Wednesday, January 11, 2012

LETJOG96 Equipment List

Below is a list of the equipment I used, as best as I can remember it.  I have included links to information about the items, although after such a long time, some details may have changed as the models have been updated.

 This is me on a different ride (ruta de Don Quijote, across Castilla La Mancha in Spain).  This is the same bike although I had new rear panniers (Karrimor) in the photo and not as loaded up as we were not camping on this ride.

  • Raleigh Royal lightweight touring bike
    • 25" 531ST Reynolds tubing frame
    • Shimano 105 6x3 derailleur gears with biopace chainwheel
    • Michelin Marathon GT tyres
  • Freeman rear panniers
  • Karrimor front panniers
  • Karrimor front pannier rack
  • Cateye Mity2 cycle computer
  • Kryptonite-4 U-lock
  • Spare inner tube
  • 3 x Zefal branded water bottles
  • 3 x LETJOG 96 T-shirts
  • 3 x cycling shorts
  • 2 x Ron Hill trousers
  • 1 x Waterproof jacket
  • 1 x Sprayway fleece jacket
  • 1 pair of Hi-tech trainers
  • 1 pair of sandals (for wandering round camp-sites)
  • 3 pairs of short cycling socks
  • Pentax Program A 35mm SLR camera
  • 2 x bungee cords to strap tent, sleeping bag, etc. to bike
  • Toolkit
    • Adjustable spanner
    • Multi-tool (allen keys, spanners, screwdrivers)
    • Pliers
    • Lubricant
    • Chain link removal tool
    • Puncture repair outfit

04-Jul-1996 - John O'Groats - Preparing for home

I returned from my morning wash and shave to find David with the family pitched next to me.  They had kindly offered both David and I a lift to Wick in the back of their camper van, which could fit all of us plus the two bikes.  I went to do some shopping for gifts and souvenirs before returning to strike camp and load up the van.

We then drove to the signpost where both David and the husband & wife had their official photographs taken.  We then said goodbye to Hannah who was going to catch the ferry across to the Orkneys.  The next 17 miles passed very quickly as we sped along the A9, passing en-route a group of people who were walking to Lands End with a donkey.

At Wick railway station we unloaded our gear and said goodbye and thank you to the family.  David got his ticket home and we said our goodbyes.  I then found myself a nice little B&B where I spent the afternoon relaxing, writing postcards and catching up on my diary.

I ate at a local hotel having king prawns in filo pastry followed by haddock with a mushroom and prawn filling.  I then returned to the B&B to settle down for a night of dreaming of my return home and reunion with María.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

03-Jul-1996 - Day 16 - Reay to John O'Groats

  • Day's Distance: 37.50 Miles
  • Total Distance: 994.98 Miles
  • Time:  4 Hrs 30 Mins
  • Average Speed:  8.33 Miles/Hr
  • Max Speed:  - Miles/Hr
  • Punctures:  0


Very slow progress over what thankfully turned out to be fairly flat roads, but no shelter from the wind.

Today was a day of just counting down the miles - 17 miles to Thurso, 16, 15, etc. and then 20 miles to John O'Groats, 19 , 18, etc.  With only 8 miles to go I stopped off for some soup and a rest at a curious shop which had all kinds of strange things in, as well as a little cafe it was packed floor to ceiling with lots of cheap tatty things for sale.  I ate the Minestrone soup and replenished my chocolate store before heading off on the final eight mile stretch.

Once again I counted down the miles until I finally reached the junction to turn left on the A9 for the 1/4 mile run to John O'Groats.  Reaching the end there was a great feeling of relief and some satisfaction and the sight of a camp-site at John O'Groats itself meant I would not have to face that dreadful wind again.

I made my way to the signpost to have an official photograph taken, seemingly no longer half price for charity runs.  It was a grey and misty day and not the best conditions for photographs but hopefully it will look OK.  He was also good enough to take a couple of photographs with my camera, something I should have asked the woman at Lands End to do as well.

