Day 12, Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

Today was the day of the extreme storm, Ali, which covered all of central Scotland with winds up to 70 mph and heavy rain. For various reasons, I opted not to ride today, but to treat it as the rest day, which should have been in Stirling after riding there from Abington. Instead, my son (whose short name is Ali!) picked me, bag and bike up at Abington and conveyed me to stay at his house in Kirkpatrick Durham, near Castle Douglas. He will take me and my grandson, Jamie, to Abington early tomorrow morning and we will ride to Stirling supported by him. On reaching Stirling I will stay overnight and re-join the group for the rest of the journey to John o Groats. (My grandson Jamie and his partner Ruth were to have accompanied me from Abington to Stirling today but . . . . . ).

The rest of the group carried on with the ride, despite the drastic conditions. We saw them at Carnwath and they were determined to reach Stirling. Having experienced the roads from inside a car, with deep floods, debris and fallen branches littered everywhere, my admiration for their bravery, cycling skill and fortitude knows no bounds. Chris is also to be congratulated for his determination to support them, following in the van. A later call brought the news they were past or at Falkirk and would complete the route shortly. Susan, Martin, Rick, Peter, Phillip, John and Chris you are heroes all.

Day 11, Tuesday Sept 18th, 2018

A long and varied day, 114 km and 850 metres of ascent. Weather started off very windy and wet - not so much rain as heavy drizzle. Waterproofs conditions, anyway and a relatively late start, 0930, for the journey from Wetheral to Abington.

We had collectively decided, after advice from our local companion rider yesterday (Derek), to take the Annan, B723/B725 to Dalton and then Lochmaben and Beattock. The rest of the route from there is in the gpx tracks - A74 all the way to Abington village and the M74 service station. And so, in windy and wet surroundings, we trundled to Gretna and crossed the border into Scotland (with suitable photo opportunities).

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Then on Annan, past the Devil’s Porridge Museum, for morning tea and cake stop in Annan. Robyn, Robbie’s wife, and little Orran (5 months old, my lovely great-grandson) met us in the cafe. The route then turned north, with shelter from hedges and gradually improving weather. Lunch stop at Graham’s Bakery, Lochmaben, allowed the rain to go off and a hint of the sun to appear. From here things went well and progress was quite speedy, with the following wind. Robbie had the drone with him and did remarkably well to take several minutes of video, which we are all dying to see (edit: link to a rough cut of some of the drone footage added below). Lots of other photos, too, with the phone. I had a dib with the GoPro, both on the road and as we came into the motorway service station. A long traffic holdup at the entrance to the service station was explained by the news that a fight had broken out between two (male, of course) motorists. The police arrived soon after we had parked up. Robyn was here to meet Robbie and we said fond goobyes. A very enjoyable day and a very long one for Robbie. Well done, my grandson!!

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Occupying all our thoughts tonight is the drastic weather forecast for tomorrow - very high SW winds and heavy rain. A dinner-time conference and discussion followed and Chris’s experience of these things led to a decision to set off as early as possible and “hole up” in the middle of the day, during the worst of the storm. My grandson Jamie and his partner Ruth are joining me for this section. My son Ali is supporting with his large vehicle, which can pick us up if necessary. So . . . .  give it a go tomorrow and decide what to do after experiencing the wind effects and whether it is safe to continue. If not, plans B, C, D may well be needed. I’m so pre-occupied with all this that other matters for the Blog will have to wait.     

 

Day 10, Monday, September 17th, 2018

From Hawes to Wetheral, 96 km, 1000 metres climbed. Back to good weather, little wind, a superb route and sensational views. Late start because breakfast was 0830. Met Derek as planned; he and Wendy had been staying locally and Wendy waved us off. From Hawes to Garsdale Head is an undulating uphill climb to meet the Carlisle/Settle line. Turned right and rode parallel to the railway, noticing that we went up and down and the railway didn’t. Sadly, we noticed a dead red squirrel on the road. Pendragon Castle caused a photo-opportunity to break out; I think we all sensed this was a relaxed day to enjoy to the full. Lunch at Kirby Stephen, where Phillip’s big brother joined the party. Relaxed ride across towards Appleby, with the Warcop ranges ahead, under the new bypass to the very nice cafe by the level crossing and garden centre, now closed. Photos and witness book duties were easy today - Derek did it all! Then a relaxing ride across the country between the A66 and the Northern End of the Pennines, with super views of the Pennines and Lake Dustrict. Two hours later we were in the Crown Hotel, Wetheral, relaxing.

My Garmi electronicals, I have deduced, are due to deteriorating contacts in the plug. So when it is on charge on the move, funny things happen. By deploying Garmin 2, all was well. Do I splash out on a Garmin 1000+ at enormous expense?

