Category Archives: End to End Cycle Ride

End to End Day Eighteen – sunshine (!), train strike, potteries, beach cafes, sandy lanes – montbretia hedges, Lands End welcome, End to End essentials, what would we have changed ?

Helston to Lands End – 28 miles

1047 miles covered – none to go!

End to End successfully completed, 5pm,  Sunday 23rd August 2015

The plan for the day had been to set off a bit later than normal, cycle along to Penzance and then over the hills to Lands End, then back to Penzance to get the train home – Geoff was at a horse event on Dartmoor all day and not available to help.  However, at breakfast Pete noticed there was another First Great Western strike and so we had to move to plan B.  This would involve taking our time to cycle the 28 miles to Lands End and then hoping that Geoff could come and pick us up at the end of the day.  This turned out to be perfect.  My legs had just about had it in terms of being able to get up the bigger hills and we had not often really had the time to explore and enjoy the scenery through which we were cycling. Doing the last day slowly (and in sunshine!) would be a real treat.

Helston is a substantial and really quite pleasant town – well worth a visit en route to Lizard Point – seemed to be lots of independent shops and nice restaurants and pubs.  We set off along the A393 towards Penzance.  The road was very busy with holiday traffic and did involve starting with a very long – though not too difficult –  hill.  However, once at the top there were a series of signs to potteries and art galleries and Pete and I enjoyed popping in to take a look.  Nick Harrison and his wife produce a range of hand thrown ‘Leach’ ceramics and woven fabric art pieces at Penhale Jakes, Ashton – Pete particularly liked his range of table ware.

Down the hill into Marazion with the first glimpses of the iconic Saint Michael’s Mount, through the narrow streets of beautiful Cornish art and gift shops,  and then along the sea front to Jordan’s Café,  our favourite seaside café,  for a drink and tuna sandwich overlooking the Atlantic Ocean – and a good view of The Lizard in the distance.  Here we met Ann and Richard, who had made Cornwall their home for the last 27 years and seemed to love it for the sea and the walking – they too make special trips to Jordan’s for their coffee.  Ann and Richard lived on our route between Penzance and Lands End and were able to offer us some advice about the best way to go.

On along the coast road through Penzance where they actually had a train about to leave for London inspite of the strike (tempting – but no), Newlyn with its harbour, and then the very picturesque Mousehole.  Normally we rush through here so it was such a treat to stop and pick up a cup of tea, take in the views and chat to a couple of cyclists, down from Sheffield.

Now up the very steep Mousehole hill, Pete cycling, me walking,  and along the lanes at the top to Lamorna – via, on a 17% downhill, a tiny barn , called The Old Mill – full of nick nacks, protected by the huge rhubarb (gunnera mannicata?)  and by an older woman whose hard of hearing made her seem a bit witch-like to Pete.  Here we purchased a couple of shells and a post card, our only souvenirs from the trip.

On past the road sign with which I have a love/hate relationship (Lands End 7 1/4 miles) up the last major hill and then through a series of delightful sandy lanes bounded by hedges full of wild montbretia and fuschia – just gorgeous. We decided, following the earlier advice from Ann and Richard, to follow Cycle Route 3 up to St. Buryan, where we made a last stop to share a Snickers Bar, and to buy some bread and ham to share with Geoff at Lands End.

Then on along the lanes for the last five miles.  Just before Sennen we were caught by Pete Gunstone (am giving his full name in case you would like to follow his progress) who was just about to set out on his LEJOG route – planning on camping but with evening pub meals.   He asked us what we had enjoyed most and it was easy to answer it had been the people we had met throughout the trip.

We rolled into Lands End, with its breathtaking views of the sea and the Longships Lighthouse and along to the signpost for our photo just as the photographer team who put up the date and mileage were packing away.  They were really kind and without our asking, got it all out again for us and took the photos we wanted on my phone with no charge – thank you to them!

Pete took photos of the other Pete by the signpost and we waved him off on his trip.  A number of people came up to us and congratulated us.  Among them were Colin and Sarah who recognised my Serpie kit.  Colin had completed the End to End previously and Sarah (a triathlete) mentioned that she was likely to give it a go next year and so we were able to exchange thoughts about cycle saddles and shorts that might work well for women over a long distance.

Such a lovely evening so Pete and I sat with a cup of tea overlooking the sea, with the Isles of Scilly in the distance,  until Geoff joined us for our picnic of rolls and  ham (tasted wonderful!).  We were all delighted that we had completed safely, on time and in such wonderful weather.  And then home to Liskeard, shower, supper and bed.

