What to do with a free long weekend? Cycle up to my parents home in Moray, NE Scotland.
They had just visited me down in Clevedon, so I loaded them up with my bike bag and some clothes, booked a flight back and roughed out a route. The plan was to finish sometime late Saturday, maybe Sunday.
I packed and repacked my bike ready for a quick transition from work desk to road on Wednesday evening. This didn’t go exactly to plan, I left work late, faffed around, drank coffee and delayed my planned start by about 1.5 hours.
The first segment was to Telford’ish, I had eyed up a woods where I could dissappear for the night. I later found out it was where Fred West had planted some of his victims.
As darkness drew in, my route choice soon showed some short falls. I had taken some really rough farm tracks. These would have been ok on a mtb in the day light, not in a road loaded road bike in the dark. After crashing in to a wall, I rerouted back to the safety of the a road and headed north.
Somewhere around Shrewsbury, I stopped at a petrol station to pick up some batteries for my gps (rechargeables weren’t a good choice) and some Haribo. I was directed to the local chippy around the corner.
I don’t normally eat fish, but was hungry and it was already cooked.
The next 40 miles passed quickly, excited about trying out my new bivvy and ultralight 1 season sleeping bag.
I arrived at the woods at around 1am, got off the road and found a blue bell patch which looked ideal for the night ahead.
Waking at around 7 am to the sound of a car pulling up was unnerving. I peeped out and was my resting place was a little more exposed than it had looked under the cover of darkness. I don’t think I was noticed. The driver got out and walked off into the woods as I quickly packed my kit up, hoping to look less dodgy.
After getting lost in a housing estate, I found breakfast in a lay by. Bacon and sausage sandwich with a large coffee.
This part of the route was easy enough, having ridden it on lejog a few years ago. It’s funny the features you remember, the roadside where I sat fixing a puncture and ripped tyre, the bollard the driver drove his car into whilst over taking, and the Asda where we took £100 from the atm promptly placing it in the bin with the rubbish.
Eventually i made it to Warrington.
Stopped for lunch at another fuel station.
As the day drew on, the realisation of not making it quute as far as planned sunk in. I knew I had to get further than the lake district and as I took in Shap, the weather turned, darkness fell along with my spirit. This was reinforced on the side of the road as I desperately looked for my leg warmers. .. maybe at home, maybe in last night’s woods, definitely not with me.
It was tough, half way from home, half way from destination, on top of a hill shivering and hungry. Shap village is bleak, as I rolled through I spotted a chippy. Closed. My peering eyes must have spoke volumes, as the ladies opened up the shop, fed me scraps and coffee. We talked, my spirits lifted, we even had a mutual friend! I set off, not exactly sure what was up ahead.
I made it to Penrith where a taxi driver directed me to a Travelodge. My Garmin showed 2c, I knew the temperature would drop further so didn’t fancy roughing it again. The Travelodge was full. In fact they were over subscribed by bookings, the lobby full of disappointment drunks and eager holiday makers.
Across the way was a golf course, I jumped a wall, hid my bike and tried to sleep. It was cold. I put all my clothes on, woke several times shivering, the final time at around 7 am which was a pretty good lie in considering. My luggage and bivvy were covered in frost, probably should have taken a warmer sleeping bag than the 8C rated one I had.
Back across the road to the Little Thief for breakfast, ordered enough for a small family. Warmed up, happy again I took to the road, somewhere along the way I managed to buy a replacement bottle cage for one of the titaniums ones that had broken the previous day.
Gretna was the first mile marker, in little over 24 hours, I had done Clevedon to Scotland.
I pulled in at a truck stop just north of Lockerbie for second breakfast, they had shower facilities… I was tempted but had to press on.
The next hour or so passed swiftly, I pulled over in to Abington motorway service station for some refreshments, a LEJOG group were enjoying the sun and kindly looked after my bike while I stocked up on cheese and pork pies.
As I approached Edinburgh, I started to think about the evenings plans, the weather on the radio was predicted to sub zero for the area. As I crossed Queensferry Bridge, the wind picked up, the temperature dropped along with my plans for roughing it for a third night. I checked the map and saw I could make Perth for a reasonable time.
Arriving in Perth at around 9pm, the Salutation Hotel was recommended to me by the first full hotel. Quite a grand place, apparently the oldest hotel in Scotland.
The service was exceptional, even if my lycra clad body and flashing LEDs offended the group of purple rinses enjoying Neil Sedaka. Room service, kettle, shower and bed were put to good use, I even had a pint!
The inclusive breakfast wasnt served until 8am, late for a hotel, but it was a good excuse to stay in bed and get the rest.
I filled up on the self serve, porridge, fruit, nuts, toast, cake and finishing with haggis, bacon, black pudding… oh and stuffed my jersey with more cheese.
Having made it to Perth, the distance for the final day was a relatively short 120m, there were some hills, the first being about 25miles up to Glenshee ski resort where I stopped to eat yet again, soup and cake this time.
This was certainly the best days riding Ive had since Tenerife. Miles of beautiful scenery, nice climbs, better descents.
After climbing the Lecht, the hills were all done and mentally I knew I had the ride in the bag. Around another 40 miles, mainly down hill and I’d be at my parents on the Moray coast. Passing Glenfiddich distillery, recognising where I was I put a bit of effort in and TT’d the final drag, passing my Aunt and cousin who waved and cheered me on, I felt I should have stopped, but I was less than 10miles from the end. My parents came out to meet me, having watched my progress on my Spot tracker. It was great to see them.
I spent the evening admiring my tan lines over a beer.
Next stop, Brevet Cymru