The blog

22 Oct

Back at home…

Nevis Cycles

Latest News Flash: Mr Billy has been reinstated as Bed Inspector at Park House, Stratford upon Avon

We would like to say thanks to the following people who made this a bit easier:

The Cycle Studio, Stratford Upon Avon – For your advice, for supplying our kit

Richard Edward Painter – For your really helpful advice and support

Richard Popple – For being there on Snowdon and for transporting the kayaks

Tracey and Martin – For your support and your assistance in carbohydrate upload in Padstow, top drawer as usual!

Michael from Carousel Digital – for the website, for your help and great advice and producing our vehicle graphics so quickly

Sammy, Griff, Lucy and Laura – for your support at all times

Carol – For your nutritional advice before and during this challenge, for your support too

Gillian – for being with us on the 3 peaks, for a good laugh and your continued support

Fred Baker Cycles in Bristol (Donny) – what can we say, top class service, nothing too much bother

Elens Castle Hotel – Betwys y Coed – thanks to Adam and Helen and your regulars for making us feel so welcome, we will be back!

Elidir – our Snowdon guide

Stephen and Jean Heyes for their support at Llangollen, Bala and Chester

Tom Mitchell, for your support and coming to see us

The pub in Montgomery – for helping Ruth out when her mobile phone ran out

The IBIS at Preston North – Really helpful, friendly staff, nothing was too much bother

Katie, Dave, Jules and Fred, for your support all through and for joining us for the Carnforth stretch

Rob Hopkin – for your support and advice, for sorting out the kayaks, for being a mate

Ray Webb for his support and advice regarding bike shops and his very funny messages that kept us smiling

Harbour Master – Lake Windermere

Phil Kershaw our Scafell Pike guide

Hillthwaite House Hotel – to the really nice chap who works there for following our progress on Windermere on his day off

Best Western Moffat House Hotel – lovely staff, lovely hotel

Loch Lomond – Inn on Loch Lomond – wow, what can we say, we will be back

Nevis Cycles – Just brilliant, your work was first class, the most friendly bike shop North of the Watford Gap!

Ben Nevis Guide (Nathen) – for not turning back in such terrible weather

Bombay Duck Restaurant Fort William – for the scoff – superb!

The unknown boat owner on Loch Ness for the use of their boat, it was cheeky of us and we would have asked if you had of been there…

Best Western Palace Hotel in Inverness – lovely hotel, lovely staff

The Royal Marine Hotel Brora – For the most relaxing couple of nights on this challenge, your hotel is beautiful, your staff are great too

To ALL of our supporters

The many people who waved and smiled along the way

To the sad creatures that tried to mow us down with deliberately poor driving and those who shouted obscenities, thank you, maybe your place in life is to serve as proof to us that evolution can work in reverse?

Best Quotes

Waitress to Hoppy “the soup of the day is Mental and your server today is Lairy”

Ruth to Felix when faced with 110 mile ride in bad weather “Think of this not as a really long cycle ride, but as an exercise in recapturing your youth”

Felix Schmid (Kirkstone Pass to Pooley Bridge) “I am going to write a book, called False Summit, A Celebration of British Road building”

Mr Billy when arriving home “err, Mum, this bed is too hard”

Ecclefechan Taekwon-Do – Just made Colin and Felix laugh

Anon – “No, don’t look over the side, or de little fishes will bite yer nose off, so they will”

Felix would like to personally thank the following people:

Dr. Mark Sterling, Head of the School of Engineering for allowing him unpaid leave at the start of the academic year.

Mrs Joy Grey for dealing with all office issues in my absence

Will Cooper and the team for producing the postcards.

Charles Watson for keeping troubles away from me.

Florence for pulling me up and down mountains.

Robert Stolz for completing my heavy haul bicycle at minimal notice.

Rob Hopkin, Bridget, Richard Popple and…me!


19 Oct

Day 18 – Brora to John o Groats

The Final Day 055 small

Firstly, apologies for the delay in this post.

The final day started cold, with a bitter wind chill and it was mostly overcast with huge black threatening cloud.

The boys set off from Brora at a good speed whilst Bridget packed and I did the shopping for their lunch break and refuelled the car.  The weather had brightened a bit, but the wind seemed even colder to us soft Southerners so I was pleased to hear the local woman at the petrol station say it was “‘f”ing freezing”

By the time we caught them up they were at the top of a very large hill looking really pleased with themselves. They were actually enjoying these really steep inclines now, which quite frankly makes you a bit of a weirdo in my books!

