Woohoo - so as I write this we’ve made it, first past the post, champagne reception, last one in the pool buys the drinks… An emotional day filled with thoughts of getting there and reflection on the challenges faced, but still a day with 76 long miles that needed riding..
So the final day’s top 10:
1 - Bridge of Forss Hotel - leaping salmon, hot chocolate, coffee & shortcake biscuits, a £20 donation to the bucket and a plush carpet to caress sore feet after the first 50 miles of the day. Nice find Charlie the driver
2 - A simple route: Day 3’s direction stretched across 2 pages, todays was 2 roads with a right turn after 39 miles - easy even we could follow them without getting lost. Much poring over maps from the 2nd Guess Crew until we all agreed that even Biagio couldn’t get lost (which he didn’t!)
3 - Phone reception - how is it possible to have 3 bars on your phone over the mountainous, barren bit at the very top of Scotland but nothing from Edinburgh upwards? We couldn’t even tweet or flickr for a couple of days - we didn’t know what to do with ourselves and even tried a conversation at dinner one evening with moderate success.
4 - The Helmsdale River: from Helmsdale to the coast we followed the Helmsdale river, watching various wader-clad fishermen trudging off to their alloted spots and even witnessed the landing of a salmon to much exitement from the tweed-encrusted fisherman. It was (and probably still is) a beautiful river, meandering its way through the mountains, keeping its banks and small islands green whilst the rocky, mossy landscape broods menacingly from either side. Lots of sheep, border collies and ruddy-cheeked men looking on as 4 cyclists swept by.
5 - Classic Cars: this road by the Helmsdale river was also the route of the Scottish Classic Car Club’s annual outing to Wick for lunch. Biagio was drooling as over £5m of motor-car roared past us: highlights were the Ferrari 275 GTB, Mercedes 300SL, 1950s vintage Bentley, 2 Porsche 911s (2-a-penny if you ask me) Lancia Zagato and the gorgeous Aston Martin DB4 Zagato. Pity they weren’t stopped having a drink otherwise we’d have been straight over shaking the donation bucket…
6 - Castle of Mey: bequethed to the people of Caithness by the Queen Mother (Gawd bless ‘er) this stunning castle and grounds proved our last stop before JOG. The staff popped out for a chat when they saw the bikes and took a few photos before telling us stories of the Royal Family larking abut on the lawns the previous summer - mental images of Prince Charles with plastic sheeting and a bottle of washing up liquid spring to mind but it probably something a lot more sedate. Go see it if you’re ever up this way, well worth a visit (although Gossy again missed it preferring to push on, head down, looking at the tarmac as it passed under his wheel)
7 - Countdownt to LEJOG: After 1000 miles, we became very excited as the sign-posts started to count down to our destination and a handily placed sign at 37 miles co-incided nicely with our breaking the 1,000 mile barrier (well it may have been a mile or so under or over but for the purposes of this blog, it was bang-on where the sign was!!) Each sign necessitated a photo-stop - 37 miles, 16 miles, 8 miles, then nothng until the 1/4 mile mark - we actually thought we’d missed it until we were nearly upon it.
8 - Dounray Power Station: It may be being de-commissioned but its still as imposing as when it was completed - the reactors and the radar bubble and the car park positioned an extraordinary distance from the buildings (which must be a pain on windy, rainy days - which is most of them from what I can see from the weather reports…)
9 - Press - getting mentions in the North Scotland Herald that announces the groups taking on the LEJOG challenge and the days they plan to arrive. We only know because other people waiting at JOG for another rider recognised the signs on the van and exclaimed “Oh you’re the ickle pickle guys - we’ve been wondering what the ickle pickles were since we saw it in the newspaper” - No donations though..
10 - Completing LEJOG - I’ve saved arriving till last as surely it deserves it- the sense of achievement, the worries about making it falling away as the marching band starts up a tune and the crowds cheer…but no…it was, not-surprisingly really, an anti-climax.
The road was pretty quiet, one lady looked sleepily up from her souvenir-stall as we whooped an hollered in and tried to find the world-famous sign-post. But it had been taken down for the night as it kept getting vandalised, when we called the phone number to see if it could be put up for us, we were told the man (Dave) had gone to the pub and there was a man asleep in a Vauxhall Astra parked acrcoss the Start / Finish line so we missed that too…
So we circled on the bikes for a minute or two before realising what we had achieved and giving ourselves some hearty pats of the back and joking about removing each others numbers from our phones (please Fizzy never call me again with the phase “I’ve had an idea”).
