Monday, 31 May 2010

Good morning everybody!

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.


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I must be nearly there, I'm at the end of the alphabet!


We left home at 7am and batted down the fairly quiet A30 to St Columb. After connecting up and sorting stuff, I was off south via little lanes through Trebudannon, St Newlyn East, and Zelah and joined the A30 for Penzance. I peeled off the major road into Blackwater and looked for Smokey Joe's Diner. I planned to meet Nigel there, a chap I'd conversed with on the CTC Forum, and he told me that I couldn't miss Smokey Joe's. As I left the roundabout north of Blackwater, I scanned the place and couldn't see it, so sped on down the hill.

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.



Me and Nigel at Penzance with St Michael's Mount in the distance.


On my End-to-Ends and driving, I've only ever gone round the Penzance by-pass, and today was going to no exception, but the idea of going through the town and taking a phot, seemed too good to miss. In actual fact, I do believe that the road is flatter through the town and back out to the A30, than staying on the A30 all the way. To this end, I recommend all cyclists go that way.

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.


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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.


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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!

Yesterday's stats:
48.86 miles
6:07:10 duration
4:38:21 cycling
3373ft total ascent
3135 calories


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.

Regards,
Mick and Hilary.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

I've done it!

892 miles JOG to LE on a Raleigh Chopper!




Shortly after 2pm today, a tired and emotional 57 year old bloke wheeled his Chopper through the crowds right down to the Finger Post.

I have much to say, but after a good meal enroute home at Smokey Joe's, and then a few beers at the Buccaneer Inn in Gunnislake, followed by a long hot bath and a couple more beers in celebration, I'm not in the best frame of mind to give a fullsome and informative report.
(I'm sure you all understand)

Rest assured, that tomorrow morning will see me bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to publish my memoirs properly.

Suffice it to say, that today will be recorded in the annals of history as a Momentous Day.

Hang on guys for more .................

Mick.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Penultimate day, finished!

I was awake early - as usual - and after breakfast we were off to Sourton. My day off yesterday was quiet and relaxing, Hilary was at work, I had my feet up, but I managed to get some stuff done.

We left home this morning at soon after 8am for the drive up to Sourton where I'd left off on Thursday. Hilary went to do a spot of shopping after leaving me. I pedalled away west towards Land's End, she turned south for Tavistock.

I had already decided to take Trailer on the last couple of legs of the JOGLE, so instead of the panniers being hung on the front rack, I shoved them into the empty trailer. I wondered whether the front of Chopper would stay down on the hills, but it was worth a try. The weather had turned wet - as expected - overnight, and I thought that the panniers would be better under cover. I wasn't wrong. The rain hammered down for a time, so my idea kept camera, maps and flapjacks nice and dry. Chopper was ok without the front weight, but in bottom gear on hills, I had to be careful as the front tyre lost traction on more than one occasion.

My rainlegs came into their own for the first section of the ride. I've had them for some time and never used them in anger, but this morning I put them on. They were ok. I cannot say much more than that, as in heavy rain they are great, but if the rain eases, you are better off without them. Modern fabrics dry out very quickly, and rainlegs seem to trap the damp underneath, so trousers/tights stay damp too. Within 20 miles they were consigned to Trailer for the rest of the trip as although it drizzled for most of the day, the heavy rains had gone.


Just before Launceston as the road crosses the River Tamar
(The border between Cornwall and England)


Launceston came and went, then up the steep hill to St Stephens and out via Egloskerry and Tresmeer on roads I've cycled tons of times. Sourton to Launceston on the Old A30 is one of the best cycling roads I've ever been on. Almost devoid of traffic for most of the time with long rolling hills and straight runs with a superb surface. Absolute Cycling Heaven! After Launceston and Egloskerry, the climbs increase, and by the time you get out onto the A395 and the A39, you get right up to 1000ft. Although the road drops into Camelford, it still holds onto a height above 600ft.

Launceston Castle
The ancient capital of Cornwall


I followed the A39 - dubbed the Atlantic Highway, a term that annoys me as it cannot be next to the Atlantic as the sea between N Cornwall and S Ireland is the Celtic Sea, NOT the Atlantic! The Atlantic doesn't start until way off! I suppose the 'Celtic Sea Highway' doesn't sound so good ......

The A39 down to Wadebridge was ok as a ride. Nothing special and nothing difficult, but after Wadebridge it was hard work. The wind was at last blowing against me, and I found it hard and tiring to climb the windswept and exposed hills. I had to stop quite a few times to stretch my legs and ease the creases out of my body. Hard work - definitely.

The hill out of Wadebridge town was difficult too. I'd decided to take the town route rather than the bypass, but if I was ever to go that way again, I'd stay on the bypass! The town is lovely, but the hill out to the north is vicious. It went on and on and on, and it was steep and very long too.


Taking a rest at the top of the hill out of Wadebridge


Eventually, after struggling against the wind in the latter stages, I made my way down past St Columb Major town, keeping to the main road, and dropped down to the big roundabout where Hilary was waiting for me.

It had only been 50 miles, but it was a hard slog nonetheless.

video

Tomorrow takes us back to the same roundabout - less than an hour away from here (by car) - and I'll cycle the final 50 miles to Land's End.






