After a quick morning coffee-and-cake picnic, I changed, loaded the bike into the back of the car, and we headed home to Inverurie.
So this is it. All over. Back to normal life, or as normal as it's likely to be whilst the next project is carried out (a total kitchen refit). So what have I achieved? I've covered 1045 miles of some of the best cycling territory that Britain can offer. I've sat in the saddle for 94 hours and 52 minutes making an overall moving average of 11.02 mph. I've climbed 16,187m of ascent (and it feels like most of that was in Corwall & Devon). I've been shown great consideration and kindness (like when Ian from Slochd Hostel drove out to chase me down and return to me the water bottles I'd left on the step); and I've seen some real idiots in control (possibly) of cars and trucks. I've been nearly run off the road twice and had my butt slapped once. I've had generally fantastic weather for cycling except for the day traversing Inverness and Beauly Firth, with happily no heatwave. The only item on the packing list that was not touched was the sun-screen. I've stayed at quite a range of B&B establishments from the full spectrum of standards. All hit the spot and provided exactly what was needed at the time, and the hosts have all been great. Special thanks must go to the Hermitage Cottage in Market Drayton for a really pleasant evening of their company and a great standard of accommodation too.
My trusty hand-built Hewitt Cheviot SE has performed absolutely faultlessly for the entire trip. It was self-serviced before the journey with a new chain fitted and has been brilliant. It's taken some big hits both on the road and on the tracks, but the wheels still run perfectly true. Thank you Paul Hewitt and all at Hewitt Cycles for turning out such a gem (and to Hewitt's Gethin who is the inspirational record-holder mentioned in the intro to this blog). I have had no punctures at all. I can say that now. The p-word is an unmentionable subject amongst cyclists on tour. (The only time the subject came up was when I was asked by an obvious non-cyclist, one breakfast time, if I'd had any yet. He also asked the other question that gets my hackles raised : "How many gears has your bike got?" . "27 actually". Happily this wasn't followed by the second most banale question that is generally asked : "Do you use them all?" And in case you're wondering, yes I do; I paid for them, I'm damn well going to use them!).
Happily I discovered Sportful Tour cycle shorts before this trip and thay have been brilliant. I can really recommend them to anyone contemplating a long trip. They're the best shorts I've ever used. These and my ace Brooks B17 Champion Special have kept my 'contact points' in good shape for the duration. A little bit of Ischial Bursitis (Google it!) was the only slight discomfort during the entire trip but this is probably due to my lack of natural padding! (Easily controlled with anti-inflammatories)
A lot of planning went into this trip by both Joe and me. It paid off. All the routes were planned, refined and uploaded to my Garmin GPSMap 62s. It has behaved faultlessly for the entire trip. The rolling OS mapping was a huge benefit when closed roads were encountered and diversion routes needed in a hurry. The only problem is that the past-actual, and yet-to-come height profile display can be pretty depressing when you see a big hill looming in a couple of miles. If anyone wishes to use the route that was finally followed then I can let you have the .gpx files of every day's track. There is virtually nothing I'd change in retrospect, unless Leigh, the most depressing place I've ever ridden through, could be avoided.
I have to say big thanks to wives Anne and Maeve without whose support this trip could not have been contemplated by Joe and me. Their encouragement and support, both moral, logistical, nutritional, and accommodational, was invaluable. Corwall and Devon, in particular, would have been a harder place without their bag-carrying assistance.
The low point of the journey was inevitably Joe's unscheduled medivac at Nantwich. He was, and still is, gutted. Happily all is now well with no lasting effects and it was an event that could happen to anyone, anytime, and was not necessarily triggered by the exercise. LEJOG, for Joe, remains unfinished business! It was fun riding with Joe, we were well matched, it's just such a shame that it didn't continue until the destination.
For me, I look forward to no alarm clock tomorrow! I'll have a day off to sort out my stuff, then I might just go for a bike ride.
Thanks to all who have been watching our progress on this blog. It has provided additional impetus to the journey, and has certainly meant that we couldn't slack off and get away with it. I hope you, in turn, have derived some entertainment from following the story as it unfolded. I know that I shall enjoy re-reading it and reminding myself what we've done ... it all tends to merge into a blur after a while!
Adios, until the next adventure ...