Friday 16 September 2016

There at last ... There at last

We finally made it!! There at last, there at last and what a feeling of relief. We finished the last few miles from Penzance to Lands Ends and yes there were more hills but all was forgotten as we rode into the car park and had the finger post in sight. Unlike John O Groats the finger post at Lands End is fenced off and you have to pay to get your photo taken. The SD wasn't having any of that so we nipped to the back and took our pictures there. This time the mileage on the finger post didn't upset the SD as this was miles we had done and not ones we needed to do. This was great as it saved me another Mr Whippy!  We were met by the Promet staff in their car who took us back to Herefordshire. So by the evening we were back home and as the SD remarked it could all be put down to a horrible, although sometimes fantastic , dream. The SD is still cogitating on whether she wants to do more tandem travel. Time will tell.

Overall the bike stood up to the test and although we always seemed to be in for bike fettling it was usually for small stuff except for the electrical malfunction in Shropshire. If you want to know more about the bike then look on the EBike site where we bought it at .     Martin from Ebikes on learning of our trip generously made a donation so thanks Martin.

The bike always seemed to draw a crowd and we met some great people on the journey. A common comment was "I could never do that". We heard this from people of all age, shapes and sizes . Well if your reading this and you are thinking  "I could never do that" well think again. You can do anything if you put your mind to. Me and the SD are just your average, not particularly fit,  slightly overweight ( the SD asked me to add in the word slightly so as is the natural order of things I obeyed) mid 60's and we managed to do it . So it you have a burning desire to swim the Channel or climb Mount Kilimanjaro then get on your speedos and give it a go ( on reflection perhaps don't wear your Speedos for the Kilimanjaro trip as it can get a bit chilly up there particularly at night). We are the Baby Boomers and having messed up the country for the younger generation ( or so they all believe) we are now retired and can do anything we like - arthritis and haemorrhoids allowing.

All this moralising is great but what was it really like. Well it was tough, both physically and mentally. It gives you thighs like Usain Bolt and the mental stamina of Bear Grylls and this is only the SD!  At times I didn't think we'd make it. The effort to get the tandem and the trailer + case up some of the hills, frequently in appalling weather often seemed beyond us, but we pulled together and got the job done. It's like with any task you just have to see it through. Tenacity, hard work and a bit of luck is the order of the day. Would I do it or something similar again well I might but I don't think the SD would be on the back. As I always say there must be a moral in there somewhere , but I not sure what it is on this occasion.

Finally some thanks.  Thanks to Promet and Will for great support and collecting us on several occasions. If you need any first aid training (or long distance bike support) these are the guys to go to.

Thanks to Joe Meredith from the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund for his encouragement and support.

Thanks to everyone who contacted us and supported us throughout the journey and made donations to our just giving site

Finally I would like to than my wife Ursula (AKA The Senior Doctor or SD) for her tremendous support and effort in the endeavour. It probably wasn't her ideal cup of tea but she stuck at it manfully, or should that be womanfully, and I could not have done it without her. She was an absolute star and a great companion, but I always knew she was. They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder but in this case puffing up a massive hill lashed by rain and hail in a 50 mile per hour gale did the trick.

           One bike, two riders and 942 miles completed so bring on Mount Kilimanjaro!

Final Mileage

For those interested in such stuff the  total mileage we did was:

Borgie Lodge
Inveran (Corrected)
Connan Bridge
Fort William
Fort William
Day Off
Glen Coe
Bridge of Orchy
Gretna Green
Newton in Bowland
Much Dewchurch
Old Carnon Hill
Lands End


Sunday 4 September 2016

Sunning it in the South West ( well not really)

Here we are in Devon. - the county of thatched cottages, cream teas and fantastic sunny days. Well the first two materialised, but the third eluded us yet again. As we climbed up on to Dartmoor the mist closed in in minutes and the rain came bucketting down. Add in the usual smidgen of hills, hills and more hills and the spectre of the Cross of Greet started to raise it' s ugly head. We didn't have any hail this time but the SD saw a snow drift up ahead. Snowing in August!! Turned out to be just two sheep hunkering down to see out the gale. I was tempted to hop off the bike and join them - at least it would be warm - but as they say two's company three's a crowd so I stayed on the bridge as captain and just took it like a man. After our day up on the moor I can see why it used to be home to Britain's most secure prison. Warm, comfy cell with your mates with porridge for breakfast or arctic blizzard and dossing down with two sheep - now let me think about this for a sec!!


