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One last push today, we sang the national anthem as we lined up for a final morning photo shoot, and the boys headed off. the rain came soon, and we headed up into the clouds, the fog was really thick and the boys kept close together, we even drove along behind them at some points, a van is more visible than a bike!
the clouds lifted in the afternoon, and the boys left the A9 for a cross-country route. I had some shopping to do so headed into Wick, sadly one of the most lifeless places I’ve ever been, more shops were shut or closed down than open, but i did manage to find a road atlas for the journey home (still unimpressed by the SatNav!)
I met Geoff and Christine at John O’Groats, and we prepared bunting, signs and cameras for their arrival. They came in together, and crossed the line in a big group, the same as we started in Land’s End. 10 started but only 8 were in that group, it was gutting to not cycle over the line with them, and gutting not to have Jobby with us, but we’ll finish it in the future.
Next up was the obligatory photo shoot, they actually charge you to have a photograph next to the official sign, and they stop at 5 so we’d missed it anyway, trust the Scots! So we found another John O’Groats sign and had photos in front of that, all together, and individual shots of the boys holding their bikes above their heads (or at least trying to!) We all held Jobby’s bike up, some were wearing his clothes, his best mate Boardy wearing his personalised cycling top.
as the rain started we ran to the end of the harbour wall, and the boys stripped off for some very quick and cold photos with just helmets for the essentials, and yes these photos will be available online! Calendar to follow in time for Christmas…
we all piled into the car and the van, elated, singing, i felt like the bus driver at the end of The Italian Job driving the windy coastal roads to Thurso, trying to to spin the van off a cliff! Battered mars bars were purchased and we headed out for a celebratory curry in the only restaurant that seemed to be open in the whole of Thurso!
Not reaching John O’Groats on my bike was one of the most disappointing moments of my life, having trained hard, invested heavily and dreamed wildly about this for the last year. I hate the pain in my knee that put an end to my ride and is still making my limp now, and I had to put all that to one side as I celebrated the incredible achievement of my friends today, what they’ve done has been truly amazing. But I’m so glad I’ve stuck with them, seen their frowns turn to smiles as we spur them on up the hill. I gave my all whilst I could ride, and did all i could in support since. The “med run” every night, making sure they had all the drugs and creams they’d need to get through the next day’s cycling, getting the bike parts they needed, food and drink, and yelling out of the van how well they were doing.
I’ve seen this amazing country from top to bottom (bottom to top actually), I’ve fallen in love with the UK even more, bonded with the guys, taken hundreds of photos and gigabytes of video, got lost, found again, shared joy and felt pain, and it’s been amazing. Most importantly I’ve still managed to raise some money to give the amazing kids at Adonai in Uganda a house ti live in, thanks to your kindness and support, and I WILL finish what I promised you I’d do. On the first day as i pushed my bike up the hill after 91 miles, knee already starting to hurt and scared of how I’d cycle the remaining 900 miles, I thought of what an honour it was to make a difference to these kids’ lives, they’re not “less privileged”, they’re just not privileged at all. I’m so proud of Steve Allwright who rode the whole way for Adonai, between us we’ve raised about £3500 which will do so much for Adonai.
So thank you for your kindness, support (texts, tweets, comments and facebook messages have lifted me from some pretty dark places in the last 11 days!), thanks you to EVERYONE who’s helped us along the way, too many to mention, for your your amazing hospitality, kindness and support, my fellow support team Rachel Tara Geoff and Christine, and Darren, Steve, Dan, Pete, Chris, Jobby, John, Matt and Jonny, biker boys forever!
(i’m late for dinner and haven’t proof read this, and i’m hungry and can’t be bothered, sorry for the bad spelling!)
Loch Ness this morning was stunning, bigger than I’d imagined, and when the rain stopped and the sun came out we stopped for some photos about half way up. Steve had a broken spoke so we did a quick wheel change by the side of the road, 14 minutes not exactly tour de France standard!
We had our first category 3 hill today, the car struggled to get up it with everyone’s luggage but we were impressed to see all 8 cyclists conquer it with style, great effort.
After lunch on the platform of a station opposite the Royal Scotsman we headed into Inverness to pick up the van, which I’d be driving. It’s massive! Built in sat nav (which is impossible to program), got my phone plugged in with some decent music (no more spice girls!), getting used to a manual gearbox and no rear view mirror, this is my adventure now! Being high up is great as I can make the most of the views, still spectacular.