THANK YOU to our supporters:  these trips are just not possible without a huge amount of support. In particular, Pete and I are indebted to Geoff for letting us go and for looking after the  animals at home, to Anthony for support in Scotland, to Susie and Charlie for our Portishead stop, to Christopher for daily encouragement, to a whole range of cycle shops who prepared and fixed our bikes so that we could continue with the trip all at very little cost, and to the wonderful fellow JOGLERS and interested supporters we met throughout our journey. Thank you to Cornwall CTC for training me up and for encouragement en route, and to Serpentine Running Club for their non-itchy kit and for renewing my membership so cheaply. We would also like to thank the bloggers whose route we copied – we loved it – slightly longer than most but definitely flatter and past so many iconic landmarks.  Finally, I would like to thank the hundreds of thousands of motorists on whom we were dependant to be considerate.  We know that passing cyclists on a busy road requires patience and skill – so thank you very much indeed.  To the five motorists who could not wait and had to do a lot of loud revving and wheel spinning as they went past – we apologise for the inconvenience we caused you – you might like to give cycling a try yourselves – it is a great antidote to anger management.

OUR MOST USEFUL KIT:  (please note my actual kit list is set out in my entry for 27 July 2015 – Ann’s End to End Kit List) cycle mirrors (please don’t try this without one on every bicycle in your group), Michelin pro4 endurance tyres, KT tape (have this with you rather than cycling on for another 30 miles to find some),  smart phone with good battery and waterproof case (for help with route, internet hot spot, access to appropriate bike shops, etc.), MU plug (packs flat) and long cable (for where plug sockets are not placed conveniently), waterproof luggage (my Arkel bag was wonderful), SIS hydro tablets (for electrolyte drinks – work like magic and much better than squash with salt added), Torq or Mule Bar gels (for Ann to help with hills and distance),  rain legs (but the rain legs needed a longer crotch to be fully protective), Gore Xenon AS rain jacket with Costelli Nano Flex Arm Warmers (great in the rain), Gore Xenon Chamois, buff to stop rain trickling in at neck, Gore Xenon SSJ S (very lightweight jersey for hot days).  SH-12 cleats (blue) and cleat covers (Pete).  I had opted to wear just one pair of shoes with toe clips rather than cleats and my old faithful Sketchers stood up beautifully to all weathers and came back looking just the same as they had done for the last six months.  The Garmin (backed up by paper maps – we had taken apart a road atlas 3miles to one inch).

What did not work so well:  our gloves and over boots were not properly waterproof and, wherever you are, trying to dry out shoes over night is very difficult.  My woman’s Featherlite jacket (great for warmth and packing up very small) was waterproof until it went into the wash in York and afterwards let in the rain so that on a couple of days I felt so cold and wet I thought I could not go on – I am now investing in a properly waterproof lightweight jacket and I would think it is worth making space for this in your summer luggage.  There were several days where we had wished we had brought our tiny little pack-away (5 cms)  ruck sac – where we needed to buy food for the evening just before a B and B this would have enabled us to carry these extras for the last few miles.

NUTRITION – what worked for us:  We both drank the SIS hydro drinks ( tablet in a container of water x two daily)  These were great electrolyte drinks and we were never thirsty and never experienced cramp or any ill effects.  Pete is a strong cyclist and our trip was not very taxing for him so in terms of food:  He went with his full English breakfast at our B and B; a hot chocolate and a shared cake at our first stop; a tuna sandwich and a cold drink at our second; a cold drink at our tea time stop; and then we alternately ate a supper of meat and veg or salad – or a Pot Noodle when we were too tired.  For me, my cycling had to be supported with gels ( Mule Bar or Torq – 100 calories each).  So I ate the same as Pete, except my breakfast was a poached egg and toast and at night I was much less hungry, really only needing a main course (whereas Pete usually wanted two).

And, finally, our KEY TIPS:  Plan to set off early every day to allow time for things to go wrong – and don’t be too disappointed when they do go wrong – you can’t plan for everything – we were significantly held up by a puncture and by my derailleur needing replacing; remember to eat and drink well before you get hungry and thirsty – you are not just trying to maintain energy for the day in question but for a whole series of hard cycling days; save your phone battery  (tempting though it is to use your phone at every stop) – there were a couple of days w here we reached our last ten miles without any battery on either of our phones and therefore had no way of finding our way to our B and B, etc. or for calling a bike shop for help; assess every road you join very carefully – your biggest risk on these trips is being killed in an RTA;  make sure your seat is high enough so that it does not put too much strain on your knees; and, finally, if you are not a naturally strong cyclist and have the time to do this, perhaps build in some shorter days at the start of your trip so you are less likely to be injured.

