So that’s that.

[Please note:  if you click on a photo it will expand.  Then back arrow to close]

It’s now a few days since the end.  That sounds ominous – maybe, ‘since the finish’ would be better.  I’m feeling a bit more tired every day but other than that really good. Apart form the dodgy knee. And I’m sure that will be fine in a couple of days as well.

Huge thanks to my lovely wife, Jocelyn, who has kept the house together, the family alive and (more importantly) the blog running so excellently well.  And much thanks to my own mother who came down to stay and help out whilst I was on the road (well quite a bit of off road actually but you know what I mean).

One of the things that struck me on this route was the stark contrast between cycling peacefully along a canal path with nothing but ducks for company and then being instantly dumped on a frenetic A road, with cars and lorry rumbling past, rattling your teeth.  It’s a good analogy for coming back home.  You go from not having to think about anything other than pedalling, eating, drinking and sleeping to being bombarded with questions, demands, information and tasks.  They are normally there all the time but you grow so used to them you don’t necessarily notice.  When you’ve been out of real life for a while it hits you like a train.

So, it’s taken me this long to get to the blog.

I’ve uploaded some of the photos from the trip to add some colour to the previous posts so feel free to browse over them again.

My trip back to home (Ivybridge nr Plymouth) was long but nowhere near as long as the one up.  The John O’Groats Bike Transport Company picked me (and my bike) up from JOG at 10:00am on Sunday and whizzed me down to Inverness.  They dropped me at the airport and took my bike away to be boxed up and couriered to my house.  If I had required it, they would have also serviced it!  The bike was dispatched the next day and arrived the day after that, just in time to be cleaned, oiled and greased ready for commuting to work today.

I have to say I think it is the best solution to getting back from JOG if you haven’t got a support vehicle following you.  The John O’Groats Bike Transport Company do a fantastic job at getting you to Inverness and then you can select plane (my recommended option), train or one way hire car from there.

Me chilling at the airport – notepad around neck for easy access

I had to spend a few hours in the airport but after 8 days of cycling, sitting around is no bad thing.  Then a 50 minute hop to Manchester and a similar one on to Exeter where I was reunited with my lovely wife.

Clouds from above shortly after take off

This was a terrific trip which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Personally I think the Google map route was excellent.  It could be improved by re-routing a couple of sections, which I will endeavour to do.   Of course, I was on a racing geometry road bike – the only concession to the route I made was to put 25 mm Schwelbe Marathon tyres on.  If you rode an off road bike, a hybrid or a tour bike it would be even more doable.  But there are several places where you have to lift the bike up to shoulder level or above so if you are heavily loaded you would need to consider that.

All in all though – well done Google maps bicycle routing!

Last Day… And He’s Done it!

Saturday 5 October, Day Eight, Nr Inverness to John O’Groats, 137 miles (Longest Day)

06:30 Off in 5.  Brisk and dark (So, he did make an early start.  It would be great if he could be in by 20:00.)

Beauly Firth from A9 bridge, just north of Inverness

08:06 Sign for surgery free church.  Is that one where they can convert you without a labotomy? Then realised must be 2 separate things. (Now, you really do need to be awake to work that one out.)

09:20 34 miles now. 3 hrs so a little ahead. Mainly because I started at 300 m, now at about sea level.

Cromarty Firth

11:34 About 60 miles.  Just over 5 hours.  660 m of climbing. DORNOCH FIRTH.  First JOG signpost – 85 miles to go.

Dornoch Firth

12:19 (Phone call) Just about half way.  Done 67 miles, 70 to go with two hills. (Roy sounded really upbeat. He seems to be enjoying this so much more than last time.  Does this mean there will be a next time? Oh no….)

14:03 In Helms Deep.  A sea of orcs crashing against the walls.  Oh no.  Hang on, Helmsdale! And just the sea crashing against the wall. (I seem to remember him making the same analogy last time…  Some people can be so boring.)  Major climb after this.

15:18 Big hills done.  Much closer together than I remembered.  96 miles.  Just under 9 hrs.  Hooray!!  (He’s shattered his 10 mph record! Well done that man!)

15:43 100 miles.  Celebratory sausage roll and crisps with Aberdeen Angus.

