John Mills Dover to Cape Wrath blog!
Thursday 11 August 2016
Sunday 21st August.
Home at last! I do confess I am very tired and my knees and hips are sore after all the revolutions of the pedals that they have been responsible for.
Would I do it all again? Ask me in a month's time. Certainly it is very satisfying to have finished my personal journey on such a high, to have had an opportunity along the way to help MUG promote its message to men in Guernsey to look after their health and to have beaten my fundraising goal of £20,000 so, happy I most certainly am. Thank you all for sharing my dream and for helping me achieve it.
Saturday 20th August
Our final day's cycling is over and there is some sadness in my heart. All the time I have been planning this adventure it has been about getting to Cape Wrath, the most north westerly point on the Scottish mainland and we have been thwarted by the weather. To get to the headland that reaches the lighthouse at Cape Wrath we needed to take a boat across an estuary together with our hired mountain bikes but the boatman refused to take us all across today because the tide and wind conditions meant that we might not have been able to get back again.
So, I hopped on my bike one last time and headed towards John O'Groats, it's only 80 or so miles away. Memories of arriving there last year came flooding back as I pedalled away from Durness until I noticed that I had clocked up 14 miles and a hill was suddenly looming in front of me. At this point sense prevailed, all thought of going on to JOG evaporated and I turned the bike around and headed back. At least when I finished the ride I had notched up a further total of 28 miles, taking my tally for the journey to 1,001 miles. Enough me thinks!
Friday 19th August
67 miles of yet more amazing scenery in blazing sunshine, what an easy day. Looking back over the trip it's funny how much easier the hills have become to cycle up, not that they are shorter or less steep but we have experienced similar hills on previous days and we just know that we're capable of getting to the top. A case of just to keep pedalling along at our own pace and we'll arrive.
As we get closer to Durness it's incredible how the scenery has changed. Whilst there are still lots of mountains surrounding us, the plains in between (oh, I think I've been riding with the Americans too much!) have exposed rocks which are said to be some of the oldest on the planet. They form a patchwork interspersed with careworn grasses which together gives a very eerie feel to the landscape.
Thursday 18th August
I'm sorry about last night's blog but I fell asleep whilst writing it. Just as well to tell the truth because I was going to tell you how tired I was, how all I wanted to do was get the ride over with etc etc. So after a good night's sleep I can now tell you how absolutely fabulous the scenery is and how much I enjoyed the day! And I'm not sure what the weather is like at home but here the sun is shining - I got burnt - and it's hot.
Over the last two weeks my bottom has become quite knowledgeable about road surfaces. It knows a lot about potholes and it can tell the difference between a worn road surface and a perfectly formed one. Well today my cheeks discovered the Rolls Royce of road surfaces! As I was passing a section of road where the surface was being renewed I couldn't help noticing the name on the contractors vehicles, Breedon Industries. So thank you to Peter Toms, chairman of Breedon and a Guernsey resident.
So tomorrow is our last full day's cycling with just 67 miles to go. Now that's what I call an easy day! And then Friday we swap onto mountain bikes for the final section of the ride to Cape Wrath. So not much more. Thank you says my bottom!
Monday 15th August
A few bumps and bruises along the way…
A few months ago someone in Guernsey reminded me that last year when I went from Lands End to John O'Groats I'd actually walked up a hill and therefore I couldn't claim to have cycled the route.
Well, today I walked up a hill to the B & B I'm staying in. It happens to be their driveway and so steep I decided that if I did attempt it there was a distinct probability that I would have ended up falling off the bike and injuring myself. The good news is that because it isn't part of the actual route, last year's comment won't apply this time!
Talking of falling off of bikes there are now quite a few people in our merry band who have taken a tumble during the trip. Bruised knees, grazed elbows etc are becoming very commonplace and one poor chap yesterday actually knocked himself out when he took a tumble on a corner at the bottom of a steep hill. Here's hoping we have no more accidents in the last few days of our trip.
Friday 12th August
'Och I the noo' or whatever they say in Scotland cos we've arrived! We crossed the border late this morning.
Anyway, just to fill you all in on yesterday first, I've never cycled in worse weather - driving rain all morning, a strong headwind, low cloud and poor visibility. On top of that we had to cope with over 6,000 feet of hill climbing and some treacherous down hills which meant we couldn't relax at all. And then I got a puncture and another and another so we didn't finish cycling until 8.30pm. Quick shower and a mad dash to get something to eat.
So a bit tired today but so overjoyed to hear that some very generous people have boosted the fundraising by a further £1,700. Nearly there but if you know anyone who hasn't donated yet but that might like to please point them in the direction of my JustGving page: www.justgiving.com/john-mills-mug
So here we are in Scotland, over halfway there with the prospect of good weather for at least the next few days. Hopefully have some more for you tomorrow.
