Archive for July, 2010

Back to beautiful

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

Wigan to Carnforth:

After all that chatter about today being short, it turned out to be a reasonable length, and all that enthusiasm and energy for taking the hilly route had well and truly gone by the morning.

The grim up north label from yesterday does need revising as it is most definitely getting more scenic now we’ve left the main roads and Wigan behind. Thinking we had a short day had us taking the Sustrans cycle route that sends you on weird zigzag paths, just to avoid little bits of main road, but at least they’re on nice country roads. We were even next to the seaside at one point, although the bike computer had us about 80 feet below sea level – it is allowed a funny 5 minutes with all the use it’s getting.

The rain has been teasing us again, fortunately nowhere near as bad as last night, but enough to make us stop and don gear which invariably caused the rain to then stop.

That’s the last of the flat short days now, I promise. The first week has been excellent, we’ve had some brilliant rides, I’ve been surprised by how well bodies and bikes are coping, and we should pass the halfway distance tomorrow morning. But now is the bit I’m really looking forward to, heading over the border to home, to see Caroline, and on through some glorious countryside to the finish.

So, we’re at Judy’s now, and have been well fed and looked after yet again – I reckon with all these big dinners we’ll have put on weight by the end of this trip, and I’m still struggling to eat the mars bars I packed in Kippen, current target is to finish them before getting home!

Pete’s thought for the day:

So half way through then, 7 days of cycling under our belt and 7 days to come. We all have started to feel rather chipper the early nightmare days of the south west have been forgotten, our legs have stopped feeling stiff, and even my backside is getting back to normal and believe me I am a happy man to write those words. So reflecting on the ride so far what are my thoughts: First of all I am so proud of Mel, the little pocket battleship has cycled like a trooper. She really is a driven, stubborn so so, what a gal. Secondally we really do live in a bonny country (Warrington and Wigan aside) every day we have been riding through beautiful countryside. Thirdly the British weather does your head in and lastly cycling is the only way to travel.

So todays ride then, mostly along cycle paths, all very pretty, very enjoyable.

So from tomorrow the push north to Scotland is on the cards. The easy middle days are now behind us and the long hard routes through Scotland loom and you know what, I am looking forward to them.

Grim up north

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Shrewsbury to Wigan

Setting off from Shrewsbury feels like an age away, we were clean, refreshed and raring to go after our lovely stay at Pam & Paul’s. The first 40 miles were done in record time, with an average speed of nearly 15mph (that normally hurts a lot), so the pub lunch with Grandma, Andrew and Jayne was well earned.

The journey north continued, and in no time it lived up to reputation and began chucking it down, all wet weather gear was donned and put to the test. It’s not really surprising that we still got a tad wet, the waterproof overshoes took the brunt of road spray, and somehow managed to let in enough water to test Pete’s theory that goretex shoes would be good at holding water in as well as out, and made the squelch into the hotel a tad embarassing. The showerproof jacket worked well, but hats off to my Argos plastic bag covering the pannier, which kept the bag bone dry. As you can see, there’s plenty of drying going on tonight.

My legs are feeling quite well, and energy levels are high considering we’ve just covered 70 odd miles, to the point of seriously considering not taking the new shorter flatter route tomorrow – I just fancy some hills to get my legs really working! Well, I’ve been persuaded on to the new route, by everyone calling me a nutter – I guess I can always do an extension ride along Morecambe Bay if I need to…

Well, we can hold our heads up high and say that we’ve been tested on our Lejog trip, and looking out on the rainy day, it certainly feels grim up north.

Pete’s thought for the day:

Well I learned two new things today, one I don’t want to live in Warrington and two the weather does make a big difference to your enjoyment of LEJOG. It belted it down today only for an hour and half mind but that was enough to soak everything (wringing out yer socks in the sink, kind of wet). Now our friend Paul did the JOGLE last year and the weather they had was a tad moist. As you can imagine this put a slight dampener (chortle) on his experience and he was full of tales of woe when he returned which I laughed off at the time. After today I can see what he was getting at. So please weather gods yes that’s you Mr McElwee sort out some sunshine for the rest of the trip.

Anyway the ride today a cheeky 72 miles, longest ride so far to date. Its amazing how you get into the swing of riding long miles, so much so Simon is suggesting a long hilly route instead of a more direct flat route for tomorrow the crazy fool.