And that is about that!  Pete and I agree this was a wonderful and worth while adventure and we would recommend it to anyone.  If you are planning something similar – enjoy!

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End to End Day Sixteen – A3072 v. A30, Kirsty’s Kitchen at North Tawton, wifi issues, Okehampton Station and The Granite Trail, thick fog, driving rain, Beeches Cafe at Tamar Trails, Cornwall, dangerous A390, hot baths and supper at Liskeard

Bickleigh to Liskeard – 65 miles – 1,800m (5,400 ft) climbed!

939  miles completed – approximately 100 to go!

The plan for today was to use the newly re-opened A3072 from Bickleigh to Crediton (avoiding Exeter) then on via Copplestone and North Tawton to Okehampton, Tavistock,  Gunnislake, Callington and Liskeard.  We knew this would be a day of significant climbing but at least this would save us a good 6-8 miles and the route would be relatively safe, traffic-wise.

Please note:  we had just heard back from the McJogle team who had completed – many congratulations to them!  They had used the A30 from Exeter through Cornwall and had said this had been a hugely scary experience.  So many cyclists are killed on this road, we would ALWAYS advise avoiding it – especially in the holiday season.

Having enjoyed the breakfast that the Fisherman’s Cot team had prepared for us in our room, Pete and I somehow managed to leave at about 6.20, although I found it incredibly difficult to get going.  Both of us now had the KT tape liberally applied, me to my ankle (to which I had also attached my ice pack during the night) and Pete to his knee but I noticed immediately that my ankle was now much less painful.

One of the biggest climbs of the day was as we left the Fisherman’s Cot and headed up along the A3072 to Crediton. However, because this was early in the morning, it did not feel so bad and the hill was followed by a long “down” into Crediton, which we reached by 7.30 am – and the road had been relatively quiet.  A gel and a drink and on then to North Tawton – such a pretty working rural town.  As soon as Kirsty’s Kitchen opened (much recommended) we were in there with our orders for egg, bacon and black pudding and Mocha drinks.  All wonderful.  Wifi had been more or less non existent at the Fisherman’s Cot (and Pete had had no signal on his phone) so we used the opportunity of the better wifi at Kirsty’s kitchen to upload the blog and check e mails etc.

We also checked the map for a better route on into Okehampton – the main road route we had used on our practice run a few weeks earlier had involved a huge amount of climbing.  This time we returned to the A3072 as far as Sampford Courtney and then took the next left.  This took us down (with a good road surface) to the B3215 which took us straight and fairly painlessly into Okehampton (much better).

As it was a Friday, the buffet was open at the revamped Okehampton Station – another welcome cup of tea.  Good weather until then but as we left and set off down the Granite Trail (the old railway line between Okehampton and Lydford) the rain started and it  felt pretty miserable with the strong headwind.

At Lydford we came off the trail and onto an unmarked road which passes through the village.  This rises from Lydford Gorge onto a ridge where we found the rain was made much worse with completely dense fog.  To make it easier for drivers, Pete and I had all our lights on and stuck together, pulling over to let cars pass.

Once we dropped down to Tavistock, the fog cleared.  I had hoped for another cup of tea but we settled for standing outside the Spar Shop (sadly sold out of chocolate donuts) and consuming a Snickers.

Then on towards Gunnislake where we called into the Beeches Café at Tamar Trails (tree surfing and tree leaping on the site of the former copper mines) for an excellent freshly made sandwich and pie.

Over the border into Cornwall – now we just had to complete the climb out of Gunnislake (I walked the second half but Pete zipped up as normal), cycle on slowly and carefully to Callington where the fog and the rain and the drain covers made the road treacherous.  We reached New Bridge after Callington and stopped for a loo break.  I noticed that all my clothes were soaking wet but relatively warm when on so presumed they must have been working like a wet suit.  Here we had a nice chat with a couple walking their dog – who said, inspite of the very bad weather that they envied our adventure!

On again carefully along the 7 miles or so of the  hugely busy A390 (Friday evening in holiday season) and finally we turned into the lane which would lead up to Looedown.  We arrived at Homestead and fell into hot baths before sharing a lovely supper with Geoff (who took all our clothes to wash) and Charlie and Susie who had been staying in Liskeard all week but were just about to head back to Portishead.

This all felt so nice, it was hard to imagine that we could get back into the routine of a very early start the next morning for our longest day’s ride and a very wet weather forecast.