Then Charlie produced some champagne and we found the substitute sign that had been put up for people just like us…and it was as if the anti-climax had never happened - we celebrated in style for a minute or two before disappearing into our phones to tweet, facebook and flickr - ah the curse of the smartphone!
After that we took great pleasure in packing the bikes into the van and then just before we drove off, spotting a lone piper, who was here to welcome another LEJOG rider to JOG.
We cajoled him (Cheers Graham!) into having his photo taken with us and playing Scotland the Brave, so we feel like we got the welcome we deserved after all.
After that it was in the van to Wick for a slap up dinner and lashings of ginger beer at Missus Miggin’s legendary olde pie shoppe. Far too many toasts to the hardest climb, best view, fastest speed followed as we contemplated the 15 hour drive back to our various homes tomorrow.
Mileage: 76 miles: Total mileage: 1036
Quote of the day “I’m sorry luv, he’s gone to the pub, can you come back tomorrow?” Dave the photographer’s wife when we rang asking if he could come down and put the sign up for us….
Saddleometer: Has been retired, no longer needed - please feel free to take it on your trip if you go…
That’s it - I’ll put a few photos on here as well…if you want my route email me at firstname.lastname@example.org - yours for a small donation to the Ickle Pickles Children’s Charity - www.icklepickles.org
Rebellion in the ranks this morning led to our latest start yet and the feeling that we’ve broken the back of the ride - just 2 days to go and only 80 and 75 miles respectively…easy easy easy…
Today’s top 10:
1 - Technical problems: No sooner had someone said “We’ve had no problems with the bikes” before Biagio buckled his wheel and lo-and-behold we had a problem with one of the bikes. The next 3 hours were spent changing wheels, finding bike shops, changing cleats, cleaning shoes, changing inner-tubes and tyres before getting on our way again. The most galling thing was shivering by a wall as we waited for the van to return with a fixed bike only to see a nice cosy restaurant round the next bend - at least it wasnt raining…!
2 - Bridges: Finding them or more particularly, finding your way to the one over the Moray Firth from Crieff. We could see it but could we get to it? - none of the roads went that way and when we eventually did find a road going East, we were heading into a force 9 gale. We were rewarded for our efforts with the first sign for John O’Groats which preciptated much excitement and some odd looks from drivers as Fizzy moonwalked and span whilst highlighting the sign - he never could master any dance moves beyond the caterpillar and even then he keeps cutting his chin open on the dance-floor.
3 - Jacuzzis: almost certainly the reason we left late this morning, the Ramada had a sauna & jacuzzi - good to ease aching muscles before heading out on the bikes. We nearly popped into the gym to join the spinning class but eventually decided against it….
4 - Dunrobin Castle - only built 150 years ago and closed by the time we rumbled up past 6ish - we were able to admire the victorian gardens and walk around the turrets and butresses uninterrupted. Some great photos and a great view back to the castle and its cliff-top position from the road to Helmsdale.
5 - Rainbow Salmon: caught that day by the Helmsdale Hotel’s landlord using a Rondo fly and a medium weight line. Grilled with lemon-juice, chips and vegetables. Enough said.
6 - Taking in a view or getting there? Two distinct camps on our LEJOG trip. I like to stop, take a photo, maybe learn something about what I’m looking at - the others want to hammer it and get there by 2o’clock for tea and crumpets. I’m bringing them round, even Biagio has requested a photo or two and stopping at Dunrobin Castle was met with approval rather than general moaning…
7 - Scottish road planners: Are earning our respect - none of this over the mountain or even up the side of it like their English counterparts - Round the hills and through the valleys - we love you Mr. Faceless planner bloke - keep up the good work!!
8 - Chipsticks - salt & vingar flavour - no lunch is complete without them
9 - Portgower - specifically the road through it as the village passed in a blur as we swept through - our reward for the final climb of the day before hitting Helmsdale - lovely bit of road.
