Thursday, 24 July 2014

2014 Leg 5 summary

This is an overview of the route we took for the 2014 leg. A touch under 1000 miles in 9 days. What an adventure!

Monday, 9 June 2014

Leg 5, Day 9: Invergordon - Inverness

It was midnight, pitch black and pouring with rain. I had been fast asleep for over 2 hours. Suddenly I was aware of a ringing noise, I slowly uncovered my eye mask (the stations rarely have curtains... and yes I looked ridiculous) and sat up. No sooner had I done this than a man ran into the station, stopped, looked at us both, half naked in sleeping bags and then ran past us into the changing room where all the weatherproof gear was stored. He was then followed by 6 others who stormed into the room with a distinct almost military purpose to get geared up and be out on the boat as fast as bl**dy possible!  

It was a 'shout' or in other words the coastguard had paged all crew members which gives them the instruction to get to the station as someone is in trouble. 

It's a 'first come, first serve' system- the first 6 or 7 people there get to go out on the boat. This was clearly upsetting to the no.8 guy who missing the boat launching by about 45 seconds. After we informed him of this fact, he expressed himself quite eloquently that this was not to his pleasing... he then enquired what we were doing sleeping I the station and we explained our story.  He simply replied 'f'ing nutters! Fair play to you!' and promptly left braving the rain on his journey home. 

3 hours later and the crew returned. As exciting as this was, it reminded us of exactly why we are raising money for the RNLI. A bunch of volunteers, drop whatever they are doing to go to the assistance of others who are in trouble at sea. I can't tell you how unwelcoming the weather was and it was reassuring to know that these guys have been given the best training and have the best kit available to them. As much as I love seeing Nick in Lycra every morning, this is why we cycle. 

We awoke later that morning and got into our now familiar routine of packing up our gear, slurping down a coffee eating an oversized bowl of cereal and getting on the road. Today is our last day of this years trip- 90km to the RNLI station at Loch Ness and then doubling back on ourselves to Inverness, where we would begin our train journey back to London. 

It was fine weather again which given our accumulated tiredness following almost 1000 miles of cycling was very much welcome. We left Invergordon and its oil rigs behind us heading south, south-west for 50km to the station at Kessock, just above Inverness. It was rather gritty cycling, following the A9 all the way. 

We spent about an hour trying to find the station, put off by the fact we saw a lifeboat in the marina and headed in that direction, over the Keasock Bridge. This turned out to be there for servicing and the station itself was back over the bridge where we had just come from! 

After resolving this situation, we headed south-west, still on the A9 to Drumnadrochit where Loch Ness station was located. This was a 40km out and back journey tht saves us from having to head inland at the start of next years trip. 

Returning with a tailwind back into Inverness, I had a mix of emotions- proud to have completed the trip with all it's logistical and physical challenges bit sad that the cycling is over, particularly when the sun has only just come out! 


Having found a pack of the most wonderfully awful 'Scottish' postcards, we wrote to all the stations that had kindly put us up this year. I'd like to thank them here again, it is great meeting you all and you are all first class ambassadors for the RNLI. 

So, it is from Inverness, which tired legs, a sore bottom (from the saddle... honest!) and a great sense of pride that I say goodbye to all 4 people that read this blog. Thanks very much and we'll be back next year! 


Saturday, 7 June 2014

Leg 5, Day 8: Kirkwall - Invergordon


So- the big day had arrived. Following a relatively easy day yesterday of c. 60km between the three RNLI stations on the Orkneys, today we had a 35km ride to the Southern most tip of the Orkneys, a short ferry to John O Groats, followed by a 160km ride south down the East Coast of Scotland to Invergordon via Wick. In our book this was a mammoth day!

This also marked the turning point for us as we begin our journey back Southwards towards London and home... All downhill from here!

The day started overcast with a strong South- Easterly (cross) breeze blowing, but at least it was dry and forecast to remain so for the day- a huge relief after the weather we have had this week.

Following a quick first breakfast at Kirkwall RNLI station, we got on the road and churned out the 35km of roads across the rolling Orkney countryside. The sun came out for us briefly making the initial journey to the Berwick ferry terminal very enjoyable. 


Sitting in the ferry waiting room we had our second breakfast before boarding the passenger boat for the short crossing to the mainland. A big thank you to John O' Groats ferries who gave us free passage.

We landed at John O Groats at 10.45am, and this is when the ride really began. Despite the relatively easy day yesterday, our legs were still feeling tired from the gruelling north coast, but we set off in good spirits and the sun came out for us- amazing.

It would appear that with cycling there are a number of factors which greatly affect speed and therefore enjoyment. The first is weight, and we have certainly done all we can to keep our kit to an absolute minimum, including Rad's now standard cut in half toothbrush! The second is terrain- hilly or flat, gentle or steep gradients make a huge difference. The third road surface which varies enormously in this country and can render a ride very enjoyable or extremely uncomfortable and slow. The fourth is weather- wet and cold or sunny and hot- makes an vast difference: both psychologically and also physically, with the body expending a lot of energy just trying to stay warm when wet. The fifth and final one is wind speed and direction- even a slight headwind is similar to putting the brakes on constantly while a tail wind feels like someone pushing you along. 

Today we were blessed with sun, reasonable road surfaces and generally gently undulating countryside- all of which were enormously appreciated by us both, and for once on this trip, it was a very enjoyable experience cycling across Scotland. What we were less lucky with was the wind. While we were heading in a southerly direction along the East Coast, a strong Southerly / South-Easterly was blowing giving us an almost direct headwind for the first half of the day. Thankfully this then changed to an Easterly which made it a cross / cross-tail wind and life became a whole load easier for us both! 

Along the way we stopped at a bakery and Rad kindly offered to help an old man change his flat tyre.... However Rad, it seemed, had no intention of actually helping, so pretended that he couldn't work the Jack. Guess who ended up doing it then...

A short while later we pulled in to the Wick RNLI Station for a quick photo and water bottle refill before heading on.

We ploughed on Southwards in glorious sunshine, stoping every 15-20km to stretch and ease the pain of our very numb bums (from the sheer number of hours in the saddle...)

After 9 hours and 45minutes of pedalling we arrived at Invergordon RNLI station. Kevin and a few of the crew kindly came down to welcome us, and very generously insisted on paying for our supper at the Marine Hotel in town. A huge thank you to you all from us both. 

Rad couldn't help himself with the old Smirnoff Ice at supper...