Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Day 18 - Last Day!

Day 17 - Ulverston to Stoke-On-Trent

Day 15 - Carlisle to Waswster via Cockermouth

You'll be glad to know that after a few slow days, today we made some impressive progress!
Aiming for Cockermouth by the end of the day, we eventually finished the day off at the foot of Scafel Pike (Woo one more mountain to go).

We arrived at Cockermouth sometime after just after lunch & briefly considered pitching our tent due to being so far ahead of schedule. However 3L of Lemonade later, one sonic/stereo burp from Dave & a whole lemon cake (probably for about eight) later...well lets go!

This was all good and well until we were once again thwarted by the weather 30 miles shy of Wasdale. Naturally we were soon back in the nearest pub, to be greeted by a rather peculiar welcome.

A few quotes from 'The Central Pub'
"Your doing what!?....Your probably students arn't ya?"
"What are you doing!? Nothing, bloody lazy students. At least these bikers here have to do something! *motions twisting throttle*"

Leaving that madness behind, we soon found another, rather upright problem. The last road on the way to Wasdale Head was defiantly designed by someone who hadn't heard of gravity & it's effects.
For example, up one particular hill we were passed by a landrover (just) slipping and whining on its way up. More worryingly, shortly later we discovered a hill that was for lack of a better description, 'too steep to cycle down!'

The ridiculous path to Scafell did have one major upshot though, I will let you judge for yourself...


Eventually we slumped into the campsite around 10pm, casually noticing the 'green travel' discount (I should bloody think so) before heading for the tent. Through the night we were filled with confidence of the day to come as a thunderstorm rolled in over the hills.

Day 14 - Crawford to Carlisle

Our first port of call for the day was once again the Crawford Arms Hotel, or in this case water point. Thanks to our previous colourful visit to Crawford, we were granted the honor of free water from the closed/locked Hotel. That and called mad again.

Before long we stopped for quite a considerable time at some Edinburgh Woolen Mill outlet. There was good reason for this. We were distracted by food, Whisky (though Dave refused to let us have any free samples...the fool) &....rain.
Whilst stopped we devoured an awful lot of chocolate amongst other things (supplied by BRAWNDO powered assistant! ...."Brawndo will make you win at packing!!")

The other interesting moment from this here stop, was a coach bearing the number plate "HI WET" (says it all doesn't it?)

For dinner, we stopped again in the town of Ecclefeckin (fantastic name) for a quick burger. Once again we were quickly recognised as those 'mad buggers'. Most seemed somewhat shocked to see were still alive in all this.

Setting off about 7pm from the pub, we finally settled firmly back on English at the end of the day (by a good mile or so :P)

Code alpha: We won't talk about that
"It's happened again, we've gone mad."

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Day 13 - Loch Lomond to Crawford

With a late start to the day and knowing it took us a day previously to navigate around Glasgow to avoid it, we decided to head straight through it. Some cyclists the day before had mentioned that there should be a cycle path that follows the river and leads through the centre of Glasgow.

There was in fact a cycle path somewhere near the City centre, however being a City the signs naturally all pointed in the wrong (and generally circular) direction. Telford & Warwickshire have similar issues for those interested.

Quote of the day: "Why is it these people decide to design these places with a Spirograph?"

Anyhoo! After a lot of time going backwards and forwards (just to confuse you) we eventually managed to get out of Glasgow and start heading towards Crawford again. As we passed through Hamilton we stopped at a sandwich shop that we almost put out of business on the way up once more.
If a sandwich shop says that you can have as many toppings as you want for the same price, they really should expect a couple of gits (yours truly & co) to come and ask for everything. Twice. Each.

Once fully fueled we headed onwards again, only to get stopped shortly after as we entered (from the wrong side) a local parade. Eventually (though I'm not sure when or how) some movement happened again, reaching the ever haunted Crawford about 8pm.

In other News:
Random wave/cheering due to topless cycling count: 5
Some general advice:
If by see an iceberg. My suggestion is to almost defiantly stop!
[Aside] Iceberg != Mountain

Day 12 - Heading South!

In a vague attempt to avoid having to go over Rannoch Moor again, we headed for the coastal route towards Oban. Although this added a fair few miles to the journey, it proved useful as we found yet another flat and smooth cycle path.
Cunningly, a fair amount of dynamite and the like had been put to use on this path, cutting through the rocks around the Loch and keeping the path relatively flat (though I think they must have had budget cuts in some places).

Even with the wind behind us and a smooth path, the extra miles meant it was early evening by the time we reached Crianlarich. We eventually stopped (quiet suddenly) halfway down Loch Lomond, finding a nice little 'campsite' (In the loosest sense of the word) right on the Loch...literally.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Day 11 - Assault on Ben Nevis

We woke up 'nice' and early, managing to catch a lift to the bottom of Ben Nevis from a couple staying at the bunkhouse (whose names I still don't know...only spent three days with them after all!).

Quote of the day: 'Your dog's come loose again'

We set off from the visitors centre at about 10am thinking we had a full days climb ahead of us. By lunchtime we had reached the summit after apparently 'forgetting' to pace ourselves again. Thanks to this rather brisk stroll up to the top, we didn't see a thing from the summit as the cloud level hadn't had chance to lift. On this bright side, 'it's all downhill from here folks!'

