Monday, 20 August 2012

Epilogue 0f Random Thoughts and Stats!

It is Monday evening, I have been back at work today and enjoyed telling people about my adventure.  I got presented with a yellow jersey with Bradley Wiggins (with my face) pinned to it, thank you work buddies for doing that.

I came home and washed and polished Ruby, she is now sparkling clean and ready for another ride.

I missed being on the bike today and missed the company of the group.  I will most definitely do something like this again, and if anyone who did this trip wants to join in, even better.

Work was ok, it was so busy I hardly got time to think and if I start feeling stressed by work I will sit down, take a deep breath and think about our trip.  I will also make myself laugh because Rachel reckons if you pretend to laugh eventually you will actually really laugh.  However, I will only need to think of our evening in the Street Youth Hostel and that will make me laugh a lot!

I have added up a few numbers for your perusal...

Distance ridden - 998.56 miles
Total ascent - 19,994 metres (about 2.3 x Mt Everest)
Calories burned - 71,681 kcal wow!
Time in the saddle - 79 hrs 18 mins 44 seconds
Packs of Tangfastics consumed - 12 (oops!)
New facebook friends - 8 (at the moment)
Amount of money spent on WiFi - £17 - come on peeps, free WiFi is the way to go (especially the Holiday Inn!!)
Number of funny moments - too many to count, but every one of them brilliant
Number of times I cried - 3 (twice when I fell off and at the end!)
Favourite names of towns - Wormelow, Longdown and see photo below!

I will finish this blog with a quote that sums up the last two weeks

It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle. ~ Ernest Hemingway

Thank you for reading, I will finish here and hopefully start a new blog with a new adventure next year!
Janet x

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Day 14 Crask to John o' Groats 84 miles

Well, this is it, the final day.  Rachel and I awoke with a lot of strange feelings about this being the final day, excited to finish and to know that we have done it...but sad that it will soon be all over and we will become normal human beings again rather than long distance cyclists.

We had a lovely breakfast around the big table again, and got ready to head out into the sun.  The midges were pretty vicious, but once we started cycling they weren't a bother.  I worked out that if you stop you have a 30 second time window to take a photo before the biting creatures attacked again!!

It was such a lovely day that we stopped for several brief photo stops, the scenery was stunning in a barren and remote sense, we loved it.

As we continued our journey the skies started to darken in that ominous way...and yes, the heavens opened.  The rain continued until Bettyhill, which I arrived in a top speed as I knew there was a brew stop at the top of the hill (Betty's I presume!).  After two comfort cherry bakewells we set off again, and the sun started to come out.  We had a good few climbs along the north coast, but amazing views of Dunnet Head appearing in the distance.  There were also many free roaming sheep on the roads and moorland which I always love to see, however with free roaming sheep come cattle grids, and cattle grids when wet are the arch enemy of the cyclist. I crossed one on an uphill section and felt my rear wheel spinning on the smooth metal, before I had chance to warn Rachel how slippy it was she was on the grid and then the bike slipped away from underneath her and she came crashing to the ground half in the road half on the grid, but in the middle of the road.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank the first car that didn't even slow down and shot past rachel as she was lying tangled in her bike in the middle of the road...arse!!  But I would genuinly like to thank the next 2 cars that did stop and asked if there was anything they could do.  Rachel is fine, cut and bruised but nothing too serious.

We stopped for lunch at Melvich and Rachel got her cuts and bashes cleaned up, and then we set off for our final afternoon.  We had a lot af great cycling in the afternoon, big long descents on wide and quiet roads.  We approached Castle of Mey where we were regrouping for our arrival at John o' Groats, and also where we were adorning our helmets with a mass buy of yellow marigolds in order to be kind of chicken like!

As we left Mey, it happened again, the heavens opened...there was rain coming out of the sky on a scale I don't think I have ever seen was actually hilarious.  The roads became rivers, nobody's brakes were working...I couldn't have been wetter if I had been in the sea.  But it was brilliant, it was memorable and we all felt great as part of a team and a big bunch of new friends!  As we dexcended into John o' Groats the rain stopped, the sun came out and a rainbow appeared (this is no word of a lie) it was absolutely amazing.  We had done it! 1000 miles of cycling over 14 days.

We had all the photos done and there were loads of tourists snapping photos of us too, it was a bit like being a celebrity.  The Peak Tours guys had champagne for us, it was perfect.

There will be final entry to this blog tomorrow, but I am now back at home, I am tired and have to think about going back to work!!

Day 13 Inverness to Crask 66 miles

It was pouring down with rain this morning in Inverness, not our favourite start to the day but miles have to be covered whatever the weather.  We started off over the Kessock Bridge where dodging waves from the cars going through puddles at high speed was the main aim. After the bridge there was a lot of cycle path until we got towards Conan Bridge…a distant memory of a pub called the Drouthy Duck entered my mind as we cycled past there!!
The view towards Bonar Bridge...starting to appear out of the rain and mist!

We then headed to Bonar Bridge and our lunch stop.  It was an oasis of heat at the Bridge Hotel with an open fire roaring and more pieces of cycle clothing than in your average shop, drying by the fire.  Most of us were fairly reluctant to leave after lunch, but the rain had stopped so we made a move.

