Saturday, 25 May 2013

Land's End to John O Groats  2000 

 In July 2000, a club mate, Pete and myself completed a 13 day ride from Land's End to John o Groats.  For me it was the second time, previously completing it with the Darlington Freewheelers in 1991.

For the journey, I had with me my trusty Psion 5MX, Kodak DC215 1.2megapixel digital camera, and a Sony Ericsson SH888 mobile phone. Each night I could get a signal, I would email a short report and ftp the day's photographs up to a website - These were the days before facebook, twitter etc.

I thought the website along with the photos had long been lost unfortunately, but I managed to find them on the Internet archive. Nothing's ever deleted from the 'net.

Below in the left is the diary collated from the emails I sent to friends following me, and in the righthand column, is the entries posted on the website. The day titles link to maps of each day's route on Bikely

Day 1 Lands End to Tintagel

Brilliant Day's cycling. not a single 1/2 mile of flat road out of 76! Lovely and sunny all day temps in low 70's with just a hint of a headwind.
We changed the route today slightly from published. Headed to Penzance then Marizion and St Michaels Mount, before heading across to Cambourne and Redruth. We then took the A30 towards St Columb Major where we broke for lunch.
We then cycled past Wadebridge before heading across to the coast and Tintagel along some wonderful minor roads.
Had a couple of scary moments heading to Tintagel with sharp bends coming up quickly on a steep and fast descent.
Now sat outside the hostel on the cliff top writing this email. Will send a separate email containing all photos from today. A couple of minor issues have prevented posting to my internet site just yet, hope to do so in a day or 2.

Day 2 - Tintagel to Greenham

We are now at a place called Greenham, about 15 miles west of Taunton. Done 165m so far, and a very hard 90 today - constantly up and down. Some good downhills though - scared a woman shitless, she was we met whilst I was just on my side of the road doing about 45mph coming around a bend. 

Day 3 - Greenham to Chepstow

Greetings from a very sunny Wales, Yes we hit the first milestone by crossing the Severn and headed into Wales. Now covered about 250 miles. It's been another fantastic day with the temp well into the 70's and wall to wall sunshine all day. We found a field full of dope growing near Wellington; it was more like Columbia than Somerset! The website is now up to date, I should be able to keep it updated now well into Scotland. I'll only post the photos to the site as they can take a while to upload, and mobiles are not the most reliable at the best of times. More good weather to come for the next few days. With travelling East and north east for 3 days our right legs and arms are noticeably browner than our left!

Day 4 - Chepstow to Ludlow

Greetings from Ludlow. It's been a bit of a rest day today as we only covered 67 miles from Chepstow, through Monmouth, Hereford, Leominster, and Ludlow. Roads were a little hilly though. The Wye valley from Chepstow was outstanding, as it always is. The rest of the day was through rolling countryside. Weather has been great again warm and sunny most of the day, with a bit of light cloud later on. Met a couple of guys also "end to ending" Although the routes are different they are also intending to be in JoG when we are - so we're all going to try to meet up for a beer or few. 

Day 5 - Ludlow to Northwich 

Greetings from Northwich. Well we've now covered 400 miles. Fairly flat day today with no real jaw dropping scenery or interesting tales. Weather started fairly cloudy but it broke as the day wore on. Headed to Church Stretton on minor roads, and then blasted the 11 miles up to Shrewsbury on the busy A49 at 25mph. We then headed through Wem, Whitchurch, Nantwich, and Winsford on minor lanes and B Roads to Northwich. We met Tweedledee and Tweedledum (from yesterday) again heading out of Shrewsbury towards Wem, had a few minutes chatting as we cruised along before splitting off again. Given their progress we're not sure they'll make that beer a week tomorrow! 

Day 6 - Northwich to Kendal

We are at Kendal YH tonight. covered 90 miles through the northwest today so it was mainly crap urban stuff and big main roads. Quick though we were here by 4:00pm! Weather has been fantastic today hot sunshine all day. came across some melting tarmac this afternoon. Tomorrow we head into Scotland - a big milestone. 

