Tuesday, 18 July 2017
Monday, 17 July 2017
Guest Contributor: James Strother (jnr)
So Dad beat me to it but I couldn't resist a final round-up of the last stage of Dad's tour...
L’early départ meant that by 10am he was halfway, the weather was rising and there wasn’t a word of the much maligned toothache. In fact, the only injury being talked about was the previous evening's crab-inflicted gash to Dave’s hand. Who knew crabs were at their most dangerous, served on a beautifully presented dinner plate? Some nifty plaster work brought a new meaning to the term dressed crab.
Thursday, 13 July 2017
Miles ridden: 984.2
Kilometres ridden: 1583.9
Miles per day: 61.5
Kilometres per day: 98.9
Total riding time: 89h 48m
Ave. riding time per day: 5h 36m
Total height climbed: 55530ft / 16926m or almost climbing Everest twice
Max. height climbed in a day: 6825ft / 2080m on D14 Uffculme to Pensilva over Dartmoor or more than Scafell Pike and Snowdon combined
Maximum speed: 42.1 mph / 67.75 kph on D14 on the A390 between Tavistock and Pensilva (On D8 Garmin has recorded 54.4 mph / 87.54 kph which would have been on the descent from Kirkstone Pass. I think this is a recording error as I can't envisage riding that fast, although if I was I would not have been looking at the speedo at the time!)
The links below should take you to a map of each day's ride, with a variety of stats about distance, time, overall speed and moving speed and so on. Please let me know if the link doesn't work or there is any other problem. A couple of days have two links as tech problems split the recording into two. For those interested I tried Garmin, Plot-a-route, Google and at least one other but eventually devised the route using Strava and downloaded each day's ride to a Garmin 820 Edge Explore bike satnav. This then recorded all the relevant data live and sent it via bluetooth to my mobile, which sent it to Garmin Connect, enabling live tracking for anyone who'd asked me to add their email address. The rides are recorded and uploaded for anyone to download and use if they wish.
Day 1 Luton to Inverness by Easyjet, John O'Groats Bike Company to start.
Start to Thrumster
Day 2 Thrumster to Dornoch
Day 3 Dornoch to Whiteridge (Loch Ness)
Day 4 Whitebridge to Glencoe
Day 5 Glencoe to Luss (Loch Lomond)
Day 6 Luss to Abington (M74)
Day 7 Abington to Carlisle (pt 1)
Day 7 Abington to Carlisle (pt 2)
Day 8 Carlisle to Milnthorpe
Day 9 Milnthorpe to Wigan
Day 10 Wigan to Wem
Day 11 Wem to Hereford
Day 12 Hereford to Clevedon
Day 13 Clevedon to Uffculme
Day 14 Uffculme to Tavistock
Day 14 Tavistock to Pensilva
Day 15 Pensilva to Mithian
Day 16 Mithian to Land's End
|Got the T-shirt!|
|Not too many of those - one more day to go|
|Sue and Mum on Saturday - not far now|
In this final entry I'll try and summarise my JOGLE, but I will sign off with a huge thank you to everyone who contributed through sponsorship (it's not too late!), those who met me en route, cycling or otherwise, and all the friends and family who trekked down to Cornwall to celebrate both the end of the ride and my landmark birthday. I will single out only two people, my Mum who I really wanted to be there for my big event, and Sue who supported me all through the planning and training and came up to Lancashire as well as down to Cornwall for the finish.
|Birthday fireworks at the Miners' Arms|
I suppose I started planning this many years ago as a young boy when I first heard of Land's End - John O'Groats. However it only became serious last summer when I thought I should do something for my 60th and this came easily into my mind. I did a fair amount of research, including reading other blogs and getting in contact with people who had done the trip to gain from their experiences. Many evenings were spent reading, trying out route planning tools, deciding which kit to buy and to take, where to stay and whether to book or not, and considering many other factors that could make or break a successful trip.
Some major decisions were -
North-South / top to bottom or vice versa?
Wind, distance, a sense of coming home going south,
transport links, getting people to the finish line, all were in the mix.
What sort of bike?
In the end I just took the one I had.
Not as easy as it sounds - there are as many routes as people who do LEJOG/JOGLE. I tried to fit it into the time I had with as few main roads as possible, not possible in Scotland but I did manage some canal towpaths and other offroad sections later on.
I chose to travel as light as I possibly could - sawn off toothbrush included! I stayed in B&Bs and small hotels mainly which helped and were generally comfortable.
Alone, with a mate, in a group?
I really felt it was my challenge and just wanted to do it myself. I wouldn't have refused an offer from a compatible friend but didn't go looking.