I went to book in to the camp-site and as I was looking for a pitch, a young man shouted over to me, asking whether I was finishing or starting.  I told him I was completing the ride and it turned out he was waiting for his parents who were due to arrive shortly.  I pitched my tent next to their camper van and the tent of a young woman called Hannah who they had picked up backpacking the previous night and had given her a lift to this remote spot.  We talked for a short while and then they went to wait for his parents at the signpost while I had a look around all the tourist gift shops.

After showering and changing, I went to the hotel for a meal.  Outside the building was a bike that I recognised, including my old water bottle.It was David's, the man I had met off the train at Penzance and ridden with for ten miles outside Taunton.  He had arrived an hour and a half after I had.  After over two weeks crossing the country we had arrived at almost exactly the same time, he having set off from Lands End only half an hour after I had.  It seemed incredible and we were both very pleased to see each other and catch up on each other's adventures.  He had gone through two back wheels for his bike, having to spend a day and a half in Carlisle to get it finally sorted out.

I had agreed to meet the family I had met in the camp-site for a celebratory drink later but did not realise there was a pub next to the hotel, thereby missing out on a last night celebration.  This did not stop me having a drink as I chatted to a couple from Hamilton, Glasgow who were setting off the next day to tour the isles of Skye, doing so by car, not bicycle.

So I went to bed that night with the warm glow of success.  Or was it the scotch salmon, 1/2 bottle of St Emilion and 3 pints of Theakstons Best Bitter (I travel 1000 miles across the country to find the hotel serves Yorkshire beer!).

Day 16 map (approximate route)

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Thursday, January 5, 2012

02-Jun-1996 - Day 15 - Lairg to Reay

  • Day's Distance: 60.74 Miles
  • Total Distance: 957.48 Miles
  • Time:  5 Hrs 57 Mins
  • Average Speed:  10.2 Miles/Hr
  • Max Speed:  32.0 Miles/Hr
  • Punctures:  0

I was much relieved when the anticipated headwind did not materialise and I set off after a good breakfast in a happy mood.

The major road soon turned into a single track with passing places.  The road surface was very smooth, perfect for cycling and I made good progress as I entered miles and miles of coniferous forest.  The day was overcast with sunny spells and it was just too cold and just enough of a threat of rain to prevent me removing my waterproof jacket.

Leaving the forest I approached Altnaharra, the last town for some twenty miles.  The hotel offered food and so I had an early stop for lunch of scampi and chips.  The hotel was clearly a place for fly-fishing with the bar containing several examples of the larger fish caught, stuffed and mounted in glass cases.

I set off again and took the B road to Bettyhill, which ran first along Loch Naver and then following the River Naver along the valley.  It was incredibly beautiful and I stopped to commit the scene to film.  At one point I could see in the distance a post office sign and began to wonder if I could get a snack.  As I approached I saw the sign was above a small post box and that was all.  Could it be counted as the smallest Post Office in Britain?

Approaching Bettyhill, you could sense the end of the country approaching, feel the Altlantic before it came into view.  Then a corner was turned, a hill was climbed and there it was, the ocean at the North of Britain.

Bettyhill was a curious place, typically Scottish village with the few houses just randomly scattered across the sides of the valley.

Then I was faced with a series of long, steep climbs.  This was the case almost right up to Reay.  If this is what the road is like to John O'Groats then tomorrow will be a long day, despite only being a short distance (around 40 miles).  I am told by people in the pub, conveniently situated next to the camp-site, that the rest of the road is pretty flat.  Hopefully they are right.

I was so busy talking to this couple from Cornwall in the pub that I didn't realise that they had stopped serving meals.  Fortunately when they heard what I was doing they did make some haddock and chips for me.