Lunch was taken at a lovely village about half way to JOG, the boys were really cold and got into the car to warm through before setting off again.  We travelled on to John o Groats to check out the route in to the signpost.  At this point the weather changed drastically, we drove through horizontal rain and hailstones and the wind was gusting really badly.  I got out the car at one point and could hardly hold the door, it was awful.

As the boys approached John o Groats they were so cold that they could not feel their hands and feet, despite having dressed for these conditions.  A tired, frozen and emotional pair of cyclists arrived at the signpost at approximately 1430hrs.

We stopped briefly for photographs and quickly loaded up the bikes and started the thawing out process in the car.

Final statistics for you (TBC):

940 miles cycled

47,384 feet climbing on bikes

34,496 calories burned cycling

32 miles of kayaking

10,990 feet climbing on foot

The picture is of the boys holding up their Railway Children cycling vest, they were going to be wearing these, but it was too dangerous to strip down to put them on given how cold it was.

One final post to follow tomorrow.  But I would like to say at this point, this is not the end, this is just the beginning for Ultimate Three…

17 Oct

Day 17 – Loch Ness to Brora

Colin and Felix are both looking tired today, I think the kayaking really took its toll on their muscles.  Together with the lactic build up from the Ben, they are a wee bit uncomfortable.

It is a bitterly cold day and Felix has now taken to covering his legs with ‘leg warmers’.  Unfortunately it reduced him to looking like Nora Batty as the boys transited through Inverness.  After some ‘adjustment’ in the trouser department, they stayed up for the rest of the day.

A good early start today though, with no mishaps whatsoever!  The bikes ran well and the boys made great time.  The terrain was a little kinder in terms of climbs and the roads were without too many gaping holes.

We met up around lunchtime, Colin said that a truck had narrowly missed hitting Felix with its trailer a few minutes earlier, there really is not an excuse for driving as poor as that :-(

They have now arrived at Brora, which is a lovely village approximately 60 miles from the finish.  The hotel is once again very nice and the people here are really friendly.  Two policemen tooted their support today, so did two RLC soldiers who were running an army boot camp for women! That sort of thing really cheers the boys up.

Felix has taken up an offer from me to ride my road bike for the last stage of this journey.  Given that we have all ribbed him somewhat about the weight of his Swiss made steel bike in comparison to ours, I think it is really nice that he wants to try out my racing bike and not just let my tyres down instead! This means that Felix’s bike will be the back up bike (which is in fact my veiled threat to Colin not to break his AGAIN)!

I can report to you all that there is snow on the mountains here, with more coming this week.  Probably good that it is the final leg of the journey tomorrow .  Having started out from Cornwall with temperatures of 28 degrees we are now down to about 5 degrees.

PS/ Billy has been sacked as bed inspector, this is because this hotel insists that its beds are inspected by customers and staff only, not Mr Billy.  He has however, filed a case for unfair dismissal on the grounds of discrimination regarding his facial hair problem.

17 Oct

Day 16 – Loch Ness

Nessie Mascot (2)

Today started with an early breakfast.  Rob and Colin had agreed that the weather was likely to be very tricky on the loch and decided that ‘sooner, rather than later’ was the best plan of attack.

Gillian left us this morning with Lily, Florence and Rosie, so we said our farewells and set off to bag the loch.

Finding a launch point was not too difficult and the boys set off  swiftly with a very strong south westerly breeze behind them.

The weather was just about as bad as it gets for kayaking and the strong wind and torrential rain were causing us all a great deal of concern.  It was disconcerting to say the least, that this loch is so vast, we could not see them for much of the way.

To be brutally honest, Felix could not be described as anything other than an enthusiastic amateur when it comes to kayaking and Colin did his training many years ago with no practice since then, so we were all relived to see them both after about 14 miles.  By this time the waves on the loch were reaching 3 feet, they were also regularly swamping the boats.  The final two miles were the hardest 2 miles for everyone. The boys both did brilliantly to kayak 17 miles in these conditions, no lack of bottle there.

Earlier on, when on the radio to Rob, Flacky described the conditions as “a bit exciting” as always master of the understatement, at this point Rob and I both understood that the game over light was starting to flash.

Needless to say, we were very pleased to pull 2 cold, exhausted kayakers from the loch when we found somewhere to bring them in (our thanks to the owner of a very nice boat which we commandeered during this operation, hopefully they are still none the wiser)!