Today's stats:
51.36 miles
6:03:00 duration
5:27:11 in the saddle
3787 calories
3352ft Total Ascent - making today the 3rd hardest leg!

Distance from JOG - 843.32 miles !!!!!

Still no punctures, and the tyres are fine. Good eh?

Thanks for reading,
Regards to all,
Mick and Hilary.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Well. Here I am at home, and dog tired as well. Today was an easy morning, followed by a VERY hard afternoon.

I left the Admiral Blake at just before 8am. I can't recommend the place highly enough, it's an oasis of calm in a busy town. Outside the front is a dual carriageway route on the A38 to the north of Bridgwater, traffic speeds past all day, but round the back is silent and peaceful and wonderful. There's a small patio area and garden with seats and tables to sun yourself. The arrangement is self-catering with a fully equipped kitchen and attached dining room (with large telly) just off the patio. The larder is stocked with all the breakfast basics, and anything more for an evening meal needs to be brought in. I went for a Chinese takeaway!

My breakfast this morning consisted of a large cheese omelet, buttered toast and three cups of tea.

The place was packed with thirteen(!) workers employed at Hinkley Point power station. Pauline said that she'd been accommodating various trades since September. It put me in mind of the Morrisons rebuilding at Penrith. As Pauline was otherwise fully booked, I had a rather nice room upstairs - or should I say a suite. Double bedroom, lounge with settee and telly, and a separate bathroom too.

Pauline is very happy to take bikes - End-to-End'ers especially, and you can wheel your bike through the alley-way to the rear and park it on the patio! The room off to one side - laundry room - doubles up as a bike stowage.

Anyway, off I went south out of Bridgwater and headed onto the A38 for Taunton. The morning was cool and bright, and even though it had rained overnight, the day was much the same as the previous days and I powered along straight through Taunton and made my way into Wellington town centre. I stopped there - soon after 9am - and slapped on the sunscreen.

Then off back onto the A38. Not long after leaving Wellington, I spied a cyclist coming towards me and he U turned with a, "Hello Mick!" He introduced himself as Roger Bennett and has been following my blog and is also on the CTC Forum. We chatted for a few minutes and rode together up one of the many hills. After a few miles, he peeled off, and on I went alone, but with a smile on my face in the knowledge that there are many folk out there following my progress and taking a great deal of interest.

At Waterloo Cross north of Cullompton, I turned off towards Tiverton and as the A38 turned into the dual carriageway of the A361, I came off through Sampford Peverel and Halberton to take the back roads into Tiverton. There I rested, ate flapjacks and mixed nuts, drank water and sat in the sunshine. It was soon after 1pm.

Off again to Bickleigh, then south on the A396 towards Exeter to turn right for Thorverton. This route I call "Rob's Passage" as Rob S from the CTC Forum suggested it as a good way to get around the Cadbury Hills. These hills are awful. Up and down and busy with traffic and if you're travelling to LE you have to climb Bickleigh Hill. This hill is terrible. It even has a hairpin bend half way up! By taking Rob's Passage, you avoid the climbs all the way to Crediton at the expense of a slightly longer route.


Lovely Devonshire scenery


video


In Crediton, I rested again, then took the onslaught of the Devon hills in my stride - at first! Then they took their toll, and the further I made it towards Okehampton, the more tired I became. This ride was (only) 70 miles, but analysing the figures this evening, the full force of what I've ridden through became apparent. Of all the 12 rides before, this 13th had the highest Total Ascent of them all! Even more than the 90 miles between Inverness and Pitlochry!

Total Ascent today was a massive 4722ft as opposed to only 3969ft for Inverness to Pitlochry. No wonder I was tired! It never ceases to amaze folk how hard it is to cycle in Devon. Cornwall is a hard, if not harder. Total Ascent figures to follow!

I made it to Sourton at 16:45 with Hilary waiting out on the main road to see me approach. I was sweaty and tired, we embraced, and as I rode to the car, she followed with a grin! Chopper was mounted on the rack, Trailer was shoved unceremoniously into the back of the car, and Hilary took me to the Rising Sun for beer! Home later via the chip shop, and here I am typing this lot out. I'm tired, scrubbed clean in the shower, and ready for a good night's sleep in our own bed.





Tomorrow is another day, and Saturday will see me being driven back to Sourton to start the penultimate ride.

Today's stats:
70.23 miles
8:55:00 duration
4722ft Total Ascent
5228 calories

791.95 miles from JOG.

See you soon,
Mick.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Here I am in Bridgwater. The day has flown by and with good company too.

I left Gloucester - Georgian Guest House - at about 7.50 this morning. Actually, I couldn't wait to leave. The guest house was a bit cheap and nasty, and I don't think there was one stick of furniture in there that wasn't bought from a secondhand shop. The place was clean enough, and I was made to feel welcome enough, but for £20 it wasn't the best place to stay. The bed was lumpy and I couldn't get comfortable - there were two single beds in the room and I suppose I could have tried the other, but instead I just curled up and wrapped the duvet around me. I slept like a log nonetheless!

