 10 – leaving Lanark and heading for Stirling – very hilly so far #le2jog (10:53)
  • looking down over Motherwell and, I assume, Glasgow to my left #le2jog (12:21)
  • cycling right under the big (blackhill?) communication masts east of Glasgow #le2jog (12:40)
  • lol – first dog attack – smallest jack russell I’ve ever seen but he seemed convinced he was an alsatian #le2jog (12:42)
  • first YHA cooked breakfast this morning and first YHA pack lunch now – both good #le2jog (14:12)
  • I’m climbing the Kilsyth Hills en route to Stirling via Carron Bridge – beautiful views back over what I’ve just cycled #le2jog (15:01)
  • short run today – made it to Stirling youth hostel early – can now have rest of day off – #le2jog (16:48)
  • mixed day today – parts of this morning’s ride were horrible (e.g.Plains) but the afternoon in the Kilsyth Hills was beautiful #le2jog (16:51)

The day’s route: 47 miles

Wednesday 4 August 2010: Stirling to Glencoe

Yours truly… taken at the bottom end of Glencoe.

What a day’s ride? Fantastic. Amazing scenery which just got better and better as I progressed into the highlands.

And the weather was pretty kind also… well, in the main at least. About 5 minutes after this photo was taken it started to rain. I decided to phone the hotel I’d booked at (the one originally suggested by the guys at Blipfoto), partly to check where it was. Bad news… they told me that they didn’t have.a reservation for me. I panicked slightly and decided to cycle on the Glencoe to see what I could find. Within 5 minutes the weather had properly changed. I was cold and wet and a bit worried about where I was going. I layered up and put plastic bread bags on my feet to keep them dry.. sounds weird I know but I really couldn’t afford to get any colder.

By this rime I had crossed the top of the pass and was descending down the other side towards Glencoe. I phoned home and got the number if the Glencoe SYHA. They were technically full but agreed to find me a bed for the night – phew. I was very relieved.

Then Steve and Matt cycled down from the pass as well. They were also very wet – we made our way to the nearest pub and warned up with a couple of pints and haggis, neeps ‘n’ tatties. It was a good lesson for us in how quickly the weather can change in the mountains… I should really have known better.

Despite that, it was a fantastic day – the best yet without any doubt.

Oh, and that hotel… they phoned me later to say that they’d been looking at Wednesday next week when they said I didn’t have a reservation. Lol.

Addendum: This was by far the best day of the whole ride – with Glen Ogle, Rannoch Moor and Glencoe as particular highlights. With hindsight, the panic over the hotel seems an over-reaction and less important than it did at the time. I’m grateful to the Glencoe SYHA for fitting me in at short notice (though I strongly suspect that YHAs underbook slightly on purpose to allow for emergencies like this). Given the circumstances, the haggis at the pub felt like by far the *best* meal I had eaten for a good while.

The day’s tweets

  • day 11 – leaving Stirling early, heading for glencoe – excited about seeing the mountains #le2jog (07:23)
  • @iainjwallace yup.., that was the one (07:24)
  • i’m at Doune – presumably where Petula Clarke got the inspiration for her famous hit “Doune Toon”? (@ Doune Castle) http://4sq.com/aMjeXf (08:14)
  • I’m at Callander. http://4sq.com/ampdCj (08:44)
  • @cardcc riding on my own – but there’s a few others who I meet up with regularly in the evenings -we’re making the same hostel stops #le2jog (09:52)
  • leaving my first real loch (loch lubnaig) behind – scenery getting awesomer by the mile – think rain is on its way #le2jog (09:55)
  • I’m at Lochearnhead. http://4sq.com/crb8vj (10:28)
  • some of the road surfaces in Scotland pretty poor – no need to hand shake my drinks mixes this morning! – but drivers well behaved #le2jog (10:31)
  • hmmm … annoying – I clearly should have climbed Glen Ogle on the NCN7 rather than the A84 – but CTC route didn’t mention it 🙁 #le2jog (10:57)
  • heading towards Tyndrum – solid westerly headwind for most of the time but weather great otherwise – beautiful scenery #le2jog (13:41)
  • just passing… #le2jog (@ Tyndrum Lodge Hotel) http://4sq.com/9GZ5Ao (13:51)
  • just passing… #le2jog (@ Bridge of Orchy Hotel) http://4sq.com/b3HjWt (14:52)
  • heading past loch ba – there’s some evil looking weather just to the left of me #le2jog (15:35)
  • I’m at the summit of rannock moor – 1142 feet #le2jog (15:51)
  • desperate for a wee but not much cover around here – apologies if that was you driving past #le2jog (16:17)
  • at start of glencoe climb – nearly at tonight’s pub – all sorts of weather around me but I’m sunny/cloudy so far 🙂 #le2jog (16:19)

The day’s route: 78 miles

Thursday 5 August 2010: Glencoe to Loch Ness

I’m not sure if this image will work or not – it looks great on the iPhone, but the image size is very small which always tends to make things look better.

