Tuesday, 16 June 2009

LEJOG 2009

Thanks for visiting my first ever blog, all pics are 'clickable' for a better view.
Don't forget to visit my ::charity page:: to see how the Alzheimers Society are benefitting from this!

23.05.09 Practise day one - Exeter to Gunnislake - 43mi
[Cycle west across Dartmoor! Realise how heavy all the gear is!]

About 15mi done, and finding Dartmoor twice as hard as expected. Uh, slightly concerned!

I stopped worrying altogether when I remembered my treacle tart!

Really small horse chasing small horse in vicious attack scene.

I think this is Vixen Tor (not a TO'R vixen).

After leaving the ice cream van, and after rolling off Dartmoor, I continued west through Tavistock, crossed the bridge on the river Tamar, then cycled up the most punishing hill so far, into Gunnislake - a mile into Cornwall.
At the top of that hill I met a lady doing some gardening, and asked her for some water. She offered me a cup of tea in the garden, which sounded terrific, so I brought the bike through the gate and sat in the back garden. Following tea and a chat, I met her husband (both retired), they decided they would support my journey, and gave me fish and chips, a beer, free accommodation and a lovely cooked breakfast. I was glad to have stopped by!

24.05.09 Practise day two
- Gunnislake to Land's End - 65mi
[Learn to love dual-carriageways!]

Leaving Gunnislake - nice views and marvellous people.

I accepted the offer of a lift with my Gunnislake hosts, which covered a nasty stretch and reduced the target distance from 85 to 65 miles. I was prepared to do it the hard way but felt like trusting their judgement that morning. Probably a good idea too because I wasn't meant to overdo it before starting the main event!

I wouldn't normally show off my laundry, but I thought it was more interesting than the A30. It dried so quickly!

Hot Penzance. Yeah. Onward!

Steps of the Minack Theatre, Porthcurno. http://www.minack.com
I'd like to go back and see a performance there next time.

Beach by the old Atlantic cable station at Porthcurno.

That night I stayed at a campsite in St Buryan, 5 miles away from Land's End. A very good choice as it turned out, as the village pub did decent homemade pizza and good beer.
An additional bonus of staying there was that a kind chap on the campsite offered to cook me a nice breakfast the next morning for the official start of my end-to-end cycle.

LEJOG START! 25.05.09 Day one - Land's End to Bodmin - 72mi
[It begins with a bit of drizzle]

I'm aware by this point that my hair has developed a Lego-man style bump which fits in a corresponding socket in my cycle helmet. I'm enjoying the sense of achievement from having made it this far!

It was a long day on the A30 - and this is where I turned when I'd had enough of traffic and sought pub and camping. Maybe lengthen the trip and follow the coast next time?

Blisland near Bodmin is where I ended up for the evening. Had a good meal and the best beer yet - all brewed on-site at the Blisland Inn! Brilliant pub, and home of the mysterious 'chicken & egg pie'.

Ended up camping in a field in pouring rain that night, but I'd had an amusing time so didn't really mind! I'd met and camped with a fellow touring cyclist called Evan, who is from Boston, MA. His plan was to cycle through France, to Turkey! Good plan, best of luck! And thanks for the cup of hot chocolate!

26.05.09 Day two - Bodmin to M5/J27 - 75mi
[Post Office with everything]

Breakfast in Blisland Post Office! Wow, good breakfast too. Here is Evan, he's also impressed by this place. Today he's off to continue testing his touring bike and fitness before heading to France.

After a pretty dull but productive day, that night I ended up in the worst campsite I've ever been to! A relief to get the bad luck out of the way early I reckoned. So I've warned the world (via Google) not to camp at Waterloo Cross, near M5/J27.

Day three - M5/J27 to Bristol - 70mi
[rainy rainy rain, oh but I saw some good stuff later though]

Stinking horrible weather, full body armour today.

Not nice out there.

I was just about to cycle up a massive hill, when I stumbled upon this! No more boring A38 - I'd be taking the Strawberry Line for the next 6 miles!


Arrival at Clifton Suspension Bridge. I really like this bridge!

I must remember to thank my aunt and uncle in Bristol for providing me with lovely food and accommodation at short notice!

28.05.09 Day four - Bristol to Bircher - 70mi

There's a vineyard called St.Augustine's near the old Severn Bridge.
Those vines look a bit skinny to me.

Locating the cycle paths and crossing the bridge was a lot easier than I'd imagined.
I know it's wrong but whenever I see a cycle speed limit it gives me ideas...

Tintern Abbey, followed by great road to Monmouth.

Stopped by an old train station in the Wye Valley for coffee and cake,
then headed north through much pleasant scenery towards Monmouth.

1000 calories you say? Oh go on then.

Me and my tent at a fine campsite in Bircher. They have the best showers here!
This was my best effort yet at setting the camera self-timer and running like mad, to sit down and pose as though nothing had happened...

Here be me, before my tea.

Snails for tea! Great food at the local pub in Yarpole, Herefordshire.

29.05.09 Day five - Bircher to Whitchurch - 65mi

Nice saw!

Shropshire wins for quality of sirloin steak! This pub in Ash Magna was also the first I've been in where they find out your name and treat you like a guest!

Today I was given free bed and breakfast by a pleasant couple who had horses and a dog, and loved talking about animals. I enjoyed spending time with these happy people, even if horses aren't my subject.

Day six - Whitchurch to Garstang - 80mi
[The not-so-interesting bit before the more interesting bit]

I didn't take any photos today! I was busy cycling through the bit between Liverpool and Manchester. Passed through Warrington, Wigan, Preston. Must be about halfway now?
Stayed in a campsite called Claylands which has its own pub/restaurant, which was perfect in an otherwise uneventful place. Why can't we buy Tetley Mild (tasty dark beer) in more pubs?

