Thursday, 16 September 2010

Day 17

Waking up, we soon remembered what day it was. As it was a special occassion, we enjoyed porridge with both sugar and milk, microwaved to perfection. We were all filled with anticipation, knowing arriving would give us a huge rush.

Despite how big this day was, we just got on with things as normal. Fortunately weather was great, and there was a strong wind helping us along. Also, we shadowed another group of cyclists who had been following the same route as us for the last few days, which created an amazing atmosphere!

As we were now following the coast, there were lots of hills (but at least there was a proper road). Navigation was still straightforward, and we kept up a very good speed despite the Cornish nature of the terrain.

The north coast was much more populated than expected (actual towns) which we thought was a plus - more places to buy food! After a town called Melvich, the cycling became flatter and we covered ground quicker. By Thurso we could stop for lunch, only 20 miles from John O' Groats. Sam's bike was disintegrating again, but we told him there was nothing that could now stop us. In our excitement we covered the 20 miles in one go, and arrived in style at John O' Groats (taking up the whole road).
From LEJOG Day 17

After arriving and getting our pictures by the sign, we enjoyed a snack at the Journey's End cafe. The problem with winding down was that when we tried to set off, our bodies had shut down, and the two miles to the hostel were the hardest miles of the day (it had also started raining and the wind was working against us).

We dropped our stuff at the hostel, and were then treated to a meal at a local hotel (thanks to my grandparents). Later that evening we were all thinking about how far we'd come, however, I was also thinking about the plane journey and if we would actually get home!

Total distance was 65.9 miles.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Day 16

As it was a new day, we all hoped for a slight improvement in weather. However, after eating as much of the youth hostel's continental breakfast as we could, we were met with "heavy drizzle", which got us soaked in a few minutes. Also, there was one of the dodgiest starts to the day, which involved carrying our loaded bikes over flights of steps to get over a bridge.

The weather was bad, and although the road was an A road, it was single track the entire way. We were surprised anyone used the road, the largest town we found before Tongue had two houses, one of which was a pub.

The weather got worse and worse, but after about 20 miles it died down completely (to drizzle), which made us very happy. The rest of the day was much nicer, there were plenty of hills but they gave us great views.

From LEJOG Day 16

Tongue youth hostel was small and cosy, gave us views over the sea, and best of all, had home-made cake and rolls. In the evening we thought about the distance we'd ridden - 15 days ago we arrived at Tintagel very close to breaking point, but we were now at the top of Scotland.

Physically everyone was fine- no sore muscles or bums, however, we were all apprehensive about our bikes. A mechanical failure at this point would be devastating, and all we wanted now was to get home for our holiday! Also, we were all very mentally tired - Nick pointed out we'd been working 7 days a week, from 7am to 6pm, so it isn't really a surprise we went to bed that night at 9.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Day 15

Yet another early start, but fortunately me and Sam had a large box of Crunchy Nut and a litre of milk between us. With this moderate amount of energy stored up, we set off (midges in hot pursuit).

By this point we really were in the heart of Scotland. As we passed Inverness and the Bonar bridge, we realied no sane person would go this far north. Due to Inverness we had to avoid the main roads, which also meant a really big climb (250m). Navigation was slightly more complicated (meaning we actually had to navigate), but there were no major mishaps and the roads were all signed. Near the end of the day we had another giant climb (about 250m again), but this time we got the best view of the entire trip, followed by breath-taking downhill.

From LEJOG Day 15

We were really excited about our accommodation that night - Carbisdale Castle is meant to be the best youth hostel in the UK, and though that might not be saying much, it is an actual castle complete with naked statues and priceless artwork. Although the showers left much to be desired (probably Medieval technology) there was a TV and best of all, a pool table.

In total we rode 64.4 miles and followed this route.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Day 14

After our rest day, it wasn't too difficult to wake up and get back on the road - we were encouraged by the fact the hills weren't too bad and the navigation was really simple.

What was quite exciting (for me) was arriving in Fort William. After coming this many miles North, it was strange to arrive at a place I'd been before and recognised. Unfortunately, in Fort William it started raining again. The rain continued for most of the day, but it wasn't too heavy... at least?

We literally only followed the A82 all day, although the road was scenic enough to stop us dying from boredom. Because it was very flat and straighforward, we went really fast. This meant we arrived at Fort Augustus with enough time to look around and be tourists. Fort Augustus had a large shop enroute, so we bought milk and Crunchy Nut.

Earlier we had all made bets (a mars bar) on who could guess the time of arrival. We also raised the stakes if someone got within 5 minutes (3 mars bars). This turned out to be a bad idea, because in the last few miles we realised Nick was dangerously close to his guess. The rest of us cycled full speed to avoid paying the 3 mars bars, although Nick didn't have the same motivation and struggled to keep up. Fortunately (for us) we arrived at 4:20, and Nick had guessed 4:30.