Day 15 Map (approximate route)

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Monday, January 2, 2012

01-Jul-1996 - Day 14 - Drumnadrochit to Lairg

  • Day's Distance: 68.21 Miles
  • Total Distance: 896.74 Miles
  • Time:  6 Hrs 29 Mins
  • Average Speed:  10.5 Miles/Hr
  • Max Speed:  32.0 Miles/Hr
  • Punctures:  0

 Breakfast was more soup and more bread before striking camp and doing a first(!); going back 1 mile uphill where I'd been the night before to take some photographs of Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness, then on into town and stop off at the local Spar to stock up on groceries and replenish the choccy store.

The road ran up and down a bit to Inverness and rained several times, so the waterproof kept coming out, then taken off again to suit.  As I crossed over the bridge for the A9 at Inverness it was pouring down, then, once over the other side, the sun came out again.  Approaching the bridge over Cromarty I could see a dark cloud overhead and as I began the descent to the bridge I felt the first few drops of rain.  I stopped the bike and got out the waterproof, again.  Then as I crossed the bridge, the skies threw everything it had at me.  It is only a narrow bridge so the cars & lorries passing were throwing a lot of water at me as they were so close.  I was completely drenched and could barely see with all the water coming at me.  The wind was howling and preventing me from progressing at any reasonable speed.  Finally reaching the other side I continued under this torrent now desparate for somewhere to get something to eat and at least dry out a little bit.

At a sign saying "Evanton - Tourist services - food" I turned off and eventually reached the town which looked anything but a tourist spot.  A hotel offered food and so I gratefully went in and ordered soup and the roast lamb.  I eagarly swallowed these down and went to order a coffee, just to round things off and get a bit more warmth in my bones.  "Sorry, we close at half two" said the barmaid.  I looked at my watch which showed exactly half past two.  I paused for a moment to see if she would relent, but no, she was adamant.  I paid the bill and began to get the bike unlocked, etc.  Out of the hotel comes the barmaid and shoots off in her car.

I took the 'B' road as per my schedule and soon regretted it.  A continuous uphill battle, my feet still cold and wet from the downpour.  Thoughts of Rannoch Moor ran through my mind and I decided when I returned to the main road to return to the A9.  I then consulted the map which showed a lot of back tracking requried.  There was no way I was going to do that and so my route as planned continued although stopping earlier than scheduled in a town called Lairg.  This turned out to be a good choice as the camp-site had a laundry and a restaurant - my sort of place.  I chose venison steak pie for dinner and then washed my long overdue dirty clothing.  With the prospect of a good breakfast and clean clothes, I retired to bed in a better frame of mind.

Day 14 map (approximate route)

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

30-Jun-1996 - Day 13 - Glencoe to Drumnadrochit

  • Day's Distance: 69.73 Miles
  • Total Distance: 828.53 Miles
  • Time:  5 Hrs 43 Mins
  • Average Speed:  12.1 Miles/Hr
  • Max Speed:  28.5 Miles/Hr
  • Punctures:  0

After a pasta breakfast, which did nothing to inspire me, I set off continuing the descent into Glencoe.  A place set up for skiers, mountaineers and general tourism.  I crossed the bridge and rounded the peninsula  to take me to Fort William.  As I climbed the hill, the gears on the bike kept slipping.  Once the road levelled out I was able to see that the overnight rain had given the chain a stiff link.  5 minutes with the link extractor tool had me up and running smoothly once again.

At Spean Bridge I stopped for lunch at a Little Chef.  After passing hundreds and trying to avoid them, I was reduced to eating there as my only viable option.

7 miles from Fort Augustus the road crossed the Caledonian Canal and a sign pointed down the side of it saying 'Cycle path to Fort Augustus' which I thought I would try.  A decision I soon regretted.  The path was very rough dirt and gravel and full of potholes.  Parts of it were boulders piled on top of each other,  The path was much more suited for a mountain bike going on a short trail than a long distance touring bike fully loaded complete with weary rider.  Then I came across the first of two gates.  These were an absolute nightmare to negotiate with one hand trying to baslance the bike while the other tried to lift and open the gate.  Then once the bike was through, the gate was too far away to reach while hanging on to the bike.  The bike had to be backed up so I could reach the gate and then inched forward as I manipulated the gate shut.