10 - Cheeseboards - shouldn’t contain Primula squirty cheese…sorry but its a fact. Probably put there by the Trainee who was 5 days into her first job (we knew she was a trainee as it said ‘Trainee’ on her name badge) - didn’t stop Biagio giving her some chat, although the landlady soon put him in his place with a few carefully worded put-downs and folded arms - she really MUST see it all the time…
Quote of the day: “All you cyclists get a bit cheeky by the time you get up here” Said landlady responding to Biagio’s banter
Mileage: 81 miles: Total mileage: 968 miles
Saddleometer: Starting to appreciate how the princess felt in the princess and the pea story. Simply can’t get comfy, which is a problem when you’re sitting on a bike for 7 hours every day. The application of various creams is being discussed more openly and certain images are burned into my retinas and destined to be the silhouette I see whenever I look at a lighbulb for too long…
A sense of Euphoria pervading the group as we gear up for the last day…
Lots of debate about the route this morning, Google seems to be saying that the selected route is 154 miles, so lots of toys out of prams as we debate how to reduce this. We ended up with the marker pen tracing a route along the A9 for a while - so we set off thinking we would forego the scenic-countyside for the joys of A-road riding…so how did we get on?
Today’s Top Ten:
1 - Rude & indifferent hotel-staff: its such a shame when a nice hotel is ruined by staff who find their guests an inconvenience. The first conversation about the van’s registration number on the booking-in form set the tone:
“why do you need the registration number?”…
“in case you’re blocking anyone in”…
“we’re not we’re parked by the wall”…
“oh well in case the alarm goes off”…
“but it doesn’t have an alarm”…
“In case it gets broken into”…
“How many cars have you had broken into in the last year?”
“None…but I still need the number”…
“oh for goodness sake…”
Every request after this was met with a sigh and a look of disdain and we were resigned to our fate as we overheard other guests also getting the same treatment so it wasn’t just the mohawk and unshaven appearance.
As compensation for no hot water they offered us a free drink each the next time we returned, a drink that I fear will be sitting on the bar for many years to come because we won’t be returning to the Killin Hotel in Killin any time soon and I’d hope you won’t go there either…
2 - Loch Tay: the day started with a stunning ride along the banks of Loch Tay, which would have been twinkling gently in the morning sunlight if the cloud-cover had allowed. A great 15 mile start to the day.
3 - Road-closures: A big short-cut was cut short by a sign announcing a road-closure ahead. “Oh we’ll be fine” was the general conversation as we weaved around the sign and continued up the hill think that a charity-bike ride will be able to get through anything…we were wrong…
4 - The Caledonian Etape: Ah…if you’ve ever wondered what 5,000 cyclists on a road-race looks like - I can tell you it’s quick, multi-coloured and immovable. We did point out that the Ickle Pickles LEJOG challenge was a major event and discussed them stopping the race for us to pass but for some reason they said no. So we were faced with turning back & finding a new, longer route or something else…something a little bit naughty…somethign the organisers wouldn’t approve of…So we joined the Race.
Suddenly Biagio found his race-legs, Fizzy & Gossy became serious cyclists as we raced along roads and paths, accepting the applause of spectators, gifts of sweets and oranges, being inspired by the pipers and chatting amaiably with other riders (who had already ridden 60 miles) before blasting off to the next group.
Great fun for the 20 miles to Pitlochry where we were funnelled through the cheering crowds, official photographers, TV crews and congratulatory banners to the holding area where medals and water were being handed out. We all eased up a little as we considered our lack of race numbers, time-chips or proof of race-entry of any kind.
Hesitation & doubt set in until the mob-mentality set in and we surged forward to try our luck fo a medal…
5 - I got a medal
6 - Fizzy got a medal
7 - Biagio got a medal
8 - Paul didn’t get a medal - but currently occupies the lonely moral high-ground and revels in the thought of the cycling inspector knocking on his door investigating the mysterious case of the missing 3 medals…
9 - The A9. 87 miles to Inverness on the A9 is a long way in a car let alone on a bike. Haulage and Logging lorries thundered past and horns blared as speeding drivers swerved to avoid us, the rain poured, hail fell and we dried off as the sun shone. Today was all about the mileage and Aviemore and Newtonmore passed as the knees and ankles starting to make their objections known…
10 - Karaoke bars in Inverness on a Sunday night: They should be closed forthwith. Scotland’s answer to the Cantina bar in Star Wars - Super-Tennants on tap, Vodka & irn-Bru chasers and pub-grub of salt & vinegar crisps and pork scracthings - made for interesting viewing!
Quote of the day “I can understand it from those two, but I’m disappointed in you Fizzy” Gossy on learning that we’d all got medals for completing the last 20 miles of the 81 miles Caledonian Etape.
Mileage: 125 miles: 871 miles in total
Saddleometer: The Gel seat cover went on today, meaning we have 3 pairs of shorts, a gel seat and a gel-seat cover protecting sore bits. Elsewhere reports of bone-deep aches, numbness and bruising rapidly putting fledgling career as saddle correspondent to the sword.
