Day 2 – RIP Dave’s old friend

Today the rain returned. We were right to think the good weather wouldnt last. “give it five more minutes” just meant we left in heavier rain.

The day started bad when a seagull escaped with one of our boiled eggs. It did not get better from here on in.

Firstly the rain. It was relentless and did not let up even after it had given us a thorough soaking.

Secondly was the hills. Not gonna bang on about them but yesterday was a whole lot easier.

Thirdly dave hit a pothole. It bent both his front and rear rims and split his frame. This was bad news. Fortunately he limped on being the trooper he is.

We found a cycle shop in Tiverton where we payed our last respects to the dawes. Its still in the shop now, but due to our tight schedule, Dave left with an old rayleigh for over the odds. But if it gets us all the way it will be worth its weight in gold.

Let’s hope our fortunes fare better tomorrow!

Day 1 – Cornish Hills

We were pre-warned by multiple people that the Cornish Hills are some of the toughest. Perhaps its a good idea we get these out the way first.

The warnings we received were quite accurate. From the offset of our 80 mile slog we hit hills. Big ones, small ones, rolling ones, long ones, steep ones….you get the jist.

To combat this onslaught, a variety of tactics were used. Due to a lack of sunday bus services dave sneaked a tow rope onto the back of ants bike, this worked until the next hill when ant turned round thinking he’d got a flat. Thus instead a variety of jelly babies billtong bananas nuts chocolate and strategically placed vaseline wa the only answer. Oh plus rather a lot of sweat (making our faces white with salt!), and gritted teeth.

Getting past Truro by 12.30 a little ahead of schedule we stopped for some lunch. As its Sunday we had the obligatory sunday roast. Bad move. As pleasant as it was, it sat in our stomachs and refused to budge. This uncomfortable feeling meant afternoon progress was slow. A stint on the A39 didn’t lift our spirits!

We finally arrived at our campsite in Tintagel not before a killer 20% climb.

Weather today has been anything but british (this year at least)… we even had to apply suncream. In fact the sun is still shining down on two very tired brummies… Rain headed our way no doubt!

The Route

Day 1 – Sun 15th July – Lands End to Tintagel – 79 Miles

Day 2 – Mon 16th July – Tintagel to Greenham (nr Taunton) – 86.7 Miles

Day 3 – Tue 17th July – Greenham to St Briavells – 82 Miles

Day 4 – Wed 18th July – St Briavells to Shrewsbury – 76.7 Miles

Day 5 – Thur 19th July – Shrewsbury to Ormskirk – 80 Miles

Day 6 – Fri 20th July – Ormskirk to Glenridding – 80.7 Miles

Day 7 – Sat 21st July – Glenridding to Glenmidge – 76.1 Miles

Day 8 – Sun 22nd July – Glenmidge to Loch Lomond – 92.3 Miles

Day 9 – Mon 23rd July – Loch Lomond to Glencoe – 63.8 Miles

Day 10 – Tue 24th July – Glencoe to Drumndrochit – 70 Miles

Day 11 – Wed 25th July – Drumnadrochit to Brora – 71.5 Miles

Day 12 – Thur 26th July – Brora to John O’Groats to Thurso – 88.6 Miles

Total Distance – 947.4 Miles

Birmingham to Oxford – 1st July

As a warm up excercise Dave and I took part in the Birmingham to Oxford charity bike ride.

We rode about 85 miles in total. It was tough at times, especially over the Cotswold Hills. The race organisers seemed to place all their photographers at the top of the hardest climbs, just to catch you looking your worst!

This is pretty typical terrain we’ll be experiencing over the first few days, only we’ll be carrying far more weight.

Although im aching today, im still looking forward to our trip in less than 2 weeks time!

Day 96 – Andover to Home

Today is the last day of the trip and it’s a big ride. It’s about 100 mile back home and goes through the Cotswold Hills. The plan was to meet my dad at 14:30 halfway in Burford, as he wants to cycle the remaining 53 miles with me. I’d told friends and family that I’d be back home at 7pm so I had a bit of a lie in and went for a coffee in Andover.

back_home_smallerThe route I had planned was really nice. Staying off many of the main roads I pieced together a route through some really small country roads. I was in good spirits with the sun on my back and knowing I was on my way home.

When I got to Burford I stopped for dinner and met up with my dad. We rode the Cotswolds together and met up with my sister a few miles before the end.

It had been a long day but I had made home. I got a fantastic greeting from my friends and family who were waiting for me on my drive. Thank you to all those who came to see me arrive. It was a nice end to an absolutely amazing trip.

I worked out that I’ve completed around 6,300 miles in total, the enormity of this still hasn’t sunk in. To me, each day was just a ride, free time, seeing new landscapes and meeting new people you wouldn’t normally get to meet. Some parts were tougher than others but not one day was so hard that I felt like giving up. I’ve always had the support of my friends and family, this has always been on my mind when times have been hard, like climbing some very long, steep mountains in Slovenia, or several days of constant rain through Sweden, Denmark and Germany.