At this point, those of a nervous or prudish disposition should switch off and not read further. Tonight’s homily/discussion is about bums. I think it is safe to say cyclists think about this part of the anatomy, worry about it, treat it with great respect but rarely, for understandable reasons, discuss the best protection procedures. I have been watching a number of very intimate and detailed YouTube films on this subject (does this constitute watching pornography?), which are very detailed about the exact points of contact between all our weight and the saddle. I am not going to describe in detail what I learned, I leave that to you. However, the point is the two pelvic bones, which do all the support with very little area of contact, need looking after well. Also, the skin in the surrounding area needs TLC and absolute cleanliness. My method - wear a pair of mountain bike under shorts (very thin pad), buy Castelli shorts (very expensive but worth every penny) and apply Sudocrem liberally. So far, this strategy has been successful in keeping bum discomfort to an absolute minimum. Has anyone willing to pass me advice/experience on this subject or come across advice from Tour de France riders, who do ridiculous mileages without a break? I read somwhere that TdF riders used to put a thick beefsteak between them and the saddle.

Day 9, Sunday, 16th September, 2018

Outlane to Hawes, 103 km, 1700 metres of ascent. By far the hardest day for me. It was very wet and very windy as we set off from Outlane and so it continued until well after lunch. The hotel is at the top of quite a high hill. On the descent I was very nervous and apprehensive about grip of the tyres on the road and was lacking confidence. Why? Is it lack of practice in the windy/wet conditions, or some irrational fear of . . something? Don’t know, never felt like this on the bike before. Had to wag a finger at myself and say ‘get on with it scaredy cat’. The feeling took several hours to wear off. The feeling persisted throughout the big climb over Wadsworth Moor and the descent to Sowerby Bridge. Pressed on to the cobbled hill in Haworth, where we stopped for mid-morning coffee and cake. Another big climb was needed to reach Skipton and the lunch stop. Feeling a bit better by this time and a stop for sustainance steadied the ship somewhat. I guess the rain and wind relenting helped but spirits gradually rose and the feeling of engaging with the ride and beginning to gain confidence began to return. After lunch the weather improved a lot, the rain ameliorated and the wind became less pestacious. After Skipton the climbs became easier (was that in reality or because I had cheered up?) as we passed through Grassington to the afternoon cafe at Kettlewell - Zarina’s cafe there. Stocked up on tea and cakes ready for tackling Langstrothdale Chase. It took me 2 hours for the ride to Hawes, walking at least three times on the very severe gradients. Big views though - Pen y Ghent over to the left, Ingleborough and Whernside there, too. Arrived Hawes at 1730.

Lovely meet-up with Georgina and Ellie and family, who had driven over from Weardale, where they were on holiday. Wendy and Derek, Robbie’s in-laws, were also there, so it was a delightful extended family chat. More on why Wendy and Derek were there tomorrow.

Weather forecast for the next stage looks good and climbs look a lot less challenging. No mechanicals to report but my electronical with the Garmin repeated itself and the report is in two halves again. Oh, well, the Strava record looks ok. Today was a good test of my system for keeping the phone and Garmin charged up in wet conditions. All worked well. I was very worried about this before setting off.

I may pluck up courage and discuss a basic, fundamental, foundation problem connected with (dominating?) cycling. Watch this space and all will be revealed; well not exactly revealed but talked about.

Day 5, Wednesday, 12th September, 2018

Today’s route - Weston Super Mare to Ross-on-Wye, via the Severn Suspension Bridge. After a tour of a housing estate in north WsM, we set off on busy roads to start with, gradually out into lovely countryside. The big objective was the Bridge. To get there, we had to sample the tourist delights of Portishead and Avonmouth plus undergraduate level Garmin navigation problems….

Day 3 Monday, Sept 10th, 2018

Day 3 Monday, Sept 10th, 2018

What a day! Perfect weather again. They just get better and better (so far!). A very enjoyable 100+ km ride, leaving the hotel at 0845 making for Minions, Tavistock for lunch, over Dartmoor to Mortonhampstead for a bucket of tea. Then wonderful switchbacks (one of 16%, one with a short 25% start) on B 3212, through woodland with views to Exeter. A final flourish through horrendous city traffic to ….

Sunday, Sept 9th, 2018. Lostwithiel

Another superb cycling day in warm sunshine. A short day - only 46 miles or 65 km ish. Left Redruth at 0915 and arrived at 1515.  I rode with the same four guys as yesterday, Phillip, John and Peter. I knew Peter from another tour - Manche (Ouistreham) to Med (Montpellier); he's from York and . a great guy to cycle with. We are all about the same speed and get on well. Hope we stay together some more. One can never tell about these things; it happens as it happens. My room-mate is John and he is a very pleasant guy.  (see photo with yesterday's Blog).

Some very bad news today. One member…

September 7th, 2018 Penventon Park Hotel, Redruth

Yesterday I drove from Darlington with bike and bags etc to Clay Cross, where Chris Ellison lives. We then went via various motorways and A roads to a TravelLodge near Okehampton at 9pm+. I don't know where exactly, it was late when we arrived and I had to sort my stuff for the next day. I changed into cycling gear here to be ready to set off from Penzance. We left at 0815 for Penzance, arriving about 10 am, today, Friday, Sept 7th.