Tired tired tired…longest mileage today and the conversation at dinner was a little flat…
Not two places I’ve heard of before, but we picked them out on the map and are heading there regardless. Killin is at the southern end of Loch Tay, which will make for a beautiful ride first thing tomorrow, but means a bit of a detour from Edinburgh..
Lots to report today - so lets start with Today’s top ten…
1 - Rosslyn Chapel - slight detour off the advertised route to take in Rosslyn chapel, which we knew about before the film came out but the owners now seem to be milking it for every hard earned penny they can get - £7.70 and it was covered in scaffolding. Fizzy, Gossy & Baggio stood there sour-faced and refused to come in on principle (one lady, I think she may have been American, even had her copy of the Da Vinci code with her (bless) but Harry, Gazza and I braved the rampant commercialisation and ventured inside….not bad truth be told - 40 years of master-stonemasonry crammed into a church the size of your front room - cracking bit of roof action with stories of deceit, intrigue and deception thrown in for good measure. If you like churches, go see it, if not….then give it a miss.
2 - Edinburgh - popped into the city centre to meet my other half and her friends, who just happened to be on a girly weekend (sans kids) - lots of dark glasses and “oh no we were in bed by midnight” suggests they got their stories straight in the cab on the way over. Great city made even greater by riding through it for the first time, grey imposing architecture and the castle bathed in late morning sunshine, peeping out between the blocks as we rode to Princes Street for coffee & cake.
Here I made my biggest mistake of the week as when Rachael asked what happened to me getting my head shaved for the trip, rather than saying nothing, I said I’d have it done here and now if we could raise £100 from passers-by….15 minutes later I was sitting in the middle of a busy Edinburgh intersection as Biagio (of hairdressing fame) gave me a mohawk (he’s promised to make it a no.1 all over in John O’Groats) and the others collected money form passers-by. I do look like a man in full-on mid-life crisis mode, however we raised approx £200 so just about worth it..!
3 - Prevailing winds - in the UK they are south westerly which in my book means right behind us all the way. What we don’t need is northerlies or indeed any wind with ‘north’ anywhere near it - unfortunately we got that today for 8.5 hours - if I railed and shouted at the heavens once I did it 10 times…farmers looked at me strangely, luckily the mohawk was hidden beneath the cycling helmet otherwise the police may have been informed…
4 - Gleneagles - we rode right past it, could have popped in if we weren’t dressed more ridiculously than your average golfer. The 10 mile stretch before Gleneagles was notable only for the amount of flash cars that were driving back to Edinburgh - ferrari, porsche, bentley, the odd TVR for the internet entrepreneurs (they’ll soon grow out of it) and the odd Honeywell Range Rover too…
5 - The A823 - now I wouldn’t normally road-drop but this road was awesome, fast, winding, great views either side - we all loved it and took off at breakneck speed down to Gleneagles.
6 - Bridges and side-winds - the Forth road bridge (don’t confuse this with the rail bridge - good advice there) clearly needs more side-wind signage as we could barely ride in a straight line - we rested the bikes against the railings to take photos and they were flattened - came off the bridge breathless but exhilarated. Geting to the bridge was also a challenge, the cycle path spat us out into a boots car-park at one point and then took us under the bridge we needed so we were looking straight up above our heads at where we needed to go - got there in the end obviously….
7 - Loch Earn - 21 miles of Loch loveliness - the breeze lapping waves onto a jetty at one end, the fishermen camping out and grilling their catch (although if you’re the gamekeeper reading this, I’m sure they were cooking something from Tesco’s fish counter…)
8 - Road-kill - we’ve seen a lot of it - all manner of birds, game, a deer, badgers, foxes, but today we saw a little cuddly red squirrel - if they don’t have enough issues with the grey squirrels beating them up every night they have to contend with dodgy drivers too…
9 - After 110 miles and a climb to finish the day, a most unexpected joy descended on seeing the “Welcome to Killin” sign - joy that was tinged with frustration when we realised it had been placed 5 miles outside town by some over-zealous marketing manager….edge of town please for future reference…
10 - Haribo - more of them please, especially the tang-tastic ones - 1 bag is never enough…
Quote of the day: ”I’ll give you £100 right now…” Gazza’s immediate response when hearing my rash statement over coffee in Edinburgh….(sigh)
Mileage: 101 miles 757 in total
Saddleometer: More padding - will 3 pairs of shorts work? We’ll soon find out…very sore spots amongst general discomfort. Lots of standing on the pedals and shifting around to find more comfy positions…
Dis I forget to mention yesterday that we’re over HALF WAY! - can’t believe it has passed so quickly and we’re making such rapid progress up the country - since we stopped heading East to get out of Cornwall and Devon, we’ve shot up the country and we hit Scotland today!!