One of the B&B's we stayed had a massive hound ( I think it was a Doberman to be precise but having a severe disinclination to get up close and personal with dogs I can' t be sure). The SD was convinced she saw flecks of luminous paint on the poor chained creature. Highly unlikely I told her as this trick had already been pulled, but we didn't leave our shoes outside our door for a few nights before we ventured on to the great Grimpen Mire (Dartmore in actual fact) just to be sure. Two geriatrics with their throats torn found dead on the moor beside a huge bike  - no chance.

Our route took us via three ferries and just like buses as we waited for one several came along. Nice to take the weight off though and have a rest on the open waves for a few minutes. The guys on the King Harry Ferry let us off the fare as they saw we were riding for charity.  Funny how the people in the South West haven't managed to learn the craft of bridge building. Must be something in the genes the SD claimed.


Finally we entered Cornwall with renewed enthusiasm for the task ahead and hope in that any hills would be small ones. Both of these feelings didn't last long.The hills returned in earnest and yet again the weather turned nasty, but we battled through fuelled by the inevitable pastie and a keen sense that the job was almost done. By now the SD looked as if she had had a spray tan, on her head at least, but it was all curtesy of the great British outdoors and didn't cost a penny. What a team! Almost 900 miles and not a cross word (well this is the official version I promised the SD I would put out). Finally we have reached that last bastion of civilisation in Cornwall - Penzance. We have booked into a posh restaurant tonight as a bit of a treat. I really couldn't face yet another steak and ale pie. We cycle the last few miles to Lands End tomorrow. Here's to the finish and going home ( I can hear the SD shouting her approval in the background). I'll let you know how we fare on our final push for the summit (well actually the finger post at LE) in the next exciting episode of two riders, one bike and hardly any miles to go.


Sunday 28 August 2016

Celebrities in Cheshire

As we descended from the lakes down into Blackburn I was sure I could hear the cyclists going in the other direction singing Bali Hai, that evocative song from the musical South Pacific, but the Senopr Doctor soon brought me down to earth with a bump when she said it wasn't Bali Hai but "Bl--day hills". On reflection she was probably right. I think I was just trying to forget the ordeal of the previous few days by a bit of self delusion or it was the result of a TIA. Only time will tell.


We sped down into Blackburn and the SD was sad to see her former alma mater now raised to the ground and a new housing estate in it's place. The nuns who taught at the school must have been sent where ever you send redundant nuns to be replaced by high density housing -Nuns 0. Property developer 1.

After all the cycling we have been doing the SD now had a new pet name for me - Thunder Thighs - However she has had to become more discerning when she uses it in public after the incident with the small child in Blackburn B & Q. After all we cannot have bulling in public!


We went through Leigh and Bolton without incident before making our way onto the flat Cheshire plain. What bliss, even the SD was content as we effortlessly pedalled along. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of Wayne or Coleen if they were out and about shopping or one of the class of 92 (football reference for those in the know. SD thought I should just use their names but since she didn't know their names I was allowed to keep the original. - head girl material that SD!). Ideal way to tap them for a handout for the charity I thought, but no such luck. They must have hearded we were coming and jetted off to Dubai or somewhere. Some people will do anything to avoid a chugger. The SD was not best pleased to be called a Chugger so I coined the term Cycleugger- she was much more at home with her new title despite not getting a penny from the Rooney's. (Wayne/Coleen if you read this, as I know we do have some celebrity readers, please do not take it to heart as I know you would have contributed if we had met - it was just fate and the 3400 miles to Dubai keeping us apart)

We went through the Cheshire plains like a dose of salts and before you could fix a puncture we were down in Wem in Shropshire. I do have to say however that we both had a nasty turn thinking we had gone off course when we realised we were in Bolivia having seen a herd of Llamas by the side of the road. The SD soon put us right however when she said they were not llamas but alpacas ( apparently alpacas have smaller ears) and we must be in Peru, but on perusing the map we realised that we were actually not in Peru but just south of Wem Shropshire. (One hell of a map reader the SD - her time in the Sea Scouts wasn't wasted). Disaster averted. Stress of another 6300 miles on the journey avoided. What a relief. Conclusion the here'd of alpacas must have somehow walked from Peru to Wem. Strange creatures alpacas.


