Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Pete Cycles On Blog

I've created a new post-LEJOG blog http://petecycling.blogspot.com/ for day rides and touring plans

Thursday, 22 July 2010

10 weeks on

Our fundraising total has now reached £12,089! I've been cycling to work most days during the hot dry weather we've been having, but haven't done much cycling at weekends, apart from a 42 mile ride with Nicky, my wife. I'm still keen to do another long distance bike ride sometime - possibly unsupported and just staying wherever I end up. Nicky and I met up with Ellen, Alice, Siobhan and Steve Hampshire (the Famous 5) plus families one Sunday on Richmond Park for a picnic with lashings of ginger beer and ball games. I also presented my Mum with her medal that she won for joining in during our stretching exercises. On 10th Oct about 10 of the team plan to cycle from Tring to Wallingford and back (around 65 miles) - for a re-union ride.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

We Made It!

I added the text below soon after we finished on 15th May - but I'm moving this to the top...
After 12 days averaging around 85 miles per day and into northerly winds most of the way we all made it to the end, although a couple of us took a lift in one of the vans when faced with problems. Mike and I have raised over £10,000 for CLIC Sargent. So mission accomplished. Thanks for all your encouragement, support and sponsorship.

That's me in the baseball cap above the N of FINISH. With Mike crouched on the left.

Cycling from one end of the country to another gave one a sense of achievement, although in my case I decided to travel in the support vehicle on the seventh day, as I'd had a bad night's sleep and didn't think I was safe to 'operate machinery'! I enjoyed helping to provide lunch that day though and got to know the support team better. Discover Adventure do an excellent job keeping you well fed, look after technical and health problems, keep morale up (with Andy's jokes and the Andy-Kenny double act See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zj092vkqWcw&feature=player_embedded) . I would recommend them to others who can fit in well in a team.

The scenery was great - apart from some Lancashire towns and it was nice raising money for charity whilst having a good time. You had to make sure you didn't just keep your head down and just see tarmac and instead stop to take photos and enjoy the scenery. To quote a poet my Mum likes 'What is this life if full of care we have no time to stand and stare?'

However by far the best thing about the trip was the people on it and the fun we all had together. We all seemed to gel together as a team well, with the help of the organisers, and we kept each others spirits up and cared for those who were finding the challenge a bit difficult either physically or mentally. Thanks everyone you were great - as I said in my 'closing speech' I hadn't laughed so much since I was a teenager - mainly thanks to Siobhan, Ellen and Alice's jokes and antics in the 'Famous Five' team at the back, but everyone seemed in good spirits on most of the 12 days, and it really made it worthwhile. Doing it solo or in a couple just wouldn't have been the same. It also gave me a chance to spend some time with my elder brother Mike - whom I was pretty close to as a kid, but as we're now about 300 miles apart we only see each a day or so a year. We had some good talks and I appreciate how difficult it has been for him and his wife to loose a loved one at the age of 20. Although some of the old sibling rivalry did surface at times we got to know each other better and both had a great time with the team.

Team Leader Jo organised us well and was decisive dealing with problems and handling her 'boys'. Andy (ex army/ex copper) was great at keeping up morale and keeping tabs on how we were feeling. Kenny (ex Dartmoor Governor!) provided excellent food, has a great sense of humour, is a good chap to talk over problems with - and a pretty good singer. I particularly enjoyed singing along to Afternoon Delight in the van on my day off. He's also good at stretching exercises, during which my Mother joined in at Preston (See video below on Day 6).

Hopefully some of us will keep in touch, meet up for bike rides and go on to do other Discover Adventure challenges.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Final Day Sat 15th May Betty Hill to John O’Groats 62 miles

Breakfast was a bit slow because the hotel seemed to want to take individual breakfast orders. I set off with The Famous 5 and stopped for a photo at Brawl. I was a bit disappointed that we didn't pass Twatt, of which there was a photo in last night's hotel - but it's on Orkney it seems. The scenery was nice and we had views of the high cliffs of Orkney. Then we passed through some more gentle countryside near the Dounray nuclear power station, which is being decomissioned.
I was keen to buy some gifts for Jo, Andy and Kenny and Steve Huckle had started a collection. I thought it would be good to buy a momento or give them a bottle of something, rather than cash. As we'd be in Inverness quite late we called to the shops at Thurso and after dashing into several tacky shops I eventually found a silk scarf and earing set in turquoise that I thought would suit Jo, and got a massive card I hid up my jumper. We gave Andy and Kenny bottles of whisky and Tam O'Shanters. We then pressed on and with a strong headwind and hail for the last 3 miles made it to the pub where everyone else was waiting. We all cycled to the finish together and went a few times around the roundabout before several photo opportunities. We then waited for the coach in the cafe then travelled to Inverness which took about 2 or 3 hours. The hotel in Inverness was good, full of Japanese, and I shared a room with Mike again. After a drink in the bar we went to a Chinese restaurant where they kept bringing out starters for about an hour before the main course. We ended the meal with the issue of certificates and speeches from the Discover Adventure team Jo, Kenny and Andy. I then presented their presents and said some heartfelt words of thanks to the Discover Adventure team who did an excellent job of looking after us, keeping up morale and sorting out any problems. I have already recommended DA to others and may well be back for more myself!
Alice's American fiance Scott was at the end and he'd stayed in Inverness the previous night. Rather than just sit in the hotel some of us were keen to party, so we went on to the Hootenany Bar where there was a ceilidh band. I danced a jig and reel with Alice and random young people on the dance floor, including 2 girls who knew all the right moves. It was a good night and we got to sleep before the final leg of the journey, that involved train trips, our flights being cancelled because of volcanic ash! I got home about 10.30pm the next day, whilst Mike had to take the overnight sleeper from London to Penzance.