Day 7 - Kendal to Lockerbie

Scotland at last! We've finally entered Scotland. We've covered 73 miles today, and 563m since Land's End. Another brill day weather wise. Came over Shap fell from Kendal this morning. I really enjoyed it, just like an alpine pass! heading to Kilmarnock tomorrow. 

Day 8 - Lockerbie to Kilmarnock 

Greetings from Sunny Kilmarnock. We've covered 72 miles today from Lockerbie. Some of you will be undoubtly be pleased that we had a cloudy day today, with a cool easterly wind. Cleared up when we got to Kilmarnock though. We are now at 2/3rds distance overall. We've had a load of laughs tonight. Staying in a bungalow reminisant of South Fork! absolutely huge. ensuite, swimming pool etc for £18 a night. weather has been mostly cloudy today with a cool easterly wind for most of the day. Been quite a shock after getting used to all the hot sunshine! now at 2/3 distance at 635 miles since LE. Heading to Inverary tomorrow, after a quick visit to a bike shop - I broke a spoke today and need a replacement, Peter needs to pick up a bolt after one rattled loose and fell off. I also need to buy some new mitts. I’m getting sore palms as my current ones don't have enough shock absorbing padding in them. About to watch Willy Wonka before getting something to eat!!! I love this film!!! 

Day 9 - Kilmarnock to Inverary 

Greetings from Inverary. We are now in the highlands of Scotland. 85 miles today + a ferry crossing. Been a really mixed day today. Had to wait in Kilmarnock until 10:30 for a bike shop, only to find that they didn't have what we needed and that we had to go to Irvine (off route). So we did and then had to make yet another detour to Greenock, as I broke my second spoke, and Peter broke his first. After pratting about waiting for over 1/2 hr the guy was hopeless, and not interested in trying to help. Once over the ferry we then had a 36 mile hike to Inverary. once we caught the ferry though everything started running like clockwork again. Only 4 days left now! Yea!! 

Day 10 - Inverary to Fort William 

No update - due to lack of phone reception

Day 11 Fort William to Inverness 

Greetings from Inverness. I haven't had a decent mobile signal for days until tonight in Inverness. Check out the site for the full story on what's been happening. Last night at Fort William was full of yanks and krauts, tonights full of Chinese - and they seem to have taken over the kitchen. A busman's holiday for them perhaps? The fire alarm went off last night at 02:45 - apparently, as I slept all through it! We've changed the route for the next couple of days. Instead of heading up to Tongue, we are sticking to the coast and stopping halfway up at Helmsdale tomorrow night. It'll knock about 40 mile of the total but we should still hit the 1000m mark. 

Day 12 - Inverness to Helmsdale 

Today we'd changed the plan and decided to head up the coast to Helmsdale, instead of heading for Tongue. We now only have 55 miles to cycle on the last day. Had a nice day cycling along the coast in sunshine. Staying in the hostel with a party of 16 school kids doing the end to end in 3 weeks. 

Day 13 - Helmsdale to John O Groats 

We arrived at John o Groats at 13:10 after a grand total of 991 miles. Out of the people we had met, we were the first here. followed by Matt (alias "Fred") who'd we met in Inverness and then the school kids from Garstang. Once photos had been taken etc. we all retired to the bar for a few beers. Another couple of guys whom we'd heard about turned up having also completed it. A really great afternoon after a fantastic 13 days cycling. Tweedlee and Tweedledum (Richard and Keith) have also made it tonight as well. This is something which I started whilst going up the A9 yesterday and today. Probably means that I've spent too long on the road, and need to get back to a normal life! This is to be sung to the tune of "12 days of christmas" 7 Bed and Breakfasts, 6 End to Enders, 5 Hostels in Scotland, 4 Broken Spokes, 3 Countries, 2 Signposts, 1000 miles... Cannot think of anything to go with numbers 8 to 12 though. Am I mad or just sad......?

Brilliant Day's cycling. not a single 1/2 mile of flat road out of 76! Lovely and sunny all day temps in low 70's with just a hint of a headwind.
We changed the route today slightly from published. Headed to Penzance then Marizion and St Micheals Mount, before heading across to Cambourne and Redruth. We then took the A30 towards St Columb Major where we broke for lunch.
We then cycled past Wadebridge before heading across to the coast and Tintagel along some wonderful minor roads.
Had a couple of scary moments heading to Tintagel with sharp bends coming up quickly on a steep and fast descent.
At the hostel we quickly made friends of the other hostellers, and after an excellent meal headed of to the pub with Nicola, and Moira. They even laughed at my jokes.

