Bike Ride Day 8 - 28th July 2010
I’m using Jack's blackberry so will be slow and short! Really hard work these last few days, especially today. Climbed twice the height of Ben Nevis and cycled 100 miles today. Weather continues to be demoralising and probably came as close as possible to giving up earlier on today. Motto has had to be: that which does not destroy me strengthens me. Scenery of Lake District wonderful, and today I reached Scotland. Lots of hills and my route took me through isolated, desolate but beautiful country.
Kept going by wonderful text messages from friends. Legs tonight sore and stiff but I hope this may have been my lowest point and now I'm through it. We shall see! Last night we were in Grasmere where Jack met me. Tonight in Traquair. Sorry not a long write up but no wireless up here and this keypad is tiny!
Bike Ride Day 7 - 27th July 2010
No signal today but Adrian arrived safely in Grasmere in the Lake District.
Bike Ride Day 6 - 26th July 2010
Had a really difficult day today, rotten weather and everything got soaked. I took a wrong turn in torrential rain and did an extra 8 miles which I could have done without! I also had a bit of mechanical trouble with the bike, so all in all not a good day. One more day of carrying everything on my back. I am looking forward to Jack arriving tomorrow night. This is ten times harder than the London Marathon!
Bike Ride Day 5 - 25th July 2010
Today was a long cycle, darting in and out between England and Wales all day and trying to hug the flatter land from the Black Mountains to just North of Oswestry. A crow could have flown this much straighter but I was happy to meander around the countryside looking for the level ground!
It was meant to be almost exactly 100 miles but 20 miles in to the ride I looked at the map and realised I could take a small detour which would save me 4 miles, so I did - making the day 96 miles in total.
Once again, the wind was against me for much of the day, restricting my speed and probably adding an extra hour's cycling to the day - which isn't much fun when your legs are aching and your backside is already saddle-sore.
But the flatter terrain was a Godsend and even if I was slow it was much more bearable than it has often been to date.
It's interesting - I had specifically chosen to cycle this on my own, and had been looking forward to some solitude. But I've found that it's a long and sometimes lonely day in the saddle, because rather than ambling along leaving your mind a certain latitude to mull over the meaning of life, you're constantly checking for potholes in the road, watching the traffic, avoiding lorries (lorry drivers have become the thing I would consign to Room 101), checking and re-checking your route (I decided against forking out £400 for a cycle GPS that would have told me exactly when to take a turn, opting for the slightly lower-tech solution of writing out basic directions and sellotaping them to my handlebars), and making sure you're properly hydrated and nourished. Oh yes, and every few minutes telling yourself not to be such a wimp because loads of people have done this and it's not really hurting you half as much as you think it is.
None of which leaves much time for appreciating the scenery or deep and meaningful private conversations with self.
So today it was lovely when an Irishman drew alongside on his bike and rode with me for about 10 miles or so. I enjoyed the company and regretted having to turn off on my route. Maybe if I did this again (ha ha - no chance) I would do it differently.........
Anyway, a long, tiring day but it was lovely to arrive at our B&B for tonight, directly opposite Whittington Castle. Home from home!
Tomorrow I set off unaided and unsupported for 48 hours. Another unexplored aspect of the odyssey so far.......
Bike Ride Day 4 - 24th July 2010
Today was the first of the longer rides, and it's been a mixed sort of a day. The first section, through the Somerset Levels, was great - as the name suggests, nice and level! Wedmore, Cheddar and Axbridge, picking up the A38 to Bristol (up a much bigger hill than I remember being here when we used to live down this way), left at Barrow Gurney and then the big hill up into Failand, leading into Bristol over the Clifton Suspension Bridge. This was a trip down memory lane, as we lived in Bristol for 8 years and knew the city, especially Clifton and Redland, well. Cycled past one of the places we used to live, and then past my old theological college, before heading out of the city up towards Cribbs Causeway and the last few miles to the Severn Bridge.
Then it was in to Wales, through Chepstow, and I met up for lunch with Gill at Tintern Abbey, the stunning ruined abbey on the banks of the River Wye - another place we both have fond memories of.
The last stretch was the hardest for me - OK to Monmouth, following the river, but then my route took me cross country through the Welsh hills. They didn't look anything much on the map but that only goes to prove that maps can be highly misleading! My legs were already tired after 75 miles, but the last hour and a half was murder, up and down some pretty steep climbs. Decided that someone must have been out covering the roads in treacle, so slow was my pace by now. Had a funny moment (in retrospect) as I was heading for Grosmont, only for it to suddenly dawn on me what 'Grosmont' meant! Absolutely enormous mont more like.
But eventually arrived at the Lancaster Arms in Pandy, the only place I could find to stay for miles around because there is a big choral festival this weekend at Abbey Dore, which is where we are MEANT to be tonight! Involves a 10 mile detour that to be honest I could have done without.
Never mind. 4 days down, only another 8 to go. I could stop now and feel that I'd already done enough! But I'll just have to plough on.
There are moments when you can loook around and appreciate the sheer beauty and grandeur of the scenery you're travelling through, and then there are moments when all you can think about is how tired your body feels. I cannot believe how the winds seem to have been northerlies this week! The whole point of travelling in this direction - from Lands End to John O Groats - is to catch the prevailing south westerly breezes, but apart from the first day these seem to have perversely switched around and been in my face. Maybe tomorrow will bring a southerly wind............
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