16:24 I’m in a shop.  In Lybaster.  Turn off A9 soon so last chance for water.  OD’d on caffeine and feel a little sick.  32 miles to go.

Cruising with tailwind in the sun about 18 miles to go

17:50 At a standstill.  Oh no, sorry in Stanstill (Did that panic anyone else?  Thought something had gone horribly wrong.)  15 to go but just hit off road section!

18:53 TA DA!!!

JOG signpost.  Pic taken the next morning.

19:19 In B&B v bad signal.  Will try and call.

Sunday, 07:34 Have tried calling several times but it just keeps cutting me off.  Bugger! Got to finish just before 7.  As good as dark.  Tummy not good.  Too much caffeine. Last 30 miles fantastic. Very straight single track, tarmacced roads which wavered up and down 1 – 2 %.  Very fast although legs were tired.

07:40 I’ve only just managed to send a text from last night.  No signal as I type this but will send once I get one.  Tummy still fairly liquid.  Glad I’m not riding today!  Knee quite painful but can walk on it ok.  Breakfast at 8 then try and pack everything into bag.  Might need some careful thinking!  I’ll then head back to the signpost to see if I can get a better picture. 

It was a very bad signal – I didn’t get to talk to Roy for a celebratory “Hooray”! Very frustrating!  But he’s done it.  And made good time today, despite the miles in his legs. Arrived well before 20:00.  How’s that for a flourishing finish?  Hoorah!  Hoorah!  Hoorah!

Fantastic Day

Day 7 Continued…

Ruthven Barracks, guarding the Cairngorms – or at least they did.

18:09 Aviemore.  105 miles.  Think Sat Naff might be right and still 17 to go.  Looking at map in town might be uphill! Last stretch through the glen was fantastic.

18:40 Sat Naff right.  Still 13 miles to go.  Can you phone to say I might be there until about 8?

I did call, only to be told, “We usually close our doors at 19:30”.  I said I was very sorry but Roy was cycling and had a puncture which had delayed him.  “I’ll turn the oven off then.”  Needless to say Roy was charming when he arrived and enjoyed a chicken and chorizo stew with mash followed by chocolate fondant pudding with ice cream and cream.  Delicious!  Mind you, he did not have time to change, so the extra clothes he had posted to wear at dinner are now a wasted 1 kg to carry on the last day.  (Mind you the delicious stew and pudding must be adding some weight…)

Autumn has crept in as I’ve pedalled nothward

19:26 Slochd summit 405 m 119 miles 5 to go (I hope I have spelt that right.)

Yep. Spelt correctly.

20:01 Just got in.  Talk later

We did talk later.  Roy had a fantastic day – consistently good scenery, but not photogenic.  Could not capture it on camera.  Was an extra 15 miles, 199 km.  Looking at route it did say 194.5 km (126 miles) so error in calculation somewhere.

He has arranged for B&B to leave out breakfast as he plans an early day tomorrow.  Wants to be on the road by 07:00.  Well done that man!  And good luck on your last day.

Back to the Road

Friday, 4th October, Day 7, Kinross to Nr Inverness, 121m

07:46 I’m off in 10.  Trying to get some miles in early today but legs tired. Roads wet but air so far dry.

09:04 Misty today.  Cant see much so playing scrabble.  Have to spot high scoring place names.  Dunzie leading so far.  On no, Wick O’Baiglie would be 24 – I think  (Does anyone want to join in?  Depends whether you can get it over a triple with a double letter score…)

09:05 oh, 21k  3 miles to Perth.  Or Pert on one signpost (Pert _________.  Answers on a post card please.)

09:19 Dog alert

09:20 Ooooo second dog alert

09:21 On share path with dog walkers in Pert.  Losing time texting!  lol

09:21 And I’m getting back on my bike…

10:00 22 miles now in 2 hrs 7 mins so about 10 mph.  Have stopped to take off leg warmers and put on knee brace.

10:24 Found shop so topped up with iron bru (when in Scotland….)

10:35 27 miles in at Waterloo.  Bloody sat naff must have sent me 100s of miles of course!  Knee quite sore.  Taking EXTRA pain relief.  Am I facing my Waterloo?  All sing along now…

Finally meeting my Waterloo, wa wa wa wa ….