Gloucester is a bit run down and scruffy, or should I say, the bits I saw were run down and scruffy. However, the pub along the road was very good indeed. The Linden Tree was run by a Scotsman with excellent staff, and the beer was good and plentiful, and the menu - though small - was good too and I spoke to the owner saying how good his pub was. The customers were friendly and full of banter, and I wasn't treated like a Stranger in Town. Good pub, in a poor and scruffy area.

Anyway - I left quickly after a poor but ok-ish breakfast.

Down the A38, the Wind Gods were favouring me again. Wow! Why can I have following winds all the way from Inverness? Have I been a good boy?

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I sped south, and as I'd been speaking to Mike - from the CTC Forum - I was ready to find him at about 10:30 as I approached Bristol. He and his son Will, were coming into town by train and they would meet me enroute. I was ahead of schedule and flying along!

I was flying along for two reasons: one, the wind was blowing me along, and two, my bum was feeling as fine as it could be considering the punishment it's had for the past 11 days of Choppering. For some reason, my bum seems to be getting used to all this, so "flying along" sums it up ok.


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At 10:30 I was in Patchway, and I phoned Mike and Will and timed my ride so they could catch me as I approached the city. They did this easily and we stopped for a chat. We stopped for a chat many times on our way south, and very enjoyable the chats were too!

Bristol city centre came and went by way of my Garmin 705, even so, I missed the way a couple of times. It's difficult following a pink line and messages when you're trying to push your way through traffic and negotiate junctions. We did it, and popped out into the south of the city ok.

Following the A38 is easy really, and eventually we spied Bristol Airport at the top of the hill. The trouble was, on the roundabout, there were blue lights flashing and a tail-back of traffic. We made our way to the head of the queue and spoke to the policeman who was turning lorries and cars around. He said that there had been a fatality, and if we wanted, we should carry on and see if the police at the scene would let us through. Diversions are not much of an option to an End-to-End cyclist! We rode on, down the long hill and hoped for the best.

The road was deserted, of course, and what seemed like miles later, we encountered the accident. It seems that it was a motorcyclist, and as everything was cleared up ready to let the traffic trough again, to our relief, the police waved us through.

After the hills south of Bristol, the road is almost totally flat - except for some small hills at Pawlett - and I powered my way towards Bridgwater. Mike and Will had an easy time of it and left me for dead even on the slightest slope. They were riding road bikes as light as a feather and geared sensibly. Me, on a hundredweight of a Chopper and trailer, were having trouble.

At the Welcome to Bridgwater sign, we stopped off for the required photographs, then carried on the mile or so into the town. I knew the way, and suggested they call in at Admiral Blake Guest House with me as I'm sure Pauline wouldn't mind them stopping in for a cuppa. Also, Pauline would know where the railway station was so they could let the train take the strain and get them back home.

Mike and Will



Mike and Me



After a cuppa, they left - just like that. Hopefully they made it home ok, then I went to my room, showered and walked out to find a pub for a couple of beers then a Chinese takeaway to scoff.

Job done, and here I am typing away.
(May pop out for another beer or two soon)



Tomorrow will see me at home in Gunnislake. I have 70 miles to ride out of Somerset and into Devon and Hilary should pick me up at Sourton (pronounced SORE-TUN, not SOWER-TUN) (Thank you Jogle2011 for your pronunciations!) just up the hill out of Okehampton. There's a service area there just off the main A30 where there's a Little Chef, and petrol station and a Travel Lodge just across the road from a big layby about 20 miles from home.

On Saturday after a day off, Hilary will drive me and Chopper back to Sourton, and I'll carry on down the Old A30 via Launceston (pronounced LAWN-STON, or if you're Cornish LANSON) and then west and south through Camelford and Wadebridge to St Colmb Major.

Stats today:
66.25 miles
8:06:20 duration
5:44:54 cycling
4119 calories

721.72 miles from JOG
only 170 miles to do!!

Thanks for reading, and only three more Choppering days to Land's End.

Regards and best wishes,
Mick.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

I'm on line!
I had to walk into Gloucester city centre to the Guildhall to find a WiFi setup ........

Monday, 24th May

Today has been an easy peasy ride down the Welsh Border. I left Pene’s house in Wrexham at just about 8am and was photographed and clapped by folk as I left. Ignominiously, my chain came off just as I rode away! How embarrassing is that?

Anyway, sorted and off south, turn right at the Green Dragon and off via Marchweil, Overton and Ellesmere. I stopped at Ellesmere to admire the ducks and geese whilst I drank a load of water. The day was warming up even though it was 9am, and I slapped some sunscreen on my arms and legs, also my nose - it always goes red and peels!


video


Off again down the A528 towards Shrewsbury. I never know if it’s Shrows - bury, or Shrews - bury, I understand that even the locals don’t agree on the pronunciation .........

Soon, I was caught up in slow/stationary traffic. I made my way gingerly to the head of the queue only to find a massive canal barge on a long low-loader being escorted along the road. It was a “narrow” boat of the Broad Variety and about the maximum length too - 75ft. It took up the whole width of the road on the corners and the escort vehicle had to be ahead and stop any oncoming traffic. I kept catching the convoy up. Come an uphill section, the barge left me for dead, but as a downhill came, I caught it up again. I can only assume it was headed for the Grand Union Canal somewhere - Shrewsbury? Eventually, it was too far ahead and I never saw it again.

