Monday, 14 May 2012

Day 12 LEJOG Thurso to John O Groats
Today was the big day and the end of the long journey which had started in Lands End 11 days ago.
After breakfast(porridge,full English and 2 slices of toast with marmalade) we set off at745am. Unfortunately the weather wasn't that nice. It was drizzling and cold.

As we only had 28m to cycle to John O Groats some of us decided to go to Dunnet Head which is the most northern point of the British mainland.
The wind was coming from the west and this made our short bike journey even easier.The 4 mile detour to Dunnet head however was into (side)wind and mostly uphill.
Tony had set off a bit earlier and he came whizzing and woohoo-ing down Dunnet Head as we were on our way up battling the elements. There was nobody to be seen when we reached Dunnet Head.Soon after the fast boys arrived and we quickly helped eachother to shoot a few photos and were on our way again.

It was now only 16 more miles to John O Groats and with the favourable wind we got there in no time. We stopped at the local hotel as agreed with DA staff and as we entered we were cheered by the crowd who had not done Dunnet Head and who were already there.

There was another 45min untill we would all together go to the finish line so we had a coffee and a small whiskey(a lovely malt of the day) to warm ourselves up.

Once everybody had arrived and the time had come to go to the finish line the bad weather had cleared and the sun had come out just as it had done in Lands End.How lucky were we!
We all went in one big peloton down the road to the finish line and there it finally was, the finish line and the white post.
We all went under the DA banner across the finish line and everybody gathered around the post cheering and clapping.The air was filled with joy and happiness and some of us shed 1 or 2 tears.
We exchanged hugs and congratulated eachother with our enormous achievement and soon the champagne was flowing.
After personal and group photos were taken Phillip and I cycled to the edge of town to take a few photos at the John O Groats road sign. 

We changed into some more comfortable clothing and waited in the local coffee shop for the bus to arrive which was going to take us back to Inverness.

After a 3hr bus ride we arrived at our Hotel in Inverness and Phillip and I spent the afternoon cleaning and wrapping up our bikes. A good friend of Phillip happened to be in Inverness with his campervan and he would take our bikes to Lutterworth where he lives.

And so came an end to my LEJOG which has been an amazing and memorable journey and exceeded all my expectations. And for anybody who has the chance to do LEJOG I would say go and do it and raise some mony for a charity as the whole journey is a one in a lifetime experience which one will never forget and cherish forever.

Today:distance 27.34m,moving time 1hr44min,avg speed 15.8mph,max speed 31.9mph, elevation 978ft
Total distance 982m,total moving time 67hr04min,total elevation 40628ft (everest is 29029ft),    total pedal strokes 239493
Day 11 LEJOG Tain to Thurso
Today was probably the hardest day of the LEJOG journey.
The forecast wasn’t good  with rain and strong headwinds for most of the day.
We set off just after 8 from the Morangie Hotel and soon had to face a gusty headwind and rain as we crossed the Dornoch Firth.

We were cycling on the busy A9 and weren’t coming off until reaching Helmsford at 34m.
We had planned to try and stop for coffee/hot chocolate at Brora at 24m but we didn’t see any coffee shops so we cracked on. Jim had gone ahead and we lost sight of him.
We saw him again at the waterstop a few miles past Brora but as there was a steep hill immediately after Phillip and I decided not to stop and head for Helmsford to see if we could find a place to stop there.
The weather and wind were now very bad and we were very pleased to reach Helmsford and find a local museum with coffee shop.

The coffee and cake had not tasted so good for a long time and we took the opportunity to get dry and warm up.Inside we could see an old bridge crossing the local river.

After our stop the we turned inland onto the A897 and briefly it looked like the weather improved but soon it was raining again and the headwind was relentless.

We cycled along the Helmsdale river on quiet roads and spotted the occasional fisherman.Although it was only 18m further to our lunch stop it seem to take ages to get there.

When we finally reached it we saw Jim again who had been cycling with Matt, Chris and James who had been so kind to adopt him for the time being.

Lunch was brief as hail was now coming down. I quickly made myself a cheese sandwich and with the hot soup made by Christina I quickly sought shelter in one of the vans.
After lunch the three of us set off heading for Melvich where we would turn right for Thurso. This stretch was 22m and again took a long time to get through. Fortunately the rain stopped and the sun came through which made our ordeal a bit more bareable.

Once we had passed the turn our journey was fairly easy with tailwinds and lovely sunshine. We soon reached the 2nd water stop and briefly stopped for a drink, jelly babies and a banana.
There after it was only 12 more miles to Thurso and after passing a nuclear power plant and a windfarm we were treated to a very nice long descent into Thurso.

Our hotel for the night was the Station Hotel which was in the middle of town.
Beer/ale of the day: Tennents Ember brewed in Glasgow(creamy and with a slightly bitter but very pleasant after taste).

Today:distance 88.2m,moving time 6hr35min,avg speed 13.4mph,max speed 36.2mph,elevation 3596ft
Total distance 955m,total moving time 65hr20min,total elevation 39650ft

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Day 10 LEJOG South Laggan to Tain

Today was the day we climbed heart break hill,the toughest hill on the LEJOG.
After a reasonable night I was already up at 5.30am.I tried to be as quiet as possible but unfortunately I woke up Matt who asked me for god's sake how many zipps my travelbag had and shortly after James wondered whether I was playing space invaders when I was checking the settings on my pocket camera.
They are a good bunch really and all was said with tongue in cheek.
Breakfast was made by staff and a few lejoggers and the porridge and full english went down a treat.
We set off just after 8.It was chilly and windy but dry(for the moment).Unfortunately the wind was a headwind coming from the NE and this was going to hamper us all day.
We soon past Invergarry and stopped at on old bridge on our way to Fort Augustus.