Day 8 over already, the days are flying by and at times it is difficult to recall where we've stayed or been through. What we do remember are the hills we've cycled up and come down. Some because they were very steep - we went up one the other day with a gradient of 19% and down several which were 20% wet and twisty with cattle grids and gates to negotiate.
The good news today is that the hills weren't threatening at all and we've started to see some beautiful scenery which for once wasn't obscured by cloud or mist. We're looking forward to cycling across part of Arran tomorrow and I'm led to believe we might also see some sunshine!
We're going for a low calorie fish and chip supper with a few beers and we might just end up sampling a few Scottish whiskies. Cheers!
Thursday 11th August
'It's a good job you can't see me. It's been a bit of a tough ride today with hill after hill to get up so when I came to my room after putting the bike to bed I didn't have the energy to stand under the shower and decided to have a bath. I enjoyed it so much that when the water got a bit cold I pulled the plug out, emptied the water out and poured another bath. So now I look like a cross between a lobster and a prune - pink and wrinkled!
We started out this morning in sheep country and I couldn't understand why I kept falling asleep until I realised that I kept trying to count them all! Also I felt quite at home 'cos I kept seeing donkeys. It got so bad that on the last hill before lunch one leapt out of some long grass with a camera and started taking photos. Then I realised it was Toby Peatfield from Ravenscroft Limited. He had flown to Manchester for a business meeting this evening and took time out to cheer me on -thank you so much Toby it really raised my spirits on a tough day.
It looks like another tough day tomorrow with a few nasty hills to contend with, headwinds and the possibility of rain so I'm going to snatch an early night now. Sleep well.
Wednesday 10 August 2016
Our intrepid cyclist, John Mills, is on day four of his epic ride from Dover to Cape Wrath. He's raising money for Male Uprising Guernsey and has sent us this message:
Sorry I haven't blogged for the last few days, somehow it's all been a bit tiring. Well here we are on Day 4 and so far we've covered over 300 miles. And that's not counting the extra miles from going the wrong way and getting lost, both of which I'm now an expert at.
'Only one mishap so far when I fell off a stationary bike when I was still in the pedals. A lovely old lady came over to help me up whilst my cyclingcompanions stood around laughing. Anyway apart from a bit of bruising and swelling, no harm done .
'Anyway we've done Cambridge, dined in St Ives and Castle Donington next to the River Trent, and somehow I didn't find the energy to go rowing after our ride yesterday. Today we have ridden through the fabulous scenery and horrible hills of the Peak District and now I think it's time to go for a pint!
Saturday 6th August
So, finally the day has arrived, the waiting is over, the training is done and there is no more room for excuses. 25 of us raring to get under way but first there had to be a photo call at the point where Channel swimmers start or finish their swim across the English Channel. Quite appropriate really then that immediately after the above photo was taken we all turned our backs on the sea, got on our bikes and cycled in the opposite direction!
We were really lucky with the weather; warm to hot, sunny and little wind which (whilst not exactly giving us the hoped for help by being a tail wind) was at least not hindering progress. It's probably fair to say that at least half the group wanted to ease gently into the ride. 83 miles being quite a tough ask for the first day out so the going to our first brew stop (see below for an explanation) was relatively slow whilst we sized each other up and got to know each other.
Finally we stopped at the brew wagon and to my amazement I was greeted by Mike and Faye, a couple who had been on my trip last year from Land's End to John O'Groats. I hadn't seen or communicated with them since that trip but they had heard I was cycling near their home in Canterbury and came to say hello. Amazing!
Now, the brew wagon is an important and intrinsic part of the trip. It meets up with all the cyclists both morning and afternoon, every day of the trip to provide hot and/or cold drinks, water to replenish water bottles and offers an array of sweets, biscuits, cakes, dried and fresh fruits etc to keep us all going. It provides an opportunity to get off the bike and stretch our legs, not to mention ease sore bums! It is also an opportunity for swapping cycling partners if you feel like cycling faster or slower for the next leg of the journey.
Well, I spent so long catching up with Faye and Mike that there were only two people left at the wagon, both young ladies so naturally I ended up cycling with them for the rest of the day.
The scenery, on the whole, was not great today, so I'm afraid no pictures of flowing countryside, but we did manage a cruise in the afternoon across the River Thames. I'd like to say that we enjoyed cocktails on the poop deck but we didn't have time, sadly the cruise only took about 3 minutes and there we were in Essex in all its glory.
I have never seen so much fly tipping in my life, sofas, clothes, kids' toys, old fridges etc etc. And it just went on, mile after mile. By now, one of my companions was looking very tired and we were having to go slower and slower. Whilst the hills during the day hadn't been particularly steep, there were a lot and the temperature had increased throughout the day, and an element of dehydration had set in. It was with great relief that we finally arrived at our destination in Brentwood at about 7.30pm, having set out before 9 o'clock in the morning.
Help John reach his target of £20,000 here!