Monday, 21 May 2007

What happened to my last post?

hmm, I wrote a very long post when in Carlisle, but it's not up, only the title. That's pretty annoying, especially as this is a record for me of what I've done. ok, to reconstruct it from memory...

Day Five (Wed 16/05/07)
Hereford to Chester
Day miles 95
Total miles 385
To go c 590

I got to Chester without major incident, and stayed in the youth hostel south of the city. It was packed - it was half term last week, so a lot of the hostels had young kids in it. No proper drying facilities for my gear, so another day of wet socks...

Day Six (Thu 17/05/07)
Chester to Morecambe
Day miles 93
Total miles 478
To go c 497

This was not a pleasant day. It rained for the first three hours, as I was trying to navigate my way through the Liverpool conurbation. I got lost in Runcorn - I was slightly consoled in this by reading that Phil Horsley, who wrote one of the better Lejog guides, also got lost there - and had trouble getting over the Runcorn Bridge (over the Mersey) at rush hour. The youth hostel didn't do breakfast early enough for my departure, and I ended up not having any until St Helens, after about 4 hours on the road. My left knee had also started hurting quite a bit, the rear ligament, which I know is the sort of strain that persists. That made the day a bit of a struggle, although there weren't many hills, and the A6 from Preston to Lancaster isn't so busy, and even has cycle lanes in part. I had intended to go as far as Arnside, on the edge of the Lake District, for that night, but when I rang ahead the YHA there was full, so I diverted over to Morecambe, along a well maintained cycle route from Lancaster, and stayed in a hotel on the front overlooking cocklepicker bay. Because of the persistent pain in my knee, I decided not to go through the Lake District, but to take the A6 skirting it.

Day Seven (Fri 18/05/07)
Morecambe to Lockerbie
Day miles 99
Total miles 577
To go c 398

My morbid tour of disaster locations continues...

The worst part of this day was going over Shap Fell in a 50mph cross-wind, with rain. Possibly the worst weather I've ever been out in, and far too dangerous to cycle in on a busy road. The freewheel down the other side was pretty precarious - wet and cold, and I staggered into a pub in Shap, at the bottom of the fell, desperate for a cup of tea to warm me up. The weather eased up a bit later - I got the worst of it just at the worst place to be - and I stopped for lunch in Penrith, a pretty market town, and then agin in Carlisle, where I wrote an extensive post which has been lost.

From Carlisle the direct route to Scotland goes on the A74, but as that is the link between two busy motorways, I avoided it and did a dogleg on the minor roads. Unfortunately this meant that I was coming into Scotland into a strong headwind, which seemed symbolic of something...

The road parallel to the A74 (M) is pretty flat and car free, as most of the traffic on the route is on the motorway. I got into Lockerbie around 8pm, to find there were no hotel rooms left, but there was a B&B, and I had a good dinner at one of the hotels, chatting to a yank from California who was touring Britain on a Harley (wimp) and who had forthright views on immigration and the death penalty. He was a firefighter and auxiliary policeman, so my vigorous debate with him was surprisingly restrained...

Day Eight (Sat 19/05/07)
Lockerbie to Hamilton (Glasgow)
Day miles 62
Total miles 639
To go c 336

A bit of a disaster today.

I've ridden for a few years in London, on some quite dangerous roads, and never even had a near miss. I've freewheeled at 35mph down rain-sodden mountain roads without a wobble. On Saturday at 8.30am I was riding along a deserted road, and diverted on to a cycle path alongside it. Across that path was a side road, which probably had one car an hour on it. The one car this hour arrived at the junction at the same time as me, coming along the cycle path with restricted view because of trees, and in the rain. I slammed on the brakes, the back wheel skidded, the front wheel locked and buckled, and I went over the handlebars. The car stopped well before it might have hit me, and in fact I stopped before the road, so the chances of a collision were small, but you make the decision to brake instantly.

So I had a buggered front wheel, and also a slightly bust left arm. I've previously had problems with this arm - I broke my elbow when I was 17, but the fracture wasn't noticed for about 3 years, after I'd dislocated it a few times, so it's always been weak. Landing on my outstretched arm as I did has definitely jarred the elbow. I'll have to see when I get back whether there's any deeper damage.

There was a house nearby with a very nice old man who agree to look after my bike and panniers while I hitched a lift into Dumfries for a new wheel. Luckily I was right on the junction with the Dumfries road, and even more luckily within 2 minutes of trying to hitch a car came by with two bikes on the roof rack - they were mountain bikers on their way to Dumfries. They gave me a very quick lift into town, I got a new wheel, and then a bus back to where my bike was.