What I have enjoyed most about the trip is experiencing a continent from an entirely different perspective. On a bike all your senses take in the environment around you. Seeing some absolutely breath taking natural landscapes, exchanging glances with locals in remote villages, swapping stories with fellow travellers from every corner of the world, taking in the smells of the countryside, spotting wildlife I’ve not seen before, feeling the intense heat in the mountains on the Mediterranean coast and the cool breezes in Scandinavia. The list could go on and on.

I didn’t plan the trip meticulously but I was lucky that everything went smoothly. Although I must admit, everything i took with me (see my equipment list) was used at some point. I don’t feel I had taken anything with me that I didn’t need, or was missing anything when I needed it. In a way I wish more things had gone wrong, this might have challenged me more, plus everyone loves a story of peril and misadventure!

I would encourage anyone to do something similar. The experience is so liberating and each day so fulfilling.

If you have anything you’d like to ask me about the trip feel free to email me.

Day 95 – Brighton to Andover

Camping was expensive in Brighton. I asked why it was so expensive and the most justifiable answer I was given was “because it’s Brighton”. I won’t be camping there again.

It had rained most of the night and it was still raining when I left the campsite. I got absolutely soaked cycling along Brighton’s sea front. I could feel the water in my shoes and my socks where squelching. So much for waterproof socks and shoes.img_1247

Brighton’s sea front seemed to go on for miles before I started to head North West towards Andover. The rain had slowed slightly but the damage had already been done, I was soaked to the skin.

I got another puncture today. Luckily it happened while I was searching for somewhere to stop for dinner, and the thorn punctured my front tyre just before reaching a pub. Puncture fixed and body refuelled, I continued on to Andover.

Tonight will be my last night in my tent. I’m going to miss it. I love camping; I’ve always preferred sleeping in my tent over any hotel room. I’m looking forward to getting back to my own bed, I just wonder how I’m going to adjust to life back home after being away for so long and living in such a different way than what I’m used to.

Day 94 – Folkestone to Brighton

I got up at 6am as I’d gained an hour. So this was in fact a lie in for me. I had a sausage roll and Cornish pasty from the post office as I hadn’t had chance to buy any supplies the night before.

The morning rush hour traffic was in full swing when I hit Folkestone. I then passed the entrance to the channel tunnel and made my way onto the quitter roads. At a set of traffic lights I bumped into David who I had met in France the day before. We chatted for a bit before I continued.

I hit a diversion on one of the roads which must have added another five or ten miles onto the journey.

Just before Brighton I joined the A27; a hideous road for cyclists and a completely useless attempt at cycle lanes. I was now in with the traffic going past me at 70+ miles an hour, it was pleasant but it only last ten miles before I got to Brighton.

Day 93 – Brugge to Folkestone

Brugge is a beautiful city, not dissimilar to Gent and Antwerp. I’m not sure why Brugge seems to get so many more tourists than the other cities though.

I visited the city on a Saturday in August. As you can imagine it was really busy. Too busy in fact. I hate queuing a long time to get into things so I just wandered around the cobbled streets for a while before taking a boat trip around parts of the city.

img_1237It was pleasant day sightseeing, but more importantly I got my last clothes wash of the trip completed for some fresh undies for the dahs home.

I met a Spanish cycle tourer in Antwerp and bumped into him again in Brugge. He is from Valencia and taking fifteen days to work his way around Belgium and Holland. There seem to be a lot of Spanish in in Belgium.

I got up early this morning. I wanted to get to Calais as quickly as possible to get an early ferry back to England

It was a Sunday, so I hardly saw a person whilst cycling through the city centre. Once out, I was passing through lovely little villages with something I hate most of all while cycling; a headwind. The wind was so bad I almost got the ferry from Dunkirk instead, but I battled on to Calais, sticking with my original plans.

I came across another English cycle tourer fighting the wind the other side of Dunkirk. I think his name was David. He’d been cycling much of France for a month and was also heading to Calais. We rode together for a while exchanging stories of our trips. I eventually left him and fought my way on to Calais.

I got straight on the 3 o’clock ferry and met a lovely family from Canterbury. All seven of them had cycled from Paris and back within a week. A cycling family, I thought this was brilliant and brave, especially on some of those busier roads.

From Dover I continued towards Folkestone where there was a campsite. Cycling on the left seems absolutely bizarre, I found myself being drawn to the right hand side of the road and I had to make sure I went the right way around islands.

After a quick shower I went to the local pub where I drank a real ale and had a Sunday roast, bliss!

Day 92 – Antwerp to Brugge

Another short ride today of about 100km. The pigeons had gone to town on my tent in the night, by morning it was absolutely plastered in pigeon sh*t! I got as much of as I could before packing up to go. The weather was grey so I put my waterproof shorts on just in case.

img_1226The route I took to Brugge went from Antwerp to Gent. Gent is easily as beautiful as Antwerp. I got a little lost in the centre but was soon out on the country roads to Brugge. The sun was out at this point which really lifted my spirits, especially knowing that when I get to Brugge I’ll have another rest day to do my last clothes wash before home.

I think of all these cool things to put in my blog on my bike and forget them by the time I come to write it, so that’s it really. I’m in Brugge and I’ll be here until Sunday, when I ride to Calais and hopefully jump on a ferry to the last country on my trip, England.