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End to End Day Fourteen – Garmin issues, very wet, route 41 and Avon Cycle Way, Roots Cafe, Gloucester Cathedral, canal, Elmore Court, quiche, Berkeley Tea Rooms, Avon Bridge Cycle Way, supper in Portishead

Cheltenham to Portishead 63 miles

796 miles completed- 228 to go
Hard to believe that just  yesterday we were in Leicester as today we followed a route through Gloucester, skirted north of Bristol and on to Portishead.
After a pretty rubbish breakfast at The Big Sleep (chain of hotels was subject of takeover completed while we were staying there so things might improve because they are definitely a good fun concept) Pete and I set off towards Portishead with the plan being to follow Sustrans Route 41 for most of the way.
Pete found he had somehow uploaded the route in reverse order with the following consequences: 1. We were accompanied for the whole day by a very dispirited Garmin who constantly tried to tell us to turn round; 2. We were directed up a lot of one way streets – the wrong way; and 3. Pete’s true sense of geography was exposed with, “Mum, we are not going to Gloucester, are we?” “Yes, Pete, Gloucester is exactly where we are going” conversations being the order of the day.
Route 41 might have been our safe option for the day but it did seem to do an awful lot of unnecessary wiggling as we worked our way across Gloucester. However, one of the benefits was that it took us past Roots Cafe (run by a cyclist so brilliant hot chocolate, home made cake and secure hidden cycle storage), through the Cathedral close, where I had attended the funeral of a young cyclist colleague who had been killed in a car collision in January, and past the marina before taking us out of Gloucester along the canal.
After this we were on quiet roads, albeit now in the rain. Pete caught up with an older cyclist out for a morning spin to Tewkesbury and back!
We turned into Elmore Road, just a few yards from the gates of Elmore Court where a month ago Vicky and James were married – albeit in brilliant sunshine.
For Pete and I the rain then became torrential. We took refuge in a pub in Frampton where we asked for a slice of quiche each. While we were waiting I introduced Pete to the 1980’s theory that ‘real men don’t eat quiche’ courtesy of Bruce Fairstein – goodness, that does seem a lifetime ago, doesn’t it? Anyway Pete thought it was hilarious so worth an airing.
Waterproof trousers on and we continued to Berkeley. Near the Salmon Inn we sheltered for a bit in a bus shelter. I ran across the road and was allowed to use the loo by the kind people in the pub – now really cold and wet we went I into Berkeley and gave in to the temptation of a hot cup of tea at the Berkeley Tea Rooms. This is now very much a cyclist cafe and we did try a piece of the line and courgette cake which is probably the best I have tasted on this trip.
Feeling a bit more cheerful we set off again with a bit more determination to complete the second thirty miles.
Our route joined the Avon Cycle Way for a while – pretty villages – and then through the Laurence Weston district of Bristol before heading over the extremely windy Avon Bridge cycle way (18 mph against that wind), through the car parks full of newly shipped in foreign cars, and along the road to Portishead, a delightful urban community south west of Bristol with, now a beautiful marina development and a recent gold award winner of Britain in Bloom.
Susie, sister in law, had kindly left us a lovely supper and we warmed up with a wonderful shower and fell into bed with the aim of trying to achieve a 6 am start the next morning.

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End to End Day Eleven – Ralph and Sue, route 65, Alan and Marianne, dérailleur problems, Sunday lunch, fishing cafe, fast roads, karaoke 

York to Retford – 53 miles

589 miles completed – 435 to go

The night before, Pete had indicated it would be great if we could find a Sunday lunch, for both of us a dim and distant memory from our past! Our aim therefore was to be organised and leave York at a sensible time.
Although Hilary let us out of her back yard by 9 am we then found ourselves in conversation with Bruce (with his ‘chocolate is not just for breakfast’ apron – so sensible) and Ralph from across the road. It turned out that Ralph and his wife,  Sue, had completed the End to End a few years earlier (as well as lots if other long distance rides) and so we swopped stories about how we wash our clothes and the relative merits of keeping going or sight seeing. We had planned to use the B1222 to head towards Selby but they suggested the cycle route 65 and very kindly gave us a map so we could find the start – thank you, both!
Route 65 was very good to Selby – a good surface and following the route of the old railway line. Many other cyclists were using it and it had the added fun of having the planets set out along its length to give you an idea of their relative distance from the sun.
With the first 10 miles or so under our belt we thought we could treat ourselves to a hot choc in Selby – the only coffee shop open turned to be Wetherspoons for whom hot chocolate – or indeed coffee – is not necessarily their strong point. However, it was an exciting stop because of the other cyclists we met there. Alan and Marianne (real cyclists!) had just popped up from Leeds, next stop York, and were regular sportive participants. Alan also commuted over 20 miles a day on his bicycle. It was great to have a chat with them.
After that the day went down hill a bit.