It was taken earlyish this morning, looking back up Loch Leven towards Glencoe. I quite like it because despite the grey there’s a hint of brightness in the sky, which is pretty much how the day turned out – sunny/cloudy.

A very flat day’s riding today – boring almost! – no real hills to speak of, though there was quite a climb towards the end getting up to Urquhart Castle before the final run down into Drumnadrochit, where I’m staying tonight, the SYHA at Loch Ness being full.

After yesterday’s experiences with bread bags on my feet, I stopped at a bike shop at Fort William this morning and bought a pair of waterproof overshoes for 25 quid, thus guaranteeing that the rest of the trip will be rain free! Mind you, there’s only 3 more days to go, then I’ll be on the train home. I’m missing my family so can’t wait.

Up to Carisdale Castle SYHA tomorrow, which looks stunning. I’ve also changed my last stop from Thurso to Tongue which will make it easier to finish the ride with Matt and Steve. Can’t quite believe it’s nearly over.

Anyway… for tonight, I’m sat in front of a real fire at the hostel and about to cook my tea. TTFN.

Addendum: The 4th person in the photo above (right-most) is Simon, who I also met at the 1st YHA in Golant but who did a different route to the rest of us, finishing a day earlier than we did. We only saw Simon in about 4 of the YHAs that we stayed in I think.

I didn’t get a room in Loch Ness SYHA and so had to stay at the Backpackers Hostel in Lewiston instead. This had a slightly different feel to the SYHAs – a much younger crowd. Nice, but different. With mixed dorms and being slightly cheaper, I wonder if Backpackers are attracting an audience that one might have expected the Youth Hostels to be attracting?

The day’s tweets

  • day 12 – up to loch ness – hoping for a less eventful day today but guess that a sighting of the monster would be ok #le2jog (08:38)
  • I’m at Fort William. http://4sq.com/9ns1tu (10:42)
  • bought myself a pair of waterproof overshoes after yesterday’s experience with the bread bags – will prob guarantee no more rain #le2jog (10:45)
  • @kevingashley re “may the wind be behind you” – yesterday, no chance – today, looking better #le2jog (11:28)
  • @LornaMCampbell @paulmiller sorry – I’m an idiot 🙁 (11:31)
  • just NE of Fort William – sitting in the sun watching the clouds roll over Ben Nevis -wonderful -life really doesn’t get much better #le2jog (11:34)
  • @Moyler yellow top, pink shades, grey panniers (you’ve got to have a bit of drab) that’s me #le2jog (12:09)
  • I’m at Spean Bridge Mill. http://4sq.com/ckrlUf (12:51)
  • eating lunch by Loch Oich and being eaten by midges – all part of the circle of life #le2jog (14:11)
  • just passing Invermoriston Falls #le2jog (@ Invermoriston) http://4sq.com/dCOHdd (15:54)
  • slightly roughing it tonight… (@ Loch Ness Backpackers) http://4sq.com/a6Z7HZ (17:51)
  • @lorcanD thanks (20:48)
  • @cardcc cycling solo and unsupported – but finding that I’m meeting up with same 2 or 3 other cyclists at the hostels every night #le2jog (20:52)
  • @ostephens @Onkloud9 would definitely recommend it – great experience, a great way to see the country and you meet loads of people #le2jog (20:58)

The day’s route: 68 miles

Friday 6 August 2010: Loch Ness to Carbisdale Castle

Not a lot to report about today’s ride, other than it started with a very big hill out of Drumnadrochit (probably the longest steep hill of the ride so far – which is ironic given that I’d been telling people at the hostel last night that in general the hills in Cornwall are worse than those in Scotland) and that it included a lovely ride across high moorland with views out to the North Sea.