It was back to the hotel to warm through for the kayakers.  At this point Rob left us, he was off to visit his parents who live in Inverness. Our grateful thanks are sent to him.  He has carried the kayaks on the car since bringing them from Long Marston to the Lake District.  He has been instrumental in planning the kayaking and also our resident comedian and bon oeuf ;-)

The picture is of the Nessie mascot from Gillian, she comes with us in Colin’s pocket now :-) x

15 Oct

Day 15 – The Ben!

The Ben 2

We all met for breakfast at 0800hrs and then met our guide Nathan at 0900hrs and set off for the short drive to the foot of Ben Nevis.

The weather was of course raining and pretty grim.  Our long steady ascent took approximately 3.5 hours, during which the weather deterioated further with height.  We were amazed at how busy the track was and that at one point we had to wait for five minutes as a party of 180 walkers descended!

About 30 minutes later we summited, a quick photograph was taken a we started the descent, catching up with the aforementioned party all too soon :-(  We spent the next hour negotiating our way past them.  We were all very glad to get safely down without any real incident, despite the dreadful weather.

Thanks to our guide Nathan for  today.

A special mention to Gillian, Florence, Rosie and Lily who completed the Ben today, this completed their own ‘Three Peaks’ challenge for Hounds for Heroes.  The dogs were once again unfazed by the dreadful weather and challenging terrain.  They are leaving us tomorrow to return home to Kent, we will miss them, it has been really great spending time with them.

 

15 Oct

Day 14 – Loch Lomond to Fort William

Glencoe (3) Small 2

Colin and Felix had a good start this morning and were away promptly.  Approximately one hour later Colin called to say he had broken his bike.  The roads around the Loch have more than their share of potholes and Colin managed to avoid most of them, the only one he landed in was enormous.  The result of which was a puncture and he sheared off the mech hanger.  I arrived with the spare bike and while Colin fixed on pedals, lights etc. it was decided that to avoid getting too cold, Felix should continue cycling.  Flacky was on the road 20 minutes later on a mission to catch Felix up.

The boys met up at Crianlarich  Station Cafe and had a cup of tea and some cake before setting off again.  I was by then en route to ‘Nevis Cycles with the ‘patient’.  After the dash to Fort William I was off again to meet the boys with some hot food.  They had a very long ride ahead of them so we had to keep the energy levels up.  We met again on the A82 which runs through the Highlands,we stopped just short of Glen Coe.

The boys set off again for the second stage of the ride.  I set off to find the launderette that Rob had sent me the details of.  Whilst I did the washing I chatted with a fascinating woman who worked there (I did not ask her name), this woman had herself trekked in the Himalaya’s.  Meanwhile, Colin and Felix sped on through Fort William towards Fort Augustus.  Bridget met the boys on the road into Fort William, Flacky was so impressed he fell off his bike… again! He was in a giggling heap for a while before he got himself off the tarmac.

I collected Bridget and we set off to pick up the boys from Fort Augustus.  We met them at about 2000 hours.

One long ride!

Stats for the day:  105 Miles cycled, 3200 calories burned, 3800 feet climbed.

 

 

 

14 Oct

Day 13 – Moffat to Luss, Loch Lomond

Loch Lomond small

It was planned that Felix would take my road bike today whilst I relayed his to the bike workshop in Dumfries as he had a problem with his brakes.  Luckily Rob Hopkin had joined us again during the evening and looked at the problem with a fresh pair of eyes and after an adjustment or two, Felix was back on his trusty steed.

From Moffat they cycled towards Hamilton.  Lunch was taken at a truck stop where a good friend of Felix, Tom Mitchell, turned up to show his support.  He even had a short spin on Colin’s bike, which he thought was nice but should have had bigger tyres :-)

The days cycling took in Glasgow, which to be fair has some long cycle paths around and through the centre, along the river.  The Sustrans signs are not brilliant and the boys took some unusual scenic routes, adding another few miles to their already decent mileage.  Their first mistake was noticed by Colin who realised that the river was flowing in the wrong direction!

The ride finished in the dark, the boys arrived at about eight o clock after having a puncture en route.

Now, the hotel, sort of made up for the long ride.  What a beautiful location on the edge of the Loch, our rooms overlooked the water, and we even had a private sauna in the room, now there’s lush :-)

The picture is the view that made it all worthwhile this morning… well it will appear soon

Statistics:

94 miles cycled, 2600 feet climb, 2821 calories burned

ps/ Mr Billy approves of the bed here too!

 

 

 

 

 

13 Oct

Day 12 – Pooley Bridge to Moffat

Billy on 4 Poster in Moffat

We left the lovely Lake District for Scotland today.  I dropped Felix and Colin at Pooley Bridge, where they finished two days ago.  Driving back over the Kirkstone Pass and looking down at ‘The Struggle’ the boys were pleased to have nailed this at the end of their last day.