Then the day got worse.Horrendous, blustery, showery weather all day, crosswinds, headwinds, hailstones in my face, everything. Dodgy knee, dodgy arm, a strained achilles was a hell of a slog. By the time I got to Hamilton I'd already decided I wasn't going into Glasgow centre, never mind my original plan of getting beyond it up Loch Lomond, and I was considering altering my route drastically. I found a decent hotel on my route and checked in early, quite battered.

Amusingly, I got held up on the route by a young boys march (all big drums and flutes), with guys wearing 'No surrender' shirts. I think it was in Larkhall. The police wouldn't let me (or about 30 cars behind me) overtake the march, and I thought cycling through them might be a bit provocative...

So, a change of plan. Instead of going west via Loch Lomond, Glencoe and Fort William, I'd go east via Perth. That would save me about 45 miles, supposedly the weather was a bit better on the east side, and the hills not so extreme.

Day Nine (Sun 20/05/07)
Hamilton to Pitlochry
Day miles 100 (!)
Total miles 739
To go c 230

From the trip's worst day to the best. It didn't start off well. I woke up feeling bruised, and had a lie in (until 7.15am!), and the first hour or so on the road was very painful. I had aches or pains in my left elbow, left knee, left achilles, which made pedalling hard, and right wrist, which made changing gear hard. A tubigrip on the elbow and some ralgex on elbow and ankle helped things, as did the lack of traffic in the Glasgow suburbs early on a Sunday morning. I worked my way round via Motherwell and Airdrie (I only know these places as football teams), up past Cumbernauld, then got onto the Clyde and Forth canal, which was about 8 miles of flat towpath that took me towards Falkirk. Past the elegant Falkirk Wheel (I should link to it but don't have time), then towards the Kincardine Bridge.The weather brightened up significantly, and the road towards Perth was flat through countryside similar to Kent. My various pains were largely gone, although I couldn't put so much pressure on my left foot or left arm.

Out of Perth it's the A9 all the way to Wick. It's a pretty bog standard busy A road, very fast and unpleasant for cyclists, but parts of it do have NCN cycle routes. I took a diversion off, then took a break to try to sort my gears out. The rear derailleur wasn't finding one of the gears - the problem was actually in the handlebar thumbshift, which was worn out, but I didn't know that, and messed around with the gear cable (under expert telephone guidance from R), and ended up with a frayed cable I couldn't reattach. Had to lock the gears down and cycle the 15 miles into Pitlochry in one gear (well, 3 because of the front gears, but one of them is only useful when going downhill at 25mph)

That didn't matter so much as the ride into Pitlochry was stunning. I went through Dunkeld, a small town on the Tay, then followed an NCN cycle route from there to Pitlochry. It went through the forest and alongside the Tay for several miles, and it must be one of the most beautiful places in Britain I've been to. The weather was perfect, early evening, strong sun, and it was very peaceful - I came across a clearing cloaked with bluebells, which I'm sure my pic won't do justice to.

I got into Pitlochry quite late, having made 100 miles for the day, and found a B&B. This was a favourite Victorian resort town, so there are lots of old Victorian houses which are now hotels and B&Bs. My landlady generously gave me £20 in sponsorship (she's a Boer, and responded to me explaining what MSF do in Africa, although I wasn't touting for sponsorship, so it was a nice surprise)

Porridge and a fry-up including haggis this morning, although a late start due to getting the bike fixed, and updating this (I hope it works) A long ride to Inverness, 85 miles on the road, 101 miles on the cycle route. I'll probably get there late, but I may be able to phone ahead and reserve a room somewhere if I'm sure I can make it. Then it's the final run up to JoG.


Helen said...

Great stuff. Nearly there!

Glenda Cooper said...

Wow...what a journey. Glad to hear that you are back on your way again...and let's hope the rest is less eventful....Good luck

Steve Marsden said...

The power of da web have ensured your exploits are spreading far and wide, reaching Gibraltar via Madrid (apolitically). The journey sounds fantastic (as well as the blog, with the 2 day radio silence for plot suspense as you reentered the atmosphere!) Here's hoping you don't add any other body parts to the list, and all the best for the last push.

Matthew said...

Herculean effort, Phil! Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

I thought you had a chance of making it safe any mishaps, wind and weather being favourable. Now I'm agog at your tenacity.

JDW60 (Doug)

Tomato said...

well done well done, especially considering the injuries and re-injuries and the wet socks. Home and dry soon.