A very hard ninety miles today across Cornwall, Devon, and finally into Somerset. We kept on minor roads all day passing through Holsworthy, Hatherleigh, and Tiverton, where we then dropped onto the A38 for the last few miles to Greenham nr Wellington. Until Tiverton the roads were a continual switchback. Always up or down. Gave the gears a good workout though as well as my legs! Funniest moment came shortly after Holsworthy. We'ed started chatting to some other cyclists on tour, who turned out to be from Newcastle. a few miles further on we passed them, then in 1 village we'd turned as we had taken the wrong road out. as we headed back through the village and onto the correct road, we passed them again, only to overtake them a third time, about 2 miles down the road, as the 2 lanes merged.

87 miles today from Wellington, in Somerset to Chepstow. A major milestone today when we crossed the Severn estuary into Wales We headed to Wellington, and then through Taunton and Bridgewater, before heading to Cheddar, and the climb up Cheddar Gorge before heading to Bristol and Chepstow. The climb up the gorge was great, the scenery, gradient, and weather were more reminiscent of the Picos mountains in Spain than England! We had a break in Taunton whilst Peter had his bike looked at by Ralph Coleman cycles. There was a spacer missing from the cassette cluster which was replaced. Many thanks to the shop for helping us out. Brilliant helpful staff, and loads of stock - well worth a look if you're in the area. The weather agan has been glorious with wall to wall sunshine, and temps well into the 70s. Oddest site today had to have been the fields of cannabis growing near Wellington. 

A rest day today. Only 67 miles! We headed up the quiet A466 through the Wye valley, and Forest of Dean to Monmouth and then to Hereford where we had a break. From Hereford we zigzagged a bit on minor roads to avoid the A49, and headed through Leominster to Ludlow. Weather has been glorious again. Legs were feeling a bit dull but are still climbing strongly. They should feel better in the morning after todays rest. Met Tweedledee and Tweedledum, another couple of EndtoEnders in Leominster, and although they''re taking a different route, they are expecting to be in John o Groats the same night as us. So we're all hoping to meet up for a couple of beers on the night. We never caught their names unfortunately. Just before Leominster, we passed a Cadburys factory, and all we could smell was chocolate! We took as many lungfuls as we could, and it was an extremely pleasant experience (almost Orgasmic!) ;-). Ludlow where we are staying tonight has a really old centre with lots of elizabethan type buildings as you'll see from the photos  

 Another 80 miles north finds us in Cheshire, after a day in warm sunshine. We've now covered 400 miles since Land's End. We took some lanes cutting across Wenlock Edge to Church Stretton before time trailing the 11 miles along the A49 to Shrewsbury at 25 mph. We caried on through quiet roads towards Wem, Whitchurch, and Winsford to Northwich Weather has been glorious again. A bit cloudy this morning, but that slowly dispersed as we headed north. We met up with the 2 cyclists from yesterday again just north of Shrewsbury.we rode together for a couple of miles, before splitting up again. Whilst the day itself was quiet, on the evening I nipped along to the local shop for a chocolate fix, and got chatting to the shopkeeper who was amazed at what we were doing, and that we were passing though Northwich. The town is apparently sinking as there are loads of salt mines below Northwich, and they are frantically trying to sort the problem out before the whole town disappears into a very large hole!

Ninety miles of main road bashing finds us in Kendal Youth Hostel tonight We followed the A49 through Warrington to Preston where we joined the A6, which we reamined on through Lancaster and Carnforth, before heading off through some country lanes for the last few miles to Kendal. This was the one day that we were not looking forward to, and Peter set a good pace all the way past Preston. Today has been the fastest so far, mainly due to bashing along A roads at 22mph all day. Weather has been glorious again. Unbroken hot sunshine all day. Other than that it's been a fairly quiet day today. Not many photos either due to the uninspiring and mainly urban areas we passed through today. 

