Sunday 23 May 2004
Heartfelt thanks to the following for their generous support of this venture: Pickwick Caravans of Corsham, Wiltshire for the use of a Senator 7000 caravan (capacious and well equipped - tows well too), Westinsure of Chippenham (and elsewhere) for insurance of personnel and vehicles, Moulton of Bradford-on Avon for supply and preparation of Mike's bike for the trip and last for now, but by no means least, the help provided and promised by Rotary Clubs along the route. We arrived very early this morning at Lands End after overnight drive down. Following some sleep and brunch, left the back-up crew , got our cards stamped and started cycling at mid-day. Weather truly excellent for cycling and wild flowers along the roadside were spectacular. 53 km to Truro covered in 3 hours 3 minutes at average 17 kph. Felt so fresh, we could have gone on, but decided discretion was the better part of valour, this being the first day!! Full day's ride tomorrow to Tavistock.
Monday 24 May 2004
Left early . Again wonderful roadside flowers - red campion and rhododendron. Little traffic and both cyclists in good shape. 90 km 5 hrs 15 mnutes at average 17 kph. Tomorrow off to Tiverton.
Tuesday 25 May 2004
The crossing of Dartmoor, with long long hills, up and down. Plenty of heather, buzzards and ponies and the rare sight of a skylark. Great scenery and weather for cycling. 93.8km done in 6 hours 19 minutes at a slow average of 15 kph. Camping at Sampford Peverell, outside Tiverton. Tomorrow's leg to Bristol airport and a meeting with local TV stations. It's going much to plan so far!
Wednesday 26 May 2004
Early start from Tiverton to allow plenty of time to get to those TV interviews. Weather again good and the pair arrived to a welcoming crowd of 50 or so. After the TV shoot was over, the pair cycled 10 km on to Yatton, where the overnight stop had been arranged. 94km for the day in 5 hours 38 minutes at 16.6 km/hour average.
Thursday 27 May 2004
A tough day. After the long climb and descent over the Mendips, the route was over the Severn bridge and up past Tintern Abbey to Hereford for the overnight stop. 126 km travelled in 7 hours 38 minutes at an average of 16.5 kph.
Friday 28 May 2004
First rain of the trip, lasting on and off all day. Sights of squirrels and poppies in the fields and hedgerows. Passed through Pembridge, a restored village of stunning old houses. Worth a visit! Eventually to campsite at Calcott, west of Shrewsbury. Distance covered 79.9 km over 4 hours 36 minutes at 17.4 kph.
Saturday 29 May 2004
Another long day. Starting from Shrewsbury, the route followed the A49 most of the way. The steady rain had, as usual, washed all the sharp particles out of the gutter into the road. Mike had first one puncture, then another shortly afterwards. The town traverses were very slow and the pair failed to find the A49 route through Wigan. Eventually arriving at Chorley after 129 km, taking 7 hours 25 mins at average 17.3 kph. Shorter day tomorrow - only 80 km!
Sunday 30 May 2004
The pair left Chorley at 07h25 in slight rainy conditions, which cleared during the ride, to leave another sunny day. The 80 km to Kendal were travelled in 4 hours 22 minutes at an average of 18.3 kph. They arrived at the camp site at Sedgewick, close to Kendal, at lunch time, leaving the afternoon to unwind. The camp is on National Trust property and the caravans are set in clearings between beautiful mature trees. Mike had booked here for two nights, being nearly halfway, to allow for the change over of the support crew. Many thanks to Maurice and John for their generous and unstinting efforts during the first week to ensure that, amongst other things, the caravan was always where it should be and the riders knew where they were going!
Monday 31 May 2004
Mike and Diane were feeling in good shape this morning, so decided to forge onwards on the A6 toward Carlisle, over the daunting Shap Fell and leaving the caravan behind at Kendal. Geoff and Shirley, the new support crew, would pick them when they had had enough and return them to the caravan for the night. They stopped eventually just outside Carlisle after 4 hours 43 minutes, having ridden 76 km at average 16.2 kph. Shap Fell was not as bad as feared and they climbed the gravelly surfaced tarmac ascent with gears to spare. Weather again excellent, despite the forecast of heavy rain!!
Tuesday 01 June 2004
The heavy rain eventually arrived, and the ride out of Carlisle was a struggle, especially for Diane, who had picked up a stomach complaint. The back up crew were scouting around and managed to find a site with toilets (only) north of Dumfries, at Auldgirth on the A76, which is where they stopped the day's ride. 68.5 km ridden from Carlisle in 3 hours 50 minutes at an average speed of 18 kph, helped I am told by a following wind! Off to Ayr tomorrow, with hopes of finding more acceptable stopover facilities.