So today’s top 10:
1 - starting with food today - Fudge - more of it please - sugary, sickly, sweet loveliness - not sure we needed the quantity we bought, but bloomin lovely.
2 - continuing the food theme - pork pies, Brampton Pork Pies to be precise, no jelly, full of meat, bang-on when you’ve cycled 40 miles and need a snack to re-charge a battery or two.
3 - Scottish border - we started seeing Scotland written at the top of signs from approx 5 miles from the border and then suddenly there it was, a bloomin massive blue sign with the familar white cross of St. Andrew blazing the trail into Scotland. Not magnetic though so we couldn’t put our ickle pickles sign up there for a photo opportunity. Interestingly there was no Welcome to England sign on the other side of the road - its probably been taken down and burnt by the Scots - there are a lot of Scottish flags flying on flagpoles on houses near the border, but fewer the further into Scotland you get - seems as if people have to make the statement of their Scottishness the nearer they choose to live to the auld enemy…
4 - Weather - I know I keep banging on about it - but really, hailstones at the same time as sunshine is odd in anyone’s book isn’t it….nice rainbow though…
5 - Overshoes - last minute purchase and I bought the ones that look like diving shoes but roasty toasty feet when all about is soaking wet make me a happy man. We’re getting more wrapped up the further north we come - even the sunshine seems a little weaker as if its alarm has gone off and its just realising it should be at work…
6 - The Royal Oak, Appleby - Northern pub of the year last year and we can see why. TOP breakfast - the beans even had their own little dish to keep the sauce away from the other items - amazing the things that make one breakfast better than another.
7 - Down to that last 4 riders today - no more one-leggers and it doesn’t look like Harry will be able to get back on the bike following his trip to A&E last night - but he’s come back to finish the trip as main cheerleader. Riding in tandem today, flying along the A66 - covered some good ground - not totally sure of the hand signals yet or the shouted warnings…but it seems to work ok besides a couple of wobbles into the road and the odd lorry-driver who thought it would be funny to hoot as he went past….
8 - Courtesy to other cyclists. Come on boys - a little wave is all that’s needed - most people are fine and a certain camraderie can be found in the tight-lipped nod or micro-wave from the handlebar. Some don’t bother though, just look straight ahead and focus on the road - they’re probably like that off a bike too - although generally its the spandex-clad fools (yes matching orange cap and shoes you know who you are) who don’t acknowledge anyone else
9 - Deep-heat & Nurofen - keeping us all going now. We reeked of it as we arrived at breakfast this morning - and popping 2 Nurofen seems as natural now as brushing your teeth.
10 - Stunning scenery into Scotland - this is going to be the best part of the trip - cracking rivers and rolling fields - simply beautiful.
Mileage: 106 miles 656 in total
Max 35.7 miles (Paul - off a cliff for him…)
Appleby in May - just 2 weeks before the horse-fair - the calm after the storm - and what a storm it was…rain, hail, wind, the odd bit of lightning and the biggest hill most of us have ever taken on…..we had 2 other possibles but one of the guys who climbs hills in the Pyrenees for fun, took one look at the route and said a flat ‘No thanks’…see the photos - was a proper hill.
Anyway to the top 10:
1 - Hill-Climbs - 6,400 feet climbing today into and then out of the Trough of Bowland - the hills just kept on giving and the rain kept on coming in waves - seriously hard-work climbing in highest gear for an hour. A couple of us stopped at the van to stock up on choccy before the climb and we watched one of the riders battle uphill for 10 minutes and not making much progress - was a little daunting…
2 - For every ascent, a descent - and this was a cracker if a little cold on the pinkies due to the force 10 gale trying to blow us back to the top of the hill…the 42mph reached down the hill was almost worth the climb (but maybe not…)
3 - 4 more riders joined us today, each collecting sponsorship to add to the pot - Phil, Ads, Sausage & Scott - top effort gentlemen - and I say top as their was far too much uphill for anybody’s liking
4 - Comedy falls - Sausage turned up in a rather spanking pair of cycling shoes, with matching pedals to boot…only problem was he hadn’t practiced getting his feet out of the pedals and after setting off, he promptly fell of at the first corner - unfortunately it was in front of all the riders and most of Whalley high street
5 - Weather Forecast - we have NEVER been so glued to the weather forecast - each morning its discussed and dissected as never before - going to rain a lot apparently - put the sun cream on ice….