Day seven - Garstang to Carlisle - 80mi
[Cue scenery!]

Enjoyed a few miles along the canal from Lancaster to the north.
Everyone is really happy and friendly here!

Cumbria! Currently near Beetham on A6.

Hot deer here!

Just north of Kendal, looking towards Lakes.

Here the scenery dial has been turned up a new notches.

Enjoying myself, but a solitary existence. My friend Selftimer took this picture.

...All I remember is that she had a great "S"...

After climbing for about 10 miles towards Shap (they said it would be hard).

Shap! Pub! I think I earned this one. Note: tan-line!

01.06.09 Day eight - Carlisle to Abington - 65mi
[Yesterday's scenery's bigger brother arrives today]

Sign of progress.

Immediately next to the "welcome" sign, "NO TIPPING NO DOGS!"
(So what am I going to do with this trailer full of old dogs!?)

This is the only cycle path monument I've seen.
Hmm, I had a good time cycling in France years ago.

Long day. (Hang on, I've forgotten something...)

On a bridge at Abington, near the road to Glasgow.
Camped somewhere to the left - and ate a hearty rare steak somewhere to the right.

02.06.09 Day nine
- Abington to Loch Lomond - 64mi
[Will vs Glasgow]

I think I've found Glasgow.

Roof of the SECC Arena.

I'm not going to make my mind up about Glasgow for now, as it was a bit of a mission getting through it all by road, on a sweltering day and under my own steam! Loads of broken glass absolutely everywhere, and rather a worrying drinking trend - but I think I'd have a more positive experience if visiting by rail, with a map of the cultural highlights. And probably hiding at night.

After Glasgow, Loch Lomond Distillery's empty barrels.

Balloch Castle's gardens were rather splendid, with lots of shade.

This way to the shores of the loch.

Loch Lomond as seen from the park.

Tonight I will be camping... in a painting?!

Curious highlight of the evening meal at the pub in Gartocharn, was deep fried black pudding! I think body overruled brain there, as I don't really like black pudding. The midges were very hungry that evening, so I did a fair bit of running about before bed.

03.06.09 Day ten - Loch Lomond to Loch Awe - 60mi
[Lovely stuff]

Good morning! Heading up the west Loch Lomond cycle path today.

Ooh, someone's got a sea plane! I'm a bit jealous!

Loch Lomond and Ben Lomond.

Looking back down from a viewpoint called Rest and be Thankful.
I was passed by a Google camera car down there! (sadly no pic from them yet)

Great road, and it's all mine. A83 heading west.

Approach to Inveraray.

Loch Fyne from Inveraray.

The Cruachan hydroelectric dam is in this pic, it's massive but appears small.

Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe.

04.06.09 Day eleven - Loch Awe to Fort William - 70mi
[Somehow I think it gets even better]

Breakfast: muffin and coffee, in my free caravan at The Tight Line pub. Thanks guys!

Last three pics are all St. Conan's Church in Lochawe.

Oban panoramic view.

Oban Distillery. Our guide, Maria, is German, but with a strong Scottish accent and sense of humour. Quite a few European tourists around, this all makes sense now.
And the people making the whisky were Chinese! Not really.

The six 'character' whiskies, according to the Oban Distillery.
Oban's own has hints of honey, orange peel, sea salt and slighty peated barley.
You can find each of these smells in the different parts of the factory. Nice!

Ex-railway cycle path between Oban and Fort William.

Loch Creran, I'm just crossing a bridge over this one.

Castle Stalker, at the mouth of Loch Laich.

Looking back, I think that's Glenachulish I just passed.

Riding north along Loch Linnhe and soon to see Fort William.

Arrived quite late at Ben Nevis, behind Fort William.
Very busy campsite, lots of hill walking activity here.
Fairly decent restaurant half a mile up the road.

05.06.09 Day twelve - Fort William to Inverness - 70mi
[Brrr! Turn the heat back on!]

View south - back to Ben Nevis from Stronaba.

Caledonian Canal, looking back at bad weather that had just 'got' me.

Wow! Pub boat at Laggan, and it's lunchtime! Must investigate.

Onboard the Eagle Barge Inn. Enjoyed a pint of Red MacGregor.

Rainbow on Loch Ness.
p.s. Don't take A82 along Loch Ness, it's not for cyclists.

06.06.09 Day thirteen - Inverness to Dunbeath (via Beauly) - 95mi
[The scenic route from Inverness to the north]

Early morning view from my tent across the Beauly Firth.
The bridge in the distance carries the A9 from Inverness (right)
to the Black Isle (left).

Last night I gave up my search for hot showers and slept in the woods... don't tell the hotel owner next door! And don't tell the owners of the campsite next door to that!

For a moment I was tempted to go the whole distance today,
but that would have been too much for my knees I think.
I passed the Glenmorangie Distillery at Tain a few miles back.

Beside the North Sea on the A9, and exposed to cold wet weather from the east.

Berriedale is located in that valley I just crossed,
it was hard work getting out of there!

Wheel/chair. Somebody displays their handiwork here,
or perhaps invites passing strangers to have a seat?

Dunbeath, 9pm: Ice cream, whipped cream and single cream with cheesecake.
And a McEwans 70.
Served by the nice lady who re-opened her kitchen to make me late fish and chips!

07.06.09 Day fourteen (a.m.) - Dunbeath to John o' Groats - 37mi
[Nearly nearly there]

Pantomime outfit works well it seems.

Day fourteen (p.m.) - John o' Groats to Thurso (via Dunnet Head) - 27mi
Day fifteen - Thurso to Dornoch - 70mi
Day sixteen - Dornoch to Inverness - 44mi