(Did you know there are 5 Waterloos listed in my road atlas, 3 of them are in Scotland!  I’ve just found the right one (page 50, G10) Waterloo P & K.  For a panicky moment I thought he really was going the wrong way.  Will be interesting to see which route he goes across the Cairngorms – A9?  That’s the road he finishes on.  I’m sure I should know these things.  A bit worrying that I don’t…)

Nice Lake Somewhere after Waterloo

12:04 (Phone call) Pitlochry.  Just off A9 – lethal, rough road.  Tricky on busy roads – need to look where you put your wheel – gravel, cat’s eyes, drains – need to keep your head always down.  Half the time go over the drains because of a lorry.  Hoping route goes on old A9.

Gradually going upward.  483 m in 45 miles so still 100 m in every 10 miles which is easy compared to Devon, but front loaded.  Started up through forest  – sure it’s beautiful, but too misty to see.

Achieved my top speed – 45 to 46 mph going down a tiny little lane – well paved, steeply  down hill.

Most Impressive Entrance I had to Cycle Through

12:24 Stupid phone (Note the use of the word “stupid”…) Went to send Sarah a text message but cannot find her message to reply to.  Pass on that I have just seen her ideal shop in Pitlochry and that she should Google it – Christmas Emporium.

Why not?  You get fishmongers, right?  Very logical.

13:00 In bridge of tilt.  About 50 miles – 5 hrs! (Guess his average mph?  No prizes though!) Light rain of gravel.  Lady at local store hurling it at crows.  She was apologetic though…

I asked if she had a moustache…

14:24 No moustache!  Just had a puncture (What the lady?). Lots 20 mins fixing. (Oh the bike.  At least I hope it’s the bike…)  Tyre looks a bit damaged.  (Are we back to the lady now….)  Hope I don’t get another before reaching a bike shop or will get worried.

14:24 Roy found a text he didn’t send when he entered Scotland yesterday… Och da nay fash yaseelf.  Tis Scotland dint ya no… (That’s Scottish or rather Roy’s impression of it.  Stick to the cycling, Roy…)

14:25 (Phone call)  Seen sign that reads “Extreme weather conditions.  No food or shelter for 30 km”.  So I turned back for water.  First house no one home.  Found 2nd house where quite a few cyclists stop apparently. Non practising solicitor like me.

15:31 70 miles.  Top of the Bitchin Pass. Don’t think that’s its real name though. Drumochter Summit 462m.  Although sat naff says 459 so they might be bigging it up.

16:42 I’m in Newtonmore.  Just getting a monster energy drink.  87 miles.  Made up a lot of time since top of pass.  Should have 24 miles to go but sat naff reckons 35.  I hope it’s wrong.

Horny Scot

(I see that Roy has resorted to the Sat Naff term, but I can’t see that it has put a foot wrong.  Well except yesterday perhaps when it lost its satellite connection in Edinburgh, but then everyone has their off days.)

Editor’s note – I’m going to sign off now as I am working tonight, but will finish Day 7 tomorrow.  Good  night folks….

Ten Miles Per Hour

Thursday, 3rd October, Lockerbie to Kinross, 99 miles

07:36 Defeated by breakfast.  Could not manage the toast.  Not raining yet but could be a wet day.  Forecast is for 2 – 3 inches.  Still, only 99 miles.

07:40 Right, off in 10….

09:49 Is it raining there yet?  Has been here but stopped for present so just taking jacket off. 20 miles in.  Somewhere. (So we’re still averaging 10 mph.  At least you can say he is consistent. Do you like my maths?)

11:30 (Voice mail) I’m on a road somewhere in Scotland.  I’m 40 miles in so beaten my standard 10 mph, though up to 3 hours, I was still 10 mph.  Will call later.  Sounds like you have worse weather down there than I have up here.

The sun and a rainbow broke out

12:45 (Phone call – roughly half way)  50 miles in, so now back to my 10 mph.  Just stopped at someone’s house to ask for water.  Fourth house I asked – spotted smoke from the chimney so it was either on fire or someone was in. Don’t know where I am.  I’m north and slightly east of Lockerbie – no towns or shops (back to that old chestnut) – not going anywhere major hence no shops.  5 miles beyond Quothquan – last road sign I passed.  Not pushing hard.  2 bottles can last me 4 maybe 5 hours, so should get me through the afternoon – may need to top up again.  