Day 11 Fri 14th May Bonar Bridge to Betty Hill 62 miles

We left our castle and headed off over a footbridge then northwards towards Bettyhill. We stopped for coffee and cake that Discover Adventure had arranged at Crask Inn. The Famous 5 later had an ice lolly stop at a camp site.
We saw some Red Deer cross our path and cycled along Strath Naver which seemed to be the playground of the rich - lots of fly fishing going on and Range Rovers.
Eventually we reached our hotel at Bettyhill - which was a bit basic, but had good baths and I had a room to myself again.
We had a buffet lunch at the hotel and I had a hot bath and a brief rest. I was keen to go for a swim in the Atlantic and Alice was keen too. We decided to keep our lycra trousers on in case the sea was freezing but it wasn't too bad. Mine needed a wash anyway. There were a couple of surfers and the sea too and we stayed for about 15 minutes. Mike came along later and after we'd tested the water and sauntered down to the sea for a swim too in just his swimming shorts.

We had quite a good meal although the service was a little slow as the Lithuanian waitress didn't understand English or Scottish!
We had a drink in the hotel bar which was full of locals and had a juke box.

Day 10 Thu 13th May Invergarry to Bonar Bridge 83 miles

Woke early again and sneaked out of my dormitory for a morning walk up a road past a farm. No cooked breakfast but we were all full of burgers and sausages from the night before anyway, so just had cereal and toast. It was Eddy's 60th birthday today and the plan was for everyone to not mention it so he thought we'd forgotten, then present him with a cake during our briefing/stretching.
We cycled up the Great Glen alongside Loch Ness, and didn't see the monster, although I did see 2 enterprising blokes dressed in furry monster suits offering to pose next to a coach party of Germans - for cash I assume. We had a coffee stop by Drumnadrochit then turned left towards Beauly up a steep hill, walking the last bit. Why struggle cycling up a steep hill when it's much easier to get off and walk and enjoy the scenery?

We eventually stopped for lunch in a rather exposed spot north of Dingwall with no toilets. So we after lunch with The Famous Five in need of a loo stop we decided to call at the next pub to use the loos. It was very cold and exposed at this point, so I suggested we had a quick whisky - which we did. We weren't sure where to put the bikes but the landlady encouraged us to bring them in and put them by the pool table. 4 Highland Park whiskies, a half of Guinness and a Baileys were consumed before we went on our way.

That night we stayed at Carbisdale Castle Youth Hostel, a rather grand place, where we had a bit of a party for Eddy, with his wife who had flown up to Inverness and hired a car to join him on the last few days - or nights.
We found a quite reading room and had a sing song. Eventually the some puzzled Americans and a bloke with a fringe and bald head left the room!

Day 9 Wed 12th May Inverary to Invergarry 97 miles

I awoke early yet again, this time with a bit of a hangover and decided to clear my head with a walk in the bright sunshine before breakfast. Walked up to Inverarry Castle and back along the shore. There were great views. It was good to spend a bit of time seeing the scenery whilst limbering up, rather than spending all of ones waking hours in the saddle.
The castle is quite a new one, built in 1720 in nice grounds.
After breakfast we set off over quite a hill up over moorlands then down into scenic Loch Awe, past Ben Cruachan and Lochawe village where we had an unscheduled coffee stop, before the official coffee stop at Connel. It was around this time that Alice decided to join our group of four, so 'The Four Tops' became 'The Famous Five'!
I know this area quite well as I spent some time here in the summer of 1975 with my first proper girlfriend when we were both at Aberdeen University. Susan lived on an estate near Taynuilt where her parents were caretakers and we used to travel to Oban where I worked as a jobbing gardener and Susan sold fresh fruit on the street from a converted pram, earning enough to travel by by rail to Greece. So the sights and smells made me quite nostalgic and romantic.
We cycled on up the coast of Loch Linnhe through Fort William and up a hill over past a Comando Monument. I cycled on cycle paths where I could as they were generally well surfaces, and just before the monument I came across a woman's orange scarf, that I decided would be worth keeping to provide extra warmth and as it was my colour!