We headed over the back road past the Falls of Shin and then headed for Lairg.  It was starting to get a bit warmer and the sun was trying to appear.  The quietness and remoteness of Sutherland was stunning, and the cycling along these single track roads was beautiful.  The obligatory Highland cow was out for a photo stop which everyone appreciated.

After some more lovely cycling we descended through the moorland to the Crask Inn, our destination for the night.  Mike and Kai, the owners, welcoming us into their home like friends.  If you have never been to the Crask it is worth a visit for its welcome alone (but take midgey repellant!)

The Crask

Our evening meal was in the small dining room round one table.  Kai had cooked a fabulous venison stew with dumplings.  It was like a big family meal, sharing stories and telling jokes, we had a great evening.
Dinner time
Today's stats
Number of pairs of gloves beside the fire in the Bridge Hotel - 20
Number of cyclists you can squeeze into a small place beside an open fire - around 10, but with others trying to barge in!!
Number of pints of the Crask's Organic Lager drunk altogether by a group of thirsty cyclists - I'll hazard a guess here - 30! 

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Day 12 Glencoe to Inverness 83 miles

Two words...rain and midges!  Holy moly, we couldn't get going quick enough this morning!! These are the two main reasons I now live on the north east coast of Scotland and not the west, not much rain and no midges!

The Pap of Glencoe

Anyway, after stocking up with Tangfastics at the Glencoe supermarket we got our journey underway to Inverness, it was a bit of a soggy morning with a lot of low cloud so it was heads down and get some speed up time!  We arrived in Fort William in about 50 minutes just as the sun came out and multiple rainbows started to appear.  Our little peloton however needed a loo stop, so as Morrisons came into view it looked like a good idea. (See additional footnote).

The Morrisons sign was a bit high up!

Ben Nevis
We carried on through Fort William stopping to look at what we could see of Ben Nevis, then took a back road which ran alongside the Caledonian Canal round to the Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge. 

We rejoined the A82 there and continued towards Fort Augustus.  Nigel (Peak Tours) had a lovely layby tea stop for us at around 35 miles which was well appreciated.  As we got down to the business of getting to lunch, Rachel and me started practising our time trialling techniques and got some very fast miles under our belt as we rode into Fort Augustus.

And here is where Nessie joined Ruby and myself for the rest of the journey.  Ruby is now adorned with chicken feathers, a seagull feather, heather and now Nessie.

Uphill time trial time! The Peak Tour guys mentioned yesterday that the climb out of Fort Augustus was long and tough and they often used it as a friendly King of the Mountains, the idea being that we timed it ourselves and were totally honest.  So we did...Rachel got 34 mins (K of the M) I got 40 mins, the standing female record was 42 mins...happy much!

We had a great descent and then started to make our way round to Loch Ness on the upper road. When we topped the hill over looking the north end of the loch it was incredible, the view was out of this world.  This was also when I discovered the easy panorama button on my camera!

After a good stop for photos we descended into Inverness stopping for a Scottish Half Pint before finding our B and B's
Enjoying some apres...

One of the best days for stunning views definitely helped by the sun and blue skies.  A fanatstic day's riding!

Weather - rain, drizzle, rain, downpour, drizzle, sun, rain, sun, sun and more sun (west coast weather at its best!)

Random toilet stops - Morrisons supermarket (today), In the Garden Hilton in Glasgow (yesterday)  Abington M-way services (2 days ago), In a field that a bus drove through (last week)

Chicken - coping ok, but cut even more holes in his suit as it was soooo hot today!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Day 11 Loch Lomond to Glencoe 67 miles

After an amazing night in the Loch Lomond Youth Hostel Castle’s enormous bedroom we got organised to leave.  Unfortunately though, Helen had her phone stolen while it was charging in the TV room, this made us all really angry and upset for Helen, things like this shouldn’t happen.  However Helen was being really positive about the whole thing.

Loch Lomond in the early morning sun

We set off for the day from Duck Bay along the West Lomond Cycle Path which kept us off the main road until Tarbet.  The route was lovely with incredible views across the loch.  The sun was shining but it was really, really windy.  We had lots of photo stops along the way.  We then got on the road to Crianlarich which was into the strongest headwind I have ever ridden in.  What a long slog that was.  Eventually after turning towards Tyndrum it was a side and tailwind.

We arrived in Tyndrum and Mum and Douglas were there waiting at the lunch stop, it was great to see them.  We had lunch together and then they headed home and we continued on towards Glencoe. The route is a really busy one, but a road with amazing views.  It was so windy however that it was a bit scary at times as I was being blown towards the side of the road by cross winds.  As we summited the hills and entered the highlands Rannoch Moor opened up in front of us, it always amazes me how beautiful this place is…and then over the top to the stunning mountains that waymark Glencoe. Buachaille Etive Mor was encased in low cloud and looked as haunting as it always does, and the Aonach Eagach Ridge stood out against the greying skies.  Not a day to be ridge walking today, that’s for sure.
Glencoe looming

As we descended through the valley the wind eased ever so slightly, but it was still strong enough to give us a fright when it caught us with a cross-gust.   We arrived at the turn off and stopped at the Clachaig Inn for a bravery half pint (well, a pint to be honest) before making our way to the Youth Hostel.

