Day Nine

Helmsdale to John O’Groats

Last day and half the distance of all the other days was something nice to look forward to. All pictures taken, with the Inn in the background and off we went straight into a climb up the hill that then turned into a massive climb away from th village, a small descent and then another monster long climb, not big ramps just long and constant. Then drop down and the hairpins where quite good with some speeds recorded at 50 mph ! but the side winds were a bit scary for me and an oscillating bike is no fun at speed for me so I chickened out and pulled on the brakes.

After these hills it was a steady rolling countryside again with the wind on our backs and the sea on our right with some beautiful morning vistas of the shore line. As we pulled into the van stop the weather had got a bit colder and we felt the wind chill more so it was a quick what ever was needed, on with jacket and off up the road again. We didn’t really need anything from the van as the distance and weather meant we carried what we wanted.

The sun came out again and the wind was strong, the roads were great as we pushed on towards the town of Wick. Wick came and we were back in a town again, negotiating traffic and people.

A left turn brought us into the wind but it was more of a side wind but hellish strong and as we left Wick it started to rain. we only had a few more miles to go and no freezing cold driving rain was going to drop our spirits now and with John on the front we maintained our onward quest for John O’Groats and our moment with destiny.

The rain dropped but the wind didn’t and relief was had when we turned right off the main road and on to the route but as we did we heard the toot of a motorist with life issues who then, because he couldn’t zoom through the junction, aimed his car at us when the other lane was quite clear. That didn’t dampen the spirit because the miles where coming down and the weather was holding as the sun made it’s appearance through the skidding clouds.

Onwards through the little villages and homesteads and counting down the miles the Orkneys appeared and looked huge in the sun but it was the one goal we were searching for and as we crested the last bank we knew we had it and as the village showed itself we rolled into formation and crossed the sign into John O’Groats together.

Onto the sign post we went and joy and jubilation as we had reached the topmost point and completed over 1000 miles in our long journey and our achievement, now it was over, out of the wind and  a cup of coffee, cream scone out of the wind and cold.

Job done .

Thanks must go to our van driver, Gary, fror driving the bikes to Land’s End, for running our errands, being there with tea, coffee and water refills. For getting stuff repaired and washed . For getting me jelly babies that were great at 100 miles. For not complaining when he’d set up then had to pack up and rescue us, in short he was our star and summed up in the quote one night, “If Carlsberg did van drivers ….. “

 

also thanks go out to

NRG cycles for repairs, Godleys , Edinburgh Cycle Cooperative, Escape Route cycles Pitlockry, DK for shifters , Nick, Julie, Eoin, James, Rob, J Kelly, Mike R, and any other Wheeler I missed also to Scott who rode to Rothbury, Byron Beatty for food at Rothbury, Tomlinson Bunkhouse at Rothbury, The Duke of York at Iddlesleigh for champers and staying open, The Bannockburn Inn for everything, and Marcus for the gels to keep us going and for the repairs to Roy’s zipper ! and apologies for anyone I missed out .

It was an achievement, well done to our riders

 

Day Eight

Kincraig to Helmsdale

As it had hammered down last night we expected rain this morning but when we set off rain just looked likely .

We headed through Aviemore and roads that went up and down through some nice views and nice showers but the rain mainly held off and the jacket stayed off.

It was rolling countryside again heading up and down to Inverness a route that meant going on the A9 again but at least we had some duel carraige ways.

The pitstop in a layby on the A9 had views of the bridge but we were not sure if we could cross by bike, anyway, we headed off to the bridge to find out and we just rolled on to it on a cyclepath seperated from the traffic and off , very windy but great views.

Again we followed the A9 sometimes on and sometimes off and with lots of drivers pointing out alternative routes and their views on the highway code !

The sun was out and we were in good spirits as we rolled through the coutryside and across firths with brilliant backdrops all along the way, hills in the distance and old oilrigs in the firth.

The sun was again hot so at the next stop it was off with gear and on with cream, not long the end now. Coming down a hill we could see the long low bridge we needed so towards it we went and a vanman decided he could get into the right turn before us and almost had me down ! We decided to get over the windy and busy bridge as soon as we could and with great pace the bridge was left behind but then martin had a rock jump up and another blowout ! The tyre was mended with a patch and a gel wrapper and we were off again.

The A9 was a bit better with not so many lorries and on the whole, the cars were playing better just one or two idiots. So it was small hill big hill all the way with the sea on our right and the promise of a good early finish and a lie in for the last leg. The wind was on our backs and the rolling roads were taken at leasure but Helmsdale seemed never to be getting closer. Closer it did and with a “that must be it” we hit the village before but we could see it in the distance and with that we were spurred on to take the prize .