What do you reckon?
We then travelled on to Invergarry Youth Hostel where Andy and Kenny cooked us a BBQ. It was a little midgy but ok, and we retired to the lounge, where I played a few songs on guitar with the aid of a couple of songbooks. We had a good sing song and lots of ale and whisky was drunk.
As the trip progressed the team seemed to give up their ideas of watching what they ate and drunk in the interest of keeping fit. Eating and drinking what you feel like at the time I think is the best policy anyway. That night we were all in dorms each with 3 bunk beds. Aided by super strength lager Jim woke people in our dorm speaking in tongues, even though he only claimed to speak East Yorkshire. It sounded to me like a political speech in French or Spanish, by President De Gaule or someone - interspersed with 'Shut up'. I nearly shouted 'You shutup' but didn't want to start an arguement! Jim thought it could have been his Norman ancestors!

Day 8 Tues 11th May Kilmarnock to Inverary 90 miles

I woke at dawn after a good night's sleep in our Premier Inn in Kilmarnock and decided to go for a quick walk/jog before breakfast. There was a frost but it was sunny and I came across a nice little new housing estate with houses built around a small lake with lots of tweeting birds (on their blackberries!). Had a good breakfast then as I was packed and ready I decided to set off with Jim and get a head start. We had good views over the Isle of Aran, and the coast, and all met up for coffee at Largs.

We then crossed the Firth of Clyde on the Gourock to Dunoon ferry and had lunch in a forest car park.

The scenery improved from then on till the end of the trip, and we cycled along the edge of sea lochs and up over farm and moorlands to Inverary. I cycled with 'The 4 Tops' most of the afternoon and we had an unscheduled ice cream stop at a garden centre/oyster bar.
The Argyll Hotel in Inverary was nice (pictured below). I had my own room with a sea view and we had a good meal before some of us, inc Alice, Ellen, Siobhan, Steve Hampshire, Mike and Eddy visited the George Inn, where Nicky and I went at Easter. We had a couple of drinks and it was a great end to a great day.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Day 7 Mon 10th May Carlisle to Kilmarnock 95 miles

I'm not sure why but I hardly slept at all in the night and I got up feeling dizzy and zombie-like. Somehow things that had been on my mind had built up and I couldn't relax. Or maybe it was God telling me that I needed a day off! Whilst I'm not a regular church goer I am a Christian and think the idea of weekly day of rest is a pretty good one, along with the other moral codes that Christianity advocates. Anyway I didn't feel I'd be safe riding a bike in traffic that day and had even considered giving up during the night. I decided that Mike and I should talk things through with Jo, the team leader, who agreed that travelling in one of the vans was the best option and helping with the support team. I felt a bit disappointed that I hadn't cycled the whole trip - but it was better to be safe than sorry.

We travelled into Scotland and through Gretna Green. Apparently Angela was cycling with 18 year old Lewis in Gretna Green and said to him 'fancy it Lewis?' when passing the marriage office. Lewis looked scared then laughed.

Kenny and Andy and I did some shopping at Tescos in Dumfries and then sang along to old 70s songs on the radio 'Afternoon Delight' being a memorable one. That helped lift my spirits and I began to feel human again.

We then drove on to the lunch stop that was on the A76 by a cascading river near Sanquar. I helped set up the site and buffet - similar to the one pictured.
It was a cold day with sleet in the morning and Kenny made some excellent pasta and soup to warm people up. I spent a bit of time meditating by the river until the team arrived and scoffed our lunch - that we had tested for them!
We stayed in a Premier Lodge on the outskirts of town and had a good meal and a drink which knocked me out so I had an early night. The DA team thought it a good idea for me to have a room to myself rather than sharing with brother Mike, which seemed a good idea as I found it easiest to relax on my own. It's also fair to say that a bit of sibling rivalry was surfacing - even though I have great respect for my big brother and his sense of humour! I had a good night's sleep although woke with the dawn chorus refreshed and ready for exercise.

Day 6 Sun 9th May Preston to Carlisle 100 miles

We had breakfast with my parents and I dressed in my new trousers - or 'sexy pants' as I call them and red top. Mike said he was going to dress in matching gear but decided to wear his purple top. Our parents were keen to see us do our stretching exercises in the hotel car park, and my 85 year old Mum joined in whilst Dad videoed us. It was a sunny day - but with a quite chilly north wind.

We then set off and travelled up past Lancaster and Kendal and I travelled with 'The Four Tops' most of the way and had a good time. We passed a big car boot sale and Ford Escort owners festival in fields. After Kendal we had a big climb over Shap Fell. It was a fairly steep hill but I put my bike in its granny gear (28 tooth chainwheel and 30 tooth back cog) and made it up the hill without getting out of my saddle. Saw some nice scenery with hill sheep farms reminding me of the Yorkshire Dales. At the top we just cruised down to Shap village for lunch. At lunch stops I was ravinous and ate as much as I could stuff in in the time before Kenny packed up. After lunch it was a fairly easy ride into Carlisle with good views.

Messing about in Carlisle above. We made it into Carlisle a bit on the late side after frequent loo stops etc and checked into our hotel. Had a good meal then ventured over the road to a pub for a couple of drinks. We were tired but happy having made it through England and Wales and about to go into the last half of our ride 'Scotland'.