We arrived at our overnight stay, a converted railway carriage and went for a wonder with the camera, photos to follow, I loved spending a few minutes by myself with a camera, I’ve missed being creative!
Rain rain rain, cling film on feet to keep them dry, with varying degrees of success. 103 miles smashed out today, late lunch at a golf course. John did great dosed up and dozy on pain killers, beautiful around the lochs. Steve Bental came down from the isle of Skye to see us, brought whiskey, hence the late night and rather brief blog today!
Jobby is home and well, the boys are wearing his clothes as spares.
2 days left, great riding from the lads!
Today was our “rest day”, with “only” 60 miles to cycle, and good weather forecast. But we had to catch a ferry to Arran at 9:15, 20 miles from the travel lodge, and it was raining hard. The boys made it on time and we had breakfast on the ferry, drying shoes off with a hair drier!
Spectacular views from the ferry as we crossed, leaving the rain behind, the boys all warmed up and got a good fry-up inside them. 15m round the island then 25 the other side, a day to enjoy!
We met the boys on top of the one big hill climb chatting with some other cyclists doing LEJOG the other way. The boys set off down the hill and we followed a minute or so behind. Coming round a corner we could see cars stopped and two of our boys were down, ran to the scene with the medical bag to find them both talking but in pain. Within minutes two separate doctors “happened” to appear, an ambulance followed soon after and two local doctors.
I went in the doctors car with John, my oldest friend and cycling buddy from childhood, seemed fitting that the two of us should end up in A&E after all the crashes we’ve had over the years! He was discharged with no serious injuries, just bruising, and promptly got back on his bike and cycled the rest of the day! Hero!
The other rider, jobby, I’m pleased to say escaped major injury as well, but his back pain was bad so he was airlifted to the mainland by the royal navy, admitted to hospital overnight and is flying home tomorrow. Looks like I’ll have some company when I finish next year, he even joked about it when he was on the ground, lots of banter with the boys, he’s a top lad! The dream’s not over, it’s just on pause.
We had help from the ambulance, doctors, police, royal navy, coastguard, royal marines, the public, and an amazing lady from the Arran distillery who took the injured guys bikes and chased us down with a helmet that got left behind. So much support and kindness from the British public! Teamwork makes the dream work!
The boys finished the ride carefully, far later than anticipated, and we rounded the day off with a much needed curry and a toast to our fallen comrade, jobby wood.
He’s riding for cancer research, his page is http://www.justgiving.com/WOODY-LE2JOG
The boys always have a start time to aim for each morning, and always miss it by a good hour or so, and today we were delayed by guessing the days football results. We had a new rider with us, Chris Watt, a friend of Darren’s who we’d stayed with the night before, huge thanks to the watt family for a great evening and beds with duvets, great to be out of sleeping bags!
I found a guitar and we had a breakfast singalong of Paul Simon’s You can call me Al, which has become our anthem for the tour and gave the boys a great boost first thing, along with a cracking cooked breakfast!
A fresh rider seemed to make a big difference and the boys kept up a great pace.
We had a few long climbs but nothing too steep, a different challenge and a lot of rain, Scotland living up to its reputation so far! The scenery was spectacular, great winding roads and epic views through the mountains, really lifted spirits. We made our breaks on time and made it to Ayr early enough to get showered before dinner and put normal clothes on for the first time in a week. A massive meal out filled a hole nicely, and match of the day brought some normality to this extraordinary adventure.
The guys have good days and bad days, but are always looking out for each other, the stronger ones helping the strugglers. Dan is carrying a similar injury to me but battling through with incredible determination, after some worryingly bad days recently he was smiling every time I saw him today, what a hero.
They talk about hitting their limit, maybe around 70 miles, it varies, but every day they cycle over 90 miles, through the wall and beyond. Amazing work.
As for me, I’m frustrated being cooped up in the van/car a day, knee in pain and not with the boys, the only real consolation is keeping dry when the rain’s lashing down, which will probably be quite a lot now we’re in Scotland!
today we smashed over a hundred miles through the lake district, the scenery is so beautiful, i wish I’d been cycling! having said that, there was a lot of rain too, and a few beastly hills, moral got pretty low but the boys arrived in one piece, to another amazing welcome (lasagne went down very well!). very impressive from the boys!
today was the last day with the girls and the van as the support crew, Geoff and Christine take over now in their faithful old Previa. I’m really going to miss the girls they’ve been great company and a massive support despite the disappointment of pulling out.
another late night (arrived at 9pm today!) and another early start, i had hoped to write more about undulating hills and what not, but it’s not happening! good night!