Starter, steak and chips and a sticky toffe pudding were downed as well as afew pints and a taste of whiskey ( old poulteney ) from the land lady at the Bannockburn Inn ( well worth a stay if in this part of the country )

Day Seven

Edinburgh to Kincraig

 

The escape of Edinurgh city was a painless affair, a couple of back roads then we picked up the cycle track and stayed with it all the way to the bridge. The cycle paths were full of commuters going into the heart of the city by bike.

We then traversed more cycle ways past all the traffic standing still coming into the city, eventually popping out at the Firth of Forth Road bridge and the magnificant sight of the, rail, road and new road bridge ( being built )

We took the cycle path across in a very strong cross wind, stopping in the middle for a photo op, trying to get someone to take a picture. An irate scotsman wouldn’t help us but the next cyclist across stopped and was very happy to help us. Chatted and wished us good luck, but she turned out to be english !

Off the bridge and bike shouldered we walked up about 100 steps back onto another path, then away we went leaving the structures behind. Up and down we went through small towns until Martin eventually lost his chain ( gears been playing up all morning ) on the ascent of a climb.

Nothing to serious and we headed off againt through the rolling roads coming to the city of Perth, which was also nice and had a good sysem of cyclepaths that took us down by the river in an easy and enjoyale route through the city and out again in to the countryside.

The road climbed through some forest and we were joined by a scottish rider out for the morning. We all chatted and he gave us the heads up on the road we were on. Eventually we reached the top of the very nice climb and descended at quite a pace, negotiating the bend at the bottom and avoiding the car coming round it !

We said our goodbyes as he headed in the opposite direction and we headed for some drink and food at our next stop.

After the stop we again headed into the countryside and the dreaded A9 which we mostly avoided by using the remains of the old road and cycle paths between, some of which were not very good for road bikes. On we went when eventually we came round a bend in the cycle track and out into a station and there were two Cleveland Wheelers to meet us, Nick and Julie.

They took over and led us on a route through the cycle tacks, some of which would be better on a MTB but the views and countryside were great. For a good few miles we chatted and rode at a good pace all the way to Pitlockry, when as we formed up it was noticed that Meil had a broken spoke. This was lucky as we were within a few yards of the bike shops. Neil went into the shop and we rolled to the van in the carpark.

Pit stop over we now had a few thousand feet of continual climing to get over the pass and onto Kincraig, the main problem was it was along the A9 and all the wagons and fast cars ! We headed up the A9 with Nick and Julie leading and the road went up at a gradual pace but up nevertheless.

We then took the cyclepath, again the old road, going ever upwards until we decided the path was a bit too rough and the road, which seemed quieter now, was a better option. Onto the main road and a, “we will see you in one of the laybys” by the van crew. We hammered along the A9 at good speed but with a bit of trepidation as lorries and cars sped past.

We stopped at a layby as the road started to descend but could see no van and as the cold was setting in decided to jacket up and set off but just after setting of Martin had a blow out and his back tyre went flat. He was left in the layby for the van and we pushed on in our foolhardy reach for the bottom but then salvation in the form of an exit and cycle route but not before Roy missed a turn and had to cycle back up then cross the A9.

We were within reaching distance of the end now and the route went down and flat, so at a very fast pace we legged it along the road with Mick, John and me rotating of the front at a fair lick. Kincraig and the guest house, was reached and we rolled up the drive with the promise of fish and chips tonight.

Day Six

The leg to Edinburgh, a tale of two halves

After replacing the wheel on Roy’s bike and putting the wheel back on mine, we set off for the next leg.

Roads and cycle paths up and down was quite nice if a bit overcast. As we pushed on the rain started and when we popped out on the main road it was really heavy. A stop at a garage and a decision was made to stay on this road all the way to Edinburgh.  A bovril in the garage was like nectar and a burst of energy was taken and we hammered down the road heading for Coldstream and the border.

Good time was again had and we swung over the bridge at Coldstream and Scotland. A quick photo stop and up the bank into town we went. Food drink and a toilet then off pushing hard for Edinburgh stopping for more food and drink.

Back onto the main ride and one long upward drag that went on for ever but once over it was racing downhill to the city and an early finish. Digs sorted showered then out for real food and one or two drinks, bed early and we were firmly in Scotland

Day Five

Home turf

Got off to an early start, breakfast at Easingwold and meet two Wheelers for the ride to Gt Ayton. First obsticle was the bank under the White Horse, much huffing and puffing to the top then a drop down to Bilsdsle and collect three more Wheelers along the way. Then onto Gt Ayton to meet more Wheelers especially Dave Kirton and a spare break lever for Roy’s  bike.