On a final note a huge thanks to Mels Aunty Pam and Uncle Paul for letting us stay in their fab place in Shrewsbury last night. And especially to Pam who managed to repair my rather embarrassing pair of trousers.

Bonus photo from Andrew of the LEJOGers on their weary way after the pub lunch:

A world away

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Hereford to Shrewsbury

Well, contrary to requests in the comments, we haven’t been to the SAS camps, and in fact have had yet another easy day. That said, it was treated like a training day, and in preparation for the longer days we’ve hardly stopped, clocking up the miles while our minds wander and also managed a healthy speed all the way in.

It’s all been getting to Mel, not the actual cycling, that she can cope with, but at breakfast she managed to pour her tea into a cereal bowl, then attempted to fill her cereal with sachets of milk from the tea. The Wards have also come up with some interesting team tactics, well when I say “team”, Mel tucks in behind Pete’s slipstream so Pete has the brunt of the wind (although that is normally the case anyway ;-), it’s quite a sight to see the Ward train rolling along the road.

So, we’ve made it to Shrewsbury, where Pam & Paul are looking after us very well, taking us on a tour of the town, and giving our clothes a good wash after we’d peeled them off. There’s some tough days ahead, but as Pete and I sit here in our bath gowns and slippers, feet up, waiting for the takeaway, it’s all a world away..

Pete’s thought for the day:

Now I am happy to admit I am a bit of a weather nerd. I watch the forecast on any medium possible and know what the weathermen are called (I like Rob Mcelwee, just on the right side of mad). So as you can imagine I have been studying the weather with some relish over the past week and every time I checked it has been good news. Except tomorrow is forecast rain (typical as we cycle into the north of England) so how will this effect our somewhat smooth progress, I will let you know tomorrow.

Anyway today was canny, only 53 miles mostly pretty scenery and quiet roads, though the A49 is off my christmas card list with its huge lorries, tight corners and impatient drivers.

Wigan awaits tomorrow, what a strange holiday we are on. First of all going to Wigan on holiday and secondally getting there via penzance and cycling the rest of the way, how odd.

An “easy” day

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Bristol to Hereford

Well, that’s us finished the first of our rest days, only intending to clock up 50 odd miles as we take it easy on ourselves – it’s a shame we’ve not yet managed to hit 70 miles in a day which should be our average – there’s a lot of miles waiting for us!

Today was a lot more touristy though, much of the day spent on cycle paths, a trip over the Severn bridge into Wales (welsh cakes with jam, in case you wondered), then up the picturesque Wye valley to Hereford, as you can tell from the picture of the picnic spot Pete proudly found, you can also see the elephant hooter on his bike – a birthday present to mark the start of the trip.

The days are beginning to meld into one, with us getting into the rhythm of waking early, warming the legs back up in the first few miles, then into the cycle of gradually dropping gears as the hills take their toll and the legs complain, then shifting back up once the hill has been beaten. Each county border signifies the time for a group shot, and it seems as though every other mile means a pee stop for Mel. Combine that with wearing the roughly the same clothes all the time (occassionally washed), and it’s all flying past!

Pete’s thought for the day:

As you peddle across this fair isle your mind tends to wander (occasionally brought back to reality with a pot hole). Many subjects have entered into my mind, such as why are all tins of tomatoes in the supermarkets dented, but mainly what an amazing invention the bicycle is. Basically someone has made an invention that can transport a human using their own power over incredible distances. Now to think 4 days ago we were in the furthest south western corner of the UK and we are now in Hereford in the midlands. Now if was to do this journey without a bike. I might have got as far as Devon. So here’s to the guy that invented the bike whoever he is, I salute you but my bum does not.

Anyway today’s riding was lovely, along cycleways and the Wye valley all very pleasant really, almost like a holiday in fact.

Before I sign off and an answer to Bex and Jim’s question and gear top tip is merino wool cycle tops, I have two. They are amazing, can wear for three full days cycling and still smell really rather pleasant (I beg to differ, although it could be his shorts actually – Simon). Conventional cycle tops, one whiff and shortage of breath and face contortion ensues.