I had Colin’s bike on board (he was using mine), the gears are still not right, so I was on a mission to get them fixed.  This was not going to be difficult as I had already agreed to take the bike back to Keswick where they were ready to re-cable it.  The trouble was I remembered it as Kendal and headed there instead :-(

Luckily, I had a 3G signal and looked up cycle shops on Google and found that one of the largest in Europe was only up the road in Staveley.  The maintenance team there were great, they decided that a re-cable might help and got on with it straight away.  An hour later I was back on the M6 on to find the boys somewhere in Scotland by now.

We eventually met up between Gretna and Lockerbie, the boys were pleased to have some good solid food and cake at this stage.  They said the ride was a hard grind, with one short break whilst Flacky threw himself on the floor in Carlisle, (he will do anything for attention)!

Gillian and myself pushed on to Moffat to walk the dogs and check out the hotel.  Unusual perfect timing meant that we met the boys on the road as we came out of one of the beautiful river walks in Moffat.

The Hotel is the Best Western Moffat House Hotel, its really nice and the food is great too.  The picture today is not the one I had planned of the boys at the Welcome to Scotland sign, this is because I am having problems getting it up the right way!  So instead you have a picture of Mr Billy carrying out the ‘Bed Inspector’ role at our hotel.  He likes this one, Buster has the chaise :-)

Statistics: 66 miles cycled, 2203 ft climb, 2034 calories burned

12 Oct

Day 11 – Climb Scafell Pike

P1000041

The day started as usual with a hearty breakfast at the hotel before making tracks to meet the mountain guide Phil Kershaw at Dungeon Ghyll Car Park at Langdale.

The weather was pretty gloomy, overcast but not raining.  The Langdale route up Scafell Pike is not the easiest, this one is more challenging with a long walk in, it was deliberately chosen to provide good training for ‘The Ben’.

The ascent took approximately three and a half hours, it was, as expected, cloudy at the top.  The boulder fields were particularly difficult.  Gillians three dogs (Florence, Lily and Rosie) were fantastic, they coped really well with these obstacles. Felix’s devotion to getting Florence up the mountain was only matched by Florence’s devotion to getting Felix up the mountain, it was hard to tell who was leading who!

Special thanks must go to Phil Kershaw our patient and knowledgeable guide for the day, we all really enjoyed his company, it felt like we had know each other for years.

The evening was capped off nicely with a small celebration for Florence’s birthday, with fireworks and cake…on a small scale :-)

 

 

 

 

10 Oct

Day 10 – Windermere Kayak

It has rained in Windermere  pretty much non-stop since we arrived. We woke this morning to even heavier rain and really strong gusting winds.  To be honest, I woke to the sound of Colin’s brain chuntering through the various options open to them if the weather did not change.  In tricky situations Colin’s Army training tends to kick in, which is quite funny to watch from the sideline, I rib him terribly about the ‘Colonels Arm’ which starts to direct people in these situations. I have learned to tell the difference between an order (straight hand, closed fingers), or a suggestion (open fingers straight hand), amongst others.

The forecast said that there would be a break in the weather at around lunchtime before the next weather system moved in.  Colin and Rob agreed that we had to wait and see if that was right before attempting to kayak the lake.  In the meantime there was admin to be done.

So, after a hearty breakfast Gillian and I set out to walk the dogs in torrential rain.  This is because, apparently, twice around the hotel car park in the rain is not enough for them (although it clearly is for Mr Billy, who has taken to his role as hotel bed inspector and is treating it very seriously indeed).

When we arrived at Windermere the weather was foul, which meant the place was deserted.  The dogs had a good run, during which time the weather started clearing, the wind dropped and the lake became a much nicer place.  Gillian and I reported back to the boys and they agreed to set out to meet us lakeside and get underway.

The kayaking was done in two parts of approximately 6 miles and 5.5 miles respectively, with a short ‘comfort break’ halfway.  The boys finished in a fairly respectable time for amateurs and I have to admit that they did not look too shabby either.

I am pleased for them both, with the prospect of a 24 mile kayak the length of Loch Ness looming nearer each day they need a confidence boost for what could prove to be their hardest test of this challenge.

On the subject of confidence boosts, your messages and good wishes are really helping the morale so please keep them coming.

Tomorrow the boys set off to climb Scafell Pike.  Gillian is of course joining them for her penultimate climb for her Hounds for Heroes challenge.

The highlight of the day had to be the gap in the weather, it is raining again now, no wonder it is so green here!

Ruth