First half hour light rain and couple of showers.  Got jacket out twice – that’s why my speed’s down.  In fact the sun came out and the temperature was 21.8 degrees C.  Really warm, going along in shorts and T shirt.  Wear my leg warmers for first half hour.  Can leave the rain-legs on – roll them up and button them around the waist – looks like I’ve got a beer belly though.  They act like a bit of a spinnaker and you can cycle along wind assisted.  You can feel the wind fill them up and pull you along.

The wind is really weird – goes from nothing to strong and in an entirely different direction, then in your face. (Oh, you’re talking about that sort of wind…)

Gentle rolling hills – nothing much above 3 – 4%.  In last 50 miles have gone 589 m ascent and 476 m descent, so I have gained altitude, but that’s nothing.  In Devon I work to 2,000 m climbing for every 100 m so this is half that.  I was almost hoping to hit hills – that’s why I gave up the LEL and now I’m thinking I could have carried on, it’s not as hilly as I thought. (I know, I’m beating myself up again.)

I’m thoroughly enjoying this, so much more than JOGLE. (Why?) It’s not so many miles per day, the roads are better and I’m seeing more of the countryside. I don’t feel under pressure to get the miles under my belt, there isn’t the urgency.  I’m not bothered if I get a bit behind or lose time.  Last time I was always trying to get ahead.  Remind me of that on Saturday.

And now having stopped and spoken to you, I’m now back to 10 mph!

13:27 55 miles Lang Whang countryside trust. I’ve come a long way but sure I’m not in China.

(By the way, having Googled it, Lang Whang is old Scots for “Long way” or “Long Bootlace” and generally refers to the A70. “Much of the road is over elevated, desolate moorland; it ascends several times on its course to heights over 1000 feet above sea level. Because the wind enjoys an easy and uninterrupted passage over its length, in winter the road is frequently closed by snow, even by modest snowfalls. The road passes elevated farmland and grouse moor and presents extensive views over central Scotland to the north.” (Extract from Wikipedia)  I wonder if this is the way Roy is going or if he is just crossing the A70.  Maybe these are the hills he was dreading on the LEL.)

15:02 75 miles Livingstone (Before anyone else says it “Dr Livingstone I presume…  So, it seems he didn’t go on the A70 then, just crossed it.)

15:58 Following pink line on sat nav is fine until it says’lost satellite reception’ in the middle of a twisting route in Edinburgh. Had to dig out the paper route! In view of the Forth Bridge.  Don’t know where the other three are.  (Oh ha! ha! ha!)  80 miles.

Just after 6: arrived at B&B 

21:10  (Phone Call) Arrived just outside 10 hours – slower than the 10 mph hallmark we’ve come to know and love.  Lot of time off the bike and very slow in last 20 miles.  Started raining after last text.  You forget to eat and drink when it rains so legs tired.  I’ve found the hills south of Edinburgh, they’re north of Edinburgh!

Had to put knee brace on but on the other knee.  Painful in joint, stabby pain.  Hopefully sleep will rest it, but worried about tomorrow with lumpy bits Grampians

Heartily sick of pot noodle but forcing myself to eat it.  Tonight egg and bacon sandwich, crisps and drink as meal deal from Co-op.  Also big bar of chocolate.

Didn’t enjoy it from Livingston, roads lethal.  Go from quiet to being dumped on lethal road.  Then found cycle path – slow but fine.  Would re-route it if I do it again.

Roy sounded very tired when I spoke to him after 9.  His knee is sore and fatigue is catching up with him – especially if you forget to eat and drink.  That’s a sure sign of being tired and becomes a downward spiral.  Hang on in there, Roy.  Only 2 days to go.  You can do this.

P.S. Roy has breached the £300 mark for MacMillans with 21 donations.  Thank you so very much to everyone who has donated and your kind messages.

Half Way and off to Scotland

Wednesday, 2nd October, Day Five, Cockerham to Lockerbie

Roy is now half way and just enjoyed his last night in England.  Scotland here we come!

07:47 I’m feeling lonely. (So am I…). Next 3 days look v wet.  Setting off in 10 minutes.  Had trouble forcing down breakfast today!