I entered Shrewsbury following the pink line on my Garmin. I am aware that the town is complicated to say the least, and as I’ve cycled through before, I thought I was ready for it. I needed a call of nature, and as I approached the town centre just up the hill from the railway station, I spied a “Toilets” sign but it was pointing down a pedestrianised section with a big sign proclaiming “No Cycling”. So like a good boy, I hopped off and pushed. I found the loos ok, but the gents was closed! So, like a good cosmopolitan chap, I went into the ladies. And why not? I’ve seen girls go into the gents when they’re taken short - I couldn’t see anything wrong, so off I went down the stairs, ready to apologise - but saw no-one anyway.

After the loos, I wondered whether I should retrace my steps back to the pink line, but thought I could find my way anyway. How wrong I was! Every single time I wanted to turn south, there was a one-way street blocking me. I went round and round, trying to turn the right way, but couldn’t, so I decided to follow the signposts. Wrong! They were leading me west towards Montgomery then onto the by-pass to go right out of my way! I was having none of this, so did a U turn and headed back into the town only to find my original route by the railway station! This time, I followed the pink line faithfully and found my way south. Phew! Thank goodness for that!

Then the A49 raised it’s ugly head. The traffic was fast, furious and noisy, but to be honest, quite ok as it seemed to be in “knots” of activity, then nothing and silence for a few minutes. It was like that all the way to Ludlow.

At All Stretton, I pulled off the main road and followed the Old A49 into Church Stretton, there, I found a bench in the shade and sat down with some relief. I tucked into flapjacks and cheese, washed down with water. It was then that I noticed that the bottle that should have been clipped into the cage on the front rack was missing! It must have fallen out some time back over some bumps maybe, but I have no idea where. I’m not about retracing my steps to find it. I have three more bottles anyway.


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Whilst sitting on the bench, a chap started a chat and asked me about my ride. He was another one that emptied his change from his pocket for me! That’s another £2.67. People are nice.

I Craven Arms, I found a monument. Three sides had mileages on them. Interesting eh?







I made it to Ludlow via Little Stretton and the A49 again, and found the Cecil Guest House in Ludlow as early as 14:40 - far too early to book in, so turned round back into town and stopped at the first pub I found - The Queens. A couple of slow but wonderful pints later, I returned to the Cecil and checked in. Chopper was wheeled round the back and I lifted out my stuff, showered, and relaxed, and am now typing this.

The chap here said that there’s a pub only three minutes walk away that does food, so I’ll be off soon - I’m starving!

As it turned out, I loved the Queens pub in the town, and I hated the nearby pub - the Squirrel. The Queens had everything I love about pubs - good beer, chatty people, helpful and friendly staff, locals and visitors all getting on together. The Squirrel on the other hand was everything I hate: piped music you can’t get away from, staff that can’t add up and know the prices of nothing because they use an idiot till, fizzy beer, instant food that is obviously bought in and not made on the premises, no-one in there that even looks at you let alone talks to folk. Euch. The only saving grace, is that it was only five minutes away and I doubt I could have walked to town and back instead as my legs are now tuned to cycling, and not walking!

There is no WiFi or any internet at Cecil’s, so this is off-line and Hilary will be filling you in with the salient details. If there is internet at the Georgian Guest House in Gloucester I should catch up and you’ll get a double whammy tomorrow.

Today’s stats:
61.15 miles (including being lost in Shrewsbury)
06:35:10 total duration
05:29:43 active time (this means I stopped a total of just over an hour)
2,460ft total ascent
Average moving speed of 11.1mph (I was flying!!)




I got in touch with AlanS when I was in Shrewsbury, but sadly he had to work, so I never met up with him to ride with him. It’s so nice to meet up with folk. Perhaps Si from the CTC Forum will turn up tomorrow, he said he might.

Regards to all.
Mick.


Tuesday 26th May

Breakfast over and I was gone. Cecil’s Guest House is basic, to say the least. What else can you get in the lovely town of Ludlow for only £26? Breakfast was fine, but the pot of tea was far too strong, and I only managed a couple of cups. I think there were three tea-bags in the pot.

Up the road to the A49 and turned south and heading for Leominster. I was to turn off at Dinmore and head down the A417 towards Ledbury, but follow the A4172 and the B4215 through Newent to join the A40 for Gloucester city centre. I found the Georgian Guest House easily but it was only half past one! I’d only done 47 miles, and sped along.

Luckily, there’s a pub only 50 yards before the guest house, so I waked back and bought a beer. I also took in this laptop, camera and Garmin and stuff, complete with leads to steal a march on getting the blog sorted. Sadly, no WiFi.

The day has been easy again with a following wind. I seem to have had a following wind since leaving Inverness! I pity folk thinking that the prevailing winds will blow then to JOG, they seem to be blowing me to LE!

When I planned all this, I mixed in long days with short days in the hope that the short ones would be light relief, but what seems to have happened, is the the short days are too short. Here I am in the room, typing this, and its only 15:15. I couldn’t have made it to Bridgwater today, but I could have made Bristol.