Despite starting the day with a bowl of muesli, I couldn’t resist the ‘breakfast for 3 quid’ offer that I spotted at a village shop after about 10 miles so ended up having two breakfasts.

The long freewheel down off the moor was very cold however so I stopped off at a cafe for a nice cup of hot chocolate before riding the last 5 miles or so to the SYHA at Carbisdale Castle, a truly amazing gothic hostel – I’ve never seen anything like it.

It houses works of art all over the place including a set of rather nice White marble statues like this one.

The day’s tweets

  • day 13 – leaving loch ness and heading north to carbisdale castle #le2jog (07:51)
  • was telling people on the hostel last night that Scottish hills, in general, haven’t been as bad as Devon and Cornwall… #le2jog (08:12)
  • … but boy there’s a big one at the start of the A833 heading north from Drumnadrochit #le2jog #eatingmywords (08:14)
  • need to watch my iPhone battery today -didn’t manage to charge it fully last night (tho I do have a travel charger) it’s my lifeline #le2jog (08:15)
  • taking a brief diversion to the Kiltarlity Village Store for their 3 quid breakfast deal 🙂 #le2jog (09:00)
  • just passing you understand… I’ve already eaten 2 breakfasts today! #le2jog (@ The Priory Hotel Beauly) http://4sq.com/9NmIYd (09:56)
  • I’m at Muir of Ord. http://4sq.com/cufznW (10:12)
  • I’m at Conon Bridge Post Office. http://4sq.com/aeu2y5 (10:46)
  • @Fearnecotton I’m on 3rd to last day of cycling solo #le2jog – raising money for charity – inspired by your ride – give me a mention on air? (10:52)
  • knees seem to be holding up ok but notice that outside of left knee now has to click into place each day after 3rd or 4th rotation #le2jog (10:55)
  • I’m on the old road parallel to the A862 NE of Dingwall – on high ground so great views over cromarty and the mile-long A9 bridge #le2jog (11:51)
  • looking west I can see what I assume is the north sea – but no idea what else us what – currently approaching Struie 1218ft #le2jog (13:28)
  • ah… just found a viewing point with map -I’m looking over the Dornoch Firth apparently -then across to Tarbat Ness in the distance #le2jog (13:38)
  • Lovely hot chocolate – I needed warming up #le2jog (@ Alladale Country Store) http://4sq.com/bIf77G (15:34)
  • I’m at Carbisdale Castle (Culrain). http://4sq.com/dCwnMa (18:05)
  • went to pub – got bitten – sat in pub – scratched – cycled home – got bitten again – bad – first single malt of the trip – good #le2jog (21:59)

The day’s route: 57 miles

Saturday 7 August 2010: Carbisdale Castle to Tongue

Another supposedly easy day today – less than 50 miles from Carbisdale Castle to Tongue. Unfortunately, no-one remembered to tell the wind about the arrangement and it blew in our faces non-stop all day as a result.

I started and ended the day with Matt and Steve but did most of the ride solo as usual.

I’ve got a nice shot of the three of us leaving the castle after a relaxed start this morning but this shot sums up the day better. It was taken half-way across the bleakest moor I’ve ever cycled across, a crossing compounded by the unrelenting headwind. At times (as here) the scene resembled something like a World War I battlefield – with trees strewn everywhere. After a nice cup of tea at the Crask Inn (a great pub with a very nice owner) I pressed on across the moor, stopping to eat my SYHA packed lunch on a hollow by a river just about out of the wind.

I felt really odd to be wearing 3 layers on top and 2 pairs of gloves but it really was that cold… in August!

However, to kind of make up for the effort of cycling, the view of the sea and estuary (kyle) around Tongue was stunning as I came down the hill at the end of the day. The sea was very similar on colour to that found around the coast of Cornwall.

We finally made it to the SYHA at about 7 after stopping at the local pub in Tongue for a couple of pints to recover.

I quite like moorland cycling in many ways but not when the wind is blowing as hard as it was today.

Last day tomorrow!