Wednesday 02 June 2004
A lovely ride along the Nith valley from Auldgirth, bordered by blackthorn bush (otherwise known as "may"). The route is fairly undulating, but no severe climbs. Diane had recovered from the stomach ailment, so the 95 km was covered in 5 hours 25 minutes at average 17.5 kph. Campsite at Ayr is very good, with all facilities and boasting a magnificent driveway flanked by rhododendrons in many different colours. Distance tomorrow depends on locating a suitable campsite.
Thursday 03 June 2004
The rain poured down all night, but eased up enough by early morning for the cycling to start, north up the A78 coastal road to Gourock. The pair boarded the ferry across the Clyde at McInroys, after 74 km, riding into headwinds and through rain showers of varying intensities. Arriving on the north shore at Hunter's Quay near Dunoon, they rode on again up the undulating A815, alongside Loch Eck and Loch Fyne to St Catherines, where they stopped for the day. Camping at Ardgartan in the Argyll Forest Park, with showers and toilets(!) Highlights of the day.... Maple trees, waterfalls into Loch Fyne, outstanding scenery, grey herons and eider ducks. 107 km travelled, averaging 21 kph over 5 hours 10 minutes cycling time. On to Oban tomorrow.
Friday 04 June 2004
A misty ride today around the top of Loch Fyne, north through Glen Aray, around the tip of Loch Awe. towards the coast at Connel. Quite hilly with two 13% climbs. Mike is very impressed with the ability of the Moulton to cope with this terrain, the gearing enabling him to ascend the long climbs fairly easily and helping to avoid strain on the "weaker" leg. Camped at Achindarroch on A828 , heading tomorrow for Fort William and Loch Lochy. Distance cycled today 113 km at 19 kph average.
Saturday 05 June 2004
Mike was feeling strong and they planned a long day's ride to Dingwall, 120 km away. Diane was having a bad day. Shortage of sleep and a return of the stomach complaint left her lacking energy, so they stopped after 85.1 km at Fort Augustus, taking 4 hours 42 minutes and averaging 18 kph. They rode through heavy mist all the way, passing Ben Nevis without seeing it. The pair have been badly attacked by the infamous Scottish midges and both apparently look as if suffering from measles! It's looking like Tuesday for the finish. Passing Loch Ness tomorrow to Dingwall and ever north.
Sunday 06 June 2004
Diane awoke early with shoulder pains, and the local GP responded immediately by arriving at the caravan site (what professional commitment!) to diagnose pneumonia, and then arrange hospital treatment. Diane arrived at Raigmore Hospital, Inverness and was swiftly dealt with at A & E. The illness, according to the doctors, was not necessarily caused by the cycling and could equally have been contracted at home! With Diane's encouragement, Mike pressed on and managed to do 20 miles for the day.
Monday 07 June 2004
Mike rode on alone up the A9 over difficult terrain in mixed weather conditions, supported still by willing Trowbridge Rotarians Shirley and Geoff in the backup rig.
Tuesday 08 June 2004
The day of Mike's arrival in Thurso, to well deserved press publicity and some advance celebrations. There remained only the final 30 miles, eastwards along the coast to JOG
Wednesday 09 June 2004
Mike arrived at John o'Groats, virtually on the original schedule. His was a truly magnificent performance, well planned and executed, by a very determined cyclist. St John Ambulance will benefit greatly, thanks to Mike and the generous main sponsors of his efforts - Moulton Cycles, Pickwick Caravans and Westinsure - please support them. Thanks also for invaluable support and encouragement from Mike and Diane's support teams, Rotary Clubs and St John Ambulance personnel along the route, and to Mike and Diane's financial sponsors who have supported such a worthy cause.
Thursday 10 June 2004
Diane continued to receive excellent treatment at Raigmore Hospital. This is a wonderful establishment in lovely surroundings, staffed by very competent, motivating and cheerful medical and support teams . The people of the Highlands served by this hospital have much to be proud of and be thankful for.
Friday 11 June 2004
Diane is set to be discharged from the hospital and will be collected by Mike for a return to the South by road, an air trip having been ruled out by the medics. Plans are already under way for Diane to return to Fort Augustus to complete the ride as soon as she is fit enough.