09:54 Cumbria.  Nr 20 miles.  Cold wet and windy – Cumbria as we remember it!

11:02 In Kendal.  30 miles.  Legs tired.  Normally kick in after 50 though.

I worked out that he is still only doing 10 miles per hour (clever girl me) which I thought had been due to the terrain.  (Usually he averages 15 miles or so, unless I’m on completely another planet.)  So, I asked him if it was the hills slowing him down.  Here is the reply.  (And no, I’m not going to tell you what LMFAO means – you’ll have to Google it for yourself.  It’s rude!)

12:24 No it’s the legs LMFAO. 65km A6 top of Shap Hill. 422 m. Frosty breath up here.  Having a celebratory wee (that came up last time, remember?  Farm gates, fields….  If you’re a pro, you can do it on the move…) and putting on wind jacket for descent.  (Again, a pro can also do this on the move.  Pah!)

View from climb to Shap on A6

12:35 Laughing my f arse off! (There we go, Roy saved you a job!) In bizarre mix up at bb seem to have put the wrong legs on. This pair must belong to someone much older.  Hang on, I’ll check.  No, they are mine.  Label says size medium, age 46.  (Make sure you tuck the label back in Roy.)

13:49 Phone call Now at Morrisons, Penrithjust past last English battlefield. Went off route, stayed on A6 but found Morrisons.  Topped up on water and batteries for lights.  Using those more than I thought.  Raining when I left, but not now.  Tomorrow is meant to be a downpour over the whole country.  (Is it?  Can’t say I’m watching the weather…) Now at 92 km – that’s 57 miles out of 111 miles.  Only seem to be averaging 10 miles per hour no matter what I do or what terrain.  It’s the stopping – I keep stopping to take notes.  I’ve found the further you go, the more you forget. (Funny that!)  Oh, don’t forget to add “FMFAO on top of Shap.” (Sorry, you are going to have to Google that one!)

I’ve just had a wee in the middle of a roundabout. (See, we’re on to that topic again….) On the fast roads there’s no where to stop for a wee.  I feel a bit wary of busy junctions now, so I tend to come off and walk across them, waiting at traffic lights, rather than blatting through.  I came across this big roundabout that had a wooded enchanted glade, so I took advantage of it.  (So, farm gates, fields and now, it seems, roundabouts. Oh dear…)  But best get on, this is adding to my 10 miles per hour!  (Yes, it is, isn’t it?)

16:02 Carlisle 80 miles

17:59 Averaging just under 10 mph all day.  Well, in yr face ‘less than 10 mph’! 100 miles in 9 hrs 57 mins.  Ha! Of course, just lost 5 minutes sending this 🙁  Raining now.  Hiding under road brg to send this.

19:22 In and safe.  Stopped in Lockerbie for fish and chips.  Feeling full..

21:04 Signal keeps going.  Rain jacket has worked well.  Rainlegs (like chaps wear for riding) have proved very useful in keeping thigh muscles warm in the wet. Probably going to get fully tested tomorrow though. Nearly all road now.

21:05  Sat in wet kit after washing it.  Using body heat to get out moisture.  No heating.  Mind you, probably won’t make any difference for tomorrow.  Not too bad today – only got rained on at the beginning and the end.

21:06 I forgot to say Albert blasted out pooper poo poo poo in the middle of the restaurant last night.  Once he gets going you can’t switch him off, getting louder and louder.  Still, raised a chuckle from the couple on the table next to me. (That’s a bit like being at home!  I probably need to explain that like all boys and especially with two older brothers, Albert has a fascination with singing songs and telling stories that involve pooh – very handily changing the words to suit.  Well Roy has recorded one such episode on his phone as his alert for texts.  Maybe not such a good idea in public places, but at least you feel home from home!) 

After several attempts to call but repeatedly being cut off

21:09 I think we are just going to have to say goodnight.  Love you.  (And I love you too…)

Roy is now is Scotland.

Canal Paths Three Ways…

Tuesday, 1st October, Day Four, Stafford to Cockerham, 112 m

08:29 Left at about 7:45.  8 miles in now and just hit first canal path.  Weather chilly but dry.