The day’s tweets

  • day 14 – the penultimate day – at the falls is shin – late start today #le2jog (10:56)
  • cycling across he bleakest moorland onto the bleakest headwind – it’s grey and cold – can see Ben Klibreck ahead right in the cloud #le2jog (12:28)
  • think I deserve a cup of tea! #le2jog (@ Crask Inn) http://4sq.com/bATNuy (13:28)
  • can’t believe I’m riding into another headwind -thought the who point of riding from LE to JOG was to take advantage of SWerly winds #le2jog (14:13)
  • btw… the crask inn is a lovely pub #le2jog (14:14)
  • just passing… #le2jog (@ Altnaharra hotel) http://4sq.com/cr8nEw (15:07)
  • strange to be wearing full-fingered gloves in August but it is cold up here #le2jog (15:09)
  • bloody hell… are the miles longer up here or something? the last 15 miles to Tongue seem to be taking a n a g e #le2jog (16:38)
  • having a quick pint before going to the Tongue SYHA #le2jog (@ Tongue Hotel) http://4sq.com/8ZFep8 (18:02)
  • at Tongue SYHA but network coverage not very good – time for bed #le2jog (21:14)

The day’s route: 47 miles

Sunday 8 August 2010: Tongue to John O’Groats (and Wick)

It’s hard to write about the final day from any other perspective than “it’s finally over”, i.e. with a mixed sense of wow, happiness, relief and even a little anticlimax.

The ride itself was largely uneventful. I left the hostel (Tongue is a great SYHA by the way) before 7 and stopped briefly outside the Tongue Hotel to steal a bit of wifi and upload yesterday’s blip, then headed up the hill out of town. I passed my first sign to John O’Groats pretty early on, it said 67 miles to go I think, so I knew exactly what I had to do. The early stages were quite hilly, which I was expecting, but the real problem was the midges, which seemed to be out in force this morning and which made stopping to wee/tweet/check in to Foursquare very annoying and painful – at times they even seemed able to bite while I was cycling. Going downhill fast often resulted in a layer of midges on the front of my cycling jersey and all down the front if my legs 🙁

The hills gradually dwindled and I stopped in a cafe at Thurso to meet up with Matt and Steve and another rider (Simon) who had finished his ride to John O’Groats the day before but who had a day on hand waiting for the train home.

I ordered a fried egg sandwich and tea while I waited – one of the great things about this trip has been my ability to eat whatever and whenever I like!

Matt and Steve were a while behind me and by the time they arrived I was ready for cake – a bit of a mistake actually. It was lovely, a massive slice of blueberry sponge cake with copious butter icing, but a little too filling and sickly for my taste!

Anyway, the three of us rode the final 20 miles together. It seemed fitting somehow and was the only significant section of the whole ride where I wasn’t on my own. Our arrival at John O’Groats was a little bit underwhelming in some ways – a flurry of back-slapping and whooping and the taking of many photographs. There were various finishing groups of cyclists about – to the point that we almost had to queue for the photographer and his famous sign.

You get to choose what goes on the signpost for your photograph – most people seen to put their milage. I still don’t know my actual milage (I need to measure it when I get home) so I just put ‘Groats’, to match up with the ‘End’ that had been on the sigh in Cornwall – my ride being called ‘End to Groats”.

Matt and Steve suggested that it should say ‘Oats’ in recognition of all the muesli and oatcakes that I’ve consumed during the trip 🙂

The others went off to arrange a taxi ride to Wick. I decided to ride it – it was only 20 miles after all. As it happens, I’d made it most of the way to Wick before they passed me (laughing) in their taxi. In all the excitement at the signpost, I forgot to get my record sheet stamped again (I forgot to get it stamped at Land’s End as well), so just after setting out I realised that I had to turn back and get it stamped on the first pub. I now have a completed record sheet with less than half of the days missing!

At Wick I checked in to my hotel, had a quick bath – my first for two weeks – then went to the pub to celebrate with Matt and Steve.

It was quite an emotional farewell – we’ve grown pretty close during the two weeks that we have been on the road. Our unspoken agreement to ride separately but meet up regularly has worked out really well and I think we all found it helpful in different ways. It’s certainly the case that my least fun evenings have been those where I’ve been in a different hostel to the two of them.

I don’t know if these will be friendships that will last – quite possibly not, for all sorts of practical reasons – but we did form a very real friendship for the duration of he ride at least and I certainly wasn’t expecting that when I set out.

That’s enough for today… I plan to use the train ride home tomorrow to write up my thoughts (such as they are) about the trip.