We were now on the A1041 South – a good road for us but now my bicycle developed more serous problems with its front dérailleur. Pete spent 30 mins on trying to improve it and we moved off round the corner on to find a pub serving Sunday lunch and Pete telling me it was now 1 pm and so a good time to stop. Lunch completed we managed another couple of miles before we realised my bike needed some serious attention and so we pulled into a quiet road. Here Pete worked on it for another 45 minutes. This to e there was some real improvement and we were able to set off more confidently.
Luckily the road was level and straight and we now made good progress to Thorne (cup of tea at delightful cafe at the side of a fishing lake) and a quick stop to pick up our pot noodles for the evening.
Now on the A614 – also a fast and level road so that we were able to do long stretches together at 20 mph. We sailed through Bawtry and then on for the final 9 miles to Retford.
Here we met up with Adrian who showed us to our self catering room at ‘No. 4’ and showed our bicycles into a separate room for the night. Here Pete had to turn his skills to unblocking the shower drain to prevent a bathroom flood before we took to our beds and were rocked (?) to sleep with the Karaoke across the road – nothing keeps you awake after a day’s cycling!

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End to End Day Ten – Rest Day, Bikes to Bike Heaven, clothes to Johnsons Laundry Service, enjoying York, Italian for lunch, an afternoon rest, Annie the rescue lurcher helps with my wounds, Garmin issues 

York to Nowhere – Rest Day!Clear blue skies – sunny – just lovely!
Leisurely breakfast and popped the bikes down to Bike Heaven at the station for a check over. Very good of them to take them at short notice. They fitted Pete a new front tyre and new brake pads, adjusted some of my cables, sorted our tyre pressures and re oiled our chains etc. I topped up with gels and replace my lost slap wrist bands.
Then for our bag of soaking muddy and sweaty clothing. This we took round the corner to Johnsons Laundry Service – amazing to get it all back this afternoon – each item several shades brighter than we remembered and all for just over £5. We apologised for it being so dirty to the lady we collected it from. She gave a knowing look and said she had been warned before she took it out of the bag!

A stroll round the centre of York. I am not normally a fan of tourist cities like York but today in the sunshine it was very relaxing. Pete bought me a spaghetti bolognese at a nice Italian restaurant and we popped back to the B and B to rest.
It was then that Pete noticed his Garmin was no longer working. A quick consultation with the forums suggested both a “master reset” involving losing all Pete’s stored data; and that everyone owning a GPS will at some stage in their lives call it a “goddam piece of shit” which Pete seemed to agree with.
Pete, now very sad at having lost all the data from our trip and painstakingly working through all that is involved in resetting it.
Finally, we should mention Annie, the lurcher, now belonging to Helen but rescued by the RSPCA at 4 months when she had been badly burned. Such a beautiful dog, she came to investigate our strange hats and odd smelling clothes and then found the wound on the back of my leg (chain ring) and proceeded to lick it for about 5 mins. I am hoping that this is just what was needed because it was quite a deep cut and had been fairly painful!
As for our other aches and pains, still not too bad at all. We do use the muscle stick in the evenings and I apply my cool pack to knees and ankles in rotation but fingers crossed, OK so far – hope I haven’t spoken too soon 🙂


  
  


  
  

  

End to End Day Nine -heavy rain, clothing issues, Durham, puncture, ham, egg and chips, Northallerton, Pot Noodle issues, pros and cons of scenic routes, beautiful York

Chester le Street to York 84 miles

536 miles completed 478 to go

Over half way!

Well, certainly a day to remember, although I feel a bit better about it now after a shower and a good night’s sleep.
An ignominious start. Wanting to set off early, we appeared at our 7 am breakfast in full cycle gear. A quick visit to the ladies before we started made me realise the zip on my tri suit (under garment )was fixed firmly down near my waist instead of up near my neck where it should be. My eyesight is nowhere near good enough to sort such matters and so I had to ask one of the staff if my son could join me in the ladies to fix it.
Once we had recovered from this embarrassment we set off in heavy rain with the same forecast for the whole day. I elected to wear my Gore waterproof trousers for the first time – of course these were doubling as my evening trousers so we could guess there might be issues later. Still enthusiastic, just dripping wet,  we rolled into Durham with the promise of a Costa hot choc. After a good practice at cobble surfing we continued towards Durham on the A167. Generally this road does cater for cyclists although there were a few miles where we were forced to cycle on the pavement and had to stop every few metres to lift our bikes down and up the kerbs.
Back to cycling on the road and Pete immediately picked up a puncture, as you so often do in the wet. A clean slit in both tyre and tube – presumably glass. We were able to stop at a lay by (good) but the rain was torrential (bad) AND more importantly the tough endurance tyres that we purchased for the trip, Michelin Pro4 Endurance, are just about impossible to get off in the dry, let alone in heavy rain. Anyway, Pete managed it in the end but still had a 2mm slit in his tyre which he had patched with a Zephal glueless patch but with over 60 miles to go I was a bit anxious about whether this would last to York.
Into Darlington in now Biblical rain and a stop for soup and a freshly made a sandwich in a real ham, eggs and chips cafe but very kind and sympathetic staff. Still 50 miles to go.
On towards Northallerton. The A167 now became a much quieter road and the cycling would have been great if not for the rain.
We made a loo stop by a field gate. I climbed over and discarded the fourlayers of lycra necessary to get at the tri suit – this is normally a very quick operation and particular essential today in the rain – then of course the zip stuck again.

