Land’s End…..and Journeys End

With only 20 miles left to do of this epic journey we allowed ourselves the luxury of a late breakfast. It was gone ten before we rolled out of the Countryman Inn car park and headed for the coast road which would take us via St Just all the way to Land’s End. Not to disappoint, the weather was fantastic and the scenery superb – this felt a truly fitting ride to end with. And in keeping with most, if not all previous days, we had some pretty strenuous hill climbing thrown in for good measure. We stopped at St. Just for coffee and toasted tea cakes before setting off on the final down-hill run, through Sennen, to Land’s End. With Land’s End in view Bryan said ‘I’ve spent the last eleven hundred miles with my head up your a – -e  (following me), which is infinitely better than having it stuck up my own’ –  I think I understand what he meant. There were a few tears of relief before the Champagne cork popped, a brief celebration and then the ‘official’ photos and paper work and that was it – job done!

Before I finish todays blog and conclude this epic tale there are a few thanks and acknowledgements we need to make. Firstly  to our families and close friends who have put up with us during the planning, preparation and execution of this task – thank you for your loving support and encouragement. A special thank you to Jane, back at ‘Mission Control’ for doing all the accommodation booking (and un-booking when we changed our minds!) – we’ve stayed in some excellent places, which we could never have found on our own. To the proprietors of those establishments – hotels, hostels, B&B’s and cafes, thank you for making us welcome and aiding our recovery from our long day rides. To Interserve, our corporate sponsor, and particularly to Debs for most of the communications, setting up the giving site and arranging this evenings Celebration Dinner. For all the guys at Devonport and Help for Heroes for allowing us to celebrate our ride in such style. To Jayne Evans and the Active Norfolk team for their help and support. To those individuals who have either turned out on the route or supported us through their regular comments and tweets. And finally, a huge thank you to everyone who has made a contribution to our nominated charities – your contribution will make a big difference to the lives of the people they support. If you haven’t made a donation yet, you can do so at:

http://www.justgiving.com/teams/justice

The last word however must go to Bryan, the conceiver of this epic journey, chief route master and navigator, head mechanic, personal trainer, sports psychologist and travelling companion. It’s been a genuine pleasure to be part of your odyssey and to be your ‘lead out man’ for the 1150 miles!

In case you were all wondering – no great psychological insights, no momentous decisions or life changing moments. Just three weeks on a bike…with my brother. Nothing more to be said.

A full gallery of photos will follow in due course. I’m off to CELEBRATE!

In the path of the Olympic torch

As I write this mornings blog the Olympic torch has just left Land’s End on its ten week, 8000 miles, journey around Britain. I couldn’t think of a more fitting day to finish our own End to End journey. I wouldn’t seek to make any closer comparisons between the effort and abilities of the olympic athletes, who will compete this summer, and our humble endeavour but I think I can safely say, when it comes to physical exertion and endurance – we share their pain!  Anyway, back to the task in hand – finishing what we started, three weeks and over eleven hundred miles ago! Our route this morning takes us along the north coast from St Ives, through St Just and Sennen to the very southern tip of England – a distance of about 30k. As birdwatching friends of mine will know, there are also one or two severe climbs on the way! And of course this is all dependent on Bry’s bike holding out, which is far from certain. With no prospect of effecting a repair we are just going to hope that he doesn’t hit any holes in the road and that his rear wheel holds together. He did say last night though that Plan B  is to knock some poor child off their bike and steal it – I think he was joking!

The route to the finish….

See you there….I hope!

Hayle and Pace (or lack of it..!)