After a wonderful veggie breakfat (with chips!), I set off for Lizard Point, while Chris waited for the rest of the party to arrive by train. The weather has been perfect today; blue skes not too hot, gentle NW breeze and dry. The ride to Marazion was along quiet roads. Then the route to Helston and Lizard took to A roads - quite busy and narrow in places. The climbs are not too steep - 8% to 11% but go on a bit. It is gently rolling country. Views and wild life outstanding, including buzzards and swallows and house martins.

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Set off from Penzance soon after 11 am, arrived Lizard at 1310, had a cheese sandwich and pot of tea, sitting out in the sunshine. Left Fat Sids Cafe at 1315ish, took some videos with the GoPro and pics with the iPhone and set off back to Helston. This time carried straight on to Redruth to meet Chris as he arrived at the hotel! 

 

 

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All very pressurised at the Penventon Park Hotel, booking in, shower, charging all the electronics ad batteries. No time for a beer yet and its half past six! 

Managed to aquire my first Witness Book entries at the Lizard Village Cafe and this hotel. I can prove I was here!! 

And so it begins!

He’s off! Bike packed, leaving Darlington for the trip South to the starting point! 

The LEJOG trip will start on Saturday, with a cycle from the first hotel in Redruth to Land's End and back to Redruth. Tomorrow however, Alex is going to cycle from Lizard Point (the furthest South point on mainland UK) to Lands End, and he will also be taking in Dunnet head (the furthest north point of mainland UK) when he is on the North coast. 

Alex will be blogging as and when he can over the next few weeks, but the focus will be on getting the job done, so you’ll see blogs from family and friends about how he’s getting on as well. 

All the the best to Alex/Dad/Gramps/Great Gramps!  

August 27th, 2018

Training still going well and feeling up for it. There's an autumnal feel now, so arm warmers and leg warmers have been dug out of summer storage. Winter bike, with full mudguards also very necessary. Only 12 days to the start from Redruth. My daughter Jenny is planning to join me from Newtonmore to John o Groats, which is very special to me. My other daughter Beth is now in Spain cycle touring from Barcelona along the Med coast, then across Spain to Santander. We're all on the move together!

Philosophy and Thoughts

I suspect there may be many hundreds, if not thousands, of bicycle riders in the UK who are in their 70s, 80s and 90s. People who have cycled for years and years, out several days a week in all weathers, quietly and anonymously, doing thousands of miles a year. People who are quite capable of riding LEJoG - and may have done it.  The current holder of the Guiness World Record for the Oldest Person to Cycle from Lands End to John o Groats is Tony Rathbone of Keswick, who was 81 in 2014, when he was awarded the record.

So why am I doing LEJoG and trying for the record? Having done plenty of touring in the last 15 or 20 years, I know how satisfying and enjoyable it is. The cyclist is in close touch with his environment, can stop and look around, admiring the wonderful sights, sounds and smells. Motor transport isolates the tourer from the surroundings, having to concentrate on roads and other vehicles - even on a motor-bike. It all whizzes by so quickly.

That's one good reason for doing LEJoG again, but why the record attempt? A valid question with a lot of personal answers. One is it's about the challenge and searching for boundaries. Inevitably, exploring boundaries invites the possibility of failure. What then? Try again? The Guiness World Record documents include the words “furthest south to furthest north of the UK”. LEJoG doesn’t necessarily include Lizard Point or Dunnet Head, the actual furthest south and north in mainland UK but this time I intend to include them.

Another of my reasons is to explore what we oldies are capable of and maybe persuade (provoke?) them to come into the light and be counted. To confront the stereotype and see how many others there are like Tony Rathbone, John Lee (who has some world record achievements cycling for an hour in a velodrome), Laurence Brophy, Robert Marchant the amazing French centagenarian (or is it centenarian?) and others. I've learned quite a lot while looking for supra-seventy and eighty achievements on the bike. But the numbers are difficult to find.

Athletics and mountain running are well served with Masters events. Have a look and marvel at the abilities of older runners, for example. I'm not aware of similar opportunities for cyclists, apart from Audax. Is it time to try to change this?   

And then there is the hoary old excuse - because it's there! Go for it!

Stop Press, August 20th, 2018

BBC News has just reported that Laurence Brophy, who is 86, will start a circular ride on Sunday, August 26th, from his home in Bridgend to Land's End, John o Groats and back home. He is doing this unsupported and with minimal accommodation planned. This is a massive undertaking and he's a harder man than I am. He hopes to complete the ride in three weeks and is at the mercy of the weather. Good luck, Laurence, we will be following your progress and cheering you on.   

 

Preamble

I will be keeping a log, hand-written in a little notebook, for formal submission to Guiness World Records. This blog is intended to make quick jottings each evening, in a more informal way and widely available, to let friends and relatives who look at this website know how things are going. This is all new and exciting for an old codger - never done a blog before! Maybe it will become compulsive - writing and viewing!