6 - Whalley Abbey - the rooms face East - the rising sun drifting in through the curtains and bathing the room in an eerie light - was very odd indeed - and THEN we learn its supposed to be haunted - (shiver….) - good brekkie though…
7 - Hot choccy is becoming the drink of the week - with cream and marshmallows if you have an extra quid - 6 of those please…
8 - Hotel locations - here’s the new rule…hotels should be located in villages…NOT up a 3/4 mile climb once you think you’ve arrived….landlords move your hotels now…
9 - Supplies - ok so Gazza is a great support driver…is at every corner…waving directions…takes loads of photos…does the maps each morning…but fizzy drinks and crisps aren’t what we need after 4 hours on a bike…oh well can’t have everything…
10 - Accidents - Biagio is causing mayhem - 4 minor collisions due to random swerving…thought he could ride….
Quote of the day…”Call that a hill….” Peely after an hour of climbing…
Mileage: 68m (all uphill it seemed…) 546m in total
5 hours 38 in the saddle - (sigh..)
Saddleometer: Spoke to soon…we’ve definitely cracked something…a lot of conversation now about soreness and various short-area ailments. Chamois cream being used copiously…
The days are starting to merge into one as a hundred miles stops taking on any meaning - this is tarting to feel like groundhog day or some self-inflicted version of purgatory - oh its a Wednesday, we must be be cycling 100 miles…
Don’t get me wrong its great fun but there is that moment when you wake up when you think “Now what shall I do today?” then you remember its all been mapped out and you’ve got to get your sorry behind out of bed and onto a saddle…
Today we’re riding through the north west and its town-riding, we’ll skirt most of the town-centres but those north-west football towns came and went pretty quickly, Wigan, Bolton, Blackburn, before hitting little Whalley and the unexpected pleasure of staying in the Abbey.
Anyway today’s top ten:
1 - Rivington Pike (or Winter Hill if you prefer your geographic references to include TV masts). Tough climb, great views and a FANTASTIC ride down the other side. The approach also included good views of the reebox stadium looking out of place nestled below the TV towers and lower slopes of the pike. Fizzy does this route every day on his route to work - beats Boris’ cycle path let me tell you
2 - Cycling as a group - Peely has joined us for a couple of days (knee permitting) and the 5 of us riding today stayed together ALL day - no turbo-nutter blasts from the ‘real’ cyclists on the trip - a good pace and proper navigation - won’t last though..
3 - Radio interviews - nothing for the first 4 days and then 2 turn up all at once - ok so Apple FM and BlackDiamond FM may not be household radio stations and I can’t remember seeing them when I was trying to find Atlantic 252 on my Digital radio - but from small acorns and all that…was a bit unnerving to ring up and find yourself straight on air and I managed to suppress my tendency to giggle in situations that really do NOT require a giggle…went rather well all told. Follow up interviews later in the week with Jason & Geoff respectively - DJ voice ready….
4 - Toll Bridge charges - £5 for the M6 toll, £11.50 for the Severn Bridge….none of that rubbish when we went over a railway bridge outside Bolton - a wonderful 12p, which we were let off as we were a charity! Oh and you could buy a full day pass for 25p - I mean why wouldn’t you?
5 - Place names - today we cycled down into and then out of Salmesbury bottoms - lovely but 2 miles to the west there was a nice little flat route or ‘pootle’ as its become known amongst our close little group. Now I’m not one to shirk a challenge but if you’re planning this trip, look at your map again and re-plan it around places-names containing: hill, tower, tops, bottoms, lower, higher, greater, gorge, trough, upper, peak, fort - you might miss a view of two but your legs will thank you…!
6 - Another great ride - Salmesbury (after the climb) down to Whalley - 45mph plus - a great reward for the climb and a great way to finish the day (means a climb out first thing tomorrow but who cares right now)
7 - Carrot cake - big chunking pieces of moist cake with dollops of creamy icing on top. Enough said.
8 - Whalley Abbey - ok so only the foundations of the original Abbey remain but a very picturesque mansionhouse and B&B annex await the hardy traveller who turns up at their door. Replete with booming fireplaces, priest-hole, comfy sofas and a late night bar - a bit of history and unnecessary night-cap - good combo.