The day’s tweets

  • stealing wifi from the Tongue hotel to upload yesterday’s blog post #le2jog (07:19)
  • day 15 – last day – my arse just asked me to tell you all that it is very happy about that #le2jog (07:20)
  • btw, the hostel at Tongue has the most amazing location… right next to the causeway over the Kyle of Tongue #le2jog (07:28)
  • passing first road sign to John O’Groats – 67 miles – woo hoo #le2jog (07:32)
  • got Black Betty earworm now – trouble is I only know the “whoa black Betty, bam ba lam” bit #le2jog (@ Bettyhill) http://4sq.com/cDZGlU (08:41)
  • just passing… (@ Srathy Inn) http://4sq.com/d5VtLh (09:38)
  • @dmje I didn’t say I liked it! (10:30)
  • the midges are pleased to see me this morning… getting eaten alive here – suspect I’ll arrive at JO’G as a skeleton #le2jog (10:32)
  • having a fried egg sandwich before the final push #le2jog (@ Cafe Tempest) http://4sq.com/a3bw66 (12:00)
  • prob. about 3ish I guess – webcast v. unlikely 🙂 #le2jog (12:12)
  • 4 miles! #le2jog (14:43)
  • made it – end to groats completed – sorry, can’t think of anything better to tweet 🙂 #le2jog http://tweetphoto.com/37670412 (15:29)
  • now just got a 20 mile ride to wick ready for the train tomorrow #le2jog 🙁 (15:37)
  • done it … but forget to check in on 4sq at the time 🙂 #le2jog (@ John O’Groats Sign) http://4sq.com/a40eGL (16:14)
  • finally off bike and in hotel at wick -having bath then going to pub – last 20 miles was prob fastest of the whole ride! #le2jog (17:26)
  • two other things … #le2jog (17:27)
  • firstly, thanks for all the support here over the last two weeks – it really has helped #le2jog (17:28)
  • secondly, Scotland has been a joy to cycle -awesome in all the obvious ‘big country’ ways – but more subtle also (e.g.lovely colors) #le2jog (17:30)

The day’s route: 81 miles

Monday 9 August 2010: Have crisps, will travel

I’m travelling home today… a full day’s journey, leaving Wick in the north at 6.20am and getting to Birmingham New Street in the midlands at 8.09pm this evening, at which point I will be picked up by my brother and driven back to Bath (probably another couple of hours). The whole journey will probably last something like 16 hours. If nothing else that serves as a nice reminder about how big the UK is and how far I have cycled.

I can’t wait to see the family.

The train journey is taking me past some of the places in Scotland that I cycled thru… Thurso and Dingwall, Carbisdale Castle and Muir of Ord to name a few. I have to confess that without a map to jog my memory, many if these places are rapidly just becoming names… I couldn’t tell you what they looked like. Shame! 🙁

So, why the crisps?

I bought this bag of crisps on he first day of my Land’s End to John O’Groats journey – gosh, that seems like a long time ago. I didn’t eat them, instead deciding to keep them in case I got hungry in he afternoon.

On the second day I decided to leave them in my bag as an emergency treat for myself if I ever got stuck anywhere without food. And the next day, and the day after that… in time, they became a fixed feature of my handlebar bag for the whole journey – a kind of totem I guess – carried 1000 miles in case of emergencies but never needed. I was going to take them to the pub last night and share them with Matt and Steve but forgot and left them in my hotel room.

I’ll eat them now on the journey home instead.

It’s been a fantastic trip – one that I would whole-heartedly recommend to anyone who cares to listen. It’s hard in places, but not so hard that most people couldn’t manage it with enough time.

Before I left I had this idea that I would spend two weeks alone on my bike with my thoughts and somehow come back a better person. I’m not quite sure that it has worked out like that.

You know when your other half says to you, “what are you thinking about?” and you say, “oh, nothing” and they say, “you must be thinking about something” and you say, “err… no“. Well, yes… one is clearly thinking about something… the trouble is that the male brain (or, at least, my brain) just has no way of turning those thoughts into words. I kinda feel like I’ve had two weeks of that. I’ve looked at the road a lot, I’ve looked at the map, I’ve looked at the road and the map. I’ve watched the scenery go past – usually very slowly – and clearly, I’ve thought about stuff. Well, the bad news is that I can sum up those thoughts in three words:

nothing to report

I’ve missed my family a lot – this is the longest I’ve been apart from Sara, my other half, for all the time we’ve been together. Ditto the kids.