This would not have been so big a problem if there had been two people or I was on an unloaded bike which I could just drop to the floor.  It is very difficult to just lay down a fully loaded bike and even harder to pick up again and there was nothing in the vicinity that the bike could be rested against.  I fumed and cursed my way through both gates and concentrated hard on picking a clean route through the potholes and gravel, expecting a puncture at any moment.  Fortnately I made it safely, despite encountering several cars using the cycle route as access to their houses or the lock-keepers cottage.

I finally rode up to the camp-site at Drumnadrochit via a very steep access road and, would you believe, another gate.  The place is a horse riding center with a field that they have set aside for tents.  The field is at a serious angle, tonight it will feel like I'm perched on the side of Everest.  No shop and no pub or restaurant so its a cup of soup and more of my loaf of bread - plus a dramatic depletion of my chocolate store!

Day 13 Map (approximate route)
Google maps won't show the routing via the Caledonian Canal cycle path, so I've left it on the nearest road

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

29-Jun-1996 - Day 12 - Thornhill to Glencoe

  • Day's Distance: 71.42 Miles
  • Total Distance:758.80 Miles
  • Time:  6 Hrs 51 Mins
  • Average Speed:  10.4 Miles/Hr
  • Max Speed:  29.5 Miles/Hr
  • Punctures:  0

I did not have a good nights sleep.  At about 3:00 in the morning, another tent pole snapped, under the same duty (front arch) and almost the same place as the last time.  I was so angry and frustrated I could not get back to sleep for hours.  I eventually woke in the morning quite late and set off.

After Callander the road began to wind upward - this was the start of the highlands after all.  The climb that I had been anticipating eventually came up and as I began the long climb, a local shouted "You've got a long pull ahead of you there!" and I agreed with him.  After 4 miles of struggles the road began to move downwards and the descent I had long anticipated began.  The first 3/4 mile was fine and then I turned the corner at the Killin turn off and the headwind hit me.  The remaining 6 miles of descent was a struggle at 7 or 8mph.  Half way down I stopped for lunch in a place unusual only in that the chaos that usually occurs in a restaurant's kitchen took place in the public arena with the staff 'discussing' which table needed what and who was going to do it.

Crianlarich was my minimum distance that I had set for the day and when I reached it shortly after lunch I felt I had no option but to continue.

The road continued upward until coming to an impressive valley with a bridge at the far end followed by a huge climb.  I started going up at a steady pace, which is just as well because when I got to what I thought was the top, the road continued it's upward trend.  And so it continued until I hit a sign which told me I was on the top of Rannoch Moor at 1141 feet.  I took the obligatory photographs and as I was putting my camera away I realised I was starting to feel cold.

So began my long struggle on the moor, with a strong head wind against me I could barely manage to keep going - averaging only 5-6mph.  I had 15 miles to go, it was after 6:00pm and already starting to get dark from the heavy cloud hanging just above head height.

Eventually I could see the beginning of the descent in the far distance.  My every effort was concentrated on keeping going and reaching that point while my mind looked around and wondered if I would end up having to camp up here in this desolate place.  My hands and feet were numb.  I could not use the fingers of my right hand to change gear as normal but put my hand over the gear lever and use my whole arm to move it in the appropriate direction.  When I tried to move my left hand I found I couldn't, it was stuck with the handlebar grip it was so numb.

Finally my goal was reached.  On a fine day with no wind, the descent would be fast, dramatic and exhilerating but today it was only a relief as I eventually wheeled into the National Trust Campsite at Glencoe.  No pubs or resaurants nearby so I raided the shop to get a loaf of bread, tins of hot dog sausages, haggis and potatoes - what a feast!

Day 12 Map (Approximate route)

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