We had only just recovered from the Peru scare when real disaster did strike as old Colossus gave up the ghost and had to be recovered to Race Co Cycles shop in Stourbridge. Good old Rich and his merry men pulled out all the stops and after a fine bit of cycle fettling and other assorted jiggery pokery Colossus was back on the road. We missed 30 miles south of Wem, but the SD agreed we will do this short section after we have returned home just so we really did do all the mileage of the end to end.


We came down through Bristol on a great cycle path and we are now well into Somerset. The SD has become a bit demob happy as the end is now in sight although you never quite know what's around the corner on this trip. On into Devon and Cornwall. Bring on those Cornish hills and pasties. We can manage both.


Thursday 25 August 2016

Languishing in the Lake District

We finally made it to the Lake District and we had high hopes that we had left the hills behind us. Not a chance. The hills (really mountain ranges) were massive and frequent. The Senior Doctor was not best pleased as she has a healthy dislike of hills established in the Highlands and the Lake District just reinforced her views that she and hills were not as they say sympathetico. However not one to be put off by a bit of diversity she battled on from Keswick to Kendal and finally to the Forrest of Bowland

The first thing to say is that we did not see ant trees in the so called The Forrest of Bowland, just hills and more hills. In fact we were both eating, sleeping and living hills during our time in the erstwhile Forrest. The SD suggested a better name would have been the Hills of Bowland and then it would probably have been flat and completely covered in trees.

The piece de resistance of the FoB was the Cross of Greet. The mere mention of this landmark is enough to send the SD into a paroxysm of loathing., not a pleasant think to behold so I won't go into great detail here. While passing this large stone emblazoned with a minute cross we were being hit with gale force winds, Horizontal rain directly into our faces and finally a hail storm, but as my mother used to say " you'll  never do anything in Britain if you waited for good weather". How apt for the Forrest of Bowland.

Our final act in the Lakes was to tackle a veritable cavalcade of hills to exit down into Blackburn and onwards to the Cheshire plain. We had developed our sea legs by this point, or perhaps more appropriately our hill thighs - the SD does not approve of this term so let's just stick with the metaphor of sea legs - so we were congratulating ourselves of conquering this final hilly section of the route in an hour and a half when another passing cyclist told us that this hill section had been included in the Toure de France as a stage 2 hill climb - I wasn't shire what this ment but it sounded serious! He also told us that the hill section we had just done was included in the Forrest of Bowland Badass Ultra Sportive ride, supposed to be one of the hardest ultra sportive rides around. These facts triggered a general feeling that we had finally won our spurs as 2 fully fledged members of the cycling fraternity - me and Bradley Wiggins like brothers.    


Oh by the way Keswick does have a fine cinema. I wanted to go but the film was the BFG and the Senior Doctor said she didn't like horror films, particularly directed by Stephen King, or what ever his name was, so that put an end to that.


Let's on to the city hotspots of the Cheshire plains.

Friday 19 August 2016

A Brush with the Borders

We managed to get out of Glasgow without any fisticuffs, although several of the locals did give the Senior Doctors shifty glances, but I had warned her not to wear her cycle helmet in the pub.  We did however meet up with our friend Les and Val and they took us out  to dinner. As they paid I was able to avoid  haggis - real meat for a change. We were also given a donation by Charlotte and Lorna - a charming couple.


Colossus ( that's the bike) had yet further mechanical issues as we entered Glasgow,. Well I say mechanical it was in fact a total bike electrical failure. We took it into the Bike Chain shop and let Quinton have a look. This was bike fettling  of the highest order. I was amazed to see him connect Colossus up to a computer that checked every thing, including my inside leg measurement, but all was well- the computer said so. He did all this free and gratis so good on yer Quinton.


We travelled right across Glasgow on a bike track so we never hit the traffic at all. The track followed the course of the river and went past Celtic Park. We were enjoying ourselves so much that the SD broke out into several Fenian songs (I think she was originally of the left foot persuasion so that may account it) as we went past the hallowed ground. As the sweet verses echoed around the local streets there was always the risk that the odd Rangers supporter could have taken offence but the SD seemed so obvious to this and so enthralled with her singing, I just let her get on with it. Never let it be said I'm dictatorial. 


We traversed the motorway going south of a number of occasions and it was all to much for the SD as you can see in the pic. However l've watched NCIS and I managed to talk her down with a combination of non judgemental listening and the promise of a Mr Whippy so all turned out in the end.