It was at Fort Augustus that we saw our first glimpse of Loch Ness but as the weather was very bad I didn't take any photo's of it.

1st Waterstop was at 29m at Drumnadrochit.We decided to stop at the coffeeshop across the road.In there they did a Simpsons-like hot chocolate and with the cold rain now coming down this was most welcome.

After our coffee stop we headed for Heartbreak Hill,a 1.5m hill with an average gradient of 8.7% and a few ramps with gradients of 20%.Phillip and I managed to scale this beast of a climb successfully.

Jim unfortunately was less successfull but his excuse was that in Ireland the hills are not as steep and not long as this one.I think the real excuse is Jim's cassette which only has a 22 as biggest cog!
We stopped for a couple of photos at the summit and with temperatures now close to freezing we quickly moved on.

After passing through Beauly we headed for Dingwall where lunch was at 52m.Lunch was in the carpark of a leisure centre.
After lunch it was straight uphill again and once over the top we had another 20m to do in now strong headwinds and exposed terrain.We took it in turns and after a brief stop at the 2nd waterstop saying hello to Jo we made our way to Tain where we arrived around 3pm.

In Tain Phillip and I are staying on the edge of town in the Morangie Hotel.Diner is at the Royal Tain Hotel in the centre of town.

Today:distance 76.93m,moving time 5hr30min,avg speed 13.8mph,max speed 35.3mph,elevation 3875ft
Total distance 867m,total moving time 58hr45min,total elevation 36054ft

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Day 9 LEJOG Inveraray to the Great Glen Hostel at South Laggan

Today was the day of castle's,lochs and Ben Nevis.

After eggs benedict for breakfast(jummy) we left the Loch Fyne Hotel just after 8.
We cycled to the other side of Inverary where I took a picture of the local castle which I had missed the day before.
Cycling out of Inverary we soon we going uphil(13%) and this continued for another 8miles although at a less steeper graidient(3-5%).We were on our way to Connel and after getting over the summit we stopped to take some photo's of the beautiful scenery and longhorn cows.

We stopped for coffee/hot chocolate at a hydropower visitor centre along side a loch with the most amazing mirror image.

We continued to cycle along more lochs and spotted some more castles either in the loch or on the side.

The 1st waterstop was at Connel and next to an old iron bridge.

After a 10min stop we cycled on,now heading for Fort William on the A82.This was a long stint of 33m so we stopped a couple of times for photos and sorting out small bike and garmin problems.

Somewhere halfway between our 1st waterstop and our lunch stop I spotted a lovely golf course with some snow covered mountain tops in the background.

After our lunch stop at 65m we headed for Fort William and it was after cycling through this town that I saw a white painted bike attached to a fence which happened to be a memorial of a cyclist who had died there.

It was not long after we could see Ben Nevis and it snow capped peak.

We then cycled on the Spean Bridge and as we were all quite tired we stopped for a cup of tea at a local mill shop.

We finally arrived after a long day and 95 miles at the Great Glen Hostel just past South Laggan
Here we were treated to diner made by our staff and Jim said it was the best diner(chili con carne) and pudding(apple pie with custard) of the whole trip!

Today:distance 94.87m,moving time 6hr18min,avg speed 14.8mph,max speed 32.9mph, elevation 3386ft
Total distance:790m,total moving time 53hr15min,total elevation 32179ft

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Day 8 LEJOG Kilmarnock to Inveraray

Today was the day of the little ferry from Gourock to Dunoon and cycling into the highlands of Scotland.
We left with sunny spells an a south to south-westerly wind which was just what we wanted.
We set off from the Premier Inn at 7.50hrs and cycled through Crosshouse and Irvine.
In Irvine we met up with Tony who had left the hotel a bit earlier but had taken a wrong turn somewhere towards the A71.
After Irvine we headed towards Kilwinning on the A737.At Kilwinning we joined the A78 towards Largs.
A beautiful seaview was in our sight when coming down the hill towards the seafront.

We cycled in gorgeous sunshine and roads along the shore and soon we were in Largs for our 1st waterstop of the day.

Opposite our waterstop was Nardini's,an art deco style ice cream parlour,where we stopped for coffee/hot chocolate and cake.

Phillip's saddle had been bugging him for the last 2 days so he decided to ditch the Brooks and replace it by a saddle from the bike shop around the corner.
We then continued towards Gourock where the were going to catch ferry to Dunoon.We were still cycling on the coastline road and stopped quickly at a very cute little lighthouse on the roadside.

Soon after we reached the ferry and got on board after collecting our tickets.
In a way we were lucky as almost immediately after getting on board we left for Dunoon.

Several photos were taken on board and of Dunoon on the other side with its most stunning mountainous backdrop.

The ferry trip only lasted about 20min and once we got back on land we only had 7m to cycle to our lunchstop at Benmore Botanical Gardens.
The lunch itself was in an old barn at the back of the gardens.

After stopping for about half an hour we were on our way again and we cycled along the most stunning shores of Loch Eck.

After a couple of miles we spotted Dave,one of the fast boys who decided to cycle on his own today,on the roadside with a puncture.We stopped and quickly helped him on his way again and he cycled with us to the 2nd waterstop.
Just as we were about the leave the fast guys arrived and soon they had caught up and 2 of them passed us.
As I was feeling good I decided to follow them and I cycled with Brian the last 10m.Darren,the iron man guy,was a bit too fast but he was so kind to wait for us as we entered Inveraray and the 3 of us then cycled to the Loch Fyne Hotel.

Beer/ale of the day: Jarl,a hoppy blond ale brewed in Argyll

Today:distance 77.42m,moving time 4hr47min,avg speed 16.2mph,max speed 36.5mph,elevation 1991ft
Total distance 695m,total moving time 46hr57min,total elevation 28793ft