From LEJOG Day 14

Because we'd made such good time, we had the hostel to ourselves. The hostel was really nice and looked over Loch Ness. That evening we had enough energy to play the game of life (a board game), and cook a reasonable meal.

Our total distance was 58.3 miles. Here is the route we followed.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Day 13

Today was the big day. Our only rest day in the entire 16 days of cycling. We woke up nice and late (8am) and enjoyed a continental breakfast. I depleted the store of cornflakes, and remained in the dining room for a good hour regaining carbs.

We then decided to go down to the village, which was about 2 miles away. We had to cycle, but we didn't have to lug around panniers so it was really easy going. Luck was with us and we enjoyed amazing warm, sunny weather (so hot I had to remove my raincoat).

From LEJOG Day 13

The village was really nice, and we spent a lot of time in a cafe, which sold tourist bits and pieces. Lunch there was delicious, and we all had chocolate milkshakes and cake. Outside we chilled by the loch, and just wandered around, doing what teenagers do.

At about 3 we met up with a bike repair man who worked in his shed, who agreed to look over all our bikes. Sam's was worst off, in the end requiring a whole new back wheel. The rest of us just got a clean down and new brake pads, to ensure we'd get to John o' Groats problem free. The price was very reasonable, and we all felt better knowing our bikes should be ok.

After we'd seen all there was to see, we bought tea at the local shop and headed back. It was strange to return to the same hostel twice, but we enjoyed a game of scrabble and a weird game called Absolute Balderdash, which proved to be a lot of fun.

Today our total distance was about 4 miles... much more sensible.

Day 12

The prospect of a rest day was enough to get us out of bed nice and early, and on the road away from civilisation. We realised we'd been cycling every day for 12 days, and couldn't wait to have a lie in and a day lazing about.

The scenery went from great to stunning. We were following allongside rivers and lochs, loch Lubnaig gave us some really picturesque views, the kind you'd see in a magazine or something. We were just east of Loch Lomond, but we sang the song anyway, because it's a fairly Scottish sounding tune.

From LEJOG Day 12

The weather was good, and the roads flat, so we went really fast and at the same time enjoyed the scenery. Navigation was no problem as we followed "main" roads, and only went through a few different places. Even so, there were still opportunities to buy lunch and snacks, which we enjoyed by the side of the road somewhere.

The day was going brilliantly, so something bad had to happen. At about halfway I discovered Sam's wheel was wobbling. I told him, and he found 3 spokes had come off, meaning others were disintegrating and the wheel was buckling. Mountain bike rims are fairly strong, so we hoped we could get to Glencoe at least, where Nick's parents had found details of a repair man.

Our speed had been so good that we were still making good time. Just before Glencoe the clouds become really dark and menacing, but Sam's wheel was still rolling. As we climbed up to the pass of Glencoe, we faced very heavy, icy rain. As we went into the pass, for some reason the rain stopped, and we experienced the best road in the entire trip. The scenery can't be described in words, and it was good downhill which we could freewheel at 30mph. It went on for miles and miles.

From LEJOG Day 12

We arrived at the youth hostel soaked but happy, and we went to a pub practically next to the hostel to have a great dinner. That evening we had some interesting characters in our dormitory, but nothing could stop us getting a good night's sleep.

We cycled at total of 81.4 miles. Here is our route.

Day 11

After a few longer days, we were really looking forward to this day. Of the entire CTC route, this was the shortest planned day. However, the weather was still miserable and looked like it would stay that way for some time.

We enjoyed the nicest breakfast of the entire journey, and got on our way. Despite being a shorter day, we were using fairly hilly roads. Also, there was a constant 20mph side wind, making it really hard to stay in a straight line. At some points, when we were unsheltered by trees, we couldn't stop laughing because the wind was so ridiculous. Lunch was interesting, but we managed to find shelter under a hill in a golf club.

Side wind was barely manageable, but when it was head wind, it got really annoying. Downhill should never require effort, but we really had to pedal to keep moving. Fortunately, as the day progressed, and after we had covered about 30 miles, the wind died down.

This was the point where we encountered another of the major climbs. Tak-ma-doon road was steep and endless, and took us up ridiculously high (263m). When we reached the top, there was a viewpoint where we could see Edinburgh and the sea, which at least gave us a bit of satisfaction. Also, the downhill was plentiful and great fun, our only complaint was a ford running across the road at one point.

Stirling was a nice city, fairly small and not too busy. There was a man playing the bagpipes, making us feel like we were truly in Scotland. The Stirling youth hostel was the first Scottish youth hostel we'd stayed in, and it seemed better than most of the English ones we'd stayed in - better equipped and in a more interesting building. That evening we trialled cooking pizzas, and it was definitely a success.

From LEJOG Day 11

We had covered 47.8 miles, which should have been easy, but thanks to the wind it took us ages and a large amount of effort. Our route is here.