The Ride Diary

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Friday the 14th of July.

Ready, steady . . .

We decided to get up at 6:00 am for an early push off from JOG. Funny mishap number 1. We awoke to a knock on the door and when it was opened, nobody was there. Then we got another knock on the door and this time my Dad was stood there, dressed and ready for the pedal off.

"What are you doing Dad?"
"It's 7 o'clock and we're up late, let's get cracking"
"We're up 2 hours early, it's 4 o'clock."
"What? Bryns in the shower!". Dad disappeared back back to his room.

It turns out that Bryn woke up and looked at his watch before putting on his glasses, he woke Dad up and between the two of them ended up in a panic. Hmmm.

We arrive at John O'Groats (following a further 2 hours in bed) and find it deserted. Not sure what I expected, but I found a ghost town. Or rather, a couple of ghost buildings. There isn't very much at John O'Groats beside a stick (which normally carries a location sign, but the photographer owns it and he took it home with him).

Matt remembers getting ready for the off. “Start of the ride was pure excitement and anticipation and wanting to get Cracking:) There was also a belly full of butterflies as we drove to John O'Groats thinking oh my god this is it!”

We took some pictures, had a quick bike and equipment check then after Dad telling us that "we ought to get cracking" for the 20th time, we set off.

The scenery is wonderful, hardly a person in sight. I think this is as remote as it gets in the UK so there probably won't be any excitement for a while. Maybe even days.

Mile 10. Dan's knee explodes. Alright I'm being dramatic, but his knee is giving him a great deal of pain. Not to worry, just another 13 days of cycling and 900 miles to go.

Mile 18. We enter the twighlight zone. As we cycled through the middle of nowhere a cyclist traveling in the other direction asks "Are you Sheila's Wheelers?”. We feel famous. But the encounter isn't all that surreal, it turns out we have just bumped into Mick. Mick is a guy also cycling E2E with whom I corresponded via the internet while researching routes. He set off from Cornwall and is arriving at his halfway point of John O'Groats. Half way because he is cycling back to Cornwall. We had a quick chat with Mick and set off again. As he planned to finish at Land's End before us, we wondered if we might bump into Mick later in our journey.

Oh and Dan has slowed down a bit. His cycling technique looks a little strange too as he tries to find a pain free method of cycling.

So far from enjoying a tame start to our ride, things have already warmed up.

We cycle through Wick and head off to Helmsdale. Berridale Brae is in-between Wick and Helmsdale. It is rather bitter sweet. Sweet is how we felt when we clocked 47 mph heading down the valley. Bitter is how we felt as our lungs exploded on the uphill climb the other side of the valley. I needed a rest stop halfway up. Matt cycled to the top non stop at quite a pace. It took him a while to recover and was lucky not to vomit. He thought he'd pushed it a little too hard there. It turned out to be the hardest climb of the trip. At least it was on the first day.

A test for any cyclist

We met up with Bryn for lunch at Helmsdale. I think it is here where we all got sunburned. Bryn went to explore the harbour and took the van keys with him. The sun block which we had been so careful to pack was locked in the van. We all turned a nice shade of red and then started cycling again. At least we should be easy to spot by motorists now.

The rest of the ride got a little tougher as we got a little more tired and we were glad to arrive in Tain where our next B&B was to be found. This B&B is highly recommended if you need a place to stay in the area and the owners were very accommodating with us and our bikes, which they locked in their garage overnight.

Tain is a wonderful little town and we enjoyed our stay. We ate our evening meal in the Royal Hotel. I tried Haggis for the first time and y’know, I really enjoyed it.

We also enjoyed a pint or two of the local Ales. McEwen's 90 Shillings is a great pint.

The Royal Hotel put on some entertainment of what appeared to be a duo comprising of (I’m guessing) a husband and wife. They were a bit cheesy, and seemed to have Black Lace as their style role models, but they were excellent fun.

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