Today was our last full day in the saddle and, following the two previous hard days, was intended to be a gentle ride through the Cornish country lanes from Bodmin to Hayle, a distance of about 50 miles. We’ve been incredibly lucky with the weather and today was no exception; the sun was shining when we left the Westberry Hotel in Bodmin and apart from a slight chill in the air and the occasional dark cloud it remained fine all day. The wind was again kind, coming from the north east. Despite my observations regarding the apparent frequency and severity of the climbs, Bryan remained resolute – today we would follow the planned route and no short cuts. The ride didn’t start well – having found the right road through Bodmin (inevitably it was up hill) we got to the roundabout on the edge of town and carefully selected our route. This time it was down a thundering great hill, allowing us to easily reach the days maximum speed of nearly 33 mph with ease. Unfortunately this turned out to be the wrong road, so back we went!  Something about incorrect road numbering I heard Bryan mumble. We then threaded our way through the maze of lanes, up hill and down, to avoid the main A30, eventually stopping for coffee at the delightful Lappa Valley Light Railway at the 30k point. On we pressed to Goonhaven for lunch, omitting the diversion to Perranporth from the itinerary  – pastie on a park bench! The afternoon’s route became more varied, taking in the ‘industrial’ valley of Porthtowan, with its tin mines and the coastal village of Portreath, where afternoon tea and flapjack was taken at the Tideline Cafe. The final big climb of the day, was 1:5 for 300ft, from the harbour at Portreath up on to the cliff tops. The last 20k to Hayle was one of the nicest sections of the whole trip, with quiet lanes, high Cornish ‘hedges’ and an absolute abundance of wild flowers – bluebells, cowslips, red campion, sea pinks, valerian…just magic! But just when you think you’re cruising to a finish, a safe landing – disaster struck. Bry noticed his cycle computer wasn’t working. A quick examination of the thing that clips on the spokes and WHAT – a broken spoke on the drive side of his rear wheel. Doesn’t sound much does it but I have it on good authority that it’s one of the worst things that can happen – difficult to fix on the the road but liable, at any point, to cause the wheel to become distorted or even collapse! We finished tonights ride in a high state of anxiety – will Bry’s wheel hold out for the final 30k to our finishing point at Land’s End? The only way we could deal with the stress was to pay a visit to a favourite Hayle watering hole of mine, The Bucket of Blood, for whale and chips, washed down with a few pints of St Austell ales. With no obvious Plan B for the morning will it all come down to luck! Make sure you read tomorrows blog to find out if we make or not!

Todays route statistics

A celtic cross – somewhere in deepest Cornwall

Coffee at the Lappa Valley Light Railway

Tin mine near Porthtowan

Bry trying to look nonchalant before facing ‘the last big climb’ at Portreath

The ‘home run’, with Hayle in our sights what could possibly go wrong?

This….a broken spoke on the drive side of Bry’s rear wheel. It’s touch and go as to whether he’ll finish!

Off to bed and a sleepless night….

No one said it’d be easy

These were the words that greeted me when I casually remarked to Bry about the challenge of todays ride – our last full day in the saddle. How true! Although shorter – only 50 miles, there is still a fair amount of climbing. The route and elevation profile is shown below:

If all goes to plan, and after yesterday’s experience there’s no guarantee, then we should meet up with Jane, aka ‘mission control’, at a B&B somewhere near Hayle, leaving us within spitting distance of Land’s End. We’re still assessing the practicalities of actually getting to the finish in the wake of the Olympic Torch leaving earlier on Saturday morning.  We’ll keep you posted.

Bl – – dy hell bro we made it to Bodmin!

Today we had one of those ‘reality check’ moments, a ‘wake up and smell the coffee’ occasion;  a ‘we’re just kicking the tyres on this one’ experience;  brought about within the first half hour of our mammoth day. The morning had started well, the alarm went off as usual at seven and, as usual, I’d been awake for ages waiting for it. We had a leisurely breakfast, psyching ourselves up for the big day ahead.  We’d packed up, paid up and set off. The landlord of the Rising Sun had explained that, by going up the lane behind the pub, we could join the Torrington road a mile further on and cut out a big hill – too good an offer to refuse! We pushed our bikes up the steep hill, got on and rode off feeling rather smug that we’d already reduced the day’s target by a whole mile. And then it happened – within another mile we were faced with a 1:5 hill, which we struggled to climb, but having done so and descended an equal amount on the other side of the hill we were immediately faced with a 1:4, which  completely defeated us! This crazy switch-back of a ride continued for the next few miles putting us into a ‘psychological tail-spin’. A black cloud of doubt and despair was rapidly descending. We took an early coffee stop at  Torrington to rethink our strategy. By this time we’d covered just seven of the seventy mile in an hour and a half. At this rate we’d still be riding at midnight – we urgently needed a ‘plan B’! Our various alternatives ranged from find a B&B in Torrington and sleeping for the rest of the day to catching a bus. Eventually we decided to abandon following the ‘scenic route’ via the NCN 3 and take the main road to Holsworthy where we could decide on the direct route to Bodmin or follow the coast road. The road to Holsworthy became increasingly more manageable and we made it there in good time for lunch. Our spirits, uplifted by the increased speed of the run-in and possibly more beneficially, the homemade pasty, we decided to take the direct route to Launceston and the A30 on to Bodmin. Fortified by lunch we set off to cover the 14 miles and seven hills to Launceston. On the approach we had another uplifting moment when we cross the  river Tamar and entered Cornwall, the last county of our epic journey. We climbed the steep hill on the approach to the town, quickly found the excellent cafe No. 8, Westgate, and ordered up a pot of tea and cakes. The proprietor, a biker himself, gave us some good advice about the various options for our final leg to Bodmin. A modicum of self-belief now restored, we tackled the remaining 22 miles along the A30 into Bodmin. We survived the traffic, potholes and strong cross winds to arrive at the Westberry hotel at 17.40 – a distance of  nearly 100k and a total climb of over 4000ft., a minor triumph, given our starting point earlier in the day. A pint in the superb Hole in the Wall opposite the hotel, a good meal and we’re already talking about the challenge of tomorrows route. Funny thing the mind, much stronger (-and weaker) than the legs! Like Bry says ‘it’s dealing with those daemons’ that really matters. Anyway, with all this going on, not so many interesting photos I’m afraid, but here is a selection:

..and this was even before we started!