After leaving Glasgow we travelled through a few towns who's names I recognised including Hamilton. Hamilton means a lot to me from my formative years listening to the football results on a Saturday evening and particularly for the score draws so beloved of the old football pools . When the scores for the Scottish leagues were announced I was always mesmerised by such clubs as Queen of the South, Cowdenbeath and Hamiltom Academicals. Now I had made it to this mecca of Scottish football. How great was that  - However the euphoria did't last long as the  reminiscence bubble really burst when the SD said she had never heard of the place. I was so concerned I took into the Mental Health shop in the centre of the town , but they gave her a clean bill of health bearing in mind however she was travelling 900 miles on the back of a push bike when she didn't  have to.


We eventually arrived in Gretna Green. Now some of you might remember that Gretna was once famous for marriages of couples who had eloped from England. Apparently they still do a roaring trade in such weddings, but not usually accompanied by elopement in these days of easier nuptials. I thought we might also do a renewal of our marriage vows as we were here, but the Senior Doctor would have none of it. Just the same response as when I suggested renewing our vows when we were in Vagas. We could even of had the service done by an Elvis impersonator at no extra cost - now that's a bargain, but still no doing -this woman has no romance in her soul!



We finally left Scotland and crossed back into the old country. I had quite enjoyed Scotland with the immense scenery and the ever constant Chinese tourists, but the Senior Doctor was not of this view. She Was very happy to be as far away from the haggis and the bagpipe as possible. Personally I still thinnk she hadn't recovered from the crab incident in John O Groats, but as I pointed out this was the fault of the Prince of Wales and so you could' t really blame the Scottish for it - but as I said no one holds a grudge like the SD whether it's reasonable or not.


We have now left the Borders and we are moving on to the Lakes. Let's hope there' s no member of the royal family in Grassmere eating up all the pies!


Sunday 14 August 2016

Anything but Low in the Lowlands

We left Glencoe without comimg across any unfortunate body parts requiring an owner and then for  3 days we were bashing on through driving rain and gusty winds. If fact we were beginning to think that Scotland didn't like us. I blame the Senior Doctor for that quip about the highlands being like the land that time forgot - I knew no good would come of it. After  all l'm old enough to remember international It's a Knock Out and the problems xenophobia caused then, in fact most of the programmes presenters are now in prison so that must say something. However let's not dwell on insults past, let's think about  the wonderful scenery we have seen albeit shrouded in cloud and low lying mist and obscured by driving rain - or is that drifting back to the LTTF issue!


We did meet Tom and Ginna in passing who gave us a donation. Tim is a lawyer but we tried to gloss over that to avoid any seedy professional rivalry. We also met a charming man who told us he and his wife were now both retired and, as he had done some cycling in his youth, he thought he would like to emulate our ride with his wife in the Stoker position, but since his wife wouldn't even leave their car because it was wet underfoot I personally don't think it's a goer,  He took a picture as consolation and this time I insisted I was in ii - I wasn't having the unfortunate incident with the cafe tourist repeating itself, after all I own the bike - well at least half of it.

I am told that their comes a point in every cyclist's life when their obsession with the soreness of their backside seems to dissipate to be replaced by this trance like state of peddling bliss. I don't think we have yet reached the latter yet  - I know this because soon after the start of each daily journey the Senior Doctor is asking "Are we there yet" - to keep the peace I usually try to be non commital - but t do believe we have reached the former. Our profound physical need for extra padding seems to be on the wane and our consumption of Sudocream is falling daily. Hooray for physiological adaptation allowing a smile on your face - this must be evolution in progress.


We stayed at the Bridge of Orchy hotel last night. It was very pleasant and we had a wonderful dinner all served by staff from countries that use to be behind the former iron curtain - all very Scottish. The hotel manager - Celed a Hungarian - threw in in a pic of us outside the hotel. Now that's service.


We're off to Glasgow tomorrow. Back to civilisation. Perhaps our phones will be able to get a signal and we will be able to use WiFi. We live in hope. I will let you know how we get on down Sauchiehall Street. If we run into any trouble I hoping that the money we spent on lessons for the Senior Doctor in "Self Defence for the Professional Woman" will not be wasted - in fact SD versus Glaswegian worse the wear for drink could be interesting as long I not expected to get involved. If it goes down I'll try to keep my distance and get some pics. The things I do for the bloggers art. J K Rowling look out!