Diane's return Thanks to Nigel for the previous updates in the diary while Mike & I were cycling.
Saturday 14 August 2004
We left early in the morning to return by car to Scotland, Nigel was both driver and back up team. Apart from a few road works and a traffic jam through Glasgow we arrived safely at our B & B at the Northern end of Loch Lomond. Weather fairly good.
Sunday 15 August 2004
Left the B & B immediately after breakfast to drive to Fort Augustus and the spot where I ended my ride on 5 June 2004. A few slow drivers on the road and few passing places, made the trip slower than planned but I was on my bike just after 10:30. I set out along the A82 with the sun shining and the view of Loch Ness on my right. A left turn at Drumnadrochit and a right at Milton, up the A833 towards Beauly, set me up for the 15% hill which Mike had warned me about. Mike had suggested going through Inverness, but as I was not keen on the idea of 'town traffic' I ignored his recommendation. This may have been a mistake but somehow I managed to get to the top without any walking! I then turned onto the A862, through Beauly, Maryburgh and Dingwall before joining up with the A9 on the north shore of Cromarty Firth. I stopped for the day near Tain with 97.15 kms covered for the day.
Monday 16 August 2004
Slight rain, but not too serious and as we were near the Glenmorangie Distillery I suggested that Nigel should go and take a look while I continued along the way. This was a definite mistake as 4.5 kms down the road I had a puncture in the rear tyre!!! The phone signals were weak and there was no way I could get hold of Nigel on the mobile. I had just finished changing the inner tube when Nigel arrived and he put the wheel back on for me. Putting the wheel back on the tourer with mud guards I find very difficult, while the racing bike is so simple! So glad Nigel arrived when he did. Off again with a pretty uneventful ride down the A9 until I reached Helmsdale where I turned up the A897. This route is about 16 kms further than using the A9, but what a pleasure - no hills! This was definitely thanks to Mike who had warned me of the hills (mountains!) on the A9 between Helmsdale and Berriedale. On our return drive on this route I was certainly very happy that I had taken his advice. After turning on to the A897, the rain stopped and I enjoyed every moment of cycling along the valley, next to the river and railway line. We had booked into the Garvault Hotel at Kinbrace, and for cyclists doing the End to End my advice would be to stop at the Forsinard Hotel, which is on the road and only a few miles further on. Our hotel was 7 miles off the A897 route, and I was thankful that I had Nigel there with the car. It is in the Guinness Book of Records as the remotest hotel in mainland Britain!! Well, at least we have been there. 89.06 kms for the day.
Tuesday 17August 2004
We left the hotel early in the morning and as we arrived back on the route, so the rain started. As it looked pretty widespread ,there did not seem to be much point in hanging around, so off I went northwards on the A897 , with a very strong cross wind from the East, making a right turn on to the A836 along the north coast towards Thurso and John O'Groats and directly into the wind (it normally blows the other way!). By this time I was soaked and there still appeared to be no sign of a letup in the weather. By the time I got to Buldoo, the rain had stopped. A quick call to Nigel (the phones worked this time!) and he came back with dry shoes, socks and gloves for me. What a pleasure to push the pedals down without the water squelching out all over the place! As I cycled into Thurso, Nigel waved to me to stop and he had made some lunch for me to give me the extra energy needed to fight the horrendous wind. Back on my bike once more and struggling to keep upright, the picture of John'OGroats in my mind just kept me going. A slight drizzle started again but it was quite light. Four miles out of John O'Groats - OH NO - a puncture in the front tyre. Luckily although the phone signal was weak, I did manage to get hold of Nigel and he came racing back. Having found the spot where the puncture was, in went the new inner tube only to find this immediately had a puncture in a different place. Good job I had a good supply of tubes, as in went the next one which eventually managed to get me to my destination. I am sure that other people have been overjoyed at the sight of John O'Groats, but I am sure that none could have been happier than me with all the trials and tribulations along the way. 81.24 kms for the day and in total I had cycled 1569.61 kms from the time I had left Lands End.
My personal thanks go to all my sponsors and to Mike for his inspiration and help both before my trip to hospital and afterwards. To the back up team John, Maurice, Shirley, Geoff and Nigel and to the Dr's and staff of Raigmore Hospital, Inverness.
Wednesday/Thursday 18/19 August 2004
A drive home through diabolical weather listening to the news, landslides and flooding happening on the roads over which we had travelled only hours before. A very tiring drive with total concentration every minute of the way for Nigel.