I haven’t missed my job and it is now more clear to me than ever that something is badly wrong with my working life – something I need, but will find very hard, to do something about. Note that this isn’t (just) a dig at my current employer – I’m kinda feeling generally unhappy about what I achieving in my professional life at the moment. In short, when people ask me, “what do you do?” I have no coherent or convincing answer.

I’m proud of what I’ve done and the money that I’ve raised – many thanks to all those who have donated. I’m particularly pleased that this ride gave me, and many others, a chance to remember Rachel – that was a big part of what it was all about.

My followers on Twitter have been hugely supportive. It’s been great… tweeting as I go, reading people’s replies, checking into Foursquare every so often and writing a Blipfoto blog post every night (pretty much), taking photographs and so on. The iPhone has been amazing – though I never doubted that it wouldn’t be.

You are never alone or lost with an iPhone. Well, until your battery dies at least… then you are probably really alone and/or really lost so always carry a travel charger! That’s my one gem of advice from the whole trip. Not that I ever actually needed mine. With careful use of the wifi and 3G settings, and only running GPS apps when you actually need them, you can make an iPhone battery last quite well. My iPhone has been my camera, my blogging tool, my communications/social media client and my backup/GPS device.

Oh… actually, I have one other piece of advice – never go downhill without double-checking the map!

I’ll try and pull together some stats about various things over the next few days – mileage, sponsorship and so on. If you are wondering… you can still sponsor me via the website 🙂

I’ve been very much out of touch with old media during the trip. I haven’t read a newspaper or watched a TV for the whole two weeks. It’s been fantastic. World War III could have started and I’d be none the wiser.

The hostels and hostel life has been great – the shared kitchens and dorms, the snoring, the sneaking out quietly first thing in the morning so as not to wake the other residents. The fact that you can leave your iPhone charging in an unlocked dorm and not worry about it being stolen – how often in life these days can you behave like that?

I’ve also met some great people on the trip – the slightly eccentric group of academics on their self-organised geology weekend in Clun, the german girl on a solo driving holiday in Street, the bloke who was 2 days from completing a walk round the whole coastline of the UK just south of the Severn crossing, the old woman at the bus-stop somewhere near Shrewsbury who called me over to say that she’d done the trip last year, the owner of the Country Store in Ardgay who looked a bit like Susan George and who made a great hot chocolate, the landlord of the Crask Inn – to mention just a few.

I haven’t seen much wildlife… which surprised me a little. I saw two deer (or one deer twice, I’m not sure) somewhere in the Manchester region but none in Scotland. And a lot of buzzards – all over the place. Other than that and a lot of roadkill – including a whole dead sheep rigid with rigamortis with its legs in the air by the side of the road – I haven’t seen many living animals apart from livestock.

So what have been my highlights?

Well, the Glencoe day was stunning and exciting in all sorts of ways, not least the reminder of how fast the weather can change in the mountains. Glen Ogle, then Rannoch Moor, then Glencoe itself. I remember nearly bursting into tears when I saw Glencoe for the first time. I have no idea why – a mixture of things I guess. You go a bit weird when you’ve been alone on a bike for several days! That’s my excuse anyway, and I’m sticking to it.

The second Cornwall/Devon day and crossing Dartmoor came a close second and probably only ranks slightly lower in my mind because I’ve seen it before fairly regularly.

Then I’m torn between the hill out of Slaidburn (an awesome sight when you were starting at the bottom) and the long relentless moorland right at the northernmost part of Scotland on the last but one day. Very bleak but also very inspiring. And home to the Crask Inn!

And my low points?

Not much really. The days skirting the major conurbations of Manchester/Warrington/Liverpool and Glasgow/Motherwell were less nice visually I guess. But they did serve as a reminder that this country of ours isn’t all stunning scenery, tea and cakes. I’ve seen some places that I really wouldn’t want to rush back to – places where life must be really tough for people. I don’t envy them.

The hostel at Carlisle, which we’d been told was great because you got a room to yourself, but which turned out to be a rather depressing student accommodation type affair with soul-destroying single rooms… give me a shared dorm with a fat, hairy-arsed bloke in the bunk above any day! 🙂

And the headwinds I suppose. It feels like I’ve had about 5 days of solid headwind to 1 day of tailwind. I’m probably exaggerating but that’s what it feels like. On the plus side, I’ve been incredibly lucky with the rain – I’ve probably only had to wear my waterproofs for, maybe, 3 hours during the whole two weeks. In general, the weather has been perfect for cycling – not too hot and not too cold but just right!