At the start I wasn't sure I'd done enough training but I must have done because each day after the first few I didn't have any real doubts about managing, as long as the knee held out. Doing a couple of consecutive long trips at a weekend was good for building confidence. I did quite a lot in the gym over the winter, 45 minute high intensity spinning classes where the majority were 30+ years younger than me. As the weather improved 10 or 20 mile evening or Saturday rides increased to 40s and 50s, then up to 60. A painful knee was diagnosed as....a typical 59 year old knee by a specialist, so I used Ibuprofen as a preventative measure and managed a 74 mile ride followed by 51 on the May Bank Holiday without serious ill effects. It was only then that I started thinking I might be able to do the consecutive long days necessary to complete the distance in two weeks.
It was varied: challenging, enjoyable, painful, occasionally boring, fun, frustrating, amusing, just about everything really. You see a lot of Scotland, England and a bit of Wales, some of which I knew, other parts I want to go back to, and it makes you want to stop and explore, but you can't as there's a job to be done and a destination to reach. If I did it again I'd take longer and avoid more main roads than I was able to, particularly in Scotland. The weather was dire to begin with but I decided it could only improve and was relieved to find it did. I met a variety of people, mostly interested, indeed fascinated by what I was doing, and some like the dentist in Lockerbie who I really didn't expect to meet (the tooth did finally crack in Clevedon and will have to be removed). There were ex-naval cyclists also on JOGLE and a German national older than me with spoke problems by the roadside "I was hoping to get back to Germany"; the Egyptian and Jordanian trainee pilots living with the Polish and Irish labourers on a caravan site near Bristol Airport and the 80-year old cyclist still riding Bodmin Moor who handed me a fiver for the cause. It was great to stay with my wife Sue and my friend Paul from schooldays in a Lancashire castle, to ride with brother Giles down the Wye Valley, to have breakfast with colleague Darren F in Somerset and the next day ride with Anthony McG from his lovely village of Uffculme to Sainsbury's in Exeter for breakfast (sorry I missed you the next day Dave R). Glencoe and Rannoch Moor in Scotland, not to forget Lochs Ness, Lomond and lazily named Lochy, were special, followed by Ullswater in the Lake District and the single most arduous climb to 1500' up Kirkstone Pass. Crossing the Severn Estuary on first the M48 and then the M5 (cycleways both!) gave way to the wilds of Dartmoor, the hardest complete day as I added 15 miles, mostly climbing out of Tavistock, in order to shorten the following day - but the scenery and experience were magnificent. And then the final run under lowering skies at breakneck speed having ditched my load at the hotel and knowing I had only a few miles to go, from outside Penzance to Land's End itself.
I'd heard there are people who never want to get on a bike again and some who want to keep going indefinitely. I was at neither extreme, but was quite happy to get back on two feet and enjoy an extra day visiting a tin mine and St Michael's Mount without going near a bike. The courier who drove me from Inverness Airport to J O'G said some people arriving there from the South spend ten minutes taking photos and turn round for home the same day - I would recommend some R&R if you can manage it, partly to let the satisfying feeling of achievement sink in. I did, and it's great!
Routes and stats
Some take a month, more take about two weeks like me, others race it in ten days or fewer, like Sonny at Airwave who also knocked off the highest mountains in three countries as a hiking side-plate to the main cycling dish. I failed to upload all my routes to the blog on the way, so will finish off with a comprehensive list in the next few days.
Once again, thanks to anyone and everyone who supported me in any way or took enough interest to read the blog and wish me well. If you're thinking of trying it don't hesitate to ask me or anyone else who has: I took advantage of others' experience and while it was my unique trip I took something from everyone I spoke to.
Jim (James) Strother
|With Sue and Mum, still only 59, one day to go|
Sunday, 9 July 2017
Clearing up now as I breakfast on sausage rolls in Hayle, half way there but I expect some climbing before the final descent to Lands End.
Thanks for all the messages of support, birthday cards, donations still coming in. And we had a great night last night.
Saturday, 8 July 2017
Up early for a start before 7, knowing that I'd cut 15 miles and a lot of climbing from today's session was a good feeling. First target was Bodmin for breakfast in an old town hall office at the back of a bakery - see pic. Then through the tiny high-sided Cornish lanes, hardly any respite from the rollercoaster ups and downs, to St Columb Major for a doughnut and nectarine stop. After a chat up on the moor with an eighty-year-old cyclist Colin still very active and clearly fit, and who handed over a donation for my causes, I was tracked down by virtue of Garmin Connect GPS to St Newlyn East where the welcoming party kicked off celebrations albeit a day early! A further eight miles and I arrived at the Rose-in-Vale hotel where we are gathering for dinner tonight.
No time now as pre-dinner drinks await, so will post more later, and plenty of photos and a bit of video hopefully.
