An account of our trip from one of my fellow suffers, Mick Storey (aka “Swampy”):
Lands End To John’O’Groats
As I sit here, serenely on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal, with my buttocks awash with “Palmers Baby Butter” and the trundling traffic across the M6 Thelwall viaduct a distant rumble, I thought it may be in the appropriate mood to write a summary of the journey so far, so in chronological order, here goes
Day 1 – Let The Dampness Begin
At reveille, it became apparent that our pre event training had been completely inadequate. We camped less than one mile from Lands End. It became apparent that training should have included;
· Camping in the garden with four hosepipes blasting on the tent all night.
· Include two large sound systems, one emitting foghorn sounds at regular intervals while the other one distributed snoring sounds at various levels and tones. These snores would be connected to you brain waves and start up immediately before you are finally about to go to sleep.
· Finally, as soon as you get up in the morning, you need to put a soaking wet grey sack over your head and wander round pretending you can see.
Lands End is a fantastic place. My opinions are in no way coloured by the fact my trusty tent decided to give up to ghost and let most of the rain in.
So, we pedalled down to Lands End to get our photo taken by the sign. Sadly, the contract with the people who take photographs with the sign allows them to take the sign home with them. What remains is a wood and cardboard stick with the distance to John’O’Groats on it. So, we took a photo in the fog and cleared off. A good diet is essential on such a trip, so we went to Morrisons in Penzance for a slap up breakfast with extra beans.
We always knew the first two days were going to be the hardest due to the excess of climbing. Record attempts are made along the main “A” roads, the route of certain death. In an attempt at self preservation, we were using back roads where gradients are not as relaxed.
The dampness eventually subsided and it became quite hot. Day one took us to Boscastle. We were intending to do this trip really economically so it was a joy to realise our leader (Chris) had blown most of our camping budget in the first night at a posh hotel in Boscastle. At the end of the day, the extravagance was appreciated.
Four started and bits of the four finished
Day 2 – And Then there were Three
The hotel had been excellent, if expensive. So, loaded up with breakfast and the contents of the vanity cabinet, we set off up the hill. Eight hundred feet straight up. Martin had declared himself lame, with a strange limp from the previous days events and having spent most of the previous night talking to god on the porcelain telephone; a good use of a Boscastle Hilton equivalent. He valiantly tried to get up the hill but soon realised this was not to be and limped to the support vehicle.
I should say at this point that we do have good support. The driver for the first two days is called Andy. He makes Kojak look like a woolly mammoth. However, he’s the only one who brought a hairdryer. This does get used in his tent each night, although it’s not clear what for. He has been brilliant in his support, always at the right place with drink and sustenance for all the riders. We believe he enjoys doing this as he finds it novel that people are pleased to see him.
Our resident geek is Chris, a computer analyst who is in to any technical device. He was wearing his new yellow jersey that David had bought for him. It had been explained that he bought this because of its compliance with the Highway Code. The fact that it helps keep the flies off everyone else was not discussed. This was a really hot day with temperatures over 30 degrees in places. The constant pounding of the saddle was starting to cause problems down below. The climbs were steep and difficult. I think I can conclude that I hate Devon. The sounds of the country included “arghhh, help, brakes” as we achieved a maximum of 49.9mph on the road to Great Torrington. (Editor’s Note: This was on a donwhill bit).
It was quite difficult and we decided to finish the day around 8 miles short of our target. Camping was the order of the day once again. Even when it doesn’t rain, the condensation forms in gutters that drip into the tent.
To celebrate the end of the West Country, we had a curry, the idea being to take ones mind off bottom problems. I suspect there may be a flaw in this theory. However, one daft idea that proved pure genius was the fact that we had brought a barrel of beer from West Berkshire Brewery – and it survived – much appreciated.
Day 3 – Back to Four
We left the campsite and headed to Bridgewater via Taunton. The sun shone, mainly from my bottom, but the key point was that Martin was giving it another go. As he was crippled the day before, nobody had any expectations
The backup driver change took place the night before. We met in Bridgewater for breakfast and Andrew, who had swapped with Andy, notably had a bigger breakfast than anyone else. This driving clearly demands the calories.
There were noticeably less hills today, despite Cheddar and having to climb up onto the Avon and Severn bridges, both of which were spectacular. Avonmouth was terrifying, redefining the term “total dump”.
Hero of the day had to be Martin who had quite severe problems yesterday but managed 91 miles today, ending up 3 miles short of Symonds Yat. So from being 8 miles short, we were now 12 miles ahead.
Camping was again the order of the night. The thunderstorms wand lack of waterproofing on the tent made it look as if I had peed in the tent before getting into bed. I so love camping.
Day 4 – Symonds Yat To Much Wenlock
After a splendid evening paddling my air bed around the tent, I emerged awash with expectation. I hadn’t heard of Much Wenlock, but now I couldn’t wait to get there.
The pain from the buttocks was increasing. It used to be that pain would start after 40 miles hence the well known term, 40 mile bum. This was now down to 25. I had changed wheels and tyres before the trip, they were now a bit narrower and stiffer and it looks like this wasn’t a good move
I wasn’t the only one suffering. Martin had taken to wearing two pairs of cycling shorts as well as stuffing socks down his pants. Not only did this result in him having difficulty reaching the pedals, but it meant there were strange bulges sticking out just about everywhere.
Such was the joy of reaching Much Wenlock; we celebrated by having another Curry. The staff at the restaurant were such an amusing lot adding extra spices to my food taking it beyond a heat you might expect in Glasgow – fantastic.
Much Wenlock to the Manchester Ship Canal
Of all the tourist destinations on the planet, this can’t be very high on the average tourist’s list. I realise people take boat trips along it, but people have also been known to cut body parts off with a Stanley knife. However, this was the target. My 40 mile bum was now down to a getting out of the tent bum.
This had been the driest night so far, so precipitation within the tent was purely from condensation. It would still probably have been drier sleeping under a tree. The in tent urination theory seems to be rife around the campsite, but people don’t talk about it, at least not to your face. However, a new tent turns up on ready for Saturday
The route took us through Market Drayton, Nantwich and Knutsford. I’m not saying Knutsford is affluent, but I’ve never seen a McLaren car dealer in a town before. Bentleys, Lamborghinis and Ferraris are in abundance, nobody bothers with a Porsche. I suspect it’s all the money they make from the M6 service area.
Today was a very sore day, may let some air from my tyres tomorrow. I removed my shorts at the end of the day and can swear I saw my bum hold out a white flag
Tomorrow’s route takes us into the Pennines – magic.