I feel more tired today than I have for many a week. It's not that I am actually more tired, it's just that I'm relaxing and winding down knowing that it's all over. This ride has been months, if not a whole year in the planning and execution, and now that I've successfully got my contraption from JOG to LE, I can relax properly.
Thank you all, for your kind comments, your thoughts and encouragement, your eagerness to read my missives, and above all, your friendship.
We were up and having a cuppa by 5.30 yesterday. There wasn't much preparation to do as Chopper was still mounted on the back of the car and Trailer was still stowed in the back. All I needed was to refresh my water bottles, check my stuff, dress and go. Meanwhile, I checked weather forecasts for West Cornwall and found that they were suggesting rain and showers. Here in East Cornwall, the day looked promising, so I took tights and waterproofs in Trailer, but wore a light top and shorts.
In the event the weather was ok. Cool and overcast, and only a few spots of rain.
After a mile or more, I'm getting a little worried that I had indeed missed it! There was no way I was going to re-trace my route, so kept going feeling a little terrible that we may not meet up. As I passed a young chap walking along, I slowed down and asked if I was ok for Smokey Joe's. To my utter relief, he told me to keep going and it would be on the right. Phew!
As I climbed a long hill. I could see a cyclist in red in the distance, and guessed it would be Nigel. We greeted each other, and cycled together the few hundred yards to the cafe. We sat outside, chatting all the time and ordered a bacon bap and a mug of tea each. Yum.
It was just after 10am and the place was packed! It only opens at 10am on a Sunday, so all those people must've been waiting outside and queueing up. Chopper rested on his stand outside the door, and very soon a small crowd were gathering to admire him. Choppers always gather interest, and soon I was answering questions about this and that - as usual!
By 10:45, we were off. I led the way to set the pace, and we followed the Old A30 though Redruth and Camborne, over Connor Downs and down into Hayle. We stopped frequently as my bum can't stand too much of that saddle after the first few hours.
From Hayle, we went along the Hayle River estuary and up to the big roundabout that joins into the A30. From there, we followed the main road the half dozen miles into Penzance. At one of our stops, I saw St Michael's Mount in the bay, and asked Nigel if there was somewhere on the route that would make a good photograph with the Mount in the distance. He suggested Penzance seafront, so for the first time in my life, I rode into the town.
From leaving the town, it's only 8 miles to LE, but the hills are awful! Up and down constantly and one or two are quite steep too. NOT an easy ride at all.
Throughout the day, Hilary had been in Truro doing a spot of shopping, then made her way to LE. I'm actually quite proud of her navigational skills even though she's hopeless normally. I've tried getting her to read a map, but it's a waste of time. Either way, she followed her nose - and signposts - and made it in one piece. We'd texted and chatted during the ride, so she was kept abreast of our progress.
Shortly after 2pm, LE was in view and I triumphantly crossed the line!
LE is busy during the summer season, and especially at Bank Holiday weekends. Today was no exception. Rudely, a German coach had parked next to the Finish Line and the German tourists milled about and got in the way. I was excusing myself loudly and forcibly to get through them. They just seem to ignore you unless you shout! Anyway, I battled through and rode the last 50 yards to the post.
There, I did it. I knew I could do it, even though I lost sleep worrying about the long leg between Inverness and Pitlochry. From there, I was over the worst of it. It was a great relief to have been able to do the 90 miles over the Grampians, but had the weather been bad - rain, wind etc - I would have had a great deal of difficulty. Perhaps I was asking too much of myself. Anyway, I was lucky and made it. I wouldn't say the rest was plain sailing, but that 90 miles was long and tough.
Hilary drove me home. I was hungry, it was a Sunday afternoon and all I could think about was calling in at Smokey Joe's on the way. I needed one of their breakfasts! We sat down and Hilary ordered a cheeseburger and chips, and I had a Large Breakfast: egg, fried bread, potato fritters, sausage, bacon, hogs pudding, mushrooms, beans, and tomatoes. YUM! I devoured it and nearly licked my plate! Hilary couldn't manage all her chips, so I polished them off for her!