Finally, I must say thank you to Sara (my partner) and the kids (Daisy, Wilf and Stan) for letting me out of the house for two weeks in order that I could do this ride. They have effectively given up a proper summer holiday for it which is very generous. I owe them all big time!

Addendum: As a comment on the original blog entry reminded me, I should really have also listed midges in my low points. Luckily, they only became a real problem at Tongue and beyond (i.e. the last evening and final day) but the results of their biting were still with me 4 or 5 days later – very itchy legs!

Today’s tweets

  • up at 5.30 to get train home today – 6.20 first train… arrive in brum at about 8pm – then getting lift to bath by car – yawn #le2jog (10:19)
  • btw… thanks for all the congratulatory tweets yesterday – just reading them now #le2jog (10:24)
  • passing places on the train that I cycled thru – some of them are already just names – everything seems to blur 🙁 #le2jog (10:26)
  • RT @GeoShore: @andypowe11 has done the hard bit completing a 1000 mile charity cycle ride -still an opportunity to donate http://is.gd/e9W2U (13:29)
  • been on the train for over 12 hours… now reaching Sheffield!! #le2jog (18:51)
  • @Book_Aid thanks #le2jog (18:53)

Tuesday 10 August 2010: Welcome home

Found this on the door when I got back last night.

Nice 🙂

Spent most of the day today back at work. Urgh…

I’m still trying to work out mileages and so on. More tomorrow hopefully.

BTW, when I turned up at Birmingham New Street yesterday evening I was met by a welcoming party of three people… Sue, John and Ian. John was actually stood outside the door to the lift up from the platforms with his camera ready though this photo in the concourse area is probably better. Great to see them all. Much appreciated.

Wednesday 11 August 2010: Stats

My final blip on the Land’s End to John O’Groats trip… back to normal tomorrow.

Some stats:

Miles cycled: 1010 (plus 16 from John O’Groats to Wick)
Days on the road: 15
Hours spent cycling: ~130 (8.5 hours/day) [1]
Average miles/day: 67
Longest day (miles): 86
Shortest day (miles): 47
Calories burnt (approx): 38,000 (~2500 calories/day)
Weight lost (lbs): 4
Hills climbed (feet): 42,000 (~2800 feet/day)
Highest elevation (feet): 1432 (Dartmoor)
Punctures: 0
Other mechanical failures: 0 (apart from occasional chain falling off)
Hills (part-)walked: ~8 [2]
Cooked breakfasts: 2
Pork pie elevenses (England): 4
Meat/steak/scotch pie elevenses (Scotland): 3
Oatcakes consumed: lots
Bananas consumed: ~30 (2 bananas/day)
Midge bites: ~1,000,000 🙂
YHA/other stamps collected (see photo): 10
Tubes of Ibuprofen used on knees: 3 or 4
Hours of rain: ~3
Hours spent listening to music: ~2.5
Top bunks slept in: 2
Money raised for charity (to date): ~£2700
Pedal rotations: ~500,000 [3]

[1] This is very approximate because I didn’t log my starting and stopping times. The time here includes stops for elevenses, lunch, shopping, etc.

[2] I know that real cyclists [tm] get upset by this kind of thing but I’m not proud, my bags were heavy (particularly in Cornwall where the hills were worst) and my left knee needed protecting!

[3] This is very approximate and probably a bit of an over-estimate to be honest (though I don’t think it is a totally stupid number). I worked it out in my head to pass the time cycling between Carlisle and Lanark.

Addendum: Since getting back from the trip my bike hasn’t felt the same. I have no idea why. It’s odd.

The other oddity is that when I go out cycling along the Bristol Bath Railway Path I have to hold myself back from saying “hello” to absolutely everyone. When you are doing a long ride you kind of do this naturally after a while – and, in the main, you get a response from people (though I’m sure some people were really thinking, “Who the hell is that nutter!”).

You also get used to having quickly shouted conversations with riders (singly or in groups) going to other way… “Are you going to Land’s End?”, “Yup”, “I’m going to other way – good luck”, “You too” – the reality of these conversations is that it usually didn’t matter what was actually said because you couldn’t hear anything anyway over the noise of the traffic 🙂

By the way… did I mention my knee??


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