Traffic wise, the roads have been busy-ish and quiet-ish. Quiet bits and busy bits. There seems to have been times when there was no traffic at all, then all of a sudden, there would be 20 or 30 cars, vans and lorries thundering past, then nothing again, sometimes for 5 minutes or more. I wonder that all those drivers think that the roads were busy, but in reality it was silent and empty! Perhaps they all bunch up because they like it.


video


The day warmed up as I travelled south. It was cool enough for me to wear a long-sleeved top for the first few hours, but as the sun came out, a short-sleeved top was the order of the day.

Highlight of the morning was meeting Richard whom I know of on the CTC Forum. He’s been following my blog and waited in a layby south of Ludlow in the hope of spotting me. He wasn’t disappointed, and after a chat I whizzed off - down wind of course - and sped away.

All the way from Ludlow I would see patches of white cobwebs in the hedgerows. At first I thought it was wool from sheep, but it couldn't be as it was too high off the ground. Then I thought it was a load of cobwebs, but there were too much. So I had to stop and look.


video
Any ideas of what sort of grub they are?


“Highlight” of the afternoon was getting into the Georgian Guest House. What dump! What can you expect for the bargain price of £20 for goodness sake? I doubt they’ve even heard of the internet, let alone WiFi! I’ll ask anyway, in the possible hope ........... no.

The place is grubby and run-down, but friendly enough, so I can’t complain. All I want is a shower, a comfy bed, a good night’s sleep, and a decent breakfast. The first two seem to be ok, the second two are yet to be confirmed. Oh, and to stow Chopper and Trailer away ok. That’s been fine as they’re locked in the garage round the back.

Next task is to get WiFi, as don’t have some method of connection, perhaps I should take this laptop and wander round the city looking for signals! It seems I’m less than a mile from the city centre, so I should find somewhere.

Today's maps and profile:




Here I am, on line!
Gotta rush, as I haven't much time. Hopefully there'll be more from Bridgwater tomorrow. I'm fine but tired, and feeling a little jaded. The bulk of the ride is over now, and all I have to do is finish off. Longer rides tomorrow and Thursday, then a day off at home to charge my batteries!

Distance from JOG - 655.47 miles
Distance to LE - 237 miles or thereabouts

Bum still sore due to awful saddle, but I'm managing.

Regards and thanks for holding on for an update, and thanks to Wonderful Hilary for keeping the system running.

TTFN,
Mick.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Hello, it's Little Old Me again! Mick's not got an internet connection in Ludlow, so he's given me a few pertinent points to keep you up to date.

He left Wrexham at 8.30 this morning, after a welcome rest with his sister, and cycled 61 miles in hot sunshine to Ludlow, arriving there at 14.40.

Apart from the heat, his only other problem was an embarrassing 'chain coming off' event just as he was leaving! All was sorted quickly and he was soon on his way.

Shrewsbury proved a nuisance though, as he got a bit lost going through the centre, though he obviously fought his way through that as he's no longer there!

Needing a comfort break in Shrewsbury also proved problematical, as the gents were closed, so being a resourceful chappie, Mick called in at the ladies!

The traffic on the A49 was not good, but all in all, I gather his main complaint of the day has been the heat.

Tomorrow, Mick has an even shorter ride to Glaucester, so he'll leave 8.3o ish and should still arrive early-ish in the afternoon.

Life here in Cornwall goes on, though I must say it's a bit boring without Mick, so I'm really looking forward to seeing him on Thursday, when I'll collect him fro Okehampton and bring him home briefly. Somehow, I doubt I'll get a word in edgewise though!

So sorry Alan S that you couldn't make it today. Going to work's a pain, isn't it?

All being well, Si will meet up with Mick at some point tomorrow, and maybe, just maybe, Mick will be able to Blog again at the end of the day.

Thanks to all followers and supporters, and night night. Hilary X

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Photos from Malc yesterday.
(Thanks Malc!)

Don't I look tired and weather-beaten!


Coming over the Manchester Ship Canal



Zoom in, and that's me!



Brown knees



Back later,
Mick.
Wow, what a hot day!

Just short of 60 miles in unbroken sunshine. I slapped on the sunscreen a couple of times, but my arms have taken a bashing nonetheless. It’s all very well people enjoying sunshine, but folk that are forced to be in it all day have problems.

I left Leyland at 08:30 and rode out through Eccleston and Wrightington to Standish and joined the A49 for Wigan. These are roads I was brought up with, so knew them like the back of my hand. The trouble is, times have moved on - new homes have been built, thousands more people have moved in and brought their cars with them. The roads were horrendous.

I took Wigan and the traffic in my stride and powered on south. I’d been in touch with “Ferrit Worrier” - Malc, who was going to meet me near Warrington. As I came over the Manchester Ship Canal just south of Warrington, there he was taking photographs! He and I have met a couple of times - firstly when he was riding his LEJOG and I met him in Camelford and escorted him out of Cornwall to Okehampton, and secondly when I was visiting our daughter Katy in Manchester, I popped round for a chat. Malc had also made some brackets for the fitting of the front rack on Chopper. Well done that man!

We greeted each other like old friends, and we sped off together towards Chester. The traffic was even more horrendous! Why were so many cars out on a Saturday? Where were they all going! Stop/start traffic in the heat of the day was not pleasant.