The old bridge over the Tamar at Launceston and the entrance to the kingdom of Kernow

Launceston castle

View over  Bodmin Moor, taken on one of our ‘breather’ stops on the final leg of the day

..and the sign which, at the beginning of the day, we doubted we would ever see!

The grim statistics of todays ride (ordeal)!

Sorry for keeping you all waiting. Happy reading. I’m off to bed!

Blimey…Bodmin bro!

Amazingly todays mammoth stage, both in terms of distance and height gain, takes us to Bodmin – into Kernow and hopefully within striking distance of our goal! Yesterdays stage was tough, particularly since we tacked on an extra 12 k and a couple of hills, and it’s left both of us feeling tired and a bit sore – not a promising prospect for the ride ahead. We’re following our normal routine and we just take it as it comes – one mile at a time. Route for today is given below:

Follow Bry’s tweets for the days events – @bryanwilliams66

A blog of some sort, internet and physical fatigue  permitting, later tonight

Wells and the West

We arrived tonight at The Rising Sun,Umberleigh in deepest Devon, ahead of schedule and with a thousand miles under our belts. There is also serviceable WiFi so, fingers crossed, there should be a full blog tonight! Todays route, which was just over 70 miles, started in Wells, took us across the Somerset levels past Glastonbury, along the towpath of the Bridgewater and Taunton canal and, after our lunch stop in Taunton, our  route followed the B3227 across ‘the top’ of Devon, through Brampton and South Molton to our night-time stop. Reveille was at the usual time of 08.00, when Mike our temporary travelling companion, appeared to be in in remarkably fine fettle. A good breakfast was enjoyed by all before loading the bikes, posing for the ‘team’ photo and ‘pushing off’. The route to Taunton took us through Glastonbury and Street, on the busy A39, and over the Somerset levels – which had the distinct advantage of being flat for a change. Mike putting a brave face on his obvious disappointment at not being able to put his new-found hill climbing skills to the test! An impromptu stop at Borrow Mump was greatly enhanced  when ‘magic Mike’ produced some Blackheath farmers market flapjack out of his saddlebag! A small detour to look for a coffee shop led to a chance encounter with the Bridgewater & Taunton canal. Now you know what a temptation that would have been for Bryan and, sure enough, we decide to go ‘off piste’ and follow the NCN3 to Taunton. The towpath took us all the way to our lunch stop at Morrisons, where, after refuelling, we said our ‘goodbyes’ to Mike and resumed our route on the B3227. As flat as the morning section had been, so the afternoon was characterised by hills, but not like any we’d encountered thus far. No, these were the  ‘Mother….Theresa’ of hills – long-lived, full of suffering and silent anguish! One in particular, between Wivelscombe and Brampton, seemed utterly endless. On the subsequent down hill, we crossed the county boundary into Devon, which brought on an inexplicable emotional moment  for me – not sure if it was anxiety or anticipation! Anyway, nothing that a good cuppa couldn’t put right and the Toucan Cafe in Brampton was definitely up to the mark with a slab of excellent apricot and almond flapjack thrown in. We pressed on to our original finishing point of South Molton (rather reminiscent of the ‘hill towns’ of County Down) and then, with over 100k under our belts already, we carried on. Are they mad?, I hear you cry …yes, undoubtably but mad with method. The additional miles this evening have put us ahead of schedule and give us a fighting chance of finishing tomorrows mammoth stage in more or less one piece. Cunning hey!

Stats from todays ride are presented below – look on in awe!

Looking through the gate house to Wells cathedral at our hotel, The White Hart

The ‘team’ ready for the off. Notice Mike is already wearing ‘green’ in recognition of his climbing efforts the day before

Burrow Mump

Mike and Bryan trying to avoid going off the edge on the towpath of the Bridgewater & Taunton canal

Bry approaching the summit of ‘Mother Theresa’

Views from the B3227, looking north across Exmoor

Don’t forget, if you’ve not made a donation to one of our five chosen charities yet, then it’s not too late, visit:

http://www.justgiving.com/teams/justice