After a brief scout around the plateau & a baguette or so later, we headed back down into the sunshine. Once again taking full advantage of gravity and then some, we were back with our feet safely on the ground after just over 4.5hrs of climbing/running/sliding etc.

Day 10 - Day off!

As you can probably guess from the title, not a lot happened on our one day off in the trip. Lot of junk food was eaten, some TV was watched and the odd card tower made.

Oh, and Dave found a gun/knife shop and spent a fair amount of time in there.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Day 9 - Balloch to Fort William (Via Rannoch Moor)

Departing from the B&B on a full stomach and three or four cups of tea we quickly made our way up the side of Loch Lomond. All went fairly well until we left the Drover's Inn (Yeah, the one mentioned earlier) after.
Inside the Drover's is really quiet impressive, see for yourself:

Everything after the Drover's Inn was an uphill struggle, with a mixture of strong head winds, rubbish road surface and having to climb over rannoch moor. But for every up, there is a down! To be precise, half hour of downhill through the winding roads of glencoe towards the end of the day. (No chance of going back the same way though!)

We turned into a bunkhouse just just before 10pm, turned out to be around the same price as a why not!

Day 8 - Crawford to Balloch

Following all hints not to go through Glasgow, we spent the day going around it, finding the closer you get to Glasgow, the more cars try to kill you. Towards the end of the day, we reached the Erskine bridge...things got very very wet after this point.
Just look at the picture for the contrast in weather (Sunny south on the right, black clouds of doom to the left...guess where we're heading).
After cowering in a phone box for 10mins from the torrential rain, we were rescued by Mark & Steve, the cyclists heading to John O'Groats from earlier. After some much needed piss taking by these guys, we headed up towards Loch Lomond.
At Balloch we stopped for the first time in a week in a real bed....amazing! There were two meals that night, real tea, a shower, clean cloths & a full English in the morning. What more can you ask for really?

Day 7 - To Scotland!

We woke up (quiet late) to find that our route had suddenly crossed over with the guys doing Lands End to John O'Groats. Every Pub after this point quickly identified us as cyclists (not entirely sure why, we didn't exactly 'look the part'....perhaps it's just that look of 'argh....feed me!').
We were eased into the first part of the 100 mile trek towards Glasgow by some friendly company in the form of two guys doing Lands End to John O'Groats. When our paths parted, they brought us both a couple of drinks, which was very much appreciated indeed at the end of the day. Over the next few days we regularly bumped into these two as it turned out we were heading along the same road up to Fort William after all!
Before stopping for the night, we stopped at a pub in Crawford. Here we met a couple of very jolly fellows who gave us this advice:

"Whatever you do, you have to go to the Drovers Inn!" (At least 6 really do have to go to the Drover's Inn, seriously.)

"When you get to the Drover's Inn, you must have the Steak Pie!" (again, he wasn't wrong)
"Aye, if ye go over the the way....I say boot a mile or so.....*slur* there be a wee place where ye can free camp. Anyone can go up there, its free." (this goes on for a while and a little open to interpretation)
"....So do you know anything about Crawford? You do know it's the most haunted village in the UK right?" (thanks guys)
Me: "Oh, right. So we can order pizza to the woods then. Worked on Top Gear, honestly."

Day 6 - Lancaster to Carlisle

By this point we'd got ourselves a day a head of schedule by pure madness and a lack of knowing when to stop. So much madness that Dave had managed to work his bottom bracket loose. After a quick fix at Kendal, we headed on through the Lake District.

Some important food facts:

Three ice creams from iceland one after the other = good

Fruit loaves that are the best part of your GDA from asda = better

Moving on, we arrived in Penrith around 6-7pm and were thinking of finding somewhere to sleep for the night. For lack of a better option, and just to see what happened we found a local police station.

Apparently, police cells arn't open to the public....even if your a few hundred miles into a 1000mile trip. Oh well, at least we tried.
Sleeping arrangements got worse after this, after getting kicked out of a field (people are less welcoming around these parts) we carried on through Carlisle. In the end, we simply pitched by the roadside for the night.

If your a police officer in the Lake District, you really do need a rally car!]

Day 5 - Liverpool to Lancaster

With a very wet start to the day and waterproofs giving in, we decided to hide for a while in a MC Donald's. After a couple of minutes of standing around for a few minutes a wet floor sign was put up due to the puddle we'd created!

Eventually, we made our way to the Liverpool tunnel. This is apparently closed to cyclists apart from on Sundays :S. Given that it wasn't a Sunday, we were forced to take the train across.

This turned out to be a complicated experience given the platform was several floors below the entrance. Getting a bike with panniers and a tent into a small lift is an art in itself.

Once across the other side of the tunnel, we headed up to Preston. Arriving in Preston we decided enough was enough and a change of cloths was in order.

A place to change was eventually pointed out to us after a lengthy explanation as to why we needed to take loaded panniers into a shopping mall to the security team (twice).