I had to stop frequently. The heat was getting to me and my bum was getting sore from the punishing saddle. Malc was understanding about my slow pace and needing to stop, and during the stops we chatted endlessly about this and that, everything cycling and more. He hardly broke into a sweat with the ride, and I struggled all the way. Riding a Raleigh Chopper all this way is no mean feat. I’m strong and powerful and fit, but today was purgatory. Hopefully, the weather will change and I can keep cool.

I have no movies or photographs to show today. It didn’t seem right showing off all the roundabouts, traffic lights and junctions all clogged with Saturday traffic. I’m sure you’ll all understand.

I arrived at my sister Pene’s house in Wrexham at just before 4pm. Malc had peeled off just this side of Chester and taken a different route home, and I set off along the B5445 via Rossett - the place of my birth, just inside the Welsh border - and Gresford. Pene was waiting for me, and within a minute or two, she’d handed me a beer. She brews her own, in fact she does it professionally and is head brewer for Sandstone Brewery What a clever big sister I have!
Jolly Brewer
Sandstone Brewery
Shower was next, then another beer (or two) and food soon.

Stats for today:
59.8 miles in 1,000,000 degree heat!
7:36:04 duration
05:32:14 sitting and pedalling
2,129ft of total ascent.

Total distance from JOG: 547.12 miles




(Only) six more legs to do:
Wrexham to Ludlow - 58 miles
Ludlow to Gloucester - 48 miles
Gloucester to Bridgwater - 66 miles
Bridgwater to Sourton - 70 miles
Sourton to St Columb Major - 51 miles
St Columb Major to LE - 49 miles

Perhaps less than 350 miles to go!

Tomorrow is a day off. Relaxation and Chopper maintenance is on the cards, and Monday will see me off and going to Ludlow.

Regards to all,
Mick.




Friday, 21 May 2010

I made it to Leyland at about 5pm. This is the home of my Sister-in-Law, Jan and her husband, Ged. They've kindly offered to put me up! Also Daughter No 1, Katy, brought Joseph, our grandson over from Manchester.

Here I am, glass of wine on the coffee table and relaxing and typing away.

Today was a mixed bag of stuff. I left the B+B in Penrith after a breakfast in the company of Morrisons workers, and left the town at just after 08:00. The road started to climb steadily.

Penrith is at about 300ft, and before long, I was at 400ft, then 500ft. The Wind Gods were favourable and I was blown along, and very soon I reached Shap village. I sped straight through and carried on up and up and up.






video

Top of Shap


At the top of Shap Fell, there was a cyclist just starting off from the top heading north. We stopped and chatted. He was riding a fairly new Raleigh Randoneur and told me that he'd had problems: his chain had come off and wiped out some spokes so needed a wheel rebuild, his LH crank developed a crack and so he had to buy another! Why does this sort of thing happen to folk? Anyway, he was amazed at what I was doing and took a photograph of me and Chopper.

After the required photograph at the monument, I was off downhill and speeding south. It was downhill all the way to Kendal. Wow! the trouble is, my mirror started to move inwards! The clamp had come loose over time, so at the first layby I pulled over and dug out my toolbox for a spanner to tighten it up. Other than that, and the problem with over-shifting pulling the sprockets off, they have been my only defects. I would hate to think I could write a wheel off or break a crank!




Kendal came and went, and Lancaster came too. In the city centre, I pulled over into the town square by a big monument. People sat on the steps in the sunshine, but all I wanted was shade! It was 2pm and the sunshine was coming out, and I was hot. I lay down on the cool grass and stretched out for a while.

A chap came over to me. He said he was a fitness expert and trainer and suggested that because of what I was doing I must be very fit indeed. I said that I had strong legs, but he insisted that it was more than that, and my heart and lungs must be wonderful. Perhaps he's right. Anyway, he was impressed.

The traffic increased considerably, and continued to increase all the way to Preston. By the time I was cycling through Preston, the traffic was horrendous!

I got hotter and hotter. The traffic became more and more horrendous, and I was glad to get away though Walton-le-dale and into Leyland.

79.5 miles with the wind behind me. I flew!



This elevation profile shows the ride quite well. Steady climb to the top, fast descent, then bob along to Leyland. This "bobbing along" will be the way of it all the way to the West Country. Funny, but the bulk of the western side of England is fairly featureless.


The route today, fairly straight and southerly, and increasingly busier and busier. Tomorrow takes me through Wigan and Warrington - even busier.

Bed soon, I'm tired and a bit sunburnt - I must remember to slap on some sunscreen tomorrow.

Sorry that this isn't as fullsome as usual, but socialising and blogging don't go together very well!

Ta Ta for now, and more tomorrow from Wrexham at my sister's house. I get a day off there for some sisterly love.

Regards to all,
Mick.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Not a huge amount to say today. 54 miles from Beattock to Penrith and a rather boring and uneventful ride.

I had breakfast at 7.30 - gorgeous too! - and was away by 8.30 into mist and cool humidity. I didn't want to get cold again, so layered up with tights and my yellow Goretex top. I was toasty warm and set off south on the Old A74 and even had my lights on. This road from Beattock is the A701 initially, then becomes the B7076 right down to Gretna. It's flattish and straightish and boring, and it bears little or no resemblance to the A74 of old.

