Thursday, 13 May 2010

Here's a couple of days in one go. I thought that Carey's Guest House didn't have WiFi but chatting to them, they gave me the password. So here we are, on-line.

Wednesday 12th May 2010

Awake at 05:30 - I’m and early riser! - and looked out of the window to see rain. Edinburgh in the rain - not a pretty sight. The dorm filled up during the evening, and all four double bunks were occupied. I dozed a while, then turned my light on for a read. At 7, I got up, washed and went down for breakfast. The place was filled with school kids, all well behaved, and I scoffed my Continental Breakfast washing it down with three cups of tea.

Then after packing up my stuff, I wandered up Leith Walk to Waverly for the 09:35 for Perth. The rain had stopped, but the pavements were wet and chilly. The rain cleared however as the train left and headed out of the city. In fact the weather was glorious all the way to Wick. Long may it continue.

The journey to Perth was a little boring, but a couple of highlights were the Forth Rail Bridge and the views back across the Forth. I was a little shocked to see the snow on the hills south of Edinburgh!

View over to Edinburgh from the Fife Coast

Perth to Inverness was better. I managed to get a signal on my Garmin where I’d not had a sniff between Plymouth and Edinburgh yesterday, the Cross Country trains must be shielded from satellites! My screen showed me our position and I set the Garmin to show me my proposed track that I will be taking south. The train line follows the A9 corridor and it was great to see the geography and imagine what it would be like on a Chopper.

At Inverness on time, I boarded the Wick train. I was last on this train in 1994 and so asked the guard about Georgemas Junction and how the train had split there - one half to Thurso, the other half to Wick. He laughed, and said that it hadn’t been like that for years and that the train goes to Thurso first, comes back to Georgemas, and then off to Wick. Oh well, that must be why it takes an age to get Wick, and for all you railway buffs out there, Georgemas Junction is the most northerly junction in Britain.

The Wick train stops at just about every single station enroute from Inverness:
Muir of Ord
Georgemas Junction
Georgemas Junction (again)
Wick at last, and on time too!!!!

A short walk to Carey’s Guest House, and I checked in. I told the proprietor of my plans, and he offered to drive me to Wick Airport in the morning. I declined saying I wanted the exercise, but thinking about it, I may take him up on the offer. The sooner I get to Chopper the better.

A quick shower then out to Wetherspoons - recommended by my host - and Deuchar’s IPA at only £1.10 a pint. How can you pay £2.90 or even £3.10 in Edinburgh, and then £1.10 for the exact same beer in Wick? It beggars belief. Anyway, I shoved a steak and kidney pud with chips and peas down my neck with another pint, then wandered back to Carey’s, and then was sitting on my bed shortly after 8pm.

Tomorrow the blog really starts. Wick to JOG and back to Wick.

Thursday 13th May 2010

Awake early, and then down for a huge breakfast at 07:30. Yum! I spoke to the owner (John) and he agreed to take me to Wick Airport at 08:30 hopefully to get a nice early start. The weather was clear and bright, with no sign of rain. Ha Ha.

I found Andrew Bruce of Far North Aviation upstairs in an old airport building and introduced myself. We chatted about this and that, and he told me to go along the taxi-way to the big hanger and see John.

The Big Hanger

My pallet was behind a blue plane. I wandered over, saw John - a chap from Grimsby no less! - and we walked through the massive hanger to see my pallet. All looked fine, and I undid the sticky tape and released my blade with a flourish. John was impressed, but said that they had Stanley Knives, but understood that I wouldn’t have known that as I had no idea of what facilities would be available to me.

Chopper and Trailer revealed themselves easily, and I began assembling it all. Ten minutes later, my rig was complete, and then in the chilly hanger, I dressed into my cycling gear. As the wind rattled the doors and the roof, I shivered into my gear, warming all the time.


Then it was time to go. Chopper burst into life and we glided out of the hanger and onto the apron and across to the main building. I paused briefly to say Ta Ta and thanks to Andrew and to fill a couple of water bottles, and I rode around the outside of the runway to enter the door of the main building. I asked a chap where the exit for vehicles was, and he just waved me in through into the reception area! Me and Chopper and Trailer wheeled ourselves through the tiled and air-conditioned opulence and out into the carpark. I started Garmin, and headed out onto the A99 for JOG.

The wind was strong and bowling me along nicely, and before I knew it, I was climbing the final hill and dropping down to JOG. 17 miles easily done and non-stop too with a good following wind. The trouble is, with a good wind one way, you know full well that it will be awful going back the other way .......

At JOG, I chatted to a carpark attendant and sorted my video and camera. Then I met the photographer at the kiosk and paid for a couple of colour prints. I wheeled my rig over to the finger-post and asked Mr Photo to fit “Gunnislake School” onto the finger. Great stuff, and he took a shot using my camera too! The cost was £12odd for two prints posted to home. I’ll do similar at LE.

Guess Who with What and Where

JOG looked a bit more swept up from the way I remember it, though the John O’Groats Hotel is still dilapidated. No doubt there are plans to refurbish the whole place as it certainly needs it. I didn’t hand around long, it’s not the most salubrious of places to be, especially as the weather was deteriorating rapidly.

Off up the long hill and south and into the rain. It had started to drizzle and spit and then really rain, and as the wind had got up to a frenzy, the rain just came in horizontally into my face. It was a long way back to Wick I can tell you! The hills, though not steep, are long and endless in a deserted landscape - or should I say Moonscape. I was in near-bottom gear just going along in places! I managed an average of 13mph going, but coming back was a pityful 8mph.


Instead of getting straight back to the B+B, I called in at Wetherspoons for a couple. I thought a Celebratory Drink was called for before finishing the day’s ride. At £1.10 a pint, it’s madness not to take advantage.

Today's route

That’s 35 miles I’ve ridden today, but only 18.18 miles done for the JOGLE. Those 18.18 miles took me 2:17:52 duration at an average speed of 8.2 mph. I wonder how those figures will pan out over the next 800 miles or so ........

Back at Cary’s, I wheeled Chopper in through the gate and into the back garden. I’ll need to sort my stuff out and re-arrange things between panniers and box. That’s a job for later or even tomorrow before leaving.

I have 50 miles to ride to Golspie. As I remember it, all I have to worry about are the major hills: climbing Navidale and down to Helmsdale, then climbing out of Berridale. But that’s tomorrow and another day .........

See you later!


  1. Well done Mick, first day over.
    Hope to catch up with you this side of the border sometime.

  2. Fabulous report, I'm sitting here feeling thoroughly excited, and I'm not even there! Great first leg, looking forward to the next. Be safe.

  3. Hi Mick, Glad to hear Chopper arrived safely and you are underway. Will follow your route with much interest. Best of luck. Paul.

  4. Well done, glad you embarked successfully after the temptation of those £1.10 pints.

  5. Thanks Guys!

    Well underway now. Everything is going well.

    New post under construction.