Roadkill – nearly a few cyclists, but not a lot apart from that!
Mechanicals – I have a squeak and a rattle but Graham sorted it out at lunchtime.
Weather – muggy, sunny, cloudy and force 25 gales!!
Chicken – lost many of his remaining feathers in the wind and had to dismantle his charity box from his frame as it kept catching the wind!

Day 10 Moffat to Loch Lomond - 86 miles

To re title this day…A day of Contrasts and Comedy

We left Moffat nice and early today as it was an 86 miler and began with the obligatory morning climb which was a long but steady climb with some lovely views.  Obviously, after the climb was a ,agic descent and then  we rejoined the B7076.  To say this road is monotonous is actually a compliment, however it served its purpose and delivered some swift miles.  We had a couple of photo stops at wind farms, but then basically time trialled to the Avonbridge for lunch.  I headed the peloton for around 20 miles up til the stop, my legs were feeling really strong and I had my team Garmin top on so was pretending I was David Millar!

After lunch was the route through Glasgow with some mega complicated route notes.  We started off well and even managed a motorway service station stop for the loo, quite a novel experience on a bike!!  Then we had the first time-eater, poor Sharon had a rear wheel puncture. Da Dave Ron Ron Ron helped her sort it and we were on the road again.  We carried on towards Cambuslang as the route notes directed but totally missed a right turn until our mileage didn’t recky up and we had to do a u turn and cycle about 3 miles back. A bit of a comedy moment when you see a bunch of people watching a 10 strong peloton go one way, and then seeing them, 5 minutes later travelling the other way!!

Eventually we found the NCN 75and started our traffic free route in to Glasgow.  I have to say, the Clydeside route was amazing.  When we arrived in the city centre we were able to admire structures such as the Science Centre, the Glasgow Auditorium etc with no traffic breathing down our asses!!  We meandered along the Clyde for a few miles seeing such a variety of buildings and structures, a real difference from all the countryside we have seen, and one that I enjoyed a lot.  Heading out of Glasgow eventually towards Loch Lomond brought us upon the Bankie Bike Statue next to the canal.  Much fun was had on this and lots of photos taken and then we continued along the canal path cycle route.

Loch Lomond Youth Hostel
We eventually started heading for Balloch and arrived there in beautiful evening sunshine enough to help navigate to the Lomond Youth Hostel…a beautiful castle.  I cannot believe that I took the cheapest option yet get to sleep in the most amazing  building I have ever seen in my life (apart from Buck Palace).
Today’s group – Me, Rach, Sharon, Sue, Frances, Helen, Nick, and Da Dave Ron Ron
Roadkill- 1 x hare and some other things!
Chicken update – he has been making catapults with Charley out of inner tubes and firing stones all over the place.
Mechanicals – 1 x puncture (Sharon), one rear wheel issue sorted by the brilliant Graham (Peak Tours)
What a day, sun and rain but an incredible ride.  Thank you Sustrans for city car-free cycle routes!!

Monday, 13 August 2012

Day 9 – Keswick to Moffat 71 miles

 Looking out of the window of the Youth Hostel this morning we expected the worse in regard to the weather, however it was not as bad as forecast, and after a good YHA brekkie we set off for Moffat.  Our first 10-15 miles were mostly climbing but with great views behind us of the lakes and the moody misty mountains.  We arrived on a moorland plateau where there was a long straight with the wind behind; it was a great bit of road.  The two most random road signs that made me laugh today were “Cats Eyes Removed” (ouch!) and “Cows Drive Slowly” (get a mooooove on then!)

We stopped a few times for photos and Ron kindly took one of me with a Lakeland view in the background, only I didn’t seem to be in it, we will have camera lessons tomorrow…
At the very top of the climb the van was waiting for the brew stop, which was well needed.  We then descended into Carlisle…looking for a “big dixon’s chimney” which was in our route notes!  We didn’t really know what a dixon’s chimney was, however there was a massive one as a waymarker in Carlisle!
After getting through the city it was on the road to Gretna, and of course Scotland.  We arrived at the sign and spent a lot of time mucking around and taking photographs.  It feels strange but amazing that we have made it all this way so far.

The afternoon was spent slogging to Moffat along what used to be the trunk road through D and G before the M74, not the most exciting of routes but a necessity!  We spiced it up by taking a wrong turn through Lockerbie and having to use sat nav on our phones to find the route again!!
With 10 miles to go Scotland welcomed us in the way only Scotland can do…the heavens opened, so with our heads down we motored towards our destination as fast as we could.
Anne and Toby came to visit me in Moffat tonight which was brilliant, although Toby couldn’t work out why I wasn’t in my house and kept asking where Uncle Steve was. 

Roadkill – loads of hedgehogs and a couple of rabbits
Chicken update – he has learned about drafting and used this to good effect today
Weather – decent start, windy on the tops but a tail wind, rainy in Scotland