I must say, back in "the olden days" when we would drive the A74 up and down to Lancashire when we lived in Scotland, that it was a dual carriageway extension of the M6, and carried just as much traffic to Glasgow, and to Edinburgh via the A702, as the M6 did. We used to peel off at Abington in those days and head for Edinburgh. Latterly, we would head for Glasgow.

I remember the Daily Record in the 1980s having a headline to the effect - "A74 Britain's Biggest Killer Road". It was dangerous and awful. Although it was a dual carriageway, it was narrow and twisty in places, and many a bad accident would occur. Eventually, come the 1990s, we have the M74. Consequently, the Old A74 has been downgraded and is hopefully better for it!

The road was quiet generally, but every so often a knot of traffic would come thundering through. The surface was good and there is provision either side for cyclists, though the gravel and muck in the lanes made me keep on the main carriageway.

Gretna came at the end of the B7076. I was bored. The road had been featureless and uninteresting and Gretna was light relief. I pulled over by the Blacksmiths shop and texted Hilary to see if she would marry me again. I'm a softie really!



From there, I headed south again and took the new road to Carlisle. This road has been built to allow non-motorway traffic to get over the causeway into England. Before, the main road was "just" the A74 connecting M6 to M74 and was a death trap for cyclists and light traffic. Now the new road has been built, lives will be saved.

........ and I crossed the border into England.

Self portrait with my camera sat on my mini tripod.


This road links up with the A7 and takes you into Carlisle. It was a relief to get there even though the city traffic was hurtling in and out of junctions and round roundabouts. I took my turn with the best of them and got a move on.

I got a move on because I was hungry! I stopped at a city centre chippy and got stuck into steak pie and chips. Chopper was on its stand outside on the wide pavement whilst I gorged myself at a table inside. I watched the passers by looking at Chopper and reading the stickers on Trailer. Quite amusing really.

Then off again south. The weather was clearing as I climbed out onto the A6, and eventually my tights and warm top were getting too much, so I found a field gateway, climbed over carrying my shorts and light top, stripped off, and re-dressed. I'm glad no-one could see, because the sight of a sweaty bloke almost naked in a field isn't a pretty sight.

Cooler now, I finished the last dozen miles into Penrith. It was too early to book in the Brandlehow Guest House - only 15:20 or so, but there was a pub just along the road, so I propped Chopper up, took off my helmet, and sank a couple of pints!

Anyway, here I am in my room. I seem to have been given an upgrade, the owner said that it would do them a favour. Dunno why, I can only guess that it's because of Morrisons - the supermarket.

Why?

I was chatting in the pub, and it seems that the Morrisons in Penrith is/was the most busiest in the country and it burnt down! The company has pulled all the stops out to get it rebuilt and so there are many contractors in the town filling up the B+Bs. This probably has something to do with why I had a deal of trouble finding accommodation in Penrith, and possibly why I have an upgrade.

Tomorrow is another day. I have 80 miles to ride to Leyland, and the first leg is over Shap Fell. Going south is easier than going north, but I still have to climb to 1500ft. From the bottom via Kendal, the route is level all the way, so I only have one hurdle to get over.

Anyway, here's a movie of today's highlights.

video

Some more stats:
54.18 miles - 407.83 miles from JOG
Sat in the saddle for 5:04:00
2246ft total ascent
10.7mph average moving speed

Another few stats:
Nearly half way!
I've been pedalling for 41hrs and 17mins and climbed 17,555ft and consumed over 30,000 calories. (That's a lot of chips)


Today's route




The complete route so far



Thanks for reading, and thanks for all your comments.
Off now for a beer or two and a meal.

Regards and TTFN
Mick

Wednesday, 19 May 2010



Tuesday 18th May
Edinburgh day off

I woke early, even considering it was a day off. I had some plans, but not many: get the blog sorted and published, get some washing done and dried, and do some Chopper maintenance. If I could do those, I’d be ok for doing not much else.

My legs were stiff, and my bum needed a rest from that bench seat of a saddle. I was tired and generally worn out, and I was glad that Hilary had bullied me into having days off. Thank you, Hilary! xxx

I still wasn’t able to get on-line, so busied myself with adding to the draft blog that I’d started, and at 07:30 went down for breakfast. Continental again, but quite ok and as much as you can eat - I settled for warm rolls, cheese and ham, and then another warm roll with marmalade, all washed down with four cups of tea.

I asked at reception whether they’d got anyone to sort the ‘net out, but no, so I wandered back upstairs to carry on a little. Soon after starting again, lo and behold, I could connect! so I started the upload procedure. It took and age, but I got there in the end, I hope you’re happy with my efforts.

Tomorrow, I travel to the Borders - a “short” distance of 50 odd miles-ish, and I believe that there shouldn’t be too much in the way of climbing over mountains. I plan to get away at 8ish, and DougieB should be there to shepherd me out of the city.

Chopper is fine and ready, and Trailer is sitting up in the room in a corner by the door. Four bunks in here and all occupied so when we’re all in, it’s a bit squashed but the area by the door is fairly empty, they don’t seem to have designed the living space too well. With Trailer in the room, I can pack my box without too much effort.