One remark - apart from thanks for some recent donations, blog comments, texts and whatsapps, if you have replied to the blog auto-emails I don't see anything so please re-send if you can.
|Bodmin Moor signpost|
|....and another one|
|Unusual and remarkable cafe in Bodmin|
|Tracked down in St Newlyn East by the fan club|
Friday, 7 July 2017
I did promise routes and stats the other day but didn't manage it. Today was the highest climbing day at 1437m for the main ride plus an amazing 643m post-Tavistock, but the landlord did say we're at 1000ft here. Mixed measures I'm afraid.
Try this link, mainly Dartmoor
Last big day tomorrow.
Thursday, 6 July 2017
The vans had gone by time I left at 7.45 and the roads were busy as I headed for Sweets cycle-friendly tea room near Glastonbury for a rendezvous with Darren F of Airwave who looks after police forces across the Southwest. Earlier Gill and Andy C chased me down for a photo-opportunity by the roadside and met us again at Sweets. Lots of chat and a breakfast later off I went, only to miss a turning and waste a good 5 miles. It was hot but the scenery consistently good. Bypassing Taunton, lunch was a quick sandwich by the roadside, then to Wellington and the final approach over Sampford Moor and a good downhill stretch into Uffculme and the George Hotel. A 7% local cider and a bath later and I met Anthony McG, also from Airwave, for a drink and catch-up, and to plan tomorrow. We are to meet at 7.30am and ride to Exeter for breakfast, before I tackle Dartmoor!
An extended ride allows for a slightly shorter one on Saturday, as the table is booked for 13 in Mithian, an appointment I can't miss. Tooth still present if not correct but painfree. Off to sleep now if the George customers go home. My phone died so no pics from me but maybe some from Darren or Gill if they can get them to James.
Wednesday, 5 July 2017
Through country lanes, spotting skylarks and buzzards and chatting about this and that, it was idyllic cycling. Away from the main roads the lanes tend to follow the rise and fall of the land rather than cutting through it, and the sudden steep inclines had me wondering about the prospects ahead across Dartmoor and Cornwall.
Then we arrived via Llanwarne (ruined church pic) in the much-disputed town of Monmouth, currently in England, for our morning tea/coffee stop. From there we followed the delightful Wye valley, the river always nearby if not in sight, stopping at the Brockweir bridge (I think) for photos of salmon fishermen in the glorious valley surroundings, and a chat with a couple of slightly older cyclists out for a day trip. Continuing on we passed magnificent Tintern Abbey in its river bend, then climbed away from the water before a rapid descent into Chepstow, its castle and iron bridge (pic), where a Gregg's sandwich by the riverside sufficed for lunch.
Then it was up on to the M48 bridge to cross the Wye outlet and then the main Severn river, with great views upstream from the cycleway. (Pic later from the shore). Shortly afterwards Giles departed towards Bristol City Parkway and his train to Oxford while I continued into Somerset. Not a pleasant experience to begin with as the cycle path petered out and the A403 was a stream of fast cars, vans and lorries heading for Avonmouth industrial and maritime complex. I then had to find my way to the M5 crossing of the Avon. This proved a little bizarre as I stopped to check my route with a pair of young riders who were clearly returning from school across this half mile crossing alongside the thundering motorway traffic. Two other pairs of lower end secondary children were walking across also, alongside the odd adult going to and from work as it appeared. On the other side was a long track meandering round huge industrial or storage facilities and massive car parks of new motors large and small awaiting delivery across the country. A strange environment for me but seemingly mundane for these local youngsters.
Suddenly everything was normal again and I headed into Portishead and along a busy rush hour B-day to Clevedon, and my accommodation for the night. I'd booked into a holiday camp expecting families and young couples but none were to be found. There was a clear divide between the owner-occupied bungalows with their pot plants and little gardens, and my end which was unadorned by any embellishment and seemed to be occupied almost exclusively by male workers presumably servicing local industry, and in their spare time barbequing their evening meal, phoning home to Poland, Ireland or wherever and drinking beer. The Jordanian and Egyptian in the adjoining cabin to mine offered some of their food and said they were training for their UK/EU pilot's licence conversion at a near Bristol Airport facility. I left having used the laundry and cycled into town for some dinner, feeling like a fish out of water, but just found the same sensation at a seafront, well, a Severn Estuary-front pub full of families and couples in the still bright evening sun (pic). I went back into town and was happy as the sole customer of the Bangla restaurant eating chicken Tikka drinking Tiger beer and setting the world to rights with the owner.
Now back in this potentially noisy drink-fuelled young men's environment it's as quiet as the grave.
More tomorrow as I head into Devon and a couple of rendezvous. And an update on the tooth situation: the ache has disappeared but tonight an errant poppodum seems to have partially broken off a section of tooth which is hanging in limbo not knowing whether to break clean away or hang on in there.
What fun. More ramblings tomorrow.
|Salmon fishermen on the Wye|
|The Severn estuary from Clevedon|
|The (new) Severn bridge|
|The Wye at Brockweir|
|Ruined church at Llanwarne|
|Stopping for morning tea in Monmouth|