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Land's End to John O'Groats 2009

 


THE RIDE

The video clip below is a snippet of the last day from Inverness to John O'Groats. The full DVD with route planning, dietician, physio and bike mechanics advice will be out soon.....

Below is the first draft "day by day" account of what we got up to.....

(mileages are all roughly correct – total 872 from GPS)

 

Day 1

We set off from home at 4.30am and arrived at Lands End just before 9am. We had arranged for the photographer to be there at 9.30am (otherwise its just a post with no signs!) so we had a full breakfast at the LE hotel. A quick photo meant a departure of 10.15.

The wind in the weeks before departure had been westerly but in the last few days had, somewhat unseasonably, switched to easterly meaning a headwind for the first day.

We were on the A30 for the first day. It really is not that bad. Its very smooth and the most direct route out of Cornwall, which for us was the main intention on the first day. There is a painted “hard shoulder” for a lot of the way but you had to be careful as large stones had been thrown into the road from the verges so I some ways it did take you out of the traffic but in others it was better to be on the main dual carriageway.

We found everyone gave us lots room and except for the wind it was a good day. The hills leading to and over Bodmin Moor are the longest and hardest but we eventually pulled into the Travel Lodge at Stourton just outside Okehampton at around 6.30pm. There was a Little Chef here and Trevor Two Dinners didn’t go hungry!

96 miles covered with a bit of sunburn.

Day 2

Well the sun has gone and is replaced by mist as we get on the bikes at 6.30am. We stay on the A30 and turn off for Tedburn St Mark and following a B road to Exeter. Grahams (the cameraman) sister and niece were waiting for us on the other side of Exeter with a banner and bacon rolls, we did go slightly astray in our efforts to find them but eventually made it.

From here we took the B3181 north until it became the A38 and travelled to Taunton. We were wet by this time and needed a hot drink so we diverted into the town centre for a bite to eat.

Carrying on North on the A38 we headed for Bristol. I’ve yet to check exactly what happened in Bristol but needless to say we did get out and back on the A38 and after calling home to get hotel advice we ended up at the Michaelwood services via a back road from the A38 (around about jct 14 of the M5). The check in lady did remark “we don’t get many cyclists in here”. We crossed the motorway bridge that evening to a KFC where once again we could feast on the A La Carte menu!

123 miles covered, sunburn now fading fast!

Day 3

Up at 5.30am and on the road by 6am was the intention. By the time the panniers are packed and the bikes hauled down from upstairs in the room (second night in a row where the bedrooms were on the 1 st floor) it was about 6.20am. Again misty and damp. Kev, my brother in law, met us a few miles up the road with the biggest bacon roll yet to be tested, saving half for later we set off in earnest up the A38.

We carried on north to Telford and here we ignored out previously worked out route which would have avoided Telford and got us on possibly a quieter road to the A41 and then Whitchurch. Why did we ignore it? Well we saw signs for Whitchurch and followed them, this took us on probably the most unpleasant road of the entire trip, the A442 dual carriageway section to the east of Telford is very busy, a rough surface and few places to safely pull over – not to be advised!

Eventually it turns north and quietens down a bit and we carried on the A442 to Hodnet – now this is where the new maps show that you should take a right to the A53 and then A41 to Whitchurch – you can however continue on the old A442 all the way into Whitchurch, a very minor road which was very nice to be on.

We’d reached 111 miles by now and it was about 4.30pm, we wanted to carry on but stop for a hot drink first. Nothing seemed open so we resorted to staying the night here (again reserved by mission control at home), getting thing dry and hopefully an early night.

111 miles

Day 4

Same routine, up at 5.30 and now a bit quicker to get on the road at 6.15am. We had a dilemma today, we knew Shap was ahead of us, some 110 miles but would we make it over in time to then find accommodation on the other side, in say Penrith?

