Here we are, almost at the end of the road, literally. It has been wet, it has been windy, it has been hard, it has been long. A war of attrition of sorts. But it has also been beautiful, wild and an amazing experience. We’ve pushed harder, for longer, than we thought possible. We’ll have stories to bore generations to come:
When I were a wee lad, I cycled all the way up the whole length of the country…
Following porridge cooked for us by our support crew, we headed off out of Fort William. Except we didn’t get very far before having to pull over. We had a puncture, surprisingly our first. You would think after truing wheels and hammering chain rings back into shape, replacing an inner tube would be a walk in the park. Somehow, we made a bit of a pigs ear of it and were struggling with tyre bulge no matter what we tried. At least we were able to watch the locks and swivel bridge being used.
There is only one word to describe this day: epic. Or should that be absolutely, unbelievably, $&*%^ing epic.
It started off serenely enough, winding along the edge of Loch Lomond, in rather murky conditions. The peace only disturbed by the occasional rumbling of passing lorries.
After a suitably fancy full English breakfast, we continued on up the Scottish pavé – honestly, some of the road surfaces in Scotland are atrocious – towards Glasgow.
We hadn’t thought to purchase any breakfast supplies so we left the hostel early. When we tried to checkout all we could find was George the cat. We called the designated number but there was no answer. I can’t say I was particularly surprised. We generously left our cash on the desk and headed off into the Cumbrian countryside.
The sun was shining and the scenery was in stark contrast to the previous day’s grind. Mike was also on the mend due to a concoction of massages, ice and a stringent stretching routine.
Simply entering the bathroom and then re-emerging back into the bedroom was enough to be greeted with the most foul of smells. We opened a window in a vain attempt to appease the cleaners.
A hearty full English was served at 7.30. The energy was gone by 8.30. A full English seems to leave you overly full for a short period, and then it’s all gone. Not the best sustenance but all on offer.
After the previous days efforts had taken their toll on both bike and body, our morning’s concern was finding a bike shop. One of our party needed a new knee but we wondered if a new cassette (easier gears) might do instead. We also needed a spoke and wheel true. We weren’t sure if we would need a front chain ring as well, although our bodge fix (hitting it with a hammer) seemed to have worked.
Our VIPs kindly agreed to form a search party before heading home. We patiently waited, while consuming some healthy Easter treats.
Cycling out of Street we hit a brutal headwind. The route took us along quiet roads, cutting through farm fields. In my mind it felt like we were pressing hard at the front of a one day race. Except not that hard because our legs were heavy from the previous days efforts.
After a particularly windy climb we took shelter behind a wall to recover.
After a snack we pressed on, trying to beat the rain. It was to be a futile effort. Following a coffee and pork scratchings break (they didn’t sell bacon sandwiches!), where a bystander proclaimed the rain would not come this far, the heavens opened.
After fuelling with a large bowl of Ready brek and banana – not the tastiest combination but all we could find – we pushed our bikes up the rutted track away from the hostel and began our journey. This was to be a day that would take us out of Cornwall, through Devon and into Somerset.
If we thought Day 1 was hard, this was going to be our longest and hilliest day of the trip. It wasn’t long until we’d already spun up a few hills and were in need of our morning coffee.
They had some great looking pasties cooking in the oven here but they weren’t ready. We pressed on.
We met some other LEJOGers over porridge but they had the benefit of a support car all the way, very sensible. We asked if they’d support us instead but alas no.
Then we set of on the short journey for Lands End proper.
Nothing could prepare us for the beauty and brutality of Cornwall. Stunning coastal views and epic climbs and descents. It wasn’t long until we needed a coffee.