9 - Surprise visits - being met at Whalley Abbey by Rachael, Charlie & Thomas - Charlie ignoring me for 2 minutes because I’ve been away for 5 days (well he only 3) - Tom getting very excited about the red balloon (well he is only 1) - me getting very excited and rolling about on the floor with them (well I am only 39) - nice end to a hard day
10 - Volunteers - Gazza, Scott, Phil, Ads, Sausage - all giving up a day of their time to raise some money for the ickle pickles - top effort!
Quote of the day: ”What the *&%^ is a pootle?”
Mileage: 88m : Total 472m
Max speed today: 45.2 (Andy) - not wuite up to Biagio standards…
Saddale time so far: 31 hrs 12 mins
Saddleometer: Not too bad today - no hills I think and the 2 pairs of shorts thing is going down a treat. I may be speaking too soon but we may have cracked it.
Flatter, quicker, easier - typical on the day that we are joined by the London Team, it eases up so they can’t appreciate how tough its been…oh well on the plus side there’s another 5 people to shake a bucket at lunchtime and raise some more money!
Today’s Top Ten:
1 - Being joined by 4 other riders from London to bring the Peleton up to 9 - Anna D, Jon G, Kasia and Al, ably supported by young Jimbo who kept us rocking with funky tunes, although I’m not sure the local farmers were too pleased as Faithless disturbed the cows
2 - Chocolate Brownie (yes ok so food is appearing quite a lot in these ramblings, but when you’re on a bike and all you can think about is what you’re next going to eat, that next snack becomes all consuming. Anna Duttson’s chocolate brownies - famed in 5 counties and now appearing on a charity bike ride near you…
3 - Garmins - brilliant invention if you know how to use them…Biagio doesn’t but Kasia (who joined us today) does so we had accurate directions for a while until we all started to 2nd guess the contraption and ended up getting lost.
4 - Ironbridge - the start of the Industrial Revolution - the end of the line for Fizzy’s wheel - only he saw the bridge but I am reliably informed that it was ‘the best view ever……’
5 - Snoring - stop it…please stop it…its 3 in the morning for goodness sake….ear plugs!
6 - Chamois cream - stops chaffing…(works too!)
7 - Little Wenlock - small unassuming, positioned at the top of a hill - demands the respect afforded by a 1:6 gradient - that was a good climb to look at when approaching the village…
8 - PR strategy - kicked in this afternoon with National paper coverage (well I hear the Ross Gazzette is a well-read all over the UK - photographer arrived to take some snaps for the paper - it’ll be Time magazine next…
9 - The Hare & The Tortoise: and the Tortoise nearly won! After several Garmin-led wrong turns we turned for market Drayton with the back-markers in the lead - shock reported on the faces of the ‘proper’ cyclists when they heard the news and suddently the chase was on. The romantic in me wants to report that Annd and myself were sipping tea when the main Peleton arrived but alas we were hunted down and the natural order was restored - nearly got there though…
10 - Following a unique dismount from Harry, we shot down the hill for lunch and the best steak and kidney pie in christendom - it was seriously good - refuelling doesn’t get much better!
Quote of the day “Can I slow down now?” Marshy when caught by Paul a mile outside market Drayton
Miles: 95 miles, 384 miles in total
Max speed: 41.3mph Kasia
The Saddlometer: ooh (sharp MOT type intake of breath…) unusual colouring reported, majority of riders on 2-shorts strategy. Chaffing anticipated.
Legs starting to hurt on a morning - planning for 97 miles today…but a worrying trend of post wrong-turn looking at the finer points of the instructions meant we did 108 - just 10 miles you say…but an extra 10 miles on top of 97…hmmmm
So today’s top 10 you groovy people
1 - The Cheddar Gorge. Go there, hire or take a bike and ride up it. Beautiful, stunning, dramatic, memorable, immense - loved it. (a bit of a lung-buster but not actually that bad)
2 - Severn Bridge on the cycle path - the wind dropped and we watched a storm move in across the estuary with sunshine either side - a beautiful moment that demanded the silence it received. Did get a little drenched though…
3 - Chepstow to Tintern Abbey - maybe one the best stretches of road in the UK on a bike - towering trees forming a green tunnel and the wet tarmac glistening in the post-downpour sunshine. Simple enjoyment with the reward of Tintern Abbey at the bottom.