3373ft total ascent
Someone once made the point about hilly rides and how if you convert our Imperial measurements into Metric you can see how many metres of total ascent for each day compared to the kilometres travelled. If you take 10mtrs per Km as "hilly" and anything less as not quite, you get some interesting readings:
Golspie to Inverness - 5
Leyland to Wrexham - 6.7
Ludlow to Gloucester - 7
Gloucester to Bridgwater - 7.1
Wrexham to Ludlow - 7.6
Pitlochry to Edinburgh - 7.82
Penrith to Leyland - 7.83
Beattock to Penrith - 7.85
JOG to Wick - 8.43
Inverness to Pitlochry - 8.44
Edinburgh to Beattock - 9.43
Wick to Golspie - 11
Sourton to St Columb - 12.4
Bridgwater to Sourton - 12.7
St Columb to LE - 13.1
This makes the West Country the toughest, and Scotland and the North, by comparison, relatively easy.
Now, time for the total statistics!
Distance 892.18 miles
111hrs and 75 minutes total time divided into 15 days of cycling
87hrs 4mins and 53secs sitting and pedalling!
41,097ft of ascent
63,328 calories expended!
120bpm average heart rate
65rpm average pedalling speed
10.3mph average speed
8mph average speed for the days including stops
Hardest day was Inverness to Pitlochry because of the time and distance.
Second hardest was Bridgwater to Sourton because of the relentless hills
Easiest was Ludlow to Gloucester because it was short and flat
Best Place to stay (other than Pene's in Wrexham or at home!) Admiral Blake at Bridgwater
Second best Beattock Lochhouse Farm
Worst was Georgian Guest House, Gloucester
Best moment arriving at LE
Second best riding out of the big hangar at Wick Airport! (I wish I'd caught it on film!)
Worst moment having to repair the sprockets in the middle of nowhere high up in the Grampians
That's it. I feel as though I've been typing this blog for years, I think I've exhausted my thoughts and feelings. This blog has taken me a couple of hours or more at each visit, and it took some effort in the evenings after a hard slog on Chopper.
Thank you so much for reading, and thank you once more for all the kind comments. It has brought tears to my eyes on many an occasion thinking of you lot out there thinking of me and enjoying the ride with me.
I have to give special thanks to our great friend Paul Pridham, as without his engineering expertise I couldn't have done this. Chopper has had a lengthened BB spindle and two sprockets added by dint of his workshop technique. These things are small and insignificant, but without them I couldn't even have contemplated the ride. They enabled me to have adult sized cranks and chainwheels and to extend the gear range to get me up the hills and along the flat bits too. Paul also supplied a pallet and wrapped up my stuff so expertly and securely.
I have to thank McGill Transport too, for transporting the pallet with Chopper and Trailer - all for free. I also have to thank Andrew Bruce and Far North Aviation at Wick Airport for being so accommodating in accepting my pallet and allowing me to leave the rubbish and wood for him to dispose of.
I have to thank the CTC Forum and all the contributors who helped me design and build my contraption. They read my endless posts and commented unreservedly with suggestions - some amusing! - about ways forward and also technical advice. Also I had offers of support and parts, not least of which were the front rack, the brackets and fittings (Thanks Ferrit Worrier!), the double chainset and the front derailleur and the modern rear tyre.
I have to thank the folk that cycled with me, Dougie in Edinburgh, Malc in Lancashire and Cheshire, and Nigel down in West Cornwall. Also Mike and Will from Bristol to Bridgwater. I was so sorry to have missed Colin in Lancaster, and sorry that Si couldn't make it to Ludlow and Alan too, south of Wrexham.
I have to thank Katy, our older daughter, for making me such wonderful flapjacks! They kept me going for mile after mile after mile. Thank you Katy.
Most of all, I have to thank Hilary, as without her unending support, encouragement and patience, I could never have even started. I love her to bits. She's wonderful.
Thank you all. Honestly.
Mick and Hilary.