The journey was probably my favourite day. It rained all day, it did not stop. We travelled through Warrington, Wigan and then on to Preston. These are big urban jungles with wall to wall traffic and you had to concentrate the whole time approaching motorway junctions was by now becoming commonplace.

So it doesn’t sound too thrilling so far, but arriving out of the top of this was just fantastic, before long we were through Lancaster and on quieter roads running parallel to the M6. We made Kendal by 4.30pm and then started the ascent of Shap Fell. The summit is 1400ft and there are several “false” summits where you climb and climb, think you’ve reached the top and then descend. At the top I am sure the view is great – for us our heads were in the clouds and it was still raining.

As we started the fast descent we past the hotel turning, actually we overshot it by about 2 miles. There was no room in the room for the bikes that evening but they found us a secure dry place to store them – we really were in the middle of nowhere so they were quite safe. The manager, who had worked at a Newbury hotel, did us a good rate and a cheap meal.

Very good radiators in the rooms turned my room into a sauna that evening with everything soaked, even most of what was in the panniers.

126 miles

Day 5

On the road by 6.10 – getting better and downhill most of the way to Penrith. We carried on through Carlisle stopping for a quick bite to eat. On day two my ankle had swollen so a local pharmacists gave me some cream – I could cycle but not walk!

A few further miles and we were in Scotland – 500 miles from Lands End.

From Gretna we followed the road to Lockerbie, parallel to the A74(M) for most of the way. The wind was now behind us and we made good progress as we hit Edinburgh around 6.30pm after crossing the Forth Road Bridge. The east cycle way was closed so we had to carry the bikes down the subway and up the other side – a shame they don’t tell you at the top of the ramp.

We had managed to get a £169 room for just £40 via laterooms.com, again thanks to mission control! Very nice and with amble food on offer was a good find just north of the bridge.

148 miles

Day 6

On the road at 6.10 again. Its not early anymore – its just routine and one that we have both adapted to really well. Nothing is aching, a few things are hurting but I am feeling fit and strong to start each day.

We travelled through Kinross and then Perth to pick up the A9. We remarked more than once that whoever designed this road must have been a cyclist! It was Sunday so the traffic volume was low, the sun was on our back as was a good tailwind. We averaged about 15mph for the 10 hours we cycled that day! The views and scenery were great, there was still snow up there on the Cairngorms and if you stopped for too long it was pretty chilly.

Our aim if Inverness that evening was optimistic to say the least, however we made it and booked into the hotel just after 6.30 that evening.

Over dinner that night we chatted over the previous days events, the highs and lows, the hard bits and the brilliant bits. It was all positive, even the negative bits – we were on top of the world, in high spirits with only a day to go.

146 miles

Day 7

We were being tracked via the satellite tracking on my bike by a local primary school, therefore we wanted to try and make JOG before 3.15pm when the children go home. We set the alarms for 4.30am and were on the road for around 5am.

It was cold, wet and windy, not as I had imagined the last day of our adventure.

The first 30 miles for me were hard, I was low on energy and for the first time since we started we saw a sign for JOG 111 miles – I knew that was achievable as we had done it many times before, but my legs weren’t convinced! We stopped for a hot drink and I managed to get some food inside me although I didn’t feel hungry (a sure sign apparently that you need food!). We pedalled on and eventually the mist and raid eased, blue sky appeared and the sun started to dry us off. Before long we stripped down to shirt sleeves and we well on our way.

It’s very hard to get an idea from a map of the gradients you’ll be expecting; I should have known the Scottish highlands though would be hilly! We climbed so monumental roads and enjoyed fast descents down the other side; it was a leg of extraordinary variety, stunning coastal scenery and ultimately the end of our journey.

As we coasted the last 2 miles to John O’Groats we reminisced over the days we had had, all too soon we reach the famous signpost and helmets off – we had finished.

122 miles

All the data on the page below was fed direct from my mobile phone during the ride, which is prone to speling mistakes, so hopefully its of interest if not spelt correctly :-)