Anyway bye for now, slumber awaits

That’s more like it

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Tiverton to Bristol

Well, another day done as we edge closer to the finish, and Somerset treated us well by being flat as a pancake in comparison to Devon (or had road builders with a lot more sense)

After only half a mile, there were a few drops of rain, so like good cyclists we stopped to put all of our wet weather gear on – jackets, bag covers and booties that made us “look like professionals” according to Mel, “chumps” was a bit closer if you ask me.. But it was all unnecessary, and the rest of the day was pretty much warm, flat and with the wind behind us (Chris B – does that sound more like it?;-) )

We’ve also been making inroads to our food journey with Devonshire cream teas to go, followed by scrumpy cider from Somerset, and cheddar cheese, as we passed near the cheddar gorge – well and truly caught up. Alas the mars bar count is slipping, my stomach can only take so much! (Chris A – I’ll try harder to eat more!)

My first injury has surfaced, the good thing being that it’s just a horsefly bite, the bad thing is that my whole wrist has swollen to look like a fat old ladies arm, as described by Pete, and suggested I start a new stat to track the circumference of my wrist.

So, hopefully this marks the start of some nice days in the saddle, and as Dad put it, we’re now getting into the groove.

Pete’s Thought for the day:

“What a difference a day makes, 24 little hours” not sure who wrote or sang that but you know what she was on to something. After the saddle related torture of the last two days, today has turned into somewhat of a doddle (comparatively speaking). Flat roads, wind behind us, easy route finding have all been our chums today. We have still chalked 68 miles off our total so it wasn’t a rest day it just feels it compared to the first two. So today has been a pleasure then, let’s hope more days are like this and we don’t let ourselves get too cocky about it all as there are 11 days and 800 miles of riding yet to come and that’s a lot of vasoline in my book.

Up, up, up and over

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Liskeard to Tiverton

Keeping stats can be a bad thing, take today for example, there is no way the shorter distance, slower average and less calories do justice to the ride over Dartmoor. Even the height climbed doesn’t really convey our Herculian efforts on the probable highest ride of the whole trip (what do you mean “stop milking it”?).

But anyway, there was plenty of fun on the trip today, in fact Pete enjoyed himself so much, he went back to do a section on top of Dartmoor again, with some feeble excuse about leaving his glasses behind. I also spent most the day with pants hanging from various places on my bike after they failed to dry at night, and also spent too long looking at the steep hill warnings to realise there was a steep hill with bends in it – not a good idea at 40 mph.

We’ve also deviated from the LEJOG route everyone else seems to be doing, heading north towards our goal as soon as possible. It now seems a weird choice with all the crazy climbs on long forgotten roads, and mad descents causing concerning brake noises. To Google maps, they’re all just lines, how are we meant to tell?

Apart from that, we’ve failed at our goal of eating local specialities. A Devonshire cream tea just didn’t seem to fit today, so Jo, any suggestions are appreciated! We did munch on more pasties, but I don’t think that has much to do with being near Cornwall. I’m thinking of getting a cream tea to go tomorrow morning, as we’ll be leaving Devon soon – it sure is flying by!

Pete’s thought for the day:

Well the second day of cycling has taken its toll, Mel is flat out on the bed with her back freshly rubbed with nurofen gel, my shorts are that bad that they are hanging out of the window even though they have been washed and I have had to buy vasoline, say no more. Yep its been a tough one, over Dartmoor and beyond. So far we have climbed half of everests height over the last two days which confirms that the south west is not flat if anyone was in any doubt. Off to Bristol tomorrow with promises of flat roads and easier cycling if I can get Mel out of bed.

Eating our way around the country

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

Penzance to Liskeard:

Our first full day in the saddle has been good, the clouds broke early on for a beautiful sunny day, and our bikes and bodies made it through. We learnt the power of the main road, being flatter and smoother to let us soak up the miles, which was proved when we took a little detour through the back roads to cut a corner. We ended up with several sat nav stops to get our bearings, followed by steep hills that had Mel overtaken by a runner (yes, someone on foot..:-)) – as a way of redemption, she later passed a bunch of cycling lejoggers, one of which did not seem as though he’d make it to the end of the day, nevermind the end of the country.

As a way of entertaining ourselves for the next days, we’ve decided to eat a local speciality each day, the joy of cycling is surely stuffing your face with whatever you want. With my failed attempt to get another Cornish pasty for lunch, we ended up with Cornish ice creams instead, probably a safer idea than clotted cream!