Frozen and drenched, I was wrong to think my son might appreciate the urgency of the situation. He was doubled up and helpless with laughter saying wouldn’t it be funny if he was done for trespass and had to make it worse by explaining that he had to help his almost naked mother with her zip. Not remotely funny, I thought.
Eventually moved on and had the pleasure of coming into Northallerton where Pete’s grandmother grew up – but 4 30 pm and still 35 miles to go.
We called into a cafe for a cup of tea and a shared slice of cake. By the time I came through the door Pete was chatting to an older man. He looked me up and down and then turned to Pete: “She doesn’t look like she could have cycled from John O Groats, does she?”

Once I had forgiven him for that, we learned that he had previously been a very active cyclist – cycling to Edinburgh at the week ends – and on a fixed wheel with a flip-flop hub – not sure what this is but it sounds pretty incredible.

Still 35 miles ahead of us but we stopped to pick up our pot noodles for supper. We had been having these for supper every other night – partly to reduce cost and partly to save on going out when we were tired. I can’t remember eating pot noodles since I was a student  but actually when you are exhausted and hungry they work surprisingly well. However the issue with pot noodles for cyclists with limited baggage capacity is their shape. We had tried all sorts of ways of getting them to our destinations – none of them satisfactory. Today we tried taping them to Pete’s tri bars with the insulating tape we had bought in Scotland to patch up my front light.
On to Thirsk and our road again became dangerously busy as we headed towards the A1. We turned onto the A19, a risky road but it was at least covering the miles quickly – the Garmin said 23 miles to York and I began to feel more hopeful.
Now Pete is a purist. The route we were meant to be taking was an unmarked wiggly but scenic route. After a bit of argument I agreed to try it instead of sticking with the faster but not scenic A19. Yes Pete’s route was quiet and scenic but now the Garmin was telling us 27 miles to York which I found disheartening. We persisted nontheless only to find 90 mins later, just as were were about to rejoin the A19 for the last 5 miles, our way was blocked by a serious looking road closed sign. Although we went and looked there was really no way round and we had to turn back. Really not happy at this stage and the rain was just as heavy.
Finally arrived on the doorstep of The Farthings in York looking like drowned rats and gave ourselves up to Helen who took us in out of the rain and ushered us towards a hot  shower, fluffy white towels and comfortable beds.  Rest day tomorrow – thank goodness!

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End to End Day Eight – home made bread, busy roads with delightful breaks, iconic Tyne Bridge and Angel of the North, much needed meat and fresh veg

Wooler to Chester le Street – 60 miles

453 miles completed – 562 still to go.

After a lovely very homemade breakfast at The Old Mill (much recommended) and Pete hanging around to discuss Paulette’s porridge recipe with her (“your porridge was the best I have ever tasted”) we carried on south down the A697. This continued to be a long straight and fast road and as we moved closer to the A1 the number and frequency of very big lorries on this narrow road did seem to increase making it feel quite dangerous – we had to concentrate hard on working together as a unit and staying on the white line.
We took a couple of breaks – the first in response to a “cafe open” sign – this one included an”emporium”full of all sorts of amazing goodies from antique china to a rich variety of furnishing fabrics. I was handed a gaoler’s key for the loo and asked to try to make sure I did not lock someone in when I finished and re-locked.

At Long Framlington, a pretty village, we stopped again for a very nice sandwich, freshly made at David Carr’s award winning Grocery. Such a kind team – they let us use their staff loo and wished us well with our trip. David has run the store for over 40 years and still gets up at 3 30 to receive the milk!
Finally the road joined the A1 for a short while – perfectly safe with a proper protected cycle lane – and then we took the more minor A road into the Britain in Bloom winner, Morpeth. An attractive town, full of flowers, selling my favourite Aveda tea -and we enjoyed sitting in the sun in the square listening to a talented busker, with whom Pete tried to have a conversation while he played.