Finally we hit Scotland! 73 miles after leaving Kendal we arrived in Lockerbie. We took the A6 from Kendal over Shap fell to Penrith, before taking minor roads to Carlisle. We then took minor roads for about7 miles before having to turn on the A74 for the last 2 miles to Gretna, and it was the busiest 2miles of the tour as it is a motorway in all but status. So it as a case of heads down arses up and blast at 27mph. From Gretna to Lockerbie there's a B road running alongside the motorway which was very quiet and pleasant. Peter caught a cyclist up on the climb over shap fell who turned out to be a very pleasant lad from Shap called Angus. Angus treated Peter and myself to a very welcome cup of coffee at his house in Shap. thanks Angus!. Weather has been glorious again. Unbroken hot sunshine all day. A bit more of a breeze today, mainly from the east which gave us a tailwind from Gretna. We have now covered some 563 miles since leaving Land's End. Today we managed two milestones, Entering Scotland was the first and hitting half distance was the second. 1 major downer though. No Scotland sign at the border! 

 Our first full day north of the border found us at Kilmarnock after 72 miles. We re now at 2/3rds distance having completed a grand total of 636 miles. We headed to Lochmaben and then headed through the Forest of Ae to the A76 which we then stayed on all the way to Kilmarnock, as it was quiet and scenic most of the way Not a lot has happened today. we need to find a cycle shop in Kilmarnock before we leave as I pulled a spoke, and Peter's bike has lost a bolt which could do with replacing. We'll not have a hope of another shop until Fort William in 2 days time. It's been a cloudy day today with a chilly northeasterly wind but it brightened up just as we arrived, and is wonderfully sunny now.

This morning could only be described as crap! We needed a bike shop for a couple of spares, and hung around Kilmarnock until it opened, only for them to tell us that they couldn't help us, but their other branch in Irvine (off our intended route) could. So a fast dash down the A71 to Irvine followed. Once we found the shop, they had the required spare for Peter's bike. I was unsuccessful though. Great and friendly shop though. Irvine Cycles on Eglinton St are highly recommended! We headed up the A78 coast road towards Gourock and the ferry. Halfway up the road I broke another spoke, and then about 2 miles later Peter broke one. As we passed though Largs town centre I spied another cycle shop, and screeched to a halt. The mechanic was at a funeral, and helpful though the assistant was, she didn't know a spoke from a brake cable! No really she didn't she actually passed me a cable asking if it would fit!! Shortly after Largs, just to add to my woes, I managed to jump the chain on a small hill, I stalled, couldn't unclip, and slowly toppled over ending up a heap in the road! We decided to make a detour to Greenock, as it would be the last place with a cycle shop for 2 days. After waiting for 40 minutes for the guy to come back from lunch, he was unwilling to assist us, due to existing work. I have never known a cycle shop turn away cyclists who were on tour before. I'd never use him again, and would advise that there is NO half decent bike shop in Greenock. For the record it was Phillips Cycle Centre, on the main road in to Greenock, just past IBM. Anyway at that point it was half two, and we still had over 40 miles to do. So we beelined for the CalMac ferry and arrived 10 min before it sailed. Once over the Firth of Clyde, we picked up some provisions in Dunoon, and headed off to Inverary Considering the distance and the slow day, we quickly arrived at Inverary, getting there at 6:45pm. Weather has been good, a bit cool until the sun broke though, and then lovely blue skies all day with light winds. 

A much better start this morning. We started the day with a 8 mile gentle climb out of Inverary towards Dalmally. We then joined the A road for a while before turning off and heading up Glen Orchy towards Rannoch Moor. A superb quiet single track road led us up another gentle 14 mile climb to the A82. We continued climbing over Black Mount and Rannoch Moor, and then down Glen Coe to Balachulish, where we carried on to Fort William. The descent of Glen Coe is one of the most spectacular roads in Scotland. Scenary all day has been absolutely fantastic all day! Once in Fort William, I finally managed to obtain some replacement spokes, which I fitted soon after ariving at the YH. The cycle shop in Fort William, "off the beaten track" I think, were again a great shop! We've covered another 73 miles today, making a grand total of 794 miles since Land's End. Weather has been pretty good with sunny spells, and apart from Rannoch Moor it's been fairly warm. 