The hills undulated, with some stinkers that required mars bar stops to refuel. Finally, Liskeard was nearing, but not before a final steep hill. I crunched down to bottom gear, causing a woman walking her dogs to look back in surprise that someone was attempting such a climb. Two minutes later, she checked again, I’d made it about five metres closer, and then had a nice little chat as I eeked by and carried on up the long hill. Mel never did see that dog walker…

Pete’s Thought for the day:

Now then, we thought the Wards would start to write a few words every night regarding our escapades along this foolish pursuit. So then first day done and we are weary but happy. We stink, Mel’s hair is on its own mission, my bum is edging into the can’t sit down category and we walk like Clive Dunn but weather is lovely as is the scenery and we have made our first destination so all good. The joy of Dartmoor tomorrow with its ponys and silly hills, will give you an update of our condition tomorrow. Please feel free to leave comments, well wishes etc on the blog.
Love Mel & Pete

And so it begins, gently…

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

With the 9 hour drive from Scotland behind us, we landed in Penzance with a couple of hours to spare. What else to do than “build up our energy” with some local produce (pasties, in case that alluded you).

After meeting Mel and Pete from their train, there was but one thing to do – get on with the ride and head out to the start, assuming we could actually find it, as a thick misty rain blanketed the land. One thing I’ve learnt over the past few months is the bewildering amount of gear you can get for cycling, so the wrap around glasses kept the rain from my eyes, the hi-vis vest kept cars away from me, and the waterproof overshoes, well they kept me looking like a bit of a tool… I’ve also re-learnt that wet brakes are pathetic, although that was after tanking along at 39mph! 🙂

Lands End itself was a bustle of activity, mostly cyclists starting or finishing country-long rides (copycats!), so with the obligatory photos taken we headed back the 9 miles to Penzance to rest, and “build up our energy” even more, may the rest of the rides be like this!

P.S 4 cyclists in one room is not a good idea for our noses, and seeing as I get to write this, I’ll blame it on everyone else 😉


Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

The route is planned, the bike nearly tuned, and a few long distance days are under the belt, so Dad, Mel, Pete and I are all set for our mammoth bike ride from the depths of Cornwall to the farthest reaches of the Highlands. We’ve given ourselves 2 weeks, which means an average of 70 miles a day, and as the accommodation is booked, there’s no escaping it.

This planning for long days in the saddle is all well and good, but saying you’re going to do 80 odd miles in one day is not the same as actually doing it. So, I picked a trial route, covering 82 miles to match the longest of our days. I even thought it would be quite easy, starting from the Rest and Be Thankful pass, it would be a good long downhill, before some nice coastal cycling down to Campbeltown, with a nice little ferry journey thrown in.

I got off to a bad start, not only starting at 10am, but also being faced by a cheeky climb, before dropping down some quite steep roads. The aptly named Hells Glen was just around the corner, in my case so named as it involved climbing to almost the same height I started from! Fortunately there had to be a downhill somewhere, and in no time I was at sea level, and then storming along the road, with a healthy 14 mph average speed.

Easy pickings, I’ll be there in no time at this rate! The roads were quiet, the sun shone, and all was good in the world of cycling. Then the corner turned, and I was in hill country, the road kept on going up, and eventually I was at the 2 mile marker for the ferry, which must be down hill, as most ferries are at sea level. Alas no, yet more climbs before a long run down. The ferry trip was a good chance to soak up some sun and rest my aching back – a bad sign since it’s only half way!

Tarbert was the last chance to stock up on water and pies before heading along the main road to the final leg – the back road down the Argyll peninsular. After the long climb over the moor to the coast, a steep hill warning sign set the tone for the rest of the ride, with hair-raising descents followed by grueling granny-cog ascents that just seemed to repeat endlessly. That elated feeling of battling to the top of the current hill, just to grab a marvelous vista of the next seemingly vertical climb, brings on what can only be described as cyclist tourettes, aimed mostly at road builders and their inability to keep it flat and follow the coast.

This carried on for the next 30 miles, my strength maintained by several sausage rolls, and the company of whatever my iPhone thought fit to play, until Davaar Island rolled into sight, and with it the temptation of the end. My rough calculations always assured me the next hill was the last, which it invariably wasn’t, until I was at the end of Campbeltown loch, and a rainbow shone over the fair town proving there is always treasure at the end (well, a hot shower in my case), and the job was done.

Not sure that little practice has improved my confidence. Whilst it’s proved my legs can just about do it, there was an awful lot of pain, and in contrast to LEJoG there’ll be no resting the day after, so I’ll have to take solace in the 6600ft climbed, 82 miles cycled, and 6000 calories burnt. Oh yes, epic indeed…