On to Newcastle via the airport -we found our way to Wilson’s Cycles to buy some gels for me and for our regular tyre pressure check. Unfortunately their pump’s gauge was broken and so they were unable to help with this. Pete used our hand pumps instead but we had to guess the pressure. We hope we can do this more accurately when we reach York.

Pete’s Garmin guided us safely through the rush hour traffic of Newcastle on cycle paths and over the iconic Tyne Bridge  (Pete: “I am sure there is more traffic here than in London “). Then down the A167 and past Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North. Finally into Chester Le Street and then a couple of miles west to The Moorings Hotel. This has good facilities and, more importantly, their Rib-Eye restaurant. Our bodies were telling us now that they wanted meat and fresh veg and it was just wonderful to have their home made burgers (although it is possible that Pete overdid it on this front), salads and veg. Much chat over supper about the anticipated rain for our 80 mile route to York planned for tomorrow – waterproofs, we think 😦

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End to End Day Seven – Edinburgh ring road, Dalkeith, dangerous A68, Steve, wonderful A697, Thirlestane Castle, Judy, into England, The Old Mill, Wooler

Edinburgh to Wooler 75 miles

393 miles completed – 622  to go

Early breakfast at Travelodge (they do at least do this from 7 am) and off round the inner Edinburgh ring road (B701 following green RR signs for cyclists travelling eastbound) The route caters fairly well for cyclists- although the road surface is poor in places. Into Dalkeith for a coffee and cookie – sizeable town now giving the impression of significant disadvantage.

Started to lose my chain off the front rings (over shifting). With the nearest bike shop at least 35 miles away, plan B involved Pete finding the appropriate video on Google which would show him a. which little screw to adjust b. which way to turn it and c. how far to turn it without making the situation worse – brilliant! Took a while but eventually fixed and on our way.  Saw a pony in a field full of ragwort.

Once off the ring road we had to take the A68 South. If you are cycling and have any choice I would suggest you avoid this road. Very busy, very straight, very narrow and many many large lorries in both directions. In a lay-by we me Steve and his Braty Wagon. He was just so kind insisting on giving is free food and drink and telling us all about the four jobs he held down working 100 hours a week. However, he did make us promise, wherever possible to use the pavement or side path on the A68 because of those lorries.

We duly followed his good advice – but a real nightmare since the path, where it existed, was lumpy and bumpy in the extreme or very overgrown while the road itself was newly surfaced – but he was right, there was no room for us on that road. We had also been climbing over the xxxx hills so all in all a difficult experience.

After a very slow 15 miles or so we turned onto the much nicer A697. Now this was lovely, Still fast traffic and big lorries but not continuous both ways so there was plenty of space for the traffic to pass. Also we came down off the hills and began to make much faster progress – Pete informing me of things like “28 mph on the flat there, Mum”.

2.30 pm and turned off the road for lunch at Thirlestane Castle. Here we met Judy, who not only made us the most enormous delicious sandwiches, she also took our photos for the Thirlestane Castle Facebook page – and then told us about her incredible journeys round the world to support animal rescue initiatives. She is off to help elephants in India next spring – amazing! And good luck, Judy!

Still 35 miles to go but the road was now very fast indeed  – The Tour of Britain uses the same route in September.  We stopped  briefly in Black Adder at 50 miles and Cold Stream (the full of history border town) at 60 miles. Very beautiful Border countryside.

Over the River Tweed – and then … The England border! Wooo! And into Northumberland.

Still a fast road although the hills ahead were approaching rapidly. Last three miles and we hit the hills as we climbed up and into Wooler, our destination at 75 miles.

Arrived at the Old Mill to a very warm welcome from Patrick and Paulette for whom nothing was too much trouble. As our bicycles were slotted into proper bike stands in the garage I apologised for being so sweaty and grubby. Patrick kindly said he had seen much worse and told us that they had had to call a paramedic for their previous cyclists!

Later – Mum to Pete: Petie, can you stop talking now for a bit – I need to go to sleep.

Pete to Mum: Mum, before you die, can you make me a list of the adventures we have shared so I don’t forget them!

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EndEnd to End Day Six – perceptions of Perth, Glen Farg, a great village shop, breaking a few speed limits!

