Land’s End to John O’Groats;
another one ticked off the bucket list, that’s 2 down, 98 to go
The Alzheimer Brothers try to remember which way to go
It must be something to do with retirement approaching (we should have a great over 70s team in a few years), but I decided it was time to make a list and then consider it for a while before deciding to do any.
First one ticked off earlier this year when I took part in a ‘comedy play’, which as it turned out wasn’t as funny as ‘Le Jog’. Having been running for over 35 years I was starting to wear bits out, and get a few injuries, so took to cycling a couple of years ago.
Why cycling is better than running
1. You get to wear Lycra
2. You get to sit down whilst exercising
3. You can stop to eat / drink and then go faster
4. You have a machine to fettle (it’s a bloke thing)
5. You can go further and faster
6. You get to wear Lycra
Having done a few longer rides 2 years ago, I tried my first ‘tour’ last year cycling London to Paris; great fun. Met 8 like - minded Lycra clad - chaps and ladies and we still meet up several times a year for long rides and longer tea stops. It was during one of these stops last year in Clumber Park (great parkrun, just saying) that Dom said, ‘So what are we doing next year?’
Just over a year later, my son Jim had driven us to Cornwall and was lifting 2 bikes down from the top of my car in the village square, St Just, whilst Dom and I checked in. Nervous moment this, like when you arrive at a race and start looking round at the competition, seeing who looks fit, fast and in my case 55 – 60. Only a race normally lasts less than an hour, (even I can do 10k in less than an hour) but we would be with this lot for 2 weeks!
The other 23 folk seemed friendly enough, coming in all shapes and sizes, with experience ranging from a girl who had borrowed a bike and ridden 10 miles on it, to a guy who had been cycling 40 years and owned 13.5 bikes. 13.5? – will tell you later.
After a brief briefing, a beery beverage and big burger its an early night and an early start the next morning. Clearly Dom and I have no idea about pacing; we have 1,000 mile to do, but for some reason decide to race the 3 mile, twisty downhill narrow lane to Land’s End, overtaking Jim in my car who had come to see us off.
Classic photos by the Land’s End sign took about half an hour which is when you start to realize it actually is quite a long way and then we’re off!
Here’s the itinerary, with comments on some of the notable events. And at this point thanks to all those who made a donation to our chosen charity Alzheimer’s Society, over £1,600 raised.
Day 1 Lands End to Fowey 64 miles
Day 2 Fowey to Moretonhampstead 60 miles
Day 3 M’hampstead to Glastonbury 74 miles
First 3 days are tough and the hilliest. We came across hills in Cornwall that almost had us walking, and I thought Scotland would be the worst. Staying in Glastonbury was fun, our BnB was interesting and conveniently situated next to ‘The Psychic Piglet’ well you never know when you might need one when you’re out with Dom.
Day 4 Glastonbury to Monmouth 65 miles
This included navigating through and around Bristol, a task made much easier by Dom’s brother in law, a strong cyclist and resident of Bristol who joined us for the afternoon. We had several busy town / city centers to ride along the route, but today was the only occasion we encountered road rage; an elderly gentleman struggled out of his car to tell us what he was going to do with our bikes, that’s if he didn’t collapse from a heart attack first. Brave of him to pick on Dom’s brother in law; 6ft 4, 16st and a copper.
Day 5 Monmouth to Clun 57 miles
Dom claimed a first in Clun when his wife Nikki and son Chris joined us from Bromsgrove for the evening in the pub. We hadn’t made ourselves popular by riding off in front every day (who said it wasn’t a race?) and I had gone for a ‘Run in Clun’ when we arrived as it had been a relatively easy day, which apparently wasn’t appreciated by those still cycling in to the village 2 hours later. Then Chris made things worse by taking on and beating all comers at pool, including some very local locals in the pub.
Day 6 Clun to Runcorn 80 miles
Surprised to find the route went within 100m of a very old friend of mine. I used to work with Mike in 1975, I know, I know. So an extra coffee stop and quick catch up on the past 30 years (‘Yeah, been busy’) then on through Shrewsbury.
Classic 1980’s Holiday Inn in Runcorn where we were joined by 2 ladies from Manchester who we met on L2P last year, so more quick catch ups. At 4.30 a.m. we were woken by a hovering helicopter – the police attending a murder in the car park. Welcome to Runcorn.
Day 7 Runcorn to Conder Green 64 miles
Day 8 Conder Green to Keswick 75 miles
Ok, we had been lucky with the weather so far; 7 days in shorts, but torrential rain today left us cold and in a rush to finish in Keswick. So taking minimal time for food stops we pushed on along the busy main road to arrive at our BnB at 2.30, desperate to get warm and dry. Only problem is the kit van was two hours behind. Solution? Shower and into bed to keep warm. Unusual Sunday then.
The day ended on a high note when by another amazing coincidence we met a team of friends from Ivanhoe Runners who were making their way on the Coast to Coast on Mountain Bikes. So lots of tales to swap in the pub. Dom and I had them beat with yipping yarns as we had just completed Day 8, they had struggled with Day 1.
Day 9 Keswick to Moffat 72 miles
Day 10 Moffat to Loch Lomond 83 miles
Included navigating Glasgow, not bad thanks to Dom’s meticulous planning, his amazing sense of direction and oh yes, his Garmin.
Day 11 Loch Lomond to Glencoe 66 miles
Its these last 4 days that I’d been looking forward to, seemed like a different trip now. Beautiful Scotland bringing back fond memories of long road trips and longer back packing adventures many years ago. So many great photos, but no room here, have a look on FB.
Day 12 Glencoe to Inverness 83 miles
Fort William, the Great Glen, amazing. Colder now, but a good reason to wear warmer, clean kit! We had managed on ‘4 of everything’ well nearly everything for the 14 day trip and some landladies had kindly done washing for us which explains why my best white cycling top is now a delicate shade of yuk.
Day 13 Inverness to The Crask 66 miles
The route out of Inverness included a 400m-3mile-hillclimb-not-too-serious-king-of-the-mountains competition. I was proud to receive my chocolate-orange trophy for winning and as Dom was fastest over the whole 14 days, he was awarded the prestigious yellow sock.
It was today that we realized that we were going to compete a total of 989 miles if we stuck to the plan. It had to be done. Making an early departure from lunch at Bonar Bridge we rode 6 miles along the route and then much to the surprise of the rest of the field headed back to the lunch stop, turned again and re-grouped at tea stop smug in the knowledge that 1,001 would be our total.
Oh and the Crask is not a village, it’s a pub, a very remote pub standing on its own in the middle of a wilderness. The menu was dependent on what had been shot that day. Haggis in Dom’s case.
Day 14 The Crask to John O’Groats 82 miles
Downhill for first 15 miles and great weather for our final day. Riding as a group of 25 for the first time (TDF final-day style) we hit the north Scottish coast at Tongue and wheeled past the white sands of Dunnet Bay to our final destination John o’ Groats; 1,001 miles, 14 days, 67,000 calories used, 21,600 metres of ascent and no punctures.
Great trip. I have full route notes, garmin files and accommodation details if anyone wants them and if you are thinking of doing a supported trip like ours, then Peak Tours are highly recommended. They booked all the accommodation, pub lunch each day, transported our kit and provided excellent back up and snacks from the brew van.
14 days was about right, gave us time to enjoy it. 10 days is the classic target for many fitter cyclists, but at a 100 miles a day, can’t imagine there’s much time for anything apart from cycling and sleeping.
Oh and the 13.5 bikes? The half was a Unicycle!