A damp misty start to the day greeted us today, but the weather soon cleared up, and the day turned into a gloriously sunny day. We headed back down Glen Nevis to Fort William,and then hunted out the B road to Gairlochy. We rejoined the A82 at the commando Monument at Spean Bridge, and followed it for the rest of the day to Inverness, via Fort Augustus. The road runs alongside Loch Ness for most of the way, unfortunately the only monsters we saw were german tourist coaches!  The Hostel at Inverness is by far the plushest I've ever stayed in. We've covered another 74 miles today, making a grand total of 868 miles since Land's End. Weather has been pretty good with sunny spells 

The day started with a bit of a minor disaster!. As we were weaving our way through Inverness town centre towards the Kessock bridge I stopped sharply at set of traffic lights. unfortunately Peter didn't and careered into me, falling off in the process. An ambulance on its way to an emergency stopped and offered assistance, but part from a bit of gravel rash and a bruised pride Peter was thankfully OK. The day picked up after that. Once over the bridge we paused for a phot at the roadside, and then turned off and headed across the peninsula known as the Black Isle to the Cromarty ferry. This was a single car ferry, once onboard the car was turned on a turntable so that it could drive straight off. At the ferry we met up again with Matt who was also heading to John o Groats. Once over the ferry we broke for lunch at Tain, home of Glenmorangie whisky, and spent the rest of the day travelling north on the A9. We've covered another 70 miles today, making a grand total of 938 miles since Land's End. Weather has been pretty good with sunny spells, and it's been fairly warm with a light easterly breeze coming off the sea. We've also only got 55 miles to cycle tomorrow to John o Groats. Yea!!! We're staying in the hostel with a party of 16 cyclists, and their teachers from Garstang High School, end to ending over 3 weeks. They were all great kids who were doing really well. They are also updating to the web, but they are using a Toshiba laptop which lives in the support vehicle. They were all gobsmacked when they saw what I've been using! They were quickly renamed to "Grange Hill"! 

The last 55 miles!! Myself, Peter and Di the Warden saw "Grange Hill" away after a photo session at the sign. We followed soon after, and quickly caught them up on the climb from Helmsdale. We quickly progressed to Berridale, and it's notorious climb. Once over the top we made good time along the Caithness coastline to Wick. The terrain in this area is very bleak with only stunted trees, and bungelows to break up the landscape. We paused to chat to John and Doreen who were cycling from their home town of Wigan to JoG, then to LE via Dover before cycling back to Wigan, all in 28 days for fun! And I thought I was daft! We then stopped in Wick to stoke up, and saw the Grange Hill support bus go past. From Wick, we continued up the coast for the last 17 miles. Once over the last small climb, we saw the north coast with the Orkneys in the distance. We swept down into John o Groats, pausing only to pick up some postcards. Once at the signpost we had the photo shoot, and then headed straight to the bar for a very well earned pint. We were just heading away to find another bar, when we met back up with the GHS minibus with the cyclists not far away. Whilst we were waiting Matt sped in. when the kids from GHS turned up, we all grabbed some cameras and took loads of photos of them as they arrived, at the sign, and crossing the finish line by the hotel. Whilst all this activity was going on Peter pulled two miniatures of whisky, which we quickly downed. Once the photo shoot was completed, we all headed back into the bar for a few more beers with Matt and Grange Hill. In the bar we also met Baz, Lance, and Paul the driver. They were all from Crewe, and estimated that they'd raised £5000 for Hope House childrens hospice. Job Done Lads!! The atmosphere in the bar was great! We enquired about food at or near the hostel, only to be told that there was no pub, and that the shop closed in about 1/2 hr. We wobbled up to the shop, and bought provisions to cook a meal for the 3 of us. We continued to the hostel, where after a shower, we cooked the food. We'd bought some sausages, casserole mix, peas, and Smash. We cooked all bar the smash in 1 pot, and it came out as a green mush with some lumps in. But we ate it anyway! About 8:30pm Tweedledee and Tweedledum arrived, AKA Richard and Keith, and once again we started swapping tales and stories from the road.

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