Feeling thoroughly refreshed we pressed on towards Lancaster, stopping once more to ask for somewhere to sleep for the night. This was a more interesting experience than the previous time, meeting a fellow Scientist who originally taught in Hull. We also had directions and advice of "not Lancaster" from a Swiss chef, before heading once more for the coast!

After being persuaded that camping on the beach wasn't a good idea, we headed off once more into the night, but not before some fish and chips by the sea. At around 11pm, we'd had enough and Dave decided flagging down a random jogger would be a good idea. After advice of "camp anywhere" and not believing said jogger, we headed for a pub for better local info.

It turns out the jogger was spot on, as we were offered a variety of fields, barns and a morning brew by farmers and the like. We ended up setting up camp in a field at the back of the pub at midnight. Thanks, to all farmers around Carnforth!

Day 4 - On the road again

The plan for the day was to slowly make our way up to the north coast of Wales, stopping after 3 miles or so instead of having a day off after Snowdon. We didn't.

By lunchtime we had made it up to Conwy by the coast, so decided to head off on the A55 towards Liverpool. Apparently one 5 is good (i.e. A5), but even numbers of 5 is very bad indeed (A55) as for some reason cyclists are not permitted on this road.

No matter though! We found a better way, closer to the coast. It turns out there is a very flat, very smooth cycle route that follows the coast all the way round to Flint (Fflint if your Welsh). For those wishing to cycle along this splendid piece of genius (highly recommended), its cycle route 5! (naturally).

Quote of the day: "Slow down, your back wheel's going faster than the front!"

Turning point: Here we gave up on campsites, and opted instead for asking random people "Say, if you had a tent...where would you sleep round here?" Best reaction out of these being "My bed"

Day 3 - Attack on Snowdon

Let's be typically British and start with a weather update. Yep, you guessed it. Hottest day yet (29 degrees!....That's getting on for West 117 hot!). With tee-shirts still seeming like a fairly pointless invention, we struggled to the top, taking around 3 hours in total.

Much to Dave's disappointment, we accidentally (thanks to a rather useless bus driver) made and assault on the Watkin path....again! (after swearing never to again). At the top the cafe was finally open, looking a lot less like a spaceship than I had expected.

Inside I ordered something (to quote Douglas Adams) tasted almost exactly, unlike tea. Whilst attempting to cheer up my tea with a few good helpings of sugar, we got talking to a couple of guys who had just completed the 3 peaks challenge (the 24 hour version). They seemed quiet startled to hear we were on the same mission, but pedalling between mountains.

The decent following the Miner's path down was much easier, making full use of that 9.81 ms^-2 stuff.

Back down in Bedgelert, we met an incredible fellow from Liverpool who turned out to be a soldier back from Afghanistan with one hell of a war wound. After hearing what we were planning to do, he instantly brought us both a drink and offered us a lift to Liverpool. This was dismissed, partly as it would have involved leaving his girlfriend behind.
Thoughts of the day:

Will not be discussed....ever

Has realised that the spell check will correct for Afghanistan but not Bedgelert....interesting

Day 2

After a slow start the previous day, we decided to catch up by cycling the remaining 85 miles or so to Bedgelert at the bottom of Snowdon. Thanks to the fantastic road conditions on the A5 and avoiding going over mountains in Bala this panned out pretty well.
The heat from Day 1 was still the same, but mixed with impressive downpours of rain. En route we met a couple towing a caravan, who like us were planning on climbing Snowdon the following day. Eventually after a long chat we eventually found the energy to finish climbing the beast of a hill we had stopped on.

Towards the end of the day the weather seemed to get impressively hotter. At this point tee-shirts were another item I was starting to think there was no need to bring!

During the last 10 miles or so of the day, we rather suprisingly bumped into Ben from home. If anyone would like to hazard a guess at the chances of meeting someone you know on a barely used road, given we were planning to do the trip in reverse order....I would love to hear it!
Anyhoo, eventually collapsed at Cae Du campsite, same as last year. Frustratingly the guy who owned the campsite didn't recognise us. Nor did we find the guy who was planning on buying the B&B in the village we met last year.

Day 1 (29th July 09)

Set off at around 10:00am with an estimated 160% chance of dying between Dave and Myself. The plan was to reach Oswestry by the end of the 1st day, but thanks to some of the hottest British weather EVER we were forced to stop early at Shrewsbury.

Random Tally:

Road Kill: 2
Dave almost dying from the heat: 1

Thoughts of the day:
Temperature is 27 degrees and I'm waterproofs, a sleeping bag and thermal base layers....why?

A5 is amazing! - Top speed 35mph on flat (and that's not on a road bike!)

"If sound could travel to the Sun how long would it take to tell it to bugger off?"
"Well, it takes 8 mins for light travelling at 3x10^8 m/s to reach earth, and sound
travels at around 300 m/s. So it would take about 8x10^6 mins (...obviously)."


This is a brief attempt to record 18 days worth of cycling and climbing on a more legible format than some scraps of paper. Hopefully this will keep getting bigger as I remember more things from the trip (though I expect they will get further and further from the truth)

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All money raised goes to the British Heart Foundation, Thanks.

Enjoi :)