Bettyhill to John O’Groats: 23rd July 52 miles

21 days in July – the 2005 Douglas Bader Foundation E2E ride re-blogged

Today was a day of lasts; the last time we would have breakfast together, set off together, ride together, suffer together. The ride didn’t start easily – plenty of hills, but as the miles ticked away euphoria set in. So much so we were in danger of riding into each other!

In the cold light of day John O’Groats really is a God forsaken place, only 3 weeks of hope, guts, compassion, humour and down right bloody mindedness could make it anything else. All made complete by the welcome committee, champagne, success and relief – you had to be there!

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And if you had, you would have had a piece of the giant British Isles cake at the celebration meal in the evening. Baked by Jo, everyone had a chunk of their county and I think Big Jim, true to form, had the rest!

Invershin to Bettyhill: 22nd July 50 miles

21 days in July – the 2005 Douglas Bader Foundation E2E ride re-blogged

Had an early stop at Invershin Falls. Saw 1 salmon trying to leap up the white water of the water fall. Once we were out of this (delightful) valley we spent the rest of the day crawling into a gruelling headwind. Because of the conditions this leg challenged Dartmoor as the toughest of the tour. The weaker riders soon learnt the benefit of following a wheel, and the whole party was split into small groups tucked behind a stronger rider. Towards the end it rained as well!

Finally we made it to the Bettyhill Hotel. Situated on the North Scottish coast the bar was heaving with an eclectic bunch of locals and cyclists. There was a series on Channel 4 some years ago now called Northern Exposure about a town in the outreaches of Alaska – Bettyhill has the same feel. I’m sure I saw a moose playing pool, although it could’ve been the Kronenberg. Didn’t spot Maggie though – shame…

Inverness to Invershin: 21st July 50 miles

21 days in July – the 2005 Douglas Bader Foundation E2E ride re-blogged

We left Inverness maximum security YH pretty much on time and made a textbook exit through the town and over the windy Moray Firth. First stop was Muir of Ord where we had made the local paper (photoshoot at Oban), many pensioners came up to us offering donations – the Scots don’t live up to their reputation for thrift!

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Fort William to Inverness: 20th July 67 miles

21 days in July – the 2005 Douglas Bader Foundation E2E ride re-blogged

Health Warning: Don’t eat a Chicken Jalfrezi and drink several (read as lost count) different real ales before a long day’s cycling. It took a few hours to get into it this morning. Despite that, it was a long day but a great day. The scenery riding alongside Loch Lochy, Loch Lihne, and Loch Ness was outstanding. Even Kiwi Nathan from Lord of the Rings country thought the view from above Loch Ness was breathtaking. 

Leaving the climbing Mecca of Fort William we passed Ben Nevis, shrouded in cloud. It was not possible to see the point where Richard fell from. He’s been back and climbed it since…

Ben Nevis

Oban to Fort William: 19th July 44 miles

21 days in July – the 2005 Douglas Bader Foundation E2E ride re-blogged

Yesterday it was gloves, today it’s my maps of Northern and Southern Scotland – last seen in the YH lounge…

Jenny left us today. She’s carrying on to the Isle of Mull – our original route. As a group we made the unanimous decision to ride straight to Fort William rather than go via the Isle of Mull and 3 Ferries. This saves a few hundred pounds on the cost of the trip and hence increases the money made for the charity.

The most striking memory today was of the huge streams pouring down the sides of the mountians. From a distance they appear as a thin silver line, thickening as we ride towards them into a succession of waterfalls and a roar as they pass under the road and into the Lochs. 

Once in Fort William we managed to get an hour’s shopping done, including the maps I’d “lost” this morning. Also picked up a bottle of “Avon Skin So Soft” from the Rod and Gun shop – this is the preferred protection against midges used by the locals. Even remembered to get a birthday card for my 15 year old daughter – I’m beginning to get the hang of this parenting lark.

Tomorrow, Nessie spotting…

Lochranza to Oban: 18th July 62 miles

21 days in July – the 2005 Douglas Bader Foundation E2E ride re-blogged

With the ferry back to the mainland to catch at 0815 there was some very hasty packing to be done in the morning. It transpired that our washing from the night before had become mixed up with another group’s at the youth hostel and my £20 cycling mitts I’d bought the week before had transformed into a pair of baggy old Y-fronts – I know which I’d rather do without!

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Kendoon YH to Lochranza: 16th July 70 miles

21 days in July – the 2005 Douglas Bader Foundation E2E ride re-blogged

Raceday. We had an appointment with the ferry to Arran this afternoon at 1530 so an early start was required. There was a later ferry but that would have meant getting to the Lochranza YH at about 9pm. We were a little (slight understatement) late getting away but made good progress once we had. All this despite a stiff northwesterly headwind pretty much all the way. Since we arrived in Scotland the temperature has been signicantly lower than we’ve become accustomed to and each day has been accompanied by an energy sapping headwind.

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Carlisle to Kendoon YH: 15th July 69 miles

21 days in July – the 2005 Douglas Bader Foundation E2E ride re-blogged

You might remember a Vicar of Dibley Christmas Special a few years ago where Dawn French persuaded prima ballerina Darcey Bussell to take part in a fundraising village concert. Darcey did a routine from Swan Lake (or something) and Dawn shadowed her movements in a giant “mirror”… This morning I was riding up to the exit of the YH carpark as we set off onto the A7 when Nigel the team mechanic came running round the corner. I went left – he went left. I went right – he went right. After a few more steps of the routine I rode straight into him and ended up dropping the bike on the floor whilst stepping off the pedal into Nigel’s arms to absolutely no applause or showers of flowers. Thanks mate :o)

We entered Scotland today through Gretna Green and stopped for the obligatory “Welcome to Scotland” shot below. From left to right we have Lawrence of London (aka Jim Bush), Jay, Kiera, Carol, and Nathan who’s wondering where he left his passport. On the right you can just make out the rest of the gang in the distance nursing their hangovers…

Welcome to Scotland 2

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Kirkby Stephen to Carlisle: 14th July 44miles

21 days in July – the 2005 Douglas Bader Foundation E2E ride re-blogged

Due to a clerical hiccup the Carlisle Rehab Centre were expecting us at 9:00am this morning, which with no reported wormholes or temporal distortions in the area remained steadfastly inconsistent with our location of Kirkby Stephen 44 miles away. The outcome was to form another band of elite cyclists who rose at 5am and left at 6 with a view to making Carlisle in 3 hours to meet up with the rest of the group who took the minibus to the centre. The advantage for the early riders was that we had the rest of the day off to go to the Globe, the Walkabout, the Cinema (War of the Worlds – not recommended) and Wetherspoons, while the other riders were bused back to Kirkby Stephen to ride over in the afternoon. We made it in 3 hours, arriving just after the minibus.

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