Dunkeld to Edinbirgh via the Firth of Forth Road Bridge – 55 miles

318 miles completed – 697 still to go

A sunny day. Hilary at the Merryburn Hotel allowed us an early breakfast since she was also doing one for a fishing party.
Set off for Perth via NCN 77 – pretty villages and a stretch of track along the Tay. On the outskirts of Perth we popped into Alpine bikes (tyre pressures, more gels and a hot chocolate) – a visit we had been looking forward to. But quite a disappointment. While they had exactly the same facilities as the shop in Edinburgh the service was quite different. Still polite but not in any way helpful, fun and friendly. Just goes to show how important good customer service is to make a shop work. Pete nd I left and cycled on into Perth. Despite our cheery ‘hello’s’, not one person responded or smiled. What a contrast to all the lovely people we had met previously! Pete said, perhaps they are miserable because they live in a city. Anyway, what ever the reason, made for much less pleasant cycling.

On from Perth and the beautiful Smeaton Bridge. Anthony had warned us about something called Glen Farg and as we saw it towering above and in front of us we began to see why. Pete enjoyed cycling up it (17%) – I walked the last bit. Views great from the top of course.

A little further on was the village of Glen Farg – pretty with such a sensible village shop where we could make our own tea or, in Pete’s case, Pot Noodles, assemble our cheese rolls and eat them there in the sunshine.

Pete then keen to stick to our NCN route which involved even more up. I was more reluctant but actually it paid off because after the climb there were a series of long straight downs on good roads where Pete told me we hit 40 mph.

From then on the route was quite fast – we triggered a village speed warning sign when it told us we were doing 31 mph ( yesterday one had informed us we were hitting 12 mph).

We were now in Fife and heading for the Forth Road Bridge. The approach was straightforward for cyclists – a B road until the very last part and then a distinct cycle lane. We sailed over the bridge with all the commuter cyclists at about 22 mph (another speed limit broken!) and took in the wonderful views of the railway bridge and the new replacement bridge – that Charlie says his firm is involved with.
The other side, Pete’s Garmin took us safely to our Travelodge at the airport. Spectacular views of the planes taking off and landing and a fine sunny evening.

(Sorry that pics are in a funny order 😊)
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End to End Day Five – Torrential Rain, Joan and Colin, Kyle and Travis, Drumochter Summit, Orchids, Supper with Anthony, Dunkeld Cathedral

Kingussie to Dunkeld. 63 miles

263 miles completed – 753 to go.

As Pete said when we eventually arrived at Dunkeld, “well at least we know our waterproofs work!” – even that I wasn’t sure about but ….

We left Kingussie in good weather and set off along NCR 1 to Dalwhinnie at 13 miles where we fell for my favourite sign ‘cafe open’ and nipped in for a hot choc. While Pete popped across the road to see what Dalwhinnie  Distillery  had to offer I had a chat with Joan and Collin. A lovely couple more used to running, they had cycled up from Perth as their first stop on a circular tour – we had a good laugh about what was essential equipment for this kind of touring. We also had a chat about the importance of the right tyres, the significance of which we were about to find out.

Almost as soon as we left Dalwhinnie, the cycle track surface deteriorated and for the next 25 miles as we climbed to and over the Drumockter Summit and into Perth and Kinross we were riding on a very flinty track, I thought, more suited to mountain biking. Cyclists have no choice but to use this since the alternative is to do battle with the actual very fast A9.  Anyway striking views as we went over the top and then started down the other side towards Pitlochry with the road surface improving all the way and the added pleasure of some beautiful orchids.

We were overtaken by Kyle and Travis around Blair Castle – they were travelling with their camping gear. The torrential rain and near black skies which descended on  us from there on gave Pete just the excuse he needed to keep up with them ply them with questions about their bikes, trip and equipment. Poor people – they responded cheerfully and spluttered through the rain that they were doing a round trip from Dunfermline. By Pitlochry we were drenched and I insisted we should stop for a sandwich – unsurprisingly they said they would carry on!

Having warmed up a bit in Cafe Calluna (thank you!) and picked up some bits at Davidsons (thank you both with help with the weather forecast) we set off again – this time in rain that can only be described as biblical. It would not have mattered hugely except that Pete’s Garmin then insisted we should join the A9 and we had to try to get out our paper maps to find our way (mental note – laminated maps).

All forgiven though as we arrived in the very beautiful  Dunkeld in bright sunshine to a very warm welcome from Hilary and a really lovely room at the Merryburn Hotel.

A very quick shower and Anthony, Pete’s dad, collected us for a great supper at the Tay Bank – much reminiscing about the funnier times with Pete and his two sisters. Then a lovely stroll round the town (famous for its ‘big trees’) to see the cathedral and a walk along the bank of the Tay. We heard a little bit of the history of Dunkeld much of which was rebuilt by the Duke of Atholl in the 18th century as a model town. So a soggy day with a lovely ending.

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