All in all it’s been a quite and relaxing day. I’ve just devoured a chicken chow mein from over the road, and earlier on I had a couple of pints. I may go back soon and get another couple, but it will be early to bed again for me. For lunch, I had two sachets of soup and loads of mixed fruits and nuts and couple of Baby Bells. Luxury eh?

video




Wednesday 19th May
Edinburgh to Beattock

Here I am at Lochhouse Farm at Beattock. It's very quiet here, and I will sleep like a log! Luckily, they have internet connection though not WiFi for me. I'm connected via ethernet on a wire in the dining room.

I was awake early - again - and busied myself quietly in the dorm. I had everything prepared so it was only a matter of washing and dressing, then getting Trailer down in the lift to the ground floor and Chopper out of its prison dungeon. It was shortly after 7am, and breakfast wasn't until 7.30 but I asked nicely and by 7.20 I was drinking tea and eating warm rolls with cheese and ham. Shortly after, I went back up to the dorm for a final check to make sure I'd got everything and signed out at reception.

DougieB was outside waiting, so we greeted each other like old friends and off we went into the busy Edinburgh streets. It was tough climb for me up Leith Walk as my legs had seized up after a day off! I soon got into a rhythm and was ok. Doug shepherded me well, and I thank him for that. He knew which lane to get into and when, and made sure he wasn't leaving me behind.

We crossed under the Edinburgh by-pass and took the Penicuik road - A701 - busy, but ok, and Doug did his thing with me wonderfully.

The road climbed out of the city, and continued to do so. There were downhills but they were vastly outnumbered by the uphills. Doug and I parted at Leadburn where he turned back to Edinburgh, and I carried on alone with only Garmin for company.


A nice view with a bridge over the Tweed


Somewhere near Blyth Bridge (I can't be any more accurate than that), I spied three cyclists coming towards me chatting together riding three-abreast, we hailed each other as we went by. I wasn't sure if they were LEJOGers or not. Five minutes later, at the bottom of a hill, I saw a chap taking a photo of me as I approached. As I drew near, he asked me if I was Mick F! It seems he's supporting the three riders I saw, and one of them surmised that it was me and phoned back to his mate. We chatted for a few minutes. The three riders were LEJOGing and were orthopaedic surgeons(?) from Plymouth! No doubt they've been on the CTC Forum to have know about me. I passed on the web details and he said he'd hopefully be able to upload the photograph. Good eh?

At about the halfway mark, I stopped at Broughton at a nice little cafe and scoffed a bacon and egg roll washed down with a pot of tea. Whilst sitting there, a chap that had just left, came back in and gave me his pocketful of change for the school! How nice was that! Also, an elderly couple came in and sat on the next table and we got chatting about this and that, and eventually my story came out, and they gave me a tenner! HOW nice was that!

The hills continued to come ...........................

video


At the top, it was only mid afternoon and I knew that Lochhouse farm was a couple of miles from Moffat, so determined to find a pub in the town for a meal and a couple of beers. I started to descend - at last! - and although the hill wasn't steep, it was continuous and as the mist had come in and it had started to drizzle, I was getting cold. I pulled over and put on my Gortex top to keep out the damp wind. I'm glad I did.

Even so, by the time I made it into Moffat, I was freezing cold - perhaps verging on hypothermia. I was grateful for a warm pub, and very grateful for the big steaming plate of liver and onions! Oh, and I managed a couple of pints too.

Just as some ladies were leaving, they spied Chopper and Trailer outside on the pavement and came back in and gave me a handful of change. They asked loads of questions which I answered of course, and they went with broad smiles on their faces. Aren't people nice?

Warmer and fuller, I made my way to the farm. It was easy to find, just on the end of the Moffat road where it joins the M74 and Old A74 - just near a roundabout.

I checked in, showered and had a hot chocolate.

There, that's my day.

Stats:
54.46 miles (353.64 miles from JOG)
8:41:05 duration
5:56:04 cycling and sitting on that awful saddle!
2709 ft total ascent
I won't bore you with the calories, but suffice it to say that I may not be losing weight, but I am losing girth. My lycra isn't lumpy and I had to tighten my heart-rate monitor strap and inch or two!

I've noticed that although my heart-rate is the same under stress and pedalling, it recovers quickly and to a lower level than it did before. This is what you call fitness.

You can see by this graph how much today's climbs have been rather tiring despite the relatively short mileage. Click on the picture to see the scales. Basically, from mile 28 to mile 46 the road got steeper and steeper. Then it dropped rather!


The route was very straightforward. Over Edinburgh North Bridge and straight out onto the A701.

Some of you have been asking about perhaps sending some money to the school. I'm not fishing for this, but if anyone wants to, please send a cheque to class teacher:

Miss Claire Martin
Gunnislake Primary School
Chapel Street
Gunnislake
Cornwall
PL18 9NA

Please make the cheque out to "Gunnislake School OLA"
(OLA stands for Outside Learning Area)

Thanks. I mean it. Thanks.

Ta Ta for now, and hopefully there'll be more tomorrow, and this time from England.

Regards to all,
Mick.