08:57 Voice Mail  On another canal path but this time in good condition and not overtaken by night time slugs.  Suffering a lot with tired legs, that sort of thing but will plod on.

Prettiest bridge on the route?

10:41 Phone call.  Nearly 30 miles in on the Biddulph Valley Way on Route 55, by a sign saying “Welcome to Cheshire”. 

 (see,_culture_and_tourism/ranger_service/countryside_sites/congleton_area/biddulph_valley_way.aspx.  It does look beautiful).

The route so far has been mainly on canal paths and cycle paths so averaging 10 miles per hour.

11:57 Butt ok.  Shoulder a bit achey but ok.  66.6 km.  Not a good omen (excuse pun) better push (or at least cycle) on…

12.24 Was a bad omen – off route.  Had to use footpath and down steep bank to get back.  In Wilmslow – church with genuine gargoyles.

15:26 Second phone call.  Sorry not to text but trying to get miles under my belt.  Keep thinking I’ll just get through this section first, just get through this bit…  On a dodgy off road section now, 4 or 5 miles completely off road.  No suspension, geometry is all wrong for bumps, skid through gravel and mud.  No clearance between wheel and mud.  Needed to stop 3 times already to clear mud from wheel.  Was on 10 miles per hour.  73 miles in out of 110.  If I hit the road, I will make good time. Wind is favouring me.  Currently west of Manchester.  Next major stop Preston.

17:56 About 20 miles to go.  Have phoned bb and they are there until 11.  So barring disaster, I should get there.

19:47 Here safe.    Picked up speed from Preston on A6 but quite safe.  Big cycle lane and big tailwind.  Ave 20 miles per hour even up hills!  Meet my first major climb tomorrow alongside the Lake district on A6.  Going to treat myself to food! I’ll take phone so you can text.

19:59 Landed on my feet here!  Really plush.  (  Have blown the budget on steak and chips with pint of Guinness (medicinal).  They gave me a bit of a discount but still £20.  Business expense.  Still, up til now my total spend has been less than £10 including day zero.

20:08 By the way, saddle is leather and working really well.  If I had my other saddle I hate to think how things would be after the surfaces I’ve been over in the last couple of days! On one of the roughest stretches some bloke with a mountain bike was walking.  He looked askance at me bumping along on a road bike and asked what my butt was made of.  I replied “feels like fire” and rattled on

20:36 (Clearly the Guinness is kicking in with all this chat, or the loneliness is catching up with him.  He’ll be telling me I’m lovely next…) Thinking of writing a scientific paper on various canal towpath surfaces and their destructive effect on bikes and their riders.  Surfaces ranging from tarmac (with and without tree route erupting from surface several cm upward), cinder, gravel (light or deep), mud (dried to furrowed corrugated surface and thickly wet), cobbles, grass or just plain stones.  Or of course there is the straight forward 4 inch wide mud strip worn several inches down into the grass, brambles and stinging nettles either side requiring precision cycling to avoid hitting the edge and being tipped into the murky depths of the canal.

Reflections on Day Three

It was an incredibly long day for Roy yesterday, with the final call coming through at 21.51.  Delays were caused by the detour in the morning adding on 10 miles combined with rough terrain on the tow paths slowing down his average speed.

The last tow path was the worst of all with just grass and an overgrown strip of mud.  It was 8 miles in the dark, barely faster than walking.  It went on and on, but he enjoyed it.  It’s Roy’s great adventure – a good day but really long.

He is enjoying it so much more than the last time which became a mission just to get the miles in. There is so much contrast and he is really enjoying going along the canals and recognising places we have been before.  But he does feel that he has been looking at the leaves so closely, he has not even seen the trees let alone the woods.  Half the time he doesn’t know where he is.

The canal paths are generally pretty good except the last one. All the others have been designated as cycle paths, the last one wasn’t.

He does believe he had the best breakfast today for as long as he can remember – bacon, sausage, black pudding, eggs, toast, beans, decaff coffee, loads of orange juice and all exceptionally well cooked. So a BIG thank you to Cypress House Bed & Breakfast in Slimbridge, Gloucestershire.   (  A big thumbs up from Roy!

Day Four is a similar length and he is keen not to finish so late.  So breakfast is booked for 7 with a plan to be on the road by 8.

Details of the journey to follow…