4 - Tintern Abbey - a surprise that appears out of the trees - magnificent gothic architecture, demanded a brake-slam and a moment of silence to take in the sheer size and wonder how the stain-glass window must have looked like in its pomp. Then get distracted by the herd of cows grazing in the grounds, mooing gently to break the moment - pity our peleton boys passed it by with barely a nod - Harry and I enjoyed the scene though
5 - 49.5 miles per hour on a road bike. I’m no expert but this seems quick to me - Baggio we bow to your lack of self-preservation in the pursuit of speed - he lived to tell the tale (over and over and over again mind…)
6 - Bristol & Bath Railway path - pick it up in Saltford, ride for 5 miles through old stations ending up at the old railway sheds with steam engines and old carriages. Great footage of the boys in Ickle Pickle tops in Peleton-mode.
7 - 900 feet in half a mile - now that is a climb - get to Tintern Abbey, continue along the river, turn right at Brockweir and head for St.Briavels - its a hill that will keep on taking…over every brow is another and another…but oh what a reward at the top - views of the valleys and to the estuary - narrow leafy lanes and hedgerows to constrain heavy-breathing and muttered expletives. Strangely satisfying to reach the top.
8 - St. Briavels to English Bicknor down to the valley floor to meet the Wye river. I take it back this MUST be the best ride in England (or at least the best I’ve had the pleasure of careering headlong down). Simply exhilarating although I refer you back to point 7 for a reason not to do it.
9 - The view from the top room at the Royal Hotel in Ross-on-Wye out over the Wye-Valley. Sunrise was witnessed thanks to Biagio and his walruss-snoring impression - very very pleasant indeed.
10 - Mini-cheddars. Firstly biscuit or crisp? Secondly can a snack get any closer to snacky, nibbley, stick-in-the-tooth perfection?
Milage: 108 miles - 289 in total
Max speed today 49.5 - Biagio (see point 5 above or simply see ‘nutter’ in any reputable dictionary)
Hissy-fits: 2 (a ‘navigation’ problem)
The Saddleometer: Reports of severe soreness from the group, lots of Sudocrem discussion and 2 pairs of padded shorts predicted for tomorrow. Suspect we will see a lot of ‘major discomfort’ tomorrow….
Now it may not look like a long way but Taunton is a flippin long way from Wadebridge, especially up, over, round & through the Cornish & Devon hills
So today’s top ten in no particular order:
1. The coastline at Tintangel - the road winds round parallel to the coast and can be found in the dictionary under spectacular, breathtaking and bloomin hilly - a beautiful days ride if you can take your eyes off the road whilst climbing the sheer cliffs that masquerade as hills in these parts.
2. The road to Taunton - 54 miles of it - the B3227 if you want a number - doesn’t actually end and if Taunton hadn’t been in the way we’d probably still be on it. Never go to Norton Fitzwarren, you will be traying to get there for months without actually reaching it - On the plus side, cloudy-cider made an appearance and took up rather more of our time than it should have.
3. Fire. or more specifically an actual flame-fest in our van…my track pump went for a burton and if there was a study in ‘how to panic in a crisis’ we could written a thesis. Luckily it went out when the doors were opened and some masking tape fixed the pesky problem. Could have been an interesting conversation with McGee who have lent us the van - and if they read this…..(oh well no lasting damage…)
4. 106 miles was on the plan. We did 118 - trust me it was a long way.
5. The Fish man. Jonathan something or other who is riding from Lands End to John O Groats dressed as…wait for it…a Fish (a bit like that Guinness add from a year or so ago). Apparently he walked into Rick Steins restaurant and asked if anyone had ordered Tuna…top man.
6. Boscastle - lovely for a day with your grandmother….rubbish for a bike ride…stunning village in a gorge…riding in was brilliant despite the feeling that for every descent there is a corresponding ascent…Has been re-built following the flash-flood last year and does look great when whizzing through…
7. Hissy-fit - advice moving forward - if you cant find the hotel just ask at another hotel where that hotel is - don’t drive around trying to find it whilst using various phones and sat-navs with the wrong post-code. One hissy-fit later and we’re all looking at the walls avoiding eye-contact whilst we find the hotel. Was a nice hotel mind….
8. Bude & Stratton - lovely - great ride in convoy - upped the average for the day nicely…
9. Dog-rescue - young Finn the black lab rescued from the road and a life of 3-leggedness by one of our number - suspiciously close to the top of a steep hill for our liking but the story held up as others had steered round young Finn on their way up…
10. Ham. Don’t compromise - just get the good stuff….
Mileage: 118 miles - 181 in total. 44.7 max speed by Baggio down a cliff - that boy has no fear.
The Saddleometer: Initial soreness…forecast for lots of moving around to get comfy over the next 24 hours. No actual chaffing spotted yet.