All fed and watered and bikes fixed it was off to the Borough and a photo op  at the Transporter, which was not running. 

We headed out to Hartlepool in a strong head or side wind accompanied by Scott, another Wheeler who was coming with us to Rothbury to share the pain.

Peterlee, Sunderland and Roker were all negotiated as we pushed on at a good pace to our rendezvous with the ferry at South Shields. We followed the Wagon ways cycle paths and soon escaped the metropolis of Newcastle’s suburbs. A change to route as the cycle path was unridable and then disaster, John punctured ! 

Puncture fixed with a bit of teamwork and we arrived at our next stop for some food, which was going to be from the chippy but that was closed, so it was to the shop for cold food or to a little take away for hot food. It turned out that the takeaway was unable to process more than one order at a time and time was lost as we waited.

Clive, one of Mick’s friends,  had met us along the way and also would ride to Rothbury, which was now a case of, how do we get there after the route had changed. Onto Morpeth was the answer, taking a parallel road to the A1 and the cycle path alongside to stay off the A1. Derek got local knowledge by knocking on a door and got directions for Morpeth.

Headed for Morpeth and directions for Rothbury. The route turned out to be hilly with some very hilly hills ! Rothbury never seemed to get any closer but the scenery was very nice.

We were losing light and eventually came to a signpost that actually said Rothbury then a bigger disaster, Roy broke a spoke on the back wheel and buckled it so bad that it was rubbing against the brakes. A temp repair was made and Roy pushed on without rear brakes.

Met the rest of the group and set off in a beautiful backdrop of a sun going down. On and on, climb after climb with bike lights twinkling in the dark, the hills kept coming but eventually we could see the town at the bottom of the hill in the dark.

Over the bridge and there was the bunkhouse, showers, food and more importantly,  sleep.

Day four

Cities rough tracks and falling down

Burton upon Trent was hot in the morning so it was a generous application of suntan cream . 

So with the promise of more hills we set off out of town heading for cities. With it being Monday and school start, all the mothers were chearing us on because of the suits, double takes and shrieks of the grandma’s and scaring of horses and then it was out of town .

Man down, Roy turned too sharp straight into the back wheel and leg of John, Roy hit the deck with some hilarity and John carried on !

Rolling roads, a bit of fast road and Derby was entered by the backdoor, oh er missus.  Through Derby and out via the cycle paths and flood plains we headed out and up, again for our first stop and much needed water.

Rother valley park was interesting in that it was quite nice but the cycle path route turned in a challenging, one guy punctured on what was a good mtb track.

We eventually picked up a road that lead us back on route and towards Doncaster we headed. Doncaster was a disaster with the route being lost, changed then up and down dual carriage ways we went on a hunt for our exit eventually we walked across a roundabout and onto the A19 with cars allowing us through. 

Off we went staying on the A19 at a good rate of knots but Selby just didn’t seem to get any closer.

The planned meet up with the van was missed so Selby town centre was chosen and after enquiring with the locals, the local Sainsburies was discovered. 

A quick shop bought milk, mango and orange, bread,chicken pieces, salad, bananas, coke and a trifle.

At the van , milk was downed followed by the trifle and it was needed! Everyone else filled up with calories and after a  quick shoot at each other, we agreed to set off on the A39 not leaving it till we found the front door of our digs 

Shower, kit wash,  food a couple of drinks and bed.

What a day

 

Day Three

All Bristol and shipping shape

The escape from the city was a breeze and a pleasure, with very good cycle paths out into the countryside. Well done Bristol.

Today would be flat but rolling, plenty of roads ramping up but nothing to challenge Cornwall.

Riding the main roads we got sorted out into pairs and really bossed it, stopping the cars from passing to close especially at the pinch points. We still had some lanes to ride and one looked very much like a bridal way with its absence of tarmac, hardcore or even a level, rock free mud free surface. We traversed the obsticle with only one casualty and he will get over it.

The day was very hot and water stops were required more often as we made good progress but still looked like another late arrival.

Off the front went Roy and Mick to hoover up the points with a county sign, only to miss a district sign metres along which I gladly bagged !

Major incident today was a snapped chain at the most inopertune moment, halfway up a bank with heavy traffic. Roy fitted a split link and back on in no time and we were off again, rolling the hills up.

Villages came and went, small hills came and went and Burton  got closer and closer but seemed so far. Eventually we hit the town and found the travel lodge and our beds, but first, food, proper food. Just managed to get into a chicken place  (not nandos) and half a chicken chips wings and strips were eaten. Some liquid replenishing at the hotel bar and bed.